July 27, 2005

It's that hot.

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Recorded in Shaw at around 12:15.

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SOB of the week

Mr. Won't-Wait-To-Whiz, like the rest of us, has been living with or around cell phones for years now. In the early days, one could sigh when someone talked loudly in a barber's chair, outside a lecture hall or somewhere else of questionable appropriateness, safe in the knowledge that this new technology would soon develop rules of reasonable use that would be obeyed by most people and enforced by millions of shushing citizens. But it's been five years since my first phone, and nothing has changed.

This morning, I shared a bathroom with someone who was holding a conversation at a urinal. Sure, I've seen people who have carried conversations into the bathroom, or those who use a stall as a private area in which to conduct (telephonic) business, but this was a new low. Aren't you supposed to wash your hands before touching anything else after using bathroom facilities? Can't the person you're calling hear you as you urinate?

Mr. Won't-Wait-To-Whiz, I don't know whether society has failed you, or if you have failed society.

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July 26, 2005

Was he looking at colleges?

DCSOB Florida bureau chief "b." sends this unusual sample from Gainsville, Fla.

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July 25, 2005

Still recovering from the weekend

Massive party, massive storm, 90 bus pub crawl... I'm falling apart. Here, look at last week's Bluestate setlists.

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July 22, 2005

A July to remember, Part 2

Earlier this month, I made a list of nine things I wanted to do before the end of July that I, as a D.C. resident, ought to have done a long time ago. Here is a report on my progress.


Eat at the Supreme Court cafeteria

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Yeah, yeah, the food was good. Considering the fact that it takes up about a quarter of the space used by the Senate cafeteria, it had better be just like mama used to make in comparison. But what took me aback when I went to SCOTUS were the media brigades camped out like a gaggle of gadget-inclined sunbathers. There were no women with "Keep Abortion Legal" placards and no forlorn-looking fundies with "life" taped across their mouths. Any news about a potential appointment (this was earlier in the month) would come from the White House or Congress, not this building. Still, the correspondents needed a backdrop in front of which to announce, night after night, that nothing had taken place. To support the anchors, several dozen behind-the-camera workers sat around all day, playing cards, reading The DaVinci Code and complaining about the heat. Haven't these people ever heard of a blue screen?


Visit the Zoo

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Done, on the day the new panda was born, in fact. I didn't see the big event and nobody at the zoo said anything about the big (actually stick-of-butter sized) events taking place inside the Panda House. Knowing the zoo only from reputation and the Connecticut Avenue entrance, I found myself unprepared for the size of the place, wondering if I was going in one big loop as I past the beavers, sloth bears and piranhas in a long, slow, humid descent into Rock Creek Park. Maps are not free at the zoo, so you have to rely on the ones they have posted, which are increasingly infrequent the deeper inside you go. At the Amazonia exhibit, I found that I had spent over an hour and nearly soaked my shirt the whole way through with sweat just to make it to the farthest point from the entrance. By this point, I had no interest in seeing any more exotic animals, only in trudging uphill in the oppressive heat and humidity as fast as possible. The zoo is fantastic - in the fall.

Get drunk at Chipotle

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This is the item on my to-do list that gets the most laughs, but I've been wanting to do it ever since the first Chipotles posted liquor license applications a couple of years ago. The beer is cheap, the locations are convenient, the chips, salsa and guacamole beat anything at a "real" bar. Plus, there's no fighting to get an order in at the bar, no frat boys poured uncomfortably into shirts and ties and no smoke. We went to Woodley Park for the outside seating area on a temperate Friday and got only a few odd looks from passerby.

Go to a Nationals game

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Since I spent a lot of time in Yankee Stadium during high school, it's surprising that it took so long to go down to RFK for a game to see the much pooh-poohed (by me, admittedly wrongly) Nats. The lost to Colorado in a close game, but I'm still glad I went, since it gives me an opportunity to rant about RFK. It looks quite small despite its capacity because there are no outfield bleachers, just a green wall and an upper deck. No bleachers means no drunken bleacher creatures, very limited bullpen heckling and a huge missed opportunity for good, cheap seats.

Unlike many modern baseball fans, I do not lament the fact that the hallways, ramps and bathrooms are done in the parking garage style so popular in the 60s and 70s, nor do I care that you can’t get sushi. Stadiums are for watching sporting events, not sampling the cuisines of the world or doing your Christmas shopping in July. This leaves me torn. Yes, RFK is an ugly and unhistoric place, surrounded by nothing but parking lots and houses. But it's still functional and the proposed replacement will likely run far overbudget and will feature every expensive and stupid fad in modern stadia, from trendy food (Sala Thai concession?) to the faux-historical embellishments that make a mockery of the charms of actual old ballparks.

What is a fan to do? Continue rooting for the Yankees, I guess.

Find a go-go song I like

Sure, I played Trouble Funk's "Drop Da Bomb" (thanks DCeiver) and E.U.'s "Da Butt" at the Bluestate Battle Royale on Tuesday, but I don't think I'll be blasting either of those tunes on the highway any time soon.

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July 21, 2005

Dept. of Misdirected Anger

Umm...

Christine M. Tolson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in single member district 7D-05, is the latest District elected official to face a recall challenge. The filing popped up on the Board of Election and Ethics' Web site Wednesday, just as the failed recall of Council Member Sharon Ambrose came to its conclusion.

Tolson's challenger, Rick Tingling-Clemmons, has until 5 p.m. Sept. 9 to collect the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters in the single member district, or 144 names. The single member district is in far Northeast, near Deanwood.

In his filing, Tingling-Clemmons claims Tolson "systematically failed to inform or engage her constituents of proposed changes or incursions into our neighborhood as she committed to do," while taking positions opposite those of the community.

Recalling an ANC is like trying to get a McDonald's cashier fired for giving you incorrect change: cruel and pointless.

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July 20, 2005

Circulation audit

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If you eat your brussels sprouts and do your homework, you too can become a billionare who pays people to litter across an entire city.

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July 19, 2005

Don't you forget

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July 18, 2005

Did you hear the one about when Ken Mehlman, Duke Cunningham and Andrew Sullivan walk in to a liquor store?

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I have become Wonkette.

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I Got Them Reflexive Statist Blues

It seems as if there is an entire class of "activists" who make a habit of pooh-poohing every objectively good thing that takes place in the city. Take DC Metro Action, a blog I link to that usually discusses statehood and other related issues. Now, it's all about whining about the new circulator:

"The Washington Post reported that the Circulator – the brainchild of the National Capital Planning Commission working with two business groups and the Convention Center – was paid for with "$12.5 million from a 1960s legal settlement earmarked for city bus service." But the money wasn't given to the city's Metrobus system. First Transit, a private transportation company that runs several bus systems in the metropolitan area, will operate the Circulator. According to the Post, First Transit was awarded the money because it can "do the job for less – $57 for one hour of service per bus compared to $76 charged by Metro."

Metro, instead of netting over $12 million, will receive an annual payment of $519,000 (in hush money?) to "manage" the Circulator."

The District of Columbia has an existing bus system that is desperate for money to buy new buses and hire maintenance workers and drivers – and $12 million of the city's money goes to a private tourist bus line? Does anyone know the story behind that 1960s settlement? Where did this money come from, and how did it fall into the hands of a private company? And who can tell me how much these brand new buses imported from Belgium cost compared with the price of a Metrobus? (See "My Ride on the Circulator," below.)

Given the information we have, the money is to "improve bus service," not to "fund Metrobus." As for the "hush money," which isn't very hushed if it ends up in the Post and all manner of related public record, could equal more than the cost of the settlement, depending on future arrangements and the success of the circulator service.

Second of all, the attitude of this piece comes with a set of assumptions:

1) This service is for tourists, who don't matter. Well, all of those poor people you care so much about have to work somewhere, and a downtown restaurant, hotel or tourist attraction are all good options for a low-skilled DCPS graduate. Sure, tourists are annoying, but the city depends on them. Frankly, I'm glad this service is taking them off Metro. In addition, the Union Station connection is great for commuters who previously had to transfer from MARC or VRE to Metrorail to get to their offices in the Golden Triangle area. By relieving congestion on the busiest parts of the Metrorail system, the curculator makes it easier to add new riders in outlying areas.

2) There is something wrong with buying a bus from Belgium. I've rode similar buses before, all of which have been fine for their purposes. The Metro Action writer goes on to complain about the AC (they have it, trust me) and the seating configuration (short downtown routes need more standing capacity), based on one ride. I've been on Metrobuses without air conditioning and with filthy seats I wouldn't sit on even if you lent me a pair of pants. Metrobuses break down, they spew visible black soot and they rattle like they're going to fall apart. If the Belgians can make a bus that beats the current manufacturer in a fair competitive bidding process, they should be applauded, not derided.


3) Private companies are taking city money. Yes, but they're providing a service in exchange at a lower cost than WMATA could manage. Whether you run a city or a household, you can save time and money by getting a specialist to do a specific task. First Transit, which is owned by U.K. bus and rail operator FirstGroup, is a bus operator that has experience running public and school bus systems around the country. They seem to know what they are doing. Granted, they may be cheaper because of labor practices, which would be a cause for complaint, but the allegation is never made. Instead, they're private, which means that they must be bad. It's 2005 - grow up.

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July 17, 2005

Rare weekend proclamation

Harold and Kumar go to White Castle is among the best comedies released this decade, probably in the top five.

You may now continue your regular weekend activities.

UPDATE:

Factoid:

Kal Penn, who plays Kumar, is a vegetarian, so technicians made veggie Castles for him.
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July 15, 2005

I always knew it would come to this

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It's too bad he's not old enough to come on Tuesday.

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I never once stopped thinking about tomorrow*

I just got back from DC9, where I saw Mac Attack, a Fleetwood Mac cover band and Athens 83, an early REM cover band. Believe the hype.

Let me just stop here to say that my only two coverband-related experiences are

1) Reading Chuck Klosterman's account of a GnR act that toured fourth-rate dives in a drunken haze;

2) A band the older brother of someone I knew when I was 15 was in that could barely crank out "Rockaway Beach" without having an instrument fall out of time.

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But maybe cover bands deserve another look. Seriously, have you heard The Bravery? It may be time to embrace musical influences in the transparent form of straight-up imitation.

First up was Athens 82 (or 83, depending on whom you ask), which did a pretty good job of sounding like REM, circa 1982/3, even if the lyrics were comprehensible. I found it a little strange that "Michael Stipe" wrote "free Borf" on the back of his shirt since the actual Borf would probably find REM circa 2005 tired and "boojy."

Mac Attack then took the stage. The act features members of the Carlsonics, Washington Social Club and a Stevie Nicks from I briefly worked next door from about a year and a half ago. Small world.

The played the hits. They played the "deep cuts" from the '80s Mac albums nobody bought. There was on-stage drama and feigned intra-band squabbles, all served with a heaping dollop of irony. The evening ended in a rendition of "The Chain" that went for about 15 minutes, with members of Athens 82 joining Mac Attackers and random fans on stage for an extended rock out/freak out that pushed the limits of indie rock, classic rock, the floorboards of DC9 and "Lindsay Buckingham's" wig.

I got my money's worth, even in 1979 dollars.

*Mac Attack never actually played that song.

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July 14, 2005

Roll with the punches

We're never gone for long:


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Rainy day feeling

Things I'm dissapointed about this morning:

1. The fact that Borf is from tony Great Falls, Va. and isn't some sort of urban avenger living as a squatter in a Warhol-style factory setting. Growing up in New York in the heyday of REVS and COST, I just expected more.

2. I paid about $2.50 for gas this morning. What are we, Germans?

3. Myself, for punking out on a chance to go to Nation last night, fulfilling one of my goals for the month (a progress report on that is on its way).

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July 13, 2005

Why do our elders think this generation is wasteful?

Less than 12 hours after Borf's arrest, someone sent me an email promoting a "Free Borf" CafePress store.

Does anyone even know whether the Borfers are still in the slammer or if they are out on bail?

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Tired of stuffy old D.C.?

Try visiting libertine Boston, where the lovemaking flows as freely as sludge on the Charles River and the committment to complete sexual freedom is as deep as the hole Sen. Santorum is digging for himself.

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July 12, 2005

K.A. Collins is back

Here.

Is that her on the top graphic?

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It's hotter than the area under Karl Rove's collar

...assuming he's warm-blooded, that is.

Why not cool off by enjoying one of Washington's municipal swimming pools? I did a few laps at Marie Reed in Adams Morgan and I found it to be clean, refreshing and most importantly, free. Truth be told, the public pools are probably marginally cleaner than the public libraries.

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July 11, 2005

Neighborhood Dynamics

Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space (or RPITUS) has an interesting post on the little paved park at Florida Ave. and North Capitol St. I pass it now and then, noting how Soul Salon and Spa marks the easternmost of the new businesses on the corridor, past even Thai X-Ing.

Of course, my description of Soul as the "easternmost" business marks me as NW-centric white boy who sees gentrification only as the movement of his friends into more and more distant areas he previously would have never considered visiting. It is worth noting that the public space issues highlighted in the RPITUS post are important for everybody in a gentrifying situation. Existing residents have used the park for years as a gathering space, relief from hot houses and apartments and a recreation area. New residents are drawn to places with green space and can often play a vital role in cleaning and maintaining common areas. Besides, what childless yuppie wouldn't want a place to walk a dog or visit a farmer's market? The Florida Ave. space is little more than a traffic island, but it still draws people.

Perhaps most important reason "transitional" areas need good parks where everyone feels safe is to cut down on some of the strife that accompanies change. Columbia Heights, which has relatively little in the way of common space, suffers (loudly) from a steady drone of complaits and recriminations. Would it help if they saw each other off the internet and away from neighborhood NIMBY committee meetings. Just an idea.

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For the record

Setlists and photos from the last bluestate.

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July 10, 2005

Everyone looks better in the dark

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Last night's Bluestate was unusual in many respects. First of all, attendance was sparse until about 12:30 and the dancing didn't pick up until the end, so much so that when Kyle stopped playing songs, a good two dozen or so people stood on the dance floor waiting for the music to continue. To be fair, we were booted at 2 on the dot, about a half-hour earlier than usual. Still, the last set is almost always quiet, an opportunity for the drink-comped DJs to tear it up when nobody is looking.

Speaking of nobody looking, right before or after Mr. and Mrs. Dceiver left for the night, and after most of the rest of DCist called it quits, N.M. leaned on something and nearly all of the lights went out. She scrambled to see what got unplugged and then ran to get someone from the Black Cat staff to undo the mess she thought she caused. Meanwhile, a cheer rose up from the dancefloor and everyone started tearing it up, or at least I think so, since the only light outside the booth came from behind the bar and from some Christmas lights strung along the bottom of the stage.

The above photo is from a written request that arrived about 10 minutes after I played "Into the Groove" in an attempt to get the crowd, unusually taciturn during my first set, to get on the floor. Lure 'em in with something familiar and catchy, then get them to enjoy something unfamiliar, I thought. That's the way we usually try to do it -- a little bit of sugar makes the Les Savy Fav go down -- but the pop completely took over since it looked like everyone was having so much fun. Sure, the point of Bluestate was to play music we like but don't hear at clubs, but when the people want Michael Jackson, let them have it.

In the end, it turned out that a fuse blew and N.M. didn't break anything, but pulling the plug at the next gig is a distinct possiblility, given the fun we had.

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July 8, 2005

Saturday night

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The slow decline of The Brickskeller

When I first moved to Washington, The Brickskeller was one of my favorite bars. I have many happy memories of hunkering down at a table with a half-dozen or more friends, expecting a round or two but ending up having a multi-hour party with a huge tab and a collection of exotic bottles leaving little room for the loaves of bread or buffalo burgers. The waitresses were cute and knowledgeable, able to correctly pour an unfiltered beer perfectly while chatting on some other topic as if that swirl-pull was the easiest thing in the world to pull off without getting foam everywhere (it's not).

But every time I've returned, it gets worse. The beer selection dwindles, although this is not reflected in the menus, which seem to get replaced with fresh copies less and less often. The food is the same, but the portions are smaller. The waitresses have changed over the years, as one would expect, and the new ones are grumpy since they have to tell customers "no" to their first five choices.

The little things, like the ketchup-stained menus, are a sign of the bar's larger problems. The Brickskeller may still draw a crowd, but their long, slow slide will continue until the die-hards get sick of hearing that they can't have a Erdinger Weiss or an Augustinerbrau or a Brooklyn IPA.

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Feed me, Seymour

DCSOB now has an Atom feed!

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July 7, 2005

For obvious reasons, I'll be doing most of my blogging on Third Rail for the next few days. I'll still post at DCSOB, but the action will be elsewhere.

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This morning

No doubt I'll spend today on pins and needles due to the massive terrorist attacks in London, as will many Washingtonians. Sure, I don't expect anything to happen here, nor would I be in imminent danger, since I'm not taking Metro today, but still, you can't help but get the jitters a little. When passing the Dupont Circle Metro station, I saw only one police car driving by on 20th Street - common enough, but now bogged down with meaning and speculation in the wake of the morning's events. Georgetown, where I am now, is quiet as usual, with the security guards chatting with maintainance workers. While I'm sure downtown and the Hill is more locked down, things are a little too normal around here.

Elsewhere: Live from the Third Rail on the attacks.

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July 6, 2005

His ass is Grass

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As some of you have undoubtedly already found out, DCist Editor Mike Grass is leaving the site. Why he would give up his esteemed position as the city's premier blog-party emcee, I'll never know, but he seems to think it's a good idea to draw a steady paycheck from this "MSM" I've heard so much about.

Specifically, Mike now forges National Guard memos for the Washington Post Co. and works on the local pages of its free commuter daily, Express. Look for his byline: there will likely be less Jennifer 8. Lee gossip, but his particular brand of practically-minded and historically-informed local coverage, which began with the Washington Oculus back in '03, will surely translate well to actual paper.

Good luck, Mike. And please smack Krauthammer if you pass him in the hallways.

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July 5, 2005

Useless Retrospective Weekend Guide



Photo courtesy SNH

Friday: Whoa, Thursday was rough - you haven't had that much to drink since last fully employed. It's best to rest up for the weekend by vegging out with a DVD, some Triscuits and a very moderate amount of PBR.

Saturday: Yes, goths are easy to make fun of, but they sure know how to hold a party. Go down to Edge -- soon to be known as "Center Field" -- for Chiaroscuro. Dress like yuppies to the greatest extent possible for full effect. The music will be goth/industrial inside, but mostly britpop standards outside, which is where you want to be, since the Totally Accurate Useless Retrospective Weather Report predicts perfect outdoor drinking weather. For $7, you get an hour of open bar and $5 pitchers all night long. Share several pitchers. Make friendly conversation about real estate and NoVa politics with a guy wearing horns and his over-pierced friends. Talk to strangers on the Metro.

Sunday: You're likely going to wake up feeling a little descheveled. Relax, you'll be better in time for Kanishka's BBQ in the far, far eastern reaches of the Hill. There will be bison burgers, Natty Boh in bottles and the entire DCist crew.

Then, something might compel you to attend a birthday celebration Perry's dangerously-overcrowded roof deck. When some members of the celebratory crew start talking about escaping to Adams Mill, make a bee-line for the 98 bus and get going eastbound before someone can spill Miller Light on your new shirt.

There will be a long line to get into Taint. Long enough that you will send a friend inside a text message threatening to go home. Long enough to call someone in another city to complain. Long enough that you start talking to the people on line, two of whom work at the same company as the Adams Millers you just fled. Inside, the DJ will have abandoned the indie-rock for house music, leaving N.M. to call the music "too gay." Now that's irony.

Monday: Go to another BBQ, this time at the house of a bona fide Fenty supporter. Find out that he won this particular vote by getting a stolen Supercan replaced free of charge - those things sure are a pain to replace otherwise. Reconsider your visceral dislike of the councilman. "Maybe the Mullah will get my street paved if he's elected mayor if I don't use any dirty words on my blog," you will think.

Eat, eat and eat some more.

Then, it's off to lovely Fort Reno to detonate all the explosives you've been saving for just this event. Blow up a watermelon. Nearly blow up your fingers. Realise that you're more drunk than you may have thought. Remember to get more mortars next year.

Plantains and more beer at Guapos, Metro home. Oh, what a weekend you'll retrospectively have!

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July 2, 2005

A July to remember

For someone who has been living here for as long as I have, there are a lot of things I haven't done around town. Since my workload will be light (I've gone from unemployed to underemployed, fyi) I'm going spend July doing all sorts of wonderful D.C. things for the first time:

1. Go to the National Zoo to see the pandas.
2. Get drunk at Chipotle.
3. Watch a Nats game at RFK.
4. See the Air and Space Museum for the first time since my 5th Grade field trip.
5. Eat at the Supreme Court cafeteria.
6. Find a go-go song I like.
7. Happy Hour at the Hay-Adams.
8. Visit Nation before they demolish it.
9. Try that "Hogs on the Hill" BBQ joint you pass on New York Avenue right at the city line.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

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July 1, 2005

TST LSS

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Question: Did they have vanity plates in the '40s, and if so, was there some idiot racing around Virginia in a truck with "12 7 41" tags?

I bet this guy drives like Bush governs: Whenever someone gets mad at him for cutting them off or doing something similarly stupid, the back of his car screams "9/11! 9/11!" until the offended driver, confused and a little offended, shrugs his shoulders, gives up with the invective and quietly sends $10 to MoveOn.

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On the Jewish calendar, Canada Day starts the night before

That explains why it's Friday morning and I just woke up with a pounding headache and a bunch of unread emails in my inbox informing me that I'm on page 33 of Express for that Nats hats post yesterday. The coffee machine is gurgling behind me, so life will get better soon.

A word to the wise before I start my Collinsesque rundown of the night's events: If you see three or four cops on a corner around Dupont, do not jaywalk. They are ticketing jaywalkers. Luckilly, someone from the Ruth's Chris on Connecticut and S stood watch outside the restaurant to deny the small batallion of 5-0 on the corner their revenue, so I didn't get burned. Nevertheless, they're on other corners as well, so watch out.

Anyway, the night started out badly at The Front Page, which I loathe almost as much as I love beer. P, whom I hadn't seen in ages, went there with some work buddies, so I tagged along as the interloper not dressed for success. I drank an entire bucket of beer while standing up and getting jostled on all sides by interns and recent grads who are too new in town to know better or too dumb to care. I've compared The Front Page to a frat party with ties, which DCeiver tells me is redundant at UVA. Dunno - never been.

Next stop was DCist Unbuckled, featuring the Bicycle Thieves and Cartel. Already fairly sauced, I drank some more, happy to see the blog crew, notably the DCist people, the aformentioned DCeiver, Catherine, N.M., Michael and Rock Creek Rambler, who is a dead ringer for John Edwards. Although I don't remember much about the bands, I do remember a little exchange that started when I sat on a stool that someone later took a bag out from under:

Me: "I'm sorry, am I sitting on your seat?"
Guy: "Naah, go ahead."
Me: "Thanks."
Guy: "After all, you are the DCSOB."

Bloggership has its privileges, no?

Sweaty and uncomfortable, Michael, N.M. and I decamped for a little Laundry at DC9. It was mostly empty, but it's air conditioned and I got to meet some new people who enjoyed my drunkenness. I think one of them has an amusing voicemail waiting for retrieval.

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