Archive for the ‘The DC’ Category

Location of illegal dumping in the alley between 1906 and 1908 6th Street, NW.

Location of illegal dumping in the alley between 1906 and 1908 6th Street, NW.

Illegal dumping in my neighborhood is nothing new. It seemed to be worse in 2002 when people passing by unloaded their junk on the corner of Florida, T and 6th. Then the dumping seemed to subside for many years. Or maybe I just didn’t notice dumping between then and today.

But there’s been an uptick lately and my guess is the increase of home renovations. And an increase of visitors parking in the neighborhood due to more nightlife opportunities near LeDroit Park. People come to party in Shaw and LeDroit now that there are restaurants and bars in the area. I’ve noticed more construction material being dumped in the alley a few doors up from my home. Construction material, and also just garbage as well. People are unloading their cars of fast food bags, and sometimes going to the bathroom in the alley as well. It’s starting to stink, even in the cooler weather.

And some kind of liquid waste. This summer I discovered a paint bucket filled with this smelly goo, which was starting to ferment in the heat. And lately the same substance has been deposited in a recycling bin. Several gallons of it (the bin is half-full of it), mixed with recycling, and it’s starting to smell very bad.

I’ve called bulk collection twice to get the construction materials picked up but it hasn’t been picked up. But don’t know what do do about the foul liquid, aside from asking neighbors to keep an eye on the alley and neighborhood detective work. Nobody wants to empty that bin of whatever is in it. It seems like something that has been used to cook or boil food with, and it really stinks.

So I’ve also reached out to my ANC 1B01 Commissioner to get some help, and possibly some advice on what to do. I think with so many renters in my neighborhood no one wants to take leadership on this, but the problem is only going to get worse. Any advice from readers in the area is welcome!

Trash bins in the alley between 1906 and 1908 6th Street NW DC.

Trash bins in the alley between 1906 and 1908 6th Street NW DC.

Hey there from chaos central. Well it hasn’t been so bad. I’ve been adjusting to the new job and it’s going well. It’s definitely not a suit culture place and my workload is reasonable. In fact I’m only starting to realize how bad the last place was. Sort of like when you were in a bad relationship and you don’t realize how bad it was until you’re out of it.

On Friday I happened to cross paths with a colleague from that job and we chatted a bit. It sounds like for the most part they liked me. But I was pretty miserable and am not sad it’s over.

Other job prospects I was hoping for have not panned out. It’s too bad because I liked both organizations – both having an environmental mission. But after such a long period of job searching and upheaval, I think I’m going to settle for this one, even though it’s not in my field of interest. I’m seeing a lot of value in a sane workplace. It’s telling that this particular organization doesn’t show up on job posting boards – people like working there and they tend to stay there.

I have a new roommate too, and his stuff is just starting to settle in our cramped quarters. Fortunately I don’t have much stuff, and I have given him full reign in terms of design and placement. My post-apocalypse, post-undergrad, vagabond style of decor horrifies most gays. The house will look better soon with his art and stuff in it. The only problem now is where to put my bike where I can grab-n-go with it at will.

It’s that time of year when cold office complaints are trending in your news feeds and on the Facebooks. I’m seeing a lot more responses in line with “it’s all menpigs fault because suits!”

Does anybody really think men want to wear suits? It’s frikkin’ 98 degrees out there with 90% humidity, and I can tell you I REALLY don’t want to wear a goddamn suit in this town in August! Now that I’ve lived in a city with a more relaxed dress code (Portland) I have some insight on the matter. And the fact of the matter is, whether or not you’re in a suit, your productivity is the same.

Suit culture is stupid, but unfortunately prevalent in Washington, DC. I’ve worked in some of the stuffiest (no pun intended) suited workplaces in the city, including one prominent nonprofit that does polling and research named after a very rich family, Homeland Security, and also for an Armed Services contractor. All of whom serve a public that doesn’t give a rat’s ass that you are in a suit. In fact, some of these agencies could really afford to look more approachable to the public, rather than look like “a suit” or one of the Men In Black. But they all wear suits. It’s especially bad around the Pentagon and Crystal City, and of course K Street.

Suit culture is a remnant of old boy bullshit, and/or lawyer culture that has permeated other non-legal workplaces. I don’t like suits, so please don’t tell me I want to wear a suit to make you suffer in the cold. BELIEVE ME, I’d much rather be wearing a string-top bikini and flip-flops or a sarong. My metabolism is over the top from my level of activity, and I can’t cool down.

Men in suits don’t have the option of taking their clothes off if it’s too hot. And in many cases, suited employees don’t have the option of challenging the culture or hierarchy to change suit culture. I don’t want to wear a suit, but sometimes I have to in order to keep my job. You, however, can put more clothes on if you are cold.

I think the core of the issue is gender and dress norms that could really afford to be changed, particularly in Washington, DC. It gets ridiculously hot and humid here and suits are impractical. Plus we all need to look _less_ like business assholes and more like we are serving the public. Polos and kakhis, and then we can turn up the thermostat for the cold ones.

Thanks again for the donations in appreciation of content all these years. It will certainly go to a good cause – most likely rent.

In the past two weeks I have had three interviews. One was a phone interview for a major wildlife organization, the other an in-person interview for an outdoor government agency as a contractor. I haven’t heard back from these two, but summer hiring is slow when people are out on vacation. I’m very interested in both and think I did well, so we’ll see.

The third was for a content manager position with a large association where I’ve worked before. It’s work I can do, but not necessarily a step up in my career path. And it’s low-pay and temporary. And my resume is already lousy with temp experience which raises questions in interviews. But it was offered today and I took it. It puts me in a sticky situation should either of the other two jobs pan out. Plus there’s a few other federal jobs where I’ve been referred (a positive step in an otherwise dreary job application process) but those could take a long time to pan out. So in short, I start a job next week, which is a good thing.

Last weekend we went to the Water Lily & Lotus Cultural Festival at the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens. It’s a neat hidden gem in the city, and if you go at the right time, you’ll see the lilies and lotus in full bloom:
The aquatic gardens are also my “territory” in the annual winter bird counts in December. It’s actually easier to see birds there in the winter, since there’s no leaves concealing them.
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
The taller, more dramatic lotus plants were almost done with their blossoms, but a few stragglers aimed to please:
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens
And yesterday on my bike ride I got to see a polo match. There is a polo field just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. I had never seen horses on it until yesterday! They say they play every Thursday.
Polo Field
It was a busy week otherwise. Had a phone interview with a major wildlife federation that I’d really like to work for. Another in-person interview next week with an oceans-related organization that also sounds like a good fit. Cross yer fingers!

What a month! It was a busy Pride weekend earlier this month, and then Friday happened with the Supreme Court ruling. The mood was festive throughout the weekend.

All that said, life is good in our urban bubbles of tolerance, or so it seems. There are still workplaces out there that are hostile to LGBT employees, and you can still get fired directly or indirectly for it. A few more laws and rulings need to happen to fully protect LGBT citizens. It’s been amazing progress so far, but we still have a ways to go.

For example, I had to unfriend a cousin on Facebook. I really try to keep those with opposing viewpoints visible, as I think it helps me understand how they think. For example, I have a former coworker who is a vehement anti-vaxxer. Her posts drive me crazy, but I think it’s important to know what they think, even if the facts show they’re wrong.

But this cousin’s posts were just too much. The final straw was his post likening gays as sex offenders. If he wants to remain ignorant and scared of people who want to be open and happy, I don’t want to see that crap anymore. The lesson is that they’re still out there, and they still think stupid things.

Sooo the job as a contractor for a federal agency didn’t work out. In the end it was a mutual decision. There were weeks I thought I was going to be fired, and there were weeks I wanted to quit. A bad combination of ambiguous tasks and micromanagement was working my every nerve every day. It was telling that I was in a very good mood on my last day. Most people there liked me and were sad to see me go, but understood the reasons very well.

I may have another job lined up, this time more in tune with my environmental background. A potential temp job may also come available, which would help with the bills since I don’t get unemployment compensation. It’s a waiting game at this point, and the past few weeks have been driving me crazy.

So I booked a week’s vacation in Portland to visit the friends I made when I lived there and to visit my brother. I booked the flight during a heat wave here in DC, but it turns out the weather will be very hot when I go there this week. Go figure. Hopefully I will have a job lined up by the time I get back.

If not, July is gonna be tight. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I was considering something like GoFundMe. I’ve seen more ridiculous requests on Facebook, like funding someone’s trip to Antarctica. Since I’ve never had ads on this blog since its inception, I was thinking about some kind of donation box. Help a guy out who’s been giving you something to read at work for 15 years. What do you think? Tacky and desperate? The latter, I sort of am at this point…

No, I haven’t been despondent, I’ve just been adjusting to the new job. I’m 2 1/2 months into it and I’m in that phase of a new job where all the new info is frying my brain and when I get home all I wanna do is stare at the wall and drool. But hey, at least I’m busy, gettin’ paid, and have responsibility at work.

Winter was forever this year. It started freezing much earlier in November, and didn’t quit until this week. Even the birds are late. When I heard woodcock could be spotted at Kenilworth Park in DC I didn’t believe it. I thought the bird was more of a northern species. But yesterday when I was walking to work this guy just landed right in front of me:
I think he was just taking a break. They’re not used to being seen, as their camouflage is so good in their usual environment. And they are generally of the wrong shape to be flying such long distances. It’s hard out there for a woodcock. Anyway, it’s funny because me and Dana had planned on going to Kenilworth to hear their peent and watch their sky dance that evening. Our timing was perfect. We heard at least 6 birds doing their unique spring mating call after sunset.
Anacostia Front
Rugby had started weeks ago when it was still snowing. I wasn’t up for it and now I’m a bit behind. Plus I never know when I’m going to get out of work, and am simply mentally not up for it after a mentally trying day. I’m getting my exercise in, but I think I’m out for the spring. I need some me time at this point with my new job.

In July of 2007 I went up to see Xanadu on Broadway with Aaron during the show’s preview period. The jukebox musical was clever and the music was great, as expected. It featured Cheyenne Jackson, who had been the understudy until the main male lead had a tragic rollerskating accident during rehearsals. 30 Rock’s other star Jane Krakowski was in the workshop productions in its early stages.

After the show a Bear in a trenchcoat approached me just outside the theater doors and asked, “So, what did you think of the show?” His question was so pointed it was clear he wasn’t hitting on me. This guy was looking for feedback. I wished I had a more eloquent response, but all I could say on the spot was, “It was a lot of fun, I liked it.” It turns out the Bear was a producer of the show and was surveying the crowd for feedback.

That encounter stuck with me years later. My only musical theater experience was in high school with time-tested scripts like Annie and Oklahoma. It seems obvious now, but I had no idea the production of a new show was an evolving thing. The script, musical numbers and blocking change over time. You long-time musical fans may say “well duh” but I thought the fact that a producer might change a show based on feedback on the street fascinated me.

Then came “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” on Broadway. Before it was even in production comic book nerds were hysterical with rage, including myself. Spider-Man doesn’t sing for one thing. He cracks jokes, but never exhibited any penchant for song in the comics. But the musical wasn’t for comic fans, it was designed to sell very expensive tickets.

It turned out to be the most expensive musical ever produced, with the longest running preview period due to excessive technical difficulties and numerous stunt-related injuries. There’s a fascinating book written by one of the co-writers of the show that is a page-turner and documents the hubris involved with the show. I didn’t see it, but learned that the writers created a new villainess that was never in the comics. Totally unnecessary in a universe rich with existing options. Plus it was just too ambitious. When the stunts worked, they were fantastic. But when they didn’t, it was awkward at best, but too often dangerous to for the cast.


Art by Chris A. Tsuda

Between Xanadu and Spider-Man, I was like, why didn’t they do a musical about Marvel’s answer to disco in the 1980s, the Dazzler? She is a some-time X-Man with the mutant ability to convert sound energy into light. She is still featured in comics today, and was one of the first to publicly come out as a mutant. Stories were one of the first to focus on the personal life of the hero, and the comics were also the first to be released exclusively in comic shops rather than on the magazine racks at the local convenience store. As you might imagine, the character has a gay fan base and is a popular subject for cosplay.

Dazzler wasn’t always a hero. Her first dream was to be a star, but villains and thugs kept interrupting her big breaks. Eventually she had to make a choice – one that we all face on a daily basis: am I a hero or a star?

Now isn’t that a compelling story? Wouldn’t theater gays go nuts over such a theme, that also involves disco and flashy lights? I think so.

So I did some research. One superfan recently did a Dazzler music video. Back in the 80s, Bo Derek was set to play her, with an insane script idea starring Cher as the Witch Queen, Donna Summer as the Queen of Fire, KISS, Robin Williams, Rodney Dangerfield, and The Village People. I applaud their creativity, but I think we gotta scale it back a bit.

So I started writing a script. Yeah I know I’m not a script writer. The most I do are these here blog posts and achingly dry press releases for the federal government. But I had two years of un- and under-employment and looking for jobs only takes up so much time. Plus I had this idea in my head, an idea that was like a pustulent zit that had to be popped desperately, or else it would just sit there and fester. And the idea wouldn’t go away.

The idea is based on the earliest Dazzler comics where the simple theme was her trying to make it big in spite of interruptions by supervillains. It’s about expectations, or the failure to reach them. It was a theme I was – and am – very familiar with. Perhaps this script is therapy. But I’d also like to see it work, if only on a small stage.

In the fall I learned about a theatrical reading of a Batman graphic novel. A reading is when you read from a script without a lot of props or blocking. They did a great job, and I got in touch with the director. Sadly we haven’t gotten together about it yet, but I think he’s one guy who could help me out, if only for suggestions.

I met with a producer friend of mine for some advice. His main tip was that unless this show is satire, I definitely had to get in touch with Marvel for permission, or it is all for nothing. His other advice was that NYC is filled with aspiring writers, and what was I thinking that I could also do such a thing? That was disappointing from a person I had initially introduced to showbiz. But I had asked for advice and for him to read my script, which I’m not sure he’s done yet. Not many have, although one theater critic and Dazzler fan has and gave me some constructive advice that I plan to implement.

I reached out to Marvel Comics’ licensing team, which was surprisingly easy to do. I got a swift response: “Hi Mr. B: We are not interested in licensing out our character for this musical. Thank you.” At least they got back to me quickly. Not sure what to do about that just yet. The show is definitely not satire, and is in fact is heavily based on the early Dazzler comics. Dazzler wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dazzler was an aspiring disco star, and a show without music wouldn’t be right. So I delved into the music from the year the comic was conceived. Much of that music was played at the roller rink where I spent a lot of time when I was nine years old, and I have an eidedic memory for lyrics, especially from when I was a kid. 1979 was a fantastic year for music, many of the songs having to do with light. Perfect for a musical about a person who can transform sound into light. Many cringe at the thought of a jukebox musical, but these songs are appropriately woven into the plot. I’ve even written one original song for The Eleven O’clock Number.

I’ve done a lot of research into script writing, and plan on taking a class once I get my finances back in order. DC has a remarkably thriving theater scene, and there are opportunities for small stage productions. I even have a local 80s cover band I’m in touch with to perform the music. “Glitterlust” seems an appropriate name for a house band doing music for Dazzler.

For the most part I’ve kept this idea to myself for many years. It’s a crazy idea, and putting it out there has been interesting. I’m mostly met with bewilderment and sometimes doubt even from close friends, which has been a little hurtful. But from what I understand rejection and roadblocks are part of the business and I’m going to keep trying. Is it a hobby or a dream? I’m not sure yet. But just like Dazzler it is yet to be determined whether I’m going to be a hero or a star.

It feels odd to start the day without looking at job posts as I have been for two years. I finally got a mothafokkin’ job, accepted an offer last week. It’s taken 26 months, 160 resumes, lots of networking and a lot of resolve. I guess the lesson is: don’t quit your job and move to Portland – it’s a trap! Plus I don’t think I considered the state of the Nation’s economy two years ago. I thought my resume was robust enough to get me work right away.

Anyway the interview process for this one took quite a while. I had three phone interviews and one in-person interview strung out over the course of a month. Strangely they have not called any references. I could be an axe murderer for all they know! It is strange how some workplaces really comb through your contacts and work history, while others rely on vibe. I’m glad they like my vibe though.

The new job is communications work that supports Homeland Security. It involves science and technology innovations that help first responders. So the job is nerdy yet involves my communication skills, which is nice. It’s also less than ten minutes away by bike. Maybe a half-hour walk from my home, which is great. I expected to take a big pay cut as salaries are lower these days, but I didn’t lose much and managed to negotiate up. Interestingly this company bought the company I first worked for when I arrived in DC. Several of my friends still work for this company. But I did not get this job through networking or contacts. I applied to it cold and got it myself, which is a little unusual.

Of course the first year I will be putting my head forward and focus on the new work environment. Plus two years of underemployment has given me new financial burden that I didn’t have before. So no fancy vacations for me for a while. Gotta pay off the debt.

shinerSo it’s been a year since I’ve returned to DC, two years since I moved to Portland. I moved back to DC under the assumption that there were more jobs here than in Portland. That’s somewhat true, but there aren’t as many jobs as there used to be here. Fewer organizations are hiring because money isn’t flowing here due to legislative gridlock and no budget. With the Republicans controlling the senate I think we’re going to get more of the same for at least three years. So nobody has any confidence they’ll have money for new or continuing positions.

The new job reality is in contracting. Fewer companies are hiring “permanent” positions. And salaries are lower, despite all the sunny news you hear coming from the White House these days. It’s ironic that in the past year I’ve had more interviews for jobs outside of DC than in. Two of them were for jobs in Portland. Next week I’ll be interviewing for a job in Madison, Wisconsin. It would be working for the state extension offices marketing their environmental programs. It would be a good fit, but of course the position is a 2-year contract, so that gives me pause and I would probably have to get a car too. But then again everything is contracting these days. But it is the first job interview where they are paying for my travel for an interview in person! However, I owe them a marketing presentation in return.

I had mentally resolved to “be” in DC, to accept the fact that this is where I should be. But opportunities may take me elsewhere. This sorta pisses me off because I felt very empowered to take the leap to Portland, but failed. It makes me feel like I don’t have any control over my destiny. Then there’s the constant anxiety about my career/job/bills. Two years of worry and watching my savings run out. I think a lesser person would be crushed by two years of this instability.

Granted, I’m working now, actually like the job I’m in, but it ends in December. All I’ve been able to get in DC are these short-term contracting gigs, and my resume looks like a mess now. I get interviews when people see my resume, but I think there are still hundreds of people applying for jobs these days and my resume is buried under hundreds of pages and names. It’s really tight out there.

The photo was of the shiner I got during rugby practice last month. It’s all better now. Rugby was fun this season. They have enough players now to form a third team. It’s mostly brand new players and old, decrepit players like me. Still fun to get out there though, but man it takes longer and longer for me to recover from a match.