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22 October 2010

Happy Hours and High Fives

In any city where there are people in suits roaming the streets, you can feel a collective exhale at 5 PM. Everyone finally gets to loosen their collar and head home, or, as I soon discovered was very common in DC, to the local bar or restaurant for happy hour drinks.

It was my first evening in DC, after a red eye flight and a day exploring the city on foot. So by 5:30pm, I was definitely exhausted and in need of a beer. I met up with Leslie at her office and we walked over to a place called Recessions. The bar is between Dupont Circle and Farragut (to the best of my DC geography knowledge), perfectly positioned to attract many young employees from the nearby think-tanks and policy agencies. And as I expected, the bar filled up mostly with 21-26 year olds. The atmosphere felt more like a lounge in a college dorm than that of an underground urban bar.

I met Leslie's friends Mari and Anna there. What was awkward was that Leslie and I sat at our own table, and a dozen or so of Mari's friends filled in the tables next to us. We had a strong feeling that this was the group we were invited to join, but without Mari there to introduce us, it was just Leslie and I enjoying our drinks.

Also, I was able to cross another item off my list: Take a picture wearing the craziest hat I could find. Unfortunately, there was hardly anyone wearing a hat that I could find, let alone a crazy hat, so I settled for the first moderately cool-looking hat I could find:

The hat guy had asked us for a quarter so he could use the jukebox. He and the friend with him were from California. And at the time, I was sitting with Anna and her friends, Peter (?) and Ashley, also from California. Apparently DC has undergone a west coast invasion?

The happy hour was fun, but Leslie and I were jonesing for some food. Leslie and I headed to U Street, a diverse and vibrant part of DC north of downtown. There are plenty of Ethiopian restaurants, cool cafes, and lounges with live music to choose from; however, the two of us headed to Ben's Chili Bowl. It's a DC landmark, recently famous when President Obama stopped by for a chili dog. In my opinion, the food wasn't that great as you might think. But in my experience, lots of places that become world-famous just really aren't that great (I would soon experience this in Philadelphia, but that's another story).

Leslie and I had our chili burgers and fries, sitting in a booth next to the front counter and listening to the restaurant's playlist which was exclusively Michael Jackson songs. After finishing, we walked around U Street for a couple minutes before returning back to the Metro station. There's a Civil War memorial just outside, commemorating the 200000+ African-American soldiers who fought for the Union army. The metro ride back took longer, since we had to wait 20 minutes for a transfer. No worries, Leslie and I passed the time playing 20 questions.

Back at Leslie's pad at the UC center, I quickly passed out on the couch. After such a long and exhausting day, I had some incredibly restful sleep. Another intense day awaited me.

Day 2.

I awoke around 9 AM. Leslie was lucky enough to be able to take the day off to explore with me, so after getting ready we headed outside. Right outside her apartment is a row of embassies along Massachusetts Avenue. I wanted to see as many embassies as I could, so we began to walk.

Right across the street was the first embassy: The Philippines. Then, as we continued walking, we passed Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, and Uzbekistan.

It was in front of the Chilean embassy that a group of three young people were just talking to each other. I remembered the item on my list: High-five at least 10 people a day. So I went up to them and just spontaneously asked them to high-five me! YEAHHHH. I decided not to make it 10 a day, but to get as many high-fives as I could. So I began to high-five everyone we passed.

We passed several We then made it to Dupont Circle, where Leslie withdrew some cash at at ATM, then returned back along Massachusetts Avenue. There was the Brookings Institute, other policy research institutes, and Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies. All along the way I was giving out high-fives. I was up to about 25 people by the time we got to the Australian Embassy. There, an older woman, after giving me a high-five, began to talk to me. She was a local, and explained to me that during the holidays, the embassy gets all decked out in Christmas decorations, kangaroos wearing Santa hats and all!

As we continued on Massachusetts avenue, I got varying responses from people when I ran up to them yelling "HIGH FIVE". Most looked at me with a puzzled look on their face, and then they high-fived me begrudgingly. A couple people were enthusiastic and actually ran up to me asking to be high-fived. Many people, however, asked me "why?" or "for what reason?" as if giving a high-five was a complex decision that should only be done after careful consideration. And then there were people who just ignored me. So many people with so much sadness inside of them - I just wanted to shatter that barrier they put up between themselves and the rest of the world with a simple high five. But, alas, no amount of exuberant jesting would get through to these people. I can only hope that these "ignorers" have been able to see they miguided ways and would be able to join the light here with us high-fivers!

All the high-fiving got me hungry. Conveniently, it was just before lunchtime! And there would be some interesting lunch choices ahead for us...

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