My dear readers may not all be aware that I just moved to Brooklyn, NY. I love it here. I have known since I was little that I belonged in New York. But DC will always be close to my heart. I was born in Columbia Hospital for Women, in the District. I grew up in Upper NW, and then spent the past three years in Petworth. DC is a wonderful, varied place and I love it very much.
Today, I was feeling homesick, and I posted on Facebook that I was missing my old hood. A friend mentioned that DC was a rectangle, and it just seemed like the perfect thing to write about right now.
Washington, DC was founded in 1 791 to be the new capital of the United States of America. Previously, the capital had been in Philadelphia, but Congress decided that the capital of the country should not be in a state. Instead, it should be its own federal district, so no state could have undue influence over what when on in the seat of the federal government. Because of this, DC still to this day has no voting representatives in Congress.
And so Washington, DC was born. It is a city that was planned on a grid, with avenues (named after the states) cutting diagonally through the city. It radiates out from the Capitol, which is located in the center of the city, and it is divided into four quadrants: Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast. Politically, there are eight wards of DC voters.
The city was planned to be a perfect square – 7 miles square. It was made with land donated by Maryland and Virginia. However, due to rising tensions between the north and south, Virginia took back its half in 1847. DC is now mostly a square, with a bite taken out.
DC is, historically, a heavily black city. Recently, the percentage of black citizens is down to about 50% of the population, but in the past that percentage has been much higher. Especially east and south of Rock Creek Park, much of the city is pretty densely black. Because of this, there is a vibrant history of distinct black culture in DC.
The neighborhood nearest and dearest to me in Washington is Petworth. I lived there for the past three years. It is a neighborhood “in transition” – gentrifying, but by no means gentrified. Because rent is still relatively low, Petworth is an incredibly vibrant, diverse mix of people, with the population varying drastically in terms of age, race, and class. It’s a pretty amazing community of people, with lots of small local businesses and neighborhood pride. All of my friends still live there, and it’s truly an amazing place.
My dear friend Torie made the above print of a map of Petworth. I love it, and it hangs right above my bed in my apartment.
So, DC, here is my tribute to you. I’m missing and loving you today.
My friend Daniel (of Manhattan Nest) is the most brilliant thrifter I’ve ever met. Now, I love my thrifting. I don’t say that easily. But he has an eye like nobody else in the world.
A couple of weeks ago, we were on the Upper West Side, and we wandered into an antiques store. In the back of the store, hidden under a cupboard and several chairs, was a filthy oriental rug. But Daniel spotted it immediately. The men in the store offered it to him first for $125, which he bargained down to $100. Then they felt bad – as the rug was very dirty, and had some tears – and offered him $45. He was ecstatic – he got a rug that he loved for dirt cheap. And it ended up beautiful, if a little worn, once he vacuumed it.
I grew up surrounded by oriental rugs. My mom loves them, and so do I. Our favorite type is Heriz, from Northwest Iran, which is an often more geometric style. The colors are so rich and beautiful, and the patterns just exquisite. However, these are not cheap when bought “new.” Of course, the best rugs are not new, per se, but old and in fantastic condition. Oriental rugs are basically put down in the streets for camels to pee on.
So, inspired by Daniel, I set out to find myself a cheap rug on ebay. I found this one for $65, including shipping. It’s a bit worn, but really very pretty. I have it in my kitchen – I apologize for the terrible lighting.
I recently classed up my apartment with some nice Ikea placemats:
They make me feel like someone’s mom (in a good way), and they make our lovely pre-furnished furniture look a little more homey and a little less college-y.
Recently, Curtis and I went to Ten-Ren Teatime, a lovely restaurant in College Park. Their placemats were covered in pictures of tea. I couldn’t find a picture, but their rectangular menu was similar in artistic vision.
We stopped there because I had been to the Ten Ren’s Teahouse in New York’s Chinatown, right next to my favorite restaurant – Big Wong.
I’d bought bulk tea there (jasmine green, orchid oolong) and it was very good. I’d never, however, eaten their food.
Here I should mention the food situation in College Park. Curtis and I have tried lots and lots of restaurants, trying to find something edible. The College Park Diner has proved both delicious and affordable, and the staff is absolutely adorable. We’re partial to a few of the waitresses who already know us as regulars.
Other than the CP Diner, however, we’ve gotten disappointment after disappointment. I do not recommend the Tandoori House, for example, right on Route One across from my apartment building. Plato’s Diner is vile. Which brings us to Ten Ren’s.
Curtis ordered Kung Pao Tofu. I ordered Pork and Noodle Soup. And I got a huge surprise.
First, some Alice, in the house of the Duchess:
“The door led right into a large kitchen, which was full of smoke from one end to the other: the Duchess was sitting on a three-legged stool in the middle, nursing a baby; the cook was leaning over the fire, stirring a large cauldron which seemed to be full of soup.
“There’s certainly too much pepper in that soup!” Alice said to herself, as well as she could for sneezing.
There was certainly too much of it in the air. Even the Duchess sneezed occasionally; and the baby was sneezing and howling alternately without a moment’s pause. The only things in the kitchen that did not sneeze were the cook, and a large cat which was sitting on the hearth and grinning from ear to ear.”
This was almost precisely my reaction. My soup was pepper soup, and not much else. The noodles, cabbage and carrots couldn’t hide it – it was pepper soup. My face hurt for hours after the ordeal (because, of course, I ate it – can’t waste food when there are children starving in Africa). And this (more Alice) was stuck in my head:
The Duchess sings to her child:
““Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes:
He only does it to annoy,
Because he knows it teases.”
(In which the cook and baby joined):—
“Wow! wow! Wow!”
While the Duchess sang the second verse of the song, she kept tossing the baby violently up and down, and the poor little thing howled so, that Alice could hardly hear the words:—
“I speak severely to my boy,
I beat him when he sneezes;
For he can thoroughly enjoy
The pepper when he pleases!”
“Wow! wow! Wow!””
Finally, an Alice in Wonderland placemat for the road (although I think the above image would be much nicer in placemat form).
Dear reader Mandy suggested that I look up Snapple “Real Fact” #887.
The “Valley of Square Trees” in Panama is the only known place in the world where trees have rectangular trunks.
So I looked into it. And it turns out, yes, these trees are rectangles!
El Valle de Anton (commonly called “El Valle”) is a town in the Cocle province of Panama. It has one main road and – according to Wikipedia – “a very small museum, as well as a small zoo, a small serpentarium, and a garden displaying 100 native local orchid species.” This sounds like a prime tourist attraction. Check that serpentarium!
But, most importantly, this town is home to a grove of square trunked trees.
Now let’s look at some rectangles.
These trees are members of the Cottonwood family. FYI, the Cottonwood happens to be the Kansas state tree. Here’s a normal Cottonwood:
And here, ladies and gentlemen, is a square one:
Washington, DC has had an awful lot of snow lately. Now the streets are kind of clear – some are slushy, some have a fine layer of ice, but for the most part, the city is drivable. Parking lots, however, are not.
People go crazy in this lot, whether it’s icy or not. There are never quite enough spaces to satisfy the customers of these establishments, who tend towards impatience. Seriously, it’s an intense experience parking here.
Now the parking lot is covered in ice. I wiped out on it the other day and bruised my hip.
In the snow and ice, parking everywhere has become that much more valuable. These little rectangles are suddenly treasures. It took me fifteen minutes to find parking by my therapist’s office today. And I had to drive into a snow bank and park illegally.
Keeping a clear parking space free is also an issue in the snow nightmare.
Some people use chairs:
Some use trashcans:
This person used dead plants:
Whatever the issue behind parking, there can be no question that the parking space is a highly undervalued rectangle. Trying to lose weight? Park further from the mall. In a hurry? A clear space starts to feel essential. We cannot forget these oft-overlooked rectangles in the hullabaloo of the big, round world we live in.
This is my favorite place in the world.
Or will be, until this Tuesday, when legislation goes into gear in Virginia that means that I can’t smoke inside of Diner 29.
I’m sorry. I like to have my smoke and my coffee after a long trek into Fairfax County.
Seriously, though. With Big Tobacco VA out of the picture, where can I smoke cigarettes?
What? That leaves us happy smokers only twelve states to happily smoke in. This is filthy communism!
Apparently others feel the same way:
Back off my happiness, US of A!
(Props to Daniel K for research and photos)
I’ve recently been alerted to a fascinating new Rectangular Experience.
In New York, on the Upper East Side (on First between 74th and 75th), lives a restaurant intimately connected to our cause:
As my literate readers can see, Rectangles purports to offer “Authentic Yemenite Israeli Cuisine and Bar.” I wonder what an authentic Yemenite Israeli Bar looks like.
It is also officially Kosher. In fact, its Certificate of Kashrut is even available on the website, just in case people were skeptical.
None of the food looks particularly rectangular, unfortunately. There’s a lot of mushy stuff, like hummus, and round stuff, like falafel. However, the interior decor adheres strongly to rectangular principles and values. Unfortunately, you’ll have to visit the website to see pictures, since they’re only available to download as thumbnails.
But here’s the facade to enjoy – also highly rectangular.
I still haven’t figured out why this restaurant is actually called Rectangles, but I’m overjoyed to hear that we’re getting some respek from the food-related community.
On a somewhat sidenote – Rectangles Restaurant advertises itself as Yemenite-Israeli. In fact, Yemenite Jews have a really distinct and interesting culture, pretty distinct from Judaism as we generally see it. For the most part, they have migrated from Yemen into Israel. They are the only modern Jewish community who reads the Torah in both Hebrew and Aramaic, an ancient tradition that is rarely recognized today. Children (as in, those who have not been Bar Mitzvahed) are also often involved in services. Really interesting.
(props to Marcus for the rectangular tip)
Sometimes rectangles reflect themselves over and over, like an image reflecting back and forth between two mirrors. On our rectangular computer screens flash rectangular websites with rectangular boxes of text. And sometimes, when we get lucky, there are even rectangular photographs of artwork or cool shit that was conceived after the convenient and lovable mold of the rectangle.
I stumbled upon Toxel.com and was blown away. I wish I could have a design blog this awesome. I have to highlight some of the really, really cool rectangular shit on here, and I highly recommend checking out the non-rectangular goods as well (I know, I know).
I spent at least an hour just browsing through pictures to decide what I needed to share with my Rectangle-Lovers. I even looked at some Stuff That Wasn’t Rectanglular. Don’t tell. It just goes to show how sweet this site is. Anyway, after an hour or two of research, here’s what I have to share with you.
Ice cube trays are often among the most rectangular goods we own. The trays themselves are not only rectangles, but ice cubes usually come out in a rectangular fashion, as well.
These sweet ice cube trays are still rectangular, but the cubes are not. Check out a few awesome ones.
This combines two of my favorite things – Shit That’s Rectangular and Shit That’s Nasty. This is a perfect example of why we should play with our food – it’s both patriotic and gross! But seriously, these flags are really clever and also really cool. They address stereotypical foods, culinary traditions AND nationalism at the same time. That’s hard.
Unfortunately the American flag was not represented. Fucking commies.
No more boring brown tape. Impress the folks at the post office next time you need sum tape to mail a care package. Or wrap up a box at the storage facility. Those poor people need more excitement in their lives anyway. It would be a mitzvah.
I mean, let’s be real. The white gets really old sometime, no? I know my Grandma sometimes buys pastel blue toilet paper or pink Kleenex.
Why not move this exciting phenom into the world of the younger generations?
A warning: some of these are a bit of a departure from the rectangle. It may be jarring to my readers. But keep in mind that the sandwiches were rectangles to begin with (See here). And, once again, we’re studying folks who like to play with their food. What could be bad?
Anyway, a little taste for my readers. Check out the website. Pay special attention to the rectangles.
Thank you, Toxel dudes. Your blog is really really awesome.
Hello Fans of the Rectangle, Great and Small,
My name is Daniel. I know, woah.
As the father of Eliza’s child, a committed follower of this blog, and a fellow rectangleologist, I’m writing a guest post. I would like to thank Eliza for providing this opportunity to dip my toes into rectangular waters.
Which brings me to my topic: a beautiful land, far, far away, called Saskatchewan.
I lived in this magical, rectangular land for the last year. Before living there, I didn’t even realize that Saskatchewan constituted its own province – in the same likeness as British Columbia or Ontario, the provinces people actually care about. But it does, bitchz, and it’s proud.
I lived in a city by the name of Regina. Pronounced like Vagina. This is a subject of great shame for the residents, though they mostly choose to play it cool, as if saying the name of their city isn’t awkward. It’s a concept I was never fully able to grasp. Not to mention that their football team is called the Roughriders and one of the closest cities is called Prince Albert. You might be surprised what you find when you google Prince Albert. But back to the rectangles. Vagina is, not surprisingly, essentially rectangular, at least in the way it’s thought of by the citizens, who use the geographical demarcations of North, South, East, and West to describe where they are in the city. Oh, you’re in the East End? I’ll come meet you at one of the many enormous (rectangular) big-box stores!
While the official slogan of this region is “Land of the Living Skies,” I prefer the unofficial but brilliant slogan: “Easy to draw, hard to spell.” And that it certainly is! Just try to spell it, I bet you’ll get it wrong. I also could not spell, or even apparently say it properly before living there. But the greater importance of the slogan is its undeniable nod to the rectangular form of Saskatchewan– it’s the only place I can think of where one’s sense of belonging is deeply and inextricably enmeshed in their notion of physical shape, that the rectangle brings a necessary stability and distinguished importance to a part of the world that nobody knows exists.
But the overall shape of the land is just the beginning. Saskatchewan is largely flat and dry, which makes it the ideal landscape for farming. And how are farms divided, people? That’s right, into rectangles. Therefore, the greater rectangle begets smaller rectangles. Need I say more?
Saskatchewan can be most centrally characterized by its painfully desolate, frighteningly cold winters, the kind that make it dangerous to be outside for more than ten seconds at a time. They bring with them blankets of snow that wait months to melt. Once it’s cold, there is no great thaw until spring. But the snow brings with it a beautiful, poetic equalization. The snow covers the boundaries between the rectangular farms and the rectangular cities to create, once again, one giant rectangle. If that ain’t some kind of lesson about humanity, I don’t know what the fuck is.
This past weekend, I went to visit my friend Daniel at NYU. NYU’s campus is, essentially, the perimeter of Washington Square Park.
After a romantic dinner together, we took a stroll through the lovely green space. We were talking about the park when, naturally, the conversation turned to Rectangles. I raised the following intellectual question:
Is Washington Square Park so named because it is (geometrically) a Square, and therefore a Rectangle?
The answer is no.
However, the park is, in fact, rectangular. This seems to be a result of the layout of Manhattan, which relies strongly and geometrically on the rectangle, featuring rectangular blocks made up of parallel streets and avenues. This is a very efficient choice, and I commend whoever designed La Bella Città.
Washington Square Park is located in Greenwich Village. It takes up a whopping 9.75 acres. It features a fancy arch, constructed in 1889 (and then reconstructed in 1892) to honor the centennial of the inauguration of George Washington as President of the United States.
There’s also a really nice fountain, and lots of people milling about, playing music and selling drugs n shit.
So, if it’s not a square, why is this park burdened with such a misnomer?
Interesting question. It’s named for George Washington – which explains the Washington part. The square part follows the tradition of calling public places “squares.” See Town Square. In Italy, they call them piazzas (not to be confused with pizzas). In Spain (and other Spanish speaking countries), the word is plaza. In French, the word is simply place. This seems much more efficient to me – Washington Place Park would clear up a lot of confusion on the rectangular front.
Washington Place Park is currently undergoing construction and rehabilitation. A large, L-shaped portion of the park is fenced off, leaving us with – what?? – a smaller rectangle, but a rectangle nonetheless.
Well, friends, now we know. Thanks to Daniel for the intellectual exploration.