NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 15 (The Old, the New, the Familiar)

I was back in D.C. For my job. The details of that aren’t of the greatest importance. Conference at a government building. Lots of exuberant participants. Surrounded by them in an auditorium, classroom style meeting space, a meeting space that looks more like a foyer. Somewhere you could stage skits, but not a play. Horrible acoustics. Then again, it wasn’t built like that.

My aunt reminded me, in response to the unexpected amount of fatigue I felt when I got home, that the last time I’d run around, commuting to D.C. and worked a full day there, I was 24. Fifteen years ago. No wonder I was bone tired.

It did all come back to me.

Passing Ivy City Shops, where Amtrak stores and repairs their trains. The station a little up the line at Laurel Race Course, the one place I remembered from my first time on the Camden Line. I was coming home from my first day at work at my very first internship in D.C. One of my high school friends had invited me to an O’s game and I hopped on the train after work. A freight train passed us at high speed and shook the train so much I thought it might tip over onto the platform.

The hard right after you walk down the platform at Union Station. It takes you straight into Metro. It can get clogged with commuters, so you instead make the right at Sbarro and the left at what’s now a clothing store, but used to be a bookstore, and down the escalator. Fewer people take that way. Easier to get down to the mezzanine and buy a Metrocard. Or reload your SmartTrip.

Red Line trains still oppressively crowded. The surprise at being able to get into the first train that comes. Having to usher someone into the train before me because I was only going one stop and I needed to be right near the door.

Masters of the Universe types eating lunch on Pennsylvania Avenue, the wonder at what they might be doing in their offices or in their cars. Maybe they’re like Raymond Reddington, running a worldwide operation, seemingly always from a moving vehicle. Sleeping in their suits or pants suits.

Protests. This time, school kids marching down Pennsylvania Ave, to register their own disdain for its soon-to-become landlord.

Still, there was room for surprise, discovery.

NoMa/Galludet Station really close to Union Station, closer than I thought. It’s almost like you could walk it, just like the short tunnel between Gallery Place and Metro Center. You can stand in one and look down the tunnel into the other. If not for the connections to other lines, they shouldn’t be spaced that way, I figure.

The new parking garage at Savage. It didn’t look like a bus stop this time. Perhaps a bus stop with a large parking garage, but still an improvement.

And yet, the thing that grabs and holds is this: Bombardier multilevel rail cars.

When I climbed aboard, it was like Jersey. I’ve lost track of the number of miles I’ve logged going to New York, Secaucus Junction, the occasional disembarking in Newark for the PATH. That equipment had become as familiar to me in some ways as the seat of my car. And more welcoming as I could sleep in them.

It was like a small reminder of one of the things I’ve missed. An echo from the part of me that feels as home there as the place where I grew up. From that space inside that misses the feeling of connection and awe from going into New York for an acting class, a writing workshop. To the burrito shop in the Village. Watching trains race by Hamilton.

The train back was Bombardier. The Penn Line train on the next track over was made up of the old Kawasaki bilevel cars that were being rolled out when I was commuting daily into the District.

I slept, as I had so many times on New Jersey Transit and MARC before then.

I’ve thought so much about home lately and what and where it is. I haven’t concluded anything yet. And maybe the whole point is to always be learning and creating and growing it. These glimpses of the joy up the line tell me I haven’t lost what I was trying to build there. Those dreams are still alive, waiting for me to get my ticket and come back. That’s comforting.

NaBloPoMo 2016 – Day 2 (Blunt Force Politics)

I get it. The media is selling us an election as much as they’re covering one. It’s not as much that they’re putting time and energy into covering something in the public interest as they’re engaged in a race and a fight themselves for eyeballs and advertisers. That’s the news game and between the uncertainty of print and online, I get the push to make the most money, the quality of the information being disseminated — not always the most important consideration. It’s feed for the growing fetishization of politics in America.

Perhaps if the majority of information I see coming at me were about policy as much as pussy and who’s saying it and who’s grabbing it; if it were as much about ideas as ideology and not the same staid politics and talking points, it might not be as loathsome. It might not feel like I’m being constantly beaten over the head with the same talking points over and over.

My mentor emailed me the other day talking about the election and his thought that Trump might win. I replied because I’ve always enjoyed talking about a wide range of subjects with him, including politics, but a wave of gladness and gratitude washed over me when, after a while, it came to me he probably wasn’t going to reply about it. I’m just tired of it all. I was tired months ago when he’d come to my desk to offer his latest prognostication.

Next Tuesday can’t come soon enough. At least then, the commercials will be gone, even if the fallout from the election will be just starting, whatever form it takes. My mentor and I can get back to mostly discussing ideas, which are far more satisfying.

I’m looking forward to local elections, specifically the mayoral election in Baltimore. Sheila Dixon, still convinced she does or will have a mandate, regardless of the outcome of the Democratic primary, is mounting a write-in campaign against Catherine Pugh (D), Joshua Harris (G), and Alan Walden (R). (I saw a huge setup for her over at Northern Parkway and Park Heights).

The next Mayor will be the first to deal with the long-term ramifications of Freddie Gray, the loss of the Red Line, and the acceptance of the Port Covington TIF, among many other issues facing the City. I know personality will enter into the election, but ultimately, the choices that we have aren’t being tainted and tarred by scandals and soundbites, but solely about which direction the City should move in. But here at the local level, there’s no large scale advertising to be sold, no race to the bottom for TV ratings. It’s truly a relief.

NaBloPoMo – Day 26

Day 26

If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving today (or even if you’re not!), tell us about the best cook in your family.

I might be the best cook in my family.  Through folks passing away, my increasing my skills, and my aunt (my mother’s sister) not cooking any these days, I might be.  The same way some team will win the NFC East this season and get to the playoffs, it might be me.

Best thing I make is mac and cheese, which is ironic because I’m lactose intolerant.  I can hardly stand to eat the best thing I cook.  I take Lactaid, but it’s not always effective, so I make the mac and watch it be eaten.

The key to a great mac and cheese is the bechamel. I will not say how I make mine or what I put in it, but when your bechamel is on point, you’re in there.

I’m hoping to one day equal my aunt’s mac and cheese, which is still the best I’ve ever had.  At Thanksgiving, Christmas, any time she made mac and cheese, that was always the main event.  Those holidays were the best.  My mom made turkey or chicken most years.  Some of those earlier years, auntie would make ham steak, which when I ate pork, was a treat.  My aunt would make the mac and cheese, my aunt the mashed potatoes and/or potato salad.

I couldn’t believe it when my aunt told me her mac and cheese secret ingredient.  I’m still tweaking mine to be as good.  My aunt has also shared the potato salad recipe with me, but I haven’t attempted it.  She and my mother made it the exact same way and it was so good, I’ve only had potato salad as good as theirs only once before.  I don’t want to disappoint myself.

My older cousins and my great aunt had their recipe, which was, I’d say about 90% exactly like my mom and aunt’s recipe, but not exactly there.  Unfortunately, one or two times when they made theirs, I did tell them it wasn’t as good as my mother’s and aunt’s, which led to hurt feelings.  I apologize.

One of my younger cousins puts it down in the kitchen, she says.  I’ve already challenged her to a cook off.  We’ll see if she accepts.  If she accepts, we’ll get some impartial judges to try it and see and if she wins, she can be considered the best.

I’ll demand a rematch though.

NaBloPoMo – Day 25

Day 25

Do you think it’s better to be a recognized expert for one thing, or known to be really good at lots of things?

In the regular business world, it’s probably better to be known as an expert with a specific niche: you’re the motivation person, the management person, the software design person, whatever.  You get yourself recognized, people pay you for your expertise, you deliver it, everybody’s happy.  That becomes who you are.  At least until or unless you decide to make that u-turn and go do something else.  Then you start building your next identity.

In the arts, you can get known as an expert at one thing or good at several things.  If you’re going to go the latter route, people say you should first get known for, I guess, your main thing.  Playwriting, painting, collage, acting, singing, whatever.  And then if you have interest, passion, purpose, or talent, or whatever, branch off to the next thing.

The difference between the arts world and the business world is there is usually more leeway for you to jump and play around in the arts world.  In the business world, they’ll pidgeonhole you.  In the arts world, the bottom line is to share the work and make yourself known because you can be known as more than one thing.

 

NaBloPoMo – Day 24

Day 24

Who is an expert you admire and why?

When you’re into writing, literature, theatre, and acting, there are so many to choose from, if you’re really studying your craft.

Just from people still living, I admire Dinty W. Moore, essayist.  He’s written my favorite books on creative nonfiction.  His way of explaining the genre has resonated with me the most.

 

On the poetry front, E. Ethelbert Miller and Afaa Michael Weaver are my favorites.  I like Ethelbert’s work because of its accessibility.  It’s not the overly complicated, dense sort of poetry championed more in some circles.  It seems like he’s trying to communicate something and not hide it.  His poem “Nasrin” is my favorite poem, ever.

I might be biased towards Afaa Weaver because he’s from wherE I’m from, but I also love how he blends the sensibilities he grew up with in Baltimore with the wisdom and experience he’s gained in China and from immersing himself in Chinese culture.

For drama, I think Lynn Nottage is the best around right now, specifically because of “Ruined.”  I don’t normally read anything cover to cover in a sitting, but when I read “Ruined,” I couldn’t stop.  Everything about it was amazing: characters, setting, theme, everything.  It has to be one of the top plays last decade and since 2000.

Actors* (I’ll just list a few favorites):

Viola Davis and Meryl Streep: They’re my 1a and 1b.  Actually, they could fill the first several spots by themselves.  They’re achieving transcendence.  They’re that good.  Go watch “Doubt.”  Immediately.

Chiwetel Ejiofor: Go watch “Tsunami: The Aftermath.”  He and Sophie Okonedo won Golden Globes for this.  They will break your heart in this.  When she grabs the child to pass off as the one she lost and he tries to stop her, that is one of the best scenes I’ve ever witnessed in anything.  The pathos is so deep.

Al Pacino: Yeah, “The Godfather” and “Scarface.”  But really, for “Angels in America” and “Dog Day Afternoon.”

NaBloPoMo – Day 23

Day 23

What do you do better than anyone else?

Procrastination comes to mind.  I dozed off and did several other things while sitting in front of my laptop the other day, while trying to figure out what to write.  You’ll be reading this after I post it, but I watched some of the football game while writing this.

I watched more of the game before posting this.  I won’t procrastinate as much tomorrow.  No game on.

 

NaBloPoMo – Day 22

Day 22

3-7.

Forsett done for the season.

Flacco done for the season.

Steve Smith.

Sizzle.

This is completely new territory for Ravens fans.  2-7 was bad and surely something we’ve never experienced before.  But for the Ravens to now have a losing record and have lost the starting running back and quarterback in the same game, along with the #1 receiver and its best defender already, this is far and beyond anything we’ve ever seen in the history of the Ravens.

Every Ravens fan could be forgiven if, up until today if they, like I was, just watching the season, enjoying it for what it was, and not worrying about it because next year would be different, but now feel anxiety about next year.  Joe will have an MRI tomorrow, but it isn’t even a given that he’ll be back for the start of 2016.

Since the Ravens won their first Super Bowl, next year has almost always been a given for Ravens fans.  2002 was a wash, but they went 10-6 in 2003.  6-10 in 2005, 13-3 in 2006 (even if we lost at home to Manning in the playoffs).  5-11 in 2007, 11-5 in 2008.  But with now more uncertainty in the offense, who really knows what the team will even look like?  Will Joe come back in time to start the season?  If not, who’s the QB?  Will Forsett be back?  Will Breshad Perriman finally see the field?  If Joe’s back, will they even get to practice together before the season starts?

Next year is all we have now, though, and already, Ravens fans are talking draft — will we take a QB with our first pick now?  What position will we ultimately pick in?

Whether one has lost all hope for now or next year is all up to how good they think Ozzie and the front office as well as Joe’s doctors are.  Whether you think Steve Smith and Sizzle are coming back.  And if so, if you think they’ll still be good.  No matter what, this is all new and something I hope we don’t ever have to see again.