by Borderstan.com October 12, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,104 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

"Halloween"

The season is here. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Borderstan, I confess that this time of year is not usually a favorite of mine. The long summer days are decidedly behind us, the chill in the air makes me shiver unhappily and the decorations in most stores make me cringe, as I have arachnophobia.

While I think Halloween is a fun way for children to get out into their neighborhood in costumes and collect sweets and goodies, I do find some of the symbols for this feast rather unsettling. I don’t do too well around outsized spiders and their webs, so I give enthusiastically decorated homes and stores a wide berth these days.

This is also the time of year where, in other countries around the world, people think of their departed. Again, the theme is not typically a cheery one. I have memories from my childhood in Italy of visiting cemeteries on cold, drizzly fall days, tough, yellowing and slippery leaves underfoot and dark, bare branches stretching to the grey sky.

I admire and enjoy the Mexicans’ take on All Souls’: their dia de los muertos is a party, a pic-nic and a feast. Way to face down your fears and turn a day of dread into a fiesta!

In a similar vein, I have promised myself that I’ll make a point of facing (perhaps even facing down) some of my fears this season. Whether it’s having a needed but uncomfortable conversation with someone, or speaking in public, or perhaps even attempting that weight that has been eluding me in my workouts, be it what it may, I’ll take this spooky Halloween season as an occasion to be spooked about some things no more.

So, Borderstan, may we all conquer some of our fears and enjoy the mid-autumn!

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by Borderstan.com April 18, 2012 at 2:00 pm 0

"Borderstan""Balconies"

Remember that we live very close to each other in this neighborhood. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Borderstanis, with the warmer weather upon us (and boy, are we getting some temperature spikes!) we are all pouring out of our homes to enjoy time outdoors. Be it sidewalk cafes, outdoor seating at our favorite restaurants, or, for the lucky among us, our own patio, deck or balcony, there we all are: enjoying the mild weather and the lengthening afternoons and evenings. The presence of more people and pets outdoors makes the city feel festive, alive and buzzing.

The warming of the weather does, however, bring with it a couple of possible drawbacks.

Noise Pollution

Let’s remember that in most areas of our ‘hood, residential units are located directly above, across the street, around the corner, or down the alley from our favorite haunts. While I’m not advocating everyone use “their inside voice” while dining or happy-houring al fresco, you may want to check-in on your volume, especially if the gathering you’re attending has consumed its fair share of un-inhibiting libations(!).

Your neighbors near and far will thank you for keeping the conversation limited to your table, rather than proclaiming it across the entire outdoor patio, or making it echo across the intersection.

Lights and Music

If you’re one of those lucky folks who can entertain in your own outdoor space, more power to you! Please think about your neighbors and their possible desire to have a quiet evening at home, or their need to tuck in because of an early morning conference call or departure on a business trip the next day.

So, especially if you’re entertaining or sitting outside enjoying a mild, breezy weeknight, consider taking your dinner guests indoors and turning the music and lights out or down, once the quiet hours for your building kick in. You’ll be raking in a ton of gratitude and that, especially among neighbors, always comes in handy.

All that said, I am just as jazzed as you about the longer evenings, warmer temps and the chance to sit outdoors without having to wear three to four layers of clothing in order to make it more than 10 minutes. Here’s wishing all of us many enjoyable hours in this lovely springtime and early summer weather.

Catch you on a patio or deck somewhere!

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by Borderstan.com April 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,157 0

"Borderstan" "People" "Street""14th Street"

Strangers are just friends I haven’t met. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Borderstan, since a few of my recent posts were a bit more critical of some of the behaviors I’ve observed in our ‘hood, I wanted to share this anecdote with you. I was recently all the way (!) out in West Falls Church, on my way to a conference at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), waiting to catch a connecting bus from the Metro station to get to the USGS.

Now, I am one of those lucky few who “commutes” to work on foot for less than 10 minutes, so I have no daily need for Metro, buses, cars or other means of transportation, be they public or private. This means I am one of those dinosaurs who does not own a SmartCard.

So here I was, a little before 8 a.m. at West Falls Church and I realized I did not have exact change for the connecting bus fare. In fact, I was one dollar short and had the typical $20 yuppie-stamp in my wallet. Of course, there was no vending machine, deli, coffee shop or anything similar available for me to break my $20. I walked up to the bus stop and asked the only lady standing there whether she could possibly break my bill. She didn’t have enough to do that, but she offered me a single instead. She just gave it to me.

I was so grateful and also very embarrassed at not having prepared for this commute properly, being forced to ask a complete stranger for money! It reminded me of the many times I’ve passed people on the street, panhandling for change and not getting very far.  And here I, on my first request, got the help I needed and a pleasant exchange in the bargain.  Our ensuing chat, as we waited for the bus, revealed that we’d both grown up in the same mountain range in the Alps, just on different sides of it: she in Austria, I in Italy.

My one “consolation” for being unprepared was to remember that I’ve done my share of good turns to total strangers (one of these developed into a friendship with a painter from Barcelona, whom I helped as she was trying to negotiate the ticket machines in the Dupont Circle Metro station). So perhaps my turn had come to be assisted, as I had done for others in the past.

All moralizing or conjecture aside, Borderstan, I wish all of us occasions in which to receive the kindness of strangers. May we also get some opportunities to practice that kindness on others. Happy Spring!

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by Borderstan.com December 22, 2011 at 8:00 am 0

"Borderstan", Candida Mannozzi, Luis Gomez Photos

Less is More. Really. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at [email protected].

Borderstan, it’s that time of the year. We’re out there, shopping for food, for ornaments, for tokens for our co-workers, and gifts for friends and family. This general atmosphere generated the thought for this piece, which came to me as I was chatting with my friend Frank.

He and I exchange cards this time of year. Yes, we’re among those dinosaurs who still, on occasion, put actual pen to paper and use the U.S. Postal Service to get the product from one home to the other. (Don’t get me started on our local post office closings!)

Back to the chat with Frank: I received his card in the mail the other day. Well, not all of it. I received a torn envelope with the card missing and an accompanying note from the Postal Service, apologizing for the damage done to the missive. I was crushed! Frank’s card was lost! He picks really cool, inventive, artsy cards every year: they are usually great examples of pop-outs, paper-art… you get the idea, yes?

So, I was truly disappointed not to get Frank’s choice for this year!

I sent him an email thanking him for his card and explaining the mishap with it. He called me later and it turns out I’m not the only friend of his who didn’t get this year’s fancy paper-art card. We concluded there must have been a design flaw to it, probably the choice of envelopes, which were not sturdy enough to safely contain the pop-out card weighing more than the regular ones.

“I see these different, beautiful cards each year, and over time I’ve been choosing fancier and fancier ones. That’s it. I’m done with the top-of-the-line cards.”

I agreed with him, even though I was sorry not to have seen the fanciest pop-out card he’s chosen yet.

“Hey, but at least you got the envelope and you had proof that I was thinking of you and that I wanted to reach out to you, right?”

Indeed. Absolutely on the money. And that’s when the thought occurred to me and I told Frank the clichéd phrase: “Hey, man, less is more.” Maybe next year he’ll skip the top-of-the-line card, and send a less fancy one, since the sentiment he wishes to share is the essential part of the whole exercise.

This episode reminded of one of my favorite illustrated books: Patrick McDonnell’s “The Gift of Nothing,” the story of a little cat Mooch wanting to get his buddy, Earl, something for the holidays and observing people saying there’s “nothing” on TV and “nothing” in the stores, and “nothing” to do… so in the end Mooch finds an empty box, wraps it in a bow and Earl exclaims with delight when he opens it. The book ends with a drawing of the two of them sitting side-by-side at the window after playing with the empty box, looking out onto a starry sky, happy for the gift of nothing, “… and everything.”

So, this holiday season I wish all of us a bit less of the frills, frippery and add-ons, giving us a chance to enjoy the underlying more.

by Borderstan.com November 11, 2011 at 11:00 am 2 Comments

"Borderstan""Suitcases"

When you live in DC, you have to get used to saying “goodbye.” (Luis Gomez Photos)

Borderstan recently welcomed a new contributor in the Lifestyle section. In “Borderstan Candids,” Candida Mannozzi will be sharing her observations about people, places and general things she observes in the neighborhood. She owned Candida’s World of Books on 14th Street NW. Today’s column is a special one, and she will return Thanksgiving week.

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at [email protected].

Borderstan, I don’t think it matters how long you live in DC. This will happen to you, so you might as well brace for it. At some point during your life here (if you live here long enough this will happen to you more than once), a dear friend will break your heart with news of their move.

Yes, they or their fiance/partner/spouse landed that dream job in Manhattan, San Francisco, Paris or Austin and off they have to go. Being the supportive friend that you are, you will of course be delighted for them, truly. But let’s face it: your social life is about to have a gaping hole ripped right out of it and you can essentially do nothing — nada de nada — about it.

Borderstan, I’ve noticed that we cede many good people to other cities. I suppose there’s some minor comfort in the fact that most of them move to cool new places. We seem to be a finishing school for folks who other urban centers happily scoop up and pride themselves on, after they’ve become hipper, more urbane, more international and more well-rounded thanks to their time in our diverse urban enclave. Borderstan, we can pride ourselves on having all manner of close connections in cities around the U.S. and the rest of the world. Miami, beat that!

Yet, local pride notwithstanding, it hurts to lose a close friend, to see them move away. No more impromptu Stoney’s dinners; gone are the last-minute Whole Foods runs for a game night party; goodbye bike rides in Rock Creek Park when you conspire to take a “slick” day; adieu to “he said/she said” phone calls, as you make your separate ways home from another grueling workday. Not to mention the happy hours at Number Nine, Cork, Bar Pilar or Busboys & Poets, to list just a few local haunts. Fuggedaboudit.

Right now I am reeling from yet another such loss: a dear friend moved to… Seattle. Yeah, not even to Manhattan, which an easy bus or train ride can temporarily fix. No, Seattle. Read: “advance planning and travel arrangements required.” Sigh.

Then again, maybe the sigh is not entirely warranted.

Here’s the deal: In my 13-plus years here, I’ve lost my fair share of dear friends to other places. However, “lost” is no longer the term I choose to use. I am turning the tables on this DC phenomenon and referring to it as: we’ve just primed yet another fabulous person for (enter destination). Now we have access to a friend in a new, cool place and the next long weekend or national holiday will see me using my frequent flyer miles or grabbing a rental car to get over there, then post about our happy visit on Facebook for our DC home-buddies!

Borderstan, I say we continue cultivating our friends and neighbors, as we will only gain from it, whether they stay or go. Come to think of it, has anyone noticed more folks staying, lately?

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