Monday, September 29, 2008

Go Tigers!

More than 80 thousand people, all dressed in orange, cheering on the Clemson Tigers this past weekend in South Carolina. To no avail. The Maryland Terps beat the Tigers 20-17.
But I did get to have my picture taken with the Clemson Tiger!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Black Snake Moan

I've never been much afraid of snakes. Until this evening when I went down to the rec room and saw this fellow at the foot of the steps.

The really nice young lady who came to the house from Fairfax County's Animal Control said that he was a male juvenile black snake. If he were mature, he'd be around 3 feet long and as wide around as a hot dog. I'm glad he was still a teenager.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McLean Not a Sundown Town for Black Squirrels

My stepson, who is as smart as he is curious, did a bit of research about the lack of black squirrels in McLean. It turns out, black squirrels are not indigenous to the area -- they are escapees from the National Zoo. According to a 2005 article in the Washington Post -- from which this graphic is taken -- a few have been spotted in Arlington -- brave swimmers across the Potomac. But I don't think they swam. I think they "slugged" themselves across the river.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I'm just sayin . . .

I realized something the other day, while I was sitting in my car on the NIH campus in Bethesda waiting for a friend. I was watching two cute little squirrels playing with each other -- one grey and one black. We used to have a lot of black squirrels in the yard of my old house in Silver Spring. But there are no black squirrels in McLean. Just sayin . . .

Friday, September 19, 2008

I thought my head was going to explode

this morning when I was watching Morning Joe on MSBNC, and Pat Buchanan started ranting about capitalist pigs destroying the American economic system.
I guess anyone can turn into a populist when they're losing money.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

For the first couple of years that I lived in Salona Village, I thought that my neighbors were pretty regular people -- regular well-off, white people -- who weren't very interesting. But it turns out I was wrong
It's like a friend of mine once said to me about her boyfriend at the time. "Why is it that the better you get to know someone, the more f*cked up they are?"

This is a question that I've found applies to far more than boyfriends. You can say the same thing about people you work with. Family members are exempt from this because you grew up with them and already know them well, so you're completely familiar with how f*cked up they are, it's just a matter of the ebb and flow of their f*cked-uped-ness over time.
So, it wasn't until I'd been here for a while that I came to understand that there are pockets of f*cked-uped-ness in Salona Village.
For example, here is a home on the main road of the neighborhood. The out of control shrubbery is a tipoff that something might be a little bit squirrelly. The fellow who lives here has a very big stomach, and he has a grey ponytail and wears the same chambray denim shirt over and over again in the spring and the summer. In the fall and winter, he switches it out for a red and black plaid shirt.
Here are the cars in his driveway. I'm not sure if they are all his. Someone who lives nearby told me that he has a "group house," and that "hippies" live there with him. I've also been told he's a janitor at a local elementary school. He's a regular at the neighborhood association meetings but I've never known him to speak up.

The thing about my neighborhood is that it's transitioning from one generation to the next. Like a lot of places where the price of real estate has risen far beyond what the original owners could afford now, Salona Village has a fair amount of children of the original owners doing what I call, sheltering in place. The mortgage has been completely paid off by their parents, so it doesn't cost anything for them to live there. They can't afford to move out and live nearby, but they're not making enough money to keep the place up, so it falls into disrepair.

Their are 2 equations that apply in my neighborhood:

Equation Number One:

original owners + children elsewhere = teardown, and

Equation Number Two:

original owners + children sheltering in place = suburban blight.

So, we have these absurd real estate conjunctions. Like our hippie, plaid-shirted, group-homey janitor's house, above, next to something like this.

And it's hard to tell which one is more f*cked up.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The McMansioning of McLean

I live in a neighborhood in McLean known as Salona Village. We're a little backwater in the center of town, nestled between Dolley Madison Boulevard on the north, Chainbridge Road on the west, and Old Dominion Road on the south. The houses were built in the 1950s out of brick in ranch, cape, and split-ranch styles.
Here's typical Salona Village house.
Over the years, people have added on to their houses, or bumped up, or done a number of improvements to add to their value. Most of the houses were orginally built with only one or two bathrooms, and two to three bedrooms. Our master bedroom, for example, has its own bathroom, but it's as big as a shoebox; and we have to have the smallest so-called walk-in closet in the greater Washington metroplitan area.
It's all liveable and fine. We raised 3 boys here and they all reached normal height and width.

Everything pretty much went along as usual, until around 5 years ago, when stuff like this started showing up.

Here's how it works.

You tear a completely liveable house down. Then you spend a couple of hundred thousand dollars building a new house and then you sell it for an obscene amount of money.

This is an $800,000 teardown in Salona Village.

It just sold and the land is currently being cleared. We always know when a house is a teardown because the fire department shows up and uses it for practice maneuvers. So, when we see a fire truck in front of a house and the sirens aren't squealing and the lights aren't going around, and people aren't jumping out of windows with their pets, we know, "Ah-hah! Tear down."
In less than a year, the house above will probably end uplooking something like this and it will sell for over 2 million dollars.

I'm going to follow the progress of the teardown from demolition to open house. There's really nothing good that can be said about it. Our neighborhood, now, is a hodgepodge of old and new.

Some of the new is pretty hideous.


Join me!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Parking lot maneuvers

When I first moved to McLean, my husband had already been living here for several years. He grew up in Brooklyn and I'm not exactly sure what the relationship is, but it was very important to him to take as many shortcuts as possible through parking lots as he went about his errands around town. For the first couple of weeks, I had no idea how to actually DRIVE ON THE STREETS to get someplace, because all I knew was what I'd seen driving through parking lots next to him as he pointed out, "There's the Giant," "Here's the Safeway," "That's the Blockbuster," etc.

It became a joke around the house that my husband lived for his, what we called, "parking lot maneuvers," and we were always trying to one up him with more, and more bizarre, ways to get to places via going through parking lots that were actually much more simple to get to if you DROVE ON THE STREETS.
Larry's pride was a 2 parking lot maneuver that involved going through the SunTrust parking lot to get to the street in front of the Safeway, and then going through the Safeway parking lot to get to the street in front of Pappa John's. The big deal was that there were no traffic lights you had to sit at and wait through.
We are a competitive family. When the boys were younger, we used to play a card game together called PIT, as in a stock trading pit. The goal of the game was to amass all the cards of a particular commodity, such as corn, wheat, etc. Once you'd done that, you had to yell "Cornered Corn!" or "Cornered Wheat," and bang this push bell on the table. We would get so competitive, and so physical about winning, that people (me) were known to actually bodyslam the bell on the table, to keep anyone else from getting to it.

You would think that this has no relationship to this story, but it does, because one day, our middle son came home looking like the proverbial cat that swallowed the canary. Or in his case, someone who knew he had come up with a parking maneuver so astounding in its ingenuity and boldness that he would leave Larry breathless, astonished, and totally unable to come up with anything better.

Let me lead you through this triumph of male one-ups-man-ship. It's a trip from our house to the post-office. A normal person would go out to Old Chainbridge Road, take a right onto Elm Street after the light at Old Dominion, and be there in a minute or two. But that's not how you do it when you're competing for King of Parking Lot Maneuvers.

You start out up Kurtz Road -- this is the main road that leads out of our neighborhood. The direction you are heading is completely opposite to the direction of the post office. But no matter.
Oh! Look! There's the SunTrust parking lot.

Let's take a left turn!
This is Parking Lot Number 1.

You drive through the SunTrust Parking lot.
It's a little hard to see here, but the SunTrust parking lot is directly adjacent to the Salona Village stripmall parking lot.
So you drive from Parking Lot Number 1, directly into Parking Lot Number 2 without crossing a street to get there. I'm not sure how many prestige points you get for this, but it's probably a lot. It's a fiendish move.

Once you're in the Salona Village strip mall lot, you drive a little bit, past the Treasure Trove and Green Matter and almost to the McLean Family Restaurant and there is the opening to Chainbridge Road.

Turn left and then take another quick right into the Safeway lot. This is Parking Lot Number 3.
Here we are in the Safeway lot.

And here we are, with Old Chainbridge Road right in front of us.

So you take a left onto Old Chainbridge, and then take a quick right into the next parking lot. There are a lot of little business-oriented shops here. This is Parking Lot Number 4.

It's a block long lot. Once you go through this lot, you're on Beverly Road. And this is where the trip goes back to normal.
You turn left onto Beverly.

Take a right onto Elm Street

Then another left into the post office parking lot. That's Parking Lot Number 5.

Of course, by the time you get there, it's taken you 10 minutes or more, because of speed bumps, waiting for traffic to clear to make all those left turns, and in general, just going much more slowly than you would if you were driving down a regular street.

But damn! It's a 5 Parking Lot Maneuver.

Larry was never able to surpass it.

My first-famous-for-DC sighting in McLean

When I first moved to McLean in August 2002, my first famous-for-DC sighting was at the local Giant.

Here is Al Haig in 1981, when he was Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, announcing he was a "heartbeat away from the Presidency," after Reagan's assassination attempt.

When I saw Al Haig, he was pushing a shopping cart behind his wife at the McLean Giant.

Actually it looked more like the shopping cart was holding him up, rather than that he was doing any pushing. And he was lagging very far behind his wife, like he knew people were watching and saying to themselves, "There goes that guy who was once a heartbeat away from the presidency. Look at him now. He's just a putz pushing a cart behind his wife."

This could be the very same cart that Al was pushing that day. There's no way to know, really. Think about it. It kind of gives me shivers.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Dark Side

My youngest son went over to the dark side. He shops at the Ralph Lauren Outlet in Leesburg now. He thinks searsucker suits are hip. He wears chinos more than he wears jeans. Here he is wearing a pink Polo button down shirt. Where did I go wrong?

You know how they say

that Hollywood is like high school with more money? McLean is like prep school with a WHOLE LOT more money.

Chipmunks are cute

There is nothing a chipmunk can do that isn't cute.
Chipmunks are even cuter when they're doing incredibly cute things like climbing up through the squirrel baffle to get to the suet cage. We call this chipmunk "Chippy."
It seemed like a wildly creative name for a chipmunk in McLean.

McLean, Virginia

The epicenter of conformity in America