Sunday, May 31, 2009

Do you like bread or rice?

Auuuuuuuuugggggggggggghhhhhhhhhh! Stop asking me that question!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

let me just erase your identity a little

Tonight, my old classmate Iiming* visited Japanese class.

I haven't seen her for about two years, but we studied together for more than a year. At the time, she was a middle school student. She's from China and she's a total tomboy. She loves sports and has short hair and always wears track pants and looks kind of like Crayon Shin-chan.

While giving us an update on her life (she's a second year high school student now), she casually mentioned that she had changed her name.

What? exclaimed our Teacher.

Oh yeah! she says. When I started high school, I stopped going by Iiming. Now I'm Yuki. Yuki Ito*.

Does that make things easier? asked Teacher.

Yeah, everything's so much easier now! In middle school, they used to make fun of me, but now they don't bother me as much.

And then blithely moved on to talking about soccer.

I didn't say anything because it's not my place to second guess someone else's choices about something so personal as a name. But it makes me mad that she changed it and it makes me more mad that she felt like she had to change it, that changing it would make her life better.

I'm pissed at the students that made her feel that way and I'm super pissed at the teachers who made her feel that way.

Another one of our former classmates, also a middle school student originally from China, had teachers berate her and call her stupid for being Chinese. I've had my own Japanese language teachers (in the States, not my dear Teacher here) tell me that I wasn't Japanese, but American.

Fuck them and their tiny little boxes. I'm so mad that these kind of people are allowed to teach, are allowed to be in charge of teaching children.

*I've changed her name here to protect her identity, not to erase it. But it's similar to this one.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The swine among us

Aside from coming back into the country and being ambushed by health officials swathed for the apocalypse in head-to-toe scrubs, goggles, masks, gloves, and condom hats, and being forced to sit on the plane for an hour as our temperatures were taken and we were variously swabbed, and then three allegedly feverish be-masked individuals being led off the flight like cattle (pigs?) to the slaughterhouse,

and the national shortage of masks and alcohol-based degerminators,

and the appearance of aforementioned Purell-style de-germifier at the entrance to every mall and factory,

I'd say that we're handling this well.

Me, I prefer to strengthen my immune system by holding the hand straps on the subway and then surreptitiously licking my fingers.

Monday, May 18, 2009

good train

We pulled up to Tsuzuki-fureai-no-oka station. As the conductor slowed the train, lining the doors up to the painted markings with an exacting squeeze of the brake, a papa and baby came into view. Dad was wearing black-framed glasses and a bright pink shirt and holding a little boy six or eight months old with a pouf of hair and chubby cheeks. They were waiting by the side of the door that was about to open, dad with his arms wrapped around the kid and covering his face with kisses. A kiss on one fat cheek, then the other, unrolling in slow motion as we came to a stop and the doors slid open.

The baby pointed and burbled, and my view was obscured as the suits and fashionable shopping ladies filed on. They clamored for seats and claimed hand straps.

The doors slid shut. We started to pull away. Papa and baby stood rooted to the same spot on the platform, gesturing and looking. Dad nodded and cooed and kissed. We went into the tunnel.

Friday, May 15, 2009

bad train

There are about 6,535,342 things that you can do wrong on the train: eat, drink, listen to music, sneeze, fart, breathe, exist.

One thing that's considered rude is crossing your legs. It makes your foot stick out, and the dirt on your foot might touch someone else. And I get that. On a crowded train, it's important to make yourself as compact and inconspicuous as possible, because a lot of people need to inhabit that space.

Riding the subway home from work the other day, the train was half empty. Most of the seats were taken, but a few seats were vacant, and almost no one was standing, except me at the end of the car. A bench seat stretched out in front of me, 70% occupied with the usual suspects, including an older-middle aged lady (60s) dozing with her legs crossed. A middle aged man (50s) in casual clothes got on at the door closest to me and made his way down the aisle.

As he passed the snoozing lady, he looked down and gave her foot a swift, hard, kick. And kept walking. She woke up, startled and befuddled, and quickly righted herself and uncrossed her legs.

Now, some people get their panties all in a bunch about perceived rudeness. Some even take it upon themselves to correct others. This guy though, this prince among men, did all of the above... with his mobile phone glued to his ear.

What. A. Dick.

I glared at him, and he saw my glare. I hope he felt bad at least for getting caught, but he probably didn't.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Southern South Florida

South, south, south. Through Miami and outer environs, and on into crocodile country. The bottom tip of Flahrida on the way to the Keys is part of the Everglades. I kept peeping out the windows waiting to see a 'gator or a croc. The highway was peppered with signs declaring stretches of road to be "Crocodile Crossing"s. Alas and alack, I sighted nary a one.

Halo took some pictures anyway. The drive down is breathtaking. There are miles of highway built over the open ocean, leapfrogging from key to key.
Once in Key West, we went straight to the beach, and Halo made sand castles. I helped.

We checked in to the Seashell Motel. Key West is stuffed with quaint B&Bs in old, pretty houses with verandas, but all the ones that we called were booked, and expensive anyway. The Seashell turned out to be a great find. Our room was big and airy and clean. There was a foyer of sorts outside our door with a cabinet stacked with games and books, and a table & chairs in the room for playing. It's also a hostel, and there were a few backpackers milling around the courtyard, speaking French and German.

We went downtown, walked around, looked at the water, ate pizza, and played pinball. Halo was pretty good at it! I miss pinball. Back at the Seashell, C. and H. and I played a rousing round of Sorry!

In the morning, we walked to a great breakfast place called Camille's. They have yummy buckwheat pancakes and, according to Zagat's, the world's best key lime pie. Friendly waitstaff and cool posters. Except the waiter talked Halo out of a buckwheat pancake, which he had decided for himself, and into a buttermilk pancake. It was the waiter's opinion that the buttermilk pancakes are more like "real" pancakes and that Halo would like it better. Cluck cluck cluck. If I were a macrobiotic mother, I'd'a gone batshit crazy on the guy. Luckily the kid was a loaner.

Key West has been home to many famous people, including Jimmy Buffet and Tennessee Williams. Its most famous past resident is undoubtedly Ernest Hemingway.

I wanted to visit his house, but was worried that it would be boring for Halo. But he loves the music of Matt the Electrician, a friend of ours, who has a song about Hemingway. So he was familiar with the name and game to go to "Hemmy's house", as he kept calling it. We played the song a few times, which is about not having read any of Hemmy's books. It's called "I'm Sorry Hemingway."

I needn't have worried. Hemmy's house is home to sixty cats, many of them polydactyl - having six toes on each foot. We kept a running count as we toured Papa Hemmy's home. Sixty six-toed cats. Leaping lizards! That's enough to keep any eight-year-old occupied.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Miami Beach

We drove down to Miami Beach in the afternoon once school was finished. A few things thrown into a bag: t-shirts, swimsuit, sunblock, wallet. Hot and balmy, the radio playing. It's still so sunny out at five, six, seven p.m., and it's only an hour to Miami from Boca. Everyone is in a Friday mood. Short sleeves, short shorts, sunglasses: this is South Florida.

Once in Miami Beach, we found our hotel: The Clay. This is an old hotel and hostel, the place that Al Capone ran his gambling ring, where Desi Arnaz danced, and where Miami Vice was shot. It's very charming, with hall murals and old fixtures and a cool lobby. It's also one of the best deals around: we wanted a family room with a couple of big beds for the four of us. They gave us a quote of $115: quite reasonable for the area, with most other places being at least $150. When we got there, they had run out of big family rooms and instead gave us two adjacent rooms with a connecting toilet for the same rate.

One of the rooms had a bit of a musty smell, but all in all, it was a good experience, if a wee dive-y. As I've said before, I'm partial to dives.

We drove into Little Havana to eat at Versailles, perhaps the most famous Cuban restaurant in Miami. Something that is really cool and interesting is that Miami is truly a Spanish-speaking city. I thought I knew what a Spanish-speaking city was, having lived in L.A., but Miami has Los Angeles beat. At more than half of the places we went in Miami, they spoke Spanish exclusively and automatically, not even bothering with English at all. It was really fun to be able to flex my Spanish skills without being an annoying "let me practice on you" kind of person.

In the morning, we put in a stop at the famous South Beach area of Miami Beach, ogling the beautiful people and grabbing a few caches there as well. Eight-year old Halo loves caching: a new convert!