Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"The only man a girl can trust is her daddy."

My dad would have turned 60 today.

Instead, he died at age 45 to lung cancer. I don't remember how he spent his last birthday, but I remember how he spent his 44th - with my mom & me & one of his best friends & his family just down the road in Northern Virginia, where my faux-cousins & I built him "Track 44," a toy racetrack made of Legos, Lincoln Logs, miniature racecars & anything else we could find. I think there was a skit to go along with it, or maybe just that little kid excitement that makes everything feel really, really theatrical. The cake had 44 candles, no joke, plus a couple of racecar pens I got from Burger King kids' meals. My dad's hair was gone, & his mustache, too, but even near the end, the cancer never took his laugh or his love or his spirit.

I've already told you about my dad. He was a full foot taller than my mom & liked to call me "Boogaloo." He loved "Home Improvement" & Oreos & NASCAR & bad jokes & oldies music & hamburgers from Swenson's. He was afraid of birds & hated tomatoes. He picked me up from all my dance classes & drove me to day camp every summer morning, & he came to an Odyssey of the Mind competition when my team made states, even though he had to rent a wheelchair to make it there. He wrote in all caps & helped me with my math homework & sometimes brought golf carts home from work that, when I was lucky, he'd take me & the neighbors for rides in.

I don't know that much about my dad, but I know that my mom's & my lives are immensely, immeasurably different than they would have been had he beat the cancer that ultimately took him. I can't help but wonder who he was & who he would have been now, what he would have told me, what he would have taught me & what we would've done together. What would we have laughed over, argued about? Would we be as close as I like to think? Am I as like him as I like to hope? What kind of family would we be? What would I think of him now?

I know that I am very, very unlucky not to have known this charismatic, memorable man for as long as so many others did - but I am so, so lucky to call myself his daughter, even now.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Being Jewish, Sung to the Tune of Anything Disney

Catholic guilt, heavy though it might be, finds a run for its money in its Abrahamic counterpart, Jewish guilt. After all, Catholics get to repent once a week; we only get one day a year to 'fess up.

Every year, I think about not giving up bread & all things leavened for Passover. I do this primarily because every year, I try to give up the requisite grain products (beer & bagels, how I miss thee) & fail miserably - & then just end up feeling guilty. I really thought this year might be the year I didn't bother trying... but the guilt of that consumed me, too, - before the holiday even began! So here I am swearing off my fridgeful of Lean Cuisine pizzas & Yuengling Lights for a solid eight days.

My friend Joanna, who's from the DC area, kindly invited three wayward friends & I to her home for First Night Seder, where we joined more than a dozen other guests. It was a great evening (albeit a five-hour one!), & I'm consistently thankful to have such great friends whose families are willing to take me in for holidays & general hospitality. A few notes, however, on Pesach bizarreness:
  • I seriously question any fish that comes in the shape of a Jell-O mold. It is for this reason (& definitely not because I hate all fish...) that I skipped tonight's gefilte fish dish, though @missallisong claims it was the most delicious she's ever had.

  • Matzah ball soup still tastes like stomach acid. Sorry, Mom. This year I didn't even bother.

  • Many of this evening's add-on songs were to the tune of Disney songs & the theme from "Gilligan's Island," mostly just because Joanna was put in charge of the music & is pretty effing quirky. We dared attempt to sing the first of the Four Questions to the tune of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," which, even if you know nothing of Passover, is just as difficult as it sounds. You try fitting the syllables of the Hebrew "Ma nishtana ha'laila hazeh mi'kol haleilot?" into the right places of Mary Poppins' most famous made-up word. One of the verses to "A Whole New World" - sung, shockingly, to the tune of "A Whole New World" - went like this:
    A whole new world...
    Where we won’t live in slavery.
    No one to tell us no,
    The Jews can’t go,

    Or say we’re only dreaming.
    Yeah. Seriously. I hope no one expected me to keep a straight face. Can I get a magic carpet, too, please?

  • It's sort of unclear why Jews feel they need to eat jelly candies at Pesach, as there are plenty of wheat-free desserts that are much, much tastier & less garishly colored, yet every Seder seems to boast at least one plateful of neon jelly slices. Joanna & I love them, but we appear to be in the minority - when I bought them at the Capitol Hill candy store a few weeks ago, my coworkers were baffled: "Why would you buy gross Passover candy when it's not Passover?!"

  • The afikomen is a piece of matzah hidden someplace in the home for the children to search for at the end of the Seder. Though no one in the room was younger than 21, nine of us were tasked with scouring the house. At what age are we allowed to get out of this game?! There's nothing more awkward than opening drawers & closets in a stranger's home as you try to find a piece of unleavened bread ultimately hidden inside a Grecian urn or something. Though I was not the winner of said afikomen hunt, all hunters scored $5 Starbucks giftcards to indulge in our very unchildlike caffeine addictions.

  • The evening ended with an easy-listening round of "Make Those Waters Part" by Doug Mishkin, who's basically a Jewish James Taylor.
Luckily, this holiday also requires that we drink four glasses of wine. Like, requires it. And unlike giving up grain, that's a requirement I'm happily able to fulfill.

It's (glorious) nights like this that I have to wonder what Judaism looks like to non-Jews...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Big Decisions in Blogging. Maybe.

I'm struggling a little bit with blogging, & it all started when I began reading other people's blogs.

They - whoever the universal "they" of the Blogging Universe are - say that you have to read & comment on others' blogs if you want to put yourself out there enough to get readers of your own, so about a year ago, I started reading lots of other blogs. The list of blogs whose feeds inhabit my Google Reader has since grown by leaps & bounds (what a dumb phrase).

But my blog is different than the others I read. Because it's not very much about me at all, is it? I only tell you stories; I never tell you about me.

The blogs I like most are the ones that give me real insight into the writers' lives & loves. The blogs I get most excited to read are the ones written by strong characters who tell me about themselves & their emotions, who allow me to feel like I know the characters in their lives. In my last three posts, I gave you a photo of a trash can, an angry story of a dining experience gone wrong, & a rant against birds in public spaces. Based on my words, what do you know about me? Nothing, except that I have a keen eye for street trash & I dislike poor restaurant service & winged pets. Deep.

A lot of people read my blog who know me in real life - my mom, my boss, scads of folks who are too embarrassed to admit that they read it because they only know me from jobs we had together when we were 15 or through friends of friends or whatever (PS: Don't be embarrassed, glad you're here). But because so many of these people actually know me, I can't go balls-to-the-wall & be as me as I want to be.

That doesn't make sense, does it? I should be able to be more me with the people I know than with complete strangers, but there's always the fear of those you know in real life knowing too much about you - somehow, that's rarely a concern with stranger. But it's not like I want to start writing a Xanga site here; this doesn't need to be a journal of my emotions; at the same time, maybe it needs to be more than it is now. Maybe it needs more of me.

There are plenty of things I'm feeling that I can't help but often think aren't appropriate for my blog, for this space. So what do I do? Do I recreate my space? Turn it into something new? It's mine, I'm allowed. But will that taint it? Will people be less interested? And how will I draw lines between sharing & over-sharing? Is it better if I fade off & start a new, anonymous blog someplace else? That seems like a wussy thing to do, & I'm not particularly interested. But how do I go about becoming more me in the space that was meant to become a manifestation of me to begin with?

It's time for a change, or at least a pick-me-up. But how?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Trash Talk

Something is a little off here. This isn't how this is supposed to work!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In Which I Am Served Mushrooms & Choose McNuggets

A friend is visiting from out of town! Let’s go to dinner! Pizzeria Paradiso has a 45-minute wait? Let’s go to that newish place I always talk about wanting to try! Good idea, Kate!

That’s a rough sketch of how the conversation went last night as my friends & I headed to Scion on P Street. Please note all the exclamation points, which denote my enthusiasm, which proved to be short-lived.

The night proceeded as follows:
  • We order two sides to split. Jill & I order appetizers as meals; Jason orders a burger. I note that I am allergic to mushrooms & would like my dish without them; Jason asks for his burger without cheese. A weird conversation with our server ensues as she tells us the sides will come out first because they’ll be done sooner. Wait, what? I don’t want my fries before my meal, but... OK. I can deal, Scion.
  • We wait.
  • Our sides-as-appetizers arrive. They are delicious & all is well with the world & our stomachs.
  • We wait.
  • Jill’s meal arrives. Jason & I encourage her to eat without us.
  • Jason’s burger arrives. With cheese. He sends it back & is told it’ll be awhile while they make him a new one. I inquire about my meal – without mushrooms? I inquire – & am told it’s on its way, without any offending fungi.
  • Jason’s replacement burger arrives, sans cheese. Lucky him – I am still sans meal. Jill finishes her meal.
  • I wait.
  • My meal arrives. I cut into one ravioli & discover multiple mushrooms stuck to the bottom of it & to each subsequent piece. It seems the “bed of mushrooms” my dish was supposed to be served upon was simply scraped off – but poorly. Good thing I’m not anaphylactic, Scion.
  • I send my meal back but tell the manager (who the website now tells me is the owner) I’m not interested in having them remake it because my friends are both finished with their food. She says they’ll remove it from our bill (oh, thanks) & asks if we’d like dessert. At this speed, no, we would not like dessert.
  • I complain a lot.
  • Our server delivers our bill, pointing out that she’s given me my meal for free – which is an odd way of wording it, since they delivered me a meal I couldn’t consume. Thanks for not charging me, though. I sure do appreciate that free dinner I didn’t eat.
  • On our way out, the manager/owner shouts, “Thanks! Sorry about that!” ...Pause... I left your restaurant without eating a meal. I’m sorry about that, too.
  • I stop at McDonald's for dinner & angrily consume my first Happy Meal in years. I subsequently feel both guilty & gross. Also, still mad.
It's a lot of bullet points, I know.

There are so many things wrong with this situation, but the travesty of it all is that the food we did eat was delicious, especially the mac & cheese with prosciutto (be still my fat-kid heart). Someone in the kitchen was doing something right in terms of our taste buds – but everything else (read: the service) was a huge disappointment.

Scion, you have let me down. I went in for pumpkin goat cheese ravioli & all I got was this damn blog post & a six-piece chicken McNugget.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

DC Goes to the Birds

I have a lot of aversions that I can recognize as being utterly irrational - velvet, for example, (it feels like petting a cat backwards) & Diaper Decks in public restrooms (long story). But one that I think is totally rational? Birds.

Let's be clear - birds are disgusting. And the ones in this city are ruthless. They don't care where they fly, or at whom. They're happy to skim the top of your head & knock you completely off balance as they make their way to wherever it is that birds are always in a rush to fly to. Also, when I was about 7 years old, my parents & I traveled to D.C., where a bird pooped on my arm. This perhaps added to my trauma.

But even if I don't like them, birds in nature get a free pass from me because, you know, they're supposed to be there. What I don't get is this new District trend of carrying your bird around the city with you.

For example, while walking Adam's Morgan last week, I encountered this man sitting outside the police station with a birdcage. With a bird in it:


Question numero uno: Where could you possibly be going that would require you to take your bird on the road with you???

I assumed it was an isolated incident, but I assumed incorrectly. You know what they say about assuming - but in this card, I don't think it made "an ass of u & me" so much as it made an ass of these bird-toting weirdos.

Second spotting: At Bar Dupont on St. Patrick's Day, I observed (& a friend covertly photographed) this woman with two cockatiels - on a leash. Surrounded by people. On the patio of a bar.


There's no good way to end a post that grosses me out as much as this one does. FLY AWAY HOME. Do not take your birds out in public with you.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Awesome-Minus Brunching, Testimonial-Style

My office's conference season (we put on six in three months!) has finally come to a close, & you know what that means? That means no more weekends spent working, & THAT MEANS BRUNCH.

We closed our final conference with a fantastic meal at the Marriott Crystal Gateway's brunch buffet two weekends ago, which you can read about over at my friend Hungry Sam's blog, where he waxes somewhat poetic about my abiding love for cheesy breakfast potatoes.

Sunday morning, we continued brunching, & I soldiered through a gin-induced hangover (Dear self: You are 25, not 19) to trek to Social in Columbia Heights for brunch with coworkers-cum-friends & assorted others. The weather was dreary but the company was good, & I was promised everyone would be wearing pants. Seriously, that's what our brunch planning email chain devolved into, though I suppose a pantsless brunch would've made for some extra excitement.

Anyway. Social. Eight of us ordered exactly two meals - chocolate chip pancakes & the Black Jack Sandwich, four orders of each. The pancakes (CCPs, if you wanna sound all official) were stacked three high, which doesn't sound like a big deal, but basically amounted to a three-layer breakfast cake for just $7.95, one side included (bacon). I sound like a commercial, I know, but I love me some cheap a.m. eatin'.


Luckily, however, & much to the delight of our digestive systems, not a single one of us CCP-eaters finished our meals, no matter how inexpensive. That's a lotta pancakery.

The other school of brunching thought (to which I am clearly not party) puts more emphasis on the "unch" part of the word - that is to say, with a focus on lunch food. Those heathens lunch-lovers seated among us ordered the Black Jack Sandwich, composed of the following:


Needless to say, everyone was pretty darn happy. Don't believe me? I've got testimonials to prove it.




Bottom line for our Social brunch experience: crappy service, crazygood eats. I leave you with my final thoughts:


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jumping for Joy, Justice & Sunny DC Days

I've been busy, which means that for now, all I've got is another photo update. Weak, I know. Forgive me?

Anyway. Monday was our first warm, sunny day in a long time, & I had the pleasure of visiting Capitol Hill with 320 high schoolers as they lobbied their Members of Congress. And me? I mostly chilled at the Supreme Court & in the Longworth Cafeteria, but the point is that sometimes I remember that I live in DC, & it's a pretty darn cool place, what with all the democracy & law-making that goes on in our midst.

I think that's jump-worthy.

And on a much less serious note, can anyone tell me why I don't seem to have a shadow...?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gettin' Down in the District

[Presidents.jpg]

Teddy Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt & Chester A. Arthur, respectively.
Missing from this scene: Abraham Lincoln.
That is all.
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