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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?

dreamspeak

ok, so i've been lax about posting here. i apologise. there are reasons. i don't know if they'ree good reasons, but they include:


i've had a lot of work to do, which is nice because i'm a freelancer and things tend to slow down in the summer, so the more work i get now, the less i have to worry about later [in theory].i started watching the handmaid's tale. i was a little hesitant because i didn't actually like the novel very much; i found it heavy-handed and predictable. the series relies on the novel for about 80% of its first season plot but i nevertheless find it spellbinding. where i felt that the novel beat readers with its politics, the series does a better job of connecting with the humanity in the midst of politics. i'm dithering on starting season two because i am a serial binger and once i know damn well that starting the second season will soon consign me to the horrors of having to wait a week between episodes. i don't know if i can han…

i agree, smedley [or, smokers totally saved our planet in 1983]

so this conversation happened [via text, so i have evidence and possibly so does the canadian government and the nsa].

dom and i were trying to settle our mutual nerves about tomorrow night's conversion screening, remembering that we've made a fine little film that people should see. which is just about exactly what dom had said when i responded thusly:

me :: i agree smedley. [pauses for a moment] did you get that here?

dom :: no?

me :: the aliens who were looking at earth and then decided it wasn't worth bothering with because people smoked even though it was bad for them?
come to think of it, that might mean that smokers prevented an alien invasion in the seventies.

dom :: what ?!?!?

me :: i've had wine and very little food. [pause] but the alien thing was real. [pause.] well, real on tv.

dom :: please eat something.

of course, i was wrong. the ad in question ran in 1983. this is the part where i would triumphantly embed the ad from youtube, except that the governmen…

mental health mondays :: separate and not equal

given the ubiquitousness of racial disparities in the united states, there's no reason why we should be surprised that they exist in mental health care. unlike a lot of other areas, the people in power have acknowledged the problem for decades. but the situation isn't getting any better. 
the united states surgeon general documented the differences between white and non-white mental health care back in 2001 so we can assume that it was already a known problem at that point. two years later, a presidential commission said the same damn thing and groups like the national association for mental health seized on this to develop guidelines on how to bridge the ethnic gap. from the turn of the century through 2007, the number of papers and publications talking about the mental health care gap spiked. the issue was viewed as being on par with obesity when it came to urgent problems.

starting in 2004, researchers undertook a massive project that involved the records of nearly a quart…