Sunday, November 30, 2008

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Killing Birds Without Stones

So I was driving down 395 yesterday, happily singing Christmas music along with the radio, when I saw a bird nearing the right side of my car. Birds fly by all the time, but in a split second I saw that this bird was too close. There was little I could do, driving on the highway, over a bridge in the right hand lane.

And SPLAT, it made contact. And for another fraction of a second I thought it would just fall off of the car, making for an unpleasant, but brief encounter. As is often the case, I was wrong.

I realized that this bird had not just hit my windshield; it had become impaled on the antenna.

And I watched it die.

By now, I had left the bridge. I was in a middle lane with cars on either side. And I cannot really begin to describe just how awful it was. I had to keep driving as the impaled bird tried to free itself. It's head jutted against the windshield and I had to do all I could to hold myself together.

When I did leave the highway, I called the friend I was coming into town to meet and asked if he'd help me remove the bird. By now, it had given up.

I was near the National Mall and parking was hard to find. I saw a woman getting ready to leave a space and I hovered near. She kept pointing and gesturing. I, in turn, gestured to indicate that I was aware of the dying/dead bird impaled on my car. I still needed a parking space, however. Then I feared that some animal rights fanatic would vandalize my car before I was able to get my friend to help me remove the bird.

"I really just should have taken metro," I said at one point.

Later, my sometimes-atheist, sometimes-Buddhist friend said this was God's way of telling me that I should have taken metro.

And suddenly, I was irritated. "How do you know what God is saying?" I asked. "You don't even believe in God."

But later, as he removed the bird, he remarked on the odds that a bird would impale itself on an antenna in that fashion. Being a mathematician, he noted that the bird had to have been flying at just the right angle, etc., etc. "That's very rare."

And for me that was it: I was traumatized by the entire incident, but perhaps the point of it all was that the rare and impossible does happen.

Earlier, I had been talking about a rather upsetting situation that seems to have no solution. But, hey, if a bird can impale itself on my car antenna, who is to say what else can happen? Of course, I am hoping for more pleasant rarities and not traumatic ones.

Still, I am very sorry that the poor bird had to suffer like that. My friend, however, was fascinated by this gruesome death.

"Don't you care about the sanctity of life?" I asked.

He mulled it over and said yeah, he cared, but that it was still cool to see a bird impaled on a car antenna.

And yes, I took a picture of it because if I get nothing else out of all the random things that happen, I get a story.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Everything Old Does NOT Need to Be New Again

OK, so first I read about how some scientists were all excited because they had discovered the genetic code for woolly mammoths. Fine. But then I kept reading and I discovered that there was speculation about whether or not they should bring woolly mammoths back.

Um...what is this 'hope' that extinct species will once again live on Earth? They're extinct for a reason.

Next I read that somewhere some other scientific geniuses are pondering the idea of re-populating the Earth the neanderthals too.

Honestly, just when you think there is enough crap to go we are still dealing with nuclear weapons, bioterrorism, suicide bombers and just regular, plain old guns and knives and it is someone's brilliant to take it back to the Land of the Lost.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Land of Lost Cell Phones

The other night I was sitting at a birthday dinner when my cell phone rang. I glanced at it quickly and saw that it was someone I knew. But when I answered, the voice on the other end was not one I recognized. He had an accent that the person whose name was on the caller id did not have. The man said something that sounded like "I'm calling you from your cell phone." I jumped a little--how could he be calling me from my cell phone when I was using my cell phone?

An unexpected phone call from a strange man with a foreign accent? Doesn't that have all the makings of an exciting story? Sorry to disappoint, but in this novel that is my life, things like this often turn out to be quirky, annoying, or nothing at all.

His command of English was less than great: he'd found my friend's cell phone and called my number because it was the last call received. Then I called some other friends to see if they knew how to find this cell phone-less person.(Because of course I didn't know his home phone number and he later told me that he has no land line.) They didn't and I ended up using my morse code typing to send him an e-mail on someone else's cell phone. (This person actually has 2 cell phones, but it was really hard to type on his iPhone, so I went for the old-fashioned version.)

As it turns out the cell phone finder lives in the same building my friend who lost his cell phone.

And then on Sunday, I ran into another friend who had also lost her cell phone. She was fairly certain that she'd lost it is NoVa. She had the service turned off and speculated that had she lost it Maryland or DC, someone would have gone crazy with it. I told that just the say before a friend of mine had lost a phone in Maryland and that someone found it, called me and intended to return it. She was very surprised to hear of such honesty in Maryland.

Of course when she said Maryland, she probably meant PG County. And I didn't mention that my friend's lost cell phone was lost and found in Rockville...

No doubt some areas have more crime than others, but thieves and opportunities to do good abound everywhere.

Friday, November 21, 2008

How Great Stories (and Blog Posts) Are Born

I was on the subway and reached in my bag for a book I'm reading. The woman in front of me was reading The Express and the article she was reading caught my eye. And instantly I had an idea for a blog post that I could put up on the Cultural Events Blog I write at So I put the book down, got out my calendar and searched for a pen. I quickly scrawled the idea, and put the calendar and pen away so I could get a bit into my book before the train ride ended.

But that oh so persistent muse...well, really it isn't all that persistent There are days when I feel idea-free, and other times when I get stopped in the middle of something else with a great idea.

So I had to put down the book again and to scribble another idea. The way you can forget that a beautiful butterfly landed on your shoulder minutes before is the same way you'll forget a fleeting, but good idea.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I So Love the Innanets: 30 Rock Edition

I needed a laugh, so I wanted to revisit an episode of 30 Rock that I found to be especially amusing, but of course I couldn't remember which one it was. Netflix kept confounding my efforts by not letting me see the plot descriptions on the episode list. And has annoying commercials, just like real tv, so I didn't bother with them.

So I did a search in which I wrote something like "30 Rock episode where Tracy sings Midnight Train to Georgia" and I found it. It was Episode 210. Isn't that a very descriptive title? What happened to real titles, like Ludaschristmas?

Yeah, that is about as profound as it gets today. I'm tired.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blog Post Confessional

When I ran into someone I hadn't seen in a while at a party, she confessed to me that she though she hadn't seen me, she felt as though she had been prying into my life by reading my blog. She seemed sort of embarrassed.

I reassured her that it was okay and that if I didn't want anyone to know, I wouldn't post it on my blog. The thing about blogging is that you are your own editor. And although it may seem that some people do not know when to stop, it really is all in their control and they choose to tell all (or what we think is all) because they want to do so.

And this blog is hardly all that confessional. There is plenty of things that I'll never write about. Anywhere. And isn't that how we all live our lives? We only tell part of the story. What we reveal doesn't add up to even half the story.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Who is Responsible?

Yesterday I was reading the New York Times and an ad caught my eye. It outlined a scenario that asks the reader what they'd do if they saw a nanny seeming to mistreat the child under her care. It offered several choices and referred you to something called The Responsibility Project.

Me being me, my mind went off on a tangent that was unrelated to the project's actual purpose. My first thought was: how very New York City. Not a mother mistreating a child, but a nanny.

What signals to a person that a woman with a child is a nanny and not the child's actual mother? (Having lived in NYC, I know what often signals this and can spot what I am sure is a nanny in a NY minute.) Would you feel differently if the woman you thought was mistreating a child was the child's mother and not the nanny? How would someone's intervention (of lack therof) change if it was not an employee, but a parent mistreating a child? Why didn't they simply ask what someone would do if they saw a child being mistreated?

And being a person of color, I try not to think that there is prejudice in every scenario, but I saw the possibility for it here. Nannies come in all colors of course and sometimes they share a cultural background with their charges and sometimes they do not. A friend who lives in that area has told me that she is often mistaken as being the nanny for her own child because their skin colors differ.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Price is Right (In Any Language)

I went to a store whose symbol is a big bullseye and decided that I wanted to purchase an item that had two different price points. On one shelf it was $5.99 and on another it was $4.99. I checked--the sizes and make were the same. So I chose one from the $4.99 stock and went to the cash register.

When the item scanned at $5.99, I told the cashier that it was $1. She held it, looked perplexed, and then continued ringing up my other items. I waited to see if she'd wait until the end to try to verify the price. She didn't. So I mentioned it again. And again she held it and looked perplexed.

Finally, she consulted cashier in the next aisle, in Spanish.

"She says that this is $4.99, but it shows up as $5.99."

The other cashier responded in Spanish, "She says that this is $4.99, but it shows up as $5.99?"

"Yes," I said, in Spanish. "It is $4.99, but it shows up as $5.99." They ignored me.

Then my cashier calls the manager and says to her in Spanish, "She says that this is $4.99, but it shows up as $5.99."

Then the manager asks me in English, "Was this $4.99 on the shelf."

"Yes, I answered in English."

So the manager took a dollar off.

Then some other employee came by and asked my cashier if she had been speaking to the other cashier. He was a little off because he then went off on a tirade about people not speaking the right language, but he didn't direct this speech at anyone in particular.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Is It Time to Unpack?

I've heard many metaphors about the African-American condition in the U.S., one of the shrewdest being Chris Rock's likening it to having an uncle pay for your college tuition and not being able to forget that he molested you when you were a child.

Yesterday, I heard Whoopi Goldberg say that she feels as if she can finally put her suitcase down. Yeah, we've been here a while, and most of us aren't going anywhere, but we've never felt welcome either. And certainly never felt comfortable enough to unpack.

But of course we aren't the only ones. Yesterday I was on a bus and I overheard a young Latina explaining who Obama was and what his winning the presidency meant to an older Latina, who apparently was unaware of these things. In Spanish, the younger woman also said that for the first time she felt really proud to be an American.

She echoed the words that Michelle Obama spoke that ignited controversy and were (of course) spliced, diced and taken out of context:

"What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something -- for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I've seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues, and it's made me proud."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Imitation of Life

People like to say that 'art imitates life,' but isn't it really the other way around?

There is a certain vision that people who are dedicated to cultural expression have that lets them see what is to come (be it comforting or uncomfortable).

Over the last few weeks, I've read any number of articles with the premise that plot lines in The West Wing foreshadowed Obama being elected president. And truthfully, this is a case of art and life informing each other because The West Wing's writers based character Matt Santos on Barack Obama.

And in thinking about the "Bradley Effect," Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez wrote about 'The Huxtable Effect' saying that the cultural movements pave the way for political change. She points out that the Harlem Renaissance preceded the Civil Rights Movement and that kids who grew up on The Cosby Show helped put Obama in the White House. Interestingly, just as the young Latino president on the West Wing hinted at Obama, she hopes that Obama himself will foreshadow a Latino president.

In this world, we still have these divisions, so I understand her hope. A president who is a person of color is good, but one who shares your particular cultural heritage is the icing on the cake.

As for the "Bradley Effect," didn't anyone ever think that it could be turned inside out? Yes, back when Tom Bradley ran for office, they found that to be "polite" certain people said they'd vote for a black man and didn't.

Now, perhaps some people were reluctant to say they intended to vote for a black man, but they did so anyway. Not to diminish the power of polls, but what people said, carried much less weight than what they did in the voting booth. As always actions speak louder than words, and the America spoke--by a landslide.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Done Voted, Y'all

In: 7:40 am
Out: 8:14 am

If you are voting later in the day, I can't say that it will be that quick, but as we all know it is well worth it.

For the first time since I moved to my particular area of DC, I actually stood in line to vote. I wasn't in line for long, but the fact that there was a line at all is significant because in the past I've walked right in with no waiting.

And when I stopped by the supermarket afterwards, I heard a woman say how beautiful it was to see a line of beautiful black people wrapped around a building on their way to vote.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Been There, Got the T-shirt

The other day I stepped out in my hard-earned t-shirt that bears the logo of everyone's favorite satirical newspaper, The Onion. (Hard-earned in the sense that I worked hard at a contracting gig that put me in an area of DC to be near enough to the happy hour where they gave away the free t-shirts to actually saunter over there after work.)

Someone told me she loved my t-shirt and I said, "Yeah, I should have grabbed more." This was just some random comment I threw out. All they had were women's size small (an odd choice to have in abundance), so I didn't get more because I didn't see myself giving them away to all of my female friends who wear that size.

"You could have sold them on eBay," the woman replied.

We had just been talking about how I was a writer and she was thanking me for publicizing her event on the D.C. Cultural Events blog I write for

"It's because you're a writer," she said. "You don't think like a marketer."

I could pout and say that this was an unfair generalization, but what the hell, it's true.

I need to think like a marketer, although I'm not sure I want to get into the t-shirt resale business...