Saturday, January 27, 2007

Land of Eternal Hipness: The Old Lady at the Black Cat...

This NY Mag story ( Up With Grups ) has temporarily assuaged my guilt. "Is it really so unseemly," I wondered, "to shop at H&M and listen to college radio as I creep towards middle age? Am I like that sad-sack, slightly pervy alum who loiters at frat parties well past his 25th birthday?"

Thankfully, the answer is no, stated by no less an authority as New York Magazine, in an article that supports my cause even as it dips occasionally into the kind of descriptions that get cited in "*feminine hygiene product* of the month" blog posts.

Woo-hoo - I can put off gravitas and Talbots twinsets for at least another decade! Off to the Coachella Festival.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

I Have a Dream: A Day Without Name-Dropping

DC Girl: So, what do you do for a living?

DC Guy: Graphic design.

DC Girl: (pause, eyes glaze over) What does your friend do?

(Paraphrased from

My first reaction: Is there something wrong/dishonorable about the creative services profession? Did I miss this? In Melrose Place, Bily, the ad guy, got nearly as many ladies as Jake who lounged shirtless by the pool - and Billy was on the account side, if I remember correctly.

My second reaction: I wondered, what would happen if, for just 24 hours, no one in Washington mentioned his or her job, title, alma mater, marquee clients, famous friends/relatives or upscale provenance unless it was absolutely pertinent to the conversation? (Would the city fall silent?)

When you encounter the name-dropping habit too frequently, it tends to rub off. You believe that if you don't rattle off whatever bona fides you possess, your conversation partner (like the woman in the example above) will mosey along to someone more important, leaving you bored and awkward.

Many times this is true. Yet often it is not. And in every case, something worse happens: You become the *insert derogatory noun here* you claim to despise.

A day without name-dropping. It could be a noble experiment.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

More From Cape Town: A Tour Guide Expounds...

The photo above is from a key-changing/gate-opening ceremony at the old town palace in Cape Town. The men in the photos are descendants of folks who probably never imagined themselves in feathered hats setting off cannons the size of children's toys for sweaty American tourists. All in all, a very "Indochine/Wah-Wah" post-colonial moment.

Afterwards, the rest of the tour was set loose to explore the porcelain collection. I relaxed on the patio with our white tour guide - the type you'd see in the local Indiana Jones expatriate bar kicking back moonshine at 10 a.m. - and a fellow U.S. tourist, a very poised African-American woman on vacation from work with a Manhattan finance firm.

Tour Guide: How has your service been at your hotels?

NYC and me (in unison, sipping diet Coke): Good!

TG: No sullenness?

NYC/me (now a bit confused): No...everyone has been very gracious.

TG: A lot of people don't want to work in this country. That's why we have immigrants. They come from the worst conditions in Africa and appreciate the opportunity they have here. Not like the people who live here - they always demand more and more and do as little as they have to. They're ruining the tourism industry. You have problems with immigration in your country, I've heard.

(I let NYC field that one.)

TG: I've heard that the Blacks in the United States who are successful are seen as Uncle Toms.

NYC (chokes delicately on her diet Coke): Uncle...Toms?

TG: They're seen as selling out to the white man.

NYC: Well, maybe twenty years ago. But today it's different. There are successful African Americans in all walks of life.

TG: (quiet, either contemplatory or half drunk)

ME: (quiet, wondering what the @#$%^ will come up next)

ME (belatedly): There's Oprah. Oprah's the richest woman in the United States. (I smile, proud of my contribution until I start to question myself and wonder if Martha Stewart's richer. Should I add Chris Rock and Puff Daddy? I wonder.)

TG: Mmmm, there's Oprah.

NYC (making the natural segue to Nelson Mandela): "I've been meaning to read Nelson Mandela's biography. Have you read it yet?"

TG: Honestly, I found it a little boring. Talk about the LONG walk to freedom. After page 200, I thought, "Aren't you ever going to get there?" I have a better suggestion.

His recommendation: a book about a dog trained for combat. Unfortunately, before he could give us the title, the rest of the tour group returned from the porcelain collection.

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Sunday, January 07, 2007

South Beach: A Very Donatella New Year

For someone with a cold needing a shot of r&r and frivolity, Miami was just the place to go. It is Washington's flamboyant, sequin and spandexed opposite: a metropolis entirely devoted to aesthetics. From the weather to the art deco architecture to the music wafting across streets crowded with every gorgeous Spanish-speaking person on the planet, everything seemed deliberately arranged to coddle the senses. It's what I imagine Cuba would be if Cuba was wealthy and open to U.S. tourism.

According to the tabloids, various celebrities were in town for the occasion, including Mickey Rourke headlining one club's festivities. We caught glimpses of paparazi but no actual star sightings. What we did see in South Beach:

- Drunks, including two boys from the heartland unwisely hitting on women who appeared to be the well-appointed molls of underworld crime bosses. "This cannot end well," my friend remarked.

- Fights. Walking down Collins Avenue, we passed a hotel patio/bar on which two guys started boozily swinging at each other. A woman with a large black dog untied its leash. "Sic 'em!" "Hey, isn't that your hotel?" my friend observed.

- Skin. I'd brought my trampiest attire, excited to be in a city where I could actually give it some air. Nevertheless, compared to the locals, I looked like a nun. And the 4-inch heels? A really ill-advised idea.

- Abs. So flat, these people appeared to have no organs underneath.

- Bling, particularly the cars. More Bentleys, Escalades and thousand-dollar rims than in a Puff Daddy video.

- The disco hotel. My friends hadn't realized that the hotel dance floor was only 20 feet from their room when they made their reservations. Arriving back at 3 a.m., they were greeted by short-shorted dancing girls, a phalanx of drunken guys on the porch and throbbing Euro-pop - this after being up nearly 24 hours straight due to the crazy airport situation in Colorado. The next morning, my friend unleashed her 7-year-old daughter into the halls. "Make as much noise as you like, honey."

- May, Meet December. A local paper advertised "The Millionaires Club," which enabled women 18-34 to "live a life of luxury and limosines" with 50+ well-heeled gentlemen.

- Famous landmarks. The Versace mansion (the only actual house allowed on South Beach, I was told), the tattoo parlor that's the focus of a reality series, all the places like the Delano and Prive I'd previously only known through "Stars, they're just like us!" No, they're not, I thought. "Us" don't pay $3,000 cover to watch Wilmer Valderrama d.j.

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