Saturday, October 13, 2007


Last night we ate dinner with a good friend from Monterrey at a previously undiscovered mezze restaurant several miles down the road. This marked the third time in four days that I've eaten Mediterranean slash Middle Eastern meals, which remain one of my favorite kinds despite the recent overindulgence. I've regretfully forgotten this restaurant's name. These awkward sentences are tribute to how W. Somerset Maugham is destroying me from the matrices out. While his book has grown no lighter, my new bookmark is much closer to the back cover than it used to be. One day soon I'll finish it. Maybe it will all be over this weekend (like everything else), though I might not be able to spare much reading time due to a wedding road trip. My normal routine for travel day: wake up, thoroughly houseclean, pack, load the car, and pick Sunshine up from class. Some days she gets out later than others. When we leave at five thirty, we hit nightmare District traffic from the inner loop to Quantico. When she gets out at four o'clock, it's just the same. Today was different: because there's nothing left in the unit, there's nothing left to clean. I spent today reading between packing and leaving. Sunshine's arrival home was even earlier than ever: our trip was underway by three on the nose and we made it all the way to the Capital Beltway before traffic ground to a stop. The radio blamed accidents around Franconia, but all I saw was neatly parked commuters all the way to Quantico. Eventually we got to our North Carolina hotel to discover its lobby gridlocked with an unpronounceable wedding party, so we skipped checking-in before heading to the pool dive where our own beloved friends' wedding was doing its partying. [Cavin]

Friday, October 12, 2007


I've used the word bittersweet frequently over these last weeks, usually in regard to the feeling of warm regret I feel when I am spending time with dear friends I'll shortly have to say goodbye to. This is that final week. The goodbyes are beginning to mount bittersweetly. Already, I've bid fond adieu to friends, places, and many of my worldly possessions. At the risk of comedy: today was my last DC housekeeping day. By next Thursday's housekeeping visit, I'll have landed in Ho Chi Minh City (assuming the housekeeping ladies enter the unit after one when they are supposed to. If they barge in at nine like sometimes, I'll still be on approach). I didn't care about this at all. I left home for a Baja Fresh lunch and to read more of the brick. When I returned, I noticed that housekeeping hadn't been by yet, and was a little annoyed. When they did show up, two of them, they clamored about making a big fuss over the empty unit. One of them left to work on another room, and the one who remained was finished ten minutes later. There is very little to do, now. Since there's a large number of housekeepers contracted by this complex, I frequently don't recognize the one in my apartment. I knew today's, though. She's a lively talker, very friendly and memorable. This woman asks a lot of questions: "where are you going next?" "Where did you get this?" "¿Oh, you are a fan of Pedro Infante?" Today, I had to answer that I was moving, that this was the last I would see of her. She took a moment, dried her eyes and told me she was going to miss us as she hurried out the door. Bittersweet housekeeping day. [Cavin]

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Yesterday, the movers were nearly done when I returned from breakfast shortly after eleven thirty. But they took a lunch break. Then they spent an hour loading boxes onto their truck before spending another agonizing hour tallying, itemizing, and generating a vast quantity of paperwork for me to sign. Only then did they finally leave me alone in our emptied unit, where I immediately took a nap for an hour until Sunshine came home and for another hour while she pottered around bored. Later, over a nice Thai dinner, we identified some mistakes we'd made in sorting: the weather last night was already getting chilly, but we'd just shipped all our warmer clothes to Southeast Asia. Today the weather was even chillier, feeling rather autumn even in the bright sunshine. I noticed while driving to a nice Lebanese lunch. There's little to do around the empty unit, and I want to finish my book (which I've begun calling "the brick"). I wanted to ship the brick to Asia also, but as of Monday night I'd only made it to chapter LXXXIX, with over a hundred fifty pages yet to go. I'm afraid it will displace necessary luggage, so I want to finish it before we leave. Sunshine called while I was eating my falafel sandwich platter and chiseling away at my brick. She'd made dinner plans for tonight, with friends, at the very same restaurant. So I ate a nice Lebanese dinner too; but the food is good and the company was great and I didn't mind. On the way home tonight, Sunshine noted that this is our last Wednesday evening for two weeks. Next week we'll be on a sunlit plane from dawn until some mysterious Pacific point after which it becomes Thursday, some hours before dusk. [Cavin]

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I got out of bed one hour and forty-one minutes after getting into it this morning. About half of that time I'd been sleeping. The moving contractor arrived just after eight and toured the unit looking at various piles of stuff. I told him which pile went where exactly once. An hour later, he returned with two Spanish-speaking movers, and proceeded to reiterate exactly what I'd said. Then they packed everything into boxes. It was efficient and smooth. Occasionally they would engage in small talk, but they never asked me a question about what possessions went in which boxes. After watching them do everything correctly for an hour, I left to grab breakfast and some badly needed coffee. They didn't need me; but ultimately, they weren't the problem. When I returned two hours later, they'd packed everything except bookshelves. Here's a story: while moving from México, as novices, we'd packed our freight first, leaving us no recourse later when we discovered that we'd almost doubled the allowable weight on our air shipment. Without another option we shipped overweight, which cost a staggering number of pesos. Today we weren't novices: max-out the air weight first and whatever leftovers could be easily absorbed into the bottomless freight shipment. But I wasn't around at that point. After doing this before, I'd expected to less widely misestimate the accumulated weight of things, sure, but what I actually did was over compensate. When I returned from breakfast, I discovered that the stuff I'd set aside as unaccompanied baggage amounted to only two hundred ninety-nine out of a possible four hundred fifty pounds. But any stacks I might cull the extra weight from--like all Sunshine's clothes, for example, or a better selection of books and DVDs--were already packed tightly in sealed boxes. [Cavin]

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Columbus Day

If there are five stages to the grief of an upcoming international move, I imagine that somewhere between "Bargaining" and "Acceptance" is a misplaced sense of empowered serenity. Call it "Delusion". This stage is akin to classic "Denial," but coming at the end of the process, manifesting itself in a clearly wrongheaded feeling of ability supported by strong faith in the hasty underestimation of labors. I slept late today. Then we watched two more episodes of Heroes on DVD. I have a goal of finishing season one before I leave, since I'm afraid that if I break momentum I'll never return to it. What kind of priority is that? Eventually I started in on what I'd already appraised as "an hour, maybe two" of work to be done sorting our stuff from Oakwood's, then deciding what will be our baggage, our air shipment, and our freight. I also began a discrete sub-stage of the moving process fairly labeled "panic". For the next six-plus hours, Sunshine and I put everything we wanted to carry in our luggage away in the closets, while also removing everything for shipping out of those same closets. Of that stuff, possessions we wanted delivered soonest--the four hundred fifty pounds of allotted unaccompanied baggage hopefully delivered within a month of our own arrival in Vietnam--were carefully arrayed on the dining room table. The rest--freight to arrive maybe two or more months after we've moved in--we dumped on the floor in front of the bookshelves. Since we did this at breakneck speed to accommodate a hasty Italian dinner and more Heroes, we possibly made some dubious judgment calls we'll just have to lump for a few months. And as of now I have to use my computer while standing in the closet. [Cavin]

Monday, October 08, 2007


After the National Aquarium yesterday, we ate a snack at the homey Italian restaurant Luigi's,1 located in the Farragut area of downtown DC. The appetizers we ate there were excellent, making me wish there was time to return to this restaurant before leaving the country. But there isn't. Next, our group headed down to the E Street Theater2 to see Wes Anderson's new flight of surreality The Darjeeling Limited,3 which represents yet another advancement into Anderson's colorful world of combating eccentricities and which I really liked very much. After the movie, we hooked the Red Line to north Dupont Circle where we walked another couple blocks to Trio Restaurant,4 an odd neighborhood diner with archly lovable deco interiors and some battling eccentricities of its own. I had penne puttanesca and an Oreo milkshake. Other selections included burgers, korma, orzo, and pot pies. They have a full bar. Since 17th Street is newly happening, mostly the scenesters settle in the outdoor seating, leaving the cavernous and dank Trio interior abandoned and scary. I love it. Today was our guests' last day in DC, so we had a low-key afternoon in the unit before taking them back to the bus stop where things seemed jammed up and strange, and where there were far too many people for one five pm express bus to NYC. Eventually they got on and were off and it was yet another bittersweet goodbye added to all the others of late. We walked home tired and little sad, ate a nice Lebanese dinner at the Taverna, and then watched several episodes of Heroes on DVD instead of turning our attention to the looming next thing: the fact that we have to have everything in our possession ready to pack and ship bright and early Tuesday morning. [Cavin]

Sunday, October 07, 2007


When I woke up, Sunshine and our guests were already out, so I hurried to the District to rendezvous with them for the second item on their itinerary: the memorials. When I arrived at Foggy Bottom Station, I tried to call Sunshine's cell phone and got no answer. I stopped in at the adjacent Starbucks for a latte. This Starbucks is contained within the George Washington University Hospital, and seems to be run by hospital staff. While I was in line, I saw Sunshine and our New Yorkers ascend from the Metro and cross 23rd Street onto the GW campus. I tried to call again, but no one answered. The morose old robot serving me seemed annoyed that I was making a call from the coffee line, though she was nowhere near the stage where she could finally ring me up. The next half hour of my life involved rushing about in the wrong direction until I finally talked to Sunshine, instigating sporadic flat runs through historic Foggy Bottom trying to catch up with my friends. I would get to one red light, and see them crossing at the next street down the block. Then I would lose them all again until the next crosswalk; repeat. Eventually, we all met just north of the Lincoln Memorial. We saw that, and the creepy Korean War and austere Vietnam Veterans memorials before heading to Federal Triangle to visit the half-baked National Aquarium located in the basement of the Department of Commerce building.* It's perhaps in the spirit of commerce that this seedy little underground hallway actually costs five bucks admission. Plaques requesting our pardon for transparent improvements rested beside plaques explaining that the wildlife on display were not the same as the nearby light-up museum plaques would have us believe. [Cavin]