Friday, December 5, 2008

That's the Anthem, Get Your Damn Hands Up


So without going into details, some rather seismic shifts are taking place in my world right now. Some of them are sad, some will be okay in the long run, and some of them required some very, very difficult choices. But suffice to say that all relevant parties have been briefed, a considerable amount of coffee and bourbon was consumed in the process, and I'm taking care of what I need to. While I felt it was necessary to acknowledge the sea change in some manner, I feel like blogs that go out of their way to air the author's dirty laundry are obnoxious at best.

So I'll do something even more obnoxious: I'll let a band that almost no one's heard of speak for me. You can slap me upside the head next time you see me if you want. Though lately, you might have to take a number.

On the brightside, this has the makings of an epic playlist.

"Sultan" by What Made Milwaukee Famous

I've had less than my fair share of lucky breaks
And enough of this fooling around.
I've got one last chance to get rid of my past
And bury it deep in the ground.
And no matter what you try, man,
You're never gonna tear me down.

When the only blame you cast is your own.
And your only guarantee is your fear of the unknown.
If you don't cut your losses before you get lost,
They're never going to leave you alone.

My best bits of advice I'll repeat only twice
After that you can fend for yourself.
If you think that your shoes couldn't find better use
Or fit just about anyone else,
You need to face up and fold
Or deal with the hand you're dealt.

Make up your mind
Are you in are you out?
I've no patience for your impetuous doubt.

When the only blame you cast is your own,
And your only guarantee is your fear of the unknown.
If you don't cut your losses before you get lost,
They're never going to leave you alone

I've had less than my fair share of lucky breaks
And enough of this fooling around.
I've got one last chance to get rid of my past
And bury it deep in the ground.

Make up your mind
Are you in are you out?
You'd be better served as a face in the crowd.

If you never want the truth to be told,
And all your major concerns are out of your control.
If you don't pick your feet up to come back around
You get stuck in my way and get rolled.

When the only blame you cast is your own,
And your only guarantee is your fear of the unknown
If you don't cut your losses before you get lost,
They're never going to leave you alone
Leave you alone

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Best U2 Songs You've Never Heard

According to my sources (and I have many of them), there ought to have been a new U2 album out about now. The U2s have been fairly punctual about getting a solid album out every four years or so, with a tour following about six months later. I know this, because at this point my little biological rhythms have adjusted to expect these things at regular intervals.

But for reasons known only to God and Bono, they've decided to delay their album until next spring, so I'm trying to make do until then. In the meantime, let's have us a playlist! In lieu of any new material, I present a list of little-known gems you've (likely) never heard before, unless you've taken an extensive amount of road trips with me in the past eight years or so.

Since the vernerable playlist-sharing site seems to be well and truly gone, I'm happy to do this the old-fashioned way and send a copy to anyone who wants one. Yay mail! Let the geek-out begin:

1. Big Girls are Best: A product of the Pop sessions, this is a dancey little number with saucy lyrics about why real women have curves.

2. Lady with the Spinning Head: I'm pretty sure that this was a prototype of "The Fly" from Achtung Baby (the guitar solo is a giveaway), but it stands on its own.

3. Walk On ("America: A Tribute to Heroes"): You've probably heard the original single from All That You Can't Leave Behind, but this version was part of a telethon to raise money for survivors of 9/11. Recorded live 10 days after the attacks, Bono and company turn a self-empowerment song into an ode to their adopted city of New York, and wrench a million guts in the process. Fun fact: Aussie pop star Natalie Imbruglia on backing vocals!

4. Dancing Barefoot: Sexy little cover of a Patti Smith song, originally featured as a B-side to Rattle and Hum's "When Love Comes to Town."

5. If God Will Send His Angels (Single Version): An overlooked track on the undeservedly maligned Pop album. The trouble with Pop is that is was finished a bit too quickly, but there was some good stuff there. This single version is a bit more polished than the album version, and is really lovely. It builds slow, but give it time. You'll be glad you did.

6. Always: Clearly a precursor to "Beautiful Day," but with some nice Bono aphorisms. He's good at those.

7. Sunday Bloody Sunday (Live from Sarajevo): So here's the story: It's 1997, and the city of Sarajevo has spent the better part of the previous four years getting the shit kicked out of it during the Bosnian war. The war is over, but the people are still reeling. U2 bring their PopMart extravaganza to town in September, providing the people of Sarajevo with their first excuse to party in years (U2 would repeat this form of rock therapy during their epic post-9/11 shows in NYC, but that's a blog in itself...). In the middle of the show, Edge steps out on stage and does a lovely, fragile, stripped-down version of their classic anti-war anthem all by his lonesome. Not a dry eye in the house.

8. Slow Dancing: U2 and Willie Nelson! And it really, really works!

9. Stand By Me (with Bruce Springsteen): it goes off the rails a bit during the ad-libbing towards the end, and the sound quality is more than a little dodgy, but it's freakin' Springsteen and freakin' Bono, doin' what Springsteen and Bono do. I think this is from a 1987 show in Philly, but don't quote me on that.

10.The Ground Beneath Her Feet: This appeared as the last track on All That You Can't Leave Behind everywhere...except the U.S. It's based on a Salman Rushdie novel and was featured in the little-seen Wim Wenders movie Million Dollar Hotel, co-written by Bono, and starring Mel Gibson (yes, you read that right, check it). But despite that confusing pedigree, it's quite a pretty little love song. Phew! I haven't had a good U2 geek-out like that in some time. That should hold me until tickets go on sale.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Vegas and LA

I just got back from a long weekend out in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. I don't get out that way much, and with all due respect to my west coast friends, LA is not really my bag. The side venture to Vegas was kind of my present to myself for having to go out to LaLaLand for my cousin's wedding. I'm a Northeast Corridor chick. It can't be helped.

Which isn't to say that there's nothing of merit out there. Counterintuitive though it seems, a quick dose of Vegas can be good for the soul. It's one of the last places where everything is designed to make you feel really damn good about yourself, if only for long enough to convince you that there is no better way to pass the time than to wantonly throw away cash. I've got five minutes before the airport shuttle comes? Whatever shall I...oh hel-LO $5 roulette! God forbid I stand by idly for three seconds! This makes perfect sense! Whee!

Enjoy it while you can -- the hotel staff are super nice to you, everybody wants to give you booze or sex or both, and all the casinos pump out cheesy power pop that makes you feel like you're in a montage of some good-time 80s movie. If you haven't ever strutted down the Strip while you're all dolled up even though you have nowhere to be (though nobody knows that), while EMF's "Unbelievable" blasts out of the Monte Carlo, I highly recommend it. It's good for the ego. And if you've just won a big, bad $21 during 75 minutes of cheap roulette, all the better. Strut like it's $21,000, baby. Just strut.

The trick is to get out quickly. You don't need to spend more than a night or two there before the beer goggles come off, and you need to think about getting the hell out of Dodge. Vegas is a one-night stand of a town, and I love that about it. Wham-Bam-Thank ya, MGM Grand. Off to LA.

We met up with Mama and Dadoo Shep, who seemed to think that it was a good idea to immediately rent a car upon landing at 6pm, and drive across the desert to LA. We weren't driving, so this seemed okay to us. I was a little bummed that I couldn't see Death Valley in the daylight, as it really is like nowhere else in the country, but it's still pretty striking at night. It's all imposing mountains that come right down to the road, and loooooong expanses of nuthin' punctuated by scrub and Joshua trees. I liked the Joshua trees a lot. Even when they're just silhouetted they look like something from another planet. Really, the whole drive is like being on the moon.

It took five hours to get to the Simi Valley, just outside LA. For all my bitching about the City of Angels, Simi Valley is gorgeous country. The Parents Shep really did well here, as they found a lovely $60/night hotel with a beautiful pool surrounded by gardens and hummingbirds, and hosting a surprising number of guests who liked to have very loud intercourse. Which is all well and good, except when it's seven AM, and they feel compelled to do so several times in a row. That's when it stops being impressive and starts being annoying.

Even my cousin's wedding was lovely. My cousin Stephanie is what some may call a "free spirit," and others may call a "damn hippie," and I'm pretty sure she'd be delighted to be called either. She and her friends basically arranged the whole show, which was held at a yoga/Kabbalah retreat in the mountains, and the wedding featured a standard bearer and fire dancers. If that sounds awful, I don't blame you, but you'd be dead wrong. They pulled it off beautifully, and you could really feel that these kids were ecstatic to help marry off two of their own. Feel the love.

So I softened a bit on the west coast this time out. I'd still choose NYC over LA any day of the week, no question, but it was a great little visit. I even caught up on my reading. I usually tend to read things by folks who have been dead for a minimum of 100 years or so (what can I say, I'm a sucker for a good governess story), but this trip I upped my hip quotient by finally reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson and Killing Yourself to Live by Chuck Klosterman, both of who write like I wish I could. I then negated my hip points by tearing through most of Watership Down on the trip back because, well, because I like bunnies, dammit.

One last note: It bears mentioning that the MGM Grand is known for having photos of movie stars all over the place, including the suites. Which sounds harmless, until you realize that we had the most ghoulish picture of Star Trek's Patrick Stewart leering directly at our bed. You try getting your sexy on under the pervy gaze of Captain Picard. Go on, try. Just print this sucker out and have at. Not so easy, is it?

Friday, October 10, 2008

New Kids on the Block

While it's true that you can never really recapture the innocence of youth, last week I discovered that for $38, plus service fees, you can at least rent it for about 2 hours and 15 minutes. On October 2 I bore witness to the bizarre time capsule of a spectacle that was the New Kids on the Block reunion concert.

I will get right to the point. My expectations were very low. But in the end, I was genuinely, giddily, happily entertained.

Like a lot of girls my age, when I was 9 years old I was stupid over NKOTB (as we called them then, even at age 9 I had a love of acronyms). Unlike most girls, I remained a New Kids fan well after it was socially acceptable to do so. I think somewhere between the summer and fall of 1990, they went from being the hottest thing in the world to being elementary school pariahs. The fall was swift and merciless, and little 9-year-old Robyn's undying affection for Jordan Knight (and sometimes Joe McIntyre) just could not be renounced at the whims of Richboro Elementary's social code. I hung on for about two more years, guarding my forbidden love with absolute devotion, until I went gaga over Leonardo DiCaprio on Growing Pains, and that was the end of that.

But before it was all over, I did manage to attend one concert. I remember the date: December 9, 1990. I remember screaming my bloody head off in the upper reaches of the Philadelphia Spectrum. I remember my dad sitting in his seat, possibly comparing the ordeals he endured in his 20 years of military service to the task of sitting through an entire New Kids concert. I remember it as being the best night of my life at the time.

So when they announced a reunion tour 18 years later, my head said no, but my heart -- well, honestly my heart was like, "Seriously?" And then when we saw the ticket prices, my spleen decided to chime in and said "You must be joking." And when I saw slightly reduced prices, my descending colon was all "Whatever, dude." So my like-minded friend Lisa and I forked over the cash and eagerly began a five-month wait for the show. After buying the tickets, we caught NKOTB's big comeback appearance on the Today show. It was dreadful. Lisa and I began to have serious doubts about what we had done.

But we decided to have good amount of girlie cocktails, and at least have a laugh at it. It might be painful. It might be embarassing. But we would be drunk. So it would be fine. Bring the pain.

It turned out not to be painful at all, really. The Verizon Center was not quite sold out, but shockingly full. I saw one guy the whole evening, and most of the women were our age, many sporting the same T-shirts and massive buttons they had held on to for the better part of two decades. While everyone was in a jolly mood, these women were not being ironic or cynical about any of this. They came to hang tough, dammit, and so would we.

And the show was honestly really good, and a lot of fun. The guys apparently got their shit together since the Today show, and they sounded good, they (mostly) nailed their little dance routines, and seemed bemused but geniunely pleased that an arena full of crazy-ass women would materialize to see dudes in their late 30s singing about cover girls. I was shocked at how all of the lyrics came back to me, so it was like a huge singalong all night. Granted, these are NKOTB songs, and you can't polish a terd and call it a diamond, but they worked the hell out of the material they had. And, yes, they looked good. They've aged very well, thank you, and I'm almost certain Jordan's abs are better now than they were 20 years ago.

Of course there were a few weird moments. There was a Rod Stewart-esque number of costume changes, and one bizarre interlude where they had a montage of random celebrities who have died over the past 15 years since NKOTB were on the scene, like what they have during award shows. I'm sure Kurt Cobain, Frank Sinatra, and Tupac appreciate the recognition, but I'm not sure this was the venue for it. But even the wack parts were endearing. Like the piano that appeared on stage for no other reason than to have a lady in tight pants dance on top of it. Or the guitar that Donnie slung around his neck at the beginning of "Cover Girl," and then never touched again. Hey, at least they were actually singing. Overall, it was a great evening, and I was weirdly proud of my little crushes of yesteryear for pulling off something that by all rights should have been a train wreck. Well played, lads. Well played.


Monday, October 6, 2008

A Good Day at Work

Most of the time I spare you guys a lot of work-talk on the blog. But I just got back from a business trip to NYC where we took part in something fairly cool, so I thought I'd share.

For those who don't know, my job involves working with the media to promote my organization's issues, which include microcredit, foreign aid reform, domestic poverty and healthcare, global education, and a special campaign devoted to raising awareness and resources for fighting tuberculosis. Still with me? Fabulous. Anyway, you can imagine that a lot of the time this involves a lot of calls to journalists who would love to cover our stories, but golly gee, just can't get their editors on board. Especially in a down market. It's kind of like getting turned down for the prom over and over.

Which isn't to say we can't turn it out when we have to. Every now and again we get the odd New York Times piece or editorial, or they run an op-ed we wrote. But recently we got to take part in something a bit more special than that.

Each year, a bunch of smarty-pants entrepreneurs, artists, and other assorted luminaries get together for something called the TED conference, and they award a prize to three individuals of $100,000 to "make a wish to change the world." Last year, one of the winners was a renowned war photographer named James Nachtwey, and his wish was to use the winnings to travel the world and document an underreported health story. Wouldn't you know it, he chose extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis.

A bit of background: A lot of folks think TB was wiped out 100 years ago, but it's still a major problem. 1.7 million people die from it every year, and 9 million people are infected. It's particularly bad for people with HIV/AIDS, and is actually the leading killer of people with AIDS. It's totally curable, often for as little as $20 if you catch it early, but because there's been so little investment, patients in the world's poorest countries often don't receive proper treatment, and their TB mutates into more drug-resistant forms. Extremely drug-resistant TB (or XDR-TB) is the worst kind of all. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat, often involving surgery, and can kill the patient before they're diagnosed, but not before they've passed it on. So for people in poor countries, it's a virtual death sentence. Scary stuff.

So the nice people at TED told us about this, and they had grand plans to project James' pictures in huge displays on the sides of buildings in all seven continents (seriously, they worked something out with a science base in Antarctica. It's nice to have a budget). But, darn the luck, they needed someone to help them with the wonky aspects of the presentation, and to give people something to do if they wanted to take action after seeing the pictures. Naturally, we were delighted to help.

So we've been working with these folks for a few weeks to get media attention, and to fact-check the presentations. There was a big unveiling in NYC on Friday night with a gala reception featuring people like Paul Simon and Anthony Edwards (the bald doctor from ER, or, as he's known in our household, Goose from Top Gun). For the curious, I did not get to meet Mr. Simon, though I stood next to him, and he is alarmingly Robyn-sized. I did meet Goose, and got his autograph, and can affirm that he is wicked chill. I'm very pro-Goose at the moment.

But from a professional standpoint, it was awesome, and kind of surreal, to see a cocktail party full of the NYC society types discussing the talking points of an issue you've been working pretty hard on for the better part of a year. We had a table set up for people to sign letters to Obama and McCain asking them to annouce a presidential TB initiative, and got a lot of signatures (including Mr. Simon and Mr. Edwards). Obama and McCain also each e-mailed our staff statements supporting the campaign in general. The pictures, and slides that we helped wordsmith, were broadcast on the Reuters screen in Times Square just before the reception, so I hoofed it 20 blocks up and back (in heels, thanks), to take pictures. There were actually some photography nerds there waiting for the presentation, because they saw the press release. I almost kissed them. And I'll tell you what, if you haven't seen something you helped write broadcast a couple of stories high at the crossroads of the world, I highly recommend it. Does wonders for morale.

So our obscure little health issue had a hell of a day last week. You can see the slideshow at, and I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you to check out our site for info on the issue. We also got news hits on USA Today, AFP, and Time magazine. It's pretty heavy duty stuff, but hopefully we've helped get the word out about it a little bit. Here are some pictures from the events:

Paul Simon signs our letter:

Anthony Edwards with my boss, Joanne:

Hello! Wanna sign our letter?

In Times Square:

We helped write the text

Back to Updates

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jazz Hands of Atonement

The other day I got an e-mail from the cantor at my synagogue. This doesn't happen every day, so I figure I'm either being asked to do something very special, or I'm in a world of trouble.

It turns out, she had good news for me. She asked me to take part in the Yom Kippur service. This is a very big deal, and quite an honor. It was also a little bit stupefying, as I'm still pretty remedial in the liturgical department. I only just got bat mitzvahed and went to my first High Holy Days service last year, and am still getting a grasp on all the basics, so being asked to sing part of the service during the holiest day of the year was a little daunting. Especially considering that for the High Holy Days, our temple borrows the massive Metropolitan Memorial Methodist Church, and packs it to the gills. Still, I was flattered.

At least I thought they wanted me to sing. I dusted off my old notes on chanting, and headed to practice feeling, I thought, well-prepared. There were about a half-dozen people sitting in a circle in the sanctuary, and the cantor started laying out the plans.

I've never attended a Yom Kippur service with my temple, but apparently each year features some creative component, usually involving some kind of performance by a local dance company. So far, so good. We are, it should be noted, a liberal reform congregation, so a bit of the artistic element wouldn't be terribly out of place. The choreographer was on hand to talk about what her company would be doing, which sounded lovely, and then she went on to say how we would help lead the congregation in an interpretive dance that we would be developing that night.


I wasn't going to be singing at all. Rather, they had asked the congregation to submit thoughts on forgiveness, and we were going to select the best ones, devise motions to symbolize them, and then lead everybody while we performed them repeatedly for this portion of the service.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with this in theory. It's just that it's not necessarily the kind of thing I would have readily volunteered to do. Let me put it this way: At the tender age of six, I didn't know much about myself as a person, but I knew enough that the dance classes that all the neighborhood girls took after school just weren't for me. When it was time for the bunk talent show in summer camp, which always involved some choreographed nonsense to something like Taylor Dayne or some crap like that, I was always the kid who was asking if I could hold a sign, or be a tree, or anything that didn't involve group dancing. I'd act, sing, do your PR, anything, as long as I didn't have to dance. It's not really my thing.

But when you're surrounded by your cantor and a some very earnest members of your congregation that are genuinely excited that a youngster like yourself would (seemingly) volunteer to help out...well...strike a pose, I guess.

It's not the end of the world. I've been meaning to get more involved in the 'gogue anyway, and it's a crazy supportive environment. I'll go take one for the mishpuchah. And since videotaping services is prohibited, it's not like any of you guys will see it.

No, I will not either.

Oh, for the love...fine. I hope you particularly like the part where it looks like I'm doing the Cabbage Patch. Apologies for the skewed view. I think it adds to the artistic integrity. Plus, I really don't feel like re-shooting it.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What Would Robyn Twitter? Monday Night Football Edition

Last night the cable went out halfway through the first quarter of the Eagles-Cowboys game, prompting an unexpected adventure. Alas, the bar I finally found was below street level at the Marriott, and the cell phone reception sucked. But if I could twitter, this is what it would have looked like:

All showered, chores are done, time to settle in and get ready for some football!

Wha happa to the TV? Whaddya mean cable's out for the whole building?

This is unacceptable. Somebody fetch me my pants.

Damn the makeup, screw the wet hair, time to run like the wind!

That's enough running. My knees are for crap.

Don't bother welcoming me to the effing Marriott, Skippy. Just show me the way to the bar and get me a Yuengling.

Okay, when I left the apartment 10 minutes ago the score was 7-6. Now it's 21-20. Clearly, I stepped into a wormhole somewhere around New York Avenue.

I hear that T.O. eats his own poo. And babies. Pass it on.

I love DeSean Jackson so bad!

I'm-a kick DeSean Jackson's ass so bad his granddaddy'll feel it.

Another Yuengling? I really shouldn't. Okay!

I don't feel so good.

Sometimes, a little puke goes a long way. Now I'm hungry again. Bring me your finest quesadilla!

Don't tell me there's no such thing as wormholes, because the score just went up about a zillion points while I was barfing. A zillion.

Hit me, Yuengling, one more time.

Brian Westbrook is god.

Brian Westbrook kills me. Or maybe it's Donovan. Whatever, I hate you guys.

Y'know what, Cowboys fans? You got freakin' lucky. Maybe the Eagles lost, but they fought. They fought hard. They fought like warrior poets. Dear god, I'm drunk.

What's that, strange man? You wanna pay for my Yuengling and quesadilla? Hey, I might be drunk, but I ain't stupid. Go right ahead.

Skins fans are weirdly nice to you when you're playing the Cowboys.

Dude...did I get wasted last night and send some embarrassing text messages about keeping hope alive? With really improper grammar and questionable syntax? I'm sorry...I'm not usually like that...


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend: The Agony and the Ecstasy

I'm coming off a pretty action-packed Labor Day weekend. No lollygagging about watching Top Model marathons this year. And I even have a brand new entertaining injury to show for it. That's the true mark of a weekend well spent.

It started, as all good weekends should start, with an early departure from work on Friday and multi-colored margaritas at Austin Grill with Beth, resulting in a stumble-filled walk home at the ripe hour of 3:00 pm. Off and running. The next morning, Mark and I headed north for my first proper visit home in four months. The main attractions back in beautiful Bucks County were barbecued hot dogs at Chez Shep, followed by a trip to New Hope to see Johnny C. and Jack Firneno play with Crow vs. Lion at John n' Peter's. It had been a few years since I'd hung out in New Hope. I used to go all the time when I was in high school and college, but before I could drink. It was a nice place to go if you were underage and wanted to pretend that you were doing something worthwhile with your time other than taking up space at the food court at the mall. I really ought to make a habit of coming back around more often, as it's even more entertaining when you can actually order more than mozzarella sticks at the bars. The boys played great, but we had to call it an early night (and inadvertantly miss a Ween sighting) in order to prepare for Phase II of the operation.

Phase II involved righting a long-standing wrong. Although I lived in New York City for three years, and fancy myself something of an expert, I had never been to Coney Island. I know it's not exactly Disneyland, but when I heard that they were scheduled to tear down Astroland after the summer, I figured it was time to correct this blemish on my record. So Mark, Bob, fresh-from-the-gig John and I took the 10 am train out of Hamilton up to NYC.

It takes a good hour to get out to Coney Island from Midtown, but it was a gorgeous day for it, and I got to see a lot of Brooklyn that had been hitherto unexplored. We were met at the subway station by Brooklyn's own Koz, who was delighted to play tour guide since he lived 15 minutes away. First order of business was to procure some genuine Coney Island hot dogs from Nathan's, which taste remarkably like the hot dogs at any other Nathan's, but still must be ingested. Mark got fried clams, which we all agreed was very wrong and annoyingly contrarian, even if his line did move a hell of a lot faster and the clams were admittedly tasty.

We visited the freak show, which was hosted by a nice gentleman who called himself Donny Vomit and during which the flame-eater seemed to light her eyeball on fire, which I'm pretty sure was a mistake. We paused by the main entrance to Astroland, wondering if we should go on the smaller rides first, but I was there on a mission, and that mission had to be executed.

I'm not a fan of roller coasters. In fact, I really, really hate them. If I turn out to be a bad person and am sentenced to an eternity in Hell, I know part of the deal will entail having that weird dropping feeling in your stomach for all time. The other part of the deal would probably involve moths and blue cheese, but that's another blog. Despite my aversion to coasters, I had resolved to go on the iconic Cyclone. It's a freakin' institution. And it's a gazillion years old. How bad could it possibly be? It didn't look that scary from the subway, so Bob and I paid the separate $8 fee to ride it, while the others, howyousay?, pussed out.

And then things went horribly wrong.

It started out so promisingly. It's like a log flume, I said to myself. No big. One big drop, and that's basically it. Scream it out. It will be fine. I was cool all the way up the big hill, and when we paused at the top, I warned Bob that I'd very likely yell.

The drop hit, and my butt left the seat, and before I could process the bad tummy-feeling, I was slammed back down and then thrown about on the most godawful, rickety, unstable ride imaginable. It's not that I was afraid, or felt unsafe. It was just that the entire ride consisted of very, very painful; vertebrae-crushing; neck-snapping; leg-smashing twists, turns and drops. It was like being in a car accident over and over and over for two minutes, and it left me bruised, battered, and with a hell of a pinched nerve in my neck that left me unable to turn my head for a day and a half.

Evidently, it also caused me to involuntarily unleash with the most profane tirade of expletives ever uttered. I knew I let out the odd m-f'er, but according to Bob the f-bombs started on the first drop and just kept coming -- at enormous volume. He also agreed that when I screamed, it wasn't a girly, whee-this-is-fun scream, but an unsettlingly manly, descending-into-the-vortex-of-death, type of noise. I asked him to re-enact it for my benefit, but he said it would make him blush to do so. And we're from a Navy family. AND we're Eagles fans. If only we had it on video, it would be YouTube gold.

Alas, we did not, and we were pretty much ruined for the rest of Coney Island. Despite the pain, we pressed on with the day, because even severe neck trauma is not justification for cutting short a trip to New York. We sought solace in soup dumplings in Chinatown...and ice cream a block away...and rice pudding in Little Italy...before we ran out of ideas and time and went home at sunset.

It's been two days, and my neck is way better. I still need the odd aspirin, but at least the mobility has returned. In spite of everything, I'm glad I went on it. I would have kicked myself for not trying it, and I can be proud of the fact that I overcame my fear and seized the moment. Sure, I was rewarded for it with deep, deep hurting, but I think I'm a better person for it in the long run.

As a postscript, last night I took an Oxycodone left over from when I had kidney stones, intending to help myself drift off to sleep pain-free. I zonked out on the couch, having left the water trickling in the sink to let the cat have a drink, and awoke to a very Zen-like splashing sound as the sink had been stopped up and water rushed all over the place with kitties frolicking in the puddles. Mark returned from an outing to find his drugged-out, stiff-necked girlfriend flitting about the apartment in her skivvies brandishing a wet vac and insisting that she's "got this." The parquet floor is hella warped, but we haven't had any complaints from the unit downstairs, so I think we're good. Don't do drugs, kids. And don't ride the Cyclone.

I was too rattled after getting off the ride to purchase a picture of Bob and I hurtling downhill, but here's a little drawing, rendered under the influence of narcotics, just like the masters:

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Rod We Trust

I don’t want to make you kids jealous or anything, but guess who spent her Sunday evening kickin’ it in the VIP section at the Rod Stewart concert at Nissan Pavilion last night. Awww yeah. How ya like that, haters?

Admittedly, I wouldn’t have bought tickets, VIP or otherwise, to a Rod Stewart show had there not been some mitigating factors. Like my brother Bob said when I told him where I was going, it’s okay for a late-twentysomething to own up to enjoying some Rod Stewart, especially some of the older stuff. It gets a little more questionable when you actually buy a CD. You’d happily listen to it on the radio in the car by yourself, and maybe even sing along, but if there are other people in the car, you’d probably keep scanning the dial and pretend you didn’t hear it. It bears mentioning that Bob and I are painfully self-conscious, and a touch neurotic.

Anyway, we wound up in Bristow, VA that night because our buddy Shwa somehow managed to get himself booked as the live entertainment in the VIP section before the show, and upon announcing this to Mark, I found out that my beloved S.O. is more of a Rod Stewart enthusiast than I thought. It’s hard to say what packed more appeal — Shwa, Rod, or the surprisingly low lawn seat prices and the promise that Shwa could “pull some strings” to get us into the VIP section — but the combination thereof was enough for us to get tickets, and off we went.

I’m confidant as many strings were pulled as possible, but we still had to wait an hour outside the main gates with the Rod tailgaters (I kid you not — there were RVs and barbecues and a lot of elastic waist jeans in that parking lot), and talk our way into the VIP grounds since homedude’s set had already started. It was a little awkward (“We’re here with Shwa.” “What?” “Shwa.” “Gesundheit.” “Riiiiight…” ) but we discovered that if you’re adamant enough that the guy currently singing onstage definitely has your tickets and would happily give them to you if he weren’t — darn the luck — already performing, they’ll eventually let you in.

Truth be told, the VIP section at Nissan Pavilion didn’t exactly live up to my wildest backstage dreams, which included extravagances like free chicken fingers and laminated passes. There were chicken fingers, sure, but you had to pay the usual exorbitant arena concession stand prices for them, and instead of a pass, you got a little paper wristband that said “VIP” on it. The whole setup was kind of behind the stage, so eventually you’d have to leave the area for your seats to see the show. But you do get to sit in nice wrought-iron chairs on a lovely patio and watch the Olympics or whatever happens to be on stage at the moment on closed-circuit TV while you play Connect Four. Flossy, flossy.

There were about a half dozen of us there specifically to see Shwa and the estimable Jim “the Brit” Beardow do their set, which went over well with the rather sizable cougar demographic in attendance, some of who could be heard at the snack shack wondering if the performers were actually old enough to know who Rod Stewart is. Some of them must have been really curious, because a few waylaid young Shwa at the merch table for what seemed like a fairly long time. I think they really liked his intonation.

Eventually the party moved out to the lawn. It was a perfect night for an outdoor show, and all smart-ass commentary aside, it was a fun show to watch. Say what you will, Rod knows his audience, and prances about pretty spryly for an old dude. He shook his little tush to the ladies’ delight, and accepted flowers from the audience with cheesy lines like “I’ll put these in a vase in my lonely hotel room,” which sent many a menopausal heart a-twitter. He played only his hits, and a few covers, which we all knew the words to and unabashedly sang along. He had surprising number of costume changes (or as Jim maybe more accurately called them, “oxygen breaks”), during which his band played things like the B-52’s “Love Shack.” It was like a massive bar mitzvah reception, complete with drunken aunties. I half expected us all to do the hora at any minute.

We skipped out at the encore just at the start of “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (ummm…we’ll get back to you on that one, Rod), and scattered to our respective vehicles. In a tour de force of hauling ass, Mark and I managed to be one of the first cars to squeal out of the parking lot, thus ending our evening as VIP big shots. Or whatever.

For those of you who missed out, here are a few pictures from the VIP section. Viewer discretion is advised. It was one crazy scene back there.

Don't be hatin' on the wristband.

Shwa and Jim rockin' out.

Gettin' wild with Connect Four.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Some people are born with preternatural physical or artistic abilities, and strive to be the best in their class through years of strenuous training, pre-dawn practices, and insane ambition to become the best in their field.

Then there are the spazzes like me who suck at sports and utterly lack grace or coordination of any kind, but can kick major ass at Trivial Pursuit. It’s all I’ve got, really. I was never any kind of athlete, and won’t be going on American Idol anytime soon (though one time I got 100% on an Oasis song in Rock Band – it was totally killer), but I can remember random crap better than just about anyone else I know. Which really only is useful for trying out for game shows. Having been denied glory once on Jeopardy, last week I decided to take the day off work and drive to lovely Arundel Mills mall to try out for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

This was an open audition, which meant I had to get out of bed at 4:30 am, and drive up the BW Parkway to line up with about 500 other yahoos at – of all places – Medieval Times restaurant. Do you know about these? It’s a big, cheesy, castle-y looking thing attached to the mall, or more precisely, Burlington Coat Factory. There’s a big arena where community theater actors dress up like knights and joust each other, and serving wenches bring you flagons of mead, and all the while they try to separate you from your money by selling you horrible sparkly hats for $20 that say things like “Birthday Princess.” Happily, such things were not going on at 5am, as that would have been a bit too much sensory overload, but they were nice enough to run a promotional video ad nauseum and hand out discount coupons while we lined up in a dungeon-y looking setting. Very weird.

But, anyway, Millionaire. They were auditioning for both the regular show and a special movie show, so I had been preparing for the past week by skimming through a movie trivia book, which I also did in line. This is what we like to call “psyching out the competition” or “intensive training” or “being a giant asshole.” After an hour, they herded about 375 of us into the arena, which smelled like donkeys, and we took two multiple choice tests with Scantron sheets, which I hated in high school, but was weirdly, nostalgically pleased to see again.

The movie test was legitimately difficult, but the general one was kinda easy. Ridiculously easy, actually. I’m talking about questions along the lines of “Tokyo is a major city in what country?” Still, about half the people failed both, and were dismissed. For the rest of us, they took our pictures, and sent us on our merry way for three hours with a written application and an appointment for an interview. I killed the afternoon by going to Chik-Fil-A, tried on dresses I had no intention of buying, and saw Wall-E. Not a bad day.

I think I might have blown it on the interview though. I knew I was screwed when I saw that they were breezing through people in about 45 seconds. I can rock the Scantron, but I still struggle with the whole instantly-charming thing. I started out okay with a lame comparison to Millionaire and the Olympics, which at least got a laugh, but then spiraled into a lame recitation of what I did for fun, which, whenever you’re asked that, always sounds like not a lot of fun at all. Homegirl (who was about 22 and popping gum the whole time) barely looked at me, wrote some stuff down, while I kinda panicked and was left spouting “I JUST WANNA BE ON THE SHOW! I LOVE THE SHOW! I LOVE MEREDITH VIERA!” until they sent me on my way. Some people got a second interview. I did not.

So it doesn’t look good for the home team, but all is not lost. Maybe I can win them over with my written application. They’ll tell me in a few weeks if I made the cut for the contestant pool.

And if that fails, there’s always World Series of Pop Culture.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Songs from teh Trash Room

I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but the combination of more pressing events and sheer laziness have prevented me from doing so. A few months ago, a friend of mine introduced me to a site called It's a site that lets you upload playlists, so your friends can stream the mp3s on their computer, and then download them if they like them, or ask for a mix for themselves. It's a good way to share mixtapes.

Back in May, I uploaded one of my favorite mixes, and then the site promptly crashed. It came back shortly thereafter, but I felt somehow responsible, and I've been a little wary of spreading the word, lest I love muxtape to death again. But it seems to have been okay for a while now, so I think it should be okay.

A little backstory on this particular playlist: I lived in London in the beginning of 2002 in a horrible flat in a fantastic neighborhood (if you're curious, most of the wacky misadventures of my roommate Christine and I can be found in an earlier incarnation of this little blog). The flat was one little room with one bare bulb in the ceiling for light, bunk beds, and pipes that made a tremendous amount of noise whenever our neighbors flushed. Our front door was literally in the trash room, so we often had to hurdle over giant bags of garbage to get out. But it was just off Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road, so we kept our mouths shut. We had no computer or TV, just a little radio that played Virgin Radio nonstop, where I got a crash course in the finer points of Britpop. When I got home, I made this mix, and it still makes me smile to listen to it. Hope you enjoy, and please let me know if you decide to go and make your own!

And if goes down again, you can blame me. Everything I touch, I destroy.


Friday, August 1, 2008

Ghost Town DC

It's officially August in Washington, and that can only mean one thing. Everyone who has a lick of sense has left town. So naturally, yours truly is holding court in a very empty office while her colleagues are on vacation/taking comp time from a conference we hosted/attending the International AIDS Conference in Mexico/generally naffing off as one should do in the summertime.

So I thought I'd take a quick break from dusting my desk, sorting my inbox and refreshing FaceSpace every 12 seconds to give you a quick update on how I've been pissing away the better part of the summer.

We just got back from a long-overdue trip to Maine to visit the family up there. And there is a lot of them. This was the first time Mark had been, and he asked how many Shepherds he was bound to see. There's a solid 13 proper Shepherds, and if you take into account various other names attached to the Shepherd Familias, it quickly gets to about 30 people. Many of whom live in the same little town. We were lucky to have mild weather, and gave Mark a true Maine sampler by whisking him off to the mountains for a dip in the lake, then off to the coast for a spin in my Aunt's tugboat, and then an all-out lobstah dinnah with steamed clams and blueberry muffins. I think he made a good impression. Plus, my "little" cousins (who in actually are well over 6 feet tall and range in age from 13-17) are now of an age where we can all hang out and talk to each other as relative equals, rather than having the big kid-little kid dynamic in the way. So we naturally set about bonding over raucous rounds of Rock Band, quickly dispelling any threat of there ever being a Shepherd Family traveling act like the Von Trapps. Ayuh.

Otherwise, I finally got my butt out on the highway. It's not been something I'm particularly proud of, but I kinda missed the "learn to drive on a highway" chapter in my general experience. Before I left home, I only ever had to drive on rural Bucks County roads, which when you think about it, are way more dangerous than any multi-lane highway. But then I moved to New York, then DC, and relied on mass transit. But at the age of 27, it became clear that it really was time to get over it. So I've been cautiously exploring these strange new corridors they call "the Beltway" and "I-270" and "West Virginia." Scary stuff. But hopefully, I'll soon be a fully-functioning adult who can actually play an active role on road trips besides navigator and DJ. Though I've become quite good at that over the years.

So anyway, if you see me on AIM or such during the day, it probably means I'm desperate for human contact, so give me a holler!


Wednesday, July 2, 2008


We just got back from the annual Shepherd family trip to Aruba, which was lovely. I spent the great bulk of the time doing absolutely nothing on the beach, except eating too much Gouda cheese, drinking rum-based cocktails, making friends with iguanas and stray cats, and reading an unusual number of disappointing beach reads. A quick note on Girl with a Pearl Earring: Hordes of people really took to this book, and that concerns me, as it's one of the most joyless things I've ever read in my life this side of George Steinbeck. Seriously, I had a better time reading about college kids getting eaten alive by plants in The Ruins. If there's something I'm missing, please feel free to let me know.

Those who have kept up with the blog these past seven years are familiar with the general content of the semi-annual Aruba entry, so I'll spare both of you. Notable exceptions include partaking of my first Cuban cigar -- or more accurately, my first ever cigar. Not as bad as I thought it might be, but I can't say I've cultivated a taste for them as yet. Maybe I'm missing something again. Suggestions are welcome. It does make for some good pictures, though.

But the best thing by far was witnessing a sea turtle hatching on the beach. I've been coming to Aruba for 12 years now, and every year there are nests barricaded off on the beach, waiting to hatch, but I've never actually seen one until this year. They generally hatch at sunset, and the little guys crawl out of the sand like a baby turtle volcano, and head to the ocean. The nest we saw yielded 73 of the little guys, and we got to help the proceedings by holding up a big blanket so they wouldn't see the lights from the hotels and head the wrong way. It was really cool, even if I was dressed in a strapless dress and heels for a (delayed) night on the town. We weren't allowed to take pictures (the flashbulbs confuse the turtles), but the next morning one little dude decided he wanted out, so we got a few pictures and video there. I'll post them soon.

In the meantime, because we weren't allowed to take pictures during the big hatching, I've rendered the event in Crayolas. It's almost like being there!

Post-turtle celebration:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bidness Trip

I just got back from my first ever business trip to NYC. It's been five years of gainful employment, but they finally let me out from behind the desk. That's pretty gratifying. One of these days they may actually let me see this "Africa" place I've heard so much about. I'm beginning to think it doesn't actually exist, and is a mythical land full of mermaids and leprechauns and stuff. For all I know, it could be.

All bitching aside, it's hard to turn down a trip to NYC. For those paying attention, the UN held a big ass meeting on the connection between TB and HIV/AIDS. What connection? Glad you asked, because my job was to help organize two press conferences on the matter. The good people at the New York Times participated, and wrote a nice article that explains it nicely. Thanks, NYT!

On the social front, I had a lovely time in the East Village with my college pal Crissie, with whom I finally had dinner at the Life Cafe (that only took nine years to accomplish). I also kicked it with the Shwa at Rockwood Music Hall, where I got to witness the awesome spectacle of uber-cool hipster music types networking. It's a lot like wonky Hill staffers networking, but with better hair. Shwa apologized for ending the night so early, at 11pm on a Monday. Different worlds, I tells ya.

I ended the two-day trip with a pub lunch with the amazing Kos, who wears a fedora better than any other guy friend I know, and a quick pilgrimage to Rock Center. Intervening moments were spent sprinting between the UN and the hotel in 100 degree heat while wearing a mohair suit, which in retrospect was a dumb idea. The best part of the whole gig, though, was that I got a complimentary upgrade to a sick hotel room with an awesome terrace overlooking the East River and UN building. True, it was about 150 degrees out there, so all I did was take some pictures, and do a little happy dance, but it was nice to know it was there. Wanna see it? Check it!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Now My Life is Complete

The other day, I went to CoCo Sala in Penn Quarter for my pal Ariel's birthday. Their shtick is that just about everything in the place incorporates chocolate of some kind. Check the menu if you have a chance. It's intense. Not having had dinner, and being a bit peckish, I ordered the bacon mac and cheese, which I assumed would be chocolate-free.

It came served with what looked like a strip of chocolate garnishing it. How presh, I thought. Way to get the chocolate in after all. I removed it, and did a double take. Then my face lit up like a little Chanukah Bush, and I made a sound like "Whoa! WHOA!"

It was a strip of chocolate covered bacon.

Chocolate. Covered. Bacon.

This was momentous. This was unprecedented. This was chocolate covered meat.

It kind of tasted like a funky chocolate pretzel. But more porcine.

I don't know if I need to have it again, but really, after chocolate covered bacon, where do you go? I fear it's all downhill from here.

Unless they come out with Nutella-infused Popeye's. Now there's a market waiting to be tapped.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Carolyn Meets Moby

My best friend died five years ago this month.

Stay with me. I promise it's not that kind of blog. I did the oh-woe-is-me thing for a couple of years, and I did it really well. It's tiresome. I wouldn't do that to you.

But Carolyn has been on my mind a lot lately with the anniversary coming up. She's always kind of floating around in my brain anyway, but more so as of late. On paper, Carolyn and I should never have been friends. She was a devout Christian who went to Jesus camps and Calvary Church every week, and I'm a bacon cheeseburger Jew at best. She was brilliant, but struggled in school, and I was a card-carrying member of the Advanced Placement Young Transcript Building Machines of America. We were never in the same classes. We were tight through junior high and high school, but didn't become really close until I graduated and moved to New York. Despite the distance, we just really dug each other. We never did anything especially thrilling, but we could make each other laugh for hours, and turn an evening of driving around lower Bucks County into the best night ever. Easily.

Plus, she's responsible for dragging me to my first U2 show against my will, which indirectly led to me getting interested in Africa, which indirectly led me to DC and my chosen career. So thanks, Carolyn. I think.

I recently had to tell a friend from home the rather horrible story of how she died, and I realized it had been a while since I told any Carolyn stories of any kind. And that's too bad, because she made for some awesome stories. For most of her life, she was an incredibly joyful, unihibited person. So, if you don't mind, I'd like to tell you a Carolyn story now.

It was 2000, and I was a junior at New York University and crazy in love with Moby. Yes, he of the bald head, techno music and admittedly annoying politics. Being 19 and ridiculous, I wanted to share what I thought was the transcending experience of seeing Moby live with my best pal. So Carolyn trained up to come with me. Being the good friend that she was, she spent most of the evening busting my chops about my nerdy crush. When I said that I wanted to hang out at the stage door after the show to get an autograph, she busted my chops even harder. She was totally right to do so. But she must have fancied Mr. Moby a bit herself, or been listening really closely when I was gushing about him, because here's pretty much what went down:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What the Eff is That?

Okay, kids! Take a good look at the picture below:

Is it:

A. A male enhancement device

B. A breast pump for members of the IBTC

C. A goddamn $165 inhaler for your goddamn cat who is one of the goddamn one percent of cats with asthma, and requires a goddamn wrestling match twice a day to give her the goddamn thing.

If you said C, you're goddamn right!

If you didn't, you're a goddamn perv. Get your mind out of the gutter and clean up your act. Honestly.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Killing Time in the ER

Yesterday I had lofty plans to attend Dude Fest -- a celebration of the movie The Big Lebowski complete with trivia, a costume contest, a tribute band, and a screening of the movie. I was wicked psyched for weeks about this. It was to be at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, which is a cool little venue in Northern Virginia where you can eat burgers and drink beers while you watch movies. I didn't have time to pull together a costume, but I was still pumped.

Then I got a tearful, panicked call from my dear friend Kyra, who was stranded at the hospital with possible appendicitis and needed someone to be on call to pick her up should she be discharged as her husband was without car. My friendship with Kra goes back to seventh grade home ec (I asked her if she liked Mystery Science Theater while we made sweatshirts; it was the only way I knew to make friends when I was 12. Not much has changed). We have been through puberty, proms, my best friend's funeral, bad relationships, and hasty weddings. Not only was I honor-bound to pick her up if she needed it, it was clear that someone should at least go to the hospital and keep her company. If I have to give up Dude Fest for somebody, it's her.

The poor kid wound up spending nine hours at Georgetown University Hospital, the last half of which I spent with her. Prior to my coming there she had nothing to do but stare at the IV drip, which probably inspired most of the hysteria I heard on the phone. So we amused each other until 12:30 in the freakin' morning, when we discovered that her ailment was not appendicitis, but something much more manageable that could be addressed with painkillers, rest, and presumably, a good day of watching telenovelas and Judge Judy.

One thing that amused the hell out of us was going through my text message outbox devoid of context. I haven't deleted many over the years, so it made for some fun reading. Here's a little sample:

"We have vomit."

"I got an iguana."

"I am by the cake. -- robyn"

"Heads up. Mom found our myspace pages."

"I've got nothing to hide but you might want to warn dawg."

"Is it brazil independence day? There are a lot of characters on the train."

"Bulletin. The rabbit just pissed in my face. That is all."



"Girls beer/ marks tits/3208 17th"

"I have a cake and shake. It's awesome."

"What is with all the fucking pigeons on the field?"

"Everclear & beer pong = bad news"

"Im at iota watching the guy whose song is on your myspace. xo"

"This game just made me throw up in my mouth a little."

"Dude. I have the maypole dance song in my head."

Like I said, it was rough going in that ER trying to find something to entertain us. I challenge you to come up with something better.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Fightin' Violets

March Madness can be a lonely time for the NYU alumni. New York University is many things, but it is not what you might call an athletic powerhouse. Sure, we have some fairly impressive Division I fencing and volleyball teams, and a pretty good Division III women's basketball, but really nothing that you'd see on ESPN (or ESPN 2, or 3, for that matter).

Part of NYU's problem is that we have a famously bad team name: the Violets. It's hard for an opponent to take you seriously with such a puss name. To rectify this, someone somewhere down the line made the decision that NYU needed a more virile mascot at team games, so they instituted the Bobcat to cheer on the fighting Violets. That seems okay enough, until you realize that the bobcat was chosen in honor of (and I kid you not) the catalog system at Bobst Library -- BobCAT. Not so tough now, are we?

My friend, and fellow Violet, Lindsay and I were discussing this while the rest of our friends are busy losing their collective minds over the NCAA tournament. We decided that if we have to have a wussy nickname, then we might as well just own it. So we came up with some ideas to take back the Violet. Our humble suggestions are as follows:

Pansy pride.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Life, Death, Sex and Sparrows

DC is having some very springlike weather this weekend, with temperatures in the 60s, cherry blossoms budding and alternating sunshine and showers that make everything nice and green. I'm pretty sure there's at least one cold snap left for the season, so I'm not getting too comfortable just yet, but it's nice to know warmer weather is on the way.

One sure sign of spring is the renewed presence of little songbirds, or, to put it more precisely, little songbirds boinking. Those shameless little birdies are everywhere -- twittering about, cavorting in mid-air, displaying on the sidewalk. Horny little devils, those sparrows and such.

Which I mention only because I came across a sad sight in the driveway of OneTwoThreeFour Mass Ave today. Two little house sparrows, a male and female, lay squashed along the curb, where people usually idle their cars for short-term parking. The first thought I had upon seeing them was, "Gross! I almost stepped in that!" The second thought was, "Man, that must have been some hot sparrow sex."

I mean, think about it. Neither one of these little things had the presence of mind to move out of the way of whatever was bearing down on them. Surely, you'd think at least one of them would have been all "Um, Herb, I hate to be a noodge, but can we move it over to the landscaping?" Nope. Such was their wanton abandon that one second they were busy propagating the next batch of sparrows-to-be, and the next they were smooshed under a Prius, or whatever. They probably never knew what hit them.

Which, when you think about it, really isn't a bad way to go. Well played, little sparrows. Well played.

Now if the maintenance people could kindly scrape them off the driveway, because, honestly, I almost stepped in them again coming home tonight, and it's kind of disgusting.


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Life with Bun

It's been eight months since we acquired our little foundling rabbit Bun Scott, rescued from a Connecticut Avenue stoop by officemate extraordinaire Paul. For the most part he's a perfectly charming little bun. He's relatively tiny, very personable, and never seems to have a bad day. He's a very happy little animal. He does however, have one less than savory habit. I'm not bugged so much by the occasional accident on the floor. I have four pets, and I volunteer at an animal shelter, so I'm well acquainted with the odd errant turd or piddle. With Bun, it's more the manner in which these accidents occur. In a phenomenon he seems to reserve only for my benefit, he'll sometimes be hopping along, then suddenly stop, seize up and explode in a little bunny pee-bomb, dousing everything in a three-foot radius. Usually, this includes myself. It has yet to happen with Mark. I had a rabbit for 13 years growing up, and he never exhibited this behavior (though he had a knack for projectile pooing at heights up to eight feet, usually when we were asleep). I realize that mere words might fail to articulate exactly what I'm talking about, so I'll let the Crayolas do the talking:


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oscars, Zombies, and Being a Badass

A word on the Oscars before it gets too late to bear mentioning:

Once upon a time, I was obsessed with who was nominated for what, and made a point of seeing every movie that was nominated in as many categories as I could. This once resulted in a girls’-night-out with Mom consisting of a trip to see Saving Private Ryan in a theater with some PTSD-addled WWII vets, for which I think she still hasn’t forgiven me. This was back when my life’s dream was to write for Entertainment Weekly, back when I once made the statement “I just wanna have fun in my job! I don’t want to save the world or anything!” That one really gets a laugh at do-gooder NGO happy hours on the Hill, I can tell you. But then, we’re an easily amused bunch.

Anyway, this particular year I saw exactly one Oscar-nominated movie. Just one. And I’m not just talking about Best Picture. I hadn’t seen any other nominated movie, not even Norbit (best makeup). And the one that I did see, There Will Be Blood, I had seen just the evening before, and I came damn close to seeing yet another zombie movie. I think I’ve seen every zombie movie that’s come out in the past 18 months. You might wonder just how many zombie movies there could possibly be in a year and a half. Plenty. I’ve seen slow zombies, fast zombies, truly-undead-zombies, zombies-that-are-really-just-sick-people-zombies, zombies in London, zombies in New York, zombies in Las Vegas and a surprising number of dog zombies. I even recently had a dream that Mark and I were prepping for a New Year’s Eve pool party in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. At this point, zombies have become such a common fixture in my life that I was fairly unconcerned in the dream about the zombies, any more than I would be a traffic jam on the Beltway slowing us down. I was more concerned with which bathing suit I was going to wear, which of my friends were going to be at the party, whether or not I had shaved adequately, and the fact that New Year’s is a stupid time to have a pool party. Even the fact that my cats seemed to have become little kitty zombies was more of an annoyance than anything, because I had to keep them in the bathroom.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I need to see less zombie movies, and more quality films. And that doesn’t mean Rambo (which I have seen, and it was very, very loud). Although the last time I rented an Oscar-y movie, Babel, I thought it sucked big time. At least with zombie movies you know what you’re gonna get.

And a quick word on work:

I’ll not pretend I have the most glamorous job in the world. Okay, so there’s the odd photo-op with Bono and Bill Clinton, but really, that’s two days out of five years of being gainfully employed. I think the thrilling-to-ho-hum ratio is still a bit skewed. But today, we rocked the house, if I do say so. We helped the World Health Organization launch a major, major report on tuberculosis, and it’s all over the New York Times, BBC, Reuters, AP, etc. Watch for it. That was totally us. Is it okay that that makes me feel a little bit badass? Sure, it’s a scary, scary report on the resurgence of tuberculosis around the world, but it’s okay for me to be a little proud of myself, right?

Hey, at least it’s not a resurgence of zombies. Though I think I’d be something of an expert on that point as well.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Snow Day Tease

Washington's a weird place when it comes to inclement weather. Just the thought of a flurry is enough to close most schools in the suburbs. But it takes a snowstorm of apocalyptic proportions to shut down the federal government, which is what every business in DC goes by when determining whether to close for the day. So despite some nasty, icy days, the federal government-- and consequently, yours truly -- has yet to take a snow day this winter.

So when they really were calling for an apocalyptic ice storm to hit this morning (at rush hour, no less), I got all kinds of excited. Don't get me wrong, I still would have had to work from home, and I'm not one to shirk my responsibilities, but I do get giddy like a little kid at the thought of a snow day. Somehow, the thought of pitching drug-resistant tuberculosis stories to the mass media seems so much more appealing if you can do it in your PJs, sipping hot cocoa and watching the People's Court in the background.

So this morning, I jumped out of bed to check the news, certain that the icy mix falling from the sky would keep me nice and cozy at good ol' OneTwoThreeFour Mass Ave. Of course, all of the suburbs were snow and ice-bound -- and DC was open for business. It was rainy and slushy and gross, but the roads were clear. No People's Court for me. It was on with the giant South Park-esque Parkazilla, and out to the bus stop.

It didn't help that there was practically no one on the streets, as most people had to stay home with their kids. There was one person at the bus stop: a crazy dude screaming about how Dick Cheney took his X-Box. Why is it that the crazy people are always so politically informed? They may not know where they are at any given moment, but I bet they can rattle off a good portion of the cabinet. At least they can in DC. We have very informed crazy people. Sadly, homedude did not get on my bus, so I never found out what happened to his X-Box.

Weather permitting, we're off to Philly tomorrow to see my pal John Ciocci and his band Hard Cider play in Warminster. Really, my friend's bands are the only kinds of bands I see anymore. I love going, and I heart my friends big time, but I'm beginning to think I should branch out and see other bands whose members I haven't known since before puberty. Or not. It's a lot more economical this way, and I gave up being hip a long time ago.

Of course, our luck, the snowstorm of the millennium will hit tomorrow morning and prevent us from going anywhere. But I bet it will be all cleared up by Monday.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Does This Say About Me?

I came across the following headline in today's Onion:

Kitchen-Floor Conflict Intensifies As Rival House Cats Claim Same Empty Bag

And I laughed. I laughed hysterically. I laughed so as to arouse the curiosity of my officemates. Once I collected myself, I felt deeply embarrassed about having gotten so much out of a story about cats. What does that say about me? What kind of line have I crossed? It's only a matter of time before I start clipping out Cathy comic strips and putting them on my bulletin board. That cannot be allowed to pass.

Just when things looked as bleak as they could get, I saw this, and chortled anew:

Employees On Other End Of Conference Call Just Want It To Be Over

It's kind of like the first time I ever laughed out loud at Dilbert. I knew there was no going back at that point. I used to think that strip was deeply unfunny, and that anyone who liked it was sadly work-obsessed. Now, I laugh at Dilbert all the time. And a little part of my soul dies each time I do.

Maybe I should spend the weekend going to foam parties, sniffing glue and/or doing coke off the back of a toilet at Madam's Organ. That should set things right.

Or I could just watch Jeopardy with the cats and the boyfriend. Yep. That's probably what will happen.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Face-Plant on G Street

I feel like I've been on something of a roll lately. So it was inevitable that karma would literally give me a swift kick in the rear sooner or later.

I was coming off a great weekend where my guy friends and I went up to NYC for our friend Shwa's CD release party. Anytime I get a Manhattan fix and a friend releases a CD is an occasion to celebrate, and is sure to keep me in a good mood for few days. Plus, I've recently reached a bit of a milestone on a weight-loss plan I've been on since Thanksgiving, so I was feeling good. I put on my new, skinny Ann Taylor dress and some fetching little black pumps and set out to work today to bring the sexy to the office.

Then, during a work-mandated run to track down Saturday's NY Times at the library, I twisted my ankle stepping off the curb and executed a spectacular, ass-over-head/shoes-flying-off face-plant into the gutter. There was no stopping it. At some point mid-fall I knew I was about to make full-body contact with the ground, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was kind of emancipating for a moment, and then I felt nothing but pavement and deep, abiding shame.

I emerged with nothing more than a sore ankle and torn stockings, but even as someone who's had some legendary public falls, it was pretty awesome. Awesome enough to be rendered in crappy marker drawings. That's how awesome it was. Enjoy.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Great Compliments of All Time

This evening I was going about my nightly routine of ironing my work clothes for the next day, and began thinking out loud about how much I hate ironing. I never get the creases right, it takes forever, and is generally a giant pain. I remarked out loud that if I ever became fabulously wealthy, I really wouldn't want much out of life. But I would want someone to iron my damn shirts and such. And maybe someone to make some custom shoes for my chubby little feet. And a room full of armadillos running about at all times. Basically that would be it. I love cooking, and would miss that. I'd especially miss trips to the grocery store, as I have a perverse love of clipping coupons and going to the supermarket each week (it's like a treasure hunt!). And I wouldn't know a designer purse if it hit me upside the head. I wouldn't make a very good rich person.

"Yeah," said Mark. "You'd make a shitty Hilton."

I think that's one of the greatest compliments I've ever heard.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Adorable Adventures in Customer Service

How much do I freakin' love the Japanese?

This is a country that believes so strongly in the power of cute, that even the most mundane facets of daily office life are infused with cuddly, Awwwwww-inspiring imagery. To whit: I received a parcel of media clips from our partner organization in Japan yesterday. The media clips were totally inconsequential compared to the logo of the shipping company that sent the package:

Are you kidding me? Being the curious sort, I immediately Googled "Japanese delivery cat logo," and the website for the Yamato delivery company popped up. It's slogan: "We carry your cargo with the same passion and care as the mothercat carrying its kitten." That's it. I'm totally sending this to Cute Overload.

Thinking corporate branding can get no more precious, I checked my e-mail this morning, and found a delivery confirmation for a CD that I ordered from an independent online retail company. I almost disregarded it, as I do most confirmation e-mails after checking the details, and then I caught the fine print:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage!" to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Wednesday, January 16th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year." We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


I don't think I can continue working today. I'm gonna go prance in a meadow with bunny rabbits, or some crap like that.


Monday, January 14, 2008

A Fine Berfday Present Indeed

So I spent my 27th yesterday a bit under the weather. It's a bummer being sick on your birthday, but since celebrations took place Friday and Saturday, and will continue with lunches today and tomorrow, it's not such a big deal. Besides, it gave me an excuse to plop on the couch and watch the Cowboys gets their hindquarters handed to them by the Giants (whose own hindquarters I hope very much to be handed back to them in turn next week by the Packers, but that's looking ahead). Seeing Romo weep a bit (again) was a fine birthday surprise, but this video really warmed the cockles of my black heart: