Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Posts Tagged ‘DC

On Getting Dressed for the Office

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Stock Photo, Women Office Workers

One of the worst parts about going into an office again is trying to dress like a grown-up.

My current office isn’t one with a terribly strict dress code—jeans can be worn any day as long as they’re not worn every day, and sartorial eccentricities are tolerated wordlessly—but it sure isn’t working from my bedroom in Brooklyn. Which means a certain degree of Trying To Look Appropriate is still required.

During my first job out of college, working as as admin assistant/proposal editor for a big science research firm, I loaded up on striped button-downs, wide-legged trousers, tweed skirts and sensible cardigans from Old Navy and second-hand stores. I thought I looked “professional.” Until one day it occurred to me I just looked boring. Frumpy.

I looked like a secretary in Ohio who shopped at Old Navy.

Edie Sedgewick

So I vowed, from then on, never to attempt to look like a Getty Images version of an office worker again. Instead, I would try to translate my natural style—which tends toward extra-in-Jesus-Christ-Superstar (the film) meets Edie Sedgewick meets a kindergartner—into an office-friendly version of itself. And yet, at this, I often (read: mostly) fail miserably. Take today, for instance:

I seem to be wearing a pair of tight, flared, bubble-gum pink pants (Express by way of the thrift store), a brown t-shirt, a short-sleeved tan windbreaker, cowboy boots and large rainbow-beaded hoop earrings.

I realize that the way I talk about my office-clothing choices completely removes any personal agency from them, but that is how it feels. One minute I’m in pajamas, one minute I’m in a towel, one minute I’m in a pleated seer-sucker mini-skirt with black tights, a peasant blouse and a blazer. Much like boyfriends, or finishing an entire bottle of Malbec, these things just happen.

The upside, I guess, is that no one will ever confuse me for a Hill staffer.

And sometimes homeless folk compliment my shoes.


Written by ENB

April 21, 2011 at 12:06 am

The midwest farmers’ daughters

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It’s impossible for me to think about California, at this point in my life, without thinking about Joan Didion. I came to Didion recently-ish—I think it must have been just a little over a year ago, I was on the verge of moving to New York and Conor told me to read Didion’s famous moving to and moving away from New York essay, “Goodbye to All That,” to which I responded:

I adored it. But I wonder—did you feel that way, when you moved to New York? I don’t. I worry I am too old, or too stubborn …

Which just shows you what a pretentious, dramatic twit I can be sometimes, because of course I got swept up in loving it here (and also just, Gawd, you know?). It’s been about one year and one month since I moved here, and I may or may not be as bad as when my then-boyfriend first moved here, moved into the McKibben lofts, and called me at my apartment in DC at 2 in the morning to tell me that the loft building across the street had started blaring and singing “Holland, 1945” by Neutral Milk Hotel, and then the residents of his building started doing it back at them, and then they were all having a Holland 1945 sing-a-long and wasn’t that just magical and New York the best? Shoot me if I ever become one of those people, I told my DC friends.

And now I live in a house with 13 other members of my creative collective, Goddamn Cobras, and make raw pies and have housemates who play in a band called Zebros in our basement.

So, there’s that.

What all of this has to do with California is that, on the official one-year anniversary of my move to New York, I was not in New York but in Ojai, California, shooting a movie and/or camping out in dried out riverbeds and forests and lagoons and farms and mountaintops and beaches. That land is incredible, let me tell you; as a lifelong midwesterner with a splash of east coast, I had no idea how beautiful California could actually be.

But what a weird little place, that state. How can a land so built on frontierism, on lone rangers and outcasts and outlaws (you see, I not so long ago finished both Didion’s first novel, Run River, and her book about California, Where I Was From, and also spent last fall and winter watching John Wayne and Sergio Leone movies, so I have these grand sort of notions about California’s founding) be so … progressive, in all the most negative senses of the word? And why doesn’t someone advertise a medical marijuana shop without using the old tropes of psychedelia? Why do the lemons in California get so big? And how the hell did Los Angeles even happen? Why are there so many car dealerships on the strip between L.A. and Santa Barbara? And how does anyone ever get anything done what with the beaches and the sunsets and the palm trees and all of that? Why did I want so badly to feel some sort of connection to a silly place that was once a different place (in my case, the first studio warehouse and lot, for Keystone Studios, opened by Mac Sennett, in what’s now Echo Park, but what does it matter—I wanted to see a Celebrity House, you know; I went looking for Mabel Normand’s Alvarado Street bungalow, I had to visit Haight-Ashbury)? And why do people in San Francisco pretend like they don’t have the worst weather? Why does California, the Idea of California, draw people, like the Idea of New York City, even still, even now—a highway not just a highway but a California Highway; a sunset a California Sunset … A weird little place, that state.

I hope to visit again sometime.


* I am now reading Tom Robbins’ Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, the first Robbins book I’ve even attempted—I tend to lump him in that group of Overhyped Gen X Male Authors I Have No Interest In, like David Foster Wallace and Dave Edgars and I think Thomas Pynchon, though he is probably much older, isn’t he?—because when I was driving down the Pacific Coast Highway on my own, no radio signal, no music of any kind, no visibility much beyond my headlights, all fog and endless bridges—to be saved only by the prospect of Guadalupe, because Jables said I would Love It, only to find the most dismal, empty town, Mexican track housing, and suddenly 56 degrees when I fill up my gas a few towns later—or even during the filming of our goddamn western, when Fanny’s house was all slightly-off-key vintage upright pianos, Bearclaw banging on the keys theatrically (in his full Sheriff costume), and fresh mulberries sunshine outside bathtubs wine and toasts—which of course all made me sad because somehow nostalgia and enjoyment always hit me in reverse, well—I don’t know where it came from, didn’t know the phrase referenced a book, a song, anything at all, all the same it became a bit of a mantra, just a little bit, which is silly–it’s silly, right, okay? I know—but nonetheless it became a bit of a mantra, “even cowgirls get the blues,” that somehow cheered me up (I had been wearing these amazing cowgirl boots as a part of my film costume and now refused to take the boots, or my turquoise jewelry, or my ragged jean shorts, off, you see), so when I saw this old Tom Robbins’ paperback copy in a used bookstore in San Francisco with Rachel for four dollars and 50 cents, I had to pick it up. Even cowgirls get the blues. Only by now, I have owned the book for over two weeks, and I’ve only read ten pages.

It’s hard to like a woman with giant thumbs, and it’s hard to feel like a cowgirl in Brooklyn …

Dedicated to 2009

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dscn0157Well, hello blogosphere! I have been having a mighty fine time without you these past two weeks. I spent long, lingering mornings over the breakfast table with my mommy and daddy. I played many games of Parcheesi with the descendants of my mother’s sisters. I visited nearly every bar in Reading, Ohio, with a ragtag assortment of relatives, high-school friends, lesbians, thugs and cowboys. I was not, this year, kicked out of the strip club behind the public library for daring to enter with an out-of-state I.D. I stayed up too late in Columbus, learning about college friends’ sex lives and job aspirations and Christmas gifts while stomping the old grounds and such. I returned to DC for one night of Old Bay and Ravenry. I spent a regrettable amount of time on buses. I rung in the new year with my oldest friend (we met circa ‘Floppy Was a Bunny,’ courtesy of The Studio’s pre-K ballet program, somewhere between left and right hop) and a gaggle of other transplanted Cincinnatians and Floridians amidst the warehouses and Polish corner stores of Greenpoint. I donned Dan-Deacon-glasses and moonboots to co-co-co-star in what has to be the best New Year’s Day lip dub ever made by twenty sauerkraut-, pineapple-champagne- and black-eyed-pea-bellied 20-somethings this side of East River. I met a gutter punk turned Party Monster named Ross, who trash-dived a drum and carried it the whole 10 or so blocks to the show space called something that sounds like Princess Sparkle Pony, wherein Austrian men in bearded bunnycat costumes played Theremins, to my dismay. I slept in late. I paid for coffee with change. I did not know all the words to ‘Graceland’ around the campfire. I left my phone charger and my heart in Brooklyn (well, the parts of it not already left in Reading, Columbus, etc.) and, sans telecommunication, resolved last night to stop being so practical in 2009, to be full of youth and potential again, and to most definitely possibly quit smoking in February.

So. That’s where I’ve been.

For auld lang sign, my dears. And for times to come.

Written by ENB

January 6, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Posted in My Life, Story-Telling

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Jury Duty

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Sign my roommate hung on my door while I was out to remind me to go to jury duty this morning. It’s my first jury duty ever. I feel so adult. In a not-fun way.

Written by ENB

November 6, 2008 at 8:22 am

Posted in My Life, Photos

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Is socially progressive Republicanism a big selling point these days?

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So I voted today* (DC has this amazing vote in-person-absentee through the day before the election policy). And on the way into the DC Board of Elections headquarters, someone handed me a flier for Patrick Mara, who’s running for DC Council. The blurb about Mara on the flier, excerpted from a Washington Post article, read:

Mara’s priorities are school reform, fiscal responsibility, transparency in government and better regional cooperation. A socially progressive Republican, Mr. Mara favors same-sex marriage and supports a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion.

Odd, no? I mean, while it sent my heart all aflutter that such a creature exists, I can’t help but wonder about the relevance of Mara’s position on same-sex marriage and abortion rights to serving on DC council I don’t imagine those topics come up much in attending to city business.  So why include it on campaign literature? It seems like the kind of information that would seem ancillary to many, a small incentive to a few, and yet carry the potential to turn off even more. The information certainly made me like Mara more, but I was planning on voting for him anyway.

* One Democrat, two Republicans, one Libertarian

[Update: Okay, I guess I don’t really know much at all about what the DC Council does, because apparently gay marriage is an issue of relevance to council members].

Written by ENB

November 3, 2008 at 11:02 pm

I think that would be when I moved to DC…

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A half hour or so before the debate yesterday, my phone kept making the you’ve-got-a-text-message sound. “Oh god, I’ve really got to turn off my twitter device updates during the debate,” I said to my friend from out of town, who was watching the debate with me.

Him: Wait, so do you have a lot of friends who will be live-blogging the debate?

Me: Well, yeah, or at least twittering about it throughout.


Him: So where do you think you went wrong in life?

Written by ENB

October 3, 2008 at 11:23 am

Posted in Asides

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I think that would be when I moved to DC

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A half hour or so before the debate yesterday, my phone kept making the you’ve-got-a-text-message sound. “Oh god, I’ve really got to turn off my twitter device updates during the debate,” I said to my friend from out of town, who was watching the debate with me.

Him: Wait, so do you have a lot of friends who will be live-blogging the debate?

Me: Well, yeah, or at least twittering about it throughout.


Him: So where do you think you went wrong in life?

Written by ENB

October 3, 2008 at 11:23 am

Posted in Ephemera

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‘Young professionals in D.C. rarely cross the red/blue divide when making social plans.’

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Photo via IntangibleArtsThis morning my friend emailed me a silly Internet meme about the differences in neighborhood, nightlife and transportation preferences for DC’s “hippie or hipster left” and “preppy right.” Vaguely amusing, vaguely cringe-worthy. But later, via a link from DCist, I found myself reading an article by Ben Adler on Campus Progress about this very same ‘Two DCs’ conundrum. Bizarre, I thought, that this article sounds so much like the email forward, and that this is suddenly an issue of grave interest. And then—lo and behold!, at the bottom of the page—the email meme is part of the Campus Progress article.

Anyway, I think my various libertarian/conservative acquaintances in this city will be surprised to learn that, according to Campus Progress, hanging out at the Black Cat, Wonderland, Townhouse or The Raven; living in Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, or U Street; reading DCist or the New York Review of Books; or eating at Red Rocks Pizza (home of the Bottomless $9 Mimosa!!!) makes you a leftie. And possibly a hippie to boot. Sorry dudes.

Written by ENB

October 2, 2008 at 3:40 pm

DC v. NY

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Rooftop DJIt was around midnight Saturday in the (somewhat infamous and somewhat despised) McKibben Lofts in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and I was with a small group gathered in the living room of unit 1G. Downstairs, in the loading-dock-come-bedroom-and-stage-area, a Japanese opera-singing party was in full swing (hosted by G roommate Mariko, a costume designer who’s also some sort of spokeswoman for American Idol in Japan), but upstairs it was just a handful of roommates and neighbors, slightly tired and slightly bored. There was talk of a party on the third floor of the neighboring warehouse/loft, but no one seemed too enthused. Someone popped on Anchorman. Someone took a shower.

I went upstairs to the roof to get some fresh air and muse on the situation. My friend that lives in McKibben likes to tease me about DC’s lack of “youth culture,” and taunt me with tales of Brooklyn’s manic possibility, its energy and depravity. I was feeling a little smug. Sure, last night’s Knyfe Hyts/NinjaSonik/Team Robespierre show at the Death by Audio show space in Williamsburg had both lived up to hipster stereotypes and been one of the best shows I’d seen in a long time (who knew live music was so much better when everyone is filthy, sweaty and drinking from 40s and keg beer in a graffiti-covered un-air-conditioned basement shithole with a toilet to rival the one in Trainspotting and people who are either too fat or too skinny taking off their shirts?—to say nothing of the amazing, frantic energy of the bands), but look at tonight. Everyone was tired from being at Coney Island all day, and now they were just taking it easy, casually drinking, not doing much of anything. Whatever, McKibs, whatever Brooklyn, I was thinking. You’re not so different than DC.

And then a massive DJ-party broke out on the roof.

Bushwick’s finest, under the cut. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by ENB

July 21, 2008 at 7:28 pm

Strippers and hookers and dommes, oh my!

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I’m going to the Sex Worker’s Art Show at the Rock and Roll Hotel tonight:

Sex Worker's Art Show flyer

The Sex Workers’ Art Show brings audiences a mesmerizing cabaret-style event featuring music, burlesque, spoken word, drag, and multimedia performance art; as well as a visual art display that travels with the show. The artwork and performances offer a wide range of perspectives on sex work, from celebration of prostitution and sex-positivity to views from the darker sides of the industry. The show includes people from all areas of the sex industry: strippers, prostitutes, dommes, film stars, phone sex operators, internet models, etc.

Should be interesting. It’s sponsored by HIPS, a DC organization that helps street sex workers through mobile outreach, distributing condoms, clothing, food, etc.

Written by ENB

February 7, 2008 at 8:48 pm

there is such thing as a free show

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“People always complain about celebrities being all fake and fancy, and then they get mad at you if you go on TV and don’t look all fake and fancy,” said Kimya Dawson Wednesday night, fresh off an appearance on The View for which she’d been apparently been panned for not dressing up.

Kimya – of The Moldy Peaches, the Juno soundtrack, and general awesomeness – played a free show at Crooked Beat record store in DC Wednesday, which I was lucky enough to catch. Crooked Beat is Old School and also Very Tiny. We were packed in tight, and I was surrounded by all manner of young hipster children — mostly of the high-school variety — with asymmetrical hair and homemade clothing, piercings, pins, and inexplicable backpacks (I was glad to discover absolutely nothing has changed in high-school-hipster-attire since I was a young thing). Perhaps because of the goodwill soon-to-be-spread by Kimya, I found a batch of particularly vocal ones surrounding me to be intensely charming, instead of predictably annoying. The whole scene reminded me of the 90s, in the best way possible. Anyway, we were packed so tight that not everybody who wanted to come inside could fit, so Ms. Dawson, being the nice lady that she is, sat outside in the cold to play a few songs for the thronging masses before coming in. Adorable, right?

Record-Store Dude eventually announced that Kimya would be coming in the front door, so could we please clear a walkway and, oh – remember – No Touching (very George Bluth’s prison guards). We made an aisle down the middle, and Kimya entered, took one look at the red-carpet-esque/parting-of-the-sea in front of her and said, “Oh god, are you kidding?” before starting awkwardly down the aisle and breaking into a soul-train dance halfway through. Later, during the set – which included only one song from the Juno soundtrack (“I guess I’m supposed to be promoting this thing, so I should play at least one song”) and a few songs from Kimya’s upcoming baby-songs album, AlphaButt (she’s got a 2-year-old daughter, Panda) – someone told her about the No Touching instruction, and she was kind of incredulous: “They told you no touching???? Human touch is my life. When I’m done here, we’re all gonna touch.”

This was the best thing about the show – the rapport between Kimya and the audience. She’d stop in the middle of songs to tell stories (The reason she looked so uncomfortable on The View? She’d just been told pre-show the word “turd” was off-limits, and was anticipating replacing the offending section of the line “shook a little turd out of the bottom your pants” with “blew a little load” in front of all those View ladies). If she messed up a song, she’d start over. Between songs, she paused to read a fan’s homemade card, to ask a particularly-squished-in audience member if he’d like to come sit on stage, and to just generally shoot the shit with the crowd. It was exactly like you always wish concerts would be – spontaneous, low-key, unique — not just straight-up recitation of recorded songs. And while there was (thankfully) no group-touch session afterwards, Kimya did stick around to sign autographs, take photos and give hugs. I totally rushed up front with all the high-school kids to get a photo.

P.S. This is my first post here so, you know …. hi.

Written by ENB

January 25, 2008 at 5:59 pm