Friday, December 20, 2002

IS THERE no in-between? Does the most important person in the world have to be either Osama bin Laden (when we're scared shitless) or Nicole Kidman (when we're not)?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Friday, December 13, 2002

A DISMAL DAY of errands.

Last week, the D.C. area had what I consider the perfect storm. Three or four inches of snow -- enough to look pretty, but not enough to cause too much panic even in a city where a forecast of flurries is enough to cause school closings and a run on milk, bread and toilet paper. It hasn't snowed much here in the past couple of years, so the tableau seemed especially beautiful. And this in a year when I've found myself thriving in the cold. Not that I'm a big baby about such things (I grew up in Detroit, after all), but in recent years I've considered the cold a nuisance. Now, for some reason, I'm enjoying the brisk air and the red cheeks.

Today, the rain washed what was left of the snow away. I don't know anybody who likes cold rain, but I don't even understand those who like rain. What good is it? Romantic? Grab my "Manhattan" DVD and I'll watch the Central Park storm scene again. Moody? I can bask in gloom as well as the next guy, but I want to be dry. A necessity? Well, sure, but things would have to get pretty darn parched before that started to become my concern. During summertime droughts, when everybody around me is all concerned about a month or two without precipitation, I ask, "What are you, a farmer?"

By definition a cold rain can't be all that cold, but my experience doesn't necessarily mesh with the laws of physics on that score. So as I set out to get some things done this afternoon I was thankful that the cold was relatively mild. Or maybe I should be thanking my great new jacket.

I take pride in my walkable neighborhood, but even in good weather there are tasks that demand a car. Major trips to the supermarket and the cleaners are among those tasks, and both were on my list. Immediately, of course, the streets became an obstacle course. People either terrified of the wet streets or ensconced in their slow little worlds had to drive 2 mph in front of me and spend five or 10 minutes at each stop sign. If life is "The Amazing Race," I'm Flo and nearly everyone else is Zach. So I road-raged myself to stop No. 1, Mangialardo's deli, where I go most every Friday to pick up a cold-cut sub for lunch and another to keep my blood sugar up toward the end of the long night ahead at work. A trick I learned from my wife's family: Skip the lettuce and tomatoes and onions and peppers; oil and vinegar alone work quite nicely on a top-notch sub/hoagie/grinder/hero on a good hard roll. For these sammiches, Italia in Silver Spring and Mangialardo's on the outskirts of Capitol Hill are the best places I've found.

Next stop: Safeway. Again, I'm operating at a different clock speed than others, especially the cashier.

I knew I was risking a long walk in the rain as I made my way along Pennsylvania Avenue to the cleaners. My usual cleaners is on a street that's being torn up, so when my to-be-washed pile reached 26 shirts I piled them into the car and stopped at the first competitor with a nearby parking space. That parking space turned out to be a fluke, and so at pickup time I was faced with a block where all the spaces were taken and the entire lane next to those spaces was filled with double-parked assholes. We pay millions of dollars in taxes to build and maintain our roads, and every idiot thinks it's all to provide him with a private, no-charge parking space.

So I parked three blocks away, right in front of another cleaners, and walked through the rain to pick up my shirts. That was the easy part. On the way back I couldn't both carry the 26 shirts and use my umbrella, but I brought the thing along and so I had to carry the umbrella along with the shirts. If I had encountered a police officer or parking-enforcement person I would have vented; it's probably just as well that I saw neither until I got back to my block. By then I didn't have the energy to make the effort.

There you have it. A reader e-mailed yesterday to bemoan my recent silence; that's usually all it takes to get me yapping again. Sorry I didn't have much to say.

Random readings that I enjoyed with my sub/hoagie/grinder/hero:

  • Donna Britt's perceptive and honest Post column on a not-so-perceptive, not-so-honest neighbor of mine named Trent Lott.
  • Roger Ebert's hilarious skewering of "Sweet November," an awful movie I found myself watching for no good reason on TV the other day.

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