Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wicked Assumptions

Assumption: anything accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof

In March, while in New York, I saw the Broadway play, Wicked. Back in my hotel room that night at the Park Central on 7th Avenue, I ruminated over the complexities of this Ozian play, adapted from Gregory Maguire’s novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. As I thought about poor Elphaba, the notorious WWW, I couldn’t get Kermit the Frog’s melancholic dirge out of my head: It’s Not Easy Being Green...

I loved everything about Wicked, especially the “innuendo, outuendo” word play built upon the rich anti-philosophical musings of Galinda, the “I happen to be genuinely self-absorbed and deeply shallow!” Good Witch of the North: "Magic wands, need they have a point?" But underneath the deeply shallow layers of humor, civil rights, and animal cruelty, I stumbled upon my very own “bizarre and unexpected twister of fate”—a confirmation of a theme that I have been formulating over the past several months after a series of odd relationship blows. My theme revolves around the problem of assumption and the fallout that can occur from the mindless action of making both rational and irrational assumptions.

First of all, I have an innate aversion to the word. Assumption. It starts with the prefix, ass-, which reminds me of other unpleasant words: assail, assault, assassination. As an avid friend collector, (try 1,101 on my steadily growing facebook page), I make every effort to steer clear of making assumptions about people. If I’m perplexed over someone’s actions or appearance, I search for facts first, ignoring the temptation to lump everything into one big hairy assumption and jump to my own most-likely misguided conclusions. Concerning the two or three people in my life who have recently assailed me with their misguided assumptions, all I can say is that I wish they had gotten their facts straightened out before lashing out against me. It hurt quite a bit in each of these non-related incidents, but as vexed as I felt, I could not conjure enough anger within me to retaliate. This is probably because my rendition of Kermit’s song has always been It’s not easy being mean.

For Elphaba, her green complexion sets others off when they see her. People assume she’s been cursed and treat her accordingly. Because of this wicked assumption, Elphaba’s dedication to helping the helpless goes unnoticed. She has taken care of her wheelchair-bound sister, Nessarose, all her life. She also cares deeply about the mistreatment of animals to the extent that she is sure the Wizard of Oz can solve the problem. "After all," Elphaba says, "that's why we have a Wizard."

When she becomes outraged over a frightened lion cub in a cage, Elphaba casts a spell that causes everyone except her one admirer Fiyero to gyrate out of control. Elphaba and Fiyero then steal the cub and set it free in the woods. Then she casts a winged spell on a host of caged monkeys, only to discover that Oz is not a wizard after all, and that the flying monkeys will be used as spies to further oppress the rest of the animals.

Even Elphaba’s sister, Nessarose, turns against her after Elphaba saves a munchkin named Boq by turning him into the Tin Man. Boq assumes that Elphaba turned him into the Tin Man because she’s evil. The lion cub that Elphaba and Fiyero freed at Shiz becomes the Cowardly Lion, and everyone assumes his cowardice is Elphaba’s fault because "…if she had let him fight his own battles when he was young, he wouldn't be a coward today."

After these assumptions begin to haunt her, Elphaba tries to cast a spell to save Fiyero's life but thinking she has failed again, she sings “No Good Deed” and succumbs to her wicked status.

Ultimately, when the Scarecrow is revealed to be Fiyero, transformed by Elphaba's spell, Elphaba fakes her death, which must be kept secret even from her finally trusted friend, Galinda-turned-Glinda, to protect her. Glinda mourns her green friend's death but the citizens of Oz celebrate it, while Elphaba and Fiyero secretly leave Oz forever.

L. Frank Baum would have marveled over the way Broadway has funneled his classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, into an interpretive whirlwind of true friendship, one that surpasses color and the wicked assumptions that have destroyed one green girl too many.

At least Kermit’s a frog, I thought to myself as I drifted off to sleep that night in New York. He’s supposed to be green…

Friday, May 7, 2010

Soul Food

What’s most unique about the Bangkok Chef is that it’s built into a garage that used to be an obnoxious karaoke bar. I say obnoxious because for two years I lived in an apartment directly across the street from it, suffering through hours of nightly drunken serenading and middle of the night brawling, accompanied by sirens routinely howling into my interrupted dreams.

I eventually resorted to praying on my balcony before bedtime that the patrons would get tired earlier and go home, or that they’d all spread a bad case of laryngitis amongst each other. The praying became ritual, to the extent that I strategized with God for ways to transform the a-melodious hellhole into something more pleasant. Maybe the owners would convert to literary folk and transform the garage into a shabby-chic bookstore. Maybe they’d strike it big in Vegas and relocate to a more affluent, off-island location. More specifically, I simply prayed it would become a “fruitful” place.

After two horrific years of Englebert Humperdink and Mariah Carey wannabe’s, I caved in and moved out of the apartment, feeling somewhat defeated by the unanswered prayers. But less than a month after U-hauling it out of there, I drove into the shopping center’s parking lot and did a double take at what had been the infamous karaoke bar. Freshly painted green, the new sign in front of it read, OPEN MARKET. For the first time, the metal garage door was rolled wide open, so I peeked in and discovered the most direct answer to any prayer I’d ever offered.

(there's the apartment on the left of the sign)

Mangos, papayas, lychee, and bananas occupied every corner of the shop. An angelic chorus filled my head as I beheld a football-sized pineapple. The OPEN MARKET generated so much business that within a few months, not only were they selling fruit, but they also began to offer a simple array of home-cooked Thai food (my favorite eating genre), at a great price. The business instantly flourished. People lined up into the parking lot all day and night to buy sizzling hot crispy noodles, panang curries, and other traditional Thai specialties. I evangelized all my friends and co-workers to pay homage to the Bangkok Chef and led many hungry souls into this divine establishment.

The Bangkok Chef has become so fruitful that they have recently opened a second restaurant in the affluent Manoa Valley. I go there religiously and always leave with a satisfied smile and stomach full of praise.

(the Manoa Valley location)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Alice in Debraland

I had to see Alice in Wonderland because I worked at Disneyland for five years as a “merchandise hostess” in the 1980s, and one of my favorite locations was the Mad Hatter hat shop in Fantasyland. With its Swiss Alps ambiance and Fantasyland charm, eight hours in this fast-paced shop always yielded a rewarding Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah kind of day. The only drawback (and it was a doozy of a drawback), was when the nauseated patrons of Alice’s Mad Tea Party ride would filter into the hat shop, green-faced, and puke all over the place. This would occur, without fail, at least once a day, and standard Disney protocol was to call for a custodian, who would arrive gallantly within minutes, bedecked in crisp white pants and tucked-in shirt, armed with a bag of pine-scented “Pixie Dust.” Because I have zero-tolerance for vomit, I would usually have to run out of the shop and hold my breath until I got the thumbs-up sign from gagging co-workers inside.

My fond Mad Hatter memories, combined with my love for Lewis Carroll and Johnny Depp, convinced me to see the film on opening night. In a nutshell, I enjoyed it. Tim Burton’s darkish chaos, combined with hookah-vibrant colors, produces a surreal half-dream, half-nightmare experience. My only serious complaint is that the scenes sometimes rush by at such a spinning teacup speed that I found myself questioning what it was that I had actually seen—a slithering fish butler?…a man with how many folded chins? aqua-colored vaporizing Cheshire Cat? The images tantalized me, but only for brief moments when I could accurately process them. The Queen of Hearts (Helena Bonham Carter) stole my heart most. She was horridly fantastic with her demanding “Off with your head!” rants.

I’m sure left-brained critics out there will slam the film for its lack of plot and whatnot, but right-brained dreamers like me will hail the film for successfully spinning us down into the wonderful rabbit hole of harebrained tea parties and smoking caterpillars.

Lewis Carroll

Friday, February 26, 2010

Princess and the Peeves

Falling asleep early has never been an easy task for me. On weeknights, I drag myself by the hair into bed before midnight, only to lie there, wondering why the traditional workday still begins at the crack of dawn. We’re not farmers anymore, so what’s the point? And don’t tell me it’s because the majority of people want it this way because I see them all in their cars at 7 am, and not a single one of them look happy to be out and about. Their faces all have that same I want my blankie look as they nurse a hot cup of chemical stimulation.

I am nocturnal through and through, and once I’ve tied up the uncounted sheep and forced Mr. Sandman into a submissive choke-hold, that’s when I let down my hair and bask in the moonlight. During those enchanted night hours, I usually ruminate on theoretical nonsense while knitting or writing. Sometimes I toss around catchy titles for new blog entries. Oftentimes I wrangle plot ideas and conjure up quirky characters. Still other times, when the creativity wanes, I make mental lists and categorize them by topics.

My pet peeve list covers a lot of ground—so much so that I could probably do individual blog entries for each one and have a full year of material. I’m no whiner, that’s for sure, but once a month or so I indulge on a good rant or two. Allow me to humor you with just a smidgen of what drives me batty.

Shirt tags. Even the softest, most innocent tags that barely brush my hyper-sensitive skin send me reeling around the room in search of scissors. If no scissors can be found, I will rip these itchy, scratchy little devils out with my bare hands, sometimes leaving a gaping hole where the diabolical tag once dwelt. Thank God for Old Navy, et al, who have learned to print the needed info directly onto the inside of the shirt.

Garment hanging straps
. An annoying cousin of the shirt tag, these ridiculously long pieces of synthetic fusion are designed to help your dress not slip off the hanger. The problem is that they rarely ever stay in the dress while you’re wearing it. Or they get tangled in your bra and make you squirm all night (sorry men, you’ll have to just imagine this one).

Mechanical pencils
. Someone’s making a fortune out there. The lead breaks every time I press the pencil to the paper. Refills are never to be found when I need them, and I need them constantly because those pantywaist pieces of lead only last for but a few words. I can buy 48 regular old #2 pencils and a sharpener for the price of one mechanical disaster of a pencil, and I’m set for life.

Chalk. For the first ten years of my teaching career, I had to use chalk every day, and every day, I had to shrug off the urge to throw my piece of yellow lung dust across the room, not only because of that scratchy sound it makes, but because it’s so…ewww…chalky. This was also a major problem during my gymnastics years, when I had to cake my hands with the ultra-dry stuff before mounting the uneven bars. Ew.

Dry erase pens. Oh these are much better than the chalk they have superseded, but what I discovered after my first day of teaching at a dry-erase board is that these multicolored felt wonders make me really HIGH! I remember a classroom full of bedazzled students, spinning and contorting after I wrote out a long Asimov passage on my brand new sparkly white board. Twenty-two faces all merged into one big academic blur and a crashing headache followed. Now they make “odorless” versions, which (perhaps psychosomatically) still give me an occasional psychedelic moment.

. Thank God for the Internet! No more blackened fingers, ink-driven sneezes, and funky folding and unfolding of those large, awkward sheets of newsprint. No more annoying Sports sections assaulting me with those creepy escort ads. Thanks to my Mac, advertising pop-ups are never an intrusion, and I can juxtapose the L.A. Times with the Honolulu Advertiser in a few seconds flat. The only part of the actual newspaper I still handle with my bare hands is the crossword puzzle, which absolutely must be done old-school, with a pen—never at a keyboard.

Cling wrap. First of all, it’s dangerous. Those razor-sharp teeth are always primed to take a chunk out of my thumb while I’m picking around the roll trying to find the beginning, only to tear some off and salvage whatever isn’t clinging to itself. Foil may be more expensive, but it always does its job more efficiently, and it’s sparkly.

Spiral notebooks. Designed for right-handers, these torment us lefties when we write in them because the harsh metal loops dig into our delicate wrists. On rare occasion, I’ve been able to find one designed for troubled southpaws, but they cost way more than they’re worth.

Phony radio voices. Come on, do they really have to talk that way?

Phony anything. With the exception of faux fur and some silk plants, everything else that is not genuine makes me cringe. I especially loathe digital pianos, lip-sync-ers, and plastic stuff (especially faces and/or body parts).

One-sided communication. It’s like hitting the ball over the net and never getting it back.

. The only thing I like about them is when I get the delighting opportunity to see them slump when their negative predictions are derailed.

Snobs. Except for a few dutiful grammar snobs, all the rest should be forced to watch videos of themselves in action.

Political correctness. This oxymoronic phenomenon has sent everyone reeling into a verbal quandary that has caused more controversy than the issue itself.

Auto correct
. This over-zealous digital task-master forces me to indent when I don’t want to and refuses to allow me to write e.e. cummings in lower-case. Trying to disengage Auto-Correct requires a PhD in Microsoft.

Lap-tops. Don’t get me wrong, I love my lap-top. It’s just that along with this handy portable wonder come three annoying conditions:
  • iburn. Caused by placing lap-top directly on bare lap. Symptoms include itchy, burning red spots that may last up to two hours.
  • ipinch. Caused by opening lap-top on bare lap. May result in a 12-inch blood blister.
  • icramp. Caused by spending hours on the lap-top, especially with excessive use of the itsy-bitsy mouse pad

Alarm clocks.

Monday, February 8, 2010

To Write a Novel

After two and a half years of disciplined writing, I have completed the first draft of my novel, entitled Bum-bye. At 59,412 words, this quasi-memoir has both healed and wrenched me beyond expectation. In fact, if I had known how painful it would be to unearth key parts of the story, I would have never started the work. But somehow during my first MFA semester at Pacific University, under the wing of author John Rember, I abandoned a complicated piece of speculative fiction about a toxic stream and dove into what Rember claimed would be “…something people will want to read.”

In previous blog entries, I have posted a couple of snippets from Bum-bye and was pleased with the sparse but encouraging comments that came back to me (let it be known that writing is a lonely business, and getting feedback, even critical feedback, affirms that we are indeed being read by someone out there somewhere). Other artists—like potters and painters—have the benefit of being able to show off their work upon its completion. They don’t have to tell inquisitive onlookers to wait just a few more years to get a glimpse of their most recent creations. This is the rub we pen-wielders must endure.

So to celebrate (quietly), I am going to post the ninth chapter, one of my favorites, from Bum-bye.


I make it to my Wines and Foods of the World class ten minutes late and frazzled, but it doesn’t matter because the teacher isn’t here yet either. She’s a senior flight attendant with an undisclosed airline, so she’s been late a few times. She’s tough, too. I lost ten points for not spelling Cabernet Sauvignon and Gewurtztraminer correctly. Being Portuguese, I’ve been told that wine is in my blood. I believe it, but that doesn’t mean I’m a huge fan, especially if it’s cheap and tastes like dirty old wood. In fact, ever since I got plastered drunk in the eighth grade with a bunch of so-called friends, I’ve made an effort to steer away from alcohol.

What I remember from that nightmarish drinking experience are fragmented scenes. The new wild girl at my school named Gigi, whose dad was a popular TV news anchor, hired us a stretch limo to drive us to Skateway. In the limo, Gigi busted out six baby bottles and filled them up with Jack Daniels. She said, Ready, set, go! We sucked down our bottles, and I won, which meant they would have to pitch in and pay my way into the roller skating rink. Along came the chili cheese nachos, spinning around on the table where I tried to lace up my skates. Then in slow motion, when I stood up, took a few staggering strides on my skates, I lost my balance and grabbed onto the first thing I could find, which happened to be a towering guy wearing black spandex pants. Then there was vomit. Lots of vomit. All down the front of the spandex guy. Then blackness fading in and out—me propped up against the wall on the floor in a bathroom stall. More blackness. Then chilling wind slapping my face while riding in the back of a pick-up truck. Then a blurry bed. Then Gigi’s creepy dad. Then a head-crashing morning.

* * *

The class is an hour-and-a-half long, and I’m in the back of the room with my notebook. I open it to a blank page and start scribbling out random words in the margin.









I repeat these words to myself until it becomes a mantra. Broken. Missing. Absent. Locked. Tired. Hungry. Lonely. Clock. Broken. Missing. Absent. Locked…

The girl next to me nudges me awake when Ms. Senior Flight Attendant flounces into the room. She puts a small ice chest and a paper grocery bag on her desk and doesn’t apologize for being late. Instead, she projects on the screen a huge page of notes for us to copy, entitled, Cheese. Fromage. Queso.

Spread across the screen is a descriptive list of cheeses and their corresponding countries. Gouda—Holland. Brie, Camembert—France. Gorgonzola—Italy. Havarti—Holland. Feta—Greece. Swiss—United States (go figure). I copy the board, but it doesn’t register because all I can think about is what she’s got in that ice chest.

“Well,” our instructor says, “are you all ready for the tasting?”

The Asian guy on the other side of me says he’s lactose intolerant, and the gum-chewing girl says she hates cheese. Great, my stomach and I are agreeing, more for us.

The instructor bats her chunky false eyelashes as she tells us to line up behind the table, single file. With a flick of her wrist, she displays the gourmet crackers like a magician would display a deck of cards. She gives us ten small index cards with the names of the various cheeses on the table. We are to take a cracker and a slice of cheese and eat it, as she says, with contemplation. After each taste, we are to match the card with its corresponding cheese. I’m seventh in line, and I'm dizzy.

When I get to the first cheese, I put a piece on the cracker and my teeth sink into its butter-like softness. It must be Brie. The instructor reminds us to put our names on the back of our cards, so we can find out who gets the prize for labeling the most cheese samples correctly.

“What’s the prize?” I ask her.

“Cheese, of course,” she snaps at me like I’m a blazing idiot.

“How exquisite,” I say, batting my naked eyelashes.

She’s not impressed with me, and at this point, I could give a rip. I need to eat, but since I wasn’t paying much attention while I took notes, I’m going to go with my gut instinct and guess...with contemplation.

Each cheese has its own unique flavor, texture, and color. One is so smooth it tastes more like Velveeta, which cannot be possible at this fancy table. Another is brittle and tastes a hundred years old. The one I like most is smoky, like a bon fire. I’m in cheese heaven as I make my way to the last sample, which we’ve been warned is “strong.” When I bite into it, it bites back. Strong is an understatement. It’s more like demonic. I swallow it down anyway then take an extra handful of crackers with me to my desk.

The instructor is checking all of our cards, one by one, as we all sit around and chat. She turns to us and smiles like a tired flight attendant should smile.

“Well, I see we have a cheese connoisseur in the room. Let’s give a hand to Gabriella Johannon.” She pronounces my last name correctly, saying the J as a Y.

Everyone claps as I come up for my prize, which happens to be an assortment of all the cheeses we sampled, along with a box of those gourmet crackers.

“Gabriella guessed nine of the ten correctly,” she boasts. “I’m very impressed, Gabriella.”

“Thank you, Ms.…oh…crap. I forgot your name.”

“Pudenz. Inez Pudenz,” she says, emphasizing the second syllable of both names.

“Sorry, Ms. Pudenz. I’ve had a hard week,” I say to her in front of the class. Clutching the cheese and crackers to my chest, I force myself not to choke up. The gum-chewer girl stares at me like she’s watching a soap opera. After class, she catches up to me in the parking lot and says, “Is everything okay?”

“Yes,” I tell her. “Want some?”

“No thanks. Remember, I’m the one who hates cheese. I almost barfed when I tasted the last one.”

“Me too,” I say.

“Well, I’ll see you next week then?” she says as she’s getting into her car.

“Hope so.” I get into my car and bust out the cheese and crackers before I start up the engine. Pungent

vapors are wafting out of the sealed package of the demonic cheese. Gorgonzola. I’d throw it out if I knew where the next meal would come from.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Get That A Lot

A couple weeks ago, I watched a semi-lame TV show called I Get That A Lot, where celebrities pretend to be working folk and try to fake out unknowing customers. Chef Rachel Ray cooked up a great performance as a nondescript dry cleaner. Rock star Gene Simmons psyched out everyone as a guru in a crystal shop. Self-made celebrity Paris Hilton struggled to be a humble gas station attendant, and hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg convinced everyone that he was a low-income parking-lot attendant. Every time a customer would tell them how much they looked like the celebrities that they actually are, the celebrity would give the “I get that a lot” response and continue the charade.

While the show is not going to land in my top-ten, I did allow a self-indulgent blog entry to bloom out of it because of the many times I have been told I look like someone I’m not.

It started when I was a young teen at the beach. An older lifeguard told me once that I reminded him of Sally Field in the 1965 sitcom Gidget. Since I only knew Sally Field from TV's The Flying Nun, I had a hard time making the connection until a few years later when I saw a Gidget rerun.

Then came the Valerie Bertinelli phase, whom I know is much prettier than me, so whenever people would compare me to her I would joke that perhaps I could pass as her homely younger sister. Although now that we are older and more…let’s say…distinguished, I can see a closer resemblance. Perhaps when we're in our 80's, no one will know who the real Valerie is...


One incident that still cracks me up happened in the mid-nineties when I was rushing to get to a bathroom in the San Francisco airport. Two women were shuffling behind me, whispering loudly to each other. “Just ask her,” one of them said, while I sat there, perplexed. “You ask her,” the other said. I had another flight to catch, so I hurried out of the stall, lugging my carry-on, and washed my hands. That’s when I was confronted with the big question: “Aren’t you Jennifer Jason Leigh?”

“Who?” I replied. They looked at each other and sort of giggled.

“The girl from Delores Claiborne.”

I immediately pictured Kathy Bates as I glanced at my travel-worn face in the mirror.

“You don’t mean Kathy Bates, right?” I tried to clarify.

“No,” one of them said. “You look exactly like the other whacked out girl in that movie.”

“Oh great,” I said. “Sorry.” We parted awkwardly and I barely made my connecting flight.

But it doesn’t end there. When I became a teacher in 1995, I had to put up with comparisons to Xena (ya-ya-ya!) Warrior Princess...

Spidey’s main squeeze, Kirsten Dunst (I wish)...

really out-there Icelandic singer, Bjork...

and yes, rock star, Axel Rose...

And for a few months in 2008, it was rogue politician Sarah Palin.

My personal favorite comparison, however, came from my sweet little boy Noah when he was about four years old. He had been watching the DVD Mighty Joe Young, starring (ready for this?) Charlize Theron.

“Mommy!” he came storming into my bedroom. “The lady in the gorilla movie looks just like you!” Then he took a closer look at me and added, “Except she has a perfect face.”

Finally, to end this blog on a non-self-absorbed note, here are two family members who also have uncanny likenesses. My pretty cousin Cheryl and her counterpoint, Eva Longoria...

And lastly, my now nineteen year-old son Ryan and the ever-so-cute Anakin Skywalker...

"Hey, aren't you that Anakin guy?" He gets that a lot!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mc Sweeney's Loss

McSweeney's offers a place to submit "open letters to people or entities who are unlikely to respond." So I took a shot and submitted the following letter to them. They sweetly rejected it, but I still think it's kind of funny...

An Open Letter to My Genes

Dear Genes,

In spite of inheriting my mother’s left-handedness in a predominately right-handed world, I have managed to adapt with only a modicum of grief and frustration over the years, primarily in school where I had to twist a full forty-five degrees in my desk to write properly. And while all the righties were gluing their perfectly cut sunflowers, I was stuck in my angular position, manhandling those diabolical right-handed scissors in my left hand, which didn’t cut, but rather perforated my sweat-soaked construction paper.

I even accepted the dyslexic gene you allowed to sneak in from my dad’s pool because, while it has been a challenge at times when I have needed to decipher a map or put my ATM card in the right way, I have learned to resource my dyslexia to my advantage. Mirror writing, for example, is a by-product of this genetic quirk and has proven itself a great icebreaker in tense social settings, like attending an awkward Thanksgiving dinner with skeptical pre-in-laws or standing in a long post office line behind my gynecologist.

And the right eye being less hazel than the left is okay, too.

But when Mr. Lung, my redheaded biology teacher, brought it to my attention that I could not curl my tongue while the majority of the world can, I began to hold a grudge. All my tenth grade classmates showed off their tongue-curling skills, including some that could fashion three-leaf clovers and other impressive shapes, but I just sat there with this lifeless blob in my mouth. I even went home, locked myself in the bathroom, and in front of the mirror tried my darnedest, ultimately using my fingers, to unsuccessfully mold and shape my lingual member into a cylindrical tube. The best I could come up with was a ladle of sorts—more like a waterlogged wooden spoon.

Genes, why couldn’t you have given me something more desirable, like my dad’s chin dimple or his widow’s peak? Or even better, why not my mom’s impressive C-cup?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Spindless Moonerisms=Mindless Spoonerisms

The other night, Jay Leno conducted his weekly Jaywalking segment, where he ventures onto the streets of LA, showing pictures of famous people to random passersby. I was surprised that none of them could identify Libyan Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi.

Some saw pictures of Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, who was mistaken for American Idol reject/phenom William Hung.

And former vice president Dick Cheney was coined by one jaywalker as Dick Tracy.

But the one that finally got me laughing out loud was the smartest girl of the night who knew the picture of Mr. Cheney, but called him Chick Deney. A classic Spoonerism.

As a chronic dyslexic—or dronic chyslexic, I have dished out my fair share of spilarious Hoonerisms...especially in the classroom...with my students’ names. Students such as Sharon Wu became Waron Shu. Patrick Matthews—Matrick Patthews. And this year there’s Shane Witsell, which I refuse to put down in writing (go ahead…figure it out…I’ll wait).

Sometimes after a really bad one, I’ll bust out my favorite rendition of Cinderella—a la Spooner—called Rindercella.

Once uton a pime there lived a geautiful birl named Rindercella, who lived with her mugly step-other and her two sad bisters. When she went to the bancy fall, she pranced with a dansom hince, but when the sock clucked nidmight, she had to heave in a lurry and slopped her dripper on her way to the corse and harriage…etc, etc…

This usually gets everyone rolling on the floor laughing—or lolling on the roor flaughing, which makes it difficult to continue my lesson on sarts of peech—parts of speech: vouns, nerbs, and joncunctions!

One day, if I’m ever in Couthern Salifornia, walking down Bilshire Woulevard, I hope to bump into Lay Jeno. Maybe he’ll show me some pictures, and I’ll know them all because I’m bruch a sainiac: Boe Jiden, Parah Salin, [K]ill Blinton. Pro noblem!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

An Epiphany on Epiphany

So I saw this bumper sticker on a car that said, “Mean People Suck!”

I nodded with my blinker on.
And on this January the sixth, this day of Epiphany,
When umpteen wise men went home a different way,
So too did I.
(it doesn’t say anywhere there were only three of them)
But they were wise,
And Jewel was on
A composite Christmas CD from Jerry
My Virginian brother-in-law,
And she sang about how
In the end, only
Kindness matters.
(and I haven’t listened to Jewel in such a long time).

And it’s my mom’s birthday today.
She would have been 88,
My favorite number.
She (and all who knew her) would have agreed with Jewel
That in the end
Only kindness mattered.

So I bought a mess of Chinese take-out
Because it’s my mom’s birthday
And she loved Chinese food.
Lamb stew with bean curd
Beef broccoli with crispy noodle
Bitter melon with pork
Fried rice
Cold ginger chicken with a sauce that sings.

And the lady who has owned Pauoa Chop Suey
Since forever
Made me smile my forty dollars away
Because as always, she was kind
(she gives lollipops while we wait).

And in the end
It’s very true
That only kindness matters.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tomorrow's Sweet Sorrow

In exactly twelve hours, I’ll be back in the middle-school saddle again. The bell to begin homeroom will spin me back into a teacher at exactly 7:35 in the (holy cannoli, that’s early) morning. I love my job…I really do. It’s just hard to kiss goodbye some of the frivolous luxuries that I so indulge myself in during the Christmas break. Sleeping-in is painfully the first to go, which means it’s adios to my post-midnight writing antics. Solo sessions at the piano are out the window. Hasta la vista to surfing, too—both web and otherwise. Facebook forays, shopping shenanigans, and mindless meanderings—adieu.

But the most painful departure, the one that always leaves me all balled up inside, is the shelving of my knitting needles. Over the past two weeks, I have finished and sent off Joe Llama to author (and friend), Claire Davis.

Joe Llama

Joe would have been sent off months ago, but after he lost a rhinestone eyeball, I had to go on a fruitless mission to find a perfect match. Ultimately, I did an eyeball transplant from Comma, my second llama, who, God bless him, had already lost an ear in the molten felting process.

(Comma the Llama II)

Next, I tackled the Dolly Llama—a gift for Alina, my favorite two-year old in So Cal. To my pleasant surprise, Dolly came out much hairier than my other critters, probably the result of three-stranding with Peruvian wool, mohair, and cashmere.

Yes, Dolly’s an expensive girl!

(The Dolly Llama)

She would be soaring across the Pacific right now if I didn’t run into yet another llama crisis two days ago, when I trekked over to Ala Moana Shopping Center in hot pursuit of a heart beater from the Build-a-Bear shop. I began adding these when I discovered them this summer at the Downtown Disney shop for a doable five dollars.

Taxi the LuckyAlpaca, whose owner is New York author (and friend), John Gorman, has a heartbeat, as does Claire’s Joe Llama.

(Taxi the Lucky Alpaca)

Much to my horror, the Build-a-Bear shop has been replaced by some unnecessary skateboarding shop, which now leaves the Dolly Llama heartless. Fortunately, I discovered the online Build-a-Bear shop sells these five-dollar coronary treasures, but the shipping of course is going to ramp up the price tag yet another notch. I’ve decided to purchase a dozen of them…for the llamas and alpacas of the future.

While waiting for the hearts to be medivacked from a warehouse in St. Louis, Missouri, I have begun shaping up a new alpaca in aqua for my cousin Jan, an artist in Gaston, Oregon. So far, Aqualicious only has a bulbous booty to show for herself, and with school resuming tomorrow, she may be stuck this way until spring break.

(Aqualicious' rear end)

Now the ultimate apex of my fourteen-day respite took place tonight, when Noah, my bold and daring knitter of a son (or son of a knitter), begged me to teach him how to knit up a hand puppet.

He persisted, even after I explained to him that it would require using not the usual two needles, but rather four, double-pointed bad boys all at the same time. “No problem,” he stated. “I can do it.”

So I took a breather from this bittersweet blogging effort, gathered up the needed materials, and hunkered down with him in my room to show him the ropes. It’s been over a year since Noah brandished a pair of knitting needles, but he secured his slipknot and proceeded to cast-on thirty-four stitches. I showed him how to divvy up the stitches onto the three needles and helped him to join it together and start the six rows of knit-1, purl-1 circular ribbing. It’s no easy task to wrangle four needles at once, but Noah proved himself 100% capable. I started one of these puppets myself as a model, but he doesn’t seem to need much guidance at this point. He went to bed at 10 (an hour past his bedtime), after completing eight rows of circular knitting!

So here I am, back at the laptop at 11:20. The homeroom bell’s gonna blow in eight hours, but I’m bound and determined to finish this blog as a swansong of my glorious, but much too brief, holiday reprieve.

Goodnight, goodnight, my precious notions and yarns, parting (until spring) is such sweet sorrow.