Dance Floor Revelations

23 11 2010

I feel like dancing means different things to different people, but growing up in Louisiana, it was a kind of cultural currency.  Having rhythm and being able to dance was status quo–  almost everyone could and did do it.  But having really amazing moves and being able to dominate a dance floor made you especially cool, and standing over near the wall bopping your head insecurely and totally off beat make you especially uncool, and it was just kind of understood that that’s how the game of life was played.

I remember going to my first school dance in 7th grade, where the DJ was playing pseudo hip-hop songs from the 90s like “Tootsie Roll” and “Come On Ride It” while my friends had a very heated “back that ass up” competition.  In that setting, the people who could dance easily separated themselves from the people who couldn’t.  I remember watching the really good dancers intently, studying their moves and trying to figure out what it was that set them apart from the mediocre dancers, and then I went home and practiced dancing in front of the mirror until I could back my ass up with as much gusto and variety as they did.

I didn’t realize until I got to UVA, and later to D.C., that the dance culture in Louisiana was not actually a microcosm of the whole world, and that there were tons white people living in other places who actually look like gerbils on quaaludes when they try to move their bodies in tandem with a 50 Cent song.  It’s appalling– just really, really embarrassing and uncomfortable to watch.

I digress.

Now that I’m a bit older, dancing is still pretty much my absolute favorite pastime, but it seems like there are fewer acceptable venues for it. You either dance at weddings, which is like, two-stepping to an old Motown song with your friend’s gay uncle, or you can go to a dance club and subject yourself to a buttload of creepy men who feel like they don’t need any form of permission or encouragement at all in order to shamelessly grope you and dry-hump your leg.

Just when I was thinking that there had to be a happy medium between weddings and creepy nightclubs, my friend invited me to a Cuban bar called Habana Village where he was celebrating his sister’s birthday.

Now, here’s why I plan to become a regular at Habana Village: You walk in, a man from Mexico or South America grabs your hand before you can even take your coat off and asks you to dance, and then instead of trying to cop a feel on the dance floor, he spins you and dips you and moves your hips around in a salsa or meringue or bachata routine that is not only relevant to the actual beat of the music, but makes you look like a great latin dancer, even if you have no clue what you’re doing.

Then, after one or two dances, he drowns you in superlatives– “You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life!” “You have the bluest eyes in the world! Where did you get the blue in your eyes, did you steal it from the ocean?” “I think I love you more than anyone I’ve ever loved before, you smell like fresh coconuts and happiness!”– and that is not an exaggeration.  You peel one guy off of you and the next guy is right behind him, ready to tell you that your hair is so shiny his brain is about to explode, and then you dance with him too.

So I returned to this heavenly place on Saturday and was immediately dragged onto the dance floor by this tall Columbian man.  After about three minutes of intensely staring into my eyeballs with a deathly serious expression on his face as I tried not to trip over his feet, he declared that I was the best dancer in the world.  I rolled my eyes and told him he could go ahead and stop blowing sunshine up my ass because, honestly, I was the worst latin dancer in that bar. Then he said the best thing ever:

“I’m not talking about your salsa moves.  I just mean that Louisiana women seem to understand what dancing is really about.”

Hoooooly smokes, if that man had any sense of humor at all I would have definitely given him my phone number and/or hand in marriage, both of which he later requested.  But he didn’t, and it’s probably better that way.


New York City

26 07 2010

“These streets will make you feel brand new/ Big lights will inspire you…”

Alicia Keys

Every time I spend a weekend in NYC, I feel increasingly conflicted about that city.

It seems like everything I love about New York City is the same thing I hate about it.  There really is no place like it.  I love the way it feels so huge that it just envelops you, physically and psychologically.  The buildings tower over you, the energy in the city is constantly crackling, there are endless possibilities of things to do and people to meet.  You feel completely anonymous there, just a speck in a sea of drama and fast-paced activity.  It’s the center of everything– any movie or play you want to see is there, any shop or museum you want to go to, any kind of food you want to eat or classes you want to attend, it’s right there.

At the same time, I think this is exactly what would drive me nuts about living there.  It’s so huge and full of possibilities that being there for three days just tires me out.  How do you ever achieve a sense of satisfaction there when you’re a “grass is always greener” person like me who constantly weighs what you could be doing that’s better than what you’re already doing?

Most of my friends in D.C. live within a one-mile radius, and there’s only a handful of bars and restaurants that we really enjoy, so it makes decisions really easy.  If I’m with my two favorite people at one of my usual haunts, like Bar Pilar, I don’t spend the whole night thinking about all the other things that are going on in the city that I might be missing out on, because I know that there’s probably not that much.  In NYC, if I’m at a bar in the Village that’s not that cool, it makes me want to rip my hair out because I know that I’ve got college friends drinking on a boat out in Chelsea, work friends in town at a party on the Upper West Side, a close friend from home heading to a really interesting off-Broadway show, etc., and what am I doing wasting my time at a place like this when I could be doing any number of cooler things right now that would only require a short expensive cab ride?!  So many people to call, so many neighborhoods to cab to, and so little money in my wallet!  It’s mentally exhausting.

D.C. is a slow and easy city.  There’s not nearly as much going on, the buildings and houses are all short enough that you can see the rest of the city and trees around them, and there’s such a slew of boring political-types that decisions about who to surround yourself with are a no-brainer.  The cool people in D.C. find each other easily and gloop together.  I can live in a giant air-conditioned house in a residential neighborhood with tree-lined streets in D.C. for the same amount of money that would get me a sweaty apartment the size of a postage stamp in NYC, and let’s face it: I could NOT survive without central A/C.

Sometimes I crave the hustle-and-bustle and crackling energy of New York, and nothing fans that flame more than visiting some of my favorite people who live there and have carved out really interesting lives for themselves there.  But it’s always a little bit of a relief to come back to my relatively sleepy, intelligent, half-Southern little city where I can really relax for a minute and stop thinking about what I could or should be doing.

A Five-Year Reflection on D.C.

16 07 2010

Ever since I moved to D.C. exactly five years ago, straight out of college, I’ve been expecting to leave.  I told myself this city was just temporary, and that I was only coming here because I had other friends coming here and really didn’t know where else to go or what else to do.

Everyone loves to hate on this city– especially the people who grew up around here.  90% of my friends who live here are “planning” to move somewhere else at some point– usually either San Francisco or New York, with the occasional Philly or Chicago thrown in there.  For the first four years I lived here, I was one of those people.  You’re always hearing how much better every other city on the planet is than D.C.:  The people are nicer in Chicago, cooler in San Francisco.  There are much more outdoor activities to do in Colorado, and nobody is stressed out all the time like they are here.  New York is just much more fun– there’s more to do, more to see, bigger energy.  New Orleans has more flavor, Philly and Baltimore are grittier and more “blue-collar,” Phoenix is less humid, L.A. has more attractive people, San Diego is great for surfing, Montana is far more beautiful, Nashville has a better hippie music scene.  All D.C. has are a bunch of ugly, uptight political-types and a lame night-life.

With all of this buzzing in my ear for the past five years, it’s really a wonder that I’ve stuck it out.  But each year when my lease was up, there was something keeping here– either a job, or a boyfriend, or a grad program– so that over the course of my five years here, I was really forced to put down some roots.  I have a D.C. license, D.C. plates, I know all the Starbucks baristas and the people who work at my dry-cleaner by name. Almost all of my closest friends are either here or an easy drive away, either to New York or Charlottesville.  I spent a whole summer doing an internship in Chicago, and while I totally fell in love with that city, I missed D.C. so much by the end of the internship that I purposely missed a connecting flight from D.C. to Charlottesville one time so that I could have an extra 12 hours in D.C. and catch a ride down with a friend instead.

Now, when I think about moving somewhere “cool” like San Francisco or Chicago or London, like I once dreamed of doing, I think about all the people that would no longer be in walking or driving distance, and it’s just not worth it to me.  Obviously, I would eventually make new friends in all of those places, but it took me five years to make the friends in D.C. that I’ve made, and not only are they irreplaceable, but I really don’t feel like starting over from scratch.

It occurred to me recently that there are two kinds of people in the world:

1) The kind who love to move around every couple years and constantly travel, spending a year here, six months there, who really derive the majority of their energy from being in a new place and meeting new people and learning a new language and feeling disoriented for a while.  I have a lot of friends who are like this, and I respect them immensely for their ability to do that.  Sure, they miss their friends and family, but they are willing to only see their friends and family a couple times a year if it means that they get to keep moving.


2) The people like me, who derive the majority of their happiness less from the newness or coolness or beauty of their physical surroundings than from the feeling of being physically surrounded by a relatively large, supportive, high-quality network of family and friends.  I am not ok with seeing these people once or twice a year; I want to see them once or twice a month.  My wanderlust is satisfied by traveling abroad, or visiting people for a week here or a week there–I don’t need to actually move to these places.  I need to be able to have barbeques at my house and invite my favorite people over for trivial pursuit whenever I want, or take a bus up to NYC for the weekend when I haven’t seen one of them in a while, and it’s worth it to me to miss out on snow-shoeing and rafting in Colorado to be able to do that.  Once I am forced to move somewhere, my immediate instinct is to dig my feet in and wiggle my butt into the sand until it makes a clear impression and then stay there as long as humanly possible.

I’m not saying that I agree with anyone that D.C. is as lame as people make it out to be– it’s really not, especially in the last year or so.  And I’m not saying that my surroundings are totally irrelevant to my relative happiness, because they’re not.  Ever since I moved from Adams Morgan to Mount Pleasant, I have been a markedly happier person.  But again, that could be as much because of my awesome roommates as it is the neighborhood itself.

I can acknowledge that there are thousands of other amazing places in the world that I’m probably missing out on by continuing to live in D.C., but my main point is that I don’t care.  I love my people in this city and the surrounding areas, and that is enough to keep me here for a long, long time.

What do you guys think?  Are you more of a type 1 or a type 2?

Warning: Celebrities Are Smaller Than They Appear.

3 05 2010

Arianna and the HuffPost politics team with Scarlett and Rosario.

Every time I run into a celebrity, which is not very often, I am struck by how physically small he or she is.  Maybe it’s because I sometimes get caught up in that celebrity-worship culture– People magazine, E! News, the Academy Awards– which glorifies them to the point where you expect them to tower over you with vampire-like glittering skin if you ever meet them in person.  Then you see them and they’re, like, small and frail-looking, and always wearing too much makeup and hairspray.

Saturday was the White House Correspondents Dinner, or, as the media calls it, “Nerd Prom.”  It’s basically a big circle-jerk in which journalists, politicians and celebrities get together to reassure each other of how big and important they are.  I didn’t get invited to the actual dinner, where one of my co-workers was seated at a table next to Scarlett Johansson (pictured above), because I am definitely not important enough for all that.  But I did score an invitation to the ABC News pre-party at the Hilton.  I thought this was pretty cool, since I had never been invited to anything like this before, so I dragged my poor boyfriend out of the library where he was studying for his law school exams and forced him to put on a suit and walk the red carpet with me.

When I say there was a red carpet, I mean that literally.  We walked past throngs of spectators and photographers on an actual red carpet to get to this random news party in an ugly, nondescript conference room filled with politicians and celebrities in formal attire.  And cheese trays.

My boyfriend grew up in NYC with a mother who works in media, so he has been to the actual Correspondents Dinner before, has been dragged to tons of similar events in the past, and isn’t really impressed by the scene at all.  But he was a very good sport about it, because I grew up in Opelousas, Louisiana, and can think of nothing cooler than reaching for a cube of cheese and bumping elbows with that secretary chick from Mad Men.

So the evening went like this:

Me: Omigod, is that Cynthia Nixon from Sex and the City?!  She looks so small!

Him (mildly amused): Look, that’s Rahm Emanuel over there talking to the Attorney General.

Me: Oh neat.  Omigod, is that Ashley Judd?

Him:  Look, George Stephanopoulos, six o’clock.

Me: Where?

Him: Look down.

Me (standing on my tiptoes so I can look straight down into the crowd):  Oh, there he is.  Whoa, he’s a dwarf.

Him:  Yea, he’s teeny.

Me: Hey, who’s that tall chick?  Is that Kathryn Bigelow?

Him:  I don’t know.

Me:  Omigod, Katie Couric just touched my arm.


Sen. Scott Brown (stuffing his face with cheese):  You guys look great tonight, you having fun?

Him (nodding politely): Senator.

Me: Omigod, Scott Brown just touched my arm!

Him: …cool babe. Wanna get outta here and get some sushi?

Admittedly, while it was briefly cool to play “Spot the Celeb,” I was really unimpressed by them as a whole.  The only person I saw who was actually more beautiful in person than I expected was Rosario Dawson, who is just stunning.  The rest of them looked like normal people who had been chipped away at by a team of beauty professionals all day.  They looked uncomfortable, and they couldn’t walk two feet without somebody trying to take a picture with them.

My point is, I think it’s really grounding to go to an event like this every once in a while.  I got to leave the party in anonymity, kick my shoes off and walk home barefoot when I got tired.  They had a gaggle of fans and photographers everywhere they went, and no matter how uncomfortable or bored they got, they had to keep up this appearance of being fabulous and fun.  Many of them can’t go anywhere without a “security team,” and they are forced to make small talk with every non-genuine kiss-ass who approaches them. The whole thing just seems exhausting, doesn’t it?

The Mystery of Indie Rock Show-Goers

25 03 2010

I went to two shows this week as part of my life campaign to be a cooler person.  A disproportionate number of my friends go to shows all the time, multiple nights a week, alone or with others.  They love indie music so much that they will stand at a music venue alone for 5 straight hours on a worknight watching some obscure band perform.  I can usually be found running loads of laundry, making popcorn and watching Jeopardy on worknights, which isn’t nearly as cool, so I decided it was time to test my mettle and see some weeknight concerts.

So Monday night, I had a ticket to see Joanna Newsom at the 6th and I Synagogue, a pretty neat venue.   I get off work at 6.  It’s cold and raining pretty hard.  By the time I get home I’m soaked, and very tired from a crappy day at work.  The idea of putting on my pajamas, making myself some dinner and watching Jeopardy sounds really glorious at this point, but I already had a ticket to the show and a hot date, so I pushed myself to motivate.

Joanna Newsom

I arrive at the Synagogue and slip into a pew.  About 20 minutes later, these two dorky brothers with scruffy beards take the stage with one guitar.  For the next hour or so, they play some of the worst, most excruciating music I’ve ever heard.  One brother would play the guitar and sing a song with really dumb lyrics while the other one tried to harmonize.  I mean, the harmonies themselves were fine, but a harmony does not a good song make!

Torture.  I honestly spent their whole set trying to figure out whether they were joking or not.

So their set finally ends, and then we have to wait another hour while Joanna and her back-up band scurry around the stage “tuning their instruments,” like they couldn’t have done that before the show.  So far, I’ve been sitting in a pew in a Synagogue for two hours with no quality entertainment.

Finally, Joanna begins.  She’s really cool– hair down to her butt, long, flowy dress, excellent harp skills and a beautiful, interesting voice.  So for her first couple of songs, I’m placated.  This is entertaining.

Then she plays a fourth song, and a fifth  song, and a sixth song, each like 8-10 minutes long.  Her voice starts to become a little grating.  If this were a CD, I would change it to a different artist to take a break from her for a little while, but it’s not a CD, so I have to listen to the same voice singing long-form, un-rhyming poetry for hours.  I recognize that what she’s doing is very cool and interesting, but my ears are just tired of hearing it, I’m squirming in my pew and my bedtime is quickly approaching.

Joanna ends with a song that I swear lasts about 13 minutes, and by the time she plucks the final string on her harp, I am nearly passed out on my date’s shoulder.  She walks off stage, and I’m pretty relieved to get to go home, but then– get this– the audience decides to clap and clap until she agrees to come back on stage for more.  Really, guys? I mean, she’s great, I really like her. But we’ve already heard her sing very similar-sounding songs for over an hour, and it’s 11:30.  Do we need more Joanna?

Anyway, we finally leave the show to find a parking ticket on my windshield.  Perfect.

So Tuesday happens.  I have a ticket to see Spoon at the 9:30 club.  I really like Spoon– I only know a few of their songs, but I figure that I know enough to make the show enjoyable.  Learning a lesson from the night before, I decide to skip the opening act and show up around 9:30, hoping to get there just in time for the real mccoy.


I arrive at 9:30 and elbow my way through the thick crowd to find my three friends in the middle, who have already been standing still in the same spot for over an hour.  (For you out-of-towners, the 9:30 Club has no place to sit, at all, so when you see shows there you have to stand still for extremely long periods of time.)

So Spoon takes the stage a little after 10 and plays til midnight.  They mostly play their “new stuff,” as all bands do because they’re sick of playing their “old stuff” even though that’s what everyone wants to hear.  I’m not really enjoying their new stuff, mostly because I’ve never heard it before, but everyone around me is bopping their heads so I instinctively bop my head as well to prove that I am a fan.

An hour in, my back is hurting, and I’ve only heard one song that is vaguely familiar to me.  By 11:30, I can barely stand up anymore my back hurts so badly, but there is no place to sit or crouch because I’m squished in between a bunch of dudes.  So I elbow my way back through the crowd and sit against the wall in the very back of the club until the show ends.  The three people I was there with, who had all been there long before I did, toughed it out and stood in that same spot all the way through the encore.  It was truly commendable.

Now, here’s what I want to know. I realize that going to shows sounds a lot cooler than hanging out in the comfort of your room and listening to those same bands on a CD or record.  But is the former really that much more enjoyable for everyone?  I mean, do most people really, really enjoy these shows, or is it more to be able to tell people that you saw X obscure band last night?   I mean, it’s a novelty getting to see some famous people perform that song that you like, but is it really worth all the effort?

All I know is that after my 2-show stretch this week, I really gained a new respect for show-goers.  They buy tickets, traverse the city on a Monday night, sit through terrible opening acts, stand in the same spot for hours upon hours and then demand an encore.  The mental and physical energy required to do all that, alone, multiple times a week, just boggles my mind.

So the answer to the original question I posed to myself is no, I’ll never be one of those cool people that goes to see indie rock shows all the time.  But I am seriously impressed by people who do.

90 Types of Bitches

5 03 2010

Geof directed me to this blog post, which has to be the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  Since my records show that most of you will actually not click on that link, I’m going to repost the meat of his blog for your entertainment.

Apparently, blogger Jeff Simmermon’s friend’s cousin is a third grade teacher at a charter school in D.C..  As she was cleaning her classroom one day, she found this document on the floor, “recognized it for the gem it was” and immediately scanned/uploaded it.

I present to you a list of the 90 Types of Bitches in the world, straight from the mind of a D.C. third grader:

Man, this is impressive.  I was trying to see how many types of bitches I could come up with on my own, and I only got to like 38.  This kid came up with a whopping 90!  Guess (s)he’s no “uncreative bitch.”  Unfortunately, this document was missing a page when the teacher found it, so we are all left to guess what kinds of bitches populate the 44-58 slots. I’m guessing “fugly bitch” was somewhere in there.

So what kind of bitch are you? Better hope you’re not number 16– yikes!  I think I’m a combination of bitches 15,26, 37, and 88.  No wonder I don’t have any friends.

D.C.’s Best Week Ever

4 03 2010

I’m so proud of my city this week, y’all! A number of fantastic things happened.

First, yesterday marked the first day that same-sex marriage is legal in District! WOOT!

As gay couples stood in line to apply for their shiny new marriage licenses, the typical right-wing haters gathered around to protest, sporting their matching “” tank tops.  So classy.  And what would a gay marriage protest be without a poster of gay stick figures copulating and a sign that reads “God Hates Obama”?

Fortunately, DCist reports that the crowd of supporters actually drowned out the crowd of happiness-haters with their deafening cheers as gay couples emerged from the courthouse, which makes my heart swell.

Hooray! Mazel tov!

In other Best Week Ever news, the Caps beat the Sabres 3-1 last night, Marion Barry was FINALLY censured by the D.C. Council after years of getting away with tax fraud, smoking crack, and using city funds for himself and his girlfriends, and a fantastic New York Times article came out about the D.C. Nightlife Revival.

Yea, you heard right– D.C. has a NIGHTLIFE. And that nightlife is experiencing a REVIVAL.  Because people are flooding into the city for our stable government jobs, and the population growth is being met by a major growth in cool bars, bad-ass DJ’s and other fun stuff to do.

Wildman writes:

“Indeed, the city, once called, even by its own citizens, “Hollywood for ugly people” is in the midst of a night life renaissance. To whit: 53 restaurants, bars and boutiques have opened in the last two years in the area known as Mid-City (roughly from Thomas Circle up 14th Street through U Street, and along U down to Ninth). That doesn’t include the new celebrity chef haunts in Penn Quarter, nor the sleek new hotel bars at the Jefferson and the W, nor the monthly or weekly alternative parties like Maison that are held in warehouses, bars and nightclubs.”

Hallelujia!  Is it Friday yet?