First morning of R&R#2 in the United States of America-well, Virginia and the Washington of D.C.
Thus far, the trip was going well. During the wait at the airport shuttle pickup point in Kabul, nobody asked me about payroll or travel vouchers or their spouses “involuntary separation allowance,” or why they can’t submit scanned copies of source documents for program disbursements instead of original copies with ink signatures. Nobody blew us up between the Embassy and the Airport and the two people in the backseat of the transporting vehicle, I sat in the front passenger seat, didn’t say anything to me the whole trip-5 minutes.
Inside the terminal, there was no line and the total amount of time consumed between locking my hooch door and sitting down in the departure waiting area was less than 45 minutes.
One of our perpetual problem children showed up and sat next to me. I guess my face told it all because the first thing out of his mouth was, “I don’t wanna talk about money.” Good thing, too. He is one of the guys we’ve owed back pay to since December. The new and improved updated version of our time and attendance system has experienced continual malfunctions. We’ve tried to get Washington to process manual payments for over one hundred employees and they have steadfastly refused to budge from the principle of requiring the system to do what we pay for it to do. So our employees have waited for their money.
My government issued blackberry malfunctioned and did not work-employees visiting Washington from Afghanistan, have generally had this problem–which meant that, having no office telephone numbers for the folks I was suppose to meet in Washington, communication was a challenge. But then, for the federal civil service, communication has always been a challenge.
I was suppose to meet with my retirement counselor and I’d been asking for a time and place for over a week but my pleading emails had gone unanswered. I had cc’d my iphone and home email on all of them and asked her to reply all with any response. The afternoon I arrived, I purchased a new tablet so I could check my ecmorton.com email, but those things area easier said than done. I discovered that I did have her phone number and I called and left a couple of voice mails and my phone number. Still, no response.
And then, there was the response. The evening of the day before I was suppose to meet with her, I received an email saying that she couldn’t meet with me because she had to attend mandatory training.
But, by that time I was in possession of a 6 pack of Budweiser on ice in the hotel room trashcan, a really lousy pizza, and half of a roast beef sandwich from the Pot Belly Deli in the Dubai International Terminal. For a business trip related to the federal civil service, things could be a lot worse. So, I tossed the pizza, ate the carcass of the roast beef sandwich and drank the beer.
Thursday morning I asked the well rounded young lady in the front office who looked like she enjoyed food, “Where can I buy breakfast?”
She directed me to J&J’s Café, 2303 Huntington Ave, in Alexandria, Virginia, a mere ¾ of a mile away. So I walked.
J&J’s is a Mom & Pop café owned and operated by a Korean Mom & Pop who immigrated to the U.S. during the 70’s, worked their butts off 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, shared a small studio apartment with a few hundred of their closest friends, and eventually bought their own cafe. All the time being happy to be alive and in America with something to eat, and somewhere dry and warm to sleep and without once complaining about how unfair life is.
Okay, okay, okay. I’m exaggerating a little. They actually shared the studio apartment with less than a hundred of their closest friends.
That is another thing I liked about the place. Mom answered every request or question with either “okay, okay, okay, okay,” or “yes, yes, yes, yes.”
For breakfast, that first morning, I had sausage, eggs (over medium), potatoes and toast with jelly. I confess, I was a little disappointed. Back at DFAC#2, in Kabul, the eggs over medium are generally fried hard and have black corrosion transfer from the iron grill that they are cooked on: the sausage, marinated, of course, in lukewarm water, has that delightful hint of rancidity; the “hash browns” are those McDonald’s style “waferboard” preformed potato blocks that develop a peachy crust of coagulated grease after they cool; and the bread is more like soda bread than yeast bread so it falls apart between the plate and your mouth, making it less simple to eat and resulting in diners eating less bread.
J&J’s breakfast isn’t like this at all. First off, their eggs over medium have runny yolks and no black transfer marks of corrosion from the grill; the sausage is actually cooked on the grill and has no hint of rancidity; and the potatoes are made from actual potatoes that Pop cuts up in the kitchen.
Well, I can’t have everything.
I came back that night and had a Classic American Hamburger and fries for dinner. The dinner crowd is handled by a daughter and one other female family relation. Once again, I noticed a big difference between the food offered by J&Js and DFAC#2. If you can believe it, the hamburger,hand formed and flat, not round like a baseball, hot and juicy pink on the inside, crispy crunchy on the outside, had absolutely no taste of cumin or coal oil. I thought about trying the bulgolgi and homemade kimchi, but they cooking up a batch and I couldn’t smell any cumin, coal oil, or curry, so I passed it up.
I came back Friday morning, enroute to the airport for the flight home, and had the “Ribsteak and Eggs.”
Obviously, these poor people will never make it as a U.S. Government Food Service Contractor in Afghanistan.
And, okay, okay, okay, okay, that is a compliment.
If you want great food, with fast, friendly, pleasant service, I recommend J&J’s Café, 2303 Huntington Ave, in Alexandria, Virginia. See the photos above.
Yes, yes, yes, yes.