That Time I Was on "Top Chef" Talking About Rootbeer & Steak

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

OK, so maybe THE COOLEST THING EVER just happened to me.

And OK, maybe it wasn't the coolest thing ever, but it was pretty effing cool.

A few months ago, my roommate Andrew & I skipped work (with the bosses' permission!) & drove out to Mount Vernon, home of wooden-toothed George Washington. The reason for our day trip? We were diners at a "Top Chef: DC" challenge!

I didn't blog about it at the time because we were asked not to; I still won't reveal much other than the fact that I was there & it was awesome. It was, by far, the coolest thing I've done here in DC, wandering the hallowed grounds of our first president's home while shoveling down bite-sized meals created by some of the country's best chefs. To my dismay, it turns out that neither of my favorite dishes - Kenny's harissa pork with quinoa & Andrea's rootbeer-marinated steak - made it into either the top or bottom, indicating that I have a sloppy, uncultivated palette, or something. Whatever, Padma, at least I don't wear rompers.


Tonight, excited about our potential TV debuts, Andrew & our roommate Jason & I hosted a little (BIG) viewing party at our tiny apartment, hoping to catch a glimpse of ourselves on the greatest cooking show in the land. There were about 150 diners present, so we figured we wouldn't get screen time but would maybe spot ourselves in the crowd chowin' down.

Imagine our surprise & delight when we found ourselves in the crowd not once but FOUR TIMES. Once in the background. Twice at chefs' tables (me at Kenny's & him at Amanda's). And one super-unexpected close-up of me talking somewhat awkwardly about the food. My big line? "I wouldn't have expected rootbeer to taste good... on meat."

That's right. Soda & meat made me famous for a whole six seconds. And the best part was the comment a close friend left on my Facebook about her toddler son: "LOVE IT!!! and AC was yelling 'there's Katy I found her momma!!!' you are officially famous to him!!! so cool and you looked cute too...loved the diva glasses :)"

Temporary stardom win.

I'll be signing autographs while I wait for an agent to call me.
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Hot Town, Summer in the City (In Other Words, I'm Miserable.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

With apologies for starting this post out on a negative note, let's cut to the chase: I HATE THE HEAT. I can't believe I've never covered this before, but it's true & it's strong. I really, really, really hate the heat.

My roommate Jason hates it, too, as evidenced by the following series of texts & the fact that we opted to take a cab home from U Street today rather than stand in the sun for 10 minutes until the bus arrived:
Kaaaaaaaaaaaaate. It's hoooooooorrible outside. I just got out the door and now my everything is sweaty.

Why is this bus not air conditioned? Why am I so sweaty? Why won't the heat go away? Whiiiiiiine.

I need some new genes, stat.
I find Mother Nature's other elements to be aggravating but largely manageable: when it snows, bundle up; when it rains, carry an umbrella. But what options are there in gabillion-degree heat? There are only so many layers of clothes to remove! Stubbornly, I've also been known to refuse to wear summer-appropriate clothing, occasionally donning Pete Wentz-style pants in the heat of July. Alas, yesterday I caved in & bought shorts, which is both shameful & liberating. I don't really know how to wear shorts, & I am beyond convinced that they make me look like a minivan mom - but my legs can breathe now, offering me minimal but essential respite from the heat.

Still, people who enjoy heat - who like it, thrive in it, crave it, love it - sort of make me sick. I don't understand. What part of bathing in your own sweat is enjoyable? What part of "If I don't have a glass of water every 10 steps, I'm going to dehydrate" is likable? Who seeks out suffocation? Sunburn? Sweat?

That's the key to my dislike, really. Sweating. I am, admittedly, like, the sweatiest person on the goddamn planet, which makes for regularly unpleasant summer days - hair plastered to my head, weird patterns on the backs of my solid-colored shirts, etcetera. Maybe I have a problem. Maybe Jason's is onto something in that text. Maybe it all comes down to genetics. Those among us blessed with being relatively unsweaty can withstand the heat - & perhaps even enjoy it. But for those of us whose pores deem it appropriate to relentlessly marinate us in sweat, every day feels like a public bath. Everyone's all, "It's not that bad," & I'm all, "I've just lost half my fluids & I look like I just crawled out of the Gulf oil spill." (I'm painting a beautiful visual image for you here, I know.)


OK, fine. There are a couple things I like about summer, but they're, like, tangential. They're honorable mentions to make me feel better about losing the genetic summer lottery. But because I don't want to be a total downer, I'll indulge. They include:

Scruffy men in Raybans.

Mango margaritas at Mixtec. The menu listed them as being "MANGO!," so we felt the need to yell it enthusiastically every time we discussed their deliciosity.

And, of course, the occasional summer outfit, spotted in a CVS, that makes it all feel just a liiiiittle bit more worth it. Maybe I'd like the heat more if I started sporting dip-dyed one-pieces? I bet that's the key.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to hoarding cold air like it's Y2K & not leaving my apartment until absolutely necessary.
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Like Alanis Says, "You Live, You Learn."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I've been at my new job for three & a half weeks, & life has changed a lot. For example, I go to bed at, like, 10:30 now. But there are some lessons to be learned outside the workplace, too. For example, here are a dozen things I've learned this week alone. And heck, it's only Tuesday!
  1. Nothing makes me feel older than going to bed at 10:30pm, but 7:45am is the devil's hour.
  2. Best friends give the best advice. Also, best friends give the worst advice.
  3. Fig jam makes for terrible hair gel. Think "There's Something About Mary."
  4. Southerners' opinions about the non-terribleness of Southern summer heat simply do not count.
  5. Rita's Water Ice, no matter how filling, does not a dinner make.
  6. Leggings are, in fact, just ugly. Even on you. Yes, you.
  7. Stress causes me to be less afraid of spiders. I was so wiggy the other day that I didn't even care when I let a particularly gross one get away. In my bedroom. Except now I'm not that stressed anymore & he's lurking here someplace...
  8. An old cliche says that sometimes bad things happen to good people. But sometimes good things happen to bad people. And it sucks.
  9. I like young adult fiction better than fiction written for people my own age.
  10. If your friends are only your friends when you're in close proximity to one another, they're likely not actually your friends.
  11. James Marsters circa 2002 (but NOT circa now) quite possibly tops my list of celebs of the swoon-worthy variety, a fact I am only marginally ashamed of.
  12. If you order a pair of sandals from & upon their arrival discover they're too small, for God's sakes, don't be too lazy to return them. Your toes will thank you later.
What have you learned this week? This month? This year?
Teach me stuff.
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Stuff Tourists Like, Round II - With Photos!

Monday, June 21, 2010

They say a picture's worth a thousand words - & whoever they are, they're right. Sometimes, one photo says it all. Take, for example, this dude, spotted last week leaving the zoo:

But jut because the photo speaks for itself doesn't mean I'm not going to speak, too.

OK. The wife is donning too-floppy-for-a-day-of-serious-walking sandals wit unforgivable white jorts & a weirdly-sorta-fancy shirt, which is something inexplicable that Midwestern touristy women sometimes do. I'm willing to give her a pass, because she basically looks normal; I wouldn't have noticed her if she hadn't been with this dude, who is, let's face it, a total gem.

Let's take another look at him, shall we?

This guy personifies, like, half a dozen cardinal fashion sins of the typical DC tourist. Things tourists love, as evidenced by this dude's closet, include:
  1. Tall white socks: Gonna be marchin' 'round the city? Better get yer walkin' socks on! While I'd never fault anyone their walking shoes (bunions are a bitch, I'm sure), I simply fail to understand how miles of walking are made any easier by suffocating your poor ankles in thick cotton tubing.

  2. Cut-off tees: I don't get it. You cover your ankles but bare your arms? Be consistent, folks. Your shirt came with sleeves for a reason. You are not Christian Siriano; do not attempt your own clothing mods.

  3. Camo: Straight from the woods & parks to Woodley Park, it seems, but here at the National Zoo, there's no need to blend in with the foliage, folks. While you must shield your face from the sun in this heat - as it's approximately a gabillion degrees - please refrain from going the John Deere route unless you're actually toting around, like, a dead deer.
So there you have it. Three birds with one stone, totally one-upping that old cliche. In closing, I'd like to thank this nameless stranger for his unknowing contribution to the Stuff Tourists Like list. Wherever he is, may he be blessed with a happy, sleeveless suburban life.
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Stuff Tourists Like!

Monday, June 14, 2010

My new office is quite close to my apartment in Woodley Park, right near the National Zoo. At lunch (a concept worth its own post entirely, as new-work-lunch is much, much different than old-work-lunch), I've been taking 15 minutes to hang out on the front porch & eat the elementary schoolesque meals I pack for myself in the morning (think pudding cups, applesauce, pretzels & the like). As I sit & chew, I can't help but observe the passing tourists on their way to & from the zoo. It's like a sport, this brand of people-watching, time to myself to be quiet & observational &... OK, fine, judgmental.

Earlier this week, mid-judgment, I came up with a brilliant idea: STUFF TOURISTS LIKE. I've sort of covered this in the past, but this time, I mean business. (In fact, you might even say that it's bidness time.) Let's get this party started, shall we? We're gonna start slow & build the excitement, like... um, like... something really exciting... ANYWAY, let's begin.
  1. Giant Slurpees from 7-Eleven: In a move of sheer genius, 7-Eleven opened up shop right across from the National Zoo, where it outfits eager tourists with necessities like Fritos & chocolate milk & weird taquitos under heat lamps... & about a dozen flavors of gigantron Slurpees, fit for slurping & spilling. As you can imagine, this means the place is always crammed to the brim with screamers under the age of 7, & the floor is always, always sticky.

  2. Mini backpacks: It's like the '90s every day here on Connecticut Avenue, where droves of zoo-goers sport miniaturized versions of otherwise-sort-of-acceptable backpackery. Some try to modernize their tiny accessories with Vera Bradley prints & weird leather stitching that is perhaps considered fashionable in certain parts of, like, Montana. But no matter their pattern, every mini backpack makes me want to sing "Fat guy in a little coat."

You know what? That's it for now. I have more, but sometimes ya gotta build the momentum toward a good thing.
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Adventures in Speed-Dating

Friday, June 11, 2010

I went speed-dating.

Look, I'm not even going to preface it with anything, with some special, witty intro that makes you guess what weird & daring thing I did. Because you couldn't guess. Why would you ever guess speed-dating? Who actually goes speed-dating?

Me, it seems.

A friend got an email about it, an event sponsored by Politics Under 30 & Generation Obama for young Democratic adults, & ultimately, we decided there was no harm in trying it out - & that even if it went terribly, we'd get a good story out of it.

It wasn't that bad, honestly. In fact, it could have been kind of perfect for someone like me, someone who's not that fond of talking to strangers. You only have to talk to people for six minutes before the organizers ring a bell (or, in this case, dinged two teacups together) & you scoot on down to the next strapping young man (or, in this case, an array of mostly-entirely-unstrapping ones). Conversation goes a lot like this: "What do you do? .. Oh, cool, where are you from? ... Nice, how did you end up in DC?"

Even I can manage six minutes with a stranger who I'm guaranteed never to have to speak with again if I don't want to. I wish all of life worked like that.

Notice that I said "could have been kind of perfect," which is an indicator of what, kids? If you answered, "That it wasn't perfect," you'd be correct. Sadly, I ended up with a group of duds, including two guys who were too creepy in their compliments (please do not call me beautiful upon our first meeting), two who were recent college grads (cougartowwwwn), a few who were at least three inches shorter than me (I'm 5'5"), & a pair of less-than-conversational identical twins. I was relieved when I'd finished with the first, then two stops later, all I could think was, "ARE YOU KIDDING? I JUST DID THIS." Ding, round two.

If you're not familiar (& you shouldn't be), the way speed-dating works is that before you begin, you're given a number & a sheet of paper. After each six-minute conversation, you mark "yes" or "No" next to the number of the person you've just met with to determine whether you're interested in sharing your email address with them.

I marked yes for two people, but I've not gotten word from the organizers that anyone is interested in sharing their email addresses with me. I am either A) slightly disappointed, or B) massively relieved, though I haven't yet determined which.

Choose your own adventure?
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We've Got Spirit(s), Yes We Do

Sunday, June 6, 2010

By train, Baltimore is less than an hour away from the District. Considering I've lived in DC for nearly three years, you've thought I'd've made it up to Charm City at least once. But until this weekend, you would've been wrong. On Friday, I hopped an Amtrak & made my very first trip to B'more to hang with my grandma, who was in town for a paiting seminar. (You remember my grandma, right?) We stayed at a darling but largely unairconditioned B&B called Aunt Rebecca's in a room that was up three flights of stairs, rendering us permanently sweaty in the 90-degree heat.

My grandma's known for her tendency to schedule every vacation to the hilt, & after Week One at the new job, I was not feelin' a maxxed-out weekend. But because she graciously & uncharacteristically let me go back to the B&B to nap yesterday afternoon, I was awake & ready for our Fells Point GhostWalk, a tour of the supposedly haunted pubs in the Fells Point neighborhood, which has more bars per square mile than anyplace else in the country. It's also particularly historic - & is the place of Edgar Allen Poe's death! - so if drunkulosity isn't reason enough for you to visit Fells Point, you can talk yourself into feeling like it's of historical significance, as well.

The tour was cool, but overshadowed by the fact that I was too hot to breathe & was sweating both profusely & noticeably. Also overshadowed by the fact that I was too busy swooning over our tour guide to pay much attention to the ghost stories. Also overshadowed by the fact that I was embarrassed about my sweatiness in combination with my irrational crush on a dude who wears Victorian-era silk shirts for a living. Yes, let my heart be still a moment & this mystery explore.*

A Twitter pal encouraged me to make a move, any would-be move-making was hampered by a few key points: A) I was on a tour with 10 other people, B) I was with accompanied by my grandmother, & C) I probably looked like I'd been sitting in the Splash Zone of the Shamu Show.** So no moves were made, though I did learn about ghosts who listen to polka music & ghosts who eat peppermints & ghosts that will repel you from the front stoop of they don't like you. So at least I gained some useful knowledge out of the whole thing.

Baltimore, I like you, & not just because you provided me with a cute, top-hatted man to look at for a full hour. I shall return.***

*That's from a Poe poem, guys. See what I did there?
**Please tell me someone out there gets my Sea World reference.
***If only to track down the cute, top-hatted man.
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