i woke up this morning at 8:30am to help my upstairs neighbor steve load our collection of used paint cans from the basement. even though he proposed the time, he didn't actually come downstairs until almost 9am. we loaded it into the back of his station wagon and drove down to the national guard armory near fresh pond where today was a special household hazardous waste collection day. the line was so long that the police officers directing traffic had us park down a side street temporarily. i got out of the car to buy a newspaper for steve thinking we'd have a long wait but it actually went by pretty quickly. figuring we'd have to unload the paints ourselves, instead there was a team of volunteers to do everything for us; all we had to do was just sit in the car.

after we got back home we did a quick inspection of the house, figuring out what needed to be repaired and their priorities. steve seemed more concern about the fact that our windows didn't match (his have a red trim while mine are white); i wanted to make sure our deck get cleaned and resealed this season. there was also a hole in our gutter, which was a must-fix. he said he was actually having dinner with his painter friend jimmy tonight, and would knock on my door later in the evening so we could discuss what needs to be done. the legendary jimmy! the same jimmy that he says would clean our deck for the past 6 years even though i've never once seen him before. it's always, "you just missed him," or, "jimmy's too busy to come." at this point i didn't even think jimmy even existed, so it was exciting to finally meet this phantom.

julie came by around noontime and we drove up to lowell again because she wanted to get some speciality items from the southeast asian supermarket. the city of lowell itself is very much like a maze and i get lost every time i visit. we were lucky this time, and without even looking for it, we accidently stumbled across battambang market. however, we first wanted to get some lunch, so we drove around the city center trying to find a restaurant. the first one we tried was a hot pot restaurant, but unfortunately they're only opened for dinners.

we ended up going to a vietnamese restaurant called T&M, diagonally across the street from city hall. it looked like a good place because it was packed with southeast asians. our waitress (who also appeared to be the owner) brought out a dish of complimentary youtiao. she sensed we weren't local and asked where we were from. i decided to order a pork noodle soup and julie ordered something similar. when julie's order arrived she had a hard time eating it because the noodles were transparent. i volunteered to trade soups with her (mine were opaque). even though on the menu it said these were pork soups, they're actually more like seafood soups, with bits of calamari, fishball strips, and jumbo shrimps. similar to pho, we ate it with handfuls of mung bean sprouts, sprigs of basil leaves, and a splash of lime juice. i couldn't help but to admire some of the other ingredients in the soup: fried onions, scallions, celery, cilantro, and lettuce. there were even pieces of cooked liver, which julie gave to me because she didn't eat liver either. i personally think it's hard to truly enjoy the full spectrum of southeast asian cuisine if you're picky about texture or organs. T&M seemed like a local hangout, as all sorts of people were coming in and out chatting with the owner. julie wanted to pay with a credit card but they only accept cash ("this is a small business," the owner told us - luckily i had money).

after lunch, we made our way back to battambang market, but not without getting lost again. while julie drove, i was trying to find our bearing on the map. we basically drove around until we found some familiar roads which led us to battambang. on this second visit, things weren't as shocking. things like bungholes, or packages of duck heads, or frozen whole frogs, i've seen them before! i did notice a man sort of following me around inside the store. i was suspicious because he wasn't buying anything. i think he's just a part store security, making sure i wasn't shoplifting. that got me so mad though that i ended up stealing something anyway, just to get back at him (i'm kidding).

after battambang market, we visited 888 supermarket. although much smaller, it has things that battambang doesn't have, like homemade chili dipping sauce and southeast asian kimchee. oh, one more thing: baluts! the ones we saw last time looked like a package of duck embryos including the uterus. this time we actually saw them selling whole eggs, which we can assume with half-formed duck embryos inside of them. 888 also sold these southeast asian beef jerky. i thought they tasted okay but were really dry and brittle, like you could smash it into a million pieces with a hammer.

after we left lowell and arrived back in cambridge, julie stopped off at the fresh pond petsmart to buy some cat food. i showed her the secret short cut from fresh pond to my place, with only 4 traffic light stops and no rotaries. at the intersection on mass ave heading into my street, i saw somebody familiar: "hey look! there's roy black!" the head of programming from our old screen house days. he didn't even turn around completely but we knew it was him, long dark hair, beard, baseball cap, same slouch.

when evening finally came i waited for my upstairs neighbor to knock on my door. never happened. i can only assume the reason is because jimmy doesn't really exist.

i heated up some biryani for dinner, then had this sweet rice dessert i bought from battambang. i thought maybe it'd be like rice pudding, but it was more like chickpeas mixed with coconut shavings sprinkled with this salty sweet peanut powder. it wasn't that good and i ate just a little bit before putting the rest away in the fridge.

bad night for boston sports: red sox lose, followed by the celtics. at least the basketball game was interesting, a real battle. i didn't realize the NBA changed the rules so now the first round playoffs are played out best of 7. i thought if the celtics won tonight they would sweep the atlanta hawks and advance in the second round. i should've known the NBA would want to milk it!