Wednesday, July 28, 2010

UncMo Since 1971.

Me: I just passed [coworker A] and [coworker B]
Me: [coworker A] did a double take and said," Are you going somewhere today?"
Me: I said no, why?
Me: He said, you look all dressed up
Me: [coworker B] had complimented me on my dress earlier
Me: not sure how to take that

Him: well
Him: you look beautiful

Me: it means either I look too dressy today

Him: so ya

Me: or I look like shit most days
Me: aw

Him: haha
Him: do you over analyze every situation?

Me: have you seen my blog?

Him: oh ya
Him: good point

Monday, July 26, 2010

Commuting Protocol.

It was 6:30 p.m. at Penn Station and I was standing with a group of people looking at the train departures screen, waiting for my train's boarding gate to come up. I'd been staked out here on the lower floor for half an hour now, and my Amtrak Northeast Regional train to D.C. was late -- later than the screen implied.

Most of the other Amtrak passengers were upstairs with the big flip-letter board, where I like them. The downstairs area is slightly less chaotic, and more the domain of local commuters. Group after group assembled and rapidly dispersed around me, as train after train to New Jersey was called. I stuck by my spot at the pillar near the screen, and another woman seemed stuck there too. We both stared blankly ahead, resigned.

Suddenly, our vision was obscured by a tall workaday guy in a plaid buttoned shirt and khakis, iPod earbuds firmly in place along with his cluelessness. He planted himself right in front of me, the other woman, and the three or four people behind us who were all trying to see the screen. I sighed and peered around his shoulder.

The woman next to me did not have this option, as she was several inches shorter. She tapped the guy on the shoulder. When he turned around to look, earbuds still in place, she made a quick windshield-wiper motion with her right hand that said, Get out of the way, dumbass.

He gave her a deeply perturbed look. "What's your problem?" he said, shifting a little but not really moving.

"We were here. You can't just come stand in front of everybody," she said. I had to give her credit. I am not that ballsy.

The guy looked like he was going to argue. "Dude. You're standing in front of a bunch of people," I said, but I couldn't tell whether he heard, because his earbuds were still in.

He reluctantly moved off to the side, and kept mean-mugging the woman. She, in turn, gave me a stony stare that said, "Can you believe this?" and possibly "Will you be my second?" This made the d.b. turn and cast his glare on me too, with confusion and anger in equal measure. I darted a glance and a smile toward the woman that said, "What a d.b., right?" and then stared straight ahead, monitoring the sitch in my peripheral. I felt conflicted. Part of me wanted to stare the d.b. down, but the other part of me just wanted to be on a train home and not really here at all.

He really kept up the hating as he stood there, which surprised me, because he looked like a total office/family type -- medium build, not very in shape, pretty unremarkable in every way. Yet he was determined to mean-mug right up until his train came and he had to leave. Like he was a tough guy and we were all dudes in a nightclub or something. I couldn't imagine that whatever he was listening to on his iPod -- Train? An NPR Podcast? Peter Bjorn and John? -- could really be fomenting his rage. It was completely self-sustained. After about two minutes he left when his train was called. It was a local one, and I didn't get how he managed to do this commute regularly and yet fail to grasp the basic screen etiquette that everyone else seemed able to master.

When he was gone, the woman next to me shot me another piercing sideways glance. She was short, slight, blond and was wearing a neutral-colored suit. I looked back at her. She was talking to me, but I had my own earbuds in.

"What?" I said, taking an earbud out.

"I said, I thought that guy was going to kick my ass," she said. She had a look of disbelief on her face.

"He was just being a dick," I countered, not sure what else to say.

She affirmed this. "I'm glad you said something," I added, and put my earbud back in. But I felt like she deserved more than that, in a weird way. She'd stood up for both our screen rights, and was clearly weirded out.

I took my earbud back out. "I would have had your back," I said to her. "I think we both could have taken him." That seemed to make her face relax a bit. She nodded and we laughed.

And you know what? I bet we could have. A guy like that might even deserve to get roughed up by two skinny chicks. To be honest, I couldn't really picture it, even though I tried to as I walked to my train after it was finally announced. But I felt unreasonably sure that somehow, justice would have prevailed.

Music: "Stand Up"

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Boba Fete.

OK, that headline isn't quite right, but the pun was hard to resist.

If I could, though, I would have a bubble tea party every day. Until that moment in my life comes, I am content to visit two primary bubble tea suppliers in the Dupont Circle area: Teaism and newcomer Du Froyo.

Bubble tea was invented in Taiwan, apparently, but I've encountered it more in Vietnamese-owned settings such as Out the Door in San Francisco, Eden Center shops in Falls Church, Va., and Du Froyo, which appears to be a sister business to the Vietnamese-run nail salon next door.

What's so great about bubble tea? For starters, it's a drink you can chew. For many people, that's a dealbreaker right there. For people like me, it's a heavenly combination of activities. It's sweet black tea with milk combined with chewy, gummy tapioca pearls and a big straw. What's not to like, other than a slightly elevated choking hazard?

The boba teas at Eden Center don't do much for me, personally. They taste more cloying and non-tea-like than the ones at Teaism and Du Froyo. Teaism has one flavor and one size: the equivalent of a Starbucks grande black tea boba, around $3.50. It's somewhat mild but perfectly sweet and enjoyable. The environment here is a plus: You can choose from a perch in their mini-garden out front or a spot in their somewhat claustrophic but nicely appointed upper floor.

Du Froyo offers three sizes and many flavors of boba, including frozen ones. This might seem counterintuitive -- why would one need the texture of frozen in a drink that already provides the texture of tapioca? -- but the combo is actually quite nice, especially in the frozen coconut boba.

Du Froyo is a bit more expensive, with prices starting at $3.95 for a small regular boba and $4.50 for a frozen one. However, it does offer a rewards card, in case you happen to be a frequent boba drinker. And it tends to be emptier, with an upstairs seating area that's rarely inhabited.

If you prefer to keep it simple and prefer wooden decor to neon colors, hit up Teaism. Either way, you can't go wrong.

Details:
Du Froyo
1709 Connecticut Ave. NW at R St.

Teaism
2009 R St. NW at Connecticut

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Figs.

This morning I went to the Whole Foods, which is one of my favorite places and I do not apologize for that.

I went in search of breakfast fruit, preferably some raspberries to have with whole milk. The first thing I saw when I walked in the door to the P St. store, though, was fresh organic mission figs from California, on sale for $2.99 a box.

Involuntarily, I dropped my sunglasses and said "Oooh!" to myself.

And serendipitously, my brother happened to be right there in the store witnessing this moment.

Unfortunately, most of the time I conduct myself as if I am alone and no one is noticing me, which is usually the case. But this time I sensed for a split second that someone was looking at me and then I heard a mocking "Ooooh!" and saw Ben standing there laughing at me.

Mortifying. But I had to laugh.

"You don't understand," I said. "Figs are usually really expensive, and they're so good."

"How do you eat them?" my brother's girlfriend asked. All of a sudden I was an authority on figs, even though I didn't really know that much about them.

"You can put them on a plate with some blue cheese and honey," I said reflexively, thinking of farmer's market demonstrations in San Francisco. Put any piece of delicious California produce on a plate with cheese, and you're a gourmand. Simple as that.

"That sounds good. Do you want to try it, Ben?" she asked. I got nervous. I envisioned the figs sucking, or the cheese combo sucking, and them thinking I was insane.

"I don't know," I said. "You might just want to look into some other recipes. That's just one idea."

"No. We're going to blame you if it sucks," Ben astutely countered.

"Ooooooh!"

Of course, when I tried the figs at home, they sucked. They were completely bland and mealy, devoid of the sweet lusciousness I experienced the first time I ever ate a fresh fig in San Francisco.

So not worthy of the "Oooooh."

I wrote to my brother and his girlfriend, acknowledging that the figs sucked and asserting that it was NOT MY FAULT.

She wrote back. "I have to admit by itself it was pretty bland; however, when I added the blue cheese and honey it was yummy!!!"

That was kind of her. But no, they suck. So now I'm left wondering: If I pay more are they good? Or can you just not get good fresh figs at all on the East Coast?

What a bougie question.

Pools You Can Use: Hilton Embassy Suites

It was a beautiful June Wednesday, and I'd taken the day off from work. I wanted to go lounge outside somewhere. But where? Public parks are too... public. And sidewalk cafes are too upright. I needed a pool.

Washington has several hotel pools, though many of them are for guests only. After making several calls, I decided to check out the pool at the Hilton Embassy Row, which is just north of Dupont Circle on Massachusetts Ave.

All you have to do is walk up to the front desk, ask for a day pass to the pool, pay $15 and proceed up to your own mini Shangri-La.

OK, so it's not a Shangri-La. It's a postage stamp of a pool with a few serviceable lounge chairs scattered about a charmless, concrete rooftop. But it's a pool, and on this day it was nearly empty. There was one other guest sunbathing, and a lifeguard who seemed to have a lot of acquaintances fond of talking very loudly in (I think) Russian.

Still, it was a great way to take a pretend vacation in the city, and the Hilton has some nice views of Dupont Circle from its rooftop. There is a covered area with tables and chairs, but no umbrellas for the lounge chairs and few shady areas, so be prepared to soak up a lot of sun.

Signs warned that it was not permissible to bring food or drink in from outside, and that it had to be ordered from the hotel staff, but there was no discernible bar or food service and no one cared when I broke out a bag of snacks.

The lifeguard did ask me to show my pass, so sneaking in is probably not a good idea.

Details:
Hilton Embassy Row
2015 Massachussetts bt 20th and 21st
$15
Pool open 9a - 9p

Here's what other hotels told me about access to their pools. Stay tuned for other forays to the few of them that will let a plebe like me in. Please share if you have any favorite spots for poolside lounging.

ALSO OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Capitol Skyline Hotel
10 I St. SW
$15 fee
Pool open 11a - 8p

Washington Plaza Hotel
10 Thomas Circle NW
$50 fee
Pool open 9a - 9p

Donovan House Hotel
1155 14th St. NW
Open for happy hour from 5 p.m. to guests of the restaurant, Zentan. It doesn't sound like you can actually swim here, but I plan to check this out and post later.
5p - 7p

POOLS FOR HOTEL GUESTS ONLY

L'Enfant Plaza Hotel
480 L'Enfant Plaza SW

Hotel Palomar
2121 P St. NW

Doubletree Guest Suites
801 New Hampshire Ave. NW

Channel Inn
650 Water St. SW

Holiday Inn Central
1501 Rhode Island Ave.

Liaison Capitol Hill
415 New Jersey Ave. NW

Washington Hilton
1919 Connecticut Ave. NW

Omni Shoreham
2500 Calvert St. NW at Connecticut

Marriott Wardman Park
2660 Woodley Rd. NW

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FYI for D.C. People.

I have started a new baby blog about Washington and my first post is about hotel pools you can break into (for a fee -- or, if you're adventurous, not). If you live in D.C., this may be of interest to you.

The thing is pretty spare right now, but I hope to fill it up soon with lots of links and posts containing (ideally) useful information for D.C. locals. Please visit and comment if you are in the area!

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Recommended: Chuck Close at the Corcoran

If you've been to a Chuck Close exhibit, you might think you can skip this one -- you've already seen his arresting, giant portraits, mostly of himself, astonishingly rendered in pointillistic cubes that individually give away nothing of how they create such a lifelike image in the aggregate.

Don't skip this one.

The Corcoran lets you in on Close's media and methods, deconstructing the process. But instead of defusing the impact of the results, the added context only makes them more mind-boggling and stunning.

Here's a sampling of the portraiture methods on display in the Corcoran's compact exhibit: paper pulp, lithograph, woodcut, rug, silk screen, silk-screened paper viewable only via a stainless steel cylinder about 10 inches high, etching, oil on canvas.

Even if you're not into the details of how lithographs work or what chemicals are used in printmaking -- which are plentiful here -- you'll still be blown away by how Close manages to make the same image new, over and over again, by using different processes.

His variations on Philip Glass, just as musical as anything the composer could dream up, include portraits comprised entirely of fingerprints and a lush collection of paper pulp scraps. The plastic grill used to make the paper pulp portrait, seen above, functions just as much like a work of art as the actual piece it was used to create. Another highlight is Close's self-portrait composed of pencil squiggles in 12 separate colors, all overlaid on top of one another.

Close's work is often described as photorealistic, but his images are somehow more evocative and real than photo or flesh. This exhibit exposes the technical side of that achievement, but the mystery and genius of Close's vision remains intact.

Details:
Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration
Corcoran Gallery of Art
500 17th St. NW
Admission $10, free on Saturdays in summer
Through Sept. 12, 2010

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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Overheard.

The girl, who looked to be about 7 years old, was standing with her mother in the locker room at the gym. Tears were streaming down her face, and she was mumbling something unintelligible. I could only hear her mother's response.

"Okay, but I'm just warning you, Daddy isn't going to be nice about it."

I passed them by and proceeded to get my stuff. Sobbing, yelling and whining are par for the course in the women's locker room at the Lifetime Fitness in Sterling, Va., which is why I tend to shower at home after my workout these days.

The pair migrated over to the sinks next to me. The girl was still crying and the mom had more to say. Her tone of voice was simultaneously instructive, sympathetic and wearily remote.

"But seriously, don't ever expect Daddy to understand when you're crying. Daddy is very uncomfortable with tears and ... stuff."

The girl apparently asked why, but all I caught was something about "a lot of emotions involved" as I walked out.

Remarkable. Usually, one has to wait until at least age 13 or 14 to find out that one's father is an emotional cripple. Was it a gift, or a curse, that this girl was being told so early, so explicitly?

It was sad to hear the woman trying to help her daughter understand a shortcoming that she'd clearly spent some of her own adult time coming to terms with.

"Tears and ... stuff."

I thought about my own dad. He's not a heart-to-heart kind of guy, but I can't say he ever got freaked out by crying. Especially from a 7-year-old. If you're uncomfortable with tears, why have a child at all?

I feared for that girl, thinking of all the tears in her future that would be repressed or ignored, and all the things that girls eventually do when they don't get enough validation from Daddy.

Music: "Have a Cry"