Borders 14th & F

It’s like there’s a death in the family.

Except it hasn’t happened yet. So it’s more like there’s someone with a malingering illness in the family. An illness that’s going to kill them by the end of August. Except, after they die, they’re still going to be around, shelving books, and answering phones, and ringing transactions on the tills.

Wait, what?

So: the Bookstore’s parent has three locations in DC, one waaaaay the hell up by the Maryland line, the other just a short ten or fifteen walk away from my store. And that store — the one a short walk away — is going to be out of business in just a few months.

Clyde’s Restaurant Group plans to open a two-story, 35,000-square-foot restaurant in space currently occupied by a Borders bookstore in downtown D.C. next year, creating one of the city’s biggest dining options and the 14th site in the Clyde’s chain.

The space, in the ground floor and basement levels of the former Garfinkel’s department store building on 14th Street NW, is across the street from the Willard Hotel and two blocks from the White House. It is also around the corner from the Old Ebbitt Grill, the chain’s signature establishment and one that Tom Meyer, Clyde’s executive vice president, said cannot meet the demand from tourists, office workers and others in the area.

In the deal signed June 15, Clyde’s will assume the Borders lease with the building’s owner, Shorenstein Properties, with some changes, giving the restaurant 20 years from its opening with an additional 20 years of options. Facing a tough bookseller market, Borders had been looking to sublet, though it still has a store at 18th and L streets NW. A Borders official confirmed the 14th Street store is closing.

With the Borders set to close by Sept. 1, the new restaurant could open in late 2011.

It’s kind of weird that it takes that long to get a restaurant up and running, but I’m not well versed in those matters, and I guess they’d have to pretty much gut that entire space.

In any case, I spoke to my store’s management team about what to expect. Basically, we’ll get any unsold electronic merchandise (eReaders and the like), what unsold books or media there are will be shipped back to the distribution centers. As for staff, there’s no word on what’ll happen to their GM, but we’ll apparently get much of their staff.

Um. Wait, what?

Because just because we’re getting their staff doesn’t mean we’re getting their payroll on top of ours, dig? Staff at our store have a hard time getting the hours they need because of the payroll limitations, so bringing a whole boat load of new people into the mix to divide those same hours by isn’t going to make anyone happy.

Except, phew! Our GM has a plan — and I hope he can pull it off. Basically, the Bookstore’s payroll hours are determined by some complicated formula from the home offices out in Michigan. A key part of this is sales volume, and increased sales over the same point the previous year — both of these have, for us, been going up. Once we hit that magic number (not sure what it is, myself), we qualify for the next level of payroll, which means we might actually be staffed to the teeth for once.

In any case, I’m trying to be optimistic. The alternative is blind panic.

Weight Week Sixteen: Where I Break Down And Go To The Gym

Aside for my walk home Friday night, I stayed off the streets this weekend. There were no long walks. Honestly, there weren’t many short walks, either. The heat I could deal with. The heat and the humidity? No.

But, because I wanted to get exercise, I overcame my resistance to the gym.

My building is one of four, all along the same block, that are owned by the same realty company, and administered and maintained by the same leasing office and staff. As such, the gym in the building next to mine is open to all residents, and I took full advantage of that this weekend, with two trips on Saturday, and another Sunday evening.

Saturday morning, after putting some laundry in the wash cycle, I walked over and spent thirty minutes on a stationary bike. My legs wobbled when I left. That evening, feeling some energy to burn, I went back and split my time between the elliptical and the stationary bike.

Last night, late, too, I went back and diversified: ten minutes on the elliptical, fifteen on the stationary bike, and five minutes on the rowing machine. Checking videos on YouTube when I got back to my apartment, I realized my rowing machine posture was incorrect. Fortunately, I seem to have survived the experience intact, and will correct my posture the next time I’m on the bike (which might even be tonight).

Last week I weighed in at 238 pounds.

This morning? 235.5. That’s a loss of 2.5 lbs since last week, and a total loss of 23.5 lbs since I started this endeavor. Go, me!

Dear Steve Jobs …

I did not buy an Apple iPhone 4.

While I don’t want to be a decade behind the technology times (“Hey, I’m going to buy a Playstation 2!”), I am not an early adapter. For one thing, I like waiting for prices to drop. For another thing, I like knowing that most technology issues have been fixed by the time I’m buying whatever.

For example: I bought an Xbox 360 last November. Sure, I’ve bought some new games, but there are years and years worth of old games I can buy for $10 from the local GameStop. I don’t actually know where there’s a GameStop in the DC area, but my point is valid: it’s been out for a while, so I don’t have to spend $60 to buy games to play on it.

So I have an iPhone 3G. I bought it last June, for $100 with a two year service plan. The iPhone had been out for two years at that point, and I was motivated to purchase when the 3GS’s imminent release caused Apple & AT&T to reduce the 3G’s price.

I like it a lot. I understand why a buddy of mine mocks it as “the Jesus Phone.” In a year or so, when I’m eligible for an upgrade, I might even buy one. Then again, because I really only use my iPhone for internet, the occasional call, and apps (like NextBus and Battleship!), and I don’t store a lot of music or movies on it (wears down the battery to fast), I might just keep the sucker I’ve got now for an additional year or two beyond that.

But — as an iPhone user for a solid year now, I know I really only hold it one of two ways — in either my left or my right hand, aligned so that my thumb (and that squishy part of my palm at the thumb’s base) are firmly against one side, and my fingers clutching it at the other. I mean, honestly, there’s not that many ways to hold one of these things.

So, technology issues is why I wait on new purchases, right? (Well, that and I’m not flush with cash). In the case of the iPhone 4, a big technology problem seems to be that the antenna is built into the left hand side of the phone, and that holding it with your left hand blocks reception. (Specifically, that touching the antenna somehow disrupts what the antenna needs to do – I’m not certain of all the technical details).

Wait. What?

It’s like Apple designed the phone without even taking a bare notice of how people use the phone. (I guess their engineers don’t use iPhones?) As ridiculous as that seems, there’s Steve Job’s reply: “You’re holding it wrong.”

Pardon me for suggesting an alternative, Mr. Jobs, but I believe you probably designed it wrong.

A Quick Guide to DC

A friend is visiting DC this weekend for a wedding. This is his first time in the city (EVER!), and talking with him over beers (he was BIL’s best man), he said, while, sure, a longer visit would be slated at some point, his immediate concern was getting to see the Mall. So I sent him an e-mail with (perhaps?) a bit too much information:

Weather:

DC’s going to pretty hot and humid this weekend. I usually carry a small hand towel with me to dab off sweat, I’d suggest you and [girlfriend] do the same. This city has been compared unfavorably to Manila (as in, “I’d rather be in Manila!”)

Geography:

Washington was originally diamond shaped, with the Potomac roughly dividing the city in two (on the southwest was the land donated by Virginia, the rest from Maryland). In the 1840s, the Virginia half of DC wanted to go back to Virginia, and that happened. So if you find yourself in Arlington County, you’re in what used to be the other half of DC. (If you do find yourself in Virginia, I usually panic and run for the border).

In any case, DC is split into four quadrants: NW, SW, NE, SE. The quadrants aren’t evenly divided (even before you take into consideration the Virginia portion). The city’s center is the Capitol building, which isn’t located at the actual physical center of the city. In any case, what this means is that NW is huge, and SW barely exists. All lettered and numbered streets radiate from the Capitol. Chinatown, and the National Cathedral, are both in NW, where lettered streets increase from south to north, and numbered streets increase from east to west. Avenues named after states run at all kinds of crazy angles. Where the avenues meet, there’s usually a traffic circle. Please note, for whatever reason, there is no J Street, anywhere. No one knows why this is.

There are two bus systems in the city: the first is Metrobus, operated by WMATA, which also operates the Metro. The second is the Circulator, which runs limited routes through the city. There’s a Circulator that runs from Union Station to north of Georgetown, for example (still puts you out a mile from the Cathedral, though). The Metrobus fare is $1.70, but the Circulator’s only a buck. The Metro is pretty good about covering downtown DC, but not so great for other areas: the Cathedral, for example, is not close to a Metro (but only a short cab ride from Woodley Park or Cleveland Park Metro stations on the Red line).

FYI: the Metro doesn’t run 24/7. It stops service at 3am Fridays and Saturdays, and opens on weekends at 7am.

Stuff to Do:

If you’re a fan of the Exorcist, the stairs are located just a bit west of 34th & M Streets NW. For the full effect, walk west on Prospect Street (one north of M Street, in Georgetown), then make a left when you pass a Georgetown University building. Sadly, there’s no Metro in Georgetown, either, but there is a Circulator bus that runs through Chinatown. Otherwise, it’s about a mile walk from Foggy Bottom Metro stop.

Chinatown has a lot of great restaurants, if you’re hungry when you get into town. If you’re taking the Bolt, you’re probably going to be dropped off at the MLK Library, at 9th & G NW. Matchbox (pizza) is located just west of the 7th & H NW intersection. Vapiano (pasta) is on H Street, towards 5th. There’s a bunch of local and national chains and independents in this area (and, honestly, across the city). For orientation purposes, the Chinatown arch is located on the east side of 7th & H. If you just need to kill some time, the National Portrait Gallery is catty-corner to the MLK library, with entrances on G and F Streets.

Also near Chinatown:

Ford’s Theater: 10th Street NW (between E & F).

The FBI Building: E Street, between 10th & 9th).

The National Zoo is located on Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park, but is probably easier to access from the Cleveland Park Metro stop. Take the right hand exit from the Metro station, and walk south (which is how the exit orients you). It’s about half a mile, on the left, guarded by two stone lions. The Zoo is open from dawn until dusk. The animal houses themselves don’t open until 10, but lots of animals are out very early. The other good thing about going early is you get to avoid the tourons.

Adams Morgan (located on 18th Street) is a pretty popular party spot for late nights, but I’d avoid it then. It’s got some great places for a breakfast or brunch, though. I’d recommend the Diner, which is near Belmont Street (about four blocks north of U Street). Sadly, there’s also no great Metro access here (the L2 Metrobus route from Woodley Park is best).

However — there is also Dupont Circle, which has two Metro stations close by (one at Dupont itself, the other at Farragut North, both on the Red line). Dupont is located at the intersection of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut Avenues NW, which you can find by figuring out where P Street and 18th Street intersect. Lots of bars, breakfast places, etc in this area. Brickskeller, which is my favorite DC bar, is located a bit northwest of here, just north of 22nd & P. Meiwah, on New Hampshire Ave (M & 22nd) is fantastic.

On the Red line, the Wheaton Metro stop has the longest continuous elevator in the Western Hemisphere. Woodley Park’s middle escalator, and Dupont’s Q Street exit, are pretty long themselves, though.

The National Mall:

The National Mall is split between SW and NW, and runs from the Lincoln Memorial (on the banks of the Potomac), two miles east to the Capitol Building, which is in fact located on a fairly decent hill (called Capitol Hill, shockingly). If you’re more interested in just seeing everything on the Mall, and not so much visiting all the museums, you can do that in about two hours. There’s no particular Metro station more convenient for Mall access than any other (I would suggest staying away from the Blue/Orange line Smithsonian stop, because that’s the one all the tourons gravitate towards, so it’s usually pretty packed). I do recommend National Archives, because it’s usually underused on weekends.

The National Archives stop (Green and Yellow lines) puts you out facing west, just north of the Mall, and at the Navy Memorial on Pennsylvania Avenue. If you turn around, you’ll see the Capitol building (and 7th Street) behind you. Make a right turn onto 7th Street, cross PA Ave, and walk south. Cross Constitution Ave, and the next block is Madison Drive. Congratulations: you’re on the Mall.

The Mall can be toured in pretty much any order you want. The Washington Monument (TWM) will be to the east. Directly north is the White House. The museums are all grouped on the eastern side of the Mall, between TWM and the Capitol. On the north side, from TWM to the Capitol, are the National Museum of American History, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Gallery’s East Gallery.

On the south side, from the TWM to the Capitol, is the US Department of Agriculture (not a museum, obviously, but pretty prominently featured), the Freer Gallery, the Castle, the Arts & Industries Building, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Air & Space, and the National Museum of the American Indian. Just south of the Capitol is the US Botanic Garden and Conservatory. (All of this stuff is free).

Between The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial is the (relatively) new WWII Memorial. South of this is the Tidal Basin. If you’ve ever seen a movie where people in Washington jog around a lake on a paved path (think CONTACT or MURDER AT 1600 off the top of my head), this is probably where that scene was set. The Jefferson Memorial (which is actually sinking), is located on the Tidal Basin, due south. The FDR Memorial is on the west. When you hear about Cherry Blossoms, this is also where they are. I mean, they’re all over the city, but this is where the festival is.

Past the WWII Memorial is the Reflecting Pool. South of the Reflecting Pool is the DC War Memorial, which is a rarity because it isn’t a National monument – it’s for the DC residents who died during the first World War. (This end of the Mall is heavy on war memorials). The Korean War Veterans Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, are just outside of the Lincoln Memorial.

There’s also a lot of stuff behind the Capitol (which is unfair, since it really doesn’t have a front, but if you figure the front is what faces the Mall, then the rear faces Capitol Hill). Behind the Capitol is the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which houses, among other things, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the Folger Shakespeare Library. Also, lots of restaurants, shops, lawyers, etc.

BTW – this being DC? Most museums are free. The Spy Museum charges. The Newseum charges. I don’t know about the Holocaust Museum. Everything on the Mall is free. The Zoo is free. Portrait Gallery is free. Basically, this can be a really cheap city to tour.

Enjoy your visit! Too bad it’s so short!

My First Ever Nationals Game…

… and they lost to the Kansas City Royals. Admittedly, there was a really fucking awful call by the Ref that cost them a run. I mean, seriously, was the guy blind?

In any case, here’s all I’ve got to say about Nationals Park: Good Lord, you’re a fucking ugly stadium. You’re like the uber cheap discount model of stadiums. Like, when cities are shopping for a stadium, you’re not even on the sales floor. You’re tucked away in the back for when Bumfuckville, the largest city in the state of No One Gives a Shit, is about to walk off the floor because they don’t have the cash, the sales guy can say, “Wait! I’ve got one more! It doesn’t have A/C, or power steering, and you’ll have to pay extra for the brakes…” I mean — I’m not expecting the Roman fucking Coliseum, but don’t you think you could’ve at least outdone Camden Yards?

Which, by the way, in case you’re wondering, in case you’ve never been, is a fucking gorgeous baseball stadium. And, really, not that far from DC.

Nationals Park is functional. In the same way that if you bulldozed the White House and replaced it with a bunch of trailers, would be functional. Sure, it gets the job done, but doesn’t presentation matter at all? Gaah.

In any case, I shouldn’t complain. Had a hot dog. Had fun. Sat in the shade. All for a $5 ticket to the “grandstand” — um, not sure what that is (hey, not a big sports fan here), so I just went to the highest row I could find and watched. And, again, my first thought was, “I’m pretty sure Camden Yards is a lot higher.”

For me: that’s a plus. I kind of think if you’re not in nosebleed seating watching a baseball game, you’re doing it wrong. When I’m a billionaire, all the expensive luxury boxes are going to be above the upper most seating, and they’ll feature extremely inverted sloping windows. People’ll ask, “Are you crazy?” And I’ll be like, “…” because, y’know: DUH.

After the game, me and my buddy Chuck (we used to work together, then he got a promotion and went to another location), walked up to Capitol Hill to Chef Spike’s (of Top Chef fame) restaurant Good Stuff, which is sort of like a fancy fast-food restaurant. Here’s the verdict: food yummy (very much so), service and wait? Not so much. I realize we probably got caught in the post-game traffic, but fuck me with a stick. Took twice as long to get our food as to wait in line to order it. Certainly a place to go post-peak eating times, but, hey, Chef Spike came out and was manning the service counter as we were chowing down. I didn’t watch that season of the show, but at least I can say I saw a Top Chef chef in his restaurant as we were eating. I wonder if any of his employees ever give the finger to that giant poster of him in the lobby.

Anyway, having eaten a hot dog, and peanuts, and a bacon cheeseburger, and trying to lose weight as I am, I decided I was going to have to forgo an easy trip home and do some walking. I made my way home via the Folger Shakespeare library, then south of the Capitol, and across the National Mall until I turned due north for Franklin Square, where, soaked in sweat, and tired, I caught a Circulator home.

Hey, it was a four mile walk. I deserved an air conditioned bus ride home. Here’s my route (or a pretty close approximation of it, anyway):

Boulder Peeps

Having spent most of the last week in Boulder, yeah, I might be a bit in love with the place. Don’t get your hopes up, Dad: I’m not moving there.

Anyway, hilarity abounds:

Attorney John Pineau asks for a box of yellow Peeps to be placed into evidence. Aimco’s attorney inspects them — “I have no objection to the Peeps” — before Judge Archuleta agrees to place the candy on a desk in the middle of the courtroom, so that everyone can see them. The move provokes smiles from the judge and jury.

I mean. I’m sure it’s not hilarious to the lady who stopped paying her rent over peeps. But to me? Hilarious. (So is the fact that the trial is getting this much attention! They’ve got a reporter? In the courtroom? Are you fucking kidding me?)

Masked Manhunter

I love it.

The armed goons walk beneath me, armed with rifles. I’m not immortal, my armor is not bulletproof: I would die. I swoop off a gargoyle, cape as glider, and slam both feet into his chest. He rebounds backwards, grabs for his gun, but I’m already in the air, pinning him to the ground, slamming my first into his face hard enough to knock him into unconsciousness.

Other goons hear the noise, running towards me. But I’m no longer there.

Because I’m the god damn Batman.

(Not my gameplay, FYI, just found on YouTube).

Okay. Well, so I’m only playing the Batman. But I tell you, if Arkham Asylum was only set in big abandoned warehouses, and the entire game was figuring out how to overpower goons one at a time? I’d be totally thrilled.

Seriously: the only thing I regret about this game is that it was a Christmas gift, and it took me until June to start playing.

Weight Week Fifteen: Eating and Drinking All Week to Celebrate My Sister’s Wedding

Friday afternoon, at the Sunrise Amphitheater, overlooking Boulder (and on a clear day, Denver) my sister got hitched. I flew out with my folks early Wednesday morning, and got home yesterday evening.

Every day last week — Beers. Cheeseburgers. Burritos. Pies and ice cream. Halfway through a driving tour of Rocky Mountain National Park, two hot dogs, smothered in mustard and ketchup. Heck, the night before the wedding, I even had a cigar with my 24-hours-from-being-my-brother-in-law and his best man (funny story: the wedding was very low-key and informal, BIL’s best man wasn’t actually told he was best man until he got to the amphitheater).

(Yeah, I smoked a cigar. Yeah, it was disgusting.)

As you might imagine, what with meeting a whole ton of my sister’s friends, plus her just-about-but-not-quite in-laws, watching what I ate was not (a bit) high on my priority list. Neither was exercising. However, I still made an effort, walking from the hotel (on the east side of town), to what (laughingly) passes for “downtown” Boulder — Google maps puts it at 2.4 miles one way, and I tried to do this each day.

Also, my sister’s step-mom-in-law pulled me onto the floor once the music started, which was hilarious, since I can’t dance at all. But I guess flailing around like a fool worked, since I actually lost a pound, and weighed in this morning at 238, whereas last week I was at 239 lbs.

Yeah. I don’t get it either. But I ain’t complaining!