Mutiny on the NxGen

Our new database sucked so baa-ad.

Its design was so torturous, so convoluted,
ritual seppuku often came to mind.

Luckily, most opted for retirement instead.

To combat some of the madness and mayhem,
the Agency invented the “NxPert.”

Sort of like an expert, but not.

Recruiting willing victims
was key.

 The title carried obvious risks.

Snark being one of them.

“Don’t know the answer, huh?
Thought you were a NxPert.”

One day, with a little smile playing on her face,
B casually halted me in the hallway.

This is gonna be good, I thought..

To my shock, she was wondering if I
wanted to fill the NxPert vacancy.

My initial reaction was,

“Huh?  Who?”

Thereafter, upon
careful consideration,
I followed up with:

“No seriously,
are you talking to me?”

Truthfully, I could not have been more eager
to attend NxGen training in DC.

But I also knew the role
would require a Zen-like approach…

Observe everything

Judge nothing

And don’t take anything personal.

And oh yeah, stay hydrated.

It was immediately clear
the role of a NxPert
held little glamor.

Everyone knows
NxGen Analysts are
the true front-line
flag bearers.

In class, conflicts between instructors
led to nose to nose confrontations.

During especially WTF moments,
Jodi kept threatening
to hurl a block of faux cheese
across the mystified room.

Harry Potter and the Golden Snitch,
meet Jodi and the Cheese of Distraction.

For historical analogy,
I’d venture to say the Agency’s choice of
a data program was as perplexing…

…as the founding fathers’ geographic choice
for the country’s capitol:

A mostly mosquito-infested swampland

In 1801, ten years after the city was founded,
Thomas Jefferson and the Marine commandant
rode their horses all over Washington.

History tells us they went searching
for a suitable home base for soldiers
“within easy marching distance” of DC.

No record of them dropping
into any swamps along the way.

Today, Washington’s Marine Barracks
is the oldest active post in the U.S.

Not long ago, Barracks Row was honored with a
“Best Main Street in America” title.

The delicious build-your-own-yogurt shop
probably helped tip the scales.

 This military neighborhood
is slightly off the beaten path.

 Its visitors tend to be the loyal… and dogmatic sort.

This is not a Barracks Row visitor, this is Katie.
I just wanted to give her a shout-out
cause she’s romping around in Minneapolis
on a rigorous exercise program.

So far she’s dropped almost 20 lbs.  Go Katie !!

On my way to yonder Barracks
as I munched a midget carrot,
up ahead a scraggly soul
came yawning down the dusty road

weaving, panting, oh so sweetly
sweating through his tongue completely,
just a sudden apparition
wandering in a dazed condition.

Further complicating things,
the summer’s been so beastly hot.

For a while, even Montanans
were gripped by the hellacious temps.

Although thoroughly
trained in deep-woods survival,
field-tested boy scouts
eventually succumbed
under DC’s sun.

As bad as it got,
I couldn’t help thinking of Firenze,
who was halfway across the world,
rickshawing and paddling her way across
the swelteringly humid Orient.

With honorable daughters
nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in tow.

Hot or not, whichever way you slice it,
it’s always delicious providence to
mix business with pleasure in the District.

During my stay,
while I was out walking about,
I kept bumping into this
rivetting creature.

Although neatly shaved for the summer,
he unexpectedly sported tufted ears.

In a word, captivating.

His name I egregiously neglected to record.

The more I ran into him,
the easier it was to imagine him as
some sort of Manchurian candidate experiment.


The military could be planting
a new breed of domestic security animals
among an unsuspecting public.

The pooch’s piercing peepers
could be used to disorient a hostile.

These surgically-implanted
laser-contact orbitals could also
operate as a brainwashing tool
as part of a secret security agenda.

Although what that agenda
might be wouldn’t be revealed
since the military rarely spills
its hidden security agendas.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

But yes, maybe I watch too much tv.

At the National Botanical Garden

Exotic plants, sample salads
lots of interactive fun stuff

 Nature’s Mr. Microphone


The Plant that Sacked the Bounty

As weary, bleary sailors
scrubbed the Bounty’s deck,
and Captain Bligh flayed them
for some inconsequential speck
it wasn’t till his thirsty and
traveling breadfruit plants
took watering precedence
over sweaty, parched deckhands
that singularly pissed sailors
decided to dispose of his ballast…

Once again at that week’s end
I bumped into my “fateful” friend…

(TM Sari)

When Sari was little,
she loved to use the phrase,
“my fateful friend!”

She must have meant faithful
but she’d say “fateful”
with such alacrity,
it would’ve been criminal
to correct her.

Reminds me of her gleefully
referring to her Mom’s Grand Prix,
as the “Grand Pricks!”

Didn’t correct her there either.

*   *   *

As NxPerts, we were tasked with
assisting, as well as inspiring,
those who needed it.

However, not even Churchill,
who inspired an entire generation,
could have swayed
outraged NxGen objectionists…

Because objectionists
have a fairly strong argument
for NxGen’s obliteration,
(if not unrealistic at this juncture)

Sir Winston’s historic oratory
seems all the more fitting
for this embattled group…

“We shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,

we shall fight in the fields
and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;

In conclusion,

We shall never surrender…

At least not until every last kink
is worked out of NxGen…

Diehards might insist that
Mr. Churchill stooped to pet a kitty
as a future nod to NxGen’s predecessor,
the beloved CATS database.

Surely it was unfortunate coincidence
that the furry face evoked a bit of a
Herr Kitler meets Snidley Whiplash.

Sara was so in-demand and thoroughly booked,
Jenny and I had to schedule an appointment
just to schedule an appointment with her.

Filled with wisdom beyond her years,
Sara is often sought for her wise counsel.

This time around, her sage advice to Jenny and me,

“Invite strange men to your table.”

…still resonates.

*   *   *

One night, Roxie was crossing Thomas Circle.

Two years ago,
when her owner rescued her
she was in rough shape.

I noticed right away she was friendly,
but in a guarded, non-committal way.

All the same, a remarkable thing happened.

While I chatted with her owner,
she suddenly rolled over
exposing her belly in an
intimate request for a skritch.

By her vulnerable trust of a stranger,
Roxie had crossed the Rubicon.

She probably crosses it every day,
but it’s nice to think you’re part of the healing.

Too bad humans don’t utilize something
similar for instant people-reading.

*    *    *

Capitol Hill Books –
Where bibliophiles disappear


Because death by book avalanche is entirely possible.

Believe me, I’ve heard it, witnessed it once,
and almost experienced it.


Owner Jim Toole’s Rules

On top of the rules,
he’s pretty cranky.
And proud of it.

That weekend,
a percussion crew
drummed up infectious,
bluesy beats
outside Eastern Market.

A little boy wandered in
spontaneously bopping.

“Dance, little man, Dance!”
the bongo drummer exclaimed.

And so he did.

Really boosted the band’s haul, too.

Word was there was some tasty
smoked salmon in the open-air market.

Word was major accurate.

*   *   *

In the middle of the Market,
I spotted some fantastic glass art pendants
fronted by this smiley dude.

The dude turned out to be the artist,
otherwise known as Ryan Eicher.

“Don’t you have some pieces at Beadazzled
on Connecticut Avenue?” I asked him.

“Hmm,” he had to think about it. “Maybe!”

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised this guy
might not know or remember where
he may have unloaded his artful creations.

Demonstrating the glass top spin.

A way with the wee ones

His most magical pendants
evoked star-filled galaxies,
the Milky Way, the Northern Lights.

Breathtaking stuff.

Ryan exemplified
people with that “Shine.”
(TM David)

And I don’t mean shine like the kid in The Shining.
No, I’m talking that indefinable quality,
spirit, that certain something.

Whatever it was he had,
I could not pry myself away
without buying at least a piece
of Ryan’s vision of the Galaxy.

Centurion sandals.

Not my cup of tea at first.

But now when I spot this intricate,
Caesar-inspired footware,
I can’t help thinking:

“Come sono belli i sandali!”

*     *     *

The next weekend, while I was skulking
around Eastern Market,
I came upon this artwork.

The artist seemed to be off on a break.

he came around the corner,
startling us both.

“OH!” he said.  “Hi !  How are you?”

I told him I loved his work,
that it was kind of John Lennon-ish
and brilliant in its sparsity
and minimalism.

That’s when I realized
my description of his art
was more convoluted than
anything he was trying to impart.

Which reminded me of
my Dad’s favorite mantra:

Keep your lip zipped,
your eyes open,
and your ears open
even wider.


And if you can’t keep your lip zipped,
at least shoot for concise expression.

*    *    *

Carved from Minnesota limestone,
the American Indian Museum brings
elemental, sensual harmony
to the National Mall.

Inside, its Mitsitam Cafe is renowned
for offering regionally-diverse native dishes,
so exotically delicious and interesting,
that if the Mall wasn’t so bleeding big,
I’d have gone there every day for
breakfast lunch and dinner.

In the Native language of the
Delaware and Piscataway peoples,
“Mitsitam” means “Let’s eat!”

George Caitlin’s initial frantic sketchings
of American Indians in their native habitats
morphed into the colorful, rich paintings that
record a fascinating historical snapshot
of Native Americans’ daily lives.

*     *     *

During the Second World War,
twenty-nine Navajo Indians were recruited
by the U.S. Marines to write a secret code.

Never cracked by the Japanese,
it’s reputed to be the only
uncrackable code in the history of warfare.

Lesser known is the Choctaw’s natives’
similar role in the First World War.

Their story illustrates the first time
the American government recognized the
unique and critical skills Native Peoples
could bring to the military table.

This elegant lady, a descendant
of a Choctaw translator,
was regaling visitors
with her grandfather’s story.

The unsung WWI warriors.

*     *     *

Before I turned my attention back to NxGen,
I had time on the weekend to traipse around
and visit my favorite art museum,
the National Portrait Gallery.

I spotted Grandma Moses
seemingly puffing a major stogie
in the one of the galleries.

Could it be?

The painting by Kristen Helberg
is an homage to Ms. Moses,
with perhaps an inadvertent
tip of the hat to cigars.

One hot sultry night,
the warm scent of chocolatey butter
suffused the air.

It was Cupcakery for Chrissakes.

The remains of a semi-demolished piece of
Northern Beauty red velvet cakery

Kristen, Rachel and Jenny,
three beauties who will probably
smack you if you call them cupcakes.

So I will call them ladies who drink and eat
and drink some more at Oyamel.

After a hard day’s NxGen’ing,
we decided to march our way to Oyamel.
Kristen had a terrible time with her work heels.
Washington’s sidewalks and streets are not pump-friendly.

By the time we got to Oyamel, her poor feet,
chronically slipping and sliding out of those
professionally cruel shoes, were bruised and
battered by our brutal pace, and screaming Uncle.
Yet all the while, under her stoic soldierly mien,
Kristen hid her murderous pain
from us clueless cloppers.

Fortunately, the lime-spiked guacamole,
prepared by the shy hombre sonriente,
took Kristen’s mind off her feetsies.

We devoured the guac in dainty little bites,
all of us racing to the bottom of el tazon.

Or, maybe that was just me….

Salt Air-Topped margaritas

Wonderful.  But full of salt.

Because of my phenomenal
ability to retain water,
I must eschew salt
even if it’s only airily
rimming a margarita.

Did I mention the girls were
full of hopes and full of dreams,
full of laughter, full of tears,
full of dreams to last them years…

Clearly, their “youthful exuberance”
(TM Firenze) was showing.

Listening to these ladies
discuss their husbands and boyfriends,
not necessarily in that order,
I realized something. . .

Another glimpse of the devilish Red Velvet Cupcakery
which I totally blame Sara for getting me fixated on
cause last time I was in DC she and Dee indulged
whereas I eschewed them cause they had sugar.

I realized my list of eschewing
was getting mighty seriously long.

So when I spotted the
sugar-free limited edition this time,
I almost had a cow.

Instead, I had a cupcake.

And God saw that it was good.
I mean really deliciously good.

*    *    *

Back in Minneapolis,
upon hearing about the training
experience, Roger mused,

“So you drank the Kool-Aid, eh?”

An observation that, at the time,
seemed not only totally unnecessary,
but mildly insulting.

Yet to be fair,
on closer inspection,
disconcertingly spot-on.

While I sifted snark from the straightforward,
half a globe away, in a much safer environment,
Florence cuddled her new scaly friend in Vietnam.

“Yeah he licked my face after this photo,” F said proudly.

Interesting how even a tropical snake
will give you a sneaky lick first.





R. I. P. Lily



Glacier National Park
Photo by
Deanna Montana

One thought on “Mutiny on the NxGen

  1. Astute observations . . . stunning, stunning, STUNNING photography . . . humor and poignancy . . . truly poetic insights . . . . You are brilliant. I LOVE THIS SO MUCH; thanks for sharing your creativity with us.

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