Archive for January, 2008

Lowbrow Goes Highbrow and Flutters My Heart Now

January 31, 2008

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There is a piece in last week’s New Yorker about artist John Currin. His work “Heartless” is above and believe me it was no small feat finding a Currin painting that wouldn’t crash all of your work computers with its sheer NSFWiness. He is known for his oil paintings (again, link NSFW) that appear to have been rendered by the hand of an Old Master who has been spending too much time hopped up on X. It’s pornography, brought to the canvas by an aspiring Caravaggio. But that’s not what caught my attention. Instead it was this sentence from writer Calvin Tomkins, describing the relationship between Currin and his wife, artist Rachel Feinstein: 

Their marriage, which is now in its tenth year, has been a dovetailing of contrary qualities whose symbiosis fascinates and accasionally irritates their less ecstatically married friends.

It’s a puffy sentence, to be sure. But I reread it several times, enjoying its sentiment more with each pass. I even took the unusually bold step of reading it aloud to my fiancé in the middle of the Texas-Texas A&M game last night. I don’t know if it was because it struck close to home, or because the Aggies were up by 16 at that point, but his smile made my night.

Why the Bridal Industry Hates Us Special Edition

January 30, 2008

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Perhaps there is no better evidence that the industrial bridal complex thinks women are stupid than the bridal expos they roll through towns like cheap white satin bunting-bedecked Barnum & Bailey circus caravans. When a postcard arrived recently in the mail touting “The Great Bridal Expo” at the Renaissance Hotel, I reflexively turned to Frisbee it into the trash when I noticed that it had a code on it for two free passes. “Oh,” I thought, “well then of course I’ll go make fun of it.” A quick text message indicated that yes, of course she wanted to come make fun of it with me. Ever the Prompt Petunia, she was already halfway through a Starbucks non-fat latte by the time I arrived in the hotel lobby. Her eyes were the size of silver-dollar pancakes, so giddy she was to find herself in the middle of a flashmob of pink cotton candy bridal show insanity—cannon fodder for a cynical style writer’s soul. Steeling ourselves, we made our way toward the pulsing music of the ballroom.

Inside was a nightmare of Boschian proportions. Most of the room was devoted to a fashion show featuring gowns from a retailer to the bridal masses. Models bearing plastic bouquets and plastic grins to match strutted down the aisle, showing off gowns (many in solid colors not found in nature) that one could detect from even 30 yards away were highly flammable. Escorts in tuxes with matching accent colors joined them, twirling their “brides” in the cheesiest of choreography that included setting their chins onto their fists and checking invisible watches.

Horrified, we headed to the vendor tables and began nodding politely at salespeople hawking freeze-dried bridal bouquet services, cheap cookware, wedding photography that styled the bride and groom as princesses and princes, lingerie that made Frederick’s of Hollywood look like Coup de Foudre, and reception halls that appeared to have last been renovated just prior to the Steinberger Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo bar mitzvah. The lone vendor proffering food samples handed us petit four-sized bites of cake with the flavor and consistency of buttered chalk dust.

All this is not to say that I viewed with condescension those coming to the event with the intent of actually make some wedding arrangements. Rather I was left with overwhelming derision for the industry that seems to feel no inclination to provide quality, stylish goods for brides of moderate means. As I moved through the booths I silently thanked my lucky stars that my parents gave me a budget that will allow me to throw a tasteful wedding. Because while money by no means guarantees taste, it is increasingly evident to me that without money, one would be hard-pressed to make tasteful arrangements if they were turning to the mass-market bridal industry. There is no effort to follow in the footsteps of a retailer such as Target, which now devotes itself to offering quality fashion at lower price points.

Having had enough, we left the expo as an MC began another round of carnival barking into her microphone, speaking to the assembled women as if they were addled teenagers whom she couldn’t wait to pry free from their allowance money. They were not though. They were women who wanted to have elegant and enjoyable ceremonies and receptions, and dress in a way that makes them feel they are at the top of their game. Here’s hoping at some point the industry will start listening to them instead of shouting at them with cheap come-ons.

Suppose Their Vows Included “Shake ‘n Bake, Baby!”?

January 28, 2008

In the past year, most of you probably attended a wedding or two. Maybe you sashayed to Sinatra in the ballroom of The Willard, or stood under an arbor in horse country to celebrate someone’s blessed event. What I can guarantee you did not partake of was the Long Island spectaculosity that reader/fellow blogger Barzelay witnessed. Let’s listen in, shall we?

The preacher welcomed the bride into the reception area with the classic, classy opener, “Drivers, start your engines.” Then the wedding party waved checkered flags as she came out into the hall. Cue “vroom vroom” engine noises over the P.A. Then it’s time for the groom to come out, but–wait! What’s this? That’s not the groom. It’s… it’s… NASCAR driver Tony Stewart!!! Oh wait, it’s not Tony Stewart, it’s just the groom wearing a Tony Stewart helmet and uniform. But he comes out and removes the bride’s garter and all that without removing the helmet. It’s a fantasy of hers, I guess?

Other hilarious things included the centerpieces, which were all collectible NASCAR license plates. But since those aren’t fancy enough for a wedding on their own, the license plates were wrapped in frilly white lace. It really gave them a touch of class. In addition to the typical wedding DJ, there was this odd Jack White look-alike who stood up behind a drum set of bongos and tom-toms and banged along with the beat of whatever music the DJ was playing. He could not possibly have looked less enthusiastic to be there, but he just sat back there, banging the drums like a good little musician. And finally, the wedding chapel in which the whole thing was held was so 70’s. All the hallways, parts of the main hall, and even parts of the ceiling were covered in floor-to-ceiling mirrors. And to top off the look, they had an awesome disco-ball-style mirrored lynx statuette!

It was an amazing, horrifying experience.

One that someone had the good sense to record for posterity’s sake. And remember, if you want to be part of the magic, send your IMNSYIASTAaW entries to bridalbird (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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“Honey, did you find our dignity under there by any chance?”

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“That chump wedding party doing “Thriller” has nothing on our “Radar Love” polonaise.”

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I can’t decide what’s more horrifying in this picture—the centerpiece or the orange slice and maraschino cherry embellishment on the prosciutto-wrapped melon .

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“Fell in love with a girl, I fell in love once and almost comple—hey, is that Tony Stewart?”

FedEx/Kinko’s Coming to Adams Morgan

January 25, 2008

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The “Coming Soon” sign went up within the past 24 hours on the curved building that sits at the intersection of 18th, Columbia and Adams Mill. That building, incidentally, is about 100 steps from my front door. For a second I thought, “Kinko’s? ENNNNCHHH.” I’d been hoping for something cool or quaint and Kinko’s—although stocked with a wealth of lovely balloon- or puppy-bordered printer paper and only slightly ridiculously overpriced office supplies—counts as neither.

Then I remembered that I’m getting married this year and that in the next few months I’ll have to mail out 120 save-the-date cards, 120 invitations, and get a garbage load of useless paper favor cards, menus, and such printed. So really at least for the next 10 months I’m thinking, “Kinko’s? Hells yeah! Bring on the complete corporate whoring of one of D.C.’s last largely indie-ruled neighborhoods!”

*Travel tip: If you’ve never payed attention while walking past that building, stop at the center set of front doors and look up the stairwell. There’s a beautiful big stained glass window at the top of the stairs dividing the commercial spaces. Be sure to peek at it now, as I’m assuming that window will be demolished when the Banana Republic or California Tortilla makes its inevitable arrival.

Awwww…The Feds Got Us an Engagment Present!

January 24, 2008

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And I thought they’d be miffed because they didn’t make the tight guest list. Silly me. We’ll be using that puppy for airfare to Ireland. Thanks Unkie Legislators!

I’m not going to think about how clearly the poor got screwed for this, or the fact that we’re spending $10 billion a month on the war means we certainly can’t afford it. [Update: Or as my fiancé said: “Or the fact that the checks will arrive shortly before a presidential election and they’re trying to buy our vote.”] Whatevs! In fact, I’m going to use the first $20 of it to buy a tasty Guinness while I’m over there and I’ll drink the doubt away!
[Cue the economic policy wonks rushing to the comments to point out why this money has nothing to do with either of those things…3, 2, 1, now. They’re so adorable when they get their bowties all in a bunch.]

Pompous Hearts Insufferable Monday: Allow Ourselves to Introduce, um, Ourselves

January 21, 2008

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It is with great amusement that my fiancé and I have agreed to profile ourselves for a forthcoming WaPo Express engagement item in the paper’s “By Invitation Only” section. We did not seek fame, but rather, fame sought us. As is our way, when it came calling, we shrugged and said, “Yeah, sure, no problem.”

But after filling out the paper’s extensive questionnaire and then realizing that it was going to get hacked down to about three column inches, I pondered what to do with the raw material. So in a fit of emotional generosity, I figured I’d break from my typical m.o. of ensuring that this blog reveals as little as possible about all but the most superficial aspects of our relationship and actually share some meat. Feel free to coo appreciatively or eyeroll and gag as you see fit.

A quick explanation of how this was constructed: I filled in my answers, then forwarded it to him in an email and he added his, which we then sent on to the Post. I’ve only just added the editor’s notes for your benefit. Enjoy.

1. Where/how did you meet?
Bird: He was a crime reporter at [REDACTED] down in South Florida when I started there as an education reporter. Technically, I was going to be working in a bureau, but the first few weeks they had me filling in in the main office, sitting right by him.

2. What were your first impressions of one another?
Bird: He was aloof — one of the few guys who didn’t come up within the first day or so to introduce himself to me. So of course I was instantly attracted to him.
Fiancé: I didn’t want to look too anxious, so I let the young guys in the room make a run at her. I joke that I was like an old lion on a mountain, waiting for all small lions to try to impress her. When the time was right, I’d just stroll down the mountain and take over. There’s a joke about this, involving bulls, but I can’t remember the punch line.
[Editor’s note: Seriously. This is the way he thinks. I’m not kidding.]

3. What was your first date?
Bird: Well we just sort of hung out together at work. I would invent excuses to have to come up to the office at night when he was working the night cops desk in Metro. But I guess technically it’s the night he asked me to go to a bar near the paper to get a drink. Which is weird, because he doesn’t drink.
Fiancé: We went to an outdoor Neil Young concert with our gang, and we just kind of made googly eyes at each other.
[Editor’s note: Clearly I have a lower threshold for “date.”]

4. How did he or she propose?
Bird: I woke up one Saturday and was surprised that he was already wide awake. I even teased him about being giddy because it was the start of the Texas A&M (his alma mater) football season that day. He suggested we go get some breakfast down on 18th Street. We started walking down there and he said he wanted to run into Starbucks and get a New York Times. Then he asked me if I would grab a copy of his paper out of the box out front while he got the Times inside. I said sure and started walking toward the box. Then I saw it: he’d had the production guys at his paper make a special front page that said in huge font, “Bird, Will You Marry Me?” and it had a big photo of him holding the ring, complete with an article about us getting engaged. I spun around and he was down on the sidewalk on one knee, right at the corner of 18th and Columbia, holding the ring. (He’d pulled it off by the way, by having two good friends of ours come out a few minutes before we left the house and slip the special front page into the box window, then guard it with their lives to keep anyone from taking it out.)
Fiancé: My co-conspirators were more nervous than I was, worrying about screwing up. They didn’t sleep at all. But I figured if it didn’t go down, we could just do it the next week.

5. What one piece of clothing of your partner’s would you like to see mysteriously disappear?
Bird: His favorite grey pants that he has literally worn a hole into and refuses to toss.
Fiancé: I like everything that she wears.
[Editor’s note: Now I feel sorta guilty.]

6. What’s your song? Why?
Bird: Willie Nelson’s “I’ve Loved You All Over the World.” He’s from Texas, so we’ve always listened to his stuff together. But he also calls me his sunshine, and that’s a line in the song, along with one about “until death do us part.”
Fiancé: “I’ve loved you all over the world; you are my sunshine, You keep my life in a whirl, and you love me sometimes.”

7. What’s the stupidest fight you’ve ever had?
Bird: We got into a fight about whether or not it was ridiculous that a former co-worker didn’t know who Truman Capote was. (I said yes; he defended the guy.)
Fiancé: I don’t even remember that.
[Editor’s note: His inability to recall the substance of fights within 30 seconds of them concluding is often fodder for future fights. And not to start this particular one up again, but seriously, what 27-year-old journalist hasn’t at least heard of In Cold Blood?]

8. Do you have cutesy names for one another? What are they?
Bird: This is so embarrassing. He calls me Sunshine, Busy Bee, Sweet Pea and Tiny. (The benefit of dating a guy who’s 6’1” is that “Tiny” works even when you’re 5’8”.) I don’t really have any names for him I guess.
Fiancé: This is a family paper, right?
[Editor’s note: For the three of you who didn’t need to run to the loo after reading my answer, allow me to say that I really don’t call him anything untoward. That I can remember…]

9. When did you know you wanted to marry your partner?
Bird: We were out having a really fun dinner together one night and he was telling me a story about a football player (I forget who) who had written on a piece of paper that he wanted to win a national championship and put it in his wallet, at his coach’s urging. At the end of the season, after the team won the championship he approached his coach and showed him the paper. Something sort of clicked with me as he was telling that story. That night, half-jokingly, I wrote “I want to marry this man,” and put it in my wallet. It was in there for a few years, even before I knew that I was ready to actually go through with the whole wedding process. I didn’t tell him about it until the morning we got engaged.
Fiancé: I knew early on that she was just a special person and I just wanted to spend my life her, whether that involved marriage or not. But it probably became real when she moved up to D.C. We were doing the long-distance thing for a couple months, and were going nuts, so I just dropped my job in South Florida and moved here without a plan. It was probably a little irrational, but it was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.

10. What music will you walk down the aisle to?
Bird: I wanted to walk down the aisle to Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14” but it turns out we’re required to use music composed for the Church. So I’m not sure yet.

11. Where are you going on your honeymoon?
Bird: Ireland, for 10 days.

12. How will your ceremony reflect your heritage?
Bird: With a Catholic wedding it’s really more about honoring the traditions of the religion; there’s not a lot of wiggle room. But I plan to carry my late grandmother’s rosary down the aisle.
Fiancé: Irish and Texas roots. Hopefully, there will be a lot of drinking?
[Editor’s note: I go churchy, he goes drinky. Awesome.]

13. What are you most afraid will go wrong on the Big Day?
Bird: Bad hair.
Fiancé: That I’ll cry.

14. What would you have changed if you had unlimited funds?
Bird: I’d fly Willie Nelson in to actually sing our song in person.
Fiancé: Her folks are already spending plenty.

15. Any weird family traditions?
Bird: Certainly not that anyone will see that day.
[Editor’s note: I’m going to hope that his silence on this one constitutes agreement.]

16. What will make your celebration unique?
Bird: I’m going to try to incorporate our reporting backgrounds in little ways: antique typewriter font on the invites and on the cards with the favors. And the Hay-Adams has a great bar downstairs called “Off the Record,” where we’ll party afterward, so we couldn’t really escape our journalism connection if we wanted to.
Fiancé: Me and Bird.
[Editor’s note: It’s thinking like that that’s the reason we’re getting married.]

A Bird in the Hand (in October) is Worth Two in the Bush (in May)

January 18, 2008

Like it or not, we brides with impending nuptials tend to stick together. The Class of 2008 as it were. We suss each other out on blogs or eye each other skeptically while flouncing through high-end bridal ateliers, but in the end we share a knowing, internal “we’re getting marrrrrried!” squeal—no matter how contrary to our normal personalities that might be—that bonds like Elmer’s. (My dog’s veterinarian and I practically sorority sister hugged when we realized we both had new engagement rings a few months ago.) What we the aforementioned members of the bridal Class of 2008 did not sign on for, though, was welcoming a Bush twin into our elite fraternity. If there’s one thing we’re on guard for it’s some chippy sucking the air out of our ballroom.

My opinions about her father notwithstanding, I have no substantive beef with this girl, setting aside:

*Her penchant for throwing up boneheaded Austin-area gang signs

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* Her inability to stand upright

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* Her pesky bad luck with vampires ruining every good party

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* And her disdain for my brothers and sisters in the press corps.

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Oh and frankly all signs point to this being the ne plus ultra of “Pompous Hearts Insufferable Monday” wedding announcements.

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But now any twinge of Jenna wedding-focused angst I might have had is in the past, because the White House announced this week that she’ll be marrying on May 10, months before my own nuptials, and she’s doing it at Rancho Fake-o in Crawford, Texas, not here in D.C. So I need not fear that she’s going to yoink my reception spot or that her jazz combo will blare from the White House lawn and drown out my carefully selected tunes tinkling from the rooftop terrace of the HayAd.

However, upon reading the Reliable Source announcement about the date yesterday morning, I did choke on my Golden Grahams and wonder, “How in the f*** is she going to plan a wedding in five months? It takes eight months just to get a gown made.” And then I remembered, “Oh, right. She’s got a few connections.” Then it occurred to me that there will likely be more planning by the White House for this wedding than there was for the post-invasion period in Iraq. Zing!

So congratulations Jenna. Try not to fall over at the altar.

Will Return Momentarily

January 17, 2008

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It’s not been the best 36 hours, functionally speaking. Patience please. Merci.

Got 99 Problems But…

January 15, 2008

Things I determined yesterday:

* I do not like Rock Creek Rambler very much, due to his penchant for delivering gleeful facty bitch-slappings.

* If, before leaving my office, I throw on my gym clothes and put my hair into treadmill-ready funbuns, it is the law that I will run into her.
And she will look like this (adjusted for work/weather appropriateness):

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And I will look like this (adjusted for three-dimensional appropriateness):
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However, if the run-in occurs on K Street, she will hopefully be too busy, er, windowshopping, to notice what an affront I am to every sartorial philosophy that she holds dear. 

* Getting back to my house after a long day only to discover that the valet still had my keys because I dropped the car off in the morning and my fiancé was picking it up is awesome and doesn’t at all make me want to yell expletives and hurl myself at the locked door like a cranky Honk Kong Phooey.

* Cracking open my new Dazed and Confused—Criterion Collection for the first time knowing that in fewer than 90 minutes I will hear Wooderson say, “If it ain’t that piece of paper it’s some other choice they’re going to try to make for you…cuz let me tell you this: Older you do get the more rules they’re going to try to get you to follow. You just gotta’ keep livin’ man. L-i-v-i-n,” is just the thing to soothe my jangled nerves. But even better is that in my excessively sleepy state, this was the last scene I remember seeing before drifting off:

And as I’ve otherwise gone absolutely nowhere with this post, let’s try to salvage it with a thought to carry us through the day, courtesy of last night’s cinematic feature:

Cynthia: If we are all gonna die anyway shouldn’t we be enjoying ourselves now? You know, I’d like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor insignificant preamble to something else.

Oh, You Don’t Want Us to Use Contraceptives? I Missed That the First 128 Times.

January 14, 2008

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A Saturday morning spent shifting uncomfortably on metal folding chairs in the basement of a church while mentally molesting a box of rapidly staling Krispy Kremes must mean Week 1 of the five-week pre-Cana extravaganza was upon us! A retrospective, in highlights:

* Our course leader (who, inexplicably, is unmarried) loves Jesus and the Catholic Church like some people love the Yankees and Nip/Tuck. But as the two hours wear on she seems to grow increasingly dejected that the 16 of us in her class don’t share her memorized love for the catechism. Actual utterance: “OK, who knows about St. Catherine of Siena?” (crickets chirping) “Oh my gosh you guys, she’s like my favorite saint of all time!” The overall effect though is that she’s actually sort of endearing.

* Despite the discussion of mental fidelity to one’s spouse, I find my mind wandering to another man as the instructor talks. Specifically, to this one. Why? Because I can’t help inwardly cracking up over how he would be as giddy as a little schoolboy if he had the chance to be a fly on the wall for all this Catholic tomfoolery.

* Despite the claim at the outset that the point of pre-Cana is to help couples learn more about each other and their faith, it becomes perfectly clear within about 20 minutes that the point of pre-Cana is to convince couples that if they so much as walk by the condom aisle at CVS they’re going to burn in Hell and their relationship is doomed. Seriously, we were each given a folder stuffed with pamphlets and 90 percent of them were about Natural Family Planning (or as I like to call it, “actively throwing decades of scientific progress and women’s lib to the wind”) and how its reliance on timing sex to phases of the woman’s cycle is the only acceptable method of birth control. Otherwise, you’d be capriciously failing to pop out future donorsblessed miracles for the Catholic Church. And of course my packet of information held way more stern pamphlets on this than my fiancé’s on this topic, because after all, the Church would like to point out, it wasn’t Adam chowing on the forbidden fruit. (I am convinced that if the Pope himself were handing us the packets he would have raised one eyebrow and added “Just sayin'” as he handed me my “My Little Contraceptive-Lovin’ Seductress” packet.) This Natural Family Planning business will of course warrant extensive future posting, especially once I watch the DVD that I was given in my packet, Contraception: Why Not?

* There is one extra goodie in my fiancé’s packet. It’s a brochure titled “Man to Man” and it’s about how if you’re for some ungodly reason trying not to have children, abstinence when your wife is in fertile turtle mode is totally awesome and the only way to avoid burning in the aforementioned Hell. It includes the line, “Some men find that abstinence breaks up the anxiety of feeling pressured to have sex ‘on demand.'” Yes, I know scads of married men who are desperately trying to find ways to graciously bow out of all that sex with their wives.

* All the other couples seem as nervous as we were. But the too-wide smiles of the women and the too-firm handshakes of the men quickly give way to “Are you shitting me?” eyerolls and snickering into hands when we think our instructor isn’t looking. And by the second hour it’s clear that the women are all busy trying to slyly check out each other’s engagement rings and the guys are engaged in a silent but heated round of “Whose fiancée is hotter?” By Week 5 I’m assuming we’ll be blatantly exchanging vendor recommendations while the instructor is chirping away up front about how Satan is using our ovaries as a battleground. Onward Christian soldiers…

[Editor’s note: The picture above is one of my favorite saints of all time. Bonus points if you can name her and say why she’s up there. And double bonus points if you can beat commenter Etcetera to the punch on this one.]