Monday, July 27, 2015

Oh, on the contrary, some like it Japanese

This little frijolito loves books.  We have a select handful of Japanese language kids books that I read to him to the best of my ability, and John narrates according to their illustrations.  This leads to hilarity when the Anpanman character is interpreted as a friendly drunk with his shiny red nose and bicycle, or awkwardness when the little brown haired girl character in the pottybook about pooping is interpreted as “Mama,” but we make do and John John seems to be happy with our efforts.

My mom was here and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get more Japanese in the frijolito’s ear, so I brought out a few of the books she had given us (that had been in storage because he’s been too little anything but board books until recently).  Both have weird, slightly sad lessons...but that’s a different story.  

John John would bring books and ask to sit on her lap, so I would just passively observe the bed-time routine.  I took this picture – they are happy:

One of the times, he chose a board book of very selected Original Mother Goose Rhymes.  When we first inherited this book, I was surprised at how many of those rhymes were still there in my little grey cells.  And when my mom went to read them, I also realized how culturally exclusive, bizarre, and strange some are.  My mom did not have my same ingrained understading of them and responded accordingly.  There were some keepers.
Reaction from my mom, upon reading “Hey Diddle, Diddle,” out loud to John John:     “What a weird story.”

Reading No. 1 (misspellings indicate pronunciation):
“Pussy cat, pussy cat”
Pussy cat, pussy cat where have you bin?
 I’ve bin to London to look at the Queen.
Pussy cat, pussy cat what did you, uh, 
what did you? do there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chain.
(Oh, chair.  The ‘R’ looked like an ‘N’)

John John started to get a little restless at this point.  This was not his mother’s Mother Goose.

Reading No. 2:
“Mary, Mary”
Mary, Mary quite…CONtrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle? Cockle? shells?
And pretty maids all in? a row.

I’m laughing now.  John John turns the page to what is arguably his favorite rhyme:

Reading No. 3:
“Pease Porridge”
Pea…peeez? What is that? Peeessse? 
(“It’s just pronounced ‘peas’," I told her)
Pease Porridge? Hot?

John John squirms to get off her lap. I thought he was done with Mother Goose and was going to go choose a new book. 

Nope.  He took the book from my mom, turned and gave it to me. “Read please Mama.” Then sat down in my lap.  I was dying of laughter and almost couldn’t read it myself.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Beauty is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder

John has been DJing at a local radio station, KFJC.  It is one of the original college radio stations of the Bay Area, and is kind of famous for its experimental music.  There have been times where we are trying to tune in to 89.7 on our tuner, which has an analog dial, and we can't seem to get anything but static no matter what we do.  And then, it turns out that the static was the music.

If you listen to the tail end of the show he did yesterday (7/16's Stone Cold Lampin'), as I did from my car on my way to work, you will hear – the final track John played is a little experimental, sure, but good for listening to at 6am.  "I wonder what the next DJ will play to transition to his or her show?" I thought.  Literally, it was a sine wave.  I gave it 60 full seconds before it was too much.  I switched to NPR.  I did check in at 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 8 minutes past the hour.  Still just the single sine wave piercing my head via my ear canal.  Out of morbid curiosity, I checked back in at 22 minutes and it was still the sine wave, but coupled with some other instrument and the DJ was reading a PSA over it all.  I gave up after that.  Maybe it was the sine wave for his entire show - I'll never know and frankly don't care.  We have always been huge listeners of KFJC at our house - either it or the jazz station is on if we aren't listening to records.  I'd like to think that my tolerance for grating sounds has grown broader, but there is a limit and I will turn off anything that causes distress.  Like, forget about the 8am hour on Sunday, but at 9am is Sunday Morning Coming Down, which is a show I enjoy.

At dinner last night, we had KFJC on quietly in the background.  The DJ was playing inoffensive techno - not my favorite thing but not causing any psychological trauma either.  Plus it was turned down low. 

We were eating burgers w/coleslaw   John made it all, even the mayo for the slaw and burger condiment.  It was magnificent.  My mom's second American meal of the day (she'd had a sandwich for lunch, something she deems to be strictly American, like burgers).  

At a lull in the conversation, my mom cocks her head and says, "What's that I'm hearing?"  We listened.  It was some low pulsating techno beat.

"Some call it music," said John. 

"Well, I don't."

I can't say I disagree.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Still surprising herself at 73

My mom is visiting the frijolito (and, incidentally, us parents, too) and just arrived from SoCal where she is teaching kids in San Juan Capistrano.  This past weekend, the friends with whom she was staying threw a surprise party for her.

A historical note: One time, in the early 70s before I was born, someone attempted to throw my mom a surprise birthday party.  She said it wasn't a surprise because people would come up to her and say, "I can't come to your party," and other things like that ruining the crucial element.  

I guess she found the experience disappointing enough that she thought she would spare her offspring such awful letdowns.  In grade school, friends would have surprise parties.  I remember begging for one, but I might as well have asked for a pony for the kind of resounding NO that came back every time.  The NO was always followed by this same one story. 

End result was that I never had a surprise party until one was kindly thrown for me by the family I nannied for, when I was in my late 20s.  I don't know in what context I would have mentioned the sad affair of being a child without a surprise party at my job, but clearly this emotional scar was deep.  Deep enough for me to apparently tell my boss, and enough for her to want to make it right by throwing me a little surprise birthday party with the kids.

The surprise was not ruined, even by a seven-year-old who had the responsibility of getting me to take him straight home from school  not out to a playground as was our normal routine  without arousing suspicion.  Guess seven-year-olds can keep a secret better than adults in the 70s, though somehow that makes sense to me.

Anyway, so back to 2015:  My mom had this surprise party thrown for her. It's a roaring good time.  She excitedly showed us a photo montage someone made: of the food, and people, and my mom and Masako playing shamisen, and another Japanese lady dancing awaodori.  Clearly everyone was having so much fun.  

"It was so much fun!" my mom enthused.

"I thought you hated surprise parties," I countered, with just the tiniest hint of bitterness, because how can one ever truly fully let go of the crushed spirit of one's eight-year-old self who was denied her one true dream?

"Well," she said thoughtfully, "I thought I did, but apparently I didn't."


Looks like surprise parties are back on the menu.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A discerning taste

We arrived to Tokyo with an 11pm touch down.  I won't say that the 11 hour flight, the first international flight with the frijolito, was harrowing, but that would only be because I wish to forget it all together.

Exhausted, sleep deprived, I was so glad to see my mom upon exiting customs in Haneda.

On the drive home, she was telling us about this special wagu beef that is the highest classification of quality, called A5.  She had gone to this butcher and was going to get the second to highest grade because the price differential between A5 and, assumedly, A4 was so vast that she didn't think it was worth the difference.  But the butcher told her that it was worth the price.  So she did - and used this A5 beef to make sukiyaki.  "It really tasted amazing!" she said.  

"I wonder what makes A5 beef so different?" I mused in my sleep deprived, manic mind set.

"The taste," she said definitavely.

"I mean, what makes makes the taste different?" I clarified.

"The flavor is better," she answered.

I am returned to the land of my forefathers.  Let the hilarity begin.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I'm less literal than I thought

I just sent my mom an email to follow up on a situation, and to ask her to "let me know where things are with regard to (this certain ongoing situation)."

Her reply: "I will show you where things are and your things (kimono etc.) are together in the attic.  Your Kabuki is on 21st at 4pm."

It took me a second but then I laughed.  And in case you were wondering about that last part, I hadn't asked about Kabuki, but it's good to know.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Historic tale #1: ca. 1993

It was finals time at my high school.  I remember because my room had never been cleaner or my desk more organized – always the first steps to a studious bout (or the final steps of procrastination) – and I sat there with a pile of books and a pile of notes, a stressed out person hoping that cramming all of that English, history, math, science, and French would stick long enough to get me through the ensuing week.  I'm sure I was sighing up a storm, not that I remember doing that, but it seems like something I would have done, since I still do.  My mom had just come up the stairs in our house; my room was just at the top of the staircase.  She popped her head around to answer my distressed sounds. 

"What can I do to help?" she asked in an unusual show of compassion for my distress.

"I don't know!  Nothing!  I'm stressed out!" I'm sure I retorted in a tirade of teenage angst.  "I'm so tired from studying all this stuff!"

"Maybe I can make you some coffee," she offered.  

Or maybe I demanded, "Just make me some coffee!!"

But in either case, moments later she brought up a steaming cup of coffee which I took and drank – thankful for some understanding/pity/help from my mom, whom I felt so alienated from so often in those awkward teenage times.  She may have even brought me a second cup when she saw how serious I was in my studying.  

But my eyelids drooped – I was loosing to the sandman.  I'd had two cups of coffee and I didn't understand.

"What is this," I asked her on her next pass by my door, "Like, decaf or something?" It was like a rhetorical question with zero seriousness attached, my attempt to be joking and poking fun at my own inability to focus and stay awake.

"Yes, it is," she replied.

"are you SERIOUS?!  YOU GAVE ME DECAF WHEN I'M TRYING TO WAKE UP?!  SO I CAN STUDY AND NOT FAIL MY FINALS?!"  is my best guess at how I responded.

"Well," she said matter-of-factly, "It's the smell that wakes you up."

Friday, December 19, 2014

It's still better than $5 in a freshly laundered pair of jeans, or even change in the couch cushions...

I wrote this god-knows-when.  I think last time my mom was visiting, as I vaguely recall the moment and I picture her sitting at our dining table.  Saying, with some effort (and this below is what I just discovered in my drafts with no further explanation):

I love to find these forgotten treasures.

And, in case you were wondering, she was trying to say Bulgaria.