Sunday, July 6, 2008
Washingtonienne was bad enough, but we've all been interns and know that skeeviness comes with the territory, and that Jessica what's-her-name actually did us a favor by exposing the system in which so called powerful men with tremendous egos and family values will fork over dollars to get spanked by some pissant intern. Hell, just ask Julia Allison - if Washingtonienne had been just a tad more circumspect in her blogging, she'd probably be a columnist or Chief of Staff by now. However, despite exposing the men as horny scumbags, she also cast a pall on the hard working, serious women still stuck in crappy jobs on the Hill.
Then someone sent me a link to the Pentagon Diva. If you haven't just eaten, PD is someone who clearly has hooks into the upper echelons of the Pentagon, blogging about Cohen's bow-tying prowess as an indicator of his S&M capabilities or which way David Kilcullen is hung. She was recently exposed as Mongomery McFate, which anyone who has spent more than 15 minutes in the parking lot of the Pentagon knows better as the anthro-gal who's major crime thus far has been to sell a grasping-at-straws US Army the concept that "culture is important". As in, you should probably know the hand gestures an Iraqi is making as you shoot him. While I could go on and on about La McFate and what an utter phony she is (I had the pleasure of being forced to a dinner party in her company some years back, during which my first comment was "if her husband was ever legitimately Special Forces, I'll eat my stilettos" and my brother's - a finance geek and uninitatied into the strange tribes of Washington - second comment was "don't ever make me hang out with tools like that again" - but that's another story), the real crime is again, some girly-come-lately to the Washington game screwing it up for the rest of us who were doggedly rising through the ranks by being smarter, tougher, and twice the men that the men were.
By all accounts, McFate was (undeservedly) embraced by the Pentagon "elite", so to speak, given contracts and latitude to peddle her enormous mound of steaming poo in the form of "human terrain", and this is what she has to show for it - not parlaying it into a position where she could affect change, not breaking through the toughest glass ceiling of the E-Ring, not changing one single man's perception of women in this industry, but rather reinforcing it tenfold with her idiotic and calculated-to-shock blog. All of which reads as far too desperate to try to shock and get a gasp! than anything that could be remotely construed as sexual or titillating.
Now of course La McFate would say she never asked to be a role model and well, gosh, she's counterculture, so what did we expect? Bullshit, I say. It's indicative of how little she understands the culture in which she was mucking about to not know the table at which she'd been given a seat, and how much crap women have put up with to sit in the chairs that line the room around that table. Actually, even if she had the ability to see that (being an anthropologist, I highly doubt it) I'm sure she didn't care. Well, the blog's taken down now and I'm sure her contract will not be renewed any time soon, and we can all go back to studying culture rather than "human terrain", and she'll be yet another annoying footnote to this war.
However, I suppose the real issue here though is the fallability of men (and women) for thinking that this snake-oil saleswoman actually was peddling something of value in the first place. You created her, Elliott Cohen et al, by giving this two-bit "human terrain specialist" a platform instead of leaning on the thousands of scholars and practicioners in the intelligence and defense communities to help you fight this war. So strap on your leather and get what's coming to you, because you deserve to be fed Montgomery McFate's steaming special.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
"What? You're going to send someone to set it up for me?"
"No, but I just realized that I forgot to tell you that the mattress frame is 120cm, while your mattress is 140cm, so the mattress will hang over the frame."
"oh, that's no trouble, just swap out the mattress I selected for one that is 120cm."
"well, we don't make that size."
"ok. so who does? I'll just get it somewhere else."
"it's not actually made by anyone, it's not a standard size. I don't actually know any store that makes it."
"so...what are my options here?"
"well, other people buy the single mattress, which is 90cm, so you could do that."
"but what on earth do they do with the extra 30cm?"
And of course he had no answer, and that's the crux of it - you think you've found a workaround, a free lunch, an easier way of doing things, and then what really unfolds is something so bizarre and illogical that you have to just laugh and go "it's okay, I have no idea why I even asked."
Monday, June 16, 2008
Strange though, now that I'm here it's as though I read about a life lived on 14th Street - I don't miss it in the sense that I rarely think about it. I think about running with Marian, or going out with other friends, and how many endless nights spent running around the various quadrants of our fair nations capitol, but it's almost as if it was someone else's life I'd read about, as I sit here in England. Still so shell shocked - only here two weeks - that it's nearly impossible too process how I feel about the here and now, much less the then and there.
But I've bought some wellies and gotten used to rain in the mornings and the hours of the private sector, and I'm not so much ecstatic or depressed as I don't feel much of anything. Going to Jordan a few weeks ago and dancing until the sun came up was great fun, and I couldn't stop this organic feeling bubbling up of me thinking "I'm back, I'm back" before the reasonable me noted "you have never been here before" and I thought, what am I back to? Oh, yes, living for me, feeling untethered, chasing the perfect temperature, the perfect sand, the perfect song. And here I've turned 30 in the mix and feel younger and less directed then ever - welcome back me!
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I no longer live in DC. I've lived there, except for a year in grad school, for the past decade. It's the city where I came into my own, navigated streets and friends and internships and monuments and boys and bars. I've lived all over, from Georgetown to 1st and R Sts. I spent a long evening in jail in North Georgetown and an even longer evening on top of the subway grating outside 1223, courtesy of that devilish all-you-can-drink happy hour. I've spend thousands of dollars on parking tickets and taxes that never seemed to go towards fixing the roads near U Street, lovingly nicknamed Nairobi by yours truly. I fell in love with the city every time I walked down Willard Street or through Meridian Hill park just before the prostitutes and junkies showed up. How many other cities have Chagall murals painted on the side of a house, for anyone to see? How many other cities can nearly guarantee that NPR will be on the taxi radio and the driver will add an additional zone without thinking twice, even as he claims you remind him of his daughter? Or the kind of city where you can roll into a bar for a quick drink and end up spending hours talking to the Ambassador to Lebanon?
Everyone has a story in this town, it's not always pretty and the best intentions of public service are usually muddied with dreams of power and influence - easily seen in the ubiquitous photos of said wishfully-upwardly mobile individuals' photos of them with John McCain or John Ashcroft proudly displayed on their desks, and you know the official in question has no recollection aside from "hey kid, get me a tea and cover up those statues with the boobies while you're at it". Interns end up rubbing elbows, and quite often more (particularly if you were around when Strom Thurmond was on the Hill), with the nerd equivalent of Brad Pitt - Obama, or maybe just Scot McClellan. As silly as it can get, I found it fascinating.
But I've left my government job (more on my conflicted feelings about leaving public service addressed later) and I left the city I called home, more than my birth city, New York. Have to keep moving, like a shark, but right now I'm looking around Bub's studio apartment covered in my suitcases and I find I'm homeless yet again. Stay tuned...waterworks of the non-shark variety likely to come.
Friday, March 7, 2008
This photo is the saddest, because if you've ever been to my place, you know that this puzzle has been in progress for...about two years now. There are a lot of shades of blue in Starry Night is all I'll say. Now it is in pieces, back in its box, ready to be put together again whenever I grow tired of sticking pencils in my eyes or something equally as painful and difficult on the retinas as all those blues..
The color might be too dark on this photo but you can see my favorite Lichtenstein poster - still no idea where that is going to be stored - and a few boxes. Those shelves are gone to craigslistland and I'm trying not to think that I bought them only a year ago...
I've decided that I either need to accept my quasi-nomadic lifestyle (must shake everything up every five years) and stop buying crap or just accept my love of buying crap and stop moving around. The former appears to keep winning out, so we'll just keep that credit card in the freezer for now and try and remember this insight when the Consumption Demons rise again...
Monday, January 7, 2008
But then Julia live-blogged on Gawker -- which I don't know was a brave move, as some hypothesized, as opposed to an insecure girl's twisted but understandable logic that "if they just get to know me, they'll like me!" and she was slayed from the moment Nick Denton announced she'd be on, before she even made an appearance. Then she goes on and makes some really idiotic comments about how people should hate her because of her "perfectly symmetrical breasts which I like to display in v-neck sweaters" and how thick-skinned she really is, and all is going as expected, and then she drops a bomb that Jakob has bi-polar and is off his meds, and they finally broke up because he was in the middle of an episode. And people went, frankly, apeshit. They accused her of everything of being a whore, being evil, being a golddigger, and so on and so forth, in mock horror that someone would "dare" expose something so personal, in a world where exposure is how you get the hits.
I'm not going to defend this girl - she's way over her head in blogger-dom, where one has to have nerves of steel, quick wit, and insights beyond "gosh, math is hard!" That is not to belittle her, although it may sound like that - the problem I see with Julia is that she wants it both ways. She wants to be a pretty, fluff commentator on Fox and CNN (witness the many photos and screen captures of herself on her blog) with an exciting life of tapings and parties and features in those silly socialite magazines -- then she wants to be a deep, thoughtful yet sassy blogger who is with it and knows it's all a joke (witness the comment about her boobs). And those worlds are like oil and water, or at least she hasn't found the formula so they mix. The online world, like it or not, is a lot of smarmy anonymous people who spend their days and nights in that world and have mastered it - you can't just flit in with no street cred. And Julia doesn't appear to fundamentally understand that. She is a pretty vapid 26 year old girl and it's sort of sad to watch her try to be someone she's not - she needs to appear on Fox and be pretty and have her actress girlfriends and soon, get married and get out of the rat race. I say this having considered what was I'm sure an excellent Georgetown education in political science - having read her work, etc, the real intelligence just isn't there. Fine, no harm, not everyone's going to be Clausewitz or Einstein.
That being said, the vitriol with which people swarmed all over her was somewhat frightening. Why hate this girl so much? And in hating her, they revealed exactly how much they knew about her - they'd read closely her silly relationship blog, they'd read her personal blog and probably steamed over the many pictures of her posted there. I don't think it was simply jealousy, which is what Julia and her friends say to each other to make themselves feel better. But there was a palpable bitterness - some idiot made a video and noted how she goes to fancy dinners with her rich parents - do we really believe this was just about this girl, or did that dumb guy have some issues of his own which led him to turn on his webcam and start ranting the most vile language at this girl? The problem is there's no easy answer - Julia makes note of her "fancy apartment building" but then notes she has the smallest apartment in it - again, wants Dear Reader to know she lives in a nice building but she still has street cred, it's really small! So she's kind of a pathetic person to be defending. But piling up on this girl? It says more about the piler than the girl, frankly. Yes, that's the world and it's always been so - some people have nice boobs and go to a good school because they got good grades rather than being truly intelligent; some people date Congressmen and get mentioned in the gossip pages and then catapault to Fox News - is this a revelation? She ain't the first, but she's one who tried to hang in the world of those who sit in front of their computers hating the world that allows those things to happen.
And further, I'm going out on a limb here and saying I don't agree with but can see why she sold Jakob out about his bi-polar. When you go back over their relationship (explicitly run down in their joint blog), it becomes clear that this It-Boy is a condescending prat - witness the post in which he is shocked - shocked!! that she has not seen Star Wars or heard Radiohead. He outwardly says "isn't that cute" but the guy is horrified. If ever there was a poster child for the emasculation of the American male, it's this guy - his nerdiness is his weapon, it's made him millions, and it's going to make him superior over the girl who's had everything handed to her and run through the world blissfully ignorant of the torment of Thom Yorke, fellow nerd. And if we take Julia at her word, he hooked up with her friend and has also been stringing her along with comments like "it won't get any better than me". Take that recipe, if you will - this pretty, vapid girl looking to establish her street cred and this dorky web guy who probably loves those boobs and plays on her insecurities in a desperate attempt to overcome his own. What a perfect mix. And she finally got wise and went for the nuclear option - classless, but that feeling when you finally wake up and realize that Svengali whose word you took above all because he seemed so smart on the things you wanted to be smart on is nothing but a prat whose own insecurities necessitate him saying he has to "educate" you on Star Wars is priceless -- and fills you with venom. So you bite. The problem is, most women scorned do it to girlfriends and the occasional unfortunate specimen who sidled up to the bar and asked if she was single - this dummy did it in a public forum with people who are vastly more sympathetic to Jakob's worldview than the one she gained at The Tombs.
But point is (in my very long post), it got me thinking. Why did I start this blog, and why do I continue it? I started because I wanted to record my travels and my thoughts. But I could've passworded it or kept it private -- but I didn't. I wanted it out there, in the world, where people could read my musings about life, the universe, and everything and maybe remark on how insightful I am. And you know what? If you're sitting in front of your computer all day, like these gawker commenters clearly were, I don't see how you or anyone else would be qualified to judge my statements as insightful or complete bullshit, and I see that it's the people I care about who I should be sharing these things. I thought about bloggers I liked and envied, like Dooce. When I was thinking about Jakob and Julia, I realized Dooce has made a deal with the devil - her whole family depends on her exposing their warts to millions of people who spend their days trolling blogs. Why not just go with prostitution, then? Or sell a kidney? Because, as Julia has shown us, you can't just show the cute pictures of yourself in front of a Christmas tree, you have to show the worst of the worst to get the hits on your site and make money - which Dooce does, extolling on her depression and hospitalization and her miscarriages. What is her child going to think when she's old enough and realizes that her every move has to be documented in order for her parents to pay the mortgage? And she's in junior high school and kids are reading about how she wet the bed until she was 10? Is life - the life outside, the life in which you truly interact with people and your statements have meaning because there is a face behind them who has to defend them - no longer worth it?
I love the blogging world, I love the ideas, I love the creativity, I love the discourse - but it doesn't seem real to me. I don't want to take photos of nature so I can post them on my blog, I want to sit in nature and not think of how it might sound in a posting. I don't want to take a normal conversation and spin it so it's funny and someone will read my blog and laugh. I've realized I'm not reaching out to anyone in the vein of "always connect", which I thought I was doing; rather I'm putting myself out there and saying "I think I'm worth your time - do you agree?" You should be asking who the hell am I to ask for that, just as I now say who the hell are you to say yes or no?
I keep thinking of that Ian Fleming quote, bastardized here for my purposes - "I shall not waste my days trying to blog them. I shall use my time." I'm going outside. I signed up for a ballet class. I'm teaching on Tuesdays. I'm going to always connect with the kids I tutor and the garbage guy and the bartender and my next door neighbor and my mother, who see my expressions and sense my emotions and understand my meaning when I say -- not blog -- something. Take the vitriol and judgement and use it on someone like Julia Allison, who will be ruined by it. I shall use my time.
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
But I digress - I realized that I blogged on New Year's and mentioned my failed engagement. It's one of those stories that most people know but certainly didn't know how bad the relationship was until it was over and I told them what had gone on. Then, through a combination of openness and, okay, fine, vindictiveness, I told pretty much anyone who asked how bad it really was. This ended up being a good thing, because it made me feel better to admit to making such a tremendous mistake and it resulted in a moment of knowing I did the right thing - a friend of a friend was engaged to a guy she had dated since college and the wedding was coming up quickly. At nearly the last minute, she broke it off and supposedly said, "hey, if 14th Street Girl can do it, so can I". And then she dropped 20 pounds and looks absolutely banging and went off to live in the Middle East. So, several things - I learned a lot about myself, I learned to share those things, and someone took that small point as a springboard to make a really tough decision herself. I still say I got off easy.
But I continue to digress. As I re-read the blog, I remembered a conversation I'd had with Bub in 2003. He and I had been friends in high school and continued to keep tabs on each other with a yearly email or so and through friends - I always said I'd only go to our high school reunion was so I could see him. Anyway, he happened to call right around the holidays that year, and we hadn't spoken in ages. He opened the conversation with: "so, talk your engagement." And I guess I gave the usual spiel, and eventually he said in his perfectly straightforward way, "for someone who's engaged, you really don't sound very happy". And I made the usual excuses, that this whole process was a lot harder than people make it out to be, and it's a very big decision, and it takes a lot of effort, and so on. We continued to talk for about an hour until my mom needed to use the phone (another high-school-esque moment).
And I don't want to overstate the effect, because I didn't go and dump my fiance that day. But I started realizing that there's a difference between working on a relationship and a relationship that's a lot of work. And that you should probably sound happy when talking about the person you're planning to spend your life with. And I stopped giving in to this guy's many idiosyncracies - mind you, very slowly and not always guilt-free. And I started re-asserting myself - including the night we were heading out for dinner at the pub where Shmoopy worked and he was being his usual complaining self about how much money we were going to spend and how hungry he was and how he hadn't gotten to work out that day - comments that would've made me feel guilty and turn around and make dinner at home and go to the gym with him the next morning - and I just stopped the car in the middle of the street and said "just get out. I'm sick of you ruining every nice thing we try to do." And to make a long story not too much shorter, a few weeks later the same feeling hit - just stop the car - and I went into the living room and I told him I was moving out the next day. And he cried and he asked me to stay and it was like a lightbulb had blown, it wasn't coming on again - I slept in the living room, and got one of the best nights sleep I'd gotten since we started living together. And there were horrible fights after, and pettiness all around, and of course the lovely revelation that he'd been cheating on me for several months, and so forth. But I got out.
But the point is that no matter how hard you try to keep that face on, some people can just see right through you - like Bub. And so few people can be honest back to you the way he was. I had friends and family around me throughout the whole relationship and no one sat me down even though in retrospect it was obvious what a mess I'd become, that I'd lost 20 pounds, or that I was scared of the world. I asked people later and guess what, turns out the face worked on almost everyone in my life - almost uniformly people responded, you always know what you're doing, I figured you knew what you were doing. And yet Bub gets on the phone and goes "gee, you don't sound happy" and it was like turning a leaf blower on a house of cards. He still does that to me and it still has the same effect, a sudden realization that there's no point to the face. And to his credit, he never had any intention of belittling my engagement--we didn't have our first date for another 2 years--and has since never overstated, from his side, what he did during that conversation - and why should he? Now he's stuck with me!
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
-Traveled to Hawaii with Bub, stayed four days, saw two islands, and made the killer Kuaui-Honolulu-Oakland-Dulles flight in one day and went to work the next morning.
-Visited Bub four times in San Francisco/Palo Alto, including the weekend in January when he found out he matched for residency at Columbia.
-Flew to Hotlanta for a weekend with Bub and friends for an insane re-wedding of a crazy former Maxim cover girl and her baseball-playing husband with a wandering eye. Great shellfsh bar and chocolate fountain!
-Went to Miami for the Winter Music Conference and stayed up all night eating Cuban food and dancing to Goldie.
-Flew to Miami and then Barbados to see a friend get married on a lovely cliff and went boogie boarding and dressed for dinner.
-Went to Los Angeles for a gorgeous wedding in a friend's backyard and spent the day on the beach in Santa Monica.
- Traveled to Malta with my crazy grandfather to chase an opera star.
-Ran around Istanbul with Bub and shopped till our suitcases burst, then flew to Ephesus and got a tour from Ernest Hemingway.
-Stopped in Paris on the way home for a marathon eating and shopping tour of a beloved city.
-Went to Israel and blew through Jerusalem and ran down the beach in Tel Aviv at 6AM. Oh, and ate a ton of cheese.
-Visited Santa Fe, the Four Corners, and Mesa Verde and made Bub speed through the desert in our Corvette.
-Drove down to Big Sur and marveled at nature.
-Drove to Philly on a lark for cheese steaks and to be berated by Eagles fans.
-Countless trips to New York to see friends, family, and an in-resident Bub.
We went to the Giants-Patriots game last Saturday night - not too cold, tons of crazy fans, lots of fun - and Bub starts looking to buy tickets. Prices were ridiculous. He finally finds a guy who is willing to sell for a high, but fair amount for good seats.
I usually sit back and watch and this time I saw that the seller was really fidgety - sort of understandable, given what he's engaged in - and then he thrust the tickets at me and ordered me to "put them away, NOW". He took the money from Bub and shoved it in his pocket and Bub jokingly asked "aren't you going to count it?" The guy got annoyed and pulled the money out, rifled through it and then started to walk away.
I looked at the tickets. They looked mostly harmless, but a little dull in color. If you looked closely, though, they seemed fuzzy. I nudged Bub. "I think these are fake."
"I'm telling you - and look, the guy is running away!"
So Bub takes off after the guy, who is now changing his jacket mid-stride. Amazingly, he simply asks the guy to walk into the stadium with him to see if the tickets are real, the guy says "sure", they head towards the gates and the guy grabs the tickets, throws the money at Bub, and runs away. So all's well, and pretty soon after that we found great seats about 12 rows back. Awesome game.