How An Earthquake Got Me Out of A Conference Call

Waiting around after our building evacuation.

Here I was, going into the 51st minute of a conference call about charter schools, when I started feeling a tremor beneath me. At first I thought it was just some effect of the footlong chili cheese dog from lunch, but when the slight tremor turned into a steadier rocking, I looked over at my colleague Ken, who was so panicked that he slammed down his receiver and took off. “Don’t use the elevator,” he said, as he rushed out the door. I took the time to say goodbye to my conference call-mates, find my cell phone and camera, and then went down stairs.

Outside, we were a hapless group of journos standing in the middle of downtown DC, awaiting instructions on what to do next and trying to stand close enough to the building to stay connected to wifi. I found All Things Considered host Robert Siegel reading his Blackberry and learning we were indeed in an earthquake, it measured 5.8 on the Richter scale and centered in Mineral, Virginia, which was about 100 miles southwest of us. And it was he and the rest of the ATC staff that was let back in the building first, since they had an earthquake to consider in time for the broadcast.

ATC Host Robert Siegel was also evacuated.

This fairly-significant quake reminded me of the “best” quake memory I have. It was Easter 2002, and I was with mom in a department store in downtown Taipei, awaiting a dance performance from the Chinese hip-hop boy band I was living with at the time. But all of a sudden there was a rumble, and we were all rushed out into the streets. My journal from that time:

“on Sunday, minutes before Ed and Kenny were going to dance at FNAC (an electroncis store), an earthquake struck, and weeny Kenny blew out of the building….well, everyone else did too, i guess, but anyway, the point is i never got to watch the boys perform. oh well, i guess i get the privilege of seeing them do headstands and funky stretches around the house all the time.”

The whole roommate crew plus my mom found one another near National Taiwan University later that day, and ate a bunch of mango shaved ice. It was awesome. So today, after the earthquake, I immediately craved ice, which, like other great Asian food, can’t be found in DC’s Chinatown.

My Washington Places

Friends Reeve and Dan are both in town from Texas this weekend. It’s a happy consequence of living in Washington that I get to have a reunion with a Texas friend who happens to be in town at a rate of nearly once a week. So far I’ve been treated to separate reunions with friends April, Robert, Jeff, Wade, Corbin, Stacey, Carlos, Darrin, Thomas, Pete, Andrew and an attempted reunion with Connor (who I missed due to being in Texas myself). These reunion meals and happy hours may be the best part of living here, besides Tiny Desk Concerts and getting to eat lunch in the Kogol Courtyard at the National Portrait Gallery whenever we want.

So if you are like Dan or Reeve and are planning to come and visit, here’s an annotated map of the places I’ve been eating and drinking and getting entertained, so far. I try to keep it updated but life happens, so it might be missing some good stuff. But my favorite bars here so far — The Passenger, Solly’s U Street Tavern and the W hotel rooftop — are on the map and recommended. So is lunch at the Portrait Gallery, pizza/sliders at Matchbox and any time you can carve out to visit me (or Matty) at NPR.

Slightly More Than 48 Hours in DC

Big thanks to my BFF Sandeep for hosting us for a couple of nights in his new Capitol Hill home. It was lovely. He even provided eyeshades to help us sleep better and slipped the Washington Post under the guest room door in the morning. And (he’s just learning this now, but) he loaned me his Barcelona travel guide which I will put to good use during the Hu-Stiles Spain trip next month. As we did for NYC, a few highlights:

-Reunions with so many people I love. Alexis, our traveling writer friend who is now community managing/blogging for US News and World Report, the two Daves who worked with Stiles at the DMN, the Mizzou folk who also attended the wedding for which we made the trip east.

Slain WSJ reporter Daniel Pearl's stuff, on display at the Newseum.

-Crab puppies. Seriously, why don’t these things proliferate in Texas? What’s more delicious than crab and fried dough?

-Our brief time at the Online News Association annual conference, where Stiles was way more popular than me. (Coders are super cool at these conventions.) And then we found out we won an ONA the next night, which was super cool.

-Witnessing an adorable couple wed on the banks of a beautiful Virginia lake, as the sun slowly disappeared for the day.

-Queen Noble, the woman on the DC ballot running for the district’s non-voting seat in Congress.

-The Newseum. Worth the $20 entry fee. Saw a riveting 9/11 exhibit, the Tim Russert office, an interactive on news ethics, a look at world press freedoms, part of the Berlin Wall, but most importantly, was reminded why we and others do what we do. To write the first draft of history, to shine a light on injustice, to call the powerful to account, to give voice to the voiceless, to whine ceaselessly about our working situations… 🙂