Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Waiting for Hump Day

I just wanted to give you a quick snapshot of my pet peeves today...

#1. It's not snowing...yet.
Just because it's the end of September doesn't mean that you, Metro, can turn all the air conditioners off on their trains AND buses. There are close to 100 people on a Metro car at a time during rush hour in the afternoon, and none of them smell good at the end of the day. Once we can feel a chill in the air, then we can talk about modifying temperature control.

#2. Move over, bitch.
Some of the sidewalks in this city are a bit narrower than others. For the love of God, when you, Chatty Cathy and your companion, approach someone walking the opposite direction, consider walking single-file for thirty seconds, please. I'm sure the conversation isn't so riveting that it can't be held without constant face-to-face contact.

#3. Metro Love
Ok, I get it. You saw me get on the crowded train, and thought I was cute. I could see how you'd be attracted to me - being tall, dark, and handsome (or at least two of the three. You pick). You too were cute, in your dark red polo and JCrew khakis that fit your form very well. Your arms say that you're on your way to the gym after work, and perky hair style tells me that you can look good anywhere. Yet, I'm really tired of the little dance we do, where, in the words of JLo, you "stand just a little too close to me". The car isn't that crowded. You have a lot more room than I do. And that look...what was that!? This is not the place to meet men. I'm sweaty (because of #1), tired, and just trying to get to the Woodley Park stop. However, if you do want to meet me...say something. Even a "God, the train sucks today" would get things started.

4. It's a gym, not a restaraunt.
At the gym, we all need water. This is probably why my gym has three or four drinking fountains strategically positioned to quench the thirst of all us sweaty mens. They are not, however, there for you to fill up your 80 gallon water bottle any time you choose or to spend three minutes there sucking down an equal amount. How is it even possible to drink that much anyway!? Sip and move on!

5. The fact that I can't spell "restaurant".
I don't know why this is. I'm a well-educated, professional, engineer, with a good background, and I'm even learning Mandarin! But because somewhere in 4th grade no one corrected my misspelling, I will be programmed with this for the rest of my life, and there's not a damn thing I can do about it.

Sorry folks. It's been a long week, and it's only Tuesday night.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

...a little to the left...

...is what I'd say if someone asked me "how's it hanging?"

As you may already know, our nation’s capital was host to a confluence of activity this weekend, the most prominent of which was a large ant-war protest on Saturday afternoon. Most District Dwellers were already dreading the arrival of such a large group (estimated initially to be 100,000 strong) because we know that these events bring the two things we hate the most and have way too much of – traffic and visitors from out of town who don’t know how things work here. Personally, most of us here in DC share a lot of ideology with the group, and in another life I would love to paint my own protest signs and scream at random Republicans. However, ideology is irrelevant when it comes to large protests in this city. It’s hard to care about anything but the fact that it’s going to take you an extra half hour to get anywhere…on a Saturday, no less.

Yet, since I didn’t have a lot going on this weekend, I wanted to experience some of the excitement of what was going on, more from an observer’s perspective than that of a participant. I found myself awash in protestors Saturday as I exited the Farragut North metro stop to return a mistakenly acquired jacket from our happy hour Friday (long story). I really had never observed a large protest up close, and actually found the experience much less hostile than I imagined. I won’t say that I saw anyone preaching peace and love, but anger was most certainly not the emotion of the day. Many of the people were angry because they feel frustrated and helpless in the face of a government that really doesn’t want to hear them, but I think most of the people there were just excited because there were so many others that shared a common philosophy. It also helped that many in the crowd were not professional protestors like the hardened anarchists we had in town for the inauguration this past January. It seemed that many had a very personal stake in making sure the government heard their message. This picture of Mothers Against the War illustrates that well.

As I decided to take my somewhat standard Sunday bike ride down to the Mall today, I realized that the protests were not over. As I approached, I heard someone on a loud speaker or bull horn screaming something incoherent. What I realized as I got even closer was that this was not a continuation of the large protest from the day before, but a pseudo-protest supporting the government’s policies in Iraq, which if you think about it, isn’t a protest at all. Yet they had a stage cobbled together and about a hundred or so people mulling around with lots of homemade t-shirts and signs, which said things like “Saddam was a WMD”, “Iraq yearns for Freedom”, and my personal favorite, “Freedom Isn’t Free”. Apparently these people were protesting the previous protest from the day before, but doing a piss-poor job of it. While this rally did have most of the ingredients of the first, it lacked two important parts – numbers and respect. Everyone knew these were the “if you hate the war, you hate the troops” people, and knew that they were idiots. Even the cops, who were out in force doing their jobs remarkably well this weekend, seemed to react differently to these guys, and you know that when the cops are laughing at you, you really need to redesign your protest.

I’m obviously a little biased here. I’m a huge flaming Democrat and hate seeing the numbers of dead and wounded in Iraq climb every day, along with the number of billions of dollars we spend. Yet, I think the merit of both ideologies can be compared best by the actions of the protestors this weekend. Anti-war protestors, on the whole, were friendly and genial, while the pro-war (that’s the only way I know how to put it) protestors were downright hostile and antagonistic. The best comparison between the two rallies was what they shouted. At one point, the pro-war Sunday rally had a supporter onstage who said “I have a message for Cindy Sheehan. Cindy lied, and Casey cried.” (We all know who Cindy Sheehan is at this point, and Casey was the name of her son that died in the war.) This statement disgusted me so much that I decided I needed to turn my bike around and go home. On my way home, I remembered what the most memorable statement from the day before was as thousands of anti-war protestors stood in front of the White House. “We don’t need a megaphone anymore” was very powerful from four blocks away.

And then there was the father and daughter at the Falung Gong stand. They sat on a blanket, meditating as the protestors were screaming a little ways down on the mall. I see these guys in the same place almost every time I come down there, and their perseverance and calm today made me stop an watch for a minute. That’s then I thought, this is why I love our country.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Penile Puzzle

Where do guys buy condoms? We all see them at the local grocery or drug store, but I never actually see anyone buying them. Perhaps this is just a lack of observation on my part, but I don't believe I have ever seen anyone buy condoms in a store...ever. Yet everyone has them when needed. Are they purchased at 24-hour retailers by guys wearing dark sunglasses and a ski cap? Or are they purchased everyday under my nose, skillfully hidden between a package of frozen green beans and the latest issue of the Advocate? I can't bring my self to believe that anyone but Twinky Turboslut has the foresight to order a bulk package of condoms from an online retailer. Hell, I can barely remember to buy contact solution before I run out. I'm just wondering if there is some secret retailer selling these things, and I'm just not privy to the information. Hell, when I buy condoms, they end up in my CVS basket at 8pm, right along side my contact solution and three-pack of paper towels. I reserve my shame for sneaking an Egg McMuffin for breakfast once in a great while.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Do these people NOT GET IT!?

Joe McGee stands in the pounding surf as Hurricane Rita nears the lower Florida Keys. (AP)

A Fine Line, Part 2

Case # 2:

I had another topic that I was planning to introduce for Case #2, but I think it’s only appropriate in a series discussing the differences between revenge and justice to discuss the history of Simon Wiesenthal, the legendary Nazi hunter, who died yesterday at the age of 96. Mr. Wiesenthal devoted his life to pursuing the men who were responsible for and took part in the Holocaust, providing information that resulted in the prosecution of over one thousand former Nazis around the world.

If anyone is entitled to revenge, it’s Simon Wiesenthal. Nazis murdered eighty-six members of his extended family during World War II. If that weren’t enough, those that were responsible for those deaths were also responsible for the worst crime perpetrated against the human race…ever. Who can stand up and say that this man’s retribution is immoral or unjustified? Yet, Mr. Wiesenthal stated time and again that he was interested only in "justice, not vengeance." Are we to believe him?

Hearing about Mr Wiesenthal today has helped me to define the difference between revenge and justice. Revenge is a simple instinctive act of anger that we have all experienced. But I think justice is about memory. We all know how short the memories of the collective human race can be. In twenty years we will only have a handful of individuals left that lived during the time of the Holocaust, and without them, who will add the emotional context to the pictures we see in museums and text books? Without those who give the pictures meaning, we see horrors like the genocide in Rwanda and Sudan creeping back into our world. Even within a single generation, and sometimes within a single decade, we begin to loose touch with our memories of tragedies past. We were recently reminded of this when our nation witnessed the lack of preparation for the disaster that followed Katrina’s path through the Gulf Coast region…almost exactly four short years after the events of 9/11.

Those that struggle for justice do so not solely out of anger, but to force our collective consciousness to remember the wrongs that have been done to us, crimes committed, and lives lost. The ultimate hope is that these things can be prevented from happening again, yet that is up to those of us still here and breathing – to take the justice and do something with it.
While the connection between events like the Holocaust and 9/11 with some of the wrongs I experienced after my apartment fire seem…well…non-existent, I think I will try to follow the path of justice. I will try to turn my efforts toward helping others avoid my problems instead of exacting revenge for the sake of satisfaction.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

A Fine Line, Part 1

Where does holding someone accountable end and retribution begin? Our society teaches us that revenge for the sake of revenge is immoral and serves no public function. However, our society also teaches us that we must reward good behavior with praise and benefits, and bad behavior with punishment. Yet where is the line between these two on which the term “justice” sits? I’ve been confronted with this question twice this week, and thought that maybe my readers could help me out with some answers.

Case #1:
As many of you know, this past spring I experienced a fire in my dwelling that wiped out just about all of my belongings and made me homeless for almost a month. (By “homeless” I mean staying in $200/night hotels, so don’t pity me too much.) During the weeks and months after this minor tragedy, I had to call upon friends, neighbors, family, businesses, and government to assist me in putting my life back together. As we all know, times of crisis show the true strengths and weaknesses in all relationships, no matter what face they may have our non-crisis lives.

Some parts of those I mentioned above came rallying to my aid as soon as they heard about what happened, giving me support and assistance I could have never imagined. Others actors performed as expected, neither exceeding nor failing my expectations. The rest, however, failed to live up to their expectations. Most of those falling into this category are for-profit organizations that must make an annual profit to survive, but must also provide adequate service to their customers when required.

Liberty Mutual, insuring my apartment against this kind of loss, has been completely inconsistent and lackadaisical in their handling of my insurance claim. They haven’t disputed that the fire took place or that they owe me money under our agreement. They simply…don’t care. Each positive response from Liberty Mutual representatives requires five or more phone calls. Money has been delays weeks, if not months, for reasons such as “I lost your paperwork,” or “your adjuster quit”, or my favorite…”I just don’t have time.”

Bank One (now Chase after a merger) held my primary credit card account. Because it was necessary to purchase large volumes of clothing and furnishings immediately after the fire, my primary AND secondary credit cards became hugely important in purchasing items such as clothing and furnishings that could not immediately be paid with my normal monthly income. Numerous times the Bank One credit card was declined because purchasing activity was considered “abnormal”, even after I had discussed my situation with account representatives three times. Also, because so much was being purchased at one time, both credit cards reached their pre-set spending limits quickly. I was denied a credit limit increase after being a loyal customer for almost 11 years, always paying my bills on time.

The worst grievances, however, were perpetrated by some hotels in which I needed to stay while I searched for an apartment. The Residence Inn in Logan Circle stands out among the pack as the least compassionate, refusing to check for additional room availability (I was tired of bouncing between three hotels in a week), informing me that they catered to out of town visitors and not “local residents down on their luck”, and forcing me to move my car after only three minutes in the check-in parking lane.

So I have my “Naughty and Nice” list. What do I do with it? I’ve tried my best to express warm gratitude to those who helped me when I needed it. I’ve probably failed to do this adequately, but I have tried. The question remains…what do I do about those who failed me? My initial impulse is to get the word out about their horrible service…hence this entry. Second is to register my complaints with government organizations and the Better Business Bureau. Third is to end my relationships with these organizations. This is last because…frankly…I still need some of them. Am I being too harsh? Isn’t this the way our capitalism is supposed to work? Or should we just accept incidents of bad service as anomalies against the backdrop of general good service? I want to do my best to express dissatisfaction with them without crossing that line into unbridled revenge. I’m finding this difficult to do.

Case #2 will follow in the next post…

Friday, September 16, 2005

Every once and a while I see a headline that is so blog-a-licious that I must pass it on to the readers.

Family: Sausage lands grandmother in jail

Describing the article would only degrade the humor, especially since the story is actually pretty sad. Feel free to take your own look, though.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

You Know You Have Nothing Significant To Say When...

Every once and a while, I hear a new funky word or name or place, and I can't get it out of my head. Sometimes it takes days or weeks to eliminate it. In an elevator, walking down the street, sitting in a meeting, or sometimes even as I lay in bed waiting for sleep to come. This week, I've been struck yet again by a new enigma of consonants and vowels.

My new obsession? Angela Merkel.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fun In a Strange Place

As I've been reminded several times this week, I was remiss in not commenting on my three-day trip back to my home state of Ohio during the first part of the month. I made several stops to see and catch up with friends, and at one point, found myself drinking some sort of alcoholic drink out of a fishbowl. Yes, they actually call the drink a "Fishbowl", and it can only be found at the Fieldhouse in Dayton, Ohio...a straight bar that caters to the alcoholic freshmen of UD. This particular night, however, they were overrun by five queens, a lesbian, and a unwitting straight girl to celebrate a birthday. Fun was had by all, and some even played dress-up. This Diva will remain nameless...but if you recognize her, please let her know how lovely she looks in plastic earrings.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Here come da...Chief Justice?

As I watched the opening remarks of the Senate confirmation hearings of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, I was continuously amazed at how rediculous the whole process has become. I sat helpless as Senator Kennedy gave us a 15 minute speech on how he's standing up for the poor, the minorities, and the disabled. Senator DeWine went on and on about how former Justice White was amazing and prolific. And I even could pinpoint the exact moment when Senator Kyl actually ran out of ways to say "you don't have to answer any questions about cases that might come before you." I counted seven before he ran out of steam.

Does it bother anyone else that almost every Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee made a point to mention how wonderful the recently deceased Chief Justice Rhenquist was in his judicial restraint, and then went on to complain about the judicial activism that is supposedly taking over our courts? I think the whole thing is a show for the cameras. Do we need this right now after the huge tragedy of Hurricane Katrina? Let the government inefficiency continue!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Yeeee Haw!

I've had a hard time coming up with good topics to write about here in the aftermath of the hurrcane that hit the Gulf coast two weeks ago. Yet I feel like I need to keep the blog going, so I'm going to fill it today with the happenings of my weekend.

Friday night was the event all of DC had been waiting for...my housewarming party. However, since I've been in this apartment for over four months, I felt it necessary to rename it the HouseCooling party, also in celebration of the coming of fall, after a not-so-good spring and summer. So I sent out the invitations, bought all the liquor and munchies, picked out the music, and waited for everyone to show up. After a slow start, the party took off. The music seemed to please, Amy Spicer’s Famous Artichoke Dip was a big hit, and the evening remained within socially acceptable boundaries, with no injuries, broken hearts, or ruined furniture. There was an unfortunate incident that left my lime green desk chair and the clothes of my friend Daniel stained with red wine. The stain came out of the chair. I hope Daniel was as fortunate.

Saturday was devoted to one of DC's most famous annual events...the Gay Rodeo. Actually, I think the official name is the Atlantic Stampede Rodeo, but they take no offense at being called "gay" because everyone there was...well...gay. A cadre of friends has been urging me to experience this phenomenon for several years, and this year I relented. Now, if you’re picturing mostly 40+ burly gay men walking around with different color handkerchiefs hanging out of their back pockets, large lesbian cowboys manning food and merchandise booths, and drag queens riding bulls…you are pretty much spot on. There were of course the minority of standard gay boys (or “bois” if that’s the terminology you prefer), some straight “best friend” girls, and even some tiny toddlers who will undoubtedly be asking questions that their parents might find hard to answer. Yet what impressed me most was the relaxed and friendly atmosphere at the fairgrounds that day – something you don’t really get to experience at most gay venues. After being accused of looking “produced” at a club last week, it was relaxing to show up somewhere in ratty jeans, old tennis shoes, messed up hair, and an unshaven face, and feel like I still fit in. Friend Ryan summed up the experience…gay or straight ”a rodeo is the only place where everything smells like horse shit and no one cares.” Afterward we all went to Hooters, had chicken wings, and thanked God for making us gay.

As I awoke Sunday morning and proceeded to my favorite coffee shop on 18th St for the standard Sunday latte and chocolate chip muffin, I noticed that the street had been closed off and fair stands were being erected. It was Adams Morgan Day! I had completely forgotten the date of one of my favorite DC events where the most liberal facets of DC life gather along the main drag in AM and get sunburned while eating tons of great food and getting stickers from every political candidate and social cause imaginable. This is where I fell in love with former political candidate Howard Dean and his movement to “take back America” in 2002. This is where I got my first “Taxation Without Representation” sticker. It’s also the first annual sign that fall is right around the corner here in the middle Atlantic region. It’s a great time of year to be a DC resident. I love my new home.

So, if you see a silver Honda Accord speeding down the Rock Creek Parkway with this bumper sticker, you’ll know you’ve had a brush with Marty…