Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bad gifts from

My mother's favorite movie is A Christmas Story because my aunt gave me the similarly-awful gifts as the aunt did to Ralphie. And, as these occurred in the years prior to the movie, her gifts weren't some sort of homage - they were simply horribly inappropriate.

Before I turned 4, she gave me a bottle of non-alcoholic wine. wasn't non-alcoholic. It was a Cab Sav. I drank "the funny-tasting grape juice" from my sippy cup, taking careful measures not to spill any of the special juice. 30 minutes later, I took a tumble down her stairs in Arlington, VA, adding a noticeable scar to my head and a look of shock from my poor mother when she realized her sister unwittingly fed my pre-school alcoholism.

The next year, I got a pair of bright pink denim jeans with the cartoon character "Ziggy" on the back pocket. I know it was 1978, but I was a boy, and Ziggy was hardly a symbol of youthful pride. Ziggy also looked like he was grabbing a feel down my drawers.

The next year, I got a silver bell that had a music box in it. It played a stamped-tin version of "The way we were." Looking back, I'm convinced my aunt wanted me to be a drag queen.

In 1980, she got me a subscription to "Omni" Magazine. A magazine about science, discovery and the future aimed decidedly at adults. I was a smart 6 year old, but...damn. This magazine was over scientists' heads, much less a kid who couldn't make the t-ball team.

The next year, she continued on the science theme and bought me a microscope. Not a Fisher-Price microscope, or something geared for kids, but the type you'd have used in a good high school biology class or in college. Here's the kicker - the thing was missing a piece in the lens assembly, so everything I looked at was black. She thought she unlocked the secrets of the universe for me; and I thought that I was losing my vision at the ripe old age of 7.

She then decided to get me books on ridiculous subjects over the next few years. French Impressionist Art designed for a college student, not a finger-painting 8 year old. A technical cookbook. A medical textbook about anatomy, thinking I'd be a doctor. The kicker was a bunch of reproductions of Civil War battlefields done up in a horrific oil paint style akin to that of tourist trap sea shells.

My mom eventually remarried, and my step-dad had his flaws, but he was a very good gift giver. When he saw my aunt get me a ridiculous gift for an 11 year old boy - a book on saving for retirement - he basically called her a freak. "Buy the kid a toy!" he exclaimed. She replied "they're a waste of time for such a fertile mind! No child needs a toy."

Thank goodness she never reproduced.

The next year, she bought me biotech stock from a horribly mismanaged company. Any casual observer knows that stocks *generally* go up. This stock was purchased at $7 a share over 20-some years ago. It was last trading on the NASDAQ for less than a dollar before getting delisted a couple of years ago. Meanwhile, the same amount of money she pissed away could have bought Dell - then a penny stock! - and I'd have had about 5000 shares of it by now. Or even Microsoft, which has split several times since then. Either one could have bought me a car, or a house, or paid-off my student loans. Her quote -"'nobody will remember them in 2000. Biotech is the way to go!"


She eventually decided on a few years of checks at the urging of my mother, and at the constant badgering of other members of the family. However, she couldn't let my college major of Radio and Television Broadcasting with a journalism and history minors go unnoticed. She bought me a series of books about legends in broadcasting and print - Dan Rather, Ted Turner. All the President's Men. She'd finally gotten me appropriate things to my life! However, she told me not to bother being a local sportscaster or a morning show deejay - both of which I ended up doing - but to *RUN* a network. So, she bought me the William S. Paley biography. He ran CBS for years, and was a titan in the industry. To be fair, it was actually a decent read, and had awesome historical photos of the early days of the CBS empire.

It was so awesome she bought it for me again THE VERY NEXT YEAR.

Same book. Same version. Same printing. Same cover. Everything.

My contribution:

I received another book the next Christmas. I'll give you a hint - the paperback version of the William S. Paley book.

The next year, my mom and my aunt were poking around the mall, and stopped in a bookstore. My aunt was going to get me a book for my birthday.

Yup. You guessed it.

My mom said "how many f*cking times are you going to buy him that book?"

My aunt actually had no idea that she'd bought me the same thing three years in a row.

I'm now 37, and I received her package in the mail for Christmas this week. I'll open it Saturday, and I can already tell it's a book.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Defending the President

Like he needs my help, but really, this photo sums it up for me. Excuse me while I wipe a small thing into my eye just now.

He's more American than we've had in the office for a long time.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Keep Common Sense Alive

So you are coming to the 10/30 Jon Stewart March on Washington?

Posted by Rational Ray Bradley on September 23, 2010 at 4:43pm
View Rational Ray Bradley's Blog.

by Rational Ray Bradley

Herein a visitors' guide. I will be updating it daily. Please post any issues you want addressed or researched.

I am told (but did not check, because that would require effort, and I'd rather pontificate on things from my comfortable office) that hotels are very full. If one stays at interstate hotels (try those along the Richmond Highway in Alexandria or Fairfax County, but bear in mind that an actual interstate hotel is not located on, or near, the actual interstates. This is DC, not Topeka. Red Roof Inn ain't settin' up shop on I-66, rent's too high) you can get a room for $40-80 a night. But you will be dependent on driving into DC, not using a subway or bus, as you will be beyond the public transit system's reach, which, quite frankly, can't be reasonably expected considering that half the towns you might be staying in didn't even exist 50 years ago, or were nothing more than whistle-stops and truck depots. For instance, Gainesville, Virginia. I used to go through Gainesville when I was a kid on my way down to my uncle's farm in southern Virginia. Gainesville had a grain elevator, a quarry, and a couple of gas stations. Maybe a gun store. As of 1980, it was nothing more than a couple of traffic lights on the way to Charlottesville. It now has several monsterous shopping centers, housing developments and a Wegman's. Have you ever BEEN to a Wegman's? Seriously, they're totally the best grocery stores. Get their fudge or go mental in their bakery.

If you stay in the city proper, prepare to pay as much money in hotel fees per night as you do for your car. DC is small area for a big city, and has so many building restrictions due to the panoramic vistas of the Federal core, the developers can't build vertically like they can in Chicago or New York. It's also built on a lot of old swamp land, so they can't build down, like Zion in "The Matrix" movies. So, the available real estate is more expensive than you'd imagine. Therefore, the hotels in the city's core have to charge rents that feel more like you landed on the Yellow Block with Hotels in Monopoly. Still, many of the hotels are quite nice, and realize that with expensive fees comes a higher expectation of service. The doormen will usually help you get a cab, if you require, and I think it's a law that all of the hotels have to have a Starbucks in them.

So this is mainly a list of free, cheap, good, bad, and safe or unsafe things.

Free and Coffee

One can get free wifi access in many parts of DC: any Starbucks (and often any restaurant adjacent to Starbucks, because one of the cool things about wireless that Tea Baggers don't understand is that the signal can totally go through walls and shit); most Barnes & Noble bookstores (which usually contain a Starbucks, which again I think is a law); Caribou Coffee (another chain, though it restricts your access to "adult" sites including some FaceBook functions and you can't hit up because Caribou's major investor is Red Cresent Ventures, at one time the 2nd largest Islamic-based venture capital firm in the world, and they've got those pesky morals, and really, if you're that damned lonely that you're gonna fill your spank bank at a coffee shop, ew, and go back to the Tea Party); Illy's (at New Hampshire Avenue and M Streets NW), which also has the best coffee...but don't hate on Mayorga's or Quartermaine, either. If you find yourself in Old Town Alexandria, called such because it's the old Colonial-era part and not the ridiculously sprawly part of the town called "not Old Town Alexandria," there's Misha's, and the nearby Buzz Bakery and St. Elmo's Coffee Pub. No, that's not the setting of "St. Elmo's Fire" you BratPack fiends. That's a douchey bar in Georgetown.
Cheap Eats:

Silver Diner

3200 Wilson Bouelvard

Arlington, VA

and other locations see:

[Clarendon metro stop, Blue and Orange line)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My message on Title24

Mr. Helder,

Once upon a time, I worked in a suburban office park surrounded by scores of mid-priced, casual dining options nearby. Before that, I worked in the downtown of a large Midwestern city, and could eat in all sorts of Establishments from 4 star steak houses to casual Italian places or sandwich joints with good food at affordable prices. My first Government contracting job placed me in Crystal City, Virginia, offering a wonderful assortment of lunch and after-work-oriented establishments. I am now stationed in L'Enfant Plaza, where my options for dining are either a cafeteria that offers entrees that could double as a salt lick; a few chain sub shops that offer bland - sometimes moldy - sandwiches; and, a series of weigh-and-pay restaurants that shovel mass-produced crap upon the hungry masses.

Had I known that L'Enfant Plaza was the area where affordable, decent food went to die, I would have asked for hazard duty pay.

My job, mind-numbing at best and downright stressful at worst, has but one real respite - when my Facebook or Twitter feed tells me that Sauca, El Floridian, Curbside Cupcakes or even DCSlices is coming to sell their wares in L'Enfant, or Federal Center SW, or by the Smithsonian. The future of a mind-numbing 2011 is only parsed by hearing that Fry Captain, a Korean taco truck - heck, even a Mac-n-Cheese truck sounds awesome - when compared to a corn-syrup and MSG-laden existence.

I can see why established, brick-and-mortar restaurants would complain about the food trucks - it's competition, and competition can be scary. I will also note that the restaurants of D.C. never minded the regular old run-of-the-mill food carts that sell hot dogs, chips and sodas to the tourists running around the Mall. Now that they have some sort of competition, they are in a panic, and rather than innovating, revamping their menus, or offering higher-quality products, they're whining to their elected officials to put the food trucks in a competitive disadvantage. Notice that it's not the places designed for lobbyists and expense accounts that are complaining - Charlie Palmer Steak, Fogo, Central and Oyamel aren't crying because there's a new type of dining option on the streets. It's the places that serve barely-edible food, thinking that a silly mobile truck is taking their customers away. Make no mistake - people aren't leaving the existing establishments against their collective will - they're going because the trucks offer better, more interesting food options.

Please consider any legislation that attacks the food trucks is a ruling against competition, and against the citizens who live and work in the District.


Raymond Bradley

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Expendables - I AM A MAN!

I saw The Expendables friday night. The theater cheered for the first appearance of all of the bad-ass guys, the theater booed for the trailer of the next M. Night Shamending movie, applauded the new Jeremy Renner/Ben Affleck/Jon Hamm movie The Town, and damned near gave the Old Spice Guy commercial a standing ovation. The movie has exactly zero continuity, zero story line, minimal character development, and plot holes the size of Nebraska. However, a lot of stuff gone blown the hell up, and various exclamations of "MEN! MANLY MEN!!, "USA! USA!" "SUCK IT EAT PRAY LOVE!!!" and a theater-wide "AMERICA!!! FUCK YEAH!!!" call-and-response were shouted towards the end.

The entire audience was 90% male at the showing in DC, and I would say every single one of us were in on the joke.

The movie is so manly, it got me pregnant.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Soft Mall.

finally checked something off the old informal, non-written, but still kinda-there Bucket List - play softball on the Mall.

When I was a little kid, my aunt worked at Treasury, and she'd sometimes take me into work with her. "Take Your Kid to Work" days were tough on her because she couldn't have kids, and by having me around, I was her child-by-proxy. We usually took the underground tunnels over to visit Uncle Paul for lunch, and to head over to the Metro, but one late-summer day, we walked along the Mall. The sun was just ever-so-slightly beginning to head towards sunset, and I watched these folks play softball with the backdrop of the Monument behind them. It seemed so damned idyllic, and so utterly amazing to see how such a space could be used - the very same stretch of land that I saw the 1976 Bicentennial Fireworks from, the kite festivals, the lingering protests from the MIA/POW crowd, the historical pictures of the Hoovervilles and the Freedom March...and here were these folks playing softball, laughing, smiling, competing. I guess it was about 1984, where any normal 11 year old Baltimore fan like myself simply assumed that a career of baseball greatness awaited me at Memorial Stadium, and I snickered at these Government workers, lawyers and Hill staffers trying to play a clearly-substandard game. So while I thought *I* would never play such a gastly sport like softball - real men play baseball, damn it - I had to admit, they looked like they were having the time of their lives.

So, I thought "once my obvious Hall of Fame career as a Baltimore Oriole is over, I will play softball on the Mall and show these punks how it is DONE."

Check and mate, Life, Irony and Fate. Check and mate.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

my latest DCFUD rant.

From :

Food writer Jacquelynn D. Powers recently listed 6 food trends she wants to see disappear in an article for The Daily Beast. For the most part, she’s pretty spot-on on identifying the most notorious offenders - bacon overload is indeed a slippery slope, folks - and sliders are appearing on more menus than buffalo wings in the `90s.

But when she declares ”Food Trucks Drive Me Crazy” because they’re expanding in hip, dynamic cities, and possibly gumming up New York City’s already gummed-up traffic, I have to wonder if she has ever stepped her foodie foot in the shoes of the average D.C. office drone, like, frankly, me. Walk a mile in my shoes, Powers, and see if you aren’t BEGGING for a food truck by the 1000ft marker.

Had I paid a bit more attention to societal trends in my youth, I doubt that I would have majored in Mass Communications with the intent of working in radio and television. Had I realized how much it would suck moving town-to-town, up-and-down the dial WKRP-style, I would have followed my aunt’s wishes and gone to business school. Had I overruled my city-fearing mom, I’d have used my savings from my childhood weekly allowance to buy dozens of the Dollar Houses that I *KNEW* would be worth millions one day, making me Baltimore’s youngest, most adorable slumlord. Had I realized how much I’d like helping a future girlfriend study for medical school, I would have followed my grandmother’s wishes and been a doctor. Had I realized how ridiculously well-connected my uncle was on the Hill, I’d have become yet-another DC policy lawyer with a blog, a BMW, an expense account and at least one hot Russian spy mistress. However, I didn’t realize a damned thing other than Mass Communications is the easiest major you can possibly have short of Mime for the Vision Impaired and still get a Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited university. It gave me the job skills to be one hell of a morning show deejay – if people still listened to the radio – and how to wear a suit while on-camera so that it doesn’t bunch up around the shoulders. Sadly, that’s a lesson I could have learned by simply renting Broadcast News and saving $10,000 in student loans.

My point? I am not a high-falutin’ big shot lawyer, doctor, real estate developer or business expert that can afford to dine in the District’s many high-end lunch establishments on the client’s dime. Chances are, you aren’t, either. I’m a standard Government drone - a cog in the not-terribly-well-oiled machine that runs D.C. - and I do have neither the money nor the three hours to kill to eat at places I can’t pronounce. I get about 30 minutes to either stand in line at a McDonald’s, a Potbelly, or a Weigh-and-Pay; drown my over-developed taste buds with over-salted salad dressing on an under-flavored salad; and then scurry back to the office before my over-paid, under-qualified bosses yell at my near-tardiness. So excuse the hell outta me if I want a little variety in my life, and the easiest way I can achieve a temporary sense of dining Nirvana is to eat a Cuban sandwich perfectly prepared in the back of a big white truck that could have been hauling plumbing supplies a couple of years earlier for all I know.

The District has been a little slow to hop on the big city food truck ride, but now that we’re on it, why stop? A quick look at the Washington Post’s new food truck’s Twitter aggregator shows a pretty decent sampling of wheel-based dining options. Tacos. Pizza. Subs. Indian food with a kickin’ soundtrack. Cupcakes. Cupcakes. OK, maybe Powers has a point about the overpopulation of cupcake outlets, but at least these are GOOD cupcakes. But the main issue is this: for those of us unwashed masses who yearn to eat free, getting ethnic foods and sweet treats from the backs of trucks serve as welcome respite to the otherwise mind-numbing lack of variety and flavor we’d otherwise endure. Not to get too NRA on ya, but they’ll get my food trucks when they pry my cold dead fingers from their bumpers.


Since this is more of a rant than an actual review, I’ll simply say that the Cubans from El Floridano; Curbside’s Cookies and Cream, Orange Dreamsicle and Sweetbites’s Pina Colada cupcakes; DCSlice’s pies and Fojol’s whimsical sense with buttered chicken and basmati rice are all pretty WHAMMY!-worthy. Mad I missed your favorite truck? Tell them to drive to L’Enfant Plaza and ask for good ole’ Five. Interested in a new dining truck idea? Drop me a line. I have thoughts.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Well, colour me unimpressed

A few weeks ago, my friend John mentioned that he'd been hearing rumors about a reborn HFStival. To folks of a certain age - say, late-20s to early-40s - HFStivals were synonymous with incredible music, awesome cameos, and the type of delirium that overexposure to the sun, dehydration and possible eardrum damage that stews into a wondrous bouillabaisse. Some of my best concert experiences happened at HFStivals - INXS, Foo Fighters, Prodigy, James, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Siouxsie and the Banshees, drinking with John Stewart, hugging Jewel and then watching her get smacked in the mouth - the list could stretch for pages, if I wanted to name all the incredible acts I've seen, thanks to my erstwhile employer.

Hell, here's No Doubt rocking out in 1996. Look at the vitality in this shot.

Yeah. I took that.

So, lo and behold, the rumor mill ground up some fine-powdered truth. Imagine my excitement and surprise when I found out the HFStival is back, baby! The date has been set - September 18th. They've got a place - Merriweather Post Pavillion. Two stages - a local and a main stage. The lineup is out - and it's not exactly overwhelming. From WHFS HD2's website, here's the link, and tell me which of these main stage bands sets your 2010 heart a-flutter. If this was 1997, this lineup would be solid. Hell, bring back Clinton/Gore and let ole' VP Al clean up this mess in the Gulf. It's 2010, however, and I think Third Eye Blind is the only band that has had a hit in the last decade. The Local Stage is fine - Jimmies' Chicken Shack, Fools and Horses, Jah Works, Honor By August - those are some quality acts. But the main stage... wow.

I swear, it's like a Midwestern State Fair of Alternative Rock. I'd expect this lineup to grace the Nebraska State Fairgrounds next year with Bachman Turner Overdrive, Kansas and The REAL Beach Boys playing the next night. Everclear will always have a soft spot in my heart - after all, I got to hang out with them in the 1996 HFStival, and Art Alexakis has more daddy issues than all the characters in "Lost." Lit? My Own Worst Enemy is a good tune, but they could never duplicate the success of that song. Presidents of the United States of America? Fun for a few songs, but I saw them back in their hey-day, and didn't make me say "hey." Fuel - two hits, and then wanted friggin' Chris Daughtry of American Idol to be their new lead singer. WEAK. And really, has a band ever gotten more publicity for saying "placenta" than Live, or, in this case, the remnants of Live?

As for Marcy Playground - they had ONE song. ONE. And, it's not even a good song. "I smell sex and candy, here. Who's that lounging in my chair?" Wow. Bob Dylan must be scared of that poetry.

Who came up with this Hot Tub Time Machine splatter-pattern of late-90s detrius??

I'm sure a few thousand people will show up, and they'll listen to the bands, and bemoan that HFS is gone, crying about the state of local radio as they stash their iPods, and the people who obstensibly run HFS HD2 will trot out old favorites like Weasel or Johnny Riggs and everybody can pretend it's 1998 again and everything rocks and they will tell themselves that they still rock. But isn't this merely a lame money marketing ploy to bring together some past their prime musical acts and call it an HFStival when the true title of "Has-Beens, Used-to-Bes and Never-Weres Invade The Suburbs" is so much more appropriate?