Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Musical Interlude

...we interrupt your regularly scheduled Seraphim Dreams to bring you a piercing look at the regional culinary traditions of areas in the southeastern United States:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Little Trouble in BigTown #3

Yesterday we went to the Mall, and looked at some Art, as the crowds for Air and Space, Natural History, and American History were clogging up the place and interfering with the calm pace (some would say "elderly", but whatever) that we prefer when it comes to museums.

I was surprised by the amount of "name-brand" artists on display, with artists that even a philistine such as myself were able to recognize ("Pele-level" artists, in that you can refer to them by one name and everyone knows who you're talking about) such as Cezanne, Rembrandt, Titian (bit of confusion about how that one's supposed to be pronounced), and Raphael. (Raphael's work, by the way, is so cleaned up and brightly painted that it looks like it was done in Day-Glo compared to some of the darker, moodier-looking pieces on display). There were even a few that I was able to recognize on sight, as they had stolen by Carmen Sandiego.

A Note on Food:
The Streak ended yesterday, after roughly a week, when I went to meet Connie and some of her disc-whipping friends, who proceeded to sit down for a festive meal at Cici's Pizza, which is not only a restaurant I've heard of, but also one where I've spent many a time at with Fpendl and co. back home, learning the ins-and-outs of organized Ultimate. It was a valiant effort, undone by the fact that I kept eating at national chains without realizing it.

Looking at the stack of receipts, some of the culinary highlights I've been able to sample include:

-Cosi, a Panera-style sandwich shop with pretty decent bread (national chain d'OH!!!)
-Five Guys Burgers and Fries, an upscale greasy burger joint ('nother national chain d'OH!!)
-Chipotle (on the safe list)
-Grill Kabob, which proves my theory that the more generic-sounding a restaurant's name sounds, the more likely it is to have that genuine authentic-immigrant taste. Tandoori Lamb Shank with some sort of spice, rice, and salad made for an excellent lunch.
-Z Burger, yet another greasy burger-joint type place which looks suspiciously like a national chain, but does not have its own entry on Wikipedia, so clearly it can't be.
-Timberlake's, a dark and foreboding bar-and-grill sit-down restaurant that looks like there should be some Irish guys duking it out there (no, not those Irish guys), and whose only concession to modernity is a space-age jukebox with touchscreen and credit-card slot. Whether or not they are illegally trading on the name of a pop star has yet to be determined.
-Teaism, a clever play on the idea of "Taoism", except one of them has honey and one has tea.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


So when I don't have time to do a full blog post, I will instead just update the "Random Notes" post below, and occasionally post a new Random Notes if the one below gets full up. Just a heads-up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Some Random Notes from BigTown

-I passed a Chinese restaurant today that had the following sign in the window:

SPECIAL: Subm sandwhich 1/2 beef 1/2 cheseburger 1/2 turkey + Fries + Drink $6.99

Besides being a heckuva deal (3/2s of a sandwich for 6.99!?!?), it was also at a Chinese restaurant...

-I was taking a look at a company called Acxiom today, which might or might not be engaged in some shady activity, and discovered that they are headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas. I think this proves that AK has conclusively dethroned Seattle as home of Evil Corporations; while Washington has Microsoft and Starbucks (and arguably, Seattle's Best Coffee, which I've seen as far away as Japan), Arkansas has Acxiom, but it also is the original home of the only real-life entity to appear as an evil conglomerate in both a James Bond movie *and* an Ayn Rand novel: Wal-Mart. But most importantly, Arkansas is home to the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, who have, bar none, the most evil fan base on the planet.

Note that while they are not as deluded as UK fans, or as snippy as Michigan fans, or as whiny as UNC fans, or as arrogant as Florida fans, or as....ummm....logically challenged as Auburn fans, they are most definitely the evil-est of them all, running out a successful football coach after repeatedly humiliating him, undercutting him, setting ridiculous expectations, and even using the Freedom of Information act against him.

May 20th:
-There is a First Church of Scientology/L Ron Hubbard Center for Dianetics across the street from where I work. YEESH!

-There was a gentleman in a nicely-tailored suit sitting on the metro today who was sitting there staring intensely at a packet of case law. I was impressed by his dedication to the legal arts, until I saw the title page which said "Tip Top Pants: Plaintiff...." Oh, Mock Trial....

May 21st:
-A shout-out to my good friend Minh, who is so baller he can create comments-within-comments. Minh runs a really funny blog called "Minh's Notes", and I tell people he invented the Vietnamese Wikipedia.

-The server that hosts the Epic content of the nonprofit working in the same office is currently running a program called SpamAssassin, which is not quite as cool as it sounds.

-There is definitely an Epic fundraiser dinner coming up which I have been invited to, and have the option of purchasing a number of different levels of tickets/donations, with the levels as follows:

$200: "Interest Advocates"
$1,000: "Friend"
$2,500: "Supporter"
$5,000: "Enthusiast" (must be an expensive hobby)
$7,500: "Champion"
$25,000: "ROCK STAR"

For $25,000, you get 10 tickets, "special recognition" (maybe they'll misspell your name on a trophy or something), and a VIP guest, "if available"....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Little Trouble in BigTown #2

Today is my first day at work. With my typical Type A mindset, I realize that the best way to make an impression on my new boss is to arrive at precisely 9 am, crisp, beaming, and ready to go.

With typical Authorian precision, I arrive at the plaza at 8:05, groan, and decide, after locating the office, to wander around the area a little. Dupont (is there another area called Dow? What about Maersk?) reminds me a little of downtown Barcelona- divergent architecture styles, traffic circles with lonely pedestrian islands dotting the ring, a mixture of buildings that look old but aren't supposed to, and buildings that don't look old but are supposed to, and buildings that are actually old. There are embassies, quirky bookshops, various grades of ethnic restaurant (including one named, and I am not making ths up, "Thaiphoon"), cafes, and a surprising number of stores that cater to BGLT interests, including one that is built into the basement of an old brownstone and has cast-iron grating over all the windows and the steps that lead down to it from the sidewalk.

I find myself entering the EuroCafe, which, as the sign proclaims, has coffee, net access, and magazines and newspapers from around the world. After an entirely-too-delightful cherry danish and cold milk, I wander around the racks of magazines and marvel at the sheer number and depth and obscurity of them- who knew there were this many magazines about long-distance running? Or tattoo artwork? Or Photoshop? There is a whole shelf dedicated to Vogue, with covers from Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Greece...

Then it's time to go to work. The nonprofit I work for shares an office with an organization that can only be described as epic, because, frankly speaking, that's the name of the organization. This leads to a number of truly terrible puns that make The Girlfriend wince when I tell her about it later: "I met some Epic people today..." "The place I work at is Epic..." "I feel like a cog in an Epic machine, sort of Geared up for War, if you get my drift" and so on and so forth. It was Unreal. (sorry!)

My particular space in the office was quiet, plush, and even had its own comfy, thronelike office chair. It took me about twenty minutes (38, actually) to finish setting up my computer, hooking it up to its various umbilicals, booting up, starting my complete set of applications, mentally claiming the office as my own Banana Republic, checking Facebook, etc., and when I was finished, they promptly kicked me out of the office, which I believe is a record for quickest disavowal of Office Sovereignty in the history (and I've been kicked out of more offices than you might imagine). I was reassigned to a tiny little table in the "boondocks" of a back room. As upset as I was about being deposed, my pain was quickly assuaged by the Cadbury's milk chocolates casually dropped off by the CIA in the break room.

After work, I head back on the Metro, but this time it's rush hour and the trains are crowded with people pushing on and off. Surprisingly, the people waiting to get on the trains split off into two lines to the side of each door to let other passengers get off, and look like bridesmaids/groomsmen while doing it: tired, well-dressed, and angry at someone else for getting the attention/right of way. Once on the train, I am pressed up close enough to other people to notice that one person is reading a book called "The Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England", one is playing Breakout on his cellphone but hasn't quite grasped the point that you're supposed to bounce the ball off the *bricks*, and one is playing Solitaire on his iPhone and listening to music on an iPod he also carries, sort of how most police officers carry a pistol plus a little derringer-type backup stuck in their socks. It's been a good day.

A note about eating:
I've decided while I'm here I'm going to support worthwhile businesses by trying to only eat at local or locally-based restaurants, and Chipotle, for as long as possible. Given my budget, this involves eating at a lot of greasy pizza joints. So far, my streak is limited to four meals, but I'm growing:
Yesterday: that Thai place, Angelino's Pizza
Today: cherry danish and milk from EuroCafe, leftover calzone from yesterday's dinner for lunch, and Italian chicken panini from some place called Pizza Autentica
Current streak: four meals in a row.

On tap for tomorrow: the AOPi story

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Little Trouble in BigTown #1

I stepped off the plane to BigTown U.S.A. and took a breath of the surprisingly chilly air. One year after my previous adventures in Smalltown, I was going domestic once again.

BigTown has an enormous and extremely well developed underground metro system, and though the Japanese, Germans, and British are all shaking with laughter, and though none of the trains run on time ("This train will be delayed 90 seconds due to schedule changes"), and though they all look like John Travolta and Denzel Washington should be having a face-off about them, and though if there is a nuclear attack we'd all be dead, they are nice little oddities in Autobahn America.

I come from a town that has talked about bringing in a "light rail" system basically forever. It won't happen, and many natives are naturally quite po'ed about it. I don't think much of it, since we like our highways just fine in the Author's hometown. But riding the Metro is slowly making me rethink that brush-off. It's clean, relatively efficient, makes you feel free and existentialist when you stand on the platform deciding which train to get on, and makes for some killer Fallout 3 levels.

On the other hand...

The warm air from one of these Metro stations puffs up into your face in a wave when you descend into the depths via escalator; it's an intentional reference to Hades by the station designers. In fact, the entire Metro is designed to reference Hell in many ways: the hot air/heat in general, the crowds, the underground location, signage over the door ("Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here" and "Support Local Radio"), paying Charon/the SmartTicket fare, and being stuck there forever ("This train will be delayed 90 seconds due to schedule changes").

Fortunately, I was able to get to where I was going: The Capitol.

You've either been there, or seen it in textbooks, or watched the travel channel special on it. It's worth it. I will write more on this later.