The Cubs are in town. This year they are here for four whole games, which is a lot to attend (two is no problem, three is a bit much).  I haven’t done four in a while. OTOH, 3/4 of them are at night, which is not true for weekend four-game series in Wrigley. So I got that going for me.  Less heatstroke.

I don’t buy tix in advance in DC. I show up, decide how much to spend, and spend it. It feels so reckless to show up without tickets!  It’s not, of course, considering that the Nats are suck and DC does not give a rat’s ass about baseball and the only sellout ever was one of the nights when the Red Sox were in town. But to Cubs fans, who need to secure their tickets over the winter, it is bizarre.

Since DC thoughtfully acquired an NL baseball team before I relocated here, I can mark my DC time by Cubs series.  In 2006, I had gone to Chicago for Opening Weekend, and my friend and fellow Cub sufferer Jake came to DC for their series in July.  We went to all three, I think…two at least.  My strongest memory of those games is that the Cubs sucked. I took my favorite “agony of defeat” photo:

cub fandom

hee hee! God, I love that photo.  It actually made me feel better to look at it last fall when…well, you know. (and if you don’t, look back a few posts on the blog.)

I don’t remember 2007 too well, I didn’t make it to many games that year. It was the Nats’ last year in RFK, that I do recall.  On July 4, I went down for a last-minute ticket and happened to run into my friend the LA native and Dodgers fan. DC is like that–go out relatively often and be relatively social and you will see people you know everywhere.

2008 was memorable in many ways:

1) I made a “baseball friend” a week or so before the series. She was selling me shoes and happened to have a team bracelet on, which began a conversation, etc.  Our chats helped me psych myself up for the series.

2) After a game I ran into Len Kasper and Bob Brenly in the Metro. They didn’t want to wait for the bus, they said, because “the guys take forever in the showers.” (In case you are wondering, the team stays at the Mayflower Hotel.)  I thought of something intelligent to say to them about 10 minutes later.

3) What with ballpark food and tickets, I had budgeted myself a pile of cash for the weekend, and on Sunday found myself with a lot left over. Hmm…why save what you can spend? I bought myself nice seats right next to the visitors dugout.

AND!!

4) Kerry Wood signed my hat.
#34

So all in all, last year set a high bar for Cubs series awesomeness. My materialist goals for this year are:

–Have Carlos Zambrano sign my hat.

–Have Aramis Ramirez sign something. My hat? My Ramirez jersey? Not sure…

–Spring for awesome seats again at least once.

But it’s the intangibles that count, and in that department I am already on track. Tonight: I bought good seats in my favorite area and jumped to even better seats in said area.  I was surrounded by the best kind of fans: knowledgeable enough to respect the other team, chatty but not overbearing, and hilarious.  The Cubs won handily, D-Lee hit a nice home run right to our area of right field.  And on the way home, despite us leaving at different times and taking different trains, I ran into the same fans!  DC is like that.  We had a lovely chat about the Nats’ patheticness (too easy a target), the President’s skill in sports picks, and general Chicago baseball fandom–they had grown up as near Comiskey as I had near Wrigley. (They weren’t the hating kind of Sox fans, but there was something odd about them.  “I’m a Sox fan,” one said, “but I root for the Cubs when they’re in the playoffs.”  …huh?)

OK…better get to bed, I have a long evening of baseball tomorrow.

good deed for the day

15 June, 2009

Downtown I was, pre-dentist, grabbing a quick sandwich at a quick-sandwich place, when something green caught my eye. A table over from me was a young woman with long blonde hair.  A law student summer intern if I’ve ever seen one.   Her skirt suit was new, a young fabric and retro cut yet conservative enough to work in even a stodgy law firm. Her 3-inch black patent leather shoes were also new, as were the blisters they had created on her heels. The green was a scrap of green paper she had put over one heel by (poor) way of cushion against the grippy pointiness that is the back of a new pair of patent leather shoes.

Now, about interns for my non-Beltway readers. We DC “residents” are supposed to despise and detest the interns that descend on us for the summer.  Not without reason, mind you: the archetypal jerkoff is the guy who wears his Congressional ID badge on the Metro…on weekends.  In such a situation I am supposed to mock her naivete re professional dress, and her gall for daring to come to Our Nation’s Capital to further her career and eat lunch near me.

But no. My heart went out to her.  I have been there, and if you have not been there, then you are a man. A poorly dressed man.  I’m pushing 33, and seeing this woman made me realize that I actually have learned a thing or two in the last decade.  This particular lesson is a hard and often expensive one: as you walk slowly around the store in your hot shoes the Sunday before your job starts, you are so psyched about how good you look and so stressed about how little time you have that you ignore the glaring signs that the shoes will rip your feet to shreds in three blocks.  The sub-lesson: keep band-aids on hand for emergencies, and they should be big enough such that the crappy shoes don’t scrape them off when you need them most.

Nu? I offered her two large band-aids from my mini-purse (a smaller bag of goodies that can fit in any of my main purses).  I thought she would cry.  Me, I got a warm glow, and, I hope, some karma.  Maybe I should start “Be Kind To An Intern Day.”

Hey, audience participation! Ladies and smart men, what’s in your emergency kit? Mine:

  • Aforementioned bandaids (~1.5x~2.5″)
  • Normaler-sized bandaids
  • Pencil, pen, laser-pointer USB pen
  • Pseudo-sudafed (sometimes Advil too)
  • Earplugs
  • Lady products (both kinds, and pantiliners)
  • Nail file/s, nail clippers, cuticle oil
  • Lip balm (slightly reddish so can double as lip color)
  • Lotion
  • Compact
  • Hair rubber band and little clips
  • Business cards (in holder so they don’t get grody)
  • Razor blade
  • Stamps
  • Reusable shopping bag
  • Moleskine slim notebook
  • The card from a bouquet of flowers my man sent me last Valentine’s Day when I was out of town
  • Copy of the Constitution (for which I have already been mocked, thank you)

Note this is the non-mother edition.  That is a whole other ballgame…

Hi.

7 June, 2009

OK, take two.

So, how you doin’?  Anyone with me still in their RSS, please comment.  Me, I’ve been fine.

Fine! Ha!  Let’s see, my last real post, not counting Cubs angst…around a year ago…hmm, not as bad as I’d thought.

Too much has happened for a wordy catch-up post.  The bullet list of major recent changes:

  • got back with Reaganite, shacked up, moved to new neighborhood, downsized cats to one
  • left job/career/identity of 10 years for new job/career/identity
  • left old job’s 15″ MacBookPro for new iPhone, iMac
  • denouement of family suicide #2 (terminal cancer) included modest financial security
  • sister: bought a horse, moved to Montana, is now leaving Montana
  • parents: both moved to Kalamazoo (that may have happened before my hiatus)

It’s been a lot to deal with. Work is the biggest adjustment. I work for the government now. I’m no longer a Scientist. Work doesn’t have to rule my life–there is just not enough to it for that. But it’s surprisingly hard to change old habits.

While not everyone had to have a blog back in the day, in the last year twitter and facebook seem to have become de rigeur for everyone. I’m there (under this handle, of course). But neither are quite my form. For one, you can’t do them on the Metro with an iPhone. And it drives me NUTS that I can’t categorize incoming updates.  To have posts from good buddies buried amidst posts from people I haven’t spoken to in 15 years is frustrating.  Not to mention the twitter phenomenon of following businesses, blogs, celebrities, etc.  Is there a way to do this that I’ve missed? Can anyone advise?

So back to blogging. I think I will have a pattern of only lightly edited midi-posts, maybe an occasional longer one.  You can expect to see

  • more Metro observations/griping
  • evolving obsessions
  • more work-life balance observations/griping

Rebirth!

cub fandom

5 October, 2008

More to come.

Listen, and understand.

What’s there to say, really?

…hmm, a lot, actually.  I’ll spare you the 2003 reminiscing and just ask my question.  Someone, please, answer me.

So in ’03, we choked in Game 6, big time. GAME 6…of a SEVEN GAME SERIES.  What stopped us from winning Game 7?  No, seriously. WHAT?  I still don’t really know. “Because we’re the Cubs,” blah blah blah, spare me. That’s not an answer.  WHAT. STOPPED. US?

2008. October 1. OK, Dempster got in a spot…in GAME 1.  We fell behind and got demoralized. IN GAME ONE. HELLO! 4 MORE GAMES TO PLAY!  What was stopping this team, the best Cubs team in my memory and my father’s memory and his father’s memory, from just, you know, PLAYING? Believing in themselves?  I’m serious, WHAT?  Can someone please tell me?

You know, though?  Here is the even more real question. Was it the same thing? In 2003 and 2008?  Who cares, losing is losing, you say. I disagree. The answer matters, and I’ll tell you why.  2003 was a gift. Everything came together in that lucky once-in-a-blue-moon way, and it was magical, and it woulda been magical if we’d gone all the way, but something happened.  In immediate hindsight the Game 6 choke seemed easily explained: lack of playoff experience, lack of big-game experience, tripped players up.  And as chokes do, it spread, in a series of bad decisions and bad luck and Golden Glovers misplaying ground balls and coaches not taking out finished pitchers and spazzy outfielders and ugh, ugh!

Sorry. Note, though: the failure was contained. Contained within the game–the NLDS was thrillingly fought, the NLCS until that point was also.  If you like, you can further argue that the failure due to inexperience was contained, within the season.  It didn’t say anything about the Cubs as a franchise, despite what people thought.  It was just a year. Disappointing sure, but it was just what sometimes happens to teams that improbably fight their way to the playoffs. The Marlins did the same, and just got a little farther.  It happens–that’s why we have a postseason at all.  Right?

2008?  This year was different. THIS YEAR WAS DIFFERENT.  We were plain good.  We clinched over a week before the end of the season. Best NL record. Most runs in NL. God knows how many other bests, firsts, best since’s; I’m bad at keeping track of that stuff.  But it was a Cubs team like none of us have ever seen.  And that team just didn’t fucking show up for the most important series of the season.  Here’s what freaks me out, here’s what kept me up last night: if THIS team couldn’t pull it off, what Cub team can?  How good do we have to be to make this happen?

(Maybe making it happen isn’t about being good.  Maybe it was too easy. Maybe you need to fight all the way, like in ’03.  ?)

Here is the emotional doublethink that defines my Cub fandom*.   Deep down I have a core of hope and belief that they can do it. But I also have a core of doubt and resignation to loss. And I never know which one is deeper.  Which is the core of which? I can’t tell. Maybe I should call it doublefeel.

*Maybe it’s everyone’s fandom, for all teams.  But I don’t remember feeling this way about the 1990s Bulls and I doubt Yankee fans feel this way.

Maybe that’s the difference between 2003 and 2008.  I was at the 2003 NLCS Game 7.  Not 24 hours after the Game 6 choke, I made and carried a sign to the park that said just “I BELIEVE”.  Why COULDN’T we win? WHY NOT come back from a bad game?  That was the day before!  That’s why it’s not a one-game playoff, the postseason, because a bad inning, an off day, can happen anytime. I believed. But that was the heart speaking. In my head, I could see us being outplayed, in slow motion.  You knew that a debacle like that wouldn’t happen to the Marlins.  And, doublefeel-wise, when the loss finally came, it felt both shocking and inevitable.

This year was the other way around.  Rationality was on the side of optimism. For once, for ONCE, we were just that good.  Look at the numbers!  But you can’t turn off that emotional side that is keeping you on the edge of cynicism and defeat.

So this is mostly just shocking. No, really. “Durr, it’s the Cubs, what do you expect” people will say. Well, I’ll tell you. More. I expect more.  Because it’s expecting less that makes people think jokes about lovable losers are acceptable.  This looked to be the year we left all that bullshit behind.

OK, you know? I was feeling maudlin. I couldn’t get to sleep last night til 2:30 (apparently neither could Mark DeRosa).  Today, I had listened to the Steve Goodman song I linked to up there, I sat down to write this, catharsis, etc…and now I’m just pissed.  This year WAS different, goddamnit.

See you in '09

Postscript: As usual, Al says it better.  Wanting it too much…is it that simple?

Damnit, you can’t read that at all can you.  What it says is: at one location, you can get a plain ol’ hot dog, a “Nats dog value pack,” a Hebrew National, AND a Ben’s half smoke with chili. That’s right, no need to stand in line at the one Ben’s stand in LF.   And hilariously, NOT ONLY are these “Nats Dogs” badged stands everywhere, there is one AROUND THE CORNER from the Ben’s stand.

Lotsa snapshots of the stadium coming up. I am so psyched.


We call this place heaven.

Originally uploaded by techne.

They are playing Morphine’s album Cure for Pain. What year was I….a junior?…at the end of the semester I started spending time with a woman I’ll call B. I have NO IDEA how we found each other, classes? friend of a friend? Anyway, her two obsessive loves were Morphine (the band) and Aliens. She had the director’s cut and knew bits of trivia about it that were very obscure in 1996…now, of course, you can find them all on IMDB. (Kids, we used to have to fight for the knowledge that made us cool and/or geeks. Also? We had to spend money on music, either directly or by buying tapes to copy from friends. Also? We couldn’t even really copy movies since double VCR decks were a lot rarer than double tape decks, so if you had a copied movie it was probably taped off TV. Also? Get off my lawn.) Anyway, Tryst. They do this to me all the time, what with the music.

Ah, B. Why was I so interested in you? I think we shared a level of snark. Also a level of depression. For the last few weeks of the semester we spent many hours in her basement cave of a dorm room listening to Morphine or watching Aliens while not really having sex. There was a degree of sneaking around involved as she hid me from her hallmates (and hid herself from herself). It was all very tension-filled and dramatic for reasons I just cannot remember. The end of semesters was always a hothouse in some way. Girls, depression, euphoria…something was always going on, at a much more intense level than usual, for everyone on campus, me included. Unsurprising I suppose. So yeah, things with B were intense. And then we went home for break and that was that. We never really spoke again.

I swore off straight girls soon after, but she wasn’t the final reason, just one of the nails. (Heh. Nails. Oh wait! IIRC B also liked Nine Inch Nails.) The next summer, I innocently tried to get in the pants of C, a very cute, bubbly woman who lived on my hall in the summer dorm. In retrospect, I think she was from Minnesota. She was one of those happy straight girls who thinks they are just being nice to everyone, but in the outside world that everyone else lives in they are madly flirting with everything that moves. I flirted back, as you do. C realized she was in fact attracted to me, but she was 1) very Baha’i (Baha’i are as anti-gay as any other denomination, it turns out) and 2) very conflicted about her sexuality. Needless to say, perhaps, I never got into those pants. Instead I witnessed epic levels of angst and soul-searching. I felt bad for the girl, here I was just wanting a little fun, and I make her question her faith and very identity.  Sheesh.  Also perhaps needless to say, she came out f’reals a few months later. Hey — no need to thank me. Glad I could help!

Haven’t listened much to Morphine since. As I have now been given the chance to remember, they do get a bit repetitive. I don’t seem to have them in the ol’ iTunes, seeing as how — see above — I only had them on tape. I did see them in concert once. My review: I didn’t know you could be that high and still hold an instrument.

I do, however, own the director’s cut of Aliens. Outright. It’s one of my two desert island movies. I mostly watch it at night…mostly.

(You can expect more college reminisces between now and my 10th reunion in June.)

What I got

14 March, 2008

In early November of 2000, I was in New Orleans at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference. My boyfriend had come along, and we were staying in a beautiful bed-and-breakfast that, needless to say, was NOT on the conference hotels list. It was the internet boom–we ate so well that, to this day, our friends are sick of hearing about this trip. The election was going on–you may recall the election of November 2000 and how, er, stimulating it was. It was my first conference, my first presentation, and I was utterly psyched. SFN is infamous for its size (over 25,000 attendees) and its scope (“neuroscience” can mean almost anything, and at this conference, it does). All the posters and science to see and absorb…and then in the evening, all the ancillary events. Panels, interest groups, receptions, and I belonged there. Everything was possible.

As was my wont, I went to a career panel. I knew even during my undergrad years that academia was not for me, and that I was interested in an “alternative career” (a disgusting ivory tower phrase for the outside world, IMO). Of course, being an idiot who went to grad school for only the dimmest of reasons, I had no idea what I wanted beyond that. So I tried to go to a lot of panels and read a lot of books about “alternative careers.” This panel was not specifically about that–it was intended to present the diversity of options that would lay before me someday in the distant future. Good enough. I vaguely remember that it had a representative from the classic academia tenure track, a science writer, and somebody else–probably a researcher/administrator from industry or biotech.

But I CLEARLY remember the man who represented science policy. He described his days as a science and technology policy fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He had worked in the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, which did what it sounds like it’d do: assess technology for Congress. An intertube describes it this way: “The OTA was created in 1972 to provide Congress objective analyses of major public policy issues related to scientific and technological change.” A Congresscritter would come to them and ask for a report on any topic under the sun. They’d research it and write it up in a nonpartisan fashion. Another quote:

Holt pointed out how many of the OTA reports, from over a decade ago, are still timely and pertinent, including reports like “Retiring old cars: Programs to save gasoline and reduce emissions,” “Renewing our energy future,” “Potential environmental impacts of bioenergy crop production,” “Innovation and commercialization of emerging technologies,” and “Testing in America’s schools: Asking the right questions.”

This sounded like pure heaven. Then, as now, I was a dilettante, interested in too many things, and I was beginning to see just how fucking stupid I had been to go to graduate school, the entire POINT of which is to train you in specialization. The idea that I could grow up and use my prospective science and research skillz to tackle all sorts of different projects–and for a purpose? To a specific end? (I was also beginning to realize that my penchant for efficiency might have been useful day-to-day, but could never have a place in research as a lifelong endeavour.) Turns out the guy was there specifically to promote the AAAS Science Policy Fellowship that had gotten him to OTA. One needed one’s Ph.D. in hand to apply. Still, I took the application packet and read it cover to cover.

I did the same thing at my next conference, and the next, and at local panels, and eventually I was going to panels and I already knew everything they were saying about the fellowships. When I’d network and discuss science policy, I’d hear about the fellowships and how many doors they opened. In dark research moments I’d read about science policy and notice that nearly everything I read was written by a former fellow. While writing my dissertation, I found an ad for a related job in the back of the journal Science, cut it out and taped it in the “escapism” corner of my desk, near the photos of Paris and the ocean at Sharm el-Sheikh (a resort in Egypt where my sister had spent a summer). When considering jobs, the fact that my current job would put me in DC, where I would have top networking opportunities and learn incredible amounts purely by osmosis, was a consideration.

When I got here, I picked every brain I knew, developed my network, picked their brains, and then asked THEM for people whose brains I could pick. And picked them. All of them said the same thing. You must apply for the AAAS fellowship, it’s invaluable, it’s great, it’s perfect experience and perfect for the resume. They all said it was very competitive and then said they had gotten it on the first try. They all took great pride in telling me a particular insider “secret” about the system, such that when I spoke to a new person and I heard them get quieter and conspiratorial, I knew what was coming. I acted surprised each time.

The time finally came: my career had reached a turning point. I was on top of my field and had to either fight to stay there or bow out. The deadlines and start dates and end dates of my commitments and the fellowship lined up perfectly. So I applied. I came out to my boss as an alternative-career lover. I converted valuable research-world patrons into references in fields where they were virtually unknown. I spent valuable research time, time that our rivals were using to do science, writing my application. I doubted my decision when research went well, stood by it when not. I wrote and wrote and wrote about myself (the app was an essay, a CV, another essay, and a biography). I asked for help from aforementioned network. When they started giving me contradictory advice based on their personalities, I knew I had worked it for all it was worth. I sent it in and I waited. I got an interview and one last hoop: write a one-page memo about something and in the interview you will present it and we will ask questions. I sat down to write the memo and I realized that, after all these years of saying “I want to do science policy,” I didn’t know what “policy” meant. I figured it out. I sent it in. I interviewed.

I got the email at noon today: I got the fellowship. Now it’s 8. And I have no idea what to do now.

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