Archive for the ‘Adventures’ Category

Foray Into Foreclosures – Part I

Self Affirmation Thru Real Estate

(photo by bcostin)


So as previously mentioned, my wife and I had determined now was the right time for us to look for a home in Northern Virginia. (Considering my decades-long “dislike” of Maryland, it was automatically disqualified.)

This past weekend was our first outing with our Realtor to see what the area had to offer. We stuck to Springfield this weekend; no need to rush hither and yon right out of the gate.

We saw about 8 houses over the course of the last two days. Four were flat-out clunkers, two were ‘ok’, and two were outstanding! So much so we were hard-pressed during a late dinner at Mike’s American Restaurant to decide between the two – supposing we would place an offer so quickly from the start.

Needless to say, I’m amazed – and appalled – at the selection, even within a small five mile radius. Certain neighborhoods seemed to have ‘foreclosure’ or ‘for sale’ signs up nearly every other house. Others, you’d have a hard time finding even one.

A couple of the homes we visited were what I call “tired.” Scuffed walls, small holes, beaten appliances. Lived hard, then left vacant. Homes like that, I assign about $20K of additional “fix-up” money in my head – I’m no handyman, I’m gonna pay some guy to do it for me.

One home in particular you could tell was “rooms rented” – every door had a separate key, the carpet was beat to hell, and it LOOKED like a flophouse on the inside. You’d never know on the outside, though. We ‘passed’ on that one.

There was one place we went to that was still occupied, sorta. The house was a disaster; the two lower rooms were being ‘rented’, and it was just a sad testimony to the overeagerness of some people who bought over their heads and couldn’t keep above water.

Though I will pass on advice to this homeowner(s) – if you’re going to try selling your house, it would *probably* help if you, you know, CLEANED IT UP first. I know you’re supposed to look at the house and not the stuff, but geez! Nothing says “no way in hell” like old food along the baseboards, dirty clothes everywhere, and piles of junk “hidden” in the garage.

Bottom line? This first outing I’d give a B+. Two great possibilities, 4 disappointments. Prospects are looking good, though. I am really encouraged regarding the homes available for our projected price range.

Next week: the I-95 corridor (unless plans change).

Bachelor Party Time in Dupont

Tom Party Time

This is Thomas. He is getting married soon so tonight is his bachelor party.

In his hand is the Force Cup. A sexy toy I bought for Tom in a NoVA CVS.

Do note that the night is still young and Tom is still sober. Later, expect Tom to be much more compromised and the photos to be quite blurry.

The Morning News: Two Hour Delay Edition

I took one look at my car this morning and flashed back to the awful traffic I sat in for 90 minutes trying to go to class last night. It wasn’t pretty. There was screaming. But the roads are better today, and with the Feds on a 2 hour delay, and a bunch of schools doing the same, I think we’re in for a peculiar commuting day. Especially when the rain turns to snow for evening rush.

Two Local Reps Unseated in Primary

For many of us, there was only one ballot option yesterday: President. However, for at least one congressional district in Maryland, there were also primary challenges against their incumbent representative, and two of the incumbents were sent packing: 8-term Congressman Albert Wynn and 9-term Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.

Why not? We already have a bunch of crazy sports figures, what’s one more?

Sure, Chad Johnson is certifiable. But then again, so is Dan Snyder, so why not bring his chocolate to our peanut butter and make a great big ol’ crazy sandwich? Just what this town needs is a guy who’s more flash than bang. It’ll work out great! Right?


Why are you staring at me like that?

400 Student Flu Outbreak at College Park

I’ve got a feeling that if you work at UMD or attend there, you might want to stock up on surgical masks to avoid all the sick folks around you. Or just don’t go to class. That’d work, too.

Tractor Man Remains Free!

Yeah, Tractor Man predates this blog, which is honestly a shame, because it’s probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen happen in DC. He drove a giant tractor onto the Mall to protest tobacco policy, and claimed to have a bomb on board the tractor, which allowed him to raise hell and wreak havoc for 48 hours while the police freaked out, and the rest of us laughed at him.

But, he’ll remain a free man despite what prosecutors considered to be an overly short sentence. That’s fine, though, he may have been crazy, but he’s the kind of crazy this town needs.

George’s basement

I was flipping around area websites, looking for possibilities for the weekend (even though it’s supposed to be rather frigid, it’s nothing compared to my winters in Chicago) and stumbled upon this tidbit of info.

Seems that Mount Vernon has been capitalizing on the success of the recent Nicky Cage movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets. If you’re not familiar with the movie, there’s a scene where our intrepid puzzle-solving hero (Cage) decides he needs to kidnap the President of the United States (played by Bruce Greenwood) and does so at a garden party at Mount Vernon. And it revolves around a ‘hidden passageway’ in one of the estate’s basement rooms.

When I first saw the movie, I do remember commenting to my wife afterwards that in all likelihood, we’ll see several D.C. sites jump on the ‘free’ marketing bandwagon and promote themselves along with the movie. And lo and behold, Mount Vernon did indeed.

This weekend is the last available date you can go visit the site for the scene. There’s no additional cost – it’s included in the regular admission and you can only visit that space on the weekend. General admission to Mount Vernon is around $13 for adults and is well worth the cost – it’s a beautiful estate right on the Potomac.

It’s interesting – as usual – how movies portray things that are out of context with the real world. The room used in the movie, according to the website, was actually “designated as the ‘Cellar Kitchen’ on a plan prepared by George Washington at the time he planned additions to both ends of the building in 1774. This space appears to have been used as a kitchen for the slaves assigned to serve the Washington household.”

No mention of a secret passage, however. And I would suggest if you go check it out, don’t try – I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Hollywood made it all up…

DC Flickr Meetup & Photowalk

In the spirt of some of our lovely Washington-area photography of late, I was excited when I saw a post on Upcoming about a DC Meetup and Photo Walk for local Flickr folks.

On January 27, the shutterbugs will assemble at 2:00 at Rocket Bar. At 4:00, they will set off on a photo walk to snap some city shots. (Tip: You are going to want some fingerless gloves to operate your camera and maintain some warmth. Trust me.)

More information can be found on the Flickr discussion board.

If you go, be sure to let us know. We would love to see your lovely photos of our lovely town!

Kz’s House of Talent Suckfest

On a Scale of Zero to Sucktacular, I would put Kz’s House of Talent near the top of that scale. Their “comedy contest” tonight at Floyd’s (the best description of Floyd’s is that it’s a TGI Fridays that’s had its soul sucked out) was the single biggest entertainment lie I’ve been told since they tried to pass off Baltimore as DC in this summer’s Die Hard. I was expecting a great slate of comedians. I didn’t make it past the Emcee.

For my $10, I got the world’s worst DJ, a sound system that didn’t work, strobe lights that made me wonder if we were in a bad rave, and two R&B “acts” that could only charitably told to find day jobs and keep them. I felt really bad for the “opener” on the night, Mike Blejer, who was really quite funny, when the crowd could hear him. Sadly, the guys running the sound system were either deaf or unable to notice that the entire crowd at Floyd’s was asking them to turn it up. The representative for KZ’s House of “Talent” foisted her acts on us without warning, despite the event being advertised as a comedy night. They were so bad, I thought about going to the bathroom to hang myself, or using my fork to put holes in my eardrums.

Putting Blejer, who won the Improv’s Comedy Showcase in September, on in front of a dead crowd who couldn’t hear him was the first strike. The second strike was the really shitty R&B acts. I came to see comedy, not bad music in entertaining LED-blinking glasses. The third was the emcee. I understand that comedy is about laughs. I understand that not everything a comedian says on stage is true and actually fact. But that’s no reason to get up there and bag on your girlfriend for a good solid ten minutes. You don’t have to go right for the “my girlfriend so fat…” jokes.

That’s when I found out that my friend who was performing hadn’t been given a performance order, and had to pay part of the cover charge, that’s when we bailed. Don’t go to Kz’s events. You’ll just be annoyed that you spent money for nothing.

Yuppie Kickball Alliance Strikes Back

Never underestimate yuppies who love kickball. The Anti-Yuppie Kickball Guerilla Front has suffered a tremendous setback:

Last night, October 5th, after what was thought to be a secret meeting for new members of the front at Chief Ike’s, Inquisitor K (forgot to ask if I can just put his real name now) was arrested by US Marshalls. He says they were watching the meeting the entire time and when leaving they rushed him but he got away and was chased into Rock Creek where he was tackled, cuffed and nearly drowned. We went down to court this morning where he was arraigned on many charges including advocating terrorism (or something like that), providing material support to a terrorist organization, aggravated assault (for a botched ball-napping in July where a kickball player who gave chase was supposedly knocked out with brass knuckles), resisting arrest, 3 counts of theft, another assault charge, and he apparently faces extradition to Maryland and New Jersey for warrants related to narcotics trafficking. One of the marshalls told him they penetrated the private portion of the website in August where they gained access to the video archive and other pretty damning stuff. We were definitely sold out from the inside and we in the front all know who did this. A warrant was also served at his house in Mt. Pleasant last night where computers and other stuff were taken including all of the ball-knapped balls. I suggested we pull the whole website down but he said that he would “never let those bastards subjugate” him and so the link to the site remains below. He seems confident as he has been in jail several times and isn’t worried. He says they are only after him and so the “Rally For Justice” is still on as a fundraiser. Bond was set at $50,000! I’ll try and keep news on the case as updated as possible. We are all a little shell-shocked right now and our thoughts and prayers go to our great friend and leader.

While we cannot verify that the Department of Justice is treating the AYKGF as a terrorist organization, nor can we verify the capitivty of Inquisitor K, we certainly feel for our contacts in the AYKGF.

Or we would, when we stopped laughing at the insanity of it all.

Folks, Kickball’s just a freakin’ playground game, and if you get too caught up in the love or hate of the same, you’re only going to end up like Inquisitor K: belonging to the prisoner with the most cigarettes.

Harpers Ferry Weekend Getaway for the Carless

View of Harpers Ferry from the Train Station I don’t drive. It’s a long story involving a dent in a parked car on a village road in Southeast Asia, but suffice it to say that I do so enjoy living in DC where I can take the Metro and walk places and not need to pay hundreds for insurance or parking or gas or maintenance. And my carbon footprint is tiny. The major disadvantage to my carless lifestyle, however, is limited travel options, so a peculiar challenge presented itself to me after my wedding two months ago: where to go for a nice, quick, cheap, outdoorsy DC-area weekend honeymoon using only those forms of mass public transportation immediately available to our downtown location?

My solution: Harpers Ferry. Is it possible? I found out:

Escape From D.C.

escape_from_dc.jpg No, this isn’t really the next John Carpenter film with Snake Plissken taking aim at the White House and Congress (although, I wished it was). But it’s about mid-season for all the D.C. natives to head out of town just to catch a breather from the madness that is life in the Capitol Region.

While typically, some of these “escapes” are not traditionally vacations in the usual sense (usually only a few days), there are plenty of places both near and far to get away from it all, even if it is only for a short bit. Some folks head internally, staying at home, or spending entire days at the movie theater. Others head out past the potential “blast zone“, to places like Shenandoah, Ocean City, and even Philly (which has King Tut right now, BTW). Others will head further afield…

Tom and Tiff head to Pittsburgh, but have been heard to hit the Eastern Shore. Carl’s on leave of mind to head to the Outer Banks in North Carolina, while Doug slips off to the local mountains of the Shenandoah. Paulo has yet to have a real honeymoon, and feels a strong pull to Harpers Ferry and the John Brown Wax Museum. Jenn loves Cape May in New Jersey, even though another city such as Philly or New York could also top the bill for rapid exit from our fair city. I’m heading to Beantown (to visit the Samuel Adams Brewery as well) and Cape Cod. Even Stacey escapes… at home in Vienna… Virginia, not Austria… just by having moved there. And we all know, DC is good enough for Wayan!

Jenn did bring up a good observation about coming back from these “breathers” from DC; How do you feel about the city when you return? Better or worse than when you ‘escaped’? Have you noticed anything interesting upon your return that you may have not observed or felt being here 24/7?

Going Green for The Police

A Carbon Offset Voucher
A few months ago, I was complaining that DC is one of the few major US cities not to really see the likes of The Police on their tour this year. Even Baltimore snagged them, but due to the wrangling in DC about Live Earth locations, The Police were relegated to Jersey.

I got lucky, I have tickets to see them in Boston this weekend and Fenway Park. However, this is the first time I’ve flown in a while, and definitely the first time I’ve seen “carbon offsets” offered as a package addition through Orbitz. I’m not sure if this was an altruistic move on their part, or just bending to demand and public opinion, which is just simple sense for many who travel and live in Europe. For simply five and half dollars, less than the TSA / Homeland Security fees automatically tacked on to your ticket, I was able to donate a little “sumpthin’ sumpthin'” to to supposedly due something greener for the planet than my plane ride.

I like the idea, and would hope to see something come of this, at least if they plant a tree, they’re really doing something more with the money than I think the TSA is, for harassing mothers, and getting all bent out of shape over a few ounces of hand moisturizer.

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