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Tired of car payments, insurance bills, and lines at the rental counter, I planned to borrow Fred Flintstone’s car. Instead my friend Pat tipped me off to Zipcars. We signed up as zipsters, collected our smart cards, and programmed our computers. We rent cars near Metro stops for an hour or a day. (In Arlington, look for the bright orange ride share polls.) Being a zipster is more than about transportation. It is a social experience. The cars all have names—Mini Monkey 3 lives outside our apartment building. Snuffy, a sporty Volvo, took me to a business appointment from AU/ Tenleytown to the far edge of Rock Creek. Keep your eye out for Zipman, a green (groan) super hero who emerged from a radioactive parking meltdown in Dupont Circle to clean up Washington DC. Occasionally someone parks you out or you run late or a smart card balks. These are occasional inconviences which I learned to be zip about. I mean hip about, especially with the help of on-call assistance. You can find maps of where to find the Zipcars near you along with sign up information, rates, and more at www.zipcar.com.

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Stanton Park

You nearly stumble upon it. You’re just minding your own business walking up Massachusetts Avenue NE, and suddenly you’re walking through a beautiful park. It’s not a quiet park—it’s smack in the middle of a traffic circle—but it’s a lovely place to sit and read or nap or just watch the local families play with their children at the playground. There are several benches, and while the park is popular with the locals, there’s always room to stretch out. It’s surrounded by architecturally diverse row houses that are a treat to gaze at, and in the center, on a grassy mound, is a monument to a commander of the Revolutionary War. So, go sit on a bench and contemplate your freedoms.

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Mandalay Restaurant

Mandalay is slowly becoming an institution in downtown Silver Spring. The authentic, delicious, and distinctive Burmese cuisine is well known to those who frequent the ethnically diverse eateries of Bonifant Street. What may not be as well known is that Mandalay recently added a beautiful bar area. The well-stocked bar looks classy, it’s separated from the dining room so on slow nights it can double as a private party room, and it’s equipped with two televisions and maps of Burma for endless entertainment. But the real draw of the new bar at Mandalay is the bartender who comes with it. Her name is Jennifer, and she is a joy to be around. She smiles bigger and more often than any person you’ll ever meet. She laughs at your jokes like any good bartender should. And she’s been known to tell a few as well. But you needn’t actually talk with Jennifer to be entertained by her. Just sit back with your drink, and watch her from afar. Her mannerisms, her facial expressions, her conversations with her coworkers, her banter with other customers, her interactions with every object animate or inanimate are hilarious. She is a gem.

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Café Noble

About three years ago, there was a successful, family-run Persian restaurant where Café Noble is now. You could go in there and get a feast of rice and grilled vegetables for less than three bucks. But when the Persian restaurant finally closed, no other business could fill the gap. That is until Café Noble. What has Café Noble done differently? It has decided to be everything to everyone, and in this case it seems to be working. Since the Persian family left, this space has housed a Greek restaurant, a Mexican restaurant, and even a South American restaurant. Café Noble continues to serve up some of the same items from these defunct restaurants and added their own unique items, including fried rice and an Angus beef burger—the highlight of the menu. Café Noble’s owners have also redesigned the space, giving it a spiffy new look, and they installed free Wi-Fi. One thing that detracts from the hip new look is the canned music that’s pumped in—you never know if it’s going to be swank groove or gospel when you step inside. Eclectic indeed.

• Bethesda / Chevy Chase Business • Map it • Print it • Send to a Friend • More Info

The Book Thing

If you’re reading this it means that you’re literate. And if you have the capacity to read, and you’re anywhere near Baltimore then you need to go to The Book Thing. Aptly named, The Book Thing is a non-profit where you can go and get as many free books as you can handle. There’s only one condition: you can’t resell the books (they are stamped upon exit to ensure that). Forget comparisons to other places in Baltimore, this is absolutely one of the greatest places on the face of the earth. It’s not much to look at from the outside, but the inside is full of wonderful surprises. The volunteers are more helpful than paid employees at most book stores, and the selection is fantastic. You may not be able to find the exact book you’re looking for, but you will definitely be able to find something worth taking home. It’s all free, so you’ve got nothing to lose. Go check it out. Now.

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