Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Potato of Injustice Wears a Green Dress

I’m an extrovert who hates people. This has set me up for a lifetime of disappointment.

I spend a lot of time in public places: the Metro, the street, retail establishments, assorted gutters and holding cells. And every Monday, I’m at that public festival of commonality, Screen on the Green. It’s fun to have a blanket, a picnic, some friends, a cartoon, the HBO dance, and an old movie on the Mall. And it’s free, which warms my cheapskate secretarial heart.
But some of y’all ruin the fun for everyone else. Most importantly, you ruin the fun for me.

Usually, it’s because you don’t understand the unique nature of flat surfaces. If you do anything of a vertical nature at Screen on the Green, you’re blocking other people’s view. I’m looking at you, the man who brought a bicycle as his date and left it standing up for the entire movie. And how about you, the group of old ladies in high lawn chairs right smack in the middle of the crowd? What’s your story?

I also like the people who make it obvious they came Straight from the Office! Honey, you don’t need to leave on the suit and tie. It’s 95 degrees out here. Take off the jacket, roll up the sleeves, ditch the tie. You just want us all to know that you came straight from your highly important job, which requires the best clothes Mens Wearhouse has to offer and a Blackberry in a holster.

Even better are the people who show up late. If you cannot get off work in time for a 9:00 film, clearly you have bigger issues than I can resolve here. Screw issues. You’ve got a subscription.
But if you’re late, discreetly make your way into the crowd and sit down. Don’t get your entire group to stand up and hug you, one by harebrained one. Just sit.

Even better than the latecomers are those who stand up so the latecomers can spot them in the crowd. And that’s what brings us to the Lady in the Green Dress. Her entire group showed up late. First off, she needs better friends. Second, she spent the first 20 minutes of the film standing up, flagging down her friends one by one in the dark and standing until they had all arrived to the safety of her blanket.

Sometimes, you have to look the potato of injustice right in the eye. And the only way to deal with injustice is mob justice. As in, asking my friends to help shout, “SIDDDOWNNNN!” at her. And watching as the glorious message of SIDDDDOWWWWWNN! carried from blanket to blanket, group to group, until it hit her with the force of a well-mannered tidal wave. The tower of her rudeness stood firm, we started another wave, and, eventually, she did sit down. Or maybe all her friends finally showed up.

Either way, I enjoyed the sweetness of victory. I was free to spend the next two hours engrossed in the hotness of Cary Grant, the casual sexism of the 1940s, and a wild desire to wear suits with hats and gloves.

In the comments, call me a hopeless fussbudget busybody, tell me my post titles really ought to make more sense, or tell me stories about bad manners on flat surfaces. Bonus points if you can tell me what movie uses the line “potato of injustice” without Googling it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Skeevy Men, Volume 3: Online Dating Edition

Hey, let's milk the "Skeevy Men" series for another post!

I love men as a general concept. But a few out there are making the rest of y'all look bad. And these guys are always cruising the Internet, seeking the vacuous thong-flinging bombshell of their pre-adolescent dreams.

Some are just annoying. And some are skeevy, gross, creepy, and potentially dangerous. As a woman madly in love with her personal safety, I don't cut any of them any slack. I know there's a big difference between a guy with no social skills and a serial rapist, but I'm not willing to bet my safety to find out.

And we're off!

Tweener Typer Guy: This guy has not yet befriended grammar, capitalization, or spelling. So, although he claims to be a 38-year-old attorney with a sailboat, he reads like a 14-year-old at a Hannah Montana concert. "Dont u wanna hook up w me? lets bounce"

Can't Close the Deal Guy: Not only can he not get to first base, he can't even set up the first date! Instead, he will spend weeks emailing with you without attempting to set up a single meetup. It's a massive time suck, so if your online amour doesn't try to meet you within 5 email exchanges, stop responding.

Would Be Better Off With a Puppy Guy: He writes about how he's looking for someone to love him unconditionally, listen, agree with him, think he's the greatest guy ever, and spend time on the couch watching his favorite sports teams. As he doesn't seem to want a woman who brings her own ideas, opinions or interests to the relationship, he'd be better off just getting a dog.

Over-Familiarity Ahoy! Guy: This guy acts like he's already known you for years. He busts your chops about your favorite movie, tells you all about how his evil harpy ex-wife took him for a ride, and wants to meet you for a drink that very minute. It's the online equivalent of a smothering slobbery bear hug from Cousin Randy...except from a complete stranger.

You Owe Me Guy: This guy is upset when you don't respond to his missives, pouty when you don't write back fast enough, and reacts not at all when you respond with politeness and enthusiasm. In his entitled, tiny little mind, if he devoted 30 seconds of his day to emailing you, then clearly you're required to gallop straight in his direction, tearing off your clothes along the way.

Gets Sexual Right Off the Bat Guy: Like, he can't hold back. At all. He has to make some sort of sex joke within the first paragraph of the introductory email. As I doubt he could hold back in nonverbal sexual arenas, he goes straight into the delete pile.

If I Wanted to Date a Chick, I'd Be a Lesbian Guy: This guy tells you he loves footrubs, shopping for housewares, Gossip Girl and fashion. While I'm not obsessed with traditional gender roles, I generally question whether I should just date a chick instead. At least that way we could wear each other's clothes.

I Know Exactly When and Where We Should Meet Guy: ...and that would be late in the evening, at a bar near his apartment. At the very best, I'm going to get pawed at by a guy trying to shovel in a quart of booze and a gallon of empty flattery. At the very worst, I'm going to wind up with a roofie hangover.

Credit Where Credit Is Due: This was inspired by Belle's and Zip's adventures online. And my girl crush Velvet weighed in on the subject today, too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Let's Get Dirty!

It is very difficult to skeeve me out. I suppose once you’ve finished lunch in a smart restaurant, headed to the ladies’ room, and been greeted by a hole in the floor and a couple of footrests, American attitudes about cleanliness seem a little absurd.

So I was amused to see that a grocery store in upscale/uptight Chevy Chase recently installed a shopping cart disinfection machine. It’s hazardous for small children to lick the handles, and it’s even more hazardous for hysterical germ-o-phobes to witness a child licking a handle. So they’re dousing each and every cart in a peroxide solution after every use. Good old soap and water? Not good enough for the denizens of Chevy Chase! I’m sure peroxide is a perfectly healthy dietary supplement for a small child.

I think we all need to get a bit grotty sometimes. It boosts the immune system and builds character. On my way to Screen on the Green last night, I saw a small child waving a stick around in a muddy puddle while repeatedly jamming his fingers in his mouth. His mother calmly watched from a bench, and for that I love her. My usual walk across the Mall involves watching parents chasing their kids around, exclaiming, “Don’t touch that! It’s dirty!” Yeah, lady, that’s because it’s dirt.

I loved the mom featured in the shopping cart article – her five kids are so busy lolling about in the mud she doesn’t have time to worry about shopping cart handles. I’m sure her prissier neighbors gave her hell for it, but I salute her common sense. I grew up on a well-rounded diet of dirt, mud, bugs, and horsehair, and turned out just fine.

I’m no scientist, but I think obsessive disinfecting just makes the germs bounce back stronger. I was kidney-punched by e.Coli and spent several months on antibiotics two years ago, so I can vouch that we don’t need to make germs any tougher than they already are.

I live clean. I mop, dust, change out the sponges, shower, use deoderant, wash my hands with soap and hot water, and refuse to eat mayo that’s been sitting out in the sun. It probably helps that I don’t even like mayo. But I don’t chase people around with Lysol, open doors with a paper towel, disinfect the desks of others (I worked with someone who did that!), or freak over the littlest bit of germiness. The Middle Ages are long over, and we are not doomed to die in vats of pestilence at the ripe old age of 35.

You have an immune system and a brain. Use them both, live cleanly and sensibly, and leave the hazmat routine to the experts.

PS - I'm changing the "Greatest Hits" section on the right to a "Your Favorites" section - so if you have a favorite post you'd like to see listed, please let me know! ("Hey, what a great view! I can see Shannon's ego from here!")

Monday, July 28, 2008

Never Say No to a Woman in a Bustier

Last weekend, I had a college buddy come to visit. And the Buddy, well, he's trouble. He sobers up with Jager bombs, runs up prodigous bar tabs, and goes on blind dates with crazy foot fetish ladies. So I knew I was in for a time.

Saturday night rolls around, and we decide to round up a few friends, and a few of their friends, and hit the bars together. After a few hours, one of the guys offers the classic D.C. Hipster Invite:

"Hey, I know of this club near here, where we can go dance and won't pay a cover, because I know people."

See, I hate clubs. I hate cover charges, I hate lines, I hate noise, I hate crowds, and I prefer to do my drinking from the comfort and safety of a barstool. But, the Buddy's in town, and it's just around the corner, so why not? Let's boogie!

We get in, find seats at the bar, and settle in. I catch up with my old friend the bartender (he was working the night my sister got in a brawl at Asylum). Eventually, I begin to notice things around me. Like, everyone in the bar is a couple. It's like Noah's Ark in there. And the women are all wearing bustiers and fishnets and clearly took hours to put their faces on.

Hints are dropped, and my powers of observation finally kick in. I decide to play it cool.


And not, like, that Jon Favreau movie that annoying guys quote from all the time. I mean, keys-in-a-bowl, shag carpet and Ultraseude swingers. See, back in my day, when life was simpler and beer cost a nickel, the swingers hung out at Bar Nun. I had no idea they'd moved.

So we did what any sensible person would do: we stayed until closing. This meant that I was invited to the after party, by a lovely curly-haired woman wearing a bustier and little else.

"Why don't you join us for the after party?"

"Oh, no thanks. But you're very sweet to ask."

"You don't have to do anything you don't want."
"I guess I would sit there and watch?"
"Do you like to watch?"

Then she let me play with her ringlets for a bit. Not flirtatiously, mind you, but because when I drink I tend to play with people's hair. It's so bouncy and tactile!

We closed down the bar and went out to hail a cab. On the way home, the Buddy and I debated whether we should have gone to the after party. Nice girls from Woodbridge don't swing. But, man, just showing up would have been one hell of an experience. I missed out on a great story.

The Lesson: when a woman in a bustier invites you to a party of questionable morality, always say yes.

PS - No, I'm not in the business of judging what people do in their bedrooms. But I appreciate the absurdity of the experience. And, no, I'm not naming the club.

Friday, July 25, 2008

It's the Friday Soy and Sperm Hour!

I’ve never quite understood vegetarianism. I love a fluffy bunny as much as the next girl, but I love Thumper even more when he’s cooked up in a pot with a lovely red wine sauce. I’d have a cheeseburger for dessert if it was considered even mildly socially acceptable.

My meat-related moral dilemmas don’t revolve around veal, foie gras, factory farming or sustainable species of fish. Instead, a dinner date with me is like a cross between Sophie’s Choice and Wild Kingdom.
Since it takes just a couple of people to polish off a chicken, and a whole soccer team to eat a cow, is it morally superior to eat beef so fewer animals lose their lives? But, cows are mammals. So does a mammal’s life matter more than a bird’s? And pigs are the only other animal that sunburns - as a fair-skinned woman, am I betraying a kindred spirit every time I eat pork? And what about insects? If I eat a grasshopper taco at Oyamel, I am robbing dozens of merry little bugs of their lives. The thought gives me pause, then I remember how much they taste like extra-crispy bacon and I’m chomping away.

I think the best thing about giving up meat would be the moral certitude. Meat production is bad for the environment, so the vegetarian gullet is like a spit-shined Prius. And who doesn’t love pigs, cows, and chickens? They’re so cuddly! I mean, don’t you just want to give that chicken a kiss on its tiny adorable little beak?

On the other hand, I’ve always been a little baffled by male vegetarians. I like men who like meat, beer and boobs. Most vegetarian dudes admit they originally gave up meat to impress a girl. That's dedication. And they will cheerily serve up meatless Philly cheesesteaks and tofu scrambles. But I have a little bit of trouble taking them seriously.

Thankfully, I have alert reader Kevin to tell me why. This article landed in my inbox yesterday. Soy is bad for the swimmers! Ergo, male vegetarians have lower sperm counts! Their boys are too busy looking for that perfect tofu burger to get to the egg. And the ones that can get to the egg won’t implant, as contact with the egg would violate their vegan principles.

So, a vegetarian is never going to knock me up. It’s not snobbery, it's not outdated standards of manliness, it's not a moral failing. My reluctance to date vegetarians is merely the gentle hand of evolution.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Excuse Me...Do I Know You? Or Do You Know Me?

There must be about a dozen of me in D.C. A little troop of doppel-Shannons. Because at least once a week, someone comes up to me, addresses me by a random name (“Rachel,” most often), and chats as if we’ve known each other for years. I never know whether to play along or gently inform them of their mistake.

And, sometimes, I wonder if I’m at fault. Perhaps I have amnesia and multiple personality disorder and I really am Rachel.

The “Rachel” dilemma is pretty much what it’s like to have this blog.

I routinely encounter or hear from those who believe, because they read my daily trainwrecks and unsolicited opinions, that we are the oldest of friends. The over-familiarity is unsettling, but I’m enough of an adult to realize I brought it on myself. I’m grateful a bunch of amusing, cool people check in daily to see what I’m up to. And I’m humbled that they’re invested enough in my narcissistic little hobby to comment, email, or want to meet me. I’ve made some lovely new friends.

But that’s the blogger version, and she’s not necessarily me. The vast majority of my real-life closest friends don’t read this site at all. They like the woman they went to school with, shared an office with, took out a few times and later befriended. They don’t need her cheap, boozy online equivalent. And, sometimes, neither do I.

That’s why I leave a lot of personal details off this site. I don’t put up photos. I don’t emotion-barf details of my private life (though a gold star to anyone who noticed what was different about the FAQ and connected the dots). I don’t talk about work, I don’t say where I live, I don’t give specific updates about what I had for lunch yesterday.

Mostly, it’s because emotion-barfs and lunch are boring subjects. And I feel my writing is best when it zips along and chucks water balloons in all directions.
But it’s also so I can achieve some privacy. That’s a pretty tenuous thing on a non-anonymous blog, but I do what I can.

So, the point…and there is one. Please email, comment, stop by. Bring your friends and neighbors and maybe even Bill from Accounting. Y’all rock, and the door is always open to you. Just please don’t assume you really know me because you heard all about the time I was too short to be a stewardess.
And, if anyone knows that Rachel woman, hook me up with an introduction.

PS – we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled goofy hijinks tomorrow. I can’t sustain multiple days of self-reflection without my tiny little brain caving in from the weight of my enormous self-esteem. And I’m not talking about anyone in particular, this is just sort of a bunch of thoughts finally falling into place.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Failed Attempt at Introversion

After an Alabama state fair defective rollercoaster of a fortnight, I was feeling drained and sick to death of everybody. That includes you, and you, and most especially YOU. So I put out the word:

Shannon is Staying In on Friday! (This was announced in a sort of breathless, "Film at 11!" mode.) Please hold all calls, emails, text messages, Facebook wall posts, and drunken pleas to come out and have some fun. I will not be cruise directing, mother-henning, social chair-ing, or anything of my usual sort. I am Staying In.

I get pretty uptight about relaxation, apparently.

The Evening at Home went a little like this:

6:15: Arrive at my shoebox apartment and lay out my carefully selected provisions: Slim Jims, queso dip, chips, Dr. Pepper, SourPatch Kids, and an episode of old school Doctor Who.
6:30: I am going to sit here. I am going to sit very, very still and relax. I’m really, really good at relaxing. I can totally pull this off.

7:00: I know! I’ll do all my laundry! Just think how great it will be to get all my chores done so I can relax all the rest of the weekend!

7:15: Wow, the laundry room is really crowded. I need to live in a cooler neighborhood. I bet if I lived in Columbia Heights, the laundry room would be empty. Because my neighbors would be out either cruising the hipster bars or knifing each other. And then I’d have the laundry room all to myself.

8:30: Laundry’s done, which means I can cross one of tomorrow’s errands off the list. (#3: “Buy underwear and socks.”)

8:35: Anybody online?
8:37: Anybody online?

8:45: Just me? OK, then, I can totally entertain myself.

9:00: OK, it’s time to sit down to the best Doctor Who episode ever: Earthshock! It never stops being funny. So, like, there are these tinfoil dudes, the Cybermen, who are assisted by these latex android dudes, and then, like, all these people die, and then this really annoying character Adric crashes a freighter into the Earth and kills all the dinosaurs. Then, to mourn the tragic death of Adric and all those hapless dinosaurs, the credits run silently over his shattered golden Award for Mathematical Excellence.

10:45: Wow, I bet if I blog about Doctor Who, only Ibid will get the whole way to the end of the post.

11:00: OK, I am now completely and officially bored. And this is really the worst stomachache I’ve ever had. Had I forgotten my rule? “Slim Jims or Queso, Never Both.”
11:15: I’ve exhausted my entertainment options, so I’m off to bed. But not before the following decision:

Friends, if I ever say I am Staying In on a weekend evening, laugh at me. Then make me go do something, because, wow, Friday’s attempt at relaxing totally stressed me out.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Slacker Tuesday List Post: Rules for Living

Men who live alone with cats tend to be even more peculiar than women who live alone with cats. Don’t date a cat guy unless you have a very high tolerance for peculiar.

The best hangover cure is Gatorade, Dramamine, and a three-hour nap.

A gut-busting laugh will get you through any embarrassing situation that does not involve police, a corpse, or my mother.

You can’t help how you feel. You can, however, help what you do about it.

Doubts are healthy. Not having doubts is how you wind up in Las Vegas, standing in front of an Elvis impersonator who is marrying you to a man you only dated for six months who proposed over giant Russian beers and plans to run away to South America with you. (That happened, to, er, a friend of mine. Yeah.)

One of the happiest moments in any woman’s life is when she stops being appealing to frat boys, players, or men out to meet “girls.” It’s better to be attractive to one good man than a hundred jerks.

Anyone who says they want a partner who agrees with everything they do, loves them unconditionally, and never judges should probably just be done with it and get a dog. True love challenges you.

If your job is your life, then, clearly, need a life.

You don’t have to like everyone in the world. You do, however, have to find a way to live in the world, and that will occasionally include people you find annoying. You don't, however, have to deal with people you find repugnant. Grow up and know the difference.

A good relationship pushes you forward. A bad relationship holds you back.

Love is not a choice.

Know how to take a compliment. That includes how to deflect the back-handed ones, like, "You look good for your age," or, "You're awfully smart for a..."

Bad ideas, wild impulses, and broken hearts are the road to wisdom.
And, most importantly, always do anything that would make a great story later.

Monday, July 21, 2008

I Coulda Woulda Shoulda Been That Girl

One of my favorite things to do is go out on the town carrying a random object, and see if anyone notices. There was the time I walked around Chinablock with a chest of drawers, or took a set of full-size Egyptian cotton sheets to a barbecue. Last week, I journeyed home with an Argus 986 Electromatic slide projector (what? I needed a bookend).

Saturday, I had plans to meet a friend or two for a drink (...or two). Because the bar was convenient to Columbia Heights, I thought it might be a good idea to make a Target run on my way over. Then I realized that all the stuff I needed (an Aero bed, poster frames, sodas, painkillers) would be way too heavy and bulky for me to carry around all night. So I decided to go on Sunday, which I promptly rescheduled for…whenever. I’ll get to it. Really.

But, once I got to the bar, I realized I’d missed an opportunity.

I should have bought the Aero bed. Because then I could have been the girl who brought a bed to the bar. Like, what a completely awesomely hilarious way to get a reputation. I’m easy, I’m convenient, I even bring my own self-inflating love nest!

However, don’t worry, there were still plenty of doofus shenanigans. When a homeless dude eats your sandwich while your companions are doing physics experiments at the table, you pretty much know you’re in for A Night. Sigh.

PS - No, I'm not actually easy, I just don't care too much about appearances. And, yes, if you were out Saturday, that short chick gamely attempting to play shufflepuck with Arjewtino was me. And I was really quite sober. Really. (Hi, Dad, Uncle Joe, and Cousin Peanut!)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Reason #949 I Need Chaperoning

Yesterday, as lunchtime approached, I caught myself thinking, "Gosh, I wish 7-11 sold sushi. That would be really convenient."

Yes, not only do I use 1950s teenspeak, I would voluntarily eat convenience store sushi.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday's Story: How I Bought an Election

Back in the heady 1990s, before I was brought down by a wholly fictional (and physiologically improbable) sex scandal, I was president of my college's Young Democrats chapter. Mostly this involved rounding up sprightly young kids to hold banners at rallies, "liaising" with other student groups, and copious amounts of plastic-jugged liquor with unsettling names like, "Broke College Kid Semi-Vodka - Drink/Enjoy/Die."

It's my senior year, and my club is hosting the statewide convention. Dorky Demo-bots roll in from all 100 counties (ok, maybe not that many - but the more witnesses there are, the better the story). We book meeting space, we arrange for statewide elections, we're good to go.

Until my friend, Dana, who was running for statewide president, falls ill and lands in the hospital. She asks me to read her speech for her. I agree.

I'm wearing my finest pastel suit (this is the South, after all). I'm sitting on the stage at the front of the auditorium, reading her speech. And I'm killing. Every Demo-Dork, from every corner of the state, is hanging on my every word. Mouths are open, and expressions are thoughtful.

Dana wins in a landslide.

At the after-party, I ask how my speech went. As it turns out, it wasn't the speech, nor the way I delivered it. Nope. I had somehow provided the entire auditorium with a direct sight line to my underpants. In fact, nobody I spoke to could remember a word I'd said.

Moreover, as it was laundry day, I was wearing cotton Goofy Disney underpants from Wal-Mart.

So, that's how I bought an election with my underpants. And, Dana, that statewide presidency bloody well better STILL be on your resume. You owe me, dude.

UPDATE - So, I just realized something. I wrote a post about flashing a roomful of people on my dad's 73rd birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD!!!! Staying classy up here in DC, don't you worry.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dear Mr. Cabbie

I’d like to thank you for the wonderful tour of D.C. There we were, meter ticking away, exploring addresses that I’d previously seen only in the Metro section scoresheet of who got shot by whom last night, with a healthy side helping of the Health Code Violation listings.

I knew I was in trouble when I plunked myself down in your taxi, and you told me you were unfamiliar with the area where you had picked me up. Hrm. Neat! So, how did you get here in the first place? And who hasn’t heard of Cleveland Park? Did you think you were perhaps in actual Ohio? Nevermind.

Here we go! Connecticut Avenue, headed north! Wait, why exactly are we going north? Well, that’s easily fixed by a mid-street U-turn, with brakes screeching and a chorus of honks from the other drivers.

So, Rock Creek Parkway really is lovely this time of year. And then, later, much much later, we grind to a halt. Ride over. Yay! I can go home to bed! Oh, hold on.

Could you please tell me why you believe I live inside the 7-11 on Barracks Row? I love Slurpees, sure, but we’re in the wrong quadrant entirely. I know this because I live in the only quadrant we haven’t visited tonight. You’ve tried the other three, so by process of elimination, there’s just one to go!

Of course you know which building is mine. I pointed it out to you from the freeway. Hrm. Please tell me again why we were on the freeway? Oh, that’s right, it gave us some conversation topics during that long slog across West Virginia. And that jaunt across Pennsylvania. And that little side trip to Kentucky. And I’m not talking about West Virginia Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue, or Kentucky Avenue. I firmly believe we visited the actual states as part of the neverending cab odyssey.

OK, so, we’ve made it to my building. My home slice of rent-controlled tenement existence has never looked so beautiful. I love you. I love me. I love sleep. The meter says $20. Here’s some money for your trouble. I’m keeping some of the money for my trouble, mind you, but the fare would have been about $12. So that’s what I’ll pay.

Oh, cabbie, thank you, thank you muchly, for the worst cab ride of my life.

There was the cabbie in Sarajevo who relentlessly corrected my pronunciation. The one in Bogota that took me on an exciting side journey through a remote hilltop shantytown, all the while muttering about his allegiance to the FARC. Or the prosletyzing one in DC, who always says, “Why go to Eastern Market, when you can go to heaven?” I’ve landed in that Cab o’ Jesus more than once. But you’ve taken the cake of fabulously awesome Cab Rides From Hell.

Wow. Thanks again.


Your Fare Who Quite Possibly Knows Where She Lives

PS – I’m exaggerating, yes, but a 6.7 mile trip should never take more than 20-25 minutes in no traffic, and really, really shouldn’t ever take longer than an hour. For any reason. Yikes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Five Things I No Longer Care About

1. Celebrity pregnancies. The stupid things that they name their kids. Professional analysis of the stupid things they name their kids. The fact there are people out there who professionally analyze baby names. The Internet's belly fetish. See 15 Photos of Angelina's Baby Bump! (Seriously, that was a headline today.)

2. Spoiled affluent white teenagers who are over-scheduled and stressed-out. Articles about spoiled white affluent teenagers. Articles about parents of spoiled affluent white teenagers for whom worrying about their brood is yet another wrinkle in the Shar-pei of modern suburban narcissism.

3. Chandra Levy. Outrageously masturbatory and manipulative 12-part newspaper series about Chandra Levy, or, for that matter, media coverage of missing white girls in general.

4. Therapy. Epiphanies. Feelings. Thoughts. Ideas. Nurturing. The inner child, as the outer child ought to take precedence. Preying on insecurity. My evil targeted Facebook ads, which mostly feature diamond rings, beefy men, get-rich-quick schemes, and exhortations that I'm looking a bit puffy in my profile photo. When the most flattering ad speculates that I may not have a higher IQ than professional dim bulb Jen Aniston, it's time to just give up.

5. Blog-cations. I'm back, y'all.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Programming Note

Y'all can live without me for a little while, you're strong and wise. Plus, there's a whole blogroll and more than five years of archives to dig through. So I'm going to take a brief and refreshing blog-cation. I'll be back in a week or so.

Unless y'all want me to blog about writer's block. Fate worse than death, people. Worse. Than. Death.

PS: Ah, the self-indulgence of a hiatus post, how I love thee!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Enlightenment Is Really Very Ordinary

I'm not much for deep thought. Feelings scare me. Meditation is boring within 30 seconds, yoga makes me think of Cosmopolitan's absurd sexual acrobatics, and massages give me the creeps. Nature is boring after a couple of hours. "Hey, guys, look, it's another tree! Can we go for a burger now?"

So, overall, I'm pretty shallow. Oh well, I still like me.

One thing I do have a handle on is this: if it was purchased, it probably didn't make you a better person. Integrity is not a commercial transaction.

If your parents paid for you to rebuild schools in Kenya, while your classmates worked at crappy retail jobs all summer, then you are not more profound than they are. Backpacking across Europe and getting schnockered in Prague does not make you a philosopher. Railing against poverty, racism, and The Man from a comfortable couch does not make you morally superior. Freeloading in Sarajevo didn't put me over the edge, karmically speaking. It's all commerce and tourism.

So what does make you a better person? The same old, everyday trauma that the rest of mankind experiences. Getting your heart stomped. Stripping down your life, digging out, and starting over. Joy. Independence. Commonality. Goofiness. Gratitude. Understanding that even if you are one in a million, there are a thousand of you in India. No one person is all that great, and very, very few of us have anything original to offer. So the path to enlightenment is to find and love your place in the world.

So if you're special, disabuse yourself of the notion. If you're deep, get a ladder. And if you're better than the rest of us, find your own planet. The guy in the photo can help.

And please, please do not corner people at parties and tell them what a deep thinker you are.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Facial Myopia and Menacing Tupperware

We've all met those people who say, "I forget names, but I never forget a face." Liars. Every last one of them.

See, I'm the opposite. I'm bizarrely good with names. But faces completely bypass me. Even if I've known you for half my life, I pick you out of a crowd by the way you walk, your hairstyle, your clothes. Your face is a nondescript blur. If you change your hair, forget it. And even if you don't change the hair, my ability to recognize you is still very iffy.

I once walked right past my own mother in an airport. She's had the same Audrey Hepburn crop since at least 1983. Plus, she and I look a great deal alike. The nose alone is a giveaway. And, also, she gave birth to me and raised me and all that. Doesn't matter. Blurry!

Walking down the street involves a special sort of dread. Random people will come up, strike up a conversation with me, and I'll eventually realize I'm conversing with someone I've known for years. Things like sunglasses and hats completely stump fact, I reflexively remove my sunglasses when I greet people so they know it's me. (Of course they already know it's me. I have the most recognizable voice in Washington. I've been told I sound like a "Southern-fried sarcastic parakeet." There's a sexy thought for y'all to carry around your workday.)

And now for the point...and there is one! Thursday, I was coming back to my office after a classy Popeye's lunch. A young man walked towards me, arms outstretched as if he was about to do a field sobriety test. There was a Tupperware tucked into his right hand. His wingpsan was taking up the whole sidewalk. He progressed forward, expressionless, inexorable, concealed by a hat and sunglasses. Eventually, I found an opening and ducked under his arm, narrowly avoiding the Tupperware. He continued down the street.

A concerned older lady stopped and asked if he was someone I knew. Hey, that's entirely possible. She thought he was coming up to hug me...though, if a man knows me well enough to hug me on the street, he usually knows me well enough to remove the hat, doff the sunglasses, and identify himself. So, Mysterious Hat-Sunglasses-Tupperware-Field Sobriety Test Dude, if you are indeed a friend of mine, I'm sorry. But next time, lose the hat. And the glasses. And maybe wear a nametag.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Diaper Bags for Grannies

As this lady can tell you, D.C. is full of atrociously funky fashion. Cheap plastic flip-flops. Saggy jeans and exposed underpants on otherwise handsomely turned out young men. Sweatpants with words across the rump (just once, I'd like to see one that reads, "LOOK AT MY BUTT," for some serious honesty points). Frumpy boxy pantsuits. Chunky, clunky hoof-like shoes. Tourists in Female Body Inspector t-shirts and trucker caps. Popped collars. Man-pris.

Many of these forms of nasty attire can be easily explained: Bad aesthetic sense. Ignorance of comfortable, but less absurd, footwear options. Lack of time to shop. Inbreeding.

But one thing I will never, ever understand is the popularity of Vera Bradley purses. (Guys, if you're still here: see above for examples). They aren't cute. They aren't sexy. They look like diaper bags for grannies. Grandma could stash her Depends in the front pocket and use the bag itself as a changing pad.

They're matronly, ugly, and, worst of all, quilted. No quilted item, with the exception of high-grade toilet tissue, should ever touch an adult woman's body. Yet every morning, I'll see an otherwise stylish young woman with a paisley pastel squishy Vera Bradley grandma bag tucked under her arm.

So, Washington, I'll make you a deal: if you get rid of those ugly bags, I will never again complain about some woman shuffling and thwacking along in plastic flip-flops, blocking traffic as she oh-so-delicately inches her way up the escalator.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Deep Thoughts for Thursday: Clone Sex Edition

You're at work today, you need something fun to read, and here you are. Hi! Well, I've got nothing. Nada.

Oh, you're still here. Fine, here's a deep philosophical question for y'all to hash out in the comments:

You clone yourself. Then you have sex with your clone. Is it incest? Masturbation? Both? Neither? Something else entirely?

Follow up questions: Do clones have souls? Is a clone your identical twin, and therefore family, or merely an extension of yourself? Or does family mean more than genetic similarity? Deep, man. Deep.

OK. Go forth and debate.
Point of Clarification: your clone is totally into having sex with you. And you're into it, too. Remember this is all hypothetical, and nobody really expects you to clone yourself and do the nasty with your clone...after all, science isn't there just yet. So doing your clone doesn't make you gay.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Self-Fulfilling Lousy Tip Prophecies

Today I offer a cautionary tale for restaurant staff.

A few Saturdays back, Tim and I were pretty well wiped out, he from sailing, and me from babysitting. (On a related note: somebody please tell me why sitting around looking at a sleeping newborn all day is so darn exhausting.) We were too tired to cook, so we decided to walk to a fairly nice, but not super fancy restaurant near my apartment.

The hostess seated us next to two older, well-to-do couples on a double date. While neatly and appropriately dressed, we didn't ooze money like our neighbors. These were some seriously fancy people. They were so fancy, the man next to me didn't even bother to budge his suit jacket, obliging me to clamber over it to get in and out of my seat. Their (boozy and loud) conversation centered around European vacations, and the recent college graduation of a nattily-named daughter. Oh, and that the mom had "done some salary research" for the daughter prior to her job interviews. We were dining next to a case study of suburban affluence and helicopter parenting.

But this isn't a blog about envy or greed, so let's get to the heart of the story: our waiter.

Our server greeted us, took our order, then dropped us like a cheating boyfriend. Meanwhile, he absolutely fawned over the Hoities next to us. It was ridiculous and extremely obvious, as he would check in on them frequently and then walk right past us, avoiding eye contact or outreached hands, as we sat there with empty glasses and no food.

As it turns out, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. As we felt ignored and insulted, we left the bare minimum tip (18% in the city), down to the penny. We normally leave more than 20 percent. So, the waiter lost out on what would have been a fairly nice tip. He also dissuaded us from wanting to return to what had previously been a favorite restaurant.

I thought about bringing the issue to a manager's attention (which I usually do), but by then we were tired, cranky and just wanted to go home. So instead I decided to passive-aggressively blog about it.

Servers, I know you're busy and you live on tips. And it seems like a better bet to focus your energies on customers who look like they tip well.

But if you make snap judgments and outright ignore paying customers in favor of fancier-looking paying customers, your tips will suffer. And the reputation of your restaurant will suffer, leading to fewer of those paying customers coming by...and again, your tips will suffer. And times are tough, and people aren't eating out as often. So don't be so shallow, and if you're going to be shallow, at least don't be so obvious.

Has anyone else experienced this sort of thing, and, if so, how did it make you feel and what did you do about it? And if you're restaurant-affiliated, kindly wrangle up some excuses for such an obvious lack of professionalism.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Among the Biker Babe Yuppies

Tim and I spent last weekend in the Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania, where we stayed in a groovy historic hotel, toured Fallingwater, visited a winery, and did all those other sorts of things white couples in their thirties do on vacation. Except I think we may have forgotten to shop for antiques. Sorry!
One of our most entertaining stops was Laurel Caverns. If you peruse the website, you'll notice lots of photos of people in acid wash, with big hair. And you might think that the photos are just really, really old. But, no, people who visit Laurel Caverns really look like that. It was a slightly different (and, frankly, far more likable) demographic than all those perma-pressed Frank Lloyd Wright groupies.

So we paid our ten bucks, worked our way underground, and joined our enormous tour group. The men had ponytails and were all decked out in Harley-Davidson t-shirts, leather vests (yes, in June), and boots (yes, in June). Their wives wore standard-issue Mom Shorts and flip-flops. Their kids, one of whom rocked an awesome mullet and trucker cap combo, dashed about, pointed at things, and screamed their heads off, as kids are wont to do in enclosed, echo-y spaces. Oh, except for one kid that whinged the entire time we were there. Her feet hurt, she didn't like the dark, and from there it was just sort of an incoherent whimpering for the next 55 minutes of our tour. I know it's child abuse, but couldn't we have fashioned a muzzle for her?

So, the tour. We looked at rocks. We touched stuff. Our zippy tour guide cracked corny jokes (one of the biker dads grinned and told me, "I want three of what she's on.") Then the tour guide flipped off the lights so we could experience total darkness, and the little ones immediately set to hollering. Awesomely, the guide continued her spiel over the din. Suffer the little munchkins.

And then I noticed what was weird about the whole experience. Not that the moms were all younger than me and had an average of four children apiece. Nope, I had sort of expected that. What I noticed was what they named their children.

"Devon, get back here!"

"Madison, please slow down!"

"Amelia, stop that!"

"Cheyenne, share the flashlight with your brother!"

Yes, suburban yuppie names have penetrated rural Pennsylvania. I don't know why, but that makes me sort of sad.

PS: No, we didn't go to Kavernputt, which I imagine I will regret for the rest of my life.
Photo Credit: Tim