Saturday, October 06, 2007


Our New York friends arrived in a Greyhound bus yesterday afternoon. Normally I'd have been in a cleaning frenzy; but since I'd taken care of all that Wednesday, I ate a nice lunch instead. I didn't even have to make the bed since it was housekeeping day. After, I took a leisurely stroll to the DC bus station, located directly behind the DC train station, directly beneath the Metrorail tracks between Rhode Island Avenue and Union Station stops. The first world has such contempt for bus traveling: though we were able to watch this modern miracle of public transportation passing by overhead, the bus depot is denied a convenient Metro stop. We decided to saunter to the National Mall for some hot DC tourism between the Capitol and Washington Monument. Mentally italicize hot. Otherwise we had a nice Vietnamese dinner near home and crashed pretty early. This afternoon I met our visitors where they were already on the move at the National Gallery.1 Then we headed across the Mall for a nifty lunch at the Museum of the American Indian,2 where the cafeteria is divided into different pre-Columbian stations. I had cornpone, Pacific Northwest salmon, and Mesoamerican hibiscus flower tea. Then we headed to the Natural History museum3 to look at the Hope Diamond and dinosaur bones before meeting up with Sunshine in the crowded mammal hall. We spent another hour or so looking around various museum shops before walking five blocks to Jaleo4 for an excellent tapas dinner. My word, but that's a good restaurant--highlights were too numerous to relate in what space remains. Our friends pointed out the stinging irony of kicking off Columbus Day weekend with a native American lunch followed by a Spanish dinner, but it was too good to feel guilty about. [Cavin]

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I tried to get out of bed a little early today for two reasons. One, our little unit needed to be organized and neatened in anticipation of guests arriving tomorrow afternoon. This is very exciting. The same couple who hosted us in Brooklyn last May will finally be letting us return the favor here. Sunshine went out and bought an air mattress earlier in the week. There is nothing quite as cool as Coney Island in the District Area, but I am sure we will come up with something interesting to do. The house needed extra cleaning this week, on top of the scheduled housekeeping tomorrow, because our pack-out is so close we've been incredibly lazy about letting things stack up on the floor of what will be our guests' bedroom. But there was another thing, concerning the pack-out directly, that meant I needed to start cleaning earlier than normal. Today a man came from the moving company to assay the breadth of the job facing the movers when they show up on Tuesday. He had a long, carbonless sheet, pre-printed with columns of seven-point lists of things: bench, fireside or piano; Bookshelves, sectional; Cabinet, curio; Chair, arm or occasional. In México, we wandered around with these guys for an hour identifying what would go to Vietnam, what would languish in storage, and what we would be driven over the border in our car. Today there was no language barrier, no option for storage, and no option for the car. There was significantly less square footage, too; the moving company guy toured the house for only about eight minutes while ticking tellingly few checkboxes on his sheet, estimating our freight at around eight hundred pounds, and leaving before I finished washing the dishes I'd started before he arrived. [Cavin]

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Sometime during her workday Friday, Sunshine found the time and fortitude to roll up her sleeves and wade into the chaos at the travel offices to duly dot the T's on the red tape between us and our tickets to Vietnam. At another point over the weekend, our itinerary arrived in the email making this journey, so far banked upon through blind faith alone, into a stone reality. Blind faith swings to the skeptical as I write this: she did paperwork stuff in a government office that paid off the next day? Pinch me. To keep from fainting, I will relate our new itinerary here. Early on the morning of October seventeenth, after staying up all night, we will board our first flight: from DC to San Francisco. We will be in the air for over five-and-a-half hours, but we will land less than three hours after taking off. Three-plus hours later we take to the skies again, this time flying to Hong Kong via the arctic circle great arc. This leg lasts almost fourteen hours, and we arrive five hours later than we took off; but since we also cross the International Date Line, we arrive five hours later on the following day. Notice that at two-point-five to one, flight hours versus longitude, we stay in the sunlight the whole trip. In Hong Kong we are only getting gas, so we will only be able to look at the city sunset through the airport windows during our two-hour layover. The flight on to Ho Chi Minh City is the shortest leg: only two-and-a-half hours, and we only go back in time-zones once. We arrive in Vietnam shortly before ten pm on Thursday, October eighteenth, thirty-nine hours forward on the clock, and twenty-eight hours after we initially boarded. [Cavin]

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Happy October first. I love this month, and it's indeed starting to feel a bit autumn outside already. I'm grateful, even though I know this will make me less enthusiastic about beginning two years of pure summer later on this month. Still, the dry leaves on the ground, the wood smoke smell in the air, the apples and pumpkins beginning to pop up at the produce vendors, these are a welcome reminder that I do get to spend half the month in a land with seasons. We're back in Falls Church safely, by the way, after the five hour sixteen minute drive between a Sears in North Carolina and our Oakwood parking lot last night. It was a nice, uneventful trip. This afternoon, when Sunshine was preparing to head out on some errands, our car wouldn't start. Besides a flat tire, nothing has ever gone wrong with that car. Now here we were, two and a half weeks from never needing the thing again, and it won't start. We agreed it was probably the battery, but why? It worked fine last night. We didn't leave the lights on. Of course the answer was that the battery was just shot: moldering and blue, corroded, dead. Triple-A arrived in a dazzling ten minutes and replaced our battery on our own parking lot. That did the trick nicely. The guy said the battery could have died at any point, even while we were driving. Sunshine imagined the panic we'd have felt last night if the car had quit after our deserted rest stop somewhere around Thornburg, VA. Shudder. Anyway, to celebrate October, I watched El Vampiro (Fernando Méndez, 1957),1 part of CasaNegra's recent series of classic Mexican monster shows,2 this one neatly out-doing the Universal Studios' Dracula with spooky Latin glee. [Cavin]

Monday, October 01, 2007


Last Thursday, during a brief happy hour at Heritage India on Connecticut Avenue, I laid my book on an auxiliary bar to finish my ginger mojito. When I walked out of the restaurant minutes later, I left it there. For all I know, it sits there still. Maybe this story doesn't end. Maybe it actually starts in August, when I first began reading Of Human Bondage.* Since then, I struggled well beyond the halfway mark in the enormous volume. Maybe the story starts a couple of weeks ago when both covers of this poor book were ripped clean off jostling around in Sunshine's bag. It's a tough book to read: dry, tedious, meandering; though sporadically quite enjoyable and often acutely salient. I was hoping to finish it before I flew to Vietnam. I was proud that I'd read hundreds and hundreds of pages already. Maybe, it was suggested, I should feel relieved to be rid of the thing. But that would mean I might have to read the first half again someday. Without covers, it really wasn't worth retrieving last week's book all the way from Dupont Circle. So Sunshine bought me a nice, hefty replacement copy of ...Human Bondage at the book store today prior to our nice Indian lunch. This week's volume is heavier than the old one, and about fifteen pages longer. Since I also lost my bookmark, it took me a couple of minutes to find my place again. In today's volume, because of rather comprehensive introductory materials, I was no longer halfway through the book. It'll take me days to get there again. Reading it, the slimmer portion again in my left hand, I cannot help imagining that, quantum mechanically, this is exactly what it must be like to read a black hole. [Cavin]

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Our road trip got off to an earlier start than normal Friday, but there seems to be no way to get started early enough to avoid the bad weekend traffic. Even though we hit the road an hour and a half earlier, it still took twice as long to make it from the Capital Beltway to Quantico than it does when I return late at night. The rest of the trip was very smooth, however, and it didn't take us much over six hours to make the five-hour drive. Thus, we were able to meet with several friends at our favorite Greensboro bar after arriving, pick up on some old patterns, and I didn't get into the hotel bed until around three thirty. Saturday was a wonderful day. I got to sleep late without too much guilt while Sunshine shopped for work clothes light enough to be useful in Saigon. Then we headed down to the UNCG campus where Tate Street had been blocked off for an autumn festival. It was a little too hot in the sun, and a little too populated to know whether I managed to bump into the friends that were hiding in the crowd; but I did what I could. I also ate lunch in the fabulous new Don restaurant, where I was served unagi over rice in a brass-banded granite bowl so hot that it proceeded to cook the dish for me. I had to eat it, or at least keep stirring it, so the rice wouldn't burn to the surface of the stone. It was a dexterous and sporty method of eating, and the resulting barbecued eel bits in hot teriyaki rice outcome, after the rigorous constant stirring, seemed very much like the basis for all those questionable US Japanese steakhouses. [Cavin]