Tuesday, May 30, 2006


All weekend, I haven't been able to stop saying things are "lovely."

How was A Prairie Home Companion out at Wolftrap on Saturday?

It was lovely, thank you. Garrison Keillor was a little more bawdy than usual, and did the usual litany of locale-appropriate jokes, in this case politically themed. They had the same lovely gospel singer I saw last Thanksgiving in East Lansing. She's in the film version, which by all accounts is a lovely adaptation. Kristi and I had a fantastic picnic with strawberries, Pinot Grigio, a baguette from Firehook and Brie and a (lovely) cheese with lemon rinds from the cheesemonger in Eastern Market. It charms me to no end that I am on a first-name basis with my cheesemonger. It's such a delightful combination of small town America and Urban Fantasy.

How was it running into J, a dear friend from MIDDLE SCHOOL who you haven't seen since New Year's 2003?

Completely unexpected and lovely! He is such thoroughly good people. He happened to be having dinner outside Lebanese Taverna, where I went with the Urban Family for dinner on Friday night, and we had dinner together tonight. He hasn't changed much from when we were hippie teenagers together in The People's Republic of Ann Arbor, and talking with him tonight was a clear indication of, for better or worse, how much I've changed in the last six years. However that has been, I hope we stay in close touch as long as he's in DC. J is the only person I know here who is completely without guile. Tonight at dinner he asked me in all sincerity,

"EJ, so how do people pick one another up?"

No ego or shame involved, he genuinely thought I had a simple answer to this hideously complex question. Coming from anyone else, I would assume that such a question was loaded with sarcasm or double (triple?) entedres. From J, it was a simple matter of practicality-- he had a very basic question about this very basic yet often-taken for granted process, and wanted to ask someone he trusted what her idea of it was. I found it charming and, yes, lovely.

And, for the record, I told him to get to a non-threatening setting, pick someone pleasant-looking and start a non-controversial conversation. Perhaps I should begin practicing what I preach.

And how was Adams Morgan, where you had this Memorial Day dinner with your old friend?

So apparently, Adams Morgan is really quite lovely when not flooded with pizza crusts and the be-popped collar souls who discard them every Saturday night. Particularly on a warm, hazy night where attractive young people are flooding the cafes, still lightly toasted from a three-day weekend and glowing from the start of summer. "Do we really have to go to work tomorrow?" says the guy sitting across from us.

Yes, friend. But at least we have months of lovely memories to be made.

And I would use another adjectives, if only things would stop being so damn lovely.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

in which i shamelessly ape the fug girls for the betterment of today's youth

Thanks to The Tennessean for the pictures and Go Fug Yourself for the inspiration.

Ah, spring. That glorious time when a young man's fancy is naught but from whence he shall venture to college and which chick he'll spend three hours trying to feel up at the prom.

I cannot claim to be an expert on proms. My own prom was marked by a black and purple corseted dress that looked like a costume from a regional theater production of Moulin Rouge and the world's lamest post-prom party at my parent's house. Everybody showed up for twenty minutes to mark that they'd been there, then went to the Holiday Inn on Fuller Road to lose their virginities. And did I mention that my date was the first person in our class to get married without first knocking a girl up? Very good guy, but clearly has a different idea of fun than yours truly.

So while I've only officially attended one prom in my life (there was an incident involving our rival high school's prom, a disposable Polaroid camera and ketchup packets that we'll get into another time), I have some strong opinions about How Today's Youth are Behaving Themselves. Many parents and administrators are concerned with the ostentatious displays of wealth and the immoral behaviors linked to the American teenager's prom experience. However, these issues pale in comparison to the crimes against fashion that many of America's Youth are afflicting upon this once-innocent rite of passage. To wit:

Classic prom picture. The suburban planned community, the young grinning faces, and the insanely bright colors straight out of a severe acid trip. Please particularly note the purple peacock strutting her tailfeather in the middle of the picture, and the orange-clad lass on the right, who seems to be channeling the Infanta of Spain by way of Jessica McClintock. Some work better than others, but the general impression is one of children playing dress-up in a Pretty Pretty Princess kind of way. By the by, this prom's theme was "Midnight in Manhattan." I can think of no better way to express a misapplied yearning for sophistication and glamour.

I don't know this girl's name, but since they're in Tennessee and her hair is rivaling the Smokies in both height and resistance to the elements, I'm calling her Candee. I thought about Candi, but that's a little too stripper for this girl. She's too classy to be a stripper, though she will undoubtedly wind up as That Girl in her pledge class at UT.

I show you Candee and her date for several reasons. One, her date is wearing a white tuxedo that he has coordinated with Candee's dress. Dude, no one looks good in a white tux, and adding a blue satin bowtie does not make your ensemble anything short of a long national nightmare. Not okay. Two, I'm not sure what Date is doing with his tongue, but for Candee's sake I hope it isn't supposed to be practice for later. Three, Candee is borderline guilty of Classic Prom Sin #2: Dressing way too old for her age. The only thing worse than playing Pretty Princess Dress-up at prom is showing up looking like a thirtysomething woman in a too-tight dress who is hollerin' at the bartender for another whiskey. Why do these beautiful girls insist on showing up at the most photographed event of their young lives looking like old whores?

Christ on a bike. How does one so young look so defeated by life already? The tatooes, the cutouts, the expression that clearly says "aw yeah, that was me blowing the DJ in the bathroom just now." Talk about old whore. No wonder she could only get an Ionic column as her prom date.

Sometimes a girl can do everything right for her prom. Tasteful, age-appropriate dress, simple but lovely hair, cute friends to flatteringly flank her in photos...

And then her date watches Swingers and suddenly fancies himself to be Vince Vaughn circa 1995. Classic Prom Sin #3: Men in ill-advised hats.

Did you ever wonder if, had Britney Spears waited a few years to do that whole huge superstar thing, what her senior prom would have been like? Does it help to know that you'll never have to now?

I love how the girl at the end is all smiling "yeah, NOW you think this is the most magical night of your life... just wait nine months, girl."

Not all prom attire is tragic and laughable. Take this pair. Gorgeous. Way to go, kids. Classy, age-appropriate yet mature, tasteful and lovely. And you're both ridiculously good looking. I'm so proud. Younglings, THIS is how you do prom.

But don't worry, I'll let you go with one last cautionary tale:

UGH. That bracelet could not be uglier! What is it made of, Fruit Roll-Ups? And who the hell wears a bracelet on their bicep? And he's wearing JEANS to a formal event! The horror.

There's something else going on here too, but I just can't quite put my finger on it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

tea and sympathy

"What teas do you have?" she asks our waitress. "No chamomile? Okay, mint, please." Her voice is normal by most people's standards, but most people's standards are a lot lower than hers. No brunchtime mimosa for Kisha. Citric acid means aggravating a scratchy throat, which jeopardizes any auditions she might go on this week. Not that she has any scheduled right now, but a working actress always needs to be prepared.

For me, being prepared means making sure my cell phone is charged and that Sadie has not hacked a furball on whatever black pants I dig from the closet. For Lakisha, it means evaluating how today's breakfast drink could impact her career.

"So how is it going?" my mother asks. My mother has adored Lakisha ever since the two of us raised hell in our high school choir and got away with it because of Kisha's talent and my smartassness. Because both of her two daughters considered and ultimately rejected theater as a profession, Mom has a lot of pent-up worry about show biz that she now channels to Kisha.

"Well..." Lakisha pokes at the lemon slice floating in her mint tea. "Pretty good. My show finished this week and I have some auditions coming up. I might do a workshop this summer, but since it will be unpaid I'll find other stuff. And of course I'm auditioning a lot."

"Pounding the pavement." Mom smiles with as best an understanding she can muster for how hard it must be.

"Oh yeah, we spend probably eighty percent of the time auditioning," she replies. "But you can never predict how it'll turn out. Like for the last show I did, the director told me I had it from the start even though I was practically dead from strep. Like when I was auditioning for colleges-- EJ, remember?"

I nod. I do remember. I'd already gotten into college and had unofficially quit high school, while Kisha kept plugging away at dance and voice and dieting and exercise and scene studies. Working ten times as hard as everyone else, never asking for favors or sympathy, and still not getting to where she deserved to go.

"And other times, you think you've nailed it and it just... doesn't happen." She mentions an audition for a national touring company that she had almost two years ago. It would have kickstarted her career. She didn't get it, and it's still with her. Mom and I nod in sympathy, both of us unsure of what to say next.

She was always so light and free-spirited. Completely positive and the opposite of self-conscious. She wore goofy like nobody else could because she was little and beautiful and enormously talented. She's still all of those things, but the goofiness is gone.

Some of it has to be age. Losing the loose limbs and freedom from responsibility that comes with being a teenager. What once we passed as charming would now raise eyebrows of concern. I do a lot of things better now than I did at fifteen, but being free and silly is not one of them.

Yet still. It's more than age. She's spent four years preparing for this and two years in the business, and the change in her is palpable. She's still beautiful and smiles easily, but no longer grins. Her face wears the rejection it has seen.

Every day we are rejected in little ways. Whether it is for a seat on the subway, a conversation with a boss, by a stranger in a bar or a lover who is too tired to whatever, everyone faces someone who sizes them up and says "No. Not here. Not now." Most of the time it's subtle enough that we don't realize it, or are able to call it something gentler. Lakisha doesn't get that luxury. When she hears "no," it is rejection on many levels. Her looks. Her talent. Her ability to make a living.

She's one of the lucky ones. She's barely had to wait tables or temp. She's only been at it for two years. She's talented enough to make it. Most of all, she has the passion for it. She loves her craft enough that love of it will sustain her through hard times. But talent and passion will only take her so far, and she knows it. Luck has to come in somewhere, and there's no telling if and when it will rear its head.

Later we're strolling down 7th Avenue towards Times Square. I have to catch a train back to DC and she has to be at Wicked to sell souvenirs to the gawkers. She tells me about a temp job she had in an office. "It was so nice to be able to sit and read email and just be normal. Sometimes I really wish I had that all the time, like you do."

"The grass is always greener, isn't it," I say. It's not a question; it's an observation.


I'd love to ask her a million questions. She's living a life that I once dreamed of having and is a part of a world that I, like a breathless groupie, am geeked about. She knows and works with people I read about in the New York Times and Broadway websites. She is blase about actors and projects that make me giddy.

But she's blase because she has to be. Because to her, it's all just another day at the office. Because to care too much about the glitz distracts from the brutal, hard work that she must do. And so instead of prying questions, I silently offer her a little sympathy with her tea. Even though she would never ask for it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

they are our closest living relatives, after all

Posted on CNN this afternoon:

Wine keeps Hungarian apes feeling fine

BUDAPEST, Hungary (Reuters) -- Monkeys and apes at the Budapest Zoo drink their way through 55 liters of red wine each year, albeit in small quantities each day, to help boost their red blood cells, the zoo said Monday.

Budapest Zoo spokesman Zoltan Hanga said it was the 11 anthropoid apes who drank most of the wine in 2005.

"Obviously, they do not have it all at once and get drunk, but they get it in small amounts mixed in their tea," Hanga said.

"And it's not Eger Bull's Blood or some expensive wine that they are getting but simple table wine, as it's mainly good for their blood cells."

Bull's Blood from the town of Eger in northeast Hungary became one of Eastern Europe's best-known wines under communism.
Now, if only we can get some primates who thrive on a steady diet of vodka gimlets and ill-advised drama, I can completely justify the last six years as being in the best interest of my long-term health.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

start spreadin' the news

But EJ, didn't you just have a long weekend with your mother in an East Coast urban center where you both drank and ate too much and took long walks around neighborhoods of red brick townhouses gossiping about everyone in the family?

Well, yes. But now we're doing it again in New York!

See you on Monday, kids. Please keep your fingers crossed that my mother will not wear something from Talbots to Buddakan on Saturday night.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

not at ALL tasteless

I'm sure that when Tony Snow used the phrase "tarbaby" in a White House press conference, he was merely referencing the president's passionate interest in the novels of Toni Morrison and not, y'know, being all ignorant and racist and stupid. Nope, totally intentional literary analogy.

Maybe this is a new trend of African-American women novelists influencing national policy. I can't wait until a lonely female member in the throes of a midlife crisis trots out an argument for illegal immigration based on the sexiness of a hot Jamaican dude she met on vacation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

stay away from the light, denny!

Dear Shondra Rimes,

I love you! I hate you! I can't reconcile my feelings towards you because you do things like give me Denny and then you go and kill him in the most awful way possible for everyone involved, myself included!

And then you do things like bring me Chris O'Donnell. Do we need to talk about my crush on Chris O'Donnell? Okey-dokey. I have passionately lusted after Chris O'Donnell since the age of ELEVEN, before I really even knew what passion or lust were. Looking back it was extremely inappropriate for someone of that age to have such a reaction to black rubber, but he was still so boyish and wholesome it was somehow okay.


But then you do things like making Meredith have elbowy, pointy sex with McDreamy at the prom and now she has to choose and Burke got shot and Denny is dead and George still has a subpar haircut and you insist upon slapping so much makeup on the beautiful Sara Ramirez that she looks like a tranny hooker and it's just all much to take!

God, I love your show. Don't ever change. Have a great summer!

Your friend,


PS: Please, please make Ellen Pompeo eat a meatball sub. Like, every day. She looks like hell. Seriously, eating disorder cautionary tale.

Monday, May 15, 2006

and fab five freddy guards the pearly gates

Last November I removed some entries from EJ Takes Life because they depicted a member of my extended family in a wholly accurate and therefore wildly unflattering manner. However, since every visitor to Trager's heard me cracking up when my parents called to relay this particular story, I have no qualms about posting it on the Internet. This is particularly so because the family member involved has an email address but a) does not not know how to check it and b) is not entirely sure what it is. If you need more evidence, my little sister already wrote one story from the weekend, and it is so not fair that the brat got contacts before me AND gets to write rude stories about the family without recrimination (love you, Jen!).

Picture it: my father and this family member (TMF for short) are chitchatting about helicopter parents, that annoying and growing group that refuses to allow their precious babies to grow up and make mistakes and therefore hover about, calling a university professor when they feel Johnny's D+ in Calc was ill-deserved or making the PTA into a nightmare of Competitive Childrearing straight out of The Art of War. TMF squints her eyes and asks "But isn't it even worse on the kids when the parents don't love them enough to pay attention? They just abandon them to the elements?"

My father patiently explained that, despite the hand-wringing, the Youth of Today are generally less messed up than the Youth of Yesteryear. Teen pregnancies are down, drug use is down, and with a couple of notable exceptions, American young people are generally upstanding, non-boat-rocking little citizens. God, how boring.

TMF thoughtfully pauses for a minute and then states "Y'know, I've thought about this a whole lot. And I think the reason kids today are behaving is... the Second Coming."


My father, to his enormous credit, didn't crack up laughing or drive into a tree or tear out his hair. He simply took a deep breath and said "TMF... I gotta tell ya, I really don't think kids today are that concerned with the Rapture."

And TMF responds:

"The 'Rapture?' What's that? What the heck are you talking about?"

It's really lucky I wasn't in the state where this conversation took place, as I undoubtedly would have swung out from behind the glass of chardonnay that is always present when this family member visits to bray "It's when Jesus descends from Heaven to tell us that Blondie is the one true God."

Friday, May 12, 2006

snakes in an office

So everyone on this here Interweb has been all a-twitter about Snakes on a Plane, the Samuel L. Jackson movie costarring the fat guy from Goodburger, a whole bunch of highly unrealistic-looking and hostile snakes, and yes, the already oft-quoted "I want these motherfucking snakes of the motherfucking plane!" He's such a badass.

I realize that every other blogger wrote about Snakes on a Plane months ago. They already had their ironic t-shirts and homemade parody trailers, and then they got over it. Where three months ago Snakes on a Plane was the height of semi-ironic hipster glee, now Snakes on a Plane backlash is the new cool thing. Therefore, I acknowledge that I am totally behind the curve and am not nearly so cool as everyone else. This is, of course, nothing new.

I note it here and now because the phrase "Snakes on a Plane" has become something of a staple for me over the last few months. The exact meaning is roughly equivalent to "c'est la vie," or more specifically, David Sedaris' definition of "c'est la vie," which goes something along the lines of "yes, monsieur, life is indeed a bucket of shit, but this is our bucket of shit." It's a lovely little Zen kind of mantra that makes frustrating or obnoxious situations far more tolerable.

"Can't take time off of work to go to Lollapalooza?"

"Snakes on a plane."

"Frighteningly low bank account and a week of nothing but pasta for dinner stretching ahead?"

"Snakes on a plane."

You get the picture.

All this is by way of mentioning that this morning my boss met me an intimidatingly high stack of documents, gratingly boring instructions and an apologetic look. As she sat them on my desk, I sighed "snakes on a plane."

She looked at me with incredible confusion, and I realized that to someone who doesn't spend way too much time on Kotte.org or the Gawker Media Empire, what I'd just said could not have sounded any stranger. I started to stammer out an explanation:

"Um- there's a movie with snakes-- Shaft is there... and--"

The look of confusion on her face was only getting more intense, and was now tinged with worry. I'm sure I sounded as though I was just randomly pulling words out of the air and giving voice to them. With great effort I stopped talking and exhaled.

"Sorry. I haven't had my coffee yet."

She backed out of my office with a look of almost maternal concern, and has been showering me with compliments and praise for even teeny accomplishments all day.

Snakes on a Plane... future B-movie, Zen mantra and winning strategy for professional development.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


I've tried several attempts at making this very braggy post into something cute and writer-ly, but none of them seem to take.

So I'll just be a brat and say that I spent last night drinking (way too much) wine and champagne, slurping oysters and clacking around the Library of Congress with some girlfriends. And for a gal like me, who is equal parts wino and history nerd, there is little that beats reclining in a club chair in the Senate Member's room with a glass of really excellent Pinot Noir as the sunset glances off the Capitol right outside the window.

And the fizz in the champagne is that last week I paid all the rent and the bills for the month, and have only $53.14 to live on until payday next Friday. One minute I'd been Googling area stores to see who has the cheapest house brand kitty litter, the next I'm saying things like "ugh, who would drink Arnold Palmer's wine at this event?"

Although, really... who would drink Arnold Palmer's wine, period?

This is what I love about Washington, and American cities in general-- if you have a decent outfit and know someone who knows someone, you can be a total pauper but still wind up doing something disgustingly decadent out of the blue. God bless special interest groups and their swanky, alcohol-soaked affairs.

Of course, life is not all coffee-encrusted lamb chops served by tuxedoed waiters (surprisingly tasty) (the lamb chops). Tonight, I'm going to run three miles and then eat me some chicken noodle soup. Living the dream, people. Living the dream.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


I'm running the Susan G. Komen National Race for the Cure on June 3 and am asking for your donations! Please click here to donate to Team Boobilicious, also featuring the delectable Libs and Kimmy, as we bravely don our pink t-shirts and run 5K for a cure to this terrible disease.

Remember, boobs need good support!

Monday, May 08, 2006

thank you for being a friend

It's midnight and I've been in heels, a sundress and pearls since 3:30. Damn Derby and its fashion requirements. My toes hurt, but I'm having a good time. For some reason everyone was born this weekend twenty-something years ago and I've been celebrating one thing or another since leaving work on Friday. Now I'm at Cap Lounge for the birthday of my old roommate J, a guy I love dearly even though he and I have nearly strangled one another at times. He's one of the few people I really have ever fought with, and while it scared the bejesus out of me, I think we're better friends for having gone through it.

I twirl the the straw in my gimlet as K fills me in on wedding plans. I know she's worried about being That Girl Who Only Talks About Her Wedding, but I secretly enjoy hearing about it. I don't know about that whole "marriage" thing, but am a big fan of parties with pretty dresses and bands and open bars.

J lurches over to us. He's damn fun normally, but is even more entertaining when drunk, all grabby and affectionate and foul-mouthed. He's spent a significant portion of the night trying to go up V's skirt. It's a lot more charming than it sounds, I promise.

"Emmmmmmmmmmm," he slurs. "Emaleeeeeeeeee. I looooove your blooooog. I reads it all the tiiiiime and when you don't update I get all saaaaaaad."

When J gets like this it's best to hug him and play along. "But I can't update anymore!" I tell him. I have to shout to be heard over the Arctic Monkeys blaring from the speaker and the jackass in the Nats trucker cap currently slinging his arms around K and B. "J, I can't update because everyone in my life reads the damn thing. I can't write about my friends because they all read it. I can't write about college because I work at my alma mater. I can't write about politics because if I ever go back into political work or journalism then there's a public record of my uncensored opinions."

I've gotten started and I can't stop. Cap Lounge basement after thirty consecutive hours of drinking is not the time or place to be voicing these thoughts, but I suddenly can't stop.

"I can't write about my family because they've asked me not to. I can't write about the people I hook up with because I'm looking for something real and when I find it and the guy finds out then he'll read about them. I can't write about work because I'm not stupid. I can't write about my mistakes because I don't want to dwell on them and I can't write about my successes because I don't want to brag. I think about what to write here all the time but when I sit down to type, nothing comes out because I. Can't. Write.

"I want to write something substantial. I hate the idea of being just another yuppie girl blogger writing about her cocktails and boys and bitching about her boss and whining about how confusing life is when you're trying to be a grownup. But I can't write about anything that matters because the consequences are too big. I can't back it up and I'm bored and I'm scared."

J cocks his head to the side in a gesture that would seem thoughtful from someone a little more sober. He puts his hand up to his chin as if to ponder, but misses the first time and hits his ear. Then he leans in and rests his chin on my shoulder so that he's speaking directly into my left ear.

"Awwwwww, EM!" he yells. I jump back, spilling my gimlet on the bar. He sets a paw-like hand on my shoulder and breaks out into a huge grin. "You can always write about me!"

And so I will. Happy Birthday to a dear friend.

And that'll do for now.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

what i've been doing besides not blogging

* Discovering the music of the next Jason Robert Brown: www.pasekandpaul.com. These are the kind of kids who make you so ashamed you haven't done anything with your life, since they're still in college and have hot Broadway actors scrambling to perform their songs, but the songs are so good it doesn't matter. I especially recommend "I've Gotta Run," which is clearly the new "Stars and the Moon" of the group.

(I bet that three people at most have a clue what I was just talking about, and at least one of then was Jen. Shall I bust out a reference to tick, tick... BOOM! and call it a day? Well, EJ can't decide. Zing!)

* Registering for class. Yup, I'm going back to school. For real this time. Well, sort of for real. It's kind of messy. Let's just say I'll be in class in three weeks. And that, if all goes according to plan, I'll be a third of the way done with my masters in history by the time I actually become a candidate for the degree. In the meanwhile, should you have questions about post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa in the Atlantic context, I can hook you up.

* My yen for lefty protests pretty much died when I left the People's Republic of Ann Arbor for college, but I'm pretty sure that attending a rally to save Darfur wearing my "Give me your thirsty, your drunk, your befuddled masses" kickball t-shirt was the nail in the coffin containing my youthful idealism.

* Going back to school means finishing up fun reading for a while, so there's been a lot of that:

* Realizing with great horror that Rachael Ray and I have the exact same haircut. Since I despise Rachael Ray and actively wish her pain, this is completely unacceptable. Look, if you're going to call it "EVOO" instead of "Extra-Virgin Olive Oil" and then every time you use it say "And now time for some Extra-Virgin Olive Oil, or 'EVOO' for short!" THEN IT'S NOT REALLY SHORTER TO SAY "EVOO," IS IT, YOU ROTTEN WHORE?


My hatred for Rachael Ray really deserves its own post. For now, suffice it to say that I cannot, will not, share her slightly overgrown bangs and shoulder-length layers.

Monday, May 01, 2006


I've been a little mopey about some stuff lately-- family stuff, money stuff, friend stuff. Nothing disastrous, but lots of nagging itchies that just won't go away.

And then when I checked my Facebook updates, I saw that my friend Aaron had a new blog. Oh, and that apparently he's in Togo. With the Peace Corps.

And reading his stories somehow made the itchies stop itching:


Back to work. Happy Monday, kids.