So, we're patrolling in the superannuated sobsistermobile on Sunday and find ourselves, as we often do, in Northern Virginia.
For those of you outside the Greater Metropolitan Washington Sprawl, a little perspective. Which cities and counties actually comprise Northern Virginia can be tallied in many confusing ways. My own definition is that Northern Virginia extends south from the Potomac until the Korean bulgogi joints and Latino markets cede to bait shops, shooting ranges, and roadside billboards that try to make you feel bad about turning your back on Jesus. That said, however one chooses to define and demarcate the sub-region, one thing is manifestly true: Northern Virginia makes no sense. Roads begin, stop, resume, end, run at angles, then curve back on themselves. It's as if stoned urban planners had Silly String'd a topographic map of the region, then called it a day. If, as Thomas Wolfe wrote, only the dead know Brooklyn, I shudder to think of the entities that can claim to know Northern Virginia.
All this notwithstanding, there we are, driving down the road, looking for masoor lentils for a recipe I'm wanting to try, and we encounter four things within a mile:
1) fine chicken salteñas at a Bolivian bakery, the crisp brown shells brimming with so much unadulterated shortening that it's like applying a fat patch to one's carotid artery;
2) the best baba ghanoush in the Western world at a Lebanese hole-in-the-wall;
3) a thrift store with a large cache of LPs for a buck apiece (about which, more separately);
4) a tiny Vietnamese market where we bought a head of garlic, said head having been completely stripped of its papery skin by the diminutive woman behind the register.
This last was particularly remarkable. An entire head of garlic, denuded. As we approached to pay, she was working on another one with a little paring knife. Just stripping the excess skin away. Leaving an organic sculpture of clustered pink cloves like piglets at their mother's teats.
Thus, for this, the above, and other reasons, we regularly brave a Cthulhian road grid, one that has left lesser men broken and mad by the gravelly side of Route 50, to sample the polyglot pleasures of Northern Virginia.
The rest of Virginia, as I understand it, is peopled by hillbillies who sodomize unsuspecting visitors, then force them to smoke cigarettes and vote Republican.
As a consequence, it remains largely unexplored by your sobsister.