Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Of Masons and Moon Launches

For the long President's Day weekend, the BF and I went to stay with his brother, Big Scientist, at his new apartment in Washington, D.C. I always like taking a little trip on the train, though the tracks from NYC to DC take you through a pretty awful part of the country. Baltimore, for instance--I haven't seen such a shitheap of a city since I was in Lima, Peru in 1992. We're talking the worst kind of dilapidation you can get without bombs. Philadelphia wasn't much better. I guess that's the thing about neighborhoods on the wrong side of the tracks: you see them when you ride the train.

But DC is always nice to visit. Readers may recall my last visit to Washington DC for the National Postmaster's Convention in 2009. I have this idea in my head that DC is a cold, gray place because I keep going there in late winter/early spring, even though I'm sure it has other, much prettier seasons. At least there are very few crowds when you go in the middle of February.

The first night we were there, BS and his GF took us out for seafood and then to see the Oscar-nominated animated shorts. I pushed hard for the animated shorts rather than the live action shorts, because the live action shorts are always terribly depressing and there's usually at least one film about the Holocaust. The animated films always put you in a much better mood. One short was about a mouse looking for a nut in the forest, and I'm pretty sure I remember reading the picture book when I was a wee grom (The Gruffalo, does anyone else remember that?). And Pixar's stuff is, as always, delightful, though I'm hoping their entry "Day and Night" loses this year to a lovely Australian entry called "The Lost Thing," which was soft and quiet and hopeful and included giant octopus/hermit crab inside a red tin can. And there was one terribly depressing short that began with a dead goat and ended with a dead mother. Thanks, Germany.

The next day, the BF and I went to the Air and Space Museum so we could be astronauts. It was awesome, though my neck hurt from looking up at all the planes, satellites, and rockets hanging from the ceiling.

We had lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian, which is widely regarded as the best museum for eating on the mall. The food stations are regional, so we had tacos at the Mesoamerican section. Runners-up included salmon at the Pacific Northwest station, and buffalo burgers in the Midwest section. And I saw an outrigger canoe.

Our last day, President's Day, was a bit rainy and cold. BF said that he wanted to tour the Big F*cking Thing we'd seen in the car the day before, when we were going to the grocery store. It looked a bit like a pyramid on top of a tower, and the BF said something to the effect of, "Look at that Big F*cking Thing! Can we go inside?" An Internet search and a phone call confirmed that it was the George Washington Memorial Masonic Lodge, and one can, indeed, go inside for a tour. At first we thought that we were going to be the only people going, but it being President's Day, there was actually a fair-sized group of about 20.

We learned a lot about George Washington and the Freemasons that day, but I'm going to share my favorite little factoid. First, some background: The Freemasons is a fraternity--a gentlemen's club--of men who want to improve their minds, bodies, and spirits. One in five men in Washington's day was a Freemason; today it's more like 1 in 200, but they're still an active organization worldwide, especially in their charitable offshoots, like the Shriners. Lots of notable dudes were and are Freemasons, including 4 US presidents, and...

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, also known as the guys who landed on the moon.

See how this whole trip is tying together?

Those three men happen to be Master Freemasons. To set up a new Freemason Lodge, all you need are three Master Masons to open and close a meeting in the new lodge location. So, during the Apollo 11 space launch, the three astronauts established the first and only extra-terrestrial Freemason Lodge. If you're a Mason, you can join the so-called Moon Lodge, and go to their party every year in Texas.

So, this is what I gained from my trip to the nation's capital: a burning desire to know why someone hasn't yet made an off-off Broadway musical called "Masons in Space!"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy VD

Work is often unintentionally funny. You have to be so chaste and polite and careful to conceal what a true bastard of a human being you really are that sometimes weird stuff slips under your radar. You'll say something like, "Happy VD!" on Valentines Day and won't realize how dirty and strangely appropriate that is until it's already out there and you can't take it back.

I didn't say that, by the way. It seems like something I'd say, but I can't take credit for it. I just recognized the phenom and took quiet pleasure in the joy of knowing that it happens to other people, and not just me.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Glasses!

I bring my sunglasses to work every day, because even when a cruel, indifferent G-d is raining his icy wrath upon us from above, the light from the office's floor-to-ceiling windows can get a little intense, and no one's allowed to put up curtains or shades because eff you, that's why! My sunglasses came with a nice, roomy glasses case, big enough to fit both my regular glasses and my sunglasses. They nest together like tender lovers when I'm in my yoga class. I like doing my yoga in a gentle, fuzzy haze of blurred faces and diminished depth perception.

But after last week's class, I opened my glasses case and found that the sunglasses had done a Pac-Man on the regular glasses and engulfed their slim metal frames--waaka waaka waaka--they were broken beyond repair.

I've worn glasses since I was four years old. They are a very big part of my identity. Sure, I flirted with contacts, everyone did in the late nineties, even people who didn't need them and just wanted to look like Marilyn Manson, but ultimately my laziness won over my vanity and I just went back to the specs. Why mess with what works, right? Also, I had eye surgery when I was fifteen, and contacts irritated the stitches on my corneas. Take a moment to enjoy that tactile image.

The point being, new glasses time is a very important moment in the life of a glasses-wearer. I'd had my glasses for almost four years; I got them right before I moved to New York, the last time I was fully employed and had health insurance. They were blue Guess glasses, metal, rectangular, with a little design cut away in the frame, my big girl glasses that replaced the glasses I got when I entered college, which replaced my high school glasses. You can see how this works: major life change=new glasses

Fortunately, with me being a gainfully employed, fully functioning member of society again, I have proper health insurance. Major life change often coincides with a change in health insurance situation. On Monday, I took the morning off work and toddled down to my friendly neighborhood optometrist for new glasses--new New York glasses!

Doctor was a great old Jewish guy who told me that the doctors had done an exceptional job on my eye surgery, and that the Brooklyn Dodgers got their name because trolley cars used to run all through Brooklyn, but the tracks were in the middle of the road, so when you got off the trolley, you had to dodge traffic to get to the sidewalk. Great guy. He liked me a lot. I picked my frames and was ready to go back to work and squint at my computer for a week or so until the lenses could be made, but wait! They'd have them ready in about an hour and a half. Did I mind waiting?

Let me tell you something about ordering glasses in Hawaii. Again, I've been doing this since I was four. I have certain expectations, one of which is that the frames will have to be shipped four islands over to get fitted with the proper lenses, and because one of my eyes is near-sighted and the other is far-sighted, they are rather difficult specimens, so I will get the glasses when I get them and be damned happy for it. I have never in my life received an eye exam and new glasses on the same day.

Lots of things surprised me when I moved to New York: the crowds, the difficulty of mastering the subway, the lack of alleyways for Spider-Man to change into his costume. But I don't think I was ever so shocked as when I picked up my new glasses less than two hours after my exam. It was like crapping in an outhouse all your life and suddenly discovering one of those fancy Japanese toilets that plays nature sounds to cover up the shameful sound of your tinkles. It's civilization, baby, and it rocks!

Now I'm in the stage of new glassesness where my new prescription is so much better than my old one that the clarity of the objects around me actually makes me nauseous. That pleasant fuzziness that haloed everything on Friday was completely gone by Monday, replaced by the raw, unadulturated scream of reality. And those shadows in the corners of my apartment? Dust bunnies. Clumps of filth.

Who comes in here and makes this mess while I'm gone?