Saturday, March 10, 2007


Housekeeping arrived around one yesterday and was done by one thirty. She changed the towels and sheets. She works for a company Oakwood contracts to clean these units. Dirty linen is packed into a storage area in building B, to which facility managers have limited access. Every few days this laundry is trucked down to a central facility, where it's presumably washed and returned to units as clean items. How many different complexes are served by this facility? I don't know. Have you ever owned anything so long it's grown special significance? Something familiarity has personified? I have a brown leather duffel bag like this. It's been everywhere I have. It's too small for the travel I do now but I persist in using it. When one of its straps broke after a routine bus station inspection in Morelia, I was so upset I almost cried right in line. Sunshine has a little lilac rabbit named Dora who's like this as well. Dora and Sunshine have been together since both were very young. Dora's full of character: she has rakishly cockeyed ears and a rather flat nose. She has a number of little sundresses. When I make the bed I prop Dora in the middle: a special little touch. Occasionally when I make up the bed Dora gets lost in the sheets. I know to look for her, however, so it always turns out okay. But yesterday housekeeping didn't know to look for Dora in the sheets, and we didn't notice she was missing until late. I spent all night fretting and learning about housekeeping, laundry, and one little locked door in B building. By this morning everyone knew to look for Dora in that sheet room, so everything eventually turned out okay. It was a close call. [Cavin]

Friday, March 09, 2007


Yesterday there was snow. On Tuesday, weather people told us snow was likely; but we'd just suffered a weekend of sunny, sixties weather, roadway crusts had melted away, and the waiter at the Lebanese Taverna* agreed with me that there was little chance of winter weather. At the Taverna, keeping with the recent spate of District boutique drink sampling, I had a citrus mixture of infused gin called an Oasis and Sunshine had something too passion fruity called a 1001 Nights. After gorging on middle eastern food, the sky was still deeply clear. By the time I went to bed, however, low heavy yellow clouds had capped the sky in rippled streaks. The weather people were right; that waiter and I were wrong. Sunshine headed to school in snow. I went back to sleep until early afternoon. It was still snowing whenever I looked outside. Sunshine came home after classes, hours later, and it was still snowing. We did what anyone should do under the circumstances: we walked around Georgetown, which is very pretty in the snow. Of course, we went about it like this: we called our friend Matt and dined at the swanky, costly, cleverly named Mei N Yu,* just over the Key Bridge on M. Street parking was, incidentally, so far away that we got to walk around the area a little just because. The food was fabulous, mitigating feelings of poverty inspired by sticker shock. I had wild mushroom and bean soup, fried crab pot stickers with yellow horseradish mustard, and grilled red snapper on wasabi mashed potatoes. There was even an amuse bouche: deconstructed seaweed salad served in Asian soup spoons. Boutique drinks? I liked the spicy ginger vodka and cranberry concoction called a Tunisian enough to have two. Sunshine had a Taj-Ma-Jito. [Cavin]

Thursday, March 08, 2007


There was once something odd about both our elevators. The first elevator was the scariest: whenever it would rise the first few feet from the bottom floor there would be a long moment of horror movie scratching at the top right of the door. It happened in reverse, too. Screeitch; then something would be left between floors as the slow box settled to the ground. Whenever anybody rode that elevator, they'd get very quiet during the right couple seconds to hear the spooky sound: screeitch. The other elevator had a mind of its own. It would decide which floors it was going to visit without too much difference paid to depressed direction or floor buttons. Sometimes it would stop at the wrong floor. Sometimes it would go up instead of down. Often, it would go to the selected floor fine, but then return to its starting point without ever opening the doors and letting us out. Peculiar. Then, the second week we were here, the hot water weakened and mostly died. In the afternoons I could get the shower warm enough to stand in it. Before Sunshine's morning classes, however, it was never warmer than cold. Around this time, the random second elevator was locked and an apologetic note affixed to its temperamental doors. They hoped to have it fixed soon. Soon, we learned these problems were connected: the water heater had ruptured and was leaking into the shaft. I assumed this was the genesis of our elevator's spontaneous (and precocious) intelligence. I was compelled to contemplate the unlikely spark of life, the nature of god, and the like. But now the hot water is fixed and the elevator is still strange. The odd scraping in the first car has stopped, though. That went away all by itself. [Cavin]

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Yesterday was the first day I’ve been alone in weeks. I woke up and had the house to myself. Sunshine was at school slaving over the Vietnamese language, and I was supposed to be getting around to some of the things I’ve been putting off whilst going to movies and dining with friends in North Carolina. But it was just a little too good to sit around the house in Sunday’s clothes and finish reading the Catcher in the Rye. (That Holden Caulfield, boy, that kid kills me. He loves people so much he actually hates them in a way.) After finishing that, it was a good idea to then take a long shower and begin reading the Thin Man. (That Nick Charles, buddy, no use coming over cool with him, see. He’s got your number, fella.) Between these towering achievements the dirty dishes sat over there in the sink, the bed sat in there, unmade, and nothing artful happened at all. Well, I did get up off my ass for five minutes to take a few pictures of our Oakwood unit. Eventually Sunshine came home and we drove ten minutes up Broad Street to West Falls Church trying to find what turned out to be quite a good Indian restaurant called Haandi.* They have interesting pureed Mulligatawny soup and fabulous tea. Back at the unit, I finally did the dishes before we both set down to watch Rome. I got up today it was still very tempting to sit around doing nothing on the couch where that Nick Charles was still up to his neck in gumshoeing; but I ignored him and spent today stitching yesterday’s photos together into choppy composite panoramas. These can be found here and here on my Flickr page. I also wrote this. [Cavin]

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


After eating at so many fusion restaurants in México, I thought I'd mention some of the more interesting ones around here. In Monterrey, of course, many restaurants were incidentally fusion in that, sometimes somewhat accidentally, they were Japanese or Korean or Italian fused with Mexican stuff. To be fair, this way of looking at things should probably include all the food I eat in the US, also somewhat mix-bred, but like any other type of accent, I don't taste my own unless it's very obvious. I've been thinking about this since we ate out last night. Two years ago, there were two fusion-type restaurants that we really enjoyed. One was straight-up: Thai Roma* was just what its name advertises: a fusion of Thai and Italian. I was pleased with many of the bizarre noodle dishes mutated from these parents, but it was the healthily fried parmesan spring rolls that kept me coming back. On the other end of the spectrum was the fabulously low-rent Trio Restaurant* in the Shaw/ New U neighborhood, which was a fusion of greasy-spoon diner and whatever they were trying-out in their kitchen that day. The menu did not so much consist of mutated dishes as it was itself mutated: beside the burgers and Oreo shakes were often chicken kormas and spanikopita. Last night we went to the least fused of all inspired fusion restaurants: the New Moon Restaurant down the block from our complex. While it boasts El Salvadorian slash Mexican slash Chinese food, these are all so segregated as to come on separate menus. We ate Latin food: Central American pupusas, huevos rancheros, fried plantains with black beans and sour cream. But shuffle the menus and the possible odd combinations are myriad: steamed dumplings and burritos, General Tso's Chicken and nachos. Nice. [Cavin]

Monday, March 05, 2007


One of the pressing reasons to go to Greensboro last week: I had three large boxes of stuff stored there in an attic.* These boxes were packed with presents our friends had given us for Christmas, as well as the large quantities of books and DVDs we'd purchased during the North Carolina segments of our home leave. So when I returned to our living unit on Friday, I had all of this stuff in tow. One nice amenity Oakwood provides is use of a bell stand to help with moving a lot of things like I was doing; assuming, as always, a bell stand can be located. The attendant minus was, of course, that I had a whole huge bell stand's worth of more stuff to somehow fit into our tiny flat. This meant that yesterday, while I'd have loved nothing more than spending all day on the couch watching my new DVDs of Rome, we had to sally forth and finally do the business of locating and purchasing another round of bookcases. These needed to be large enough to hold all of this additional stuff, the stuff we'd moved in with, and also anything new we're likely to buy over the next seven months. They also needed to be small enough to themselves fit into this tiny unit. We ended up in Clarendon, three metro stops closer to DC, at a two-story Container Store. Here we bought four stackable, foldable java-stained wooden shelving units for a small fortune. Then we bought another Vietnam travel guide to christen our new shelves. Then we headed home to put off putting the damn things together until all day today. Now, twenty-seven days since the cold February night we finally checked in, I can finally say we're done moving. For now. [Cavin]

Sunday, March 04, 2007


After driving all around in the rain without windshield wipers last Sunday, I was happy to discover that the weather was clear for Monday's drive between Durham and Greensboro. But by Tuesday I was already hearing weather predictions about the major storm that would dump rain on central NC Thursday, and I knew I might be in trouble for Friday's return trip. So I took the car to a garage where they sort-of laughed at me. Here is what I've learned about windshield wipers: in modern Japanese cars, there's a little plastic panel on the assembly's base, just where it connects to the car. Beneath that panel is a standard nut that sometimes loosens when subjected to temperature extremes (or when the wiper motor is activated while the blade is frozen to the windshield, as I'd inadvertently done). All I needed was to tighten that nut--something done with any wrench, pliers, or even my fingers in a pinch. In seconds, the mechanic was done "fixing" the problem that had so worried me the day before. He didn't even charge me; but I tipped him. In my own defense, I also discovered that older American cars have an inaccessible pin which sometimes shears deep inside the mechanism that attaches to the motor itself. My last car was a seventy-one Buick, and if I stopped here, I feel like I'd have a decent excuse for not knowing I could fix this problem with my fingers. But my second-to-last car was a Nissan so I really should have known this already. Anyway, the storm really did hit Thursday, so I was glad I had wipers. Tornados ravaged several states, and were predicted for NC Friday morning, but the sky was again clear by the time I drove back to DC. [Cavin]