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January 8, 2001
Digital Wind


Here's why I need a digital camera.

On Sunday M and I went to the Community Center again, and upon finding out the place has terrible Sunday hours, we ended up at the Columbia Gardens Cemetery for a jog. I wrote about those places in the past three entries, in one way or another, and the photos I used came from as far as Estonia and Turkey, even though the actual locations are less than 2 miles away. I suppose it's OK, since "what happened today" is usually little more than a catapult into some memory or other.

(Which is how this one was really supposed to turn into, a violent episode I'd forgotten about until I picked up a beer bottle that reminded me of it over the weekend, but I have only half the story down so far, so I'll just write something else today.)

But if I had a digital camera, I could do this:

Finding the place all dark, we decided to jog to the cemetery instead of just going back home. We discovered a path that goes through an outdoor fitness cluster before turning into a foot/bike bridge across Arlington Boulevard. Half the bridge was in grille style so you could see straight down, and it was freaky to be directly above cars whizzing past, the thin metal strips cutting their tops into low-res TV lines.

[insert picture taken from bridge, with grille blur reminiscent of the opening scene of Blues Brothers]

Jogging between graves, we came to the northwest corner, a part of the cemetery we hadn't explored before, and right before the back gate someone had thought of installing a hoop on church property. A mossy bench was included if you wanted to sit and watch people play.

[insert picture of black basketball hoop, with the mossy wood bench lopsided like an afterthought to the right of the frame. Ivy everywhere. No basketball in sight, which would have been cool, especially a black one to match the baseboard of the hoop.]

The cemetery doesn't provide a long enough route, so we continued through the gate, and ran a large loop through the surrounding neighborhood, which was pretty quiet, even for a Sunday morning. Not without a sense of humor, though. Someone had decorated a tree with all the AOL CDs that arrive unsolicited every week.

[insert picture of CD tree; the CDs are of the silver as well as gold (burnt) variety. The sun peeks through the clouds for a few seconds as we run by; the CDs catch the light as they turn with the wind]

Back at the Center's back side at the end of our run, we were both struck by how they'd constructed the gym's boxy towers to give it a prison-like look from the outside. Actually, it looked a lot like the Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC, whose design is known to be modeled after the stark look of WWII concentration camps. I wondered what the architect who designed the community center (which is actually part of a large middle school) could have been thinking, or smoking.

[insert... you know]

The DC 3WA gathering at Dr. Dremo's the night before had started me thinking about digital cameras, when Mark and Nancy whipped out their shiny little toys.

After a day of skate-hunting and hanging out Saturday, M dropped me off in front of Dr. Dremo's -- the bar whose name to me is still Bardo, no matter how many times there's a change of ownership. Sadly, the name changes seem to have been accompanied by a steady decline in business, and even happy hour was pretty much deserted, which emphasized the enormity of the bar (it could almost serve as Arlington's answer to DC's famed 9:30 Club; it could be the 4:15 Club or something).

As I was walking past the long bar toward the game room (our agreed-upon meeting area), I did a double-take: Nancy was at one of the pool tables. I stopped long enough to say hello and deduce that she was kicking major butt, and went off in search of Mark.

Downstairs, he and Megan were standing in the glow of an Elvis movie projected on the wall. After chatting briefly we went upstairs. Nancy had just wrapped up her session. The man whose name turns out to be Daniel uttered a few words about their impromptu game to me, the subtext of which was he was sorry he'd ever been born. [Actually, I should add, what he said was that Nancy was great at the game, and from the expression he wore I assumed he was on the losing team. It turns out he and Nancy were partners and of course won. Read her account for more.]

We sat down at a window cluster and in the next few minutes snagged Jayme, Kerry, and Michael as they walked past the table. It was already determined that Lynda wasn't going to make it.

It was right about then that the ElvisFest started in earnest, with a fat period impersonator (that's the easiest period to do, isn't it, a moplike wig, bug glasses, white suit, Godfather cheek fillings, and some padding and you're set) holding court downstairs in the game room. The noise made the conversation difficult, and we mostly confined ourselves to talking with people within earshot. The exception was when talk would turn to gossip, at which point everyone made an effort to come together around the topic.

I talked with Mark most of the time, and we went back and forth across the tangents of the immigrant experience, which we've personally lived through to varying degrees. Borrowing Nancy's ear from her side of the table we managed to talk about photography and biking, digital versus analog imaging -- and of course, the correct pronunciation of Rien's name. Though I veered into geekery by my lamentations over sucky RAM and such, we managed to get out of that by talking about the fun side of referrer logs and ultimately branching out, once again, into Internet/3WA/OLJ gossip followed by a touch of politics.

I've always admired Nancy's spontaneous photography, and as I held her camera in my hand, I thought of all the times I had to wait for the photos to come out. Of course, I'd have to carry two cameras, because I have a weakness for those mini-mural size prints, some of which hang on the walls of my study -- when I can actually afford to have huge prints made, that is. Digital camera resolution today, even at the highest end, is still far from giving you enough pixels to make oversize prints.

Mark was amazed that I'd have the patience to scan so many photos as one can see around this Web site. I admit that it's a pain, but as I pointed out, I already had tons before I ever started on the Web. That, and the fact that I occasionally go on scanning binges.

When we eventually hustled out of Bardo, we were treated to Nancy's transformation into the biking legend she is as she put on the winter gear and started looking more and more like her photographs. She then disappeared into the icy night for her hour-long ride back home. Mark and Megan were kind enough to offer me a ride home, which was sort of on their way. I don't mind our metro, but it's so sterile that when you're alone there's nothing to do but get hypnotized by the orange vinyl unless you bring along a book, which I'd forgotten to do. So I gratefully tagged along and in the car we chatted some more.

In the months to come, hopefully, quieter gathering places, and perhaps bike rides. And for now, today's not necessarily contextually related photograph from the past:

Sunset, ferry
Sunset hits an Istanbul ferry crossing the Bosphorus. October 25, 2000.

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The current banner photo appeared briefly on the journal menu page last month. A non-watercolor version can be seen in an October entry (18th). It was taken in Ouranopouli, Greece, on October 3, 2000.


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