Archive for May, 2007

Boring Jobs in Interesting Places

May 28, 2007

My favorite way to describe what I do is that it’s a boring job in an interesting place. Wonkette’s Ask a Lobbyist column, in which a snarky, anonymous lobbyist mouths off on the way she sees DC, hit my job on the head last week with this morsel of wisdom:

But, you know, changing the world seems like a great idea at 22. And then you get a job on the Hill and spend your days answering constituent letters or calling the Social Security Administration or mailing flags, and you take the Metro home to Ramen noodles and 3 crazy roommates (and their boyfriends/one night stands), and the veil falls away between you and your elected leaders and you realize that they’re all as venal and petty and concerned with popularity contests as the average American and they’ve all pretty much give up on setting the world on fire, and you start to wonder for whom you’re actually eating Mac&Cheese and buying suits at Marshalls, anyway. A bunch of nameless constituents? Love, honor and country? Whatever. So, it wasn’t any particular event that made me lost the naïveté I came here with, just a couple of years of soul-crushing boredom and inability to do anything I could justify as remotely important and then the move over to this side of the policy fence, where it’s just as soul-crushingly boring some days and only vaguely disheartening others but it pays better and there’s no expectation that I am making a difference to anyone but my own bottom line. Maybe that’s just growing up, though.

It’s not that I hate my life. And I’m not quite to where she is yet. I still have my hill job, and it’s still remotely interesting, and I still feel as though I may be doing something vaguely important in the grand scheme of things. Or at least answering the phones for people who will make it possible for me to one day do something important in the grand scheme of things.

In some ways that’s just what Washington is for young people. Soul-crushingly boring jobs in actually quite fascinating places that just make you want to up and move back to the West Coast where all anyone ever cares about is who Gavin Newsom’s next underage girlfriend will be or whether Google’s next office perk will be free Priuses or a company dinner catered by Thomas Keller.

If a boring job on the hill just leads to a boring job in lobbying, I don’t think I’m in the right place.

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Foodie Things

May 19, 2007

Even though Carol in Maryland started her career as a speechwriter for Geroge H.W. Bush, she’s still ok (thanks, Google search). That’s because her blog, French Laundry at Home, is a great tour of Thomas Keller’s ridiculous home cookbook that’s much more of a coffee table conversation piece than actual cookbook in most households.

She named her lobsters Celine when she made lobster salad, and cursed Keller’s pastry chef when a dessert was too fussy (he wrote her back about that one). She’s basically a perfect foil to Mark Bittman, the Minimalist column guy over at the New York Times. I admire her ambition to recreate Keller’s recipes at home, but for now, I’m sticking with Bittman and his kitchen on the cheap and easy.

Chef Crush

May 18, 2007

At the new restaurant Hook in Georgetown, a sumptuous meal begins with a flight of crudo, thin slices of raw fish accompanied by imaginative garnishes. I was intrigued enough by the description to order the Amberjack with chocolate mint and sexy salt.

The chef himself arrived with our crudo to describe the dish and insure that we received the knowledge necessary to enjoy our raw fish. Wearing a carefully aged baseball cap over shaggy blond hair and a striped apron over his jeans, Barton Seaver explained that “sexy salt” referred to his excitement, as a chef, at feeling a salt on his skin that was not “normal salt.”

“We chefs are touching salt all day, so when you touch a new type of salt, and it’s softer, you get that feeling, excited…” The rest of his comment was lost in my girlish giggles.

The salt returned in every course, as did the chef, to describe his offerings. The man is young, 27 or 28, and is the executive chef at the hottest new restaurant in Georgetown. He’s also committed to local, sustainable and organic foods, so you never even have to ask whether that fish you can’t pronounce is actually a Patagonian Toothfish or whether the shrimp have been imported from a tropical farm. It’s all “responsibly sourced,” as their website calls the practice.

On top of it all, as of last July, he was one of 20 Fabulous Singles in DC, according to Washingtonian magazine. I know that’s a long time ago, but a girl can always dream…

I’ve never much cared for sashimi, but these crudo were soft, buttery, and gave me a whole new appreciation for raw fish, despite the menu disclaimer that consuming raw meat can be hazardous to your health.

I never did leave my phone number on the receipt (do people actually do this kind of thing??). But the food was delicious.

Speed Dating!

May 12, 2007

This post has been several weeks in the making, but it’s finally here.

Two weeks ago, my friend Becky and I left the confines of Friday night triathlon-training swims and dinners to have our very own Washington-style Sex and the City adventure. We’ve decided it’s time to meet new people (and by “people” we’re only halfway kidding when we mean “men”), but really, we don’t quite know how.

Every so often, you read an article about the popularity of speed dating in a reputable publication, how it’s the perfect way for busy singles to meet and sift through others quickly, etc etc. How dating services, speed dating, and online dating are becoming more socially acceptable and less the domain of the hopelessly desperate.

Becky and I even debated at length the merits of speed dating versus online dating before the evening began, eventually agreeing that speed dating was the superior method to meet people, since it’s a lot harder to lie about who you are when you’re looking someone in the eye than it is from behind a computer screen.

Before the event had even begun, we each slurped down two gin and tonics. As men and women drifted to and from the bar, we quickly realized we were among the youngest there. One man noticed Becky’s name tag and used it to start a beyond-awkward conversation: “Becky, that’s a nice name. It’s my daughter’s name.”

When the main event finally got underway, the organizers assured us that the only reason the women moved and the men stayed in place was that if the men moved, they would just screw it up. I’m sure that explains the pink index cards for the women and blue cards for the men, too.

We lined up. A short, balding man explained the rules. Men faced women, we sized up the other line, and on the count of three, we stepped forward.

I was alone. The men and women on either side of me chatted together, but I had no speed-dating partner. Talk about a good way to make a girl feel even more awkward in the middle of this awk-toberfest. The host moved me to the end of the line where a kind man awaited to exchange gin stories. 13 more four-minute conversations followed. Mostly with IT workers from Northern Virginia (I live near Dulles and work at Tyson’s corner-types). I stopped telling people I lived in Mt. Pleasant and just said “the city” after the first three blank stares when I tried to explain that “it’s a neighborhood near the Columbia Heights metro stop.”

Ironically, one of my most interesting conversations was with Daughter-Man, who turned out to be the Systems Administrator for a middle school during the day, and the mayor of a small town in Maryland at night and on the weekends. The biggest problem facing his town? Immigration. The bulk of his job? Fixing traffic lights and analyzing budgets.

The hardest part of the evening was keeping the conversations interesting and not repetetive. When I asked one man the last good book he read, he told me he never read anything but technical manuals. When I asked another where he took his last vacation, he stared at me for a second before saying that he couldn’t remember his last vacation.

Ultimately, the meat market aspect of the whole night was a turn-off, especially during the open bar afterwards. You know everyone else’s reason for being there. What distinguishes this scenario from a normal bar is that at least there’s a little bit of mystery when you’re talking to someone about why they want to talk to you. It’s not automatic that they just want to date, because maybe they have a girlfriend. At a speed dating bar, there are suddenly expectations about why you’re chatting and where it might go (see earlier post “Brunch Advice” for my feelings on expectations).

Maybe I’ll get some free meals out of it, maybe not, and I may even write about it again. At the very least, I got some good stories. I haven’t filled out my match.com or jdate profiles, and may not for awhile, but in the future, I’m going to respond that online dating is a superior way to meet people than speed dating. At least you can screen out the ones you don’t want to talk to.