July 29, 2010

July 29, 2010

Stop Requested

WMATA, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, always keeps us guessing. You never know when a train is going to derail, a bus driver’s going to pull a knife on someone, or an escalator malfunction will require you to climb 60 feet to get out of the station.

All of those are real recent incidents, by the way. Yet we keep on riding because we have no other option and working in D.C. requires a strong sense of masochism.

Perhaps my favorite development of late is this story about a fake bus driver. Yes, that’s right. A 19-year-old stole a uniform, got on a bus, and drove the route for a short while before crashing into a tree.

Obviously, a few questions spring to mind.

Firstly, how long would he have continued driving for the love of the game, so to speak?

Secondly, should uniform security be instituted at Metro? I mean, you don’t see people walking around in fake astronaut uniforms. And if NASA is outperforming you in an area, well…c’mon.

Thirdly, how does a 19-year-old learn to operate a city bus? Where is THAT driving school?

Fourthly, what kind of weirdo takes in joy in appropriating a bus…and then driving the route?

Fifthly and finally, if he showed up to the stops he made on time, isn’t he already performing better than 98% of Metrobus drivers?

I ride four Metrobuses a day. I know the hell of drivers who get lost (the one who MISSED THE DAMN FREEWAY EXIT was my favorite), show up AN HOUR LATE, or don’t understand the concept of stopping at the curb rather than, oh say, the middle of freaking Constitution Avenue.

Frankly, the thought that I could some day be driven to the Pentagon by someone with no more experience than I have at operating a bus is both chilling and hilarious.

July 28, 2010

In My Opinion: Coco Before Chanel

For some reason, I’ve been on a bit of a fashionista streak lately. I’ve both read a book and watched a film about Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue magazine and inspiration for The Devil Wears Prada. I’m not necessarily more fashion-savvy than the next person, though I bask in the reflected glamour of friend-of-blog Hope, who has more style in one limb than I ever will from head to Payless-clad toe.

(We each have our own niche; I’m the funny one.)

I’m also a sucker for little movies—you know this. Even if they’re subtitled in French, though that fact kept me from seeing this in the theater. Something about reading in the dark disturbs me on a deep level. A subficial level, if you will.

Hey, if Sarah Palin can make up words, I can too.

Anyway. Coco Before Chanel features Audrey Tatou, Amelie herself, as the famed designer. Well, the famed designer before she was famed. Or a designer. See, Chanel grew up an orphan. That was about as fun as you’d expect. She left the orphanage and worked bars and clubs in a sort of singing act with her sister.

Then things take a very French turn: she has an affair with a rich baron and finds herself living a life of leisure. She’s always had an eye for style, so she turns that into a successful hat shop. (And, of course, eventually a fashion empire. That’s just not in the movie. Hence the “Before” part. Aha.)

Back at the (impeccably dressed) ranch, Coco falls in love with Arthur “Boy” Capel, an English entrepreneur whose English and French were both so good that I wasn’t sure what nationality the actor actually was (English, thank you Wikipedia). Capel’s the love of Coco’s life, so naturally he’s killed in a tragic car accident. SUCK.

As the film ends, Coco’s just starting the climb to phenomenal success. The men in her life have come and gone, but she’s able to recognize them—and all of her life’s experiences—as inspiration.
Have I ever worn Chanel No. 5? No. Couldn’t even pick its scent out of a crowd. But even if I never wear Chanel, now I know a bit about the first woman who did.

July 27, 2010

July 27, 2010

Sorry I Missed It: Top Chef

Since this season of Top Chef is set in our nation’s capital, I decided to check it out. Let me give a shout-out to Hulu, whose partnership with Bravo means I don’t have to download the program illegally to watch it.

Not that I would do that. Not that I have done that with other media. Not that I even know what illegal downloading is.

Don’t sue me.

Um, yeah, anyway, so Top Chef. I’d seen part of an episode of Top Chef: Masters while on the treadmill once, and I’ve been fascinated with food on TV since the days of “C is for Cookie,” so it didn’t take much to get up to speed. I’ve only seen five episodes so far, but I do have some initial questions.

- How does Padma Lakshmi know so much about food yet look like that? It’s not as freaky as Giada (seriously, NO ONE should be that little), but I’m still suspicious there is a portrait hanging of her somewhere that gets fatter and fatter.
- Is Tom Colicchio always that scary? When food is bad, he is not nice. NOT NICE. Imagining his reaction if I ever had to cook something for him makes me want to curl up in the fetal position.
- Am I the only person utterly captivated by Eric Ripert? [insert squee]
- Why are chefs so bitchy? I noticed this back when I used to watch Hell’s Kitchen. Criminy, people, why do we argue when there is so much food about?
- The bitchy chefs are the best, though, aren’t they? It’s fun to hate the hand that feeds you.

I’m not rooting for any particular chef at this point—I honestly don’t even remember their names from one week to the next. I just like seeing a little bit of my town, and a whole lot of food.

July 26, 2010

July 26, 2010

Batten the Hatches and Cover the Cheese

I miss Milwaukee. I’ll admit it. Took me almost two years, but there you go.

Do I want to move back? No. But I think it’s always going to be hardest in the summer, when D.C. is a thousand-degree swamp while Milwaukee is a smorgasboard of ethnic festivals, reasonable temperatures, and people whose accent is just like mine.

Last Thursday, the Milwaukee are (and a good bit of Wisconsin) was hit with catastrophic flooding. Fan of weather that I am (seriously, I have an entire tag on this blog devoted to it), I was enthralled and disappointed. Enthralled because severe weather anywhere makes me tingly. Hurricane season is awesome for me. Tornado alley? Like it. Monsoons, earthquakes, and ball lightning? Yes, yes, and yes. But I was disappointed because while Milwaukee was getting hit with weather worthy of Noah’s Ark, I was stuck 800 miles away without any avenue to share the excitement.

Then I realized that the FOX affiliate live streams its news. As in, on the internet. Accessible by the laptop that I have attached to my shiny new TV. A few minutes later, TED PERRY AND KATRINA CRAVY WERE ON MY TV.

Oh. Happy. Day.

Here, my friends, the Doppler radar covered a map I knew and loved. Counties with names like Waukesha and Ozaukee. Pronounced with all the round-voweled goodness I now experience only when listening to myself. It’s SO MUCH BETTER to hear it from others. Now that I’ve lived here in D.C. for a while, everyone still in Milwaukee sounds Canadian.

And I love it.

The $400 I spent on this TV is now utterly worth it.

Now if I could just find a way to still vote legally in Milwaukee.

July 22, 2010

July 22, 2010

To My Giant Pickle Jar

Dear Giant Pickle Jar,

Yes, you were an impulse buy. Perfect evidence that people like me shouldn’t be allowed to shop at warehouse clubs.

Yes, I have a thing for pickles.

(Yes, that sounds dirty.)

So though we may have gotten off on the wrong foot, you and I, I’d like to try to make this work.

I apologize for smacking you around my refrigerator. You may not have noticed, but you’re larger and heavier than any other item in there. (Though I believe the 24 cans of Diet Coke—also from the warehouse club—may take up more surface area.) I’m weak. You do the math.

I apologize for relegating you to the back bottom of the fridge, under the giant hummus (warehouse club) and next to the green tea (yep, this too—I love to buy in bulk). I thought it would be nice and cool.

Let’s break the ice a little. Have you heard of Potbelly? One of my favorite things about Potbelly is the ability to order a giant pickle, almost as large as the sandwich. I bet I’ve eaten several of your kin there.


Okay, let me put both of us out of our misery and spell out my game plan. I’ll be consuming your contents slowly over the next couple of weeks. In return, I promise that you will get to ride the eight-story drop down my building’s garbage chute. The ride of a lifetime, I assure you. Those Fantastic Voyage people got nothing on this.

In the meantime, you’re absolutely welcome to chill out in my fridge.

Just don’t eat the hummus.


July 20, 2010

July 20, 2010

Secret Single Behavior

One of my favorite Sex and the City scenes involved the discussion of Secret Single Behavior. One character examined her pores in the makeup mirror. Another watched infomercials. A third ate saltine sandwiches while standing in the kitchen and reading a fashion magazine. Nothing freakish, no, but all things they were embarrassed to do around significant others.

Which makes me wonder what Secret Single Behavior the people I know—including you, dear readers—are guilty of.

I’m not talking about the kind of stuff you’d see on Chat Roulette. Because first, ew. Just ew. I’m not THAT interested in you.

But seriously. What’s that one guilty-pleasure thing you do that’s completely legal and completely moral, but also completely weird?

My borderline OCD leads to a lot of confusing activities (using my finger to equally space the hangers in my closet, turning all the cans in the cabinet to have out-facing labels, etc. etc.). Sadly, TheBoy has seen me do enough of this sort of thing that it doesn’t even faze him anymore. On the plus side, I can rearrange and align things in both our apartments to my heart’s content.

What about you? Got any Secret Single Behavior going on?

July 19, 2010

July 19, 2010

Look It Up

I still own a set of encyclopedias. Does anyone else, or am I alone in this?

Mine are World Book encyclopedias, true—the RC Cola of the genre. In my defense, I got them as a child from a Goodwill. They’d belonged to a school library several states away, but (by the magic of Goodwill) had made their way to Wisconsin. For 25 cents a volume, you just can’t resist. Or, I couldn’t. Maybe you could.

World Books have always had a special place in my heart. I spent many a study hall/library hour flipping through a WB. Lots of pictures, easily-comprehended articles, the occasional illicit picture…it’s old-school Wikipedia. I cited WB in research papers, back before all references began with “www.” I can’t fathom doing that now, though I also can’t fathom having to write a research paper (what did ibid mean, again?) or sit in a study hall. Now that I’m grown up and all, I’d love to have a free hour every day to sit in a library and flip through the A volume.

My library got a new volume every year (I think mine are the 1995 edition), and somewhere in the late 90s they switched from plain-colored covers to photo covers. The spines were all part of a larger picture, too. Seeing what the new volume’s picture would be was something I looked forward to.

Yes, as a child, I was just as dorky as I am now. Perhaps more so.

I’m pleased to report that World Book still publishes, and still does the spine picture thing. I’m less-pleased to report that the retail price is over a thousand dollars. However, if you wait a couple of years, your local thrift store just might have them at a killer price.

July 15, 2010

July 15, 2010

Bless You

Why do people carry handkerchiefs?

My dad’s carried one since he was a kid. His siblings are the same. Fine. They grew up during the Cold War, when the Soviets could rush in at any moment and God forbid you were left without something to wipe your nose. But here, today, now, why would anyone opt for handkerchiefs over tissues?

Don’t try telling me that it’s because the Nancy Drew of those yellow-covered Nancy Drew novels carried one. She also had a charge plate and it’s not like you’re toting one of THOSE around.

I have a problem with the concept of excreting mucus and then putting it in your pocket. Namely, that you are choosing to store your snot rather than to discard it. Not. Acceptable.

The caveat is that dad’s handkerchief has saved me on more than one occasion. When I was stranded in an unending church service with a cold and no tissues. When I was sweating in a car without air conditioning. Other illness-related events I shan’t discuss in polite company. (Use your imagination.)

But can’t you just carry a clean back-up hankie for emergency use only? Use and discard, people. Use and discard.

(Disclaimer: Pocket squares used for decorative purposes are completely acceptable. Nay, they are preferable. Gentlemen, take a page out of Justin Timberlake's book and bring a little style to the world.)

July 14, 2010

July 14, 2010

Give it Five Stars

While in Gettysburg, we took a break from all the battle-related whatnot to check out the Eisenhower Historic Site. It’s the property Ike and Mamie retired to after the Presidency. (Those of you who suspect that I first typed “Ikea” instead of “Ike” are absolutely correct.) There’s a house, and a farm, and even a skeet shooting range.

That Ike was one crazy guy, I guess.

The house itself was pretty decent.

Though one funky wing was the remnant of the original farmhouse that stood on the site before the Eisenhowers bought it.


The living room featured a lot of gifts they’d gotten through the years, including a table from South Korea. I totally called it, because we have like three of these.

The house was filled with lots of art Ike had done (who knew?). There were also several paintings of the family done by others, including one made me realize young Ike looked a bit like Peyton Manning.

Mamie loved pink, and had the master bedroom done up accordingly. I hate to think of a retired five-star general and Commander in Chief sleeping there.

Seriously. Whipped.

The badass grill made up for it, though.

As did the farm, bigass coop, and on-property Secret Service headquarters.

It’s good to be President. It’s even better to be retired.

July 13, 2010

July 13, 2010

When Johnny Comes Marching Home

Independence Day is either the best day or the worst day to visit Gettysburg.

On the one hand, the town is alive with tourists and re-enactors, making the streets come alive with sound and fury.

On the other hand, the town is alive with tourists and re-enactors, making the streets come alive with sound and fury.

We stayed in the Gettysburg Hotel (est. 1797), which was quite lovely if a bit confusing. The room numbers went from 211 to 218, with our room (217) in a completely different wing of the hotel. I guess the colonials weren’t so keen on sequential numbering. This is probably why America wasn’t a superpower for her first 200 years.

To be honest, we felt rather out of place just walking around downtown Gettysburg. We weren’t in costume, for one thing, and that alone put us in the minority.

Luckily, costume wasn’t required to enjoy the museum or the battlefield itself.

As someone who grew up in a state pretty removed from the Civil War action, I’m no aficionado. I didn’t know that Jefferson Davis married a woman half her age, for instance.

She doesn’t look too thrilled about it, either.

I didn’t know that “Alabamians” was a word.

I didn’t know that I’d get better reception on the battlefield than I do in some parts of D.C.

Though it was chilling to see the very location of Pickett’s charge.

And rather awe-inspiring to see all the monuments.

Not all of Gettysburg is historic, of course. But enough of it is to give you pause.

July 12, 2010

July 12, 2010

Chocolate Town, USA

We celebrated Independence Day by heading up to Pennsylvania. I had been to the Keystone State only once before, for the National Apple Harvest Festival in Biglersville. (Yes, it’s a real town. No, I didn’t meet any of the Biglers.) When you live in Virginia, Pennsylvania seems far away (two states away! two states! two!), but it’s actually only 45 minutes north or so.

Now that we’ve gotten geography out of the way, let’s talk about Hershey. Day one of the trip was devoted to Hershey; days two and three were devoted to Gettysburg. Suffice to say that day one featured the most chocolate. To wit:

We were all kids in that candy store. Largest Hershey store in the world, I assume. It was epic, it was glorious, and it made risking diabetes completely acceptable.

TheBoy and I acted like adults, though, and spent the first part of our visit at The Hershey Story, a museum all about the founding of the town. There were artifacts, there was explanation, there were odd restrictions.

Seriously? You’re forcing me to concealed-carry?

The next part of our trip took us to Hershey’s Chocolate World, a sort of learning/shopping/spending dealio. There was a trolley that took you around the town, with singing guides pointing out various important buildings. While in costume.

We then took a ride on this thing that purported to explain the chocolate making process but was most memorable for featuring SINGING ANIMATRONIC COWS.

Loved it. Loved. It.

We finished our visit to Hershey by wandering around that store a bit. A lot. Whatever.


July 8, 2010

July 8, 2010


I managed to stay away from the vortex of eBay lo these many years. Not having a reliable internet connection probably had something to do with that. As did, y’know, not having a discretionary income to speak of. (Kidding—I was an only child who lived at home; all my income was discretionary. I’m trying to identify with the audience here. Just go with it.)

Anyway, I recently bought a couple of things for TheBoy from eBay (using the “Buy It Now” option) and didn’t get completely ripped off. Then I started poking around for a cheap antique to take to AR this fall. Then I realized that eBay sells everything, and a lot of those things can be acquired cheap if you do it right.


I’ve gone a bit OCD with this stuff. I’m looking for three items: complete series DVDs of Friends, Sex and the City, and The West Wing. I’ll pay $25 for Friends and SatC; $50 for West Wing.

Yep, it’s basically impossible.

But I’ve had fun along the way.

The little thrill of excitement for the short time during which I’m the highest bidder.

The confusion until I realized that you can set a maximum bid so the system bids for you. I was like, “How is this other person outbidding me so fast?” I imagine it’s the same feeling Lindsay Lohan feels when she’s asked to read things. (I’m trying topical humor today. Just go with it.)

The possibility that perhaps someday I will actually win one of these things for a penny. (I know it’s impossible, but let’s pretend.)

I used to lump eBay with Craigslist in the “Do business with them and you’ll wake up in a bathtub full of ice with no kidneys” category. Turns out, that’s not completely true.


July 7, 2010

July 7, 2010

The Games We Play

Life’s seemed rather sports-filled lately, hasn’t it? It’s World Cup season, that time every four years when Americans pretend to care about soccer so they can drink beer at 9 a.m. I’m sorry if you’re a fan, but c’mon. Really. Soccer isn’t going to catch on in America for several reasons, not least of which the fact that the game can end in a tie. To succeed here, sports must have a clear victor, a lot of point-earning, and a good share of full-body contact. (Okay, please don’t hate. Let’s move on.)

We also had the NBA playoffs not too long ago, which culminated in the crowning of the Los Angeles Lakers as World Champions. Yes, the best team in the NATIONAL Basketball Association gets a trophy with the phrase “WORLD Champions.” That must really piss off any other national leagues out there. Eh, they’re probably too busy playing soccer. (See, I’m trying.)

For those of us in the National Capital Region, the talk of the town is Stephen Strasburg, new National pitcher. I don’t pay super-close attention, but I think something like 99.99% of his pitches are strikes. The other .01% are fouls that go into orbit. The commuter newspaper (that everyone reads because we all have such freaking long commutes) has started including big K signs on home game days. In a town full of partisan battles, idiotic interns, and the worst traffic this side of the Mississippi, it’s nice for all of us to have someone to rally around. In an ideal world, that might be the President, but we’ll take a 21-year-old from San Diego.

July 6, 2010

July 6, 2010

Roadshow Stalking Strategies

It’s probably no surprise that I like Antiques Roadshow. It’s a little pretensious, often boring, and a longtime PBS collaborator. It’s the me of TV. It’s the me of TV if I had anything even remotely antique-y. Which I don’t.

And that wasn’t a problem until I entered the PBS.com drawing for tickets to AR’s D.C. visit this August AND ACTUALLY WON A PAIR.

I’m going to give you a moment to let the shock and hysteria die down. I needed a few myself, because (I don’t care if it’s a cliché, dammmit) I never win anything.

So, after I found out I’d won the tickets, minutes 1-5 were something like this:


And minute 6 was something like this:

“I don’t own a single antique. Neither do my parents. Not even something we can pretend we thought was old.”

See, you are probably one of the lucky ones, whose parents and grandparents have houses filled with old crap worth tons of money.

(Lend me something.)

My mom’s a first-generation immigrant. My dad’s parents died quite some time ago and anything remotely valuable has been already sold or given to one of the older siblings. (When you’re fourth of five, you’re thankful to be remembered at all, I guess.)

So I got bupkis. I’ve checked Salvation Army. I’ve checked eBay. I’ve checked antique stores. And not anywhere have I found a piece of Tiffany or Steuben worth millions but selling for under ten bucks.

Yeah, that’s my limit. Ten bucks. Ten bucks, easily portable, and not breakable. I like my antiques cheap and low-maintenance. Probably why I don’t have any antiques.

(Lend me something.)

I have a couple of old books not worth anything but good enough to get me in the door. Honestly, I don’t even want to have anything appraised at all. My goals for the day:

1. Meet Leigh and Leslie Keno (pictured above). Try NOT to come off as a stalker.
2. Meet J. Michael Flanigan. Same as above.
3. Take an ungodly number of pictures.
4. Watch with schadenfreude as someone’s heritage item is revealed to be either a reproduction or ruined by their attempt to clean it.

When the D.C. episodes of AR air some time next year, keep an eye out for a brunette with glasses covertly stalking the Keno brothers. It’s SO happening, my friends.

July 5, 2010

July 2, 2010

July 2, 2010

Natalie Dee of the Week

I've spent a good portion of the past two days barricaded in my office working on a budget. Let me assure you that writing and spreadsheeting for Congress is the very definition of tedium. Unfortunately, it's so time- and attention-consuming that any interruption--even for such a thing as blogging--means it takes a good 15 minutes to get back in the swing. Of things. Not a literal swing, because that would make it fun.

Yesterday, I even put out a sign so as to discourage the co-workers from asking me to reset passwords and/or unjam the copier. Because it happens. And every time, I want to go ninja on the person with my MBA and a stapler.


Enjoy the Natalie Dee, and I promise things will be back to normal next week.