Saturday, August 29, 2009
I am a little depressed at the thought of leaving, but I think it partly has to do with the fact that the weather has been so bleak the past few days. It has just been spitting rain--not enough to stop you from doing things, but enough to make going outside somewhat unpleasant.
I've basically had three days straight of running errands. Have I complained yet how much I hate moving?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
On the road again. We are currently in western Virginia, heading down interstate 81 towards Tennessee. This is most certainly Thomas Jefferson's America. Nothing but green pastures and corn fields, the type of place where people drive diesel trucks and go to church every Sunday. I'm surrounded by national battlefield parks and rolling hills concealing caverns.
I've been in the city so long that I feel like I barely know how to conduct myself in this situation any more. I find myself a lot less tolerant than I was on my last 2000 mile vacation through a handful of flyover states. I no longer understand why there is nothing open past 6 pm and why I can't find an iced Dunkin' coffee every 5 feet.
The first shock to my system came our first night. We set out for the D.C. area around 2 pm on Monday, putting us in the thick of city rush hour traffic by the time that we got there. After sitting in it for about 2 hours (I started throwing my water bottle around the car in frustration), we finally checked in, and found a restaurant to eat at, some 20 miles away. 45 minutes later, we come upon it to find it closed. With some quick GPS searching, we find another seafood place closeby. In a secluded little marina in the middle of nowhere we find something between a marina restaurant and a sports bar, with a menu to match. Walking outside to the deck, I was hit with a cloud of cigarette smoke. Virginia has not banned smoking in public buildings, apprently. And why would they when EVERYONE smokes?
The crowd was just a little trashy, and the only things not coated with butter on the menu were the house salad and the caesar salad. I have a feeling that I will be eating a lot of chicken caesar salad with the dressing on the side on this trip.
But I'm gradually easing into embracing the fat. Last night, in Winchester, Virginia, at a little place in the old town called Cook's Tavern, I had a really nice filet with blockberry sauce and barbecue baked beans. Disregarding the huge gobs of packaged cheddar cheese that came on my appetizer house salad, it was a really good meal. The sauce was a little spicy, a little fruity—kind of like a barbecue glaze. I was really impressed—and my steak was wonderfully rare. It could have been a little more tender, but that's just splitting hairs.
Both nights so far we have stayed at the Hampton Inn, in the grand tradition of mother. The beds are as nice as I rememeber, and always with cable and free wifi, but the continental breakfast has suffered a bit (economy?). Even so, life could get a lot worse.
As far as attractions go, we took the metro into DC yesterday to go to the Newseum. As a journalist, I have to say that I was slightly disappointed with the content. It was flashy, sure, and had some interesting exhibits, but it was definitely geared towards those without a great knowledge of the industry. The attention was definitely on the aesthetics rather than substance through most of the 6 floors of space. The two major exceptions to this were the Pulitzer Prize photography exhibit and the 9/11 corner. In those two places I was really challenged to think about what journalism is, and some of the major ethical and personal challenges that come with being a journalist.
There was a 10-15 minute loop video running about 9/11, a documentary of various journalists, mostly television and radio, that covered the story that day. It had particular significance for me, now thinking of myself as a New Yorker, to see the kind of destruction that wreaked havoc on a neighborhood that I now know and love, just 8 years ago. It became real for me, much more than it was real for me when it was happening when I was twelve years old and a continent away.
The Pulitzer's, too, were moving. There are so many photos of life just before death. To be that photographer...so see those kinds of horrors, and then to relive it over and over every time you see your picture.
Anyway, we've just arrived in Staunton, VA, the site of President Woodrow Wilson's Presidential Library and Museum....
The museum was really a hit.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Watched Greek over breakfast
Cleaned my chain and two cassettes while watching more Greek
Rode in the park without traffic
Talked to my mom on the phone for more than five seconds
Came home and watched Mad Men while having lunch
Am off to get my last timesheet squared away
It's the middle of August and it finally is summer vacation.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Even so, my appointment was for 9:30. Not wanting to need to make another by arriving past 9:29, I arrived nearly 20 minutes early. I was promptly turned away.
--What time is your appointment miss? [puzzled look]
--And what time is it now? [staring, condescendingly]
I bring out my phone. It shows 9:13.
---I have to come back then?
There are a couple of things wrong with this. The first being that the visa section of the French consulate is at 10 74th St., between Madison and Fifth Ave. There is nothing within a five block radius of the place that is not another consulate, a private residence, or a doctor's office. The second problem, on my end, were the heels I was wearing. Not a good choice. Someone told me that I should dress up, it would make a good impression, just in case something was not perfect with my application. The problem with that logic was that wearing a suit dress and heels on the hottest day of the summer with 15 minutes to kill on the Upper East Side is basically the equivalent of torture. The closest place to sit (and calm my nerves) would be a coffee shop. The closest one of those would be on Lex., at 71st or 77th, a full 5 blocks away. With nothing else to do and dying for some air conditioning, I started walking. I had been walking about 7 minutes when I spotted the coffee cart on 76th and Lex. I made do with that and started walking back, not wanting to now be too late for my appointment.
It's funny how perspective can change so suddenly. As I was heading back, with the red glove blinking at me across Madison Avenue at 74th Street, I came upon a bench. Just a random bench on the northeast corner of 74th and Mad. And this morning, that bench was a piece of heaven for the 30 seconds I waited for the light to change in my favor. And waiting for the light put me in the perfect position to arrive just as the guard was opening the door for the 10 or so other people with similar appointment times. As I was the last one in, and we had to be checked in a 3x3 foot square before heading through the metal detector, there was no wall space left for me to squeeze into as I walked into the door, meaning I had to stand in the middle of the box of doom, also meaning that I got to walk through the metal detector first, meaning that once we were allowed to pass I was free to walk up the stairs and get in line first. That piece of ridiculous timing probably saved me a good half hour.
Once in line, I proceeded to wait. And wait. And wait...as one by one people were received for application check, photo, and fingerprinting. The waiting area was a bit scattered. There was the line for those to be received, but also room for those whose applications had been received to wait for another person to call them to receive the rest of their documents. That's where things really seemed to go south. No one had every document they asked for. Or they couldn't believe that they had to wait 2 weeks to come back for the stamp, or they couldn't quite speak English or French well enough. So after finally being scanned and fingerprinted and strip-searched (j/k about that one) and charged $70 for the privilege, I was told to go wait in the waiting area to be called for the remainder of my documents. I miraculously found a seat and prepared for another eon of waiting.
To my surprise, I was called up just five minutes later. Obviously noticing that the line was getting longer as more people filed in for their 10:30 appointments behind some of the 9:30's that still hadn't been helped, people were beginning to be called up three at a time. I got lumped in with a girl that I had previously seen waiting for at least a half hour, yet who didn't seem to notice when her name was finally called and never showed at the window, as well as with an Algerian girl who clearly didn't speak English, but did not seem too excited to speak French, either. She mostly stared in disbelief as the woman asked her for various documents that she did not have. My own process went rather smoothly--I had all of the required documents, and copies of them, and was handed a receipt that told me to come back in 10 days to finalize the process. I will most definitely be showing up at 8:59 in comfortable shoes and a breathable dress. Insanity.
Two hours later, the poor Algerian girl is probably still there.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
In the same vein, this summer has been named the Manhattan Project. For more information on this development, (who, what, where, when, why), email me.
Hint: It arguably ends in tragedy.