Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Catching our Breath.

Half way up a broken escalator, climbing out of the metro.
An overweight woman in her thirties stops in place, blocking the way: “Nah, fuck this. I'm not going anywhere until I catch my motherfucking breath.”
Me, standing directly behind her: “Okay.”
Overweight woman still blocking the escalator: “This shit is always broken too. Does Metro think I need to lose weight? Is that why they're always making me climb up this broken shit?”
Me: Shrug.
Voice from below where a crowd is forming, waiting to pass: “Move your ass out the way!”
Overweight woman sighing as she slowly resumes walking the rest of the way up the escalator: “Yeah, I hear you. I'm moving my fat ass as fast as I can. Fucking Metro can't fix a fucking escalator.”

Denim Dan.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

With my head in the (pink) clouds

When I was 16 I was asked to help out at a fundraiser for my family’s synagogue. They were going to have a Hanukkah Carnival, complete with carnival games, a dunk tank and even kosher hotdogs on sticks. Spending all Sunday volunteering at a Jewish carnival was really the last thing I wanted to do, but my mom made it very clear to me that I didn’t have a choice. So I signed up on the volunteer list and in the section where I was supposed to write which booth I wanted to help with I scribbled, I like candy. At 16 this seemed sorta funny and vaguely rebellious.
The carnival organizers took a more literal interpretation. I showed up the day of the carnival and was immediately assigned to my station, the cotton candy machine. Now, I really do like candy and this at first seemed like an ideal assignment. But I quickly learned that working a machine that spun colored sugar crystal into fluff wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. The machine was loud and gave off a lot of heat when spinning, but the biggest problem was that as the candy was being cottonized it would often leave the confines of the machine and whip around into the nearby atmosphere. This happens to be exactly where I had to stand to work the machine. After about an hour, my clothing and skin were lightly shellacked with a layer of hardening pink sugar webs.
By the end of the day I was miserable and wishing that I had signed up for anything else. Even the dunk tank seemed liked a smarter choice than I like candy. Seeing how dejected I looked, one of the carnival organizers came over to talk with me. “Adam, you did a good job today. We really appreciate all of your help. In fact, I have a surprise for you.” Was I hearing this right? Were they going to offer to pay me for my day of hard, candy-coated work? “Adam, you can go ahead and make yourself a complimentary stick of cotton candy.”
I gave a fake smile and the hardened pink bits of sugar on my face crinkled. Sure, I said, that sounds like a nice idea. After all, I like candy. The moment the carnival organizer turned his back to walk away I set the machine on high. Not only was I going to make the biggest cotton candy ever, I wasn’t going to waste my time putting it on some stupid paper stick. As the bits of pink clouds whipped around the inside of the machine I reached down and slowly turned my hand in counterclockwise circles. After about a minute my entire hand and lower arm were encased in a massive pink cocoon.
I unplugged the machine and removed my arm. Holding my hand in the air like a triumphant pink torch I shouted across the room to the carnival organizer, Thanks for the surprise! and walked out towards my car happily stuffing my face with flavored sugar.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bike Polo.

They were holding an east coast invitational tournament in my neighborhood with teams from as far away as Ottawa. I didn't even know that the sport existed. I guess this is what bike messengers do with their free time. Ironic facial was mandatory, helmets were optional.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Too much.

Casual Friday has gone way to far when white haired white ladies wear Tevas and over sized G-Unit shirts to the office.


From June '07
It took us about two hours of bickering, but at long last the group had decided on a logo for the Kosrae Chamber of Commerce. A bird’s eye view of the island with a rainbow encircling the whole thing; the motto, business helping business, surrounding the outside.
Singkitchy cleared his throat to make a point, “You know, sometimes pictures can symbolize things. Rainbows for instance, carry a lot of connotations. I think it’s important that we all agree on the rainbow.” Murmurs of agreement circulated the table.
Fred announced that a vote should be held to decide. Singkitchy raised his hand and spoke again, “I think we all know what rainbows symbolize, and I think we can all agree that it would really benefit the Chamber of Commerce to be associated with this symbol.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Kosrae is an incredibly conservative Christian island. All of life revolves around the church. And now here was a man who was a Deacon in the church suggesting that the Chamber of Commerce would benefit from adopting the symbol of gay pride.
I started to tell Singkitchy that I was really impressed with his progressive attitude but he cut me off, “You see Adams , after the 40 days and 40 nights of rain God made a rainbow in the sky to show Noah that He was happy. Now God makes rainbows over Kosrae to show us that He is happy with us. Now what were you about to say?"

Saturday, April 19, 2008


As I walked into the library the other day I noticed a young kid sitting on the front steps next to the security guard. The boy couldn't have been older than 12. He was staring down at his feet, and as I climbed the steps I realized that his hands were cuffed behind his back.
Is it even possible to steal things from a place that is defined by the fact that it gives books away for free?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Serving, protecting, etc.

Without fail I hear police sirens on my street every night. I don't actually see a lot of crime taking place, but I feel the police presence in the neighborhood. Just the other morning on my way to the metro as I passed the not-so-Safeway I saw the medical examiner van pull out of the lot. It was early and I was running late, so I have no idea why the coroner was at my grocery at 7:30am, but it probably was not to buy groceries.
On my walk back home today I saw a small crowd gathered around a house midway down the street. Three police cars were parked and yellow caution tape was up blocking off a large area around some bushes in the front yard. As I got closer I feared seeing masking tape outlines or pools or dark congealed blood, but as I approached the area I saw nothing. In fact, I couldn't figure out what the police were there for at all. They seemed to be just hanging around, waiting for someone.
Finally, as I passed the group of people I heard one of the police radios beep and come to life, “Animal inspection is on its way. Repeat, animal inspection is on its way.” And of course, that was when I saw it. A huge, buzzing mass of bees swarming around a hive that must have fallen from a tree.
As I am allergic to bees, I smiled at the growing crowd of spectators and kept on walking home.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


A young white hipster couple at the checkout stand at Safeway today;

“Do you think that food is more expensive now than before?”
“Yeah, it's because of oil right? And global warming?”
“I don't know, I can't remember if they talk about it in that Al Gore movie. Anyway, that's why I like to shop at Trader Joe's. It's so much better.”
“Yeah. Hey, do you think Beyonce is too good for Jay-Z? Look at her in this picture.”
(Singing)”I'm not a businessman. I'm a business, man.”
“Seriously though. She's like, hot and famous.”
(Singing again. Louder.)”I'm not a businessman. I am business, man.”
“You're not a businessman either. You're an idiot.”

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Casual Friday.

As I passed by the senate office building this afternoon, three young staffers came out the front door. They all wore matching khaki pants, their ties were all pulled loose. It was warm out and their striped shirts were rolled up at the sleeves. As they came down the front steps they each carried a leather briefcase in one hand and a 12 pack of Bud Light in the other. A perfect trio of beer toting senate staffers.

Friday, April 11, 2008

And then I suddenly realized...

that I'm totally that guy in the cubicle at work who listens to Ghostface Killah just a little bit too loud.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

And keeps on tickin'.

On the metro today, while on my way home I was sitting facing a middle aged woman. She was well dressed in a black suit and clearly on the way home from a long day of work. Her full focus was in typing a text message on her phone. Her fingers moved so rapidly over the keys that her bobbed black hair swayed slightly with each letter.
And then, with one swift motion she lifted the phone to her face and licked the screen. Not a small dainty touch of the tongue, but one big lick that covered the phone with saliva from screen to keys.
Realizing what she had done, she quickly wiped the phone on her jacket and resumed her text message.

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Fair Price

In college I interned at a small regional bank where one of my responsibilities included attending the Mid-State Fair and wagering on turkeys during the 4-H auction. These were turkeys that local kids had raised as a project for 4-H. The turkeys would be auctioned off to the public and the child would earn some money that we all assumed went to a college fund but in reality could have gone to pretty much any pursuit the child was interested in. (I imagine something exciting like buying even more turkeys.)
It was very important to the bank that I say their name when I went to collect the turkey that I had won. My manager, Karl, explained it to me before sending me on this vital task. "You see Adam, by wagering on these turkeys we are creating goodwill towards the community. At the same time, we're getting free publicity." So if I understood it correctly, the bank's marketing strategy was to focus on the Mid-State Fair 4-H auction crowd. The kind of people who, after seeing a turkey wagered on and purchased by a smart young man wearing a tie (me) would think, 'You know, that's the kind of person that I'd like to have help me refinance my home.'
I performed this duty while being paid $12 an hour. I was allowed to buy a large soda of my choice while at the fair, and I got to keep any and all turkeys that I successfully purchased.

I was the bank's financial analyst.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Why DC is funny.

At a party with this conversation:

"I saw The Capital Steps last weekend."
"I love The Capital Steps. I have their CD."
"Did you guys hear the Market Place report from April 1st? They totally had me going."
"Did you guys know you can download podcasts of This American Life every week for free? It's so great."

To be fair, the last quote is from me. Still, I don't recall having this kind of conversation while living in San Luis Obispo or Truckee or Tofol.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

My favorite story from the island.

From May '07

Some people join the Peace Corps so they can discover what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Some people hope to discover their passion, their calling, their ultimate being in life. I am happy to say that I have now found my calling in life; professional victim.
The FAA, FEMA, and DHLS (that’s Department of Homeland Security for those of you not up to date on all of your government agency acronyms) staged a mock plane crash at the airport this morning. Local fire fighters, medical personnel, police, airport staff, and marine rescue staff all participated in a week long training workshop that culminated in today’s simulated disaster scenario.
From the first moment that I heard about this exercise, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. Certainly I was hoping to get to wear some fake blood and maybe even a stump, but the real reason I wanted to participate was to see the chaos of five different government agencies trying to rescue over a hundred people from a plane crash.
Maybe I should explain why I was slightly pessimistic about our rescue workers’ abilities. The island of Kosrae (population 8000) has one functioning ambulance. And calling it an ambulance is probably a misnomer. The ambulance is simply a van painted white. There is no medical equipment inside; no oxygen, no crash cart, no medications. Added to that, the state hospital has only a limited ability to perform medical procedures on patients. Most major surgeries are referred off-island to either Hawaii or the Philippines. What would an understaffed, under-experienced and ill-equipped group of people do when confronted with a major disaster? Well, I just had to be there to find out.
I found myself at the cargo entrance to the airport early Thursday morning, waiting for the rest of the volunteer ‘bodies’ to arrive. Apparently the guys running the simulation were having some trouble finding volunteers to help out as victims. So the state turned to their favorite source of unpaid labor, the prisoners. Just to make things interesting, the bus that brought the prisoners out to the airport was also carrying about three dozen school children who would be helping out as wounded crash survivors.
The convicts and students filed out of the bus and we all headed over to the staging area where we were divided according to our imaginary wounds. Most of the children were placed into the green group (dazed, but unhurt) and a few were labeled yellow (walking wounded.) I was thrilled to find myself with a red label (severely injured, immobile.) One of the police asked the FAA coordinator what he wanted to do with the prisoners. “There are prisoners here?! Why would you allow prisoners to participate in this exercise? Well, let’s just put them in the black group (deceased) and make sure they don’t hurt any of the kids.”
Before we could take our positions on the runway next to the crash sight, my new red group friends and I had to get into character. I was issued an index card on a string that I wore around my neck. In large print, the card read, “UNCONSCIOUS, PULSE ABSENT, NO REPSIRATION AFTER AIRWAY ESTABLISHED.” Next I put on a large piece of rubbery skin that made me look like my intestines had spilled out of my stomach. As a final touch, I was splattered with large amounts of blood on my arms, legs, face, and torso. I couldn’t stop smiling.
A school bus delivered all of the various colored victims to our places around the runway. Fires were lit in a few metal barrels to signify the start of our exercise, and to give the firemen something to do. I lay down in a patch of grass next to the runway, my rubber intestines spilling onto the ground next to me, and waited to be rescued.
Within a few minutes, paramedics found me in the grass and assessed my wounds. I was determined to be in very critical condition and was placed on a stretcher. Two IVs were taped to my arms. One of the paramedics wet a bandage and placed it lightly over my protruding bowels. Two police officers rolled me onto a canvas stretcher and brought me over to where the ambulance (again, singular) was parked.
Unfortunately, the ambulance immediately rushed off to take a different victim to the hospital, so I was placed in the back of a police pick-up truck. One police officer drove while the other sat in the back with me and held onto my IVs. I stared up at the sky and tried to stay in character while my yellow flip-flops dangled over the edge of the pick-up.
The drive from the airport to the hospital normally takes about 20 minutes, but my driver was determined to make this exercise as real as possible. He sped through the villages, honking his horn to scare off the dogs. The officer in the back with me kept shouting to the driver, “Muhi! Muhi! El mas napwaye! Faster! Faster! He’s very sick!” I was pleased that these guys were so concerned about me, but I also didn’t want to make the transition from make-believe crash victim to real-life crash victim. I would occasionally ‘wake-up’ from my coma to remind them, “Muhi pa wo, tu taran beh. Fast is good, but be careful too.”
We arrived safely at the hospital and I was transferred from the stretcher in the back of the truck to a bed in an exam room. After a very brief exam, (“Guts out. No respiration. Intubate. Call surgery.”) I was wheeled into the surgery room.
At this point I was starting to worry a bit about how far we were going to take this scenario. The head (and only) surgeon came in and unceremoniously informed me that I had died during surgery. My wounds were too severe, and the long drive from the airport while I had no pulse or respiration would have likely meant I was on dead on arrival.
I got up from the gurney, removed my IVs and rubber guts, and wandered out of the surgery room. While still covered in fake blood, I walked through the hospital and apologized to all of the staff for dying. I’m sorry, I told them. It wasn’t your fault. You tried your best. Thank you for helping me.