Everybody’s going to the party

So I’m back in Berkeley. The weather here is gorgeous, as usual. I have yet to grow tired of it, three years on.

Home was really fun. Meera graduated, and started and ended her job search (congrats!). I got to see my dad give a public lecture, which was a lot of fun. I gave Maya a new installment of music to listen to, and she already agrees with me about Dido’s excellent new album :). And my mom very graciously taught me how to cook a couple more Indian dishes. My arsenal slowly grows… I saw a couple of old friends too, which was great.

Also, one day my mom noticed a huge, beautiful wild turkey strutting through our back yard. It was awesome. You think of turkeys as ugly, but this guy was a beaut. After a moment, I thought to run down and grab my camera to take a picture of it. By the time I got outside, however, it had disappeared into the woods. I ran in after where I thought it had gone, but I succeeded only in covering my shoes in mud. It had disappeared… I was very impressed. I guess if you’re that big and bulky and can’t really fly, you must have evolved some survival techniques. And now I can say I’ve actually been on a wild turkey chase. Wild geese are next…

On my way back to Berkeley, I stopped in Washington, D.C. for a couple of days. vchou graciously provided me a place to crash as I explored the city. I saw pretty much everything: the White House, the National Aquarium, the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Capitol, the National Zoo, a host of memorials and monuments, the Botanical Gardens, and a bunch of Smithsonian museums: American History, Natural History, Air and Space, even the Postal Museum. By the end of the third day, my feet were about to fall off. DC is a great city, though. The best part is that just about everything’s free. I think I spent a grand total of $5 on entrance fees. Some highlights:

Dude at the White House
I was at the White House for about ten minutes, but in that time a guy jumped the fence! I had just taken a picture of the lawn a moment before, and of course I didn’t see any security personnel, but they sprung out of the bushes in an instant when he jumped. He made it maybe 10 yards before he was tackled and surrounded by Secret Service agents with guard dogs and assault rifles. It was awesome. Unfortunately, they had to secure the entire area, which meant clearing the rest of us (gawking) tourists out as well, so I didn’t get to document it too well, but here are two pictures I managed to take:

“Californication” at the Museum of American History
There was a room devoted to the history of L.A., and the background music they chose was RHCP’s “Californication” — one of their best songs, I think, and also one that really captures the essence of L.A., warts (especially warts) and all. I was pretty impressed that the museum curators chose it.

Huge cable from the George Washington Bridge
Check out the first picture:

This is a cable used to support the George Washington Bridge in 1929. It’s actually composed of over 26,000 individual steel wires, each of which can support 7,000 pounds. Steel is strong. And heavy: this ten-foot segment of the cable weighs 33,000 pounds. Our sofa weighs like 100 pounds. Our 64″ HDTV weighs 300 pounds. And this ten-foot cable weighs 33,000 pounds. Just giving you an idea here :). For further comparison, the gigantic Pershing-II nuclear ballistic missile on the right in the second picture weighs 14,000 pounds.

The Botanical Gardens
Here’s my very amateur attempt at taking some nice plant photos.

I went to a bunch of memorials. Here are my (unrepresentative) favorite pictures.

Jumbo Slices
I was ravenous on my walk to the Zoo on the last day, so I stopped at a pizza place that advertised “Jumbo Slices”. Now I’m a pretty mean pizza eater, and I’ve had some pretty big slices in my day, so I ordered two, figuring they were the standard large slice you get in pizza emporia everywhere. Also they were $3.00 each, which seemed appropriate for that size slice.

My eyes must have bugged out, however, when the guy brought out the two largest slices of pizza I have ever seen. They were about 18 inches long — by my estimation, each roughly the size of four normal “large” slices.

Unfortunately, the perspective on this picture is horrible (I admit, I felt a bit weird about pulling out my camera in the pizzeria :) so you can’t really appreciate the slice’s size; there are actually two adjacent plates supporting it.

Anyway, to make matters worse, I was one of only two clients in the eatery, and I had ordered the slices “for here”, so the guy knew that I intended to eat them myself, and he definitely planned on enjoying the spectacle. So I sat down and started chomping away. The first slice went down pretty easily, but just as I started on the second, I hit a wall. A smug smile crept across the face of the pizza guy. My brain finally caught up with my stomach, and I had to abandon ship with about half of the slice still left to go. It was a valiant effort, but I couldn’t hide the dull shroud of defeat in my eye as I slinked out of the pizzeria, under the triumphant gaze of the register guy.

The Zoo
Here are some of my favorite pictures and movies from the zoo.

Snoop Dogg
I flew Jet Blue back to Oakland. On the flight I watched one of those celebrity blackjack shows, where the winner gets some money donated to his charity of choice. On it were Snoop Dogg, Shannon Elizabeth, Jason Alexander, some woman, and Kevin Nealon. I was interested, not because two of the players had four (4) first names between them, but because I’ve loved Snoop ever since “Deep Cover”. (Actually, I didn’t think he was that great in Starsky and Hutch, even though most people did. But his rhymes… quite bootylicious [in the positive sense]) Of course, there’s a danger in observing someone you admire, since you’re bound to be disappointed… especially in a game like blackjack, where a dumb mistake is obviously a dumb mistake. But Snoop played pretty well (save for a few betting errors) and ended up getting second place.

The best part, though, was that he was incredibly funny. He actually had me laughing out loud in my airplane seat. He has this amazing ability to say stuff that’s random and hilarious at the same time. Sample conversation:
Dealer: Snoop, your bet.
Snoop (in his inimitable drawl): See, my charity is the Inglewood Pimp Rehabilitation Center. So I’m going to bet sixteen Gs, so that I can save sixteen pimps.
Jason Alexander: Well, I’m going to bet fifteen thousand bucks so that I can support fifteen hoes.
Snoop: Man, don’t you already support fifteen hoes?

Haha. Jason Alexander was quite funny too (luckily, as I’m a huge Seinfeld fan), funnier by far than the other players, including Kevin Nealon, who sucked.

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14 Responses to Everybody’s going to the party

  1. gdogg says:

    i love the pizza guy story. it’s great when people are easily satisfied (in this case, the pizza guy)

  2. awu says:

    That’sa big slice

  3. walther says:

    this post makes me happy as i sit here procrastinating from writing a paper. =) i want to see that californication exhibit.

    • walther says:

      oh wait, nevermind. i was happy until i realized that you got to spend time with vicki, so now i am insanely jealous. lucky vicki!!

  4. ngj says:

    Boy, it’s hard to pick out which story’s my favorite. The pizza one’s hilarious–but then seeing secret service agents popping out of the woodwork sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. =)

  5. ccho says:

    nice photos

    That must have been an interesting experience at the White House. Wonder why he did it… They didn’t confiscate your camera for taking photos of the security guards?

    Just a tip on your photos: when taking shots of wildlife, it is often more interesting to get an angle closer to their eye level (like the ducks and goose). And the scale of the pizza would be more/less impressive if you compared it with something else ;)

    • aj says:

      Re: nice photos

      No way. I would have been livid had they done that. Anyway, I was on public property. Their fault for making themselves visible :).

    • aj says:

      Re: nice photos

      Also, you’re definitely right about the pizza. I wish I had done that. But the guy was staring at me so I felt pretty self conscious! I guess the only solution is to go back to that place and take another picture.

      • Anonymous says:

        Re: nice photos

        There’s a funny pizza place on University – not super popular, and they advertise outside “pizza slices” (rather than “pizza”), and are misleadingly cheap (I think $1.50 maybe?). I went on the way to Becketts one day when I was a tad hungry, and the guy got out a box. I foolishly told him I didn’t need one, and with an expression probably similar to your guy’s, he told me I would. Well, I was impressed. The slice was ridiculously huge and nearly filled the box. You should go there.
        p.s. The weather’s been beautiful for weeks – I have no idea why it’s raining today.

  6. tadajulia says:

    A few comments:

    1) WOOHOO DC! I agree that its a great city.
    2) you came to DC and you didnt visit me =(
    3) I’m defintely going to check out the Californication exhibit at the American History Museum. I wonder how long it’s going to be there…I’m afraid to go down to the Mall during high tourist season. Tourists are scary. Thanks for sharing! (how sad that I live here and never go to the FREE museums)
    4) The Jumbo Slice of pizza is awesome. I need to go there one day. Maybe I’ll take a picture of me holding a slice. That should give some perspective of the size.
    5) I enjoyed your White House story. Gotta love the crazies in DC.
    6) I’m glad you had fun in DC and reaped some of the benefits of your hard earned tax dollars. =)

    • aj says:

      2) Yes, that’s a shame! Only solution — I’ll have to come back to DC. (Or you’re always welcome back in Berkeley… :)

      3) I don’t know the details. It’s just a room about LA. But of course it’d be interesting to you… I’d love a room about Connecticut. Sadly, no one cares about the ol’ Nutmeg State.

      4) That would be awesome! It was on 18th Street north of Dupont Circle. There were two parlors in a row, both advertising the “original jumbo slice”. I went to the northern one.

      5) Yeah. As a grad student, I’m definitely pulling my weight in the tax dollars category :).