Thursday, June 29, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
So when the time came for me to eat my first shrimp, I tried to figure out why people fidgeted with the little crustaceans before popping them in their mouths. I recalled a pulling motion, which means something had to be tugged off. I knew it wasn't the tail, cause that's the part that gets discarded back on the plate. I surmised that it must be the legs that get yanked off. So that's what I did - pulled off the legs and popped it into my mouth. That's right - shell and all. I must have missed the part where the shell was removed. It seemed a little crunchy, but then I figured - what do I know??
It wasn't until a few years later (that's right, I said years. I own it, okay??) that I found out that shrimp needed to be deshelled as well. It certainly made them tastier. But with no one to ever explain it to me, how would I ever have known?
Which brings me to my latest culinary foil - edamame.
The BF eats Chinese food about 12 times a week. Specifically, food from Joy's on Broadway. More specifically, the cashew chicken from Joy's on Broadway (he eats so much I swear the man shits feathers and nuts). One day during a phone conversation, as I was kvetching about trying to eat healthier, he introduced me to edamame. Edawhatme? Soy beans in a pod, he says. They are healthy and good for you, and they are tasty. So one night, walking back home from my EL stop, I popped into some random Chinese take-out place and got an order of edamame to go.
With a spring in my step, I confidently walked the rest of the way home secure in the knowledge that I was eating healthier. I got home, opened the container, picked up a pod, looked it over, sniffed it, looked at it again, and just popped the whole thing in my mouth. Admittedly, it didn't taste very good. That pod was tough. And really hard to chew. It took me 15 minutes to finally get it broken down enough to swallow. And there was still a container full of these things!
I wondered how The BF could eat them. I sadly had to toss the entire thing in the trash - bummed that my attempt at healthy eating was now going to drive me to either White Hen or McDonald's for dinner. In a phone conversation later that night, I told The BF about my foils with the soy pods. When I got to the point about how tough they were to chew, he said,
How are you supposed to know this stuff if no one tells you? It's not like edamame, or shrimp for that matter, come with directions on the box. I am sure there are more foods out there that I will be brave enough to try, and then ridiculed for not knowing how to eat them. Such is my life. Trying to eat healthier is going to kill me.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Being the history buff I am, I have read quite a bit about Lincoln, specifically about this 12-day period and even the weeks leading up to it. But in this account, the author introduces me to a few people I had not known of previously, and he is also one of the few historians to actually place blame on Mary Surratt, the boarding house owner where Booth visited to plot a kidnapping that eventually turned into murder, and Dr. Samuel Mudd, the Maryland physician who set Booth's broken leg due to his leap to the stage from Lincoln's balcony seat. Most historians have sympathized with Surratt and Mudd, saying they were just in the wrong places at the wrong times. But Mr. Swanson so convincingly lists the reasons why Surratt and Mudd would have willingly helped the murderer that I now believe they were guilty of aiding and abetting.
I had visited Mudd's house in Maryland (the Surratt Boarding House in DC is now a restaurant in Chinatown) - indeed I had even, one Sunday, followed the route Booth took during this flee from DC on April 15th, 141 years ago (except I did it by car - not on horseback). At Mudd's house, I saw the porch Booth walked upon, the bed he lay in, the windows he would peer out of, and the small hill he would have ridden towards in his quest for asylum in the Confederate state of Virginia. There were times standing in the house, and on the grounds, that I actually got chills.
I really have to wonder what it is about the night of April 15, 1865, and the days that bookend that night, that interest me beyond just fascination. This one event changed everything about America. Had Lincoln lived, how quickly would the South have joined back with the North to make one Union again? How would posterity have viewed Lincoln himself, as he was not well thought of while living and only martyred at death? And would other presidents (Garfield, McKinley, Kennedy) have been assasinated while in office had Booth not fired the first shot, literally?
There are few dates in our country's history that would forever define America and dictate how America would grow as a nation.
All of these dates instigated a manhunt for one reason or another. For me, learning about my country is like learning about my family tree. In order to know who we are, we need to know about those who came before us. To understand why we do what we do, we need to remember those who did it first. History is destined to repeat itself. And there will, unfortunately, be other manhunts in the future. And if the purpose of learning history is for history's sake, I hope that there will be more James Swansons out there so that we never forget.
Monday, June 26, 2006
The doctor I visited tried his hardest to convince me that they were ingrown hairs from shaving. When I told him that I had been shaving for nearly 25 years and could easily recognize an ingrown hair when I saw one, he then suggested that they were probably the onset of adult acne. In so many words, he told me to just get used to them.
After a few more months, I decided to try again - this time with another dermatologist recommended by my super-duper physician. This new dermatologist admitteded openly to not knowing what they were, so he put me on medication for a month as a preventive measure, then took a biopsy of one of the blemishes.
Turns out that my little friends are neither ingrown hairs nor adult acne, but cysts. The doctor doesn't believe that they are dangerous in any way, but I am meeting with him again next week to decide if they should be removed or not. My decision will be based around whether I choose to live with the three scars that will be left behind once I go through the surgery of having them removed, or just deal with the three cysts, which actually will disappear during summer when my skin is darker from the sun.
The "right thing" is to probably have them removed, but then that's a few weeks of bandages on my face. They aren't really hurting anything (except maybe my vanity) and as my sister put it, "you've had enough surgery to last you for awhile". So if pictures start showing up of me with Band-Aids on my face, you'll know what I'd decided to do.
Moreoever, the moral of this story is to always get a second opinion when in doubt. True, this was not life-threatening. But the leap from ingrown hairs to cysts is big enough.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Dolly Parton is a national treasure who reminds us of how easy life can be, and how our greatest resource in America is actually our people, most of the time the people we overlook. Would this amazingly gifted songwriter have even been noticed if it were not for her bodacious endowment? Perhaps not. But in order to make it, and in order to show the world that she had the brains behind the bod, she used what she could, what she had, and perhaps what she acquired along the way.
How can you not love this woman?? She's direct, and despite her appearance, extremely real and honest. When she sings "I will always love you", I believe her every time. And she's at her funniest when her humour is self-deprecating. For example:
I was the first woman to burn my bra - it took the fire department four days to put it out.
I look just like the girl next door...if you happen to live next to an amusement park.
I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know that I'm not dumb. I also know I'm not blonde.
You better believe that if it's saggin', baggin', or draggin', I'm a-gonna have it sucked, plucked or tucked.
I personally think she was robbed at this year's Academy Awards, losing the award for Best Original Song for the movie Transamerica, but she remains one of the country's most prolific songwriters, and is arguably one of America's greatest treasures. She's loved by fans of country music for her roots; by women for her songs about empowerment; by straight men because of her flirtatious nature (and her rack); and by gay men because ... well she's just fabulous. She crosses age groups, cultures, genders and races. If music really does make the people come together, then Dolly is the best DJ there is.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
I found out a few weeks ago that Empower had to close it doors permanently in April.
Upon hearing this news, I was instantly swollen with sadness, anger, disappointment, melancholy, and bewilderment. What could have happened in the last 8 months that would render an organization so broke that it would have to end its business? No cutting back, no layoffs, no payroll reductions. Closed for good.
Back in February, I received an email from the founder telling me that the Board of Directors had to escort the Executive Director out of the office and terminate her employment. At the time, I was told that a new search had begun for her replacement. So I had high hopes that someone would swoop in and help save the organization, just like I had done back in 2002. But I guess it was not to be. After some emails to old co-workers got returned to me with "mailbox full" responses, I emailed the founder and got the news.
The organization was a nonprofit whose mission was to work with youth to end the culture of bullying, hazing, homophobia, and teasing among youth. It was revolutionary. And it was important. And it did good work. And it touched people. And it changed -- and saved -- lives. Maybe that is what I have to take away from this - that I was part of it all. Knowing that so many kids commit suicide because of peer pressure, and that some even take the lives of others for the same reason, I realize how important an organization like this was. Or, rather, still is.
And now those feelings of anger and sadness will creep back into my heart, exactly the place they shouldn't be. I guess I may never really know what went wrong there. But I can rest assured that, for a while, I helped make a difference.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Last Saturday, I had the lowest number of hits to my blog since it began. Only 42 hits all day! At first, I was slightly bothered - wondering if my blog was losing its appeal or if I was perhaps getting stale or pedantic in my writing (pshaw!, I say to that). And then I realized that along with summer comes more outdoor activity, so I am glad that people have better things to do than sit indoors and stare at computer screens (at least that is what I am telling myself). And as today officially marks the beginning of the solstice, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, safe, and most of all fun summer.
Behold, the 2007 Jeep Wrangler. Honestly, I am somewhat ambivalent about it. My fear is that Jeep is selling out. They claim the extended backseat will make your passengers more comfortable. But that was half the fun - cramming your gang in the backseat, half of them hanging out the side. The Wrangler is a sport utility vehicle, not a soccer mom car. The jury is out on this, but so far, it ain't pleased.
Monday, June 19, 2006
1) It's a complete lie. A politician not paying attention to the polls is like me passing a bake sale and not buying anything. In short - in ain't gonna happen. Apparently, Tony Snow thinks that America is still the same stupid country it was a year and a half ago when it re-elected "W". However time will make that abundantly clear this November.
And . . .
2) It tells the American people that the president and the republican congress (who have been chosen by said people to represent them when making decisions) are completely ignoring what the majority of said people want - instead doing what benefits the president and the republican party.
This is nothing new of course. "W" has done exactly what he has wanted to do since he was originally placed into office (this includes planning an attack on Iraq even before 9/11). How can the United States be spreading the ideas and principls of democracy overseas when it is completely ignoring the most basic ideals of democracy at home??
Seventy percent of Iraqi citizens want the US out of their country. And a majority of US citizens want an end to this debacle. However, "W" has given us no end date, no plan to evacuate, and no finality to the number of US soldiers who will continue to die for what THEY believe in - the country's founding principle that the will of the people will prevail. Somewhere, "W" and the republicans have forgotten it's their number one job description.
Isn't it appropriate that the person who speaks for this White House is named "Snow".
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Nice work Ryan! My only question is -
since you, my friend, took the picture, then why the hell wasn't I on the cover?!?
Have a great weekend everyone!
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Let me say on the outset, that it is sad when something that was once great has lost so much of its appeal. An old train station. An abandoned drive-in. A moss-covered antebellum house. Tom Cruise. And it would seem that Heritage Days is heading in that same direction.
What was once a thriving two-day festival has become a weekend event that is slowly dwindling away. I can remember conversations with my folks about how they went to Heritage Days and bought all kinds of things or sketched ideas to re-create in their woodshop (my dad does all the sawing and assembly and my mom does all the painting). This year I walked around with them and absorbed their disappointment over the fact that every year, this festival gets smaller and smaller, with less interest.
I also think that vendors who are selling their wares at these festivals have forgotten that it's a street fair and not a real extension of their businesses. People don't attend events like this to purchase expensive items. It's all about funnel cakes and stuffed animals and arts & crafts. There was one tent where nothing we could find was under $85.00. Where was the tent where I can get my name carved out of wood to use as a keychain for $2.oo?? Where are the painted switchplates for $3.00?? Where was the hot dog/soda combo for $4.00?? My mom bought two orders of fries and a bottled water - it cost her $14.00!
And there was nothing particulary 'heritage-ish' about this festival. No speeches were made (like something about where Cumberland came from and where it's headed), nothing about the history of Cumberland (which is actually steeped in US historical data). At one point, there were two major cities in Maryland - Baltimore and Cumberland. The former is of course nationally recognized as a tourist destination, sponsor of major athletic teams, home to top notch hospitals and universities. Cumberland, like the drive-in, ended up forgotten.
How did this happen. I ask - what did Baltimore have that Cumberland (named after the son of British King George II, William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland) didn't?
Cumberland was built on the site of the old Fort Cumberland, a launch pad for British General Edward Braddock's ill-fated attack on the French strong-hold of Fort Duquesne (located on the site of present day Pittsburgh) during the French and Indian War. It was also an outpost of Colonel George Washington during the French and Indian War, and his first military headquarters was built (and is still standing) there. During the Civil War Cumberland was a union stronghold and troops were garrisoned there to protect the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Confederate raiders routinely raided the city and in one daring raid by McNeill's Rangers kidnapped two Union generals.
Cumberland was a key road, railroad and canal junction during the 1800s and at one time the second largest city in Maryland (second to Baltimore--hence its nickname "The Queen City"). The surrounding hillsides provided coal, iron ore, and timber that helped supply the industrial revolution. In addition, the city was a major manufacturing center, with industries in glass, breweries, fabrics, tires, and tinplate. However, following World War II, it began to lose much of its industrial importance and its population declined from 39,483 residents in the 1940 census to fewer than 22,000 today. Today, the city continues to struggle with the challenges of transitioning to a post-industrial economy. And why?
Because not enough people cared. Just like at Heritage Days, fewer and fewer people got involved until eventually, this once great city was just completely forgotten. Once the industry pulled out, nothing came back to replace it. And it seems that even the people who decided to stay just gave up. And its a true shame.
So Happy Anniversary, KB! (Sort of.)
In other news, I was indoctrinated into the world of Leslie and The Lys last night at Funky Buddha Lounge. Mere words escape me in trying to explain what I saw last night. So I will defer to new friend Jen and her blog to see pictures and video of Leslie Hall and what she's about. The BF has been talking about Leslie for months; she's high, raucous energy clad in gem sweaters, gold pants and sequinned sneakers. She is definitely something to experience in person. Combining Leslie's performance (sans Lys this time), meeting new friends, $2 PBR's, and watching a bride-to-be do a body shot off of The BF's neck, made it a fun and certainly memorable evening.
Monday, June 12, 2006
All of us turned out to watch Bjorn lift. My parents went, as did my sister Kim, brother Mike, their families and brother Matt - Bjorn's dad. Matt acted as Bjorn's lift-off (or "spotter"). And in the end, Bjorn took second place in the teen lightweight division and 3rd in the teen overall division. His highest bench, which was his personal record, was 265 pounds.
265 pound bench press. And he's only 15!
He was so psyched. Weightlifting is a very lonely, solitary sport. You spend hours and hours, usually alone, pushing yourself and challenging yourself to do a little bit better than you did the last time. To do it properly takes a lot of concentration, willpower, and determination. And these are three qualities I am happy to see any 15 year old posess.
For Bjorn to not only do well, but to achieve a new personal best with his family watching him, must have felt incredibly triumphant. He's a great kid; he's never given my brother one minute of grief. All of my nieces and nephews are like that though - really good, nice kids. Their parents did well - which means my parents achieved personal bests too.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
But the period of my life that has come to mind recently was my time spent as a Club Kid. It was 1988.
I was 22 and living in DC for the first time, recently single following the breakup with Ex#1. We were 21 and 22, and living together at the time (and yes, I am shaking my head just thinking about it). I needed to spend as much time out of the house (or at least away from him) as possible. So I struck up a friendship with a co-worker whose name was Barbie (I know I couldn't believe that I would ever befriend anyone with that name, but there she was). Barbie was half Caucasion/half Korean. She was just beautiful, and the most stylish chick I had ever met. I think she was perhaps a year older than I, but I don't think I ever really knew Barbie's age.
She adopted me into her clan and we proceeded to spend every night out dancing until all hours. We had a circuit: Wednesdays at Dakota, Thursdays at Tracks, Fridays at The Vault, Saturdays at Tracks, Sundays back at Dakota, and Mondays at The Bank (Tuesday night was my night off to do laundry and stuff). We'd go out around 11pm or so and crawl home around 4 or 5am. The difference between club kids now and club kids then is that back then we weren't doing drugs. We spent all our money on outfits.
In the late 80's, Club Kids didn't wear tee shirts and cargo pants - we dressed up to go out. We wore black and white combinations: black silk slacks, white rayon shirts, pins, shoulder pads, bolo ties, eyeliner, and lots of hair product. We might drink one bottled water throughout the entire course of the evening. And we danced all night long with the same people as the night before.
This era re-emerged in my memory recently when I was surfing the net for new music. I found an album (are they still called that?) by Rick Astley called Portrait. For kicks, I downloaded the album, which - after a few plays - I actually like alot. But Rick's voice immediately takes me back to the clubs, hearing songs like "She Wants To Dance With Me" and "Never Gonna Give You Up".
They say youth is wasted on the young. God, that's so true, isn't it? But thanks to my iPod, and my journals, I can relive mine over and over again (only this time, without the eyeliner and shoulder pads).
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Before leaving DC, Ashley was the General Manager for the hottest bar in DC, Cobalt. Ash had a great home, a great job, lots of money, and tons of friends - in short, a perfect life. And he voluntarily gave it all up to pursue a dream - a dream of co-owning his own business with his brother, Brandon. Ash quit his job, sold his house, said farewell to all his friends ('cept me) and moved to a place where he knew no one to start a business that could possibly fail. But he knew he could do it.
For months, I had seen Ashley sit at his computer designing each wall inside the restaurant: what it would look like, the colours, the decorations, the entire layout of the place. And some of his designs looked ... well ... questionable. But I had seen first-hand how Ash is always able to view the bigger picture. He has a great talent for seeing a finished product at the very beginning.
When he first bought the old house back in DC and asked me to move in with him, I attempted to talk him out of it. I just didn't see how it could be what he envisioned. But a little over 18 months (and alot of white plaster dust) later, he had created the gem in the crown of the neighborhood. His one task instantly raised the property value of ever house on the block.
So in seeing his plans for Mary's, I knew that Ash had the bigger picture in mind. And when I walked into the place a few weeks back before it opened, I was amazed at the finished product. It's truly a place you have to experience instead of just hear about. I am so proud of him for doing what he did, and accomplishing his goal, and living his dream.
We should all be so fortunate, and gutsy, to live like Ashley. Sometimes you have to give it all up in order to get it all back again, only better.
Monday, June 05, 2006
So now, I assume, the seven soldiers who were convicted and sentenced to prison time for their parts in the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, will have their convictions overturned and the government will then end up paying them some kind of retribution for their pain and suffering. After all, they were heroes now, right?
God Bless America. Please!
Thursday, June 01, 2006
When I read that, I wondered if it would be same type of punishment as when he said this about the Valerie Plame/CIA Leak scandal: "If somebody committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." Last I checked, only Scooter Libby was indicted over this leak. Just one man. And that was almost a year ago. I wonder how many people actually work in the "W" administration? Thousands, I would guess. And out of that number, just one person is to blame. He did it all by himself. Stupendous.
But a broken promise is nothing new to "W". Remember these gems?:
If, in fact, members of the US military have randomly killed unarmed citizens, no matter where they are or what their nationality, this should be treated with swift and just retribution. While I completely support our military, and am personally thankful for their efforts, it would be inexcusable for this administration to not punish any person who commits such a heinous crime while acting on behalf of the United States.
"W"'s promises were real, yet his execution has been pathetic. His administration has been allowed to run around the playground, completely unchecked, thanks to a stacked judicial system and a party-favored congress. A child will only misbehave as long as he is not disciplined. And yet you - yes, YOU, America - rewarded his behavior by reelecting him. And now YOU bitch that you don't like him anymore.
Just think, we are only half way through his reelection term. We still have two more years to go. Stop for a second and think about what the country -- indeed the world -- could be like in two more years of this unchecked and undisciplined behavior of this administration. And then thank God you live in a country where you have the power to change it all in 5 months.