News & Politics

The Blogger Beat: Arjewtino

This week, we have an Argentinean/Jewish smorgasbord for your reading pleasure: We chat about everything from mustaches to yarmulkes with culturally conflicted local blogger Arjewtino.

Arjewtino on the steps of the Embassy of Argentina. Photograph by Chris Leaman

Arjewtino, a blogger who prefers not to use his real name, writes about his life through the lenses of his identities: He’s an Argentinean Jew, hence his moniker. His friend coined the name one night at a bar, and it stuck.

A lifelong writer, Arjewtino studied English and journalism in college and worked as a reporter after he graduated. Several years into the job, he realized that he missed being able to write creatively, so he started a blog in July 2006.

The blog chronicles anything and everything that happens in Arjewtino's life—with a helping of comedy on the side. “I try to entertain not only my readers but myself,” he says. “It’s mostly about stupid things that have happened to me.” Some of his favorite posts: his yarmulke experiment, how he ate for free in DC, and his foray into the world of mustaches.

Arjewtino works full time as a technical writer for a government IT firm, but he spends ten hours a week writing and editing blog posts. We caught up with him to get his take on everything from the Nats to photography to his most embarrassing moment. Read on for his answers.

Best thing about being both Argentinean and Jewish:
“Being from Argentina, I think I’m really good-looking. But being Jewish, I feel really guilty about it. Seriously, people think it’s odd that I can be both from a South American country and one of the Chosen People, but it’s much more common than people realize. When people learn about my cultural duality, they often stare at me confused, like I just asked them how to add two and potato together. I should start a support group for us.”

Favorite place to go to indulge your Argentinean side:
“Anyplace that will serve me a fried egg on top of a steak. My friends tease me relentlessly about my love of fried eggs on top of everything. Sometimes, I’ll be eating cereal and think, ‘I wonder if I should put a fried egg on top of this.’ Argentine food is one of the things I miss the most about living in Buenos Aires. A perfectly grilled steak on a parillada, served with morcilla, sweetbread, and chorizo. There aren’t too many places in Washington that serve South American cuisine, so when I need my fix, I tend to go El Patio in Rockville. The staff speaks Spanish, they sell alfajores and other treats, and the whole restaurant is decorated with posters and banners of Argentine fútbol. The only drawback? It’s in freakin’ Rockville.”

Favorite place to go to indulge your Jewish side:

“My kitchen. Nothing says modern Jew more than having your shiksa girlfriend make you matzo-ball soup.”

Favorite place to indulge your inner photographer:
“There are so many great places in Washington to take photos: Great Falls, the Lincoln Memorial, pretentious restaurants with ‘no camera’ policies. But my favorite location to take photos in DC is anyplace where tourists might show up. Many Washingtonians view tourists as a collective scourge on our region, which is ironic since they’re the group that finances our economy. I see tourists as photographic opportunities. I once did a photo series on tourists taking photos of DC. I went to the Tidal Basin during the Cherry Blossom Festival and snapped away at unsuspecting families who were in their own little world. Tourists act like they can do whatever they want, so you see many of them climbing cherry trees, urging their children to run into the Reflecting Pool, or trying to scale the Lincoln Memorial.”

Best and worst things about living in Washington:
“The best thing about living in Washington that people may not realize is all the access we have to free food. When I was unemployed a few years ago and needed to save money, I’d put on my black suit and go to the Washington Hilton at noon. There was always a free luncheon being held. I’d just act like I belonged there and walk up to the food line and get myself a sandwich. This worked really well for me during those lean months until someone asked me what I thought about that morning’s session.

“I’ve lived here for ten years and think Washington is a great place. But if I had to pick the worst thing about living here, it wouldn’t be Metro or tourists or driving on I-66 or all those Hill staffers who walk around with a sense of entitlement. Nope. It’d be the city law that says no alcohol can be sold after 10 PM.”

Biggest lesson learned from your yarmulke experiment:
“Though I identify as a Reform Jew, I recently wore a yarmulke for a whole day as a social experiment just to see what would happen. I wondered if I’d get stares or side glances. But nothing happened. I learned never to underestimate strangers’ complete lack of interest in anyone other than themselves.”

Rate your love for baseball on a scale of one to ten:

“A friend once told me that baseball is designed to break your heart. As a loyal Dodgers fan, I understand what she means. Every season is like a relationship. It starts off with so much of that ‘when am I going to see you again?’ promise. You don’t notice the little things, like her not calling you back or going 0-for-19 with runners in scoring position. By midseason, you start to get annoyed or fall in love, depending on the important things like whether or not she’s okay with you never doing dishes or overworking your bullpen. By the end, you’re screaming at each other, ‘Why in the name of God would you swing at a first pitch when you’re down three in the eighth inning?’ So I’d rate it like a 27.”

Rate your love of the Nats on a scale of one to ten:
“I cheer for the Nats 156 games out of the year. But those six games when they play the Dodgers? I root against them. So I’d probably give it a six (but only if they make a concerted effort to sign some free agents during the off-season).”

Most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done to impress a girl:
“I once told a girl at a party that I wrote the articles you find in porn magazines, thinking that would impress her. She seemed more interested in my friend who lied about driving boats for DC Ducks tours.”

Most embarrassing thing you’ve done, period:
“Once, when I was the news editor of my college newspaper, I was looking at some photo negatives on a light board that showed what appeared to be a man wearing sunglasses and a hood. With my head down looking at the negatives, I yelled across the room to my photo editor, ‘Who is this in these photos, the Unabomber?’ just as the photographer—a Muslim woman wearing a head scarf—who had taken the pictures walked in. ‘No,’ she said, ‘that’s my mom.’ She never spoke to me again. That memory still haunts me.”

Adam Sandler or Sarah Silverman?

“Woody Allen and Natalie Portman.”

Letterman or Leno?

“Conan O’Brien.”

Mustache style of choice:

“A year ago this month, a group of friends and I grew out our majestic mustaches to raise money for charity to fight prostate cancer. Many of our loved ones thought we looked like insurance-selling driver’s-ed teachers or cop perverts, but we raised $4,100 for a good cause, so it all worked out.”

Finish this sentence: “If my blog wasn’t named Arjewtino, it would be called . . .”

“I’ve been blogging for so long as Arjewtino that I almost can’t imagine being named anything else. Still, if my blog weren’t named Arjewtino, it would be called something that incorporates being Argentinian and Jewish. Like Doctor Gaucho.”

One thing you’d never blog about:
“My girlfriend’s period. I once wrote a post about her birth-control habits without telling her beforehand, and she nearly stabbed me in my sleep.”

Tips for starting a blog that’s not really about anything:
“(1) Don’t write about your cat. (2) Be entertaining; if you truly wanted to write a personal journal, you wouldn’t post it online. (3) Engage other bloggers by commenting on their posts and e-mailing them. We’re all attention-starved human beings with a disturbing need for validation. (4) Use photos and drawings in your posts: No one wants to read a desert of words while Web surfing at work. (5) Blog on WordPress.”

Fodder that fuels the most blog comments
“You never know what blog post will resonate with readers and create some sort of online dialogue. Sometimes I’ll write something I consider incredibly interesting but will receive few comments; other times, I might write a blog post about the most banal thing that will spark novel-size diatribes. If I could figure out this magic formula, I’d bottle it and sell it on eBay. Right next to the ‘ghost in a jar.’ ”

Favorite local blog other than your own:

“I have to say I Now Pronounce You because he’s my boss and he’ll fire me otherwise. But if I weren’t worried about my job security, I’d say, which is like the cool meeting place for bloggers in the Washington.”

Next week in the Blogger Beat, we chat with some of the writers behind Penn Quarter Living about their DC neighborhood. Best place for an after-work drink? Local leader who’s done the most for the neighborhood? Biggest architectural eyesore? Check back next Wednesday for their answers!

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