blogged to death

Another political career has been aborted as Ursula Gruber has been unmasked as the blogger Persuasionatrix by Wizbang in two articles (1, 2) and followed up by the AP. Jessica Culter, of Washingtonienne infamy, put in her two cents. No word if Paul Kelly Tripplehorn, Jr. will come out of hiding. Persuasionatrix, for those who don't know, was a staffer on Ben Cardin's campaign who wrote comments about Cardin's primary opponent that some found questionable.

I'm not here to cast aspersions on Persuasionatrix, Washingtonienne, Tripplehorny, or the subjects of the 2001 Vanity Fair intern article.

But what is clear is that what starts off as an entertaining way to spend a little free time can end up ending careers. People get fired for blogging, particularly if it is about work. (E.G. 1, 2, 3) Or sex. Or politics. And if you get picked up by the good folks at Wonkette, your anonymity cannot last. There are too many people with too much free time.

I have been pretty responsible. I haven't talked about work, sex, or many of the other things that cross my mind on a daily (or hourly) basis. But we work and live in an environment where everything we say can be taken out of context and used against us.

I like my job. I like my friends. I like my privacy. I also like blogging, even though I feel pretty constrained in what I can say. But using those finely honed legal skills I have spent so long to develop, I think it is time to hang up the keyboard.


i remember

Five years ago tomorrow I was a week-old resident of Washington on my way to an interview in a Senate Office Building. I had no friends in town, an apartment unfurnished except for an inflatable matress, and no job.

It was an incredibly beautiful Tuesday morning and I was enjoying the walk from Union Station to the Senate when it became clear that something was terribly wrong. Women in high heels were running as fast as they could, men's ties were fluttering in the wind, pointing back at the Capitol.

I approached a police officer who told me about the Pentagon, New York City, the State Department, and other real or imagined dangers. I fled, on foot, in my neatly pressed suit and shiny shoes to Georgetown, as the traffic congealed and helicopters and planes swooped overhead.

It is unclear whether I would have been there in time to see -- or be killed by -- the plane that would have smashed into the Capitol. Certainly the people's house would have been demolished, along with a large number of Senators, Congressmen, aides, functionaries, police, janitors, and tourists. Our government would have been decapitated. Martial law would have been declared.

That did not happen, of course. The passengers and crew of United Flight 93 may have saved my life, and possibly saved our form of government. That flight crashed at 10:03 am.

The next day, September 12, I drove up to New England through New York City. The roads were empty save for the flags that had sprung up overnight on the overpasses. New York was gray, although it is unclear whether it was the weather or the smoke.

Like thousands of others, tomorrow morning I will get up, ride the Metro, exit at Capitol South, glimpse the white dome topped by the Statue of Freedom Triumphant, and go to work. I cannot think of a better way to give tribute to those who died. All we can offer is our thanks and our memories.


Collapsed star

In college I played with a musician who was also an Orthodox Jew. He was the frontman for our group and was an enthusiastic guitar player. He usually arranged the gigs, although it was just about impossible to get him to practice with the rest of the group. His enthusiasm outweighed his abilities.

It always struck me as strange that someone whose life was so totally tied up in one passion (his religious activities) would make time for a completely different activity that was, in many respects, contrary to his religious beliefs. Jazz and Rock are about passions that religion curtails.

When I was in Prague, in the old Jewish quarter, I was approached by two American Hasids (ultra-orthodox Jews). They first asked if I was Jewish and, without waiting, asked if I wanted to put on Tefillin.

I had just been inside a synagogue that had listed on its walls the names of the 130,000 Jewish people from Prague who were murdered by the Nazis. The names covered the walls of the sanctuary, the side rooms, the upstairs. Families were listed together: father, mother, children, grandchildren, cousins. The walls swam with the invocation of the deceased. I could not breathe. Tourists snapped photos.

The reason that synagogue and five others were spared by the Nazis was that Hitler wanted to make a museum of the extinct people--a museum for the Jews he was trying to eliminate.

My immediate response to these Hasidic Jews was an emphatic "no." I don't have any religious beliefs and really wasn't interested in having my arm bound while reciting these old prayers.

I went into another adjascent synagogue, but on my way out, bypassing the throngs of tourists, I passed these two guys again. I apologized for my previous rudeness, and asked if they wanted me to join them to put on Tefillin so that they would be more comfortable in putting it on. I was willing to try and help them feel comfortable in praying in their own way. It was the least and most I could do.

"No" was their answer. They wanted me to put on the Tefillin as a way to instill their religious beliefs in me. They were trying to use guilt as a hook.

Few things irritate me more than religious proselytization. In this former center for Jewish learning, in the heart of these six buildings that bore witness to murder on an incomprehensible scale, I was being told that I needed to be someone else-- that what I was wasn't acceptable.

My blood boiled.

When I declined their second offer, one of the men told me he sensed some anger and asked if I wanted to talk about it. His tone was a bit condescending and challenging.

How could I explain that respect for others was the one lesson I hoped people would take from that place? Or that trying to coerce belief and practice, no matter what the reason, leaves me cold?

Near these two gentleman was a girl of 19 or 20 sitting at a vendor's booth-- one in a long row of booths -- selling all sorts of tchotchkes. She was studying humanities in the local college, spoke fluent English, had bright clear blue eyes and shoulder length black hair. I had spoken with her twice. Her name was Anya.

Anya had been to the synagogues when she was young but was thinking about going back in as an adult. She was interested in what was going on around her. She wanted to learn about how other people thought and lived.

I wanted to grab these two men and tell them they should learn from this pretty young Czech girl. That passion and tolerance and acceptance and respect start with taking a genuine interest in others, not seeing how you can make others like you.

I never completely understood my guitar-playing friend. But we respected each other. He was a rockstar.


starting over

Today I started my new job. It is what I've strived for since I started law school, or since I first moved to DC, or since I graduated from college, or since I first picked my major, or since I became aware of a world bigger than myself.

Some things were familiar. The twist in my stomach as I rode the Metro. The paperwork and nervous smiles. The hive of jargon. Expectations and questions.

I am fortunate.

But as I sit in my apartment, dinner in hand, I wonder what will be. I have imagined this point. Worked towards it. But the road from here is misty and I cannot see around the corner.

It is exciting. It is frightening.

It starts again in 12 hours.


a poem

I would like to fly a plane
if only for the sunrise;
the auburn amber star-rich skies
the plaid earth--
and green,
lakes eclipsed by cumulus,
and slipping shadows
treading the world


boy are my arms tired

Which of the following four airports cannot be reached by mass transit: Prague's Ruzyne International Airport, Bratislava's Letisko International Airport, London's Heathrow Airport, and Washington's Dulles Airport?

Technically, they can all be reached by mass transit. Dulles is the most complicated in that it requires a Metro ride to the end of the Orange Line combined with the "Washington Flyer" bus service that departs at 15 past and 15 before each hour. Prague also has the Metro/bus combination, but for one ticket that costs about $1 (not Metro's nearly $10) and with more frequent departures. Letisko merely requires a bus from the train station, and Heathrow is right on the Tube (about 45 minutes from City Center).

Since yesterday morning I've been at the four previously mentioned airports. Bratislava wins the award for least security. Heathrow wins for inaccurate signage. Dulles, however, retains its commanding lead for a combination of pointless bureaucracy and geographic inaccessibility.

It's good to be back in DC.

Hope you're having a great Labour day weekend. Oops. Labor Day. Sorry.

Off to bed -- 8:30pm is the new 1:30am.

did I just get ma'am-ed?

When my friends and I were in high school we used to hang out in “the center”. It was about a half-mile stretch on one of the main streets in town that housed many shops, restaurants and more coffee shops than necessitated. One of the shops we frequented while there was our beloved Baskin Robbins. They had just introduced the scrumptious Blast drinks. You could get a mocha blast, chocolate blast and so on. Our favorite was the mocha blast.

In the summer time we were down in the center at least three nights out of the week. Summers in my hometown were perfect. The weather cooled down at night and there was a grassy knoll in the middle of the street across from Baskin Robbins. Reading this of course my town sounds like a Norman Rockwell painting, well, it kind of was.

My friends and I would stop in Baskin Robbins every time we were down there. Truth be told, we all had a crush on the two boys who worked the summer nights there. One guy was our friend Michah’s older (and much hotter) brother. The other guy was a senior at the rival school, but we didn’t care. They made the little trip down there worth it. Without fail, we would always order the mocha blast. And for some reason, one night, the guys put one gummy bear in each of our drinks, atop the delicious whipped cream and cinnamon. A different color for each girl- me, I was orange.

This tradition stuck and from then on we each ordered the mocha blast, whipped cream, cinnamon and (insert color here) gummy bear. Sadly though, during the summer before senior year in college, our beloved Baskin Robbins closed. I think I was the saddest one of all.

But tradition stuck. And any time we were together and drove past any Baskin Robbins, we would stop no questions asked. We were met with strange looks every time we asked for that lone gummy bear, but we didn’t mind.

Well a few years, okay, ten, have passed since the infamous gummy bear summer. But every now and then I find myself stopping by the Baskin Robbins by my house to order my delicious blast. The other day I happened to be passing by during my lunch hour and just had to stop and get one.

I walk in and there is this sweet young kid working behind the counter. I almost laughed thinking of our Baskin Robbins hotties and how this kid probably has his own gaggle of high school girls coming in too. It was my turn to order and he looks up at me and says “what can I get for you today ma’am?” GASP! Ma’am?? Did this kid just ma’am me?! I had to collect myself for a few seconds and I am sure the look I gave him indicated I was not that pleased with his ma’am remark.

But then it hit me. This was a nice, polite kid. I still cannot fathom that I have been out of college as long as I have, and I am more than fast approaching my ten year high school reunion. It is only proper that he call me ma’am. I am dressed in business attire, and it is midday, what else is he to assume but that I am a working professional. I am a ma’am. I am in my late twenties and I am easily ten plus years older than this kid. See, I am even referring to him as kid.

As I get ready to go back home to visit some old friends I am sure they will appreciate this story and get a good laugh out of it. Yet, I know, deep down, they will all be thinking at least it wasn’t them.