Overheard in … everywhere

From an “Overheard in DC” blog:

A guy and a girl are standing in line to order coffee.

Girl: “So what do you do?”
Guy: “I work on the Hill.”
Girl: (pause) “Oh sorry, I didn’t mean what do you do for money. I meant what do you do to make the world better?”

I am a fan of this one in particular.  Because in Washington, DC, especially, and probably like many other places, but in DC especially people just wanna know what you “do”, or rather, want to let you know that they are super important because they work for the federal government.  So I love the girl’s response and actual interest in what someone else really does do.

We’ll write another blog in a month or two …

P

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See two posts down

I loved Meghan’s post below. You should really check it out. Not that I am trying to steal her thunder, but today brought about a similar experience of never judging a book by its cover.

Fortunately patience is something that has been instilled in me somehow or another over the years, and it has allowed for an appreciation of an otherwise unappreciated demographic in DC.  Maybe unappreciated is not the exact word … undervalued could be a more appropriate one.  This demographic is the ever-expanding Latin American population in the city.  Many people joke about Mexicans and manual labor.  Joke all you want, many came from really harsh circumstances for a better life, for them and their family.  And how many of you think you could cut it doing heavy physical labor a minimum of 10 hours a day, at least five days a week?  Thought so.  But they are not all “Mexicans” and they do not all do manual labor and they do not all just speak a few words of English, and any other negative connotations one may associate with this particular group.

Well … waiting in line at a Bank of America this afternoon there was a gentleman attending two customers.  Silently.  The gentleman a stereotypical example of a middle-aged Latin American.  Pass him on the street in casual attire and you wouldn’t give him more than a second’s thought at his “immigrant” appearance (aren’t we pretty much all just immigrants in this country anyway??).  This attendant gentleman was clean cut in a pin stripe suit sporting a name badge, like any respectable bank employee would be expected to be dressed.  However, he was silent, as were the two young men he was across from.  After a moment I realized that he was “speaking” with the two clients in a third language (I’ve seen him before and he definitely speaks Spanish as a native and educated English as the gentleman he is being referred to in this post).  This third language was sign language.  Maybe English maybe Spanish, I am not very versed in any type of SL.  At this point, I just started smiling.  Not because I was surprised that he was using sign language, or impressed that he knew something more than Spanish, or even that I may have stereotyped him from an initial physical appearance.  I think it was more just thinking of those around me, if they were even paying attention to what was going on, if they were cognizant of how able this individual was to communicate with others.  Of how people stereotype.  Of how people judge immediately.  Of how inconsiderate we are of one another.  I just smiled.  And when it was my turn, he smiled back, and spoke to me in perfect English.

Realmente, como Meghan, a nosotros nos gusta la gente de todo el mundo, da igual de donde viene una persona, de cualquier país … ni importa el idioma ni el color de la piel ni si tiene dinero o no.  El mundo es más rico con una mezcla así.

P

P.S. Read Meghan’s London cabbie thoughts!

“I am the laziest ambitious person I know.”

So opines Tom Kreider in his The “Busy” Trap contribution to the NY Times.  It’s something that I have become very aware of and do what I can to not feel pressure to always be doing something.  And to feeling that doing nothing is actually something, and many times a more beneficial something that another something I could be doing.  If you know what I mean.

I have had the fortune to have experienced an extended amount of time among another culture that does not take work so seriously as Americans, especially us Northeast corridor folk.  As a matter of fact, I am being forced not to work as a result of the somewhat destructive storms that rolled through the area Friday evening.  Lots of power outages, downed trees and power lines, lack of clean water, and, unfortunately, a few casualties as a result of those storms.  The storms actually having a name – derecho – associated with the culture that I was about to name: the Spanish.  An almost nationally mandatory midday siesta, enjoyment of one another’s company over a few beers and tapas or a coffee, walking most places, separate food stores for each items bread, meats, pastries, etc.  I know I know, they are in a financial crisis much worse than what we have seen over here, and you may be thinking that they asked for it with the lifestyle they lead.  But that’s for another day.  The Spanish generally do what they can to not get stressed out over having too much to do, because they know how to generally keep themselves in check, and are aware of when they need to slow things down, and take more time to go for an evening walk before dinner or meet with friends on a Sunday afternoon to savor the last few hours before Monday’s mid-morning before-work coffee with other friends.  And taking a look at South American culture, which, as you know, was and is greatly influenced by the Spanish, they’re pace of life is even slower.

And it’s Friday and the above was written a few days ago and so I figure I better get this out.  Hope all had a nice, safe holiday (my new neighborhood is a fan of launch-it-yourself fireworks so I spent a lot of time dodging them) and stay cool this weekend … 105F forecast for tomorrow here in DC!

P

Welcome to the neighborhood

The gentlemen of Meridian Park


Was walking down the street exploring the new neighborhood today. Part of it is packed with a bunch of small seafood shacks. Some with enticing offers such as “free shot of rum with an order of a dozen crabs!”. There was a chalkboard menu viewable from the doorway of one which I was taking a look at, no immediate intention of walking in. Lots of good soul food on the menu from ribs to catfish, including chitterlings, frogs’ legs, and pigs’ feet. And a decent selection of affordable sides. As I was about to step away de repente “BAM” Emeril-style in the form of a big bright smile greeted me at the door from within. She made me come in to grab a take-away menu. I asked her how one goes about eating pigs’ feet, saying that it was a favorite of my father’s, but that I had not been adventurous enough to try. She said she didn’t know. So she calls to the back where the grill was and this unshaven guy comes out, bandaged wrist, short brown cigarette hanging out of his mouth, saying he didn’t know either. Maybe just suck on the bones to get the juice or the meat out. (Now I am looking around to check out just how fresh their fish selection is, as they’re not giving me much confidence on their pigs’ feet seeing as how it seems they’ve never had them. Just taking it all in …) So they call one more guy out and ask him, and his response is a heavy two hands holding himself up on the counter and a blank gaze accompanied by a moment of silence. Finally a “just like any other meat … you wanna try ’em?” Another time maybe. But he goes on about how good the frogs’ legs are. And how are they prepared? Fried. Just like much of the menu offering. I suppose anything and everything tastes good fried. Says I could take some of them home with me too. I’ll save the $5 for another time when I have some adventurous company to share it all with. After an 0 for 2 on trying to get this white boy to try some soul food, he gives one last shot a “Ray’s Special” and his offering of buy a dozen crabs, get a dozen free. So does that mean that I get two shots with that?!

And I’m just gettin’ started. Wait’ll I tell ya about having half the neighborhood glaring at you at the post office outfitted with bullet-proof glass as you try and assist a suspiciously-lacking-in-identification El Salvadoran try and get his mail without speaking a lick of English …

P

P.S. I really am excited to explore more of the area as I get the chance. And I do like the people, regardless of the tone of the post :). The area has got culture and color and no lack of interesting occurrences.

Meridian Hill Park

In each city I’ve lived I have my outdoor happy place, that part of the city I can visit that is good for my soul. I have my favorite cafes, restaurants, etc. as well, but there’s nothing better than fresh air and sunshine (weather permitting) to increase the happiness levels. In Buenos Aires it’s Parque Tres de Febrero (the rose garden! the palm trees! the lake!) and in Brooklyn it’s Grand Army Plaza area, which includes the Brooklyn Museum, the beautiful main branch of Brooklyn Public Library, and an entrance to Prospect Park. In DC it’s Meridian Hill Park, and lucky me I got to go back there this weekend.

Meridian Hill Park is politely tucked away in NW DC, right where the neighborhoods of U St., Columbia Heights, Mt. Pleasant, and Adams Morgan meet. Although smack in the middle of some busy areas, it does a good job of being fairly isolated and is therefore a wonderful escape. Multilevels, waterfalls, ducks, statues, green space, shade, sunshine, and built in stone benches all make for a gorgeous space. On Sundays you’ll find a talented drum circle going on, and most days you’ll find people sunbathing, reading, running, picnicing, tightrope walking, doing yoga, and everything else you can enjoy in a pretty park. On my short weekend visits back to DC I usually don’t have time to do everything I’d like to, so it was a pleasure to stroll through the park on this visit. Do you have a favorite outdoor spot in your city?
All photos taken by P
M

Things That Made Me Smile Recently

A day at the beach

This photo and story of Obama

Booking a trip to Charleston, SC

Cake made out of cheese. Genius.

Eating empanadas

Walking Race for the Cure in support of breast cancer research

Spending time in DC with good friends and beautiful weather herehere, and here

These cute and funny fake tattoos

M

Café Couture

Potent and delicious Ethiopian coffee and a vegan chocolate chip cookie with a story

Sidamo is hands down one of my favorite cafés in all of DC. It’s an authentic Ethiopian experience on the revitalized H Street corridor in Washington. Authentic because of the wood used to make the decor and the coffee being freshly hand-roasted (you can smell it blocks away – it’s amazing), to the staff that welcome you upon each visit. Yirgacheffe and Harrar are personal favorites and must be tasted pure, without milk, cream, or sugar, or any other sweetener for that matter – there is enormous body and flavor to be appreciated in each tasting. So if you happen to be in DC it’s really worth your while to check it out and meet Kenfe and Mimi, the owners, one of which is bound to be smiling behind the counter, roasting coffee at the large glass windows facing the street, or mingling with the customers.

What I really wanted to write about is a recent Washington Post article regarding two independent roasters, also in DC, that have qualms with offering wifi at their recently established coffee shops. The mentioned “wifi parking” is discussed further in an interview with American University Radio personality Kojo Nnamdi if you have some extra time to tune in.

Oh, and last bit to jot down real quick, referring to the above photo and the “cookie with a story” caption. Sometimes it pays to speak your mind … politely. At Sidamo they have three large jars of indescribably irresistible cookies beckoning your reaching of a hand in to grab one right by where you pay and wait for coffee. A woman was very vocal regarding her desire to have one of those cookies, but expressed how she only really wanted half. Well, it so happens that if you are in the right place at the right time and you offer to help a sister out she’ll gladly share with you. Just remember to be a gentleman and take the smaller of the two halves when it’s offered up!

That’s all for today …

P