Saturday, August 25, 2007


I woke up a little earlier than normal today, planning to clean the house before the arrival of my mother sometime in the evening. Housekeeping day was yesterday, as it is always on Thursdays in this country, and I have no excuse why I had so much to clean the very next day. Last week,* there was a good excuse. Part of today's cleaning was devoted to clearing away the very last little potatoes and things from the in-laws' garden, which I chopped up very fine and added to the dregs of Monday's soup. I don't ever, by the way, remember eating that soup. I just had spoonfuls of it here and there. But today, when I looked into the pot, the soup was over two-thirds gone. Now the pot's full again, ready for another week of surreptitious refrigerator-side dining. Mom arrived while we were at the grocery store picking up last minute this and that; we raced her back to our unit because we had ice-cream melting in the trunk. Then we hung around for a while before eating at Lebanese Taverna where I ordered way too much food considering both my ability to consume as well as the tiny four-tops they have in that place. The highlights of the dinner included the shrimp arak: boiled decapod crustaceans lounging in fennel liquor chutney; and fool m’damas: a mélange of hummus and lemon- and garlic-simmered whole fava beans. Somehow, on our little table, this last got trapped behind the bread basket, and by the time I'd eaten my way to it I was mostly full. So I now have one of my favorite dishes in a leftover carton beside the refrigerator soup, a space usually reserved for middling entrees regulated to the end of a too-large dinner. Nice. [Cavin]

Friday, August 24, 2007


Today was my penultimate vaccination day. Sunshine is taking special classes today and tomorrow. These classes meet earlier in the morning, meaning that she can take the inopportune Oakwood shuttle to school. This, in turn, means that I can use the car during the day. What did I use it for today? I went to school and got pumped full of measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B. At least I didn't have to stay here dodging the housekeeping staff. I now know most of the institute nurses by name. Last week's nurse, the one who skewered my arm with demented imprecision, was not there. The nurse who took admitted me was the one who gave Sunshine feverish rabies last week. At least she managed to get Sunshine's band-aids over the actual needle holes, however; I was not altogether alarmed. Apparently, they are pretty bored up in the institute nurse practitioner's Health and Immunization office. There were three nurses there, and all three began to fight over who was going to draw my diseases from the vials in the fridge. I was led into the sticking room by one, the others were standing there with shots at the ready, like duelists, and I got the fleeting impression that I was going to have both administered at once. This would have made a good story, so stop reading here. Alas, I got the hep B in my left deltoid followed quickly by measles, et al., in the subcutaneous fat on the back of my right arm. One after another. Then my paperwork was updated and I was free to leave, but since Sunshine's classes are rescheduled today and tomorrow, I stuck around the institute for the half-hour until she was also released so I could give her a ride home. [Cavin]

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I'd planned on seeing two movies yesterday. They were showing three good ones, but I've been trying to limit sitting on my ass to merely four hours straight. Also, I don't like watering down each movie's impact to that extent. Movies I've seen before wouldn't suffer, but I'd never seen the Man Who Would be King* or Cleo from 5 to 7 (Cléo de 5 à 7; Agnès Varda, 1961),* yesterday's later show. Because of this, and because I didn't want to skip another dinner, I opted not to watch Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985),* scheduled between the other two. Good reason: this was the cheesier Hollywood happy ending re-cut that works better as a curiosity compared to the way Brazil was originally intended. So, after the Huston movie I had a three-hour break for dinner and my very good Shirley Jackson book. I also thought I'd window shop for a laptop-sized shoulder bag (everybody in the district has a courier bag. I want to be just like them even though my computer will fit into a purse). I was in the mall when I discovered that Cleo..., is too long to make the last train home afterwards. How long does it take to walk an hour-long midnight train route? I wasn't planning on finding out. Scratching Cleo... made me wish I'd watched Brazil, but also meant I could get home early. This was when I realized I'd left my phone in the theater. Brazil was half over, of course; but the ushers hadn't located the phone, so I got to further stew over my bad decision while searching for it myself beneath the screen. I didn't find it. I had to wait with my book for the damn movie to let out anyway--then someone turned it in. [Cavin]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Last night we had a dinner with some friends from Monterrey--at yet another middle eastern restaurant down the road from our unit. Everyone seemed more taken with Aladdin that I was. The food was fine, and I liked our gothic waiter, but it seemed more fast food oriented than the Lebanese places I've fallen in love with. Sunshine says it's a great place to eat lunch. I was served the largest damn falafel pocket pita I've ever seen: like a calzone full of salad. Today, after a short lunch of leftover slash untouched three-bean soup and fava bean patties, I watched John Huston's jocularly tragic misadventure the Man Who Would be King (1975),* which begins with an elaborate montage of vintage exotica in an India suspiciously akin to Morocco. Peachy (Michael Caine) steals a watch from a man on a train. That's just the kind of rascal Peachy is. The victim is young Rudyard Kipling (Christopher Plummer), sole reporter for the local branch of the Evening Star. Both men are Freemasons, a fact prompting Peachy to return the timepiece and introduce Kipling to his conspirator Dravot (Sean Connery), also a Freemason. The two man are poised to be deported from India, and, mercenary rascals that they are, they've concocted a plan to hike through Pakistan and brave the Khyber Pass into the Hindu Kush where savage tribesmen war with one another in a lawless wasteland suspiciously reminiscent of Morocco. This is just the right kind of environment for two rascals and a burro packed with rifles to meet with their fortune. And boy do they. Wonderful collaboration between Kipling and Huston examines the nature of leadership, the crossed purposes of religion and society, and man's ability to spite himself for all sorts of reasons. Filmed in Morocco. [Cavin]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Today was my first Monday is quite some time without scheduled vaccinations. I had rather planned on taking it easy, catching up on posting photographs and writing, and making creepy desktop icons for my new computer. Did you read this? Then you are not at all surprised that my new laptop computer arrived in the mail on Friday--a tiny black eleven-inch Sony powerhouse. What is surprising is just how little time I've had to get it up and running. Today was going to be the day. But once I got out of the shower, the dirty dishes weighed heavy on me. Normally, a sink-full of visitor dishes is only ten minutes worth of weight, but today's dishes were on the counter because my whole sink was filled with Bet and Cecil's garden vegetables. I'd been pointedly warned against putting any of the tomatoes in the refrigerator, supposedly assaulting their flavors. All total, there are nineteen tomatoes. All of the cabinets in the tiny kitchenette are already stuffed, though; the only room remaining is in the sink. This swirl of circular to-do list thoroughly invaded my day: I gave up on the relaxation and the new computer and the posted photos (though some new photos can be found here) and made soup instead. Like I don't know how to keep nineteen tomatoes out of the refrigerator? I made a thick, nearly salt-free garden veggie soup with three beans (red, black, and snapped string), onions, potatoes, chili and bell peppers, celery, garlic, lots and lots of tomatoes. It's frustrating to cook here, sometimes, because of the limited space: I have to constantly push things around my workspace, clearing areas of what I just chopped, spice bottles, and dirty dishes. It is more like solving a puzzle, sometimes, than cooking. [Cavin]

Monday, August 20, 2007


Today was supposed to be a repeat of yesterday: I'd sleep late while Sunshine and family would go out shopping. I was planning to meet them in the District. Only, the plans all changed: for no reason especially concerning, my in-laws decided to cut their trip short, heading home early this afternoon. If I'd known, I would have gotten up before noon. For the rest of the day Sunshine and I relaxed into our unexpectedly free Sunday. We watched the Sopranos* on DVD, ate a nice Italian dinner up the street, and we headed to the Ballston Commons Mall for Greg Mottola's simply senioritis Superbad,* a big-screen first for many of its cast and crew (including director Mottola, veteran Judd Apatow conspirator on episodes of TV's Undeclared* and even better work helming the late lamented Arrested Development*). I'm generally loath to do much talking about current-run movies because of spoilage, but Superbad really interested me. While it shares all the predictable facets of every other coming-of-age end-of-high-school movie out there (like Can't Hardly Wait*), it feels like is has more in common with recent auteur reconsiderations (like Garden State* or Napoleon Dynamite*) in that the movie uses its comfortable predictability to avoid any lingering concern about contextual framework at all, narrowing its scope instead to concentrate on the rhythms of character interaction and environmental development. In this important way the movie can also probably be called Tarantino-esque, though lacking the pitched crisis this description usually entails. The auteur here is certainly writer Seth Rogen (constant Apatow collaborator, recently seen in the similar Knocked Up*), who manages to ink a typical mid-teenage sex thing where realistic kids inhabit a realistic high school; though there remains the usual disparity between the respective physical awkwardness of the boys and the girls. [Cavin]

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Since nobody sleeps as late as I do, Sunshine and her parents met for breakfast and hit a few antique stores* before I woke up today. They went on to look at another antique store while I ate my breakfast at a little sidewalk sushi place across the street. I am usually prejudiced against sidewalk or strip mall sushi, but this little place proved me wrong, again. All my favorite places have, actually; why do I still expect bad Japanese food from them? I ate tasty slivers of cool sashimi and tempura udon soup--a lunch special. It was small but good. After my lunch, we headed down the street to a dense little used book shop smaller on the inside than on the outside. It was such a nice day: brightly sunny and mid-seventies, slightly breezy. I could stand to spend a whole season of days like this in book stores like that. Throughout the rest of the day we followed a similar meandering path: to the coffee shop, to the thrift store, home for more coffee; eventually we headed to Maryland for a Lebanese dinner and a movie. We had to stand up all the way to our connection, the several local Saturday night games crowded the inbound orange line trains with Washington fans. In Silver Spring, we watched John Carpenter's wily and endearing Big Trouble in Little China (1986),* brisker and more dazzling each time I see it. Trucker and impassioned crank Jack Burton gets embroiled in a succession of fantastic problems after winning a thousand bucks playing a tile game in some seedy Chinatown loading dock. Why are the Lords of Death stealing green-eyed women? Why is light coming from the mouth of David Lo Pan? What would Jack Burton say? So highly recommended. [Cavin]