Friday, August 26, 2011

Batten down the hatches;thar she blows!

Is it bad that I am laughing a little at how much DC freaks out in preparation for a storm? Not to be a dick, but we aren't getting a direct hit and we are far enough inland that we don't have to worry about storm swells, et al. Having lived in Miami for a few years, this just seems like overkill, people.

By all means, stock up on your bottled water, your radio batteries, and your canned goods, but puh-lease, remember that in this time of peril you should take full advantage of the fact that Pepco will not be able to get the power on for the foreseeable future, that you will not have to work remotely this weekend because the internet will be down, and that you and your significant other won't have to pick up the cell phones because you can blame it on a down tower.

So, here's my challenge to you, oh beloved adopted city of mine: Stock your wine shelves along with your water supply, grab some trashy magazines along with your flashlights, and enjoy the excuse to watch the 1967 animated series of Spiderman with your friends until the power goes out (seriously, you don't even have to tell anyone).

Unplug, unwind, hole up, hang out, enjoy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shitty places to be during an earthquake in DC

Just survived my first (hopefully last!) earthquake. Coincidence that the Virginia midterm primaries were today? Perhaps not, my conspiracy theorist friends (I'm sure this had to do with the fact that the DC area is so liberal, right Rick Perry?).

I was at Home Depot in the paint department, surrounded by really heavy gallons of paint stacked two stories high on shelves wildly shaking, which got me thinking about other shitty places to be in during a 5.9 quake...

*Metro under Capitol Hill stop, as there is a risk that Tea Party members will flood into station screaming, "It's the Apocalypse! Sarah and Rick were right!!!"
*Having sex with a random one night stand who turns out to be sketchy: "See baby, I can make the earth shake."
*Bench pressing weights at Fitness First in Bethesda- not only are you under a huge barbell, but you are in a basement surrounded by a bunch of iron and young professionals trying to look cool while being totally freaked out.
*Having heart surgery.
*White House Situation Room with Cheney- Osama might be dead, but perhaps we could come up with a way to blame this shit on Al Qaeda.

Keep it shakin', friends!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Traditional American Pastime

The second week I was in Bali, one of my newfound friends and I started this (very had to be there) joke about "traditional Balinese 'insert item here'". Each year hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Bali to get a glimpse of Balinese tradition- whether that means crashing a funeral (yes, this actually, truly happens) in order to witness a traditional Balinese cremation or donning a crappy beach sarong and heading with your bulky camera to Pengerebongan "trance" festival (more on this in an upcoming post).

This almost lustful drive for an 'authentic' Balinese experience has had some interesting consequences; tourism has driven mutations of Balinese culture to the point that, according to Degung, if you ask 'what is tourism?' and 'what is culture?', you get the same answer.

Example, you ask? Take Galungan: once again according to Degung, the ceremony used to involve several tantric elements, including the sacrifice of animals. However, having the streets run with blood wasn't something that was considered to be much of a crowd pleaser for us folk of Western origin, so the 'tradition' today no longer includes those more visceral elements. Another case in point would be the 'traditional' Balinese massages that you can get at the countless spas that dot Kuta, Seminyak and Sanur beaches. In Balinese tradition, to wash another person's feet- at least, someone who isn't dead yet- would be to lose one's dignity. Feet are considered the most unclean part of the body, and yet, in the 'traditional' Balinese massages available for about US$6 an hour, most spas include a foot bath where the masseuse washes the patron's feet, often in a flower laden tub. This 'tradition' has nothing to do with anything evolving out of Balinese tradition, but has come into being as part of the constructed 'culture' in response to tourists' perceptions of Bali.

The (admittedly lame) joke evolved out of this hijacking/appropriation of 'traditional Balinese culture', and quickly everything was 'traditional': if nothing is traditional, clearly, friends, everything is traditional!

"Look, a traditional Balinese pothole!"

"A traditional Balinese cellphone store!"

"Traditional Balinese McDonald's!"

"Traditional Balinese sex tourism!"
(G-d bless Kuta)

And my personal favorite: "Traditional Balinese exploitation!"

All of this got me to thinking, what's traditionally American? As my culture shock continues to abate (well, sort of...I have yet to cook American food, eating much tempeh and cooking much curry), I've been on the hunt for things emblematic of my culture. So, what better way to celebrate being home then heading out to see my Redlegs play the Nats? Two really bad ball teams + one lovely fab fiance + one view of DC skyline= bliss.

If only they served nasi campur at the ballpark. Just doesn't quite have the same ring as peanuts and cracker jacks, I guess.

Very, very American pastime: Evan, Fab Fiance and I with Abe Lincoln.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Here Comes the Culture Shock

Family wedding time!! Fab fiance and I have covered half the continental US in our trusty Honda since he picked me up on Monday morning from JFK. We're tucked in at the comfy Red Roof Inn in beautiful (and very nice smelling- who knew?) Minnesota, ready to celebrate fab fiance's brother's wedding.

My brain is spinning with culture shock and jet lag, compounded with 18 hours of road trip. Sitting at a bar across from my lovely soon-to-be-sister-in-law my mind was reeling. 3 days ago I was zooming through remote Bali talking to women about lack of access to clean drinking water, and 30 minutes ago my primary concern turned to whether to do acrylics on my nails for this weekend's nuptial celebrations. The stark contrast has me spinning.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Home again

Just flew back into JFK this morning, slept off the jetlag and enjoying the delicious avocado salad and view at my friend Adam's house. Much as I am grateful to see hot water, dairy products and my fiance, I'm really ambivalent about being back. I feel so overwhelmed by the pace of life and general hubbub of consumer lifestyle...already I have a shopping list put together of shit that really doesn't matter: hairdye, super duper conditioner to avoid split ends, etc. Not that these things aren't nice or looking good isn't important, it's just that all of the ways I interact with the world are dictated by performing the outward roles I embody-heterosexual partner, upper middle class white urban-ite, graduate student- and these roles feel much more defined and rigid here than they do when I am in a setting outside of my regular beaten path.

Much more on this to come.