Tuesday, November 19, 2019

A Winning Ensemble

(Ed.: This post was started a few years ago and I just promoted it from a draft. I feel our teenager would want it spelled out that she has not needed a babysitter in some time.)


We've hired a babysitter for our daughter on a couple of recent occasions. As her usual babysitter was not available, we solicited suggestions from neighbors and found a great high school student nearby who accepted the job.

The first time she babysat, we were dressed in all white, heading to Vienna's Diner en Blanc:

This reminds me of sorority initiation. Only with fewer animal sacrifices. And spankings.

Then, a few weeks later, (the second time she was in our home), we were headed to an Oktoberfest party:
You know what's fun? Running into the wine store dressed like
this on the way to the party because you forgot to get a hostess
gift earlier in the week.
And I was just thinking about how funny that must seem to her...it's not Halloween, we're adults, and we're not into any kind of weird fetishes. It just so happens that this is one of those random times that the social events to which we were invited included dressing in costume, which really does not happen that often...

...well, unless you count Halloween a few years ago...

...or the time we went to a "dress as your favorite celebrity" party...
(Yes, I went as Judy Garland. No, I'm not a gay man.)

...or the time we went to see the Legwarmers with the Dilettantes...

...or the time our friends had a roaring '20s murder mystery party...


...or when we attended a holiday party the month after the Salahis
famously crashed a state dinner and we determined the Salahis should
also crash their holiday party...
...or the time our neighbors had a pirate-themed party...

...or the time we went to see Richard Cheese at the 9:30 Club...
Looking back on all of these dress-up events reminded me of a dress-up experience a friend of ours shared. For his birthday one year, his wife had thrown him a pirate-looks-at-40 themed birthday party and had tossed leftover acoutrements (hats, eye patches, hook hands) on the bed in the spare room after the party. This happened to coincide with them recording traffic patterns for the local government with a video camera pointed out that same spare bedroom window, facing the highway on-ramp near their house. It also (fatefully) coincided with a visit from an electrician they had hired to install a ceiling fan in that room.

Which our friend didn't even think about as he turned the camera toward the interior of the room earlier that day to remove the videotape, which left it facing the bed. A bed that was scattered with assorted pirate costume accessories. And while the electrician didn't say anything about our friend's predilection toward costumery and videotaping in their guest bedroom, he did seem to work extra-fast to get the fan installed and get the hell out of there.

It's always the quiet ones,
Brutalism


Totally Forking With Her

A neighbor friend and I walk often, using the time to both exercise and discuss how to navigate raising kids in the hypercompetitive, Type A environment that is the Washington metro area. She is, importantly, a sanity check and bonus-ly, hilariously funny. We often walk more than six miles before even realizing it, as we are so engrossed in working through things and laughing. (See? I had to mention the mileage - I swear, it's a requirement for living here.)

This tweet (which I recently sent her) pretty much encapsulates it:


We also discuss other things, of course, including some health issues we’ve dealt with. Not long ago, she had some pretty severe abdominal pain and bloating.This had been bothering her for a while, so her doctor scheduled a test to determine the cause.

A very specific test, it turns out.

She was required to allot about five hours at the doctor's office and bring the following at the appointed time:

  • A hard-boiled egg
  • Buttered toast
  • Orange juice
  • A plate and knife and fork with which to eat the egg

The test was structured in such a way that she would eat one of the food items she brought, wait, and then the medical team would scan her abdomen to see how the item was being digested. Then, rinse and repeat. For FIVE HOURS.

(Please note: a bit of internet research shows this test is called a 'gastric emptying scan' and includes the following explanation: 'Before the scan, you'll eat something solid, something liquid, and a small amount of tasteless radioactive material.')

While all writing benefits from a certain level of detail, I hardly think the flavor profile is the most concerning part of that sentence for most patients.

Anyway, being the naturally inquisitive type, I had several questions:
  • Would she digest this differently if she was simply eating the egg without first plating it and delivering it to her mouth with a fork?
  • Is it important the egg was hard-boiled and not prepared some other way? Does this harken back to the 'scrambled egg/false positive' lore that forever haunts every medical resident?
  • Would it have altered the results had she brought buttered bread instead of toast? Or, quelle horreur, an English muffin?
  • If the appointment was scheduled later in the day, would the menu have been adjusted to feature a club sandwich and chips or perhaps a nice Cobb salad? 

     And possibly most importantly:
  • How many doctors were standing on the other side of the two-way mirror enjoying how obligingly she participated in this ‘test’ without even questioning it?

Tasteless indeed,
Brutalism

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nitpicking

During a visit with my Mom and her husband in Virginia Beach, the conversation turned to strip clubs.

As it will.

As we drove through old, familiar areas of my hometown, we all wondered aloud where the strip clubs that were once fixtures in the area had gone, and started listing the names of the places we remembered (hear that, JB's Gallery of Girls?)

Which is when my Mom’s husband remarked, “There was one place called ‘Head Lice.”

Incredulous, I shrieked, “There was a strip club named HEAD LICE???”

Which is when he clarified it was, in fact, called "Head LIGHTS."

Straight outta a Norman Rockwell painting,
Brutalism

Standing Ova-shun

(I'm really proud of this post title, BTW)

So, this happened a while back: "Guy with TV on head leaves old TVs on front porches of homes."

The authorities are assuming this is some kind of performance art piece, or a robber who does not understand what being a robber entails. All I know is if I had security cameras installed on my house, this is EXACTLY the type of thing I would want to see.

It also brought to mind some shenanigans Mr. Brutalism and I got into with friends of ours back in the shenanigans-heavy (read: pre-children) days of our early marriage. We were visiting these friends in Boston and after a night of drinks, we made our way back to their apartment, a building with a security camera on the front porch which had a feed visible to all residents of the building through a closed-circuit television channel.

Upon learning this information and watching some extra-boring feed of people coming home and fumbling for keys and leaving for runs, we decided that to make this more entertaining, we should introduce something unexpected to the tableau and create some drama.

I wish I could better remember the conversation that led us to our decision of what to place on the porch, but we ultimately came up with fried eggs. It was perfect! Recognizable enough that people would know immediately what it was, yet random enough that anyone who saw it would wonder why they were on the front porch, as it is not something that would slip out of a pocket or go unnoticed had they slipped off a plate.

Our friend offered to be the one to place the eggs, which required some technique in case anyone was watching on the feed. He dressed all in black, took the eggs (which he had salted and peppered - nice touch!) on a plate downstairs to the front porch, and stealthily (and gently) slipped the eggs from the plate to the center of the top step. He then ran back upstairs and waited with us while we watched for the approach of unsuspecting neighbors.

And it was better than we could have hoped in terms of reactions. After coming upon the eggs, people went through a spectrum of emotions - surprise, amusement, confusion, disgust, and even fear. One woman, nearing the house with a small child in tow, spotted the eggs and instinctively thrust out her arm to hold the child back from approaching the eggs.

While we certainly enjoyed ourselves, I was a little disappointed our audience totaled just four people as this caliber of entertainment deserved a much larger audience.

If only we'd had a PR rep as good as ol' TV head's.

MAGAlomaniac

My friend's daughter who works as a barista at Starbucks told her Mom they recently received a mobile order under the name, "Impeach Trump Now!"

So when the order was ready, they (rather gleefully) announced that in the store.

If you need me, I'll be spending the rest of the day determining what types of coffee-cup protests I should do. And perhaps I'll get my friend, Beleth, to help.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

More Fun Than It Sounds

Over the weekend, my husband asked me to carry the sealant he had purchased during our trip to Home Depot so he could haul the heavier items to the car. Earlier that same day, he sent me photos of an outdoor space in our backyard he planned to power wash.

I know what I've described here makes married life sound like quite the slog. Which is why I was surprised at my friend's reaction when she texted and asked what I was doing and I replied, "holding Tim's caulk while scrolling through his deck pics".

Saturday, May 11, 2019

London...What (The Royal) We Learned

For spring break a few weeks ago, we traveled to London, a place I've now been thrice. I spent a semester there whilst in college, had a brief stopover on the way to Germany a couple of years after that, and now - spring break 2019! Cheerio!

And as I like to do with all big trips for the little Brutalism family, I document things we learn from traveling internationally, because what is travel if not a way to broaden your mind?

That said, here is London 2019, what we learned:

1. You will find yourself playing that fun game of "Don't remember because I'm old?" or "Don't remember because I was drunk the entire semester?" daily when exploring the city and visiting historic sites. (Note: there are no winners in this game.)

The student group from the college semester in London.

(About four years ago, I had to give up drinking permanently due to adverse
interactions with a medication. When I shared this fact with a close friend, he matter-of-factly
noted, "Well, you kinda front-loaded, so if you average it out, you'll consume a moderate
 amount of alcohol in your lifetime.")

2. You will be very excited when you happen upon this while strolling on the South Bank of the Thames your first afternoon in London:

Yes, that's Stephen Colbert about 10 feet from us.
Just conducting an interview - very low key. 
He swapped glasses with his interviewee because he thought
they were cool. 

3. While enjoying the Chihuly exhibit at Kew Gardens, and then taking a lunch break at the food trucks there, you'll hand your daughter cash to buy food and your husband will proclaim, "She needs a credit card is what she needs!" Later that same day, your daughter will declare, "I'll be mad. I'll be real mad!" and you will accuse them both of starring in a 1940s film noir because WHO THE HELL TALKS LIKE THAT? You will mock them incessantly and it will strike you so funny that you will then burst into laughter while brushing your teeth, when trying to fall asleep at night, and several times on the flight home.
She needs a non-ridiculous family is what she needs, doll...see?

4. You will learn that you've lost your fear of confrontation when you exchange words with a cranky British woman on your flight who reclined into your lap when you ask her to kindly not do that. ('Kindly' may be overstating it...but still...who DOES that? This is why we left and started our own country, lap-invader. By the way, nice job with Brexit.)

Delta Airlines released this bit of news the very next day. I'm certain the
two incidents were unrelated.

5. Your body will crave fruit and greens for weeks after a steady diet of steak pies, sausage rolls, bangers and mash, fish and chips, and beer. (Oh...and porridge...which I had to eat while declaring, "This is the best porridge, ever!",  "I love porridge!" "Anyone want some porridge?")


Assorted pub grub. And porridge.












6. You will learn how great it is to meet other people in the course of your travels, like lovely Shirley who sat at our table in the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields for a mid-week jazz concert. She lost her 'beloved' 18 months ago and the jazz concerts were something they did together. So now almost-80-year-old Shirley takes the tube quite a distance to attend the concerts and enjoy a glass of wine while utterly charming her table mates.

Jazz show in crypt = how to get me to church.

7. You will worry that your 13-year-old child might be disturbed by an evening Jack the Ripper walking tour in the East End of London. Instead, she will be fascinated by every bit of gory information and will devise her own theory of who the perp was based on the narrative provided. When you return home, she will ask you to read The Five aloud while she tries to fall asleep, and this will (terrifyingly) send her drifting off to dreamland.

Next up for bedtime reading: The Tell-Tale Heart

8. You will be happily exhausted after visiting the Tate Modern and British Museum, taking a coach to Stonehenge, doing a London bus tour at night, riding the London eye, seeing a show at the South Bank Underbelly festival, spending hours at the Tower of London, listening to the speakers in Hyde Park, and having tea in a tea room/vintage shop that used to be a horse stable in the heart of Camden Market. (There's nothing particularly amusing here - just using this bullet as a diary of what we did so I can refer to it later as I remember nothing because I'm old - see #1 above.)

9. You will realize how much better connected your child is than you are when she runs into three kids from her junior high on the streets of London. You know, just like we all did when we were 13...

We also visited Foamhenge at Cox Farms last year. We are big fans of henges. 

10.   You will be a little sad you missed the royal baby by a few weeks because seriously...how much fun would it have been to be in town when that happened and celebrate some happy news for a change?

And a pic of my husband to prove he was also there.
Cheers, London!
================================================================

For what we learned, Indonesia and Hong Kong, click here
For what we learned, Costa Rica, click here
For what we learned, Italy, click here
For what we learned, Iceland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, click here
For what we learned, Bahamas, click here
For what we learned, France and Morocco, remind me to get off my ass and finish the post I started last year.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Finance Schminance

Captain Spreadsheet has scheduled about a thousand appointments with our financial planners of late, as they have some kind of scenario tool where you can type in variables and it lets you know how soon you'll run out of money based on your input. I have not seen my husband this excited about anything possibly ever and every day he talks about new scenarios and variables and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. (I requested they run a scenario to indicate how soon I'll run out of patience based on the amount of meetings we have with our financial planners, but they politely declined that request.)

For the latest meeting, I dialed in rather than attending in person. During this appointment, I could not see a graph the financial planner was sharing, so my husband helpfully took a photo and sent it to me. To wit:

This appears to indicate there is a 92% chance we have $82 million dollars.
Or there's a 50% chance of a full moon. I may want to pay more attention to what they were discussing.
Or how to read graphs.

Because I wanted him to know I appreciated the gesture and was taking this seriously, I added some of my own notes and immediately sent it back to him:


I think there's a 92% chance I'll be attending the next meeting in person,
Brutalism

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Wholesome Family Fun

Recently while watching a scuba diver in a tank at the Virginia Marine Science Museum:

Speaker: "Okay, kids -- next, the scuba diver is going to show us his equipment."

Mr. Brutalism (quietly, to me): "I didn't realize it was that kind of show."

I'm a Simple Gal(lagher)

I wrote something recently and as always, ran it by my editor (Mr. Brutalism) for his assessment. 

He was fine with it except for the last line, which he felt was veering into the "cheap laugh" category by using profanity.

When I responded that I thought it was not too far over the line and effectively got the laugh, he replied, "What's next? Smashing watermelons?"

Peepsles are Back!

The Washington City Paper rocks! In the three years they've been running the Peeps Diorama contest (having taken it over from the Washington Post, a publication that has no appreciation for talent), I've placed three times - most recently, with the 2019 creation, 'Peepsles are Back!' featuring a clinic offering measles immunizations. The healthy, pink Peeps with their tiny Peeps band-aids covering their inoculation sites are leaving the clinic, while the sickly, pale pink, measles-infected anti-vaxxer Peeps are protesting.





The concept was 100% my daughter's - she was inspired the moment she saw new cotton-candy-flavored Peeps that were pale pink with blue speckles. And from there, complete monopolization of the kitchen table, micro management, and sleep deprivation began. 

As a bonus, we had to schlep the diorama into the District to the City Paper office - and while en route, I ran into a friend I have not seen in years:
When you deliver a Peeps diorama to the Washington City Paper
and randomly run into an old friend on the street who is now some kind
of big-deal lobbyist and realize just how much your paths have diverged...
Now, we wait and see where we placed. And if we don't - I know who to hire to lobby on my behalf next year.

UPDATE: We came in third! Even after forgetting to promote this on social media so our friends and family would feel obligated to vote for our diorama! Perhaps there is no need for a big-deal lobbyist, after all. 

Previous wins are listed below:

·        2018 – 6th place in the Washington City Paper contest with “Peeper Curry is Awed by Marshmallow Obama at the National Peeptrait Gallery”
·        2017 – 3rd place in the Washington City Paper contest with “Peep Haring as Photographed by Annie Peepovitz”

The Butt of the Joke

Because we live in close proximity to Washington, DC, we make an effort to go into the city every year to see the cherry blossoms when they're in bloom.

Taken by the kid after two donuts. 
Because we also live in close proximity to a 13-year-old, we need to come up with bribes to get her out of bed and into the city early to beat the inevitable cherry blossom crowds. This year, we went with Duck Donuts - delicious made-for-you-and-served-warm donuts to encourage her to get in the car at 6:45am.

Our plan worked, so after a quick donut stop, we headed into the District. And even though we've lived in this area for a million years, we completely forgot to check and see if any events might affect parking or access.

Although, to be fair, there is not usually much happening in this sleepy little burg.

As soon as we got close, we noticed many of the streets we wanted to drive down were blocked, and then we saw the hordes of runners because of course the annual Cherry Blossom 10-mile run was underway. After much searching, we finally found a parking spot about a mile away and trekked toward the tidal basin. As we got close, we realized there was no way we were getting to the tidal basin, unless we wanted to cross the runners' route and risk being stampeded by and creating obstacles for the runners. We did not - so we stood in place and cheered, screaming things like "Good job, unicorn pants" to a couple wearing pants with a unicorn print, and "I ate two donuts this morning and you're running 10 miles - you are so much better than me!" We had fun, although not as much fun as this guy:
Negative motivation is still motivation.
When there was a break in runners, we crossed and took our obligatory cherry blossom photos, then headed back to the car. During the drive home, I happened to glance at my daughter in the back seat who, at the moment I looked back, was opening the donut box and licking the donut icing that had dripped into the box, getting icing on her nose, chin, and hair in the process. I commented, "Well, those cotillion classes have certainly paid off...this is a delightful display, lid-licker..."

Because she's 13 and likes to correct every single thing I ever say, she snarkily retorted while rolling her eyes, "It's not the lid, Mom, it's the bottom of the box."

To which I snarkily retorted, "Fine, bottom-licker."

...and sometimes these posts just write themselves.

Other pics from our excursion with the bottom-licker: