"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer


Dee Cee? Doo-Zee.

(The following is a repost from 2006.)

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The All-American Boy Series, Part VII: "Dee Cee? Doo Zee."
Current mood: drained

So I just flew in from Baltimore and boy is my liver...gone.

It started boringly enough, with me missing my shuttle bus from BWI airport to the Metro station where I catch the train to my friends John's apartment in Arlington, VA. I was there for the annual Conrad Family Reunion, at my Uncle Dick and Aunt Chris' house in Baltimore. But first I was going to get a couple days in with good friend John, whom I met in Chicago working with at Y&R. He'd then gone to law school and had been working in DC for the last couple years. The missed bus only added about 30 minutes to my total commute and I got to his place around 8:30 that night.

My brother was already there. His flight got in from Alaska around 1, and John had arranged access to his apartment for him. We bear-hugged each other, then drank the last of John's Knob Creek while talking on the phone with him at work, getting directions to DuPont Circle in DC proper.

We literally met John at the front door of the Big Hunt as we approached. We found a booth and spent the night bullshitting, drinking, eating chili-fries and wings, and catching up. I hadn't seen Duff since my trip to Alaska in March, and John had been to Chicago for work-related things a few times this year. We stayed 'til a little before closing time and then took a cab back to John's place. Two actually, the first less than a block.

For you Chicagoans, DC Cabs are pretty sketchy. There is no fare-box, only a zone-map. The distance covered by a $10 cab ride in Chicago could cost you up to $20 in DC. In the first cab, ever-frugal John started a coversation with the driver, casually asking the price to Virginia. About 30 seconds later, the cabbie was telling us to find another cab. About 2 minutes later, we in another back seat, and sure enough, the quoted price was about $3 less. Lesson learned: ask first and keep a mental record. Home, James.

Upon getting back we hung out on John's deck, smoked a few cigs, washed 'em down with the last of his beer and crashed. Tomorrow would be a long day. Longer-than-this-blog long.


The next morning, after shits, showers, and coffee, we headed to Georgetown and the neighborhood the Exorcist was filmed in. Driving through you instantly recognized the streets and aura of the area, feeling that you were in the movie, any minute expected to see a couple of nuns walking down the street against a brick wall, their robes flapping in the fall wind. The church in the movie was right next door to the house by the way. The stairs were immediately recognizable, and there were others already there snapping pictures. Several residents took ours. They didn't seem annoyed in the least at us, who must have been the 500th tourists that week. I would've been annoyed at me.

Up next was the National Mall. This was my first trip to DC in the summer. Previously I'd been just after a snow storm, in February 2003, or just before one, in January 2005, for the counter-inaugural party, with my then-girlfriend Kat. Gone were the barricades, the snow-banks, and the desolate, lonely monuments. I welcomed the green grass, the warm, not-too-humid weather, the sunshine, and the American pilgrims all around us. Although, with school already starting, the crowds were not too bad at all.

First was the Vietnam Memorial. The power of the monument lies in its understatement. It is nothing but granite and names. Go visit it, watch a veteran break down in tears at the sight of one name. Then imagine everyone that name was connected to: friends, family, and the effect that one person's death had on all of them. Then imagine that rupture, that chaos, that grief multipied 56,000 times. That sublime power is further represented by the structure's inherent femininity - an aspect that spoke to the nation's need for a healing, nurturing mother's touch. To speak for a generation tired of war, and repelled by its traditional imagery and symbolism. The "V" structure of the monument is evident in two dimensions: in the wall itself, and in its depression into the earth. John related a class discussion in college where the professor asked what words "V" could stand for. "Vietnam" is obvious, but "Vagina" was the answer angled for. Designed by 21-year old Chinese-American undergratuate student Maya Ying Lin, I imagine the monument also as an affront, as a denial, to the surrounding power-base that prosecuted the war. To inspire guilt, as did President Andrew Johnson when he ordered the new national cemetary be built in Arlington, VA, the hometown of General Robert E. Lee.

But at it's simplest, the memorial is a woman's take on the war. A woman's focus is naturally on war's effects, it's reprecussions, it's wake. War is an extremely masculine act. In almost all cases one of violent penetration and rape. In the words of George Carlin, "The rockets, guns, and bombs are all shaped like dicks."

I was listening to Sinead O'Connor while writing those paragraphs. I think it had an effect.

Duff snapped this shot of me and John:

The Lincoln Memorial was next:

The Korean Memorial:

World War II:

And my personal favorite, the Jefferson ("What? Was Lincoln too busy?") Memorial:

Next was the Holocaust museum. I can't really bring myself to write about it other than I felt guilty for even having witnessed it. To come from such a priviledged life, with relatively little cares, your world-view kind of comes to screeching halt at some of those exhibits, and it was one of the more harrowing things I've experienced.. It was too hard to hold back the tears at the sight of the room with all the thousands of shoes. People actually wore those shoes. Next to it was a truck frame used as a pallet in a human pyre. It was warped and blackened by heat. It was good to get back in the sunlight afterwards. I say in all seriousness, I needed a puppy to sit on my lap for little while.

So! Who's up for an Orioles game?!? On to Baltimore!!!

Sandwiched in the backseat lengthwise of John's '96 Ford Probe, we drove to Baltimore to meet my cousins Andrew and Philip (aka Honson, Flollop) for the Orioles game. Traffic was brutal, but we still managed to get there in time to meet with Philip and visit at his apartment, which was just down the block from Camden Yards. We grabbed Philip's six prepared "road sodas" - hyped all week, yet nothing more than rot-gut vodka and gatorade. The prime selling point of these is that the security staff at Camden doesn't really give a fuck what you bring into the park and doesn't check bags. As we walked to the stadium, the comparisons to Wrigleyville were striking. Even though both the Cubs and Orioles are compartively pretty bad, downtown Baltimore was still pretty desolate, even for a Friday night game against a division rival, the Toronto Blue Jays. We all know what a mess Wrigleyville can be even on non-game days. I sometimes wonder what it would be like if Chicago actually had a stadium in the loop. It would probably be the same.

We found our seats in the outfield, and met up with Andrew, and his college buddy, Rudy and his younger brother. High jinks then ensued.

My brother is Harley Nation's Santa Claus (w/ John):

Andrew, Me, John, Duff, Philip:

Somebody get Andrew in here for his close-up:

Andrew, Me, Philip:

After the game, the idiocy began in earnest. We said goodbye to John, and the rest of us decided to head out and go Duckpin Bowling in north Baltimore. If you are from Wisconsin, you might know this as minibowl. However, first we had to get there. As the establishment we were heading to was BYOB (best idea in bowling. Ever.), we grabbed three 12-packs of the local version of Old Style: National Bohemian, AKA Natty Bo, and jumped in the back of Rudy's little brother's pick up. (Worst idea in bowling. Ever. Cue the banjo and baying blue-tick hound.)

Such a smart idea, riding in the back of a pick-up with a half-drunk driver. He thought it was super funny to slam on the brakes at stop signs and wait to the last minute for those turns. Ha ha. Very funny.

I am getting too old for this shit:

Duckpin bowling in Baltimore uses regular lanes, but with much smaller pins and balls:

I've saved the best for last: the price of bowling was $15 per person, and included all you can bowl, and all you can eat pizza. This is with the BYOB. Ah'd like tah FALL OUT, BOY!!!


Rudy and his brother:

The bowling alley kicked us out at 1am. We passed on getting back into the truck, said goodbye to the Brothers Beer, and caught a cab to a little place called the Ottobar.

We walked in and headed immediately upstairs to get away from the horrendously bad band on the stage. On the second floor was a chill crowd, a juke-box, and a pool table. We queued up some songs, and racked up. Halfway through the game this aging hipster with a grey soul-patch and a fading sleeve of tattoos approached us and began to front his pool skills. Started telling us about how the table was re-felted, how fast it was going to be, to hurry up so he could get in and play us.

Andrew and I finally beat my brother and Philip and the aging hipster began racking the table. He said he was going to play us by himself, but Andrew deferred to me. I said fine and waited for the aging hipster to break. He sank one or two balls, and then headed to the bar, and animatedly demanded the talc powder. Jesus, this guy wouldn't stop.

He missed his next shot, ironically enough, the talc must have threw him off. I then sank one, two, and then three balls. Suddenly I was on a roll. I could beat this guy. However, the next thing I know, I'm breathing in a thick cloud of talcum powder. Andrew has this sheepish grin on his face, Duffy and Philip are cracking up laughing, and in about two seconds the bartender was asking us to leave. They had already turned on the lights after last-call but they weren't hassling anyone yet.

Andrew's version of the story was basically: "Let's make fun of this douchebag," so he pulled his pants down halfway on the crack of his ass and told Duff, "Hey, man! I'm chafing! Give me some talc." So of course Duff gives that bottle one big old squeeze and white powder goes everywhere. There were foot prints in the carpet and the back of Andrew's legs were white. I can't believe no one thought to take a picture but I guess we were laughing too hard.

It was a cab back to Phillips to crash. We raided his fridge first and played a little Mortal Combat on his old Sega Genesis. I think he has every generation of video game system since Coleco Vision through the last X-box.

Duffy slept-walked that night and apparently tried to piss in Philip's closet...

OK, this is getting super long so I will wrap it up. We were up relatively early considering and off to Ellicott City by 11:30. We stopped and picked up more beer and got the reunion in time to start drinking, visitng, drinking, snacking, drinking and playing badmitten and drinking. The best part was when we went back out for crabs and brought back 2 dozen steamed blue crabs in a brown paper shopping bag. Fun to eat but messy. The trivial pursuit game tradition was revived in a big way. In past years we put too much emphasis on dividing up teams and it had gotten a little acrymoneous. Is that spelled right? Whatever, the cousins, I, Duff, and a couple uncles decided to just start playing and soon everyone was involved. We made a beer run in the middle, Duff broke a chair, and everyone had a lot of good laughs. Duff, Aunt Judy, and I won the first game. Then most people headed off for hotels and/or to bed, while some of us played a second game.

I'll close with a few pics for the family members who'll be reading this...

My mom and stepdad Laurie:

My uncle Jack's daughter Kara:

Dick Conrad:

Andrew can balance ANYthing on his chin:

And Matthew (Andrew and Philip's older bro) and his (5/23/07 update: now ex-) girlfriend Emily:

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