Northern Virginia, how I hate – and sometimes love – thee

I hate Northern Virginia for many reasons, not the least of which is the traffic, the horrible traffic. Unless you live, like me, in the DC metro area, or in Los Angeles, you probably don’t understand traffic. Listen: my office is less than 10 miles from my home and it regularly takes me an hour to go from one to the other. The other morning I had an appointment 2.5 miles away and it took me 45 minutes to get there, and that is no exaggeration. It’s OBNOXIOUS. Tonight it took me nearly two hours to get home. Now, that did include a brief stint in a grocery store, but that accounted for 15 minutes, tops.

I had an idea for dinner tonight that required raw cashews, a commodity I can’t keep at the house. Mark eats them. He seeks them out and consumes them with a frightening ferocity. He will destroy the kitchen in search of them if he suspects I’m hiding them. So if I need ’em, I’ve got to buy ’em that day. I decided, then, to take an alternate route home from work that would pass by a Whole Foods, where I could quickly pop in, pour a pound or two of cashews out from the bulk bin, and pop back out. Bad mistake. Little did I know the town that is home to that particular Whole Foods was hosting a Halloween parade, shutting down their entire main street – the location of Whole Foods – drag. I was therefore detoured into a suburban neighborhood ill-equipped to deal with large volumes of traffic; me and a million other cars driven by people anxious to get home. Or to Whole Foods.

Another reason I hate Northern Virginia is the roads make no sense. None. I come from Baltimore, which is laid out as a lovely grid. You give me an address and a street and I can tell you how many blocks and in which direction it is from the center of the city, even if I’ve never been there. Baltimore makes sense. DC and its disturbing cousin Northern Virginia make no sense. I’ve been here for five years now and I can find my way to the important places (read: grocery stores and the 9:30 Club), but if I so much as stray one block from a regular route, I’m a goner. And our portable GPS was in Mark’s car following our Charleston trip, so I was bereft of any electronic assistance. After sitting at a light for 4 cycles without moving, I made a right turn into a neighborhood, convinced it had to end up somewhere that I’d recognize. After driving through suburban hell for 15 minutes, I did eventually emerge in a recognizable land: 10 miles further out than I started, past my office.

The upshot of this tale is I did go to Whole Foods: just not the one I’d intended. I stopped at the Whole Foods just a couple of miles down the street from my office…an hour after I’d left it! I got my cashews, but decided I was too tired and annoyed to make dinner at this point, so I looked to see what they had ready-made for me. Which leads me to why, for all of the seething hatred I often feel for Northern Virginia, I sometimes love it. Whole Foods had freshly-made vegan General Tso’s chicken available for my dining pleasure. I’m sure no one in my beloved San Francisco is too impressed by this, but there aren’t that many other places where a vegan can stop by a grocery store and pick up an instant dinner with such ease. Sure, I may not have needed the instant dinner if I lived elsewhere (feel my pain, Capt. Yossarian?), but boy, have I grown accustomed to it. It’s actually dangerous. I have, on more than one occasion, read a label on the hot bar at Whole Foods (for example) that clearly said “chicken” and assumed it was vegan. I am so spoiled that, rather than automatically assuming I can’t eat things, as I used to do, I assume I can. I have the freedom here to forget I’m a weirdo! (I must tell you that I feel much, much less like a weirdo in San Francisco. Although I can eat with ease here, I fit in a million times more right in San Francisco.) Every time I want to move away from Northern Virginia, I remember that my house is not only half a mile from glorious Wegmans, but cradled between THREE Whole Foods, two Trader Joe’s, Super H, and a myriad of ethnic grocery stores of every imaginable type. The grocery scene is sublime.

I had leftover rice from dinner last night, so, utilizing a microwave, I had a pretty good dinner ready in under two minutes.

Brachtune was impressed!

Well, I’m sorry for not having a recipe tonight. I had actually intended to, but sometimes life in Northern Virginia just gets in the way. I actually softened a bit, I must admit, when I realized the traffic issue tonight was caused by a Halloween parade. I love Halloween so much I was married on it, so it’s hard to hold a grudge against a town for celebrating my favorite holiday.

That and a couple of glasses of wine will usually cure any ills on my end. And hey, look at the awesome glasses my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday:

There are four wine glasses and four regular glasses and they are each made from recycled wine bottles! Neat, huh? I think they are really cool. And now it seems I have another wine bottle to recycle…


  1. Jes Said,

    October 30, 2008 @ 9:44 am

    I feel you on the traffic thing…Atlanta’s about as notorious as Northern Virginia (which I’m too well acquainted with by driving through to get north or by being there because my family lives in Richmond and the surrounding northern gross metropolis areas). But hurrah for Whole Foods Hot bar! And those wine glasses are super cute (as is you guys’ anniversary–Halloween, how awesome!).

  2. Vegan Dad Said,

    October 30, 2008 @ 9:49 am

    Northern Virginia. Hmmm. Is that is the real America, or in the fake commie America?

  3. renae Said,

    October 30, 2008 @ 10:39 am

    Jes, what is Richmond like? It’s 2 hours from our house and I’ve been thinking it would be a fun day or weekend trip but I’ve never gotten around to it.

    Vegan Dad, we are definitely fake commie America! And I wish you hadn’t mentioned the snow in your blog the other day, because I’ve been threatening to move to Canada…except I hate snow.

  4. mark Said,

    October 30, 2008 @ 11:03 am

    You DO hide the cashews – I am literally angry with rage! We will be bare of them for weeks, then all of a sudden I will see them in the food you serve to me. Hey now, I’m a bit of a ree-ree, but I’m not dumb!

    I have only ripped apart the kitchen twice during the great cashew recession of 08. This was your doing. You don’t blame the raccoon for terrorizing our recycling bin when he wants cat-food orts do you? You planted the seed by putting that stuff in the bin, just like you planted the seed when you served a dish with [hidden] cashews.

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