Urbana

I used to work on the corner of 22nd and P (no, NOT at the Fireplace). As such, I wandered around that bit of Dupont quite often- Alberto’s for lunch, Soho Tea and Coffee, Naan and Beyond (although the L Street location, close to my office now, is much better- apparently we can’t relocate unless it’s within a one block distance of Naan and Beyond.) I made it a point to hit the happy hour at Urbana, the restaurant attached to the Hotel Palomar.

I remember Palomar and Urbana when they were the Hotel Radisson and Gabriel, respectively. This came up in conversation with VT and LB over dinner at Urbana last night. After an absolutely HORRID day at work (although, it’s taken me six monthes to have my first truly bad day, so I suppose I ought not complain) I went over to PS7 for several glasses of champagne. (Worth noting- PS7 has happy hour from 5 until 7 with a couple of $4 wines along with discounted prices on the signature cocktails and bar snacks, including the first and only hot dog I’ve eaten since I was about 6 years old) While I made friends at the bar, LB, who has also been having a terrible time at work, made her way in from Virgina to meet me, and we ended up at Urbana with VT. Several years ago, I dragged LB and a few of my other friends to Gabriel for dinner. I think they were ready to kill me by the time it was over- The food was TERRIBLE and overpriced, although I very much enjoyed my “Mexican pizza.”

Thankfully, Urbana has none of these problems. They have a lovely happy hour that I used to hit quite often with Ace after work- cheap wines by the the glass, pizza and cocktails at the bar. Last night, I settled on swiss chard and ricotta ravioli with bacon and a glass of one of my favorite wines, a Costamolina Vermentino. VT and LB both opted for a pizza with Pecorino Romano, prosciutto, and arugula (most of which i picked of VT’s pizza and ate.) I tend to forget about Urbana, because it’s kind of tucked in on a part of P street I don’t frequent too often. I’m glad I did last night. We skipped dessert, and after I beat MP# at a game of rock paper scissors (the best way to make all decisions in life) we went to the Big Hunt for some beer.

In other news, I’ll be here on January 29th, if you’re looking for me. I might even take my mom.

AU under investigation

Thanks to Ace, it has come to my attention that my alma mater (American University) is under investigation for kickbacks between the school and its study abroad programs.

Shocking.

That’s right. The same AU whose president was ousted after using MY student loans to pay for his son’s wedding reception, and keep his wife soaked in gin.

I actually participated in a study abroad program at AU. Unlike some of the other programs, mine did not come with a contact in my chosen country to help me settle in- I was completely on my own in terms of which classes I could/should take, where I could live (I moved three times while I was there, and spent part of my semester living in a hostel,) everything. The AU study abroad office was kind enough to point me in the direction of the school’s website, so as to help with my housing search. Thanks assholes.

The other thing that really irritated me is that even as a foreign student, and allowing for the exchange rate, my tuition overseas was LESS than my tuition at AU. Just to recap- I paid a program fee (even though there was NO program) and AU tuition (even though my tuition that semester was less.) Did AU allow me to keep the difference? No. Did they cut me a break, since they were making money on the deal (since they sent me merrily off on my own, doing nothing but paying tuition to my chosen school)? No.

Study abroad is a great opportunity, and I’m glad I took the chance to go (although if I had it to do over again, I’d go someplace considerably warmer. That being said, the more I look back on my experiences at AU, the more disenchanted I become, and the more it’s confirmed for me that college is less and less about education, and more and more a money making enterprise.

bar news

It seems that Gina Chersevani, the bartender behind the cocktail list at Rasika, has been fired. Fritz Hahn covers it here. In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I worked at one of Ashok Bajaj’s restaurants for a little over a year, and count Gina among my friends as a result of the time I spent there. Back to the story though- Bajaj gave Fritz some incorrect info – Anne Marie Dick didn’t design the original cocktail menu. The original menu was devised by the original bartenders- Gina & Sal (now at CityZen,) and sommelier Sebastian Zutant (now at Proof), who were the original bar team when the restaurant opened in December 2005.

More on Gina from the Washington Post, Washingtonian, Washingtonian After Hours Blog, The Liquid Muse, and A Mighty Appetite.

News worth noting, don’t you think?

links- obama, the wire, UNC vs. Maryland

I hate the City Paper’s blog most of the time, but this makes me feel better. Seems like I’m not the only one with unusual ideas about what constitutes breakfast. [Washington City Paper blog]

Sarah Vowell, of This American Life fame, pens an editorial about religion and MLK for the Times. [New York Times]

Jake Tapper on Obama vs. Clinton and Clinton. [Political Punch]

Carolina (the team, not my housemate) lost this weekend, and some girl in the audience cried. [ESPN] Another apparently yelled “go back to the ghetto.” Who’d have ever thought Carolina fans would out-Duke Duke? [850 The Buzz blog]

Terry Gross interviews Michael K. Williams (who I think I might have a small crush on,) who plays Omar on “The Wire,” on Fresh Air. She also interviewed Clark Johnson yesterday, who directed several episodes of “The Wire,” and plays Gus, a newspaper editor this season.

a day on, not a day off.

I tried something a little different this year. Instead of using Monday to recover from a vicious hangover (although thanks to the New York fucking football Giants, I had every excuse to be hammered) I volunteered with Greater DC Cares.

I ended up spending the morning painting at Benning Elementary School, on 41st and Ames NE, where the principal greeted us shouting “GO BIG BLUE,”and wearing a Giants sweatshirt and hat. I took this to mean that God is smiting His team for some reason (and by reason, I mean Jessica Simpson.) At any rate, we painted the main office, a HUGE kindergarten classroom, and a computer lab. Then we went back to Hines Middle School (right by Eastern Market) to listen to a panel discussion about DC schools. The state superintendent of education, who in the pre-Chancellor days would have headed DCPS, was there (her name is Deborah Gist,) along with Jason King, from Turning the Page, and Jeff Smith of DC VOICE. The panel was moderated by Theola Labbe, the DC/MD schools beat writer for the Post.

The panel was the most interesting part of the day. Everyone spoke about the challenges of standardized testing, the tension between DCPS and charter schools, and how to get the community involved in the schools. I come from a family where education is a given- you WILL get good grades in school, you WILL go to college, etc. etc. I am also a product of the public school system (both North Carolina, and Prince George’s County in MD.)

So while I haven’t been in the DC schools, have no friends with kids in them, and have NO plans to have kids in them…I still feel a connection. And I am quite aware that not everyone has the benefit (or hassel) of a mother or grandparents or aunts and uncles who are DETERMINED to make sure you get the most from your education. Jeff Smith’s commentary came the closest to reflecting my thoughts about DCPS. He said that part of the problem with charter schools is that the parents who care, the parents who would be willing to fight to take back their school(s), the ones who are involved, are often the same ones who leave for charter schools. And really, I can’t blame them. You cannot expect any parent to leave their child in a failing school to prove a point. No parent is going to sacrifice their child to improve the school system, and I for one, will not fault them for that. But at the same time, if all you have left in your local public school are parents who don’t care, decrepit facilities, and kids with no hope…how can you ever expect any change? It’s a vicious cycle, and a problem that I don’t think has an answer. Smith pointed out that in situations like this- the community has to take an interest in the school- take pride it in, regardless of whether individuals in the community have a direct connection or not.

I’m probably not being very articulate, but it was a great panel. I’m several years removed from the worries of public primary education. But, as a resident of DC, it seems to me that I should take an interest nonetheless.

Also, the whole shebang made me think back to the last season of “The Wire”- the one that covered Baltimore’s schools.