Saturday, February 24, 2007


I hurried: got up, showered, ate a few fistfuls of cereal, then left town following the best route I know to the highway: I-395 at Glebe Street in Arlington, heading south. Traffic was icky--not stopped cold between DC and Richmond like sometimes, but pretty bad. I'd planned around actual rush hours, but it still took almost five hours to hit Durham. Here, MapQuest steered me to exit 177-B instead of -A, and it took even more time getting turned back around heading north up the highway toward my hotel. I guess MapQuest got confused between Hillsborough and Hillandale Streets. Fair enough. I always get lost in Durham, too, where all street names sound the same. Consider the directions to the Carolina Theater from my hotel, driven in a mad rush minutes after I finally checked in: right on Roxboro, right on Mangum, left on Markham, right on Morgan. Except Roxboro changes into Mangum. Except I was still looking for the left when I stopped at the Morgan Street light and had to turn across three lanes. And this is the part of Durham that I know pretty well. I used to come to this area regularly. But it's different every time I'm here. Anyway, I was almost late for tonight's first movie, even though I'd hurried. After the second movie,* I tried reversing my route, but the roads are all renamed the opposite way. This time I found Markham, but it changed into Hillsborough and deposited me at I-95, exit 177-B again. I knew how to get home from there, but after six hours the exit was now arc-lit, filled with construction traffic, and I dodged orange barrels exiting at Hillandale. See? I caught them changing the roads when they thought I wasn't looking. Somebody tell MapQuest. [Cavin]

Friday, February 23, 2007


Sunshine got up this morning and went to class for the first time since two Fridays ago. This is really her first big day, because after this week's lark corporate "coaching" training, she'll begin language and area studies classes on Monday. From now on out, Sunshine is back to full-time work until mid-October. Home leave has officially been over since the beginning of February, but it really feels over today. I turned to domestic work myself: I tried to fit the remains of the air-freight shipment into our unit, unpacking the last of the suitcases and things I'd abandoned when I got sick last week. Mostly everything is tucked away now, but there are things I would like to use someday a little too tucked--say, behind other things I need to use sooner. This sorry state of affairs will last until I am finally able to buy yet another bookshelf. Then I will have the house set-up for good; or at least until we pack it all up and move out again, you guessed it, in mid-October. While I was unpacking things today, I was also packing up other things. Tomorrow I head to Durham for the Nevermore Film Festival,* which is screening nine full-length horror movies (eight of which will be enjoying their NC premier), and ten other short-subject features. Typically, there's no possible way to see every movie--too many are scheduled simultaneously, leaving me hopelessly making snap quality assumptions based on the respective posters. Still, for the next three days I will sit stuporously through hours of abattoir cinema. Then I'll spend most of next week in Greensboro, catching up on things I meant to do when I was there before. This may mean that I'm a little out of the office next week. [Cavin]

Thursday, February 22, 2007


One of the nicest things about our Oakwood Homes unit is that it comes with free laundry and housekeeping service. The laundry isn't free for everyone, though. Each unit complex has one laundry room per floor. These are run by laundry card, costing $1.25 per load to wash (I don't know how much to dry). We are presented with new cards as our old ones expire, courtesy Sunshine's employer. Most unit tenets have to recharge their cards with actual money. It's convenient to have the washer and dryer close to, but not actually in, our living space. Housekeeping is pretty convenient, too. In México, Rosy showed up every Wednesday morning to clean the house. She stayed all day, doing what she thought needed doing, ate our food for lunch, and left around four three hundred pesos richer. Here it works like hotel: two housekeepers show up on Thursdays, knock, and then return later when I am out (or when I let them in). It's a small place, and two of them quickly dust and vacuum and change the towels. Once a week, I don't have to make the bed because they change the sheets. They empty the trash and recycling. They wash the dishes if there are any to do; and when they do that, they do it like me: wash them in the sink and leave them to dry in the dishwasher, out of the way. They have a checklist they follow every week. I like this a lot. The service is far less invasive than the routine in México. I don't have to have their cash ready (Sunshine's employers again!), service is scheduled around my convenience, and it only takes twenty minutes. I still clean up a little the night before, though. Old habits die hard. [Cavin]

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fat Tuesday

I spent yesterday catching up this Update column with dated material (I'm still unable to get online due to my laziness in resolving the issue). If you're coming to this column for the first time this week, you should note that I've posted eleven backdated entries since Friday morning. Also, I've finally uploaded more pictures to Flickr; here. These are mostly portraits of creepy baby dolls. I stayed in while Sunshine stepped out to spend quality time with our friend Holly. Now you know why there's no Monday entry this week. All I did was order a pizza from some place we'd never heard of before. Their pizza was pretty good. Today I did more. Happy Mardi Gras. First, we found our way to the Virginia location of Luna Grill,* a vegetarian-friendly eatery we already liked at its DC branch near Dupont Circle. We met our friends Tony and Christene there. They fly to India tomorrow. We haven't seen them since Saturday, when we shared them with a large group of coworkers and family. Today was just the five of us (even if baby Bruno was never even unzipped from his basket), and that was super nice. Parting was tough again. Later in the afternoon, we took the red line train to Van Ness where we ate pretty good Indian food. I tried something called a "Green Dragon," consisting of gin, Jägermeister, some green liqueur, and lime; but it actually wasn't bad. The restaurant offered to save our leftovers while we walked the mile to Politics and Prose,* a bookstore where China Miéville* read to us from his new young-adult novel Un Lun Dun.* I like the way Mr Miéville reads, he's charming and effusive. It was raining when we walked back to the metro with our takeout. [Cavin]

Monday, February 19, 2007


Happy New Year! Today was a great day; the kind of day I imagined when I was looking forward to living in DC. We started by catching the erratic free shuttle to the metro, and going to Chinatown to celebrate the Year of the Pig. We arrived after the parade, just when the mayor was beginning to speech. The street was blocked-off, and sidewalk vendors were selling crepe dragons on lit batons. We wandered around some before taking the metro on to Dupont Circle, where we ascended into driving snow. I think of the Circle as our District neighborhood since it's near Sunshine's previous apartment. We spent a lot of time here two years ago. Despite dense snowfall, Dupont Circle was wheeling with seagulls. We walked in the snow for a while, reacquainting ourselves with what was where, and then ate good sushi fusion at Raku.* I enjoyed peppery sake in a greenhouse panorama of whirling flurries. Then we window shopped in the snow until we got tired of being outside and cold and caught the red line to Silver Springs, Maryland, where the American Film Institute* runs the Silver Theater.* Here we bought tickets to Remember the Night* (femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck prowls the edges of Preston Sturges's romantic comedy like a bemused animal, a lighthearted redemption tale making good use of her dangereuse iconography) and 2001, a Space Odyssey* (Stanly Kubrick's visionary 1968 avant-garde sci-fi is a show-don't-tell masterpiece of verisimilitude and realistic futurism, even if the gravitas drags and the profundity's a little shallow). Four hours later we raced to the metro, just catching the first of two last-minute closing-time trains: we managed to barely make it home without resorting to an expensive cab. The ten-minute walk from the stop was even mostly scraped tonight. [Cavin]

Sunday, February 18, 2007


A nice thing about where we live in Falls Church: we're located beside the fabulous Eden Center,* a dense Vietnamese strip on the north point of that un-navigable tangle of traffic known as Seven Corners. This is why we eat Vietnamese food so often. We're attempting to work our way around the place. The first night we were in Virginia we accidentally discovered Eden Center. Right around the corner from our unit was a giant, garishly-lit Asian gateway to restaurant after restaurant advertising hot phở in festive neon. How many restaurants? I don't know. I lose every count around eighteen. Also, I don't know whether to include the many bakeries and coffee shops, some of which serve food. Other stores include grocers, video rentals, and hair and nail salons. The last time we went, I noticed another, interior, area sort-of around back. I don't know what's in there--exploring was cold that night, the wind-chill furiously snapping the center's South Vietnamese flag.* Wednesday, Sunshine discovered two of Eden Center's restaurants made a District-area Best 100* list. That night we tried number fifty, the superb Viet Royale* about midway down the north strip. It was fabulous. Tonight we were invited to the number one favorite of our dear friends Christene and Tony. We've not seen them in the fifteen months since they left Monterrey. They used to feed The Cat during our vacations. Tony and Christene (and the handsome baby Bruno) are a year ahead of us, off to their second post in New Delhi next week. The food at the Four Sisters Restaurant* was very good, and although it was unlisted in the Best 100 restaurants above, the sentimental quality of sharing it with friends pretty much pushes it to the top of my favorites list as well. [Cavin]