Friday, January 29, 2010

The Point and Shoot

One surprising thing I've learned in my first month of nomofomery: spontaneity is good, but point and shoots are better. Let me explain.

What you are looking at is the BIG NIGHT OUT! White Chocolate Apple Cobbler dessert fondue from the Melting Pot in Ballston. This mucusoidally-dripping little marshmallow marked the end of a spontaneous trip to the "occasion" chain restaurant I've always wanted to try. Apparently no one goes there on just an ordinary day; when the waiter asked if we were celebrating anything special tonight and we just said "...dinner?" I thought his eyebrows were going to fall off.

It's not that special, said Matt as I pretended not to hear his subtle hints that he wanted to go to Pizzeria Uno instead. You're really not going to...oh, whatever. He knew it was futile.

He was right. Fondue is fun, but fondue in a restaurant that smells just a little like dishwater, interrupted every five minutes by the poor waitstaff who are probably doused with scalding Fiesta Cheese in the back room if they fail to Upsell With Pizazz, is the sort of fun that the hee-hee sense of adventure must produce rather than just enhance. Which is no biggie--but still.

I've learned a lesson this month. The BEST adventures require a little more of us than spontaneity in the moment. I won't say they're all about "advance planning." More like spontaneity-plus: a clear target, a running start, the freshness of having just decided to do something combined with the foresight to have left yourself open to it. For instance, Blues at Glen Echo--deffo one of January's winning adventures--required a copy of the park calendar, keeping that Thursday night free, and then the oh-hell moment of shutting my car door and gunning it over there.

When I slouch out the door to see wherever the night takes me, I end up eating fondue. When I leave the house with the same slouchy attitude AND a kickass idea, I end up with new friends, new stories, occasionally new bruises, and a very familiar, very satisfied smile.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sorry about the lack of postage this week. I got food poisoning. Bad.

If your spirit of lunchtime adventure ever takes you to the Pret a Manger on 18th and Eye streets because you miss England, then you decide that brie is only a sometimes food and "sometimes" has already occurred too many times this week, don't, don't, don't settle for a nearby Subway that will remain anonymous. They had the good kind of Baked Lays, but I'm pretty sure they also had the bad kind of microbes. UGH.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Rule #2: Know How to Use the Gun

Before this adventure, I had never fired a real gun. As far as I know, I'd never even come close to one that wasn't in some police officer's holster or carried by a soldier at a European train station. I'd stare at them and think, gee, there's something that could kill me right there. Kind of like that feeling you get on the highway when it's late at night and you're alone with your imagination and think about how easily you could be dead in two seconds if you just yanked the steering wheel the wrong way. Not that I'd want to! At all! But as Jack Handey used to say: "If you're an ant, and you're walking across the top of a cup of pudding, you probably have no idea that the only thing between you and disaster is the strength of that pudding skin."

I wanted to know what it felt like. Would I get a sudden rush of power? Start cackling maniacally? Run out to the nearest ammo store to start my own stockpile? Develop a Charlton Heston fetish? There was only one way to find out.

Because I'm a Libertarian, I know several people who own handguns. Thanks to DC law, however, I only know a few who have them readily available (or who will admit that they do). One of those people is my friend Jason, who lives in Virginia and therefore doesn't have to worry. He and his friends do target practice at the National Rifle Association in Manassas.

He took me there with him this afternoon.

We stopped at the local Wal-Mart first to get some cheap bullets. They were all decorated for Valentine's Day and had an affirming message for me: Love is candy! Love is cards!

Jason got some SweetTarts while we were there. There was something great about the image of him holding a pink bag of candy hearts in one hand and a big box of bullets in the other, but I forgot to take a picture.

We drove over to the NRA. Jason was wearing black cowboy boots. I was wearing my Barbour hunting jacket with matching scarf and Ralph Lauren "shooting" sweater because I thought that would make me seem like I knew what I was doing. Or if I accidentally shot my face off, at least I would still be rocking a totally cute English-country-house look.

The first thing I noticed when I got there was the big sign that said NO PICTURES. The second was that the Sunday afternoon Northern Virginia firing-range crowd looks pretty much exactly like you would expect. Mostly white. Mostly overweight. A few conservative politico types like Jason, and a lot of other guys with black t-shirts and unkempt hair. Not many women, but the 2 or 3 others who were there fell into two categories: pretty girls taking flirty advice from strapping cop-type men, or bored middle-aged housewives flicking through "People" while their husbands unleashed semi-automatics on the other side of bulletproof glass.

Okay, I took *some* pictures.

The guy behind the desk waved when we came in. First time on the range? He said. Mine no, hers yes, said Jason. Great, welcome, said the guy. Then he shuffled out some papers and handed them to me. Here's a release and some range rules. Read read read, sign sign sign. Then (he added apologetically, rolling his eyes) you have to take this test on gun safety because it makes our costs much, much lower. It's open-book, and you can take it in the lounge or in the classroom down the hall. Now, did you bring a weapon or ammunition to the range today? I shook my head and pointed to Jason, saying he had it. Okay, said the desk guy, you can't bring weapons or ammo into the classroom. But you can have them in the lounge.

I peered down at the test on the desk and read a question out loud. "When someone calls cease fire, you should--"? The options included "stop shooting immediately" and something else like "finish your round and await further instructions." I looked up at the desk guy and shrugged dramatically. This was going to be tough! Desk guy rolled his eyes again. "COUGH it's for insurance COUGH," he said.

So I went and took the test. Other questions included "T or F: Bullets fall harmlessly to the ground after they have struck the target." In case that weren't easy enough, the "rules" handout that came with the test consisted of all the answers, only somewhat out of order. I felt like Michael Moore had given this to me to make some ham-handed political point.

I brought it back to Desk Guy, who was with a friend by then. Did I pass? I asked. With flying colors! said the friend. Excellent work, said DG. Not so much for the guy behind me, who had failed--failed--the test. But he could come back tomorrow!

Here are some things I never knew about guns. They are loud: so loud that you feel it in your scalp and your eyebrows, like a shock wave. So loud that it hurts, even with the headphones on. Shells go flying out of guns when they shoot, sometimes hitting you in the forehead, making you feel for a terrifying millisecond like you've shot yourself. Guns smell. The whole room smelled like phosphorus, like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Shooting turns your fingers gray with lead. You're supposed to wash your hands and face with cold water immediately afterwards. I kept thinking, how do people ever get away with murder? Just look for the grimy person who smells like a matchbook.

Guns are difficult. It's hard to load bullets into the magazine and even harder to shoot. Jason's 9mm and 45mm did not just go "pff" like an air pistol. They lurched backwards, jerking my wrist so hard that I screamed like a six-year-old the first time I shot one. If I didn't give myself a few seconds to aim, I shot wildly off-target. Jason told me that I'm ever thinking of getting a gun for self-defense, I should get a shotgun, not a handgun, because most panicked people couldn't hit squat with a 9mm.

At the end of an hour, I was covered in sweat and sore from nervous tension, kind of like the last time I tried something scary just to see what it was like. I was more drained than exhilarated. But I was pretty good, if ah do say so mahself. I ripped the heart out of an amorphous blue man* on my very first shot. Desk Guy was stunned.

I didn't notice the Rules of the Range poster on the wall until I was packing my bags, wobbly-armed. Jason was firing one last round at the blue men. For some reason, my eyes went to rule #2 first. "KNOW HOW TO USE THE GUN," it said. I heard Matt L's voice in my head--what on Earth is rule #1?

* * *
Hours later, I picked up my sister at the airport--she was just getting back from a weeklong trip to Ireland--and told her what it was really like to fire a gun. After I finished telling her about how hard it was, she was quiet for a moment, thinking. "So what you're saying," she finally said, "Is that Jack Bauer is even more awesome than we thought?" Yes, exactly.

Cost breakdown: $18 per person, per hour on the range, about $40 for bullets, and I have no clue how much Jason's guns cost but they were nice!

*NRA rules prohibit the use of targets with specific human features, unlike most other ranges in the US, where Osama bin Laden targets are common.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh my God, how is it that I never knew about Nerd Nite at DC9? Tomorrow's is sold out. FOMO.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nomofomo Downlow - This Week

We Are Scientists at the Black Cat 1/21 at 10p.m. Their song "After Hours" is better than a plate full of late-night cheese fries.

Check out WeLoveDC's Week of Helping Haiti gigs. I think it's more important to just donate the money you're thinking about spending on all those drink specials--but who am I to talk? If this brings more money to the Red Cross and Oxfam, awesome.

I am finally going shootin' at the NRA this Sunday!

FOMONomad: Vegas Photo Album

Here are some other things we did in Vegas.

They are for sale everywhere and the size of a baby's head, which is unpleasant to think about when they are going crunch in your mouth. They're also $13 a pop, but so worth it.

2. On a related note: EATING, EATING, EATING

Tom Colicchio's CraftSteak was disappointing. My $56 "medium" filet mignon came out gristly and brown, and the local farm greens salad was just...lettuce. But on the way to the bathroom, I saw Chace Crawford at a side table! He was wearing a white fedora and sitting with his face toward the door in that sort of "Oh God, don't notice me, please notice me" way. Oh, Nate Archibald. Evening redeemed.

Best meal of the trip? Serendipity. Or In and Out Burger. Matt had never even been there before.


Yes, I will go explore a great timeshare opportunity right on the strip! Sure I'll play another round of roulette! Okay creepy silent man, I'll take ALL your sketchball prostitute business cards! How about a show? A Jell-o shot at 10 a.m.? Another donut? Yes, yes, yes. I love being a piggy.


It was every bit as great as it looks.


Thank you to the maids at the Venetian, who were no doubt delighted to find our room strewn with candy apple crumbs, bottles, and all the "So You Are a Senior Citizen With a Gambling Problem" pamphlets I hoarded from Harrah's; to McCarran International for being my new third favorite airport (there is no cooler approach to the runway in this country); to the Grandview at Las Vegas for all the free donuts; and finally to Matt for the whole trip. What a Christmas present! Vegas is great!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

FOMONomad Las Vegas: Our Timeshare Adventure

Matt and I just got back from Las Vegas. I will write about it once I've recovered, but in the mean time, here's Matt telling the story of the time we thought it was a great idea to go to go to a timeshare presentation in exchange for discount show tickets, gambling money, and passes to the all-you-can-eat buffet.

One by one we suckers crammed into a large "limo-van" which was actually a somewhat tricked out version of the yellow short bus kids would take to elementary school. Aboard were various couples who looked like contestants on The Amazing Race. The kindly hicks from the styx (I say this being a proud hick from a very lousy stick). The young skinheads. The foreigners. The Minnesota Vikings fans. And your humble narrator and the blogger of his dreams. Like the rest of them, Anna and I were in it solely for the promise of $150 in cash and prizes, donuts, free coffee, and some laughs in that order. Not a single passenger on the bus-of-the-damned for even a single moment envisioned actually getting a timeshare.

The blue jacketed flim flam artists promised that the "time share of our dreams" (TSOOD) was located conveniently on the Las Vegas Strip. The first hint that this was a lie was when we drove right past the strip to the highway. One by one, the casinos all sped by -- the Bellagio, then the Monte Carlo, then New York New York, then Mandalay Bay, and yet we moved farther and farther away. Finally past the seedy motels, past empty fields, past Jack in the Box, past 7-11, past tumbleweeds and the OK Corral was ... another casino. We still weren't there. Some of us looked out the window anxiously, wondering if we'd ever return.

Well, we finally arrived at the headquarters, where we were filed into a large, sterile lobby. Sitting at desks with phony smiles was the cast of "1984."

Each of the couples sat in chairs waiting for our personal minder to arrive. Yes, each couple was assigned a handler whose job apparently was to keep us awake during the presentation, encourage us to eat donuts, and find whatever tenuous comparisons they could between them and us to make a faux connection. In this case, Anna and I were lucky. Because our handler/minder/Svengali was awesome. His name was Lee.* He once played for Penn State football.* He played pro football.* He keeps in contact with Joe Paterno at least two or three times a year.* He loves Timeshares.* (Asteriks = unverified information).

Mostly I liked Lee because he cheated during the slideshow presentation by whispering the answers to me whenever our scary moderator asked a question.

Which brings us to a woman named Jacqueline.* Jacqueline was a bewitching combination of Oprah, Tyra Banks, and Mussolini. The only reason I threw Tyra Banks in the mix was because Jacqueline told us her dream was to be a supermodel in Paris.* Our Oprah-lini never achieved her dream of being a model in Europe but you know what? -- Jacqueline liked to ask questions that she then answered herself -- she finally realized that with the time share deal she was actually living her dream after all. She truly was a model. A role model. (Get it?) She was a role model for all of us entering the fabulous world of buying a piece of an apartment building for one week a year at the same amount as it would cost to buy a regular house in most of America which we could live in all year round. If this doesn't make sense to you, Jacqueline wouldn't like you.

Anyway, Jacqueline asked for a volunteer to serve as her trained monkey and write buzz words on an easel with a felt tip marker. Before anyone's hand could go up, our own Anna Sproul was at the board, felt tip marker in hand. Jacqueline asked all of us why we went on vacations. With the exception of "pictures" -- Anna's answer -- most people said what you'd expect: family, fun, getting away from it all, spending time with friends, blah blah.

Then Jacqueline told us that Time magazine has proven that if we don't take vacations we will all die sooner. Then she said Harvard Medical School said something about how if we don't take vacations we'll get divorced. Or maybe that was the other way around. In any case, Jacqueline's point was get a time share or your wife will leave you and you'll be dead in a year.

At this point, Jacqueline made us all introduce ourselves and make up reasons why we were there other than the obvious aforementioned cash and prizes. She then called us by our nametags -- which I had to be cheerfully told to wear three times before I complied. Jacqueline loved calling people by their names as if we were friends and it wasn't obvious she was reading the tags. Then she came around to me. Looking at my name tag -- marked MATT -- she then said, "Pat, tell us why you've gone on vacation." Lee*, noticing a grievous breach of etiquette, immediately shouted out my correct name. Jacqueline looked as if she were about to be fired. Rule #1 of swindling people is to get their name right. So Jacqueline proceeded to call me Matt about three times to prove that she knew it.

At this point Jacqueline then told a long-winded story about how she met her husband, VJ,* on* And yadda yadda yadda he almost died a year after they married because they didn't have a time share, or something like that. While everyone in the audience shifted uncomfortably, Jacqueline instantly produced tears that oddly did not fall, cracked her voice in just the right spots, and told us that she practically ran up and down the corridors of her husband's hospital room*, shouting, "Why didn't we take more vacations?? WHY??? WHY?!!!!" Her only goal in life is that each of us don't meet that same cruel fate and nearly lose a loved one because we didn't join a Time share.

So to summarize, if we did not buy a time share, we would die early, divorce our spouse, and then lose a loved one in a hideous accident after meeting them on the Internet. Not a single person in the audience: a) bought this story, b) believed Jacqueline's tears were real or c) showed any signs of emotion. Anna called this part of the presentation "exploitative." I ate my muffin (maple iced). Lee* was zoned out, trying to find out if Dallas won in the playoffs (which he repeatedly reminded us was going on at that very moment).

Total number of time shares bought at this point: ZERO.
Total number of snack foods I've digested: one donut (Bear claw)

Then Jacqueline informed us she was going to take a break so a very special guest could talk to us -- THE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE RESORT CONSORTIUM THAT OWNS THE TIMESHARE SCAM. I of course was immediately offended. The Vice President? Where on earth was the President?

Then Lee*, in one of the best moments of the afternoon, motioned to the door behind us with a sort of "ta-da" gesture. With excitement, I turned to look for the Vice President to appear before us. He did not. Lee* laughed. Instead the Vice President appeared on a film, with hair courtesy of Grandpa Munster. He said something to the effect of: "Greetings Person or Persons. Buy my time share and I willl come have a picnic with you because we are all one big happy family at Time Share Co, a subsidiary of Scams R Us, in affiliation with the makers of Pet Rocks." Exit the Vice President.

Then Jacqueline, who managed to compose herself from her one second long emotional outburst, walks around and hands each of us piles of Monopoly money. Did you know, she asked herself, that the average family will spend $70,000 in their lifetime on "RENTING" a vacation? You can instead BUY your vacation at a nominal rate with a time share and actually make money. That's right -- the time share people are doing you a favor. A few minutes later, inexplicably, she takes our piles of money back. We've learned nothing. Anna asked Jacqueline how the money was denominated since there was no number on them, just dollar signs. Jacqueline did not appreciate being asked a question she did not pose herself.

Then suddenly, she asks herself, have you ever heard about the high-pressure sales pitches for a time share? Well, those don't happen here. If this isn't for you, no problem. This deal is too good to be true and if you don't want to make piles of money while on a vacation by buying a time share, then that's your choice, stupid.

Number of people buying a timeshare after ONE HOUR: still zero,
Number of items I've now eaten: 3 donuts, one large muffin, and half of a turkey sandwich.

Finally, Jacqueline ended the presentation by asking each couple to commit to a lifetime of vacations. We were forced -- yes, forced -- to look the other person in the eye and solemnly swear to take a vacation together once a year. Then Jacqueline, who suddenly became oddly animated, required each of us to "Seal that promise with a kiss" while she watched. One couple in front of us, who clearly had been married for a decade, steadfastly refused to make either the promise or seal it with a kiss. Jacqueline insisted. They refused. She insisted. The wife seemed about to relent. The husband sat motionless. No kiss. No seal. No deal.

Then after making sure the rest of us didn't cop out of it, she dismissed us so that our minders could escort us on a tour of our future time shares. Lee* took us around with the enthusiasm of a man doing the same job for 30 years. He claimed his time share somehow allowed him to travel to Paris for $300 and that we could stay in a castle in Ireland for about $168. We'd get free car rentals.* Half-price plane tickets.* Lunch with Cher.* Whatever.

Anna and I took the obligatory tour without much enthusiasm. We played along with our cover story that we were actually thinking of buying. At one point, we mentioned that one of our mothers would really enjoy visiting us here. Lee's eyes perked up. Then we walked into the bathroom and saw a framed photo of Randy Pausch, author of The Last Lecture. It was a curious photo, since Randy wrote a book about living life as if you were dying -- and then died. Lee seemed to have no idea of who Randy Pausch was, why were were talking about him or why any of this was ironic.

Finally after the tour, Lee had some other tough guy come over to brow beat us into buying a time share. Each time we said no the price went down. From $50,000 to $39,000 to $29,000 and then somehow to $3000 with some complicated ownership of half of a unit on alternate weekends or something. It made no sense. After four hours, they finally heard our "no." So we got sent to another room to redeem our cash and prizes, whereupon we were offered yet another super duper deal that was something like $1500.

So after turning Lee down, then turning down the hot shot sales guy who then insulted us for having the nerve to just come to the presentation in the hope of getting the cash prizes we were offered, we then turned down yet another person. And finally, finally got our prizes and were packed back on the bus to return to the casinos. And boy did I have a lot of time on my hands writing all this down.

The End?

FOMO Oh Noes

I didn't go meet JWow and Pauly D. Sorry. Having just spent 4 days in a city that sells jagerbombs in its shopping malls--and having left it on a red-eye flight this morning--I decided it was going to be Heat Up Some Tomato Sauce and Eat It night. And I am loving. Every. Bite.

Friday, January 15, 2010


An anonymous WASPy-named source just told me some BIG NEWS. If I could italicize what I have to tell you to the point that the letters flattened into a horizontal line, I would, because it's just that huge. Here it comes. Are you ready? Two of the Jersey Shore people are coming to our town on Tuesday.

Here's the official announcement:

January 19 – Washington DC
JWow and Pauly D will be at McFadden’s in DC on Tuesday January 19th for their NEW WTF Tuesday College Party - $1 Miller High Life Cans, $2 Blue Moon drafts, and $5 Jagerbombs 8pm-close!!! They will also be giving away a TRIP TO SPRING BREAK at midnight!!!!!

McFadden’s DC
2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20037

That's right, JWow and Pauly D. And if ever there were a party that sounded ideal for a bright-eyed, conservative young professional heading into her mid-twenties, it would be something called the "WTF Tuesday College Party." Goody gumdrops! I am so there!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Because BSG Season 2.5 is About the Most Exciting Thing I am Doing Before Friday, I Present...


1. Imagine your fellow passengers on the subway are in fact baseball players from the 1890's and give them all appropriate old-timey names. Here are some real ones that apply to a lot of people on the Orange Line:

Walter "Boom Boom" Beck
"Campy" Campanella
"Old Aches and Pains" Appling
Dan "Quiz" Quisenberry
and my favorite: Bob "Death to All Living Things" Ferguson*

2. An easy classic: pretend it's the opening number of a musical. Smile. Do hip-level jazz hands if it's so crowded that no one will see you (just be sure you're not groping someone). And of course pick the appropriate song on your iPod. Right now mine is "Tryst With Mephistopheles" by Owen Pallett. It's about an angry farmer named Lewis who wants to drive a stake through Owen Pallett's eyes, but that really doesn't come across in the music. The music is pure Carol Channing!

3. Visualize the manamana video

4. If you have a nice trenchcoat, plaid scarf, black eye makeup, and a nonchalant posture, you have all you need to reenact the Emma Watson Burberry ad campaign! This works for both genders:

People will wonder what you're up to.

5. Don't read the Post Metro. I appreciate that the Washington Post is trying to make our lives nicer by handing us a free copy of typo-riddled, recycled AP and garbage, but why waste brain matter on stuff that's just going to go right back out the other side? Read real articles on your phone. They have wireless down there now. Or, heavens, a book.

*Wikipedia says his name was actually "Death to All Flying Things" Ferguson - I thought this one was too good to be true - but I'm choosing to go with the funnier source.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Weekend Adventure 2: FOMONOMAD: New York City

This is a face my friend Caitlin has made many times on the New York city subway. It is the face she makes when we have just seen a character.

About a year ago, when I was visiting her, a man got into our car with his pant and shirt sleeves duct taped to his skin. He was carrying a grocery bag full of tapioca snack packs. As the train traveled between stops, his face got angrier and angrier. Finally, nearly foaming with rage, he whipped out a pudding cup, ripped off the lid, ate precisely half of it, and slammed the rest onto the floor. Then he got up and left.

The next time we took the subway together, there was a mushed banana on the floor of our car. A guy got on after us, saw the mushed banana, threw himself down with glee, and began to eat. One of the passengers next to us began gagging. Floor Man looked up at her with a singular gleam in his eye and said "What? I'm a WILD MAN!" And he growled.

Caitlin says this only happens to her when I come to visit. On Saturday night, we took the picture above after we fled a car with a woman who stood up and spat violently, with a great deal of sinusoidal buildup, every thirty seconds. Seasoned in the ways of subway eccentrics, we thought we could endure, until a woman completely covered in her own excrement got on at the next stop. We were out of there.

What is it about this city? I have seen only one dead body in my life, and surprise, it was on the New York City subway (a homeless man, a cold night, a bunch of EMT's around him). I have shared cars with entire mariachi bands, women sobbing, men shouting "balls" over and over. And I haven't had a single comparable experience in DC. Why? Does it really just boil down to tighter regulations and a smaller population?

What is it about New York that makes adventure just sprout up from the earth? And how can I bring that down here?

Here's everything else I did last weekend:

Composed several rousing numbers for a musical called "Tapestry of Letters" with these two, Julia and Reynolds, who have an entire Jareth from "Labyrinth" costume on a wire mannequin in their living room.

PUPPEHS. Julia got a puppy in Stepford, I mean Seaford, Long Island, and I went with her to go pick it up. Everybody say o hai to CAPTAIN WHALEN! That's the puppy's name. I actually don't think he's the puppy pictured, but he looks exactly like it.

Then WE got to be the stars of the subway car--and the LIRR--because we were traveling with a brand new puppy.

After puppies there was Caitlin and:

Movies in 3D (have you read about Avatar-related depression? Jeez);

B.East, a tiny underground speakeasy featuring a jungle of potted plants on the walls, a gigantic loop video of a cat head near the ceiling, and a bartender whose attentions I heartily recommend if you like personalized cocktails with organic juice, rounds on him if you're willing to try something new, and a gratuitous amount of alcohol in whatever you've ordered--but not, alas, if you're getting older and increasingly intolerant of hard booze;

And (on a related note) a Sunday spent sleeping.

On the way out of town, Ray, my driver on Boltbus--hands down the best DC-NY bus service I've tried, and I've tried everything but Megabus--insisted that everyone on board say out loud that they were ready to leave New York. Apparently he had "too much going for him to be brought up on charges of kidnapping." A fitting end to a beautifully crazy couple of days.

FOMO The Musical

...Would have to open with the song "Things You've Never Done" by Passenger. (Ignore the lame video and listen)

Nomofomo Downlow: Week of January 10

Ha ha ha. I get it! (Willard Wigan, c/o Parish Gallery website)

I hope you already know it's DC Restaurant Week. May I suggest: the fried spinach at Rasika; free bottle of wine for every 2 diners at Morou Ouattara's Kora; giving a ThinkFoodGroup gift certificate to your parents and then just happening to be free to join them at Zaytinya; crepes, monograms, and the occasional Russian diplomat at Cafe Bonaparte.

Cribbed from the WaPo Going Out Guide: Free beer samples at Big Hunt starting today; Hubble Space Telescope geekgasm at Goddard SFC Wednesday.

You would be surprised where the best hummus in DC is (IMHO).

I'm going to try to sneak to Willard Wigan's microsculpture exhibit at the Parish Gallery in Georgetown on Thursday. I never could say no to a British man with a weird obsession. Free admission, through January 23, 12-6p.m. daily with other hours by appointment.

Eighties altpop dance night, only $6 this Saturday at the Black Cat.

There are so many good concerts coming to 9:30 Club this month that it's insane.

Here is the weather forecast for Las Vegas, where I will be spending the weekend! Suckaz.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Slow Blues Dancing at Glen Echo Park

Every time new friends visit me from out of town, if the weather is nice, I grab their arms just after dinner and say "I have something to show you." Then I take them in search of my favorite spot in the city, one that comes and goes, kind of like Brigadoon: the swing set outside the Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park on live music nights. I like to sit there in the dark, the warm light from inside just barely touching my feet, the occasional couple wandering out to whisper on the deck. I kick off my shoes, listen to the music from the band, watch, swing gently back and forth, say "whee" very quietly, then leave.

It's beautiful. It's also a little creepy. That's why I decided that this week, I was finally going to join the party.*

I picked Slow Blues night on the park calendar for two reasons: 1. it was cheap ($8) and 2. it had the word "slow" in the title, which is unfortunately what most dance teachers assume I am when they try to teach me. With good reason. "Step-tap-step-tap" is a challenge, and most moves more complicated than that result in internal bleeding for me and anyone unfortunate enough to be in a five-foot radius.

But slow blues night will be different! I thought. It's slow! I thought. I hope it's not a deceptive name, I thought. Uh oh, what if it is a deceptive name? I thought. This is a mistake, I thought. I should bail. But no: I'd already Facebook messaged the dance's MC to ask if I could take pictures. I was committed.

I downed two glasses of wine and then headed to David Hankla's house to pump myself up. He was cooking a dish he called the Bacon Explosion. The Bacon Explosion was almost ready, and boy, did it smell nice. He kept opening the oven to check on it. I leaned in to look. Then I gave him a hug, left, and discovered that everything on me, clothes, hair, skin, reeked of bacon. Time to head to Glen Echo by myself for intimate blues dancing cheek to cheek with people who'd never met me and whom I would probably knock unconscious by accident! Yay!

There was a free beginner's lesson before the dance. It started fifteen minutes after I said goodbye to the Bacon Explosion. As I rotated through the circle of other "beginners," most of whom were in fact accomplished swing dancers, I felt a little like this:

Turns out slow blues is kind of like swing, only more improvised, more sensual, slowed down, and (surprise) played to blues jazz. It was not easy. But my partners were all very nice and very patient, even after our initial conversations, which invariably went like this:

Guy: Hi!
Me (grinning maniacally): Hi I should warn you I've never done this before and also am kind of a catastrophe at dancing and also I smell like bacon! All over! Bacon! Sorry!
Me: I'm Anna!
Guy: Just relax.

Relax. Relax. A lot of my partners told me that during the beginner's lesson and later, when the actual dance began. Slow blues isn't really about moves. It's about communicating with your partner through touch, relaxing into his hold, not so much intuiting his next move as being in tune with the gentle touches on your back so that you can make it seem intuitive. (Or, in the case of one of my partners, it's about extensive role play: "okay, close your eyes. It's 1934. New Orleans. There's sand on the floor. Peanut shells. You're poor. Hungry. Gotta pay the bills. And your baby just left you." That's when my eyes snapped open again.)

I stepped on one guy's foot. I accidentally slapped another one in the face. I had a lot of trouble relaxing. I will always have trouble relaxing. But I giggled like an idiot the whole time, made some new friends, and the crowd there, from MC's Mike and Julie on down, seemed genuinely thrilled to welcome a bacon-scented klutz.

If you've ever sat on the swings outside the Spanish Ballroom like me, you should totally step inside.

*Credit to Caitlin Campbell for actually leaping into a contra dance in the Bumper Car Pavilion when I showed her around Glen Echo in 2005.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Midweek Adventure: The Friendship Rejuv

You know that feeling you get when you finally sit down and polish your silver bracelets, then blink down at them afterward and feel like you have a WHOLE NEW SET OF JEWELRY? That's the feeling I get, times ten, when I rejuvenate an old friendship.

Last night I caught up with Lauren (above), fellow member of a group of friends our fourth-grade teacher called "Club Bizarre." We met at Luna Grille in Shirlington--best fresh-baked bread in the area, if you haven't been, and super cheap. (No, you can't just go to the Luna in Dupont--apparently it's no longer affiliated, and the bread is way worse.)

Here's what I love about a friendship-rejuv: 1. the gossip and 2. the perspective. A couple of years ago I caught up with a girl I'd barely seen since we were pushing each other on the swings at the age of 12...and found out that she now enjoyed a robust lifestyle with another kind of swing set, via Craigslist casual encounters. And then there was the guy I knew in high school who always terrified me because I thought he was so much more suave and experienced than I was, and it turns out he was terrified, too.

What is that quote from Before Sunset--I guess a memory is never finished as long as you're alive?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Le Cinema de FOMO: Up in the Air

"Up in the Air" is a total FOMO movie. Halfway through it, George Clooney's character has to give a pep talk to his sister's terrified fiance, who gets cold feet hours before his wedding. "If you think about it, your favorite memories, the most important moments in life, were you alone?" he asks, even though he himself is a gigantic commitment-phobe who's spent his life running from anything that rhymes with ermanence.

The sister's fiance looks grimly grateful, as if George has just put everything in perspective for him. But, um. Is it weird that when George asked that question, my answer to it was yes?

Certainly I haven't been alone for a majority of my life's best moments, but a few of those that I treasure most--an evening in Cambridge 10 years ago, a daylong walk on the Isle of Wight in 2008, a three-day trip to Dublin, Stateside afternoons on beaches and among books--were ones that I made solo.

That's the thing about FOMO. Curing it is not just a matter of realizing that oh yeah, company and commitments are way better than solitude and spontanaeity. Sometimes the latter are deeply fulfilling too. No matter what, you have to miss out on something in the end, and you always wonder about the party or the concert or the person you've turned down. Or at least I do!

That's why I didn't think the movie had such a sad ending. Clooney's character is forced back onto the path of solitude, but he's rejuvenated his connections to family and it really that bad? Maybe I'l feel differently if I ever catch FOMOOB (fear of missing out on babies).

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Weekend Adventure 1: Vegetarian Restaurant

For my first weekend adventure, I wanted to buy all the weird produce I could find at the Dupont Farmer's Market and then "cook it." That I expected to find locally-grown jicama, starfruit, and kumquats at a farmer's market in January shows you how much I have to learn.

Instead I found:




I debated going to Safeway, but in a last-minute burst of bravery I decided to do something totally wild that I'd been meaning to work up to slowly:

Seedy-looking roadside restaurants are my Kryptonite. You can find some of the best food and weirdest company at them, or sometimes the worst food imaginable and waitstaff straight out of the movie "Deliverance"--you just never know. It's like Community Chest in Monopoly - only with pie at the end!

"Vegetarian Restaurant" on Route 7, one such place, has always intrigued me on my drives to Trader Joe's. Housed in the angry-looking shell of what once was a Pizza Hut, it always looks dark, with only one or two cars in the parking lot. As you pass by, you think to yourself--what? Why is it just called "Vegetarian Restaurant?" How could it endure on a strip completely dominated by Central American chicken joints?

I did a little research. Turns out it's actually called Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant--hence the big flower. It's the second of two SVR locations, and it only really looked dark because I was driving by the back entrance.

I heard wildly polarized reviews, which only racheted up my curiosity. On the one hand we had Tom Sietsema of the Post calling its sister location in Vienna "a trim vegetarian cheerful as its name suggests"; on the other we had the look on my friend Julia's face when I mentioned I wanted to go. "Oh, God," she said. "Oh, God, oh God, get the avocado cheesecake, you'll see, it's's just..." She shuddered.

I finally went tonight. And:

It's not dark and sinster inside. It's a different kind of creepy: Sunflower Baby Donald Duck Creepy.

There are smiling sunflower tchotchkes everywhere--everywhere--and although they're all very cuddly and If you looked up and met the eyes of thirty happy sunflowers, all staring at you, would you feel comfortable?

That said:

The staff is kind, attentive, and patient. They ignored Matt's and my giggling, took our order, had it out in 8 minutes, ignored Matt turning green and me snapping pictures, refilled our drinks, brought out dessert, didn't make any noise about the amount of food we left on the plate, and thanked us as I snapped more pictures on the way out. We were more than a little obnoxious, but they were great.

THAT said:

This dish is called "Adventure of Tempeh Land":

And this happy little fellow is cold, wet, wobbly avocado-lemon pie:

Ick. Matt "Men Eat Meat" Latimer's original plan was to go to Wendy's if things didn't work out, but on the way out he shook his head said "I have lost all interest in food." He eventually regrouped when he saw the shrimp cocktail in my freezer.

Maybe we carnivores just don't get it, but as someone who eats at least 3 veggie burgers a week, I'd like to think I have some street cred with meat substitutes. Maybe Tempeh Land is just not the place to go here, and Tofu Land is way better. I'll never know. There are just too many other creepy restaurants on Route 7 calling my name. Onward!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Nomofomo Downlow: Week of January 3

The Dupont Circle Farmers' Market is transferring to winter hours tomorrow (10a.m.-1 p.m.). I will be there, buying the weirdest vegetables I can find.

I'm thinking about doing a slow blues dance lesson with DJ Mike Marcotte and Guests at Glen Echo Park on Thursday, because I have no clue what "slow blues" is. Dance lesson 8:15 p.m., dance 9-11:30, $8.

Two great dance parties on this weekend, neither of which I'll be able to attend because I'll be in New York, boohoo, but I've been to them before: Liberation at DC9 (as always, Friday, $7, from 9 p.m.) and Mousetrap Britpop at the Black Cat (Saturday, $10, from 9:30 p.m.)

Good movies to see if you like a. planes and bleakness b. gorgeous hair flowers

Ever thought about volunteering to teach people to read?

Incidentally, did you know that:

1. You can go fire a gun in the basement of the NRA - until 10p.m. most days of the week? I emailed asking them whether they do beginner classes...($18/hour, $14/hour for non-members)

2. There's a FREE--oh wait I mean $8--traditional English folk dance in the Glen Echo Town Hall every week (just don't wear heavy perfume, apparently.)


Apparently the National Building Museum party sucked for 95% of the people there. My friends and I were lucky: we had waited in the Lord of the Flies-style line for only 20 minutes when security decided to open a side door right next to us. Then, thanks to a friend of a friend of Catherine's, we spent the entire time in the host suite, which, unlike the rest of the party, mysteriously never ran out of alcohol. I had a great time but now feel guilty about it. Oh, whatever. Everyone's getting a $50 gift certificate to George or Gin and Tonic, and to that guy in the white scarf - no amount of poor planning justifies urinating in the middle of the hallway. Sorry.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Eve at the National Building Museum

Happy 2010! The Year of Nomofomo is officially underway. I kicked things off by attending--believe it or not--my very first real New Year's Eve party:

There's nothing about a big party like this that should inspire the kind of FOMO it does. I mean, before I left my house last night, I could have predicted what down: about 5 drinks, a long line of drunk preps at the door, a round of king-kong arms on the dance floor that caused me to splash my vodkaRedBull all over everyone, Ke$ha's "Tik Tok," raucous laughter, super-sincere compliments with the other girls in line for the bathroom, a slurry Serious Conversation About Life with my date, and, because this was a LateNightShots party, a strapping man in his late twenties urinating in the hallway on the way out ("yeah, sorry, sorry, there's just--God there's just no bathroom!" There was a bathroom.)

And no party would be complete without the Hot Mess who lost her wallet sobbing "this is me dying! THISISMEDYING!" in the corner of Z-Burger:

Yet I was so excited to go, and to be there, and if something had prevented me from going, I think I would have felt like I'd just let another life kumquat wither on the...tree? Vine? (I know nothing about weird produce, which is what Sunday's adventure will be about.) I know I'm not the only one at that party who felt that way.

I was so eager to break my New Year's tradition of lameness. In high school, as soon as I decided that I was over New Year's Rockin' Eve with my parents, I moved onto...New Year's Rockin' Eve with 2 or 3 friends. A couple of times we went down to the National Mall and wandered around aimlessly. Once, a cop saw us drinking Diet Coke outside and put us in his high beams, thinking we had beer. That was the most dangerous things got.

2004-2009 were much the same. With the exception of a night at the Knitting Factory in 2008, all of these featured some combination of 1-3 of my dearest friends, Dick Clark, and a reasonable bedtime. Last year I watched Pride and Prejudice and...modeled dragons out of Sculpey. For real.

So what was it like to shelf the Sculpey this year and boogie down with all the bow-tie wearing white men in Georgetown? Fun. Lots of fun. But that's because I got a chance to catch up with some of my favorite people in the world:

Matt Latimer;

Patrick Ryan and sissy Catherine Sproul;

anda guy in a smoking jacket. WTF?

...and that was precisely what I was doing all along with the dragons and the Diet Cokes and all those classic nights on the Mall with people I love who are all over the world now. Parties are great, but Mancini, Matt, JScarbs, Janet, Emily, Dan, Neil, Caitlin, I miss you so, so much. God, now I have Auld Lang Syne stuck in my head.