Thursday, March 13, 2008

ARLINGTON: Observations From the 38B

FOR BUS RIDERS, the sight of an Arlington County police officer subduing an uncooperative man on the Wilson Boulevard pavement would be a great window-gazing side-show spectacle. But on Monday afternoon, few riders of the 38B bus bound for Ballston noticed as they were distracted by a humorous drama between two women on board.

When the bus stopped to pick up passengers at the Rosslyn station, it was delayed for a few minutes by an older woman — perhaps in her 60s or 70s — who didn't have exact change for the $1.35 fare and was asking passengers if they could break a $5 bill. There was something odd about her, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. She moved slowly and methodically, sizing up everyone in a manner that could be considered sinister. She moved toward the back and I put her out of my mind.

Then, another woman took an available seat toward the front and started to carry on an open conversation with the people around her and started complaining about something I didn't understand at first. Then things came into focus: "She's a nasty woman." ... "She's always been a problem on this bus. A witch she is." ... "Sister ain't gonna steal my joy. No. No she ain't."

I put two and two together: She was referring to the woman who had just passed on by.

All the sudden I heard from the back: "Lay-dee, you hush! I don't even know you."

A heated conversation ensued as other passengers laughed, taking the whole thing in.

"Shut your trap, lay-dee! I don't even know you," the targeted woman snapped back. "Lay-dee, you lie!"

To that, the other woman said: "See what I'm saying. She's always nasty. Nasty, nasty. Sister ain't gonna steal my joy. No, not today."

Sometimes the Orange Line, despite being crowded with people, can be a boring trip. The 38B, referred to as the "Orange Line With a View" can provide ample entertainment, as long as you're not in a rush and aren't looking to steal any person's joy.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

DECISIONS: Here Is My Bat Signal

SO, FOR THOSE WHO know about the big decisions I've been weighing, here is a big clue. Details to come.

Looking out toward Madison Square in Manhattan; Photo by Michael Grass


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

EXPRESS: Empanada Prices on the Rise Locally

IT'S A SIGN OF THE TIMES. As global food prices continue the rise and U.S. consumers worry about inflation, the price of one reliably low-cost snack has increased locally. [More ...]

WOODLEY PARK: I Survived the Blackout

LAST NIGHT, around 11 p.m., my neighborhood was sent into darkness by some sort of manhole fire way over on 14th Street NW, two neighborhoods away. I looked out my window. The street lights were dark, as was the Marriott Wardman Park hotel. I toured the neighborhood. There was electricity three blocks to the west and across Rock Creek Park in Adams Morgan and Kalorama. Late-night diners at Open City were illuminated by candle light. On Connecticut Avenue, cab drivers ignored the basic rule of treating a non-functioning traffic light as a four-way stop. Typical.

In the grander scheme of things, the situation wasn't all that bad. I just went to sleep and woke up around 5:30 a.m., when the lights in my apartment suddenly came back on. I like to think of myself as sort of prepared for emergencies. I have a big stockpile of bottled water should disaster ever render the Washington Aqueduct useless. I have a flashlight, someplace. has taught me that in the event of a radiological attack that I have to "[u]se available information to assess the situation" and ideally have "a thick shield" to block the nuclear threat.

But I don't have any candles. And last night, that was my critical weakness as I worried about how long the illumination from my laptop and cellphone batteries would last. Thankfully, I survived the threat.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

MAYFLOWER HOTEL: Spitzer's 'Room 871' Sounds Sort of Familiar to Me

SO, I THINK that I may have been in Room 871, the now-infamous guest suite where New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer allegedly had relations with a prostitute. On Monday, The New York Times reported that Spitzer has been linked to a prostitution ring targeted by federal investigators. Law enforcement sources tell The Times that Spitzer is "Client 9," an individual in D.C. on business who was staying in a room on the Mayflower's "Club Floor," according to a federal affidavit.

This description in The Times sounds sort of familiar:
Kristen, having already passed through the lobby, with its wing chairs and its gilded half-clad cherubs, arrived in a small room in a quiet corner of the “Club Floor,” a special wing for V.I.P.’s. A king-size bed commanded the floor. Two photos — of the Capitol and the Washington Monument — hung beside a wood-framed mirror.
OK, I don't know who this "Kristen" is, but the two photos, the mirror and the big bed sound familiar. If I remember correctly, it was on the 8th floor where my father conducted interviews for his PBS documentary on Gerald Ford. It's pretty nice suite from what I remember. Is it the same one? I'm not sure. Perhaps all the Club Floor suites come with the same interior furnishings.

Perhaps Gov. Spitzer should have booked a room at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. Considering its history for scandal, it would have been quite appropriate ... assuming these prostitution allegations are true.

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ARCHITECTURE: Robert Bruno's Steel House

WOULD LIVING in a house made entirely of steel get hot, especially in Texas? For the past 23 years, Robert Bruno has been crafting this structure outside Lubbock. First are foremost, the place is a sculpture — Bruno has been welding it himself since day one. But it's turning into, perhaps, one of the most intriguing pieces of residential architecture I've come across in quite some time. To me, it reminds me of the submarine from "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

This weekend's Financial Times has a great feature on the place:
... [A]s the road peters out around an anonymous corner past yet another bland bungalow suddenly, squatting on the suburban skyline, is something else entirely: something that looks like it has landed from a planet where straight lines and sobriety were outlawed.
Something tells me that if Bruno were looking to build this in D.C., our architectural tastemakers would have a hard time digesting the design.

Photo by Flickr user JoshEwwAhh

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