Attention Athenians: Good food alert

I see in your local paper that you now have Five Guys. I shouldn’t be surprised. This place is so staggeringly popular in the D.C. metro area that I think several localities are considering laws requiring that any new office building must have a Five Guys somewhere on the premises.

This is, of course, blatantly unfair. You already have so many food chains that we in the supposedly enlightened D.C. suburbs do not. The Schlotzsky’s in Reston is long gone. It’s a long, long drive to a Bojangles or Mrs. Winner’s. Waffle House? Yeah, right.

That’s it. I’m moving back.

Song du semaine: Suzanne Vega, "Blood Makes Noise"

(Video is here; embedding disabled. Feel free to play it while you’re reading, though it’s a very short song and this is a long story.)

I’ve been holding on to this one until the minor medical question of two weeks ago was completely resolved. When I last mentioned it, my doctor had convinced me that I couldn’t possibly have something that moved from Point A to Point B. But I still had to have Point A and Point B checked individually on the off chance that something was wrong there.

Point B was checked Thursday, a mere 12 days after my initial visit to urgent care. That was done via CT scan. If you haven’t had a CT scan, I highly recommend that you do it. That recommendation is contingent on how many burning sensations you like to have at once.

First, of course, you have the pent-up agitation of waiting 12 days. See, I have a pricey HMO in affluent Fairfax County. I’m not some uninsured Chicago resident who turns up at County on ER and is quickly ushered to a scanner by a couple of pretty people who are busy arguing about the fact that they’re the last heterosexual permutation on the current staff that has yet to consummate its flirtation. So I had 12 days to think of possible things that could be sitting around in my abdomen. The woman waiting next to me cracked up when I said I’d been avoiding the movie Alien.

Second, you have your barium smoothie. Make it a double. 750 milliliters or so of stuff that makes you all tingly. It’s kind of like a loofah for your innards, pushed through by enough liquid to make Hoover Dam say, “Hey, guys? I need some reinforcement in Sector 3.”

Third, you have iodine. Not rubbed on your arm, as if this was just a blood donation. Nope. Pumped into your blood stream. I was told I’d feel a warm sensation and possibly a few other side effects. When the scan started, I did indeed feel warm and a little loopy, with occasional twinges all through me. Then the guy said, “OK, I’m putting in the iodine now.”

On your way out, they tell you to drink about 8-12 glasses of water to get that iodine the heck out of your blood stream. They were telling me this around 9 p.m. Thursday night. So, when was I supposed to drink all this? And if I could drink all that water on top of the barium still sitting in my stomach like nuclear pop rocks, would I really need the CT scan?

Basically, I had a choice between bloating and burning in the four days I was waiting to hear from the kindly folks who would scan my insides. I split the difference.

Today, I finally heard the expected reassuring results, delivered by a doctor who spoke … very … deliberately … like the rabbi who hits on Elaine in Seinfeld. (“Someone .. in my .. syna-gogue .. has a .. time-share in Myr-tle Beach.” Which always begged the question: “What the hell kind of New York synagogue-goer, presumably over age 30, goes to Myrtle Beach?”)

It’s nice, I suppose, now that it’s all done. It’s good to hear my heart and all my other organs are functioning as they should. But when this comes up again, I’d like to do something about that 16-day wait. I’m already a little ticked off at the medical establishment for its failure to do anything for a toddler’s constricting congestion between “stick him in a warm, humid room, but watch the mold” and “strap this to his face and turn on this machine while cranking Sesame Street to a volume approximating The Who circa 1973.”

One positive word about medicine: In 1991, when Magic Johnson told us he had HIV, did anyone think we’d be attending Magic Johnson Theaters rather than Magic Johnson Memorial Tournaments 16 years later? So they’re doing something right.

And that leads to this song, the only tune I know that addresses fear of getting tested. Released less than a year after Magic’s announcement, it’s quite clearly informed by the AIDS fear cutting through society at the time. Sample lyric: “I think that you might want to know the details and the facts / But there’s something in my blood denies the memory of the act.”

If you only know Suzanne Vega from Luka and that dance remix of her a cappella Tom’s Diner — well, first of all, shame on you. Secondly, you’re in for a bit of a shock. Like Indigo Girls, Vega pushed “folk”-rock into all sorts of interesting directions, but my fellow Georgians never veered as close to Eurotechno as Vega does here. It’s a propulsive bass line and a whole lot of noise. When Vega performed this one with David Letterman’s band, drummer Anton Fig played his part on a trash-can lid. (I watched that show when it aired — I recall Dave found it quite amusing after the fact to see Anton take such a low-tech approach.)

The noisiness was the brainchild of Vega’s producer and future former husband Mitchell Froom. I only mention him because a couple of years after he started dating Ally McBeal singer/appearer Vonda Shepard — we’ll just say the ink wasn’t dry on any sort of separation agreement — Vega recorded Songs in Red and Gray, which put the split in philosophical terms but has this wonderful withering cover photo. If there’s ever a mixed martial arts tournament among ’80s folk-rockers, my money’s on Vega.

An intriguing fan site has gathered a few of Vega’s thoughts on most of her songs. She opens up a few interpretations on this one, ranging from simple fear to skepticism of the doctor-patient relationship. Sounds like she was aiming for the personal level, but I hope she doesn’t mind if I apply it to an HMO.

MMM Jr. goes to church

It was an “Advent lessons and carols” service, which in retrospect was not the best place for an inquisitive 4-year-old who doesn’t go to such things that often.

Imagine the conversation taking place in a stage whisper …


What is it?

When are they going to turn the lights on?

Well, they’re going to light all these candles to make it brighter.

But when?

I don’t know.

(Skipping ahead — candles now lit)



Who’s singing this?

See all those people up there? They’re singing.

But what are their names?

I don’t kn — I’ll tell you more later, can you be quiet for a while?

But why?

Because we’re all enjoying the music.

Why are we enjoying the music?

Because it’s nice — please? You’ll get a treat when we get home. Can you be quiet for five minutes unless you have to go potty?

OK. (Moves hand to cover mouth)


Yes, what is it?

I’m being quiet.

Good … well … actually, you’re not — but good. We’ll leave after one more song, OK?



(exasperated) What is it?

When are they going to turn the lights on?

Remember? They lit the candles.

Is the light — the candles — the light on the candles? Is that fire?

Yes, but it’s OK.

How do they make the fire?

We come in here and pray to Prometheus for a well-timed … look, can you wait one more song? Please?

OK, Daddy. (Plays with his “Bionicle” toy on the hymnal.)


Wh … What is it?

This is Bionicle’s Bible.

That’s sweet, son. Now can you be quiet for this last song before we go?



#$%@! What?

I’m being quiet.

Yes, this was entertainment when I grew up

Jason’s blog is all full of Mellowmas glory this month. Among the many surprises, a recent Captain and Tennille song that begs the question “What the heck happened to Toni Tennille’s voice?

Captain and Tennille also bring to mind a TV genre that died in the ’70s — the variety show. Oh yes, they had one. Check out the muskrats dancing on the good Captain’s hat and keyboards here:

I may be completely wrong on this, but I seem to recall the Captain doing a particularly earnest segment on his love of New Orleans and its music. Or maybe it was a love of boating. No idea. Because on these shows, you really had no idea what to expect.

You might see Sonny and Cher trying to get their kid to sing.

You might see a young David Letterman on The Starland Vocal Band Show. (Yes, the Afternoon Delight crowd. They’re locals, you know.)

You might see Paris Hilton’s mom replacing the original Jan on The Brady Bunch Hour. Well, no, she didn’t quite get the part. But you could see Tony Randall reading poetry while someone dances in a bear suit. (This horrifying show inspired a terrific Simpsons parody.)

You might see Donny & Marie, be-otch!

The closest you get to this today is the Aimee Mann traveling Christmas show, which is wonderful for those of us who crowd into places like the Birchmere to see a really odd mix of off-the-wall antics while Aimee keeps perfectly composed and sings her sad songs.

That might not have mass appeal for a prime-time ABC slot, particularly when the foul-mouthed Hanukkah fairy shows up.

But in this age of mind-numbing reality shows, shouldn’t we make some room for mind-numbing variety shows? We already know Timberlake’s funny — couldn’t we give him a prime-time show? Or maybe The Maroon 5 Ersatz Soul Hour? The Lohan/Winehouse … oh, never mind.

Song du semaine: Waitresses, "Christmas Wrapping"

Pity they never shot a video for this, but at least we have some sort of weird tribute with a girl wearing headphones.

The Waitresses are known for two songs, this one and I Know What Boys Like. If you’re a walking encyclopedia o’ pop culture, you might also know the theme to Square Pegs.

In some respects, they were kind of a burlesque act. Patty Donahue was more of a character actress than a prototypical lead singer, which group leader Chris Butler doesn’t dispute. They had a goofy sax player. At one time, they had an accomplished bass player in Tracy Wormworth, but I have no idea whether she actually played on this track.

The bass helps, as you’ll notice from the head bob in the “video.” It’s a great groove and a great story, told with a sincerity that wins you over. (Must have been tough to shift from that to the more cynical I Know What Boys Like if they were ever asked to play them back to back.)

Amusing moments in Northern Virginia driving

I travel on the Beltway toward Tysons. Like everyone else, I get over to the right to take Leesburg Pike to Tysons, then remember that you need to get in the left-most of the two exit lanes.

No problem.

Then a minivan makes the same decision, just a lot later and in a lot more traffic.

Then the minivan hits its brakes hard.

I hit my brakes and pray … stopping … stopping …

Stopped. Maybe an inch or two short of the minivan’s rear bumper.

Relief turns quickly to anger. HONK! HONK! HONNNNNNKKKKK!!!!!


“Bam?” I think.

Hey, wait … that’s from behind.

Hey, I’ve been in an accident!

OK, let’s pull over …

Phew! The back of my car has just a scratch or two on the bumper.

The guy behind me … ick!

But he’s strangely calm. Even apologetic about my bumper, though he took the worst of it. He gives me his number and drives off.

OK, ready to merge back into traffic …

Son of a bitch — will someone please let me back in?