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The shot heard round the world (of Mary El's head)

Dec 29, 2009

If you live in DC – and chances are if you don’t – you probably heard the story about the snowball fight gone awry during the recent blizzard, aka Snowpocalypse 2009. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, you may read the story HERE. (Other coverage showed up in the Washington Post, the New York Post, and even BBC News – that’s right, we went international!)

And now, for my version.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I wasn’t all that thrilled about the snow. I had planned a lingerie shower for Megan on the very day the heavens dumped 16 inches of the most beautiful, powdery snow I’ve ever seen on the city. At first I was pouting, but then I realized everyone’s weekend plans were kaput. Margaret had a friend who was supposed to come visit that day, but her flight was cancelled. And countless other friends, including Ashmi, missed their flights home for Christmas. When my Aunt Lucia (one of my mom’s oldest and best friends and an avid reader of this blog – she deserves a shoutout! Woot woot!) wrote me and told me to get over it, everyone would be outside and I would have memorable fun, I did just that.

One of the great things about having a roommate is you have a friend on days like Snowmageddon. While others were cooped up in their apartments with no one to talk to, Margaret and I began scheming how we would spend the day. Because I went skiing last January I had snow gear, and that is the only reason, because we don’t get snow worth mentioning in Georgia, and I never imagined I would see snow like this. Let me say as an aside that I have never been happier to have my genuine gray full-length Uggs. Not until the end of the day did my toes even begin to feel less than warm.

We first got a hot breakfast downstairs in a little cafe and observed all the people who were braving the blizzard. The people watching was terrific! Everyone’s funny hats and homemade scarves were on display. Two men, who obviously didn’t know each other but were both smoking cigars, had a passer-by take their picture then parted ways. The snow had piled up around parked cars, and two guys attempted to get their BMW out. After about an hour, help from at least three other people on the street, a broom from the cafe we were sitting in, and a friendly tow truck, they were able to get out. Whether they made it to their destination I’ll never know, but we all cheered when they finally drove away at approximately 3 mph.

There was an atmosphere of excitement, togetherness, and fun. When we ventured out, we thought we’d make a snowman. But as we walked toward 14th St we noticed a large crowd and realized they were having a snowball fight! About 200 of our neighbors had gathered on either side of 14th St, and we arrived right as the fight began. (This included Hot Trash Breath Guy, who I saw hiding behind a trashcan, thus perpetuating the image of hot trash odor coming out of his mouth.) Some people were prepared with bags of pre-made snowballs. Mine were just kind of flat and fell apart by the time I threw them, but no one was targeting me (probably because I looked so, er, special with my giant pink ski jacket, big purple gloves, and weak throwing arm…and it didn’t help that I was laughing like Goofy the entire time).

A cop drove by and I got nervous, but then I noticed he was smiling at us and taking pictures with his phone. Another cop turned down 14th St and got stuck, and some guys halted the snowball fight and pushed his car out of the snow drift. A local news van was taping the whole thing, and I felt so happy that such good, clean fun would be broadcast to show what an upstanding, happy community we young DC professionals are.

When the fight commenced I moved to the outskirts because I’m a huge wimp, and also I wanted to be on TV. Right as I reached the edge, someone yelled, “Hummer!” Sure enough, a maroon Hummer was pulling toward the intersection. Then the chant started. “Hum-MER! Hum-MER!” And then snowballs started hurtling toward my head. My side of the street had turned to face the Hummer, and suddenly I was on the front lines! Thankfully -- and to my utter horror-- it didn’t take many hits until the man in the Hummer got out. He looked CRAZY mad. And he was walking right toward me. He yelled, “Throw another one, see what happens!” And some idiot threw another one – right in his face!!! (Geez, guys have skillz! If I had tried to taunt Hummer Guy I guarantee the snowball would have disintegrated in the air and I would have slipped and fallen and then cried in hopes he wouldn’t be too mad at me.)

The next part is a little fuzzy. All I remember is Margaret (where did she come from?) speaking in a very low voice into my ear, “He has a gun.”

My eyes darted to his left hand. At first I didn’t believe my eyes, but there it was. The world around me froze. He. Has. A. Gun. (Much less many guns that would necessitate an entire gun rack! Okay never mind.) And there was nothing but pretty little snowflakes between me and the gun. A GUN. A gun. A gun! My mouth dropped open and my feet would not move. You’re going to get shot, MOVE! I told myself. But I couldn’t move. And he was walking closer. And more people were throwing snowballs at him. And I was going to die on snOMG Day.

As I stared at death down the barrel of a gun, I somehow willed my legs to work, and I turned and ran for the hills. Unfortunately DC has no hills, so I hid behind a lamppost instead, which shielded about half of my arm. I shut my eyes and waited for the gunshots to ring out. I swear I felt my chest bleeding, but I checked it every few seconds and I was miraculously okay. Well, it felt miraculous in the moment. I guess it’s no real miracle that I didn’t get shot when he never shot the gun.

A few minutes later the cops showed up, and when they saw Hummer Guy they all looked exasperated. And I’m sure you all know the kicker here -- Hummer Guy was an off-duty cop, Detective Baylor, and told us, “You bet I pulled out my gun, they were throwing snowballs at me!” Um, ooooookay.

After four attempted arrests, Detective Baylor finally retreated to his Hummer and the cops told us we could get back to the snowball fight. Most people were leaving, though, but many migrated to Dupont Circle to start another fight. Margaret and I decided we’d had enough run-ins with the law for one year and walked back to the cafe where the snow had piled up nicely on the sidewalk. There we made Glenda the Snowwoman, because, as one male passer-by said, “There are too many men in DC.” (News to me!) With prune eyes, a carrot nose, and a pretty purple cashmere scarf, Glenda was a perfect mascot for our street. We predicted the scarf would be stolen within the hour. The next day everything was still there…except the eyes. You can draw your own conclusions.

When we decided we’d had enough, we fell back onto the sidewalk and made snow angels then ran inside to get warm. Two men in the lobby were filling in the concierge on the day’s events. When we walked in, one looked at me and started laughing.

“You were there! Oh man, you should have seen your face when that guy pulled out the gun! I’ve never seen someone look so scared and run so fast!”

Really? That's not how I remember it, I thought as I visualized the gun inching closer and closer to my face and my feet cemented to the ground.

That night we watched the news coverage on TV and online. Aaaaaaand I guess I wasn’t as close as I thought, because I didn’t get in any of the videos. Oh well, it was worth a shot. (HA!)

Unhealthy Metro Fantasies

Dec 11, 2009

In light of all the recent Metro crashes, I am ashamed to say I have become fascinated – not terrified – with the idea of being involved in one.

No, I’m not sad and suicidal. In fact, things are going so well in my life I am quite the opposite. I have a new job I love, a new neighborhood that is one of the hottest spots in the city, an apartment that, apart from a raw sewage backup in our kitchen sink, is so much nicer than my old place, I actually have a debt pay-down plan and hopes to buy a place in the next year or two, Britney Spears came out with a new single, and on top of it all I’ve lost five pounds!

But – and I blame this on the fact that I’m a girl and can’t help it – I’m bored. Well, bored and a little lonesome. Sabrina moved a couple months back, Megan is moving next month to Louisiana for her new job and getting married a few months later, Ashmi and Raghav might as well be an old married couple, most of my other friends have paired off with someone, and even Margaret’s considering settling down.

So naturally I would fantasize about my Metro car crashing into another one. It’s gotta be a great way to meet people, right? The bar scene obviously doesn’t work, and neither does online dating (although I signed up for eharmony for the second time after making Joanna promise me she would cut off my hands if I ever considered online dating again). But if “Speed” taught us anything other than, yes, a bus can jump across a giant gap in a bridge if going more than 55 mph, it’s that people will live happily ever after if put in a very stressful public transportation situation together.

You may be thinking, “Mary El, your Metro car doesn’t need to explode to meet a guy – just go talk to him, or just slip him your card.” First of all, no. Second of all, um, no. “Okay then,” you may say, “smile a little and maybe one will come to you.” The problem with that is, if I make eye contact with a hot guy, I immediately get embarrassed and look away then attempt to make eye contact with him again for the rest of the train ride, but I usually wait too long and realize he got off two stops back and I have, once again, missed my chance with the man of my dreams (or Metro crash fantasy).

Anyway, the guys that usually talk to me on the Metro are either deformed, homeless, or have really bad breath. Recently, after grabbing a seat during rush hour (an almost impossible feat), the guy I sat next to began pointing out things in my newspaper, trying to make conversation, I imagine. I smiled politely, gave him a short answer, and stuffed my face deeper into the paper. He wasn’t altogether horrible looking, but he had, as Margaret would say, hot trash breath. So I could have gotten to know him, but I really didn’t want him to keep talking. Alas, he did, and then we got off at the same stop and I had to run ahead of him so as not to perpetuate the conversation all the way to my door. I saw him earlier this week and he gave me a mean look. I was too relieved that his mouth was closed to feel very bad.

This morning a particularly yummy, big, tall, Tom Brady lookalike boarded my car, and when we made eye contact I went all retarded, first shrugging into my coat then panicking that I was giving myself a double chin, so I craned my neck to make it look elongated and elegant, causing me to almost fall backwards when the train started moving. So…yeah, he didn’t try to talk to me. And when I finally got the nerve to look at him again four stops later, he’d gotten off. If only our train had crashed, I would have gracefully fallen into his arms, and he would have held me tight until the train stopped, and then I would have tearfully looked up into his eyes and frighteningly whispered, "Will you hold me a little while longer? I'm so shaken up." And then we would have gotten MARRIED!

But maybe I’m off base with this whole fantasy. Sandra Bullock’s character in Speed is kind of annoying, actually. She can't drive because she didn’t take care of her parking tickets (not that I’m that much better, but I’ve never had my license revoked thankyouverymuch), so I’m guessing she wasn’t terribly responsible in other areas of her life. Then there’s Keanu Reeves, who is (was) YUM (in the 90s) and is a superfine cop in LA (scary!) and looks awesome in a tee shirt and has a weird accent that’s kind of intriguing (Caaans! It was caaans!) and is quick thinking under pressure and manages to keep everyone calm while he’s defusing a bomb on a moving bus full of – let’s face it – bus people (which is why I don’t ride the bus). So, yeah, they shared that fun kiss at the end when they’re rolling out from under the bus right before it blows up, but would the relationship last? If they did keep dating, would they need stressful situations for the rest of their lives to make it work? Then they would die early from all the stress, or their car would possibly blow up.

Hmm, I’ve got some things to think about. I need a new fantasy anyway. Pizza, anyone?

You know things are bad when you're fantasizing about pizza

Oct 30, 2009

Swine flu kicked my butt this week, so I am lying in my deathbed on this Friday night bored out of my mind from watching cult horror flicks and re-runs of "Wife Swap." Therefore, as many of you dear, sweet readers have pointed out, I now have ample time to update my blog!

Oh, where to begin? I wanted to write a blog about a date I went on last month, but I still feel kinda bad for the guy. I think he was just trying too hard maybe? Go here for the truncated version. If I get enough requests I'll consider writing down all the gritty details.

I've been on another date since then, and I think the guy actually wanted to be mentioned here. This is cute -- another friend met him at a bar and the guy, who will be known as Wine Guy, was sitting at the bar alone looking sad. My friend, also a guy, asked him if he was okay, and Wine Guy explained he had just come off a bad date. And since I am always coming off bad dates, my friend immediately thought of me and set up a happy hour for the following week.

I showed up to the happy hour a little bit later than "happy hour," so I was starving. Unfortunately we were at a very hip place, which meant the music was too loud, the service was horrible, the drinks were overpriced, and the food was minuscule. My friend brought a girl along, and for a while I was hitting it off more with her than Wine Guy. I really did want to give Wine Guy a shot, so I wasn't opposed to my friend and his date's strategic exit. (My friend later explained, "We did that so y'all could be alone!" to which I replied, "Um, duh?!")

Wine Guy and I attempted shouting out a conversation for five minutes or so after they left, but it was obvious it wasn't working so he yelled, "ARE YOU STILL HUNGRY?" Not wanting to waste energy or my voice by being demure, I shouted back, "YES!" He motioned toward the door and we stepped outside into the peaceful quietness of Chinatown on a Friday night (the sirens, drunkard rants, and squealing bachelorettes were serene compared to what we'd been sitting in).

"Where to?" he asked. I was thrilled he let me choose. I could see the flames of Matchbox across the street, and if we were lucky there'd be no wait for just two people.

"Do you like pizza?" I asked.

"I'm not eating, I'll just get some wine or something, plus I don't know the area so you just choose."

Matchbox it was, and yes, they had a table for two available! (Oh gaaaw, this is making me so hungry. I had Saltines for dinner. Stupid swine flu!!!)

While I ordered their version of meatlover's pizza, Wine Guy perused the -- you got it -- wine list. (Do you see where this is going?)

"They have a fantastic selection of wines here," he said.

I was too busy envisioning pepperoni and Italian sausage to pay much attention.

"What do you prefer, red or white?" he asked.

"Ooh, red for sure," I said, taking a break from my pizza fantasy. "I really really love red zinfandel."

He laughed. Did I make a joke? I gave him a confused look. "Zinfandel is red. You refer to white zinfandel as 'white,' but not red. Red zinfandel is just zinfandel."

"Oh, never knew," I replied. "Everyone I know drinks white zinfandel. I thought I'd made a great discovery when I found red zinfandel. But, you know, good to know." He smiled condescendingly and stuck his nose back in the wine list. I went back to my pizza fantasy.

"Hmm," he went on, "they have an Australian Shiraz from [whatever Australian vineyard it was from, I really don't care]. But it's the 2007, and I only know the 2005. I'd better check to make sure this is good." Wine Guy pulled out his phone and called his Wine Guy friend to make sure. The consensus was: WHO THE HECK CARES? BRING MY PIZZA ALREADY!

The server came to check on us and Wine Guy ordered the Australian Shiraz, even though it was the 2007 (the horror!), and requested a decanter to aerate it.

"We don't have decanters here," the server said apologetically.

"Oh, well that's all right, I'll just do it myself," Wine Guy said.

"So are we going to have to swirl our glasses?" I joked, spinning my glass around on the table.

"Well, yes, it needs a few minutes to release the flavor," he said not smiling.

In his defense, this may have been interesting if I were all gussied up and in a fancy place on a real date. But I had merely thrown on heels and a cute top with jeans, we were in a pizza joint -- a bit upscale, but still, a pizza joint -- and this was the elongation of a happy hour. Wine dissertations just didn't seem appropriate.

The server brought my pizza and his wine at the same time. As Wine Guy tested the wine and gave his approval, I took a big, cheesy, meaty, greasy bite of delicious stone oven baked pizza and was transported to a pepperoni paradise, floating on mozzarella clouds and swimming in a sea of sausage fat with a warm, empty-calorie dough float.

"Try some!" Wine Guy interrupted. He had poured me a glass of the Shiraz. I swigged a little and smiled at him.

"Great! Very nice," I said and took another bite of pizza. I threw all care to the wind as I dug in deeper to my meal, which was too cheesy and greasy to eat daintily. A few minutes later, mouth full of pizza, I took another sip. He smiled at me expectantly.

"Well? How is it now?" he asked.

"Good?"

"No no, the flavor has released more now, so tell me, how does it taste?"

I had a mouthful of pepperoni and spicy Italian sausage. I wasn't particularly keen to the flavor release of the wine. "Oh yeah, great, wonderful, yum!"

So this wasn't the worst date I've ever had -- not the best, but actually pretty good considering what I've been through in the past couple of years. He paid, which was unexpected and very gentlemanly, and he didn't ask me for my phone number, which was unexpected seeing as he had just paid. In my experience, if they pay they want to go out again, and if they don't pay then you're off the hook. The guy not paying used to bother me, but now it just makes my life simpler. Oh my, how DC dating has screwed up my ideals!

One more thing worth mentioning about the date: I guess the friend who set us up thought it would be helpful for Wine Guy to know some info about me before we met, so he copied and pasted my Facebook profile into an e-mail. Well, my profile includes a link to this blog. And he read ALL OF IT. "There's not that much to read," he shrugged when my mouth dropped open and a pepperoni hit the table. "So am I gonna be in it?" he smiled, raising his eyebrows and leaning toward me hopefully.

You're welcome, Wine Guy. And thanks for the great pizza! The leftovers were the perfect cure for my 2007 Australian Shiraz hangover the next morning.

I'm Sorry!!!

Oct 17, 2009

Dear readers,

I'm so sorry for not posting for an entire month! When I started this blog my goal was one a week. Then I got a new job and decided to move to DC (which I'm doing today), and my life has been hecka-hectic the past month!

Please be patient with me as I settle in my new job and home. I've actually started a couple of blog posts and just haven't finished them. Will be back in commission soon!!!

Love,
Mary El

Cuckoo for CoCo

Sep 11, 2009

I feel I need to clear the air. I love everything "Twilight" (much to the chagrin -- that's a jab at Stephenie Meyer, if you haven't read the series -- of my youngest cousins). I do not, however, love everything vampire.

The new fall TV lineup has been all the buzz the last couple of weeks, and, while I admit to watching more than my fair share of TV, I was a little put off when I was talking to my friend Dave about all the shows we wanted to watch, and he assumed I'd be the biggest fan of "The Vampire Diaries" -- much like how I get annoyed every time Margaret tells me she's just not into Sci-Fi like I am because I like "LOST."

I did, however, watch the pilot of "The Vampire Diaries" for two reasons: 1) I needed an excuse to avoid cleaning my room; and 2) Boone from "LOST" is in it, and he is just so pretty. I should clarify, I only watched the first 45 minutes, because neither of the two aforementioned reasons could hold my attention any longer than that. Why? 1) I already read 2,000+ pages of vampire shenanigans in the "Twilight" series; and 2) Boone looks different now that he's a vampire.

My point is, I'm not into vampires or Sci-Fi! I'm just into Edward and Bella!

Well anyway...whilst watching "The Vampire Diaries," I became distracted (easily) by Twitter. I had a new follower, which isn't unusual because I get new followers every day (usually people selling something), but this one was interesting: Co Co. Sala.

Co Co. Sala is a fave eatery for Ashmi and me. We first discovered the chocolate-themed tapas restaurant earlier this year during Restaurant Week. Not everything is chocolate, like the shrimp and garlic mac and cheese, for instance, but they find ways to incorporate it (chocolate-covered bacon is my favorite).

Since we haven't spent as much time together lately (lately=several months...stupid boyfriend Raghav), we decided to have a little lady date at CoCo. The weather had just turned from unbearably hot to it's-such-a-nice-night, so we sat outside on the patio. Lucky for us, the person working the patio was Ihsan (rhymes with "Nissan," which is the only reason I can remember it), the Tunisian eye candy whose weird facial hair didn't bother me a bit (his accent made up for it). But, too bad for me, Ashmi looked super cute in jeans and a little jacket, and I was wearing a dumpy t-shirt with my hair back in a bun. Ihsan walked over to our table just as I was asking Ashmi what color I should dye my hair for autumn.

"Don't dye it red," he said.

"Really? That's what I was thinking of doing, actually."

"Red intimidates men," he said, smirking.

Ahsmi and I looked at each other and started laughing. "She already intimidates everyone, so it won't make a difference," she said.

"Apparently if you're tall and hold your shoulders back you're intimidating," I said.

"You forgot the gorgeous hair part," Ashmi pointed out. "You should see her hair when it's down."

Ihsan had been watching me the whole time. He looked me over thoughtfully then said, "I don't find you intimidating at all. I think you're...refreshing."

He then left to go get us CoCo Cojitos (that's a chocolate mojito and trust me, it's ammmmmmmazing). Ashmi and I were kind of taken aback by the interaction, since usually I am invisible to good looking men in social settings.

To my disappointment, Ihsan didn't flirt with me every chance he got. Instead, he was attentive to every table and actually did his job very well. Once we were finished with dinner I was beginning to think he'd realized I was either intimidating or too frumpy. Just as I began to feel sorry for myself, the manager interrupted my piteous train of thought.

"Ladies, how's everything?"

"Good, thanks!" we replied.

Now usually a manager checks on you, gets the "good, thanks!", and then moves on to the next table. But not this one. He lingered at our table for the next 15 minutes, telling us -- well, me, really -- all about the restaurant and how we needed to come more often.

"Do you have a business card?" he asked me after a little while.

"No, I actually just started a new job, so I don't have any."

"Oh," he said, looking down.

"Maybe Ashmi has one?" I said. He glanced her way, but before she could give him an answer he said, "You know, I'm not hitting on you. I would never do that. It's unprofessional."

Hmmm. So what you're saying is you are hitting on me but you're sensing I'm not into it? I thought. He kept talking to us, telling us where he lived, asking where I lived, worked, hung out, etc. It was awfully perplexing -- there I was, Ms. Frumpalicious, not even showcasing my signature hair, and there Ashmi was looking super hot, and I was getting all the attention! And not just attention, but this guy was getting flustered around me!

The manager finally realized he'd been hanging around our table too long, and he announced he must attend to the other patrons. A few minutes later Ihsan returned.

"Ihsan, where are you from?" I asked sweetly.

"Tunisia...and you?"

"Atlanta, Georgia. Ashmi's from North Carolina. We're Southern girls!"

Ihsan's eyes sparkled. "Southern girls are the best! Even in my country, they are down-to-earth. I like them the best here, too."

It was all Ashmi and I could do to not laugh out loud! For months I have been bemoaning how little attention I get from guys in DC, and all we had to do was go to CoCo!

The situation was further clarified by Raghav who later said, "You weren't trying, and therefore you gave off an air of not caring. Total turn-on."

But this presents a conundrum -- do I not do my hair anymore? My hair is my thing!

So back to Twitter...I'm not sure who is behind Co Co. Sala's account, but I'm guessing it's someone who had access to my bill, because I didn't have a business card to hand out. I don't know whether to be creeped out or flattered.

UPDATE: I highly suggest you go read the comments right now to be further amused.

Breaking Things

Aug 31, 2009

When I was in college I had big dreams of starting my career in a major city. I was living in Atlanta at the time, which -- believe it or not, East Coasters! -- is quite cosmopolitan. I would drink cocktails in the Atlanta Botanical Garden, watch old movies on the lawn at Piedmont Park, attend fashion shows at 1150, and listen to music under the stars at Chastain Park Amphitheater.

So you'd think that now that I have a bank account worth mentioning and live in the nation's capital I'd be doing all kinds of cultural things, thus fulfilling the dreams of my youth. Except sometime after college I became lame and decided watching reruns of "CSI: Miami" was more fulfilling than getting out.

However, my recent change of jobs has given my a new outlook on my life, and I'm now making concerted efforts to get out and make DC my DC.

First on my list: Jazz in the Sculpture Garden. This is a weekly summertime event that invites Washingtonians to lay a blanket in the grass, bring some cheese, crackers, and wine, and listen to jazz musicians play by the fountain at the Sculpture Garden. So a couple of Fridays ago my roomie, Margaret, and I met at the Metro after work and rode it into the city. We arrived late, so there wasn't much space, but we found a little spot under a tree and beside an ant hotel. It was sufficient for some time, and we even made it out without being bitten! But once the jazz was over and people began to clear out, we packed up our blanket and food and found a spot around the fountain to sit. Although the band had left, recorded jazz was still playing, and it was quite rotic (romantic without the man), listening to jazz as the sun set, dangling our feet in the cool water, and taking in the scenery of the grand, historic buildings on the National Mall. And then Margaret proceeded to ruin it.

"I wonder how deep it gets," she said, staring across the fountain, which was a still pool at that point in the evening. "Wanna walk across it and find out?"

I slowly turned my head to look at her. It isn't unusual for Margaret to come up with wildly stupid ideas, and even worse, she bribes me with spa services.

"Margaret," I said, calmly. "We are not walking across the fountain. It's illegal."

"Ohhhhh, come on!" she chimed. "It's not illegal! No one's going to say anything to us."

I blinked.

"Okay, how about this. Let's just walk around the perimeter," she compromised.

"No."

She smiled her sweetest smile and shrugged her shoulders. "I'll pay for an entire day of spa services at an Aveda salon!"

Now we both know that neither of us can barely afford an hour of spa services at an Aveda salon, but regardless, this is her offer when she really, really wants me to do something I really, really don't want to do. It's totally a bluffing game, and I often wonder what would happen if I accepted. But there was no way I was giving in this time.

Margaret, of course, was scheming. "Okay listen, we'll just walk over to that lady in the purple," she pointed, and I saw it was about 20 yards away. "Please please please? It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and we will remember this for the rest of our lives!"

She wasn't giving up, so I gave in to end the conversation, which was making me very nervous. We started walking, and it was really no big deal, but then someone started clapping...and then someone cheered...and then someone took a picture...and then someone said, "You're gonna get arrested"...and then I was leaping out of the water and sprinting back to our starting point on the dry ground.

A few moments later Margaret made her way back to me. "Wasn't that fun?!" she chirped.

"Thrilling," I said, shooting an evil look her way. "I hope you got that out of your system."

The sun disappeared behind the National History Museum, and a few lamps came on around the park, but the water looked black, reflecting the starless sky. As we swayed to the music, a guy nearby pulled a girl into the water. He led her to the middle, put his arms around her waist, and danced with her. At first she giggled nervously, but quickly she gave in to the romantic (romantic with a man) gesture.

"See?" Margaret nudged me. "Nothing's happening. How cute are they?! I want to dance in the middle too!"

"I'll dance with you," a male voice said. We looked over, and there was a -- er -- bigger guy grinning at Margaret.

Heh heh, that'll teach her! I thought. To my surprise, she engaged him in conversation, declining the dance but suggesting walking across. A few others around us said they'd like to try it, too. Chatter increased around us, and by the time the couple returned from their dance about eight people were getting up to fulfill Margaret's dream. She looked at me expectantly.

"No no no no no no no no no! We're going to get arrested!!!" But it was too late. People were on either side of me, linking their arms with mine and pulling me in. We started the trek across. Again, people began clapping, cheering, taking pictures...except this time it was dark and the flashes, coming at us from every direction, were blinding. Somehow, when we neared the middle, I was able to pick up motion from my right side. I glanced over and saw Margaret -- RUNNING BACK.

I tore free of whoever was holding on to me and ran as fast as I could through the knee-deep water. When I got to the edge I didn't stop. I kept running into the abandoned park until I felt I was a safe distance from whatever Margaret was running from, and I hid behind a tree. Once I caught my breath, I peeked around the tree. The rest of the group was nearing the other side, and there was a line of security officers waiting for them. O. M. GGGGGGGGGGG.

Ten minutes into my stakeout I saw some from our group wandering back to the starting point, and no one seemed particularly shaken. One girl, who had been with two guys, was looking around for her friends, and she did seem a little worried, so I cautiously walked over to her, hoping I wasn't falling into a trap set up by the police.

"What happened?" I whispered to her.

"Nothing, really. The fat guy fell right as the security guys were going to get us, and it created a diversion and we all scattered. They're questioning him now, but I can't find my friends."

I sat down, knees shaking. Margaret suddenly appeared beside me. "Hey dude! Wasn't that crazy?"

Before I could answer, Fat Guy walked up to us, swinging one arm, the other hanging limply beside him, like a big, dead fish dangling from his body. "Heeeeeeeeey...are you okay? We heard you fell," I said, cringing.

"No, no I'm not okay," he said angrily. "I broke my arm!"

The blood drained from Margaret's face, pulling her smile into a horrified frown. "Oh my gosh, I'm soooooooo sorry."

"Can we do something to help you?" I asked, wishing I'd stayed home and watched "CSI: Miami."

"Yes, you can call 911. I need an ambulance."

911? Seriously??? But the security officers had caught up with him and were questioning him more, so I just did it to get it over with.

"911, what's your emergency?" a bored voice on the other end asked.

"Broken arm in the Sculpture Garden," I answered, embarrassed. This was ridiculous. "Could you please send an ambulance?"

"What's the address?"

"Uhhh...Sculpture Garden. National Mall. DC."

"I need an address, ma'am."

No one around me was going to know an address...except for a security officer. I took a deep breath, walked toward the officers, and inwardly chanted Please don't recognize me! Please don't recognize me! Please don't recognize me!

"Sir, could you tell me the address here? I'm on with 911 for this man here who broke his arm."

"And what's your relation to this man?" the officer asked.

"NOTHING! NOTHING AT ALL! I'M JUST A PASSER-BY!" I squeaked, panicking.

The officer shot me a strange look and gave me the address. I told the dispatcher and they promised to send an ambulance.

I was ready to get OUT of there. I scurried back to the fountain where my purse and shoes were, and it's then that I noticed a big girl glaring at me and Margaret. "What's her problem?" I whispered to Margaret.

"Oh, turns out that was his date. We kinda ruined it."

With that, we gathered our things and hurried toward the Metro. As we made our way across the lawn between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, an ambulance drove by.

And I've officially had my fair share of Washington culture.

HRN UPDATE!!! (Part 2)

Aug 11, 2009

The day after Hot Redheaded Neighbor (HRN) had been in my apartment (and I in his), I felt almost etheral. The first thing I thought when I woke up was, Did that really happen last night? I got out of bed, slipped on my robe, put Noli's leash on her, and walked down the hallway toward the elevator. As I passed HRN's door I thought, I know what it looks like inside there.

But not only that. I knew what his skin felt like. I knew he wanted to touch mine. I knew he had envisioned himself as being my boyfriend (even if it was joking).

And -- OMG -- he knew I had a crush on him.

At that moment I was utterly embarrassed. I scurried into the elevator, and the doors couldn't close fast enough. I would have to be extra careful not to run into him, from here unto eternity.

The following morning I slipped up, but it wasn't my fault. I had forgotten to be on the lookout for the other witness -- Sam. I was coming back into my building with Noli, and Sam happened to be coming out. We made eye contact, he held the door for me, I said, "Hi!" as cheerfully as possible, and he nodded and walked out.

In the safety of the elevator I realized I wasn't embarrassed having seen him. I was ticked off.

The rest of the day I fumed about the whole thing. Why should I be embarrassed? He's a total jerk for putting me on the spot like that. And HRN should have asked me out by now! What a coward! Uhhh!

But it was Friday, so I couldn't stay mad for long. No sense in spending my weekend stressed out, although the bitter aftertaste lingered. Which is why I decided to let the whole thing go Saturday morning.

I was out with Noli (again...yes I know the visual of me taking Noli out seems overdone in this blog, but listen, I have some of my best encounters when she's around) and when I came back into my building I ran into Sam. Before my heart could skip a beat or my mind could go blank, I pointed at him and said, "I need to talk to you."

He stopped in his tracks when he saw me, but then he saw the expression on my face and backed up to the wall. I should have been thinking, What am I going to say now??? but somehow I was cooler than I've ever been.

"What was that the other night?" I asked, cocking my head. And perhaps Noli cocked hers too. He was caught.

"Umm, you mean the other night when we were talking?" he stuttered.

"Uhh, yah." I crossed my arms and pushed my hip to the right, waiting for his response.

"You know, I just read people really well, that's all."

"But you singled me out. There were two other people there." I cocked my head to the other side.

"Well, you know, I could just tell you're a good person!" he said, smiling, apparently proud of his response that he believed was the equivalent of a "get out of jail free" card.

"Huh? That doesn't make any sense."

He looked down and shrugged. "I don't know, I'm sorry. But aren't you glad it's all out in the open now? You should live your life, not keep things bottled up inside."

Oh HEEEEEEEEEEEECK no. "First of all, I am living my life. Secondly, I had a good thing goin' upstairs. I had a cute neighbor who flirted with me, and it gave me something fun to look forward to. Now that things are out in the open it's super awkward. So please explain to me why you ruined things for me."

Sam sighed. "Look, he's my boy, and he acts normal around me, but he puts on a mask around everyone else. He wants someone who will like him for him, but he's too insecure to just show people who he is. He doesn't want to get hurt, so it's hard for him to put himself out there."

"What, and that makes him special? No one wants to get hurt!" Sam's answers were becoming more and more asinine. I was getting annoyed.

"You know, that night after you left, I told him that you were the whole package -- you're gorgeous, you've obviously got a good job, you're a good dresser, you're nice, you take care of yourself, and you're confident. A woman like you is not easy to come by."

Oh help. He was flattering me to get me off his back. "And?" I asked, ready for the point of his speech.

"And...I told him that if I were a good looking, redheaded, white guy, I'd be up at your door trying to talk to you."

Huh. So that's why he came to my door.

I threw my hands up to stop him. He wasn't giving me any helpful information, and I was tiring of our conversation. "Okay, well, thanks for your explanation. See you later."

I didn't see either of them the rest of the weekend, and by Monday the memory of the horrid incident was beginning to fade. Besides, I had much more important things on my mind. Margaret (my roomie) was finally coming back from her 3-month TDY, and I was hosting a weekly dinner with some Christian friends. Only five people had RSVPd, so I was making my famous cracked mustard chicken with all the Southern fixins. Yum!

While I was cooking I received a call from an unknown number. "Hi, Mary El? This is Steve from the church. I'm calling for a college student wants to go to a Bible study tonight. Can he join you for dinner?"

I cringed -- I'd made a little extra food, but not too much. I wanted everyone to be well fed, and another boy meant we'd be cutting it close. But how could I turn someone down? So I told him okay and gave him my address.

Around 7 p.m. people began arriving, including a couple of guys who read my blog and wanted HRN updates. So I began telling them "HRN UPDATE!!! (Part 1)". As I was finishing the part about him telling me he wanted to touch me, someone knocked on my door. DUN DUN DUN!!!

No, it wasn't HRN. But it was someone who hadn't RSVPd. And he'd brought his wife and young, unruly son with him. Hmm. I was going to have to thaw more chicken.

A few minutes later another knock on the door sounded. I opened it, and two guys stood before me.

"Hi, Mary?" one asked me.

"El. Mary El."

He looked confused. "Oh, well my name is Ethan and I'm here for the Bible study."

I looked over Ethan's shoulder at the other guy and gave him a And-who-are-you???? look.

"Hi!" he responded. "I'm Steve, the college student."

Now I was confused. Who the heck was Ethan? Before I could flip out, Ethan continued.

"While we were downstairs we ran into someone who lives in your building who has been looking for a Bible study, so I invited him to join us for dinner."

Of course you did! RSVP not necessary! Invitation not necessary! Let's put up a sign on the door: ALL WELCOME FOR FREE FOOD!

As I flipped out in my head, Ethan motioned to someone that I didn't realize was on the stairwell near my door.

"Come meet Mary!" he said to the person.

"El. Mary E...." I began, and then the person came into view. My mouth dropped open, as did his.

"Mary, meet Sam," Evan beamed.

All I could do was laugh, but not a happy laugh, a defeated, tired, incredulous laugh. "Well come on in, Sam, and everybody. The more the merrier!"

I turned to the group of guys who had been waiting to hear the rest of my HRN story and announced, "Everyone, meet SA-AM."

Two of their heads popped up, and grins creeped across their faces. I just smiled and nodded. They immediately pulled out their iPhones and updated their Facebook statuses to "Awk-waaaaaaaard..."

What was supposed to be an intimate dinner between six friends turned into what felt like a cafeteria, except I didn't have a hair net. I had set the table with cloth napkins and lit candles, and suddenly people were eating off of plastic plates and sitting on the floor due to lack of dishes and space. It was about 96 degrees in my apartment, so hot that we opened the door, letting in the cooler, 85-degree air. While everyone -- half of whom I did not know -- enjoyed the meal I made on special occasions, I slaved over an indoor grill and starved. But I couldn't help enjoy the idea that I looked very domestic and was handling the situation with ease and grace, and in front of Sam, who would surely report back to HRN.

It all turned out fine, and I felt like an accomplished, Southern hostess who had fed 15 people when she had planned for less than half that many. Sam was civil and enjoyed himself (well of course he did, he got a free, yummy dinner!), and he did not try to "read" me anymore. Everyone left full and happy, and I felt as if I'd won some sort of battle.

Of course it was inevitable that I would run into HRN again, but Margaret saw him first. She relayed to me later that she got nervous when she saw him and invited him to dinner the following week. But he was smart and didn't take her up on it.

Unfortunately, the HRN update kind of ends there. Don't get me wrong -- many, many more run-ins have occurred, but the guy is either a coward or just not that into me. So we are back to flirting in the hallway and never having a real conversation, just the way I like it.

Oh, and Ethan never got my name right.

HRN UPDATE!!! (Part 1)

Aug 5, 2009

Okay people, here's what you've been waiting for. Lots of drama, but probably not what you expected. But then, when does anything ever go the way I expected?

So a couple of weeks ago -- after speed dating was a bust -- I set up a happy hour at Lima with [newly engaged!] Megan expressly to meet guys. Sadly, the night ended with a guy asking us for advice on how to meet women (um, hello!!!).

I skulked home hoping I could at least run into Hot Redheaded Neighbor (HRN), even if I would be unable to say anything to him. I take that back -- Ashmi and Raghav coached me on what to say earlier in the week. Raghav played the role of HRN:

Raghav: Hi Mary El.

Me: Hi! How are you?


That was as far as we got, but it was something.

I stepped off the elevator on my floor, ready for my line, but he was not outside his door. I held my head up high, shook out my hair, and walked to my apartment to get Noli. Once I got her leash on, I stepped back out into the hallway and peeked over at HRN's apartment -- still nothing.

I pitied myself for 30 seconds as the elevator dropped to the ground floor. When the door opened, Noli shot out, her ears laying down on her head and tail wagging furiously. Uh-oh, she saw someone she knew. Could it be HRN?

Miraculously, it was him! He leaned down to pet Noli then straightened up and smiled big at me.

"Hi!" he said.

I stood there, mouth agape. What's my line? I panicked. Say something Mary El! Line! LINE!

"Oh...Hi! How ARE you?" I spit out. But when he replied, "Fine, how are you?" my mind blanked. We hadn't practiced for this! What was I supposed to say???

The answer to my question arrived at that moment -- Sabrina needed to borrow a shirt for a date with Dan Doesn't Talk the following evening. I had never been happier to see her.

"This is my friend who was interested in your friend," I explained to HRN. Sabrina's eyes widened and I looked at her apologetically. But it really was the only thing I could think of to say!

Sabrina began chatting with him, and as I regained consciousness I noticed HRN had a friend with him (Sam). And his friend's eyes were locked on me. I shyly smiled and then turned my focus back to HRN.

(BTW, I wish I could give you more details, but I was literally blacking out during this entire story. I am giving you the account of what I can remember and what Sabrina reminded me of later.)

When the conversation lulled, HRN's friend, never taking his eyes off me, spoke for the first time.

"You're really attracted to him," he said, pointing toward HRN.

Even though he was staring at me, I looked around, hoping he was talking to someone else.

"Oh yeah," he continued. "You're really into him."

"Excuse me?!!" I squeaked.

"You're acting upset, but secretly you're happy I'm saying this. You've been wanting to get this out in the open for a long time."

I was having trouble breathing. The hallway was spinning. All I could do was emit this high-pitched, whisper-type sound that resembled the word "what." During my conniption, I caught a glimpse of HRN. He had a wide grin stretched across his face that was getting wider the more I flipped out.

Sam noticed the visual exchange. "You know, I think you guys would make a nice looking couple. Go stand next to her."

HRN raised his eyebrows and gladly took a step toward me with his arm out. He swung it around my shoulder and pulled me into his muscly body.

OMG OMG OMG he's touching me he's touching me he's touching me.

"Actually," Sam continued, "I think y'all could get married one day."

That was it. I couldn't take anymore of the silliness. I flung HRN's arm off me and spun away from him. "Enough!"

Sam cocked his head. "You don't want to marry him?"

"No!" I squealed.

"Why not?" HRN pouted. "I'd make a good husband. I'd mow the lawn and fix our cars, and I'd protect you."

Okay, well that did sound awfully nice. But this was all just too ridiculous.

"I don't even know you," I said. "And honestly, my dog really needs to pee, so I'll see you guys later." HRN nodded and leaned over to give me a hug. I almost fainted.

Sabrina, who had been standing nearby but who I'd forgotten was there, followed me as I marched outside with Noli in tow.

"Did that just really happen?" I asked her as soon as the door to my building shut.

"That was really weird," she chuckled.

When we walked back inside HRN and Sam were gone, and I was relieved. I'd only hoped for a little encounter, not a marriage proposal. That's just a little much for a Wednesday night. Upstairs, safe in my apartment, Sabrina and I began sorting through tops for her to borrow. Then, as we were rehashing the events of the past half hour, we heard a strong knock on my door.

I crept to the peephole, and, as I had feared, there was HRN. Sheepishly I opened the door.

"Hey!" he smiled. "I was hoping we could talk some."

"Oooooookay, come on in, I guess," I said.

Again, I'd love to give you details of our ensuing conversation, but I don't remember much. I found out he's from Colorado, he's in the Air Force (just can't get away from those AF boys), he's 29, and when it comes to talking to strangers, he's basically the male version of me (he says whatever goes through his head with no censorship).

At some point we were discussing apartment layouts in our complex, and I couldn't figure out what his looked like, so he suggested we walk over there. I brought Noli with me as a little bodyguard -- didn't want him to get the wrong idea.

His apartment was pristine and decorated with African masks, Thai figurines, and framed, scenic photos. So he also likes to travel, I catalogued in the HRN file in my brain. While Noli sniffed out every room, we stood about a foot from each other in the living room, neither of us knowing what to say.

Now would be a good time to ask me to dinner! I inwardly screamed. Instead he said, "You have really nice hair, did you know that?"

"Yes." Oh, whoops, I should have said 'thank you.'

He laughed. Then he looked at me thoughtfully. "Are you high maintenance?"

"What? No! Well, maybe to some people. I don't know! What do you consider high maintenance?"

He laughed again. "We'll have that conversation later."

Then he leaned in for a hug. I patted him on the back, my inner monologue again screaming he's touching me!

"You are probably wondering why I keep hugging you," he said. "The truth is, I really wanted to touch you."

In hindsight that sounds super creepy, but at the time all I could think was Me too!

I walked back to my apartment in a daze. What was happening?

TO BE CONTINUED...

Jaguar

Jul 18, 2009

I really have never seen so many thunderstormy days of summer in my life, but somehow they have stopped for the past couple of weekends then picked back up when Monday hit. Since Megan's pool in on the 14th floor and too windy to read (we're both on the last book of the Twilight series, "Breaking Dawn," and Bella is grating on my nerves), she' been spending Sunday afternoons at my ground level pool.

"So how was your date?" she asked me a couple of weekends ago as we lounged with some other pale DC people.

"Oh...that..." I groaned. I had announced earlier in the week that I was going on a date that weekend. I didn't know who was taking me out, but I was going on a date, daggommit! The no-dating streak has been too long, and I was determined to break it. "Well, believe it or not, no one asked me out."

Megan squinced her nose. "Sorry."

I looked over at a guy with the beginnings of man boobs and back hair lying on the chair next to her. He'll do, I thought. So I raised my voice a little.

"Yeah, I just want to go out with someone, no strings attached. I'm not looking for Mr. Right, I'm looking for Mr. Maybe. That takes off all the pressure, and now I can just have a good time. With anyone!" I peeked at him from behind my sunglasses, pretending to look at Megan. He didn't seem to notice that I was even there.

"Well at least you're trying," Megan encouraged me.

"I guess," I lowered my voice. "What's really embarrassing is I took Sabrina speed dating for her birthday on Friday, and I thought for sure I had hooked a guy...but nothing. I paid to solicit a date! I wore a low-cut dress and a push-up bra. I laughed at all his jokes. He wasn't even cute!"

She shook her head. "I really don't get it. Boys are dumb."

We both flipped onto our stomachs, and I laid my head down to take a little snooze. While drifting off, I reflected on my Friday-night flop.

Ultimately, it was Sabrina's night, and she had met a guy she really liked, so I couldn't be too disappointed. Plus he was from Atlanta, my hometown, so I was pleased, really. I'd dressed her in a super hot black satin top that I've never been able to fit into (between the time I ordered it online to its arrival date, the donuts made their way to my chest and bumped me up a cup size). I felt a twinge of guilt because we had taken Joanna's friend, Sarah, with us. She fared worse than I did.

The three of us arrived at Ultra Bar five minutes late, so we were split up across the room. There were more guys than girls (highly unusual), so you'd think we had our pick, but that also meant there were more weirdos (Which to me translates into excellent blog material! Somebody owes me $27.). My first guy was the aforementioned Atlanta boy, Dan. I was too worried about Sabrina to fully give him my attention, so he offered to send her a drink from a secret admirer to pump up her self-esteem. After that I felt better, but it was time to move on to the next guy, his friend Sebastian, aka Crooked Tooth, aka Chin Strap (bald headed with facial hair -- what a strange look). You're getting male attention, I reminded myself, still hopeful that I would find Mr. Maybe.

For the next hour I spent every four minutes with someone new. Some were too short, some were too old. One was wearing a sweater (it was about 90 degrees that day). One spoke just above a whisper (I finally gave up trying to understand him and just said "Wow, yeah," until the four minutes were up). One had a severe twitch. One worked for the Nationals but said he roots for Miami. One thought it would be appropriate to show me the tattoo on his butt. One looked like Bill Maher with a mullet. One was a close talker. One could have easily been a terrorist. All were winners, but my favorite was Too Young To Be Speed Dating Guy, aka Will.

Will and I made an instant connection because he had a Southern accent, and as soon as he said, "Hiiii. I'm Weeeel," my Southern accent kicked in. "Hiii Weeel! I'm Mary Eeeehl!" Beyond Southern values, we had zero in common. Still, once the speed dating part of the evening ended and the mingling part began, Will made a beeline for me and offered to order me a drink (open bar -- again, I paid for my own date...shameful). While he was getting my rum and cranberry, a wide-eyed Sarah suddenly appeared.

"I'm going to meet up with some other friends. Bye!"

Before I could respond she was out the door. Bill Maher made a move on her, perhaps? I still don't know. We haven't spoken since.

I turned back to Will. "So how did you end up in DC?"

"Well, I finished college and just came up here about a year ago to check it out, but I don't like it."

"So that makes you, what, 23?" I asked.

"Yeeeah. How old are you?"

"Will! Asking a lady her age is impolite! You should know that!"

"Oh, I'm sorry." He looked sheepish. It was too cute.

"Okay fine, I'll let you guess."

"Ummm...twentyyyyy..."

"Four," I cut him off. "Always say twenty-four."

"Are you 24?"

"No, I'm 28."

"Oh wow!" he laughed. "You're almost a cougar then!"

"Almost?"

"Well, you've got a good two more years."

Sigh.

(For the record, if anything I am a jaguar, which is a cougar in training. But even then, not so much. Although I did really really love TVLands' "The Cougar" and think the 40-year-old bachelorette may be onto something. But I'll save that desperate measure for later.)

About that time Sabrina showed up. I'd checked on her earlier, and she was surrounded by about three guys, so I figured she was okay. She was smiling now, and looking around at the mass of available men.

"Did you get your drink?" I asked her.

"Yes! You knew about that?"

"Yes, it was my first guy. Wasn't that nice?"

She stood up on her tiptoes and scanned the crowd. "Who is it? I want to meet him!"

I excused myself from Willy (if he's calling me an almost-cougar then I'm adding "y" to the end of his name) and took her to Dan, who was having a beer with Crooked Tooth. I introduced them and they began to talk. Crooked Tooth smiled big at me and I tried not to stare at the snaggle.

"Sabrina, I'm going back to get my drink," I informed her, but, in the presence of Dan, she wasn't listening.

Willy and I talked a little until the DJ started playing Latin music. "Do you know how to salsa?" I asked him excitedly.

"No, I don't dance," he frowned.

"Well come on, I'll teach you." I grabbed his hand and led him to the dance floor. I taught him the basic step and instructed him to pop his hips, but apparently he had no hips. So I put my hands where his hips should have been and tried to pop them for him, but it wasn't working, and I was leading a guy in a dance and that was weird. I finally gave up and he took a bathroom break. As soon as he was out of sight Crooked Tooth had his arm around me.

"I can salsa," he grinned, taking my hands. Suddenly I was flying around the dance floor, certain that my head was going to smash into something. I hadn't noticed till then just how muscly Crooked Tooth was. And tall. And when the room was spinning and I wasn't focusing on his tooth, he was pretty manly. I couldn't help myself from squealing and laughing -- it was so much fun! I began to wonder if I was hanging around the wrong guy.

Once the song ended I dizzily walked back to the bar where Willy was scowling. "What's wrong?" I asked.

"I haaaaaaate that guy."

I burst out laughing. "You mean Sebastian?"

"No, I mean Chin Strap."

A second round of laughter erupted. He was genuinely unhappy! Oh how adORable! And for that, I decided to let him hang around me for the rest of the evening.

At some point Sabrina and I decided we wanted something to eat, so we told our guys we were leaving to go get food. Willy found his friend and made him come with us. When his friend, Fred, saw Sabrina, he was hooked. So each of us had two guys following us. How fun!

We stepped outside, but as we did Sabrina noticed that the first floor of the club had better music than upstairs where we had been. "I want to go dance in there!"

I looked at the four guys and informed them we were going back in. She led the way through the crowd until we were somewhere in the middle. I couldn't see any of our guys, but a good rap song was on -- ideal for dancing -- so I shrugged and moved to the beat. Suddenly Sabrina's eyes got really big and she starting laughing.

"PENIS IN MY BACK!" she screamed. About that time I felt the same thing behind me. We both turned toward the door at the same time. "Why do some guys think dry humping you from behind is dancing?" she yelled over the music.

"I don't know but it's gross!" I yelled back.

We were on our way out when we saw Willy and Fred coming down the stairs. I waved at Willy and he looked relieved.

"We're really leaving this time," I told him. We all went back outside, but we had lost Dan and Crooked Tooth. Sabrina was disappointed but elated when Dan texted her to come meet him in Clarendon. She looked at me hopefully, but I was already getting tired and there was no way I was traveling to Arlington from DC to do more partying, so we ended up at Rocket Bar. (And now I can say I have been there. I will not be returning.)

I was still hungry, and I had suggested Hooters because hot wings sounded primo at midnight, but for some reason the guys were not interested. (Can someone please explain that to me?) When it became evident that we weren't getting food at Rocket Bar, I made use of Willy's arm and closed my eyes. Fred and Sabrina were hitting it off, and I had stopped worrying about her hours before anyway.

At 2 a.m. I reminded everyone that the Metro was going to stop running soon, so we all walked to the Metro station and stood at the top of the escalators. Suddenly Sabrina and I realized it was the same scene we had experienced the last time we went out looking for boys (see "All the good ones are either married, gay, or spit on you"). We shared a chuckle and exchanged numbers with our guys.

(FYI, when taking the Metro at 2 a.m., you may have to wait 30+ minutes for a train. It's a good idea to pee beforehand. And beware, because not everyone can hold their pee and may decide to go in the station, so watch where you sit -- SABRINA. Lucky for her it was just water...or so we think.)

Long story short, Dan took Sabrina out and didn't talk the whole time. She won't be seeing him again.

And me? Zero phone calls. Which means zero dates. So I'm trying online dating again. More to come on that (but here's a preview: One guy's main picture is his stuffed crotch. Why???).

Game over

Jul 3, 2009

Apparently I have no game.

This comes as a shock to me for a few reasons:

1) I was voted biggest flirt in my high school.
2) In college if I ever wanted a boyfriend I went and got one, no problem.
3) I have great hair.
4) I am outgoing.
5) I have been told by the opposite sex that I am attractive.
6) I have a cute, friendly dog, which automatically ups my game.
7) My teeth are straight.
8) I am fashionable and know how to show off my assets.
9) I've been proposed to two and half times.
10) I have boobs -- do I really need more?

After my post about my run-in with Hot Redheaded Neighbor (HRN), I received multiple comments (on Facebook -- Facebook peeps, please consider leaving comments here so everyone can join the discussion, since my life is sooooo talk-worthy!). Here's a sampling:

"Damn." "'I'm asking for my friend'?! Caramba Mary El!!!" "I always thought that MEP was a bit more smooth than that..."

And then there were all the verbal comments: "You're so funny!" "What's wrong with you?" "Just talk to him! have some confidence! You've got the boobs and the junk in the trunk - you're a hot woman!"

(I should mention, that last comment was from my sister, who later admitted she wouldn't have a clue what to do if she were back on the dating scene, even with boobs and junk in her trunk.)

A couple of days after the HRN event, I had lunch with my [married] friend Mike. The cafeteria was crowded, so we sat at the corner of a big table occupied by some others. Near the end of lunch -- which mainly consisted of me complaining about my weight and lack of nerve to go talk to HRN -- a really, really cute cop came and sat down. Suddenly I couldn't form sentences. I started flailing around at the table -- I actually flipped my water bottle into the air and then threw myself across the table to retrieve it as it tumbled toward Hot Cop. When we left Hot Cop was still sitting there, and as soon as we turned a corner Mike started laughing.

"You are so obvious!"

"I know. I know I know I know I know," I fanned myself.

"I'm going to go tell him you thought he was cute," he smirked, a devious look in his eye. I fanned myself faster and felt the hyperventilation coming on.

"OMG OMG OMG OMG please don't!" But it was too late. Suddenly I realized I was standing in the middle of a cafeteria full of men in fatigues, and I looked like an idiot. I tried to pull it together, but it was just too much. What would I even say to Hot Cop if he thought I was cute, too? A moment later I found out it didn't matter. Mike reappeared.

"He's married."

Of course he is, I thought.

I spent the rest of the week wondering why I was so retarded in the Acting-Normal-Around-A-Member-Of-The-Opposite-Sex department. In typical girl fashion, I went around and around in my head analyzing my behavior, my past, my childhood...and I came up with lots of intriguing and valid theories of why I am such a dork: I try too hard to find Mr. Right, when I should be looking for Mr. Maybe (gleaned that jewel from "The Between Boyfriends Book" by Cindy Chupak -- read it!); The No-Dating drought lasted too long, and I lost my sparkle; My mother made me wear corduroys when they weren't cool; I got fat and therefore have low self-esteem. Blah blah blah blah blah. After a while I was getting on my own nerves, but I couldn't help myself. I would have never guessed the next HRN encounter would jolt me out of my ridiculous introspection.

I had just gotten back from visiting some family in New York for the July 4th weekend, and I was walking Noli after the 8-hour car trip. My face was greasy, my hair was frizzy, I was wearing minimal makeup, and I had mustard on my shirt from lunch. I began regretting taking her out right away because the nice weather had drawn a lot of people outside. Hmm. Including HRN. And his friend. And two girls who were laughing, apparently at something HRN had just said that was hilarious. In tune with my panic, Noli pulled me to the right to sniff some poo. I figured I was safe.

"Mary El!" Crap. I slowly turned toward the voice. Our eyes met and I managed to weakly wave at him. His eyes widened and he grinned at me. He said something to his friends and then jogged across the street to where I was standing. One of the girls looked annoyed, but they all kept walking without him.

"How's it goin'?" he asked, standing an inch outside of my comfort zone.

"Oh, fine, just getting back from New York. How was your fourth?" I replied. He began telling me about his weekend, and I realized my mind wasn't racing, I wasn't sweating, and I didn't have the urge to verbally vomit all over him. Hmm, this is different, I thought. He left another girl to come talk to me. Could it be possible he thinks I am hot? As he kept talking, I almost burst out laughing. I didn't feel nervous around him anymore because he was showing interest in me. Wow, I am such a girl.

My reaction to our next encounter proved to be the same. I had just come home from work and was taking Noli downstairs via the elevator, and he managed to compliment me three times within the few seconds it took for doors to close. Why had I worried so much before?

Drunk with my newly found hotness power, I expected to have a date this weekend. But I don't. Huh. So I talked Sabrina into going speed dating with me tomorrow night. If nothing else, it'll be great blog material!

Orange Crush

Jun 28, 2009

BREAKING NEWS!
MARY EL IS OFFICIALLY OVER HER CRUSH ON CAPTAIN CAN'T FOLLOW THROUGH, AKA HUMANITARIAN

In a stunning turn of events, Mary El has released a public statement concerning her 3-month crush:

"I saw him wearing a chunky silver ring on his left middle finger. I do not condone random jewelry wearing by men, especially jewelry trends that went out of style when I was still in high school. After two seconds of consideration, I have decided to withdraw my giddy feelings and will now simply nod professionally whenever I see him."

Mary El went on to say she regretted that she did not have a crush, because it had made her life so fun for the spring season, but "seasons change."

(EDITOR'S NOTE: So do fashion trends, Captain. Get a clue.)

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Last week suddenly became dull when I ran into Captain Can't Follow Through in the hall. What eloquent soliloquys will he force upon me this time? I wondered, secretly hoping he'd remember that he had suggested lunch the last time we spoke (and I may have e-mailed him inviting him out for drinks...he was on his way to Afghanistan, though. Typical.). He lifted his hand to wave at me, and that's when I saw it -- a chunky, silver ring on his middle finger.

My gut reaction was to ask him if he was trying to bring back the grunge movement, but I decided instead to get over him. It was time, and the hideous jewelry wearing was the perfect excuse for me to move on.

I'm sure I'm going to get flack for being so harsh about a little piece of jewelry, but most ladies understand. There are several categories of jewelry wearing, and very few are acceptable in my eyes:

1) Wedding ring - Duh, if you don't wear it you better have a great excuse.

2) Chunky silver - You're stuck in the 90s when it was briefly cool.

3) Bling - Only if you're black can you truly pull this off, and even then you better be truly ballin'.

4) Gold chain - This immediately indicates you are a greasy womanizer, and you are probably very hairy under your shirt.

5) Bracelet - Only acceptable if you have one of those conditions that requires a bracelet to let people know you have a condition that requires a bracelet.

6) Right hand/Class/Organization ring - Only slightly impressive if you went to an amazing Ivy League college, but it really just comes across as arrogant. If your ring doesn't represent a school then you're just arrogant.

7) Earring(s) - SO not cool anymore.

8) Ear spacers - Since when are white guys with spiky hair African? Scary, weird, and your ears are going to look really stupid when you're 80.

9) Nose/tongue/lip/nipple/"other"- That trend went out in the early 2000s. You're trying too hard and it's working against you. And you're gross.

10) Dog tags - HOT (but only if you're military).

Without a crush I had little to obsess over -- weight (depressing because it's stuck), hair (depressing because summer is its worst season), shoes (depressing because I'm still lamenting my lost black patent leather peep toe), cupcakes (depressing because eating them will perpetuate the depressing weight problem)...what's a girl to do?

Just when I considered watching a romantic comedy and crying into a carton of ice cream, I was saved by someone so gorgeous, so muscly, so scrumptious, he can only be known as Hot Redheaded Neighbor (you may remember him from "Cheese in the Time of Boredom").

It was 8 a.m. and I had overslept. Noli needed to go out, so I grabbed the first bra I saw (purple) and skipped brushing my teeth or even glancing in the mirror. I shuffled down the hallway in my pink pajama pants and wifebeater with hair a mess and breath unspeakable. Noli and I scurried into the elevator, and I pressed the "close doors" button. But then they re-opened, and in came Hot Redheaded Neighbor, all freshly shaven and in his work clothes, smelling amazing and looking yummy yummy.

"Wow, wish I could sleep in!" he beamed.

I naturally wanted to move in closer, gaze into his blue eyes, touch his bicep, kiss him passionately in the elevator...but then I remembered I hadn't brushed my teeth and I looked super scary, so I backed away.

"Oh, I just have a weird work schedule. I was up till 1 a.m. working," I explained. Then I panicked. We had exactly 27 seconds till we would reach the bottom floor, and my mind had gone blank. Say something else, idiot! my inner monologue screamed. "Um, where are you going?" I asked him, noticing a duffel bag on the floor.

"Just out of town for business," he said. My heart sank. This was the best encounter we'd had yet, and, indefinitely, I would not have any more to build upon it. The elevator reached ground level, and the doors opened.

"Well, have a nice time!" I smiled.

"Sure thing, see ya later!" he smiled back.

The next few days, every time I would walk by his door I'd get a little sad. It normally wouldn't have affected me that much, but I had nothing else fun to obsess over. I began to realize, over the course of the last year and multiple run-ins, I didn't know much about him. This is what I did know: he drives a big truck, he has a tattoo on his right arm, he loves my dog (and the feeling is mutual, which works out nicely), he has equally hot friends, he must have a decent job because it's expensive as Hades to live here, oh, and he smokes. The last one isn't that appealing, but for a fantasy, it adds to the "bad boy" aspect, so it's forgivable. But there was one other fact that bothered me -- he lived with his girlfriend, or so I thought. I studied my memories and tried to remember why I thought that. I never saw any female walk in or out of his apartment, but for some reason I thought for sure he lived with a girl. It didn't matter, though, if he was just going to be a faraway crush. I can't help it if I have eyes, can I? Anyone can look, I just would have to restrain myself from touching.

Saturday was errands day, and since it was hot and humid I put on a strapless maxi dress and threw my hair up in a ponytail. It was an effortless yet elegant look that was wasted on the myriad of children and married people at Costco. When I got home, I popped the trunk of my car and sighed as I realized I'd have to make at least two trips to get all the unbagged groceries inside.

"Need some help?" a deep and delicious voice sounded behind me. I spun around, and there he was -- home from business and better looking that I remembered.

"Oh, hi! Um, are you going that way?" DUH of course he is, he lives there! He nodded, flicked his cigarette, and held out his arms for me to load them up. Again, my mind went blank. We had at least 30 seconds to walk from my car to my door, and I couldn't say nothing. Desperate for a conversation starter and also to find out more info, I blurted out, "I have a really embarrassing question for you!"

(I am shaking my head in shame as I write this, btw.)

"Uh-oh," he looked at me, confused.

"Well, I'm really asking for my friend Sabrina. She saw a friend of yours not too long ago and has been bugging me to find out if he's single."

He stopped and grinned at me. "Well I'm single, if that's what you're asking."

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG! "No no! I'm asking about your friend. For my friend," I clarified.

His face changed to a thoughtful look. "Do you know which friend? Was it when you had that barbecue and we walked by?"

"Oh, yeah maybe, I'm not sure."

"Well find out and I'll let you know," he smiled again. "And by the way, you can't cook meat around a man and not offer him any. Next time you barbecue you have to invite me, all right?"

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG! "Oh, sorry! Of course I will!" I stammered. We had been standing at my door, so with that I thought the conversation was over. I turned to walk inside.

"You're not going to make me finish my cigarette alone, are you?" he said, putting on his best sad puppy face.

OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG! "No! No! Of course not!" And then my nervous reaction went from Blank Mind disease to Can't Shut Up syndrome. But he humored me, and when he was finished with his cigarette he told me he'd see me later. Yipee! my inner monologue squealed. New crush!

Oh, one more fact: he doesn't wear jewelry.

I heart NY (but only for 24 hours)

Jun 18, 2009

I have three numb toes. You wanna know why? Well I googled it, and here's what came up:

-multiple sclerosis (doubtful)
-frostbite (uh-uh)
-leprosy (uhhh...no)
-nerve damage (bingo!)

And how, Mary El, did you get nerve damage in your toes? you may be wondering. Let me tell you the tale of two Atlanta-born Washingtonian girls who had the brilliant idea of jumping in a car and heading to New York City, only to return the following morning...

It all began a couple of weeks ago (I meant to write this blog last week but actually got quite busy -- imagine that!) when I got a Facebook Birthday Calendar alert which reminded me my high school friend Lara's birthday was coming up. Lara doesn't do Facebook, and therefore we don't keep in touch. ("Why do we need Facebook?" my boss asked me recently. "Can't we just send out messages to our people through e-mail?" Oh, how to explain just how lazy my generation and those that follow have gotten...?) I probably haven't wished her a happy birthday since the last time I saw her in NYC, where she lives, and that was in July 2005, which was a whole month after her birthday. So I got nostalgic, trying to count mentally how many years it had been since I'd seen her, and decided to shoot her an e-mail (how archaic).

Hey lady! I was just sitting here thinking how crazy it is that I've been living in DC for almost 2 years and haven't been up to NYC once! Are there any weekends in the next couple of months that I could come see you? I'm trying to wrangle in K for a weekend too. Let me know how your schedule is, we need to catch up!

Lovies,
Mary El


NOTE: K is our other high school friend. I met them both on newspaper, which might lead you to believe we were geeks, but let me tell you, we were hot mamas and really, really cool. And that's the story I will stick to at my 10-year reunion later this year.

After hitting "send," I received new e-mails, one of which was an invitation to Lara's birthday party that Friday. A few minutes later her name popped up in my inbox.

omg! this is so weird. i was just thinking of you and k this week and that i was going to email you and harrass you to come visit me!

did you get my invite - my b-day party is next friday and should be fun! i am only out of town july 9-12 and maybe last weekend in july. otherwise i am good for a visit from you guys.

i'd love to see you, miss you sooo much!

i danced my ass off to come on eileen a few weeks ago and it came on again on my ipod this week. every time i heard it i get a glowing smile on my face.

ps. my hair was cut yesterday and looks amazing!


NOTE: When Lara and I worked at Einstein Bros. Bagels together we would play "Come on Eileen" and dance for customers. Again, we were really, really cool.

It didn't take much coercing to get K on board to skip out of work on Friday and drive up to NY, but she had to be back in DC by Saturday night for a date. So that morning we took off, full of energy and excitement for our reunion.

We arrived before Lara got off work, so we parked (Lower East Side -- plenty of free parking and no tourists) and walked toward Chinatown in search of a knock-off charcoal leather Balenciaga bag for me. First we had to make our way through LoHo (that's Lower Houston), and let me just tell you how scary that was. Not ghetto-scary in the way any "lower" part of DC is -- this was grunge-chic scary. K was wearing a fuchsia floral summer dress, and I was in white cargo capris with a teal ruffled tank. If we had been walking around Times Square we might have had a fighting chance of blending in, but here everyone was dressed in bland neutrals and looked stoned and anorexic. K and I linked arms and giggled nervously, "What are we doing here? We are so tourists! This is so weird!" We have both been to NY multiple times, but I'm telling you, I have never felt so I'm-not-a-New-Yorker-and-I-never-will-be as I did during our walk along Houston.

Once we found Chinatown I felt slightly more comfortable. Women in pink Crocs and men in khaki shorts with belts and polos were more prominent there, and they looked just as awestruck as we did. "Dingbingdingbing bag?" a shriveled Asian man said to me, thrusting a laminated piece of paper in our faces. I jumped back, frightened. "Noooo thankkkkk yooou," K enunciated. I grabbed her arm again. Three more similar incidents and I realized they were just trying to lure us into the "secret" backs of the shops where the good knock-offs were. Terrified the FBI would suddenly raid the store I chose, I mustered up the nerve to tell one of the women, "Ba-len-ci-A-ga." "No, just Coach and Chanel," she said, pointing at her laminated card. "Okay, no thank you," I cowered.

The next time someone approached us K chimed in, "Balenciaga!" "No, Versace and Louis." After a few attempts we just started calling out "Balenciaga! Balenciaga!" to every small Asian person we saw on the street. But my bag was nowhere to be found. We did, however, find a shop selling gen-u-ine leather, no-brand bags that were the perfect size to hold flip flops (a necessity for the end of a long party night). At $25 each, it was steal (I still think we could have talked them down to two for $40 though). Around that time I received a text from Lara saying she was on her way home, so we made our way back to Houston.

"Let's take a cab," K suggested. I was more than willing since the beating sun and my late-20s compulsive-sweating-disorder were not mixing well. We hailed a cab, and K asked, "Houston and Clinton, please." The cabbie looked confused. K repeated, more slowly, "Heeeeew-ston and Cliiiiiiiin-ton." The cabbie shook his head and drove off, not seeming concerned that we were A) somewhat stranded and B) had toes that were near his tires (no, this is not how I got nerve damage). I hailed the next cab and peeked my head in. "Houston and Clinton," I said more firmly. "There is no Houston and Clinton," the cabbie said. He looked ethnic, as did the last one, so we pronounced it slower and louder for him a few times. Finally he laughed, "HOW-ston?" Oh. We were mispronouncing it. Well what are two Southern girls supposed to think? Houston was a city in Texas before it was some grungy street in NY (I think)!

Lara met us at her apartment in a mustard mini dress and this season's scary S&M high heels. "Ladies! Welcome to the Lower East Side!" she said, running toward us with arms open for a group hug. The last time we'd visited her she was living in Hell's Kitchen, a vastly different neighborhood.

"Uh, yeah, can we talk to you about that?" I said quietly. "Why does everyone dress in neutrals? We are going to stick out so bad tonight!"

"What?" she said, surprised. "No no, it's just all the cool people are at work! Look at me, I'm not in a neutral!" No, she wasn't, and really only Lara could pull off that look.

We made our way upstairs to her posh apartment -- also vastly different than her last one -- and we immediately began getting ready. Once we were all showered, we made some Brazilian cocktails and started doing our hair and makeup. Lara warned us to not get anything on the dining table because it was her live-in boyfriend Matt's and he would break up with her if anything happened to it. So of course I took the opportunity to spill my drink all over the table.

"Don't tell Matt!" Lara laughed. "When did you become so klutzy?"

"I'm not klutzy," I defended myself.

"Mary El, you've fallen like three times since you've been here, you spilled your drink, you keep dropping things...I want you to do my hair but I'm afraid there will be a catastrophe with the curling iron!" Lara said.

I shrugged but then began to worry that Bella's character in "Twilight" was rubbing off on me. I gotta get through those books faster.

We made it to the outdoor bar with no more major incidents, and Lara was right -- the people there were dressed much more colorfully. "First round's on me!" K yelled. I followed her to the bar to put in orders. "Ooh, let's do cosmos since we're in New York and with our girls!" she suggested. "Three cosmos!" she told the bartender, handing him her credit card. He made the drinks, and I took two toward our table. When K came back over she looked annoyed.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"There's a $50 minimum with a credit card," she winced. "Guess I'm buying all the drinks tonight."

Three drinks later, I had no hope of not being clumsy. I staggered around on my 4-inch heels and talked way too loud to anyone who would listen. And I may have hit on a few of the ladies around me. I'd really rather not talk about it.

After 10 the bar closed (???) so we went somewhere we could dance. I haven't gone out and really danced probably since the last time I saw Lara, and even then I'm not sure if we went dancing. Regardless, I was in my early 20s then, and a lot changes after that 25 mark. But I forgot all of that and let the cosmos guide me around the dance floor. At some point a Latin beat came on, and I started stomping around like I knew how to salsa. But then my heel hit something soft, something that wasn't the floor.

"AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!" a girl, crumpled on the floor, screamed.

"Oh my gosh, can I get you some ice?" I asked, terrified.

"Noooooooooooo........" she whimpered, her friends crouching down to help her.

I figured that was a good time for me to take a breather, so I sat down on a nearby stool. Almost immediately I got payback, on both feet. I grabbed my feet and writhed around in pain, and K landed next to me to make sure I was okay. She had seen the whole thing, and when she realized my feet weren't broken we fell back laughing. Matt came over to pull us up, and we found Lara and danced like old times. Not long afterwards I felt an arm slide around my waist. I glanced back and the guy was pretty good looking, so I went with it. It was fun at first, dancing with a stranger, but then I got a little uncomfortable -- not because he was a stranger, but because he was making my body do impossible things. During one extremely painful dip, I thought, This is why I stopped going to nightclubs -- these guys want you to be a limber sex goddess, and I can't even touch my toes! When he asked if I wanted to go outside with him I yelled to K, "He wants me to go outside with him!" and she yelled back, "You're not allowed!" Ahh, I love my girls!

Around 2 or 3 or who knows when a.m., we all hobbled back to the apartment and crashed. My internal alarm clock is set at 7:30, so I was the first one up in the morning. K was next, and then around 10:30 we got Lara out of bed. Freshly showered and in flat shoes again, we found a little place for brunch, the perfect way to round out our girls' reunion. At noon K and I had to jet, so we hugged and promised to do this more often, and then we were off. Exhausted, we spoke about six words for the next four and half hours.

That night I noticed one of my toes was numb. The next morning two more toes were numb. I'm guessing it will be another four years before I go dancing again.