Object Lessons: Rantings of a Lone Pamphleteer
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Broken Glass

So I went shopping yesterday. Got a haircut (it's as short as I've worn it in years). Went to the mall, and to my favorite Giant for food and supplies.

After grocery shopping, just at dusk, I was forcing my wobbly cart toward my car when I noticed how oddly I'd parked. No, wait, I'd parked straight. I'd double checked how close I was to the line to avoid getting hit from the passenger side, which was conveniently next to the lane in front of the strip mall. I'm sure I double checked. But if I hadn't parked oddly... it looked like someone had hit me.

Sure enough, someone had hit my driver's side, dented the back door and over the wheel well. They pushed the car's back end right out of the spot and into oncoming traffic (which had, thankfully, avoided damaging the other side). Turns out my driver-side view mirror was also busted, which made no sense at first, since no other damage appeared around the mirror.

And I thought I'd gotten such a cherry spot.

(Physics majors, here's a word problem for you: How fast do you have to be going to back into a parked car and knock it 4.5 feet sideways, (taking tire friction into account and assuming dry blacktop in good condition)? Figure the driver had about 40 feet to go from zero to bang, in reverse. Note that my '96 Altima weighs ~2800 lbs., and assume the 1997-ish Honda weighed the same. My tires, while one year old (and 12,000 miles worn), were freshly rotated and balanced, with good treads.)

As soon as I saw it, I started cussing. Now, normally I try to restrain myself, at least in public, but I can cuss effectively in three languages, though I relied on English as the most expressive for the case at hand. I cussed until I turned around and saw...

a family of four -- parents, one kid of each-- mouths agape crossing the parking lot, staring at...

me, cussing like a sailor.

I began apologizing profusely, to the kids first, saying in my most teacher-like tone, "I'm sorry. That is very bad language for me to be using. I shouldn't have said it." (I don't have nephews for nothing.) Then I apologized to the father, who cleverly suggested that I ask if anyone at the strip mall stores saw anything.

Well, it was easy enough to see that the liquor store and Quiznos both had a good view. Struggling with my cart, I approached a young man going into the liquor store and asked him to please ask the proprietor if he saw anything. After the man behind the counter waved me off, I went to Quiznos.

Sticking my head in, I cringed. 10 people were sitting around eating, and I had to bring out my full speech voice, the commanding one you use to try out for an 8th-grade play (I was fabulous as the waitress in Marvin's Many Faces), "Excuse me, did anyone see a car get hit right outside?"

Luckily, one employee saw it and filled in the blanks. I felt like I was at the beginning of an episode of Law and Order, piecing it together. Here goes.

Two young women in a small red car backed up into the empty space next to my driver's side, and didn't slow down, hitting my car on the driver's side. A man walking next to my car had to jump over the hood of my car to save himself (hitting his forearm on my side mirror -- that's how that got busted).

Diane (the employee) did not get a plate number, which she assured me was her bosses' fault for not letting he leave her station. The passenger, a young lady who must have been at least 21, went into the liquor store, while the driver left a note on my car. She also wrote down information for the man who dove.

Jon came. The mall cops came, took a statement, and called the Greenbelt guys for us, telling us they would come and give us a case number, but that was it. In the interim, we found out that four separate incidents had the mall cops running around all night. Nine pm, after all, is closing time. They were kind, though, and kept us company, an opportunity I used to ask pertinent questions. "Is there any video surveillance of the lot?" Apparently there is a camera on the building's corner with a rotating view of the lot, which may have the accident on tape.

Also, the man who jumped over the car came back and filed a statement. He was able to add only that it was a red Honda, but did not get a license plate. (How in shock can you be to not get the license plate of the car that almost pinned you to another car, especially when the assailant does at least pause long enough to give out two different fake numbers? At least he shared his number with us.)

Jon, always helpful and supportive, used his time wisely, too. He bought a one-use camera and helped me document it (he also bought me a Coke, god bless him). Jon called an Internet-saavy friend who verified that the number was fake. So, our only lead is the mythical tape; if it had a tape, if it was pointing in the right direction, and if it hasn't been erased, it may have caught the accident.

On the upside, I wasn't in the car at the time, our uninsured-motorist insurance should cover a lot of the damage (minus deductible), it's a minor hassle since my car is drivable, and, hey, let's face it, material goods are crap. You're just going to have to give it all away when you go to the nursing home anyway, so don't get too attached.

Or, as the wise Buddha put it: The glass is already broken.





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Lessons on Objet d'Art

Remembering the purpose of this blog, I turn to one of Jon and my favorite activities, assigning ourselves self-improvement outings. We are both interested in self improvement, not in a snobby way, rather in that we believe in basic good things that constitute "the good life." Art, for example, and fine music, architecture, or, more recently, wine. [Wine is very good.] All the various arts that so nobly and adeptly capture our life experience on this planet. You know. So, we add a bi-weekly trip to the wine store for tastings, or agree to at least one Culturally Enriching activity per month.

Agreed?

Of course.

So we try. Usually, we do a bunch of activities in a few days, while traveling. But, for the first month this year, we have no plans to travel to interesting sights. This happens every so often, especially in the summer; just before we slack off our "Cultural Enrichment Program," we turn our heads west a bit, and remember what a fabulous city we live next to. Largest museum complex in the world, world-class music, dining, and all other superlatives that can be applied to the District of Columbia, Capital of the Free World.

Besides, weeks (maybe even months) ago, Jon pointed out a Diego Rivera exhibit (his Cubist period), and a Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya exhibit. So we took a gulp, and got back on the Metro.

It was grand.

First, we Metroed over to DC, a quick ride to the Archives stop, and we wandered through the Navy Memorial, where a bunch of young sailors were having their picture made. Later, as I was crossing the World Map, which forms the base of the memorial, I felt compelled to break into song: "I am on... TOP of the WO-orld looking... DOWN on creation..." It was funny. Trust me.

Next, we ate at TEAism, one of our favorite spots near the National Gallery, quite convenient (and usually open weekends) for a quick and tasty lunch ($8-12 per person). Jon had the Thai Chicken Curry, while I indulged my taste for Salmon Ochuzuke, a dish of broiled salmon and a dash of wasabi paste over brown rice; however, I prefer the dish presented Ochazuke, with green tea as the broth for a hearty soup. It's fantastic.

The exhibits themselves were, well, varied. To stay out of the heat, mild as it was, we crossed through the Natioinal Gallery's West building, down into the tunnel that connects it, under 4th Street by Constitution, past the really overpriced but stylish Cascade Cafe, through two, count 'em, TWO museum shops where I barely paused to look at a thing, and up a couple flights of stairs. Whew! By then it was an easy choice to start on the main floor and work our way through the Mayan Art exhibit, rather than walk up to the Diego Rivera.

We decided to rent an audio tour, but at $5, well, we decided to share one. We were on a date, and turned up the volume, leaning close to cuddle in front of the art described by three experts and the Gallery's Director. I was perturbed that none of them were, ahem, native to the areas in which they specialize.

Mayan history, language, and culture are murky, partly because they stretch back so far, to 2500 BC. This exhibit focuses on the lifestyle of the Mayan rich and famous, specifically from the late classic period, from 600AD to 850AD. Within 100 years, all the Mayan pyramids, palaces, ballcourts, marketplaces, seaside forts, and huge cities were deserted. It's a disappearance as mystifying as the Dinosaur's, but most archaeologists agree that war and disease are the prime suspects.

All features of life are addressed, insofar as they are known. From currency to female roles, from Maize god to Chocolate god (finally, someone I can pray to),



from loom weaving to ceremonial bloodletting of wives (eeew).
The pieces are stunning. Many are well preserved, clear examples of Mayan art as it depicts courtly life. Mostly created 1500 years ago, some are still painted bright blue or blood red. The scrimshaw, jade maskes, stucco "death" masks, and throne backs, were all amazing, informative, and striking.

Here, however, is art that instructs. Chocolate, it is clear, was an important commodity, used not only for frothy drinks (basic recipe was water, honey, chili, and crushed cacao beans) but as currency too. In fact, the tombs of the dead included bone carvings of cacao beans in a shell plate, for use as currency in the afterlife. From the Guatemalan mountains, Mayans recovered enough jade for a large mask, one of my favorite pieces.



Many of the 6-inch figurines showed royal women at the loom, or cooking, while men were portrayed at the great Mayan pastime--for which ball courts and players abound, but to which they have yet to assign any name other than "ball game."




This is my favorite figure -- it's so active.

After Mayan Art, the jump to Diego Rivera's Mexican-themed cubist art is a natural. I was disappointed by the small exhibit, enjoying only one of the paintings, a deco-style portrait of a dandy, Portrait of Adolfo Best Maugard, an intellectual painter and contemporary of Rivera's.



It was a fun date, and I feel a little... fuller, in touch with the world and my history.

The National Gallery remains a favorite.

While researching Mayan gods, I found PBS's lesson plan for teachers. I thought the handout accurately condenses the salient information on the Maya.

For more pictures of art in the exhibit, see the article at Artnet.







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Cousin Sarge

One more picture from my first cousin, who is in Iraq's Green Zone. He's the one in the fatigues.

 



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