Saturday, March 24, 2007


I feel like I should say something nice about Thursday. All I did was complain about it yesterday. Last night we went to a really nice little Lebanese restaurant called Layalina* six blocks down Wilson Rd. in Arlington. The food was really good and a little cheaper than the place we usually go. Also, the decor is really cool: homey, with walls cluttered over with family photos and middle eastern decorations. The tables and chairs are the type of wooden furniture I imagine gracing the wraparound porch of some stately Victorian manor. I ordered something called a white coffee,* which we'd assumed was the standard café-au-lait translation; but the waiter returned with a clear liquid the hue of white grape juice that tasted a little bit like laundry. I drank it, but I'll probably never order another one. I spent today getting everything ready for the Miss USA Drinking Game party tonight. This involved very little cleaning since housekeeping was here only yesterday. All I had to do was neaten, hide dirty clothes in the closet, shop for popular liquors, and squeeze in dinner at the same Thai place we ate last week. Did I mention that we discovered a liquor store in the first floor of the building where Sunshine used to live two years ago? That's right around the corner from the Thai Terrace. Eventually it was time for the party, which turned out to be effortless and fun. We had eight guests which was comfortably crowded in our little unit. Miss Tennessee* won the pageant, ending a several-year tradition of completely awful victors. None of us started out with her as our special pick to win, but by the end of the contest we were all satisfied that she had. And we were also drunk. [Cavin]

Friday, March 23, 2007


I think I caught a tiny head cold last night. So I didn't get much sleep and I'm cranky. I was putting on my pants, right after getting out of bed, when housekeeping barged in the door today. This is not supposed to happen. The locks don't have a deadbolt or anything, but there is supposedly a privacy setting that allows me to lock out all electronic key access except ours (and some override keys belonging to security or maintenance). I had the door set this way because housekeeping tends to come by pretty early and I don't want them barging-in until after I'm up and wearing pants. I started my day cranky and rather annoyed with Oakwood. I ended up taking it all out on the random woman who answered the phone in the office. According to the random woman, housekeepers and others will sometimes knock a lot and then get some passing security or maintenance somebody to let them on into an apartment set to private. Yes, I was not altogether nice to the random woman in the office. After this, I dragged my ass down to meet Sunshine at Foggy Bottom, where we dropped-in at headquarters to get my official security badge. This was not possible back when I was officially a "member of household," but since the wedding I've been upgraded to "eligible family member," and that comes with new documentation which includes, or so we certainly thought, a security badge. But once we'd gotten through the metal detectors we were politely told that there are no "spouse badges." How do spouses do those things requiring a badge (like taking the EFM language classes)? I don't know. Then we rushed home to discover our dinner plans had cancelled. Ever have one of these days? [Cavin]

Thursday, March 22, 2007


We have a big to-do coming up Friday. Okay, it won't really be all that big, but it's being anticipated and that's reason enough for hyperbole. It'll be the 2007 Annual Miss USA Drinking Game. We've invited a mostly uninitiated group to our tiny unit for the show. Many of these people are recent friends, and I'm pretty sure we've never watched a pageant with any of them. We'll run through all the rules again, of course (synopsized here, anticipate minor adjustments for this different beauty event). I suspect it will be a good time. In anticipation of this, our first to-do at the new place, tonight we went grocery shopping for things like crackers, chips, dips, juices, mixers, and garnish fruits. While abroad, one of the more unexpectedly interesting things to do was going grocery shopping. Grocery stores are certainly mundane, but they loudly convey both the massive and minute differences between cultures. I can spend far too much time wandering aisles of odd labels and exotic (to me) ingredients. Coming home again, I am discovering more and more how habituated to México I became: the grocery stores here look weird to me now, too. Firstly, they are mostly really small. In North Carolina, the local place was a vast Harris Teeter that we nicknamed the "Taj-Mateeter" (and has since been replaced with an even larger "Teeter Dome"), but for the most part, US stores are all smaller than the average monolithic Mexican grocery, which is departmentalized into whole areas for house wares and auto repair things. Of course, those Mexican stores are weighted toward produce where their US cousins tend toward frozen and pre-packaged stuff. Now I find myself wandering the odd selections here (Cotton Candy Shasta?) and marveling at the weirdness of this country, too. [Cavin]

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Two years ago, before our post abroad, Sunshine's class happy hour gatherings were something I could take or leave. They happened approximately every week: classmates would gather here or there to socialize for a couple of hours after school. I am not attuned to the cultural happy hour, they were never available to me. Discount drinking institution? Not in North Carolina. Also, I was only in town to see Sunshine every other weekend, so I'd not had the opportunity to really get to know more than a handful of these classmates. The people I was meeting were rarely people that I had much in common with, coming, as I did, from the rank and file of corporate retail service and meeting with fresh-faced future political leaders, movers, and shakers. I was not adverse to hanging out with them, there was often a common interest in the world. Nor was I adverse to discount drinking, god knows. But, while I never actively sought to skip this weekly ritual, when we often did other things instead, I didn't miss it. Since returning to DC, there have been a couple attempts to reinstate the happy hour among the same group of classmates, who are now, like us, veterans of at least one tour abroad. Suddenly, the ritual has become far more compelling. Not only do we all have more in common, but we all also have individual experiences to share about our worldly experiences, including me. Tonight we finally managed to take part in my first second-level happy hour in a large Irish Pub near the Court House metro stop in Arlington. In this case, "Irish" means that all the food is cooked in Guinness and the waiters have exotic UK accents. I had discount Irish coffee and a good time. [Cavin]

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Tonight we saw Los Aterciopelados* at the State Theater* here in Falls Church. The theater, a converted cinema, regularly promotes cool international Latin bands. Los Aterciopelados (which means something like "the Velvety Ones") is a premier Colombian band popular well beyond the confines of home: Sunshine became a fan while in Venezuela during her Fulbright scholarship. They've been nominated for several Grammys. It's not particularly difficult to locate their albums in US record stores; something Sunshine did after repatriating in 2001. I became a fan in Sunshine's mother's car. We'd borrowed that Echo for a road trip we feared more than a match for Sunshine's old flesh-colored Toyota truck. That first Aterciopelados CD* immediately stuck in the dashboard player where it languished as our sole driving music for the next four years (Sunshine, of course, bought that car). I grew to love that Aterciopelados CD over those years. We discovered they were playing the District area before we moved here and pre-ordered tickets. We didn't realize the venue was walking-distance from our unit until yesterday. Tonight was a blast. The opening band was good,* and Los Aterciopelados were exceptional, blending Latin traditions so evenly into smoothie rock that it comes out the other side as something new. You can listen to some here. Their front woman, Andrea Echeverri, sings with a cadenced cool sometimes similar to the rocky trip-hop of Luscious Jackson or Cibo Matto, and sometimes something entirely eerier. Here's a testimonial: during this hard Kentucky January, while the Echo was parked in consistent fifteen-degree freezes, that CD finally ejected one morning when we jumped-started the car. We immediately loaded it onto our iPods before putting it back, where it's re-stuck in our CD player still. That's what we listened to returning from the show tonight. [Cavin]

Monday, March 19, 2007


After leaving Sunshine at the Smithsonian yesterday, I took the metro all the way out to Silver Springs again to screen Kenji Mizoguchi's Sisters of the Gion (Gion No Shimai*) at AFI's Silver Theater.* It was twenty-two degrees and windy in Maryland, but it wasn't snowing (like every other time I've traveled up there; like it had been doing when I'd boarded the train). Sisters of the Gion rather candidly--for 1936--presents the lives of sibling geishas working in Kyoto's famed pleasure district (the Gion mentioned in the title). Despite being related, there are few similarities between the two women. One is traditional and kind, offering a ruined local businessman shelter in their little flat after he's kicked out of his own. The other sister is misanthropic and conniving, using her bluster and modern sensibility to jettison the freeloader from their property, ostensibly for her older sister's benefit. These cynical machinations end, of course, in tragedy all around. The thrill of the movie comes from watching a master filmmaker begin to come into his own. Mizoguchi is roundly numbered among the world's greatest directors, and Sisters of the Gion displays his first bold steps into what became his signature style. Mizoguchi* is known for long, fluid takes--following characters from place to place, or tracking multiple actions occurring simultaneously within a single set. Often he would make a movie with only one shot per scene, a difficult and stagy presentation that he often pulled off with evenhanded grace and naturalism. He also employed a vérité point-of-view camera style that frequently roves outside to witness the streets of pre-WWII Japan. The movie is a wonder of documentation far beyond the scope its fairly modest plot. And Maryland was still beyond modestly windy and cold after the movie ended. [Cavin]

Sunday, March 18, 2007

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day. We kicked-off festivities by missing the annual parade downtown at 7th Street. Actually, we just realized we'd missed it today: revelers had actually paraded the week before. Why? I have no idea; but this certainly explains the great number of Irished-up rowdies seen on the metro between Smithsonian and the zoo last Saturday. We ended up heading to the Smithsonian's Ripley International Gallery* to see an interesting exhibit on the Vietnamese Diaspora called Exit Saigon.* The set-up was small--it just lined one hallway--and featured photos and other documents from the fall of Saigon in 1975, on through various Vietnamese refugee camps, and all the way to modern examples from several prosperous Vietnamese-American enclaves around the US (like our very own neighbor, the Eden Center). My favorite part was the mock-up restaurant counter kiosk that sported typical menus from various restaurants as well as perfect little mise-en-scène dioramas: chopsticks and Asian soup spoons arranged around placemats dominated by large phở bowls in which laminated color copies of the soup were carefully placed. After the exhibit, I was hungry. Sunshine and I then split-up for a couple hours to do our own things. I ate at Qdoba and watched a movie. Sunshine went to several extra museums buying me Christmas presents. What? Well, back in December, while leaving Monterrey, we decided that we'd postpone celebrating Christmas, since time was tight, the car was tightly-packed, and we weren't spending the holiday together, anyway. So we opted to celebrate Christmas on Valentine's Day instead--how could we have known we'd be really sick that week? So we finally got around to it on St. Paddy's. I got a number of museum books (giant squids! ancient grave robbers!), a magnet, and a couple Jamieson shots before midnight. [Cavin]