Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Overheard at the Airport

Good ol' boy and kin observing a pair of South Asians at ATL: What are those, Buddhists? I thought they denounce all worldly possessions. What, do they fly for free? Buddhists fly for free now? Shoot. [pause] Know what I saw in St. Louis? An Amish restaurant. Now how can that be?


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Miss Elaine is in My Head!

A quick note about my encounter with a sidewalk psychic:

After a lunch out, Beth and I decided to pay a visit to a palm reader who's often parked out on the sidewalk on 17th Street. She led us up to her to her fourth-floor walkup, which was unsettling unfurnished and freshly painted. The only thing visible in the whole place was a very nice high-definition TV in the corner. After negotiating how we wanted her to pick our brains, she sent Beth out of the room and she and I squatted on the blue carpet for a palm reading.

It started out innocently enough. She said I had a long life line, to which I said thank you. She told me I would be traveling soon -- which was true enough as I'm off to Aruba tomorrow, but then again it is June, and everyone's traveling. She told me I was centered in work (meh), and things would get even better in September. So far so good.

Then the subject turned to my love life. She looked sternly at me. "You're not so centered in love," she said. "True?" "True enough," I said. She looked again, and then she almost started yelling at me. "You need to move on! You need to let go!" she yelled. "It's not time for romance. Stop searching -- it's time for play! Look at your life line, you have enough time!!" Err...okay... "I'm trying!" I said. "I can tell you more for ten more dollars," she said. I declined, and slunk out of the room to get Beth.

I didn't tell Beth until we were back on the street. She just laughed and laughed...


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Company Picnic

Having never been to a company picnic, the initial concept had me of two minds. On the one hand, a good deal of my social circle consists of colleagues, so that's not so bad. On the other hand, well, let's say there are some folks I'm content to spend 40 hours a week with, and that's all. I'm sure the feeling is mutual.

However, morale and camaraderie being important and all that, I went out to the nearby suburbs this weekend for a barbecue at the weekend retreat of our interim CEO, Julia Taft. I was also enticed by the promise of this taking place on a farm, and there being the possibility of saying hello to some livestock of sorts.

Pulling up to Julia's farm was rather impressive. It's set back from the road by a long driveway, and the grounds consist of lots of wooded hills and tennis courts and a pool and horses grazing away. One couldn't help but be impressed with the perks that being the former head of a major development agency of the U.N. (such as Julia was) can bring, but a chance sighting on the refrigerator door provided a bit more context. As I was storing my cheesecake in the fridge, I noticed an engagement announcement clipped from the Post pertaining to Julia and her huband Will's son, William Howard Taft V. Ah. Those kinda Tafts. At the conclusion of the afternoon, I congratulated myself on not once attempting to impress Julia's husband that I knew that his great-granddaddy was the dude what got stuck in the tub. Oh, DC...

Impressive pedigrees aside, Julia and Will were lovely in letting the InterAction hoi polloi take over their nineteenth-century farmhouse. The InterAction staff are an eclectic bunch: our Iranian IT guy comandeered the grill, making Persian style meat and fuming about his team's recent loss to Portugal in the World Cup. Our Afghan and Sri Lankan admin. staff took their kaftans and hijabs down to the tennis courts for a spell. The metrosexual member services director parked his Suburban Assault Vehicle out front and played with his kids in the pool. The septuagenarian former Ambassador to Somalia, and current InterAction VP, brought a Honeybaked Ham. And the red-headed, sunscreen-slathered midget joined her fellow twenty-something wonks-in-training in prancing about the grounds, discussing the finer points of swimming pools and cheese doodles with the scion of Presidents. An unusual way to spend an afternoon, but not a bad one.


Monday, June 5, 2006

Somebody Gimme a Damn Backrub

Oh, wasn't I a productive little minx this weekend.

Take it easy -- it's not that kinda blog. Haven't you learned by now?

But I did experience the hell out of the fine weekend activities that DC has to offer. About damn time too, since I've been here for over three years and still can't tell people how to get to the Beltway. But nevertheless, I had a nice Friday evening with pals in Georgetown and saw a movie (spoiler alert: to enjoy the DaVinci Code, you must be prepared to believe that the Louvre has one retarded security guard, the floor in Westminster Abbey is filthy, albino monks are scary and not funny, and that Earl Grey tea goes best with lemon, rather than milk and sugar. Forget the Catholic Church -- that stuff presents a true test of faith). Then on Saturday, I got outside, exposing myself to all kinds of nasty UV rays, and then I Kayaked. No kidding. I got in a tiny boat, made a friend, and paddled with a big group of yuppies for three hours. I haven't done anything like that in easily ten years, but I daresay I did very well. I kayaked the shit out of that thar Potomac. And I saw ospreys and herons. And I learned that herons make horrible sounds for such pretty birds, especially when you scare them. They kind of roar and burp at the same time. Silly herons.

Not content with that, I woke up at 5 in the morning on Sunday to go volunteer at a walk-a-thon for the animal shelter. I've never been to any such function, but I understand this one is special because you can bring your dogs with you on the walk. So the quad at American University was overrun with all manner of dogs, splashing in pools, playing frisbee, and having a delightful time. The most amazing thing to me about a walk-a-thon is how early it's all over. We had tents and food and games and a DJ and hundreds of people around, but by 10:30, it was as though we were never there. That's when I usually get up. Amazing. I wonder what else happens when I'm watching VH1 on a Saturday morning.

The consequence of all this is that I am really really sore. Last night I took a really hot bubble bath, which was excellent. It's nice to rediscover the simple pleasures in life -- like poaching yourself in the tub 'till you're all pink and puckered and then drying off and slipping into cool, clean sheets. Aaahh...

Now if somebody could just give me a damn backrub I'd be really happy.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Cheeto Smackdown

Ever want a glimpse into the esoteric, sophisticated world of humanitarian work? Can you at least feign a little interest for anecdotal purposes? Awesome.

Earlier, my educated, cosmopolitan colleagues and I were engaged in a heated debate over an outrageous pronouncement by one of our number. Ms. Cassandra Kennedy declared that though it is marketed under the same brand nationwide, the snack known as "Cheetos" is markedly different, and moreover, tastier, in the Western mountain states she calls home than it is on the East Coast. The Northeast Corridor denizens would have none of it, and demanded proof.

Happily, Ms. Kennedy recently traveled back to her ancestral home in the Northwestern United States, and somewhere in Wyoming brought forth a bag of Puffy Cheetos to pit against DC Cheetos. She had clearly thrown down the gauntlet.

So this afternoon, many of my esteemed peers gathered in the communal kitchen to test this theory. Those who hailed from the West squared off against those from the East, and vowed to put their innate allegiances aside in the name of science to determine the Tastiest Cheeto in All the Land.

Lo and behold, the visual confirmation of Ms. Kennedy's statement proved true, as the Eastern snacks were clearly of a greater girth than their Western counterparts. We had to concede that they were, in fact, different, but the real heart of the matter was the tastiness controversy. So we armed ourselves with contraband sodas to cleanse the palate, and took to the task at hand.

The Western Cheetos were crunchier, and less infused with air than the puffier Cheetos of the East. However, I still found the subtle buttery flavor of the Cheeto more pronounced and delightful in the Eastern Cheetos. I forced myself to repeat the test several times to ensure my objectivity, but came down squarely on the side of the Cheeto of my People. I was pleased to discover that the control group -- our Middle Eastern and Afghan participants -- favored my opinion, as did other Easterners.

However, it seemed that those hailing from the West could not be moved to embrace the fuller texture and overall superiority of the Eastern Cheeto. They clung tenaciously to their misbegotten conception that theirs was the Superior Snack. Perhaps there are darker forces deep within the human psyche, surpassing even the beautiful scientific truth of the matter, that will forever prevent peace and understanding in the snack food aisles of America. Alas.

Documentation of the experiment can be found below:

Cassandra serves up the Cheetos

West Coast Cheetos

East Coast Cheetos -- note the wider girth

Public Policy Director -- and master of nonpartisanship -- Todd Shelton samples the Cheetos.

The Afghanistan delegation favors the Eastern snack.