Monday, July 26, 2010

And then came jealousy

photo credit: Emikokolala

Since I have been living here about 5 months now, I suppose I could start calling D.C. my boyfriend. However, a friend of mine made a very interesting comment: D.C. is apparently a very jealous boyfriend.

You see, in the last month, every time I have tried to leave the city, I have encountered one obstacle after another. And if I do manage to leave, when I return, I face his revenge.

You might think I am paranoid. However, in the last month, I have encountered trouble on three separate occassions, either in leaving or coming back to D.C. 1) I was left behind at the bus station (though I had waited at the station and the departure gate for the suggested hour prior to departure). 2) I was put on the wrong bus from New York and winded up in White Marsh, Maryland instead of D.C. to be left up to my own devices. 3) I have been stuck in Baltimore waiting for my train and twice it has been delayed by an hour, though the ride down to D.C. is only 40 minutes.

These conflicts have happened so frequently that I am getting weary of leaving, for fear of retribution. However, I know that things cannot continue this way.

I have wanderlust and perhaps my roaming eye has invoked the green-eyed beast of jealousy in D.C. But that is who I am. Since leaving my first love, I do not ever fully commit to staying in one place. D.C. must take me as I am for things to continue with us.

My next trip to Montreal is coming up in 2 weeks. We’ll see how he handles this encounter, one with a foreigner at that. Perhaps I will get detained at the border…

Of course, the other theory is just that Greyhound, Megabus and Amtrak all suck. And I am equally convinced by that explanation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Through the eyes of a guest

Nothing helps you more to see your own city/country than having a visitor. And I don't mean just physically exploring the city, but also noticing things that seem absolutely commonplace to you, but pretty alien to a guest.

I have had a substantial amount of visitors since moving to D.C., and I have noticed a couple trends that come up whether they come from Italy, Serbia, Sudan or Canada.

Topic 1: Squirrels. Squirrels are not in abundance, or even existent, in many even nearby places in the world. So I have had numerous guests get a kick out of these furry little creatures and their rambunctious ways.

However, I will confess that I, too, am fascinated by squirrels despite, or perhaps because of, having grown up with them (we had "pet" squirrels in out backyard named noiseau et noisette when I was young). As readers of my past posts would guess, I tend to notice how squirrels differ in various areas or countries. In Baltimore, they are almost always gray and fairly scrawny (see above).

In the Midwest, they are a lot bushier and brown like the one below. (I call him stealth squirrel!)

In Italy (I only ever saw them once and it is a rarity), they were quite small and brown and moved even quicker than normal (No picture available).

However, for squirrel-gazing, D.C. is even more of a treat because there are black squirrels here, the only city in which I have seen them though Wikipedia declares that they can be seen from Ontario to California to Ohio.

Apparently, black squirrels are a variety of gray squirrels. Two gray squirrels parents can produce a black squirrel baby! However, black squirrels are generally rare- 1 in 10,000. Except that, according to the Washington Post:

"Black squirrels were introduced to the Washington, D.C., area near the beginning of the 20th century at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Since their introduction, the population of black squirrels in Washington has slowly but steadily increased, and black squirrels now account for up to 25% of some squirrel populations in the area."

So it is not as rare here as it is in other areas. Yet, it is rare enough to make them special. There is even a Black Squirrel pub in D.C. to highlight these interesting creatures.

Topic 2: Chevy Chase banks. At least two, if not three, of my out-of-town guests asked me whether Chevy Chase bank is owned by Chevy Chase the "Look kids, Big Ben"- actor. In truth, I had no idea.

Gut instinct said no (why would he? it isn't like owning a baseball team.) However, actors can be eccentric so here is what i found:

Chase is the word for an expanse of land, like a reserve. Chevy Chase, Maryland was originally created as a "green refuge" from Washington D.C., and it takes its name from a Scottish ballad telling the story of a bloody battle between the Scots and the Brits over a hunting expedition.

Chevy Chase the actor's real name is Cornelius Crane Chase. Chevy was the nickname he got from his grandmother.

The Chevy Chase bank was actually founded by B. Francis Saul, but was later purchased by a Chevy Chase Savings and Loan company that derived its name from Chevy Chase, Maryland which derived its name from the Scottish ballad which in some ways got its inspiration from a great expanse of land called a Chase on which a battle was fought. Got that?

So the bank and the actor = no connection. Apparently though, all my new found wisdom is for naught. Chevy Chase bank has just been bought out by Capital One. So perhaps this is the last time I will tell this story of the bank, the actor, the ballad and the land. Guess I will have to find some other random facts to impress my guests.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

What's your vote? I vote romantic.

So because I haven't had time to write lately, I am sharing with you other people's writing. Here is an article in the NY Times about the pragmatic vs. romantic and trendy vs. sincere.

What's your vote?

In Rome, a New Ritual on an Old Bridge

To some, a tangled mess of padlocks on Rome’s oldest bridge is a symbol of undying love; to others, it is a menace tantamount to vandalism.

Photo:Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Turn it around

Perhaps all pessimism should be viewed as palindromes...

Video by metroamv created for AARP's U@50 video competition.

Monday, July 12, 2010


photo: Don't know who to credit, but he/she is a genius!

I don't know if I have actually been distracted, or if I just wanted an excuse to use this picture, because I LOVE it and find it absolutely hysterical.

However, I will admit that in the last few weeks, with the World Cup, a training in Atlanta, July 4th weekend, 100+ degree weather etc, I have been fairly distracted from my "pocket projects."

It is not that I have abandoned this idea. On the contrary, between a new city, new job and even some new friends, it hasn't been hard for me to find something new each a day.

In fact, it has become so ingrained in how I go about things that I incorporate something new into my daily routine without really having to think too hard about it. I take a new route home, hop on a random bus, pop my head into an interesting store, try on a piece of clothing that I wouldn't dare call my style, try a new restaurant or new item on a menu, explore a new neighborhood...

So though I am not documenting/photographing things as deliberately as I was before, rest assured the project is alive and kicking.

However, I will admit to having slacked in terms of documenting these, bizarre to banal to even boring "projects." I have even slacked on relating the elaborate or eccentric ones.

So as a representative run-down of these events: under the boring category is trying mint chocolate gum (refer to my mint blog entry to understand this inclination), elaborate: going to a new country, Dominican Republic; bizarre: geocaching and painting my bathroom, what I called Mediterranean blue, and what turned out more like splattered smurfette; and lastly, in the eccentric category an alcoholic, beet-based drink from Funxion, a juice bar turned partier (this also falls into the disgusting category).

However, I will turn more to those novelties related to living like a tourist in DC, which have included a moonlight monument cruise, the Portrait Gallery, World War II memorial and the Georgetown waterfront, among others.

On that note, and to keep me on track, I am developing a D.C. to-do list. I may have mentioned that I am a compulsive list maker. If I haven't mentioned it, I am a compulsive list maker. I have made list of things to do in Atlanta, Rome, Baltimore, Chicago and soon to come D.C.

So perhaps with all the distractions out there, I will stay more focused on................(<.............(<......................>)......... pac-man!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hot and Hotter

It's hot. Definitely. No denying that. It is even record-breaking.

However, I like to keep things in perspective, and some of you may have noticed that much of the news in our country is a bit alarmist when it comes to... well, pretty much anything.

Example 1: "Triple Digit Misery" (p.s. doesn't the picture reflect that well?)

Example 2: "Don't Roast your dog"

Example 3: "Sizzling Heat Wave tightens grip"

Example 4: "NYC broils"

This is why I take things with a grain of salt. In the spirit of keeping things in perspective, I decided to research some of the hottest countries in the world in July. Therefore, I decided to compare even DC's record heat today to Kuwait's.

Granted DC is at 23% humidity and Kuwait is only at 7%... However, it is 11pm at night there and 4pm during the day here, and they still beat us by a good 6 degrees.

In fact, if you'll notice, tomorrow it is going to be 122 degrees in Kuwait. How would Fox news describe that? "Hell has reached the earth!", "Doomsday has descended upon us!", "Sell all your goods and flee!"

I am not trying to downplay the dangers of heat... I am still a strong proponent of staying hydrated, avoiding long, outdoor runs and generally doing anything that commonsense would advise against...

However, the response in the news is a little bewildering to me. People live in this kind of weather, certainly for more than 3 days in a row, and still manage to survive.

However, our news describes the situation as: "Misery," "Roasting," "Tightening its grip" and "broiling.

From the sounds of our headlines, we might not make it through.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy July 1st... Happy July 4th... Just Happy!

picture by JojjE

After wishing a Happy July 1st for Canada Day, and today wishing a Happy July 4th for Independence Day, it occurred to me that perhaps, more than the historical reasons for celebrating (who today is reading a book on American history??), the reason we value holidays so much is that is gives us an excuse to be happy.

We always have excuses to be stressed, to be annoyed, to be frustrated... work, commuting, waiting in lines, dysfunction of household items, car trouble... most would agree that those things happen on a more regular basis than holidays do.

So when a day rolls around when we declare "Happy July 4th" or "Happy Birthday" or "Happy holidays"- we have built in some days to remember to celebrate happiness.

For me that is probably the best thing about holidays, we have our priorities straight. Happiness in sharing time with family and friends, in enjoying the weather or the season, in spending some days away from the regular routine that is often not at all about being happy.

So for July 4th, I wish you a happy celebration of U.S. independence... but I also wish you a happy day. And most of all, I wish for you that those days come more frequently than the holidays that we set aside for that purpose.

Side Note: I have discovered another great blog, Yes and Yes, from a talented blogger, who I believe is a kindred spirit to me. Her post, (case and point) Reasons I Love America (Even Though I'm Constantly Trying To Leave It), is very relevant for July 4th. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Honoring (or better yet Honouring) Canada Day!

To celebrate one of my mother countries, Canada, in honor of her 143rd birthday, I thought I would give you some interesting facts about her (just as I gave some interesting facts about the U.S. in my little diatribe on the census):

Originally called Dominion Day, July 1 is when Canada celebrates becoming a unified country- having brought together the 4 founding provinces.

The word Canada comes from, Kanata, the St. Lawrence-Iroquoian word for "village" or "settlement."

Even though Canada is the second largest country in the world (behind Russia), it is the 9th least sparsely populated... not surprising when the mean annual temperature in someplace like Yellowknife is 22°F(-5.4°C).

On that topic, North America's lowest recorded temperature was -81.4 degrees F (-63 C) in the Yukon Territory on February 3, 1947.

Alert, Canada is the northernmost, permanent settlement in the world. (Google maps barely knows what to do with it!)

Some important inventions made by Canadians include: kerosene, insulin, the IMAX film system, the snowmobile (not shocking), and the electric cooking range.

My sister might be pleased to know that her (actually our) fascination with cheese may come from the fact that Canada is a major consumer of cheese. In 1997, Canadians ate an average of 23.4 pounds per person. And according to Canadian Geographic, Canadians consume more macaroni and cheese than any other nation in the world.

I found it an interesting fact that on an official government website celebrating Canada's Cultural Heritage, you can download a colouring book. (didn't come across that in my US facts search...)

Canada has only ever once participated in a World Cup, Mexico's in 1986. However, Canada has won the gold in ice hockey, its national sport, 5 times (from what I can tell... hard statistic to find for some reason).

And last but not least, if you mistype Canada (as I am strangely prone to do) into Google and spell Canda instead, you come up with a city in the northeastern part of... guess what country... ITALY! So all roads do lead to Rome/Italy.

But really, I won't take the spotlight off of Canada, an all-too-underestimated, but completely wonderful, country!

Still want more facts?


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