Dog Days

“Heeere, piggy piggy piggy! I smell bacon through the PHONE!” This is a somewhat typical expression to come home to when my cop-hating sister is on the phone with her other sister Danni (also known as coffin-bait.) Danni drives the cadaver-wagon for one of the local funeral homes, and as a consequence, has to deal with the police once in a while.

To clarify, a hearse is a fancy black car that drives the prepared remains of someone’s dearly beloved to their final resting place. The cadaver wagon is a white van that delivers the dead to the funeral home to be washed, dressed, and either preserved or incinerated, depending.

These days, you can even get a Trek urn, although it’s less canopic jar and more Locknar.

Typically, the burial process in America is a cross between Egyptian tradition (embalming intact remains, giant heavy box, offerings for the afterlife, etc.) and the Victorians, who totally jacked all of that stuff and made it prudy and English.

Cremation, on the other hand, is typically better for the environment (no formaldehyde or lead-lined box buried too deep for proper decomposition) and an investment in a Victorian- style mantelpiece (also known as the urn.)

  But I wasn’t going to write about dead people.

   I was writing about daycare.

The Munchkin, looking very Bellingham in bedroom slippers and my fedora.

So, since I’ve graduated and am now freelance (read—unemployed) I’ve started nannying the Munchkin, who just turned four and is a pretty princess who likes to dig in the dirt. This brings in a whopping 60 bucks a week at the moment, but in the likely event that Suzy Q goes to work full-time (rumor has it she’s getting promoted) then it’ll be a hundred.

Aside from that, Suzy’s also hired me to tutor her mom in English reading comprehension. Popo is a frightening descendant of emperors and conquerors and she works as a sushi chef because in the thirty years that she’s lived in America, nobody ever bothered to work with her on reading. (At one point, Popo was a Chinese opera singer and has received job offers to teach at Western because of her expertise. She had to decline because every Western teacher has to have a written syllabus and administer a written final exam.)

Teaching Popo will be 3 hours at most per week at 20 bucks an hour, which is on the cheap side for a private tutor, but they’re family and it was Suzy’s idea, so I’m not complaining. I am, however, terrified beyond all reason because I have to be in an educator’s position with Popo. Who continues to frighten me in spite of the fact that I’ve known her for four years and she likes me because I do the dishes and occasionally, I act like her daughter’s voice of reason. (Because she’s aware of my abject terror of her and my capacity to negotiate with Suzy, I am occasionally subjected to a forty minute tirade about how she has no idea what her daughter thinks she is doing with her life.)

My first day as nanny consisted of painting, soccer, Flintstones, and a picnic to try and get the Munchkin to eat in the heat. It also lacked a proper nap, because the Munchkin’s window faces the neighbors.

“Tante, I can’t sleep!”

“Why not?”

“Because the neighbors are buttheads!”

I’d tell her not to say it, but it’s true, and she learned it from Popo anyways.

Because I watch the Munchkin until 5:30, I ended up going straight to Uji’s for the night. Needless to say, I’ve not spent a great amount of time at home, and I swear the kids are taller than when I left. Going to Uji’s does save money on laundry (because I wear my shirts for two days now instead of one) but it makes my dirty clothes extra-rank. It also means that I’m inclined to go stir-crazy in Uji’s tiny grey apartment and I get annoyed by his semi-nocturnal habits, because dammit, the day is half over and I’ve got stuff to do.

Uji’s true form, which he assures me is some sort of rabbit, which he appears as if awakened before the crack of noon.

Like looking for grad school  and a full-time job.

Some days, though, I just let it sit and don’t care about it for a while, because I’m doing things like enjoying the summer that we’re actually getting this year.

Like yesterday.

Uji and I hit our 5-month mark without any grievous bodily harm, so we packed a picnic in the park to celebrate. He cut up some bread and cheese and a couple of carrots, I brought fresh home-made aioli from scratch (because I am the kitchen pimp) and we drank bubbly that he smuggled into the park in tonic water bottles. It wasn’t very smuggly since tonic water is clear and Chandon is yellow, but nobody really looked at us twice.

Uji in my fedora, looking rather out-of place in Bellingham due to his ironed shirt, fresh haircut, and a distinct lack of bedroom slippers.

We hung out and watched the sunset, took a bunch of pictures, and practiced his English. His word of the day: “Douchebag.”

I’m so proud.

We’re hanging out again tonight, and tomorrow I’m abandoning both households for Seattle for a girls’ weekend in honor of Suzy Q’s 24th birthday. I have no idea what the fuck to get her, but whatever it is will likely be gluten-free and loaded with cardamom.

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Many Moons

Because it’s been like a month since I even drafted a post, let me fill you in on what’s going on:

I am no longer transient!

I have a bedroom, with a bed and a dresser and a TV and a little bit of space to stack my books. It’s quiet. I can close the door if I want to, and people have to knock to come in! I can sleep as long as I like! (Not that I do; school and work keep me getting up at eight AM five days a week.) I can study at home! Or have Uji over to MY place!

These are things that while housed, I never would have missed. After nearly five months of having nowhere to batten down the hatches, these little things mean the WORLD to me. When I get home tonight…HOME…I’m going to finish setting up my little nest and after I read to the boys and spend some time with Kali and the Dork-In-Law, I’m going to go hole up in…my room…and do whatever I want until I pass out at 2 AM. On my own bed.

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Life is good in that regard.

At school, we are approaching midterms and I have yet ANOTHER blog related to class. Maintaining it is a breeze, mostly because I care less about how pretty it is and more about the written component. I feel like I get a little rambly in places, but it’s a response exercise more than anything. I’m also in the middle of reading Moby Dick for a class with one of my favorite professors (I have a list of favorite professors and it’s getting long.) Surprisingly, I like Melville’s weird, rambling style. It reminds me of talking to old hippies that took too many mushrooms in their younger days. Melville is evidence that yes; Americans do have culture, and it’s largely based on experience over tradition.

Maybe that’s why Americans have no respect for their elders.

In Texas,

MY MOM MET THE BLOGGESS!!! Squee, squee, squee. Some of you will remember I studied her online work for class and gave a presentation that focused heavily on giant metal chicken humor.

I am JEALOUS AS HELL!

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 In other news, Uji and I are doing fine and he’s rad and weird and I miss him like hell because he’s out of town for the week. I think he’s taking it worse than I am; I’ll text him good morning and between classes or after work, and at the end of the day, I’ll text him good night.

He texts me…a bunch.

Which is nice, because I miss him a bunch.

At the same time, I’m taking the opportunity to catch up on the homework I’ve ignored to hang out with him, which is significantly more fun than my borderline-monastic study habits.

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Uji impeding my studies.

Last but not least:

KOSHKA’S GOTTA BOYFRIENNND!!

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"Don't take my picture."

Well, not really; they just started seeing each other. Koshka’s beau is adorable, they’re adorable together, he likes old movies, and he likes Cthulu. He can stay.

I Meet Uji’s Family

So, this post is LONG overdue and essentially I’ve been putting ot off for lack of pictures and ridiculous goings-on that I will explain at length later.

I wrote this the day after Easter, I think, or at least in that week:

Since Uji and I declared our love for one another, I’ve harbored this dread of, “Oh Shit, I’ll have to meet his family, they’ll figure out I’m a warthog in a college student suit, and they’ll hate me.”
That is not at all what happened.

So far, I’ve met his parents Juan and Maria, his middle brother Rob, and Rob’s lady-friend Mandy.

They are effing RAD.

Uji and I met them at the Old World Deli for a chese plate and a few bottles of wine on Saturday. Uji, who is Catholic, does not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. (Nor does he eat goldfish or drink sidecars, which he says are his favorite cocktail.) This meant that after he introduced me to his parents, who both hugged me by way of greeting, he loaded up his plate with enough cured meat to give a large German a coronary, nevermind a smallish Mexican-American.

“We call ourselves ‘foodies,” Juan explained to me, passing Uji a bottle of something sparkling and dry from…God, where was it from? I had a few glasses, so my memory is a little fuzzy. There was a cured meat with mole (MOL-eh, not the burrowning rodent spices,) a complex Rose, and a beautiful sunset.

As we spoke, I did my best to sign at the same time, so Uji and his brother Rob would be in on the conversation (and so Uji could come to my rescue if I said something befitting of a warthog.)

“You sign so fast!” Maria exclaimed, putting an approving hand on my shoulder.

“I have a good teacher,” I replied, finishing my wine a little quicker than might have been couth. I’m really kind of bad at accepting compliments.

“That’s true, you have; but Dad over here signs so slow, and he’s had all these years to have to learn how to communicate with his kids! We tease him.”

“Everybody picks on me,” Juan said with a half-smile.

As the afternoon wore on, I discovered that the Rodriguez family is very tight-knit. The boys visit their parents regularly, including Uji’s oldest brother Juanillo, who lives a two-hour drive away with his wife and baby girl. “We raised the boys that family was important from a very young age, so we’ve always been very close,” Juan explained.

With my bizarre family (my parents and so forth, not my sister’s bizarre family,) there has always been a divide. I had two Christmases growing up, and two birthdays, but only ever one parent in the room at a time from the age of six onward. The last time I saw both my parents sit down to dinner together was my high school graduation, and it was in a restauraunt, with my very extended step family sitting in between my mother and father.

At my sister’s house, we are all as generous as we can afford to be (usually more so) and everyone in the family understands that any act of generosity is one of self-sacrifice that might create problems later down the road for lack of this-and-that. We remain generous no matter what, but the lesson I’ve taken away from my sister’s family is that it deosn’t matter what your station is in life–you can live comfortably, as Uji and his family do, or you can live wherever you find refuge, as my sister’s family and I do.

My Sestra on the back of a hog at a biker run.

Generosity is necessary within the family, and it always costs something. But without that sacrifice, how do you know if you are family?

What I’m trying to get at in this long-winded ramble is that I have a new branch of family, and they have the grace of my parents and the kindness of my sister all in one.

In my poverty, I learned a kind of pack-mentality in regards to my family–bring home food no matter what. Keep shepter over your head no matter what. Protect and nurture the little ones no matter what. Uji tells me his parents have worked very hard all their lives for their affluence, and I doubt with a fervent desire that they never lived anywhere as gross as my family’s old trailer. I learned my kindness out of a need to be kind that rooted itself in the needs of others around me. Something tells me kidness is not something Juan or Maria ever had to learn. Like their son, they simply ARE.

Uji and his older brother Rob on Easter Sunday. Uji refuses to eat ham, but will devour prosciutto wholesale.

Uji meets the family

At some point this last week, I got forty dollars worth of parking tickets for leaving my car behind Boundary Bay Brewery for two days during the week. There is no free parking downtown, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about people who issue parking tickets for a living, it’s that they take their jobs very seriously to avoid the harsh reality that their job is a puffed-up excuse to ruin someone’s day. Seriously. I had a classmate who wrote incessantly about her work-study job as a meter maid in the commuter lot at our college and there is actually documented in black and white an essay that she wrote that stated she only felt confident when she was at work ans that her favorite part of the job was getting people towed or threatening them with it.

Meter maids are people who are too chicken-shit to join the mob and run protection rackets.

That rant aside, the reason I parked there was because it put me within walking distance of Uji’s apartment and I had intended on leaving before the meter maid came around.

Uji had other plans.

He insisted on paying the tickets off and offered that the next time I came over, he would pick me up.

This meant he had to meet the family.

He came over a little after nine, when the boys were in bed. My sister was scrambling around the house, trying to clean up before Dozer’s tenth birthday party happened the next day. The Dork-In-Law was on the computer and Chucky was asleep and just starting to stir herself.

When I brought him upstairs, his reception was a little like the way everyone greeted Koshka:

Kali motioned him inside, putting a hand on his shoulder. “You’re right, he IS cute! Ask him if he wants coffee!”

“You ask him. Make a drinking motion.” She did.

Water, please, he signed. I translated. Or hot tea?  I had made him a cup of Assam that morning, because I’m a bit of a tea snob and I buy the loose-leaf stuff.

Neither my sister or I possess a teapot, so I brewed tea in a Pyrex measuring cup and poured it into the boys’ “Cars” mugs and we sat on the couch.

Uji immediately started examining the movie collection, which rivals his own, and he and my Dork-In-Law were soon nerding it up over the anime shelf.

“Hey, Pod, ask him if he’s seen ‘Ergo Proxy.’ ”

“Hold up the case.”

Yes, I’ve seen that one. I thought it was boring. I like movies better than series.

Well, fine, then!” Dork-In-Law replied, pretending to be miffed. He rummaged around for a minute more and came up with “Steamboy.”

After much deliberation, the two nerds determined they had similar tastes in anime because their collections (aside from my Dork-In-Law’s series and some live-action stuff Uji has) are almost identical.

During this exchange, Kali  switched the TV over to DVD so that she could put subtitles on “The Big Bang Theory.” Chucky proceeded to wake up and commence squalling, so Kali retrieved her, got her quiet, and passed her off to me. “You touched it last!”

Uji has a niece who’s two weeks older than Chucky, so he’s gotten over the weird, male “I’m going to break the baby” thing that most young non-fathers have. He and Chucky were a little unsure of each other at first, being as Uji’s almost entirely silent and Chucky is used to being growled at, squeaked at, pterodactyl-ed at, and in general has daily exposure to the range of noises humans are capable of.

You should hear the register her father’s voice reaches when he comes home from work and picks up the baby. It’s somewhere between Mickey Mouse and sonar.

Uji, being sensible, took my lead and mostly stuck with fart-noises, blowing the baby’s hair, sniffing in her ears, and this peculiar, low-pitched “OOOOOOOOOH” that he does, which I adore because the first time he did it, he scared the bejeezus out of me. The man knows his shock-value.

Chucky now ignores me when Uji is in the room, preferring to pull on his tight, black curls and grab at his nose and see how much of her pudgy little hand she can stick in his mouth before he pulls away with his quiet laugh.

I love your crazy family, he assures me, whenever they come up. I feel comfortable around them.

“Thank God,” I murmur aloud, conscious that he can read my lips even though I’m only signing thank you.

Now, of course, I have to meet his family…

I’m a little terrified.

What if they find out I’m really a warthog in a college-student suit?

Particularly since I’m now sporting a mohawk, courtesy of Suzy Q, which does not help my case. It does, however, look kind of badass: