Saturday, June 09, 2007


Last night I saw two movies at AFI's Silver Theater* in Maryland. The first was Howard Hawk's Red River (1948),* a lavish epic of heroic Americana, for all its focused staginess. The movie begins as Thomas Dunson (immortalized by John Wayne), opts to leave the protection of his westbound wagon train and settle the fertile lands south of the Red River in Texas. Within the day, the rest of that convoy, along with Dunson's girlfriend, is burned by Indians. The next morning he's surprised by a boy leading a cow, lone survivors of the Indian massacre. They strike up a business partnership and ersatz father-son relationship on the spot. Of course there are other problems: luckily Dunson thinks nothing of shooting those other men who think they have a claim to the land he's declared his own. Over the following fourteen years, we discover through varied screen exposition methods, an enormous herd develops from the sole bovine couple, the boy develops into Montgomery Clift (neatly stealing the movie from Wayne), and a ranch develops around the seven-plot graveyard of previous landowners. Now the problem is that cattle are a dime-a-dozen in Texas where they wonder around freely. These cattle need to be driven to the nearest rail depot for distribution across the country at a fair price. Which will it be: Missouri or Kansas? The rest of the movie dramatizes this awesome cattle drive, the boy's coming-of-age, and Dunson's dark slide into complete megalomaniacal entitlement. It's fun to see a western like this, played to the tune of its own dramas, rather than the kind of smug deconstructionist versions I grew up with. Hawk's direction seems stilted in the talking scenes, possibly due to ingrained soundstage processes rendered ludicrous before the movie's well-documented expanses of the wild west. [Cavin]

Friday, June 08, 2007


It took me two hours to get home from Silver Spring after my movie last night. That's forty-five minutes over the average time. It's because I took too long leaving the theater. From there I was stopped by a long needless don't walk sign (right in front of a Metro officer, and I don't know the first thing about Maryland jaywalking laws, nor, in the event there happen to be such laws, if those Metro guys can indeed write tickets for their transgression*). It was agonizing: on a midnight sidewalk on a deserted road, waiting because of a micromanaging light bulb. Eventually walking into Silver Spring station, there was no indication, on either train schedule board, that a train was imminent. So instead of sprinting up the escalator I merely rode it, only to discover my train there on the platform. It waited so quietly that I was really confused for several long seconds about whether the train was coming or going. It just sat there with the doors shut. I just stood there wondering. Then it left the platform, bound for DC, and I had to wait sixteen minutes for the next train. Then, even later, I had to wait a further fourteen minutes for my orange line connection deep in the bowels of Metro Center. But that's not all. By this time it was after midnight already, and the coming train was the Last One, meaning that it sat idle on the track for an extra ten minutes, allowing for all other transfer lines to accumulate before departing. By the time I'd walked up the hill to my unit, it was already well into tomorrow, so I backdated this entry a couple of hours to get it on the right day. Blame the machine under DC. [Cavin]

Thursday, June 07, 2007


We've just returned from fine semi Mexican fusion dining at the swank little Oyamel.* That sounds like a north Caribbean boutique spliced onto a raw bar, doesn't it? We'd planned to meet our good friend Holly at Zaytinya,* near Chinatown. We got there five minutes late and Holly already had the little beeper for letting us know when our tables were ready. The wait was going to be something like an hour. Screw this, we all agreed, let's find something else. So we gave our beeper back to the Zaytinya staff, and headed off through Chinatown searching for another place. Since we'd already anticipated a tony DA hotspot, we walked right past many genuine Chinese places to check out a bricky, shoebox looking club-type restaurant. The wait was going to be something like an hour. We wandered on: past a curvy little veggie Japanese place with a stainless steel theme, then on to a fluorescently colored place with a polished wood shtick. Finally we were all the way down 7th Street at D, where the wait at Oyamel was about half an hour and there were seats at the bar.* So we got the beeper and waited. Sunshine and I had been at Oyamel before, back in 2005 when we were seeking a Mexican place to prime us for living in Monterrey. At the time, I liked the food a lot but also dismissed it as being more posh District fusion and less authentic Mexican food. I was wrong. The things we ordered tonight, huitlacoche tacos, queso fundido, chili poblano, sweet platanos, and café de olla, were all very authentic, holding up well in comparison with similar posh pre- slash post-Colombian-fusion cuisine popular in Monterrey right now. Not only was this food awesome, but now I'm mildly homesick. [Cavin]

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I did business today: replaced a lost laundry card, made what will hopefully be the last call to our internet service provider, and contacted Sunshine's travel technician about having my possessions, currently in large boxes crammed into my mother's garage, shipped to Vietnam. That's one thing completely taken care of, one thing hopefully taken care of, and one long-winded bureaucratic process initiated. In the following days I'll be trying to get my official new passport. In just over two weeks I'll be heading in for an official long-winded physical. That'll be on the twenty-first and -second, by the way--just in case anyone wants to share my mounting doctor's office anxiety. What the heck happens in a two-day physical? Rumors abound; but I'm led to believe that the second day is mostly about seeing how I've swollen due to the things they've done to me on the first. Those things should involve several inoculations, tuberculosis test, x-rays, losing multiple units of blood, and probably a prostate exam. The less said about the latter the better, though I wonder if it is in bad taste to, you know, practice for that. These just aren't answers I can get off Google Images. The prep sheet these physicals indicate that we aren't allowed to eat after nine thirty the night before. These are standard instructions for surgical procedures, or dentistry, that have the patient rocked back in a chair for several hours. It guards against the aspiration of vomit, should the patient be anesthetized or otherwise incapacitated. What kind of Castle Frankenstein am I slated for, anyway? Apparently, they want me to starve myself for something, even though they plan to suck out much of my blood. So, if you see me looking pale, altered, or bowlegged, you now know why. [Cavenstein]

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Being surrounded by interesting restaurants presents a number of special difficulties I'm a little reticent to mention since being surrounded by interesting restaurants is also something ridiculous to complain about. First: after locating so many good eating places (I offhandedly count nearly thirty), it's sometimes difficult to continue locating more. This even though I imagine it's probable that my would-be favorite area restaurant languishes undiscovered. But, at the end of the day, why rely on the unknown? Second difficulty: I even have trouble selecting where to eat from merely four choices, just for myself. Two of us choosing between so many places often results in an elaborate, platonic conversation of shifting advocacies. Sunshine is usually more interested in trying something new (the first difficulty above is hardly universal). We both favor someplace nearby, without resorting to Vietnamese food too often. The criteria for our conversational positioning is different on different days. Tonight we ate at Haandi, an Indian restaurant of, I feel, unpredictable quality. I preferred a more recent discovery: a Vegetarian Indian place called Saran, located in a seedy concrete strip mall with bad parking. Today I favored Saran for its extensive, mostly untested, menu; its quietude in comparison with the popular Haandi; and because, frankly, everything I've ever eaten there has been superior to other area Indian food things. I overlooked the fact that it is necessary to make a difficult left turn across busy Lee's Highway to park in its crappy lot. Sunshine favored Haandi for, among other things, her ability to order dishes containing meat there. I should stress that this is never an argument; it's a conversational exploration before resorting to the car. Ultimately, Haandi was glowingly fabulous tonight, Sunshine didn't eat any meat, and I had terrible difficulty navigating the parking lot. [Cavin]

Monday, June 04, 2007


Just because this was supposed to have been a relaxing "do nothing" weekend, after a month of being on the go, doesn't mean we've done nothing. During Spring, we were constantly up to something: traveling to NY, NC, or KY, guests, and other great times. The side effects, of course, are all the books. We cannot leave the house without getting books. I buy then while traveling, Sunshine borrows them from friends or re-collects them from the family home. A few days ago we sped past a branch of the Arlington Library. It was too late: Sunshine returned to check-out more books. We'd only packed twenty-five books for our time here--necessitating our purchase of four stackable/collapsible bookcases. Overkill? We exceeded shelving capacity by last weekend. We've begun wedging mass-market paperbacks sideways onto those shelves. Library books are beside the bed. Research and textbooks are crammed wherever. Our Library Thing reveals we've already expanded, from that modest twenty-five book beginning, beyond the two-hundred-book limit our free account provided. The very day we rushed past the library, Sunshine spied signs for yesterday's neighborhood-wide yard sale. Since these happen before I wake up, she left me at home while checking it out. Here's something she did during our "do nothing" weekend: buy fifteen more books. She was smart about it, also purchasing a stubby bookcase with little gold-capped feet. She did this so we'd not have to put her new books on the floor. Sadly, while she was returning to get me so we could return and load the shelves into the car, some salesperson dropped the thing on the sidewalk, busting apart its lower left corner. Believe me, it was a goner. So the books are sitting in the floor anyway, and we're in the market for more shelves. [Cavin]

Sunday, June 03, 2007


Possibly you're the very last person who hasn't already had someone offer you their humble opinions about the new Judd Apatow movie Knocked Up.* I will erase your distinction right now. I'm a fan of Apatow's television shows but haven't seen his other movie, the 40 Year-Old Virgin,* having, perhaps, an unfairly bigoted and sarcastic disposition against knee-jerk gender comedy. Ha ha, I said, boys vs. girls, how droool. Or perhaps more correctly: having unfairly leveled this bigotry at the Apatow film. Regardless, I didn't see it and wasn't sure I'd see this one. But critics I dislike* are finding Knocked Up tepid and false, while critics I adore* are calling it a premature classic; so we decided to see it sixteen minutes before show time yesterday instead of eating anything at all. We drove to the same Lee's Highway Multiplex so eerily deserted when we saw* 28 Weeks Later.* While I was parking, Sunshine was being carded at the ticket window: the woman wanted both IDs but Sunshine sweet-talked her. At the zombie movie, the twee little elf selling tickets was being constantly badgered by a stuffed assistant manager. Apparently, in consideration to customers like us, who'd have never known she was barefoot otherwise, he wanted her to put on some shoes. After getting snacks last night, we handed our tickets to a wooly art-house type who then stood staring at us with a little smile on his face, our tickets surreally forgotten in his hands. He started to say something, but stopped. He stood. Eventually, Sunshine said "what?" and he finally lurched to seeming normality, tearing our tickets and directing us into one fine movie. By the way, I hope my review hasn't spoiled this charming and delightful movie for you. Look for the word "gynechiatrist." [Cavin]