Saturday, July 24, 2010


So, as I've mentioned here, Mrs. V and I have taken up running, as I can't imagine current me wearing a suit all day in the 145 degree 115% humidity that is D.C. and Mrs. V likes to encourage this behavior by yelling at me when I slow down.

When I run in the morning, however, I often encounter what must be a uniquely American phenomenon: the jogging stroller.

Usually, these are pushed by very physically fit young mothers, and loaded with what must be about 75 pounds of children.  They always encounter me winded, sweating, lumbering oafishly up some tiny hill, whereupon the occupants, who have all of 11 years between them, laugh wildly and point at me. 

I have headphones in, but I can be certain they're saying "Mom, why is that fat man going so slow?"

Mom of course doesn't know, because she's lapped me twice already, and is thinking about what she's going to cook for breakfast.

This is just one more of the startling paradoxes about America that convince me that a place, any place, is not nearly so easily understood as it might seem.  America is, statistically speaking, a country possessed of quite a few large folks.  It is starting to become a defining feature of this country, if British television is to be believed.  And yet here, right in front of me at 7:15 any given morning, is a svelte woman not only out for a run, but out for a run while pushing her family up a mountain.  It's simply amazing.  So I'm reminded, yet again, not to believe everything I read, and to give people the benefit of the doubt wherever possible.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Historic Foreign Service

So, I have a bit of an eBay habit.  Often, when I'm really interested in something, I'll look it up on eBay, just for fun.  Ebay results for "foreign service" usually include a bunch of lifted stamps from embassies, private letters, photographs, and unawarded medals.  While all of these are interesting in their own right, they're not the sort of things that can easily compel $11 from me.

One day, however, I came across an enchanting little booklet that appears to have served as a recruiting pamphlet, commissioned by the New york Life Insurance Company.  It reads like an instructional film about washing vegetables from the 1950s, which only adds to its charm.  I knew immediately that this must be owned, $2.13 be damned.

So, without further ado, I give you: "Should YOU go into the FOREIGN SERVICE?"

Friday, July 2, 2010