Friday, April 30, 2010

One Woman's Trash...

Sometimes you pass a piece of litter so rare & amazing that you cannot do your civic duty to Mother Earth. Sometimes you just can't pick it up & throw it away, no matter how responsible an earthly citizen you typically are. No, sometimes you just have to just leave it where it is, in the middle of the sidewalk on Connecticut Avenue, for the next passerby to find & enjoy & love & cherish.



So I left it there. Because yeah, I'm a day-brightener like that.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Empire State of Mind(ish)

Days don't always go as expected. On Tuesday, for example, I woke up & was like, "Awesome, it's my roommate's birthday! I'm gonna go to work & then leave at a normal time to eat at Chef Geoff's with my best friends to celebrate, followed by my standing 'American Idol' date with Rachel." I guess maybe I thought it in less-complete sentences, but that was the mental gist.

By 3:30, I was in New York City.

Yeah, you heard me. Er, read me. Sometime in the early morn, my boss asked if I'd mind terribly hopping a train to the Big Apple to do some work at our other office. So a few things happened:
A) I called my (very patient, understanding) mom & freaked out a little because heyitsjustanaverageTuesday&NewYorkisbig&scary&Ihavetoleaveintwohours?!
B) I packed a bag, and
C) I got on a train. And it was fine, & there I was.
So that's how that went down, plus or minus a hotel room of my own, two meetings with a lawmaker of a foreign country, & a few chai espresso lattes.

Do you ever look around at your life & think, "Oh my God, what is all of this & how did I get here?" And it's not a good thing or a bad thing, it's just a thing that you can't help but think. This trip was one of those trips when I remembered 17-year-old me, a high school senior who watched the Twin Towers fall & decided she could never be anything but a journalist. The version of me who made a pact with her high school boyfriend to someday live in New York City, where we'd both be writers, where life would be crazy & busy & beautiful & maybe we'd be poor but we'd sure as hell always be happy.

Cut to eight years later, where life is crazy & busy & beautiful & I'm almost always poor but also almost always happy. There's no boy & there's no Big Apple (usually); there's some writing, but not the magazine-writing kind that 17-year-old Kate (or even 22-year-old college graduate Kate) told herself was coming down the pipe. But it's a life I dig a lot. It's not what I ever could have predicted or planned for myself, but sometimes planning is a little overrated.

When I got back to DC last night, so tired I literally almost couldn't stand (whirlwinds wear me out, yo!), my roommate texted me a reminder to open the freezer before I went fell into a coma went to bed. And therein lay a bright, shining, mint chocolate chip token of Baskin Robbins' 31-cent Scoop Day, which I had missed while riding the train back from my 24-hour adventure:



Yeah, life's not what I expected. But it's pretty freaking sweet.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mother Theresa's Advice on Cab Rides

I want to write an angry-yet-witty post about how peeved I am that cab drivers in this city seem to regularly be able to get away with having no ever-loving idea where they're going. I want to ask how it's possible that any professional driver could not know how to get to the massive, giant, monstrosity of a well-known hotel that I live just around the corner from. I want to know why I've had to give directions from Dupont Circle to Woodley Park (just under a one-mile trip) to the last three cab drivers I've had. I want to piss & moan (what a weird phrase) about the fact that I got out of a cab on the next street over, which I don't even know the name of because it is not my street. My general thinking here is "IF YOU CAN'T GET FROM DUPONT TO WOODLEY PARK, YOU NEED A NEW GIG." Caps required, followed by me basically throwing $7 at the driver & stomping home while muttering to myself about the injustices of directionally challenged drivers.

But I've also been thinking a lot lately about Mother Theresa's quote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle." I've never been one for cheesy, weepy inspirational quotes, but that one has always stuck with me, perhaps because it actually inspires me & perhaps because I've experienced my fair share of mean people myself, both on days when my battle was hard & days when I suspected theirs was indeed harder.

I remember working in a department store at age 20, thinking, "How can people be so mean to someone they don't even know?" every time an angry shopper yelled about Christmas discounts or out-of-stock sweaters. Same deal when patrons of the swimming pool I worked at screamed about seasonal pass pricing or my ability to make a properly swirled twist ice cream cone (I was a concessions stand manager, quit judging). I've held a lot of jobs that resulted in more than a few tears-in-the-bathroom situations when customers or coworkers belittled or attacked me for no good reason; more than one day that ended in "You'll never believe how crappy work was because ___ was so terribly mean."

So I should be able to be more cognizant of the fact that the people on the other side of the cab divider (or the cash register, or anywhere, really) are people, too - people with lives & feelings & issues. Who knows what they're going through, even if they seem to suck? Maybe especially if they seem to suck. Who knows what their intentions are or what their stories are or what's happening in their head? Who knows whether my cranking out at them will mean that they go home & complain to their families about the bitchy girl who said X or complained about Y or ruined their day or their self-esteem? I don't want to be the reason behind anyone's "Dear Diary: Today was epically awful" entry.

In truth, all it takes for me to ease up on people is a little common sense & maybe an apology. Make a wrong turn when you're driving me home? Tell me it's your first day & I'll give you better directions - nicely. Bad service at a restaurant? Send the manager over to say sorry & take 10% off my bill & I'll be back in the future - happily. But I've realized that I wait for this evidence of a bad day, for evidence of an apology, before I show that compassion - & it occurs to me that I'd prefer to be the kind of person who's compassionate first &, when appropriate, snarky second.

I want to be nicer because I think it will make me happier. But I don't want to lose my edge, either. DC has hardened me, but it's also softened me. Can those happen at the same time? Can I stay funny & be kinder? And more importantly, how on earth am I supposed to accomplish this?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Positively "Glee"ful

Myspace isn't good for very much anymore. But you know what it is good for? Helping my friend & former roommate, Gavi, land a spot on everyone's favorite musical TV hit, "Glee"!

VOTING CLOSES TOMORROW. But because you can vote as many time as you want, there's still plenty of time to improve Gavi's chances of becoming a Gleek. (A note: I hate that term. "Glee" supposedly takes place in Lima, Ohio, where my grandma lives, but if any of the show's marketers native to the Midwest, they'd know that's the word Ohioans use for "accidentally spitting on someone when you're talking.")

ANYHOW, here's what's what:
  1. Visit Gavi's audition page.
  2. Watch or don't watch the promo video of characters Puck & Santana explaining the competition. Drool over Puck's hotness. Refocus your attention & then:
  3. Sign in using your own Myspace account or the one Gavi made for this competition. Username: fanofgavi@gmail.com, password: voteforgavi (Subtle, we know.)
  4. Cast your vote(s) by clicking "Give a gold star" under Gavi's videos.
  5. Do it again.
  6. Do it again.
  7. Take a break.
  8. Repeat steps 1-6.
What say you? Will you help my friend score her big break belting show tunes on national television? And will you trust me when I promise that soon I'll stop using my blog for purely promotional purposes? I WILL, I SWEAR. Later.




(On an mean yet related note, obviously Gavi is fantastic, but some of these other auditions are amazingly terrible. I NEED TO GO TO BED, but who can sleep when there's so much hilarity to watch? ) (Watch 'em, you know you want to. I'll save a seat for you in hell.)

All You Need Is Love

A recap of the last few days, in list form:

  • Overcrowded Metro rides with sardine-like, barely-enough-room-to-breathe conditions on trains that only arrive every 15 minutes or so, resulting in little girls almost nosebleeding on my back & my standing in too-close proximity to PDA-heavy couples
  • A night at the bar that ends in the bartenders giving my debit card to someone who wasn't me, requiring me to contest the $30 charge, cancel my card, & wait 5-7 business days (read: like two weeks) for a new one
  • Learning that close friends will soon be moving out of D.C., even if it's for really good reasons like getting into a top-ranked law school
  • Having to work on a Sunday (although to be fair, I didn't have to come in until much later than many of my colleagues)
  • Missing Phoenix at the DAR tomorrow because A) I forgot to buy tickets when they were on sale & B) I'm now too poor to buy scalped tickets now that they're not on sale.
  • Discovering that Netflix now offers all episodes of "Bones" on Watch Instantly feature, allowing me to follow along with quirky homicide cases & occasionally ogle guest star Brendan Fehr all from the comfort of my own laptop
  • A hilarious voicemail from RBC interrupted by an encounter with "a fleet of cockroaches" on the mean streets of NYC. As soon as she regains her composure, she shouts, "THAT'S A SPIDER!" & makes some scared-sounding noises before asking to call me back later. If I could figure out how to upload it here, I would, because it's divine.
  • When movies that seem like they'll be ridiculous turn out to be pretty darn funny (see also: "Hot Tub Time Machine") (see also: me laughing sort of hysterically)
  • My first visit from an Ohio friend in nearly a year & a half! Adam made it to the District this Friday for catching up, cosuming Yuengling, & partaking in his first falafel-eating experience, courtesy of my D.C. friends, Amsterdam Falafelshop, & French fries dipped in peanut sauce.
  • Watching my friends get accepted into the grad/law schools of their choice & accept new jobs they can't wait to start. Seeing the people I love most succeed & grow inspires me to be better & work harder.
  • Despite having to work on a Sunday, indulging in the following things: wearing my favorite dress, chatting with friendly members of my organization's board, & eating chocolate-covered strawberries
  • Anticipating an upcoming weekend (I know it's a long way away, shutyourfacethanks) of sleeping in, rejuvenating & reflecting

Disclaimer: This post was totally weaksauce, I know. Forgive me. I'll be back in the swing of it soon. Maybe.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Can Make It On My Own, But My Heart Is In Ohio

From "Garden State":
You know that point in your life when you realize the house you grew up in isn't really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have some place where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone ... You'll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it's gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It's like you feel homesick for a place that doesn't even exist. Maybe it's like this rite of passage, you know. You won't ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it's like a cycle or something. I don't know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that's all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.
When I was 20, I thought Andrew Largeman's words were profound. I fully expected that my life would soon fall into line with his sentiments. I waited & waited, but...

I never felt that way. Home is a lot of things for me, but it's never imaginary, never non-existent, never a forgotten or uncomfortable idea.

Home is people who knew me way back when - when I was good, when I was bad, when I was worse. The people who kvelled while I gave our high school commencement speech (at 25, it's still, somewhat embarrassingly, the proudest event of my life), who supported me when I decided to transfer home from my first university, who visited me in Columbus when I sang with the Ohio State Fair Youth Choir. The people who drove to college to pick me up when my ex-boyfriend died, who peeled my newly drunken self off my driveway the night I came of legal drinking age, who stood by me following a particularly ill-advised series of events on my 22nd birthday.

Home is also the friends who left me when I needed them most - but who I've stopped blaming. The friends who couldn't handle being mistreated, lied to, emotionally abused, who did what they needed to do - for themselves & for me. The friends who have forgiven me, through time & geographical distance, & with whom I have forged new & thankful friendships, independent of the bitterness of our past but always with one eye on what could have been - & what I promise will never happen again. For that, home is hope & gratitude.

Home is comfort food. It's Rockne's three times in two days with anyone who'll join me & French toast brunch at Bob Evans, Ohio's breakfast Mecca. It's snacking on bagels & dried fruit at my mom's house, indulging in peanut butter chocolate cake on my best friend's birthday, & garlic breading myself to near-death at Parasson's with my high school friends.

Home is a bed that never makes my bad back hurt, a shower with perfect water pressure, a refrigerator perpetually stocked with all the wrong things. It's unrelenting allergies that I'm willing to forgive for the trees I love, for my dog Missy & for my mom's tulips & for the park down the street. Home is clutter in a way that feels loving & lived-in, not unlivable.

Home is in physical spaces, in the myriad doctors offices that will still fit me in last-minute, the dentist I like the best, the green-haired goth who's been cutting my hair for half a decade. It's the playground where I found my best friend, the park where I had my first date with my first love, the swimming pool where I worked for seven summers, the gross mall a few minutes away that served as the center of so many shopping trips with friends, the campus that served as my childhood summer camp & later as my alma mater.

Home is, of course, my mom, who doesn't need a paragraph of her own but about whom I could fill a book.

Home isn't perfect. I don't always agree with the closed minds or the small-town mentalities that permeate so much of the Buckeye State. I want to talk about politics & current events more than any of my friends are willing to put up with, & I don't want to get married & create offspring just yet, if ever. But home is also those small-town Midwestern mentalities that can't be found anywhere else - the congeniality, the simplicity, the hard-working ways.

This August, I will have been away from home - from the people & places & memories that fill it - for three years. And I, my friends, am not a girl who does places-that-are-not-home too terribly well. But I've spent nearly three years in Washington, D.C. & I love it here, & I could write an equally heartfelt post on all the reasons that this is my home, too. I love it here & will stay as long as is appropriate & healthy for me - for the adventure, for the success, for the experience. I love it here, & I'm not ready to leave yet.

But I never experienced that "Garden State" feeling. Home has never been anything but home for me. It's changed, sure, but it's never stopped being the place where I feel the most comfortable, the most... well, at home. And you know what? Maybe that's OK. Maybe I had to leave to learn that I really am a Midwestern girl at heart. I don't just love Ohio because it's the only place I've ever known, because now I've known more, & I still love it most.

So maybe it's time to stop fighting it: Home really is where my heart is. I'm definitely not ready to leave D.C. yet, & I don't know when I will be - but Ohio isn't going anywhere. When I'm ready, I know it will be, too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey, Cancer: I'm Fighting Back

I know, I know. Seems like everyone's askin' fer yer money these days, huh? Economic times are tough, & you're no doubt hanging on to your wallet like a kid to his blankie. Preferably without your thumb in your mouth, too.

So let me be up front: I'm asking for your money. But I'm also asking for your compassion.

I told you once that I won't walk "for color-coded cures." But I will walk for the lives of all people affected by all kinds of cancer. You know why: My dad had cancer & it sucked & he died. What you probably don't know is that he died 15 years ago this summer - June 19th, to be exact.

This June 19th, I'll be participating in the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, a chance to fight back against the disease that has affected the lives of so many. Relay is a 12-hour event in which teams of participants camp out at a local high school and take turns walking or running around a track or path in the name of fighting cancer – a disease that has no doubt affected someone close to every single one of us.

For me, this Relay comes at a particularly poetic time, marking the 15-year anniversary of my dad's death to the day. I’ll of course be Relaying in his memory – along with the memory of my Grandpa Ritz (leukemia), my Grandpa Earl (prostate cancer), & my Grandma Peg (breast cancer). I'll also be Relaying in support of a good friend who, at just 26, is facing lymphoma for the third time.
The American Cancer Society Relay For Life is an opportunity to help save lives by raising money that funds prevention & early detection, illness support, cure research & much, much more. I know money's tight, but what say you? Will you consider making a donation to my Relay for Life team? You can even make a donation in memory or in honor of someone you love.

Ted Kennedy Jr. once said, "My father admired perseverance." Well, my father may not have been a Senator, but he had a thing for perseverance, too; his motto was "Press on, regardless." My dad was a pretty tough guy, but even tough guys can fall to an unrelenting disease like this.
But I'm pretty tough, too. So I'm trying to kick cancer's ass. Will you join me in pressing on regardless - & fighting back?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Tourists

I'd like to add two photographic addenda to my last post. Truly, they require no further descriptions, but suffice it to say that they're prime examples of folks not to trust. For starters:


He's already wearing a camera around his neck, so I wouldn't have trusted him anyway, but listen, if you're so scared of communicable diseases that you're going to require your entire family to suit face mask up for the entirety of your vacation, please instead pause for a second & complete the following tasks:
  • Get off Priceline & don't bother booking those tickets.
  • Tuck your Metro map away for another day.
  • Use your vacation money to order a nice new TV instead, because you're going to need something to pass the time when you're at home under quarantine, where you belong.
Seriously, if you're this paranoid - or, I suppose, this contagious - just do not leave your house. Ever.

But perhaps more importantly than face-masked families, do not trust a person on a Segway. I mean it. Not even a cop on a Segway, because there must be some reason the police force wouldn't give him a legitimate mode of transportation like a car or a motorcycle or even a bicycle or, hell, a horse. So just don't go near Segways - but especially do not go near Segway tours:


Did you know that there's even a special new Segway tour that highlights the Lincoln assassination? The promo copy reads, "The Lincoln Assassination Segway Tour will bring America’s most famous crime to life in the heart of Washington, DC." Because nothing says "Thanks for the memories, DC!" like murder on wheels.


Note: I promise not to blog about tourists every day, bless their bumbling, lost souls. But how could I be expected to resist giving you these two gems?! Exactly. I couldn't be. And you're welcome.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tourists vs. District-Dwellers: The Battle Begins (Again)

It's Cherry Blossom Festival time! While this means, of course, lots of cherry blossoms (I'm going on Monday; I've never been before!), it also means one big, dreaded thing: SCADS OF TOURISTS. Living near the Woodley Park Metro stop this time of year is absolutely disgusting, a statement I may delve further into in the future, but for now, I'd like to identify for you a few groups of people I have identified as being trustworthy (read: not holding up my daily commute/sanity) during this war-zone of a season:
  • Employees: If you work here, you live here, which means you're A-OK with me.

  • Runners: This one isn't entirely foolproof, because plenty of people come into town & carry on with their usual workouts by seeing the new city on foot, but more often than not, I tend to trust that runners are locals.

  • Bus riders: Occasionally the rare ballsy tourists will make their way onto the public bus, holding up the getting-to-my-destination process by asking the bus driver "Does this bus go to the Smithsonian?" (which is another problem entirely), but for the most part, the bus system is just too tough to tackle if you're only in town for the weekend. Most travelers opt for the Metro or catch a cab. All the better!

  • Solo bus/Metro riders: If you're braving public transportation alone, you probably know what you're doing, or are at least adept enough to try. If you are, in fact, a solo-traveling tourist, kudos to you & best of luck on your journey & thanks for not getting in my way.

  • SmarTrip holders: If you've spent the $5 on a permanent means of making your way easily through the Metro's golden gates, you're probably more than a weekender. Also, you're unlikely to hold up the already-bottled-necked line to get into & out of (y)our desired destination.

  • Dog walkers: No one brings their pet on vacation, right?! If you're out walking your furry friend - leash, poop bag & all - I assume you're from someplace nearby.

  • Grocery shoppers/carriers: No need for foodstuffs if you're staying at the nearest Marriott. If you're buying sustenance by the bag, your pantry must be nearby rather than an airplane ride away.
If we've identified trustworthy groups, that of course means that the opposite exist - the untrustworthy. So how can you spot a tourist? Well, everyone knows the basics, but it can't hurt to outline them again. I avoid:
  • Camera wearers: This means I may be discounting some perfectly legitimate local photogs, but too often, a camera hung around the neck means a father of five who will stop at any scenic point along the middle of the sidewalk to capture on film family memories in the making.

  • Large families: If you have a large family & live in the District, you're probably smarter than standing in hordes on sidewalks & streetcorners. You also probably know how to use the Metro, which means you probably know better than to use it.

  • Map holders: I get lost a lot, too, but when I do, I just ask someone where to go. Tourists use maps. Large maps, unfolded in the middle of walkways & taking up space on the Metro.

  • Anyone in an I ♥ DC shirt: If you lived here, I presume that you, like me, would it a lot less every time you encountered someone sporting a chintzy $5 tee. I when you're not here.

  • Escalefters: Any DC-dweller - or, for that matter, veteran tourist - knows that, as with street traffic, the left side of every escalator is for passing. If a car is parked in the left lane, you can't pass it; similarly, if you & your three kids are parked on the left side of the escalator, I can't pass you.

  • Escalator sitters: Seriously, get up & get better shoes. Also, get out of my way - & preferably out of my sight.
*Begrudging disclaimer: I don't hate tourists. In fact, sometimes I sort of like them. And I always, always want to give them directions. But why are so many of them SO IRRATIONAL? It's like they've never considered that people - 599,657 of us, the Census Bureau says! - actually reside in the fair city they're having so much fun visiting. I'm all for vacations, & I love living in a city people actually want to visit (more than I can say for my hometown!), but I wish the scads of visitors would have some common sense/courtesy. If you need to stop, move over. If you're not sure what you're doing, ask someone. And for the love of forefathers & freedom, stand to the right.

*Second disclaimer: I wrote this post at 3:00am. I cannot be held responsible for any suckage.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

This Post Also Brought to You by "No Fear" Shirts & Trapper Keepers

I tried to respond to many/most of you individually, but thank you SO MUCH to everyone for your kind words & insight on yesterday's post. I've got something brewing that will bring my dad's story back to the forefront of my blog soon, but for now, it's back to your regularly scheduled absurdity!

It looked like this outside today:

And it's this girl's 25th birthday:

Which means I went to lunch on a patio (MY FAVORITE) with these girls:

(That's me, Wearing Mascara, Livit Luvit, and DC PrincessQ, in case you're not hip to our blogger faces yet. Except that it's likely that you know me, which means you should be hip to mine. And if nothing else, my face is on here a lot. Learn it.)

Anyway, it was a great midday escape (like I needed one after having three days off?), & I was relieved to find something non-leavened that I could eat. Ironically, I opted for crab cakes which, though unbreaded, are the anti-kosher... so I don't know that I'm really getting this Judaism thing right...

ANYWAY. Lunch was delightful, but the best part of my day was actually this:

Two women, three scrunchies. Maybe you can't tell, but that chick on the right is actually wearing two wound together, in different colors, which makes for a perfect little retro trifecta. IT'S LIKE 1991 IS CALLING TO ME FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE BY GIVING ME THIS INCREDIBLE GIFT. Yeah, that's all in caps because this sighting was such a gem.

I have a lot of questions. Like why are they both dressed up like decades past? Did they get their hair accessories from the same package, or are their personalities so in sync that they each purchased them individually & when they hung out today they were like, "Oh, snap, I'm wearing mine, too!"? Do these women live together? Or was the single-scrunchie-wearer just sweaty while they were walking around town & her double-scrunchie-wearing friend offered to help her out by providing her with a hair band? Are the other people at their table embarrassed? Does anyone have as many questions as I do about things as mundane as neon scrunchies? Is there anything mundane about neon scrunchies?

I know DC gets a bad fashion rap, but I like to think that DC isn't this badly accessorized & that these women are instead tourists from somewhere gross like the Midwest South. But that's a (verylongandcranky) post for another day...
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