Last night I went to see Joel Stein speak about his new book. For me, the chance to meet Joel Stein was like what aspiring actresses must feel like when they meet Meryl Streep or chefs when they meet Thomas Keller or other dogs when they meet Rosie.
I was ridiculously excited. However, I felt that it was important that I walked the fine line between appearing to be an avid fan and appearing to be a person who looks like they want to peel your skin off and make a suit of it. Turns out, when you’re pretty sure that you actually are someone’s biggest fan, it’s hard not to act insane. As we were standing in line at the end of the night waiting to get my book signed, Jenn asked me if I wanted her to take a photo of him signing it with me in it. I said yes because one day it would be exactly like the photo I saw once of Bill Clinton as a teenager meeting JFK. Jenn quietly shook her head, likely wishing there was some way she could deny knowing the crazy lady comparing herself to presidents.
Let me backtrack to the best part though. Before we got to the event, I tweeted that I was going. When Stein walked up to the mic to begin speaking, he started off by saying we should all get to know each other—and therefore he would read the Twitter profiles of some people who’d tweeted they’d be there. He read mine first. And it got a laugh from the group (mostly because of his amusing delivery, but still. Joel Stein read something I wrote). Later, when I asked him to sign my book, he recognized me from the profile and jotted down a funny note about it. Jenn took a photo of this happening and while my expression indicates that I’m definitely leaning over the skin suit line, I haven’t crossed it yet.
Anyway, it was great. He was self-deprecating and irreverent—and I now own a book called “Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity,” which I’m sure will somehow be relevant to my life.
4. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)
Ever since I edited an article about Outstanding in the Field a year or so ago, I wanted to go to one of the farm dinners that have become so popular—long white table cloth covered tables, multi-course gourmet dishes served family style, and regional wine pairings all set among gardens providing the fare. I liked everything about that idea.
So, when I was invited to attend one hosted by one of my favorite DC restaurants, Vermilion, I seriously couldn’t have been more excited. When upon arrival I was offered a lavender honey cocktail and the chance to chat with the farmer, I decided this was probably going to be the best day ever.
On Saturday afternoon I went with my roommate Jenn and her husband Joe (I realize that is confusing, just go with it) to take a peek inside a bunch of DC’s embassies. Once a year these embassies open up to the public.
I learned a lot during the experience—things like how annoying people waiting in line can be, and how badly (and inexplicably) the public wants to get a glimpse inside the embassy of the Cote d’Ivoire.
Our longest wait was for the Japanese Embassy. This had a little to do with its popularity and a lot to do with its security measures. The Japanese Embassy was intense. There were bag searches and single file lines and a guy yelling about “sovereign Japanese soil” and a video of a high speed train that looked like it belonged in the year 3012, but apparently is in Tokyo. All of this was housed in an ornate, perfectly manicured compound.
But there was no public bathroom and Jenn needed one and so after a quick tour we left in search of a nearby embassy with a shorter line. Which was how we ended up in Chad. It’s really hard to explain the juxtaposition of walking out of the embassy of one of the most advanced countries in the world and into a country that is essentially a failed state. If the point of embassies is to represent their countries, these two are doing an excellent job.
At Chad there were no lines or security, just crowds randomly coming and going. The one room open to the public was completely trashed. Loud music thumped and lights flashed different colors in a corner. At one end, men played drums and danced around in long colorful robes, at another women sat on rugs surrounded by dirty dishes. And in the center several guys, also wearing traditional garb, were sprawled behind a desk, offering heavy-lidded appraisals of every entering female. A man motioned for Jenn to follow him down some stairs to a bathroom and Joe acknowledged that there was a pretty good chance we’d never see her again.
Chad exhausted us so much that it was our last stop. But I’m going back for the tours again next year. And now I know that it’s best just to skip the most developed countries. Because really who wants to see high speed train videos when there’s a party going on across the street?