Skip to main content

travelogia


ah, so i have just returned from one of those wild excursions called business trips. for me, these normally involve locations that i would normally find frightening and several days of seclusion in a second rate hotel room, eating food that somehow manages to be both fattening and unsatisfying. and part of this trip was spent in such a location. fortunately, it also involved two other stops that were considerably less suck.

first up was a stop in washington. now, i'll just say this straight up: i like washington. i like the sheer intimidation factor created by the national mall. (albert speer used its design concepts in his plans for berlin, which is completely obvious if once you know it. don't believe me? there are giant fasces flanking the lincoln memorial. go look.) in addition, i like a city where men wear suits like they mean it, where people will meet and hold even eye contact and respond with a confident nod and where it is considered perfectly normal to eat alone.

for me, that last one is an important one. there is little that irritates me more than a pity-laden "it's just you?" when i tell the host/ess that i'm eating alone. but in washington, so many people seem to go out for dinner on the way home from work that it seems to be expected. couples and small groups still coagulate at tables, but the diffidently single sit their solitary butts by the bar and enjoy the best of all worlds: speedy service (you're sitting right in front of them, so you're not likely to be forgotten) and a full menu. my eatery of choice (i remembered it from a previous trip), was an asian-influenced place called ten penh, shockingly located on the corner of tenth and pennsylvania. i ended up eating there both nights, a complete departure from my usual "try everything" procedure because i love creative asian food, i have a soft spot for a bar that can mix a good cocktail and especially because the staff are awesome. sure, i could ahve gone to another restaurant, but it isn't really as special as walking in to a place and having them call you by name on the basis of having met you the night before. for the business traveler, bounced from place to faceless place, forced to act in an unnaturally cheery way during the days, nothing, not even the allure of new and interesting food, is going to compete with the sensation that you can belong somewhere. (one note: for those of you who were put off by the fact that washington was not only the national capital, but the murder capital as well for many years, there have been remarkable improvements. the head bartender at ten penh, politically informed and city-proud as washingtonians tend to be, explained to me how things changed. i just know that i felt safe taking their astoundingly efficient metro system back to my shithole hotel (days inn, 4400 conneticut ave. nw) even late at night.)

following that, i was off to new york. now, saying you love new york is like saying that you love thoroughbred race horses. it would be harder to explain if you didn't. although one of my days there was a work day, new york's compact geography did allow me to squeeze in a tremendous amount of exploration in just a couple of days. there's no point to me making recommendations on what to do, because there are already enough new york travel guides. i'll limit myself to a few fleeting "only in new york" impressions: shimmying down the ladder-like stairs at the hospital productions record store in a fitted skirt that was really not designed for the task; scoring a window table for breakfast in soho at an all-organic eatery; record shopping in the hipster haven of williamsburg while an album of lounge versions of velvet underground covers done by the former lead singer of bettie serveert blared in the background; scarfing a black sesame/ honey lavender ice cream from the laboratorio de gelato in the lower east side just after finding a dress marked down to $62 from $495 in one of the myriad little shops there; the sobering view from my hotel window (see image).

Comments

David said…
Is that what I think it is in the pic?

"Um... Hi. I'm in a room where I look out and see what is a mass grave, basically."
flora_mundi said…
yes, you are indeed looking at the world's largest combination construction site/ mass grave.

interesting, little reported fact: across the street from the site (next to the hotel) is the oldest continuously used cemetery on the island of manhattan.

as long as you're here, why not read more?

losers?

just a short time ago, i waxed prosaic about trump supporters who felt betrayed by their candidate pursuing in office the exact things that he said he would. short version: i have no sympathy.

today is a bit different. in the wake of america's bombing of a syrian air strip, in response to a chemical weapons attack by the syrian government, my facebook and twitter feeds were peppered with plaintive shades of "we believed you". these are the people who heard trump say that he wanted the united states to step back and focus on defending its own. indeed, trump did say such things, over and over; america cannot be the policeman of the world. even arch-liberal cynics like me had to admit that this was a refreshing argument to hear from someone outside the paul family, and, could easily have been turned into trump's greatest argument against hillary clinton. [he chose to go another way, which also worked.]

trump also said, repeatedly, that america needed to invest heavily …

long division

after the united states election last year, there were the usual calls for the country to unite behind the new president. that never happens anymore, because, since george w. bush scored a victory in 2004, having launched the country into a war in iraq for no reason, the people on the losing side of a presidential election have been pretty bloody angry about it. democrats hated bush 43. republicans really hated obama. democrats really hate trump.

it didn't help that trump didn't make the typical conciliatory gestures like including a couple of members of the opposite party in his cabinet, or encouraging his party to proceed slowly with contentious legislation. barack obama arguably wasted at least two and as many as six years of his tenure as president trying to play peacemaker before he felt sufficiently safe to just say "screw you guys" and start governing around the ridiculous congress he was forced to deal with. not-giving-a-shit obama was the best president in …

don't speak

you might think that it sounds dramatic, but linguistic genocide is something that happens. people in power will go to great lengths to eradicate certain languages, not just for the sheer joy of making the world a lesser place, but as a way of beating down the culture that's associated with it. language has a unique reciprocal bond with culture, and every group that has attempted to break down another has recognised that forbidding a cultural group from communicating in their own language is an extremely effective way to tear apart their culture.

there are lots [and lots and lots and lots] of examples of this sort of thing, some successful, some not, but far too many to cover in one blog post. however, i thought it was worth looking at some languages that have been the subjects of active repression, and what the political consequences of that have been.

devastation :: the native north american languages :: it should come as no surprise that the largest genocide in history [by a ma…