They Rolled On

There was this odd booming sound coming from our right.

My friend R.W. and I were walking past the Capitol.  It was past 10pm and there are few streetlights.  It was very dark.  Ahead of us, framed by buildings and trees, was the lit-up Washington Monument.

“Is that thunder?”  I asked.

“No,” she replied.

“Construction, maybe?”

It actually kind of sounded like gunfire.

I, and a number of others, had been out across from Eastern Market (the actual building, not the Metro station) a few blocks away celebrating two friends who are relocating to Baltimore City next weekend.  I had been expecting to get out to Capitol Hill by 3, with works closing at 2:30 for the holiday weekend, but things being what things are, I wound up stuck at my desk until 4.  $2 Yuenglings? I really couldn’t complain.

People came, people left money for the tab, people left.  The check itself was a clusterfuck (thank goodness I brought cash!) and our server got a $120 tip on $290.

Finally it was time to leave.  A cab was flagged for our Baltimore bound friends, and people made their way home on foot, by bus, or by train.  I volunteered to walk R.W. most of the way home by Waterfront — I would detour to the blue line once we were in that quadrant.

“Oh, look!”  R.W. said, pointing south as we came down the hill and had an unobstructed view of Nationals Park.  The weird booming echoing sound were fireworks detonating over the stadium, celebrating a New York Mets’ victory.  (That’s weird, right?)

R.W. and I parted company, she heading south for home, me walking a block east to Federal Center SW.  I waited a few minutes and got on an empty Metro car.  It filled with baseball fans at the next station.

It rolled on.


We Didn’t Start The Series …


An amazing Star Trek The Next Generation promotional video from an Albany, New York Fox station, set to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”  The lyrics are here and it looks like it must’ve been produced in the early 1990s since it only uses clips from the first three seasons.

Sometimes you win the bus lottery…

Sometimes you win the bus lottery.

For example, last week, I was up early on Saturday to do a quick run to Target before catching the bus up to Chevy Chase Circle to meet my dad at 9:30.  You can imagine my panic when I got home at 9 and saw that, according to NextBus (now iCommute?), the next bus wasn’t actually arriving for seventy minutes.  But what if there was a Ghost Bus, i.e., a bus running the route which isn’t being tracked by GPS?

So I figured I’d go to the stop and wait.  The worst that would happen is I would wait forever for a bus.  But I had a big thick book.  And sure enough, I’d been at the stop for only a few minutes when an L2 pulled up.

Same deal this whole week: I’d walk from work to Farragut Square and catch the bus idling before beginning the route, or one day, coming to Farragut from Capitol Hill, emerged from the Metro just in time to jump on a bus before the driver took off.  Today, for example, I wanted to head up north to catch my favorite used book sale.  I jumped off the Circulator at 18th and Columbia hoping I would only have to wait a few minutes for an L2: it pulled up the moment the Circulator pulled away.

Sometimes you win the bus lottery.

And sometimes you don’t: with a bag full of used books, a gallon of milk, and a sandwich for lunch, I was waiting for an L2 back home.  And I only had to wait a couple of minutes and one pulled up, great right?

Sometimes I get on a bus, and I don’t smell great.  I’ve had a long day of work, and then a half mile walk to the bus stop, I’m a little sweaty, right?  Or I’ve gone for a six mile walk one way and am catching the bus home from Capitol Hill, I’m probably not smelling great here either.

And as the bus has started its route and we’ve gone about three blocks, I realize — it took me a little bit — that the bus just fucking reeks of urine.  There’s a guy I’ve seen on the route before sprawled across the back seats, he’s got several bags stuffed full of other bags, and this odor is the most disgusting thing I’ve smelled in a long, long time; it’s like he’s been using his pants as a toilet and never cleaning them.

I seriously thought about getting off the bus and just waiting 20 minutes for the next one; hey, I have a big thick book with me, right?  Right!  But I also had perishables, and so long as I didn’t take a breath, the smell was … tolerable.

I was so happy when I reached my stop … I took a long deep breath of clean city air as soon I hopped off the vehicle.

All was wonderful … right up to the moment I walked into my apartment and stepped in a gigantic pile of soft cat shit on the foyer carpet.

Sometimes your cat is a real asshole.

“I want my father back, you son of a bitch!”


I remember being a kid, maybe nine years old, and my dad was taking my sister to see The Princess Bride and asked if I wanted to come along and my thought process was something like “Princesses, ew. Brides, ew.”

And of course now it’s one of my favorite movies.

Came across this above clip today, Mandy Patinkin on his motivations in playing Inigo Montoya.  Powerful.  And also, if you’re a fan of the movie, might I ask if you’ve read the book?


The Personalized Used Book

I’ve bought a lot of books, and I’ve bought a lot of used books, and while this isn’t the strangest or most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever found, it does spark my imagination.  From the title page of a used copy of 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart (a fantastic read so far, by the way) which I picked up last week:
20130820-190609.jpgWas Meredith truly Adam’s “colleagues, comrade, and fellow”?  If so, how did her copy of this book wind up sold used from Amazon?  Did she accidentally include it in a stack of books dropped off as a donation, or abandoned on a train, or a taxi?  Was it in her purse when she was mugged, or stolen when her home was burgled?

It’s a mystery!

Is Meredith reading this right now and raging that I informed on her “accidentally” removing the book from her collection?

Well, she’s probably not reading this …

… but if by some chance she is, I’d really like to find a $20 bill in one of these used books I’m buying, m’kay?




“Everyone talks about the humidity in DC, but it’s really not that bad.”

“Everyone talks about the humidity in DC, but it’s really not that bad.”

The light was beginning to fade on Sunday, and I was on an eastbound Circulator.  Seated in front of me were four graduate students, three women and a man, all of whom had what seemed to be slight European accents, perhaps tempered by extensive time spent in North America, or by years of English lessons.  Dutch?  German?  I couldn’t quite place it.  They’d just finished an extensive discussion on how the Canadians can keep trains running in deep snow when the DC Metro can’t.  That struck me as kind of unfair and a failure to understand how a region with deep snowfalls only once every several years might have different needs than a region with deep snowfalls several times a single year.

I also kept my mouth shut about what a beautiful August we’ve been having.  Many mornings have felt like autumn.  I wanted to tell them, “This is not normal.  This weather is not what DC is about in August.  Go find some wood and you knock on it.  You knock the fuck out of it.”

“Is this Columbia Heights?”  one woman asked her friends.  We made a left onto Columbia Road, then another left, a right, and yet another left, which put us onto Mount Pleasant Street.

Another woman, seated facing me and looking out the rear of the bus, checked her phone.  “We need to make this left if we’re going to Target.”

We made a right onto Irving.

Panic.  “Oh, wait, it’s because I’m …”  the woman squirmed in her seat, trying to match her phone to the movement of the bus.  “Okay, I think we’re okay.”

Half of the people on the Circulator got off at 14th & Irving.  The four graduate students were trying to figure out where the Target was.  I pointed them to the building just north of us – they noticed the IHOP first — and then pointed south on 14th Street towards Columbia.  “When you’re done, walk there, turn right, and wait by the Circulator sign.”  As long as they could remember those directions, they’d be fine.

The Circulator closed its doors and pulled forward, turning onto Irving.  A white guy in an orange shirt ran in front of the bus and pointed at the door, trying to get on.  The driver shook his head and kept moving his bus.  This guy, a real bro, started slapping his chest and clapping in attempted sarcasm.  “Way to go, man!  Way to go!  Bravo!”  It came across as entitlement.

College kids back in town.  Young people with George Washington, Georgetown, Howard, Gaullidet, Trinity, and Catholic apparel filled the store.  Confused chatter as students tried to map their home and familiar Target with this two-level urban store; excited chatter from students used to strict Blue Laws as they discovered the aisles and end-caps of wine and beer.  It had been busier earlier in the day, a friend from my Bookstore days told me before someone tugged on his arm and asked where to find the electronics section.

I didn’t need much.  Dishwashing detergent, toothpaste, cans of cat food.  I had eleven items but was directed to one of the express lanes.  I had violated my one rule on shopping at Target on the weekend: never, ever, on any occasion, after 10am.


One of my coworkers, M.D., is a tall guy, probably 6’2, with a hearty laugh and nothing but a smile on his face. I quite literally cannot remember a single time when he was not smiling. When he comes in every morning, he makes his rounds saying hello to everyone.  When we had our department retreat a few weeks ago, M.D. wound up putting on a presentation about positivity.

He didn’t come in on Monday last week. I didn’t know this because I had jury duty. I think the first I knew there was something wrong was Thursday: technical services had their retreat the previous day, and M.D. hadn’t gone, and no one could get in touch with him. Had he been fired? Had he packed up and moved home to the Big Easy?

Yesterday, my team’s brief meeting included being informed that M.D. was, in fact, actually missing. That his emergency contact information was bad, and HR was involved (had they called the police?). But for us: Did any of us know him outside of work? Did we have an email or phone number that might not be in our database?

HR, of course, was quite silent on the point of police contact, and maybe they already knew by this point; but I didn’t, and copied down M.D.’s address from our donor database. When I got home, I called the Metropolitan Police Department to request a “wellness check.”

When I gave the address to the emergency operator, she made a strange noise, and informed me I needed to call the 2nd District police station directly. “Has someone already called a request on that address?” I asked. “I can’t tell you,” she responded, repeating to me that I should call the district station.

The officer at the station was confused and could provide me no information.  He referred me back to 911. I know now that, by this point, it was too late, and making the phone call at all was a rather moot point. But I didn’t call 911 back, resolving to get in with our HR director to determine if they’d called the police.

This morning, the associate vice president of our department called all of her people together into one of the conference rooms.  Or rather, most of the people in her department — tech services, of which M.D. was a member, was in a separate conference room having the news broken to them by their direct supervisor: in response to a missing person report filed by central HR, MPD went to M.D.’s apartment, gained access, and found his body.

I don’t know how or when he died, but it was presumably on or before Monday August 5th.

The conference room we were in when this news broke is relatively small, and we had close to 50 people packed inside. It was a pretty miserable experience, all told — it hit those of us who knew him well the hardest, particularly those us who sat near him — but grief counselors were on site, and we were all told that if we felt we needed to, we could go home. I stayed, one of my coworkers saw a counselor and dropped off some grievance forms, one of which said “Stick to a routine.”

But I can’t say I got much work done today.

Rest in peace, Mariano.