Saturday, February 17, 2007


We decided to go see the Last King of Scotland* today just thirty minutes before show time, so even through Ballston Mall is handily located right above the metro (one stop down from us), we still opted to drive. It's a shame: for once the erratic shuttle service was actually running. The Oakwood parking lot is not fully scraped. Where they clear the accumulation from the driving areas, snow and ice is pushed up behind the parked cars in rifts by the scrapers. We didn't have much trouble getting the car out of its space, though, even starting on four inches of ice, we were able to climb the corralling ice mountain. Once out of the lot the roads were fine. I didn't like the Last King of Scotland as much as many people seem to. It seemed very much like every white fish-out-of-water story with a black African excuse; what many of these "based on true events" Oscar attempts devolve into. I never stopped being aware that the white guy was simply a device to initiate the audience to the joyous and/or savage exotica going on around him, and I was frustrated when the film diverted useful screen time to his presence. Also, I think the move irresponsibly fictionalized the events of Uganda in the seventies, creating cinematic horrors as a patch for the historical atrocities apparently deemed outside the scope of our cipher's story. All that said, every performance was extraordinarily good, even that of the white device; I was especially charmed by Gillian Anderson's haggard volunteer doctor. After the movie, we ate at the local IHOP and discussed the career of Idi Amin Dada,* and I asked why Africa must always presented in the over -exposed and -saturated warm polychrome of a seventies National Geographic. [Cavin]

Friday, February 16, 2007


Sometime yesterday I stopped feeling sick. Maybe it happened halfway through my large Valentine's Day plate of chili middle-neck clams, which were pretty hot even before I spooned all that red stuff all over them. I woke up today feeling good for the first time this week. Sunshine and I were interested in fleeing the house, so twenty minutes before the metro shuttle was due to resume activity again, we bundled up and walked the point six miles to the stop. The going was pretty rugged. It was a sunny thirty degrees, not bad, but many of the houses along the way had neglected to chip up the frozen foot of road-scrapings covering their sidewalk portions. We spent the trek navigating blindingly white curls of ice bank, aiming for the muddy footprints of our predecessors. Then we took the metro to the Chinatown stop which is situated conveniently beneath the Smithsonian American Art Museum* (which shares a building with the National Portrait Gallery*). The reason we had come was to see this exhibit on the extraordinary Joseph Cornell, a twentieth century collagist and filmmaker famous for box constructions (sectioned and shadow-boxed wunderkammer filled with item collage; some examples). Cornell's work is really mysterious and exotic, evoking overlooked treasures on a dusty museum backroom junk shelf, the very thing I find compelling in the work of Dave McKean* or Nick Bantock.* We also ate really fine pan-Mediterranean food across the street at Zaytinya.* After seeing the exhibit, we hopped right back on the metro and headed home again, arriving at the East Falls Church platform just in time to walk back home twenty minutes before our free shuttle service was to resume again. In this direction, the whole walk was uphill, but at least it was dark and windy. [Cavin]

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day. I like this holiday, actually; I always have. I know there are those who intellectualize its comment on the connection between commerce and romance. I know there are people who pessimistically rail that the very exclusive and otherwise painful nature of relationships render the holiday a farce. There are even singles who sourly feel the holiday marginalizes or denies them. I suspect these last people have a good point, actually; god knows that romantic love is something seldom studied in the abstract precisely because one either has it or one does not. I like this holiday for the first two reasons above. I like that one day stands right up and, once and for all, minces no ideology over the connection between loviness and money. I love that the very painful nature of relationships is celebrated in an unhealthy morass of brown and red treacle, encouraging ladies and gentlemen to reach right in and bite the gooey hearts provided them. It's a rather gothic holiday, eh? If love is a creaking, drafty, shuttered construction casting window-light out onto the world's frozen maze of skeletal flora, then Valentine's Day is the chink in the pitched bluster when inhabitants can stroll the widow's walk and then huddle back inside as better people. But enough waxing pretty: Sunshine and I spent our first married Valentine's finally doing that long, laborious grocery chore necessary for our a brand new unit. This took an incredible amount of time and energy and four trips through the icy parking lot with crushing armloads. After, we drove across the street and ate really excellent Vietnamese food. The restaurant was only halfway full and none of the Southeast Asian clients seemed to care there was a holiday going on. Sunshine and I cared, though. [Cavin]

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


During this wicked weekend I was not able to get online. Today, Tuesday, I finally managed to steal signal from another source in the complex. Unethical, I know, and yet I am mighty relieved to discover that the problem really isn't my computer. I suspect that, one, I'm being blocked, and two, that my initial suspicion that it was okay to use Sunshine's passcode on two computers at once, was possibly erroneous. But, good, this is a situation that I will be able to deal with completely when I am well enough to. During this wicked weekend I was also very sick, which persists, in some decreased form, right up through today, Tuesday, and into tomorrow. I was able, even under the shadow of these calamities, to write this Update entry every day anyway. At least right up until yesterday, Monday, when I stopped. See, even though I was writing them, I did not feel like pulling the strings necessary to transfer them all to Sunshine's working connection and publish them. Today's entry, Tuesday, was not actually written until the following Friday. It was difficult trying to stay on top of something I was getting behind on, anyway. What I would have done is declared a lost weekend, summed-up, and been done with it--only I really had already written five entries that I was unwilling to chuck away. Also, this was one of those weeks where things really happened. Rather than spend all next week saying "remember what you did last Monday? Well, I unpacked my..." it seemed appropriate to just post all of the things that happened when I should have originally posted them. The only reason that I am telling on myself now is because nothing at all worth posting happened to me on Tuesday. [Cavin]

Tuesday, February 13, 2007


I got up four minutes after eight this morning after four hours of sleep. I'm still sick. After spending two days recumbent, it was very difficult to get to sleep early last night. I should have tried harder: between eight and ten am today, movers were to appear with our air-freight from Monterrey. We'd have four large boxes of stuff completely filling the apartment. Since these would be sitting between the couch and the TV, even my illness had a vested interest in dealing with them as soon as possible. The boxes arrived a little before eleven, and we managed to get three of them dumped out before the moving-in process ended so the movers could move the trash back out with them. This moment was important. This was the first time we had the opportunity to discover whatever it was we did during the month of packing-out in México. What things arrived today? Was it the stuff we meant to have here? What were we thinking, making this or that choice? Lastly, once we'd unpacked the final box and unwrapped the final, padded parcels, we had to wonder: did the fact that certain expected things were not present mean they were on the way to Vietnam? Or headed for three years of climate-controlled lockdown? Or dumped into a Latin garbage can? I'm making it seem like it's a bigger issue than it really is. Most of what we expected to see really was here, packed very professionally (the only casualty was a flesh-wound: two of my restaurant-sized spice bottles leaked garlicy paprika out into their box). Also, this place is eight hundred square feet, and we now have at least twice that number of square things to somehow jam into it. We certainly don't need anything else. [Cavin]

Monday, February 12, 2007


Ugh. Saturday night was fevered and creepy, filled with the kind of math problem dreams I'm always convinced that I have to solve before I can wake up. Of course I woke up about every forty-five minutes, but that just meant I had to hurry back to sleep to keep working on that math. It is interesting to watch the brain clinging to lucidity. Sunday afternoon I was still pretty sickly and Sunshine started coming down with it, too. It was shaping up to be another laying-on-the-couch-and-watching-TV day. On days like this, our unit's comparative smallness doesn't feel so "cramped" as "cozy," and after a couple cups of whatever herbal tea we picked up Tuesday, our sickbed was almost comfortable. When I feel like complaining about the residence here, it's little things about the complex that annoy me most. I complain about amenities. That free shuttle to the nearby metro stop? It runs every ten minutes, except between nine twenty am and three pm, or after nine twenty at night, when it does not run at all. Think about it; that's nearly useless. The little convenience store across the exercise yard? Well, it certainly is well stocked: it's packed with very good beer and several brands of Korean instant noodle meals, coffee filters, and tropical juices. But the store only takes cash, and there is no ATM anywhere on the Oakwood property. Today, Sunshine scrounged up all of our change and managed to come up with enough for a microwaveable pizza, wavy potato chips, and Coke. Neither of us felt like digging the car out of its plowed-in parking space to eat out or walking to the corner where there is a gas station with a bank machine. I made the tea: lemon, honey, and whiskey. We persevered. [Cavin]

Sunday, February 11, 2007


There was a pretty moment during last night's walk. That was nice. The rest was cripplingly cold--and stumblingly long--even in knitted headgear; but one moment was pretty and nice. Right about the fourteen hundred block, eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue peels slightly south and the whole wide, crystalline, candy-lit metropolitan roadway, with sequences of orderly traffic, bundles of woolen pedestrians, layers of colored signs, and patterns of stone office building windows, frames perfectly the lucent dome of our nation's capital building. Waiting for the little white walking signal to let us cross at 14th, I was momentarily dazzled by the District and the beautiful winter we are having here. But even this moment hurt me. The evening's walk, and Tuesday's facial-fat freezing mass-transit tour, and all the recent traveling, have combined to make me very sick. I felt the first tickle in my throat early this morning, and woke up this afternoon feeling lousy, feverish, and pathetic. Last night we'd ventured out to eat fast food and come straight home. We'd promised ourselves to use today's sunlight to see a little of the District besides that. Back on Thursday, we'd gone to the grocery store after a nice Italian dinner. That first big supply haul after moving was a chore we couldn't face on a weeknight. So we'd just grabbed a few things (bread, for instance, but no cheese; a couple instant noodle lunches) and promised each other we'd really grocery-shop on Saturday. But I woke today knowing I was going to break those promises. Sunshine was heroic about it, sitting under quilted blankets on the couch with me all day, watching bad movies on cable, and good episodes of the Office on DVD. We ate instant noodle lunches. It was miserable, but it was also pretty nice. [Cavin]