August 2008


1. When walking down the street today, I saw a slightly nerdy looking guy, wearing a black T shirt that said “My crew” … with pictures of chess figures on it. Hilarious. Man, I love nerdy humor.

2. Unrelated. That little gymnast, Shawn Johnson, has totally charmed me. I tried to hold off at first. I thought, “Just because you’re a cute gymnast and you win everything does not mean I am going to like you.” I was skeptical. But that did not last too long; she has won me over. She’s adorable, talented, optimistic, a tumbling fiend … and I love her how her good midwestern upbringing shines in interviews.

For instance, NBC asks what is your lucky charm? They show various gymnasts giving long answers. They cut to Shawn ever-so- briefly as she just smiles and says, “Well, I don’t have one. My parents taught me not to be superstitious. So I’m not. *grin*” When asked what it feels like to be a celebrity, Shawn says “I don’t think of myself as a celebrity. Celebrities are like people I see on TV. Oh wait, I guess I have been on TV. Well, that’s different. I do get a lot of attention at home. They’re making a butter statue out of me.”

Shawn Johnson’s greatest honor? A butter statue!

I just saw that her name is “Shawn Machel Johnson.” If she was a boy, do you think her name would have been “Shawn (or Sean, etc) Michael Johnson?”

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My husband and I do not have a television.

I’ve lived in TV-free households for seven years. It didn’t start as a principled stance — it’s not like I thought TV was evil. I was just sick of living where a television was always on, and never in my control.

My bad TV year came when I lived with a sloth in Arlington who was always, always slouched in one spot on the sofa in front of the TV. Her constant television habit dominated the visual and sound space of our open-floor-plan townhouse. When the television is on, it is hard for me to ignore it. So, I had the option to watch TV, hang out in my closet-like room, or go elsewhere.

It was a relief when I moved to DC the next year, to live with three other women who kept their TV in the closet. I was able to enjoy them and our house so much more. Our living room and dining room were open for conversations, quiet meals, music, radio, reading, writing, computing and the like. Over the years I’ve grown to appreciate living without TV.

Ned and I have started watching a few shows — “The Office,” “30 Rock” and “Arrested Development” — on our computer. Computer viewing seems to work better for me, as each show is more contained. Otherwise, the blaring box of light, sound and color that is television totally lures me in. I would totally be glued to such edifying programs as “America’s Got Talent” … and pretty much every single show on that home improvement channel. I prefer to keep that potential distraction out of reach.

Having lived without a TV for so long, I don’t miss it most of the time. The only times I really feel the *need* for a television are during presidential debates, college football and the Olympics.

But even then, my not having a TV has its advantages. Namely, community. Four years ago, I discovered the guys living in the house behind us were big political junkies (one was schlepping for the Kerry campaign), so I just marched over there for all the debates. We forged a neighborly bond that never would have happened otherwise.

The Olympics pose a unique problem. They go on for a couple weeks. And I love them. I mean LOVE them. I really cannot get enough. Further complicating things this year is the fact that the really interesting coverage is circa 10 pm until midnight, which is a tad later than my usual hours for visiting people.

So, what’s a girl with Olympic fever to do? Thankfully, I have been able to get my fix, so far. The Olympic glory this year goes to the Oakies, my friends who live in community in a big mansion in Mt Pleasant, just about a mile away (by the way, they need a new roommate — anyone?). It is wonderful to wander into their living room, cozy up next to friends and watch the games. Jane and I have our own Mystery Science Theatre-esque commentary — NBC will probably hire us for the next games. And when we’re not marvelling at sports, I get to catch up with some beloved friends.

As it turns out, one of the things I like best about not having a TV comes when I most want to watch it. I am forced out of my house — to meet new friends, visit old ones. Sure, I could do that even if we had a TV of our own. But in that case, I’d be much less likely to sheepishly ask if they would still be awake at 10:30 pm to watch the Phelpstastic coverage … and therefore much less likely to reap the rewards of being there with them.

Thank you, Oakies!

*Note: I can share the love! Olympic-watching friends in the DC/Md/Va environs let me know if you’d like company. 🙂

I think this anecdote perfectly illustrates where my neighborhood is in the process of gentrification:

As on many city streets, we have a sidewalk in front of our house, and a stripe of dirt betwixt the sidewalk and the road. Some other streets in DC have flowers and pretty things in these “flower boxes” or “tree boxes” ( as in the picture above — that’s not my street). On our street, there are some tall, fairly attractive but incredibly stinky gecko trees. Other than that, we basically just have clay-like dirt, weeds, and people’s trash lining the sidewalk. Beautiful.

My neighbor B started a flower revolution in the spring. He took a shovel to that clay-like dirt and planted rows of impatiens and marigolds in front of his house. We did not think they would ever survive the poor conditions — bad soil, not a ton of sunlight, people tramping on them. We were all shocked when his flowers were still there a week later.

So, on Memorial Day, my next door neighbor and I also planted flowers — making it three houses in a row with flowers out front. B was very proud that he started the flower-power movement.

“Yes, I see how it is, you have to keep up with your neighbor now. Watch, I will show you how to water the flowers,” he bragged. (Read that in a very slight Madagascaran accent. lovely. I love B.)

Two months later, our flowers are still mostly alive, shockingly enough. People toss trash onto them, but there has not been a lot of noticable floral vandalism. Some neighbors across the street even joined the revolution in recent weeks, planting their own flowers.

So, you might say we are moving on up — fancy gentrifying street with flowers, eh? But wait.

One of my across-the-street neighbors reported that she has seen a man urinating on the flowers. Right there on the sidewalk, in the late afternoon after work.

So, THAT is where we are in my neighborhood. It’s the kind of place where people will plant flowers, and other people will pee on them in broad daylight.