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May 30, 2012

It amazes me how somehow every Memorial Day weekend summer suddenly hits you in the face. Last week I was wearing a jacket to work and sleeping with the windows open. Now I'm provisioning out the AC in my apartment like water in a drought -- 74 while I'm there, 70 while I sleep and 76 for Noli during the day. It's one thing to turn on the AC when it gets a little warm but at night I can just open the windows, but those days are over. And it's about to get expensive.

Regardless, I can't say I have any real complaints about summer. When I'm feeling overheated, I just remind myself of the first winter I spent in DC...

Temps plummeted in October and my car died, so I had to buy a new one almost immediately after moving here, effectively blowing through all my savings and my first paycheck. I couldn't afford Uggs so I wore tennis shoes to work every day (tennis shoes aren't warm at all, I found out), and my seven-minute walk to and from the Metro brought me to tears as the bitter cold wind sliced through me. And worst, no snow. It was so unfair.

Summertime, on the other hand, promises outdoor activities, barbecues, rooftop parties, lots of free events and plenty of weekend trips to the beach, the lake, the mountains and your friends' places in surrounding states. As I drove through the city with Noli yesterday, I couldn't help but roll down the windows and invite the 98-degree heat into the car. Noli and I happily welcomed summer, no matter how humid it was, and with full knowledge that it's going to get way worse.

This is what bliss looks like.
To celebrate the happiest time of the year, here's my summer playlist. Even in my windowless office, it puts me in a terrific mood. (If you have any songs to add, let me know!)

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*Editors Note: Some of these songs do not have direct correlations to summer but rather make me think of summer because of when I first heard them. My musical awakening happened in 1994 when I was 13 and spent an unhealthy amount of time at the family lake house with my way cooler cousins and lake friends. Before that I listened exclusively to oldies with my mother, except for a few encounters with pop music at summer camp and on my neighborhood friend Jenny's Pocket Rocker.

Review: eSalon found my inner redhead

May 23, 2012

If you've read my most popular post ever, you know that I've grappled to find the perfect red for my hair. If you haven't read that post then now you know -- I'm not a natural redhead.

My mom dyed my hair red in the 5th grade when I landed the lead part of Anne in "Anne of Green Gables," beginning my love affair with all things hair. Next I tried perms, various bobs (not a good look on me) and the ever-evolving bangs. When I hit puberty (that's still such an icky word) my hair changed texture from straight to really wavy, but I straightened it all through high school until I started working at a local salon as a shampoo girl and the stylists showed me how to manage my thick, wavy hair by diffusing it and using lots of spray gel. Working at that salon opened a whole new world to me, and I experimented with all kinds of highlights, products and styles while working there.

In the spring of 2001, Vidal Sassoon (RIP) was testing a new product on my university campus. It was leave-in conditioning mousse that highlighted your hair, and it came in two colors: blonde and red. I took samples of both. That miracle product turned my hair a bright, beautiful red with blonde highlights. By winter I had run out, and the product never made it to market. Such a shame. I tried to duplicate the effect at home (and, okay, slightly day drunk off of pina coladas after hanging out at the pool with a friend all day) with bleach and Manic Panic. I got carried away and ended up with a head full of cherry red hair. When I tried to remedy it I went too dark and was confused for an Asian person. Let's just say that the kind of experimenting I did in college was atypical, completely legal and a total embarrassment to my mother.

(I have photos of everything I'm describing, but the computer they're being held hostage on is conveniently inoperable. If I ever get it working I'll update this post appropriately.) 

This is how I imagined I would look with the Manic Panic and bleach. I did not. 
(Don't be fooled by this amazing photo of yours truly -- 
I was styled for a hair magazine and they airbrushed the junk out of it.)

By the time I moved to DC I had settled back into my natural color -- chestnut (or, if you're a guy, brown) -- but it didn't take long before I got bored with my look and longed for a hair change.

Oh look, I'm skinny!
First I went really dark, which was okay.

Kiss me, I'm black Irish. (Margels cameo!!!) 
(P.S. This was taken in an Olive Garden bathroom...
in case you're wondering what girls do when they go to the bathroom together.)
So I decided to go even darker, which was a huge mistake and reminiscent of my Asian Period.

 Helpful arrow points out the token white person.

Next I went pomegranate red, and it was GORGEOUS.

Then I put in highlights, which were EVEN MORE GORGEOUS.

My hair looks awesome. Now shut your mouth so yours will too! 
(Just kidding, I promise I was not torturing this very sad little girl.)

And then it got a little too light.

And I got a little too fat. This was during my Doughnuts Period. 
It was all around BAD.
So I tried to dye it back to red, but I couldn't find my normal color at the drugstore, so I just tried something else.

The dreaded "Purple Red"

That was obviously a problem, so I dyed my hair back to its natural color, but that only lasted for a few months before I got bored again.

This boring hair makes me hate winter even more.

Plus, several of my friends told me they liked me better as a redhead, and one even ventured to say being a redhead was my "thing." Powerless to the idea that I had a personal brand, I set off on a mission to find the perfect red...

...and briefly ended up with this:

and this, as you may remember:

I tried several brands and colors over the next year, which spawned my most popular post ever, and my stylist at Bang was extremely vocal about the catastrophe which had become my once beautiful hair ("So many tones!"). All that experimenting had turned my now dry, brittle tresses four or five different shades, sort of a gradient effect.

I was either going to have to go back to my natural color or *gasp* spend upwards of $100 in a salon to get it fixed. (I was NOT going back to that judgmental stylist.) That's when I discovered eSalon.

Y'all. This is the best online service I've ever tried. You set up a profile with a recent picture and answer a few questions about your hair then you pick a picture off the site that reflects what you'd like your hair to look like. Next you get an email from your personal stylist, who you can email with questions, and then, for $25, you get a package in the mail with your custom mixed color, instructions and tools (brush, gloves, stain remover, etc.).

Besides being easy, the color they mixed for me is the BEST red I've ever had. I get so many compliments from strangers and it looks natural, which believe me is difficult to accomplish when you're not a natural redhead. Now every six weeks more color shows up in my mailbox, and they send me reminders when they begin to mix my color, in case I want to change it or have it delivered on a different date.

 Happiness is Good Hair Color

OH! And P.S. I fixed my horrifically damaged hair by switching my shampoo and conditioner to a sulfate-free brand by L'oreal called EverPure. Sulfates, found in many personal cleaning products (including toothpaste, which is scary), are added to create suds and end up "eating away" at whatever you are using them on. I use sulfate-free toothpaste now, too (Trader Joe's baking soda and mint). It only took a couple of months before my hair was back to normal.

Journalism: I'm doing it wrong

May 18, 2012

When I was in journalism school, I had big dreams to one day write hard-hitting, in-depth articles that would touch people's hearts and provoke society to think about issues that were important to me. Turns out what the people want from me are stories about hair dyeing gone awry and gagging at the sight of my nudey neighbor.

Oh, you don't know about the nudist who lives across from me? Borderstan posted my story earlier this week, and it's still getting a ton of hits. I wrote the article at the request of some other contributors when I told the story at a barbecue. When you go to as many parties stag as I do, you have to have a cache of good stories to tell or people will notice you're alone and talk to you about how hard it is to date in DC the whole night. So you have to preempt their sympathy with something shocking or hilarious.

That makes writer's block all the more mysterious -- if I have all these party stories, why don't I write them down? Well, I did, and now I know how to get my readers' attention: talk about a dude's junk. Eew.

Read the post here.

Spring Makeover Part 2: Spring Cleaning

May 7, 2012

My weekends have been so productive lately, y'all. I'm exhausted, but when the Makeover Itch hits, you gotta run with it. I am going to lose momentum at any moment and revert back to re-watching every episode of "30 Rock," "Arrested Development" and/or "Parks and Recreation" soon, but for now I have a supernatural motivation to upgrade my life.

(I still make time for regular programming -- "Mad Men," "The Killing," "Once Upon A Time," "New Girl," "Up All Night" and season four of "Breaking Bad," plus "The Young & the Restless" and new episodes of "30 Rock" and "Parks and Recreation." And when all 10 new episodes of "Arrested Development" are released on Netflix, I will devote my weekend to plowing through them.)

(Yes, I watch a lot of TV. If my parents hadn't restricted me from it so much when I was a kid, I probably wouldn't be this way. Playing outside is for the birds!)

(Put a bird on it.)

(When do we get a new season of "Portlandia"?)

Two Wednesdays ago I read about a community rummage sale in my neighborhood, so I bought a table and decided to get rid of clutter. Friday night Ashmi came over and helped me sort through all the junk in my apartment. (I'm ashamed to admit I have moved three times with a rusty dog carrier which never housed Noli, 14 random forks and three beat up Old Navy purses, among many, many other things.) Saturday morning I was up bright and early loading it all in my car, and by 9 a.m. I was open for business! Except it was cold and threatening to rain.

As I stood behind my table and looked hopefully at each person browsing through all the junk -- which was mostly old CDs and children's toys --, I realized I may have had visions of grandeur when I first read about the rummage sale. The last time I participated in something like this, in a church parking lot in Stone Mountain, Georgia (coincidentally, where Kenneth from "30 Rock" is from), I made at least $100. And any time my family had a garage sale, we made loads of money. I can remember taking all the ones I earned from selling off my toys and throwing them above my head in my bedroom, pretending I was Scrooge McDuck. (Duck Tales! Woo ooh!)

"How was this advertised?" I kept asking the other sellers. All anyone knew was that it was in a couple of neighborhood newsletters. We should've made a Facebook page, hung up fliers, asked local businesses to plug us, my PR mind silently scolded the organizers.

Have I got a deal for you! Everything for $1! PLEASE!
As the children ran around and asked their parents for this and that toy, or suddenly noticed their mother was selling a treasure from their toddler years and protested, we adults longingly gazed at anyone who was making a sale -- especially one person, Max.

Max couldn't have been more than eight years old. He was wheeling and dealing like a pro. It was pretty obvious that Max had been coached, but a lot of it must come naturally. I watched him argue with an elderly Asian woman. How can you argue with an old lady?! "I can't go lower than five dollars," I heard him say. She offered him three, her hand shaking as she handed it to him. "Nope," he said. "Five is my final offer. No sale if three is all you got."

You'd think that his stern attitude would have been off-putting, but that kid was raking in the cash. So when he wandered over to my table, I had to mess with him.

"How much for this dog carrier?" he asked me. That nasty dog carrier was priced as $3, and I would have given it to him at that point in the day, but I needed entertainment.

"Three dollars, but I'll give it to you for two."

"Hmm, I don't know..." Max trailed off, looking behind him at his puppy, some kind of shepherd mix, who was obviously not going to fit in that carrier that was meant for 7-pound Noli. "What if I gave you one dollar?"

"Okay Max, I'll take one dollar," I said.

He hmmed and I-don't-knowed for a few more seconds, then he said, "I think this could be really useful for my new dog. Okay, I'll give you one dollar." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. As he began to unfurl a one, he said, "On second thought, I'd rather give you change for it."

As the woman beside me and I chuckled, Max's dad walked over and ruined the sale. "Max, your dog isn't going to fit in this." GET OUTTA HERE, OLD MAN! I felt like yelling. I was about to make a dollar.

Max inspected it some more then abruptly looked up and said, "Eh, I don't think I'll get it."


I almost sold an end table to a hipster who looked about one step up from a hobo, but, after I'd dropped the price to $5 and he'd stared at it for at least 10 minutes, he finally told me, "I'm just not at a place in my life where I can deal with a glass table top." What the heck.

In the end I broke even and made about $30 on top of that. I donated most of my stuff, but it was such a great feeling to cleanse my teeny space of the junk. Next time, though, I will just call Salvation Army and have them come pick up everything. I found out after the fact that they will bring a truck with movers and take out your stuff, including furniture. A rummage sale may work in the suburbs, but not in the land of yuppies.

When did I get so boring?!?

May 3, 2012

I've been filling in for a fellow Borderstan contributor who writes an Urban Etiquette column every couple of weeks. The first column I wrote was a re-purposed Seat Hogs (one of my personal favorite posts), and this week I wrote about people who ride their bicycles on the sidewalk.

I've found writing this column both enrages and empowers me. I was especially excited when my editors, before publishing this last one, warned me that cyclists despise being talked about and I would surely get a rainstorm of nasty comments. I was so ready to take them on (nothing can be worse than the comment war of New Year's Eve 2009).

The day it was to be posted I could barely focus on my work I was so giddy. At noon, when it posted, I braced myself for the barrage of comments. I got one. And it wasn't even mean. In fact, it was disappointingly civilized, bordering on classy. Provocative writer I am not, but I'm working on it. And please, if you have a gripe, tell me about it and let me be your voice to the people! ("I think I may be the voice of my generation. Or at least a voice. Of a generation.")

And now, here's my un-comments-war-worthy post:

Bicyclers…we need to talk.

I know everyone and their tourist mother have complained about people riding their bicycles on the sidewalk, but I want my voice to be heard as well. As a fellow bicycler, as well as pedestrian and driver, I feel I have a unique point of view on the topic.

I’ll admit, when I first moved to D.C., I rode my bike on sidewalks. Ever the goodie goodie, I did my due diligence and researched bike laws, which state that I can legally ride my bike on the sidewalk outside of the central business district, defined as 2nd Street NE and SE, D Street SE and SW, 14th Street SW and NW, Constitution Avenue NW, 23rd Street NW and Massachusetts Avenue NW.

Since it was legal in most places, I thought the responsible thing to do was ride on the sidewalk, the safer place to be versus the scary streets with the road ragers and hardcore cyclists whose shoes clip into their pedals. I ignored the scowls from pedestrians and rang my bell happily to let them know I was behind them and that they should get out of the way.

I was wrong (and not just about that annoying bell).

Turns out the streets are the much safer place to be when you’re on something with wheels — except a wheelchair, people in wheelchairs can go wherever they want and the rest of us can deal with it. Drivers are used to going around slow or stopped vehicles, and enough people ride bicycles that drivers have learned to share the roads.

When I’m driving it’s an inconvenience, for sure, to get stuck behind a cyclist, but I much prefer that to being a cyclist stuck behind pedestrians. It’s the safer and easier alternative, and you will avoid having random people develop rage anger against you, as I did the other day when a cyclist almost hit me on the sidewalk and then had the nerve to say, “Watch where you’re going!”

Of course he was gone before I could do anything more than shake my fist at him, which is why I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you not to be inconsiderate and keep your bike on the street.

That also goes for Segways… don’t even get me started.