Friday, August 23, 2013
There were some bad ones, like the one in Middletown where Owen asked for Portishead in 1996 and they had no idea what he was talking about. There were some solid corporate options, like the Tower Records at the ass-end of Newbury Street where I wasted half the late 90s listening to demo CDs on headphones I now remember as comically big.
There was my three weeks in DC in 1992, and there was Smash.
I had a small amount of spending money from my parents and from my previous summer as a counselor at nerd camp and I think I spent it all on $3.05 Big Mac value meals (don't judge) and cassettes at this little indie music store that made me feel twelve times cooler than usual just for walking in the door.
From the website:
"SMASH! Records opened in Georgetown in 1984 and has been the premier punk and alternative music and clothing store in Washington, D.C. Smash! specializes in punk, indie and alternative rock and roll CD’s, LP’s and 7″s as well as Vintage and Indie Designer fashions.
"In the summer of 2006 we closed our longstanding location in Georgetown, and have since relocated to Adams Morgan. Visit us at 2314 18th St NW (1st Floor), Washington, D.C. We’re on the Facebook and the Etsy, and we have the Twitters!"
Turns out there's also beer in Adams Morgan these days. And there were long stretches of time this March where, despite knowing actually TOO many people at the Craft Brewers Conference (and can they please all stop asking me questions I can't answer about that place I used to work?) I had a lot of missed connections, crossed texts, and solo headspace. I had ample time to browse the used CD bins at Smash. I had no one to be confused by how happy I was to see this neon sign again after almost 22 years.
It's smaller now -- no surprise. It was empty -- sadly, no surprise either. The young lad behind the counter looked bored to death. I still felt twelve times cooler just for walking in the door.
It was great to be back inside (sort of...new location) and also sad. The internet giveth but the internet taketh away. I bought a Pulp CD for $3 then waited in a long line at the overly-lit Ben's Chili Bowl and got a hot dog. Things no DC tourist does and things every DC tourist does.
The final tourist stop of my introspective night was Busboys and Poets, a bookstore/cafe/bar that's in all the guidebooks. (Remember bookstores? Oh fuck, Jen, get over it...) I told the bartender I was in town for the beer conference and to please make me something not-too-sweet with liquor in it because I was sick of beer. He gave me what I gather is his go-to whiskey cocktail for idiots like me. I realize I am the booze equivalent of the people who come into specialty beer bars and say shit like "I want an IPA, but nothing too hoppy." Didn't care at that moment.
I bought a Trashball from the vending machine. It had a used Czech postage stamp in it.
Sipping my very tasty cocktail-for-dummies and zoning out on the mural behind the bar, I was having another "this is what life might be if I was single and living in DC" moment. Because I would assuredly be single today if I'd gone directly from Jersey to DC without passing Go, and drinking whiskey in a bookstore on a Wednesday might have been just about typical. Just then the middle-aged black guy next to me tried to buy me a drink after he got done buying a drink for the Brazilian volleyball player -- no surprise you struck out there, dude -- but I was one-and-done which is always the most polite excuse anyway.
It was time to head back to the hostel and it was a nice, quiet walk with my nice, quiet one-whiskey mini-buzz. Everywhere I walked that night took me through neighborhoods you weren't supposed to walk through back in the day, and maybe still aren't. I kept alert and it seemed fine. DC, I'm sure you've still got your sketchy bits but you are one gentrified motherfucker. Thank you for still having a punk rock record store and a bookstore with a bar in it.
Saturday, August 03, 2013
A friend of mine who I hung out with in LA moved to DC for a while after grad school. As I discussed in the previous post, I had a lot of warm fuzzies for DC because it afforded me rare opportunities to hang out away from home and unsupervised. She...she didn't like the place. I'm sure someone reading this lives in and loves DC so I'll spare you her exact vitriol.
This chalkboard in a coffeeshop, however, was my first inkling that I really need not regret leaving the district behind for my eventual weirdo lives in Europe and California and even Boston.
"If you can go shopping, where would you go?" Hermes! Aruba! Louis V! Mall of America! There seems to be not a trace of irony here (except in the person who wrote "Wal-Mart.") And yes, DC does seem to be the sort of town that shops. And gets its hair done. And shops some more.
Not gonna judge a place by one chalkboard in one coffeeshop, but call it Exhibit A in support of my friend who thought DC was...well...worse than LA. One man's trash, etc.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Back in March, before I started two new jobs and even further withdrew from the huge chunk of my Bay Area social life that used to revolve around one bar, I went on a trip to the East Coast. The point was to attend the Craft Brewers Conference, which was in DC this year. I figured if I was going all the way out there I might as well see my parents in Jersey too. I flew into New York first and got to spend time with an old friend I don't see often and her wife who I only met at their wedding. I walked around Park Slope and ate a legit Brooklyn pizza and had a couple of local beers and all was well in the universe.
DC is an interesting place I don't really understand. It was a big field trip destination for Jersey kids like me so it, like New York, came to represent all the untapped potential of Fancy City Grownup Life. Looking back it's weird that a bunch of 15-year-olds were left unsupervised hundreds of miles from home on a class trip in a strange city with the agreement that we'd all meet back at the bus later. It was a different time? (Am I that old?)
We went for the day with our 10th grade history class -- a Hara Krishna tried to turn me vegetarian outside the Air and Space museum. In 2013, I went to a giant beer industry party in the Air and Space museum. Huh.
We went for a week with our 12th grade government class -- my trio of gal-pals engaged in low-grade rebellion like browsing in a sex store, eating raw fish (ew!) and buying (and mostly not smoking) cigars. In 2013, I went back to the site of our then-exotic food explorations (Greek food!) which, as it turns out, was Union Station. I can barely remember a version of me that was excited by any food you could get in a train station.
In the spring of '92, I went to the giant pro-choice march on Washington. I was totally that kid with the t-shirts that said things like "A Woman's Place Is In The House...and Senate!" I was very earnest. I was also starved for life experience and desperate to get out of my hometown. Any day somewhere else was more thrilling than it should have been. With apologies to my four high school friends also in the picture (who am I kidding, they're not reading) ...dig this shit:
Jean jackets and/or feminist t-shirts for everyone!
In 2013, the Mall was empty, as it is on a normal day.
Reproductive rights are still somehow an issue. But a couple of miles away, the Supreme Court was in its first week of hearing arguments about DOMA, and later did the right thing, so there's that.
I spent most of July 1992 in DC at a summer journalism program at American University. Back then, I was going to be a journalist. That was before it fully sunk in that journalism meant doing things like asking people awkward questions and talking on the phone to strangers. The most valuable part of that trip was meeting kids from elsewhere. High school was pretty much torture for me, and it was nice to enter my fourth year of it with the knowledge that once I left town people liked me. My BFF for the month was a punk girl from Massachusetts, and my white-bread Morrisssey-loving alternateen ass was the closest thing she had to a punk friend in DC, so we spent a lot of time together hanging out at this one cool record store. This is a picture she took of me. Remember when sharing photos with friends involved having the photo lab make you a double and handing it to your friend? This one even came in the mail.
I guess I was pretty excited about my new Ministry cassette. Isn't that the most early-90s thing you've ever seen? Holy shit I am wearing striped tights and jorts. I SAID IT WAS A DIFFERENT TIME OKAY? Babies born the month this photo was taken can legally drink now.
There's an alternate universe where I went to American for college, majored in journalism, settled in the DC suburbs, and never left. Instead my parents pushed me towards a more prestigious college, which was both good and bad, where I triple-majored in "English," over-self-analysis, and wasting time on the nascent Internet. I'm glad I didn't go to American. I'm glad I never became a journalist in the classic Lois Lane sense of the word. I have very mixed feelings about my college years, but without them I wouldn't be where I am now so that's fine. I'm glad I spent a few days alone in DC as an adult so I could solidify all this gladness. Sometimes things work out for the best.
Coming soon: I return to that one cool record store, and to the warehouse club with the scary bathroom and the goats.
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
Daft Punk: We're up all night to the sun
We're up all night to get some
We're up all night for good fun
We're up all night to get lucky.
Me: Man, I'm up all night for ALL the wrong reasons these days.
Coworker: We're up all night to make money!
Yeah, pretty much.
Tuesday, July 02, 2013
I used to think you couldn't survive in LA without a car. You can. I've met plenty of people who do. [...] 500,000 people -- the entire population of Boston is 589,141, while we're on the subject -- rely on LA buses. Some are students, but many are the working poor. And a lot of them are going to have a lot of trouble getting to work until this thing is over. I'm sympathetic to unions: they're one of the few pro-worker institutions in this ridiculously corporate land of ours. However, one of the reasons we need unions is to keep the richer from screwing the poorer. With the bus strike, the union members are the richer, compared to the poorer transit riders they're screwing. No one's winning here except the SUV drivers charging $10 a ride to people whose median income is $12,000 a year.It's not as bad in the Bay Area, because the local buses are running. My original sentiment -- the lifeblood of the working poor shouldn't go on strike -- stands.
[...]the fight is over health insurance, and that shouldn't be a luxury. Then again, the people stranded at bus stops this morning probably don't have health insurance, either.