After receiving a top-notch blog tutorial and a series of suggestive glances from Nathan--not to mention a baseless comparison between myself and a banana-wielding bear--I feel the time is right to make my long-awaited debut on the infamous grouse. You will have to excuse me for my prolonged absence. A general lack of computer/internet access this summer coupled with an inexplicable fear of online journals proved to be an insurmountable obstacle.
Now that I have made my entrance, let’s clear up a few things. My posts will be almost entirely devoid of touching inner monologues, profound political analysis, biting social commentary, passionate tales of adventure and intrigue, or anything of the sort. In contrast, you can look forward to a barrage of corny jokes, an exclusive behind-the-scenes glimpse at my digestive troubles and grooming habits, links to animal news stories, and detailed accounts of my mundane, mediocre existence. So if that tickles your fancy, then kick back, relax, and step into my post office.
As many of you know, I spent half my summer in DC working at the National Archives. As an American history concentrator and former employee of a library (shelving department, what what), it was in many respects the perfect internship. While I didn’t get to eat dinner and nap on the job, I was given a surprising amount of access to precious 19th-century documents. I mostly helped out with research on Reconstruction and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson for educational publications distributed by NARA to high schools and colleges throughout the country. I particularly enjoyed the accounts--written, of course, with eloquent 19th-century politeness--of the political elite beating the molasses out of each other. Take Andrew Jackson, for example. Following a dispute over a horse-race, Charles Dickinson called Jackson a "base poltroon and cowardly tale-bearer...who, by frivolous and evasive pretexts, avoided giving the satisfaction, which was due to a gentleman whom he had injured." Jackson gladly accepted Dickinson's call for a duel, which took place in a Kentucky holstery in 1806. Jackson fatally shot Dickinson in the stomach, suffering a shot to his rib cage in the process. Later, during his presidency, Jackson survived an attempt on his life. A deranged man claiming Jackson deprived him of his rightful claim to the British throne fired two shots point-black at the President, who, as the story goes, stood perfectly still. After the second shot missed, Jackson proceeded to beat the man senseless with his cane. The episode is depicted in this famous etching. Perhaps the modern Democratic party could stand to revive some of Jackson's fighting spirit. A Yale historian has written an excellent analysis of the culture of honor in the early American republic, if you're interested.
Duelicious, isn't it?
On the weekends I made the obligatory stops at DC's cultural and historical attractions (the kind of outings Brandon would loathe, I think). Luckily the museums were free, which appealed to both the nerdy and stingy sides in me. While I usually hung out at Brickskeller--home to the largest collection of beer in the world--on one fateful Tuesday night I found myself at Chaos, one of DC's finer gay nightclubs. Being an old man as I am, I was delighted to discover that the special event of the evening was a club-wide game of bingo, moderated by three lovely drag queens named Miss Xavier Bloomingdale, Gigi Couture and Regina Jozcette-Adam. Positive that I had won one particular round, I screamed "Bingo!" and rushed to the front of the club in hopes of winning a free wristwatch. Unfortunately it turns out that my elderly sensibilities have also damaged my hearing, as I learned to my horror that I had misheard one of the letter-number combos. As Miss Xavier Bloomingdale snatched away the wristwatch--and my dignity--the club went dark and a loud techno song blared out "You're a loser, you're a loser, fuck you fuck you fuck you." I ran back to the streets, never to return again.
So yeah, duels and drag queen bingo. What more could I have asked for?
Back in Oakland I took what little work was available. Teaching "Rockin' Robin" on piano to a five year-old boy who lived down the street proved to be my most challenging task of the summer. Not much else exciting to report. Oh, except for this ostrich which fell out of a truck and landed on the Golden Gate Bridge, where it held up traffic for ten minutes while the authorities tried to capture it. I can't think of a corny joke to drive home the humor of the situation. I hope a picture will suffice.
Christine and I then took a mini road trip on our way back to St. Louis (where she goes to school). We passed through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Nebraska on our drive. Eastern Nevada might well be the most depressing place I have ever seen in my life. It was like a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Omaha, in contrast, has been dubbed "America's new indie-rock capital." It is also considered a mecca for steak-lovers--the city motto used to be "Rare. Well done." Needless to say, the city easily won us over. You might even call me an Oma-ho. Upon arriving in the Show-Me state of Missouri, I was surprised to discover that many of Christine's friends are dedicated fans of the infamous grouse. It seems they've also created a blog of their own, which can be found here if you're curious. Great minds think alike, eh?
And now I'm back in the 401. Highlights of the last few days have included couscous, a bosomy bed, an unexpected 24 marathon, wallball, backwards street races, and a salesman at the mall who, with typical Rhode Island quaintness, informed me that I should fire whoever irons my shirts. It's good to be home.
On a more somber note, I've been simply overwhelmed by the pictures and videos coming out of New Orleans and the Southeast this week. I don't have much to add to what has already been said on this blog. It's just a devastatingly sad situation, made all the more tragic by the growing realization that human incompetence and negligence may have resulted in hundreds, if not thousands of deaths. I can only echo feelings of utter hopelessness and despair. My thoughts go out to all those affected by this terrible disaster.