Back Alley Café

Not much seems to exist on the Internent on this short-lived punk and pseudo-punk hangout in an alley in northwest Washington, D.C. It was just a stone’s throw from where I worked at the time, the Ha’ Penny Lion, a popular hangout for DC lobbyists and other K Streeet wannabees. On a side note, I should mention that a good portion of the restaurant’s pre-lunch rush receipts came from the 11:00 A.M. lobbyists regulars ready to get a buzz-on before noon. And yes, the bar was full by noon.

From what I remember from my friends who were “in the scene,” the “Back Alley” occupied space unused by Mr. Days, a jock/sports bar, the type of which I’ve visited perhaps only once (and that was in Baltimore, not DC). The irony seemed to make it even more popular–jock bar by day, punk bar by night.

Almost every night, I would see a guy (who looked to be a light-skinned African-American bike courier) wearing a faded Batman t-shirt (before it became cool to wear them and way before it became geeky to wear them); Ben, the DJ (whom I would ask nightly to play or mix certain songs); and a few other people I shouldn’t mention right now.

I used to talk to Ben a bit. He DJ’d at Cagney’s sometimes, too. It was at the Back Alley that I first learned about Bauhaus, Public Image, LTD., Killing Joke, etc. Yes, I know that some will say that those bands are the “standards,” but in DC, there wasn’t much opportunity to hear those bands anywhere at the time. The local alternative station WHFS didn’t play that music too much, and there weren’t many other places to explore alternative music.

That Poseurs/Cagney’s Guy from D.C.

Don’t know what else to call him, but if you saw him, you’ll know exactly who I’m talking about the moment you read the title.

It’s funny what you remember as you get older and the fiery nights of hope and promise of your 20’s grow ever-distant, and you increasingly search for some sort of evidence that what you do remember actually did happen. Yes, you were young, you were full of energy, and you were going to stake your place in the world and in history, and you marched diligently out into the city on as many nights as you could to prove it to others.

I’ve always liked a few songs by Tones on Tail, but invariably the more popular songs by this 80s era goth/dance band trigger not an urge to tap my toes or memories of various late-80s DC hangouts (a few favorites being the Back Alley Café, Trax, the Fifth Column, the 930 Club, etc.), but the vision of a 40-something very much out-of-place man oddly whirling solo in the middle of the dance floor with a seemingly endless energy that I in my 20s couldn’t match. Perhaps cocaine- or alcohol-fueled, the guy never seemed to talk to anybody (nor anybody to him), and he seemed to wear more than his share of checkered flannel and Dickies (and no, not in the cool “I’m a proletarian” kind of way). At first I thought perhaps he was one of those types who’d stay true to the cause till death and was deeply accepted in the way that the aging bartenders at these clubs, bars, and restaurants were, but now I tend to think not. Continue reading

Google Christmas Present

Well, last year some of us Google customers/publishers received the radio that would change colors while you played it. But this year, it’s the geek traveler’s toolkit. I like this year’s gift more, as I’ll be more likely to use it througout the year.

I received some good goodies from Google, including: a 128 MB flashdrive, which is much less than the one I currently use, but certainly welcome; a wireless mini-mouse with NiMH rechargeable batteries included; a USB hub with a four-to-one whatever-you-call-it (yeah, I’m not the biggest geek on the planet); a cool earphone that looks to be made to use for Google Talk (one ear piece, a microphone with a disconnector, and two jacks), and a few other cool things, all contained in a leatherette case.

Here’s the best picture I have so far:

Google Christmas Presents for 2005

Other forum posts that I’ve read have said that some people have not received a wireless mouse (but have received a wired mouse instead), nor the headset.

A Eulogy

My dear friend Kerry,

For a couple of years now, you and I have talked about the realizations I think are common to our age, those last days of the exuberant hope and fire that typify our lives well into our 20s. I want to tell you that I always had the feeling that every conversation that I had with you was somehow too short, that if only our lives were different, we would have had more time to talk or to finish the conversation we’d started. In many cases, you listened more than you talked, but those few important words that you uttered from time to time were small treasures that gave all of us around you insight into your true personality.

On many occasions I remarked to you that I could not fully accept the idea that someone could be alive and vibrant one minute, but the next minute, not. I remember that I talked about the sudden death of John Ritter, and we then talked about some of his work, including Sling Blade, and of course, Three’s Company. What would we have thought had we known then that your untimely death was looming and that you would become one of the group of people who’d died too soon? What would we have done? Would you have lived your life differently? Continue reading

No Free Bread at Pluto’s

So you’re at the local taqueria, moving down the line of glass-protected steam tables of beans, rice, meat, sour cream, guacamole, cheddar cheese, and a few other ingredients Mexicans probably never intended be combined. You hear the monotone questions and register the blank stare and moving lips of the person asking. You think for a moment that she really couldn’t care whether you wanted refried beans or black, whether your order is for here or to go, or even whether you just dropped dead from the weight of one of the brick burritos barely contained in two layers of quilted aluminum foil. You’ve been here a hundred times in the last year, and you have yet to be acknowledged as a regular, not even with a simple hello or You want the chicken taco again? The guy behind you is insisting on speaking in heavily-accented Spanish and you wonder whether he learned his Spanish in school or in the Peace Corps; he does have that slightly hipster look and swagger of someone raised in an upper middle-class liberal family, perhaps the product of a private school upbringing.

Your order is a one of the more expensive items, a combo plate with seafood and steak. The menu mounted up on the wall doesn’t specify all the items included in the plate, so you feel a bit awkward responding to the questions: You want sour cream? You want cheese? You want guacamole? You want tortillas? Your mind runs through several competing thoughts at once before you answer. Yes, of course I want them, but are they going to charge me extra? If it’s extra, I don’t want it, but if it’s included, of course I want it. Continue reading