Sunday, August 31, 2008

Weighty Matters

I wasn't halfway into the sanctuary door when an usher said to me accusingly,"Now don't tell me you didn't lose weight this time." I paused because I was at a loss for words. It was early in the morning and my witty reply mechanism was not quite operating. I said nothing.

Had I once told her that I had not lost weight? Does being a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord include weight-loss monitoring?

My general amusement turned to sadness later in the service, when I learned that a man who had been one of the pillars of the deacon board had just died. I was very used to seeing him and when I saw him during the past few weeks, he was quite alive and seemingly well. It is hard to believe that he is gone.

But my sadness did not last: despite having a paper with the words, a soloist butchered a rather popular gospel song, so I was amused again. And then the sermon reminded me of how easy it is to concentrate on what you don't have and that we'd all do better if we looked at what we do have.

So, R.I.P. Deacon Robb. We'll miss you, but we are better because you were here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

They Still Don't Get It

Last week I went to a networking event that was co-sponsored by an all-female networking group and a mostly male one. Several gentlemen approached me and others to ask why such an all-female networking event existed. And they asked: well, couldn't we just start an all-male networking group? Sure. It's called corporate America. And there is another one called patriarchal society. (Now there's a phrase I haven't thrown around since I left the all-female college I attended.)

One was disappointed when we all responded in a calm, logical fashion. Maybe he wanted us to get all upset. They say the don't like it, but some men really like when women get angry. This particular gentleman went on to complain that when he looked at the agenda for a program sponsored by an all-female networking group, he though it looked excellent and very informative...but he didn't want to go because he didn't feel comfortable since it was going to be a group of mostly women.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Teach Them Well...and Let Them Lead the Way?

I had another story to tell, but since bad little boys seem to draw comments, I'll give them their moment in the sun again.

I was on the train across the aisle from some boys who were somewhere between 10 and 13. Their whole conversation was n-word this and n-word that and they ended many sentences with "son." They discussed how girls were after them, asking them to buy burgers and french fries and how they weren't giving them nothin'.

The woman sitting behind them asked them if they were talking to each other. And when they said yes, she asked them, "Then why are you talking so loud?" Both she and they laughed. And they lowered the volume for a few minutes, but soon they were talking as loudly as before.

As I should have suspected, they were getting off at my stop. By now the woman had spent the rest of the train ride discussing how she couldn't even read her book because they were so loud. (Um, rude kids aside, having to listen to people talk is one of the hazards of riding the train.) When they got ready to leave, she wished them a good evening. They ignored her. But I responded to wish her a good evening.

Leaving the train, I heard one of them mutter about how he wanted to "cut her fat a$$." So I thought the story would end there, but it didn't.

Next I witnessed a family reunion in the train station. The threatening boy met up with his parents; they were getting on a train as he was leaving one. They all seemed genuinely happy to see each other. He yelled after them that they "betta be home by 9:30" and that he was giving them a bedtime.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

They Start Early

Coming out of the supermarket the other day, I saw a gaggle of pre-teen boys sqawking at a girl their age who kept on walking.

"I lost my phone number...Can I have yours?" one of them yelled after her.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ben's Chili Bowl!

"Take a picture of a menu with some Pepto."

This was the art direction I received from a friend as we discussed how I wanted to blog about Ben's 50th anniversary, but had forgotten my camera. Good idea. I've taken similar pics for other posts.

We were at Ben's since this weekend marks 50 years that Ben and crew have been dishing out chili,etc. to Washington DC. That is a long time for anyone to be in business, let alone someone in the food/service industry. The sign advising who can eat free ("Bill Cosby and no one else.") is still there, and someone stuck a few 50th Anniversary stickers on it. I had to agree with my friend: it still makes you chuckle every time, no matter who many times you see it. (Cosby has been an ardent supporter of Ben's for most of its 50 years.)

For my part, I did not need any Pepto since I only had a piece of cake. My friend and the cashier could not believe that was all I was getting. Hey, it was late at night and I came to offer my congratulations and support, not to get heartburn.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Context is King

The Washington Examiner had a pull quote from Obama's younger half-brother where he was quoted as saying that he denied being related to Obama because he was ashamed.

Later, I picked up The Washington Post and read this:

George Hussein Onyango Obama, 26 -- the youngest of Barack Obama 's many half siblings -- living in a ramshackle hut on the outskirts of Nairobi. According to a translation in the U.K.'s Telegraph, the younger Obama said he does not like to admit his relation to the candidate because he is ashamed of his poverty.

The Examiner quote managed not to capture the part about his poverty, thus leaving one to think that George Obama was simply ashamed of Barack.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Bench By Any Other Name

After I got to college, I decided that I did not want anyone to name a building after me. This was rather presumptuous of me since I have yet to be in any real danger of having anyone name a building after me. But it is fun to make this kinds of arbitrary decisions anyway.

At Spelman, the dining hall was named for Alma Upshaw, who I'm sure was a fine, upstanding citizen. Yet, not a day would go by when someone without someone declaring, "I hate Alma." We did not know her, but more often than not the food served in the cafeteria bearing her name deserved our derision.

At at my brother's college, Lincoln University, people made reference to a dorm called "Freddy D.," named after Frederick Douglass. He probably wouldn't have minded, but still...if you can avoid having a building named after you, you can avoid having your name tossed about.

Instead, you might try getting some benches placed in your honor, as the Toni Morrison Society has done for their namesake author. Since the benches themselves aren't really named for you, it won't be like people are sitting on you. Rather, they will appreciate and honor the fact that your life's work inspired a place of respite.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I was just outside and politely asked a little boy on the other side of my building's parking gate to not tie a string around the gate at the point where it slides open and closed.

He asked me why the gate was there in the first place.

I shrugged and gave him my brilliant grown-up answer: that's the way they made it. After that he went away.

I'm sure he just a curious little boy and yet, I still think that Good Gates Make Good Neighbors.

Perhaps this is why:

Enter Ye Through the Narrow Gate

Friday, August 15, 2008

More About Frederick Douglass's Home, Cedar Hill

Not too long ago, I wrote about the view from Cedar Hill, but due to my lack of camera at the time, the post did not have any actual views of Cedar Hill. For those of you didn't click on the hyperlink above (shame on you), I'll tell you that Cedar Hill was Frederick Douglass's final home. It is in the Anacostia area of DC. When that area was mostly farmland, this former slave purchased the house on a hill and its surrounding farmland for about $6,000 in the 1870s.

Not to take anything away from Douglass's remarkable achievements, but it is always fun to hear a little of the dirt...

The tour guide told us that although the movie shown in the visitor center makes it seems as if Douglass's children objected to his marrying his second wife because she was white, this really wasn't the case. Apparently after his first wife died there were 8 or 9 ladies vying to become the second Mrs. Frederick Douglass. His children picked the one they liked best of these women (some of whom were white), but Douglass didn't agree with their selection. He married his secretary instead.

The pillowcases on Douglass's bed are embroidered with a picture of two owls together on the higher branches of a tree with a lone owl sitting on some lower branches. The phrase "Two's company, three's a crowd" accompanies this picture. Again the tour guide had the scope: Douglass's second wife embroidered those. She was not accorded the respect that most wives of great men received during the Victorian era and felt that the shadow of Douglass's first wife (whom he was with for 44 years) loomed large over her marriage.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Price of Admission
In this topsy-turvy world we've both liberated ourselves from and chained ourselves to principles we like to say are old-fashioned. For example, if you see a woman standing next to a man and they are about the same age, what is your first thought about their connection to each other?

A friend of mine (female) told me that when she took a vacation with a friend of hers (male) and everyone assumed they were married. They are neither married nor are they dating. But I can see how people thought that. They are close in age and they were at a resort.

Once, however, I was standing somewhere next to my brother, and was taken aback when someone thought we were somehow romantically linked (although we are also close in age).

Now there was a time when if a man and a woman presented themselves at a public venue, an employee would assume that the man was paying. For example, at a restaurant, the man would be presented the check at a restaurant. Now, in the modern era, they tend to put the check in the middle of the table. But I hadn't considered that these assumptions could easily be reversed in these equal opportunity times...

Just this week, I went to see a movie with a male friend who let me get ahead of him in line. There was only one movie showing, so I didn't have to say, "1 for movie such and such." When the theater employee gave me back my change, I paused. She asked, "Two tickets, right?" I said, "" Why did she think I was paying for him?

My friend took umbrage (now there's an old-fashioned notion) at the way I responded. I guess it was less than chivalrous of me to take umbrage at the notion that I'd pay for him to see a movie.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Backstage Pass

Today I took photos at the Aquarium in Baltimore for an article I'm working on and they let me behind the ropes to get a closer look at the dolphins. They were all so cute! It reminded me of when I sent to Sea World as a kid and fell in love with the dolphins there. I declared that I would one day have one as a pet. (Well, actually it was a toss up between a dolphin and a giraffe...)

Friday, August 08, 2008

When Urban Legends Become Real

A while back someone forwarded me an article about how the a certain three-lettered white supremacist group was supporting Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton because they preferred a man of any type to a woman.

It seemed unreal and of course it was. Turns out that someone had seen an article from the satirical news publication, The Onion, and thought it was actual news.

Now Yahoo news has posted a video of a white supremacist who claims that Obama being president could boost their cause. So while The Onion's satirical musings didn't exactly come true...they did have a point.

Apparently, Obama really can bring change that anyone can believe in...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Where the Parking is Easy

So I've already written about taking that ride to the MD/DC frontier. Now I want to point out something that one takes for granted as a fact of life while living in other parts of of town that people other than the ones living there actually want to go visit. That thing would be: parking restrictions.

For the most part, we don't have them.

You can park your horse or wagon on the street anywhere you want, for as long as you want. You don't have to feed a meter. You don't have to move your car to one side or the other depending on the day. You just park and go. Even in a residential area, a few blocks from a metro station, there is nothing to stop you from parking and leaving your car sitting on the street all day.

Yes, yes, I can imagine you saying, "But if no one wants to even go there, who would want to park there?" And yet there are plenty of cars all around.

Will this change one day? Probably. Will people who used to park wherever, whenever be mad when the era of free parking love comes to end. It is likely.

Until then, park on.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Sharing Spaces

No matter who you are you are one of "those people" to someone else. Since I belong to a group of people who is often accused of being too loud, it is interesting to see how the tables can turn.

Lately, I have been on the train, going towards the section of the wild frontier that is the MD/DC border that I call home at the same time that people are making their way to Nationals stadium. And of course there is an interesting mix of people. The trains sometimes (rather annoyingly) stop just short of my destination so they can turn around to shuttle more people to baseball games.

Now I can't say they all are white or that they all are suburban, but...many of them are both of those things. There's the anxious people who keep consulting the map and asking their companions just when to leave the train. The woman hugging and continually kissing her toddler, asking him if he is okay. The people loudly telling their kids just how this whole train-transportation-system-and- walking-to-the-stadium thing works.

And then there are commuters and frontier residents...looking tired, drooping faces, eyes sometimes closed, sometimes open with faraway looks, wondering why we suddenly have to share the train with these folks.

I've been to baseball games and understand the excitement and anticipation. But I've also ridden the train home after a long day at work and understand the need for space and silence.

One day when the train was stuffed to the gills with baseball fans, it was amazing to see the change in the atmosphere once they all left. One woman put words to everyone else's silent sighs of relief. "Ugh. They just keep talking and they are so loud..."

Friday, August 01, 2008

An American Nightmare

I like to laugh and I like to be silly, so I am loathe to blog about the serious stuff. But sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do. So here goes...

Many moons ago when I was having problems getting the telephone service to work in my new condo (my wires were literally crossed with the unit next door), a sympathetic Verizon tech said, "When I brought my first house, I got taken too." And she was just referring to what she knew--the messed up wiring. Little did I know just how much was really wrong.

My foray in the the American dream (homeownership) has become something of a nightmare. And I really want to wake up.

One blog entry really cannot do justice (ah, what a concept) to the ways in which our developer/seller/management company swindled us. We have severed our relationship with them, but we still have a long road to ahead of us.
-Our building did not pass its DC inspections and they canceled the appointments for re-inspection.
-They were loathe to actually maintain the building and condescending to those who requested services that are pretty much standard.
-They took our condo fees and basically pocketed them. So instead of having a cushion of money in the bank earning interest, we have nothing.
-They continue to try to extort money from us. Just yesterday, they claimed we still owe them thousands of dollars.

And they are at it again...

Yeah, I know only 3 people read my blog, but that doesn't mean someone else won't find it. So if you see a property put up by Longwood Properties, LLC, just walk on by. If you work for Homeland Security or are thinking of moving to Anacostia because of the low prices, do not consider Eaton Place Condos at 1500 Eaton Road SE.

Sure these "spacious Three and Four Bedrooms/2 Bath condos start at $293,900," but sometimes you get what you pay for. I know because I am still paying...