Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quarterlife: Worst Show Ever

So, on our first night back after our sojourn through the desert of cablelessness, my roommate and I watched the beginning of the new series Quarterlife. I continued watching it, because I cannot look away from a trainwreck. The characters are self-absorbed, emo, hipster, alcoholic, and sex-obsessed. Basically, throw in a Starbucks cup and you will have a picture of the stereotype of young Americans.

Two things made this show especially terrible. The first is the casting of Scott M. Foster. I would like to qualify this statement by saying that I am kind of in love with him. But if his presence on this series means the ABCFamily's Greek is canceled, then I cannot abide his judgment in roles. (NB: According to his bio, Greek is still in production, but I am worried.)

The other problem-- which I only witnessed because I was foolish enough to watch until the end-- was BAD KARAOKE. Clearly, the writers of this series have not read my guide to karaoke. The venue was bad, the song was too slow, the girl who was singing--badly-- was crying and having some kind of epiphany onstage. All bad artistic choices. Throw in a guy trying to sing Tracy Chapman with a beer in his hand, and you would have the perfect storm of karaoke doom.

Anyway, I am glad my cable is back, but it was sad to realize that nothing good was on tonight. Gossip Girl, come back to me! You know I love you.

Brief Diatribe Against Comcast

Hello! I have missed you. I've been meaning to post for some time now, but I have been cut off from the outside world. What is this, you ask? This, my friends, is the work of Comcast. I posted last on February 12. On February 13, I came home from work and found myself without cable, internet, or phone service. Yes, my roommate and I have a home phone; deal with it.

Today is February 26. I think they are coming to fix it tonight.

Seriously? Seriously. This is after two failed attempts to wait for repair people-- one of which involved some kind of traffic accident; the other I believe to have involved the Bermuda Triangle, since the guy who was "5 to 10 minutes" away from our apartment vanished.

Anyway, I've been fuming. And drinking a lot of chai at Murky Coffee in Clarendon, which I have discovered is delightfully walkable from my apartment-- good news when 60 percent of the Metro lines are delayed and I need to go somewhere with wireless to work. And listening to a lot of old school Third Eye Blind, also the influence of Murky.

Before I go (I am at work, after all), a brief highlight from this weekend. Walking almost all the way home from Adams Morgan (really, I walked to Dupont, where the wait was so long I continued on to Foggy Bottom), I overheard the following conversation:

Guy: What's your name again?
Girl: What's your name?
Guy: Ummm... do you want to come over and... um, hang out?
Girl: Umm, yeah... we could, um... have a drink.
Guy: Yeah... or, uh... listen to music.

Oh, innuendo. How I love you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

You Can Take the Girl Out of Connecticut...

...but you can't take the healthy fear of death by catastrophic ice-induced fall out of the girl.

Yes, it's true. Just because I'm from the North doesn't mean I go frolicking about in the ice--as I reminded myself tonight.

Having promised caramel brownies to my office for tomorrow, I set out for a trek to Subterranean Safeway after my gym session for the evening. Bear in mind that the reason I had to go tonight was because it was way too inhospitable outside for me to go yesterday. It was cold. Not precipitating, not glacial. Too cold.

So tonight, once I no longer had a choice in the matter, I made my way up the hill that is Wilson Boulevard to Safeway. There was only one really treacherous part-- one semi-icy intersection. Not bad. When I found out that my Safeway does not sell the caramels I needed for my brownies, I came up with Plan B-- go to CVS on my way home. It closes at 10. I left Safeway at 9:20. Fine, right?

Wrong. Not fine.

(To cut the suspense, I will tell you here that I made it to CVS in time to buy a ridiculous quantity of Werther's caramels. I wanted a stiff drink by the time I got there, but I made it.)

Anyway, back to my death march. Actually, no. March suggests that I stepped with some kind of deliberate motion. Which I did until I really got going down hill and the sidewalk really got frozen.

You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you take a step and that foot is suddenly not bearing any weight or making contact with the ground? I hate that feeling.

Which is why I decided to walk on the very edge of the road. I waited until the light had changed to stop the flow of traffic and prayed the tiny strip of shoulder that became my trail to safety was not also frozen. Because wiping out alone on the sidewalk is bad. But wiping out in the company of an SUV on the road is worse.

I made it to the next block relatively unscathed. Sweet. Right? Wrong. Bridge. By which I mean sheet of ice.

Remember, I had a backpack and another bag full of groceries. There was not a lot of potential for me to regain my balance if I lost it, which seemed increasingly likely the longer I stood on the one unfrozen square foot of sidewalk on this block. And remember too, I am still going downhill.

At this point, I decided that I had several options:

a.) Cry. Specifically, stand in one place and cry until my tears melted some of the ice in my path. I had already considered this once.
b.) Save myself the inevitable fall by sitting down and sliding on my butt to the end of the ice, which was probably 50 yards away. I'm not kidding; I had already considered this once as well.
c.) Hail a cab to take me half a block to CVS. Hubris prevented this. Also the disturbing lack of cabs. But then again, that meant there were fewer vehicles to run me over when I wiped out and tumbled ass over bandbox into the road.
d.) Sally forth.

And sally I did. Or, more accurately, I skated in my running shoes down the sidewalk, with the aid of the guard rail of the overpass and several newspaper boxes. Seriously, I have never been so grateful for The Onion or those stupid real estate guides. Were it not for that strategically placed bank of newspaper dispensers, I would have been on my butt sobbing in the path of a Ford Explorer.

Lesson: Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Because tomorrow there will be freezing rain, and you will have to walk--downhill-- through it to get home.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Kate's Guide to Karaoke

Saturday was my birthday. It was also Groundhog Day, but somehow I am a huge failure and have yet to find out whether or not he saw his shadow. Not that it matters, since it was 71 here today-- wtf, mate? Really, whether Phil said so or not, spring has sprung, even it's taking a kind-of hiatus this weekend.

But back to birthday. It was a great night. Why? Because it included a trip to Café Japone in Dupont for some sweet, sweet karaoke. Having gone on several karaoke excursions in the recent past, I hereby offer some musings on the rules of the road-- as I see them-- for a successful night of karaoke.

1. Bigger is not better. For example, Café Japone is a pretty small restaurant, which means there are fewer [presumably drunk] people to mock or attack you. It's also set up like a restuarant, so not everyone is watching the performer. Places that are bigger or more presentational can get a little terrifying, especially under hostile conditions.

2. Don't go to Peyote in Adams Morgan ever. It's in Adams Morgan so everyone is a belligerent, wasted 20-year-old (I am McSurly?). Also, the DJ makes you tip if you ever want to hear your song and one of his microphones--the one he hands to you, conveniently-- doesn't work. No lie. It was the best "Hey Jealousy" I've ever done, and only I heard the first half of it because I was singing into a dead mike.

1. Get to a mental and emotional place in which you can enjoy making a spectacle of yourself or watching others make spectacles of themselves. If this preparatory process requires alcohol, so be it. Performers be warned-- this does not give you license to be in the bathroom when your song comes up on the queue.

2. Strike a balance between respectful and judgy. Once, a guy yelled at my extremely talented, classically trained friend that he was bad. Like, to my friend's face, while my friend was singing. That was cruel and inappropriate. On the other hand, some terrible girls once stole the mike from us when they forfeited their song by being too drunk to realize it was their turn. We sat calmly at our table and commented to each other about how awful they were. And how vaguely anorexic. The suggestion, "Eat a powerbar" might or might not have been uttered at some point. But the moral of the story is that we let those pathetic diva-wannabes finish their destruction of a perfectly good song. Even though it was "Sweet Caroline" and it hurt us.

2a. If you are better than someone, you are allowed to judge.

2b. If it is your birthday, you have free range to judge everyone else, including other people with the same birthday.

2c. If on your birthday, some guys who are really awful get up and try to sing your song, you are within your rights to tell them to stop and then reclaim the mike by force if they persist. Seriously, I don't think they had ever even heard "Wild Night" before.

Song selection
This is obviously the most important choice you will make. More important than Sapporo or Sapporo Light. More important than sake bomb or don't sake bomb. This is huge and it will make or break you. With that in mind, a little guidance for the misguided:

1. Pick a song you know. Please. It's funny to watch people who can't sing but love a song and go balls-out. It's painful to watch people trying desperately to keep up with the words or blatantly guess at the melody. Helpful example: unless you are a complete and utter badass, never pick
"End of the World as We Know It," by R.E.M.
"One Week," by Bare Naked Ladies
Anything by Busta Rhymes

2. It doesn't matter how good a song is; if it isn't at least kind of up-tempo, it won't work. There are obvious exceptions to this rule ("Total Eclipse of the Heart," much?), but by and large it is an effective weeding tool. I am not giving examples. Figure it out.

3. Don't pick songs that are more than five minutes long. Really, it's just rude.

4. Don't pick songs with melancholy lyrics unless they are vastly outweighed by a kickass tempo and over half the people in the bar knowing the chorus. Mostly, this rule is dedicated to the guys Saturday night who tried to sing "Talking About a Revolution," by Tracy Chapman. Great song. I really like that song. But it was a bad decision. I'm sorry, but if it's 11:30 on a Saturday night and I am being peer pressured into another sake bomb-- I've lost count; don't ask--and you have been hogging the mike all night, i really do not want you to sing at me about people standing in the welfare lines. And singing badly, I might add. It was kind of funny, and every girl at my table was singing to try to drown you out, but mostly we were all silently asking wtf.

5. I know you're young and drunk and you only really know the words to about four good songs, but try to save the standards for later in the night. No one is ready for "Don't Stop Believin" at 9:30. Not even you. We use that to close down bars.

And with that, a brief sampling of successful karaoke tunes. I recommend the 80's, the 90's, boy bands, and the so-bad-they're-good:

Don't Stop Believin, Journey (please wait until the end of the night, at least after 11.)
Sweet Caroline, Neil Diamond (so good, so good, so good)
Livin on a Prayer, Bon Jovi (again, patience please)
Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Pat Benatar (BIG winner)
Hey Jealousy, Gin Blossoms (brilliant)
Follow You Down, Gin Blossoms (you will be pleasantly surprised how many people know the chorus; obviously they should know it because it's amazing, but you'll still be surprised.)
Candy, Mandy Moore (awful, and therefore perfect)
That's the Way It Is, Celine Dion (the Vegas show might be closed, but the music lives on; a very popular selection at the gay bar)
Red Neck Woman, Gretchen Wilson (a well-timed country song can be very effective, by which I mean hilarious)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

All Roads Lead to [a Pseudo-]Toad's

I love U Street. I love concerts at the mainstage at the Black Cat. I love that the doorman at Cafe St. Ex calls me Shorty because I am as tall as he is. But just when you think you've found a place where people vaguely resembling grown-ups (i.e., people I aspire to be) go to drink, you find yourself in the midst of another Toad's.

I have been cataloging the existence of pseudo-Toad's long before I ventured to the legendary Spoad's one fateful week in May 2007. As a member of that most-reviled breed of human-- the D.C. summer intern-- I spent many a night reveling in the sketch that befell my favorite Red Sox bar every Saturday at 11:00. Who knew that once all the guys in jerseys cleared out, all the guys in striped shirts would move in for the kill? But alas, part of the charm was lost when I returned only to realize that D.C. interns had been replaced by Georgetown students and that I was now the sketchy older chick. No way that is okay.

So I moved on. P.S., baseball season, please begin again so I can go back to Rhino. I miss it. One night, Laura and I wandered into The Front Page. We were after a cheap bourbon and ginger, but soon we heard the thumping of a bass line and the words "in da club." Could it be? Our Thursday 5:30 source of buckets of beer loosening its Vineyard Vines tie and getting low? Apparently.

But sadly, we were not quite pastel-clad enough. And I love a pastel, so that is saying something. Don't these people realize that the sketchy dance party is the raison d'être of Forever 21? They are putting an entire industry-- the cheap, hoochie "clothes" industry, I know, but still-- out of business.

So when Marie suggested the Bliss dance party at the backstage at the Black Cat last weekend, I was full of guarded optimism. Okay, that's a lie. I was pretty sure it wouldn't be very good. Or it would be fine, but not like Toad Sweet Toad.

It was amazing. There was a stage. Nay, there were multiple stages. Obviously, we picked the highest and most prominent and charged up to our pedestal of dancing glory. And the DJ was playing songs directly from his iTunes. How great is that? There were girls with Coach bags wearing $11.99 tops rife with oversized sequins. They played "Call on Me." It was perfect.

And-- clinching backstage's place as the premier pseudo-Toad's-- vaguely skeezy guys befriended us, securing our place as not the sketchiest people there. A good night indeed.