November 30, 2006

Today's Bumper Sticker

"My Child Drinks From the Toilet!"

I'm assuming, hoping, that this is from a childless person with a dog. No word on whether he or she is also an honor student.

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November 29, 2006

Bumper Sticker of the Day -- Southern California

"Club Sandwiches, Not Seals"

Normally, I'm not one to criticize or make fun of well-intentioned bumper stickers, but how does this motorist think the bacon gets on that club sandwich? Maybe seals get better treatment than pigs because they are cuter?

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November 27, 2006

Politically Incorrect Reality Moment of the Week

Today I had a moment right out of a comedy movie. I'm driving on a SoCal freeway, and ahead of me is a compact car with two occupants and a Student Driver sign on top. The car is weaving like Betsy Ross on Red Bull.The brake lights are on, yet the car is still traveling at highway speed, as if the driver has his or her feet on the gas and brakes simultaneously. Another car merges onto the freeway, and the two almost collide.

I pass the student driver on the left, and it happens to be a young Asian woman. She's giggling, hopefully out of nervousness rather than flippancy. I get out of there quickly, not wanting to be anywhere nearby when the giggling driver has an encounter with a giant pickup truck.

I checked for the film cameras and crew, but didn't see any. They must have been hidden, right? I mean, this is Southern California. It must have been a comedy movie.

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November 24, 2006

Second Impressions of Kulleefoneeyah

Here's another post that will probably get me in trouble with the locals.

1. The phonetic spelling of this state is constantly evolving. This latest one is as close as I think I have come to what der Governor says.

2. The cops here are very prissy. Their hair is highly coiffed. They chat on cell phones while driving, which cannot be for official business since that is what their police radios are for. The dine at Panera instead of Dunkin Donuts. They probably get manicures. This is a far cry from Andy Sipowicz and the NYPD Blue. I am told that all they do is give traffic tickets and beat up black men.

3. The traffic still sucks. I guess I can't complain, since I have added to the problem by 1.

4. When I hit upon the Black Friday crowds, I now exclaim in Spanish ("Dios mio!") instead of English ("holy sh*t!"). That sure didn't take long.

5. Out here, "writer" = "screenwriter."

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November 21, 2006

Blackened Sabbath

I cooked my first meal in my new home tonight, and, as usual, it was an adventure. Earlier, I wandered through Whole Foods in my new neighborhood, shellshocked, not knowing where anything was. It did not help that today is the day before the day before Thanksgiving, and Whole Foods was quite crowded. People in Southern California are no more courteous behind their shopping carts than they are behind the wheel.

Then I turned on the oven broiler (in lieu of a barbeque grill, which I have not yet purchased) a bit early, in case it needed to burn off any newness. Likewise, I checked out the oven owner's manual. I do not consider myself an owner's manual geek, but it has been a long time since I operated a brand new oven, and I wasn't sure if there was some procedure to follow before using it the first time. Thumbing through the manual, here is what I found on page 19:

Using the Sabbath Feature (Designed for use on the Jewish Sabbath and Holidays). The Sabbath feature can be used for baking/roasting only. It cannot be used for broiling, self-cleaning or Delay Start cooking.

What the fu%k? I read on:

To understand how the oven control works, practice using regular baking (non-Sabbath) before entering Sabbath mode. [1] Touch and hold both the BAKE and BROIL HI/LO pads, at the same time, until the display shows SF. [2] Tap the CLOCK pad until Sab appears in the display.

And so on. Now, I was raised in a (somewhat) Jewish household, where I knew what the Sabbath was but never observed it in any way, and I have no earthly (or heavenly) idea what these instructions have to do with the Sabbath. Does the oven have to be at a certain temperature for Sabbath cooking? Will it only roast? Will it only cook a chicken, or maybe a nice brisket? Does it have an ejector mechanism when meat and dairy products are placed together inside? Does it bounce your lasagne back in your face on Fridays after sundown?

I never found out. However, my broiled orange soy Scottish salmon was quite, uh, kosher, if I say so myself.

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November 19, 2006

First Impressions of Kullifornia

Governor Schwarzenegger has ruined California for me. I cannot think of the word "California" without hearing der Gropenfuhrer's brutal pronounciation, which, phonetically, is something like "Kull-ee-for-nee-ah." Perhaps the Governator's speech pattern is appropriate, because California, at least the southern beach area where I have moved, is an in-your-face place.

My first impressions of California are:

1. It is remarkably more expensive than my former home, Washington, DC, in terms of housing, auto insurance, gasoline, food in restaurants, food in grocery stores, etc.

2. The weather is fabulous. Everyone here agrees about this. The only caveat is, the weather gets progressively less perfect as one gets farther inland from the ocean. If one is in the Central Valley, it can be stifling hot, even in November. I live 4 blocks from the beach, so the weather here is pretty damn good.

3. People here are car crazy. The number of high-status luxury and sports cars is off the charts. Many of these drivers live in run-down hovels. No matter. Hardly anyone sees your house. Everyone sees your car.

4. Everything to do with driving sucks. The distances suck. The traffic sucks. The discourteous drivers suck. See also #1.

5. The people here are insanely good looking. They are in fabulous shape. I think the reason is a combination of (a) super local fruits and vegetables available year round, including an abundance of farmers' markets; (b) the easy availability of biking, hiking, rollerblading and other outdoor activities year round; and (c) the summer clothing and bathing suits worn most of the year. There is a fourth possibility to which someone has alerted me: (d) liposuction.

It has only been a few days, way too soon to make any judgments. However, I honestly cannot say that I like California yet. Perhaps I will grow to love it. Or perhaps I will leave after a time, comfortable in knowing that I gave it a shot.

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November 16, 2006

Dispatches From America - Part Final

Day 8 - Phoenix, AZ to the California Coast - 425 miles

"So if you meet me, have some courtesy"

I am joined by other drivers in a high-speed westward run out of Phoenix similar to the one I made coming in the day before. It is the most stunning scenery yet, with desert scapes and mountains that look like reclining human forms.

The combination of speed and scenery is pure bliss. I am eager to get to the West coast, but it cannot be this pretty, and I don't want the journey to end.

Music on the satellite: The B-52s "Roam," Shawn Mullins "Lullaby," Allanah Myles "Black Velvet."

Two asshole drivers with California plates lead the way, and I grant them plenty of space. They dodge in and out of traffic, and pass trucks on the right going uphill, when the trucks are themselves passing other trucks and trying to move over to the right.

After crossing the Colorado River and into California, I exit at Blythe. Once again, it is early for lunch, but the next town, Desert Center, is 44 miles away and doesn't sound too promising. Blythe turns out to have a great strip, which includes places like Steaks and Cakes. A bank sign reads 10:48 am. I have crossed into Pacific time.

I pass by a place with a big sign at the top that reads "Courtesy Coffee Shop." I know that I have to stop there. I walk inside, and right into "Pulp Fiction." The Courtesy is circa 1960s, with stone walls, wooden beams, slanted roof, and faux wood grain counter. I ask the Hispanic waitress, who is about 60 but was probably very cute once, for recommendations, but then I ignore them, at my peril, it turns out. She is in no hurry, and makes my salad before even submitting my order. Oh well, this is my last day to mosey. When my hot turkey sandwich arrives, it is buried in bright yellow gravy.

Kim Carnes' "Betty Davis Eyes" comes over the speakers. The cook starts dancing. A couple of older Black gentlemen enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee at the counter. A very young and very skinny mom sits in a booth with her newborn baby. One of the waiters behind the counter, a thirtysomething guy with tatoos and shaved head, is playing practical jokes on the waitresses.

Back in the car, I learn for the second time that trucks bearing the company name "Swift" aren't. On the satellite radio, I hear "Dani California" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I'm Dani California. It is now my state, and thus far I love it. "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol follows. To the left are the aptly named Chocolate Mountains. To my right, dry lakes followed by broad beautiful expanses. Who owns this land? Then I realize that it is Joshua Tree National Park. So, I own it. You own it. "Breaking the Law" by Judas Priest comes on. I dedicate it to my friend Jann and the girl at the rest stop in North Carolina, both lawbreakers extraordinaire.

The bliss continues until San Bernardino. Then everything literally comes to a crashing halt. I hit one traffic jam due to construction blocking the right lane. Shortly thereafter, there is a second tieup. Eventually I pass a white pickup truck flipped upside down, with its occupants sitting dazed nearby. The traffic opens up again only for a short time. Near the giant cartwheeling windmill farm outside of Palm Springs, the road becomes congested again. It continues like this until, finally, I reach the Pacific Ocean. The real world has encroached once again.

So the question is, did I find what I was looking for on this journey? Did I find America? The answer is, I think so. I found that America, or at least the sliver of America through which I traveled, exists in the proud New Orleans French Quarter. America also exists in the uber-commercialization of the Houston Galleria. America exists in the variety of people who gather in the Courtesy Cafe in Blythe, California. America is a place of awe-inspiring natural beauty and rich diversity, both geographical and ethnic. America is also a place of soul-crushing sameness, brought on by giant corporations. These forces are constantly at odds. Which will win? I have no idea.

And the naysayers. Those folks who said that I should not take this trip, that it would be too long, too boring, that I would be too tired, etc. To you I say, those were your fears that you were projecting onto me. I know what I like. I knew I would enjoy this ride. What I did not know was just how much I would enjoy it. Aside from the spectacular scenery, the best part was visiting old friends, some of whom I have known for 10 to 20 years or more. I love my friends!

As my journey across America ends, I feel invigorated, and hopeful for the country. I am ready to turn this car right around and do it again!

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Dispatches From America - Part Four

Day 7 - El Paso, TX to Phoenix, AZ - 460 miles

"It's the wind, stupid"

After a few minutes, three days and 857 miles, I finally leave Texas and cross into New Mexico. Yellow signs warn of strong winds and dust storms. The winds come. I see my first tumbleweed, bouncing diagonally across the highway. There is a lot of road construction, and signs all over the place. After the "you're on your own" attitude in Texas, where I saw two police cars the entire time, this is a much more regulated state. I pass a border checkpoint even though we are not at the border. The guard gives my car a long look but waves me through. I guess Kinky is not an illegal alien.

West of Deming, I encounter my first dust storm. I had been wondering why my eyes were irritated all morning, and the reason is probably that I had outside air coming through the vents. It is becoming very dry, and the gallon of water I picked up in San Antonio comes in very handy. The car is buffeted by crosswinds. Then I see a sign which partly explains the conditions. I am at the Continental Divide, at nearly 4,900 feet elevation. Since the terrain is flat, I had no idea.

In Lordsburg, I stop to pick up a sandwich at Subway. Even though it is early, there are no other towns coming up, and I figure this is the healthiest thing I can get for many miles. I take a look at the front of the car, and the dead bugs have been replaced with an exploded tumbleweed. I start to pick the pieces out of the grille and air dam. Ouch! Those suckers are sharp! I go into the Subway, and ... it smells really bad. Even though it may be a long while before I find more food, I follow my instincts and walk out. On the way out, I pass a couple of lean men in cowboy hats and boots. They obviously do not use moisturizer on their faces. No metrosexuals here.

Outside, the sun feels warm, and the wind has subsided a bit. I must have declined in elevation. Back on the road, I enter Arizona. Finally, signs indicate an approaching town called Wilcox. This is when everything turns to crap. First, the exit appears to be blocked by construction horses. At the last second, I notice a small opening for an exit. The village idiots have placed the horses so that, from the highway, they appear to block the exit. I practically have to swerve onto the ramp. Then, everything immediately turns to gravel. The whole town is under construction. Creeping trucks block me wherever I go.

I spot a place to eat, and turn left to enter its parking lot. The entrance is blocked by more construction horses. I have no choice but to continue on the road, which turns out to be the entrance ramp back onto I-10. In the wrong direction. The next (previous) exit is over 4 miles away. I shout "FU#K!" out loud and pound on the steering wheel. That makes me feel better. At the exit, I turn and head back to Wilcox. I go back to the food place, where there is now a crowd of about 30 school students on line ahead of me. I'm going nowhere, and after a minute, I leave. There is a gas station next door, so I pull in and try to fill up. The pump won't take my credit card. At this point, I raise both fists in the air, slowly turn around and flip the town of Wilcox the double bird, shouting "FU@K YOU WILCOX!" This makes me feel better, although the construction workers nearby are wondering what they have done to piss me off.

When I finally leave Wilcox, I glance once in the rearview mirror. The Stranglers' "Peaches" comes on the satellite radio. Walking on the beaches looking at the peaches. I put the past behind me. Wilcox Arizona, YOU SUCK!

The Stone Temple Pilots' "Interstate Love Song" comes on next, and I'm back into the journey. I see my first cactus. The sand is shimmering like water in the sun. The mountains are increasing in size.

About 45 miles outside of Phoenix, the cars around me pick up speed. I think I know why. It's after 2 pm, and we want to avoid the infamous Phoenix traffic. We make a high-speed run into town, and I arrive before rush hour. However, while the city is laid out in a grid, it is built among the mountains, so just when I think I am headed in the right direction, I run into a mountain and have to go around it. As a result, I eventually get caught up in the rush hour tide. With its traffic and attractive women in mirrored sunglasses driving sports cars, Phoenix reminds me that I am getting close to California.

I meet my friend "Paul" for dinner. I have known him for about 20 years. I once interviewed with him at NBC, and then he became a client. We go to an Italian place in Scottsdale called "Arrivederci." We walk inside and ... I see dead people. The average age is about 82. People have bandages on their heads and other body parts. Paul assures me that, despite the clientele, the place has very authentic Italian food. Sure enough, we are greeted by an Italian maitre d' and then an Italian waiter.

Having been born and raised in New York, Paul and I immediately go off menu. We ask if they have a Bolognese sauce. The waiter's eyes light up, and he says "Yes, we haff a Bo-lo-nay-zay, and it's verry goood." He is right. It is among the best I have had in the U.S. But something is bothering me. It's the bread. It is not real Italian bread. The crust is very soft. Before I can say anything, Paul has read my mind. He says that restaurants here are unable to make real Italian bread. "The water," I say. "Right, he says. He tells me that one restaurant in town flies water in from New York so they can make real Italian bread. "The owners must be New Yorkers," I say. "Right," he says.

Tomorrow, I will be far away from New York, at the California Coast...

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November 15, 2006

Dispatches From America - Part Tres

Day 5 - Houston to San Antonio, TX - 200 miles
"Music and bugs"
These two things play an increasing role in the trip. Many bugs have given their lives throughout the Southeast, to get me where I am. Their remains are all over my car's grille, front air dam, license plate and headlights. I imagine that, at night, my headlights look like disco mirror balls, their refracted light throwing spots all around.

I get excited whenever a song that fits in to the themes of the trip comes over the satellite radio. Today, it's "Little Pink Houses" by John Mellencamp, "Fuel" by Metallica, "Night Rider" by Tom Petty, and one that I have chosen on CD, "Highway Star" by Deep Purple.

I arrive in San Antonio early in the afternoon. I have planned this stop to meet my friend "Linda" and her husband "Dave," both S.A. natives. It is time to get my Spanish on. We meet at Market Square, known to locals as the Mexican Market. The Market is replete with Dia de los Muertos merchandise and altars, live music and gorditas. Then we head into Mi Tierra for some of the best Mexican food around. I have been there before, and, although we have to wait for a table with the mob of people, it doesn't disappoint.

Afterward, we head to the River Walk. On the way, a tiny parade passes behind us. We try to pull the car over to watch, but the street is too busy.

The River Walk is tree-lined, serene and very pleasant. This town is designed largely for tourists, but I think it's tasteful rather than tacky, and I always enjoy it. We walk up the steps to La Villita, an original Spanish settlement that now contains shops and art galleries. At the church, a wedding is taking place. This is the second time in a row this has happened when I was there, and it adds some nice color to the scene.

Then we hit South Alamo Street across from Hemisfair Park, and the same parade is passing by. It is made up of only about 20 marchers, all wearing matching white t-shirts. At the front is a guy riding a Texas longhorn. At the rear is the smallest covered wagon I have ever seen. The whole thing is really quaint. Linda starts laughing and calls it a "redneck parade." We see a yellow bus parked in front of the park gate, and it is painted to read "Children's Miracle Network Torch Relay." The Children's Miracle Network is raising funds for children's hospitals across the country. It is their parade, and their day.

At night, we go to Momma's for chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes and iced tea. I eat every morsel. Afterward, it sits heavy, but it was well worth it. I earned it.

Day 6 - San Antonio to El Paso - 548 Miles
"Kinky travels."
Heading Northwest out of San Antonio, I enter the Hill Country. The landscape is harsh. The air is cool. The distances stretch way out. A sign reads "Rest Area 2 Miles. Next Rest Area 123 Miles." Toto, we're not in Connecticut anymore.

I have picked up a traveling companion, courtesy of Linda. His name is Richard Friedman. His friends call him Kinky. He is 12 inches tall, and says a lot of funny things. 25 of them, to be exact. Among his sayings: "As the first Jewish governor of Texas, I will lower the speed limit from 55 to 54.95." He recently ran for governor, but came in fourth. I think the field only had three candidates.

After the Hill Country, I drive through a series of plateaus. They are spectacular, with the Davis Mountains to the left, crinkly in the sunlight.

Thematic songs on the satellite:
"Wish You Were Here" - Pink Floyd
"California" - Phantom Planet
"Far Behind" - Candlebox

I'm traveling faster than an airplane. Faster than the sun. I'm a highway star!

After 9 hours of travel, I arrive in the Eastern part of El Paso, near the airport. It is a scary place. My hotel room is scary, with small windows high on the walls. The refrigerator is scary. The microwave is scary. It's fit for military housing, and it turns out, that is what it is. With the airport and Fort Bliss nearby, air force pilots from Japan and Germany train there and stay at the hotel. I see tall Japanese guys in camouflage uniforms and blue caps. I'll bet you haven't.

I go to a place called Carlos and Mickey's and sit at the bar. A trio plays very moving traditional Mexican tunes. I talk to the skinny Mexican manager, who has straight shiny black hair pulled into a tight pony tail, and a face covered in acne. I ask him what I should do in town for one night. He says that I should go to Teddy's in the airport Holiday Inn, where they have karaoke and stewardesses. I ask, isn't there something down in the city that is more interesting? He shrugs his shoulders and says, "This is El Paso." Exactly.

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November 14, 2006

Dispatches From America - Part Deux

"It's the Katrina, stupid."

Day 3 - Marietta, GA to New Orleans, LA - 525 miles
I'm playing cat-and-mouse with the police. The deck is stacked against me, as numerous motorists are driving white Ford Crown Victorias. People, don't you know you are driving police cars?

In Georgia southwest of Atlanta, I know that I have officially entered the Bible Belt when I see the first vehicle with the word "God" on it. It is a bus whose side reads "Camelot Bus Lines - Traveling With God's Grace."

I drive through Alabama and then to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Along the coast and into Louisiana, giant pickup trucks bear down on me at very high speed in the left lane. It's all about the oil. Does anyone doubt why we have troops in Iraq?

As I approach New Orleans, I search for signs of Katrina. The only signs I see are broken trees around the shoreline. Days later, I learn that I did not see all the homes south of I-10 that were destroyed, had their wreckage removed and were not rebuilt. The place looks like a lovely preserve. I had no idea that it had been cluttered with residences.

After checking into the pretty Country Inn and Suites hotel, I head to the French Quarter. I cannot believe the age of the buildings, such as Laffite's Blacksmith Shop, and the great shape that they are in. I try to imagine what it was like a hundred years ago, with strumpets in flowing dresses struttin' their stuff. It's so beautiful I want to cry.

I look for more evidence of Katrina. There are some torn signs, and other banners hanging from the second story balconies indicating "We're Back" or "We've Reopened." I walk along Royal Street. It is very calm, with gorgeous art galleries. Then I turn up a side street and, one block away, I hit Bourbon Street. I see drunk people. It's only 8 pm on a Friday night, but they are staggering everywhere with giant green or pink plastic "to go" hurricane cups. It's Las Vegas with humidity. Some guys are negotiating with a couple of women on a balcony to lift up their tops. The negotiation stalls. I make a mental note to return a couple of hours later.

Lots of business people are walking around with giant badges hanging from their necks. I find out that there are thousands of them in town for a huge real estate convention, the first one since Katrina. It looks like many of these folks will be getting into trouble later tonight. Unfortunately, I won't be joining them. I am exhausted from the driving, and, after a mind-numbing stroll through Harrah's Casino, I am forced to turn in early in one of the few places in the country where no one turns in early.

Day 4 - New Orleans, LA to Houston, TX - 365 miles
I begin the day with coffee and beignets at the famous Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter. The menu is so limited that it is written on the metal napkin boxes. Take the following quiz to find out how my tourist credentials showed. Was it that I:

A. whipped out my camera on Decatur street and snapped away;
B. asked the waiter to go easy on the lait in my cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde;
C. asked the same waiter if they served anything more substantial, such as eggs; D. wore a black shirt to eat beignets outside at Cafe Du Monde; or
E. all of the above.

If you answered E, you are correct. As for the black shirt, black + a quarter pound of powdered sugar on top of the beignets + a windy morning = you do the math, or, in this case, the physics. I had to sit strategically upwind. The woman at the table next to me began a conversation by turning around and asking, "You're wearing a black shirt HERE?!"

Some people told me that New Orleans is a sleazy, crime-ridden city that should be avoided. You might as well tell people to avoid New York City for the crime, London for the rain or Paris for the waiters. New Orleans is a very special place. I'm thrilled that it has bounced back from Katrina and has not lost its vibrancy. I hope every inch of it is a national historic landmark or part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It must be preserved. The levees should be rebuilt in a state-of-the-art manner. Hell, if the Dutch can do it, so can we.


Louisiana west of New Orleans is a stunning seascape into which one is immersed while driving on the causeways just a few feet above the water.

At one pit stop, the graffiti on the wall is French, calling Satan "Le Bete."

As I cross into Texas, the roads are so flat that I think I see the curvature of the earth. I'm a modern day Columbus, watching the Ford F-150 pickup trucks sink over the horizon.

Forgetting that it is Saturday, I mistakenly drift into the Houston Galleria at about 4 p.m. It's a complete mob scene, with shoppers buying Christmas gifts and a 50 foot Christmas tree being lit. Crowds surround the ice rink and the railings several stories above. Out skates a very blonde Oksana Bayul. She spins around a burgundy Cadillac XLR that is perched atop a giant platform in the middle of the rink. I'm worried that she has never trained for Cadillacs on ice rinks and may crash. The Cadillac looks pretty good. So does Oksana.

In need of a pick-me-up, I go to the Starbucks in the mall, but know better than to ask for chicory coffee with beignets. I miss the French Quarter.

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November 11, 2006

Dispatches From America - Part One

Here are some ramblings from my drive across the U.S.:

Day 1 -- Washington, DC to Richmond, VA - 100 miles
It has been an exciting 24 hours, beginning when, the night before I am to move, I take off the oil filler cap to add some oil to my car, and proceed to drop it in the bottom of the enclosed engine bay, where it is completely inaccessible. I call a couple of "experts," who suggest solutions requiring gadgets that only exist in James Bond movies, such as grippers with powerful magnets at the end. Fortunately, with some assistance, I am able to remove the cover underneath the car, and the cap continues its gravitational journey to my garage floor.

Moving day is similarly surreal, when the first thing the driver asks me is, which furniture do I want to leave behind, since his truck is already filled to the brim.

I finally leave for Richmond at 6 pm, after a 9 hour loading job from the Tortoise Moving Company. Why are the HOV lanes on 395 more crowded than the regular lanes? Oh, duh. They just opened to all traffic.

Day 2 - Richmond, VA to Marietta, GA - 575 Miles
I learn the following:
1. The Southeast U.S. off the interstate has plenty of open space.
2. It also has plenty of fast food from national chains.
3. #2 may outnumber #1.
4. In North Carolina, people still dress preppy. Really preppy. Polo pink and green 1980's Reagan era preppy.

Speaking of which, it is a joy to begin a drive across the United States the day after Election Day, listening to the news of the returns on satellite radio, while history is made and the Senate slowly changes hands. I am so proud of my countrymen for coming out to exercise their democratic rights in huge numbers in an off-year election.

Just when I am bemoaning the sameness that exists along the highway, an accident ahead of me on I-85 turns into an opportunity to experience a bit of local flavor. I quickly exit and locate Route 29, one of those original highways that was eclipsed by the giant interstates that were built parallel to them beginning in the 1950s. Within a short stretch, I pass the Hot Rod Barn, Libby's Pit Stop, and the 50's Ice Cream shack. Now that's more like it. And as a final reminder that local commerce still exists just off the interstate, I am propositioned by a young woman at a North Carolina rest stop who says that she needs money to get home and asks me if I would like "a date in the bathroom." I thank her for her offer and politely decline, explaining that I am not currently dating.

In Marietta, I visit my college roommate "Jann," who drags me out to look at a house that he is thinking of buying as an investment the following day. Jann has forgotten the combination to the lockbox on the front door, so he breaks into the house through a rear window. We tour the place in the pitch dark, using flashlights. I feel like a Watergate burglar, and wonder what this must look like to people out on the street.

One day, and I am already a witness to one attempted crime and a participant in another. I'm off to a great start!

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November 01, 2006

Things I Will Miss About DC

After close to two decades in DC, I will be leaving next week. In no particular order, here are things I will miss about Washington, DC:

1. The open spaces and building height restriction. DC is a beautiful city!
2. The monuments. I still get a charge out of them.
3. The bike paths, including the Capital Crescent, W&OD and Mount Vernon Trails.
4. People wearing i.d. badges and talking policy in the bars.
5. The weather. Many people knock it, but we have lots of moderate weather, a change of seasons, and extremes that usually do not last very long.
6. Shamelessness by politicians and lobbyists. It's generously rewarded here.
7. MacArthur Boulevard and Glen Echo Park. This was the area where I first lived in DC, and it is still a bucolic step back in time.
8. Motorists blatantly ignoring the hand-held cell phone prohibition.
9. The C&O Canal.
10. Bethesda. I know it is somewhat sterile, but as sterile goes, it's one of the best. And it has the Bethesda Writer's Center, a stimulating and decidedly non-sterile place.
11. White's Ferry and the General Jubal A. Early cable ferry that faithfully crosses the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia there. In keeping with the period, the ferry's operator has been standin' up to the federal revenooers.
12. Embassy Row.
13. The guy on Embassy Row who has stood across from the Naval Observatory for years waving hand-made signs stating that the "Catholic Church Abuses Children." Dude, you were way ahead of your time.
14. Bad Mexican food.
15. Good Thai food.
16. Redskins game results crowding out real news on page one of the Washington Post each Monday during football season.
17. Adams Morgan.
18. Rock Creek Park.
19. The DC bloggers!
And last but most importantly,
20. Friends, family members and loved ones who make their home in DC. I am very sad to be leaving you, and I hope we will all make full efforts to keep in touch and visit each other.

Farewell DC, and thanks for a great run!

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