Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another Chapter in the "While Sitting in Dupont Circle" Story

On Monday, during this unusually warm January, I ate my lunch outside in the park. I was just one of many enjoying the latest round of global warming, and with the benches full, I sat on the fountain stairs. With my lunch finished and still a good bit of my break remaining, I took out my Smithsonian magazine and started reading. Just a few sentences into an article, I was interrupted by a man who had just sat down next to me.

"Did you just sigh?" he asked. Confused over whether he was talking to me, I replied, "What?" and then realizing he was talking to me, I said, "No, I don't think I did." I sized him up quickly in my mind. A little shabby looking, a hint of B.O., but nothing compared to many others I'd met in the park before. Probaby homeless, I thought, but maybe not. Hard to tell.

He continued talking, "Lunch break over soon?"
"Yep," I replied, "just a few more minutes." My standard response when random strangers start talking to me.
"What's your name?" He asks, and I volunteer my first name. No harm. "I'm Ron (or was it Roy?)," he says. "So what do you do?"
"I do advocacy work for low income children."
He nodded. "I work for a church."
I start thinking that maybe that explains his appearance. Maybe he's not homeless but does outreach to the homeless. Maybe he tries to relate to them. Maybe he's just a guy looking to chat.

"Oh," I said, "What do you do for the church?"
"I'm the Lord." Matter of fact. Just like that. The Lord.
Wow, I'm thinking, a real nut. Completely crazy. "So what kind of church is it?" I ask, thinking that it's strange that the Lord should work for a church. Shouldn't he be founding a church? In the back of my mind, I start philosophizing about how hard it would be for the Lord to return these days because we'd all write him off as crazy.
"Mainly Catholic..." he trails off.

I just nod. I don't know what to say. I wasn't prepared to have a conversation with the Lord. I try to turn back to my article, but he pushes along with his conversation, asking me if I'd heard of him or talked about him with others. I don't know how to answer. I mean, yes, I've heard of and talked about the Lord, but no, I have never heard of or talked about this crazy man next to me. I shrug and avoid his questions. I try to read more. He starts mumbling under his breath. He starts rhyming things that make no sense. He asks if I like his limericks. He talks about Saturn kicking his ass. I end my lunch break a bit early and head back to the office. I wonder what it would really be like if the Lord returned. I wonder how we'd know it was him and not just some crazy guy. I wonder if there'd really be that much difference.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What Celebrity Do You Look Like

Every once in a while, a conversation happens where people talk about other people's resemblences to celebrity. It's come up in conversations I've had here and there throughout the years. I guess everybody likes to think they have some celebrity connection, and there are some people who do look strikingly similar to some actor/actress, politician, sports star, etc. Some people, in fact, make their living off of impersonating famous people. I've never really thought I looked much like anyone famous. Recently, however, I've been getting some comments otherwise.

One of the first relevant comments occurred when I was in Greece. A copy of some entertainment magazine was floating around our house with a picture of Reese Witherspoon on the cover. One of my roommates was browsing through it one day and remarked to the rest of us, "Doesn't Theresa kind of look like Reese Witherspoon?" We debated it a bit - her chin is more pronounced than mine, her hair more blonde, but her eyes and nose are kind of similar... Anyhow, it was a funny conversation for a couple of minutes with my roommates holding the photo up next to my head, but it was quickly forgotten.

Then a month or two after the wedding, I received a card from a friend who had been unable to make the wedding but who had seen the photos. In the card, she wrote, "Wow, Theresa, I never realized how much you look like Reese Witherspoon." Jeff and I laughed and thought it was interesting. It seemed strange for someone else to just pull up that same connection when looking at our wedding photos.

But the strangest of all had to have happened the weekend we were in Niagara Falls. Jeff and I were at a tasting at a winery. We were seated at a table across from a girl slightly younger than me during the tasting, which lasted about 45 minutes. As we got up to leave, the girl approached me and said, "Excuse me. I just wanted to ask if you'd seen that movie "Walk the Line" because you look exactly like the girl that plays June Carter Cash." I smiled and said that I had seen it. She then said, "Really, the resemblence is amazing. And I mean that in the best way. I love Reese Witherspoon." Jeff and I laughed about how strange that was on the way out.

Anyhow, I just thought it was interesting. Three complete strangers making the same comparison on three very different occassions. If I make a close study, I can sometimes see it, but not so much that I feel that other people would see it and point it out. But now, I guess if anyone asks the "What celebrity do you look like" question, I'll have an answer. And it's one I'm okay with. She's cute and a good actress and seems to be a good person too. I could definitely have done much worse.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Niagara Falls Trip

As part of my Christmas present, Jeff gave me a trip to Niagara Falls. I'd never seen the Falls before, so I was excited. Here, with pictures, is a summary of that trip, which we took this past weekend.

Day 1
We flew into Buffalo on Southwest and then rented a car and drove through Niagara Falls, NY to Niagara Falls, Canada. Getting across the border proved to be amazingly easy and we were in Canada by around noon. As it was snowing and the visibility was probably down to under 100 feet while we were driving, I didn't see the Falls as we drove near and over them. So my first real memorable view was of Clifton Hill, the main tourist area in Niagara Falls, Canada.

Oh my God, I know why my parents never brought my to Niagara Falls. Seriously it is the world's biggest tourist trap preying on parents with their children. There's Frankenstein's House of Horrors, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Toussaud's Wax Museum, the Museum of Criminals, the Guiness Book of World Records museum, a WWE Smackdown ride, and dozens of other sites designed to fascinate and appall. Each one is loud, both in design and in taped message repeating over and over onto the sidewalks. We found it hilarious. How on earth they all managed to stay open blew our minds. A lot of people must have parents who were way bigger pushovers than mine. And it's not as if they're cheap. Jeff and I didn't indulge in any of them but had a good time laughing at them. If we'd been there in high tourist season with the masses crowding into them, we probably would have had a whole different attitude towards them, but as it was, we found them funny. I had heard that it was kind of kitschy, but this really took the cake.

After settling in to McGrail House, the bed & breakfast we were staying at, we ventured out into the cold, so I could get my first view of the Falls. Down the hill and right in front of me were the American falls.

They didn't look at all like what I'd imagined, with huge boulders at the bottom causing a violent spray of water. I then realized that I'd never really seen pictures of the American Falls before.

Walking a bit further, Horseshoe Falls began to materialize, and it looked exactly as I thought it would.

These were the falls I'd always seen pictures of. A huge plume of mist blocked the middle of the falls, so that I never saw them all weekend. The water gushed over with such amazing force. I'm not sure how anyone ever survived a trip over them, or even gave it a thought. The mist and light were just right for rainbows, and I, decked out like a cold terrorist, got to see quite a few of them.

After looking at them from above, we paid our $8 to go behind the falls. The better view was really from beside the falls, because from behind the falls, it just looks like a big white curtain. The rush of water is pretty impressive though.

At night, the falls get lit up, which is pretty kitschy if you think about it, but I'm going to admit right now that I liked it and even hung around in the super super freezing weather to wait for the falls to change colors a couple of times and to get excited about every change.

Day 2
Having seen the Falls, we set out on Day 2 to go to Niagara on the Lake, a small town about 30 km north of the Falls. It's a really quaint town with cute shops and restaurants. We browsed around and I bought a Christmas ornament to add to my international collection. It's a snowman dressed like a Mountie holding a Canadian flag in one hand and a Canada goose in the other (a goose! I had to buy it). Leaving the town, we went to two wineries in the area. The Ice Wine festival was going on, and we got to take part in two tastings. Ice Wine is a sweet wine made from frozen grapes. It's apparently pretty special, but I don't really like dessert wines, so I wasn't a huge fan. I did enjoy the tastings though because they came with food - the first place served three little appetizers with three different ice wines and the second place served a glass of ice wine with a plate of fruit and biscotti that could be dipped in a chocolate fountain! Mmmmm.

That night we went to one of the Casinos but didn't spend any money. It was a pretty boring place without any pizazz. Just meant for the gambling, not for the entertaining. We also spent hours trying to find somewhere to eat, because Niagara Falls, Canada has to have the worst restaurant selection around. There's a lot of generic steakhouses that are really icky and reminded me of Ponderosa, a handful of Italian places that had names like Spaghetti House, chains like Applebees and TGI Fridays where a normally $12 entree was $22, and that's about it. You apparently don't go to Niagara Falls for the food.

Day 3
We were heading home in the evening, so we decided to spend most of the day on the American side of the Falls. Before leaving, we went to see the Falls one last time from the Canadian side. It had been cold and windy the night before and the mist had blown all over the area and coated everything nearby with a thick layer of ice. It was like a winter wonderland. Really, really beautiful. We slipped and slid on the ice and took it all in, before crossing the bridge back to the U.S.

On the U.S. side, we went to Goat Island and stood right next to the American Falls. We also went out on Three Sisters Islands, where we could have stepped right into the water and gone over the falls if we had so desired. Seriously, there was nothing from keeping you from doing so. Kind of crazy.

Niagara Falls, NY isn't nearly as touristy as the Canadian side, and is in fact, kind of industrial and run down once you get away from the park areas. So after enjoying as much of the outdoors as we could in the cold weather, we headed down to Buffalo. We had a late lunch and contemplated how to spend the time until our plane left. At the Mexican place where we ate, the staff suggested the Zoo (seriously, it was 12 degrees, did they really suggest the Zoo?) and the Art Museum. We decided to go to the museum, but when we got there it was closed. So we ended up in this big cemetery with lots of crazy tombstones and statues. It was pretty neat. We then wasted our last bit of time wandering around the world's lamest mall before heading to the airport and flying back to D.C.

All in all, it was a great trip. The falls were really beautiful, the wineries were nice, and the town was hilarious. We had a great time just hanging out and relaxing.
And I can finally say that I've seen Niagara Falls.

Monday, January 09, 2006

2006 Resolutions

I got a slow start on the year, so I'm pretending that today is actually New Year's, and I'm beginning my resolutions now. And in the hopes that having them out in the open will make me more likely to stick to them, I'm presenting my 2006 Resolutions.

1. Exercise regularly. I go through phases with this, and I'd like to be more consistent. I'd like to be more fit overall.

2. Figure out what I want to do in relation to a career/job. Am I just going to stick with this job or look for something new? Do I want to go back to school? If so, where, and what do I need to do to get into that program? Once I decide, act.

3. Take advantage of living in DC. Since I don't plan to ever live here again once Jeff is done, I want to be sure I've done everything the city has to offer. So I'm going to go to museum exhibits that seem interesting, check out museums I've never been to, go to a performance at the Kennedy Center, see a play, try new restaurants, and take day or weekend trips to nearby sites.

4. Learn something new. I'm going to look for a class to take and either learn a new language or how to cook Asian food or how to take good photographs or the history of the American south or something else like that.

5. Find a cause I believe in and donate both time and money to that cause. Time to actually do something.

6. Write more. I'd like to do better at keeping up with this blog. I'd also like to write more for myself. And the big goal is to get paid to write something. Even if it's just a few dollars, I want to write something that someone else wants to publish and pay me for.

So that's it. In general, I just want to be more active and do as much with my life as I can. I want to spend my time doing productive things or things I enjoy (reading, going to the pool, going out with friends, etc) instead of just sitting around doing nothing or letting my mind rot while watching TV shows I don't even care about. Once in a while, the sitting around and rotting is needed, but not nearly as much as I do. So here's hoping that 2006 is a fun, productive, and rewarding year.