Monday, July 30, 2007

Don't Go in There

I just walked by my office building's 5th floor women's bathroom, and from outside it looked like what can only be described as a hazmat situation. The cleaning people had donned full-body plastic suits and paper hats. I didn't notice any face masks specifically, but it seemed like they should have them.

It made me think of two things:
  1. Thank you to the immigrants, both legal and illegal, who take the cleaning jobs few natural-born Americans ever wanted. May you have a happy, healthy, and fruitful time here in the U.S. and may our government never shoot itself in the foot by screwing you, the foundation of our economy, over.
  2. Remember that '90s movie "Friday" with Ice Cube and Chris Tucker? There was this great quote from Mr. Jones, Ice Cube's dad. It's funny because it's true.
Don't nobody go in the bathroom for about 35, 45 minutes. Somebody open up a window.

"How Do You Get 'Em Off?"

We had some friends come over last night for a barbecue, and they admired our prolific cucumber patch. I showed them the thorns, and they confirmed that they hadn't known about this phenomenon, either. But then, this exchange took place, as one friend asked about thorn removal.
Friend: How do you get 'em off?
Me: You go like this. [I cup my right hand, turn it sideways, and stroke it up and down in the air over an imaginary cucumber. Then my jaw drops as I realize what I'm doing.]
Now there's an exchange that could be taken out of context.

Friday, July 27, 2007

If I were a Simpson...

Just saw my friend Laura's blog post containing her Simpsons avatars and it inspired me to go immediately to to make my own. Here's me at Moe's Tavern.

Here's Steve at Moe's.

Here's my brother Chris.

He isn't at Moe's -- or anywhere -- because he doesn't drink much these days, and Moe's is the only functioning background, oddly enough. The other backgrounds say "coming soon." Considering that the movie opens tomorrow, I wonder if they're ever coming. I would have liked one of myself getting a Squishy at the Kwik-E-Mart.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Recycling Gone Awry

Recently Fairfax County added cardboard boxes to the list of items its residents must recycle. We dutifully began placing our cardboard items in shopping bags next to our newspapers and didn't think much of it.

But today, we had an incident of theft. The perpetrator was apprehended promptly, but an empty Milkbone box was violated.

We'll have to change our recycling tactics from now on.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My Musical Legacy

When my Grandma died, she left me her 1907 Steinway upright piano. I don't really know how to play it, other than the standard Heart and Soul, Chopsticks, and a couple of shaky Christmas tunes. My Grandma left me the piano because, she said, I was "the most musical" of her grandchildren.

Music was my Grandma's life. She played on the radio in the '30s, went to NYU to study music, and gave lessons throughout her life. When she was raising her family in Larchmont, NY, she often found herself accompanying her trumpet-playing neighbor, Doc Severinson, who eventually became the band leader on Johnny Carson's late night show. (Really.)

As a child, each Thanksgiving I was forced to bring my acoustic guitar to play "Happy Birthday" along with Grandma on her piano for my brother's Nov. 26 birthday. (The relatives always showered Chris with birthday gifts on Thanksgiving, but my January birthday was much less fortuitous.) My older, cooler cousins, Dutch and Marilyn, never said anything about the guitar, but I know, deep down, that they saw this behavior as incredibly nerdy. Grandma, however, saw it as irrefutable evidence of my commitment to music.

If prepubescent mortification could be considered currency, I paid a lot for this piano.

When Grandma first met Steve, on Thanksgiving in 2000, she was diminished in body and mind but still remained interested in her musical legacy. She took me aside after dinner and asked me, "Does Steve play any musical instruments?"

"No, but he does have a really good singing voice," I answered truthfully.

"Good, good," she replied, nodding her head. I could see the wheels turning, calculating the increased chance that, assuming things with Steve worked out, her eventual great-grandchild would be musical as well, assuring the musical legacy for another generation. I know that made her very happy.

Grandma was too sick to come to our wedding in 2004, and she died in January 2005. We had the piano shipped here last summer, and, $3,900 in restoration costs later, it's like new inside and ready to make music again (see photo, above).

Now I just have to learn to play it.

I Bet This Really Attracts the Ladies

Saw a license plate in my office garage yesterday that made me stop and take note:


The guy, and I'm sure it's a guy, might as well get a plate that says:


Friday, July 20, 2007

Life's Too Short to...

I was talking to my mom a few months back about drinking good coffee. I don't drink cheap coffee -- if it's not good stuff, I'll stick to my earl grey tea.

"Life's too short to drink bad coffee," I said.

"Or eat bad chocolate," she replied.

After a moment, she thought about her sister, my Aunt Patty, and added, "Patty would say, '...or drink bad wine.' "

What's on your "life's too short" list?

Vicious Cucumbers

We're harvesting a bumper crop of cucumbers in our tiny townhouse backyard. Apparently this tropical vegetable does very well in the steamy heat of a DC summer.

Did you know cucumbers have thorns? It's their natural protection. I had no idea. You never see them because they get pulled off before they go to the grocery store. Check it out.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fish Guy

Before my uncle died, he had a custom salt water tropical fish tank installed in his foyer. They hired a fish guy to maintain their tank. He's a self-employed marine biologist with a passion for fish tanks and their occupants.

After the fish guy's first visit, my aunt saw to her great dismay that my uncle had written the check to "Fish Guy."

"How are they going to cash a check made out to 'Fish Guy'?" she demanded. "I can't believe you did that! That is so embarrassing. Can't you ask the guy his name?" My uncle waited until she was done excoriating him, and then informed her that the name of the company was actually "Fish Guy."

The family continues to employ Fish Guy for tank maintenance. One night last week, the pump abruptly stopped working. My cousin Tara made the call:
Tara: "Fish Guy, we got problems."

Fish Guy: "Talk to me, T. Talk to me."

Tara: "It's not good, Fish Guy. It's not good."
The exuberant Fish Guy arrived for an emergency visit first thing the next morning. He took care of the problems in no time at all, at a cost of $300/parts, $100/labor.

It must be great to be able to support yourself doing something you love.

It reminded me of part of a song called "Twin Rocks, Oregon" by Shawn Mullins, about a stranger he meets at a rest stop.
Well, I told him I too had been travelin around
livin out of my van from town to town
playin for tips and whatever records I could move

I said "I don't reckon I'll be makin it big.
You know it's hard to get rich
doing coffee house gigs."
And he said "yeah, but ain't it a blessing
to do what you want to do."

And I told him "yeah, I pulled off here
to watch the sun disappear into the ocean
`cause it's been years since I smelled this salty sea"
and he turned his bottle up and down
he saw me lost and he saw me found.
And I said
"I don't know what I've been looking for, maybe me."

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Night With the Homies in NYC

Thursday night, I stopped in NYC on my way home from the Hamptons to have dinner and catch up with a few of my homies. We went to Pete's, a pub I once frequented, and we hung out for several hours.

I stayed in a hotel on the water in Jersey City (nice hotel, guaranteed parking, good deal through Hotwire). When I got back late that night after seeing my friends, I stood by the darkened Hudson River for a while and watched the lights of downtown Manhattan. I saw my old office building (the one with the square roof in the far right of the photo). Next to it, I saw the missing World Trade Center in my mind's eye.

On September 10, 2001, I left my office building musing about how my life had turned into the movie Groundhog Day. Every day seemed the same. At work, I sent out the same newsletters every day at generally the same time. I saw no logical path for advancement, and the managing editor's attitude toward me leaned toward disinterest. Walking to and from work, I always saw the same people. The pretzel/hot dog guy was always there. So was the fruit guy. I saw the same mother with a stroller nearly every day. The same crowds moved in the same directions. As usual that evening, I glared at the Marriott World Trade Center, from which my bag had been stolen months earlier as I sat at the bar (and whose security staff had been obstructionist and uncooperative), and I wished for the hotel's destruction.

I never went back to that office. The next morning, the Marriott World Trade Center (among other buildings) was indeed destroyed. My workplace moved "temporarily" to central New Jersey, and after six months, I couldn't take the commute anymore, so I quit and moved to DC for graduate school. File this all under "be careful what you wish for."

But now, I'm not sure where I belong. At times, I feel like a displaced person. I can't imagine that DC will become my home. I was born in New England, grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college in Upstate New York, lived in NYC, and here I am in DC. Maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe there's no need to define myself by where I live.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hello From the Beach

Greetings from the Hamptons. I'm here visiting relatives for the week.

Today, on the side of the road, I saw a shoe. But not just an old sneaker.

I'm pretty sure this was a suede Gucci loafer.

It's a whole different world out here.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Puppy Playdate

My friend Mary brought her cocker spaniel Beaufort over to play yesterday. He and Wendy seemed to get along well:

Action shot: