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ArJewTino

“Latins are tenderly enthusiastic. In Brazil, they throw flowers at you. In Argentina, they throw themselves." -- Marlene Dietrich

Even Superman can be a DC tourist

Monday, October 30, 2006
As I dressed up Saturday night as “The Man of Steel on Vacation in DC”, I thought of the following things: Would Superman stand on the left side of the Metro escalator? Would he visit the Smithsonian and use their crappy maps? Would he buy an I Heart DC T-shirt and FBI hat and keep all his stuff in a fanny pack?

My answer, as you can see in this photo, is yes.

My last-minute Halloween shopping spree at Value Village in Langley Park almost ended fruitlessly, until I found a children’s Superman outfit tucked behind some ragged hand-me-downs. If I had been a cartoon, you might have seen a light bulb comically spring to light above my head as I started to put together my costume idea.

I had to try the costume on first, however, since one should never spend $4 at a thrift store where its return policy is “Fuck Off: You Bought It, You Keep It”. Who’s got that kind of money? But the store didn’t have a dressing room. When I asked an employee where I might find one, she laughed and walked away.

Since there were so many shoppers trying on jackets, shoes, and underwear over their clothes out in the open, I considered doing the same with the Superman outfit. But I was a bit embarrassed putting on a child’s costume without some privacy.

So I walked toward the back, navigating aisles, trying to find some semblance of shelter. Finally, I settled behind the furniture aisle and started to slip on the leggings meant for an 8-year-old. A guy walked by me just then, smiled at me, and said,

“You know you’re not going to fit into that.”

“I know,” I said in the most dignified tone I could muster, “that’s kind of the point.”

I’m not even sure what that meant. In any case, it wasn’t working and I considered scrapping the idea of a Halloween costume all together. But then, a lady walked by and suggested I cut the outfit in half to make it fit. For $4, I decided to throw return-policy caution to the wind and try it out.

I won’t bore you with too many details of the night, but the outfit was a success. The Princess, her friend (my Canadian BFF) Sarah, who was visiting from Japan, and I met up with friends and went out to the Atlas District in search of revelry. We hit the Palace of Wonders and the Argonaut, drank many beers and shared many laughs, and met a bunch of costumed hipsters.

Shiftless Badger dressed up as the Pope and kept blessing everyone; DC Katastrophe (who kindly let me use her photos since BFF Sarah is slacking due to a 14-hour flight back to Japan) dressed up as Audrey Hepburn come back from the grave; her boyfriend went as K-Fed, Foxymoron as a Congressional page with handprints on his ass; and Drew as the shadow guy in the IPod commercials, by far my favorite costume of the night.

More photos to come when I get them.
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I’m a Jar Townie: Anagramming for Fun

Friday, October 27, 2006
Japan's former capital city (Kyoto) and present capital city (Tokyo) names are anagrams of each other. The word stifle is an anagram of itself. Camry, a car from Toyota, is an anagram of my car.

Because I’m a dork, and because I love language’s inherently beautiful malleability, I have spent most of my Friday making anagrams. Specifically, entering words into this anagram server and laughing at some of the results.

For example, an anagram of The Princess’ and my real names is Vagina Men. My siblings’ names make up an anagram of Algae Trier. An anagram of one of my favorite blogs is Shat Blessed Frig. And one of our capital city’s anagrams is Natch Gods Win.

Anagramming may sound like an exercise in futility. Maybe it’s because I was an English Lit major, but, to me, it’s a highly creative endeavor that is part science and part intuition. It taps into our collective love of words and the endless search for finding new meanings within them. And when we find a particularly apt anagram Clint Eastwood = Old West Action it can make us laugh.

So go ahead and try it out yourself. Post your best anagramming results in my comments section.
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Crazy Video Fridays: Patches the Horse



Since sometimes I have nothing to say, and because video-blogging is so much easier, I'm starting a new feature called Crazy Video Fridays, starting with this video of a cheeseburger-eating, beer-fetching, car-riding horse named Patches. Seriously, Patches, you should brush your teeth before tucking yourself into bed. Ever heard of gingivitis?

Thanks to B-Fo for the recommendation.
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The Dark Side of Takoma Park: A Photo Essay

Thursday, October 26, 2006
I lived in DC for 7 ½ years before moving to the People’s Republic of Takoma Park. I now live on a nice street, in a nice neighborhood, surrounded by nice people who drive nice Hondas. When I walk around, people say “good morning”. When the mailman drops off his deliveries, he smiles and waves. There are no bars in town and every Sunday there is a nice Farmer’s Market.

I’m a stranger in a strange land.

I'm used to sirens wailing through Adams Morgan at 3am; muggings on 18th Street, and fires ripping through my building. It can be tough to get acquainted with a new city, especially when it doubles as a modern-day Pleasantville. So, in the spirit of adventure and thrill-seeking, I decided shortly after moving to TKPK to find the city's rougher side, to cast light on its seedy underbelly. There HAD to be more to this nuclear-free town, I thought, than uber-hippies treating their adorable children to ice cream and drivers actually stopping at a crosswalk for old ladies. Here is what I found:

This is where I wait every morning for the 12 or 13 bus to take me to the Metro. It can be pretty harrowing experience, much like riding the 42 bus up Connecticut Ave. at 5pm on a weekday. Last week, for instance, the bus driver yelled at me for running in front of her bus as she started to pull away. I told her that when I used to take the 42 bus, if I didn’t practically hurl muself in front of it the conductor would drive off because I wasn’t trying hard enough to catch it. She started to laugh but I think she was just concocting better ways to run me over in the future.








This is an old movie house that has been converted into a secret cult headquarters for Latinos. Every Sunday, it is filled with mind-altered, brain-washed cult members who believe in the crazy notion that their religion is the only way to salvation. At least they're not Jews for Jesus.








This lady was crazy. On the day I took this, she was wearing a top coat, wool cap, and long pants on an 85-degree day. She tried to glare at me menacingly but she had no idea how many crazy DC homeless people I’ve tangled with. I once bought a homeless dude a sandwich at 7-11 only to have him throw it at me. For some strange reason, he didn’t like pastrami from 7-11.










Drinking can be a problem in TKPK. This guy was sleeping one off by propping himself against the fence post. He was more considerate than your average DC wino, though, since he made a point of pissing on himself rather than the sidewalk. In DC, drunks piss on you.












People love their pupusas in Takoma Park. I'm still trying to figure out exactly why this vendor is so popular. Her service is as bad as Amsterdam Falafel's in Adams Morgan, her location can't be found by Google Earth, and she has the customer service skills of a CVS employee. She is pure evil, but her pupusas are amazing.


There is a major shopping cart population epidemic in this town. They are either abandoned or stolen. It is not uncommon to see them being used as baby strollers miles from the supermarket.












Playgrounds are pretty popular here. This one, however, is used to torture tiny children who can't reach the swing on the right.











This set of evil rings is also used to torture children. I haven't figured out how, though.

I’m pretty sure that a more thorough search through Takoma Park’s hidden creeks, like this one, will yield dead bodies. Maybe not as many as in Rock Creek Park, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts it has its fair share.










I took a great risk taking this shot on auto-timer. Luckily, I didn't get hassled by The Man. I tried taking a photo of myself in Mt. Pleasant once and almost got shot by Metro police. Well, not me, but someone I know. Well, not someone I know, but a stranger. Who I read about. In the newspaper. In New York. But still...






So, obviously, I survived my dangerous foray into Takoma Park's dark side. If you ever want to visit, do so at your own risk. Like any dangerous town, you just have to know which places to avoid and you'll be just fine.

But careful catching the bus.

Thanks to Express for another mention in today's online edition.
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Why I’ll never watch What About Brian [sic]

Wednesday, October 25, 2006
There is a show on TV I will never watch. It has nothing to do with the promos or the actors or the production values. I have nothing against the show’s perceived quality or the network it runs on (ABC). There’s really only one reason I won’t watch What About Brian [sic], and that’s because it’s missing a question mark.

What IS it about Brian? Why are we interested in all that he’s about? I don’t know, and I never will, because the laws of punctuation seem to not apply to his show title. When it comes to punctuation and grammar, I can be a horse’s ass. I correct people when they speak, I mentally edit anything I read, and shout out opinions on how to improve the syntax on billboards. (Still, I’m not as bad as this guy.)

I cringe when someone says his “head LITERALLY exploded” or when someone misuses “who” and “whom”. Ironically, I don’t always use grammar and punctuation correctly myself, which, I’m sure, makes it even more satisfying to others who point out my mistakes. (Several months ago I mixed up “whose” and “who’s” in an e-mail; I’m STILL kicking myself over that one.)

But, as a technical writer and a lover of (correctly used) language, I use it better than most. For this reason, imagine my pleasant surprise when I read a WaPo article Monday on how grammar is making a comeback in many area high schools. Grammar was never stressed too much in my junior high or high school. I learned how to use it correctly from reading a lot and taking a profound interest in how words flowed. This explains why I know when something reads correctly but couldn’t tell you why.

I laugh (and cry a little inside) when I see store signs advertising a “sale on apple’s” or when I receive an e-mail from a friend telling me “their has to be a better way”. Remember, Microsoft’s spelling and grammar checks will only catch so much.

These instances of grammar/punctuation bloopers are entertaining, if not disturbing. But I expect more from primetime TV shows. I expect copyeditors.
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As an alcoholic, I’m offended by kickball: A satirical guest blog by Baby Bien

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I have spent the majority of this past decade slowly destroying my liver with copious amounts of alcohol. I have never discriminated against any beverage unless it brought harm to me. But as I have gotten older, I have been forced to move on from collegiate antics. I no longer drink 20 Busch Lights in one sitting, nor do I engage in epic beer pong tournaments. My taste in drinks has gotten more expensive (too bad my salary does not comply all of the time) and I can no longer binge drink like I used to. My drinking is now a marathon, not a sprint. I want to be the first one at the bar, and the last one to leave. I want to remember why I am drinking; not forget that I did. And this is why as an alcoholic, I am offended by kickball.

On the surface, joining the kickball league was great. I like to kick balls and run around. I also like to drink. After our first game, I arrived at the bar and I was completely overwhelmed. People in their 20s (and 30s, Arjewtino) getting their drink on. I saw endless pitchers of Coors Light supplying the required beer for flip-cup.

I gave up light beer years ago (probably when I gave up drinking games). These people were drinking crappy beer after crappy beer with some Car Bombs in between to class things up. They were drinking to have fun, bond with their teammates, and, maybe, if they were lucky, hook up with one of them.

Well, that's not for me. My drinking is self-medication. I need it to hide from my demons and make me dwell on things from my past that I wish that I had done if only I wasn't too drunk or hungover. Without alcohol, I would not remember these things. I would not be able to live my life in the past, if it were not for the sweet nectar of the adult beverage Gods.

I cannot believe that these kickballers are using beer and liquor for joy, pleasure, and happiness. Maybe I just matured faster than them. One day they will see things like I do.

I cannot wait until I turn 27.
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Survival of the Fittest: Laundry Day

Monday, October 23, 2006
In the struggle for life, the strongest groups – organisms, companies, DC tourists –survive. In the struggle for laundry, the most obnoxious get their wash done.

Herbert Spencer was on to something when he coined the well-known principle “survival of the fittest” (a variation of Darwin’s “natural selection” theory). He applied it not just to evolution, but to government bodies, the economic marketplace, and social institutions.

He probably should have considered public laundromats, too.

Anyone without easy access to a washer/dryer has had to use these social experiments in basic survival. Laundromats are full of cranky life forms competing for machines, jockeying for position, eyeing one another suspiciously. They transform considerate people into savages, decent individuals into self-seeking rivals, where the only adage is “might makes right”.

I’m speaking, of course, of myself.

The Princess and I did our laundry Sunday morning at Suds, a small laundromat near downtown Takoma Park. After several years of having laundry facilities in my basement, I am not enjoying packing our laundry every couple of weeks and trekking out to some remote location a five-minute drive away. But a man has to do what a man has to do, and that includes cleaning my clothes.

Yesterday, however, Suds had several dryers out of order and many people waiting to use it. So, like Spencer theorized, I adapted to my new environment and evolved into a primal seeker of machines. I noticed a dryer not in use but full of dry clothes no one was claiming. I threw them out of the machine and on to the table. Later, as some undeveloped, sentient creature gabbed on his cell phone while SLOWLY taking out his dry clothes, I practically hip-checked him to get to it and shoved my wet clothes inside, not caring if he was done or not.

“He wasn’t done checking the machine, babe,” The Princess told me.

“Too bad,” I replied, as Cell Phone Guy gave me a look and took off.

“Laundry brings out a side of you I’ve never seen before.”

“What side?”

“The mean, obnoxious side.”

“Does it turn you on?”

“Hmm…It’s like survival of the fittest.”

It WAS survival of the fittest. And I won.
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Is Got Milk? the greatest ad campaign ever?

Friday, October 20, 2006
Everyone remembers the very first commercial. A dorky librarian is listening to a radio call-in show and hears the following $10,000 trivia question: “Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?” His eyes light up as the camera pans to a painting on the wall of Hamilton being shot by Aaron Burr. The man gets a call from the radio show but, his mouth stuffed with peanut butter, is unable to clearly state the answer. Out of milk, he looks at his empty glass on the table and, most likely, ponders his inability to use his semi-arcane knowledge of history for his own personal gain.

The screen goes black as two now-familiar words appear before viewers’ eyes: Got Milk?



Since the launch of this commercial in 1993 (holy crap, I was a senior in high school), the Got Milk? ad campaign has been parodied, mimicked, stolen, and become part of this country’s pop culture. You’ve see it on T-shirts, billboards, and magazines, transcending age, race, and social background. Every American not hiding out in a cabin the past 13 years understands the reference when you say those two words. According to the Got Milk? Web site, their tag line has 90 percent awareness in the U.S. Which makes me wonder: is it the greatest advertising campaign ever?

Most advertising is short-lived. But often, some ad campaign will come along that will stick. VW’s recent slew of commercials featuring people in accidents being shot from an in-car camera and those crazy Eastern Motors commercials come to mind. But there are few that not only last as long as Got Milk?, but have actually changed American vernacular and been ripped off by anyone trying to sell a product.

I pride myself on not being swayed by the power of advertising. My friend Sean despises TV commercials and will make fun of anyone who is amused by them (he is especially virulent during the Super Bowl). But frankly, usually without even noticing, I know I’m affected.

Several years ago, I noticed that I bought a six-pack of Michelob beer because a TV commercial had made it look good. Hell, I even convinced myself that it tasted good until I realized I was drinking FUCKING MICHELOB! A radio spot for In-N-Out Burger, voiced by John Goodman, made their Double-Doubles sound like the greatest burgers in the world. Which, by the way, they are.

And I’m pretty sure I started to enjoy the taste of milk more after the 1993 commercial, even though I only ever drank it with cereal.

So what about you? Can you remember any TV commercials or advertising campaigns that had a conscious effect on you?
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Tuna: Help Me, Helper!

Thursday, October 19, 2006
I’m not much of a chef. But because I love The Princess, I try to cook us dinner every Wednesday night to give her a break at least one night a week from having to decide what we’ll eat.

Last night, for instance, I made Tuna Helper for the first time in my life. Creamy Roasted Garlic Tuna Helper, to be exact. I know, I know, it’s quite a feat and I’m probably spoiling my girlfriend, but I really like to show my culinary range in the kitchen. I truly take pride in being able to follow three-step Betty Crocker recipes.

But Tuna Helper proved a bit trickier than I expected.

I started strong by picking out a 10-inch skillet purely by sight. The recipe called for 2 ½ cups of water, so I took out the 1-cup measuring thing and measured out the first two cups. Then I turned to The Princess and said, “How do I get a half a cup? This says 1 cup.”

“Well, you could get the half-cup one.”

“I don’t want to. It’s just another thing to wash.”

“Ok.”

“So what should I do?”

“How about, fill it up halfway?”

“Hm.”

Next, I stirred in all the ingredients and brought them to a boil.

“This is so easy!” I bragged, “Even a retarded kid could do this!”

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” The Princess said. I think she was talking about growing up on a Missouri farm, but who knows with those Midwesterners?

But just five seconds after my premature bravado, I started to pour out the Helper topping until The Princess stopped me. If I had read the monosyllabic instructions, I would have seen the topping did not go into the mixture until step 3.

Focusing back on “dinner,” I finished step 1 (boil) and moved on to step 2.

“All it says is to reduce heat and simmer for 13 minutes,” I said. “But it doesn’t say how much.”

“Simmer means low heat,” she replied.

“Really?”

“You didn’t know that?”

“No.”

After completing step 3 (“Oh, NOW I sprinkle the topping!”), we settled down for our banquet with a couple of beers and watched Peep Show. “This is really good!” I told The Princess, proud of the cuisine I had just finished preparing.

So thanks Tuna “helper,” you and your four-fingered hand mascot. Stupid anthropomorphic animated glove.
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Thanks, YouTube, you overvalued whore

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
If you’re ever in a rush to go to lunch, and YouTube asks you to import your ENTIRE ADDRESS BOOK from GMail, take your time and read the fine print. You might just learn what YouTube actually wants to do is send an invitation to every e-mail you’ve EVER used or that has been copied in ANY message you’ve sent or received on GMail.

This invite list WILL include your friends and family. It will also include bosses, ex-girlfriends, people you dated once or twice, enemies of your awesomeness, people you knew from high school but don’t talk to anymore, fellow bloggers, former and current co-workers, people you wish would fuck off and die, people who wish YOU would fuck off and die, people who are relieved you don’t contact them anymore, fantasy league owners you never met, MySpace and Friendster buddies, Web-based cell phones, and your grandma.

So thanks, YouTube. Thanks for contacting 492 of my best friends and asking them to check out my videos. Thanks for making me yell “Fuck!” at work. You’re a dick.
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Ungodly Kickball Karaoke

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

THIS is what happens when you combine kickball and cheap beer: my team drunkenly singing along to Livin' on a Prayer.

My question is this: why were we pointing so much? Who were we pointing at? At the rock gods who cowered in horror? At the imaginary stage where we presume Bon Jovi might have been performing? At each other in a twisted display of solidarity?

This should have never happened.
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The guy handshake: how a seemingly innocuous ritual can doom a potential friendship

Since starting my new job a few weeks ago, I’ve met some cool new people who have high potential for friendship. One guy in particular, Stormin’ Norman, was a promising friend free agent until recently, when he committed one of the most egregious social blunders in the guy code: he bungled the handshake.

Here is the chain of events that led to this awful, awkward moment:

As Norman approached me one morning, I was sitting in my cubicle chair with my left side turned to him. I reached out with my left hand to greet him, palm side facing up. This can be a tricky approach since you are hoping the guy will realize he should bring his right hand down and slap it. Unfortunately, some guys instinctively use their left hand to shake it in this type of situation. I realized this might present a problem, so I switched quickly to a fist, hoping he would see it and bump mine with his, kind of like a straight-man version of Jeter and A-Rod. Unfortunately, Norman started to bring his right hand down, and I punched the fleshy part of his palm. Stunned and suddenly frightened, I tried to correct this and opened my hand as he closed his into a fist, reversing the awkward moment we shared a split-second ago. This only exacerbated the social clumsiness. We both made an effort to get in synch, opening and closing our hands, but this degenerated into girly hand-slapping and embarrassment before Norman said, “Just forget it.”

Just forget it, indeed, I thought, as I started to mourn the loss of a potential friend. We fucked up the handshake; can’t be friends anymore. Damn that required social custom! It can be so tricky!! Luckily for Norman and me, since then we connected with a different, more important ritual of guy friendships: getting drunk at a happy hour and making our single guy friends dance with strange women.

When it comes to developing meaningful friendships, men don’t have it as easily as women. We don’t talk about our feelings or host Grey’s Anatomy parties; we don’t hug unless our arms keep our chests apart and even then, we only do the quick back slap.

But we DO have a select few yet extremely vital – rites that we must not – CANNOT – ruin lest we lose any chance at forging a strong bond.

One: The handshake

When shaking or slapping hands, two guys should clasp their hands strongly but with a minimal amount of skin-touching. This is quite the difficult feat, since the handshake intrinsically forces you to touch another man’s hand. The best way to solve this is to do the finger snap you see frat boys do. This may be a fraternity’s most important, if not only, contribution to society.

Two: The bachelor party

Don’t be that guy who gets thrown out of a strip club because you slapped a stripper’s ass while drunk in Montreal. Don’t be that guy who doesn’t want to chip in for a nice meal for the bachelor and makes your buddies pay more than their share. Don’t be that guy who won’t buy shots. And never be that guy who won’t sit down at the blackjack table and “just wants to watch.” This kind of behavior can ruin any potential for a friendship.

Three: Helping a guy move

If, as a guy, you’ve never been asked by a buddy to help you move, then let me set the record straight: you don’t have any guy friends. Helping a buddy move, like Seinfeld said, is the guy-equivalent of “going all the way.” Of course, there better be pizza and beer afterward.

Four: Ragging on a guy’s favorite sports team

If you’re going to say the Redskins suck or the Dodgers are a second-rate team, you better be able to back it up. Saying “Team X sucks, dude” is not a constructive argument to be pondered and may get you sucker-punched. If, however, you argue that the Redskins’ offensive line is too inconsistent and their secondary is hurting with Shawn Springs out of the lineup, it will earn you points for being intelligently thoughtful and may save your guy friendship.

Five: Hitting on a guy’s sister/mom/ex-girlfriend

There really is no defense for this. If you do any of the above, you better hope your friend is either dead or has joined the Peace Corps. Even then, you only have 2 years or so before he comes back and beats you to a bloody pulp.
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The cool kids are all right

Monday, October 16, 2006
During her first visit to LA several years ago, The Princess said she wanted to see one thing: a celebrity. A few days into the visit, we were hanging in 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, when my Hermana told us Ted Danson was having dinner inside a restaurant. I told The Princess that we would walk by and get a better look if she “acted cool.”

“Don’t act starstruck,” I added. “That’s SO embarrassing.”

But as we walked past Ted Danson eating dinner with wife Mary Steenburgen and their kids, I was the one who got all excited. I squeezed The Princess’ hand tightly and not-so-softly whispered, “Oh my god, that’s Ted Danson!” If The Princess hadn’t been there to drag me out of the restaurant, I’m pretty sure I would have stopped to ask him all about Cheers and if he still talked to George Wendt.

That’s kind of what Friday night was like for me.

One month since writing about wussing out at last month’s blogger happy hour, I actually grew the cojones to attend this month’s “blogelebrity” event. Armed with social buffers The Princess, Shiftless Badger, and Baby Bien, I went to the Big Hunt and was, again, starstruck.

Ted Danson wasn’t there, but he might as well have been if you paid attention to the words that actually came out of my mouth that night.

“Oh my god, was that [My Life as an Alien...]?”

“Holy crap, that’s Circle V!”

Virgle Kent! You totally tell it like it is!”

The happy hour was, as SB would say, a veritable Who’s Who of DC area bloggers. Seeing everyone hanging out, recognizing some of them from photos and meeting many whose blogs I’ve bookmarked and read regularly, I couldn’t help but think about that stupid “Celebrities Are Just Like Us” feature in US Weekly.

Bloggers drink beer! They hang out with their friends! They wear pants! They’re just like us!

All in all, it was a really fun night. My Life as an Alien was really friendly and engaging; Brunch Bird was very cool and funny; and Circle V used her clairvoyant powers to convince me I should start paying attention to my horoscope. Though I left early to go to a friend’s bachelor party, I was happy to meet so many interesting people and talk about blogging, life and love, and the power of the Zodiac (I’m pretty sure V is a witch).

At the next happy hour, I’ll act much cooler. That’s what Ted Danson would do.

P.S. For a really amusing mobile-blog post about my kickball league’s party bus excursion to Annapolis Saturday, read Shiftless Badger’s account.
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Is this ironic? Let's ask Alanis (or GoPats)

Friday, October 13, 2006
The fire that blazed through my old apartment building last weekend, that killed a cat and burned a firefighter, that displaced my uninsured neighbor and destroyed her not-backed-up dissertation, occurred TWO HOURS into National Fire Prevention Week.

I was an English Lit major, but that was years ago. Is that ironic? GoPats?
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Why stop at Adult Kickball? Other childhood games easily played by adults

Thursday, October 12, 2006
While having a couple of drinks at The Science Club last night with some former and current kickball friends, we started to discuss if converting a kid’s game to an adult activity should be limited to kickball.

During a raucous brainstorming session, I posited that an Adult Tetherball league could be just as fun. There is minimal physical exertion, it reminds people in their 20s and 30s of childhood, and it’s another excuse to drink beer with friends.

People in DC already play kids’ games as recreation. There are numerous leagues featuring dodge ball, bocce ball (whatever the hell that is), Ultimate Frisbee, and, of course, softball. And as the embarrassing stigma of playing kickball starts to wear off, we need to bring back other relics from our collective childhood to convince ourselves we are not getting older.

Imagine having to tell your friends that you can’t make that new art exhibit because you’re playing Adult Freeze Tag. Imagine leaving work early so you can be on time for your Adult Four-Square match. Imagine meeting up with random people on the Mall to participate in Adult Red Rover (actually, THAT one would be a lot of fun).

The list of oxymoronic games is as endless as your imagination: Adult Hopscotch, Adult Hide and Seek, Adult Duck Duck Goose. But why limit it to outdoor games? Adult Heads Up, Seven Up, Adult Musical Chairs, and Adult I Spy could bide us over in the winter months.

Obviously, the idea of a 31-year-old man playing kickball every Tuesday night opens one up to ridicule. So why do I do it? Is it for the exercise? The games are an hour long and unless you’re the pitcher or catcher, you might touch the ball once or twice during a game. Is it for the social networking? I’m in my fourth kickball season and I couldn’t tell you what anyone I’ve met through kickball does for a living. Is it for the hooking up? I have a beautiful girlfriend who I love and talk about often in my blog.

So why do I play? The truth is, and it took some deep thinking to figure this out, is that kickball is the best reminder of a time when I didn’t have the stresses of an adult life. Running around like a kid, at least one night a week, FEELS good.

On Tuesday night, after winning 5-0 on the field, we went to the bar and had a bra-off, sang crappy songs, and learned how to play Ping-Pang-Pong (thanks Foxymoron!). And, as this picture will attest, a chicken drove me around in his car.

Who wouldn’t want to feel that young again?

UPDATE: Thanks to Wonkette for the online mention.
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"Um, I missed everything"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Because sometimes, mapmakers just HAVE to sing their lunch orders in the McDonald's drive-thru. This is great, very original and highly amusing. The best part is the end, when the McDonald's employee utters the above headline.
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Looks like I moved out just in time

Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Nearly two months after moving to Takoma Park, a fire ripped through the 7th floor of my old building in Adams Morgan early Sunday morning. The fire started in my former neighbor’s unit after she left a candle lit when she went to bed. It spread into my now-abandoned unit, engulfing the hallway along the way and leaving it charred and covered in soot.

Firefighters kicked down my door and busted out my windows to air out the smoke. They were able to contain the fire and put out the flames in 10 minutes, according to news sources. No one was injured except for the neighbor’s cat, who died, and a firefighter, who burned his hand.

The Princess and I drove down to DC last night to check on my friend DJ Roo, who lives in the unit below the one where the fire originated, and to see the extent of the fire damage.

We had to walk up seven flights since the elevator was out. The higher we climbed, the stronger the “camp-fire” smell got. We first met up with DJ Roo and saw the damage in his apartment, mostly caused by water. We then went to my old floor.

The scene looked like a haunted house. Blackened walls streaking to the ceiling. An ominous darkness caused by the electrical outage. A lone fire extinguisher hanging untouched, ironically, in its place.

We walked into my old apartment and found the walls dripping black. All the windows had been busted out by the firefighters to air out the hallway and my bathroom was entirely blanketed with dark filth. I’ve never kept my living spaces particularly clean so we joked that, really, it didn’t look much different. But all I kept thinking about was what it would have been like if I was still living there – WITHOUT renter’s insurance. Sunday morning around 2am? I might have been at Bedrock Billiards with my friends, waiting for last call. Or at The Princess’, spending a long weekend together. Or, just maybe, at home, staying up late to watch my latest Netflix DVDs or even sleeping.

“See?” The Princess told me. “It’s a good thing we moved in together. It was fate.” I’ve never been a believer in fate and destiny. I believe that things just happen and sometimes they make for some interesting coincidences for people to over-analyze. In any case, I was relieved I didn’t live there anymore and felt sorry for my neighbor who, from what I heard, didn’t even have insurance.

Tomorrow, I thought on the drive home, I’m calling Geico.
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Watch what you say to me, it might end up here

Monday, October 09, 2006
Arjewtino: Don’t take this the wrong way, but lately, you’ve seemed happier.

The Princess: Oh, that’s funny.

AJT: Why?

TP: Because I’m having an affair.

Hilarity ensues.

AJT: I have to write that down.

TP: Oh, babe, seriously.
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Watch where you point that thing

Friday, October 06, 2006
In celebrating our anniversary last month, The Princess and I got all dolled up and patronized Restaurant Eve, a high-end place in Alexandria where we feasted on wine, a dirty martini (for me) and Bloody Mary (for her), and an amazing five-course tasting menu (all to the tune of $305, including tip). The wine I ordered was served in the biggest glass I had ever seen so, natch, I decided to take a photo of it to illustrate the hilarity of its size. As I took out my digital camera, the following conversation took place:

The Princess: Careful taking pictures in here.
Arjewtino: Why?
TP: Because some restaurants don’t like you taking pictures inside.
AJT: Why?
TP: Because some chefs can be sensitive about people spying on their food or putting photos of the food online.
AJT: That’s bullshit.

I understand that some chefs feel their culinary creations are works of art, but since when does taking photos of this “art” become some sort of infringement and not what it is intended to be: a compliment?

The San Francisco Chronicle last week ran this story about the etiquette of snapping away in restaurants. Many restaurants will ask patrons who take photos to stop and may even kick them out. It is their private property and they can do as they wish, but why (1) alienate someone who will then dissuade friends to not eat there and (2) miss out on some free advertising?

The potential for espionage is too great, I suppose. Still, according to the SF Chronicle story, restaurant managers have little recourse to stopping shutterbugs unless they flat-out ban cameras from their premises.

A couple of years ago, Blue and I visited a fancy-shmancy NYC coffee shop in Union Square and the hostess asked me to stop taking photos of my friend Blue because it was against restaurant “policy”. When I questioned her logic, she said the chef was afraid people would steal his décor ideas. I was too hungry to leave so I stayed and ate; but I showed my disdain for their “policy” by whining about it to Blue.
At Restaurant Eve, I took just a few shots of the wine and food and our amazingly knowledgeable server even took a photo of us at the end of the evening. The general manager, who saw me taking photos, didn’t take me for a culinary spy or a food blogger. He was gracious and furtively slipped me a pass that would get us into their semi-secret speakeasy, which, if you know me at all, totally made my night.

So what are your thoughts on this? Is it inappropriate to photograph the food and décor inside a restaurant? Or is it a complimentary act that shouldn’t be banned?

UPDATE: Thanks to Express for the online mention.
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No longer prohibited in Spanish

Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Ever since I was embarrassed at The Princess’ birthday party in August by her Guatemalan friend over the pronunciation of the word prohibido, I’ve been thinking more often that it’s time my first language stop playing second fiddle to Ingles.

It’s been more than four years now since I visited my home country of Argentina. While I was there (Buenos Aires and Patagonia), I was excited that my Spanish language skills came back: I started dreaming again in Spanish, remembering words I hadn’t used in years, and my mom said I sounded like a porteno (sorry, no tilde available on blogger) when I talked to her on the phone.

But each day since then, my Castellano skills have been deteriorating. I am forgetting words. I have no sense of syntax. When I order pupusas from Salvadorians in Takoma Park, they respond in English. Basta! Enough. I needed a wake-up call, and incorrectly insisting to a roomful of my novia’s amigos that the Spanish word for “prohibited” is pronounced pro-HEE-bido was the last straw.

One of my first memories of coming to this country when I was 4 years old is sitting in my preschool class, unable to talk to anyone because I didn’t understand their crazy idioma, leafing through the book The Fox and the Hound and figuring out the story based on the Disney drawings alone (it was so heartbreaking; why couldn’t the fox and the hound be friends just because they were different?). But as I began to learn English, my native tongue slowly devolved and took a back seat as my inferior language.

Short history of my Arjewtiness: My family and I moved to LA when I was 4 because of La Guerra Sucia, a military-power that made political dissidents disappear (including some of my dad’s friends). We lived here for four years until democracy was restored in Argentina, after which we went back for two more years. When the economy tanked, we came back to the U.S. and I became a citizen when I was 15 years old. (Yes, Blue, I AM a U.S. citizen. )

Maybe because of the constant moving, or because of my desire to assimilate into America, my Spanish skills went down the toilet. I can still have a very simple conversation in Spanish with my padres but it can be taxing to constantly think in English and translate it to Spanish. And because of Argentina’s unique dialect and pronunciation (for example, pollo is pronounced PO-zho), the Mexican- and Central American-style Spanish I always heard in the states didn’t help much.

Children are like sponges when it comes to learning; I could have learned Korean two weeks after moving here. But I am no longer 4 years old and I have to regain my Castellano (we don’t really say Espanol). I am returning to Buenos Aires in December with my mom and siblings to visit my grandmother, who will be turning 85 that month. I hope my native tongue comes back like it did before and that, this time, I continue remembering.

After all, I’m still a porteno.
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The Art of Fasting: A Secular Jew’s Five-Step Guide to Surviving Yom Kippur

Tuesday, October 03, 2006
In my last hour of observing Yom Kippur yesterday, I got a massive headache, my lips were dry, my stomach grumbled, and I was pretty sure I could see tiny cartoon hamburgers tauntingly dancing in front of my eyes.

The Day of Atonement is never the most fun day of the year for me (and really, it shouldn’t be) but it IS one of the most rewarding. Still, getting through 24 hours of not eating anything or drinking water, all in the name of religion and pious repenting, can be a trying time for a secular Jew like myself.

Yom Kippur is considered the most solemn day of the year and involves atoning to God through prayer and absolving of your sins. Total abstention from food and drink are the big musts, and washing, cosmetics, wearing leather shoes, and sex are prohibited. Though I consider myself an atheist in the spiritual sense, I highly value Judaism in a cultural way, so this day was as important to me as many other, more religious Jewish friends I know. And after observing YK for the past 12 years, I’ve learned a trick or two on how to get through the day.

Step One: Eat a big meal at sundown

Unfortunately, this year the last food and drink I consumed came at around 4pm Sunday as I tailgated at the Redskins game, scarffing down some bratwursts, grilled chicken, and chips with guacamole. This is not an ideal start to fasting. What you want to do is eat a Burger King triple-decker cheeseburger, large fries, and a milkshake the VERY SECOND the sun goes down. This year, I ended up fasting for about 26 hours and I did NOT sign up for that.

Step Two: Sleep late

A couple of years ago, my friend GoPats went to YK services. Very noble, I thought, but waking up at 7am can add 5 hours of conscious fasting that you can easily avoid by sleeping until noon. Because I don’t believe in god, I don’t get too worried about what he might think of this and, seriously, you’re apt to get more guilt from your Jewish mom than any Higher Being.

Step Three: Stock up on Netflix DVDs

Timing your three-at-a-time Netflix subscription can be tough. When do you return them so you get one back before the weekend? Will Netflix actually send me a DVD on time or will I be stuck with just two DVDs? There surely is a science to getting the timing right and it’s even more important when you need them on YK. Watching enough hours of the latest Rome episode or laughing through Arrested Development’s final shortened season can be crucial to distracting you from the fact that your stomach has started to digest itself.

Step Four: Avoid gentiles

Though I enjoy educating non-Jews during the High Holidays, YK is not a good day to see them. They will eat in front of you, drink long, refreshing sips of cold water, discuss their favorite restaurants, ask you to accompany them on errands, or want to have sex. Innocuous at other times, this is just ignorant behavior that can be excruciating to experience. I am lucky that The Princess, my lapsed-Catholic shiksa, is always thoughtful during these times. Yesterday, she took her beans and cheese quesadilla out of sight and did all our laundry without asking me to help. Still, knowing that she is not suffering like I am can make me even crankier than usual. All in all, it is better to interact strictly with god’s Chosen People.

Step Five: Remember why you’re doing this

During a 24-hour fast, there is always temptation to cheat. "Who will know I ate a piece of fruit?" you might think. "What harm can one tiny glass of water do? If I don’t believe in a Supreme Being, then who will know? " Well, this is the biggest challenge, because it is at these times that you must remember why you’re fasting to begin with. I do it because of personal reasons. It is important to me to feel connected to Judaism, my people, our culture. It unites me with my family, most of who are 3,000 miles away in LA or in another continent in South America.

In the end yesterday, I broke fast (after 26 hours) with The Princess, who made me spaghetti with veggie meatballs, deliciously cooked brussel sprouts, and a mushroom salad. I took two Ibuprofen for my headache and moaned as my stomach rebelled against my antics. I reflected on the past year of my life, considering what went right and what went wrong, and vowed to improve this upcoming year.

Yesterday, for at least 24 hours, I was a real Jew.
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Who’s this blog for, anyway?

Monday, October 02, 2006
Someone once said, “Dance like no one’s watching.” Well, for me, I’m going to have to learn how to write like no one’s reading.

During a party Saturday night, while I drank sangrias on the rooftop of an Arlington high-rise, I discussed with Shiftless Badger the delicious irony that the realization of an increasing blog readership has actually made me feel LESS desirous to write. As much fun as doing the blog has been, we agreed, sometimes there are things that we just can’t express. There are SOMETHINGS that we would rather our parents, friends, lovers, and even strangers, NOT read or know.

Each of us has private thoughts, ranging from the banal to depraved, that we’d like to convey. Some of us use our words; others, perhaps painting or music. In any case, for most of us, that desire to free ourselves of our internal burdens needs to get out. For me, I started this blog as a way to keep an online journal of my life and share photos, personal stories, and embarrassing moments with a minimal amount of self-censorship. I open myself up to both readers I know well AND to random strangers in the great big ether that is this Interweb.

Is it healthy? I think so.

Sure, sometimes, and I hate to admit this, I’ve been brainstorming blog ideas or writing them up and the thought of what my “audience” would prefer to read has played a much larger role in shaping these posts.

This desire to please readers started with friends innocently telling me what subjects they’d like to read about. It continued with me reading what other bloggers were writing about and getting prominently featured in other publications. It followed with Sitemeter tracking, anonymous (often spiteful and unpublished) comments, and teasing from good friends about my choices for blog posts (seriously, what was wrong with having a baby photo contest?).

I am positive that the many bloggers who are not furtively guarding their identity have a private journal or, at least, a secret blog whose URL they have not distributed to friends and family. I am equally positive that the public bloggers who have no problem sharing, or at least cluing readers into, their identity wish they did.

The desire to write unencumbered by outside influence is universal. I’ve started and discontinued dozens of journals because I found myself veering from my intention for privacy and started imagining that someday, someone would discover them, read them, and I’ll be damned if they’re not written well!

Of course, with a blog, a writer can’t exist in a vacuum. There is always an audience, readers who you may not know but will devour your words. This creates a sometimes uneasy writer/reader relationship that can’t help but have a cause and effect on one’s words.

Still, there aren’t always great things about which to write. I did a lot this weekend, but does any ONE thing merit a write-up? Maybe I could have written about my experience at the Redskins game Sunday and the Clinton Portis-like Mohawk I sported (sorry, the photos haven’t been uploaded yet). Maybe I could have written about fasting for Yom Kippur, or how the Dodgers clinched a playoff spot, or about the new neighborhood The Princess and I discovered Friday night with friends. But some things, I think, are better left undocumented ‑ and merely remembered.

We can’t always be witty/funny/entertaining and those who are that way are most likely insane. We shouldn’t always pine for an Express mention or a random compliment. Sometimes, all we really need is to enjoy writing for its own sake.
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