Sunday, August 29, 2010

Meltdown.

The Whole Foods on P Street has a nice little outdoor cafe area, where you can take your very valuable healthy salad and sit for a spell. It was sunny today and a bit warm, but the tables were in shade and almost full with people relaxing and eating.

The vibe was pierced by a voice near the store's exit. "EXCUSE ME! EXCUSE ME!" A woman was calling after someone leaving the store at the same time as she, but I couldn't make out what came after that and no one really responded to her, so I turned back to my kale salad and magazine.

The woman continued to talk, lower now. I glanced back at her. She had a neat blond bob and looked to be in her 30s. She was dressed in a white tank top and black pants. I figured she was a high-strung yuppie who had a run-in with a rude person. I figured she was now relating this to a friend on her cell phone. Except I couldn't see a cell phone. Intent on not staring and also enjoying my meal, I turned away.

But it was so hard not to look. She wasn't talking on a cell phone. She was talking to herself. Then she burst out again.

"Excuse me! Excuse me!" She mentioned something about trash and seemed very upset by something that had happened. People just stared at her. She continued to stand by the exit, talking, and she was getting harder to ignore.

A woman who was studying at the table 2 o'clock from me mouthed, "She's crazy" with an amused look on her face to the woman sitting at my 9 o'clock. "I know," the 9 o'clock whispered, as the newly identified crazy woman continued to mutter to the left of us all.

She brought her cardboard carton of salad to a table at 10 o'clock. Some snippets I managed to make out:

"Someone in my life is disturbing me and I don't know who it is"

"Get your crotch out of my face"

"I don't mind being laughed at"

It was relatively quiet for a bit, but now there was no concentrating on my magazine. There was a tension in the air attached to the fact that there was a "crazy" person in our midst.

The anticipated outburst came after a couple of minutes, and it was directed at a man and woman standing about 10 feet away, just talking. "Excuse me. Excuse me! May I eat without you engaging in sexual activity in front of my face?" The couple gave no sign that they heard her, but she continued on about how she was being thwarted in her attempt to eat lunch because of people having sex in her face, even though there was nothing so much as PDA in her vicinity.

The situation had gone from being confusing to amusing to downright disturbing. In a city, you're bound to run into a certain amount of "crazy." It's par for the course, but it usually comes from expected sources: people who look like they are homeless, drug addicts, alcoholics, old or some combination of the above. This source was relatively young, decently dressed, very sober and so crisp in her insanity. It was voiced in such a plaintive, articulate, righteous, prissy tone that it was hard to discount right off the bat.

"Excuse me! Excuse me!" Her attention was now directed at a young man standing with a woman, at least 25 feet away. "Could you please stop pointing your erection at me? I'm trying to eat. You're really sick, you should see a psychologist. I'm trying to eat and I don't need to see your erection." The man just stared at her, half-smiling in disbelief. What was her disorder? Schizophrenia? How did she manage to make it day-to-day -- to earn enough to get her lunch at Whole Foods and buy decent clothes? How does someone not get destroyed by such an illness? Had she been abused, was that the reason for the fixation on sexuality? What meds was she supposed to be on? Wasn't there anyone looking after her?

I was torn between being so disturbed that I had to leave and being so enthralled that I had to stay. But before I could decide, she was gone in a flash, surprisingly quietly, off to reveal her torment to another segment of the city.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Country Song Titles for the Modern Age.

You Just Unlocked the Badge for My Heart

There's No App for Fightin'

My Inbox Is a Ghost Town (Since You Left)

Text Me When You're Sober

Go Check In (With Someone Who Gives a Damn)

Tears on My Profile

Lord, I Was Born to Google

Your Tweetin' Heart

Service Outage Blues

Facebook Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us

Can't Help It (If I'm Still on MySpace)

Any other ideas?

Music: "High-Tech Redneck"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Massage: Body Co.

It's very easy to miss Body Co., which is marked only by an unimpressive sandwich-board sign outside an equally unimpressive office-building door on Connecticut Avenue, just south of Dupont Circle. I walked right by it -- and I had an appointment there.

I'd discovered Body Co. on Yelp while looking for discount massages. I'm very snobby about my massage environments, and I feel that bodywork is most satisfying when it is 90 minutes long.

This unfortunate, because I am not rich. I very much enjoy places such as bluemercury ($145 for a 90-minute massage), Elizabeth Arden Red Door ($170 for a mere 80 minutes in Chevy Chase), and Bliss ($210 for 105 minutes at the W Hotel location downtown) -- but that's only when I decide to be greedy and ask for a birthday or Christmas gift certificate to one of these places. Otherwise, they're out of reach for me.

Body Co., on the other hand, had a $95 special offer for first-timers on its Yelp page -- check this page before you book, because they usually have some good deals on there.

I was nervous about booking a massage at an unknown place, sight unseen, and was not reassured by the run-down office building location. But! Once you get inside, Body Co. is nice and neat. It has a basic waiting room with leather chairs and a water cooler. The rooms themselves are clean, well ventilated, dimly lit, and quiet except for the cheesy, pan-flute-type music I've come to expect and tolerate from most massage places. (I'd rather hear that than awkward silence or sounds from outside the room, which I've experienced even at high-end places.)

My therapist, Cynthia, was attentive and great. She took in that I just wanted a basic Swedish massage for relaxation, nothing fancy, and delivered with divine strokes.

I was sold on Body Co. and decided to take advantage of their package of six 90-minute massages for $572 (not including tip), or $95.30 per massage. That, my friends, is a bargain.

However.

My subsequent experiences at Body Co. were problematic, to say the least. Cynthia (O, Cynthia, why?) disappeared from their roster, so I spun the roulette wheel of therapists and tried again. Anxious to book a massage one evening, I departed from my norm of picking a female therapist and went with Julio. No complaints here -- he's very professional, knows what he's doing, and delivered a nice Swedish massage. Still... I wasn't quite sold and wanted to see what else Body Co. had to offer. That's when things started to go awry.

I picked a female therapist who ... wait for it ... asked me in the middle of a very lame session, "Would you like me to massage your breasts?"

Now. I suppose this may have been a legitimate request and that there are people who are into this, but I've never had it asked of me before and never want to have it asked of me again. I was so distracted by the question -- Was this weird, or am I just prudish? Is it possible there are people who would take her up on this? Did this poor girl work in a different, er, type of massage parlor before this? -- that I couldn't relax for the rest of the massage.

As it turned out, I didn't have much time to recover. The therapist finished up and encouraged me to hang out on the table for awhile, which I thought was odd because it seemed like the time wasn't up. Sure enough, she'd shortchanged me by at least 20 minutes. I was already back in my clothes before she had come back to the room saying she'd made a mistake, and did I want the rest of my massage? I said no and proceeded to the front desk. The woman there was apologetic and said she'd only charge me for one hour. I left stressed.

Amazingly, it happened again -- not the inappropriate offer, but the shortchanging. The therapist left 15 minutes early, again encouraging me to stay and relax on the table, which made me think she was trying to dupe me. Again the desk staff apologized and only charged me the partial amount. Both times, the staff claimed that there was something wrong with the clock in the room. There was nothing wrong with the clock in the room. I told the manager that she had a staff issue she needed resolve, and she thanked me for the feedback.

I've been back twice since then, and only because I had the package to exhaust. Both massages have been good -- not great, but no big complaints. My boyfriend joined at one point and had a great deep-tissue massage.

So, the bottom line with Body Co. is that it offers tremendous value if (big if) you can find a therapist who's right for you.

Where do you go for affordable massage in D.C.?

Details:
Body Co.
1337 Connecticut Ave. NW, lower level
Massages from $45 for 30 mins.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Caught Between the Moon and New York City.

What I like about New York -- at least, today -- is that you can have the most discouraging day, full of letdowns and fatigue, noise, crowds, frustrations; and have it all turn around in the course of an afternoon. You lose a subway token, arrive late to a job interview, stammer your way through it, get lost (for a second time) on the subway, can't find an affordable sofa, and arrive back at the apartment to learn that your other job interview had been canceled once again.

You regroup, and re-emerge. In the 13-block walk to World of Ice Cream (yes, that's the name), you pass the usual parade of companions and characters: dogs walking their owners, toddlers walking their parents, schoolchildren roaming in packs, random snippets of their conversation echoing in your path. You hadn't ever noticed Steve's Antiques, tucked in the basement of a brownstone, so you wander in. It's hard to be down when chatty Steve has you discussing the merits of globes and being glad there's no war in Haiti today (despite that fact that you had guiltily ignored the whole conflict -- too self-absorbed).

Then later you look out the window from 13N because a gray light coming out of the dark attracts you, and you see a white full moon smack in the center of the sky over the building across the street. The moon is marvelous, but doesn't provide the same comfort as seeing people move through the yellow windows in front of you, caught between the moon and the street and acting as though neither existed.

-- Sept. 19, 1994

Music: "Arthur's Theme"

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Free Fall.

"I'm sorry, but I still say they never would have dared to do this directly after Sept. 11."

I usually get ignored when I make this comment during the opening credits of Mad Men, probably because the observation is a plain one. Still, I don't watch Mad Men regularly enough to get over how offensive and impossible this sequence would have been after the unimaginable events of 2001. And when I type in "mad men+9/11" in Google, I don't get the reaction I expect.

I know that I am very late to this, since Mad Men is in season 4 at this point, but surely I'm not the only one who's had this reaction. What awesome coverage of this topic did I miss? I was living in San Francisco the year this show debuted and obsessed with non-media stuff at the time.

I am strongly in favor of not censoring themes because they bring up disturbing memories. I do not think that certain scenes should be off-limits because of Sept. 11. At the same time, when I see a show made for pure entertainment using such boldly evocative imagery, I feel somewhat betrayed.

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Victory.

I have never smoked. Not once. Not a cigarette, not a joint, not a hookah.

Unless you count Victory and Round Up cigarettes. I've had a few packs of those.

The FDA is apparently banning candy cigarettes, which is an entirely sensible decision. Children should not be offered My First Tobacco products, priming them to take up the habit for real later. Can you imagine if it were possible to buy chocolate joints, or some kind of kiddie "brew" that came in a beer can but was really Kool-Aid or something? Of course we would quash such a product right away. But candy cigarettes -- chocolate, bubble gum, straight sugar -- have been around for years.

I should be happy about this ban, but I'm not. I'm really bummed. I'd be in favor of banning, say, Big League Chew. (I'm guessing it must be included in the ban?) Even as a kid I thought the idea of taking a big wad of something between your fingers to chew on was somehow indelicate and unappealing, whether it was tobacco or bubble gum. But candy cigarettes?

I went to Dylan's Candy Bar in NYC, hopeful that the ban was not yet in effect. And, happily, I found a whole display of kiddie cigarettes. I bought two packs of bubble gum and one candy. Bubble gum is the best, because it has that white preservative powder on it, so when you blow through the wrapper, the powder comes out in a cloud and it looks like you're actually smoking.

Okay. I know that it's offensive and children shouldn't get these. When I think of my nephews and niece getting hold of them, I shudder. Still, I grew up with them and never ever smoked. Can that count at all in defense of this very wrong product that I still do not want to go away? No?

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Antoine.

So, a former colleague of mine at NPR (among others) has been tweeting about Antoine Dodson for a couple of days. And now NPR has a story that sums up the whole thing pretty well.

I initially thought my friend's tweets were just about a silly rap song, because she kept talking about it getting stuck in her head. So I ignored it, because I get enough silly rap songs in my head and I thought the video she tweeted was just too bad, even for my low standards.

Little did I know that it was not a rap video but a parody of an outcry from the brother of a woman who was the victim of an attempted rape.

There are so many things going on here that I literally don't know how to react. Watching the news story that originated this meme, my thoughts were roughly:

- wow, that's horrible what happened to that woman

- how great that she fought back and that the guy did not get what he wanted

- how great that her brother intervened

- wow that is quite a response from her brother

- ha, I like his chutzpah

- ha, wow, more of his reaction -- again, like the moxie, but it's kind of excessive within the framework of the news story

And then I watched the auto-tune parody. Thoughts were (as they were originally):

- This is unwatchable

- Now that I know the context, it's weird to make this into a joke

And then I went to Antoine's blog:

- OMG, all his fans in the "fan outing" are white. Like, all but one. This is really weird and uncomfortable.

- He sure could get a lot of white-lady action if he wanted some.

- Whoops, I see from this thank-you video message where he's styling hair that he probably doesn't want any lady action.

I think it's great that this guy who's a minor hero is getting a bunch of love and seems very happy about it. And even though I know the reporter's argument that it would be wrong to "censor" Antoine is self-serving, I also agree, to an extent. He was understandably angry, and in everything he said, he was RIGHT (except maybe the part about husbands being in danger too).

But then again, the reporter had to have known what she was doing when she edited THAT much footage of him into her news segment. And the way it's being parodied and embraced by people who (I'm assuming) do not live in those projects is both bizarre and sickening.

Dodson is now apparently negotiating a ringtone. If that gets his family some much-needed money, who am I to say anything? But at the same time, if the majority of people downloading said ringtone are doing so because they think it's funny, how is that empowering for anyone? It's an attempted rape. Can we please not turn this into a joke? In any way?

Many of the commenters on Antoine's blog seem to express genuine concern for his sister and his family. But just as many just wish him a reality show. "Get ya money homie!! Capitalize off this s**t! Get you a reality show!!" wrote one. "Post more videos……post them on youtube. Get you and your family some money!!! All these other stupid folks have reality shows and make money off silly stuff. GET YOURS!!!!" wrote another.

I have to believe that things wouldn't have gone this far if the rapist had gotten away with the crime. Otherwise we're in more trouble as a society than you think.

Music: "Bed Intruder Song"