Monday, April 23, 2007

Crowd Control

I just got back from a great weekend in New York with my college buddy Rob. We ate at diners, drank in dive bars, went out for Cuban food, and rocked out in the hotel's Cheesy Love Song Elevator. Mainly, though, we went to see Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds at Radio City. (The verdict? While I couldn't listen to Dave Matthews on CD, he puts on a great show. If Dave ever needs another job, he could always be a standup comedian. He's great at between-song banter, he's hilarious, and he puts down hecklers with style. It was a lot of fun.)

However, a weekend in New York means dealing with crowds. This is not my strong suit, as I am very short and deeply claustrophobic. A few hours smushed in among people's armpits is enough to give me a fit (as those who witnessed the 'evacuate the survivors!' rant of '05 can tell you). All this time squashed among humanity taught me that I really need my own country, so I can pick and choose my citizens. So, in honor of New York, the Empire State, I will tell you who is guaranteed access to my empire, and who will suffer immediate exile.

After the revolution, the following people from last weekend can be citizens of the Shannon Nation:

1. The girl who sat next to me on the bus ride to New York. She was a college student, and clearly had a lot to learn about the world. Mainly, that it's impossible to travel with decorum in a miniskirt. Every time she shifted in her seat, it was a free panty demonstration for the surrounding three rows. (Lace-trimmed cotton boyshorts, for you pervos out there. Geez.) But she was totally sweet, didn't intrude on my space, AND she offered to make sure the driver didn't leave without me at the rest stop.
2. The roller skate people at Central Park. They were having some sort of roller rink party, complete with dance moves and Lycra. It was bizarre and totally endearing. Y'all keep doing your thing, because your thing is awesome.
3. The guys who sat next to us at the Dave Matthews show. They idolized Rob's concert attendance record, said nice things about my hair, and invited us to join them at the "titty bar" after the show. Being a girl, I can see boobs anytime for free. But it was still nice of them to ask.
4. The guy three rows in front of us at the show. I truly thought I was going to hate that guy, because he was That Guy Who Wore the Concert T-shirt to the Concert (incidentally, about 10% of Dave Matthews guys are That Guy). But he was just so damn happy to be there that I got over it pretty quick. Endless big grins and statements like, "I'm sorry we have such awesome seats! My bad, y'all!" Awesome, indeed. I love you. Call me!
5. The girl sitting next to me at the concert. Her boyfriend kind of sucked, but she and I had a blast fixing her broken dress strap with a hairpin and some ingenuity.
6. The random guys we hung out with at McSorley's on Saturday. One had worked on Hollywood Squares, the other had been honorably discharged from the Israeli army after a banana-carrying incident. It's nice to meet people who make me feel like I've led a relatively dull life.
7. Everyone associated with the cheap-ass buses I took to and from New York. No, the Chinatown bus isn't glamorous. It's not even pleasant. But for $20 each way, you can roll me into a ball and stuff me into the cargo hold. I also appreciate that this form of travel is completely antisocial. I got my tickets online, the people who took my tickets didn't utter a word, and neither did the driver. This let me pretend that the tranport part of my trip simply wasn't happening.
8. Rob. Of course. Especially since the Shannon Nation will need him to lead up the Department of Mavenry, made up of people who are know-it-alls because they might actually know it all.

The following people will suffer immediate exile from the Empire:

1. The two college guys who sat behind me on the bus on the way up. Wow, entitlement complexes ahoy! The first guy spent 30 minutes describing how he told his advisor he felt "cut adrift" because he had to answer phones at his internship. What did he think he'd do, define long-term corporate strategy? Run the place? Geez. My college internship involved cool stuff, but it also involved babysitting the VP's kids' Virtual Pets and making CD case origami. That's the way of the world. The second guy was even worse. He spent over an hour describing his parent-financed jaunts to Europe. I especially liked when he explained how getting high in Amsterdam and drunk in Prague built character. (Attention: if it costs money, it doesn't build character. Integrity is not a commercial transaction.) While I know I was probably self-righteous at age 21, I fortunately did not have the financial backing that these two used to grow and develop full-on pompous ass tendencies.
2. The two guys behind us at Dave Matthews. Dave can hear you. The dudes up in the space station can hear you. The song you want isn't on the set list. It'll be OK. Also, your bitching about the poor decorum of others is far more distracting than the actual bad behavior.
3. Backpack Dude at McSorley's. Do you really need a backpack's worth of stuff on a Saturday night? What, are you planning on getting lucky, and you're totally mortified at the prospect of a Walk of Shame the next day? And that's why you're carrying a backpack into a packed bar? And why do you feel compelled to thwack me in the eye with the buckles? Can't you at least take it off and set it on the floor? Tool. Freakin' tool. Tooliest tool who ever tooled. I hate you, Backpack Dude.
4. Our diner waitress, and in fact, everyone associated with the diner we went to on Sunday. Coffee. Coffeeeee. Coooooofffff----eeeeee. Please. For the love of God. Coffee! And water! And not just those little thimbles you call water glasses. Real, honkin' tumblerfuls of water. It's a diner. It's Sunday. I imagine at least half of your clientele is as hung over as I am. Please prepare accordingly.
5. New York's pigeon population. Ever since my parakeet Sydney died in a freak accident 17 years ago, all birds everywhere have had it in for me. But New York's pigeons made it clear that they had my number and were merely biding their time. They flew at my head. They flew at my head in airshow formations. They followed me around. They slipped into my personal space, gave me the stinkeye, and scooted off. It was totally creepy.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must go to my post-trip laundry and vegging time.

PS - Can someone tell me why New York is the Empire State? Do they have some colonies that I wasn't aware of?

Friday, April 20, 2007

A Nonsmoker's View on the Smoking Ban

Today's Post had an interesting article on life after the smoking ban (click on my post title to read it). For those of you who aren't in the area, as of January 2nd you can no longer smoke in D.C.'s bars. I'm a nonsmoker, and always have been. Tobacco just sort of skeeves me out. I tried hookah once and was sick for three days.

However, I opposed the smoking ban. It's a bar, not a church or a maternity ward. It's not like anyone goes to their local pub for healthy, virtuous reasons. We go to drink beer, send ill-advised text messages and flirt with people our parents would never approve of. Also, the clouds of smoke obscured all the indigenous bar stink. You know, the stale beer, cheap cologne, dead animals in the walls, gin-soaked unwashed patrons, and greasy food smells that used to be camouflaged by the smoke. I can now smell every individual funky aroma, and it's overwhelming.

As a nonsmoker, the only real drawback to the ban is that I now have to wade through a sidewalk scrum of tipsy, nicotine-starved smokers to get to the door. On more than one occasion, I've narrowly avoided having someone smash their lit cigarette into my shoulder. Back in the old days, the smokers were spread out throughout the bar and it was easier to dodge them. (I have a side question for my smoking readers: after a few drinks, most people notice a decline in their motor skills. I imagine it's tricky to hold a lit object when thus compromised. So, how do you avoid setting your neighbor's hair on fire? I was always impressed by this.)

The best part of the article was the last woman they interviewed. What a hoot. She was a teacher and soccer coach from Fairfax (so, my polar opposite). She claimed that if someone is smoking at the next table, "I will move, and I will vocally move. I will let these people know I am moving because of them. I just feel very passionately about not being a victim of someone else's choice." Wow. Remind me to toss back a couple of beers with her sometime! She sounds fun. Actually, she sounds like a bit of a pill.

I don't think anyone in the history of the universe has quit smoking because a stranger in a bar clucked at them. I have a mom, thanks, and I don't need anyone to tell me what to do.

The Fairfax woman is a symbol of what's wrong with the smoking ban. I don't consider smokers any sort of protected minority (ultimately, it's a choice, and it's not like anyone chooses to be born black or gay or disabled or whatever). So I get a little weary of smokers who complain that they're being persecuted. But I also think it's ridiculous to mommy the hell out of people. Bars are supposed to be gross and smoky. Telling people not to smoke in a bar is like going to a strip club and asking the ladies to cover up a little.

Part of living in society is dealing with the fact that not everyone is going to do what you want them to do. If you are in an environment that is associated with smoking, or any other behavior you find unsavory, you need to either find a way to deal, or you need to go somewhere else. It really is that simple. As a rule, I don't believe in legislating virtue.

Doesn't D.C. have anything better to do?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Apartment Living Isn't for the Weak-Willed

I love my shoebox studio. I have hardwood floors, closet space, and a view of the freeway. I also have views of both the Washington Monument and the Capitol. On a clear day, I can spy on NASA. Best of all, their wireless connection extends into my apartment. NASA Internet is the height of cool.

Best of all, my apartment building looks just like two other complexes in the area. On several occasions, I have had friends claim they knocked on my door and I didn't answer. Turns out they were in the completely wrong building. I love camoflauge.

However, I wouldn't be me if I didn't have petty grievances. So here are some of the skeevier sides to apartment living:

1. The creepy Fashion Consultant guy who memorized my wardrobe. (No, not you, J.) In the year I have been in my apartment, Fashion Consultant has managed to deter me from wearing pastels, convinced me to wear heels less often, and to never, ever be caught dead in shorts ever again. My plan seems to have worked, as I have escaped his notice for the last few months.
2. The Elevator Shell Game. At any given time, one of the three elevators will be out of order. Often, the out-of-order elevator will unilaterally decide that we're under some sort of bomb threat, trap all passengers and hightail it to the basement. So choose wisely, or you'll have to team up with the other passengers to pry your way out with an umbrella.
3. Unfortunately, the Illegal Haitian Day Care has moved out. I miss them. I would walk past and try to figure out why they seemed to have more and more children each week. I thought they were just especially fecund, but, no, it was an illegal day care.
4. The Drill Team also moved out. The Drill Team were these two women who would blast bass-heavy music and stomp around to it. They had rhythm, I'll give them that.
5. Speaking of rhythm, the Drill Team was replaced by the Sex on a Schedule People. The couple who replaced them seem to have sex a lot, but only ever at 11:30 pm. C'mon, people, change it up! Don't let the magic die!
6. The Stoners in Love. There's this really adorable couple who get high and then slow-dance in the hallway. It almost makes me believe in romance.
7. The My-Laundry-Is-More-Important-Than-Your-Laundry Lady. In a logistical coup, my laundry room has more than twice as many washers as dryers. This means that all 16 washers get used. Then, people attempt to use two dryers per washer load. Which is pretty dumb, but follow along. Therefore, there is a demand for 32 dryers. However, the geniuses at my building have provided us with only eight dryers, meaning that only 25% of demand is met. So there is always an enormous line for a dryer. The MLIMITYLL will remove one article of a clothing at a time from the washer, move it to the dryer of her choice, and repeat incessantly until her four loads of washing are now occupying all eight dryers. The transfer process takes about 20 minutes, by which time all laundry room attendees are tempted to grab her, pin her to the folding tables, and suffocate her with dryer sheets. Or perhaps just me. I might have anger issues.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Just for Now...

Let's not care about "the issues." Like many Americans, I've spent the last 24 hours following the news from Virginia Tech. Names are becoming known and events are unfolding. I'm having a hard time thinking of anything else.

Unfortunately, it seems like every idiot with an agenda has seized upon this event for their own gain. A cursory glance of editorials and blogs tell me the following: America's "gun culture" allowed the shooter easy access to weapons. Or, conversely, our denial of 2nd Amendment rights meant that the victims were left without the means to defend themselves. Maybe violent video games did it, lack of prayer in school, lax immigration laws, or poor decision-making on the part of university officials. And, of course, statements of condolence from Europe and Australia manage to chide us for our lax gun control laws AND tsk-tsk that something like this would only ever happen to Americans.

The truth is, evil is part of this world. We may never understand what happened. And it's normal to want to cast blame and to lash out in grief. But the reasons and the politics can wait.

For now, let's mourn the victims. We should learn their names, and grieve for both their families and for what they could have contributed to the world. Let's convey our respects, no political strings attached.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Eric Clapton is the Root of All Evil

I think I may have a stalker. No, it’s not an old boyfriend, a creepy neighbor, or anything of that sort. Actually, a testosterone-stoked psycho would be an improvement over my current situation. I’m being stalked by one of the most irritating songs of all time.

In the last week, I have heard this song twice at the Safeway, once at CVS, once at Pentagon City, and, best of all, once by a whiskey-drenched street musician. The song is “My Father’s Eyes” by Eric Clapton. Confession: I don’t like Eric Clapton. I think “Wonderful Tonight” is the stupidest piece of hokum I’ve ever heard in my life. When you really think about it, the song is about a guy who sits around waiting while his girl takes forever to get ready for a party. Then he retaliates by getting tanked so she has to drive him home. How is that romantic? “Tears in Heaven” bores me silly. “Layla” gets on my nerves, in both the slow and fast versions.

I have spent hours of my life defending my hatred of Eric Clapton, and every second was worth it. I don’t care if he’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time, or if he can play the accordion with his chest hair, or if he’s been in every important band in the history of humankind.

“My Father’s Eyes” is the nadir of the abyss of my hatred of Eric Clapton. The precise second you get over the bland, repetitive lyrics, the cheesy faux gospel singers kick in. And the auditory assault continues for an astounding five minutes and 24 seconds.

So this has me thinking of all the stuff I’m “supposed” to like, but can’t stand. Like jam band music. I get that there’s artistry involved, and maybe this is just my short attention span speaking, but why take 20 minutes to say something you can say in three minutes? And jazz. Lovely in person, or as background music, but don’t ask me to sit and concentrate on it.

I hated Leaving Las Vegas. Why should I care about self-indulgent alcoholics and hookers? Notes on a Scandal was overwrought, overacted nonsense. I despise NPR. Talk radio of any sort bores me to tears. I also hate to discuss politics. I understand that I live in Washington, and that I used to work in politics, so it’s natural to assume I want to debate the merits of the Electoral College. But any time someone engages me in political conversation, I feel a migraine seeping into the corners of my brain. Caviar is simply fatback for rich people. I don’t watch television, and couldn’t care less about “The Sopranos.”

Joshua Bell performing on a Stradivarius at the Metro? I would have walked on by.

Over the years, I’ve been told that I lack sophistication, taste and/or maturity. I’ve been told that an appreciation for NPR/caviar/Eric Clapton is the key to being a whole person, or that I’ll “get it” when I’m older. That’s a total lie. Having different opinions is not a character flaw, and I’m happy just the way I am. I have a great CD collection. I read the newspaper every day (I subscribe, even!). I read a lot of books, and most of them don't have large print or pictures. I like art museums.

So why have I spent so many years defending my taste, or lack thereof? I don’t have an answer, but as of today I’m not going to bother. I'm happy in my state of rubeness.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Rites of Spring

It’s finally April, which leads many Washingtonians to thoughts of cherry blossoms, sunshine, happy hour on the rooftop deck, and obnoxious tourists (

But not me. Spring means one thing only: it’s time to reorganize my closet! I’ve been looking forward to this since January. The Spring Closet Reconfiguration is a major weeklong process, and it isn’t for the timid. It’s also a pretty good indicator of why I live alone. So, here we go:

1. One of the hanging sweater organization systems will be taken down to make room for the larger number of hanging items (such as sundresses and skirts) that I wear in warmer months.
2. Sweaters will be categorized into cardigans, light sweaters, and heavy sweaters. Heavy sweaters will be examined for overall health, folded, and stowed until October.
3. Long-sleeve t-shirts will be sorted, prioritized according to frequency of use, and merged with the lightweight sweaters and cardigans. These items will be deprioritized into the dresser, and the t-shirts and sleeveless tops currently inside the dresser will move to the hanging organization system for easy access.
4. Wool skirts, corduroy slacks and long-sleeved dresses will be moved to the hallway closet. Lightweight dresses and skirts will be retrieved from storage, and short sleeve tops will be retrieved from the hall closet.
5. Dresses will be sorted by length and relative appropriateness for work and hung in Slot 1 of closet. Special Category: Extra Effort Dresses, those which require a specialized form of bra. Those get moved to the back, because really, who has the time for a strapless bra these days?
6. Skirts will be sorted by length and relative formality and hung in Slot 2.
7. Short sleeve shirts will be sorted by color and relative formality and hung in Slot 3.
8. Capri pants will be hung in Slot 4, along with jeans and other slacks.
9. The scarves and gloves currently stored on the accessory bookshelf will be moved to the hall closet to make room for summer handbags.
10. Closed-toe dress shoes will be moved from the front of the shoe hanging organization system and moved to the back. Sneakers may remain in current space, where they are sorted by frequency of use. Sandals will be sorted by heel height and placed in the front half of the organization system. Note: prior system of alphabetizing shoes by color, while deeply amusing, proved inefficient and somewhat unwieldy. Particularly in light of my inability to discern navy blue from black.

Doesn’t this sound like a lot of fun? Well, for me, it truly is. Being insane about the small things lets me be relatively calm about the big stuff. Plus, a meticulously organized closet informs visitors that I am not a woman to be trifled with (or, perhaps, spoken to at all). I’m an organizational badass.