Saturday, July 30, 2011

What A Way To Make A Livin'

I've talked a little bit about some of my adult-life jobs here in D.C. but I've had some pretty random jobs throughout life, starting when I was a child.

I apparently have an entrepreneurial heart because I started wondering how to make money about the time I, I don't know, started talking.

I sold cookies and koolaid at my mom's yard sales in the summer. I sold Friendship Bracelets to other children who were too lazy to make their own. (I grew up in the middle of Orchards, I had a lot of time on my hands to braid thread...)

When I was 12, I worked (underage) as a quasi-maid at my parents' motel. I also got on staff at another hotel as a babysitter. Because apparently some rich people like to dump their kids off on perfect strangers who haven't reached puberty yet while they go out on the town.

The first gig I got was taking care of a toddler and an infant. The infant was sick. I'd never babysat before.

I never worked at that place again.

When I was 13, my family moved to Tennessee where I continued my streak of random income-earning:

I worked as a Hostess at Shoney's.

I worked as a Dairy Queen server AT A TRUCK STOP.

I worked in a Rent-To-Own furniture store.

That one, I have tons of stories from. If you aren't familiar with the typical clientele of that sort of place, let me describe some of ours:
-we had actual Pimps
-we had drug dealers
-we had one lady with a tattoo on her forehead of a number that my God-fearing self can't even type here
-and others who I've now blocked out in my memory

We'd repo furniture and it'd come back with roaches. I made collection-calls. I drove the Box Truck. And I was the only female working there, so if the customers and environment weren't enough, you should meet my bosses!

One of them called me "Woman!" and also used the term "Broad" and whenever anyone asked where anything was in the office, the answer was:

"If it was up your *butt you'd know!"
*butt wasn't actually the word they preferred.

This is why I'm not really fazed by "difficult personalities" in D.C....

After that, I started working...

...on an assembly line!

You thought I was going to say something boring, didn't you?

In my college town was a plant that made Foam Packaging for everything from hospital beds, to BMW parts.

They paid above minimum wage and let you stare off into space while mechanically going through the same motion for hours. I was sold.

That place was fun. There were some other guys (guys! Always guys! I'm starting to see why I get along better with men in the workplace...) from my school who also worked there. And they took more advantage of the place then I did and used to bounce around in the back warehouse on the hospital bedding we'd just put together. And take naps.

Meanwhile, me and my conscience worked steadily away at a variety of brain-cell killing tasks.

Literally brain-cell killing. At one station we melted Styrofoam with hair dryers to get items to stick together. Pretty sure that is not the most healthy thing to smell for hours. But it explains a lot about me now....

At another station, we had to stand up large foam mats and spray glue on them, air-brush style. The great part was, (besides using the glue gun) you were back up against an identical station so that person's glue would inevitably over-spray --

onto your hair.

I never had a dramatic incident but I do remember the sensation of glue spray coming over the top of the divider wall. And I probably was thinking "somehow this isn't how I pictured college life..."

After we sprayed them, we had to wrestle with these heavy gel pads that went on one foam mat, then we had to slap a second foam mat on top of that - forming part of a bed.

Once again, I feel bad for the end user of something I created...

After college, I moved to D.C. where before I was hired full time, I served as an intern for 3 months, making no money. So then I resorted to scavenging free food at events whenever possible and at one point found out about a catering job I could do to make some money. They bus you out to the event (not in the best part of town) and you make sure the buffet stays full. But the best part?

It was for Redskins Games.

So while I had to slave over steaming hot trays of food for other people - I also got to watch pro-football for free. I only did it once, but it was pretty fun. And it was ironic to have people dismiss you as "just the server" but be getting paid, then get up, put on my Big Girl Suit and walk right into the White House complex -- and work for free.

And even after the White House hired me full-time, you never seem to have enough money in this town. So I've supplemented my income through the years with everything from part-time work at Golds Gym to getting paid to sing harmony in a cover band, to selling merchandise on a music tour, living in a bus with a bluegrass band (as I mentioned here).

Right now I just have the two careers (government consulting and the U.S. Navy Reserve) but maybe it's time to find a new random gig again. Anyone need a weekend travel writer?....

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Disaster Prone

If you've followed this blog at all, you know that one recurring theme in my life is -- disaster. In fact, that was my first sentence in my essay to get into grad school. "I'm disaster-prone." (it was supposed to get attention and it must've worked because they let me in. Either that, or they felt sorry for me and let me in for that...I'll take it either way.)

So besides the national disasters I've been intimately involved in -9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Swine Flu, Oil Spill....- I also incur little disasters. Sometimes I think my presence may even create them in other people's lives. (I had someone recently blame me for the fact that his phone stopped receiving texts after he texted me and that his computer stopped working while instant messaging me. If only I could harnass that power and use it to sabotage every guy who's ever rejected me...)

And I can't tell you the number of times I finish a project at work and people say "that was totally not the normal way these things go - that was crazy." And I've had more than one boss who people will hear the name of and give me an "OH GOSH" face, like "YOU worked for THEM?? And lived?!?"

I'm a magnet.

So one time recently, I was working from home and did not leave except to drive to my bank. I get there at 3 pm, thinking they surely don’t close until 4. I pull in behind an SUV along the street. That car then proceeds to EXIT his spot, and I guess the fact that I was behind him threw him off (I promise I didn’t park too close, I parked the normal distance of parellelisms) because he started to back up, then IMMEDIATELY pulled up-

INTO the car in front of him.

And I felt so awkward because I kind of felt responsible, even though this guy had plenty of space and clearly just made a bad judgement. But I just hop out and after seeing that they don’t need witnesses (the owner of the other car has already come out in bewilderment), I walk up to my bank.

And they closed at 3pm. It is now 3:18pm.

So I have to walk immediately BACK by the accident, where now the SUV kid is awkwardly apologizing to the car owner, and I shamefully get in my car and drive right back to my house.

I later told my friend that I felt like the only thing I did that day - was wreck someone else’s day.


Now THIS week, I've had computer issues. Both on my personal and work laptop. Which messes up my entire life because if I'm not doing work stuff, I'm doing school stuff and I feel paralyzed without computers. So I've literally switched between the two so when one temporarily breaks again, I run to the other and try to finish something else until that one temporarily breaks, and so on.

Now don't you feel better about your sanity?

So I end up having to use BOTH those computers to try to submit a paper before midnight last night.

THEN MY SCHOOL EMAIL SYSTEM BREAKS. Ya can't make this stuff up....

Side note: I ended up GOOGLING my professor, hoping to find an email address for him since I don't remember what his is and now can't get into my school inbox to find out. I send my paper to the email I find for him. Then I wake up today and resend it using my school's email, which is now working (of course!). I write an explanation and something like "I sent this last night to your other email, I promise!" To which he replied:


Ha! I guess my panic translated virtually, because that came across kinda like "DON'T JUMP. IT'S OK."
Anyway, so I take my laptop to get fixed on my lunch break today. And as I'm looking for a parking spot, I notice two different cars backing out of their spots.

And they back right into eachother.

So now I'm afraid my weird disaster karma just caused that...and I park. Then I look up - and see a random Winnebago across the lot and two dread-locked hippie-looking guys reencting the collision for eachother.

That is strange in Alexandria, VA.

So I get out, and they make a bee line for me for some reason. So I'm like "hey, that sucked right?" making small talk about the accident we all just saw. Because I figure guys living in Winnebagos are cool like that and you can just act like ya'll are friends from way back...

And one's all "yeah, right? Hey, could I play you a song on my guitar for a couple bucks? My camper just died and we need $16 to fix it."

You know what, sure buddy. Why WOULDN'T I be approached like this in the parking lot of a Best Buy? So I tell him I sadly don't have time to listen to a song, though I'm sure it's beautiful, but I gave him a few bucks anyway.

So the other guy jumps in, apparently concerned I get SOMETHING to make up for the lack of song. And he pulls out a wad of STUFF and says:

"Here! Take this lucky SHARK'S TOOTH! We got these in Florida!"


So I did.

I now have a tiny, brownish triangle shaped petrified tooth thing in my purse. And if it really does bring me good luck, it was probably worth a whole lot more than a couple bucks. I probably should've just bought those guys a brand new camper....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Love The Skin You're In

For my final paper in one of my grad school classes this semester, we basically have to choose a negative Human Behavior, look at it through the lens of one of several theories, and think of ways to target changing that behavior with a public relations campaign.

(Incidentally, the guy from the Boat Ride story here suggested I go with "Fear of Commitment"... I'm going to pretend that wasn't a direct jab. Ahem.)

I chose Tanning Bed Use. And while I don't use tanning beds now, I used to in High School (come on! I was on the dance team for BASKETBALL season - AKA - the winter. Short skirts + white legs = no prom date, people.) And I still shamefully lay out in natural sunlight and participate in outdoor activities without wearing sunscreen.

So perhaps I'll learn to convince myself otherwise.

Anyway, I told you here about the mole I had removed. But I didn't tell you the extremely embarrassing appointments before that.

There were two. One was a year or so before, when I went for a Mole Patrol appointment and discovered much to my dismay that not only would the dermatologist be conducting my check-up, but - oh look! there are STUDENTS too! And they will ALSO be peering intently at EVERY INCH of my NAKED BODY looking for anything suspicious in the way of moles. (and I now realize I sound like I'm covered in moles - I'm not. I actually hardly have any - I'm covered in freckles! (my arms anyway) See? Much less hideous! Freckles are angel kisses, or so my aunt told me when I was a child to make me feel better...) So I don't really have that much to have checked but I'm paranoid and once I got health insurance, I started getting annual check ups for EVERYTHING! Just because I could!

So, having a guy around my age peer all over my body (and given my lovely internal homing device, this is probably someone I'll most definitely run into while out socially in Georgetown some Saturday night) was slightly uncomfortable.

BUT NOT AS UNCOMFORTABLE AS THE NEXT YEAR. When I went to a DIFFERENT doctor - the one who removed a mole. When I first went to her, she asked me what all I wanted to discuss. And I told her I just wanted a check-up to make sure I hadn't given myself skin cancer. I also asked her opinions on good body washes because I work out fairly regularly and want to take care of my skin after sweating through hour-long torture sessions spin classes. Well, she must've jotted something down because of what happened next.

She tells me she wants to do a biopsy of a mole and so I have to come back. And when I go back, I meet: Her Assistant. A guy who looks kind of like a dark-haired Seth Rogan but acts like Napolean Dynamite.

Greeeeat Bedside Manner, let me tell ya.

So I'm ALONE with this guy in a tiny room with the door closed and he blurts out something like "so you're having bad skin problems?"

Me, southern-belle-horrified-- "NO I AM NOT!" humph. "I'm having a mole removed!"

Awkward silence. And I'm already nervous due to said mole.

Him again: "So...you work out a lot, huh?"

Me, shutting my eyes in disbelief at this attempt at SMALL TALK, based on whatever is apparently on my chart from the Body Wash discussion: "Um, sure."

I pretend to check my email on my phone.

Him again: "Yeah, I try to work out but I need to get more regular...."

Me: Aaaand we're done here buddy.

I don't even remember what I said, probably just "mmm..." and stopped looking at him. I think he attempted a couple more times at awkward conversation and he finally left, thankfully.

After that, having something burned off my skin was a breeze.

Perhaps that scenario should be part of my hypothetical campaign: Stop Tanning - or you'll have to be alone in a room with THAT guy...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Little Boxes, On a Hillside....

I love the Malvina Reynolds song they play at the beginning of the show Weeds. It's basically about homogenized cultures - all the people getting put in boxes in college, getting spit out to get married and work and play golf. And to spend their lives in houses that all look the same.

In some ways, D.C. is extremely homogenized. Most people have jobs having something to do with Government, many are Type-A Go-Getters, arriving here with dreams of personal grandeur or of changing the world. (...or arriving here by accident because you lived in small towns your whole life and WHY NOT live in D.C. for a semester and see what happens?! - like me.)

But housing in D.C. is anything but normal or standardized. It's so expensive here that people resort to all sorts of creative living situations.

You saw my description of living with 5 other girls in a two bedroom apartment here. And of my Couch Dweller here. Those were just two of SEVERAL unorthodox enviroments I've encountered.

When I arrived in D.C., the most I ever spent for rent in college was $450 for a 3 bedroom townhouse. $450 that was split 3-ways between me and my roomates.

And we nearly didn't take that place because it was "a little too pricey."

I now live in a city where you spend $1000 to live like a mole in someone's basement with NO bedrooms and sometimes your shower is in your kitchen....

Here are some of my personal favorite housing adventures:

After ASP, a classmate and I decided to stay in D.C. She found a place while I was back home in Tennessee so I had no idea where it was. I still agreed to it, packed up whatever of my things I could fit IN A MUSTANG (so, like...a toothbrush) and headed back to start my new life.

On a cot.

In a room that was only big enough ...for the cot.

In a basement that used to be a dentist office.

In the ghetto.

There were literally bars on our windows - and bullet-proof glass on the stores in the neighborhood. When my friend came to visit and started to walk from the metro to our house, a local advised him to "walk quickly..." My roomate and I were not exactly welcomed in the neighborhood by all and that was unkindly pointed out to us on numerous occasions. I BROKE THE CLOSET because my clothes wouldn't fit, the place was clearly a fire hazzard, and there was mold in my roomate's room. BUT - you could park on the street without a permit, and rent was $800 total.

I stayed a year and a half.

After that, I moved into a 2-bedroom with TWO other girls because they had both been living in a STUDIO together (AKA No Bedrooms) so anything with a room was a step up for them, and anything where I didn't see my neighbors being handcuffed at 3am was a step up for me.

On our move into that place, one of the cushions from our couch FLEW OFF the truck on I395 and was run over by a passing truck. We kept it. Tire tracks and all.

After that, I subletted a friend's place in D.C. for 3 months while she travelled on the Bush Campaign. My car didn't have tags for that part of the city so I parked it on a random street a few miles away, left it there through the week, and metroed back to the house to live with her things: including a cat that woke me up at 7:30am by pawing my face.

After that, I looked online and found a random stranger to live with somewhere in Northern Virgina. She seemed normal enough....

Her lazy boyfriend ended up practically living in her room, nearly saw me naked one day when I didn't realize his sorry self was napping in there, and used our utilities without paying anything. She and I ended up having a SCREAMING fight and parting ways after a year. BUT that was all AFTER I first moved in:


I'm not even kidding. The girl who's room I was taking was a soldier who's deployment kept getting pushed back. But instead of just staying in the bedroom - she set up her own Army camp in our living room. Where she held awkward personal calls with a guy she was breaking up with. And tents don't create sound barriers....

After she left, we never got living room furniture and I just went straight to my room each day, avoiding the other girl and the boyfriend. I got out of there as soon as I could.

Which is when I moved into another 2-bedroom with 2 other people, including our Couch Dweller. Who informed us if we scared him by coming into the living room unnanounced, he might vomit in fear. And he broke out into spontaneous push-ups and yelled out "STRONG!" and kept his entire closet behind our couch. (Love you Bri Bri:)

I now live in a different place and things have been fairly normal for a few years. Here's hoping it stays that way.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Plane Building

This week has been a little crazy.

It started when I was put on a quick project late Wednesday night a week ago. I proceeded to work some agressive hours for 6 days, including nearly all weekend, and a 15 hour day Monday on 3 hours of sleep. And I'm not complaining, I actually enjoy fast-paced work and I learned a lot. But it was definitely an interesting, and at times entertaining, experience.

First, I get out to the office (while trying to study ON THE WAY - in traffic, on The Beltway - for a grad school exam that evening) and I have TWO computers with me. I plug one in - it won't connect to the internet. I go to plug the other in - it doesn't have a power cord. So I end up charging it in a coworker's office using his cord. And he aplogizes that his office is so messy and in boxes - he's in the process of moving.

So I leave for an hour and go back to his office -

And it's empty.

Not just that HE is not there - NOTHING is there. Not the stuff on his desk, not the other man who had been there. And not my computer.

Oh good, this day is starting off well!

I finally track them down, get my laptop, and attend the Kick Off meeting for this project. And that begins - The Longest 6 Days Of My Life.

The Leader described our project as "We are building a plane - while flying it". Then he says:

"Hope ya like wind in your face!"


And this project team is comprised of many people, part of whom are calling in from other places, and part of whom are holed up in a windowless room for 12-15 hours at a time to deliver the final product- AKA "the plane", which is actually a giant important document.

And I'm representing a large part of our company - alone. And I'm one of the people holed up in the room. But I'm constantly tasking a group of 4-6 other people, all in different places. So things get crazy real quick.

And I'm in this room, and they are CATERING our MEALS, people! That means - WE NEVER HAVE TO LEAVE. Had we been wearing diapers, we could literally keep working for days without ever standing up. It was like being in a casino where you lose conscienceness of what time it is, what day it is...what your name is...

And that sort of environment makes for varying degrees of delirium. And it was me and all males, including two interns that someone at one point called "Thing One and Thing Two."

And the Leader is calling everyone else "Hoss" and not only referring to the process as cobbling together a plane, but he describes everything using sports analogies. So here's a typical day:

Catered breakfast.
Leader: "Today's gunna get Real Sporty. Buckle up."

Rest of the team: Typing away. (adding a wing to the plane)

Catered Lunch.
Delirium starts to set in and Thing One tells us about his conflict in choosing between the various flavored creamers we have for our coffee. He hates his current Hazelnut choice, but "likes to finish what he started".

(wheel falls off plane)

Leader: INTERNS! You BETTER start competing to finish those bagels and pound cake from catering. To make things fair, it can be a 2 to 1 ratio of bagel to cake....

Rest of the team: typing away. (adding wheel back on plane)

Leader, explaining something about the project, ends with: "That's right in your strike zone, Hoss."

Leader, an hour later: "This is a 2-minute offense folks."

Leaders, two hours later: "Who's next up to bat?"

Leader, three hours later: "You gotta stick the landing, bro"

Rest of the team: typing away. (adding windshield to the plane)

Catered Dinner.
I overhear Thing Two, inexplicably say "I LOVE polyurethane!"

Leader: INTERNS! You better finish all that salad....

Me, crossing my legs in an effort to keep blood flowing. Hit my knee for the 15th time on a poorly placed part of the table. The guy to my right accidentally kicks his foot up against something under the table for the 17th time.

Me: "I'm going to have a bruise from this project..."
Guy to my right: "I'm gunna lose a toenail..."

Rest of the team: typing away (adding tail to the plane)

Thing One, inexplicably: "I used to want to buy Advantix just becuase it had a dog on the box and I thought it came with a dog..."

Leader, explaining our project to someone else: "This thing is shaking like a Mexican space shuttle..."

Rest of the team, typing away. (tail falls off)

Guy across the table starts telling Thing One and Thing Two that Miami is "Target Rich" - meaning: full of hot women.

I go to my Happy Place...

At some point, there's a conference call and people writing other parts of this document now inform us that they are just going to refer back to MY section. Making my section now - THE ENGINE of this entire plane.

Then, I learn that one of the guys I've been tasking - HAS JUST RESIGNED FROM OUR COMPANY.

Me: typing away. (engine falls out)

At some point I go home and sleep and start the whole process over again the next day. And somehow, we actually got the impossible done and submitted the "plane" we had been working on around 4pm this past Wednesday.

Had this been a real plane, however, I'd strongly advise no one take a ride in it...


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cube Life

I’ve somehow always had a job where it’s normal to move around a lot. Like, move offices, move to a new project, move to a different department, etc. Which works really well with me because of my fear of being bored. But it’s meant that I’ve had all sorts of working environments. From working in my dining room, to having my own lush office (with a door and a window and everything!). But more often than not: I’ve been in Cube Farms.

Cube Farm (from Wikipedia): Sea of cubicles (or cube farm or cubicle farm) is a derisive vernacular term for featureless, modern open office designs which consist of seemingly endless rows of identical office cubicles.

It looks like this:

And I have lots of stories from the things I’ve inevitably overheard in The Farm, like one coworker used to exclaim “Whaatcheee!” --like the sound of a whip – after he completed different tasks next door to me. He also listened to techno music during the day – out loud – and when I passive-aggressively asked if I should get out my glow sticks, he thought it was funny and that I enjoyed it.

I didn’t.

(Actually some days I did.) Another time, one of the Full-Time staff at my office (my job at that office was temporary, meaning I was there for a 6 month project and then I was leaving for another project. There were others like me, a whole team of us) LEANS OVER THE TOP of the wall that separates our cubes, looks down, and I kid you not, says:

“Which one are you again?”

As in, which one of the temporary team. Like- she can’t be bothered to learn our names. Nice.

But my favorite time in a Farm was when I was on a project with some Law Enforcement-type guys with New York accents. These guys never ceased to crack me up with the stuff I’d overhear, made even funnier by the fact that you don't see anyone, just hear faceless voices. Like one day, the guy next to me was on the phone with his kid, who apparently lived with "the Baby-mama." The conversation proceeded very sweetly, with him doing the whole faking- interest Dad Thing like "uh huh..OH! really? THEN what happened! Oh! Uh HUH!.." for a while before he decided it was time to get off the phone. So then I hear "Ok, daddy's gotta work now...ok...i love you too...ok..love you.. ok..." and right as he was putting the reciever down, he must've been struck with guilt because he inexplicably blurted out "YOU'RE SPECIAL!" just before hanging up the phone.

That scene was then reenacted for many of my friends for years afterwards. I still like to finish phone conversations with that if at all possible...

Anyway, at one point I started Tweeting some of the really good things I'd hear in that Farm. Some of those tweets are below. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

July 7
Cube 1: "Hey, you know that guy in NY who started a program to combat Anti-Islam messages? ...He just be-headed his wife..."

July 9
Cube 1: "Sorry! I can't keep abreast of who's dead these days!"

June 26
Cube 1: My first LP was Thriller. But my first '45' was Jack Wagner.
Cube 2: Who is Jack Wagner?
Cube 3: What's a '45'?
Cube 4: You OLD!

June 4
Cube 1 begins spouting Eagles lyrics, and stops to say, "I've been on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and that didn't happen to me...."

May 14
Cube 3: “I'm always nice to you #@$&*# woman! Now get out!!”

May 14
Guy walking up to Cube 1: "Hey, I'm Joe. I do some work with you guys."
Cube 1: "Yeah, well I'm Patches the Pig in my spare time..."

May 7:
Cube debate now going on of who would win a war: Pirates or Space Cowboys…

May 6
Cube 1:"I wonder if Red Man Chew was ever chewed by Indians?"

May 6
Cube 1: "Do you know what I'm getting for Christmas this year?"
Cube 2: "I hope it's a Glock!"
Cube 1: "No. M&Ms."

And my Favorite….
Overheard two cubes over: "Hey Charlie! You dressed?"

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What's with Today, today?

So, obviously I love this quote, since it's my tagline. And for those of you who have not seen the movie Empire Records, it's from a scene where one of the characters asks another, "what's WITH you today??" and he replied (in a dreamy/stoner "higher level of thinking" sort of way) "what's with TODAY, today?..." Which makes me laugh and it fits perfectly with my life because I so often get caught in the throws of Murphy's Law and think "what is HAPPENING to me today??"

Like yesterday!

I was working from home and planned to attend a large meeting at a fancy hotel nearby at 4:00pm. But, per usual, I'm trying to answer one more email and take one more call before heading out. And I'm hungry, and I'm in my weekly race with my groceries where I have to eat meals like - a cup of milk, a bottle of acai juice, something involving bread, and a zuchini, before all those things spoil simulataneously.

Yesterday's concerning food items were my sweet potatoes.

So I'm "baking" (microwaving) one to throw brown sugar on and eat on the way, and I'm still on a call, still on my email, and someone tells me they want to have a call with me at 4:30.

Fine. I'll go into my meeting, then slip out and take the call.

Then I realize it's 10 minutes until 4:00. And the evening proceeds roughly as follows:

3:50: I'm driving too fast WHILE EATING A SWEET POTATO, and trying to stay cool with Air Conditioning because I do NOT want to have to wash this dress after wearing it for just a couple hours. And I have to find the hotel. And I can't find it. Then I do find it, find parking, and get out to pay the meter.

4:06: my wallet vomits coins all inside my purse.

Backstory: the day before yesterday, I was cleaning out a purse and found a TON of change in the bottom, so I put it in my wallet, FORCE the wallet closed, and plan to move it to the change pouch I have in my car. And I think to myself "this is totally a bad plan and this thing is going to burst open and dump in my OTHER purse"...


4:07 I pay the meter, start sweating (No! My Dress!!!) and walk back down the mound of dirt around one of the trees lining the sidewalk, towards my car.

4:08 I fall down that mound of dirt.

Slide down it really, it was pretty much in slow motion - you know, so the maximum amount of people around could catch the sight.

4:09 I get up, stifle laughter, grab my stuff and head towards the hotel. And I look down just to make sure my dress hasn't like popped open or something in the fall.

And it IS untied.

But nothing drastic, I'm still half-way presentable, and I still have faith it will make it another wear before washing. So I re-tie and enter the hotel.

4:13 I see a registration table for an event. And before I reach the table, I'm already loudly asking "Is this for [name of event]?" and the lady WHISPERS! that it is.

Oooooh. The door beside that table leads to the event.

And it's open.

4:20 Dana just now walks into her 4:00 event...after possibly announcing her own presence.

4:21 I sit, try not to make too much noise, bend down to change out of my "walking flip flops" into my heels -

and see dirt all over the side of my foot.

Craaaaap. I had looked at my dress but forget to check my skin after that fall.

Thankfully, dirt was not covering my entire leg, like I then assumed it was. And I think, again, "it's ok, I'm STILL half-way presentable, it's fine." And I proceed to pay attention to the meeting -- except every few minutes I have to stifle laughter again because I get an image of myself falling down that stupid dirt mound.

And then I get an email that my 4:30 call is now at 6:30. Excellent! Now I don't have to walk right back out- the day is looking up!

6:00 The event ends, and I go up to talk to a senior manager, then I hit the restroom, where I glance at the mirror:

And it looks like I have a faint black eye.

Apparently, in my haste to put on eye shadow, I didn't realize some of it had fallen under my eye. Lovely, now my manager thinks I've recently been in a fist fight. Forget it! I'm going to Target....

6:30 I call my 4:30 call in the parking lot of Target - and get a voicemail.

6:31 I go IN Target, because I need something.

6:35 somewhere in the Sports Bras, my 4:30 call -calls.

'Oh HI! Sure, this is still a great time to talk! There are definitely not people shopping for bras next to me...'

And the call goes fine, the lady never actually realizes I'm in Target, and all is well. And I stop to get gas on my way home.

And the gas tank doesn't work.

So I'm sweating again, and pull into another tank, get out, and get gas.

7:06 I realize - this dress is SO going in the wash....

7:15 I finally get home and decide to replace the belt on my vacuum. Then I burn the new belt immediately. Then put another one on...

And start to suck up a TENNIS. SHOE.

The vacuum grabbed the lace and started trying to EAT IT, then started SMOKING before I could even hit the Off button. Which left my apartment smelling like burnt rubber, and left me wondering:

What was WITH today??

Monday, July 11, 2011

Here's to your health!

I'm currently studying Health Behaviors in one of my classes so instead of actually doing my homework, I'll talk about my own health on here instead!

So, besides that whole Appendix Bursting and Nearly Killing Me thing when I was 10, I’ve been very blessed thus far in terms of health, for which I’m grateful. I HAVE, however, had random health-related experiences through the years.

Of course the first being the possible Anthrax exposure during my Semester in DC, for which I never did get on Cipro (don’t tell my parents) because I really didn’t think I’d been exposed and figured I’d just wait and see if I felt any symptoms.

Of course the “symptoms” for anthrax exposure are very similar to those of a flu, so not really a rock-solid indicator, but whatever. Surely I’d know by now if I’d been harmed by a biological weapon, right? I’m sure it’s fine...

Then I’ve had COUNTLESS shots and meds for the weird countries I like to visit. And between that and all the IVs and shots I had with my appendectomy, I’ve become very desensitized to needles. (my sister, on the other hand, saw my IV when I was 10 and had to put her head between her legs and lean against a wall to keep from passing out. Oh SURE, makes sure SHE'S ok! Not like my ORGANS ARE SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTING OVER HERE OR ANYTHING...but I digress.)

Turns out, my comfort with needles worked out well when I got sent to help with response efforts for Hurricane Katrina.

Since the water pouring through the streets of New Orleans carried WHO KNOWS WHAT diseases, we were advised to make sure we were up on one of the Hepatitis shots. I coudn’t remember if I was, so after I got down to Louisiana, I asked the doctors helping us out if it was a big deal to have it twice. They said no, that it was better to be safe and get it. So I did.

Right there.

On my hip.

In the opened-back of a transfer trailer truck we were using for medical supplies and other things.

So nearly dropping trou in the back of a Semi, getting a shot, then jumping down and continuing with my job, I have to say, was a new experience.

Another time, I went to the dermatologist for my annual “Mole Patrol” – aka, I ask the doctor to make sure I haven’t given myself skin cancer through my foolish non-SPF-covered endeavors all summer.

And she DOES find a mole that apparently is slightly troubling to her. And ironically:

It’s in a place that the SUN NEVER TOUCHES.

Figures! So they remove it, which requires stitches IN A PLACE YOU DON’T WANT TO BE ITCHING when the scar heals. Ahem.

And I’m working at the time for an office of "Health Affairs" somewhere in the government and I really want to casually say “be back after lunch, going to get something removed from my body!” just to see their faces.

But I don’t.

That time. But ANOTHER time, probably my favorite random health incident, I was volunteering at Walter Reed, the big Army hospital here in D.C. And because you are around wounded soldiers all the time, they kinda like to make sure you aren’t carrying any diseases yourself. So they test for things –

Like Tuberculosis.

And you’re probably thinking – does that even still exist? Wasn’t that one of the things that would kill off people in your wagon on Oregon Trail? Is that like Scurvy??

And I had similar thoughts, so of course I was VERY surprised when the nurse looks up and says: “ Well, you are reacting to this, so we’re gunna need to send you to get a chest X-ray TO MAKE SURE YOU DON’T HAVE TUBERCULOSIS.

Ok sure. I'll go schedule that exam then and try not to freak out! You have a nice day too!

And it turns out, LOTS of people in the U.S. have likely been exposed to TB and don't realize it. And it typically doesn't manifest into the disease, it just means you've been exposed to the virus at some point. Which is thankfully all it was in my case and I likely was exposed to it on a trip to Africa a few years before. My chest exam was fine though.

But I DID get the joy of cheerily packing up my stuff one day at work and casually telling my boss over the Cube Wall:

"Sorry, leaving early today! Gotta go make sure I don't have Tuberculosis!"

Although, I will say, that's a great way to be offered "all the time you need off" to make sure that's taken care of :)

Saturday, July 9, 2011


My internal homing device struck a few more times recently:

1. As I was leaving the Iwo Jima Memorial on the 4th of July, I turned around and bumped right into someone. I mumbled sorry and as I turned back around, he goes “Dana?” – it was a coworker. Out of thousands of people, seriously what are the odds?

2. As I was heading to a concert on 14th street, a guy passes and we give the whole “oh HEY! How ARE you?!” bit and my friend Sarah was like "seriously, how do you always run into someone, there's something wrong with you..." and I confess to her “I can’t remember why I know that guy...” And after a day of going through the card file in my head (Do I know him from another state? A different job? Has he helped me tie something on my car with a t-shirt?...) I remember and send Sarah a text that went something like this:

“I remember who that guy was. We’ve both done Presidential Advance. And somewhere, there’s a photo of the two of us playing on a giant Toy Soldier outside of Old Ebbitt Grill...”

Because of course, it couldn’t just be a normal story like “he’s my neighbor.”

3. Finally, as I was walking into my grad school last Thursday, I once again hear “Dana?” and I turn to see a girl I don’t immediately recognize and she goes “Do you remember me? We were roommates years ago...”

Ah yes. The American Studies Program. (ASP)

Do I remember?! The 3 months I did a “semester in DC” through my college that changed the course of my life? The 3 months that included living with FIVE OTHER GIRLS in an apartment with TWO BEDROOMS and only ONE AND A HALF BATHROOMS?? (If you've ever watched a girl get ready in the morning - you understand how that should NEVER BE ALLOWED) And the 3 months that included terrorist attacks??

Yes. Yes I vaguely remember.

Those three months were packed with so many things I couldn’t begin to explain them all, but just a few highlights were:

-Getting an internship at the White House and actually DEBATING whether or not I wanted to take it (I came to DC completely ignorant, clearly)

-Having 9/11 happen the SECOND DAY of said internship, which I’ll explain some other time

-Having to have a ROOT CANAL in WEST VIRGINIA (I'll explain THAT some other time as well)

-Conducting interviews in Senate office buildings for class, only to find out later that we might’ve been exposed to anthrax and being advised to start taking the drug Cipro. (one classmate actually ended up in line to get the inside of their mouth swabbed to test for exposure –WHILE news cameras were watching. That’s a GREAT way to say “Hey Mom and Dad!!” from DC!)

-Uttering one of the most embarrassing phrases I’ve ever used in a “DTR” (“Define The Relationship” – it's that talk you have to tell someone whether you want to date them or not) when I was sitting in a car at the Jefferson Memorial with a guy and I told him “I just don’t think we should go down that road”

Who AM I?!

I might as well have ended with “but here’s lookin’ at you, kid!” and chucked him under the chin...

-And finally, having the most irresponsible school semester this nerd has ever known. You know, because I was too distracted running around with boys, experiencing my first Protest March, and deciding whether or not I had been exposed to biological weapons...PRIORITIES, PEOPLE!

And that kind of set the tone for my life in D.C. after that. Random disasters happening around me, awkward dating stories, and generally staying distracted by everything about this wonderful, crazy city.

Oh look! A squirrel....


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nicaragua Part Tres

To finish up my Nicaragua stories, I'll recap our surfing lessons.

None of us have really surfed before and we find a local place to teach us. (which, apparently, is run by guys well known in the area and guys “you don’t wanna mess with” I learn after the trip...) And they round us and a few other people up and toss us in:

The Van That Time Forgot.

I wish I had a picture of how haphazardly we all are inside this thing but here’s another “normal” Nicaraguan car, so you probably get the idea:

You know, no AC, no...real...structure. And the guy closest to the side door gets to hold something like a bungee cord KEEPING THE DOOR CLOSED. And occasionally, we hit a bump, and it DOESN’T stay closed – but it’s all part of the experience, right?

So we jostle our way to the beach and get paired up with an instructor.
And we start on the sand, learning how to Pop Up quickly onto the board, and decide whether we want to stand “regular” or “goofy”. And at some point we learn the local slang similar to our Hawaiian 'Hang Loose', which is, "Diakachimba," and we make the locals laugh with our Spanglish pronunciation of it.

And that’s about it.

We hit the water.

Lesson nearly done.

Oh...kay...guess I’m a...surfer...now? We’ll see how this goes then! Sure don't see any lifeguards either!

So I’m with my instructor, Kervin, and we’re out on the water a tad early in the day and the waves aren’t really hitting yet.

So I lay on the board and wait.

And wait.


And have I mentioned that I get motion-sickness fairly regularly? I spent much of my youth car-sick. And since then, I’ve gotten nauseous on boats, carnival rides, and on the Metro trains in DC. And, I find out – I get sick while laying on my stomach on a surfboard, awaiting bigger waves too!

So Kervin is trying to make conversation in English – not his native language – with me. And I’m trying not to “feed the fish”, if you know what I mean.

So the “lesson” proceeds like so:

Kervin, smiling, relaxed: “So, you are down here with friends, yeah?”

Me, trying to hold down the avocado/black beans and rice/plantain breakfast I had that morning: “Mmm...mm Hmm....” waves...slosh...ing...

Kervin: "So today my birthday so tonight is birthday party and you should come"

Me, turning green: “Mmm...today is your birthday?.......” WAVES!.... SLOSHING! "...Happy Birthday!...sure!...let me know where the party is...um, I need to use the restroom, k? Be right back..."

And that’s where I proceed to experience the closest thing to projectile vomiting I’ve had in a long time.

In a bathroom one half step up from a port-a-potty.

So I feel LOVELY, but I walk back out and see my poor friend Sarah nearly-dying from the Swine Flu described HERE, with her head down on a picnic table. So I think “I can suck it up and keep surfing.”.

And I do, and it turns out to be really fun. And we even meet THIS GUY who's also surfing there, Jeret "Speedy" Peterson- an olympian, who went on to win a Silver Medal in the 2010 Olympics in Freestyle Skiing for U.S.A.:

Because Nicaragua is cool like that.

And we end the day scrambling back into our van quickly because -it's starting to rain! and our van will Never Make It Back if the sand gets too wet!

And thankfully, we do make it back and we end up going to Kervin's house to celebrate his birthday.

And his "house" is also the surf shop, which is also a Hostel where people just live for weeks on end, hanging out, probably smoking something stronger than cigarettes....playing guitars... and surfing.

So this Party is us, Kervin and his brothers, Kervin's Canadian girlfriend who is also visiting at the same time, Random Surfers that are living in the hostel....

And Tio.

Tio, aka "Uncle" in English, is. a. character.

Tio is drunk as a skunk, sweaty...and shirtless. And Kervin and his brothers keep apologizing for him. But he's pretty funny.

And he wants to dance.

So I dance with him, while giving an "EEEEEEKKK!!!" face to my friends. But we all end up having a great time, and I just remember leaving to Tio lovingly singing a song for us, of which all I could understand was this (my Southern U.S.A. Translation included):

"Adiooooos Amigoooooos!" (Goodbye buddies...)
"Adiooooos a Ustedeeeees" (Goodbye...ya'll....)

And that's kinda the soundtrack I have in my head when I think of that trip: Great people, great adventures, Swine Flu and vomiting...


(Update July 29, 2011: I was horrified to hear this week of the tragic end of Jeret Peterson's life. I'm so sad to hear that and my thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones. I'm honored to have met him, he was an amazing athelete. That should never be the end for someone.)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wild. Wonderful.

This past weekend, me and three friends went to our friend Rod’s house in West Virginia (which is Wild and Wonderful, according to their license plates.) Rod lives in WV but works in DC as lobbyist and also currently serves as the President of the Young Democrats of America (see! Republicans and Democrats CAN make friends!) A few times a year, some of us DCers will go up and stay with him to get out of city life for bit. He has a giant house we call The Estate where several of us can stay in whatever remaining rooms aren’t being rented by random people. He also has a cabin with a pond and some land:

Where he likes to build the biggest fires known to man.

Rod is the other Goldfish Poodle I’ve mentioned a few times and weekends at his place pretty much always include some sort of incident. There've been many random events with his gigantic family, tubing excursions with 50 people down the Shenandoah river, taxidermied fish falling into bathtubs with people, beauty pageants, Robot Festivals, and many things involving Fire and Christmas Trees.

Rod was also a semi-finalist on American Idol, has a great voice, and sings at various local events. A couple times, I’ve sang back-up for him, which is what I did again this past Saturday. At the Annual Jefferson County Fireworks Show.

As you can imagine, a county show brings in a diverse crowd...And most of the people are just nice families enjoying a good funnel cake. But you do get to learn fun local customs like when Security explained why we couldn't bring in two little dogs. Because the rules for the show are, "No Dogs....No Firearms."

Ah, makes sense since I'm never with a dog WITHOUT a firearm.

And occasionally you get REALLY lucky – and see a woman walk in wearing a white button-down shirt:

And no pants.

And that sort of thing will make it totally worth being without your dog and firearm, let me tell ya.

Thankfully, I didn't see her until later because I was already distracted enough trying to sing songs we'd only practiced once, while scanning the crowd, and hearing things like “I LOVE YOU DANA!” from a kid in the front row who apparently loved EVERYONE on stage and felt a burning need to share that repeatedly. And about halfway through our first song, I look up-

And cresting the hill is a giant Chick-fil-a Cow, coming towards us.

And that’s when I nearly lost it and dissolved into giggles. But, I held it together and kept singing through two songs. We get to the third and final song I’m singing on - which is one we are already worried about -and halfway through THAT song –

The cow starts playing a drum set behind the stage.

DURING our SONG. A song for which we’ve FOOLISHLY tried to use a KEYBOARD TECHNO DRUM BEAT that the other musicians are already struggling with. And someone is trying to make the cow stop, and the crowd doesn’t even hear it – but WE hear it onstage and Rod and I now can’t hear OURSELVES anymore and we DO start giggling. So I'm not even on key anymore, Rod ends the song abruptly in a way we didn't practice, and he calmly says "well that was only HALF a train wreck..." to the audience as I just walk off the stage. You're welcome, Jefferson County!

....Later that night, back at the Estate, Rod informs us he has two leftover Christmas Trees that are good and crispy in his yard.

And we gunna burn 'em.

(Rod doesn't actually talk like that, but it's funnier if we pretend he does.) He wants to burn them at the cabin, which is a good half mile from The Estate. So how do we get the trees over there? By ripping up ANOTHER T-SHIRT and tying something on a car like was done HERE. So now, Rod’s pulling two giant trees behind his Chrysler through a field to his other property so we can build a fire. And he's updating his Facebook while driving:

FACEBOOK• 9:46pm Rod is: "At this moment I have two dead Christmas trees tied to my bumper, dragging behind my Chrysler 300. This fire is going to be epic."
I'm frightened.

We get to the cabin, and the grass is up to our knees. We can’t even FIND the circle where he normally has bonfires. We get out, trudge over, and start worrying about ticks...and about setting his entire property on fire. But we start to find chairs to sit in anyway, and Rod starts a LITTLE fire.

So we move our chairs back.

And our friend Gina is moving away and wants to get rid of old checkbooks, etc. so she brings those and we start basically destroying any evidence she ever existed in D.C. -which is fun!- but we all discuss that MAYBE since the grass is knee high and the insects are crazy - and ticks carry Lyme Disease – that we’ll forgo the Tree Burning this time and just destroy Gina’s identity and call it a night.

Then Rod decides: 11 pm on a Saturday night is a great time to Get Out The Mower! But he can’t find the headlights, so we only HEAR him coming. TOWARDS US.

And now we're deer in headlights...or, NOT in headlights as it were...and we wonder "should we scatter??" Then I suggest we stay by the fire so maybe he has a better chance of seeing us. So now we’re standing around a fire, peering into darkness towards a machine with rotating blades coming toward us - that we can only hear - and we're still beating down grass around our feet, slapping mosquitos, and looking for ticks.

And this whole time, there’s a random white SUV parked with it’s lights on farther down the yard beside Rod’s pond. And I finally HAVE to ask, “um...do we know who those people are?”. Nope! Apparently people randomly trespass all the time in the country and it’s normal. What a lovely addition to all this!

They eventually leave - probably realizing: That Kid With The Fire And The Mower Is CRAZY! -but we, That Kid's Friends, are trapped around the fire lest we wander off and get run over by a machine that we can't see.

We finally DO see him...and move our chairs back.

And he mows a circle around the fire and we move our chairs back in. And this whole time, you can see the internal struggle in Rod. He. Wants. Those. Trees. And at one point, he has his hand on one and is looking at the fire – and I just know: those trees are toast.

So we move our chairs back.

And the first tree goes on the fire. And honestly, it’s not that bad. So we all move our chairs back in and settle in—and Rod goes for the second one. Woah, woah buddy! How about we wait for the first one to finish before we throw another TREE on the fire?

And finally, he can’t take it anymore and decides it’s time.

So we move our chairs back.

And THIS happens:

That is Rod, maniacally laughing off to the side. Rod is about 6’6 – so you see how tall the flame is.

And Rod muses, “Huh, that one took a little differently than the other other one did...”

Yes. A 15 foot flame shooting straight into the air WAS a little different than the first, fairly calm inferno.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you celebrate the 4th of July in West Virginia.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nicaragua Part Dos

To continue with Adventures de Nicaragua, we'll leave the scene of my friends near death in our hotel room and go to The Hike That Nearly Killed Me, instead.

Pretty much our whole group likes to hike and likes the outdoors - except Josh, who is fair-skinned and ginger-haired and nature HATES him so he has to apply SPF 1400 or something and STILL wear sleeves if he's going to be outside for long. But he's a trooper and hikes a volcano with us anyway.

And the local guide tells us there is a Regular Hike and a Most Difficult Hike, called the Puma Trail.

Oh, we're doing the Puma, Amigo.

So the five of us, our local tour guide, and the hiking guide take off together. And I'm not in the best shape of my life back then, Josh is overheating, and our local tour guide doesn't normally do this hike so he's also struggling. But the other three in our group are forging the way like they hike volcanos every day in D.C.


And our Hiking Guide looks like THIS in sweltering heat:

And after, oh, the 109th time of hearing the Hiking Guide say "this is the last uphill, I promise" I might've yelled out something in protest. Then I hear our Local Guide SWEAR IN ENGLISH, which makes me laugh and feel better. Because you know it's serious if someone blurts out an expletive, and they can't even find something harsh enough in their entire native language...

We finally DID reach the "last uphill" (which led right into the building where we catch our truck to go home - AKA THE WHOLE DARN HIKE WAS UPHILL, LIAR!) and ended that adventurous day by taking a boat around a group of tiny islands where we met Panchetta:

Who lives on one of the Islands here:

But loves to jump onboard boats and hang with the locals like so:

I totally bonded with her so please no one tell me what sorts of diseases wild monkeys carry, K?

We then went to a restaurant on another island where we ate fish.

Like, the entire fish. Tail and all:

(Lesson Learned: if done right, fish tails taste a lot like Potato Chips. Fact.)

And then we went back home to our hotel.

Some of our other adventures included deep-sea fishing, where our guides filleted the fish we just caught- right on the boat - so that by the time we got to our hotel, the hotel owner/cook could immediately make it into fresh ceviche for us. Did I mention I miss this place?

And another day, we did a "canopy tour", which means you jump in a harness that makes everyone look like they are wearing a torture device/diaper, and you climb up on platforms, get hooked onto cables, and sail through the tops of trees, overlooking all of San Juan Del Sur like so:

And I'm scared of heights, but the guys that run this place are so laid back that you quickly feel like "Yeah, yeah, hook right there, pull down with this arm to brake - I got this, Bro." And I'm not even waiting for them anymore, I just sail to one platform, unhook, hook to the next cable, and push off again. And part of the time, there are multiple cables so while I'm sailing on one, one of my friends will be sailing on another above or below me. I'd notice something out of the corner of my eye and - oh yeah, that's another human flying through the air. Oh HEY Adrian! Nice weather we're having, huh?

And the last cable we do is super long and stretches over a very deep valley, and a tiny Nicaraguan man is waiting to "catch" you on the other side. And the guide on THIS side warns me to "brake the whole way, ok? the WHOLE. WAY."

So of course I let up a little on the brake - because I wanna see how it feels to go fast! - and I start gaining speed and start to picture myself TAKING THAT LITTLE NICARAGUAN ON THE OTHER SIDE OOOOUT. So I slow down and he does manage to "catch" me. Ungracefully.

Afterwards, my fearless friend Sarah admits she barely braked at all and didn't really worry about the little guy on the other side. Dang it! I should've been MORE reckless!

Anyway, all of those things were amazing and I'll include a couple more pics below. The surfing lesson story will have to be in Part Tres. I forgot how much we did in one trip!

How we got off the volcano:


Just one of The Views. Totally worth it.