Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Pizza, love, and happiness

I remember my mother telling me that I would outgrow my love of pizza, but I’m 27 now and it still hasn’t happened. On a day I had spent too much time walking around in the heat and wasn’t feeling well, a friend proposed going out for dinner. I didn’t know if the reason nothing she suggested sounded good was that I was feeling ill or if the things she suggested didn’t appeal to me. “What about pizza?” she asked. I shook my head and wrinkled my nose. “Okay, then something’s wrong with you. You always want pizza,” she told me. (I got very, very sick that night. Lesson learned: When it’s over 90 degrees even before you account for humidity, a walk from Dupont Circle to Georgetown to the Lincoln Memorial and back to Georgetown is a BAD idea, no matter how much water you drink.)

Instead of outgrowing my love of pizza, my taste in it just got more expensive. Back when we first started dating, The Husband and I would always go to Pizza My Heart on Pacific Avenue, where I would get a slice of the (thin crust) pepperoni pizza and a root beer. Now I make him take me out for a brick oven pie and wine. I think he wonders what happened to the cheap date he married.

Last weekend, after wandering around the Mall for the Kite Festival, we walked up to Kramerbooks so I could pick up a book I’ve been wanting. As we headed down the escalator into the Metro, I suddenly pointed out to The Husband that we were in the proximity of excellent pizza, and it was early enough yet that the wait for a table wouldn’t be horrible. At the bottom of the escalator we turned around and headed back up.

As I opened the door I realized that at 6 pm there was already something of a wait—40 minutes, unless we were willing to sit at the counter, the waiter said. The seats at the counter were completely empty. We weren’t going to argue with that.

We ordered the pizza and wine from the specials menu.We watched the folks behind the counter put together the pizzas—spreading tomatoes, sprinkling cheese, drizzling olive oil—while we sipped our wine. The cooks moved efficiently around the small work area, putting pizzas together, sliding them into the oven, pulling them out when they were ready, and quickly slicing them. We watched the fire burning in the oven and saw our pizza being pulled out. As we bit into our piping hot pie, I wondered why I didn’t eat an early pizza dinner at the counter every weekend. The pizza bianca, topped with mozzarella, fontina, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and rosemary was heavenly.


We (well, I) have carefully ranked our favorite pizza places in the Washington area, based on the quality of the pizza. I’m not going to be saying anything here that people who live in the area don’t already know, but I thought I’d put this out there:

The number one pizza place is 2 Amys. The pizza is absolutely fantastic—very much like the pizza we ate in Italy last spring. The crusts are perfect and the toppings are high quality and absolutely delicious. Once I chose a pizza from the specials menu, but for the most part I stick with the basic pizza margherita. I can’t argue with fresh tomato, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. The only problem with 2 Amys is that it’s everyone else’s favorite pizza place, too, or so it seems. The first time we showed up, at 8 o’clock on a Friday night, we waited an hour and a half for a table. Now we only go for lunch or when we’ve put off doing anything about dinner until 10 pm on a weekend (which means we only wait twenty minutes to half an hour to be seated).

Second on our list is Pizzeria Paradiso, where we ended up on Saturday. I fell in love with this pizza before we moved to Washington, when we were here to attend graduate school open houses. It was one of the first times I’d had brick oven pizza, and I was absolutely starving, so I thought I had found the world’s most perfect food (well, after ice cream). The wait here is long, too, and after we discovered 2 Amys, I wondered why I was willing to wait so long. But I’ve been seated very quickly at lunchtime, at both the Dupont Circle and Georgetown locations. And, as it turns out, if you go early and sit at the counter, there’s no wait at all. Plus, I like the t-shirts worn by the staff: “Eat your pizza,” they say across the back.

We go to our third favorite pizza place more often than the other two. Faccia Luna has a couple of local branches, and we frequent the one in Old Town Alexandria. The pizza is consistently good, although I don’t think it’s quite as good as either 2 Amys or Paradiso. But we rarely have to wait for a table, especially not on weeknights. The big booths with high backs are a nice change from the little tables at our other pizza places, and they recently eliminated smoking in the bar area, which is awesome. An added bonus is that Faccia Luna has a lot of great pastas as well, so even if we don’t want pizza, we often end up here. Oh, and they have great root beer, if you’re not in the mood for wine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

March miscellany

A few unconnected items:

It did not actually snow yesterday. I treated myself to a peppermint hot chocolate anyhow. And although it was cold, I was not horribly uncomfortable waiting for a bus after work last night, in spite of the fact that I forgot to wear a hat, a scarf, or gloves. (Look, I got out of the house with a coat, my lunch, my house keys, and my Metro card. I think that's pretty good.) It didn’t even begin to rain until I was curled up in bed with my book.

The Husband and I decided to try Indique after getting recommendations from several friends. Now I only regret that we waited so long to try it. Our curries were wonderfully spicy—the chickpeas in the aloo chole cooked to creamy perfection, the eggplant in the baingan bhartha rich and smoky. And the restaurant’s variation on samosas was almost too good to be true. Also? Spell check thinks I’m doing a crappy job on this paragraph.

Ohio State Senator Robert Hagan rocks my socks.

I finally finished Parting the Waters. It was a wonderful book, but after reading exciting chapters on the Freedom Rides, the movements in Albany and Birmingham, and the March on Washington, the last few pages of tying up loose ends was sort of a let down. I suppose it’s the nature of that sort of book, though. I’m taking a break to read some fiction, and then I’ll move on to Pillar of Fire. I figure that by the time I’m done with that At Canaan’s Edge will be out in soft cover.

I am listening to Gillian Welch right now, and quite enjoying her. When Joan Baez included to Gillian Welch songs on Dark Chords on a Big Guitar I thought I should probably get an album. Then El Jefe recommended her to me. Finally I got Hell Among the Yearlings and Time (The Relevator). Both are excellent, although The Husband finds her "too twangy" for his tastes.

I love that the days are getting longer and that the sun is coming up earlier. It makes it so much easier to get up. But I still get funny looks at work for saying things like “I was surprised by how cloudy it turned out to be today. The sky was so clear and red this morning as the sun was coming up.”

I didn’t grow up watching basketball, but I have somehow been liking the college basketball tournament this year. Maybe I just like tournaments: I enjoy the NBA finals, as well. Maybe it's that, in spite of defending the pace of baseball to non-fans, I do enjoy the quicker pace of basketball. Or maybe as a vertically-challenged individual I am just amazed by the size of basketball players. Anyhow, I didn’t fill out a bracket, but I do have teams I’m cheering for. I’m not telling who they are, though. Don’t want to jinx anything.

Speaking of baseball: two weeks until opening day!

I got a call this afternoon from a man from some catering place about bagels for a meeting. He kept asking for Nadia. I kept telling him he had the wrong number. He kept asking if he had the right university. And I would say yes, but I'm not the person you need to talk to. He would ask me to connect him to Nadia. But he didn't know Nadia who or what department she was with. He just needed to talk to someone named Nadia and worked at the university. He told me that he thought she was Muslim. I didn’t find that information very helpful. I asked him what number he was calling. He read me off a number that wasn't mine. I said that wasn't my number, that he must have dialed wrong (but it was way off, so I didn't know how he got to me). Finally he told me that that number was busy, so he had tried my number instead. What the hell? I told him he needed to call back the other number. He asked me how many bagels I needed. I hung up.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Why I live here

I realized how much time I spend lately complaining about the weather and various other aspects of the Washington area. And while I could do with some decent weather (that holds, not just that teases with promises of springtime for a weekend before disappearing again) and some lunch from my favorite taqueria, I do love where I am right now.

I love being in a big city where Things Happen. When something important is going on, I can be there for it. Two months after we moved here, I participated in an anti-war rally on the National Mall with hundreds of thousands of other people. The following spring, I heard Peter, Paul, and Mary sing peace songs at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, and stood outside the Supreme Court when the Court was hearing the Michigan affirmative action case. I shook Coretta Scott King’s hand the day a marker was unveiled at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate her husband’s famous speech there in 1963. When Rosa Parks died, I stood in line for hours to pay my respects to her in the Capitol Rotunda.

I love being in a city of free things. I can go into a museum for just a short time and not feel that I’ve wasted my money by not staying longer. I can go hear free music at the Kennedy Center every night if I feel like it—and I’ve heard Odetta, John McCutcheon, and Bobby McFerrin there, along with some classical and world music that I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to experience, all for the cost of the Metro ride it took to get me there.

I love that nearly everyone I interact with here is very politically aware, and, for the most part, have seriously considered their political opinions. By going to graduate school in public policy, I admit I have likely selected into a social circle that tends towards political awareness, but I think it’s just something generally a part of the city’s culture.

I love the simple novelty of being in the capital—of turning the corner at night and seeing the Capitol dome lit up against the sky; of flying kites down by the Washington Monument; of braving the crowds to wander among the cherry trees at Tidal Basin; of seeing a sign in the Metro station directing me to the White House.

I love it here, but I know we won’t stay forever. Our families are in California. Better weather is in California. Great Mexican food is in California. Our favorite beaches are in California. And there are some things about Washington I won’t miss.

I won’t miss being considered the liberal one, shocking my fellow graduate students by advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana (and I am so glad I didn’t do my project on general legalization of it) or by admitting to have voluntarily subscribed to The Nation.

I won’t miss the button-down boringness of downtown Washington on a weekday, or the fact that pretty much all the women here shave their legs, making me feel freakish if I don’t.

I won’t miss the cynicism that so many people have, even for the causes they are most passionate about. I tell myself that I will get out before I turn cynical too, but maybe it’s too late.

I won’t miss the painfully hot summers or icy spring days.

But most of those complaints seem awfully trivial when I look at the positive aspects of living here. I’ll be moving back to the West Coast one of these days—family, Mexican food, and the ocean will make certain of that. But I will still be sad to leave DC.

Monday, March 20, 2006

And yet I don't just move back to California

Weather or commute…weather or commute…..I’ll go with a weather post today. Or maybe...both.

Today is the vernal equinox. A couple of weeks ago we started having some very spring-like weather. Last Monday, highs were in the 80s. Today the high was around 50 degrees. Tomorrow? Tomorrow it is supposed to snow—snow, which will turn into “wintry mix.” The first time after moving to DC that I saw wintry mix in the forecast, I asked a friend from Michigan what exactly that meant.

“Nothin’ good,” he told me. And then he went outside in a t-shirt to smoke a cigarette, because it may have been cold, but it wasn’t as bad as Michigan.

I have very clear memories of classes being held outside on the lawn at UC Santa Cruz in February. So I don’t cope well with icy weather in March. It just feels wrong. And I fear the wintry mix tomorrow, because last year we had wintry mix in March, and it just didn’t go well.

I woke up at a reasonable hour and got ready for work, but I missed my regular bus because I couldn’t find my umbrella or keys. When I finally got my act together and went outside to wait for the next bus, the bus that came sped by me without stopping. I chased it for a few steps, hoping that someone on the bus would see me and tell the driver to stop, but I was too afraid of slipping to be willing to chase very far. I went back into the house to wait awhile for the next bus, since standing outside in the icy rain wasn’t proving very pleasant.

The next bus stopped to let me on, and when I arrived at the Pentagon station, a blue line train was just arriving. It was fairly full, and with several people standing in the doorways, I wasn’t able to push my way on. I waited for the next train, which ended up being good: the train was empty enough that I got a seat, and for an added bonus, the conductor sounded just like Sean Connery.

As I came up the escalator at Foggy Bottom, I was pelted with more icy rain mixed with snow. Wintry mix, indeed. I opened my umbrella, but as I turned onto Washington Circle, the wind snapped two of the spokes of the umbrella, rendering it pretty useless. I told myself that with wind like that the umbrella wouldn’t have done much good anyhow, and dropped it into a trash can I passed. I took a hat out of my backpack, thinking that would keep at least my head warm and dry. Which I’m sure it would have if I hadn’t promptly dropped in into an icy puddle. I picked it up and shook it off, debating whether I ought to try to wear it anyhow. Deciding against it, I hurried toward the bus stop.

I waited and Pennsylvania and 24th for the light to turn. As cars rushed by me in one direction, three buses stopped across the street and pulled away in the other. I thought as many swear words as I could as the light finally changed and I proceeded across the street to wait for the next bus(es).

I shivered at the bus stop. Finding camaraderie in the chilly day, my fellow bus riders and I grumbled about how the buses were supposed to be ten minutes apart, but they came thirty minutes apart in packs of threes. We waited there, with me getting wetter and chillier as the rain continued, and I began to feel less affectionate toward the other people waiting as they began to comment on my lack of umbrella and hat.

“Boy, you look cold.”

“Shouldn’t you be wearing a hat?”

“Forgot your umbrella today, eh?”

Bastards, I thought, and politely explained my predicament. A man about my age offered to share his umbrella with me. Actually, he offered me his hat, too, but that seemed weird, and I only took him up on the umbrella offer until the next pack of buses showed up.

When I arrived at the office I dropped my things at my desk and went to put my lunch in the refrigerator. There were several women in the kitchen, making their coffee and tea and talking.

“Have you been outside?” one asked. “Or did you just wash your hair?”

I explained about my wait for the bus and went back to my desk, leaving them laughing in the kitchen. A co-worker stopped by my cube asked me if I wanted to run to Starbucks with her. I declared that I was not going outside ever again, and gave her money to get me a peppermint hot chocolate.

Someone apparently mentioned it to The Boss (no, not Bruce Springsteen; my boss), because he stopped by when he got in, just as I was recounting the tale of my morning to a friend in an email with the subject “Today sucks. A lot.” I told The Boss that it was a damn miracle (or a sign of my stupidity) that I didn’t turn around and go home after I dropped my hat in the puddle, or even after I saw those three buses passing me by on Pennsylvania. I could have gone home, curled up under the nice, warm covers, and tried again the next day. Or perhaps the next month. It’s never snowed on me here in April (Am so knocking on wood, here). He agreed that I showed remarkable dedication to my job, even when faced with evil wintry mix. But he didn’t offer me a raise or a cookie.

So wish me luck tomorrow, would you? And cross your fingers that this doesn’t kill off the cherry blossoms before they even get to bloom.

Saturday, March 18, 2006


When I first read about Chocolate Decadence at the Ritz Carlton and mentioned it to The Husband, he said “I think at $30 a person, you’ve gone beyond the point of diminishing returns.” He argued that he would be content to stay home with a $2 bar of chocolate. Pffbbtt.

Christie’s reaction was more appropriate. When I sent her an IM with a link and asked if she wanted to come to Washington in March she wrote back, “Are you serious?” And when I said yes, she told me, “I’m checking for flights now.”

Unfortunately, flights were rather pricy, so Christie was unable to join me. But with many things, if I talk to The Husband as though something is true, he starts to believe me. So I’ve mentioned it every chance I’ve had since mid-February, and when he asked earlier in the week what we would be doing this weekend I said, “Well, we were going to go to the chocolate buffet, I thought.”

“Oh, that’s right. What time was it again?”


While my plan had been to have chocolate for dinner (to make sure I got my money’s worth!), we came home after work yesterday and had a light dinner of asparagus (yes, just asparagus), put on our fancy, going-to-the-Ritz clothes, and headed back into the District.

“We’re here for the chocolate,” I declared to the concierge when we walked in.

“You got a kick out of saying that, didn’t you?” The Husband whispered to me as the concierge directed us back to the lounge.

There was a large buffet against one wall, and two smaller buffets nearby. The scent of chocolate wafted across the room. Everything on the buffet looked beautiful—from mousses and puddings in martini glasses, to perfect little pieces of chocolate cake topped with sparkly gold flakes.

We ate several different kinds of chocolate cake; a chocolate pudding we weren’t very into until we discovered that it had banana at the bottom; chocolate cookies; brownies; a chocolate éclair; white chocolate pots de crème with passionfruit; and chocolate waffles with mangoes and rum ice cream. I wasn’t drinking, or I definitely would have had a chocolate martini to top it all off.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I think I’m going to move this site to, because really, that’s all I ever have stories about.

I got on the bus outside the Spanish embassy this morning. As I swiped my SmarTrip card, I realize that there was a man at the driver’s window and a little black Mercedes parked just in front of the bus with the door open.

“You cut me off. You almost hit me,” the man at the window was saying. “Do you know who I am?”

I moved back into the bus and settled myself at a window on the left side so I could watch what was happening. I could no longer see the driver, but I could keep an eye on the man. The bus driver at first apologized to the man, offering some sort of explanation about not seeing the car and needing to move over.

The man at the bus window, a white man with grey hair and glasses, wearing a dark suit, continued to berate the driver and threatened to call his supervisor. The bus driver lost his apologetic tone, and asked the man to move his car so that he could continue his route. The angry driver repeated his threat.

“Call my supervisor. Here’s the number. Here’s my name.” It’s actually not the first time I’ve seen a bus driver offer this information to someone who was harassing him. The last time it happened, the bus driver then ordered the angry passenger off the bus, on a route where the buses ran only every hour. I had been glad to see the woman gone, as she had been terribly rude to the bus driver—something I think should be a crime, since I depend on these folks to get me around town.

“Don’t think I won’t,” the man said, grabbing a slip of paper away from the driver. “Do you know who you just cut off?”

“An asshole in a fancy car,” the bus driver replied. “You’ve yelled at me, you have the information, now get in your car and get out of my way.”

Without another word, the man went back to his car. I wish I could have figured out who he was, since he clearly thought he ought to be recognized. It would have been awesome to post his name on the internet.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Spring has sprung

I think I handle DC winters pretty well for a Californian. Granted, our winters don’t tend to be as terrible as they could be, and I’m from Northern California, where it did get sort of cold during the winter months. The colder weather here is still a bit novel for me, and for awhile I don’t mind it too much, especially when we get some snow. It turns out, though, that sometime toward the end of February I reach my breaking point. I just get to the point where I don't want to cope with it anymore. In a conversation with a friend in Southern California a couple of weeks ago, I made light of the weather, saying that yes, it was only going to get up to 35 that day, but by mid-week it was supposed to be back up in the 50s.

“Back up in the 50s?” He sounded appalled.

Shortly after that conversation, my patience with the weather wore off. I felt cranky all the time. I stood in front of my closet in the morning, wrinkling my nose at the sweaters I’d been wearing all winter, looking wistfully at the skirts that had been shoved down to the end of the rod.

During the winter I changed my route between work and the Metro, opting for a longer walk that lengthened my train ride by one station, because at least on that route I didn’t have to cross the Key Bridge, where I think it is a good 15 degrees colder from the wind over the Potomac. On Thursday the National Park Service announced the prediction for the cherry blossoms, and that evening, I left work and headed for the bridge.

People were out walking their dogs through Georgetown, talking with their neighbors. Most of the trees are still bare, but I noticed little buds on a forsythia in one yard (at least, I think it was a forsythia—it looked similar to what someone informed me is a forsythia in front of my old apartment, but the buds weren’t yellow. Can a forsythia have white flowers?), and some of the bulbs that have been trying to come up since our warm weather at the end of January are finally starting to look like they will bloom. I passed over the Key Bridge, wearing a cotton sweater, my pea coat tucked under my arm. The eight crew teams that I counted reminded me of the bugs that skated across the surface of the creek near my house during the summers when I was little.

Today was even better. Even this morning I was comfortable walking to work in a t-shirt and jeans. This evening, the sidewalks were packed with people. Restaurants in Georgetown had their front windows opened up to the street. A lot of women were wearing skirts, and I eyed them enviously, and wiggled my toes in my shoes, wishing I had at least worn sandals. I sat outside with bare feet, sipping a drink and waiting for The Husband to get home as it grew dark.

It’s supposed to be back down in the 50s next week, but I’m trying not to think about that.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Still a cranky commuter

While tourists who stand on the left side of the Metro escalator irritate me, I've discovered something much worse. I grumbled to myself about tourists last night as I was held up on the escalator by someone standing on the left a few people ahead of me, talking to his companion. Then I noticed the person was wearing a business suit, and I thought that whoever had organized the conference that this person was in town for should have offered some training on Metro etiquette. But when I reached the platform and hurried toward the still-waiting train, I glanced at the man who had been blocking the way and noticed the lanyard and badge he was wearing. He was a federal government employee.

Locals who stand on the left during rush hour? Way more evil than tourists doing the same thing.