Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Brutal Conversations

The dynamic at Brutalism HQ is that I tend to get a second wind around 10:00pm when the other members of my household are winding down from the day. This second wind often consists of me making up and singing a song in the most obnoxious voice I can muster or doing some sort of dance while brushing my teeth.

The other night, however, I deviated from the usual creative format to discuss an insight I had while perusing Next Door earlier in the day - that being if you are Jesse D. from Fox Mill's older child, you can simply print out the following ad and hand it, wordlessly, to your therapist. 

That was not all that bothered me about this situation. Call me germophobic, but I firmly believe that bedwetting alarms (and breast pumps, FWIW) should be one-owner-only devices. I queried my husband, "If you are buying a used bedwetting alarm, aren't you effectively paying for someone else's pee?"

At which point he regarded me with very tired eyes and mumbled, "I don't want to have this conversation."

Last night, I was energetically delivering a reggae-style song about my feet which received no response from him. Frustrated, I inquired, "Nothing? No reaction? I'm selling it here."

To which he aggravatedly replied, "I'm half asleep" - and then under his breath added, "I wish I was fully asleep."

Happily ever after,
Brutalism


Wednesday, March 09, 2022

It's A Sign

A charming little burg near us is going through quite a bit of redevelopment lately. Part of this development involves tearing down Vienna's only two-star hotel that in recent years has been - shall we say - narcotics adjacent. 

(I posted pics of the sign on Instagram with the comment about it being a two-star hotel and a neighbor commented, "Huh. Two stars seems generous." This may give you an idea of why this particular plot is being redeveloped.)

This is the Gen X of hotels. Partly because it was built in 1971,
and partly because it loves to make fun of what you spend on avocado toast.

We've been watching the demolition progress over the past week and my husband noted after walking by a couple of days ago that the only thing left standing amidst a pile of rubble was the original roadside sign. Which is when I became determined to own the sign sporting that glorious 70s font. And if this required multiple phone calls and a couple of trips to the demolition site in order to infuse my dull life with some much-needed shenanigans, preserve some Vienna history, then so be it!

Unsure of the process of acquiring a hotel sign, I began my sleuthing by emailing a friend who works for the Town where this hotel is located. She did not know, but learned that I should contact the building owner (based in NJ) directly. I called and the NJ office referred me to their Annapolis office and a woman named Lisa, who excitedly approved my request right away - and suggested that because all debris was being removed that day, my best bet was going directly to the demolition site to tell the demolition manager we had permission to remove it and taking the sign.

This led to a frantic call to my husband, letting him know he needed to come and get me so we could go get the sign NOW! (Adding to the fun is that I recently broke the wrist on my dominant hand and have not yet been cleared to drive and/or handle freeing/moving large hotel signs at demolition sites.) My doctor is uptight.

When we got to the site, Mr. Brutalism went to find the demo manager and I used the time to text my friend a recap of the morning's antics, which is when I noticed some other items available on the site, which I graciously offered her because I am a good friend:

Her response? "Yes, please! The more stains, the more memories!"

then followed up with this sentiment...


The demo manager would not give us permission to take the sign until his boss (who was not on site) approved it, which led to another phone call - this one to the office of the demo company. We were not able to reach the boss, so we left a message and returned home, dejected.

Early the next day, I called the demo company again, hoping the sign had not been razed - and again - my call went straight to voice mail. So, I called Lisa again and she offered to call the demo guy directly - while again giving us permission to just take it, as their company owns the building. I thanked her for graciously helping in our quest for the sign and again called my husband to come get me while I assembled a variety of tools we would possibly need for this operation. 

When we got to the site, I again remained in the car on a work call while Mr. Brutalism went to assess the situation - and moments later, he returned to the car with the following: 

Two signs! And only one has bird poop on it!

Of course, we are the only family in the entire DMV metro area that does not own an SUV, so there was a moment of panic when we realized these would not fit in the car. But because he's a planner and brought twine, Mr. Brutalism had these strapped to the roof of the car in no time.

Cool, right?

My hero.

I texted Lisa the photo of Tim with the sign, thanking her for all of her help  - and she wrote back, "Yay!!! So happy you got it!" because she is cool and a nonsense enabler.  

After all of that, I never really considered what we would do with these if we were successful in our acquisition. Thoughts? 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Not All Heroes Wear Capes

My daughter plays club volleyball in the high school off-season. This gives her a chance to keep her skills sharp, play with different people, and gain competitive tournament experience.

Part of the tournament experience is learning how to keep score and make calls, so during a tournament this past weekend, whenever her team had a 'bye', they functioned as line judges and kept score for other teams' games.

While the girls were scorekeeping, they were also supposed to push a button when someone made a great play so the company hired to record these events would know when in the game great plays occurred and be able to easily locate and edit them into the video highlight reel for the tournament. 

My daughter's friend, sensing that an all-great-plays reel may lack a little dimension, thusly decided to also press the button when girls got conked in the head with a ball, or collided, or fell on their butts on the court. 

And it is because of this generation I have hope for the future.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Peru

Team Brutalism just returned from a trip to Lima, Cusco, and the Amazon Rainforest in Peru. It was both our first time in South America and first time traveling with an organized tour. Planning for this trip happened very recently and was scheduled for the Christmas holidays, when both the Omicron variant of COVID was spiking and thousands of flights were being cancelled due to employees getting sick and quarantining. Pretty much everything needed to go exactly right for this trip to be successful and for us not to get infected and detained in Peru, and fortunately...it did!

Our route. We generally like to travel in a cat's eye formation.

(Boring, explain-y disclaimer: We are fully vaccinated and boosted. Additionally, we did at-home tests before we left to ensure we were not bringing COVID with us, even though this was not required for fully vaccinated people. We flew Copa Airlines, which required/enforced KN95 masks while onboard. And finally, Peru's COVID rate is much lower than ours in the US. All of these factors made us feel it was worth the risk to keep our plans and take this trip - something about which we made a final decision three days before we left.) Phew!

As with all of the trips we take, we learn a lot, which I'm thrilled to share with you in a handy bulleted list format.

Peru travel, what we learned:
  • When you are apprehensive about traveling in a group because you have never done so before and don't know what to expect, you will be delighted with the people who are part of your small group, including your amazing tour guide. We were three of just 10 people in our group, which was the right size and mix of well-traveled, interesting people who were also (most importantly) a lot of fun. We even had a bonus group member join us in the jungle and she was such a great addition to the group, we were sad when her trip came to end and she had to leave us. Best of all, there were four kids in the group and our daughter was thrilled to have other kiddos around. We are now all friends on social media and feel like we have such a bond and would love to see any of them again down the road.

(Bonus: the organized trip removed all the usual logistical stressors for us on this adventure trip. We were on the go constantly on every mode of transportation: buses, planes, boats, trains - and we just had to show up. Heaven.)

  • The Miraflores neighborhood of Lima is lovely - which I suppose is what you'd expect from a name that literally translates to "look at the flowers" - and the Barranco neighborhood is artsy and cool (which is a little more of a head-scratcher as Barranco literally translates to "cliff").  An interesting part of this neighborhood is an abandoned church whose roof is slowly being pecked apart by the vultures who sit atop the structure. It looked like something out of a Hitchcock movie. A movie that should possibly be titled, "Miravultures." 

Christmas decor at our hotel in Miraflores.
Vultures. Eating a roof. As they do.

  • Lima is a culinary destination for a reason - oh my god, the food! You will enjoy ceviche many times including one version you make during a cooking class. You will also have causas, alpaca, great coffee, great chocolate, pisco sours, and the black corn drink chicha morada which you have (randomly) tried before at the Peruvian-influenced restaurant in your neighborhood at home. 
  • Based on the what is being sold in market stalls everywhere, you learn that Peruvians have a penchant for both Panettone and yellow underpants. Panettone because of the Italian influence and yellow underpants because it is tradition to wear a pair of yellow underpants inside out underneath your clothes until midnight on New Year's Eve, which you then flip around when the clock strikes twelve. You understand that yellow represents luck and happiness, although you will question what kinds of NYE parties these are that require the removal of pants. You will then become determined to get yourself invited to one.

Luck and happiness, briefly (heh)

  • When you forgo a pre-dinner shower in the rainforest one evening, opting instead to sit on the porch at the lodge and sip a local starfruit IPA while others from your group wander by and join you one-by-one to have a beer and visit until your whole group is assembled and the kids get involved in a rousing game of Jenga and the soundtrack consists of Titi monkeys calling to each other in the trees above and the lodge staff brings out salty plantain chips fresh from the oven...you will realize you have achieved total contentment. Total stinky, sweaty contentment, but contentment nonetheless.

Trying 'noni' - a superfood fruit that
smells and tastes like blue cheese.
My daughter loved it.



  • You will see cabybaras, macaws, caimans, yellow porcupines, howler monkeys, Titi monkeys, tarantulas, bullet ants, snakes, bamboo rats, piranhas, and countless other creatures on your boat ride and evening hike through the jungle. This will fascinate you. What will terrify you is when you leave the dinner table to use the women's restroom at the lodge and when you turn around to lock the door, you see a gigantic, meaty gecko on the wall of the restroom. You will do some sort of jig out of the bathroom while screaming your head off which will cause all guides and children in the group to come running. 
Capybaras. We sadly did not get a photo of the 'gecko jig'
  • You will think you are in pretty decent physical condition until you are hiking straight up, at altitude, in a KN95 mask. 
  • While you will feel bad tourism has been so negatively affected in Peru due to COVID, you will also appreciate visiting Machu Picchu at half capacity and never feeling crowded or unsafe in other tourist areas.

Watching the clouds part and dramatically reveal Machu Picchu
was one of the cooler things we've ever experienced.

  • When your guide takes you to a scene-y restaurant/bar overlooking Cusco and you see the most amazing cocktails at the next table, you immediately order one without even asking what the ingredients are because that is totally secondary to your enjoyment:
When I finished the drink, Barbie raised her arms in victory.
She then did a downward dog. (And she apparently
got the memo about yellow underpants. 
Though hers appear to be constructed from cotton candy.)

Running around the block
with a suitcase.
  • When your tour guide graciously invites you to his family home on New Year's Eve - GO! New Year's Eve is a big holiday in Peru and you'll experience all the traditions, food, and family that are central to this celebration. This includes fireworks, running around the block with an empty suitcase to manifest travel in the coming year, brushing people with a wheat sheaf that has money attached to bring prosperity, and singing the Peruvian equivalent of "Auld Lang Syne" before eating 12 grapes for luck. It is amazing and generous and such a cool part of the trip that you'll be forever grateful. 
Andre's family 

Wheat sheaf and soles

More fam and yellow
accessories





And more photos from the trip:

Kids all bought matching chakana necklaces as mementos.

Little cutie. And a baby alpaca.

Maybe next time...

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For what we learned, Indonesia and Hong Kong, click here
For what we learned, Costa Rica, click here
For what we learned, Iceland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, click here
For what we learned, London, click here
For what we learned, Bahamas, click here
For what we learned, Italy, click here
For what we learned, Southern Spain, click here
For what we learned, France and Morocco, click here