Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Voice Not Silenced


I can't stop thinking about Malala. A little girl who wanted something as simple as an education. And yet, there is nothing simple about education. This I know.

 I have education in my blood. My mother was a teacher and school board member. I was a teacher. I work for an education organization still. It's the family business, so to speak. Education has sustained me my entire life -- and yet, I never had to fight for it, worry about dying for it. It was always a given. Not so for Malala and girls like her in many corners of the world.

This brave young woman -- still a child, already an activist -- has so frightened a bunch of grown men with her outspoken fervor for learning that she's now fighting for her life. Because with education comes so much more. Power, potential, freedom . . . and I guess that scares some people.

Malala, even before the attack that left her fighting for her life in a British hospital, was a symbol for the rights of girls to go to school. The daughter of educators herself (her father runs the school she attends), education is in her blood. The blood that the Taliban spilled on her school van. The blood that the Taliban has vowed to continue to spill until she is dead and her voice silenced.

But a voice like Malala's can't be silenced by cowards -- history has shown us that. Instead, it is magnified, amplified, by those who think like she does -- that everyone deserves an education. By those who are outraged that grown men would choose to hunt a child because she is strong, and brave, and thirsty to learn. By those, like me, who never had to worry about how I was getting to school, or if I would make it home from school, or if my school would be shuttered by hate-mongers and extremists. By those who have been touched by her story, her courage, her desire to learn.

Malala, your voice will not be silenced, because I won't let it be. I'm adding my voice to yours -- and to the other girls like you who are willing to put their lives in danger just to go to school.  We can't stop reading, and writing, and screaming, and learning.  We have to -- for Malala, until she's well enough to join us again.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bourbon and Cigarettes

WH and I were at happy hour this evening when we happened upon one of the most annoying characters in the human species.  A character that I like to call the "Bourbon and Cigarettes* Girl."  This woman (not a girl, I suppose) is ever-present wherever people gather.  She is never alone, and she is always loud.  Always. She has that voice that sounds like she's been drinking a bottle of bourbon and smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.  Slightly gravelly, full of vibrato (and for that matter, bravado), deep, and throaty. 

You know this woman.  She is the one at the Chinese restaurant, surrounded by friends (all of whom seem to have been striken mute or speak in inaudible tones barely above a whisper), regaling them (and all the tables around her) with full-volume stories of how, "oh.my.god. I was so drunk the other night and I was totally hooking up with this guy, but he didn't want to stay over, because I live in Arlington and he lives in Capitol Hill, but I convinced him anyway..."  She is the one who is sitting next to you on the Metro, talking on her cell phone ensuring that you're aware of her asshole boss, where she works, and her annual salary.  She is the one the next bar stool over on a blind date, filling her date's head with stories of how awesome and supportive her parents are for paying her rent and letting her live in D.C. even though she hasn't had a job for six months.  She uses words like, "A-MA-ZING," "OMG," and "TOTALLY!"  She LOOOOOOOVES the sound of her own voice, and is pretty sure you do too.  In fact, she's even currently appearing in a leading role in a Marshall's commercial, evidenced here:


Some famous Bourbon and Cigarettes Girls include Rachael Ray, Lara Spencer, and Ryan Seacrest (yeah, yeah, I know).  Or, as in the case of the young woman sitting near us tonight, she is the one who is so enamored of her cats (Toby and Muffin...I swear, I'm not making this up), that she whips out her phone (it was 100% a Sidekick and it was most definitely pink) to share photos of them with the bartender.  It's impossible to ignore her, and because of this, you learn details you don't care to know about anyone.  For instance, Toby is a striped cat, but has a white belly, and Muffin is a black and white tuxedo.  I'm pretty sure I could identify Toby and Muffin in an lineup, even though I wasn't privvy to the Sidekick photos.

The Bourbon and Cigarettes Girl is the most obnoxious of breeds.  She must draw attention to herself, even in a quiet and crowded library, simply because her boots are so freakin' cute.  She thinks she's adorable, witty, and intelligent.  Would that we all had this unfailing confidence in ourselves.   And no matter where you go, she and her mute friends, are sitting next to you.

So the next time you're out in public and you end up sitting next to this woman, please, come sit by me . . . I'll be on the other side of the Bourbon and Cigarettes Girl rolling my eyes.

*This is not meant as a criticism of bourbon or cigarettes . . . but merely as an evocative descriptor.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Taking the Plunge

It's the Olympics again, and as it does every go 'round, it brings with it delusions of grandeur (see here).  The Summer Olympics are even worse for me, considering that I played many of the sports, including gymnastics, swimming, field hockey, and soccer.  But I think where I really could've been a contender is in diving.  Ever since I first jumped off the board at age four, I really had something special in me.

When I was maybe 13, I joined the diving team at my summer pool.  Two of my friends were on the team, plus diving meets had a way better snack bar than at the swimming meets.  It was a natural fit.  Except that you needed four or five dives in order to really be a contender, and mostly I could just do a front and back dive.  That didn't stop me from trying, though.  I'd get up, do the one-two-three step approach (I mean, hey, even if I wasn't every good, at least I could go through the very professional motions) and give it my all.  I was terrible.


2011-07-04 Off the diving board 110
My diving prowess may or may not have looked something like this.
Image via Flickr, courtesy of Rattler97

By high school, I needed a diversion to get me out of swim practice.  And our team needed female divers, so taking one for the team, I stepped up.  Besides, it got me out of lap swimming halfway through practice.  Totally worth it.  High school diving was only slightly less intense than summer league.  We needed four dives . . . a front dive, a back dive, some sort of flip, and "diver's choice," in order for it to count.  I had the front, back and diver's choice (I usually did either an inverse or a reverse), but I could not get the pesky flip to save my life.

Every week, I would fill out my dive sheet, declaring my dives -- including the imaginary backflip I simply could not perform -- and go through the motions.  When it would come to the backflip time, I'd very carefully walk to the end of the board, balance on my toes as if I were Greg Louganis , and jump straight back into the water.  It got to be a joke on my team to the point where nobody ever even expected me to make the flip, least of all myself.

Then one Saturday, during a particularly boring meet at our home pool, I went through all the same motions as I had in the past.  I marched out onto the board, stood on my tip toes, balanced my arms back and forth, and flung myself into the air.  It wasn't until I hit the water that I realized I had finally managed to flip all the way over and not just jump off the diving board like a brave three-year old.  When I finally popped up from underwater, the reaction of my team was electric. It was as if I had BECOME Greg Louganis and scored a perfect dive with no splash or overrotation.  My teammates were screaming, my parents were screaming, my coach hugged me.  And in that brief moment . . . I WAS Greg Louganis.  So, you have your Olympic memories and I have mine.  I just don't have a medal to show for it.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You've Got to Suffer For Art

I was sitting at dinner tonight with friends of a certain age (and by "a certain age," I mean my age), discussing great concerts.  Somehow the topic of procuring concert tickets came up.  In today's age of getting online and clicking a button, the machinations that the rest of us went through to get tickets back in "the olden days" (aka the 90s) seem slightly ridiculous.  Or nostalgic.  Whichever, depending on your certain age. Sure, you might've taken the easy route by pressing speed dial with the Ticketmaster 800 number, but the die-hard amongst us took a more drastic step. 

Take for instance a certain concert in 1998.  The Tibetan Freedom Concert, right here in D.C. Any self-respecting 22 year old needed to see this show.  Spanning two days and with a lineup including the Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Sean Lennon, Mutabaruka, Money Mark, A Tribe Called Quest, Dave Matthews Band, Sonic Youth, Nawang Khechog, Wyclef Jean, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, Buffalo Daughter, R.E.M., KRS-ONE, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Live, Pearl Jam, Luscious Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chaksam-pa, and Pulp (I'm pretty sure Beck and U2 were there too, as were Brad and Jennifer in the dawn of their relationship, but Wikipedia doesn't mention that), it was all a young and hip person needed to confirm her awesomeness.  It was life-threatening to not procure tickets.

Which brings me to the actual procuring of the tickets. In the dawn of the internet age, when Al Gore was just dreaming of the possibilities of what we might achieve, the rest of us still had to figure out how the hell to get the hottest ticket in town.  The speed dial method just wasn't cutting it.  And thus, we resorted to that age-old tactic of sleeping in the street outside the sales venue.  In this case, it was the (now defunct) Tower Records on the GWU campus. 

I can say with near certainty that nobody cared particulary much about the plight of the Tibetans (with a musical lineup like the one above, why would we?  We were 22, had disposable money, time to sleep in the street for tickets, and a lack of social awareness).  We just wanted to see the most kick-ass bands of our time.  And so it happened that about 100 of us slept on the sidwalk outside a record store (Google it, they used to be a thing) for tickets to the hottest show in town. 

I should pull an aside here to say that I don't camp.  I don't forgo beds, showers, toilets, or warm food for the "thrill" of "roughing it."  BUT . . . apparently for the privilege of seeing Dave Matthews, Radiohead, and the Beastie Boys, I'm willing to abandon my principles and sleep in the street.  I, of course, use the term "sleep" loosely, as we merely dozed in between sad boombox (also used to be a thing) blasts from each of the bands slated to play the concert.  Looking back, I can say with certainty, it was one of the most miserable nights of my life. 

But then the morning came, the lights in the store came on, and the doors opened.  One by one we filed in to get our tickets. There was no simple click of the mouse. There was no advance purchase for fan clubs or American Express card holders.  We were all equal -- equally miserable after having slept on concrete.  And we all got our tickets. 

The show was great -- despite some girl being struck by lightning -- with some of the greatest bands of my generation. And while I'll always remember the concert, what I remember more is that night, camped out (the closest to camping I will ever get) on the sidewalk at GWU, waiting, hoping we'd be able to get tickets before they sold out.

These damn pampered kids today don't know how easy they've got it.  You haven't really enjoyed a concert until you've suffered for it. Trust me.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Typical Monday

For years, WH has said I remind him of Elaine Benes from Seinfeld.  Played by the incomparable Julia Luis-Dreyfuss, I always took it as a compliment.  Of course, he also always teases me about my abnormally large head.  Devotees of Seinfeld will know where I'm going with this, but for the rest of you, just read on. 

Ever since we moved last month, I've had largely uneventful walks to and from work each day.  Aside from one day when I saw a hipster bend over and his pants fall down revealing a little bit of buttcrack, there hasn't been anything really out of the ordinary.  Until today, of course. 

I was walking the four blocks to my office, in a state somewhere between lost in thought and caffeine-deprived, when it happened.  A bird.Flew.Into.My.Head. It was one of those this-would-only-happen-to-me moments.  I'm pretty sure I jumped up in the air, flapped my arms and muttered something along the lines of, "Jesus Christ!" I can tell you this, it scared the hell out of me.  It made me feel dirty and afraid I had been pooped on. I worried that I might contract some sort of poultry-borne illness.  But mostly, I just felt like an asshole.  I mean, besides Elaine Benes, who does something like that happen to?  Oh, wait, me. Duh.

Figures.  It was Monday after all.  And let me tell you, sometimes, if I concentrate real hard, I can still hear the flapping . . .


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reflecting on Words

Today we lost a giant.  We, those of us who trade in words, make words our lives, worship at the altar of words, lost a giant.  Nora Ephron, she of When Harry Met Sally, among others, changed the way women talk in movies, the way people talk in movies. And for that we will never be the same.

This got me thinking about words and reading and writing, and where I might be without those who came before me.  I found my voice because of the imprints of those who wrote ahead of me and those who taught me to love words.  I remember when I fell in love with reading, and by virtue of that, words and writing.  Third grade.  My favorite teacher, Miss Massey (along with my parents), pushed me to read more.  It was important.  Our classroom had a "bookworm," Sylvester, who grew each time one of us read a book.  Sylvester "lived" on the wall and grew by one "circle" for each book a kid in our class read.  By the end of the year, he stretched around the room, down the hall and weaved his way through the school.  And for each book a kid read, her name appeared on a circle as a badge of honor.  In fact, it was even a technique I would later employ in my own classroom when I taught seventh grade nearly 20 years later.

The student who read the most books was recognized at the end of the year at an assembly in the front of the whole school.  I never even considered that I was a contender.  I just read because I had to.  And then there was that day at the end of June 1984 -- the last day of school.  The attendance awards were given out.  So were the awards for academic achievement.  I hadn't been particularly stellar in either.  And then came the "bookworm" award.  Little did I know that I had read the most books in my third grade class.  Wow.  I was definitely proud -- and yet, I still didn't love reading. I didn't realize the gift I would be given that day.  The gift that turned reading from "have to" into "want to."  The gift that would change words from something I learned into something I loved.

Miss Massey changed my life that day by giving me the best book I've ever read.  It's hard to imagine, looking back at my eight-year-old self, that something as simple as one book would change everything about who I am.  The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster -- the greatest words I've ever read.  The words that changed me from someone who read into a reader.  That changed me from someone who used words into someone who loves words. I've read a million words since then -- Shakespeare, Austen, Salinger, Melville, Dickens, Poe,  Hemingway, Rumi, Bronte, Dostoyevski, and yet nothing compares to that book.  And nothing ever will.

There are moments in your life that define who you are and who you are going to be.  That summer after third grade, I had one of those moments.  And I had another moment the first time I saw When Harry Met Sally.  I knew I was experiencing something special.  I had never seen a movie where anyone had talked that way, had used words in quite that way.  And as someone who had already learned to love words, I knew  (as Nora Ephron wrote in When Harry Met Sally), "I knew the way you know about a good melon," that I had found something special.  Someone who understood words in a way that I hadn't yet learned to, someone who had figured out how to talk the way regular people talked, someone who knew how to reach into our souls and tickle places we didn't even know existed. My god, what a gift.

Tonight I celebrate the gift of words and those who turned us onto them, turned us on with them. For me, there was Miss Massey, Norton Juster, and Nora Ephron.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Feral Children of Cleveland Park

The story of "Forest Boy" caught my attention this week, as it did with the international media. Just to catch you up, if you haven't already heard, Forest Boy claimed to have been living in the woods in Europe with his dad for five years.  The dad died, and Forest boy wandered into Berlin with his tent, rucksack, and a fantastic story. Of course, it later came out that he was actually a young Dutchman, who simply wanted to start over.  I was kind of bummed to hear it, because I love a good mystery and I find feral children fascinating.

This got me thinking about some urban feral children that live right here in D.C.  WH and I recently completed a brief stint living in Cleveland Park while we searched for a new home (we found one!).  This is where we came upon the phenomenon known as the Feral Children of Cleveland Park.  Since we've moved south to our new neighborhood (Logan Circle), I haven't seen any Feral Children.  In fact, I never saw any in Adams Morgan when we lived there either (Feral College Students, perhaps, but that's another story for another day), which leads me to believe that the Feral Children are unique to Cleveland Park.

They don't wander up from the bowels of Rock Creek Park, oh no! They live a sheltered, privileged existence in the large homes off Connecticut Avenue.  The typical FC of CP is under the age of five, has parents aged somewhere north of 45, and is generally permitted to run amok in supermarkets, restaurants, houses of worship, nail salons, or anywhere, really, that people gather.  The FC of CP, though he or she comes from a home of considerable means, often looks unkempt, possibly even soiled.

Take for instance the Feral Child I once ran into in the Brookville Market.  I was picking up bread and lunch meat, trying to get in and out fairly quickly.  FC was about four years old, had waist-length, unruly, tangled brown hair, a dirty t-shirt, and untied shoes.  I think he might've had a binky, too, but I could be making that up for effect.  He ran up and down each aisle, screaming as if he were being chased (he wasn't).  Alarmed by this obviously unsupervised child, I looked around to see if any adult was willing to claim him (or looked like they might be attached to this wild child).  I was the youngest person in the store by at least 20 years, and didn't see anyone who looked as if they might be his parent.

FC continued to run and scream, and since I had places to be and didn't want to claim him either, I moved to the check out.  In front of me was an elderly man of about 70, paying for his groceries.  As I unloaded my wares from the basket, the Feral Child ran up behind the old man and slapped him, hard, on the ass. I stood there, stunned, waiting for a tirade from this poor old fellow who had been brutalized from behind by a loathsome monster.  But then something completely unexpected happened . . . the old man bent over (rather slowly), playfully grabbed the feral child around the waist, tickled him, and said, "Oh Parker, you are so silly!" And with that, the Feral Child slapped the old man again, saying "Take that, Daddy!" and ran off to cause more mayhem. 

Should you see a Feral Child, don't get too close. He or she is liable to act erratically, prone to throwing tantrums, definitely interested in running, and probably unsupervised.  His or her parents think everything he or she does is adorable, and are frankly too exhausted to adequately discipline said child.  The best advice I can give when dealing with a Feral Child is to not look directly at him.  Finish your business as quickly as possible, and remove yourself from the location where she is wreaking her havoc.  And by all means, do not laugh at, compliment the "adorableness" of, pet, or feed the Feral Children of Cleveland Park . . . or they just might try to follow you home.

*Note: Lest you think I'm anti-child, I feel the need to clarify that not all Cleveland Park children are feral. In fact, there are some rather nicely behaved kids up there.  But it's the feral ones that stand out (and run rampant). 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Zombie Apocalypse, Redux

I don't know about you, but I'm a little concerned about zombies.  I know I've been a skeptic in the past (see here), but recent events have lead me to believe that we are on the cusp of an all-out brain buffet. My sister has whipped me into a frenzy by continually posting zombie updates on her Facebook, and now I am starting to lose sleep.  I may or may not need help.

Let's examine the facts for a moment.  A couple of months ago, I read about some sort of parasite that's turning bees into zombies.  Back in March, there was a story on this horrible mystery illness in Uganda that has completely incapacitated large numbers of children. Earlier this week, there was the guy in Miami who attacked a homeless guy by eating his face off (in case you've been living under a rock, there's more here) -- so severe was the attack that he's even been dubbed the Miami Zombie, leading his girlfriend to assert that he was under a voodoo spell (and don't even get me started on voodoo -- that shit is no joke!).  As if that wasn't enough, yesterday news broke about a guy in Maryland (which is altogether too close to D.C. for comfort, if you ask me) who killed and then ate his roommate's brain and heart. I mean, what?! 

By no means am I trying to make light of these really sad and disturbing stories, but if you don't think it's eyebrow-raising then there's something wrong with you.  There's something going on, and as far as I can tell the CDC, NIH, and the FDA (and possibly the Pentagon -- who knows how far up this goes), are all ignoring it. This is an eat-or-be-eaten world, apparently, and it's time to decide which you will be.  I've always thought I would be the "just let me die in the street" kind of person, not wanting to roam a vast urban wasteland, hiding in warehouses and climbing up bell towers to escape the undead.  But these recent events have made me think a little harder about my reaction, should we be facing an imminent zombie attack.

I would like to pause for a moment and realize that in the marriage lottery, I hit the jackpot.  WH has been studying zombie movies for longer than I can even imagine.  He has his zombie-plan well established, and is ready to take on any brain-eaters that may come.  Now, I don't want to be a zombie-fighting golddigger, so I've got to get on board.  I suppose this will mean I need to take a kickboxing class, maybe learn how to swordfight, and that I revise my "no weapons in the house" policy.  Or, I could just resort to this:



pics on Sodahead

At any rate, I'm on high alert.  What will you do to prepare?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Presence of Greatness

You know that feeling where you don't remember something until you're reminded of it?  I'm not talking about getting the milk at the grocery store or remembering to pick up your prescription at the pharmacy.  I'm talking about those memories that are up on the top corner in the back of the closet of your mind, that, until you're reaching for something else, don't get dusted off and opened up.  I had one of those today.  I was curling up with the day's TMZ for a little light read, when I saw this little nugget about Robin Williams.  It seems Mr. Williams showed up at some small comedy club in L.A. last night and did his schtick.  This is par for the course for good ole Robin -- which I know because, years ago, I was in a small comedy club myself when he did just that.

It was 1999 and I was living in New York (more on that here), working for a promotional company.  We used to give away tickets to this comedy club and tell our clients, "Yeah, Robin Williams goes there sometimes to perform."  Never mind that nobody in the company had ever actually seen Robin Williams perform at the club -- but it sounded impressive, and we were in promotions.  One weekend my parents were coming for a visit, so I got tickets to the club for us and a friend of mine.

We went to dinner downtown (the club, of course, was uptown), and had mere minutes to make it to the show on time.  On a Saturday night. In Manhattan.  Fortunately, we were riding with my friend who can only be described as driving as if she were driving Marty McFly's DeLorean in Back to the Future.  I'm not sure how, but amazingly we managed to make it 60 some-odd blocks uptown and find parking and get to the club in what I'm pretty sure was 7.8 minutes.  With seconds to spare, we snagged the last four available seats for the 10:00 show. 

The comedians came and went, each doing their 10 minute set.  We sat, enjoyed our two-drink minimum and noticed that the evening was stretching on longer than it was supposed to.  Around 11:45, the emcee came on to announce that a special guest was on his way and emplored us to be patient for a few more minutes.  A little more schtick from the emcee and then.it.happened.  "Ladies and gentleman, I want you to welcome to the stage someone you all know, an Oscar-winning actor and an incredible comedian . . . Mr. Robiiiiiiiin Williaaaaaaams!"

I think my dad nearly had a stroke.  We all sat there, our mouths wide open, stunned.  Robin Williams did at least an hour of stand-up.  It was amazing and hilarious and the most natural thing in the world.  Even though we had been watching professional comedians for the past 2 hours, he made them all look like hacks.  It was the epitome of being in the presence of greatness.

And as quickly as it happened, it was over.  He wrapped up, after at least 10 minutes of standing ovations and an encore.  And with that, we climbed back into our Honda DeLorean and headed back downtown.  So I know just how those lucky folks at that little club in L.A. last night felt.  And I'm glad TMZ reminded to dust off the memory and enjoy it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Adventures in Dining

It was Valentine's Day this week, an excuse to go out for a nice meal and overindulge.  WH and I attempted to do just that, but ended up having a less-than-stellar meal at a certain celebrity chef's D.C. eatery that shall remain nameless. The service was exceedingly slow, the food too salty, and overall it was just generally a mediocre meal. We could have let that put a damper on our evening, but instead we let it lead us down memory lane.  We reminisced about various memorable meals.

For instance, we talked about amazing dim sum we had in London, eating at the top of the Dancing Building in Prague, three feet of sausage in Germany, dinner at Central the night we were married, our first anniversary at Les Halles (Anthony Bourdain's restaurant) in New York, and on and on.  There were so many wonderful meals, it was no big deal that this year's Valentine's dinner was a bust. 

Of course, not every meal was amazing.  We also remembered dining with a friend who declared his meal disgusting and insisted the waiter remove it from his sight.  Or there was the time we were on our honeymoon in St. John and I ordered a pasta and seafood dish.  When it came to the table, it was so laden with salt that it was inedible.  I cannot stress enough that I almost never send food back, but this dish was so bad that I had to tell the waitress.  She took it back to the kitchen and then came back to give me a message from the chef.  According to the waitress (or the chef, whichever), some people (read: me) are not used to "fine cheese" which can make some dishes a little saltier than usual.  As someone who never met a cheese she didn't like, I was pretty sure it wasn't the cheese that ruined the dish, but the 14 tablespoons of salt that had been added to it. 

But the absolute best worst meal we ever had was in Chinatown in San Francisco.  It was the first trip we had taken together and we were looking forward to enjoying some really good Chinese food.  We had a recommendation for a restaurant that was supposed to be the best in Chinatown.  After wandering the streets for about 20 minutes, we gave up and figured, what the hell . . . we're in Chinatown in San Francisco, it's probably all good Chinese.  Little did we know.  The dumplings arrived and were served with -- wait for it -- A-1 mixed with soy sauce.  It was straight downhill from there.  We ate what we could stomach and quickly paid the check.

Chinese Food Sign
Image by fab4chiky via Flickr
As we were leaving, a little cat was pacing on the sidwalk in front of the restaurant. WH, always devilish, opened the door for me on the way out and held it open maybe a smidge too long.  Just long enough for the cat to run into the restaurant and across the dining room.  We watched as the diners gave the cat the side-eye and the waiters looked alarmed.  I'm sure the cat and the terrible food did nothing to dispell the old myth about Chinese restaurants . . . but it was hilarious to us!  Plus, it just goes to show, that no matter how bad the meal, with the right dining companion, any meal can be memorable!

What memorable meals have you had dining out?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Baby Love

Our friends the Gay Lawyer (more on him here and here) and his partner the Gay Historian recently adopted -- after having to wait for way too many years -- what is, without any doubt or argument, the cutest baby boy on the planet.  I know this because as his surrogate aunt, I feel what I can only imagine is what those in the business call "maternal" when I see him.  And I don't even really like babies all that much (need I remind you of this?).  Though this is no ordinary baby . . . but I digress. 

Last weekend, after spending some time with my Darling Nephew, it occurred to me that when people talk about babies and what they want to do to them, the talk is often actually quite gruesome.  My exposure to babies is fairly limited, so it may just be that the cutest baby in the world induces this kind of behavior in otherwise sane adults, but somehow I suspect that all babies induce hysteria in someone.

Baby Feet
Image by deanj via Flickr

When I was talking with some friends who have also fallen under the spell of my favorite infant, the comments ranged from [tame] "I want to put his whole foot in my mouth," to [creepy] "I could just squeeze him to death," to [grotesque] "I want to eat him alive."  Much as I love the kid, I'm not sure I could resort to baby cannibalism.

This got me thinking . . . what is it about babies that make regularly sane people go batshit crazy?  Their little tiny hands and toes are cute, who can argue with that?  There's that soft little baby skin, people spend their entire adulthoods trying to re-achieve that.  And that punch-drunk way that their heads are too big for their bodies, what's not to like about that?    But when do we make the leap from toes, skin, and heads to the desire to squeeze, pinch, and devour a tiny human?  I don't get it.  Then again, those little bitty toes do look kind of like corn nibblets. 

Friday, January 27, 2012

To Infinity and Beyond . . .

I'll go ahead and say it, I don't like space.  As in, outerspace, the Moon, Mars, etc.  It makes me feel panicky.  There's just so much of it.  Not to mention that whole "no gravity" thing.  What is that about? I read somewhere once that $52/year from each American goes to support NASA.  I want my $52 back.  Seriously.  If it were up to me, we'd all just stay put right here on Earth.  (And don't bother to go all off on me about how backward-thinking that is and how if Christopher Columbus had thought that way, we'd all still be believing the world was flat and the moon was made of green cheese. I don't care.)

So you can imagine my surprise and dismay when earlier this week, Republican Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich declared that, were he President, he would colonize the Moon.  And that's when he permanently lost my vote (not that he actually ever had it to begin with, but that's neither here nor there).  Not only would he colonize the Moon, but once it had 13,000 residents, he would give the Moon statehood.  Statehood!  As a resident of D.C., this particularly cheesed me off (see what I did there, Moon, cheese, get it?), considering that D.C. residents don't have statehood or even representation in Congress.  (FYI, this is not meant to be a political commentary, but a mini-dissertation on my space-hatred.)  

The whole thing blows my mind on several levels.  First of all, does the U.S. even own the Moon?  Do we have the right to declare ownership (and thus colonize it)?  I'm not an expert in space law, or anything (or any law for that matter), but it certainly seems like we can't just call dibs on it because it might be fun to try.  Secondly, the mere thought that 13,000 people (or more) would want to go to the Moon . . . not just for a visit like that kid from NSYNC, but to live, really floors me.  Can you imagine having to walk around with that space suit and helmet on everyday?  Talk about bad hair. And imagine what it would do to the fashion industry, "This year from Kenneth Cole, the latest in space-travel chic." No thanks.

Now, if Newt wants to colonize the Moon, so be it, but not with my $52 a year.  My only caveat is that, should the Moon become a state, D.C. get to be one first. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Nose Knows

To add to the list of things you might not believe about me, I used to play rugby.  My sophomore year in college, with nothing else to do (besides classes, I suppose), I decided what the hell, I'd join the rugby team.  At 5'6" and 110 pounds, I was a natural for the hard hitting, tooth spitting sport.  Not.  But I didn't care.  I figured if I acted tough enough, I'd be alright.

I faithfully attended practice each afternoon in preparation for our first game.  Never mind that I didn't really understand the rules.  Never mind that I couldn't catch the ball.  Never mind that I was probably the smallest person on the team by about 30 pounds and had to roll up the sleeves on my rugby shirt because it was too big.  I was determined to be the next big thing in rugby.

The day of our first game was a grey, cloudy Saturday afternoon.  I was ready. I even got myself a black mouthguard for the occasion -- it was extra badass.  My friends, including my fairly skeptical roommate, had come out to cheer me on.  I was slated to start that day (don't even ask me what position I was supposed to be playing), and I was pumped.

We warmed up, ran a few laps, did some grunting, and started the game.  It was fast.  The next thing I knew there was a ball coming towards me.  The next thing I knew after that, I was heaving my head up from the muddy grass.  I was gagging on something, so I spit . . . a mouthful of blood.  I was seeing stars and could barely sit up.  It was my nose.  Broken by another player's elbow.

Any other sport, and a man down would be cause for stoppage of play.  But not in rugby.  A player may lose a limb, and the other players will simply step around the body and the severed appendage and keep playing.  Rugby is no joke.  So I lay there, slumped in the near fetal position, waving my arm in the air.  I don't remember much of how I got off the field or what happened during the game.  I sort of remember sitting on the sidelines with ice in a rubber glove shoved up against my nose.  There was a lot of blood on my shirt (which, I must admit, did make me look pretty badass).

Queen Victoria Wearing a Monster Red Nose
Photo by Dominic's pics via Flickr

Eventually my roommate took me to the hospital to get an Xray and make sure I wasn't too badly injured.  Fortunately it was just a hairline crack across the bridge of my nose.  The next morning I woke up with two black eyes and Karl Malden's nose.  It had swelled up to the size of a Polish kielbasa.  Just in time for sorority rush.  At least I looked tough.  And I had something to talk about during those boring sorority parties. Just picture it:
Sorority Girl 1: Hi, I'm Jenny.  What's your name?

WashingTina: WashingTina.

SG #1:  Nice to meet you.  (polite smile) So, tell me, what happened to your face?

WashingTina:  I ran into a door.

SG #1:  Really?  (feigned concern) Oh my gosh!

WT:  No, actually I fell down an elevator shaft.

SG #1:  No way! (stunned disbelief) Are you okay?

WT:  Just kidding.  I'm in an underground kangaroo boxing league, and I didn't fare so well in last night's bout.

SG #1:  (nervous giggles) I'm beginning to think you're fooling with me.

WT:  You're right . . . I broke it playing rugby.

SG #1:  Come on, seriously, what happened? (frustrated consternation)

WT:  Seriously, I broke it playing rugby. Really.

SG #1:  (big sigh) Fine. Don't tell me.  I guess I'll take you to meet some of the other girls.

WT:  Okay.

SG #1:  Hi Kimberly, have you met WashingTina?

Sorority Girl #2:  Hi WashingTina!  So, what happened to your face?

WT:  Well . . . 

And so it went.  And surprisingly enough, I actually did get into a sorority even though I looked like the loser of the Thrilla in Manila.  Say what you want about sorority girls, but at least some of them were able to see my inner beauty.

As far as rugby goes, that was my first and last match.  I decided to listen to my nose, and preserve the better features of my face for future bad decisions. Besides, sorority life was much more my speed.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chronicles of a Brain Trust (Part 2)

The Brain Trust was always a cause for entertainment (more here).  Whether she was dressing inappropriately, crying at her desk, or making grand pronouncements about how smart the women in her family were (no kidding!), she never failed to get attention.  Take for instance the time she got caught for skipping out on Metro without paying.  Really.

Apparently days (or weeks, who knows?) prior, Brain Trust had lost her SmarTriip card, but did that stop her from riding?  Not a chance.  She would sidle up behind someone and walk quickly through the fare gate without paying.  It's a dirty little trick, but it happens.  One day, after sneaking through the gate, she was nabbed by a transit cop.  And according to her, this is how the conversation went:
Cop:  Can I see your SmarTrip card?

Brain Trust:  I lost it.

Cop:  It's illegal to go through the turnstile without paying.  I'm going to need to see some identification.

BT:  I don't have any.

Cop:  Then I'm going to have to arrest you.

BT:  Well, I might have a student ID. 
Cop:  I need something that shows who you are.
BT:  Well, I might have my Social Security card. 

I'm going to have to to interject here and say, a) who on earth carries her Social Security card in their wallet and b) who doesn't carry any identification with them on a regular basis?  Oh, right, Brain Trust.
Cop:  I need identification.
At this point, BT was digging through her purse under the cop's watchful eye.  In her bag she had a pill bottle full of niacin (she had recently watched a documentary about vitamins and swore that niacin was going to save her life--and that we should all take it too, because it would probably save ours).  The cop asked her what was in the bottle, because, as she put it, "apparently niacin looks like drugs. What-ever."  It was around this point that she started to get an attitude with the cop.  She told him he had no right to ask for her ID.  I'm not sure what Law & Order episode she learned that from, but I'm pretty sure he did have the right (then again, I'm no attorney).

Finally she produced either her Social Security card or student ID, I forget which, and the cop issued her a citation.  But the story doesn't end here, dear reader.  So indignant was she that she refused to pay the ticket.  She waited and waited and waited, regaling nearly everyone in our office with the story of the cop, the turnstile, and the niacin.  And then, with a giggle, she would say, "So if I don't pay the fine, they're going to swear out a warrant for my arrest."  On the last day she had to pay it, she asked my coworker about where the nearest police station was to go pay it.  He told her and she said, "That's too far.  I don't have time," and then heaved the put-upon sigh of a huffy 13-year-old. Guess what?  She didn't pay the ticket in time.  A point she enjoyed sharing with us all, repeatedly, including in meetings with outside clients.  I think she eventually did pay the ticket, but somewhere she's got a police record.  You know, because she's awesome.

The real kicker, though, and the event that sealed her fate, was a meeting two weeks prior to our annual conference.  We were preparing for an all-staff meeting that included our meeting planning contractors.  As we were assembling in the conference room before the meeting, a roach skittered across the floor.  Anyone else would've hit it with a shoe (girlish squeal, optional), but not Brain Trust.  Her response was much more . . . drastic.  She shrieked a shriek rivaled by the best horror movie vixens in Hollywood.  She yelled deep from her soul, as if she had been thrown from a plane.  She screamed is if she were being assaulted in a dark alley.  And then she ran, like Flo-Jo, out of the conference room and down the hall, leaving the rest of the staff open-mouthed and staring after her.  (In case you were wondering, I think someone did eventually hit the roach with a shoe.)

Not two days later, the staff, sans BT, was summoned to the conference room again to be informed that Brain Trust had been relieved of her duties and sent packing.  And thus the entertainment ended.  I was almost sad to see her go. Almost.  But then I remembered all of her antics and realized that despite my desire for more opportunities to roll my eyes, working with such a loose cannon wasn't really something that was desireable.  Still, every time I see a roach, I think of her.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Chronicles of a Brain Trust (Part 1)

Have you ever met someone so stupid you can't believe they made it adulthood without getting hit by a car, falling down a flight of stairs, or drowning in the bathtub?  This is the story of just such a person.  She was a short-lived coworker of mine not too long ago.

We should have known what we were getting into when she showed up to her interview with the nightclub stamp from the night before still on the back of her hand.  Her outfit was also covered in cat hair.  A young woman in her mid-twenties, the Brain Trust, as she came to be called, seemed personable enough, but it was pretty early on that I realized she was fall-down stupid.  She sat in a cubicle just outside my office, so it was easy for me to hear her phone calls and the various sniveling fits she had during her short tenure in my office.  Another coworker, who was lucky enough to be seated in the cubicle next to hers, and I got hours of entertainment from her antics.

Our office is fairly relaxed, and we don't have a dress code, per se, but the Brain Trust would often show up inappropriately attired for work.  The first sign was the day she showed up in a sequined mini-dress paired with a long sweater-coat and Ugg boots.  I really thought, had she sneezed, we might've seen her moneymaker.  But this was the least of her offenses.  Take for instance the time we had an all-staff interview.  The conference room was exceedingly warm that day.  Brain Trust had clearly dressed for the occasion in yoga pants, sneakers, a t-shirt, and a fleece.  As luck would have it, I got the lucky spot next to her during this meeting (that's the last time I show up a minute late for anything).  The interview concluded and I sat there fanning myself with my note pad.  BT leaned over to me and said, "It's so hot in here," to which I agreed.  She went on, "and I can't take my fleece off because I forgot to wear a bra today."  Cue jaw drop.   What does one say to a comment like that?  First of all, why did she feel the need to share that information with me?  Secondly, how on earth do you forget a bra?  I'd like to take a moment to poll my fellow bra-wearers out there: has there ever been a day, from the time you were, say, 13, when you forgot to put on a bra?  You simply don't forget to put on a bra.  Not possible. 

Another time there was a several-day-long computer training class that some of us had to take at a remote office in Bethesday.  Brain Trust, as one of the main administrative assistants, had a particular reason to attend the training.  Computer training is boring.  Let's make no bones about that.  And three days of it straight can be downright excruciating.  But if it's an aspect of your work that you need in order to succeed at your job, you suck it up, pay attention, and get the most out of it that you can.  Then you go home and drink heavily until the next day. Unless you are Brain Trust.  In that case, you minimize the training window, open up your browser, and start talking to your sleezy boyfriend on G-Chat.  This is how she spent three days.  On the fourth day, after getting caught, she just minimized the window and sat there staring at the screen.  I may have seen drool spilling down her chin.

Brain Trust regularly ended up crying at her desk.  The littlest thing could set her off.  One day she was asked to call for a refill prescription for her boss.  When the pharmacy informed her that there were no longer any refills left, BT lost it.  She dissolved into hysteria, sobbing into the phone that she had to have it.  That the world might end if she couldn't get the scrip filled.  My coworker and I just looked at each other and shook our heads.  We were getting used to her crying jags.  There had been another time when her mother, who looked like a Real Housewife of Tampa (I know this because once she came to visit and BT brought her to the office), was scheduled to go on a blind date with someone who may or may not have been a registered sex offender.  I learned know this because she was constantly talking with her mother on the phone about her mother's dates.  One conversation (which I only heard one side of) went something like this, "So, did you get the restraining order?" [pause--insert imagined Mama-Drama here] "Well, he was stalking you." [pause--more Mama-Drama] "But, that's not fair. He's dangerous. He should be in jail." [pause--more Mama-Drama] And then she began to snivel and cry.  Her words became unitelligible.  

Another day she was trying to print a spreadsheet from Excel.  Since she neglected to set the print area, her printer continued to spit out plain sheets of paper, much to her confusion and chagrin.  Coworker and I could hear her huffing and puffing, lost in her own befuddlement.  My coworker, who is a much nicer person than I, finally took pity on her (after about the 35th muttering of "what the hell!?"), and went to see what was wrong.  "This spreadsheet just keeps printing out blank pages, so I keep taking the paper out and putting it back in the printer."  Coworker stopped the print job and got her set up to print properly.  He then walked back to his desk, shaking his head.  There was a lot of head-shaking that went on during her short tenure . . . [To Be Continued . . .]

Monday, January 9, 2012

There She Is . . .

A friend recently sent me a video of this weirdly crazy child from the trainwreck TV show Toddlers and Tiaras.  For the unintiated, this show is about (what else) toddlers who are making their way through the beauty pageant circuit.  I've never actually seen the show, but based on snippets from news stories and viral videos, the nearest I can tell is that these little kids are dressed up like washed up 35-year-old divorcees on a two-for-one whiskey sour night at the local watering hole or Dolly Parton (I can't really tell which), and set on stage to perform karoake to "Stand By Your Man" or some such.  Evidence below:



They're just little kids, right?  They can't help it, right?  But their mothers (and in few cases, fathers) can, right?  First of all, these parents have named their children things like Eden, Kylie, Kayleigh, Ayzia, and Kinnadie, and "encourage" them to compete in pageants such as "America's Trezured Dollz" (it's real, I swear, Google it).  Apparently nobody can spell quite right and an extra "z," "y," or "eigh" is to be desired -- bonus points if you change any other letter to a "k".  While little Payriz is on stage doing her "beauty," momma is in the audience giving her cues.  And by cues, I mean she's full-on doing the dance moves and acting out the entire routine (often while yelling something along the lines of "Git it girl!") for her babygirl who has been hairsprayed, spraytanned, false-teethed, and lipsticked within an inch of her life. 



It's easy to laugh at the spectacle and be appalled by the behavior of the mothers, but it scares me most because I could totally see myself standing in the back of the room, hopped up on RedBull acting out a Lady Gaga number in my a-little-too-tight Juicy Couture velour track suit with the faux fur collar and permanently surprised face, while I cheer on my "dazzling babygirl."  I mean, who doesn't want their babygirl to nail her beauty?  Who doesn't want their babygirl to sparkle in her Vegas-wear?  I can feel my adrenaline surging just thinking about it.  Sadly, WH and I don't have any kids, but I promise not to get spraytan in its eyes and I will always yell "Git it girl!" louder than anyone else, if you just let me borrow her for the afternoon.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Two for the Road

Two years. Hard to believe.  There's not a lot to say, but I feel I'd be a little remiss if I didn't at least memorialize another year of blogging with a little something.   It's been a fun, if at times bumpy (stinky, squishy, sweaty, slightly obscene), ride.  But I'm in it for the long haul (or until that book deal comes through), and I hope you'll stick with me as I do it.

Happy Blog-iversary to me!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Let's Not and Say We Did

I have recently seen several stories about reverse bucket lists . . . lists of things that people don't want to try before they die.  And in these days of trying everything, living life to the fullest, tasting the rainbow, and what have you, I love the idea of being honest about stuff you'd rather not do. And so, dear readers, without further ado, here is a list of things I would not like to try before I meet my maker:
Hot Yoga -- a dear friend of mine introduced me to yoga a couple of years ago, and I could not be happier about that.  It's freeing, challenging, and relaxing all at the same time.  But what I cannot bear the thought of is doing yoga in 105° heat. You can keep your hot yoga.

Climbing Everest -- I mean really.  I climb four flights of stairs just to get home every day and that's about enough for me.  People die doing that shit.  You can also keep your Everest.

Visit all 50 States -- with apologies to the ones in the middle, I've been to 30 of the 50, but I think I'm set.  Sure, I'd love to see Alaska and Hawaii, but should I leave this earthly paradise without having set foot in Oklahoma or Idaho, I'll be alright.

Shoot a Gun -- please don't go all NRA on me.  I know I have the right to bear arms, but that's enough for me.  I don't feel the need to exercise it.  Bang, bang.

Go Camping -- this might not count.  I've been camping.  Sort of.  One night with the Girl Scouts in 4th grade.  Platform tents. Spiders. Outhouses. 'Nuff said. Just make me a reservation at the Sheraton, please.

Dive in a Shark Cage -- or at all, for that matter.  If we had been meant to spend extended periods under water, we'd have been born with gills. I swam with dolphins once and spent 12 years on the swim team as a kid.  I think I'm all set with the water.

Burning Man -- seriously. I'm 36 years old and I wear suits to work. I think that pretty much disqualifies me from attending anyway.  (See also, Go Camping.)

Eat Organ Meat -- brains, hearts, livers, no thanks.  I've tried a lot of things (octopus, alligator, even bear), but I really just don't want or need to pretend I'm enjoying sweetbreads or chitlins, thankyouverymuch.  This goes double for blood pudding.
Read Another Book By Gabriel Garcia Marquez -- because you can never get those plodding hours back.  Yeah, yeah, I'm sure you thought Love in a Time of Cholera was brilliant and all, but honestly, it made me want to hang myself.  Never again.

Take a Spinning Class -- biking is not my thing, even around the flat landscape in Rehoboth.  I can't think of any reason why an otherwise sane individual would want to combine club music, dim lighting, and extreme bike riding.  (See also Hot Yoga.)
I'm sure there are more.  I can't think of them at the moment, but maybe I'll update this list in future posts.  What things would you not like to try before you die?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

That's All, She Wrote

Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved to write.  I kept diaries throughout my school years.  When everyone else complained about writing papers in college, I actually enjoyed it.  That might be why I went into a profession that requires me to spend most of my day each day writing.  When I started this blog, nearly two years ago, it was so that I could write what I want when I want; a creative outlet to supplement the not-so-creative writing I do at work. 

My first year blogging, I was pretty dedicated and managed to get (I think) quite a following.  Friends, family, and even a few strangers read and commented on the blog.  I was covered in a couple of publications (holy cow!) and it was a great boost for my creative spirit.  But year two wasn't such a success.  A friend of my mother's recently asked me what had happened to WashingTina, and I had no answer.  I thought for a minute and realized that 2011 was a bit of a bust.  Nothing particularly interesting happened, WH and I didn't travel anywhere, and I was going through a bit of a "blue period."  But unlike Picasso, my blue period did not beget any creativity whatsoever.  As it turns out, I'm not of Hemmingway's ilk, and my best material doesn't so much come when I'm unhappy (or drunk, as it were). 

But last week four things happened that made me realize that this is too important to not keep up.  First was my mother's friend's question (and further encouragement: see Wise Crackers).  The others stemmed from gifts I received for Christmas.  My sister gave me a WashingTina scrapbook, illustrating and highlighting some of the memorable moments from the blog.  She and my mother had spent a great deal of time selecting their favorite stories and putting the book together.  Just listening to them gush about the blog and the stories and how hard it was to pick just a few, really struck me.  Someone besides me enjoys the blog.  Someone besides me felt the void of my absence here.  Someone wanted more. 

Thirdly, WH gave me a book by a writer (duh, who else writes books?!) that reminded him of me.  As I started reading her words, her talk about writing, I was inspired.  I was reminded how gratifying, how cathartic it is to write.  How important writing is, and always has been, in my life. 

Finally, my father-in-law, who had never read my blog before, spent some time with the scrapbook on Christmas reading my writing.  He was so impressed, he told me that when I write my book, he plans to be the first in line to buy a copy.  From someone that I respect immensely, this was the last little message I needed.  I must write.  For myself.  For the people who love me.  And maybe, just maybe, for some of those people who first found their way here, and who might find their way back again. 

This New Year's Day, I'm resolving to write.  It might not always be great, but it will be here.  And I want to hear from you . . . because it matters to me.  And it makes me happy.  I'm not so much kissing my blue period goodbye . . . I'm just going to write my way through it.  And maybe when I come out on the other side, I'll have left a little nugget of something worth reading behind.