All shook up in the D.C. area

Well, friends, it has been A Week.

Aside from my normal job responsibilities (of which there seem to be many), I had the pleasure of joining much of the East Coast in experiencing our very first honest-to-goodness earthquake on Tuesday afternoon.

I’m sure you don’t need any details from me, a lowly blogger in Maryland — but in case you do, stories of the 5.8-magnitude quake abound online.

Now, I realize this was not a true disaster. To my knowledge, no lives were lost — and most of the affected areas emerged with just a few cracks and bruises. At my own home in Maryland, I arrived to find a few books knocked from the bookcase and a photo lying flat on a desk. Though the Washington Monument and National Cathedral have reported damage, no one seems to be injured. That’s the important thing.

But it scared us. It scared me. We were all doing our normal Tuesday nonsense — working; running errands; going to school. And then the walls started shaking. I was writing at my desk and answering emails with a giant cup of hot tea next to me. Rumbling from the ceiling was the first indication that anything was wrong, and I leaned around my computer screen to lock eyes with my coworker.

“Do you feel that?”

It was innocent enough — and I didn’t really think anything crazy was happening until our vertical blinds began to sway. In the five or so seconds before first feeling the tremors and then getting to my feet in alarm, the entire building began to shake violently. I swiped my cell phone and stood in the doorway separating our office from the hallway, where I saw most of my other coworkers streaming into the corridor in alarm. Everyone bore the same shocked, anxious expression.

“I think it’s an earthquake,” I squeaked. And it was.

It’s a weird feeling, that intense vertigo — a sensation that you can’t right yourself and have no protection from whatever Mother Nature is throwing at you. The Washington, D.C., area has long been plagued with everything from terrorist attacks to heavy snowfall, sniper shootings and record-breaking humidity. In 2002, an F4 tornado wiped out downtown La Plata, a neighboring town, and scenes I once imagined happening only in action flicks played out just 10 miles from home. (The tornado’s path is pictured above.)

I don’t mean to build this up into some giant thing that has Californians scoffing at us even more than they already are, but I’ll say this: we’re not equipped for earthquakes, and the D.C. area is constantly on red alert for danger. When the shaking first began, many workers in town thought it was another terrorist attack. My dad, a tour guide, thought a bomb had gone off at the hotel where he was meeting his tour group. My sister believed a burglar had jumped on the roof and was trying to break into the house.

Basically, it was a hairy, scary day.

The earthquake was over in less than a minute, but my hands shook for hours.

Opening old Word docs…

…can be hazardous to your ego.

My mom got a new desktop computer for Christmas — a shiny, fast-processing HP Slimline, one of those new-fangled machines that actually boots up quickly and allows users to have more than one window open at a time. This is very exciting for us, the family who hops on and off of said computer, because if I ever tried to pop open write meg! and, say, my email, the entire thing would basically shut down, stick its tongue out at me and then laugh in my red-cheeked, frustrated face.

So since there’s a new desktop in town and I actually have my own laptop these days, the time came for me to remove all of the dusty files hanging out on the old PC. We’re talking college papers, old lists and notes, poetry, novels started and abandoned, and photographs with boyfriends that I’d completely forgotten about (the individual pictures, not the boyfriends!).

And photos of me, too, like the one above, where I’m fresh-faced and crazy and eager to take on the world. That was from 2006, the year of my second internship with a paper in Washington, D.C., at a time when I really began to feel my whole life shifting. (And yes, I was rocking a side ponytail. It’s kind of my thing.) (And inexplicably, this is one of my favorite photos of me ever — taken by my friend Montie.)

When I was setting up the new PC, I just dragged everything that was “mine” from the old one into a file, then copied that baby onto my personal flash drive. And now, in my own quiet space, I’m unearthing all that stuff. And my favorite gem so far? An old resume. A resume in which my “objective,” as a 19-year-0ld, was to become “a bestselling novelist by 2010.”


I swear, my blood ran cold. ‘Cause, um, last I checked — which was about ten seconds ago, as I frantically looked from the open Word document to my “page a day” travel calendar — we’d already reached the second decade of the new millennium. And me? Decidedly not a bestselling author.

What once seemed like an impossible time in the future — 2010 — is here. Now. We’re already 18 days in. And I’m not necessarily any closer to being a “bestselling novelist” these days than I was as a lovesick college sophomore, scribbling poetry and other bits of phrases in her notebooks and wandering around campus with the glow of a young woman who felt she was destined for greatness.

And that she wouldn’t have to work that hard for it.

Well, I’ve grown, friends. Quite a bit. And while I haven’t lost that belief, I can certainly see now that success isn’t going to walk up casually and introduce itself with a hearty handshake, eager to make all my dreams come true. I’ve become more realistic about my abilities and goals, and really gotten to enjoy the whole steady-paycheck-full-time-job thing. I love my work . . . and I do write at work, in my column and individual sections of the paper. And I write this blog. And I write long, painfully-detailed emails to friends detailing the latest crisis in my romantic life (and make Paint photos to accompany said emails. I’m creative like that).

I just need to get back to channeling all of that energy — and the witty one-liners I usually reserve for messages to Erin, my devoted and appreciative friend — into my novel. The fourth. The one I’m working on . . . and need to keep working on. Daily.

I’m not one for new year’s resolutions — and even if I were, I’m a little late to the game — but I’d like to make a public promise to myself right now: no matter how long it takes, I’m going to make that 19-year-old, smiling-and-resume-writing kid proud. Because I might not be a bestselling novelist in 2010 . . . but that’s what 2011 is for. And I’m going to get there. One piece-meal bit of prose at a time.

“Watchmen”? Pass the booze, please

I'm gonna need this!

I'm gonna need this!

pina_coladaAt dinner last night, my boyfriend and I decided that the only way I was possibly going to get through the new, hit flick “Watchmen” was to drink.

Enough to get a little silly. Enough to make almost three hours of violence, sex and a bizarre alternative universe scenario in which the good are bad and the bad are good and we’re all headed for nuclear war unless some blue guy can stop the whole mess begin to . . . make sense.

Mind you, I very, very rarely drink. Ever. I can probably count on two hands the glasses of alcohol I’ve consumed in my entire life. And that’s what makes my immediate interest in booze a little hilarious to me — I was desperate to get through this film. I was trying to be a good girlfriend! It may be hard to believe (or not!) based on my good-natured blog posts on books, music and cute scarves, but I can actually be a pretty hard-headed, difficult person. We usually do what I want — see the movies I like, eat the places I enjoy, etc. — and I can recognize that good relationships are all about compromise. Boyfriend is very sweet and usually willing to go along with my demands, but I knew how much he’d been looking forward to “Watchmen” — and talking about it for months. I had to tough this one out.

watchmen_movie_posterThe problem is that, Internet guru that I am, I looked up the movie’s stats a while ago . . . and promptly decided that the gore was going to be too much for me. Everything I read talked about “intense” scenes and disturbing images, and I’m not all about the blood! In fact, I’d much rather skip the blood all together, thankssomuch. But I was trying to be good! I really was!

And that’s where the piña colada came in.

We get to the theater a little early, hunker down with our snacks and settle in for a long wait. I get a little antsy in theaters, I’ll freely admit it — I can’t stand when people around me are talking during a movie, and I have a tendency to voice my unhappiness about said distractions. Much to the dismay and chagrin of my friends and family. But I was determined not to let anything ruin this for Palmer — he’d been dying to see it for so long, I was going to turn around and punch the guy behind me in the jaw for mumbling plot points to his girlfriend for the first 10 minutes of the showing. Or was I?

watchmen_smiley_faceNo, no — I didn’t. I behaved myself. While people are being thrown through windows, blood is spewing and random characters are appearing out of nowhere, I rocked gently in my rocky theater chair, eyes to my lap to avoid seeing any unpleasantness, and swayed to Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” (love that song, by the way). At some point, the movie introduced the fact that it was 1985, Nixon had been elected for a third term (okay, we’re in an alternate universe — got it) and the U.S. and Soviet Union were in a heated entanglement regarding nuclear weapons (Cold War issues — check). And then I got a little lost. Or I zoned out. Or the booze took effect and I dozed off with my eyes open. I don’t know.

Needless to say, I got a wee bit lost! The movie was interesting, the special effects awesome and the acting solid, but I just couldn’t keep my brain moving at the speed of the comic characters. And I had to look away every ten minutes or so to keep from watching someone bleed out. Unpleasant. All tied together in a neat bow, it added up to one perplexed Megan.

Of course, driving home from Virginia, Boyfriend totally filled me in on any gaps in the story — and explained a lot more of the back story and other details I was missing, or just didn’t catch. The important question I kept asking was whether he liked it — he was the target audience. I was just a sleepy, semi-tipsy tag-along girlfriend. So it’s not like what I was thinking was of serious importance! Palmer said the movie was true to the book, and that most of the characters (save Dr. Manhattan) were as he would picture them. He was happy with the representation of Rorshach — the creepiest of all the characters, in my opinion — and liked the movie’s tying up of loose ends at the end. I’m glad he had a good time!

And I’m glad I had a little something to . . . take the edge off. As I sat on the edge of my seat. Ha!


Are you afraid of the… office?

I got back from a quick lunch at Panera to discover that the lights in our office building were out! It’s been incredibly windy all day, so I guess the storm blew the power lines around. The main traffic light across the street was out, too. And, as I often whine, I have a windowless office . . . and with only a tiny security light to keep us safe, Brandon, Sandy and I hunkered down for about a half hour waiting for order to be restored — and our lamps and computers to come back to life.

So, reclining in the near pitch-black, what could we possibly do to fill the time?

We told scary stories, of course!

Well, by “told scary stories,” I mean rehashing the plots of the creepiest movies we’ve ever seen — culminating in the acting out of some of said terrifying scenes. Sandy’s votes for scariest movies ever include “Children of the Corn” and “The Village”; Brandon is not a fan of “Predator” or the Jason films. I don’t like anything creepy at all, period — and I really hated “The Ring.” I know, most people thought it was stupid . . . but watching it during a theater lock-in in high school, shifting about in a huge, cold and darkly empty auditorium with that creepy undead girl climbing around on the giant projector screen, I was terrified! I think I watched most of it from the tops of my eyelids, staring at my lap.

Rehashing all the gore and psychologically terrifying plots we’ve been privvy to over the years was pretty fitting right before Halloween. My sister has long been afraid of “Edward Scissorhands,” and I actually cringe when “Hocus Pocus” comes on — Bette Midler screeching with those gigantic teeth for the “BOOOOOOK!” And I don’t like seeing people being hanged (not that anyone enjoys that!) — it really disturbs me. So the opening sequence is just a little too much.

But it was a fun, tiny break from the routine! Everything came back on about an hour later and we had to then work double-time to get everything to press as scheduled. But all’s well that ends well — and now I’m thinking about all sorts of creepy things.