DC in 24 Hours

Lots of people like to make lists of places to go/things to do in DC*, but the problem is that a lot of them aren’t feasible in the short time that most people have to visit because more than a couple things need a lot of time like museums, are places where you need to wait for tickets, or you need to contact your Senator or Representative to get a special tour.  There’s plenty to do in DC, but lists are easy. I’m going to give you a plan. A crazysexycool tour of the city as if you only had 24 hours to do it.

Prepare to unleash the hounds!

To be honest, while I’ve been to most of these places, I’ve never done them on a schedule like this. I don’t know about you, but we’re assuming some highly improbable things about my stamina. It’s entirely possible that I would need a nap before noon, but the main point is to list all these fun places to visit. Read the rest of this entry »

Random DCenes: Just Beat It

You won’t find Malcolm X Park on any map of DC. Only long time locals call Meridian Hill Park that. And it’s on Sundays where you’ll find the legendary drum circle.

On really nice days in the summer, you’ll find dozens of drummers playing to hundreds of onlookers including a number of dedicated African dancers.

On a chillier late winter day like last Sunday, only the die hards are out. You can count them all on your two gloved hands.

It’s easy to get caught up in the thunder of up to 50 drummers playing at a time, but with more intimate numbers, you can enjoy the interplay between the musicians. What they lack in people they make up in enthusiasm.

On this particular day I catch the leader of the group in an especially whimsical mood, yelling and jawing over the din of the rhythmic rumble. He playfully riffs on familiar songs despite or maybe because he doesn’t quite know all the words to them.

This song starts off with some James Brown. Then into Stevie Wonder. We hear the end of “Do I Do” right before he launches into a mini-Michael Jackson medley.

Unfortunately, my camera battery dies before his Sesame Street tribute.

Check out the Facebook page for this blog for daily updates of fun and interesting video and blog links.

Random DCene: Ultimate Showdown

I go up to the counter to pay for my hot chocolate. The cashier asks if I want to buy a bag of coffee grinds. She catches me at a bad moment. Instead of smiling and simply replying, “No, thank you,” I dead pan  “I hate coffee” deliberately overlooking the irony of our location.

She smiles undaunted and replies instantly “Surely you must have some friends that enjoy coffee.”  Not a question.  A statement.

I briefly consider spitting out “I don’t have any friends,” but I’m not playing a lone gun for hire. Instead I make my stand on privelidge and scorn. “I don’t socialize with any of those kinds of people.” I draw out the word “those” as if it’s 1961 and no one has marched on Selma, Alabama yet.

We lock eyes. She knows no upselling will happen this day, at this transaction, but there’s a pause as if she’s considering another try just to piss me off. I already have a line at the ready. Something inappropriate involving  dead puppies. I’m hoping, daring her to go there because I’m already here.

Then she smiles. The damning truth is evident.  She’s already won. “That’ll be $3.69 please” she smirks.    I curse under my breath as I realize that this game was over long before the coffee grinds gambit.

I squeeze my credit card in despair. I consider taking out the twenty in my wallet just to make her break it. But the truth is clear. I’m the one that’s broken.

“Would you like a receipt?” she chirps. Her finger on the register ready to produce a physical token of my defeat.

“No.” A beat.  “Thank you.” I gather up what’s left of my dignity. I shuffle off to get my drink, wondering where the cute cashier is today.

Random DCenes: How To Talk to Anyone

DC is known as one of the bloggiest cities in the US.  Walk into any coffee shop and it’s not much of a surprise. I spend most of my time in big name bookstore coffee places because most independent cafés are packed with unemployed hipsters hogging all the outlets.  Downtown bookstores tend to attract more casual visitors and tourists, so even when it is crowded, it doesn’t take long for a spot to open up.

There are regulars though.  Definitely not the kind that spent last night at Fatback or the back room of The Black Cat.  I’m sitting across the room from a guy reading a book called “How to Talk To Anyone,” and honestly,he looks like he needs it.   Still, there are four guys wearing all black as I take a quick peek over the screen of my lap top.

Hold on.

Just had to move my stuff to a table close to an electrical outlet.  My mood brightens with the screen and my eyes thank me.

The self help guy is chatting up an employee picking up discarded books from empty tables.  The gentleman blathers about being on Twitter and Facebook and all the projects he’s thinking of.  Bookstore Guy nods politely before unceremoniously pulling himself out that vortex of small talk, leaving the guy to crack open a book that, from here, looks like it says “The Ethical Slut.”

That guy who shot up the Discovery Channel Building earlier this year?  I sat next to him a few times.  Hard not to notice a guy who takes out several bricks of bank wrapped dollar bills.  That was a dude screaming for attention, which he inevitably got when someone would ask him about all the cash.  His schtick was offering money to people to read books by Daniel Quinn.  I once dated a woman who tried to get me into Quinn. Read the rest of this entry »

Random DCene: Yes We Can

Reggie lived in the alcove of a rarely used building next to mine for quite a few years.  He was always hustling for cash; whether it was by washing  cars, pointing out available parking spaces to the visiting suburbanites, or just hanging out on the corner.

He was usually very friendly.  I think I saw him more than I did most other neighbors.  We always said hello to each other. He was there for years, I think even before I moved there.  Although I give money to homeless people on occasion, I never gave him anything partially out of my own financial situation and partially not to encourage him as we saw each other almost every day.

One day we started to go through the motions of our usual interaction when he just exploded at me for never giving him any change.  He cursed me out and accused me of being selfish.  It was a pretty unusual outburst.  We just stared each other down.  Me mostly out of surprise before I told him that I just didn’t have anything on me.

I left that encounter a little disturbed because I had been contemplating the concept of selfishness at that time, but not in the same sort of context.  Still, it gave me some more things to think about.  In appreciation I cooked a whole meal for Reggie the next day.  I just gave it to him without a word.  There were no apologies or thanks exchanged.

The next time I saw him he thanked me and told me a little bit about his life.  His family was gone and he had no one to turn to.   We shook hands for the first time in eight years.

He disappeared not long after that.  He did that from time to time, but eventually weeks became months and I feared the worst.

I went to go vote on Election Day back in 2008, and after I came out of the voting station I ran into Reggie in front of a shelter.  We shook hands again and he told me he was getting his life together.  He asked me to tell the folks in my building that he was doing alright.

I just spoke with my ANC commissioner today.  She was gathering up signatures to put her on the ballot again this fall, and she told me that she spoke to some of my neighbors who relayed the news that Reggie had come by our building recently.  He was in a suit and told everyone about his job and how he was about to get a car.  He wanted to thank everyone for letting him live in those bushes next door to us for all those years.

Random DCene(s): The Lion or the Squirrel?

Anyone that lives in DC for any amount of time has a squirrel story.  I have several including one where I was pickpocketed by one and another that involves the word threesome.  I’ll save those for another day.

This weekend, I was walking through the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial when I ran into some very friendly squirrels.  Or hungry.  It’s usually the latter, but like a lot of people in DC, they’ve learned to mask their true motivations behind a thin veneer of furry charm.  My camera phone documents what happened next.

Times like this I wish I had a real camera.  You’ll have to forgive the picture quality here since the camera on my phone isn’t that fancy.  It doesn’t even have a zoom feature, so these shots were taken pretty close. These squirrels were either very fearless or incredibly vain.

You can see a squirrel trying to sneak up to my artsy shot.  We’ll call him Derek. Read the rest of this entry »

Everyone is Doing It.

via Obamarama.  Check out the caption there.  That’s right. Even Obama wanders and ponders.   That’s how we roll in DC.

It’s Monday.  Boo-Ya!

Random DCenes: A Good Day

North Side of the US Capitol in Russell Senate Park this afternoon by the reflecting pool at the end of North Capitol Street.

She’s in a strapless wedding dress with a long flowing train that she’s holding bunched up in her hands so it doesn’t touch the ground.   She’s flanked by three of her girlfriends casually dressed in shirts and jeans.  One of them falls behind as she checks her camera.

He’s in a tuxedo.  White tie and white vest.  He jogs up ahead of the group a few steps, jumps up onto and richochets off of a park bench into a heel click.  He tries to keep walking like nothing happened, but looks and smiles back at the soon to be bride.

The friend with the camera figures something out and yells something in Korean as she runs to catch up with the rest of the group.

Random DCenes: Triggers

Metro Center. February 13, 2010 at about 6:00 pm.

I saw a woman on the metro platform stretching out her hip in the same way a friend of mine does.  My friend actually just had surgery on it, so I briefly wondered if the older woman in front of me had the same kind of problem.

She was with her family; her husband or significant other and their teenage daughter.  A homeless man came by offering people some pitiful looking short branches that looked like he just plucked them off of a snow covered bush from outside.  The gentleman in the family took one and the mother took another.  I didn’t see if they offered anything in return, but I did catch them later trying to adorn their daughter with them.  She had pigtails, but from her stance and her age, you could tell she was wearing them to be ironic in a budding hipster kind of way.  She was not interested in the shrubbery.

I followed them into an Orange line train where they sat behind two young women.  They were about college age.  I stared a little bit longer than I should have because one of them reminded me of a woman I see at dances around town from time to time.  After deciding that it wasn’t her,  I turned my gaze away and onto a woman standing by the door opposite me.

For a moment I thought I was looking at a woman I knew in high school who I had just friended on Facebook not too long ago.  I sat in front of Dervilla for four years in various honors classes.  Class valedictorian and Homecoming Queen.  Neither assertive nor meek, but incredibly pleasant to talk to even during stressful exam weeks.  She was one of those girls that was almost too perfect to have a crush on.  Did I mention that she was a redhead?

This new woman on the metro had light brown hair and was 10 years too young to be Derv.  She didn’t notice my lingering gaze because she was distracted by the antics of the two college girls.  I turned to get a faceful of flash from the large camera one of them was now using.  They giggled as they started to take what were probably meant to be artsy pictures of each other.

I turned back to the direction of not-Dervilla.  She was smiling as if caught up in a memory of her own.  I followed her gaze as we pulled out of another stop.  One of the college girls took over a vacated seat in front of the other so they had more room to pose and take pics.  Flashes came at a steady pace, and I had to turn away before they caught my disapproving eyebrow in one of their pictures.

The light brown haired woman that reminded me of high school was still smiling, but her eyes were doing something different.  They were straining.  She was still remembering something, but it wasn’t hard to see that it was not a completely happy thought.

Another stop passed and it became apparent that she was trying very hard keep herself composed.  I tried to look elsewhere, but my gaze kept coming back to her.  She didn’t notice.  She was lost in something that was obviously painful, but there was something about it that still caused a smile to break through her now quivering lips.

I felt guilty for witnessing this very intense and personal moment.  I thought about saying something; maybe even offering the packet of tissues in my pocket.  She wasn’t crying, but she was getting very close.

Then I thought better of approaching her in the same way you would think twice about jumping into the middle of a tense game of Jenga; not wanting to be the one to upset the tenuous balance in front of me.  I wanted to respect her effort to keep it together, but it didn’t look like that was going to last much longer.

The flash bulb from the camera kept going off as she eventually turned to face the door.  She was intent on getting out at the next stop.  I hoped that it was the one she wanted.  I could still see the reflection of her face in the window.  She needed to get out even if it wasn’t.

Finally the doors opened and let her go.

Random DCenes: Dark Eyes . . . Toniiight

I wandered through the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial on my way to Chinatown last night.  I do that often enough that it didn’t take me very long to notice how unusually bright it was.  I noticed them replacing many of the light fixtures around the memorial not long ago.  Apparently it’s been a long time coming, because not only was everything brighter, but light was coming from little niches that I didn’t even know were supposed have them.

As I popped out of the other side, I noticed that F St. by the Verizon Center was blocked off.  Judging from the police and tents, I thought  that it was some sort of emergency preparedness drill until I spotted skate boarders casually rolling past the tents.

Flashback to about a year ago, doing the same walk and finding the same scene.  Not nearly as pleasant as it was last night. Raining lightly, but heavy enough to warrant an umbrella.  The sounds of Fats Waller’s band playing the moody “Dark Eyes” on my ipod.

As I approached the tents, I smelled them before I noticed them moving.  Horses.  Lots of them.  A sign for the Washington International Horse Show hung on the fence separating the passerby’s from the makeshift corrals.

I stopped for a moment under a street lamp and got a better view of those handsome creatures.  I made eye contact with one of them and I forgot where I was going for a moment, wondering what I was looking at.  Fatigue?  Sadness?

Back to last night.  I’m greeted by the same scene.  Horses at rest.  Humans at work.  Stalking the stalls, shuffling hay, checking out the competition.

No ipod for me , but I still hear music as I approach the metro.  Less Russian inspired Harlem jazz, but instead more like early 80’s r & b.

“Toniiiiiight I celebrate my lovvvve for you . . .”

There’s something off.  It’s not a recording.  Someone is singing.  And not very well.

I round the corner into the metro entrance to find a guy playing a keyboard on the sidewalk.  A Middle-aged Asian man.  He’s singing a duet with a much older black gentleman whose reading words from over the piano players shoulder.  A similarly older Asian woman tries to get me to stop.  She doesn’t need to waste energy since the sheer surrealness of it all keeps me from ignoring them.  Its only when she tries to convince me to sing the next song that I snap out of it to peel myself away and hit the escalator down.

“What I want most to doooooo
Is to get close to yoooooou

Toniiiiiiiight . .  .”

« Older entries