Earlier this week, my cousin and I took a brief road trip from her home in County Meath, Ireland up to the Derry to visit her sister. As always, I compiled a CD for the occasion.
It’s Lent again and that can only mean one thing: I have given up way too many things. Once again, I’ve become vegan, but I’ve also 86ed gluten while I’m at it. This time last year, I was subsisting on beer, brown rice and peanut butter, so things were not going well. By comparison, I’ve been doing great this time around! I’ve expanded my vegan repertoire to include quinoa pasta and a variety of Asian food, which means I actually eat sometimes. Things seem pretty good!
Last Tuesday, I came home to find a delivery confirmation notice in my mailbox. I was extra delighted because the return address was–well, it wasn’t technically anyone I know because your postal worker is apparently too lazy to copy down the return address properly, but it was what I can only assume was Former Housemate, KS. This! This was the package I had been waiting for! It was the happiest Tuesday of my life!
Now, I was given two options on this notice. First, I could take the form to a post office in Northeast DC and collect the package with proper identification. This was clearly impossible, because a) if I had time to dick around in NE during the day, I would have time to be at home to sign the package and b) since the package was addressed to “Losers at [REDACTED] St, NW, Washington DC, 20001,” it would be rather hard to bring appropriate identification. So I took Option B, which was to sign that the package could be left with no one home, and put the slip back in my mailbox.
Wednesday, I came home and checked the mail, and I have never been so disappointed to find a package with my penpal’s handwriting on it. Not that she doesn’t send great stuff, but I thought for a second that you had actually delivered KS’s package, the very day after I signed for it! Like a normal shipping company! But no, instead I found the confirmation slip crumpled at the bottom of my mailbox under all the other mail, because your mail carrier was too lazy to do his/her job and pick up outgoing mail! So I got some tape and stuck it to the mailbox, sure that it couldn’t be missed a second time.
Thursday evening came, and though the confirmation notice was gone, no package had arrived. “No matter,” I thought. “I bet they just don’t carry the packages with them until they receive the signed confirmation slip.”
But Friday, it was still not there. Nor Saturday nor Monday. And then today I got home, and still no package.
Fuck you, USPS.
And don’t try to blame local miscreants, stealing stuff off the front porch. Because I do a lot of online shopping. I haven’t set foot in an actual clothing store since October. And that shit gets delivered and not stolen all the time. And sometimes my penpal gets her family members to creepily leave things on my front porch, and THAT doesn’t get stolen either. I’m pretty sure you’re the weak variable here.
Look, USPS. You have screwed me over a lot since I moved to this city. My housemates and I have had a lot of key pieces of mail go missing–thank you notes, my health insurance information, credit cards that were somehow activated and used despite never having arrived–and other things arrive three months after they were sent. THREE MONTHS. DOMESTICALLY. I could get things to Siberia, on foot, faster than that! And despite complaining about our mail carrier multiple times, nothing has ever been done about it. I have pretty low expectations for you, USPS. But never has something of such great import gone missing before.
Because USPS, I’m pretty sure that package contained my one true love: pineapple cakes.
Pineapple cakes are possibly Taiwan’s greatest contribution to the world. (And Taiwan makes some pretty cool shit!) I was deprived of the glory of pineapple cakes for many years, because according to KLin, “They are too delicious to share.” Seriously, girl brought eighty back in her suitcase this year. Eighty. But when I met her for lunch last week, she conveniently “forgot” to bring any with her. Luckily, KS is not so greedy as her and started bringing them back for us whenever he went home for the holidays. And then we finally understood KLin’s hoarding, because they are AMAZING.
|A box of pineapple cakes that K acquired by harassing A Taiwanese Person at her office|
I was a little concerned that my supply would dry up when KS moved to LA last summer, so I started dropping subtle hints prior to his return to Taiwan. That is, for a month, I texted him things like “DON’T FORGET MY PCAKES” and “REMEMBER ALL THOSE CARE PACKAGES I SENT YOU?”
And now it is all for naught, because some assclown postal worker is chowing down on my PCakes somewhere, even though he or she almost certainly doesn’t appreciate how delicious they are. If my package were here, you could currently be reading a post announcing my impending marriage to Pineapple Cakes, including some elaborately photoshopped engagement pictures featuring my beloved. Instead:
YOU EVEN MADE KLIN SAD, AND SHE HAS EIGHTY PCAKES STASHED IN HER APARTMENT IN MANHATTAN RIGHT NOW.
This is the last straw, USPS. I can’t even complain properly because you took back the only documentation I had that my package existed. I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TA–oh wait, yes I am, because you are a state-sponsored monopoly, even though you are the very worst!
|Unnecessarily fancy hallway
at the LoC
Hello friends! Have you missed my witty jokes and poignant writing over the past two months, when I seemingly fell off the face of the virtual earth? Of course you have! I promise I’ll be better now. As I mentioned before, I started a new job, and my commute got cut in half so now I am living under the (false) impression that I can go out socializing every night after work it’s difficult to adjust to a new schedule and workload! But I am too poor to continue this pattern finally beginning to become acclimated, so I should be back to my writing in no time!
Coincidentally, my dear friend Bright Contradiction also just started working at my new place of employment. Now we spend 8 hours a day together being thoroughly confused about our jobs, attempting to translate things in to French (mauvaise idée), and delighting over the triumph of opening two separate excel files in adjacent monitors (harder than than you think). We see each other allllll the time. So as I was preparing for Friday night via email yesterday, I was surprised to hear K say she already had plans with BC and BC’s boyfriend.
Me: What are you doing tonight with K?
BC: We’re going to this Russian thing. Want to come?
Me: Oh, I wasn’t angling for an invitation. I just kind of expect to know every detail of your life now, and was really surprised that you were hanging out with my roommate and I didn’t know about it.
BC: I know the feeling.
So I went on about my day, until lunch when BC mentioned the magical words “open bar.” And then I quickly decided that yes, I would like to angle for an invitation after all.
Following work, we hopped on the metro and met up with BCBF at the Library of Congress, which should have been my first indicator that I was not fancy enough for this affair. Actually, my first indicator should have been that the event was invitation only and I was to be spending the evening as Emma Templeton, a friend of BCBF’s who couldn’t make it. Then my next indicator should have been that it was held at the Library of Congress, and finally the collection of uniformed valet attendants waiting at the entrance should have been my last warning that I should turn around and go home. But I blazed ahead and picked my name badge at registration.
|Totally my fake name from now on. It’s a great name.|
Let me paint a picture for you. Yesterday was Friday. Casual Friday. I was wearing ballet flats and slightly-too-big jeans that spent the evening in a perpetual state of falling down, since I recently lost my only functional belt in the squalid pile of unwashed laundry covering my bedroom floor. On top, I had a lightly stained short-sleeved cardigan paired with a pink silk shirt featuring an assortment of holes. My hair was pulled into a messy french braid after not having washed it since Wednesday, when I got caught in a torrential downpour.
Everyone else… was wearing cocktail dresses and suits. Or in a couple instances, full on evening gowns and tuxedos. Even BC looked slightly underdressed, and she was sporting actual business wear as the invitation requested. I was literally the least appropriately attired person there. For someone that normally overdresses* for everything, this was extra embarrassing. K took the opportunity to make jokes at my expense, sneaking up behind me and saying things like, “Ma’am? The Library of Congress closed several hours ago for a private event. I can show you to the exit now.”
*No really. Earlier this month I ruined my favorite cocktail dress running to the train after a US Open match, where I’d worn it on the off chance that we might go out somewhere afterwards requiring a cocktail dress.
No matter. After clamping my new identity to my wrinkled shirt (Emma is so lazy with her clothes!), we went upstairs to some sort of gorgeous, columned atrium filled with fancy food and beverages. We loading up our plates and headed to the bar, which only served top-shelf booze. As I started in on my first glass of (really good) champagne, BC snagged a table for us.
Sometimes, you go to a really cool event, and you think “wow, this is awesome and classy!” and you have a fabulous night that you remember fondly for ages to come. And then sometimes, there is a turning point, from which everything happening subsequently is increasingly preposterous. And that night becomes not just a fond memory, but an epic story that you feel the need to share with everyone you know. Yesterday, that turning point came in the form of a septuagenerian Republican National Committee employee who decided to join us at our table.
RNC was… a character. Every conversation he started was carefully crafted to be as controversy-provoking as possible. “So how do you feel about Putin replacing Medvedev?” “You are all very clean cut. I like that. What do you think about TATTOOS?” All the while, he kept staring at me with a level of intensity that did not make me strictly comfortable. BCBF said it best. “Every cocktail party needs a creepy old dude. And he found us!”
Finally, K arrived (someone had gotten the memo to go home and change first) and BC and I made our escape to refill our champagne glasses. The rest of dinner progressed in the same fashion, with BC, BCBF, K and I constantly rotating out for more food and champagne at any opportunity of freedom.
RNC: I HATE tattoos! I think they are awful! The only exception is that I read about some military men who got the names of their fallen company members tattooed on their arm. I think that sounds real sweet.
RNC (to K): Your eyes are so nice! I want to steal them.
RNC: Are you Jewish, Emma?
Me: Uh… no?
RNC: Isn’t Templeton a Jewish name?
RNC: I’ve never met so many liberals in my life!
RNC: Where are you from, Emma?
Me: South Carolina.
RNC: Oh really? That’s nice. You know, it’s amazing that the confederates did as well as they did during the Civil War. They were really at a disadvantage, but they did well anyway. A lot more confederate women came out to be nurses for their soldiers than in the North, which is real nice.
RNC: You seem really good, Emma. But I guess I’m inclined to think that anyone who looks good is good.
By the end of the hour, we’d made our way through 3-5 glasses of champagne each and BCBF had engaged in a confusing conversation with RNC about contraltos and Amy Winehouse.
Luckily, it was time for a film screening. We processed downstairs to a fancy hallway lined with snack tables and men who looked like bellhops from 1925 (even the bellhops were better dressed than me!). The tables were filled with popcorn, movie snacks like Raisnettes and Junior Mints, and little bags of chocolates. We filed into a fancy theater and listened to Important People talk, such as the Librarian of Congress James H. Billington (want that job title!) and the Russian Ambassador to the US. We made our way through the movie snacks, including some truly bad Russian chocolate bars (“blueberry cream souffée”). The movie started and it was pretty great, excepting a couple of egregious and disturbing instances of blackface.
Afterwards, the Important People invited us back upstairs where would find dessert, two jazz concerts, access to the reading room, and a “surprise.”
My money was on the surprise being a vodka fountain. It wasn’t.
|Lost opportunity: combination Vodka Fountain Ice Luge Kremlin.|
Yeah, that’s a FUCKING ICE KREMLIN. Sorry for the language, but a GIANT ICE SCULPTURE OF THE KREMLIN IN THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS deserves some expletives. When you walk into a room and the first thing everyone notices is not the fully-staffed ice cream bar or the tables full of pastries, you know it’s got to be something amazing you’re witnessing instead.
After getting over the shock of the Ice Kremlin, we tried to eat everything in sight. Unfortunately, after gorging on terrible Russian chocolates and popcorn, none of us had much stomach real estate left. We had to move on to the reading room. Prior to this point, we hadn’t taken any pictures because it was the kind of event where you only take pictures if you are a member of the press toting a very expensive camera. But the Ice Kremlin was kind of a game changer, and suddenly everyone at the reception had their phones out.
|Posing like the statues up high. Appropriate use of the LoC Reading Room.|
Finally, we made our way to another fancy hallway, entered another fancy room, and listened to some very nice jazz music. I was pleased to spot another party-goer wearing jeans and chucks, but even he had on a blazer.
Oh well. If I had been appropriately dressed, I think my head might have exploded from awesome overload.
|“Soooo, we’re doing this every Friday night now, right?”|
|“Hold me, L!”|
August was complete insanity. In the past week and a half alone, I’ve interviewed for, been offered and started a new job, put in notice at my old job, experienced my first earthquake, made poor life choices during a “hurricane,” had EG move in, CS move back to California, and most dramatically, L move out. Let’s just pause on that last point for a moment. I lived with L for six years. SIX YEARS. If our friendship were a child, we’d be starting first grade this week. From college orientation till now, we were never more than a hop, skip and a jump away from each other. We even accidentally studied abroad together! She now lives just 15 minutes away, but it feels like a chasm of infinite depth. I don’t quite know what to do myself. Last night when she was picking up some laundry at our house, I was all “Hold me, L! I’m lost without you!” Needy? Perhaps. but SIX YEARS. I just had a major sad scrolling through our entire friendship on Facebook to find this picture:
|Who will I pose awkwardly with atop ruined castles now?!|
But enough of my moping! If you’re clever with math, you will have noticed that
House – L – CS + EG = still one bedroom empty.
Time to find a new roommate! We used Craigslist to this end once before, but KS led the charge and he 1) put this weird, superfluous clause in the ad about K and I being vegetarians and 2) as far as we can tell, mostly chose to interview hot-sounding girls. But we got CS and it worked out great, until she RUDELY decided to move back to California.
So take two: K wrote up a nice little ad, this time without any strange comments about our eating habits. Now, if we were responsible adults, we would have posted the ad more than a week before we needed a new tenant. But of course we didn’t do that! Luckily, housing in DC is such a complete clusterf**k that we took the post down after receiving 100 responses in less than 24 hours. People of DC: if you are ever feeling sad about yourself, post an ad for your room on Craigslist. Housing here is so impossible to find that you will instantly feel like the most popular person in the universe.
Sorting through those hundred responses was a bitch. We came up with a semi-arbitrary ranking system (how old are you? do you currently have a job? do you sound like a crazy person over email? are you employed in such a fashion as to get me free drinks?). K sent emails to a dozen or so of the chosen ones, inviting them to come over to see the house and endure a grueling interview process. Unfortunately for our prospectives, I’m only semi-joking about the grueling bit, as we scheduled all of the house showings for Saturday afternoon just as “Hurricane” Irene was getting started. When showing your house on Craigslist, it’s best to add an element of danger to weed out the weak ones.
Sadly, I wish this was the point in the post where I would regale you with hilarious anecdotes about how terrible people from Craiglist are. But almost everyone was super awesome and nice and normal. There was only one potential serial killer in the mix, and even he wasn’t that bad–just a touch of the crazy eye and a love affair with banana bread. So as person after person showed up on our doorstep increasingly drenched, K, EG and I felt worse and worse knowing we had to turn all these people down. Many were soon to be homeless, and we briefly toyed with the idea of setting up a collection of lean-tos on our back porch so they could all move in (well, maybe not Banana Bread).
Here’s a Craigslist tip for you: don’t interview the foreigners because you’ll be wracked with guilt when you don’t pick them. We had two Germans, one of whom might actually be Simon from Misfits (though hopefully less likely to accidentally murder someone). When asked about who he knows in the city, he enumerated all of his friends who recently moved away (basically: everyone he knows here). I kind of wanted to adopt him. Worse still was his female counterpart, a bubbly woman who is currently living in a hostel in Dupont and had recently seen someone stabbed in Petworth. I felt like a terrible ambassador to this country for not inviting her to live with us.
In the end, though, there can only be one winner. Because that’s exactly what housing in DC is: a competition. Finding somewhere decent to live here has roughly the same odds as winning the lottery. Because we’ve all been through that agonizing process ourselves, it was that much harder to turn everyone down. We struggled between two front-runners for three days but finally made our decision.
K: Ok. I’m going to email New Roommate and invite him to live with us. What should I say?
EG: ….COME ON DOWN!!!!
Saddest part is, you’d probably be more likely to hear Bob Barker calling your name from his cozy retirement than to find an apartment in DC.