Friday, April 29, 2005

GOP in my CPU

My internet connection at work has a firewall that blocks undesirable websites. It has the added feature of helpfully providing the reason why you aren't allowed to visit said page. For example, if I try to navigate to Grammar Police, it says BLOCKED; Reason: Pornography.

So I was just googling for an answer to a question I had about menstruation (what are all these changes happening to my body??), and the page I tried to open was BLOCKED; Reason: Sex Education.


The Bush Administration has invaded my internets. On the other hand, I think the democrats managed to land-grab some square of cyberspace, as another page I attempted the other day was BLOCKED; Reason: Weapons.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Overhead in New York

Finally. A job I'm qualified for:
Dumb teen: Hey, look at this! It says "Train for jobs in beeyotch."

Smarter teen: Fool! That word is biotech. Why you gotta be ignorant all your life?

--1 train

Question 4: What's He Thinking Right Now

I’m filling out this evaluation of my boss, and one of the questions asks: After a tense conflict with someone has ended, how often does this individual replay the incident over and over in his/her mind?

What the hell kind of question is that? What kind of relationship do they think I have with my boss? Shrink? Guru? Psychic? And who cares?

How about: “How often does your boss tell you to go home early on Friday/feed you pizza.” Employee morale, it ain’t hard folks.

One Down

It's kind of hard for me to establish the remarkable nature of the following scene, as it's sort of only remarkable if you're me. Perhaps I can describe it this way: say you're a person who is terribly bashful when it comes to meeting people of the opposite sex. You make a big ass of yourself everytime you try to approach, or at least it seems to you that you're a big ass. So you probably have these elaborate fantasies in which bizarre circumstances converge, and cause a cute girl or guy to approach you and engage you in a long meaningful conversation. Car trouble perhaps. Or, something similar. And it's completely unrealistic that the actual scenario could ever happen, but you continue to hope for it in any case.

Anyway, that's how it is with me and Russian. Frightfully self-conscious, I clam up tighter than a youth group-er who just kissed dating goodbye when I'm around native speakers. But I yearn to practice in a non-fabricated situation. So I had this very elaborate scenario in which a Russian would be stranded in the middle of Washington, DC. For some reason, he would be in DC alone despite not speaking a lick of English. And fully severing the tenuous thread by which this scenario connects to reality, said lost Russian soul would approach me and ask me, do I speak Russian? Why yes! I kind of do!

It's right up there with my fantasy in which I discover a tone deaf town whose inhabitants worship by singing voice and I become a lounge performer.

Alright, so there I am, either in an alternate dimension or my local CVS, depending on your interpretation. I'm waiting to pick up a prescription, when this portly fellow standing to the side of me sort of shuffles over and hesitantly says, "Urrr...uh...russkiy?" I stop and stare. Could it really be? I replied in Russian, "You speak Russian? I speak a little bit. Do you need help?"

Boy did he ever.

Next thing I know I'm following my new best friend around the store, carrying his basket for him, as he points at ever shelf and asks "What is this?" "What is this?" And I, using my limited vocabulary and sentence construction, respond, " for...leg!" "Is for....flu!" "Is for...uh...if you are fatness...uh diet!" My proudest moment? When I figured out he needed glucose tablets. I got overconfident and started proposing items: "What about if you hurt stomach?" "Da, da!" Shopping is so fun! He wanted everything. He bought it all. Then he pointed at some condoms. "What is it?" I started laughing my arse off. I figured, cognate? Probably. "Uh...condomiy?" "AH! Nyet, nyet, nyet." (phew)

Alright, so this is all weird enough, the realization of my Russian-in-need fantasy. Then he busts out with, "Have you ever been to Dushanbe?" I just stop and stare. Whare are the bleeding odds? "Uh. Yeah. I was there last month. During the elections." And with that a mighty roar, because of course our fellow is a Tajik, and I am invited to his family's home in Dushanbe when I return, and in the meantime, I am invited to his hotel.

This is precisely when I suspected that my Russian-in-need fantasy was somehow superceded and morphing into his friendly-naive-American-slut fantasy, and thus I cheerfully told him I had to return to work. As I was walking out of the drug store, he was still holding things up and shouting to me. "What is it?" "For teeth!" "What is it?" "For the eyeglasses, if they don't work!"

It was fan-tastic. Now, I've got my eye out for that tone deaf town.

Where am I?

I just had an item shipped to me via DHL; and it arrived addressed to my street address, followed by "Benjamin Franklin, DC."

Benjamin Franklin? Does somebody at DHL have issues with Gen. Washington? What in the hey?

Foul Play

Spring is in the air, and that means it's time for DC non-profit league softball! Woooo! The Although the National Mall is a pretty neat backdrop for a game of softball, I really don't like playing. I'm no good, and fielding stresses me out, but my boss is the coach so what can you do, really? I try to duck when he's giving out fielding assignments so I can do what I do best: help drink the beer and explain "bases" to the Russian girls. (Tatiana came as "cheerleader" this game. We're all in our jerseys and tennis shoes: Tanya's in oversized Chanel shades and carrying Coach. Her cheers are less than inspiring, "Why he not hit ball? He is man, he should hit.")

Last night we played the Heritage Foundation (their jerseys dubbed them the "Capitalist Tools.") And our asses were? Handed to us. Guh. It seems that every group endeavor I'm involved in features us as the ragtag but plucky underdogs. Unlike in the Disney movies, though, we don't triumph in the end. No Mighty Ducks are we. My feeling is that this is not coincidental, but structural. Progressive, well-meaning group of do-gooders with an unclear command structure versus the standard bearers of Conservative zeitgeist? Sound familiar?

It was ever thus. Even back in college, when the affable-but-stoned Liberal Arts Council took on arch-rivals Business Council each year. BC was there to win, dammit. They had their beef-cakiest ringers step in, and they only allowed the bare minimum of women to play (and those gals were built like tree trunks anyway). We showed up, underfed and fey and probably a little drunk, and we wanted everybody to have a chance to swing the big stick thing! As such, softball is as useful a metaphor for liberal failure as anything.

All in all, Heritage were a pretty friendly group. All except for the one guy. Note to the shortstop in the Israeli Defense Forces t-shirt: look love, it is simply not healthy to get that worked up over non-profit league softball. It is a game, my friend, not your manhood on a stick. Smile! You're winning!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?

"Why you no have husband?"

This is the question for which I am war-wearily prepared. And not just when I go visit Mom. And not just when I'm talking to Russian office-mate Irina. ("Syuzan. How old are you." "I'm 25." "Ohhh. You know what they call you in Russia?" "I shudder to think, Ira." "It's like starshaya rodisha, is like, you know, in hospital..." "Um. Old birther? Great.") Anytime I'm in a developing country, I know full well that the follow up question is going to be: "Don't you want baby?"

Don't get me wrong. I love the little ones. I do. But truth be told, I really think I'm more prime grade aunt material? Wait-wait! Another sidetrack! I was dating this strange French kid in high school. I was very anti-romance. He had black hair and used to lick my hand in public to freak out my bourgeois friends. Our conversations dripped with jaded ennui: [actual exchange]
HIM: So, fuck. Should I like, buy you some fucking flowers or shit?
ME: Oh, god! Please don't.
Right, so that's just to establish what a modern, unaffectionate connection we had. But one day, out of the blue, comes the nicest thing he ever said to me. I had just mentioned that I didn't think I ever wanted kids, and he replied, "What the fuck. I see all this fucking scum of humanity popping out these stupid babies that will just become more fucking stupid people, and then someone likes you doesn't want to have any kids? It makes me want to fucking puke."
Awww. If only he hadn't made out with that other girl at the coffee shop, maybe it could have all worked out.

Anyway! Here's why I can't have kids, even if I can't properly articulate it to the various babushkas I have known. Okay, say I have a gorgeous child that I treasure above all else. And say this child starts making terrible death-rattle noises, and sort of dies entirely. And I, oh gosh, I just feel terrible. But lo! The child awakes! And all my more knowledgeable acquaintances warn me that I must take the child in for professional care at once. For the illness will surely return, and I likely won't be so lucky the second time. And I nod gravely, for I know they're correct, and

And then the ungrateful little rat of a child has another aneurysm out of the effing blue, and you've since discovered your hard drive testing disk thing, and it's a mass storage error! Which sounds a lot like the hard drive error your knowledgeable friends foreordained! YOU ARE A TERRIBLE MOTHER and the state ought to take your precious child away. What are you, a Christian Scientist or something?

And that, my friends, is why I musn't procreate. And go ahead with the I-told-you-so's. I deserve each and every one.

[p.s. 50 bonus points and a high-five to anyone who recognized the title of this post as, oh yes, the greatest made-for-tv movie ever produced, starring thespian extraordinaire Tori Spelling.]

Monday, April 25, 2005

Reporting is Hard

I've been periodically checking the news for the status of little Donte Manning—the 9-year-old who was shot in the head last month while playing in his front yard here in DC. It's been a massacre of young ones in the District this year, and for no reason in particular this one stuck with me, curdling in my gut. Playing in his own front yard. Gunned down in stray fire. A well-known drug den that police never touched. Killer still at large. Official expressions of concern and newly constituted seriousness. Rage, rage, rage. For a while there were semi-regular updates on Donte; they couldn't operate to remove the bullet from the base of skull until the swelling went down, and he remained in critical condition, and then the stories just sort of dropped off.

So my shoulders sagged today when a google news search showed NBC4 reporting that Donte died on Friday. But then the next story notes that Donte is breathing on his own after being taken off life support on Friday. Said story confesss:
There are conflicting reports about the status of a nine-year-old boy who was struck in the head last month by a bullet.

Calvin Woodland, a staffer for D.C. Council member Jim Graham, says the boy's family told him that Donte Manning was breathing on his own at a hospital as of early Saturday morning -- after a respirator was removed Friday night.

Woodland says he has no other information about Donte's condition.

The Associated Press ran a story Friday night that said the boy had died. The information was based on reports by several TV stations, citing D.C. police.

A police spokesman could not be reached for comment today.


This is not Fermat's Last Theorem or the fucking Dead Sea Scrolls. Pick up a phone, call the hospital, contact a family spokesman, do whatever you have to do to avoid filing a story announcing that this 9-year-old boy who's been hovering around death with a bullet in his brainpan for the last month might have died the day before, or on the other hand, he might not have. I know these reporters did not shoot the lad, but the incompetence and neglect that have dogged the heels of this kid from start to finish just all fit neatly into my little wad of rage. Hang in there, kiddo.

Up, Up, and Away!

Is there a potential disadvantage that I'm missing in the following proposition:

Step One: Secure credit card that accrues frequent flyer miles for cardholder.

Step Two: Pay outlandish school tuition and fees on said credit card.

Step Three: Reap frequent flyer miles.

Step Four: Immediately pay off credit card with student loan money.

Because I kind of think I'm a genius?


There was a moment last night—I think it was mid-two-step, on the back-step, on a twangy upbeat of Hank Williams' Family Tradition, just before I two-stepped my rear into the dresser, that it struck me.

Wait a minute.

We don't two-step.

We don't listen to Hank Williams.

We definitely don't do either of these things in the privacy of our own home, in our free time.

What in tarnation is going on here??

It's obvious. We've joined the Texas Diaspora, and like the Ukrainians and Armenians and countless other diasporas, we've become far more unhinged and obsessive over our homeland than the erstwhile residents could possibly manage. What I'm trying to say is, we're way more Texas than we were when we lived in Texas.

I went two-stepping maybe once in Texas, and it was a lark, and I was so uninitiated that I wore open-toed sandals. I didn't even particularly like Texas-y music until I started bartending at the Cactus my last two years in Austin and picked up a taste for it. Now? I'm suddenly yowling George Strait like I been doin' it my whole life.

I suppose what I miss is the good life: the slow days drinking beer at an outdoor bar with your shoes off and your legs propped on the table, or that strange little bar up on Mount Bonnell that looked for all the world like a speakeasy or a crumbling shack, and inside you'd find this ancient old woman who'd open up her antique fridge door and hand you a can of Bud Pearl to go enjoy on the porch. After you picked songs from the awesome old jukebox. Which, hey, had a lot of old country, so I guess my affection does date a little farther back. But there's this sort of feeling and lifestyle in Texas (oh hell, only in Austin, only in Austin) that I miss and I express that loss through overzealous devotion to the outward symbols: music, food, margaritas. (Remind me to tell you about my margarita-a-day project. I'm like a fucking molecular biologist lately.)

And probably, maybe—no, probably it's better this way. I have this perfect little romanticizied Austin that serves as a locus for all these happy golden memories, and I don't have to rationalize that memory with the reality of what made me ready to leave. I can forget about how insanely bored I was by the end, about all the little Daddy's girls mismanaging their oversized SUVs, the having-to-drive everywhere, and the fact that somewhere, very nearby, lived people who enthusiastically voted for Tom Delay.

[Thanks to my fact checker for beer accuracy]

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Il Papa

So, do you think the cardinals sit around daydreaming about what their Pope name would be? Do you think they doodle "Pius" and "Benedict" and what-not in little curlicues on their notebooks during cardinal meetings?

Irina does not approve of this new Benedict at all. "Did you know he was head of the Vatican department that used to be called the Holy Inquisition?" I asked her. She wrinkled her nose in distaste. "Well Syuzan. I hate to be the one to say it. But how appropriate for a German."

Eh, you can take the girl out of Russia...

Monday, April 18, 2005

This One's For the Girls

I didn't get involved with the latest blogosphere installment of the Sherlock Holmes spinoff, The Case of the Missing Female Bloggers, because as someone who has yet to come to terms with my own having-of-a-blog, I stay out of these discussions as a rule. Now, the blogosphere would say that this reticence comes from my innate female unwillingness to engage in confrontational argument, to which I would reply, Listen here blogosphere, I don't take kindly to psychoanalysis from someone who calls himself AssRocket69.

But despite myself, I've unearthed a gender generalization of my very own to share with you, based scientifically on the statistically insignificant sample of the handful of blogs I read regularly, which include a healthy number penned by the fairer sex.

And what I've found is this: whether it be by pernicious incestuous linking or superior master-gender genes, boys clearly dominate the political blogging. But if it's sparkling prose you're after: dextrous, sharp, at turns droll, uproarious, or mournful, you'd best stick with the ladies. There was some sniffy insinuating here and there that women sit around writing diary entries about their periods, and that's why nobody links to them. But when it comes to the women I'm thinking of, tales from life are merely vehicles for exercising their writing chops. Time is better spent reading Gail Armstrong describe a lonely afternoon in the car (melancholy, haunting) than any number of semi-literate rantings on the precise genealogy separating Tom Delay and the antichrist.

Seriously, have you noticed? The funniest, wittiest, and quickest with the telling detail or the inventive phrasing are almost always the girls? For the quick one-offs, I'm thinking Que Sera Sera; I don't know how I stumbled on to her but she's been cracking me up for ages. I already introduced Drunken Bee (though in the interest of gender equity, I ought to point out that her husband Ed is such an engaging diarist, that I daresay he writes like a girl), and thanks to this guy for introducing me to SnarkAttack and Mimi Smartypants. Now, these bloggers aren't as prolific as many of their male counterparts in the neighborhood, but you know what comes to those who wait. Ketchup. Sweet, sweet ketchup.

But my girls-write-better theory does not rest on humor alone. Gail Armstrong of Open Brackets interrupted her regular ruminations for a three-part series excorsizing her bum of a father; it's an object lesson on how to cover such touchy material brilliantly, without even entering the stratosphere of Oprah-esque saccharine misery-lust or woe-is-me-ism.

And here she is with a passage so damn good I simply can't edit it down:

Packing up shop when moving house has a curious way of reminding you of the awful attachments we forge with objects.

For the past few days, I’ve been weaving my way through a maze of cardboard and mess. Pitching coats, bibelots and every old thing into boxes, pausing now and then to go maudlin over a book or a band, or a doohickey thought lost, before cramming it in with the rest… and wondering how sane it is to be so attached to these things.

The weightiest bulk of our stuff is books, and I feel quite smug that I managed to throw 10 away (outdated software manuals and old guides to markets I’ll never penetrate). I keep coming across ransacked paperbacks as fragile as flowers at the end of their bloom span, and thinking I really should trash them. But I can’t.

Some I’ve been lugging since student days across Canadian towns and borders, and later over oceans and from home to home in this foreign land. It’s silly, I know, but somehow they’re my anchor (both literally and figuratively, alas). Their dust and dishevelment and presence reassure me to no end.

They remind me of the inside of my head at 14 and 20 and etc. years old, and of how much there will always be left to learn. They rebuke my growing isolationism, make me feel dumb and so grateful.

All this overwhelmed by the unsettling that invariably comes with continually moving from place to a place to lay down your stuff. Each new beginning giddy with hope, but tempered by wary from what the years have shown you. And again, the nagging image of black holes that goes with the slapping down of money each month to occupy rooms that belong to another.

I am far too obsessed with anchors.

So, if I may turn this question around, where are all the male bloggers who can write worth a flip?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Jingo all the way

I know that Iraq isn't Viet Nam, but it still strikes me as a fairly unpopular military exercise. Last I saw, a fair split of the country isn't all that jazzed about the mess we're in. And yet, as I sit here listening to it, I can't help but think that John Prine writing today would never get away with lyrics like this, from 1971:

Your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore
They're already overcrowded from your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin', no matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore.

A battle cry for our beleaguered Dems?

[As a side note, what's up with the social restrictions on drinking alone? I consider it a sign of healthy self-sufficiency. I've had a long week, I deserve a bathrobe and a bubble bath and you can socialize my pinot blanc when you pry it from my cold dead hands.]

Chronicle of a Hangover Foretold

A pictorial accompaniment to Catherine's narrative description of our foolish bender in Chicago:

The setting:

Or more specifically: The Pontiac Cafe on a brilliant sunny afternoon

Our Protagonists:

Our Villains (add a factorial to whatever number it is you think we drank):

The Aftermath (setting: Taxi):
I'm totuhlly okhay, reallhy, I know where we whose tha what?

Going, going...



My Blogger Dashboard, lately, is littered with the stubs of aborted posts. It seems I've been absent for a while, and having trouble sneaking back in through the side door, tip-toeing gingerly through the kitchen, past curfew, hoping nobody will notice, only to find you, my precious few readers, waiting in the armchair in your bathrobe glaring at me over the tops of your eyeglasses. Leaning in for a cheek but really sniffing my breath.

Where was I, you ask?

Yesterday I decided (by the way, everybody) that I'll stay in DC for graduate school. After this, I was greatly relieved to have the burden lifted, and I skipped aimlessly down the street until my cute-but-newish ballet flats cut blisters and I found myself in front of a hair salon. Broke but be-Visa-ed, I ambled up the stairs and offered up my finicky and unmanageable curly hair to a complete stranger: a thin slip of a hipster with jaunty Jimmy Fallon hair who looked frightened of my head.

I was wickedly cheating on my straight male boutique hair stylist yet again. I hate him. Our relationship has lasted nearly two years, and I've never gone for two consecutive hair cuts from him because I cannot handle his jokes about fat chicks. After each session, I vow never to go back. I find someone new. But they just don't compare and I always come crawling back. And he knows I've been with someone else. He can smell it. I've told him that I was traveling for 3 months in the Ukraine and my head was mangled by a wild shear-bearing, layer-happyUkrainian vixen, but I can't tell he doesn't believe it. Don't be a stranger, he'll say accusingly as I saunter out, up to here with the fat chick jokes and misogyny. But he knows I'll be stepping out. Just as I did yesterday.

And I'll surely be going back, because I received the most comically terrible haircut of my life. I swear on the Holy Bible that I very nearly busted out laughing at several points watching this poor guy desperately try to save the situation. I suppose I could have intervened: asked him to set down the snippers and just step off. But I imagine it was akin to watching Jackass: you know that terrible things are afoot, but you just have to see what happens next. He wielded his scissors like a preschooler at the arts and crafts table. I actually started feeling sorry for the guy, as the situation spiralled out of control and he started feebly patting at my hair to try and save the situation. Styling Tip for Hair Dude: when you've finished manhandling a head of curly hair, you have to apply some sort of product (anything will do, really!), prior to the blow-drier. Also: a diffuser is the proper implement for blowdrying. Also: after blowdrying, no matter how terrible it looks, you ought to stop cutting. It is too late, Hair Dude. It cannot be saved.

Sometimes I think my straight male boutique hair stylist has paid off every other salon in the city, Tony Soprano-style, to make sure there's nowhere else for me to go.

So I put myself onto the bus because my feet were blistered and my head was absurd, and my thoughts were alternating between the two poles of pain on my body. Though it's hard to say, that is probably why I left my wallet sitting on the Capital Metro bus seat at 10th and U. I blame the hair.

It's no fun to lose your wallet, and especially not when you don't discover this fact until you are at a bar, magnanimously offering to purchase the beers of the two guests who have come at your invitation to give you advice on your future. Because then, not only will you have to renege on your offer to buy them beers, they will have to buy your beer.

This morning, I made it to the office to find a voicemail from an elderly Mrs. Parker. Mrs. Parker, bless her ever-loving soul, found my wallet on the bus and therein discovered my business card and office phone number. She is keeping it with her at the Senior Citizens' home where she'll be all day today. I love Mrs. Parker. She is a beacon of light and I'm buying her flowers and then she'll pat the chair next to her and tell me stories of her youth as a wild, free-spirited psuedo-lesbian, and she will change my life into a more meaningful one in which I try to spice things up by wearing saran wrap for my paramour.

Things are looking up, people. And I'll try not to be a stranger.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


I'm sorry. My brain has exploded and is bleeding out my ears. I can't decide where to go to school next year and I'm making myself dizzy with concern, my room looks like a grenade went off because I'm too preoccupied to clean, and speaking of explosives, I spent the day learning how to probe my way out of a land mine field, should I find myself stranded in such. I am having trouble parsing out useful knowledge from non-useful knowledge and my critical faculties are in a tailspin. School? I have good choices, which is better than not having good choices, although I don't have all the good choices I hoped to have.

You know, we very likely traverse a series of life-altering crossroads several times a week in our everyday life. We just don't have to know it. We don't have to know that if we'd taken our usual shortcut we'd have been hit by a truck or if we had only ordered the grilled cheese sandwich we'd have met the girl of our dreams. But when the big crossroads come up: where to move, what school to attend, what to name your PowerBook, it's paralyzing, isn't it? Probably it all comes out a wash in the end, but the volition involved is horrible.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Programming Note

My deep-dish pizza jonesing can no longer be contained by the District of Columbia, so I'm off to Chicago this weekend, escorted and chaperoned by the lovely Ms. Catherine. Hell shall be raised.