Tuesday, January 20, 2009

O Is For....

So far I've avoided the predicted Inauguration crowds. I was surprised on Saturday morning in Georgetown, between 10 a.m. to 12 by not seeing pedestrians and very little traffic on the road. Sleeping off that 4 a.m. final bar call? Dupont Circle? Equally empty. Yet later I read Cher was hitting Sephora for $1,000 in bronzer. I whipped around doing my regular errands. This may be an Inaugaration Week, but to a Washingtonian it's still putting gas in the car, picking up the dry cleaning and going to the grocery store. It's me doing my laundry during the Inaugural address.

I've had the television on all morning, watching minutes fly by to see Obama leave Blair House, while making clam dip and washing my food processor. Listening to the story of the changing of the flag from one President to the other, I was also listing things to sell on Amazon. Someone in Korea wants Return of the Living Dead.

Mein F├╝hrer! I can walk!

A friend in San Francisco instant messaged me asking about the crowds. I'm laying low, Lisa. As I write, a woman just went into cardiac arrest. The newscaster said, "We hope the crowds realize that this is an ambulance trying to get in to help the woman and not a shuttle bus." Apparently the ambulance couldn't get in without a struggle, but what floored me is this credo of "there will be no dead air. Dead visitors, yes." I heard Tom Brokaw compare the image of Dick Cheney in a wheelchair to Dr. Strangelove. Broadcast anchors could learn much from orators about the power of the pause. Now I'll never be able to get rid of that image.

I decided to get out early yesterday and bypass that holiest of holies, Whole Foods, and go to what I call the Poor People's Shopper's Food Warehouse. After yesterday, I will be calling it Cell Block 5 Shopper's.

When I pulled into the parking lot, I thought "Luck. Not many cars, not crowded inside"--and it wasn't. I got through produce without too much incident. Navel oranges 10 for 10. The usual parents pushing their kid in that germ ladden kiddie car which I neatly skirted. When I got into the bakery, I saw this group of five men, all of them with that hard time on the line stare, wearing a mish mash of army jackets, navy caps, all of them leaning on the cart or shelves for support and obviously drunkedy drunk drunk.
They kept chanting "O-BA-MA...O-BA-MA," only it changed with each utter: slurred, twisted, OH-BEY-MEH, and then hysterical laughing. Even funnier, they had a list. Party at Halfway House? Maybe they broke out of the D.C. Jail for the day to go get their party food. I saw a show once about Cook County Jail in Chicago. That's where I learned you can fry bacon and bologna on your metal bunk. You lift the mattress off: instant grill.

A lot of those full carts were having parties. I asked. Cheetos, frozen chicken wings, every junky food you could think of. I saw an odd young woman and man walk through; pale white skin, pale red hair. Brother and sister? Twins? Their eyes looked so "odd" you had to wonder "Crystal meth?" "Cult?" A lot of people had strange eyes in that market. I felt like walking the aisles with my back to the food; the classic Jesse James in a bar stance. Protect your back.

*This in from friends at the Hawk and Dove. They tried walking in to the Capitol grounds from their Capitol Hill home this morning and hit one barricade after another. After enough twisting and turning, they all headed over to the Hawk and Dove on Pennsylvania Avenue to watch from there.*

Further on in the grocery store, I turned down an aisle to get some Kleenex. Three Hispanic young men, tatted to Juarez and back were standing in the center of the aisle. No cart. All of them glaring at me, like a dare to even come near them or ask them to move. MS-13. In that neighborhood, bodies have been found with missing parts. Laborers sleeping under trees? Bye bye head, the machete being the preferred weapon of choice. It's not unusual to read in the news, "The torso....." If you go into a drive-through at McDonald's, there might be a finger in the fries.

I'm afraid I was in one of my moods, just wanting to get out of the market at that point, and I kept pushing forward, glaring right back at them, focusing on the nastiest one, thinking, "Fuck you, Hor-Hay. How dare you stink eye me? Get out of my way, or I will plow you." (Rather foolhardy in retrospect, given I could have been left in ribbons in the parking lot.) I told a friend from New York this story, and she told me about the time she was leaving a halfway house (where she served on the board and volunteered) and some of the residents were drunkenly lurching around, not moving out of her way, talking trash, and she pushed through and said "Yes. Excuse you! (pause) Gentlemen AND addicts, I see." She explained , "I don't know what happened. Sometimes the New York comes out in me." I guess D.C. came out in me.

Further along I was in the soft drink aisle and an arm reached around me, while calling back to her companion, "Does it really matter what flavor we get?" I gasped. Here I was in front of Rock Creek Cherry-Orange-Grape-Peach-Tiger Ale paradise, and she dismisses the selection of these fine sparking spirits? Where was Lil' Wayne with a sommelier's wine cup around his neck, ready to discourse on the vino vitae of Fanta Strawberry over Stewart's Orange.

I don't think I've ever been in a market where the vast percentage of people seems like they just got out of gen pop. After I was telling the MS-13 story later in the evening to another friend, he said, "I just have to ask. What aisle did this take place in?" I said, "Aisle 10. TOILET PAPER." "Oh."

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Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Shoppers Warehouse is some kind of weird alternate reality.

Cheney as Dr. Strangelove? OMG. I LOVE this. Thank you. Thank you very much.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

It was definitely some weird alternate universe, Reya. Everyone's face looked like they should be behind bars. Very discomforting to be in there.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Hammer said...

Jon Stewart made a Cheney as Blofeld reference in tonight's show and photoshopped a furry white cat on his lap.


Glad to hear you didn't have to go for your shiv. Looking forward to things getting "normal" around here again.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Hammer: Oddly enough, I'm re-reading all of Ian Fleming this week, so am totally digging the Blofeld reference. Cheney possesses all of the qualities of a top rate villian, so it's not surprising. I've had a few friends query "Do you think he did it on purpose to draw attention to himself?" (the wheelchair.) I don't think one person felt sympathy for him. My question is...he injured himself the day before with packing? Why wasn't he already fully packed at this late date? He's packing the day before he has to get his ass out of there? Last night on the news they showed Bush back in Texas announcing he's going to write a book. Probably the sequel to that book he was reading on 9/11.

5:12 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

The idea that Cheney might lift a box, let alone fill one, boggles the mind.

The great news is THEY ARE GONE!

Unlike you I travelled back to my old haunts to stay with friends near Eastern Market and am thrilled to be back and delighted to be on the Mall with 2 million or so new friends for all the festivities. Was I cold? You betcha! Did I care? Not much. :)

11:48 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Kate: I'm so glad you had a good time. Reya of Gold Puppy who lives near the Capitol didn't make it in, and I have friends that live near Reya (and I think she met them once,) who also didn't make it, and both left around 8-ish. I'm D.C. born so even though I understood the historical importance of this day, I'm glad I didn't go, because I knew I wouldn't have wanted to deal with the crowds and transportation issues. The worst I attended (and this is when I worked on the Hill) was Reagan II. That was a full blown blizzard.

12:24 PM  
Blogger Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Who would have thought that going to a grocery for a few items would end up with a great story. I'm going to have to think about that next time I'm shopping. Maybe it was the odd day that caused this. Going to my Whole Foods tomorrow to see if I can get a good story out of the visit. But like you said Whole Foods is a bit different...
What a great story!!!

11:46 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Lizzy: I find there are great stories anywhere in society: getting your car registered at the DMV, a Hispanic baby sucking straight from a Pepsi bottle in Dunkin' Donuts with his mother prouldly proclaiming the kid's first word was "Coke." Atlanta or Bogota? Yanno? What a world.

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoppers Warehouse = Prison Pantry? Jailhouse Junket? Life is an adventure for you, Cube. I can hardly wait to see where you shop for Superbowl (PuppyBowl) supplies -- a Dollar Store, perhaps? Don't forget to get your bologna for the DC Lock-up sandwich special.

-- grince

11:29 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

The mother must be from the South, Cube.

Just like here, no matter what softdrink you wish to purchase, it is always referred to as "Coke"...likewise, any narcotic is simply referred to as "coke".

"I'll have a coke, please."
"Will methadone be okay?"
"Ummm..no thanks - I'll just have prescription pain killers if you got 'em."

12:49 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Phil: As I've told you before, when you're from the South, everything is "nerve medicine" which is a catch-all for narcotics including Coca Cola.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

Sounds like quite an experience, Cube.

Grocery shopping here in lower slower Delaware can be an experience, too, but of a different sort. On season, you have the tourists from DC, Philly, Jersey, etc., loading up for their weekend stay. Off season, you have the locals, some of which can be nearly as scary LOOKING as the dudes you came in contact with.

Fashion sense is a whole 'nother ballgame here, that's for damn sure.

10:50 AM  

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