My First “Unbox” Video

 

unicorn in line

After a long respite, I’m back. I was inspired to post again after hearing about this completely bizarre trend on YouTube — the unboxing videos. People are just crazy about watching other people open products that they *might* want to buy. This is ‘merica folks.

My jaw dropped when I discovered the #1 unboxing video on YouTube is the Playdough Ice Cream Cupcakes Playset, which has . . . . 209 MILLION views. What? This cannot be a thing. Is this really a thing? Well, NPR says it’s a thing.

Well, just to be a wise-acre, I decided to try to make my own ridiculous unboxing video. If this goes well, I may be quitting my job.

 

On the Edge of Glory: 4 Random Differences Between DC and Maryland

Living just 2 blocks from the DC line leaves one wondering . . . is it better on the other side? And what criteria should be used to judge? I’m not talking about comparing Mount Rainier to the cool parts of DC. I’m talking about the EDGE of glory — what differences can be noticed by literally walking a couple of blocks over the line.

last stop

1. Boozin’ it

Is it true that cheaper liquor can be bought in DC? I stopped in to the “Last Stop Before Maryland” store and asked the clerk what I should buy before stepping over the line. Last stop, right? Surprisingly he seemed unsure, but then pointed me to the Miller Light. One 6-pack for $5.49 + 10% tax = $6.04. I like to do my homework, so I interrupted a guy at the bus stop who looked like he might be a “regular customer.” He concurred with the clerk with enthusiasm. He danced as he told me, “Don’t let them bandits in Maryland take you for a riiiiide.”

Throwing caution to the wind,  I headed to the “bandits” at Party Time Liquors in MD.  Miller Lite 6-pack $5.99 + 9% tax =$6.53!

Dude was right! And as instructed, I did not partake in the ride.

So although the sales tax was higher in DC, the prices were still low enough to make me want to go on a bender. But a word to wise, before loading up your duffle bags with cheap booze from DC, be advised that is actually illegal to “import” alcohol into Maryland. Importing, in this case, means walking 2 blocks.  BUT, if you do want to risk it, there are great rewards. Public intoxication in DC carries a whopping $500 fine (um hello, mr. bus stop man). But get blasted on the streets in Maryland, and it’s a mere $100.

Bottom Line: Load up in DC; get loaded in Maryland. 

 

IMG_1121 2. Scooby Snax

*Warning: this could permanently alter your childhood image of Scooby Doo

While we’re on the subject of partying, I should school you on the regional drug specialties. While walking my own shaggy mutt, I’ve run across several of these Scooby Snax packages on the ground. “Is it a delicious peanut buttery treat?” I wondered? No. It’s the leading brand of a dangerous drug called synthetic marijuana, otherwise known at “spice” or  as the package says, “herbal incense.” But this stuff is no joke, and it’s legal in DC. I once talked to a guy at a wedding who said he was addicted to spice. He said it made his heart beat so fast he thought it was going to explode. Rawt Ro. Let’s jump back in the Mystery Machine gang. Those meddling kids have gone and manufactured some crazy sh*t that Maryland has sense enough to take off the shelves of the 7-11 stores.

Like any good journalist, to research Scooby Snax, I consulted the number one source for accurate drug information: YouTube.
I couldn’t resist sharing this edited clip of a YouTube sensation named Jay Muise, who regularly attracts over 50,000 views for his video reviews of various “incense” products.

Get a load of this joker:

Maryland you win this one. Scooby Snax irreversibly tarnishes the name of a fave childhood cartoon. It shouldn’t be legal. 

photo warning

3. Speeding

Your grandma must be making the speeding laws in DC. She’s got 25 mph signs all over the city and she’s serious about cracking that whip if you violate her rules. Big brother speed cameras are a ubiquitous presence in both DC and Maryland. The difference is that in DC that camera will nab you if you are going even ONE MILE above your grandma’s limit. In Maryland you’re allowed a 12 mph buffer. That doesn’t make getting a ticket any less irritating (The narrator says from personal experience), but it’s a little somethin’.

The photo above was taken on South Dakota Ave. in DC. With 4 lanes and at the bottom of a hill, how is it even possible to go 25 mph?

Maryland, although you are a royal pain, I respect the buffer. Win by a nose. 

speed limit

4. Buying a fake assault rifle

M4 ls

My last probing detail about living a life “on the border” comes from a unique situation in which I was buying props for a museum exhibit. The exhibit was about living conditions for soldiers in Afghanistan. I was going to cut out a photograph of the gun every soldier is issued — the M4 carbine assault rifle manufactured by Colt. But then it came to my attention, that I didn’t have to settle for a photograph. No. I could buy a BB gun that looked exactly like the real thing from Wal-mart online! In small print there was a disclaimer: a list of 10 states, plus Puerto Rico and all of Canada where this weapon was illegal — BB or not. DC was one of these restricted areas. But Maryland apparently thinks owning a BB gun that looks like it could pump out 700 rounds per minute would make a great addition to any kid’s toy chest.

I don’t even want to think about what a guy on Scooby Snax would do with this weapon when he found out that beer was 50 cents more expensive at his local Maryland liquor store.

DC, banning this scary piece of plastic gives you bonus common sense points. 

In summary, living on the edge of glory has its advantages. If I keep doing my research I can live the life I’ve always dreamed . . . racing at speeds of exactly 25 mph across borders to get small discounts on booze, buying drugs that will inspire me to make mind-numbing videos, and shooting sh*t with my replica assault rife. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Lessons From Little Bear

My cat, Little Bear, has recently completed his first manuscript! It’s impressive for a cat to write a book, but even more impressive that he has written a self-help book with virtually no formal training in psychology.

Little Bear seeks to offer advice to humans about how to live the life they’ve dreamed.
Entitled Tap Into Your Inner Feline, the book offers daily affirmations and confidence-boosting anecdotes sure to start you on a path towards feline magnificence.

I have been enlisted to do my part by helping to promote the book. So I’m performing a dramatic reading of an excerpt from this tour de force. Enjoy!

Keepin’ it Classy, Rhode Island Ave

Where have I been?
I used to criticize all those bloggers who got distracted with life and left their poor blog to wither. But now I understand. Since my last post, I landed a great job and have shifted into high gear. The heat in the house has been cranked up to a tropical 63, and my non-profit paycheck has boosted us firmly into the lower-middle class income bracket in this expensive region of the country. Things are looking up.

Rhode Island, Avenue of Dreams
In the spirit of continuing my aimless observations of the neighborhood, I wanted to write a special post about a special street. Rhode Island Ave (The RIA as they call it) is a hugely significant thoroughfare in our lives. Go south and you’re in DC. Go North and you’re in the burbs. It’s not a pretty street, but it gets you there.

We spend a lot of time on this strip of asphalt and I started noticing that a few of the businesses could really use my help in the branding department. So here, I offer, free of charge, my advice for transforming our neighborhood.

1. Adventure Dental: When I go to the dentist, I want anything but an adventure. What could be worse? “No Pain No Gain Dental?” Being nestled in this blighted strip mall makes it even more problematic. I need extra reassurance, not adventure. How about “Easy-does-it Dental,” “Put Your Glock Down Dental,” or just “Simmer Down Dental?”
I don’t need Indiana Jones in my mouth.

adventure

2. Salute to Liquor!: Who doesn’t like a nice cocktail? Especially our nation’s veterans, who have a 28% alcohol abuse rate after coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. (I could go on an anti-war rant, but we have more bad businesses to discuss). I love street art, and I love a good cocktail, but this pairing is just a bit off.
liquor

3. Ahhhh the Comfort Zone: Every time I drive by this place, the mellow tones of Barry White’s voice enter my head. “Oh yeah, come on into the Comfort Zone.” I was picturing giant down pillows, massage chairs, and cozy slippers. One day, Barry got the best of me, and  I stopped. I guess the window displays should have prepared me for what was in store — a creepy porn paradise. Adult stores can be on the up-and-up. This one was not. A guy with a pornstache greeted me at the door and explained that the “good stuff” was in the basement. I suppose I should have turned around and left but I didn’t want to seem freaked out, so I descended the stairs.
What I saw in the basement, I cannot unsee.
At the Comfort Zone, I left decidedly uncomfortable. Please consider a name change.

comfort zone

4. Hyattsville Vacuum Cleaner Service: Certain businesses just don’t need a display window. I’m picturing a conversation between the manager of this business and the owner. “Hey, what do you want me to put in the window?” Owner: “Well we got all these great trash cans and mop buckets. Those beauties sell themselves!”
I especially love the artistically placed trash can lids. Passing customer :”Oh shit Bob, that’s the lid I’ve been looking for. Let’s go in!”

cleaning

Are there exciting, artistic, improvements being made to Mount Rainer? Yes, but not nearly as humorous as the oddity of businesses on the RIA. And let’s face it, this analysis is in the service of the greater good.

7 Lessons: Living Without Heat in DC/Mount Rainier

Remember in Rocky IV when Rocky trains to defeat the Soviet super boxer Ivan Drago? To reclaim the “Eye of the Tiger,” Rocky flies to the USSR to train in the frozen tundra – chopping down icy trees, man-handling a sled, and high-stepping it through the snow. It made him TOUGH in a way that no fancy, heated, hi-tech gym could ever do.

It’s that back-to-basics living that makes you stronger, Right?! F-Yeah!

rocky iv

Um, no.

I’m from Atlanta where “the players play,” not the blustery barren wasteland of Siberia. We plant flowers in December. We close schools when there is a possibility of a snowflake.

So my household experiment to live without heat in DC is really born out of the necessity for financial savings, not “manning up.” Living in a big hundred-year-old house where you can feel the dollars seeping out cracks and crevices  (and no real job) gives you motivation to brave it for a little while.

IMG_0338

In the month or so since we’ve felt the chill, it’s been a big learning experience. And since it’s only November, I’m betting that come January I’m not going to say nice words like “learning experience” anymore. So get your lessons while you can!

1. Making the living room insulated makes me feel like a kid with a blanket fort.
My little clubhouse is not going to be featured on Martha Stewart anytime soon. But when the living room is 20 degrees warmer (with a space heater) than the rest of the house it makes kid-thinking seem really smart. Also, forts rule.

IMG_0390

2. Fingertip-less gloves are great for typing and petting the cat – not so great for washing dishes.
It turns out that the fingertip part of the hand is the smart part of the hand. So the fingertips perform all the important tasks. But the dumb part of your hand (the hand part of the hand) gets easily fooled into thinking it’s naked and wants to party with the fingertips in the sink, which makes for sad wet gloves. every. time.

glove

3. If you Google “no heat challenge” you will discover a whole community of black women who are trying to avoid frying their hair with flat irons. While I think “going natural” sounds like a good idea, it’s just not this girl’s journey. But good luck ladies!

no heat challenge

4. Speaking of communities, through the magic of the Internet I have found shivering brethren out there who are living without heat by choice.
Whether it’s because they live in a huge loft that is un-heatable, or they are just trying to save the “earf,” there are others. Hard core others who make me feel like a big weenie. They don’t mind when their toothpaste freezes.
Or when their refrigerator stops running . . . because it doesn’t need to. These people ARE kicking Ivan Drago’s ass with their layers of sweaters and indoor yurts.
For inspiration I read the Cold House Journal.

cold crowd

5. Living chilly means EPIC pet snuggles.
I have a cat and a dog. The dog is like Velcro, always a snuggler. But the cat is more elusive. Attaining what I call a “Double Flank” (cat + dog on lap) is a rare achievement. But thanks to the icy inside temps, these pets can’t get enough. Behold the patented Double Flank! (Jet Li is the black ball of fur in the green sweater)

double flank

6. Electric blankets cannot really be washed.
Be careful not to muss your electric blanket. We had an incident where a certain poodle got up on the bed with a peanut-butter filled kong and made a gross mess on the blanket. Well, unfortunately, that means game-over for the blanket. I have a Master’s Degree but couldn’t figure out the instructions on the tag. Really, Sunbeam?

electric blanket

7. When the nighttime temp goes below freezing, and you’re afraid the pipes will freeze so you FINALLY turn the heat on to 50, the effect is sadly anti-climactic.
What if you weren’t allowed to have sugar for a month? And then you allowed yourself to have a single chocolate chip. This is about how it feels to turn crank up the radiators to 50.

50 degrees

Will we make it all winter? Stay tuned to find out.

Wolf Spiders, Tidy Whities, and Other Listserv Weirdness

Image

Someday anthropologists will study societies by digging through virtual data. Imagine what they’ll find out about local customs and values by sifting through the cultural messages of your neighborhood listserv! For a few weeks, I have been copying and pasting small excerpts from my own local resource, Ye Old Mount Rainier listserv, for possible ethnographic value . . . or maybe just for my own amusement. Well the good news is, now you can be amused too!

Here are 10 of my favorites (with added commentary of course)

  1. “Free full size bed and box spring on my front porch…….the springs will support a light weight person.”
    In other words, this bed has seen its share of action and just can’t handle that extra bag of chips you just feed-bagged.
  2. “I have three digital watches – a Casio G-Shock, a Timex Health Tracker, and a Timex Indiglo, that the batteries died on. Anyhow, without Fleischer’s, where can I get the batteries replaced?
    I mean, really. We’re all just lost without Fleischer’s.
  3. “Wandering Jew – FREE [1 attachment]”
    What exactly is being offered here?
  4. “Does anyone know about the sounds male wolf spiders make?”
    Random question. I give it points for amusing, but for this one, I call listserv foul. If you can look it up on the internet, it’s just not listserv-worthy. Why use the combined mega-power of the Mount Rainer braintrust, when you can just hop on Google? This question was so random I just had to look it up. Aren’t you curious about wolf spiders now?
  5. “A group of church members and I were talking about how nice it’d be to have a nice buffet option within walking distance and how perfect a Golden Corral would be for the area. Not only providing good jobs, but such a wide appealing variety of lunch and dinner choices that could appeal to all the wonderful different cultures and people living in and around Mount Rainier.”
    Oh yeah, please  . . . improve my neighborhood by bringing in a Golden Corral! There’s nothing that brings in the gentrification like a good hog-trough-style buffet.
  6. “I am in a band called Wheelie. On Sat. Nov. 16th, we are attempting to break the Guinness World Record for Most Backing Dancers (in their tighty whities).”
    I have no idea what this is all about, but I’m all in.
  7. “I’ve never known too cats to be “soul mates” before but these two definitely are.”
    Cue movie trailer music . . . in a world where feral cats find trouble in every alley, two young felines find themselves enraptured by a love so powerful, the harsh world melts away between their whiskers. But when Animal Control catches wind of their careless love (by reading the Mount Rainier listserv), will their romance survive the chase of lifetime?
  8. “I have two modest clumps of switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, to give away, and will have more in a week or so if you can help dig it out.”
    So you mean I don’t have to buy the Panicum virgatum? All I have to do is come dig it out? Done and done.
  9. “Does anyone out there have a cement mixer I could borrow just for a half day.”
    Cup o’ flour? Sure. Cement mixer. No . . . not even if it’s just for half a day.
  10. “Maybe no one wants to admit if they know, but what does PCP smell like?”
    Response #1 “Nail polish remover with maybe just a playful hint of Kool-Aid.
    Response #2 “Like mom and apple pie.”
    I’m not sure which response I like better. But it all made me more curious and more likely to lean in for a sniff when the time is right.

Tourists in the Wild

After having a nice networking coffee downtown, I decided to take a closer look at a very common native species to DC:  the tourist.

Members of this species are often very conspicuous and have little means of camaflouging themselves, making it easy for a newbie like me to identify them in the wild.  Usually bewildered and looking at maps, they are often very approachable.

Meet Troy and Lois from California.

\California

Troy and Lois like hats. Troy carried one for walking around town (baseball hat) and one for riding the double decker bus in the sun (the beige, mesh number). Lois preferred a visor so that she would not be a victim of “hat head” at dinner that night. Survival was also important to this couple from the Golden State. Each of them carried two protein bars and two bottles of water. They mused thoughtfully about the delicate balance between hydration and finding a free bathroom. Tough conundrum Troy and Lois.

Next up, the couple (who wished to be anonymous) from Houston.

Houston
Although they were a bit surly about the government shutdown’s effect on their sight-seeing agenda, the confidence this Houston couple displayed was inspiring. Their double fanny pack, camera-’round-neck, backpack + cane/seat situation said to the world, “I don’t care what you hipsters are wearing.  We’re going to be comfortable AND prepared, dammit!”

Ms. Houston admitted she hadn’t used her cane/seat today, but she just knew  her husband was going to want to look at something boring and she was gonna need to sit down and take a load off. This encounter had me down a rabbit hole googling cane/seats. There is one at fashionablecanes.com with a contoured butt-shaped seat that really appealed to me. But I just don’t know if I have the moxie for it.

Spotting the tourists was getting too easy. I wanted a challenge. If I approached a person who was not a tourist about being a tourist, and was wrong . . . I would risk ridicule. But what is life without risk?

Welcome Susan to the show.
What do you think?

Denver

Peeping Pets

Being unemployed, I’m at home enough to notice things.

  • The ice cream truck comes daily between 3 and 4pm, blaring warbled Christmas music.
  • My local drug dealer goes to the bus stop approximately 4 times a day.
  • I do not have one consistent mail person, and in fact sometimes they deliver in unmarked cars.

Recently I’ve started to become aware of (I believe) a covert operation within my own house. It’s just a feeling I get when I’m in the basement putting clothes in the dryer or getting the peanut butter from the pantry. I feel it. So I started bringing a camera with me around the house. What I’ve uncovered is a bit unnerving – a clandestine campaign, probably designed to overthrow my authority. Look for yourself.