Random Reader Rant and/or Revel

Photo by PoPville flickr user JRoseC

You can talk about whatever is on your mind – quality of life issues, a beautiful tree you spotted, scuttlebutt, or any random questions/thoughts you may have. But please no personal attacks and no need to correct people’s grammar. This is a place to vent and/or rejoice about daily life in DC.

152 Comment

  • Bieber fever???!! What gives?! Guess I’m not in the teeny-bopper bracket.

  • rave: life is really freaking good right now.

    rant: trying to shake this anxiety that it will all come to an end.

    • Give yourself permission to live in the moment and thoroughly enjoy it!!

      • claire

        +1 to this! As someone who often has trouble living in the moment, I find it helps to realize that even when/if whatever is really good right now later ends, you’ll have lots of great memories and lingering good feelings, so it’s worth it to make sure you’re enjoying it now!

  • I had the thought several weeks ago that this RRR&R daily feature has fostered an evolution in PoP from a simple blog into more of a social network. Paying attention to the type of comments as well as specific content, I do feel the suspicion has borne out most particularly in the growing demand for people to adopt monikers rather post anonymously. This is just an observation without any comment on merit of the evolution – just “whatever is on [my] mind”.

    • I like your observation. I have actually been coming to the site and posting regularly for years but seldom use the same monicker. I like seeing the repeat posts of familiar names so maybe I will keep on with TG, provided I don’t say something too controversial. In that latter instance I will revert to one of my aliases for my anonymous monicker.

    • I agree – citizens of PoPville providing support, encouragement, advice…sometimes this is indeed the beautiful life.

  • Rant: I’m convinced that between 35% to 55% of drivers in the DMV should have their licenses revoked until they take another written exam and road test.

    Rant #2: There was a woman biking on Rock Creek Parkway near the Kennedy Center on Wednesday. The road is narrow enough as is! Total madness/insanity/death wish! Nearly caused two accidents!

    • That’s just stupid, there’s a bike/running path right next to that stretch.

      • PDleftMtP

        Happens more than you’d think on the parkway and Beach Drive.

        I had someone pass me on the right while I was in the curb lane signalling a right turn again this morning (waiting for pedestrians to clear, so I was watching them) – it happens once or twice a month. I was close enough to the curb that there was barely enough room to get by, but the guy just zipped on through. Look people, I don’t want to kill you, but if you do stupid crap like that it’s going to happen.

      • That part of the path is in really bad shape, really rough on my road bike.. Actually lots of the Rock Creek path further north are no fun on a road bike with all the roots pushing up the path. If I wasn’t too chicken I’d hit the road there too. I do use the road on some stretches closer to Beach Drive.. and can easily go the speed limit. But most cars are going well over the limit, so I usually only do it for short stretches when traffic is really light. Respect has to start somewhere CoHeights Resident.. why not be the bigger person?

    • Reminds me of a rant from a couple days ago… I was driving through a residential area, right alongside a park, so I was going on the slow side. Some maniac cab driver (it’s always a cab driver) behind me starts laying on the horn, so I pull over to let him speed on by. Despite the extreme hurry he seemed to be in, he had time to pull up alongside me and calmly ask: “What are you doing? Do you have a license?” It really took me by surprise. Did he??

  • Rave: Working from home today!

    Rant: Nothing right now.

  • rant: I said something really stupid to a friend who told me she was starting fertility treatments. it wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty dumb. she was understanding and I think I explained myself well enough, but I still feel like a blathering idiot.

    • If she’s a good friend, she’ll understand that you didn’t mean all of it and that you’re sorry. She’s probably getting a lot of crazy from all directions right now. Just be supportive throughout the process and all will be well. 🙂

      • thanks. 🙂 we’re not very close, though it’d be nice if we were to become better friends. I’m just excited for her and really hope it happens for her soon!!!

    • I was JUST worrying about this today. I have a good friend who is going through this. Any insight from anyone here on how to be supportive and caring and helpful without making mistakes/causing undue stress/or getting ahead of the situation (i.e. asking about baby names when they’re not even sure if the pregnancy will last)? What are some good things to do for my friend to support her?

      • It sounds like you’re already a sensitive person so I think just being there and caring will mean a lot to her. Maybe just don’t ask too many specific questions and stick to things like “how are you feeling” and “let me know if you need anything”. She’ll open up about specifics when she’s ready.

        Maybe you can take her out to do some fun activities to get her mind off things. Movies, lunch, jazz in the park, etc. Or if she’s trying to take it easy, you could buy her a great novel you just read (stay away from the baby books!) or bring a movie over to watch with her. I think getting her mind off things before they feel more optimistic about the pregnancy would be helpful.

        • Thank you! It’s hard to keep it non-specific because it feels so rehearsed but, as you say, she’ll open up when she needs to.
          Thanks for the advice – I really appreciate it! It’s hard to be happy and reserved at the same time – totally stoked for them and also very nervous for them. I cannot imagine what they’re going through!

          • I see your point. Sometimes I feel like if I’m too general, then my friend will think I’m not interested or feel weird talking about it. Maybe there are some safe questions? Something like, when is your next checkup or how is your husband/partner faring? Or, or, shoot, I can’t even think of anything else…

    • i feel you. i say stupid things to people all the time. then replay that stupid thing in my mind and feel bad about it.
      it’s easier to forgive others than it is ourselves.

  • RAVE: Looks like great weather for the Nationals/Yankees game tonight!

  • Rant: Preparing myself for an enormous emotional swing in the next few days. This is either going to change my life or become another event in a series of failures and letdowns that has defined my time in DC.

    Rave: FSU in the CWS, first game tonight.

    • I hope you weather it well, no matter what it is. I just found out that I didn’t get a job that I really needed/wanted to move closer to my family and do work that I am more than qualified to do; thought the interview went well, too, so was a complete blow when I didn’t get it. Feel ya and hope it all works out!

    • Go Noles, my friend! And hang in there!

    • I’m seriously rooting for you to get that international development job Ew!

  • Rave: Happy Friday! I have a new bike! Well, it’s a fixer-upper but she’s mine. My friend generously gave it to me requesting that I make a donation to charity instead of paying her anything for it. Any *local charities people recommend? Thanks!
    Rave: This weather and biking around in it all weekend. Happy Friday! 🙂

    • Yay for a new bike. When you fix it just don’t make it too nice so that potential theives don’t pick it out of the crowd. I kept my torn seat.

      If you want to donate I always recommend Miriam’s Kitchen, they treat their clients to nutritous healthy meals, provide social services and are part of the initiative to end homelessness in DC. Also voted one of the best places to volunteer and to work!

    • Washington Humane Society, 100% 🙂

    • N Street Village is awesome. When I lived in Logan Circle I volunteered there weekly.
      Or you could donate to my husband’s volunteer org: Food For All DC (foodforalldc.org). They really need money now due to funding cutbacks and high demand for services.

  • Rant: Working in a bar has put Foster the People, MGMT, and Edward Sharpe on a continuous loop inside my head. If I hear Pumped Up Kicks, Kids, or Home tonight, I’m going to lose it.

    • Ha ha. My wife and I were debating the merits of the music that is popular and getting radio play right now on supposed rock stations – really only DC101. We generally like it but it all does sound the same. Which is better than five years ago when it all still sounded the same but we did not like it.

      • That’s a decent way to look at it. It just amazes me how Pandora will push some of these songs and artists. I think the kitchen had the Prince station on last night and it still played Pumped up Kicks!

  • Rant/Rave: The duality of man. My neighbor who is pretty careless and brazen with his dog’s poop, is also so conscientious about keeping his dog inside (it is a big bruiser of a dog) when I have my small kids outside.

  • Rave: Casino fun.
    Rant: Got no sleep.
    Rave: On vacation so it doesn’t matter.
    Rant: Speed camera ticket on a zipcar I was driving last month. :(:(:(:(

  • claire

    Rave: Friday!
    Rave: Amazing weather.
    Rave: Set a new record for the most daily visitors to my blog yesterday!
    Rave: Getting out of an emotional funk I’ve been in for the past couple months, and it feels good!

    Rant: Haven’t felt much like cooking lately, and I just know I’m going to get tempted into going out to eat again tonight, especially if there’s outdoor seating involved.
    Rave: Know about some great cheap places to eat and have a steady job that gives me enough $$ to eat out in DC.

    • Claire,
      Any suggestions for a good kabob marinade/recipe? I’m thinking I’m grilling kabobs this weekend for a dinner party.

      • Mmmm, yes, I’d like to know the answer too. Yes, please!

      • I’m normally all for making things from scratch, but Trader Joe’s Soyaki sauce is the best marinade ever, and it gets delightfully caramelized on the grill.

      • claire

        Yum, kabobs! Can’t say I have a go-to kabob recipe, although my usual rule of thumb for marinades is some combination of savory (soy sauce or worcestershire sauce), sweet (honey or brown sugar), tart (vinegar or lemon), and a ton of garlic and spices. Can I recommend using foodblogsearch.com if you want to look for a recipe? Much better recipe results than searching google, in my opinion.

    • And Claire, I really love your blog (which is high praise because I read a lot of food blogs). Your cooking style and food preferences are very similar to mine, but you have a lot of unique ideas that I’ve never thought of or come across. I’m about to add it to my RSS feed so I can get the updates more regularly. 🙂

  • Rave: Excited for the Baltimore 10 miler tomorrow! Hoping my one, constant blister doesn’t bother me during the run.

  • Rant: Got an update from an organization I interviewed with last week. It sounds like they are changing the job description after being bombarded with candidates. Great.

  • Rant: I just started biking to work this week again after a long time off. I swore I wouldn’t get upset at people esp. now that I’m a mom, but I’ve already yelled f-you at a pedestrian (walked into the street front of me at the last sec without looking, and yelled “get off your f-ing bike” at me) and yesterday I called a woman an a-hole when she tried to pass me on the right when I was maybe 12 inches from the curb; I was barely moving, coming up to a stop sign where cars were very close to the curb, and almost fell over. I need temper control, I’m just worried one day I’ll curse at someone and they’ll punch me. I’m not normally like this, but something about being on my bike makes me super defensive!

    • Yikes. I hope I don’t piss you off riding my new bike around the neighborhood. 🙂

    • It’s just a matter of time before you get what’s coming to you by cursing at people. Probably not a good idea to incite your fellow commuters.

      • really? which is worse… hitting a cyclist or yelling at somebody? I wouldn’t say it would be “get what’s coming to you”, but I would say that it can be like playing with fire because there are crazy violent aggressive people that drive in this city. if I messed up and somebody yelled at me I might get upset, but I couldn’t really fault them.

        • if you live with expressing your anger like petworth res, then yes, violence is going to come back at you. something “coming ” at you is not to say violence is ever deserved, but it’s still coming.

          petworth res’s anger management issues are a bit scary to me.


      • So what exactly would be “coming to her”? A smackdown? She acknowledges that her temper is bad and wants to rectify it, yet you feel the need to deliver this nasty little bit. I wonder what you have “coming to you” for such unnecessary snark.

        • Get off your high horse. If you don’t believe that yelling at people is asking for trouble, then you’re seriously out of touch. What’s the sense in cursing at people when you know that in most cases you’ve immediately escalated a situation.

          • Just judging you by your own criteria.

          • k, well you’re either superhuman or you’ve never come within an inch of death. I totally understand when people are almost hit and they lash out. there are crazy chemicals running through your body! I think it can be controlled, but sometimes you’re also just yelling in self-defense.

        • I guess you don’t see the snarkiness of your message calling out other posters.

    • A more defensive technique, if that’s what you’re after, is to let it go. Being pissed off is being distracted, and you need to stay in the moment.

    • I can totally relate. This is probably one of the reasons I don’t bike. I get pissed off enough as a pedestrian. I don’t think people can fault you for getting upset when people continuously almost kill you. I love when cars threaten me by zooming past me when they’re within an inch of my body and then act like I’m being ridiculous. I’ve slapped my fair share of cars, but generally stopped that practice when I had two incidences where people (who almost just hit me, mind you) got out of their car looking for a fight. No, I don’t want you fight you, crazyface, I want you to NOT F’ING KILL ME. Jesus. I wonder if these people would drive like that if it were their mother in the crosswalk or on the bike? People are horrible, selfish creatures. I have no advice other than maybe just tell yourself they’re too stupid to know better and they are miserable idiots so there’s nothing you can do.

      • yeah, I used to slap cars too, but nearly got the shit beat out of me five years ago, so that practice died right then and there.

        I still get pissed when cars come within an inch of me, but there’s no sense in aggravating the giant asshole behind the wheel. I try to tell myself that at least I don’t have to go home and live in their wretched body and operate with a pea-sized brain like they do. It helps sometimes. 🙂

        • Built a porcupine bike with long pointy spines that stick out from the sides of your bike and scratch cars that pass too closely. The spines would also whack pedestrians that you pass too closely while zooming down the sidewalk, so we will be reminded to constantly watch out for you and yield.

    • “…something about being on my bike makes me super defensive!” Sounds more like super offensive.

  • Rant: poor grilling technique. I don’t care what you eat, but you’re smogging up the neighborhood. If it’s a Weber, you grill with the lid on. It’s not supposed to be flaming. Also, trim the skin off the chicken. Otherwise you’re not grilling over charcoal, you’re burning your food over a grease fire.

    • I agree with this…mostly. If I want a nicely seared and crusted rare steak or am grilling very thin cuts of beef I find it’s pretty impossible to do with the lid off.

      • Lid on, I mean. Dammit, now I want to go home and fire up the pit.

        • I’d suggest lowering the grill closer to the grills. But, if you’ve got a better technique, put a steak on for me, and I’ll agree to test your method.

          • Actually, when it’s just me I grill steak right on the coals. But some people don’t care for that so I have to comprismise when grilling for others.

            And Kenyon dweller is right. Chicken is always better grilled indirectly.

          • @beerdude, that sounds incredibly unhealthy. even more so than just grilling with charcoal period.

      • Sear the outside over the hottest part of the grill and then move the steak to a cooler part of the grill to finish. I do this with the lid closed. Usually, it’s 3 minutes per side on the hot part, then another 3 minutes per side over the cooler part. Depends upon the thickness of the steak and the heat of the grill, obviously. I don’t claim to be an expert cook, but I rarely have a steak in a restaurant that I enjoy more than what I grill at home.

        • Ding! Ding! Ding! Wor ks every time. Then let it stand for a minute or two afterwords to redistribute the juices. mmm.

        • thebear

          And make sure the surface of the meat is as dry as possible. Moisture inhibits a good sear. I dab mine dry with paper towels, then put them in the freezer (uncovered on a baking rack) for 10-15 minutes, and dab again when they go on.

    • No, don’t trim the skin off the chicken. Cook it at a lower temperature. Chicken needs to cook slowly or else all the fat will liquify, drip onto the heat, flame up, and you’ll end up with burnt, dry chicken. Cook it slowly and it will be lovely brown and juicy.

      • Not to brag–ok, to brag–I have repeatedly had people ask me for my chicken “recipe,” to which I reply, “salt, pepper, and fire.” The oldest recipe known to humans.

        • So, the flaw is not the skin, but the high heat for chicken.

          But, I always trim the fat from marinated chicken, b/c the meat has been tenderized by the marinade. Tandoori for example is usually crispy outside and tender inside, without having the skin on.

      • I agree about the skin. I always keep the skin on and grill over a medium heat because it keeps it from drying out. I usually marinate it with lime and cilantro and then salt and pepper. Still working on my technique, however.

      • claire

        Low and slow! My favorite cooking method for most meat actually (though my roommate is really the grill master – his slow-cooked chicken (usually brined, then rubbed with cayenne pepper or mitmita because we like things spicy) has amazing crispy skin and juicy meat).

      • thebear

        On charcoal or gas, one side is very hot, the other is not. Cook the chicken on the side that isn’t the very hot one. If you’re doing leg quarters or bone-in breasts, start them off skin-side-up. If you want more charring at the end put the parts skin-side-down on the hot side for a couple of minutes. As with any meat, always allow it to rest at least 5-10 minutes. Skinless breasts should be brined (wet or dry) for at least 45 minutes before cooking to keep them moist. NEVER cook skinless breasts on the hot side.

  • People using “bike lanes sections” as a second car lane on Georgia Avenue…

    When did this become acceptable? Cops do nothing now that cameras are everywhere. These people careen recklessly down these lanes in order to rush to work. With so many police cruisers stationed on the road, you’d think this wouldn’t happen but its getting out of control. Also, with the (former) county council chairman Brown being indicted for fraud, all of the laws passed/referred by him should be re-evaluated, including and especially new speed cameras and increased fines, i guarantee something shady was going on there.

    Also, MPD needs to do something about bicyclists riding through traffic (lane splitting) and going to the front of the line at stop lights. They peddle way too slow on takeoff and way too often block ALL of the lanes on takeoff right next to the Convention Center if they don’t end up running through the red light early. I realize bike lanes are inconsistent, but this is dangerous behavior.

    • I may not understand the situation you’re describing but if there is no bike lane and the lane is not wide enough to safely accomodate both a car and a bike, cyclists are supposed to “take the lane”. They shouldn’t take 2 lanes though!

    • Bikes “splitting” traffic is perfectly legal and it is considered best and safest practices to place yourself as a biker in front of the cars at the stop line at a red light. You are more visible this way – some cities even provide you with a “bike box” by the stop line so you can gather there with other cyclists and be in a safer situation – see the bike box on the intersection of New Hampshire/U Street.

      • Sure, I see no problem with ppl who split lanes on the far right side, but I do not support people who do it through every section of open road available as a mob of 6-7 randomly scattered bikes, and then blocking both traffic lanes at the light.

      • Has the rules for this bike box + cycle light been changed?

        I thought the light was to help cyclists get across 16th, where they are to wait in the bike box for the 16th St light… but instead, I see alot of cyclists just skip that and cycle kattycorner from NH across U.

        And please cyclists: when stopped, you are to stop before the crosswalk, not in it. The stop bar painted before a crosswalk applies to cyclists too.

        • Cyclists stopping in the crosswalk is annoying to everybody. I find cars, pedestrians and other cyclists dislike this equally.

          At 16th and U, the bike boxes are almost always filled with cars. If you use the bike light as intended, you will find yourself in front of the vehicular traffic within the crosswalk because you really have nowhere else to go.

          • Yeah – I see cars in them alot – they need to be bigger.

            But… if that cycle light is working well with cyclists going katty corner on the light instead of into the bike box… I don’t mind that either. I was just wondering as the signs explaining what to do are no longer on NH… and I rarely see cyclists going into the bike box anymore.

      • Cyclists always claim that filtering to the front of traffic is for their own safety. I want to see a study on this because I think that’s complete bs.

    • If you’re talking about Georgia/7th St after the Florida Ave intersection, I couldn’t agree more! That whole section needs to be seriously redesigned. It isn’t just cars squished into a car/sharrow lane, but cars driving in an actual less-than-car-sized bike lane. Not pretty.

  • Rave: About to hop on a plane and get out of DC for a much needed vacation. auf wiedersehen!

    Rant: n/a

  • rave: “working” from home today!

  • Rant: there is a driver in the 14th/Quincy/Randolph/Shepherd vicinity that either chooses to rhythmically honk on repeat every time he/she drives down the street (to include at 4 AM), or they have a malfunctioning car alarm that somehow manages to go off while they’re driving.

    Rave: In the same area there is a seriously tall dude that walks down the middle of the road displaying board games, as though he is selling them. He never uses the sidewalk. This mystery has supplied me with endless hours of speculative happiness.

    Rant again: what is up with my neighbors using car stereos as musical entertainment for their late night front porch gatherings?

    • I live in that area and I am intimately familiar with the car alarm you mention, in that it wakes me up ALL THE TIME. I was especially pissed this morning when I was trying to get a little more sleep in before I had to get up for the day.

  • Rave: Tunis tonight! Paris with the husband in a week!
    Rant: None too stoked about the curfew in Tunis but at least the Euro Cup will be on so I can enjoy that when I can’t get out to check out the city and when I’m not in meetings.
    Rave: Fiddled around with the last of my fridge supply and made awesome Blueberry and Lime Scones (no eggs so I used yogurt).

    • Rave: Definitely read “Tunis” as “Tunni’s,” as in Tunnifliff’s on the Hill and not an exotic vacation location. Tee hee 🙂

  • Rave: Morgan Care Pharmacy. Switching from big chain pharmacies to this small pharmacy has made living with a chronic illness so much less stressful. I am so glad I found them. They greet you by name when you walk in the door, take care of orders REALLY quickly, and even provide delivery services. I cannot recommend them enough. They are on P St. & 30th St. NW in Georgetown. I know most readers of this blog don’t live there and I don’t either but I swing through on my way to-or-from work and it’s totally worth it.

    • Excellent! I can also highly recommend Tschiffely Pharmacy. They have 3 locations in DC and (I think) are family owned. The staff there are wonderful, knowledgeable, and caring. They rock!

    • Huge fan and long-time customer of Mt. Pleasant Pharmacy. Hi Tony!

  • Emmaleigh504

    Rant: I don’t get to work from home.

    Rave: My new fridge was delivered yesterday and works beautifully. I wonder if the apartment maintenance man wonders about the cat food in the fridge.

    Rave: Franklin.

  • Rave: Life is grand and the weather is perfect.

    Rant: Bicyclists coming the wrong way down 15th St (From FL, W and NH) to pick up the bike lane just south of V St. I have no issue w/ bicyclists in DC, the more the merrier, but this is really unsafe and someone’s going to get killed.

    • I confess I do that. Awkward to get from the bike lane on W down to the designated lane on 15th at V. One really has to be careful and keep an eye on cars coming from multiple directions.

    • I understand your rant, but I’ll change it:

      Rant: DC not completing the cycle tracks on 15th St to end the 2 lane track at W St/NH intersection not V St. Cyclists coming south on FL/east on W have no alternative to get to the cycle track but to illegally ride against trafiic.

      That is an interesting intersection.. but DCDoT really needs to decide what to do with it and do it. The temporary markings/curbs/stantions were supposed to be temporary… but it’s been along time now.

      • Yeah, if they could just extend it the half block up to NH, then more riders could get onto it much easier. I think 15th is wide enough to have 6-8 feet taken up by an inside (the cars on the west side of the street) bike lane.

  • mega-rave: this gorgeous weather!
    rave: enjoying the weather outside at beer, bourbon and bbq tonight.
    rave: yankees game tomorrow!
    rant: roommate search.

  • GiantSquid

    Revel: had a phone interview today and it went really well! Being recommended for the next round.

    Revel: Got to hang out with my Mom for a day, it was a nice break from the stress.

    Revel: new co-worker, former intern, started today. Really cool guy.

    Rant: only get to work with him for two more weeks.

  • Rave: It is FINALLY FRIDAY! And I have the house to MYSELF this weekend!!!

    Rant: Had an MRI at 8:00 this morning. Not only did I have to get up uber early to make it on time, but I had forgotten just how unpleasant it is to be stuffed in a tube, unable to move, for 45 minutes. I can’t believe my Dad went through radiation with his face in a mask that was literally bolted to the table.

    Rave: Re-doing the department bulletin board today. Watch out, world, it’s gonna’ be a bright one!

    Rant/Rave: Whoever made the comment about “Pumped Up Kicks”–it is now on loop through my head, too!

  • Rant: Bed bugs have attacked my apartment building. The management company is being incredibly hard nosed about getting rid of them, at least, but it is is so annoying to have to move all of your stuff for the exterminator to come in. One unit (in a detached building owned by the same company) is plagued with a hoarder who won’t abide by the order to prepare her unit for the exterminator to come in, so the people living around her have literally been living out of trash bags in their unit for months as the exterminator has to at least manage their problem (which is due solely to their crappy neighbor) once a week or so. I have taken days off work to get things ready for the exterminator, and this person obviously doesn’t care one bit. And the building is trying to get this person evicted but is having a lot of problems doing so.

    Doubt rant: My wife is still looking for a new job, making it more difficult to move because I don’t know what we can afford. I want to just get all my stuff fumigated and find a new place.

    • There was an article within the last three days, maybe in the WCP?, about how D.C. is now the 6th highest ranking city for bed bug infestations.

    • You have my sympathy, Anon. We had a major hoarder in our apartment building who was continually dragging in anything he could find from the streets. I was perpetually afraid our building would end up with bedbugs. It took about a year for the management company to successfully get him evicted due to DC’s over-the-line tenant-friendly policies. When they finally evicted him, multiple social workers, two fire trucks, and at least five police cars were in attendance for the major event (as well as the homeless housing non-profit group that originally arranged for his residence there). The building’s residents breathed a collective sigh of relief when he left.

  • Rant: Didn’t know there was a run happening in Arlington National Cemetery this morning. Gah! So sad I missed it 🙁

  • Rant: I hate Intern season.

  • mtpgal

    Rave: Husband’s last day of chemo for three weeks! Yay! Love you honey, I can’t wait until you’re all better. xoxo

  • Allison

    Rave: Homemade minestrone for lunch.

    Rant: Government agencies who “write policies” by vaguely cross-referencing other policies already in effect, forcing me to find and read about 700 pages more than necessary to get the information I need. This is analogous to receiving an e-mail from a colleague that simply says “what do you think?” at the beginning of a forwarded chain of about 100 out-of-context e-mails. JUST WRITE ME A NEW E-MAIL!

  • Rave: Flights to Turkey are SO DIRT CHEAP (for a few more days)!!!

    Slight rant: Wondering how well we could get by for a week in Istanbul knowing no Turkish, or with very rudimentary phrases … anyone have advice? If we went we’d be going over Thanksgiving, which I know isn’t prime travel season, but I kind of prefer that method of wandering.

    • I went for 5 days a few years ago. Did not know the language at all. Had no problems. It’s a very international city – you’ll be fine.

    • I traveled in Turkey 20 years ago, so take this with a grain of salt because maybe things have changed. I spoke no Turkish at all and had a wonderful time. The people were very warm and friendly and most vendors/hotel operators etc. spoke at least a little English. This was right after the first Gulf War, and so we were a little apprehensive about how we would be received in a Muslim country, but the attitude was consistently, “Thank God the Americans are finally coming back.” The only caveat is that my girlfriend at the time did get hassled when walking alone. If you’re female, modest clothing will be a must.

      • Damn, that’s too bad to hear about the hassle factor.

        I assume your girlfriend got hassled (when she was on her own) even wearing modest clothing?

        I had that experience in Marrakesh wearing T-shirts and long pants and (when it wasn’t too hot) a hoodie. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have the same experience if I went to Istanbul, but from what you’re saying, maybe I would?

        • I think perhaps her clothing was not modest enough. And, by hassled, I mean touched. Men would brush their hands against her as she walked passed, nothing too overt or aggressive, but definitely intentional. Needless to say, she didn’t like it. Another poster mentions that the dress code in Istanbul is very relaxed, and this is true, but that doesn’t mean that a solo female traveler won’t be bothered, especially if she is a westerner. I don’t mean to scare you off. I can say that my girlfriend also had a wonderful time. She just started sticking with me. Our joke at the time was that she was fine so long as she was with her “owner.” Maybe that was culturally insensitive, but that’s the way it felt.

          We also had some amazing experiences where people loved that she was so independent. When traveling in Cappadocia (central Turkey), we chatted with a couple guys in shop who invited us into their bar next door for a drink. When we ordered a martini and got straight vermouth (common outside the U.S.), my girlfriend offered to show them how it was done. They were totally thrilled when she strolled behind the bar and started mixing drinks and tried to hire her on the spot.

        • I lived in Istanbul once upon a time. You shouldn’t have a problem with language – most people you meet will speak at least a little. And the harassment of women can be intense. it really doesn’t matter what you wear, although the less you show the better. sleeveless shirts were particularly upsetting to people. i also got followed a lot, by people who were just curious. that said, Istanbul was one of the safest places I’ve ever lived. You will enjoy it, it’s a great city.

    • Intrigued… which airline? Or did one start and the others are matching its prices?

    • I was just in Istanbul for one day as part of a cruise. I’m sure you plan on going to the major sites, but I definitely recommend seeing the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. The dress code was a lot more relaxed than I was expecting. I figured I’d need a headscarf and covered limbs in the mosques, but there were women walking around in spaghetti straps, shorts skirts, and uncovered heads and no one seemed to care. Nevertheless, it’s always good to dress as the locals do, and since this is a Muslim country I’d recommend dressing conservatively and being respectful in holy places.

      The Grand Bazaar was a big disappointment– the vendors were mostly selling a bunch a junk and it wasn’t nearly as interesting as markets I’ve been to in other parts of the world. I guess it’s worth wandering through if you’re going to be there for an entire week, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

      Be alert for scams. One of the people I was traveling with stopped somewhere to get a small sandwich, and the sandwich ended up costing the equivalent of $28 because the restaurant charged a fee for each of us to wait while it was being prepared. A big fight ensued and they were threatening to call the police.

      I also heard several stories from other people on the cruise who were “befriended” by locals that offered to take them out to a club. After a couple of rounds the bartenders told the victims they owed a $1000 bar tab and if they didn’t pony up they’d call the police. Since the police were most certainly in cohoots with these scam artists the victims had no choice but to pay.

      Just about everyone speaks good English there so you shouldn’t have any problems there!

      • Oh, and there’s also the scam where you give them, say, a 50 lira bill to pay for something, and they do a quick swap and hold up a 10 lira bill saying you owe them more. A common trick all over the world, including here with cab drivers, but it seemed especially rampant in Istanbul. We called tham out on it, but the sweet older couple at our dinner table ended up forking over a lot of money that way.

    • Love Turkey – an excellent choice! You’ll be fine without knowing Turkish, even away from Istanbul.

      Make sure to go over to the Asian side of Istanbul, it’s less touristed and in some ways more interesting. And if you can, try to get out of the city, even if for a day trip. Bursa is not far and is beautiful. If you have a couple of days, Cappadocia is a must!

    • Where are you finding these flights? I would love to visit Turkey. Just looking on Kayak and all of the usual suspects?

    • claire

      I was in Istanbul less than a month ago so it’s still fresh in my mind! I absolutely loved it (wish I could’ve been there for longer and definitely want to go back). Some suggestions/comments from my trip:

      1. You can get by without Turkish, but I always find traveling to be a lot more fun when I know a couple words in the language. At least learning the alphabet (very similar to English alphabet and with more consistent pronunciation) is recommended. I managed to pick up more than enough by doing probably about 3 – 4 hours total (spread over several days) of a basic phrase lesson on memrise.com (my favorite language learning site – highly recommended for anyone looking to pick up almost any language). Of course, I also really enjoy language so that might not be for everyone. But I find people are a bit friendlier when they can see you’re trying with a couple basic words. The most important words: merhaba (mar-hub-ah = hello), lütfen (loot-fen = please), teşekkür ederim (teh-sheh-kir ed-air-eem = thank you), su (sue = water).

      2. As a woman traveling by herself, I was expecting street harassment (I’ve been to both Morocco and Lebanon and experienced quite a bit there – Marrakesh was probably the worst place, actually), but didn’t get any. This may be because I look fairly Turkish (being half Middle-Eastern) and also because DC has taught me to walk around with a constant don’t-come-near-me glare on my face. I imagine it’d be a lot worse if you have blonde hair and blue eyes (when I was in Morocco, I was with a friend with blonde hair and blue eyes and she was much more of a target of harassment than me) or if you’re in the more tourist-y areas (I was staying near Taksim Square and spent most of my time around there).

      3. Clothing is very western – I wouldn’t worry about what to wear (especially since you’ll be there when it’s colder). I’d hesitate to wear short shorts or a short skirt, but then again, I’d hesitate to do that in DC too. Jeans were par for the course, and I actually found myself envious of a lot of the quite fashionable leather shoes and leather jackets I saw people wearing…

      4. If you’re interested in food, I’d highly recommend taking a tour through Istanbul Eats. I did a tour of the Beyoğlu neighborhood, and it was amazing! It’s a little pricey (not sure if all the tours are the same price, but mine was $125), but totally worth it for 6 hours and probably 10+ stops. The food was super tasty, and I kept going back to the places the tour guide had taken me, plus the guide was really friendly, gave lots of important cultural information as well, and was more than willing to answer my many many questions.

      Hope you have an amazing trip!

      • claire

        Oh, and if you want the 15 (or so) Turkish lira that I happen to have leftover from my trip, I’m more than willing to donate them to you 🙂

        • Agree with everything Claire said. Do the big touristy things because even though they are touristy, I found them amazing. Sit and have tea with folks, I found I learned the most just being in the cafes. Another poster didn’t care for the Bazaar, but I loved it! Just know what you are willing to pay for something, and expect to negotiate (including walking away). Take a cruise on the Bosphorus if you can, and have fun!!

          • Aya Sofya is one of the most amazing buildings in the world, in my opinion, on par with my other favorites, the Taj Mahal and Chartres cathedral. Some places disappoint when visited, but these are more magnificent than any postcard can communicate.

          • I liked the Aya Sofya MUCH MUCH better than the Taj Mahal!

          • Oh, and I’m curious MC, what did you buy in the bazaar? I’m sure I didn’t cover every square inch of it, but all I saw were stall after stall of cheaply made, tacky, gaudy items. Things I wouldn’t take if someone offered them to me for free! I guess I’ve been spoiled by the colorful markets of India, but I (and my travel companions) found the Bazaar incredibly boring.

        • Those are amazing tips!!! Thank you Claire, and everyone else. I’ll be honest and say I’ve traveled a fair bit, but never this far east, and I’ll be with my boyfriend. I’m also a fairly tall kickboxer, so that may prevent as many unwanted advancements as others have dealt with (or so I hope, heh).

          As someone else posted, you can find the sale on the Turkish Airlines website – I think I first found it through a WaPo travel tweet. You’ve all got the travel bug itching for me again, and I’m so hoping we make this work. Thank you again!!!

    • Turkey is fine with English only, Esp. Instanbul. You’ll have no problems at all. It is a great country, and we’ve been about six or seven times, much better than many places in Europe IMHO.

  • Rave: Had a really good gig last night!

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