Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Estate Sale Saturday

Right, so last Saturday I went to (did not have) an estate sale. Last time I went to an estate sale, I came away with two lovely wooden end tables. This estate sale was also fruitful, but in a slightly different way. I picked up two LPs, two board games, and a table lamp for a total of $6.75.

The records:

One random Bruce, and one I picked up solely because the title's similarity to the Bon Iver's "For Emma, Forever Ago" amused me.

The games:

Family Ties! But beware:


That one is from 1977.

Finally, this sweet lamp:

A lion playing the upright bass? Nice. I didn't know if it worked when I bought it, but it does. It even has a night light. All he needs is a shade.

Saturday night I went with Sam and Sooz to AV-aerie to see Mike Jorgensen do a solo Pronto set - and see a variety of other bands. The estate sale was admittedly a hard act to follow, but it was a fun evening. I also heard a few tales from a drummer freshly returned from the Southern hemisphere. Damn. Did not help the jealousy. We're coming up on a year since my big Australia/New Zealand trip, and I so wish I could do it again.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


More on my estate sale Saturday soon, but I wanted to relate a quick Sunday Lunch anecdote. My five-year-old nephew - the one obsessed with presidents, planets, and states - has a new obsession. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Depp version). He watches the DVD all the time, has memorized the special features including the biography of the man who plays the Oompah Loompas, and has even perfected the Oompah Loompa dance.

His babysitter has been telling her friends that he'll be president one day. Upon catching wind of this, my nephew immediately grasped the historical implications. "Mom," he asked my sister seriously, "Do you know what this means? It means that an Oompah Loompa will finally be president."


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Giant of Illinois

My official inaugural festivities began on Monday afternoon, when I donned a ridiculous two-piece formal dress ($4.40 from Value Village) and proceeded to hang around Dupont Circle's bookstores, coffee houses, and bars all afternoon with Allison, Oliver, and Paul. The second-hand formal attire was warranted by the Big Shoulders Ball. After a nice dinner, Maudie and I caught a cab over to the Black Cat. (Our cabbie told us he was just planning to go home - he couldn't make money crawling around town in all the traffic.)

Kudos to the Hideout on the concert. They were shockingly punctual with the music acts, at least for awhile. We saw some great stuff: originals, covers, and special collaborations. David "Honeyboy" Edwards got one of the most appreciative reactions of the night, and various Curtis Mayfield covers were sung with enthusiasm. I enjoyed hearing my second-ever Sun Ra tribute set. My favorite part of the night came when Andrew Bird played a song I've dreamed of seeing him play for years - "Don't Be Scared." Tortoise played with him, and so did Janet Bean and Sally Timms - Sally handling the bulk of the female vocals. It was wonderful. It was apparently a Handsome Family kind of night - we also heard "The Giant of Illinois." Although, as Andrew commented, the song was apropos in name only.

In spite of some rousing solidarity tunes from the Waco Brothers, Maudie and I cut out before the end of the night. We had an early morning ahead of us. At 6:00 a.m. we donned eighteen layers of clothing and hit the dark streets on our way to the silver ticket line ... which was already enormous. We were lucky. Although we weathered freezing wind and some line jumpers, we got into the front portion of the silver area with very little trouble. We were inside the gates by 8:30. Many people we heard from in other sections weren't so lucky. Of course, from our spot slightly behind the reflecting pool, we couldn't see any video screens. We could see the capital, with the tiny little people milling about, but when the ceremony started in earnest the crowd surged forward and mostly blocked my view even of that. We were right below a speaker, though, so the words and music came through loud and clear. Being in the midst of such a crowd for such an event was pretty amazing. (And cold. Also very cold.) The details were the best part for me. Everyone around us laughing each time the loudspeakers solemnly announced, "Please be seated." A man from Kenya posing for photos with a contingent from Hawaii, all beaming and holding up flags and banners. A gentleman dressed as Abe Lincoln standing behind us. The yelp of joy that went up when the oath of office was complete and we heard, "Congratulations, Mr. President." During President Obama's speech, people calling out responses. "Yes, sir!" "That's right!" Hearing this speech without the chatter and dissection of commentators immediately following, allowing the unfiltered words themselves to bounce around in my head for awhile.

After the ceremony, we followed the masses in the general direction of Maudie's hotel. I think we made it within twenty or twenty-five minutes, which was a minor miracle judging from the gridlock Heidi and Paul were stuck in, and our view of the unending crowds streaming past below. We thawed slowly, scarfing down vending machine snacks and cold leftover pizza - our only possible food options given the choas on the street. When our purple ticketed friends finally arrived, we watched luncheon and parade coverage from the comfort of the 7th floor. Later that evening we braved the crowds again for the sake of a long, leisurely, celebratory dinner at Dino. On the metro back to Takoma, a woman sitting behind us showed us a photo a friend had sent her in a text message: she was at a ball, and the president and first lady had just had their first dance.

Finally back at Heidi's house, we relaxed and watched ball coverage. I packed. Super Shuttle picked me up at 2:30 a.m. I'd been afraid that getting to the airport on time might be a problem, but all was calm. I was back by 9:15, and proceeded to the office where I worked a full day. And then I went grocery shopping. And now I'm home.

I kind of want to lie down and collapse for 24 hours, but mostly I'm still happy and excited. I realized today that as much fun as the inauguration was, it wasn't the event itself I was really looking forward to. I was looking forward to the result of that event. To right now, and the fact that Barack Obama is our president. I know this will feel perfectly normal to me soon enough, and that thought makes me happy, too. So far, so good.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Inauguration week

It's here! And so am I. I got in very late on Friday night, and so far have managed to squeeze a lot in. I skipped the welcome concert yesterday, which halfway surprised even me, but I had plans! Kande and Heidi took me to the Maryland women's basketball game instead. Fear the turtle! We watched the concert on HBO later, and it looked great. It made me even more excited about Tuesday. There is such a good vibe around this city right now.

Besides the basketball game, we've been to Mayorga, 2 Amys, the American History Museum (Julia Child's kitchen is there!), Takoma Farmer's Market, and had a lovely at-home dinner with friends last night. Soon Paul and I will probably head out, and later tonight is the Big Shoulders Ball with Maudie. Then tomorrow ... oh boy.

Oh, and it's snowing. This is the slowest I've seen snow fall in a long time, but it is definitely snowing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

People get ready

Remember how I had been 98% convinced I wasn't going to the Sharon Jones show, and then I won tickets from The Onion? Early last week I'd all but decided that going to D.C. for the inauguration was just too crazy, and I should bow. Then I got an email from Russ Feingold's office. One standing room ticket to the swearing-in ceremony? Mine. Maudie scored another ticket in short order, and suddenly it was decided. Come Friday evening, I'm D.C.-bound. Hijinks to follow!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2008 in review: Travel

Last but not least, trips. I took a lot of them in 2008, and here are some numbers:

States visited (not counting layovers): 15 (IL, OK, NE, IA, CA, MO, KS, SC, NC, AK, ID, WA, OR, HI, NY)

New States: 5 (Nebraska, North Carolina, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii)

I'm so pleased that I managed to get to Alaska and Hawaii in the same year.

States left before I get to 50: 7 (Louisiana, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Rhode Island)

With the exception of Louisiana and maybe Rhode Island, I'm getting down to states that people don't just flit off to for the weekend. Or maybe just states that it's harder to find a specific reason to visit. (Again, Louisiana excepted. It's odd I've never been to New Orleans.) We'll see what I can do in 2009.

Countries visited: 2 (Australia, New Zealand)

And both of those were new countries. Not only new countries, but a new continent! I don't have a "countries left to visit" number, but I still have 3 continents to go. I doubt I'll ever get to Antarctica, nor do I have any special desire to go there. But Africa and South America, yes. My goal for 2009 is at least one new country. A new country ... in Europe, let's say.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 in review: Books

Last entry I reviewed my 2008 in live music. This time (for the third year), books. Here's a list of the books I read in 2008, with followed by some statistics:

1. Gastroanomalies - James Lileks
2. Sesame Street Unpaved - David Borgenicht
3. Possible Side Effects - Augusten Burroughs
4. Graduation Day - Ann M. Martin
5. The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival - Stanley N. Alpert
6. Elvis is Titanic: Classroom Tales from the Other Iraq - Ian Klaus
7. Summerland - Michael Chabon
8. Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino
9. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
10. We Are All Welcome Here - Elizabeth Berg
11. Duma Key - Stephen King
12. Mazel Tov: Celebrities' Bar and Bat Mitzvah Memories - Jill Rappaport
13. Dream When You're Feeling Blue - Elizabeth Berg
14. Schuyler's Monster: A Father's Journey with His Wordless Daughter - Robert Rummel-Hudson
15. One Past Midnight: The Langoliers - Stephen King
16. Blaze - Richard Bachman
17. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
18. Ask the Pilot: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel - Patrick Smith
19. My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals - Melanie Dunea
20. A Fictional History of the United States (With Huge Chunks Missing) - T Cooper & Adam Mansbach, Eds.
21. The Crazy School - Cornelia Read
22. The Pact - Jodi Picoult
23. A Corner of Wellington - Chris Stevenson
24. Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
25. The House That George Built (With a Little Help from Irving, Cole, and a Crew of About Fifty) - Wilfrid Sheed
26. Tender at the Bone - Ruth Reichl
27. Ten Points - Bill Strickland
28. Ruby Holler - Sharon Creech
29. Chasing Redbird - Sharon Creech
30. The Wanderer - Sharon Creech
31. When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris
32. The Forgetting - Alzheimer's: Portrait of an Epidemic - David Shenk
33. Prep - Curtis Sittenfeld
34. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
35. I Like Food, Food Tastes Good - Kara Zuaro
36. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz
37. The Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacobs
38. The Hope Chest - Karen Schwabach
39. Surprise Island - Gertrude Chandler Warner
40. The Inheritance of Loss - Kiran Desai
41. Gang Leader for a Day - Sudhir Venkatesh
42. Under the Tree: The Toys and Treats that Made Christmas Special, 1930-1970 - Susan Waggoner
43. Princess Academy - Shannon Hale
44. What is the What - Dave Eggers
45. Hitler Youth - Susan Campbell Bartoletti
46. Dedication - Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
47. Dark Water Rising - Marian Hale
48. The Mysterious Benedict Society - Trenton Lee Stewart
49. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey - Trenton Lee Stewart
50. We All Die Alone - Mark Newgarden
51. No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach - Anthony Bourdain
52. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - Barbara Kingsolver
53. Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet - Charlotte Gordon
54. The Dangerous Book for Dogs - Various
55. Pollyanna's Western Adventure - Harriet Lummis Smith
56. By Hook or By Crook - David Crystal
57. Goose Girl - Shannon Hale
58. The Enchantress of Florence - Salman Rushdie
59. Enna Burning - Shannon Hale
60. Comfort Me With Apples - Ruth Reichl
61. Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home - Lise Funderberg
62. Like a Rolling Stone: The Strange Life of a Tribute Band - Steven Kurutz
63. Population: 485 - Michael Perry
64. A Camera, Two Kids, and a Camel: My Journey in Photographs - Annie Griffiths Belt
65. Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
66. Raising Ourselves: A Gwich'in Coming of Age Story from the Yukon River - Velma Wallis
67. The Woman Who Can't Forget: A Memoir - Jill Price & Bart Davis
68. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming - Joshilyn Jackson
69. Looking for Anne of Green Gables - Irene Gammel
70. Why They Killed Big Boy & Other Stories - Michael Perry
71. Middlesex - Jeffrey Eugenides
72. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down - Anne Fadiman
73. Off Main Street - Michael Perry
74. Truck: A Love Story - Michael Perry
75. Just After Sunset - Stephen King
76. State by State: a Panoramic Portrait of America - Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey, eds.
77. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid - Bill Bryson

Total books read: 77. I read exactly the same number of books in 2008 as I did in 2007.

By male authors: 37 (48%)
By female authors: 36 (47%)
By both: 4 (1%)

Previously read: 3 (4% - down dramatically from 2007's 21%)

Marketed for children/teens: 14 (18%)

Fiction: 37 (48%)
Nonfiction: 40 (52%)
The first year since I've kept track that my nonfiction reading has outstripped my fiction reading.

You should definitely read:
Freakonomics. I saw Steven Levitt speak at a conference this year, an experience that finally inspired me to check out this book. I'm a little late to the Freakonomics party, but I found the book fascinating and informative. I kept sharing the research findings with random people, exclaiming things like, "Everything makes so much sense!"

Don't bother reading:
All of the books I read (and finished) in 2008 were redeeming for one reason or another. But I did think that The Woman Who Can't Forget: A Memoir would be more interesting than it was. I'm normally a sucker for some good case-study nonfiction, but this is indeed more of a memoir. A memoir where the author has a few basic points to make about her life: "I remember everything that's ever happened from early adolescence onward. When I remember things I completely relive the emotions associated with them. It kind of sucks. But scientists love me." And the rest of the book is filled with examples of all this. I finished it, but I guess I was hoping for some breakthrough of scientific insight. Unfortunately (for the author, too, I'm sure) there really isn't one. I think I would have enjoyed it more as a long article. There's probably one out there, and I recommend finding that.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

2008 in review: Live Music

Happy new year! This is the first in a series of posts looking back at stuff I did a lot in 2008. Reading, traveling ... and going to concerts. So, here we go:

Total shows (counting each day of multi-day events): 52 (up six from 2007)

Performers seen for first time (headlining): 9 (Split Enz, Bang on a Can All-Stars, The Swell Season, The Kronos Quartet, The Magnetic Fields, Eighth Blackbird, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Harry Connick, Jr., Bon Iver)

Performers seen for the first time (support or festival): 25+ (Neil Young, Fleet Foxes, Flight of the Conchords, John Doe, David Rawlings, Retribution Gospel Choir, Death Cab for Cutie, Cat Power, Sarah McLachlan, Band of Horses, Smashing Pumpkins, Giant Sand, Stars, Broken Social Scene, The Tallest Man on Earth, and many more)

Seen most often: Wilco, Fleet Foxes, Jon Brion, The Decemberists/Colin Meloy

Favorite concert moments of 2008, in no order:

  • Flanagan (and Jon) finishing up on Fairfax with "All is Full of Love," 5/2
  • Martin Rivas bringing down the Hotel SnS with Sir Duke, 4/12
  • "Skinny Love" at the Barrymore, 12/19
  • "Wilco the Song," from the side, 11/1
  • Red shorts from the stage kicked in a little girl's face in Anchorage, 7/26
  • Belting out "Six Months in A Leaky Boat" with an arena full of Kiwis in Wellington, 3/25
  • Crazy Beatles medley at Martyrs', 1/2
  • "Millions of Peaches" encore, Night 2 of the Residency, 2/16
  • Will Sheff takes the lead on "Myriad Harbour" and upstages the New Pornographers, 4/21
  • Robin playing "Oliver James" solo (any night) during the Fleet Foxes opening stint out west, 8/20-8/23

If there are major highlights you think I'm forgetting, that's because I probably am. Remind me!

Next up, books.