Category Archives: DC

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

“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.

The Importance of Being Alix’s Friends: Traffic

Last week, I saw a general request from my friend KLang to guest blog for one of her blogging friends on the subject of traffic. I decided to take her up on the offer in a new feature called “The Importance of Being Alix’s Friends.” Wherein my friends randomly guest blog when I/they feel like it. This might, as I suspect will be the case with Prince of Petworth’s new “Looking for Love” segment, be the first and last addition to this series. Or maybe I will love it and harass my friends to write for me all the time. Only time and my fickle personality will tell!

But for now, I like KLang very much and she is a smart, funny lady, so please read what she has to say.


Traffic

I realized something the other day about traffic that I hope will be one of those breakthrough thoughts, like when you read an article (this most often happens to me when reading sociology articles and blogs) and you think to yourself, “now why did I never think about it that way before?” Hopefully this blog entry will be like that for you.

 
Now, traffic. I will clarify that I drove in/around DC for about a year before giving up my car entirely, and have now been living car-free for about a year (math! I have lived in the DC area two years). However today, while imagining one of my friends driving to their weekend beach destination on a Friday afternoon, I held an imaginary conversation in my head between my friend (let’s call her T) and her husband (let’s call him J). 
 
T: If we leave at 4, that’s too late. It will be rush hour by then.
J: Well I don’t want to leave at 6, it’ll start to get dark and it’s Friday, so traffic will still be kind of bad.
T: Katy said she tried to drive up 95 one afternoon as early as 2, and she hit the worst traffic (reader note: this is true. It took me 4.5 hours to get from DC to Philly, a 2.5 hour trip).
J: We could leave at 11 in the morning. Let’s just take the day off work and do that.
T: But we’ll hit lunch hour traffic.
J: Let’s just screw it, and leave at like 5 a.m. or something!
T: Silly J, that’s morning rush hour.
 
And from this hypothetical conversation in my head, I concluded that there was literally no good time for T and G to drive to the beach. However, in this country we still operate as if there are magical “non-trafficy” times. We all do this! Sometimes it works, such as when leaving your house at 8 gets you to work slightly more quickly than leaving at 8:30. However there are times, particularly Fridays, when there is NO good time to be driving. And in fact, sometimes it feels like no matter what the time of day it is, there are a million cars on the road! Case in point, a tweet from one of the college friends I follow on Twitter: “I have found the only time to drive when there is no traffic! 9:30pm on Tuesday nights. The only time,” and then her second tweet a few minutes later, “I take that back. #constructiontrafficfail.”
 
So why do we all have this illusion about traffic vs. non-traffic times, if even sacred highway driving times like 9:30 on Tuesdays can be ruined by traffic? It’s because of this (this is the hook right here of this whole post, so pay attention). Previous generations had more well-defined working hours (where do you think they got “9-5” from and by the way, why the heck doesn’t it apply anymore?!) and thus, more well-defined “rush” and “traffic” hours. Most likely, our parents and their parents got up to go to work, drove the family car to the office, and then clocked out at 5. Back in the day, rush hour must have been awful! Every single breadwinner dad (note: super generalizing here, and gender- and era-stereotyping but bear with me) was going to and from the factory or office building at the same time, morning and night. 
 
Today’s workforce doesn’t do that! We have teleworking, flexible work schedules, freelance jobs, and even metro incentives that encourage us to NOT go to work at regular hours (who wants to ride during peak of the peak and pay 50 cents more!? Me, actually – but that’s besides the point). Now, we are so flexible that people are allowed and encouraged to be on the roads at all hours of the day and night. You want to come in at 6 and leave at 2? Fine! You want to come in at 10am and leave at 7pm? Fine! You want to work from home full time and randomly shuttle your kids around and go to the bank at weird times like 11:17am and 1:45pm? Fine! But what the heck does that do to rush hour? It just makes it last ALL. DAY. 
 
The addition of flexibility into our transportation lives means that there is no longer a magic, secret, “gotcha I win!” time that no one else is on the road, because everyone else had the same idea as you – why don’t I take advantage of this flexibility and leave work a few hours early to beat traffic to the shore? Well guess what – half your office had this idea, so you try to one-up them by leaving even earlier, but then you’re hitting morning rush hour… see what I mean? With everyone so flexible, you really can’t win. 
 
Unless of course, you choose to drive to the shore at 3 in the morning — except oh wait, CONSTRUCTION.
 
Happy driving everyone!

Lessons from Tibet

Adorable Tibetan girl waits to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama speak on the Capitol Lawn

A week and a half ago, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama was giving a public peace talk on the Capitol lawn as part of his DC tour. New roommate CS and I went to see him, and I learned many important lessons as a result. But most of these are probably not the ones you are expecting:

Rebecca Black knows her shit. Ok, it was a Saturday, Saturday as opposed to a Friday, Friday, but do you know how much you accomplish when you get up at 7a.m.? A whole friggin’ lot. Look at my schedule for the day:

7:00 a.m Waking up in the morning, gotta be fresh gotta go downstairs
7:30 a.m. Tibetan dresses sure are more complicated than I remember…
8:00 a.m. Head to the capitol to see the Dalai Lama
8:30 a.m. Make new friend
11:20 a.m. Die of heat stroke
11:30 a.m. Visit Botanical Gardens!
12:15 p.m. Lunch at the Museum of the American Indian*
12:45 p.m. Peruse the National Galleries
1:30 p.m. Chillin’ in the Kogod Courtyard (National Portrait Gallery)
2:15 p.m. Library!
2:30 p.m. Call family
3:30 p.m. Reading!
4:00 p.m. Nap!
5:00 p.m. Clean kitchen/plan wedding/acquire tickets to Hanson concert
6:00 p.m. Make pasta from scratch!
8:00 p.m. Watch Michael Bay blow shit up for two hours
10:30 p.m Very scholarly conversation about what an asshat Michael Bay is and also how Transformers 3 is set in a completely fictional DC with tall buildings, narrow alleys and randomly old palatial apartments that do not exist anywhere within District boundaries.
11:45 p.m. More reading!
11:47 p.m. Fall asleep reading.

SO MUCH ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR ONE DAY. We hit up five Smithsonians in a two hour time period. I should get up at 7 every day! Normal Saturdays, I’m lucky to get clothes on. Heck, it’s a Monday right now and I’m still in my dressing gown.

*Most delicious museum food you’ll ever find. Seriously. I have never actually been to the museum part of that museum, but I have eaten there at least half a dozen times.

Randomly wearing another culture’s traditional dress is a totally appropriate idea. You may or may not know that I spent a summer interning at a Tibetan high school in India. This means that I happen to own several Chubas (traditional Tibetan dresses, sometimes spelled Chupa) that I once put one on for work every day, but now have little to no opportunity wear them. And here was an almost-plausible excuse to pull one out of the closet! So what if it’s a 10,000 degree July day, it takes me like 20 minutes to figure out where all the ties go and I feel totally self conscious being the random white girl dressed in cultural garb! It’s festive! At least, that’s what CS tried to convince me.

Rockin’ a chuba with my teaching mentor in India. Not sure why I look so sweaty. I blame the monsoon.

Turns out that it was a good idea, because if there’s any message that being a random white person in a Tibetan dress going to see the Dalai Lama sends to the world, it’s “Hey, that random white person is almost certainly headed to see the Dalai Lama! I bet I could ask her for directions.” Which is how I made a new Tibetan friend! Let’s call him Tenzin.**

Tenzin was visiting from New York, where he’s lived for the past 5 years. We chatted about the pros and cons of New York and DC, his job and of course, why the hell I was wearing a Tibetan dress. I explained my background with the Tibetan school and we talked a little bit about the Tibetan community in India. As we parted, he said I that I should try to go see some of the Buddhist teachings that were going on at the Verizon Center all week. He offered to ask around if anyone had extra tickets and let me know.

And then later that evening, I got a call! He’d gotten a handful of (really good) tickets for myself and some friends to go see the Dalai Lama’s teaching the next day! All because I’d run into him in the metro in a chuba. Well, and also because Tibetans are collectively the nicest people the world, who will go out of their way to help complete strangers, but you know, the dress too!

**Hilarious Tibetan joke!!!

When you update your phone software, all of your alarms will reset. I had been wondering for several days why my alarms had suddenly switched from Seabear “Arms” to the factory default noise, but it didn’t dawn on me until Sunday morning at 8:47, when I woke up exactly an hour and forty-seven minutes later than planned, that all of my alarm settings had reverted with my gingerbread update. Why 8:47? Well that was the time I received a text message from my new friend Tenzin, whom I was supposed to meet at 8:30 to pick up tickets. I then spent the next hour frantically running around the city, wearing yesterday’s clothes and breathing my morning breath on everyone I met. So in summary, always triple check your alarms, because your phone thinks it’s smarter than you and that you only want to wake up on time Mon-Fri. The saddest part is, I really should have learned this lesson a year ago when I almost missed a plane for the exact same reason.
Visors are cool. Somebody alert the Doctor. Fezzes are out, visors are in. Reason #782 Why I Love the Dalai Lama:

He even cracked some hat-related jokes.
Buddhism is hard, but not as hard as being the Dalai Lama’s interpreter. This guy is my new hero:

Superpowers are pretty cool in comic books, but some of us possess less cool but extremely useful superpowers in real life, too. For instance, I have a superhuman capacity to open stuck jars. Glamorous? Not in the least. I would have the worst superhero name on the planet (Jar Lady?). But my powers do come in quite handy. Just ask my roommates.
Anyway, Geshe Thupten Jinpa has been the Dalai Lama’s english interpreter since 1985, according to Wikipedia. But his interpretation skills extend far beyond the normal human level of ability. Sunday’s teaching focused on some pretty complex (at least to me) Buddhist concepts, which I had a difficult time following. As the lesson went on, His Holiness abandonned trying to express the more nunanced ideas in English and would carry on in Tibetan for upwards of 15 minutes at a time. A normal interpreter’s nightmare, but problem for Thupten Jinpa? Of course not! Easy Peasy! He would just spew it all back out in flawless English, some of which was so fancy that I couldn’t really understand it as a native speaker. Dude has serious skills.
The Dalai Lama is like Santa Claus. If you’ve ever seen him on TV/heard him talk, you’ll know that The Dalai Lama comes across as the world’s jolliest man. He tells all sorts of self-deprecating jokes and has an infectious chuckle. Plus, he likes to dress in red and wear funny hats! But he resembles everyone’s favorite portly gift-giver deeper ways, too. Not the flying around on Christmas and sliding down chimneys ways. The ways where he knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good so for the love of God stop playing with your damn cell phone while I’m talking to you.
I tried really hard to pay attention the whole time, but the teaching was three hours long and a lot of it was over my head/in Tibetan. So especially after my three friends had to sneak out early for a previously-scheduled event around hour two, I found myself losing focus. And then, as I was checking my email on my phone, I heard HH the Dalai Lama switch back into English and say,
“The modern world celebrates distractions.”
He might as well have finished that sentence, “so stop reading Prince of Petworth on your phone, Alix.” It was like he knew that I wasn’t paying attention. He went on for the next ten minutes to talk about how easily we are distracted by material goods, and how for some reason this is considered a good thing, etc etc. I felt shamed. Also, now I can’t help noticing every time someone checks their phone during a conversation/lecture/movie/concert/meeting/religious activity. Just stop. The Dalai Lama can see you.

Torchwood: Miracle Day

I am a big fan of the Doctor Who reboot, so unsurprisingly, I am also a big fan of Captain Jack Harkness. This means that I have seen every episode of the Jack-centric Who spinoff, Torchwood and have been eagerly awaiting its American detour, Torchwood: Miracle Day. So I was SUPER excited to get an email from E Street Theater last week informing me that they would be showing an advanced screening of the first episode tonight!! For free! Of course, the show officially starts on Friday, but why would I wait to watch it on my tiny laptop when I could instead see Captain Jack on a big screen TODAY? I wouldn’t, of course!

For those of you who don’t know Torchwood (which, I’m guessing is about 95% of my readership, considering my failed efforts to get someone to come with me), it’s basically CSI: Cardiff: Now With More Aliens + A Pet Pterodactyl and stars Captain Jack Harkness of Doctor Who fame. Captain Jack is an immortal, omni-sexual, time-traveling ex-conman who swishes around in a 1940s military jacket. Yeah, I realize I’m not really selling this, but the main thing you need to know is that Captain Jack is incredibly attractive, as is his smokin’ hot partner in alien crime-fighting/ass-kicking, Gwen Cooper. I would even go so far to say that Gwen has the upper hand on this one, because she comes with a sexy Welsh accent.

So back to the present with Torchwood: Miracle Day: Advanced Screening. I blew off all my friends and sauntered down to the theater in plenty of time to get in line for tickets. I got slightly distracted when I stumbled upon a Tibetan street festival of sorts, but I thought, “Hey, it’s on my way! I’ll just walk through and see what’s up!” Then I made the fatal mistake of stopping at the information table. All I wanted to know was who was putting on said festival so I could perhaps volunteer in the future, but as I was talking to the Nice Tibetan Man, I name-dropped the Tibetan school at which I used to teach. Well folks, name-dropping is a Karmic bitch, because no sooner had Nice Tibetan Man expressed his surprise and told me that it had been his school than this random white volunteer from Toronto accosted me about my experience, asking all these questions about how I got to work there, where the school was, their policies on Montessori education, etc, like we are best friends now just because we’re both white and like to eat momos. Then she started harassing me about what yoga studio she should visit while she’s in town. Um, wtf? I am not your personal DC Yoga tour guide. What I should have said was, “I’m really sorry, I’m in a hurry. In America, we have this crazy thing called Yelp. You should try it. Happy Canada Day.” But instead I was all polite and friendly and answered all of her bizarrely specific questions, like which metro stops she’d need for which yoga studios.

Because of the Non-Tibetan Who Can’t Use Google, I arrived at the theater 5 minutes after doors opened instead of 20 minutes before and the line was like 1000 people long. I had to wait behind this girl and her really annoying gay boyfriend*, and I just wanted to take her aside and say, “honey, your boyfriend is gay. I have terrible gaydar and even I can tell that. You should cut your losses and find someone new. Someone more heterosexual. Not all men are pansexual like Captain Jack. Some of them only like other men.” And then at exactly 6:12, seven minutes after I got there, it SOLD OUT.

*Edit: I realize this could be read wrong. Annoying Gay Boyfriend’s gayness and annoyingness are not correlated. He just happens to be both. 

I missed it and it’s all that stupid white woman’s fault. But now I find that I have an extra hour and a half of my day to fill that I hadn’t previously anticipated having. So let’s take that time to pretend that I did make it on time and am writing a review here on my blog.

Note: even though there are obviously not any spoilers for Torchwood: Miracle Day below, I do make references to characters from the Doctor Who series 1-4 and Torchwood 1-3, so if you are ever going to watch those and don’t want to infer what happens between Rose Tyler and the 10th Doctor, you should probably stop reading here.


Review of Torchwood: Miracle Day
Let’s start with trailer:

Now after seeing that, I thought it was pretty safe to assume that Torchwood: Miracle Day would focus on this story of everyone suddenly becoming un-killable, so I was shocked when they dispensed with that plot-line in the first five minutes. In fact, that trailer is the actual first two minutes of the episode. Pretty lazy if you ask me; I think they were just trying to show off their new Michael Bay budget by blowing a bunch of shit up.

To solve this “Miracle Day” business, Jack, Gwen, and Rhys are forced to open up the ol’ Cardiff rift for some reason or other, and in the process, the world implodes. Rhys sacrifices himself to save Gwen, and she, her baby and Jack tumble through the rift and end up in the parallel universe where the 10th Doctor and Rose have been playing house and running Torchwood for the past three years. I would say that if this episode had a weak spot, the first five minutes were a tad rushed and unconvincing. But it’s worth it to suspend your disbelief, because the rest of the episode focuses on how relationships have panned out in this alternate time stream.

We run into alternate Gwen and Rhys, who are happily married with three kids and oblivious to aliens, Gwen never having come across Torchwood. Happily Married Gwen and Rhys then go away and we never see them again, ever. Tosh and Owen are alive and kicking, though not quite happy–Tosh is still trying to help Owen get over the loss of his fiancée, but a possible romance is hinted at for later in the season. But most intriguing of all is the relationship brewing between Ianto, Jack and Gwen, as Jack tries comfort Gwen in her time of loss, but is over-joyed to see Ianto alive again. Gwen is finally understanding her deeper feelings for Jack through jealousy, as she also beings to see Rose as a rival, both in Torchwood and in Jack’s affections (albeit erroneously). Oh, and everyone wants to get into the Doctor’s pin-striped suit pants.

Switching the focus of this episode from shooting at aliens to the emotional ties between characters was a bold but welcome choice. John Barrowman does a masterful job showing Captain Jack’s inner turmoil, torn between his love for both Ianto and Gwen, and Eve Myles is amazing as usual in the role of Gwen Cooper. Can these crazy kids work out their polyamorous relationships? We’ll see how it pans out over this season.

Best Part: Tosh and Owen finally making a breakthrough in their relationship without one or both of them dying first.

Weirdest Part: Back on regular earth, Lauren Ambrose is time-locked in a bathroom with Seth Green. Strange choice.

Alix’s Rating: A++++


Aaaand I’m realizing I just wrote a Torchwood: Can’t Hardly Wait fanfic. You drove me to fanfiction, Random White Lady! White people suck.

Graffiato

Top Chef is kind of a big deal in my house. When KS still lived here (before he moved away and started REFUSING my invitations to hangout on google+), it alternated with The Office and Scrubs in the line-up of shows playing perpetually on our TV. So natch, when we heard twice-Cheftestant Mike Isabella was opening a new restaurant, Graffiato, in DC last week, we had to go.

Everyone has been talking about Graffiato. Besides being a Cheftestant, Mike Isabella already has a DC name for being former executive chef at Zatinya, a tasty Greek-ish restaurant that has brought me such delights as olive oil ice cream (best) and turkish coffee (worst). So when L made reservations for Graffiato, she couldn’t get a table for more than four. I was one of the lucky three to sign up first, so Wednesday night, K, KLang, L and I sauntered down to Chinatown to try it out. Still in their first week, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re still working out some kinks, because not all of my first impressions were positive:

  • There is a guy whose only job seems to be opening the door for people. As in, he just stands there looking happy to be opening the door all night for a bunch of reality TV fans. Besides being kind of degrading, I’m not sure this position is strictly necessary. The restaurant is just not that fancy. It’s got that upscale casual dining feel. Most of the staff were in jeans, and Mr. Doorman himself was wearing jeans and a black Graffiato t-shirt. I think they still need to figure out just how posh this restaurant is and adjust accordingly.
  • It was REALLY loud in there. Eventually, it died down and we could hear ourselves talk, but we also started dinner at 8:30. To their credit, the is bar downstairs and the eating upstairs, so that keeps the dinner noise down a little bit. More restaurants in DC should subscribe to this model.
  • Mike Isabella needs to work on his temperature control, because Graffiato is the coldest restaurant in the world. To make matters worse, the chairs are metal, so the second we sat down, all four of us exclaimed things like “OHMYGOD MY ASS IS SO COLD OHMYGODOHMYGOD.” Seriously, it felt like I was sitting on a chair that had just been pulled from the freezer. Mikey dear, this is summer in DC. We are city built on a swamp. It is hotter than hell here. We do not wear a lot of clothes in the summer. So while I do want to be welcomed into your restaurant by the cooling hum of modern technology, I do not want to get hypothermia of the ass from your metal chairs. Please turn the thermostat up a few notches.
Things looked up when we checked out the menus. It’s a pretty simple affair, which I love because I hate having too much choice in a menu. Maybe it’s all those years growing up vegetarian in South Carolina when all I could eat was a house salad, but too much menu choice gives me anxiety. The perfect menu has approximately three things I can eat, all of which are delicious and none of which are salad. Anywho, the drinks menu was more extensive than the food menu, but this was my favorite part:
If you’ve read anything about Graffiato, you probably know that they sell prosecco on draft (which, what?! How??! I’m confused and excited?!). But did you know that they ALSO sell champagne in a can? Bet no one mentioned that. I was torn, but of course I had to order the Champ Can, for several reasons:
  • I have been on the lookout Champ Cans in DC for a year, ever since I started reading Forever Young Adult. The writers proselytize for Champ Cans on an almost daily basis. Here was my chance at last!
  • Francis Ford Coppola makes decent wine, right?
  • KLang ordered the prosecco on tap, so I could at least try hers.
  • It comes with a straw. Oh right, and it’s champagne. In a can. How could I possibly turn that down?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to not sound like an idiot when ordering champagne in a can. “I would like the champagne in a can, please.” But it came and I was the happiest person in the world. Just look at this unbelievably awful picture K captured of me, mid-laughter with mirth:
But my happiness was short-lived. In a statement that will surprise exactly no one, turns out champagne in a can does not taste good. In fact, it tastes kind of like high-class André. Although the lovely ladies at FYA might be inclined to disagree with me:
The saddest part was that instead of getting the best of both worlds as I’d planned, KLang’s prosecco just served as a reminder of what decent alcohol tastes like. Oh well. Let’s go back to that picture for a second:
Two important things in this photo: 
  1. That rack of knives looks awfully dangerous hanging right above where people are sitting! (Clearer picture here)
  2. YES! That is Cheftestant Mike Isabella behind me!
Mike Isabella was doing the rounds, asking everyone how their food was, etc. We didn’t have any food yet on which to comment (although, if he’d been interested in our opinions on beverages, I might have asked why he was tempting idiots like myself with Champagne in a Can when it clearly does not taste good), so he might have passed us by entirely. But he stopped for a second at our table to say “Hi, Ladies,” before leaving again, possibly because L flashed him a terrifying smile and said “Helloooo” in the creepiest manner imaginable. It was enough to make anyone run away.
In due time, we ordered and received food. We started with breads and cheeses, both of which were tasty but not mind-blowingly delicious. Your standard cheese plate and breads. However, the cheese came with this bizarrely delicious garlic caramel sauce that should not have been good but was. 
Our entrées arrived strangely not at the same time (leftover habit from Zatinya, tapas place extraordinaire, perhaps). My hand-cut spaghetti came first and was fantastic. Simple, understated, and fantastic. Shortly after, K and KLang’s pizzas appeared, as did L’s gnocchi. L’s gnocchi/pork dish was supposedly very good, too, but as the rest of us are vegetarian, we’ll have to take her word for it. The pizzas were a different story. My personal pizza preference is flat and crispy (Rustik does an awesome job with this), but these were flat and almost doughy, with very puffy crusts. Some people would love this, but alas, I am not one of them. K ordered a Vermont but replaced the bacon with arugula. It mostly tasted like greens on salty bread, but I can’t fault Graffiato for that since it was K’s choice. We encouraged KLang to get a “Countryman,” consisting of black truffles, fontina, and duck egg. Intriguing, right? L loved it, but the rest of us were unconvinced. I think KLang was right in saying that it was not the duck egg that went awry, but the meeting of the truffles with the duck egg. Something was off in the flavor combination there.
Meanwhile, we waited for Mike Isabella to come back around to our table and ask how our food was. If he had any intention of returning, however, he was probably scared away by our maniacal laughter. KLang had been doing a spot-on impression of L declaring her love for the Countryman Pizza, and L was accusing us of driving Mike Isabella away with our lack of enthusiasm. We also had had several awkward run-ins with our waiter by this point, where he would sneak up behind us whenever we were saying/doing something not strictly restaurant-appropriate. He might have tipped off Mike to keep away.
Dessert arrived. We ordered raspberry gelato, nutella cookies and a chocolate tart with sea salt gelato. The raspberry gelato was delicious, though sorbet-like, the nutella cookies were ok, and the chocolate tart… oh, sad little chocolate tart. Like many things that night, the chocolate tart suffered from Weird Menu Syndrome. WMS is an affliction suffered by foods which you see on a fancy menu and think, “Wow, that is so weird sounding! But I bet it’s good, because why else would they put such a weird food on the menu? I must try it!” And then you try it, and unlike the olive oil ice cream at Zatinya or the garlic caramel sauce, it’s not good. It’s just weird. Such was the case for the chocolate tart with sea salt ice cream. I have had sea salt ice cream before, and it was awesome. This one was almost too salty and had a strange aftertaste. The tart was not quite sweet enough to be coupled with the salty ice cream, but also not bitter enough to eat on it’s own. On the whole, it was kind of “wah wah.” I don’t think we even finished it, while the raspberry gelato and nutella cookies were gone in a flash.
We sat around for a little longer, finishing our drinks and chatting. Eventually, we had to face facts. “Guys, I have bad news,” said L. “I think Mike Isabella went home.” She was probably right. It was already 10:30 or so. We paid and followed suit.
Overall, I’d give Graffiato a B. It had a nice atmosphere, and I’ll wager they change many of the things I disliked after it’s been open more than a week. The food was hit or miss, but the hits were really delicious. I’d definitely go back, but I’m not dying to return, either. If you go, take my advice: skip dessert, order the pasta, avoid the pizza and whatever you do, don’t get Champagne in a Can.

Things I Learned at the Ethiopian Festival

On Saturday, I helped out T & S by volunteering at the First Annual Ethiopian Festival in Downtown Silver Spring. Things were kind of nutso on the organization front–there were some difficulties in getting all the performers on in a timely fashion thanks to the Caribbean Festival in DC, some traffic accidents and the fact that we filled up all the parking garages pretty quickly. But overall I’d say the day was successful considering that a few people showed up. I’m sorry, did I say a few people? I meant a few thousand. Like 10,000 is the latest number I heard. In one city block. It was INSANITY. And once we did get the performers on stage, things were awesome. We had several musical groups and fashion shows, as well as the ever popular traditional dancers. But the most popular of the night was definitely this guy:

I guess he is super famous, because when he appeared in the middle of the biggest fashion show, the crowd collectively lost their shit. I thought maybe he was the Ethiopian Christian Siriano (seemed improbable that there would be one–one Christian Siriano is probably one too many Christian Sirianos), but it turns out he’s the most famous Ethiopian comedian. Apparently he was HIGH-larious, but I had no idea what was going on since I don’t speak Amharic. Which brings me to my next point: I’ve been looking for a new job lately, but I’ve been unsure about what kinds of jobs I’d actually want to do. Well, after my experience this weekend, I can definitely cross some off the list.

Some Jobs I Am Definitely Not Cut Out For:

Amharic Interpreter: No matter how much I might will myself to understand Amharic, I just cannot magically start speaking the language. I didn’t understand 90% of what was happening around me on Saturday. The only word I can consistently pick out is “ishi,” which means “yes” or “exactly,” kind of like the Ethiopian equivalent of the German “genau.” It’s a very useful phrase, unless you have no idea what you’re agreeing with.

Model Wrangler: You would think that getting a handful of models to show up and walk up and down would be no big deal. I mean, how hard could it be? Very friggin hard, as it turns out. Models suck. All the musicians and dancers just did their own thing, running up on stage, doing costume changes in a timely fashion, etc. But every time a fashion show was slated to start, it had to be a freaking production. Remind me never to work in the fashion industry, because it’s nightmarish. Similarly…

Fashion Photographer: Despite the models being gorgeous, most of my pictures came out looking liking this:

I possess the special ability to only capture runway models in their most awkward moments. This is partly due to the fact that it was getting dark and I needed a flash but mostly due to my lack of talent.

Bouncer/Security Guard: People cannot follow instructions to stay behind ropes, out of the model runway, off the stairs, etc. By process of diffusion, every time you clear a space, an equivalent number of bodies instantly fills it again. Since the actual security guards were pretty busy all day, this meant that myself and other volunteers had to spend a lot of time shooing people away from the stage. Except the whole thing was pretty futile. Children apparently don’t have to subscribe to any kind of spacial norms, and every time I was lecturing one person on why they couldn’t walk somewhere, three people went that way while my back was turned. I make a terrible security guard.

I’m sure I could think of more jobs from Saturday that I’m incapable of doing, but my unemployability is starting to depress me. So I’ll leave you with just one more: Traditional Ethiopian Dancer:

(Note–this video was from an event I worked on last year, but it’s the same group. MoCo residents will be entertained to see Councilmember Nancy Floreen dancing off the stage in the beginning of this video. Never gets old.)
Everyone loves some Eskista. Although, I have serious concerns for the safety of some of the dancers. Human heads are not designed to to move like that. Surely that is not sustainable.