Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alone Again

JBO came back last Sunday - he had been gone for a month - but he left again today, leaving me alone for another 3 weeks. I wonder what I'll do with my time, this time, since something tells me I won't go through the hours of TV and bad chick-flicks again. I'm different. I've changed. I still have a few big tasks to attend to, actually. And my little brother is coming to D.C. next week for his first big trip out of the small town where we were born. Still, three weeks is plenty of time for... life to happen, I guess. Look at all the living that's happened since I went to Buenos Aires in April. And in three-week increments, coincidently. July 15th... it's a lot to look forward to.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fridays Make Me Want to Watch a Movie

I'm guessing that many of you out there have to find a pretty darn good reason to say you've had it with this crazy week, you're spent, it was fun and all... but see ya, I'm heading home to watch a movie. I, of course, without boss or coworkers to answer to, may do so if I so please. After all, I was a champ this week. I got some serious shit done, and so much in fact that my assistant (iPhone) says he can cancel my appointments for the rest of the day. That means I get to lay around and watch a movie this afternoon, guilt-free, in my underwear, thankyouverymuch.

Having a flexible schedule is the custard-cream filling of any freelance existence, and the reason we put up with the epochs of poverty and blows to our fragile self-esteem. In my ex-job, I remember spending hours just staring at my computer, too fried to even move or decide what to do next. I don't know if it's the field I used to work in, a phenomenon of the nonprofit world, or a hiring stipulation of my then-company to work to the point of delirium, but I did it. And so did my friends. We could be found in the building until 7, 8pm... which is to say we were either working too hard or taking too long to get things done.

I can admit that now, in retrospect, because there is a crucial part of understanding personal productivity that comes with working your own gigs on your own schedule: Time is money. No, actually, it's something else: It's easy to do what you love. Or wait, I think it's more that: Many full-timers perform nonsense to fill certain 8-hour days, work like maniacs until midnight on others, and still can't take a goddamn afternoon off once in a while just because they feel like it.

Also, oxygen and sunlight are pretty nice things to have. My health collapsed at one point last year, and I had horrible back pain, headaches, I slept a lot during the weekends, called in sick, and experienced some depression, I think. Nothing was happening in the rest of my life--my life was work. A chiropractor informed me I spent too much time looking at my computer which was just a hair to the right. He gave me a shot of steroids and a prescription for more activity during the day, especially outdoors. Since I needed to be at my desk in case a supervisor came by ("Where were yooou at?" they'd say, with an accusing smile), I didn't take the daily walks I should have and things got worse.

I recently learned that lower-class monkeys who were given the option of high-fat foods overindulged while the leaders, despite being given the same choices, took the healthy, low-calorie snacks. Scientists believed this was a sign of stress eating, since the lower-class monkeys often had to submit to the whims of these rulers, and give up their cozy patch of grass or food on demand. There were no other variables to explain the different eating habits. Just that stress had pushed them to an eating disorder.

I went to see an acupuncturist who undid the damage of the steroid shot and restated that if I didn't get daily activity and fresh air, that I was the one to blame, I had to make the time, and to just do it already. So near the end, I started going for tea, like, 5 times a day and went to the gym at lunch. Telling my boss I had gone for a "walk" was out of the question, but tea and even the gym were things that other workers were doing, so I could do them, too... kind of like the way I've heard people smoke for the guilt-free outdoor breaks.

The kicker is, I went back to work so energized that I was unbelievably productive, and I got out of there at a more reasonable hour as each day went by. So let's see: I was taking breaks during the day, I was leaving work "early"-er than before though still full-time, and I was healthy, happy, and not only finishing my work but coming up with new ideas. Every reason for a boss to hate my guts. If I was not working the same amount or more hours than my boss did, than it was easy to believe that I was not "working hard." I guess this was probably like those monkeys asking for their patch of grass back because they need grass too, you know.

Which brings me to the problem here: Guilt. Worker's guilt runs rampant, it's serious, and it needs to be acknowledged for what it is: Unwarranted, toxic and a contradiction in terms. If you work hard and find a little balance in your life and you become even better at your job, it seems crazy that you should feel bad about it. And you probably don't... Unless someone is telling you should be.

Now, when I feel guilty, it's because I'm slacking, I know it, and I deserve it. Because I say so. So I'll watch a movie this afternoon... and I hope you can, one day, too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lobster Rolls - Tackle Box

When I first learned about Tackle Box, the new (and “first”) lobster shack in D.C. and sister business to neighbor Hook, I remembered my time in Maine two summers ago and my daily trips for lobster rolls. I was there for a week long film workshop and met a girl from Mexico City, who then joined me on any excuse to leave campus daily, even if it meant forgoing our free lunch. We found a convenience store down a two-lane highway close to town, and there on the other side of the parking lot was a little wooden structure no bigger than two parking spots with a big sign that said, “Lobster Rolls!”

Neither one of us had eaten a lobster rolls before but somehow we instinctively knew this was heaven. More a hotdog than, say, a round dinner roll, the bread looks like a slice of white bread specially baked as if it had been folded in half and sealed at the bottom, like a hotdog bun. It’s then stuffed with large chunks of white lobster tail that have been mixed with a light mayonnaise dressing and eaten as is. The filing was warm and the bun was perfectly toasty, a feat that amazed us, as it seemed that each had just been cooked the minute we arrived.

Lobster is plentiful in the area, and at $14 dollars a roll, the meal was excellent and affordable. After the amazing quality, the humble outside argues that a few planks of wood, some pots, and good ingredients can deliver great food to the masses. Like the taco stand and halal cart, the lobster shack is a fundamental eatery that isn’t duplicated enough.

Especially in DC, which was my first attraction to Tackle Box. I didn’t believe the lobster would be as good as our lobster shack in Maine, which likely fished their lobster that morning from the bay 15 miles away. I imagine higher quality seafood at Hook next door or superior lobster rolls at Hanks Oyster Bar or Kinkead’s. Better yet, why not opt for the local favorite lobster burger at Central if you’re looking to feed your lobster craving.

What the Tackle Box offers is the nostalgia and setting to eat lobster differently: lobster is wonderful, but it’s just food after all, and you can have it any time you want to. I rode my bike to west M Street in Georgetown after running some errands and didn’t worry about what I was wearing or how long this would take. The rolls had thin strips of meat and were filled sparingly – a predictable disappointment – but still delicious. The sweet potato fries (the roll comes with house cut fries, though they allowed the substitute this time) were fried to the point of brittleness, unfortunately. I had hoped for a more natural and unique hole-in-the-wall quaintness, but the place felt a bit more like a cross between Chipotle and Potbelly, two very well known chains.

Tackle Box boasts a frequently changing menu of sustainable seafood, and currently offers several of sides, like mac & cheese, grilled asparagus and even chorizo hot dogs. Though the most exciting feature of Tackle Box have to be the lobster pots to go, which include Maine lobster, oysters, mussels, chorizo, potatoes and corn. Just add water and boil. The various possibilities and no-frills aspect of picking up a quick bite of seafood are enough to bring me back for more, and hope other similar dives are soon to follow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Capital Pride in Dupont

For the last week, multi-colored flags have been going up all along 17th street and the neighborhood is bubbling with excitement. It's all for this weekend's Capital Pride parade - which winds through Dupont, and will come complete with parade floats, a wax figure of Elton John, and Bruce Vilanch as Grand Marshall. I haven't been to the parade in the past - as a local who doesn't keep track of serious events, I end up planning a simultaneous grocery day that goes nowhere - but like the High Heeled Drag Race, it's a community must. I will definitely check it out this year.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


310 days into my jobless experience, and I have finally developed and executed, on my own, the perfect day. Not an average day or a miserable, useless day... but a glorious, simple, focused, exciting, ideal day. What is ideal, you ask?

One where I:
  • Accomplish significant things
  • Take advantage of the day
  • Get money (income, yeah!)
  • Finish my To-Do list
  • Eat good food
  • Spend a significant time outside
  • Learn something new
  • Do something generous
  • Have an afternoon siesta
  • Do yoga
Whether it takes 10 months to get into the groove of working "freelance," at home, on my own schedule with my own plans... or I've just been pre-occupied/retarded/lazy... I do not know.

All I can say is: There does come a time when all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, the clouds part and the path ahead is clear, brain waves dance, buddhas sing, mountains move and snowballs finally start rolling.

It's because I like to plan. Planning is good. Planning is fun. I plan for weeks, months, years, even, depending on the circumstance, but long enough to say "I'm going to do this" and try it on, see if it fits. For instance, I began planning to move to D.C. a year an a half before I got here. I've been planning to apply to grad school since last April. I've been planning to plant flowers all week.

Today, plans - BIG plans - were executed. Step one. I then had coffee and read three newspapers, outside, in the amazing morning air. Step two. Momma got paid! Step three. I did EVERY errand on my list, including mailing my dad a father's day card... I've never mailed a card to anyone in my family, they're reserved for the special occasions when I'm in town... but things are changing! Step four. I ate a lobster roll - that magical food! - a red velvet cupcake, and sushi, all in one day. Step five. I was out the door by 10 (after working since 7) and spent most of the day running errands and eating, outside, on my bike, in a skirt (with shorts underneath, for safety). Steps two and six. I then learned how to control the mosquito empire that invaded my entry way (lemon juice), buried a dead bird, and kicked ass in yoga. Steps seven, eight and ten. Okay... I missed out on the siesta - Step nine - because siesta time went to a last minute trip to Kinkos (Step one) - but I was so close, and the day was so good, let's just say it happened.

All this, and "getting a job" wasn't even on the list. No word back still, but today, I did do what I said I would do, all my chips in, and now I know it's meant to be or not, and I'm ready for it.

Perfect, no?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

R.I.P. - Little Bird

I buried a little bird today, which was very sad, because I had just spoken with it yesterday when I found it, alive and chirping, on my walkway... but I sensed a little anxiety at being so close to a big-person, and probably the first big-person it had spoken with. So I said goodbye and wished it luck as it tried to fly again or whatever.

This morning, I found it in the rain gutter. I knew I should have gone back out to check on it later in the day, feed it some bread or a bug or something. And then the storm last night! That rain must have been too much for it's little bird wings.

I once did a short film about a dead bird. It was called Pticka ("little bird" in Bulgarian). Well, really, it was about how the murder of a little bird affected a young boy and, as a man, he goes into a mass-murdering frenzy. It was a horror flick.

Ciao, little bird.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ideas As They Occur

Bad Idea: Riding my bike to Georgetown wearing jeans during a heat advisory.
Good Idea: Stopping at Dolcezza for chocolate amargo, avocado and lemon gelato. Mmmm!

Bad Idea: Watching Sex and the City, the movie.
Good Idea:
Watching Sex and the City, the movie.... and bringing the new David Sedaris book to occupy the surplus 45-minutes.

I wish I could wear shorts. I don't like to wear shorts and I really don't know why (it probably has something to do with my hips, my skinny ankles, cargo short flashbacks, feeling like a boy when I wear shorts and sneakers, etc.). And I can't wear a skirt on a bike, at least not without a lot of paranoia and top-drawer underwear, but the jeans are just killing me. I have one pair of shorts, but they're short-shorts, which I bought to wear over tights two years ago when that look was "in fashion." Capris are fine, but in what fabric? And linen/thin cotton slacks could result in embarrassing sweaty-seat. I've given up walking for biking, even if it means exerting a little extra energy, so I can get back to air conditioning before I melt or die. I'm not made for swamp weather, I'm afraid. I just hadn't expected to revisit my short phobia because of it.

Speaking of sweating, I'm still waiting to hear back about that job. Luckily, I'm plotting a tenth-frame strike-out, all my chips in, final sprint to the finish kind of comeback. I just hope it works and I don't make a fool of myself. What's the worst that could happen, right?

Monday, June 9, 2008


This is the earliest I've been awake in ages, so let me take a moment to say that laziness is real, and you may not realize it until you've slept through,like, every episode of Car Talk for a month and curse how things have gone too far.

What I needed was fresh, 8-am air, early, cool-ish, undamp air, so I spent the morning watching the good people of the city head into their respective places of work with a cup of tea and a newspaper to swat away the herd of mosquitoes looking for breakfast. The cat hunted down the morning flock of singing birds. Nature gesticulated. The world turned.

And boy, do those working people look excited! They have stylish sunglasses and colorful skirts and office-appropriate summer shoe wear. I reflect on my first summer in D.C. as a young professional harassed by the heat waves that were as constant at 9 am and 7 pm as my linen separates and Steve Madden flats. Seasonal allergies beckon me back to the present and I marvel at the limitless species of insects I can find in the clover bed alone. I worry the cat is not as bored or as hot as I am. I fantasize about the job I want, how I will 'head to work' by this hour, but I wonder if the the catastrophic scenarios that are causing them to take so long to get back to me will be permanent, and whether a singing telegram falls in the category of "over the top."

I think I'll go in and poach an egg and make some iced tea before yoga. The cat will be under my arm in a moment after she runs to the neighbors bushes to avoid the cool, bug-free, uneventful indoors. Typical. Monday.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

American Cheese

Some friends and I were at the Mayflower yesterday, eating a cheese plate and drinking it up, when we got onto the topic of yummy, artisinal cheeses and the very trendy shop that recently opened in Chinatown. I saw a documentary not long ago about how European-style cheeses weren't produced in U.S. before three or four decades ago. I then explained, "Cheddar is the only cheese we can call American," and a friend said, "No, cheddar is English!"

So am I to understand that we Americans can take credit of the processed, gooey slices of Kraft singles and nothing else?

What a catastrophe! I exclaimed... yet each and every one of my friends noted the unique melting quality of sliced singles and shared their favorite ways to eat it: In a sandwich, in grilled cheese, on top of a cracker, etc.

I found this refreshing somehow, I'm not sure why.

In other news, take a look at what I was surrounded by over the weekend:

My ridiculously cute niece and the ridiculously cute things she would do.

Family is fantastic. And maybe... like American cheese... it's nice to have an option in life that is unpretentious, dependable and sobering.