Parting ways with my physicians left me at a crossroads.
By Susan Anspach • Illustration by Matt Mignanelli
I don’t like to brag, but I’ve always been good at seeing the 3D image in 3D Magic Eye posters. Look once, you see a field of zigzagging blue shards; look a second time, see something that could pass for a dolphin swimming through a field of zigzagging blue shards. It’s a skill, and it’s marketable, in beach boardwalk shops and a few very specific illusionist Pinterest boards.
I had the sensation of that strange second look the year I went off my parents’ health insurance and purchased my own, because there are a lot of good doctors in Northern Virginia. But look again, and there are a lot of bad doctors, too.
I don’t fault the insurance. I am sure there were many fine doctors on that plan, only I had never selected a doctor before. Having called the same Manassas address home for 23 years, I went to the same doctors. In that time, my doctors came to know my charts backwards and forwards. They didn’t call me by my first name; they called me by my nickname. These were the people who taught me how to put in contact lenses, to floss my teeth, to take my birth-control pill at the same time every day. In grade school, I spent every third Tuesday morning getting my braces tightened by the same man. I felt loyal to my doctors. They were loyal to me. I was my general practitioner’s daughter’s maid of honor.
Even so, I didn’t realize how many doctors I had, until I didn’t have any doctors. When I changed plans, I asked a girl at work for the name of her dermatologist. She had been hired even more recently than I had been, but she gave me a name and it was on the list. A phone call to the Alexandria office didn’t raise any red flags.
On arriving, there were a couple red flags. Gray stuffing was spilling out the armrests in the waiting room. The fish were practically panting from their low tank water levels. The lights flickered, and there were flyers advertising the lawn-work services of one of the firm’s doctors. I signed in, then called my coworker on her cellphone to ask where she had gotten the name. She folded fast, admitting she found him on the Internet and hadn’t yet met him herself. If it’s uncomfortable, she told me, get out of there. I could practically hear her other hand punching the numbers on her work phone to cancel her own pending appointment.
To myself, I reasoned that I didn’t want to be classist. I reasoned further that I’d been planning on taking the whole morning off work. Plus I had already told the front desk I was there. It would be rude to take the free lawn-work flyers thrust upon me and run.
Eventually I was called back to see the doctor, whose very watery, very protruding eyes made me feel as though my pores were magnified under their gaze, and he wasn’t any parts thrilled about it. I was imprisoned in his exam room no fewer than 90 minutes, the longest medical appointment of my life, during which I was diagnosed with six skin conditions. (I didn’t treat any of them, yet here I stand.) Now and then he managed to set aside feelings of contempt for my face to treat me to his opinions on the Democratic Party, his ex-wife and the slipshod skincare routine of the patient before me.
I spent nights awake knowing that my phone number lived in a manila folder in his office, and resolved to be more selective in the future.
The next month I needed a renewed birth-control prescription from a gynecologist. This was a more delicate search, but I didn’t want to take chances. I talked to several coworkers, plus a few friends and my roommate. I reviewed the Internet boards for myself. After the last time, I was looking for a seasoned and no-nonsense professional.
My appointment with the Reston doctor I’d selected was for eight o’clock in the morning. I signed in with the receptionist at 8:03. Hardly a minute had passed before I was whisked back to an exam room where my physician, a terror of a woman wearing latex gloves and a glower, was already waiting. She asked me if I knew how many minutes late I was, or how many patients she had scheduled to see that day. She may as well have snapped the finger of her right glove before pointing to the curtained partition where I could undress.
I wondered if I’d been coddled by my doctors until this point in my life, if knowing them all as a young girl had led them to treat me, even into adulthood, as a young girl. I thought about other times I’d had to see doctors outside my regular team. Two visits to the emergency room stuck out as memorable, one for a gash to the head when I was 6 years old, another for appendicitis when I was 25. At 6, I was treated to my choice of Tootsie Pop, for having bravely endured stitches. At 25, I got to eat cream- and gelatin-based desserts every meal, for having bravely endured laparoscopic abdominal surgery that required a diet of soft foods.
Now, overdue for a tooth cleaning, I longed for my old dentist, the same one who’d squeezed my teeth straight every three weeks for two years, a meek man whose office had consisted of only three rooms. He had worked with a single hygienist and his wife, who sat at the front desk with a stack of Highlights magazines and knew all our pets’ names.
This time, I wasn’t going to screw up. I asked everyone for the name of their dentists, then counterchecked them against “Best of” lists in magazines and tarot-card readings of the numbers corresponding to their first and last initials. I decided on a man in Chantilly who had a sterling record by all counts, then arrived early for my appointment, filling the paperwork out with handwriting I practiced first on a receipt.
I was ushered back by a punctual and smiling hygienist, who draped a bib over my shirt and made small talk appropriate to a dentist’s, asking questions I could answer with happy or neutral grunts. I began to relax and pay less attention to the assembly of metal instruments cropping out of my mouth. My mouth was watering some but I didn’t think much of it.
After a while, my hand seemed to keep getting in the way of a plastic stick bumping into it. I tried repositioning, but wherever I went, the stick, being scooted around by the hygienist, followed. Finally I understood that I was meant to grab hold of the stick and pop it into my mouth to vacuum out my saliva. Had I never used a suction pump before? I garbled apologies and explained how my old dentist had used a spit cup. The hygienist was amazed. He had last seen a spit cup, he confessed, at a conference he attended in 1980s Hungary.
Briefly, I wondered if my loyalty had been misplaced, whether my childhood dentist had been out of touch since my fifth birthday and I’d just never known better. Then the hygienist paged my new dentist, and what little I saw of him, I liked fine. We didn’t talk much, but there wasn’t much to say. My X-rays checked out. I didn’t need drill work. He checked under my top lip and praised the bright pink of my gums.
Someone, he said, really taught you how to floss.
@CitySprawlNVMag offers free medical advice on Twitter.
By Carten Cordell
Wavy lane stripping causes confusion on I-66
Reston kart driver Ayrton Climo, 18, in coma in Quebec after crash
(The Washington Post)
McDonnell judge emerges as a personality in the trial
(The Washington Post)
D.C. Area Schools Braced For Influx Of Unaccompanied Minors
Posted by Editorial / Friday, August 22nd, 2014
By Allison Michelli
Whether stepping out for a night on the town or enjoying with burgers and fries, adult milkshakes are the ideal way to turn up while also satisfying your sweet tooth.
1. FANFARE eatery, Spiked Shakes
Add a shot of Kahlua, Frangelico or Bailey's Irish Cream to any regular milkshake on their menu for $4.00 more. Coming soon to their menu will be “Specialty Adult Milkshakes” like Hot Fudge Bourbon and Salted Caramel.
/ Photo courtesy of FANFARE eatery.
2. Joe's Amazing Burgers, Bourbon Caramel Adult Milkshake
A strong blend of Jack Daniel's whiskey, caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. $10/ Photo by Jill Laroussi.
3. Ray's to the Third, Shake and Bake
Vanilla ice cream blended with caramel and chocolate sauce and a shot of Jim Beam bourbon. Don't forget the bacon on top! $10.
/ Photo by Cristian Cguilar.
4. The Counter, Salted Caramel Adult Milkshake
The best of both worlds: salty and sweet. Vanilla ice cream blended with Stoli Vanil, Baileys caramel and pretzels. $9.
/ Photo courtesy of The Counter.
Still feeling thirsty? Three more places for adult shakes.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, 20575 E. Hampton Plaza, Ashburn.
Ted’s Bulletin, 11948 Market Street, Reston.
Vivefy Burger and Lounge, 314 William Street, Fredericksburg.
Posted by Editorial / Monday, August 18th, 2014
A continuation of new and almost opened restaurants in NoVA.
By Ariel Yong
Europa Restaurant is owned by Humberto Fuentes and is expected to open in Herndon by mid-September. Fuentes currently owns El Manantial in Reston but says he will close it once construction has finished for Europa. His new Mediterranean-inspired restaurant will focus on French cuisine and have a similar menu to the one at El Manantial’s. / 790 Station St., Herndon
Kobe House in Eden Center opened last month. This family business serves pho Kobe and will add Kobe steak to the menu in the future. / 6763 Wilson Boulevard, Store 6a, Falls Church
Natalie’s is a Vietnamese sandwich shop that is set to open in Fairfax in mid-October. In addition to the banh-mi-inspired sandwiches, it will also serve crepes and beignets. / 10407 Main St., Fairfax
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Read the rest of this entry »
By Elke Thoms
D.C. police on manhunt after attempted carjacking and shooting of an off-duty detective
(The Washington Post)
Reston engineer fits cat with collar that maps neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks
The Obama Administration announces plan for oil and gas exploration off Atlantic Coast
Ex-Fairfax Deputy charged with shoplifting will go on trial
Posted by Editorial / Monday, August 11th, 2014
By Allison Michelli
Shake Shack’s new location in Tysons Corner opens today. [dcist]
Bored with burgers and hot dogs? Switch it up with this step-by-step guide to making fish tacos. [Bon Appetit]
Urban beekeeper and sea urchin diver top this list of extreme and exciting food jobs that will make you rethink your average nine-to-five. [First We Feast]
Reston’s Lake Anne Market and Deli is a hidden gem for authentic Latin American food. [restonnow]
This bloody mary costs $50 and is topped with an entire fired chicken. [foodiggity]
Restaurant Week starts today. [RAMW]
Another reason to slick on the bug spray, a bite from the Lone Star tick can cause an onset allergy to meat. [The Daily Meal]
Pictured: Eat gelato at Casa Rosada Artisan Gelato in Old Town Alexandria.
Posted by Editorial / Monday, August 4th, 2014
By Elke Thoms
On an evening in April of last year, four friends were sitting on the patio of a bar talking about music festivals. As they discussed what they liked and didn’t like about the festivals they’d attended, the idea of starting their own festival popped up, igniting a conversation.
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Read the rest of this entry »
Stuck running in circles on the treadmill? Try one of these innovative classes to give your body a boost. –Anjelica Michael
What’s the workout?
SURFSET is a cardio workout to gain lean muscle which is done atop an electric surfboard to simulate a real surfing experience.
What’s the equipment?
The board, known as the RipSurfer X®, uses air beneath the board to simulate the surf experience. It makes the body balance and strengthens the core. Resistance bands can be attached to the side of the board for added arm exercises.
“We try to paint the atmosphere of being the sun and the sand. We use the sensation of pushing and paddling through water during the workout,” says SURFSET Master Trainer Jen Frankel. “We take you out of Virginia and try and take you to Bali or Hawaii or the Caribbean.”
One SURFSET workout (60 minutes) can burn between 500 and 900 calories.
Or try some of these other workouts…
Channel the positive vibes around you with KAZAXE (Kah-Zah-Shay), a bootcamp dance-fitness class designed to boost your energy through high-intensity movements and upbeat international music. This workout, uniquely created by Azuka-Bom, is one-hour of dancing while squatting, lunging and twerking. The class is held in a large garage which is completely dark but for small skylights and a colorful lightshow. The teacher and some backup dancers teach from a raised stage in front of the class. Annandale Sports Center, , $6 per-class or $80 monthly for unlimited per month
This is not about working out, but realizing your body’s full physical potential. This two-hour class will teach you the basics of Parkour, an urban activity that involves running, jumping and climbing. Through the intense session you will jump and move your way around obstacles. As you move on, you get the chance to tackle obstacle courses throughout the gym. Urban Evolution (Alexandria and Manassas), $40 per class or unlimited for $140 for unlimited per month
Level 1 Aerial Silks
Ever marveled at the acrobatics of Cirque Du Soleil? Tone up and gain core strength with this aerial class while suspended in the air from hanging silks. Although, gaining strength is not the only benefit, the aerial silks class will also make you more flexible. Each class is one hour in duration, where you will practice climbing, aerial poses and basic holds. These classes are in packages of six weeks to learn all the skills. Polar Fitness (Fredericksburg), $35 for drop-in or $180 for a six-week plan
By Kate Masters
The Silver Line opens July 26, but Fairfax County infrastructure may not be ready for it
The Fairfax County School Board votes today on extending Mondays from a half day to a full day of classes for elementary students
Virginia joins a distance learning agreement for online college classes
A Reston woman is accused of funding an al-Qaida-linked terrorist group
Taking a break from recording a new album, Reston’s indie-go-go band RDGLDGRN talks beats, Colors and Pharrell Williams.
By Tim Regan
RDGLDGRN doesn’t have a gimmick. At least, that’s what the three members who compose the Reston-based indie go-go band would tell you. On the surface, they’re band, pronounced red-gold-green, is kind of gimmicky. For starters, the band’s members—named “Red,” “Gold” and “Green”—only dress in those namesake colors, all the time. And if you’re having trouble wrapping your head around the concept, think of it this way—it’s like the Power Ranger uniforms or the Ninja Turtle headbands. One color equals one identity.
For the guys, tackling that issue is sort of a recurring theme. Actually, it’s something they have to address all the time. Last December, Washington Post writer Mark Jenkins devoted an article’s entire opening paragraph to the band’s color-coded outfits. “RDGLDGRN [showed] up for an interview dressed, respectively, in a red sweater, gold sports jacket and nearly all-green ensemble,” Jenkins wrote. But they’ve got their reasons.
“We didn’t plan this,” says Gold. Red, one of the band’s guitarists puts it this way: “Before we started this band, we had already been living as colors. Some people have tattoos and that define them. Some people have long beards. I wear one color. He wears one color. We wear one color.” In the song “Power Ups,” guitarist and lead vocalist Green even lyricizes, “I see in full color, I just choose to be green.”
The point is this: Judge this band on their musical merits, not the color of their clothes. They’re not a flash in the pan kind of group. They go way deeper than that.
What the F@#! is Indie Go-Go?
We all know indie rock, the genre born out of grunge rock that launched a thousand hipster hits. These days, it’s hard to get away from the stuff. Even Miley Cyrus likes Nirvana. But Indie go-go? That’s a little harder to wrap your head around.
Here’s a crash course: Indie go-go is the combination of indie rock and D.C.’s own brand of hip hoppish, funky-fusion genre, go-go.
“All the rhythms are things that derive from the go-go rhythms,” explains Red. But don’t go looking for the classic, syncopated drum beats a la Trouble Funk or Chuck Brown. Leave that old school stuff for D.C. graffiti celebrity Cool “Disco” Dan and dancehall mixtapes. The songs heard on the band’s EP—released in 2013—are fresh. Hip. Updated.
“It’s newer. It’s a bounce beat. It’s not like classic go-go you might be thinking of … it’s from our generation of go-go,” says Gold. Green demonstrates, beatboxing the rhythm, hand tapping the table. “It’s that boom-gat-gatgat-gat,” boxes Green in rapid succession, “as opposed to [the slower beat of] boom-bap-boom-boombap,” he adds. On top of the beat, guitars jam out danceable indie rock rhythms. Harmonized, deep choruses often accompany leading vocals. The stuff on their new, short EP—expected out this month—is what their manager Reggie Vaval calls “a bit more electronic, but still go go influenced.”
Like a go-go show, their concerts attract throngs of young, energized fans ready to hit the dance floor, but without any of the cliquey callouts or crew showdowns found at traditional go-go shows. On stage, RDGLDGRN jumps, dances and headbangs. But despite heavy rock influences, tracks like “Doing the Most” and “I Love Lamp” contain little rap vignettes courtesy of vocalist Green, while songs “Power Ups” or “Million Fans” are almost exclusively rhythmic rhyme-and-verse. It’s this balance between rapping and jamming that makes the band stand out.
Although influences always creep in. While making “I Love Lamp,” for instance, the band nabbed the beat wholesale from go-go godfathers Backyard Band’s “Thug Passion.” In fact, Red says they just recreated the beat, layered some guitars and vocals on top, and called it a day. But don’t call it thievery. This kind of beat-swiping is fairly common in the world of hip-hop. If anything, it’s an homage to one of D.C.’s fundamental go-go groups.
This iteration of the band traces its lineage to about a decade ago, when the trio—now pushing 30—all went to South Lakes High School at the same time, though they didn’t actually know each other then.
“You’re bound to know somebody even if you’ve never met them before,” says Gold. “The town is small enough.” And back then, they weren’t officially known as Red, Gold or Green, either. Their civilian names were, respectively, Marcus Parham, Andrei Busuioceanu and Pierre Desrosiers. But as the story goes, they soon dropped those personas for the colorful nicknames.
In their teen years, the bandmates laid the foundation for the future by absorbing D.C.’s hardcore punk and go-go scenes like sponges. “All I did was go to go-gos,” Green says. “If you went to a party, there was a go-go section of that party. Go-go was everywhere.” And if you think NoVA doesn’t have a thriving go-go scene, think again. “You walk around the area and people are listening to [go-go] in their cars,” Red says.
Like most bands, the group met by serendipity. “Someone I played basketball with introduced me to these guys,” says Gold. As soon as they met, they clicked, and began crafting their sound right away. “Since the day I met these guys, we’ve written music [together]. We’ve never stopped writing music,” says Gold.
In 2008, they formed The Five One, a band that included RDGLDGRN’s lineup, plus one more member, “Blue.” They played plenty of local shows and amassed a ton of fans. But their productivity was shoddy, at best—new music came in spurts, followed by periods of radio silence. A few times, the band almost broke up. Fans were kept in the dark and many wondered the status of the band every time they stopped. But slowly, the shows kept trickling in, and the positive reviews were stacking up. In 2011, The Five One planned to release RED BLUE GREEN GOLD, a professional album funded by more than $4,000 in Kickstarter seed money. But then, as quick as the band had appeared on the scene, they broke up.
Among the fan base, there were rumors that a serious blowout happened on Blue’s end. If you ask the members of RDGLDGRN, they’ll say Blue parted ways with the group and leave it at that. Details are murky. “He’s like Nightwing,” says Green, referring to Robin’s rogue alter-ego created out of a serious feud with Batman. “He saw a different way of handling the business, and Batman had his way of doing things.” Basically, he explains, it came down to “creative differences,” the catch-all explanation that follows every band breakup.
Blue, on the other hand, tells a different story. “They went [to] Cali to explore the option of moving forward with The Five One minus Blue,” he wrote on his blog, bluefiveone, in September of 2011, shortly after the breakup. “I didn’t lock them out of our websites, I didn’t cut them out of any revenue, I didn’t try to change the names of the sites to my new project,” he adds.
Just four months after playing their last show as The Five One, the band went into hibernation—sans Blue—and bided their time. After going through the rough patch, the guys felt like the band needed a makeover. They kicked around a few ideas, but eventually landed on the one constant they’d had over the years, their signature colors.
On a whim late one night, they uploaded an early version of “I Love Lamp,” a song originally conceived as a Five One track, to SoundCloud, the social media music sharing site. The song wasn’t finished, and they weren’t ready to unveil it to the world just yet. Green admits that, at that point, they didn’t really understand how SoundCloud worked. Instead of functioning like a storage cloud for song drafts, the platform made everything visible to users, and contrary to what they assumed, nothing the band uploaded was private. Three hours after posting the track, the clicks came, buzz swelled and the band was back in the game, whether they wanted to be or not. It was official: The band’s super secret side project had leaked, and the cat was out of the bag—The Five One was dead. RDGLDGRN was alive.
In that three hours, a blogger picked up the scent. While the band slept, he typed. “Mysteriously, this track wound up in my inbox today,” wrote author “Mueez,” on the music website The Quiet Floor, a blog that focuses on hip hop and indie records. “RDGLDGRN? I don’t remember ever following them. Something about their sound sounded … a lot like this one band that I fell in love with earlier this year: The Five One.” Mueez continues: “It really didn’t click until I heard the singer drop the n-bomb. Only one indie-hipster-rap band has a roster appropriate enough to be able to say that. … It looks like The Five One no longer exists. RDGLDGRN has replaced [them].” Though it unnerved Green a little at the time, he can laugh about it now. “The guy was like, ‘it could only be one band that would do some shit like that,’” he says while laughing. And although their first single dropped without the pomp and circumstance they had hoped for, it garnered attention from some seriously big names.
From Foo Fighters to Pharrell
Though the band attracted plenty of local attention, they also caught the eye of hitmaker Kevin Augunas, who’s worked with Gotye, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Cold War Kids. In a whirlwind, the trio scored a four-song EP and set to work in the famous Sound City studio in Van Nuys, California. At first, the lavishness was a little foreign for the band—to this day, Green says he records some of his best stuff in his bedroom at his mom’s house. But the more they worked, the more they realized they’d really made it.
“We were staying at Oakwood Apartments [in LA] where Rick James died, where Nirvana stayed when they were recording Nevermind,” says Gold. “It’s a historical place.”
Then, Augunas dropped a bomb on the group: Dave Grohl, Arlington native, Nirvana drummer, Foo Fighters lead singer and all around musical legend, heard their work, liked it and wanted to play drums on their new EP. Needless to say, the guys were ecstatic. “That shit was really fucking cool,” says Red.
Just as Augunas explained would happen, they got the call one random morning—they’d been summoned. Grohl was in the studio setting up. The first thing the band saw when they stepped into the studio was a monster spread of food. “They had Cracker Jacks, Dave’s favorite,” says Gold. Then, they spotted Grohl and some producers chatting at the sound board. They were talking about the production of Grohl’s now-acclaimed documentary on Sound City and its famous board, and trio had mistakenly interrupted. “We kinda walk in, and he’s at the control booth with the engineers,” says Green. But instead of pulling a rockstar move and ignoring the guys, Grohl stood up, walked over to them, and shook their hands. “He introduces himself as if we don’t know who he is, which was super cool,” says Green. After small talk, it was time to get to work—and Grohl killed it. “He worked out like a machine,” says Gold. “He did a lot of songs really quickly.”
“Everything we do is above and beyond our expectations,” says Green. “We work with Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl played in Nirvana.” Then, there was the time they worked with Pharrell Williams, producer, singer, rapper and similarly, another Virginia native. The story goes like this: Pharrell was at a listening party for Universal Republic (now Republic Records), which owns the band’s label, Fairfax Recording. When a RDGLDGRN song came on, Pharrell was intrigued. He liked what he heard.
The band spent three days in the studio with him, hashing out lyrics to the song “Doing the Most.” And despite Red’s assessment that Pharrell wore a “thirty-million-dollar chain the size of Rhode Island,” to the recording sessions, there was little time to gawk at the celebrity. “We were in awe of how he works, and we went to work with him. It wasn’t a time to be supremely enthused.” Pharrel, like Grohl, was humble, generous and nurturing. “We’re all peers now. It’s that vibe,” adds Red.
No Sleep Till Reston
Nowadays, the band spends up to half a year touring the country at shows that include SXSW, Van’s Warped Tour and D.C. 101’s Chili Cook-Off. But when the Reston rockers do return to their hometown, they usually get a few starstruck stares. Once, in a Wal-Mart, Green was approached by a fan looking for a photo to tweet. But that fan was one of the more visible ones. “Sometimes they don’t even approach us, but then they’ll tweet, ‘I just saw Green’” he says. “I was walking my dog around the lake, and a guy stopped me and was like, hey, you’re in that band from Reston,” says Gold. It’s no surprise that a nationally touring act makes ripples in the placid pond from which they came. South Lakes High School in Reston hasn’t spawned many famous alumni. Sure, rapper-producer Benny Blanco, (he produced Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” Kesha’s “Tik Tok”) once walked its hallways as a teen. And yeah, Michael Jackson—the NBA player, not the musician—graduated from South Lakes in the ‘80s.
Even so, the Reston rockers are arguably the biggest thing to come out of the town in the past decade. And that can feel weird at times, especially when old friends assume they’re too busy to say hello. “Most people think we’re on the road touring … so any time they see you, they’re like, how long are you in town for?” says Gold. “It’s kind of strange to them that we even live here because most people in the music world are New York or L.A.” Despite the professional work, Reston is home base, for now.
And one of these days, the guys say, they’d like to go back to South Lakes and play a show. “We heard recently that a lot of the kids there know us,” says Gold. Green adds, “We don’t understand what South Lakes is like right now. … We gotta go there.” Who knows? Maybe they could inspire the next generation of NoVA musicians the way go-go inspired them.