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 Führer! 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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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Confessing To Buddha

I confess. I told a lie. Last night I was taking pictures in Whole Foods, and a young man came running up to me, waving his arms and saying, "You can't take pictures in Whole Foods! We don't allow it!"
Well. I've been taking pictures inside Whole Foods for some time.

I said to him, "Oh? I was fascinated with this. What is it?" "A Buddha's Hand," he said, so I asked him more about this grotesque fruit, nodding in fascination, not telling him I knew all about this odd member of the citrus family.
Do they have confession in Buddhism? Tell it to the hand.

“After coming into contact with a religious man, I always feel I must wash my hands” ~~Friedrich Nietzsche

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Happy Birthday, Danger Man

Today is my friend Steven's birthday, a man I've known since college years. We met in a record shop in Georgetown, standing in the same aisle. He started asking me about an album that was in the cutout bin. Did I know anything about it? I did. He was just getting ready that weekend to become a dj on a local college radio station, and we sat that afternoon in his basement apartment, making up a songlist for the three hours he would be on the air. He still has that notebook of that show and other shows.

Steven told me everything back then. Everything. More than I wanted to know. He used to call me his "priest" with a vow of silence on his love life, much like Seinfeld's "vault." With my elephant memory, I do dredge up a story or two now to needle him with on the telephone. He laughs and says, "Now, now. That wild youth is staid responsibility. Back in our college days, he always wore this old beat-up brown leather coat with a leather belt. He made women laugh, and trust me, laughter goes far with women.

He had spent part of his youth living in Lahore, Pakistan and he wore a Sikh bracelet (still does, never takes it off.) and he had this whole childhood thing about "Danger Man." It had been a British drama show in the sixties, Steve grew up in Pakistan with an international group of children that brought odd ideas and expressions into their play. I know one inside joke he played out with his Sarajevo born friend, Sven, was "dangermen" (said heavily accented.) They used the expression a lot acting out all these childish dramas and over time it became an insider joke.

It seemed like Steve always needed to be outside the norm. He idolized Henry Miller's tramp existence in Paris: the poverty, the womanizing, the liberation from being pigeonholed. He ran wild. There was a tuck shop across the street from the campus, run by an older couple, and I remember Steve going in there once and stealing a snack bag of peanuts. The old lady approached him and said, "I saw what you did," and he punched his finger in the pocket of his jacket, like he had a gun, and he said, "You see this? You report this, and I will come back and get you." It sounds crazy repeating this now, but there was this whole persona of being politicially uncorrect and "not hip" about Steve because he was somehow beyond hip: an outlaw. He snuck into the women's dorm and created a lock down with security guards chasing him on every floor. He got away. Let others listen to the Grateful Dead. He could discourse for hours on the Ultimate Spinach's "Hip Death Goddess" or a rare "B" side of a Joe Meek production only released in the U.K.

For years he would do a "Pak" accent and carry on these dialogues about "berry good" and pretending to be an immigrant doofus in D.C. I decided to go back to this youth when I made his birthday card. I chose a colored paper quite literally the color of rich golden brown curry powder. On the front I printing out in Algerian font "¿Who Is...?" and then a cut out of the opening screen of Danger Man (a great black and white shot with the Capitol in it.) Inside was a picture of an old protesting Pak man being carried through the streets of Lahore with his glasses opaquely glaring in the sun and his raised fist, and opposite I wrote, "Carry on Danger Man....or Be Carried." The envelope was the same paper, and on the back I had a spy silouette as a seal.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

January 3, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

January 2, 2009

I have this longstanding habit. When I get stuck in a grocery store line, I pick up a tabloid and open to it's most lurid story and leave it open for other shoppers. I have no idea why I do this.

I went outside and saw another failed business. CheeZe Home. The owner/manager came outside, staring at me. I waved. He dialed on his cell phone. I walked to my car and got in. He acted like he was writing down my license plate number. I mean. Who am I? A retail spy for Stix N Stuff?

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