Overheard in Washington 

The Monumental Egyptians 

This morning on my walk to work in DC from the metro station I got caught up in an extra large gaggle of pre-teen kids on a school trip. As I tried to get past them like a salmon swimming upstream, I overheard two boys talking to each other. 
Boy 1: I only know one of the monuments in Washington, it’s the one that’s all pointy on top. 

Boy 2: Uh, you mean the Washington monument?

Boy 1: That can’t be the Washington monument, it’s Egyptian! 

(Pause)

Boy 2: Well I don’t know anything about it being Egyptian, but that’s the Washington monument.

The other boy seemed unconvinced. 

I can only assume that by “Egyptian,” he meant a pyramid … Which the Washington Monument is not, but I guess it’s in the family of an obelisk. 

They were young enough that I give them a pass for their lack of knowledge on the matter. I hope they enjoyed the trip and got to see many varieties of monuments. 

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A Fascination with Macabre TeeVee

A recent Jezebel article (link at the bottom of this post) posed the question, “Why Are Women Obsessed With Investigation Discovery’s Grisly TV Shows?

My spouse once asked me why I like this kind of TV programming so much – I think he was worried that I was either a) totally macabre or b) plotting his demise …and it’s not just the ID channel, I will soak up this programming on a multitude of channels. The truth is that I love seeing the perpetrators get their comeuppance. I love seeing these a++holes (usually men) who thought they could kill, rape or abuse someone (often women) and get away with it, having it all come crashing down – especially those that think they are smarter than anyone else or are above the law – those are especially satisfying.

Stephen King also once said (I’m paraphrasing) that he writes about terrible things because in a way it’s like exorcising the demons so that it never happens to your family. So I guess there’s that factor as well – it’s like looking the monster in the eyes and seeing head on the most awful horrible things that can happen to a person so that you take the power of the fear away just a little bit.

I’ll be honest, I think about what I would do if I were kidnapped, held against my will, trapped in my house with a madman. Maybe it makes me think about and anticipate problems that I hope will never happen. Maybe it has made me think about my own safety more overtly. I take precautions. I’m a safety girl, always locking the car when I get in it, never alone at home with the doors unlocked, I have 3 dogs (criminals don’t need to know that the dogs are hopeless cases), head on a swivel and walk briskly when I’m alone at night or on a quiet street, always with my keys in my hand poised between my fingers like a weapon, alert on the train to what’s going on around me (even if it looks like I’m just engrossed in my phone); in a movie theater I always know where the nearest exit is. I don’t jog alone (which is easy because I don’t jog) and I NEVER park next to a panel van. These shows can be a good reminder to not get complacent, and to exercise eternal vigilance.

And I have to acknowledge that it’s not just men who perpetrate crimes against others. One of my favorite shows is Snapped (Oyxgen channel), which focuses on female criminals (and sometimes couples, but always with a woman involved, or two women) who do insane things (Jodi Arias, anyone?) – I still enjoy the satisfaction of seeing them get caught and get what they deserve, but there is also the bonus of the added salacious details, maybe as the Jezebel article references, since women are viewed as nurturers and caregivers, it seems extra outrageous that they can hurt others, in particular their own family members and those closest to them, as is most often the case. As a woman, it seems even more outlandish that someone like me that I should be able to relate to, has gone so completely off the rails. In the profound words of Chris Rock, “I told you that bitch was crazy.”

If I think about it, maybe there’s also this going on: you also like to know that there have been people in these horrific situations before that have made it through. They’ve survived. That as humans we are incredibly resilient and strong, stronger than we even know until we’re put in a situation that tests our strength. Of course we hope that we or anyone we know will never be tested in this way, there but for the grace go I.

Well, if you ever want to watch a marathon of Forensic Files, let me know. I’ll meet you in a public place, and someone will know where I’m going, who I’m meeting, and what to do if you haven’t heard from me by a certain time. I’ll be the one with my keys in my hand.

http://jezebel.com/why-are-women-obsessed-with-investigation-discovery-s-g-1724662106

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Stupid sh*% you worry about when you’re a kid

When I was a kid, I wore my hair long and stick straight, usually pulled back into a ponytail. I have always disliked blow drying my hair, so very often I’d be pulling wet hair back into an elastic and going with it … and if you’ve ever done this you know that at night, you pull your hair out of the ponytail, and it’s still wet.

I used to worry that if I did this too often, my hair would rot and just fall off. In like one big, ponytail shaped clump.

But it never happened. And here I am, in my fourth decade, and I still seem to have most of my hair.

What were some of the silly things you worried about when you were a kid and thought would happen to you?

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EOYTO – End of Year Thoughts & Observations

In this year of 40 and a new year and feeling energized by an anti-hangover shake, I want to share some hard-earned wisdom and observations. This as I understand it is one of the benefits of getting older, is that you can give people unsolicited advice. As far as any other benefits, we’ll keep an eye on that. Once we get new glasses.

In no particular order –

1. Life is too short to wear the wrong bra.

2. The non-acetone nail polish remover is bull***t. Just use the chemically acetone stuff and get it over with. Or, let your nails go natural, it’s all good.

3. Dance like everyone is watching, and you just don’t give a damn.

4. Two coats of mascara is always better than one.

5. If ordering a tropical or frozen drink and asked if you want a “floater,” always say yes. Always get the floater.

6. When you hear that little voice in your head that tells you you’re not good enough or you shouldn’t wear that or whatever, take that little voice out back behind the woodshed and beat the crap out of him.

7. Wear more hats.

8. Dog hair (and cat hair) is an acceptable accessory.

9. Spend more time playing and snuggling with dogs and cats – free/cheap therapy.

10. It’s ok to send Xmas presents in July.

11. Write thank you notes.

12. For some things, it’s not worth it to buy generic, like Q-tips. Treat yo’ self.

13. Always have an up to date passport. You never know when you’ll be offered a trip to Paris.

14. Don’t save your perfume for special occasions.

15. Always have a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge. It can be the cheap stuff, but you never know when you will have the occasion to celebrate something.

16. Find more reasons to celebrate.

17. Give the homeless person on the corner the dollar. It doesn’t matter what he or she is going to do with it.

18. Invest in good eye cream, try to remember to use it twice a day. Sunscreen is your friend.

19. Be a port in the storm for someone.

20. Sing your lungs out in the car. Dance in your seat a little – or a lot. Scandalize someone at the stop light. Be a character in someone else’s story.

Add your own wit and wisdom – and have a super great year. Love you lots.

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Skymall – These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

The Skymall catalog never fails to entertain, especially around the holidays. In keeping with “Oprah’s favorite things” and holiday gift guides, here are a few of my favorite things. Need any last minute gift ideas
Who are the pierogi lovers on my gift list – identity yourselves!
Surely someone needs the $1000 pet serenity pod. What cat wouldn’t be soothed by this?
Recently I learned that you can finally buy underoos in adult sizes. You’re going to need something to do while sporting your Wonder Woman undernancies, so why not pair them with an adult sized, riding bouncy ball? I loved the one I had when I was a kid.
Note: it comes in plush versions as well (called “Adult Plush Balls,” seriously), though the riding hot dog appears to only come in kid size. I had a riding ketchup bottle as a child, would have paired beautifully with the weiner.
Now when will someone come out with the adult version of the sit and spin?
This next item appears to basically be a hot tub that doesn’t use electricity and presumably doesn’t have bubbles but I’ll be honest I didn’t read the fine print.
But why does it remind me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoons when he is captured by cannibals and they put him in a big pot over an open fire and add some carrot coins so they can make a soup?
Here is an item that answers the question that no one asked, namely why aren’t I relaxing in a personal ‘altered states’ cocoon? That costs $15,000.
Yes, yes, I’m sure this is so comfortable, “you’ll want to wear it everywhere.” I’d like to see this lady at the bank, grocery store, church etc wearing this. Especially with the “privacy hood” engaged.
For the bean bag enthusiast, giant bean bags in the shape of fruits. BUT BEANS ARE NOT INCLUDED. What kind of bulls**t is that, Skymall? Am I supposed to gift this with a wheelbarrow full of kidney beans?
Did I mention superhero underpants? Now you can up the ante with superhero jammies and bathrobes for adults! Nothing says sexy like a one piece Batman pajama with “cosplay hood.” That, or a dude in a “soft kitten” robe.
Everyone’s tastes are different, but if a man were to greet me in the bedroom in a Ninja Turtle pj set, complete with eye mask, that would be a deal-breaker for me. I’d have to return him to his mother, and give them the name of a good therapist. Happy shopping!
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Cartagena for Julia

Cartagena – I was there 10 years ago so my advice is a bit dated, and my family (they live in Bogota) made the travel arrangements so I’m not sure how much this will help you, but for what it’s worth – some thoughts below in no particular order. Since you are friends with Lavinia I’m assuming you are well traveled, well read and know your way around different cultures – so forgive me if some of my notes seem basic 😉
My brother was there last year (keep in mind I was there before smart phones) and he said he recalls wifi at a lot of places, cell service being widely available, and you can use credit cards in many places (can’t remember if they took Amex tho) – smaller shops likely won’t take credit.

People (at least they used to) live and die by the phone cards they buy to top off their minutes on their cell phones, beware of scams of people selling cards or wanting to use your card, or use your phone, or any combination thereof. Lots of hustling.

If you take a photo of someone they may expect money or a tip – there are people who dress in traditional garb and stand in main squares for this purpose

Beggars and vendors are RELENTLESS – from the moment you step out of a cab or into a touristy area, they will swarm you and are fairly aggressive – just be firm and keep moving, a polite ‘no, lo siento’ should suffice

There will be lots of vendors on the beach too. As a developing country there is a lot of poverty which can be hard to deal with though you’re largely insulated from it in the resort and old town areas
Definitely check out the historic walled part of the city which has gracious squares like Plaza Bolivar. Seemed there were always people out strolling, shopping, dancing, dining – Colombians are late night people. Lots of restaurants, bars, cigar shops. I usually stay away from horse drawn carriage rides but they seem to be popular. All prices are negotiable.

I also usually avoid the “take a photo with a parrot on your shoulder” for a few pesos type of activity but it was worth it to hold a sloth for a photo 😉
Colombia is rife with pickpockets and purse snatchers – definitely be careful with what jewelry you wear and what you carry. you’re better off not attracting attention with expensive bags, watches.

As I recall there were a fair amount of Europeans that went there on vacay, I steered clear of the restaurants catering to them (Italians and Germans in particular I remember)

Shouldn’t be hard to find Latin dancing and/or “folclorico” or folklore traditional dancing. Colombians are lively, hospitable, sociable. Love to talk. They love Carlos Vives (and Shakira) but the traditional songs are always alive and well – they put out a ‘top Colombian hits’ album each year that can be a good souvenir.

As for shopping, some ideas – Cuban cigars shops are popular.  Beautiful shawls with fringe made with woven ribbon. Lovely handmade embroidered blouses, linens, handkerchiefs … the country is known for cotton goods and leather (shoes, handbags). Colombian women tend to dress sexy regardless of body type – we celebrate femininity – it’s the only place I’ve seen tummy control thong underwear for sale!

 

Which brings us to food and my stomach is grumbling as I type this –

You will see in restaurants a bandeja tipica (typical platter) that will feature a steak, white rice, beans, fried sweet plantains, chicharones (fried pork rinds, sounds bad but tastes good) and for some reason a fried egg over the top of everything. They love beef (carne asada), pork, lamb. You will sometimes see at restaurants for lunch an offer called the “ejecutivo” or ‘executive’ which is basically a fixed price meal that would include entrée, drink and sald or dessert – can be a good deal.  The culture is for a small breakfast, a big lunch, and a light dinner but with a ‘tea’ in between

 

Some other things to try –

Fried plaintains (platanos – are sweet)

Patacones – green banana (not sweet) fritters
Fresh fruit and juices (usually lots of stands and mobile vendors around) – maracuya (passion fruit), mamoncillo, papaya, Cherimoya, guanabana, granadilla, guava, lulo
Avocados the size of your head – delicious corn with huge kernels – papas criollas, little Andean potatoes served roasted with salt or steamed with melted cheese and peppers
Lots of seafood and fresh fish – whole red snapper, fried (pargo rojo)
Ajiaco (a soul satisfying potato and chicken soup)

Hot dogs are a late night snack delicacy (at least in Bogota) and are served with pineapple and potato sticks – odd but somehow tasty – order it with everything on it
Do not pass up a bakery – Pan de bono (cheese rolls), arepas (corn cakes, often sold by street vendors, with melted cheese inside)

Empanadas – a must. They are fried, not baked like in some countries. bite a little hole at the top and then squeeze in a little lime and if you like spicy, a tiny spoonful of aji, a finely diced salsa made with a hot pepper
A popular drink (at least in cooler temps) is aqua de panela which is basically like a tea made with brown sugar/molasses, usually served with a white cheese melted in it – again, sounds odd but actually quite good
You’ll also see Hot chocolate – is not as sweet as in the US (also good with cheese in it )

Arequipe is kind of like a caramel spread – Obleas are cookie sandwiches of wafers with arequipe spread in between

Aguardiente is the national liqeuer, anise flavored – usually served in small shots

Club Colombia is the national beer, a light lager

 

For restaurants, there is one place that stands out in my mind, the Club de Pesca. Fancier place, on the water, great view. I think it’s by the fort.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g297476-d1458281-Reviews-Restaurante_Club_de_Pesca-Cartagena_Cartagena_District_Bolivar_Department.html

 

For a drink, I’d love to get back to the Bar El Baluarte – it’s on the top of one of the old ramparts of the walls of the old city – I can’t speak for the food but it was a fantastic setting and a great place to have a drink, especially around sunset and at night

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g297476-d2088842-Reviews-El_Baluarte-Cartagena_Cartagena_District_Bolivar_Department.html

 

You have to go to the old Spanish Fort – Castillo San Felipe – it’s huge and you can pretty much wander around in any part of it. There will be tour guides outside the fort jockeying for business, the authorized ones will be wearing little name badges – if you’re lucky you can find one that speaks English (tho their English may not be great) and you can negotiate the price – if I were by myself I might get nervous about being alone with a male tour guide in some of the dark nooks and crannies of the fort but you might be able to tack on with another group – it really is a large, labyrinthine kind of place

 

You can take photos of anything at the fort but if you are elsewhere and watching anything military in nature (like a changing of the guard) it’s best to be careful about taking photos, you should look for signs or ask before using a camera, as I have had one confiscated from me before (in Bogota at the presidential palace)

 

Generally I’ve found that hotel staff (concierge, front desk) are happy to help make arrangements for tourist outings, drivers etc and they will expect/appreciate a small tip. At restaurants service charge may be included but not always so you have to check. Rule of thumb is 10% tip, maybe more if a really nice place.

 

Even in nice places, toilet paper is sometimes lacking in public restrooms, I suggest you carry tissues with you. 😉 Sometimes, the toilet paper dispenser is OUTSIDE the stall and you have to grab a few sheets on your way in, so make sure and check before you go in the stall.

 

This is a pic of that Baluarte bar place 😉 have a great time! baluarte

 

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Saturday Night at the Liquor Store

Medieval liquor laws in our county dictate that you have to go to the county liquor store to buy hard alcohol, and only a handful of other stores can sell beer and wine.

On a Friday or Saturday night (or a holiday weekend) the line snakes through the store and it manages to be a happy and sad place at the same time; there’s always some haggard looking elderly person with a shopping cart full of cheap booze …

Because it’s run by the county, it has all the charm and customer service of the DMV. But at least the prices aren’t bad.

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y night!

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