Friday, March 30, 2007

Shaken and stirred

Sean Connery was at my place of employment today. Much to my dismay, I did not see him. However, the security guard in the lobby below my office got to meet him when he came in. And, I swear to god, he introduced himself to her as "Bond. James Bond."

When I left work this afternoon, said security guard was still swooning and grinning from ear to ear. I think she'll be living off that story for quite some time to come.

Had I seen him, I would have been torn between being all swoony myself over Dr. Jones/James Bond/Ramirez the Immortal and silently giggling, thinking about SNL "Celebrity Jeopardy!"

I probably would have swooned in person and then giggled later. Why choose?

By the way, Nicholas Cage, Helen Mirren and others are in town right now filming the sequel to "National Treasure." I guess Dame Helen is slumming it after her Oscar win. To be honest, I enjoyed "National Treasure" - it was a guilty pleasure for me the summer it came out. So, hopefully, while certainly not Oscar-worthy, the sequel will be a hoot, too.

Hmm... sequel news makes me wonder... will Connery return to the Indiana Jones saga at all for the last film? Geriatric Jones? Old and Older? Don't care. Connery and Ford would be fabulous eye candy at any age.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Slipping Boobage: the Bethesda Edition

NOTE on 3/21/08: this post gets more hits than anything else I've written in the three+ years I've had this blog. First things first: no, boys, you're not going to see photos of bare boobs here. Go look somewhere else. Go buy yourself some porn, you cheap bastards!

Second: if you're a Google employee, you won't find bare boobs here, either. I've been getting a lot of hits from Google to this entry lately, and I assume it's because I have vociferously complained about Google AdSense putting ads for "sex crime attorneys" and "cheating wives" dating sites on my blog. Of course, this entry was written nearly a year before I briefly put Google AdSense on my blog. *Sigh.* Google employees: if you want to talk to me about my complaint, call me. I will speak with you. Your AdSense product needs fine tuning. Thank you.

Handy hint: if your boobs hang low and loose and you're carting around a rambunctious toddler, you might want to consider wearing a bra. Also, you might want to skip open tie-front blouses that wrap around so low your ta-tas are mostly on display anyway.

Not that I have anything against breasts. I have two myself. (No one looks at them. They appear to mostly be crumb-catchers and flotation devices...) But sometimes, a little support goes a long way.

Tonight, I stopped at CVS to pick up some Prilosec. Christ, I'm getting old, huh? I fear I may be headed down the acid reflux road that several of my sisters have traveled in recent years. Today (after dealing with a touch of food contamination that *really* made the day special) I felt like my innards wanted to burn me alive. And that's just no way to live. Would you believe CVS was out of the damn Prilosec? I got some other overpriced stuff and headed to the front of the store.

There was a youngish, hipster mom at the door, holding a hyper kiddo on her hip. I could not help but notice, through her very thin top, that Mommy's funbags were hanging low on the horizon. Hey - it's every woman's choice to brassiere or not to brassiere, but all I could think was, "God, her back must hurt like hell." And, just as I was thinking that, Mommy set her kiddo down on the floor and Boob Numero Uno just flopped right out of the top, sort of swinging in the breeze like a plump man in a hangman's noose. Her kiddo on the floor thought this was hilarious, and, with one tiny hand, he whipped Boob Numero Dos out of its flimsy wrapping. Before she could straighten back up, Mommy was giving the Bethesda CVS a Double Ta-Ta Salute. (For the record: brown nipples. And yes, I'm going straight to Hell.) This was well beyond the "celebrity nip slips" you see online all the time.

Now, here's the funny thing - Mommy noticed the one breast hanging out and quickly returned it to the comfort and safety of her blouse. But the other one? I swear to god, she just let it hang out. It was only when her husband came bolting up front, giggling like an idiot, and covered her up that she seemed to realize she still had half the girls drooping in public view.

Having a pair of these things attached to my chest, I'm a little confused as to how you can't notice one is just flapping around in the drug store. I really wasn't trying to look, by the way, but it was just one of those things where you just watch and wait and wait and wonder when that oblivious person is going to remember the boob left behind.

I mean this with great sincerity - and speaking as a woman with big boobs myself - if your love lumps are elongated and droopy like the Hindenburg after the infrastructure crumbled...

Get thyself a bra.

A good bra.

People will silently thank you.

So will your aching back.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Is there a full moon?

Or is there simply a wave of insanity in DC, brought on by the exceptional, summertime weather?

Today I saw emergency vehicles flying all over the place, cars plowed into other cars (a six-car pile up over by IKEA in College Park, among other accidents), and generally odd behavior. The freakiest thing I saw all day - and the thing that gave me the creeps - was a Metro bus turning left from Connecticut onto K Street, NW. As the bus turned, the display on the back changed from the route number to this message: 911 CALL COPS. Over and over again, the message rolled as the bus turned. So, I reached for my phone and called. I have no idea if it was a fluke or a mistake or something real. But, when you're two blocks from the White House in the middle of rush hour traffic, it's best not to take chances. I'd love to know how many 911 calls came in. I wonder how many folks actually pay attention to the bus displays? Normally, had there not been a complete jam at that intersection, I wouldn't have noticed a thing out of place.

Nothing on WTOP, so I hope it was just "driver error." Lord knows, there's been a lot of "driver error" with DC buses lately...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Back to work

My mini-vacation is over, sadly. Tomorrow, I'm back to the office, and my mid-afternoon catnapping is no more. It's been nice. For the most part, I've spoken to no one, other than shop clerks and the MoCo police regarding my brake lights. (All replaced, all is well.)

I've herded a lot of dust cattle in the apartment, rearranged furniture repeatedly, and enjoyed the lovely weather. Yeah, hanging at my apartment wasn't exactly a day at the beach, but it was good. I'm rested, and I'm ready for another long haul before the next break. I could use maybe two more days off, but couldn't we all?

Time to make dinner and ponder laundering something work appropriate...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mrs. Piston Engine's Internet Bargain Tip

There is a reason my friend the Sasquatch calls me Mrs. Piston Engine. It's a Monty Python reference, and he really does mean it as a compliment. (I think.) Being raised in a family of nine children means you learn to find the serious bargains at an early age. There are hunters, there are gatherers, and there are those who can make a coupon and an early bird discount into the sale of the century.

I fall into the third category, and thank god for that these days.

Bargain hunters can rarely be pigeonholed into "brand loyalty" situations. You generally takes what you can gets. That's why I was buying discount lightbulbs and a new bathroom trash basket at the Rockville Dollar Tree on Saturday. (And, damn, that store is scary - it smells like an armpit, the floor is strewn with tiny bits of detritus from poorly made junk and food containers torn open by moms who let their toddlers graze on packages of the store's cut-rate snacks as they cruise the aisles, and the temperature goes up about ten degrees when you walk inside.) I am a discerning bargain hunter, though. I'm not buying crap just because it's cheap. The lightbulbs were Sunbeam brand, UL approved, the whole nine yards. Perfectly fine. The trash basket - which came in a variety of colors: blue, blue, or blue - is just as nice as any you'd pay $15 for at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. But holy macaroni, some of the stuff in that store? YUCK. I felt like my body was crawling with something when I left, and my hands itched like nobody's business. Dollar stores are a great concept if you're in a total financial bind, like me, but if you can avoid them, for the most part, I would highly recommend staying away. At least from this one. It may be a bigger Hellmouth than the White Flint 7-11.

Leaving the Crap For A Buck store, I felt a breeze. And yet, it was not breezy outside. I realized my much loved and much worn jeans were giving up the ghost, in a most unflattering way. Yikes! I headed home to ponder my denim dilemma.

Like I said, bargain hunters can't be choosers, for the most part. But there are some times when you are stuck. There are limited clothing choices in my size range. I can't exactly run down to The Gap or Old Navy and retrieve a new pair of denim-y goodness. There is one, count 'em, one pair of jeans I'm comfy in and that actually fit me in a way that I can sit, stand, or function at all. And, I am a jeans kind of girl. Black trousers at work, sure, but just about any other time, you'll find me in jeans. Happy as a clam. I know what works, and I'm sticking with it.

I think, once you get beyond the small, but vocal and Internet/TV whorish fashionista layer of society, most women like to stick with What Works Best for them. It's not a matter of lacking a spirit of adventure - I think it's more a matter of not having time/money/desire to screw around with a lot of stuff that won't work and, therefore, will be money down the tubes. Or maybe that's just me. I'm fairly practical that way. I leave my lack of practicality for things like CDs purchased for the only good song on it. Thank god for iTunes - cutting the chaff from the wheat. iTunes could have saved me really big bucks back in the day, I tell ya. Right now, I'm culling my CD collection, trying to part with stuff I haven't listened to in ages and/or I've loaded onto the computer. My goal is to send a big box off to Second Spin for credit. Only problem is, my taste in music hasn't always been the finest. Many of my junk CDs are just that - junk. Worth only $0.25 in trade. Which means, it would cost more to mail it to Second Spin than it's worth. Who would have guessed that OMC's fabulous (sputter, cough) CD debut wouldn't be an equity builder?

Oh wait - most of the world guessed that. I was the idiot that bought it. How bizarre, how bizarre, indeed. Well, maybe someone on eBay or is dying for some rap-tastic Kiwi pop. Who knows? I guess I have to start two piles - the Second Spin guys someone sane might want to listen to, and the eBay crap pile for people too stupid to realize they could buy that one good song on iTunes.

But, as often happens here at the Church, I digress...

So, here I was on Saturday, driving home with the wind beneath my cheeks, hoping to get into the apartment without any of my neighbors seeing my new unintentionally thrashed fashion look. I knew Sunday was "customer appreciation day" at the fat women's clothing store on the Pike. However, I also knew they rarely carried enough jeans in my apparently popular fat size for there to be any on hand. (I called. I was right.) But they have an online presence. And here's where my advice gets good for peeps of any size.

Do you shop anywhere frequently enough that getting a discount card with them makes sense? I pay a tiny fee each year to have a 10% discount card at this particular store. (Since it's the only brick and mortar store where I can buy clothes locally, it makes sense.) The discount is good online, too. The customer appreciation sale was valid online, too - 40% storewide. Add to that my card discount for a half-price experience. But the savvy Internet bargain hunter doesn't stop there. If I really need something (and these days, I really need to have something to go out and buy it, frankly) I go to Google and type in the name of the retailer followed by the words "promo code" or "coupon code." Sometimes I do both. In most cases, I can find addition savings that way - codes for free shipping or a certain amount of dollars off.

In this case, I found a great coupon for $20 off. The jeans at half-price were $18. I ended up getting a second pair of jeans and two pairs of socks for free. Can I get an amen for that, kids?

See, sometimes, the Internet can be a tool of good. And, dear god, having my ass covered in public is definitely a Good Thing.

Yours in full denim coverage,


Saturday, March 24, 2007

How much of the world have you seen?

According to this TravBuddy map, I've seen 15% of the countries on the planet. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out, I've only been to airports in India, Japan, Slovakia, and the Philippines, but I was on the ground and out of the planes, so I'm counting those babies!) Kinda cool to see it charted out.

In other news, I did not win that "Best DC Blog By a DC Blogger" poll. But mucho, mucho thanks to all your fine folks who voted for me - I really appreciate it. I thought I would do more writing on this long, long weekend off, but instead, I'm semi-obsessed with Things Domestic. I keep rearranging furniture over and over and over again. I'm sure the guy downstairs hates me. And speaking of hate, I finally called the police about the incessant barking of the poor dog next door. Those freaky people leave that critter out 24/7 and ignore it. It's a tiny dog, and it's desperate for attention, poor thing. It's been quiet, though, since the cops came by. That, ladies and gentlemen is a miracle.

And, speaking of the MoCo police, I was pulled over today on Rockville Pike. Believe it or not, I'm glad to have been stopped. Turns out three of my four brake lights are out. Holy crow! The officer gave me a repair document - not a ticket - and I have ten days to get the lights fixed or my registration is suspended. I thanked the cop - I seriously appreciated knowing. Considering the amount of time I'm in stop and go traffic on my way to work, having functioning brake lights is pretty damn important. Now, I have to figure out if Madame Klutz can replace these guys on her own or if I have to take it to a garage to have it done. Don't laugh - I just look at tools and injure myself.

Today I managed to batter myself pretty darn well with my horribly half-assed attempt to put doors on two IKEA bookshelves. I was trying to rid myself of Bad Furniture Karma. These are, you see, the bookshelves I was putting together when my eye problem first appeared, on July 3rd last year. I literally stopped working with those shelves and had left the doors propped up against the wall since then. Stupid? Yes. But sometimes stress makes us do dumb stuff. Long story short - I attempted to affix the doors to the shelves. I halfway succeeded. They halfway fell off. And, just a few minutes ago, they completely fell off. Looks like I need a friend to come by and help me.

And I may need a friend to help with the lights on my car, too, if it doesn't require the assist of a real mechanic. Not sure I can swing the cost of a mechanic this month. But I can always make dinner for a friend. :)

Oh, god. I used a smiley in a blog entry.

Christ. I think that's a capital crime, isn't it?

Hanging my head in shame,

Yours from the barking-dog-free zone,


Friday, March 23, 2007

Is it possible to get blacklisted by the WaPo Express?

Or did I just become so uninteresting and unhip that they stopped reading? (This is entirely possible. Especially since I'm not exactly hip.)

I used to pop up on the Express blog thingie periodically. No big deal. Since I don't pass an Express box on my way to work, I'd never know until someone told me. But a while back, I actually left a comment on the Express website when I felt that one of their "we're young, snarky, hip, and prettier than you" pieces (meant to be funny, at the expense of overweight - and therefore, apparently, not in the Express demographic - people) was, as I put it "more cruel than usual." Up until then, I had hits to my blog on a regular basis from the WPNI domain. After I actually objected to "fun" content? Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Could just be coincidence. It's not that it matters. It would simply be pretty amusing if I'd gotten kicked out of the fold for being opinionated, rather than for just being boring.

I'm good at being boring. (I think you can all attest to that.)

On occasion, I'm good at being opinionated, too.

Still no Romeo. It's 9:38 a.m. I give him an hour before I start calling and caterwauling to the property management peeps...

Update: Romeo finally got here. After he stood me up yesterday, I took a fairly evil delight in seeing him have to stick his hands deep into the rodent kingdom. Shame on me.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Romeo Must Die

The carpenter never showed today. I finally got him on his cell and he hemmed and hawed and "uhhhhed" a whole lot, but never offered an excuse. It was a freaking gorgeous day. I imagine he got an outdoor gig that was more interesting than the mouse hole-a-rama in my kitchen. I pretty much read him the riot act, pointed out that he was f-ing up my vacation (since I didn't go to the shore, I would have LOVED to be able to sleep in tomorrow) and that his woodworking ass better be at my home tomorrow morning. He has promised to be here at 9:30 tomorrow. We shall see.

Once I exorcised my kitchen demons and moved some more furniture, I headed up the Pike for a haircut. There was only one stylist at the King Farm Hair Cuttery when I got there, and my heart sank when I saw it was a very shy woman with uncertain English skills. So many language barriers, so many bad haircuts in my past... But today, I decided to go for it. Turns out, it went pretty well. I got a deep heat conditioning treatment done because my poor hair is so whacked out dry and frizzy from dye and the chemo drug. My stylist even gave me a killer scalp massage (at which point I almost fell asleep in the chair.) And the cut? Well, heck, you know when you're just asking for an inch of dry split ends to be chopped off, you can't do much harm.

But over the course of the slow cut, I found out that my stylist was from Bangkok. She brightened considerably when I told her I'd been to Thailand several times, and we exchanged stories about our favorite markets in the capital city and she laughed about my experiences with lip-numbing Thai peppers. (Hint to the farang: if that pepper is a cheerful pineapple yellow, it's going to numb your face like Novocaine from Hell.) When I left her chair, I thanked Li in Thai, "Kaap khun kha," and pressed my hands together in a wai. She offered me a wai in return and smiled all the way up to the register. When she handed me my bill, it was only $14 - she didn't charge me the extra $10 for long hair (which is a load of crap anyway if you're just getting the ends trimmed) and didn't charge me for the conditioning treatment. I started to say something about the undercharge, and she stopped me. "Mai pen rai," she said. "Never mind. It's okay."


I've just been quietly futzing around with things at home tonight. Sorting, tossing, organizing. I'm enjoying the silence.

Tomorrow, Romeo *will* come (or there will be hell to pay) and then I'll go to my bank to file the notarized documents to get my stolen $$ back. What a pain in the patoot.

But at least my hair looks fabulous.

Sony. Bony.

Apparently, "yellow faces" do better at the negotiating table in the Middle East than blond, blue-eye peeps. That's the conclusion of Japan's foreign minister, Taro Aso. I swear, if I hadn't read it on, I would have assumed it was a joke. Then I saw that this dude also said he hoped that Japan could become a home to "rich Jews" back in 2001. Wow. Again, I'm glad to see that American politicians haven't totally cornered the market on verbal diarrhea.

I wonder what Aso thinks of brown faces?

Many years ago, there was a silly little comedy called "Crazy People" starring Dudley Moore and Darryl Hannah. It wasn't a great film by any means, but it had some damn funny bits. Moore played an advertising executive who had a nervous breakdown and started being very, very, very honest in his work. "Volvos: boxy, but safe." "Jaguars: Cars for men who want hand jobs from beautiful women they don't know."

Moore ends up committed to a very posh, super friendly mental hospital, where he organizes a rag-tag group of inmates to be a super-successful advertising machine. In the very end, Sony ends up as a client. At first, through a twist of plot, the patients refuse to cooperate and come up with slogans like "Sony. Bony." (Stupid, but it stays with me, years later.) But, finally, they come up with an ad where a Sony executive talks about how (and I'm paraphrasing here) "caucasians aren't good at building microprocessors because they are too tall and awkward - they're too far away from the equipment. But Asians are short, so their eyes are closer to the chips." I swear to god, Taro Aso could have written that, and it wouldn't have been a scripted joke.

God bless politicians. The world round, they're guaranteed to be idiots.

Mutha Nature...

She is a harsh taskmistress, no?

Today I had planned, after the departure of Romeo the carpenter (who is not here yet), to throw a small bag in the crapmobile and motor myself to the shore. Merujo goes on shore leave! Lock up your men and salt water taffy! But, wouldn't you know it, the fates have conspired against me. It appears that while today will be a decent day at the beach (if you like freezing your ass off on the water), both tomorrow and Saturday will be rainy. While I'm not opposed to rain at the shore - it is wet there, anyway - the Big Crazy Eye and I don't do so well driving in the rain these days. I get all freaky and panicky just driving home from work in a downpour in familiar territory. The combination of chilly rain and poor vision three hours from home is not really a particularly outstanding one. So, it looks like I'll be hangin' at home. Could be worse. And I'll save money (that I really didn't have for the shore trip, anyway!!)

It does suck just a tiny bit, though - I'd found a hotel room for $35 for tonight out at Rehoboth (off-season, weekday night prices are a Good Thing) and I was ready to even drive down to Chincoteague and look for dead, stuffed Misty. Eh, I'll survive. Maybe I'll take a summer Thursday off, when the weather is good and I can actually put my tootsies in the water without suffering hypothermia. That would actually be cool, come to think of it, because I could hop a cheap boat ride along the inlets of Assateague and get a chance to see the wildlife (and take crappy photos of said critters.) The boats don't run until May.

But there's something about being down at the shore when it's empty. Barren. Windy. Cold. Quiet. It's a very peaceful thing. I'll find some local quiet, and that's cool.

Hey, I can even try to jump start my brain and get some radio writing done. I haven't had anything on WAMU since January, and I need to get my shite together there.

And (she writes, rationalizing her weather-induced lesser choice) I can spend the big bucks I would have coughed up for gas today for a hair cut. Yes, Ms. Budget Life does not go to a swanky salon anymore (not that the salon I used to go to before the eye was actually swanky. It's all relative.) I have become a Hair Cuttery girl. I color my hair at home with the old $6.95 container of Nice 'n' Easy 116A, then take a deep breath and play "Hair Cuttery Russian Roulette." It's the Apocalypse Now of salons. You know, you're Martin Sheen, your life is really screwed up, and you really don't have another choice. So, you accept the mission. You stagger up river (okay, up the Pike) and you are never sure of the outcome. And, just like driving up the Pike, you encounter freaks along the way.

Just as long as I don't leave looking like Marlon Brando, I guess I'm doing okay.

Let's see if I get a stylist today who shares a common language with me. (Generally, Russian and German are not the languages heard at Hair Cuttery.) I had some really bad haircut experiences when I lived in London because the stylist and I did not share enough of a single language. I think it scarred me for life. (Really, one of them cut a pineapple shape into my hair. He liked "natural shapes." I didn't know enough Italian to say, "Dear god, get your hands off of me!")

Romeo, wherefore art thou? Guess I'll go make some coffee and wait by the balcony.

Yeah, just call me the fat Juliet of North Bethesda. Actually, I'm so excited about the damn carpenter, I might just kiss him.

The Carpenter Cometh

Rather pathetically, I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning like a kid on Christmas. Two years of stubbing my toes on the bricks hiding the kitchen mouse holes comes to an end around 9:30 tomorrow. Amen, mah bruthas and sistahs! It will be a pleasure to cook something on the stove and not wonder if I'm being watched by little beady eyes through the now-rusty steel wool. And frankly, cooking at home loses that "yum factor" when the words "hanta virus, hanta virus, gimme gimme hanta virus" echo in your head like some demented rodent-centric mantra.

Yes, things will be good in the morning.

Well, better, at least.

While Romeo the carpenter (yes, Romeo, really) works his magic, I'm going to futz with the arrangement of the crappy old IKEA shelves and table in what passes for a dining room in my crackerbox apartment. I think actual dining has occurred in that location all of once in a decade. So, after 10 years of lying to myself, I'm finally turning it into the "crafty study." The wee folding dining table will now be my paper arts zone ("paper arts" being the trendy term for "craft stuff done by fat middle-aged women") and the empty spot by the window will now be my reading corner. I have this big, old futon chair that sucks up a lot of room, and by declaring that spot by the window to be the "reading corner", I now have an excuse to get it the hell out of the living room, so I will no longer bark my knees/shins and stub my toes on its hulking mass whenever I walk to the bathroom.

And once Romeo departs Chez Merde? I have a plan in mind for how to spend the day. Let's see how it plays out. If it works, I'll have photos and a post or two by Friday night. Nothing fabulous, but it might save my sanity.

We shall see.

BTW, I made the top ten for the "Best DC Blog By a DC Writer." You can vote for me here. I'm afraid I don't have the readership to keep me in the running for long, but, again, it's cool to know people are reading, no?

Back on Friday (if not sooner) with photographic evidence of my continued existence!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's an honor just to be nominated!

Isn't that what everyone says when they're trying to be gracious to the losers, while clutching their major award like it's a bucket of crack wrapped in Godiva chocolate?

I checked my stats and discovered a number of hits coming here from a site called Best DC Blog. It would appear, I'm in the running for "Best DC Blog by a DC Writer." How 'bout that? Looks like I'm on the bubble to be cut right now (probably shouldn't have followed two serious posts with a photo of a fur bearing trout, eh?) But it is cool to be nominated. It's nice to know, even when my writing output has been, to say the least, awfully craptacular, someone is reading.

And, to the folks at Best DC Blog - you had no way of knowing, but I had hit a quite the dry patch creatively, and this was a nice kick in the butt to get back on the horse and write. I'll put the furry trout and jackalope photos on the back burner for a while.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Just because I've made two depressing posts in a row...

Ladies and gentlemen...

May I present...

Direct from his tour of Finland, Kuwait, and the Outer Hebrides...

The one...

The only...


Sorry. Had to lighten the mood. I was bumming myself out. Seriously.

That is all. I now return you to an evening of urban angst and prime-time reruns.

Ciphers and Locks

A couple of months ago, I took a break from parking at the garage where I usually leave the crapmobile during the work day. It's a block from work - the most inexpensive parking for a mile, probably. It's also the location where I was knocked on my butt by DC's Most Inattentive Driver '06. In January, I simply didn't have enough cash to pay the whole fee to park for the month.

Instead, I parked at meters, having to switch locations every two hours (which was good in a "five minute brain break" sort of way) or parked in other lots, doling out cash for a single day here and there. When I returned to my garage of choice in February, check in hand, I had lost my assigned monthly parker ID number, 044. I wasn't really concerned. Big deal - gimme a new number.

The valets at the garage are all young or middle-aged Latino men, none of them native to the United States. When they're not busting their collective hump parking and retrieving cars, they hover at the entrance to the garage, chatting and joking in rapid fire Spanish well beyond my limited Sesame Street skills. The guys are nice enough to me. A couple of them speak solid English, but most just smile at me when I wish them a pleasant evening. Good enough.

Whether the guys are legal or not, I don't know. DC is home to a lot of undocumented workers, and many people slip and slide through the cracks of the already ramshackle system. And I think some of these gents have slipped pretty far through the cracks.

That February morning as I stood at the office window with my check, one of the valets looked for my registration card, so he could assign me a new parking pass. The first thing I noticed was that the dirty card file box was in total disarray. Nothing was in alphabetical order. As he flipped through the cards, I thought, "Shoot, this is gonna take ages." And then, with a smile, the valet stopped. "Here you," he said, showing me a card with a completely different name on it.

"No, that's not me," I replied. Maybe his fingers slipped and he grabbed the next card.

But no, that wasn't the case. He slowly returned the card to the box and scratched his chin.

His brow furrowed, he studied my check, and returned to the file box for a minute. "Okay!" He announced. "This is you."

But it wasn't. It was the name of a man - a man working in my office, as a matter of fact. "No," I answered, shaking my head. "Here's my name." I pointed to the check. "Shall I look for you?" He studied my face and then shook his head no. He returned to the box.

At last, he pulled out another card. "Okay, this looks like you!"

It was not my card.

And that's the moment when I realized that he couldn't read at all. He didn't know the letters or how they sounded. He'd picked names that started with "S" and "J" rather than names that started with an "M" like mine. He really could not even comprehend the difference between them. And so he was trying to determine what card looked like I might have written it, as if divining my being from the curves and lines and unknown blocks on a square of paper.

I said to him, "Are those in numerical order? I was number zero-four-four." I wrote the number down. Again he blinked. He did not recognize the digits. "Cero cuatro cuatro?" I said haltingly, dredging up the most primitive Spanish from my childhood.

"Yeah! Green car!" He smiled at me.

He didn't comprehend the numbers written down. But the numbers said out loud, he immediately identified with my crappy old car. Cero cuatro cuatro = the green car.

I was late and needed to get to the office. I had to leave him there, still pondering my pictographic identity. When I came back that evening, the young guy who mans the window in the evening rush was there - he speaks solid English - and my car had been assigned a new number, zero-two-two. But I had to wonder about his colleague.

How does someone who cannot fathom numbers or read letters get through life in this city? How does he know what he's being paid or how to read a clock? It must be a frustrating, infuriating life to be locked away from so many basic things. The unknown must be terrifying. Once you leave the landscape you've memorized, dotted with familiar symbols and colors, is there a fairly palpable fear? I wonder how small his life is in this city. How do you determine your boundaries?

On the way home from work tonight, I heard that one-third of the District's population is functionally illiterate. One-third. A large, non-English speaking Latino and Ethiopian immigrant population has boosted the District's illiteracy rate. DC is not a large city. Still, how large and intimidating must it seem if you are lost in a sea of letters and numbers?

I genuinely don't know much about issues of illiteracy. As a grade schooler, I was a tutor for peers who had trouble reading, but they were not truly illiterate. I don't know - maybe the valet in my garage had disabilities beyond "simple" illiteracy. But after hearing that appalling statistic tonight, I have to wonder.

I went through a period, before the eyeball shots started, when I could not decipher numbers and letters at all. It was horrifying. I remember one eye exam when I gave myself something akin to a migraine trying so hard to read the chart across the room. I kept saying, "I know something is there. I know it. I just can't tell what it is." And while things aren't great now, at least I can read. The blurs became shapes became letters became words became ideas.

To be without words, without ideas, without numbers to quantify it all?

That scares me.

Outside my office just now

Three blocks from the White House...

Four years gone by, thousands of lives ruined, cultures in tatters, fathers and mothers bereft.

Tell me, please, is it worth it?

Anyone care to walk down from the White House and ask this father. It is worth it?

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Yeah, I've been absent for a bit. So sue me.

Lots going on, but none of it worth commenting on. Just the darkly mundane things that seem to make up my life right now: piles of ulcer-inducing deadlined work during the day, piles of junk at night, hours spent stressing over how to make ends meet for the next few years (how many handmade herbal eye pillows can I sell to help pay for groceries?), visits to doctors and lawyers, misplaced jealousy over the simple normalcy of friends' lives. It makes me really, really tired just to think about it, actually.

But in an act of "blog sublimation" I'm going to channel all that crapola back into more entertaining fare. Whining to be kept to a minimum.

Smile, kids. The show must go on.

Give me a day or two. I'll be back. And I'll have stories for you.

Please stand by.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Miracles really can happen!

It's only taken two years - literally two years, almost to the day - but my landlord is finally going to fill the mouse holes in the kitchen. Amen, amen, and hallelujah! Finally, I will be able to have people in my home again. It's been two years of not wanting to even make a simple meal for the closest of my friends because part of the kitchen baseboards have been covered over with bricks and steel wool, hiding the gnawed out gateway to the rodent kingdom below the building.

If any of you were crazy enough to be reading this blog back in April 2005 (I think my readership was limited to the Sasquatch and people hitting "next blog" at that point) you'd know I had an ongoing battle with mice in the kitchen. I also developed a bad case of "Blogger's Tourettes" - swearing like a sailor out here about the critters I had to glue trap repeatedly (cruel, yes, but very effective.) What a pleasure it will be to not be grossed out or freaked out walking through the kitchen!

Now, if I win the lottery and the eyeball heals itself, I may actually have proof of the existence of God. That would be The Divine Trifecta, as far as I'm concerned. In the name of the mice, the money, and the vision, amen.

Actually, I think I may get sent to a very, very Catholic Hell for that version of the Trinity.

Eh, if there is a God, and he doesn't have a good sense of humor, what's the point of heaven anyway?

I think I'll take my crackerbox-apartment-sans-mousies heaven on earth right now, thanks!


Monday, March 12, 2007

And the hits just keep on comin'!

Or, "I Heart New York."

My intention this morning was to write a quick post, apologizing for my recent absence from the blogosphere - real life gets in the way sometimes.

But then, real life got in the way again.

I just got off the phone with my bank. Apparently, my Visa check/debit card has been "compromised" and someone has been making charges against it up in New York City. I will give the miscreant credit, though - he's being environmentally friendly, using my bank account to buy MTA cards for the subway. Good goin' with the public transportation, thief!

My card has been deactivated and a fraud claim opened. Arrrrg. I hope I brought enough cash from home for lunch today. Now, I have to wait for a new card to arrive, as well as scour my bank statement since the 4th of this month (when the criminal spending spree began, apparently) and complete an affidavit to take to the bank, so I can get my money back. This timing on this is lousy... then again, is there such a thing as a good time to get ripped off?

I will say this, those Donald Trump Visa check card commercials are right - they are damn speedy in taking action when fraud occurs, and they want me to have my moolah back asap. Still, it'll take a couple of weeks, as the affidavit for my signature is just being mailed out today.

Because of some other events this past week, I'd been pondering getting a Visa gift card to use online and in places where you might lose sight of your card during payment transactions. I think this has pushed me from ponder mode to action.

Once before I was the victim of credit card theft, during my time in Moscow. I got a phone call from the bank that issued my Visa card (and the dude was *very* excited to be calling the Soviet Union) to let me know that someone had stolen my new Visa card from the mail (probably while it was being transferred to the State Department to be forwarded to the Moscow pouch) and took it on a spree in the DC area. I got to see copies of all the charges - almost $4K at higher end stores. God bless Lord & Taylor at White Flint Mall. Apparently, they thought something was a little hinky and made a call. They asked the woman using my card how she liked Russia (since my billing address was at the American Embassy in Moscow) and her reply was something to the effect of "What do I know about Russia?"


Ah well. My debit card is now in about thirty pieces. I'm glad I went to the drug store yesterday. No one likes to take checks anymore...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Bride of Satan keeps 'em coming!

Just saw this on - apparently, during a Q&A at the CPAC event this weekend, Ann Coulter shared this gem of wisdom with the audience:

"Well, you know, screw you! I'm not anti-gay. We're against gay marriage. I don't want gays to be discriminated against."

Uhhh. Wait. Against gay marriage. But doesn't want discrimination.

Which one is it, bubba?

She continued:

"I don't know why all gays aren't Republican. I think we have the pro-gay positions, which is anti-crime and for tax cuts. Gays make a lot of money and they're victims of crime. No, they are! They should be with us."

Sometimes, I just... just don't know what to say. I guess I wasn't aware that gay people only cared about taxes and crime. Wow, kids, isn't that neat?!?


If Coulter truly is the face of contemporary conservatism and a touchstone for young Republicans, that's a sad statement about the continued political and social direction of this country. Wide-scale American ignorance. Cultural myopia. It scares me.


Nota bene: For a sane conservative's view of things, be sure to visit Andrew Sullivan's blog. Likely to be one of the few political recommendations I'll ever make here.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

When *will* Satan finally claim his bride?

Because I think most sane people are pretty much ready for him to suck her straight into Hell...

Ann Coulter is a toad. Seriously. In case you missed it, the unofficial hater-tainment spokesfreak of the uber-right decided to call John Edwards a "faggot" at the Conservative Political Action Conference here in Washington on Friday. Perhaps more appalling than Coulter's political trenchmouth is that many in the audience laughed and clapped. Yeah, it's nice to know at a conference that included a feel-good, love ALL life break-out session on bringing the pro-life message to the masses via the big movie screen, people uproariously ha-ha'ed a "faggot" reference.

Can you feel the hate tonight?

Check out the agenda for this thing, by the way, and tell me if you aren't somewhat sickened by parts of the gathering. It's wonderful to see the White House (in the form of Tony Snow and Dick "Dick" Cheney) at an event featuring another session - for students - about dealing with "Loony Ladies of the Left: How to Combat the Radical Feminists on Your Campus." SO warm and fuzzy!

Ugh. It is any wonder those assembled would find Ann Coulter entertaining?

If you think she's funny, that's sad. If you think she's hot, that's even more sad.

And I don't want to know.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Johnny Rat-kets

Words no one wants to read about your local burger place: "recent rodent activity" and "gnawed hamburger rolls..."


Methinks I'll be skipping Johnny Rockets for a while, thanks. Ahhh, Georgetown. It's a classy 'hood!

Friday photos & more fun with neon

When I stepped outside for a late lunch today, it was 63F outside. This came as a surprise to me, since I haven't bothered to check the weather forecast for a few days, and it was chilly and rainy this morning.

So I wore a turtleneck and a heavy cardigan to work.

Bad move.

Still, even though I was a giant sweatball (mmm, how attractive!) I ventured forth into the springlike weather to grab a bite and take a few photos of "Flat Stanley" for one of my sisters' grandkids. Fortunately, this Flat Stanley is really small and laminated, so it's not a pain in the patoot like the earlier, lifesize versions.

I hit Chinatown for a meal on the (very, very) cheap and got some shots of Stanley and the arch that marks the tiny area of DC's Chinatown. (Which should probably be renamed "Overpriced Name Brand Town." But that's just me...)

Got a few other shots in Chinatown (most came out pretty crappy), but I got inspired and took a few neon shots tonight, too. Not my best work (shaky hands, crappy night vision), but there's some entertainment value for sure.


New Big Wong, huh? What happened to the old wong?
I'd pass on the double-cooked pork.
(Yeah, I know, it's not "wang" but "big wong"
still sounds kinda wrong, no?)

Either that, or I simply have the mind of a juvenile.
'Nuff said.

This scrap of photograph was underfoot
at my parking garage this evening.
I was struck by both the face and
the strange halo of grease above his head.
A fallen angel. A lost soul.

This place on Rockville Pike was, until recently, "Euphoria."
Apparently, it's under "Nu" management.
Nice job they did on keeping those "nu" letters straight, guys!

Mmmm, Cafe Crab! Neat sign, huh?

Maybe not so neat.
Would you really want to associate a place to sleep with... crabs?
"When I think Ramada, I think crabs!"

Handy hint: if your sign burns out like this, fix it fast!

He did? I sure hope Lum didn't eat the yellow stuff!

One of the guys from this last store (Asylum Skate & Snow) laughed his butt off when he saw me taking a photo. He said he hadn't noticed what it said. Definitely one of my favorite burned out neon moments in many months.

Have a good one folks. More over the weekend, when I'm caught up on my sleep!

Lambada: the Update

After listening to the whole thing last night, I have reconsidered the nostalgia value of owning a 20-track Lambada collection.

Two syllables: eBay.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

When did I ever need 20 versions of the Lambada?

Yeah, so I've been absent from the blog for a few days. I've had this never-ending full-body migraine since last Thursday, and it's still pretty oppressive. My apartment looks like a small bomb went off in it, and some nights, I haven't even made it in to brush my teeth, my head hurts so much. I get to the sofa, curl up in ye olde fetal ball, and BAM, that's that for the night.

This evening, despite feeling fairly foul, I started to go through the oddball CDs I have, in an effort to find a few things to put on eBay or I have a small pile of obscure Russian CDs - mostly choral music - pressed by Melodiya in the dying days of the Soviet Union. Why I have four volumes of choral concertos by some dead dude named D. Bortnyansky, I have no idea. Really. But I'm hoping someone in America has been waiting with bated breath for a set of his greatest hits.

Lord knows, the man wrote some real swinging 18th century toe-tappers.

In my shifting of musical sedimentary layers, I did find some gems. (Including a CD belonging to the Sasquatch - it appears to have been in my old CD player now for approximately five or six years. Sorry, bubba!) But I also found some nightmares, too.

Like the 1989 European pressing of a 20-version Lambada CD.

20 versions of the damn Lambada.

As if one wasn't bad enough.

I have 20.

Oh, it was hip back in the day, for sure. That CD was a big hit at my parties in Moscow, circa 1990, especially with the Armenians, who would dance like crazy to that wacky Latin beat. The "forbidden dance"? No way! That sucker was so utterly unforbidden, you heard it every-fricken-where in Moscow. Book store? Lambada! Street cafe? Lambada! Crappy taxi? Lam-ba-daaaaaa!

The freakiest Lambada thing I ever saw in Moscow was a TV broadcast of a grade school dance number with the little cute Russian kids gyrating in a most grown-up way, shimmying and shaking pre-pubescent booties to the song. It was wrong.

As in, "call in Chris Hansen and the Dateline NBC people" wrong. Jon-Benet wrong. Way creepy.

Despite that aberration, I associate the Lambada with a group of my friends - mostly the French Armenians - laughing and dancing up a storm in my living room. Just a bunch of dorky 20-something geeks, masquerading as sophisticated Europeans, bouncing around and giggling like idiots. It was great.

So, here I am, typing this and listening to that damn CD for the first time since, probably, 1993, when I left my place in Moscow, boxing up memories good, bad, and ugly. (Sometimes very ugly.) And, you know, stupid as the song is, it takes me back immediately to a totally different life from the one I live now. Utterly independent in a very foreign land. I can smell the Moscow perfume of cabbage, cheap tobacco and strong body odor. I can see the faces of people I haven't seen in more than a decade - some of whom I hope to never see again, others I would embrace so happily right now.

I'm gonna load this sucker up on the iPod. Don't worry Sasquatch - I won't make you listen to it in the car. This'll be for when I'm alone, driving around and feeling a little melancholy. Nothing like cheesy music - in a language you don't understand - to make you laugh.

Everybody, Lambada!

Hey, it could be worse. At least I don't own any versions of the Macarena or that mind-sucking Mambo Number Five.

Now, anybody want an unopened CD of sacred church music sung in Georgian? I can make you one heck of a deal!