September 18, 2007

Reading is fundamental

*Credit to Jo for jogging my memory

Let me preface this by saying: they weren't for me.

I start with that, because it's the answer to the question that will fly out of your mouth/brain, unbidden, in just a second. So I will say it again, just so we're clear: they weren't for me. Got it? Good. Moving on.

I have, on two occasions, gone into a grocery store unaccompanied, and purchased pantyhose. Now go read that first sentence again.

If there were any questions as to whether I'm a good friend to have, I will now consider the matter closed.

Here's the thing: a lot of guys talk about buying tampons as being a big deal. Like it's the ultimate sign of either a) loyalty and devotion, or b) whipped-ness, depending on your point of view. But I disagree. Tampons are nothing. All buying tampons says is that more than likely there is a woman at home who will be very, um, grateful, when you get home (or at least in a short period of time). ('period,' heh) Tampons are unambiguous; everyone in the place knows what they are and what they mean. Ladies who see men buying tampons/pads will invariably see that man in a positive light, a gentleman to be respected and admired.

Pantyhose? Not so much. The social standing of a man buying pantyhose is, understandably, somewhat less clear. He may very well be a helpful soul, doing his part for a lady friend in need. Or, he may be a bank robber. Or a transvestite. Or something that makes either a bank robber or transvestite seem like a desirable alternative; I leave that to your imagination. Pleasant dreams. But I digress. I was the former, just trying to help out. This particular story concerns my first pantyhose adventure (which really sounds like a whole lot more fun than it was, as you will see).

My freshman year of college, I lived in a dorm that was coed by floor, and I happened to get to know a number of the girls who lived on the floor above me (somehow, in 1993, simply knowing how to get around in Windows made one an 'expert,' but that's another story). My favorite of these was 'Heather,' with whom I got to be pretty good friends that year and through most of college. Anyway, Heather got herself into a sorority, and come springtime she got all dolled up and went off with her boyfriend to her spring formal. Looked great, good to go, no problem.

Fast forward about three hours. I'm hanging out down the hall when I hear the door to our hallway open, and the sound of heels heading my way. Naturally, I poke my head out to see who it is, and there's Heather, visibly upset, and she comes straight to me and about loses it. Mascara running, tears all over the place, generally not a great scene. Apparently she got a little tipsy, did something embarrassing (or got in a snit with the boyfriend, I really don't remember) and made a beeline home. More or less inconsolable, and I somehow have to deal with this.

The solution: take her upstairs to the girls, and put her in the care of experts. Fortunately for me, a couple of her sisters had followed her home, so there was a cavalry of sorts. I did, however, make what would prove to be the mistake of sticking around, something I would come to regret. Twice.

So we get her calmed down, and ultimately decide that what she needs to do is put herself back together and go back to the formal. Excellent idea, all agree. So the crew gets to work.

Hair? Tara. Makeup? Keely. We're good to go.

Then, someone notices the run in the pantyhose (cue more crying). At which point the room basically turns and looks at me. Given that I had (and have) no skills in the hair or makeup department, and seeing as how both of my legs did in fact work, I was the 'logical' choice to go to the campus store and get black pantyhose for Heather. (cue Moment of Regret #1) And quickly, chop-chop. Regular black pantyhose, no frills, just get it. I'm a smart guy, I figure it can't be that hard, so off I go. I'm the man (er, as it were). I was to the store in back in less than twenty minutes, and proud of myself for it.

Now I should take a second and describe Heather: maybe 5'3", a petite little thing, cute as a button, etc. But the point is, tiny little blonde girl.

I should also point out the importance not just of reading, but reading for comprehension. And I should further mention, gentlemen, that if you find yourself in a similar position you should know that pantyhose comes not only in different colors, but different sizes as well (this is worth writing down, if you have a pen handy).

Because, it turns out, when a size 0-1 girl is already in a very, very fragile state, it does nothing to help matters when she is handed a package of pantyhose to wear, whose size reads: Queen. I am not exaggerating when I say that this went over poorly. There may have been more, possibly even louder, crying. I try to block that part out.

But the bottom line (ha) is, these will not do. But it's no problem, I will simply return them and get the right size, and all will be well. So again, off I go to the campus store. I have a receipt, so there will be no issues.

I get to the store, go up to the counter, and explain that I need to return some pantyhose. The guy behind the counter reaches down and pulls out a form, and explains that I will have to sign for that. (cue Moment of Regret #2) Apparently, my alma mater keeps records of all returns made to the campus store. So in the archives somewhere, there is written record of the fact that I returned women's black Queen-sized pantyhose, complete with (wait for it) social security number and signature. Awesome.

Plus, the whole transaction took time, of which I had very little. So little, in fact, that when I got back Heather was gone. They decided to skip the pantyhose and go without. Which if they had just decided in the first place, would have saved me two trips to the store and a signature for women's undergarments. And might have kept any potential political aspirations alive. But not so much.

But I hear bank robbery is a growth industry, and I do have a leg up on that now.

September 17, 2007

Not boxers


- If you're curious what it's been like to be a Buffalo Bills fan over the past, say, ten years, all you had to do was watch the game on Sunday. We finally get on TV in the DC area, and lay a big, fat egg. Chris Berman once said that nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills. Well, circle 'em up, boys, because that was ugly.

- If you had told me that the over-under on one of Sunday's games was going to be right around 100 points, then had me choose the matchup that would produce such a total, I can unequivocally say that Cleveland-Cincinnati wouldn't have made the top five. And we were stuck watching Jets-Ravens. Yawn. Yet another reason I despise regional broadcast rules.

- For all his extensive education and football smarts, Bill Belichek sure thinks that the media and fanbase of the NFL are a bunch of rubes. Like anyone believes for a second he misunderstood anything, and there's no chance the vague, non-acknowledgement of something that has apparently been a poorly-kept secret in football circles for some time is going to satisfy anyone, save the most die-hard Pats apologists. Note to Bill: come on. If I want my intelligence insulted, I'll watch Congressional hearings. I expect more from you.


- Wow. I mean, wow. On a night celebrating the best of television, a night that should be all glitz and glitter, polish and panache, they choose to pull that crap. Okay, so you want to beep some bad words. Fine. But really, is that the way to do it? Like some seven-year-0ld got loose in the booth and started pushing random buttons? Cutting away to some still footage behind the disco ball, so everyone wonders whether you're having technical problems? Somehow the simplest move in broadcast television turned into Twitchy Moron Theater Sunday night, when they trot out the best and brightest to show just how good television can be.

- I'm all for theater in the round and everything, but that usually means that the show will play to all sides of the stage. That's the beauty of in-the-round. If you're curious about how it's supposed to look, check George Carlin, late 70s, or Def Leppard, Pour Some Sugar on Me. But no, really, I'm sure the cast of Ugly Betty really wanted to stare at all the presenters' asses all night. Good choice.

- I know awards shows are too long. I know that there are only a few hours to get it all in. I understand. But seriously: you do not, ever, ever play Robert Duvall off the stage. America Ferrarra? Sure. She won an award, say thanks, now let's go. But Duvall, one of the greatest actors of his generation (and possibly any other) can stand up there as long as he damn well pleases. Read his grocery list, I don't care. Show some respect,people, for crying out loud. Sally Field, too. Gidget can take her time. She's earned it. Want to save time? I only need one member of the cast of Entourage to present an award. Or, better yet, cut out Seacrest's monologue. No really, please. Cut it.

- Someone please explain to me why Ryan Seacrest is allowed to host anything other than American Idol and some girl's sweet 16 party. Nobody over the age of 25 wants to see this guy. I'm pretty sure most of the ladies will agree with me on this, not just the guys. In five minutes, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert were more entertaining than the host. My vote? Seacrest out.

- And finally, why I am a Katherine Heigl fan after last night: she corrected the patronizing, infinitely annoying disembodied Announcer Voice on the pronunciation of her last name. You would think that one of the key, critically important details of putting an awards broadcast together would be knowing how to say the people's names. You'd think that, but apparently you'd be wrong.

September 11, 2007

Thoughts about thoughts

This is less about the day itself than about the peculiarity of the mind, and how things occur to us sometimes.

About this time six years ago, I was in my second week at a new job (this one), at my desk by Farragut West, about four or so blocks from the White House. As most would say, it started out like any other morning. Actually, I probably wouldn't have found out much about what happened if not for the fact that the lady sitting across from me was listening, as she did every day, to one of the local morning shows (PGC, or something similar). Like most people I've talked to since, I took the early news of a plane crashing into the WTC as something like a small Cessna or private plane; it wasn't until a short time later that the truth was made clear. But everyone knows what happened, and this isn't really about that.

The first thing I did, as I'm sure many did as well, was try to figure out whether I knew anyone in either of the Towers or at the Pentagon. I couldn't think of anyone, which was a relief, so I went to check the TV that had been set up in the hallway upstairs (our office didn't have cable or TVs, someone found a presentation TV and set it up with rabbit ears on the next floor up; I got to it just in time to watch the first building come down). I couldn't watch much after that, so I went back to my desk. I had talked to my roommate, who was home at the time, and got caught up a little on the news. We'd heard from a co-worker's dad, who was working in the Pentagon, and by and large most of the people we knew of were accounted for. One woman hadn't heard from her husband, and she left the office almost immediately. Again, I found myself glad that I didn't know anyone directly connected to what was happening.

But not long after (in the men's room of all places), a snippet of conversation floated across my memory, a question asked in what sounded a whole lot like my own voice:

So what's it like working in the World Trade Center?


It bubbled up seemingly from nowhere, and it took me a few seconds to put the images together.

I was in St. Augustine, Florida, the previous Christmas. My cousin, her then-boyfriend, and I were at the tail end of driving up A1A after taking my grandparents most of the way home from the holiday festivities (we took one of our cars and theirs, drove them most of the way home, then put them in their car for the last hour or so), on one of the most beautiful winter days I could remember (75 and sunny all day) for a drive back up the coast to Jacksonville, where my parents live. We had stopped in St. Augustine in the late afternoon, walked around town, and had some phenomenal seafood for dinner on the patio, thoroughly enjoying the weather. It was over that meal that the conversation took place. My cousin's boyfriend worked for Black Rock at the time, as I remember, and they had an office in one of the Towers. So I was curious as to what that was like, working in a global landmark.

A global landmark that was, at the moment, in the process of disintegrating.

This all came back to me in a rush, and I could have slapped myself for not thinking of it sooner.

But really, all I thought was, holy shit.

Now, anyone who tried to make a call into NYC that day knows what it was like. Cell coverage was shot, because a) everyone and their brother was calling into town that day, and b) the cell tower that would have carried the incoming calls went down with the buildings. So I had little to no hope of getting directly to my cousin. Not that it stopped me from trying, mind you.

Fortunately for me, her parents lived in the Poconos at the time, so I was able to get through to them and find out that everyone was all right. My cousin's bf (who is now her husband) was actually between the buildings when the first plane came in, being one of the many who were running a little late that morning and probably being alive because of it. So he was fine. At least, as fine as anyone could be that day.

Not long afterwards, I made my way home and spent eight or so hours straight watching CNN. I finally hit my threshold around 9:30 or so, when they ran the same montage of footage for the third or fourth time in a row, and my and my roommates' brains just couldn't take it anymore. There's an extent to which I suppose mine still can't.

But I always sort of shake my head when I think back, and wonder just how the hell I didn't think of that conversation sooner.

Perhaps more bizarre, in terms of how-the-brain-works, is what my aunt told me about M's experience that morning (he hasn't told much of the story himself; doesn't like to talk about it). Apparently, in the midst of all that was happening, having seen a plane crash into a major building, one of the first things that occurred to him was this:

better get to an ATM.

Most New Yorkers carry little or no cash, and he figured he should probably get some in case he needed it and the system shut down. Under the circumstances it made practical sense, but it seems a totally bizarre thought to have. It's the kind of thing that actually gets a laugh when telling the story. But sometimes, the brain just sort of does that.

I don't have much of a point here; I just like to tell that story as an example of how even in the midst of tragedy and suffering, sometimes things happen that just make you chuckle a little bit, and maybe that's the best news of all.

September 10, 2007

Unlike the rest of them, I actually am back to school...

Is there a better way to close my first week of classes than with the Back to School Blogger HH? There aren't many that I can think of. Once again, a very good time with the blogkids.

This one may have set a world record for number of co-hosts, which prompted my suggestion that if the trend continues, we will at some point have a Blogger HH where the co-hosts outnumber the attendees. It's only a matter of time before we have a HH comprised entirely of co-hosts. You laugh, but just wait, it could happen.

This was a really, really good HH for me, because it had what has become the usual suspects, plus a handful of bloggers that either haven't been out in a while, or that I just have missed over the past few HHs. At one point, KassyK turned to me and said that the HH had a very old-school feel to it, and I agree. I kept waiting for someone to walk up to Jessica and ask her if she was new, and did she write a blog. That would have been classic. It was great to see the erstwhile DC Cookie, just a short time before her upcoming wedding (and an even shorter time before a half-marathon yesterday. I get tired just thinking about it). She was my first blog friend, and it is nearly impossible to have a bad time when she's in the building. Go ahead and try; you will fail. KK, also one of my first blogquaintences, can easily hold her own in that department as well.

I got to Madhatter a little bit early, and found most of the co-hosts there and getting a step ahead of the party. More surprising than that (okay, so it wasn't surprising at all) was seeing Bettyjoan, who I almost didn't recognize with her lighter hair and whom I hadn't seen since I voted for her butt. That evening was going to come up a lot Friday, since it was also the last time I had seen/met I-66, VP of Dior, Hey Pretty, and Mandy. I got to catch up with each to varying degrees, but it was good to see all of them. My only request: don't let it go that long again before the next time, please. Also got brief hellos/catchups with Boztopia and Joe Logon, which is never a bad thing. And the retired blogstress of Circle V made an appearance,

Some of the newer familiar faces: the treacherous trio of gn, h, and Gen; I got to congratulate gn and h on their new jobs, and got to see (but did not meet) Gen's bf. Arj, of course, was in full Arjewtinian effect (which is to say, inebriated and amnesiac), sporting his new fannypack. We more pushed past than talked to each other most of the night, but that counts for quality time in my book. Same for INPY, who was somehow always at the other end of the room from me after about the first half hour.

And then the new (or new-ish) folks. Leon is one funny man, and has what I can safely refer to as the best business card I've ever seen, period. JustJenny has what may be the world's greatest blog title, at least to anyone who enjoys Eats, Shoots, and Leaves-type humor. I also got to meet the man behind DCBlogs, whom I had seen before but never spoken to. I re-met a couple of folks, including LMNt, fresh off of his blogging sabbatical, and Dagny Taggart, who I met very briefly at the last HH I attended and who I read just about daily. She also gets major cool points for making bearable, even enjoyable, a very long wait for the metro at the end of the evening. So thanks for that.

There were a whole lot more bloggers there that I recognized but never got to say hello to, and I know there were a bunch more that I didn't know but have heard of. But I suppose if you're going to have a problem, it should be of over-attendance and too many people to talk to, as opposed to the alternative.

I will apologize if I left anyone out; feel free to lambaste me in the comments. Thanks to the cornucopia of co-hosts for putting together another winner, and I look forward to the next one.

The rest of the weekend was also very good. If you ever find yourself in a postion to see Daniel Tosh do anything, especially stand-up, jump on it. Great show at the Improv on Saturday. One of the rare occasions when all three comics, from the emcee to the feature to the headliner, killed. The best emcee I've seen at the Improv in years, but I can't remember his name (figures; my best guess is Terry Tyler). The feature was a girl from Last Comic Standing (whose name I also do not remember; Amy something, I think), and was much better on stage than on the show; I think this is because a) LCS doesn't give comics more than a couple of minutes, which makes it difficult to hit a rhythm, and b) you can't be dirty on LCS, and she was, but she did it well.

And now, of course, it's Monday. I don't have a case of them, but it's possible that I'm a carrier.
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