...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Not to delve too far into the depths of Too Much Information, but...

Remember last month when I was thinking about Where I Would Be In Two Weeks, and I was all, ´´Next time I get my period, I´ll have been in Chile for a while?

I´ve been in Chile about two weeks now, and I vacillate back and forth on whether it feels like A While or not. In some ways, it does. I´ve been in Valparaiso and Viña only ten days or so, yet I feel like I can pretty much find my way around, or that I know how to access resources (asking shop-keepers, my family, etc) that will help me find my way around. Ten days into college, I couldn´t even find Powell´s. I feel as though I´ve known some of my friends in the program for more than just two weeks--there´s something about being tossed into a completely foreign situation that breeds solidarity, I guess. But then, without fail, something will come up in the course of conversation that will remind me that we´ve only known each other for two weeks. Kristin, a friend of mine here who´s from Grinnell College in Iowa, and I were talking the other day and I mentioned in an off-hand sort of way something one of the kids at the Migrant Summer School had told me. She reacted with surprise and I realized that we had never talked about the migrant stuff. With my family, too, I feel both as though I´ve been with them for a long time (I feel very close to them and feel comfortable telling Ambar pretty much anything) and that we´re still sort of figuring each other out.

I´m here in Valparaiso with the organization CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange, or something like that). There are forty-three of us here with CIEE, from all different colleges and universities across the US. Of those forty-three, six of us are from Lewis & Clark: Carla, Julie, Mariah, Danielle, Alexis, and me. For some reason, I had assumed that we CIEErs would be the only international students at La Catolica, the university here in Valpo. Alas, it is not so. This week was the official beginning of the PIIE (Programa de Intercambio Internacional Estudiantil) orientation, with all of the two hundred international students who will be studying at La Catolica. There are students from several European countries, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, as well as a ton more students from the US who are here independently or through other programs. I think a lot of them have only arrived recently in Chile (not us! Having been here for two whole weeks, we´re experts) and need a lot of hand-holding. Yesterday all of us--all two hundred of us--went on a tour of the different department buildings that are scattered around Viña and Valparaiso, and by the end of it, I was feeling really irritable and anxious to separate from the group a little.

Luckily, the afternoon and evening went perfectly, better than I could have expected. Kristin and I walked to an awesome cafe that was at the top of Cerro Concepcion, one of the hills in Valparaiso. We had to take an ascensor to get to the top. The cafe had a bohemian, intellectual flavor, with postcards, vintage posters, and flags tacked up on the walls. It was like an independent cafe that you´d find in Portland. We had a great conversation about religion over a glass of wine (me) and fresh fruit juice (her). After going home and chilling with my family, and enjoying my host father´s excellent panqueques con manjar (thin, crepe-like pancakes spread with manjar, a dulce de leche kind of caramel) I went back into Valparaiso to meet the group at La Piedra Feliz for the Wednesday night jazz band. It´s the second week in a row we´ve met there on Wednesdays, and granted, we´ve only been in Chile for two weeks, but I hope we´re going to keep it up. I like having routines like that, things that I know I´ll be doing and can count on.

I´ll finish this long and rambling post on a kind of humorous note. On my way home last night, the colectivo driver told me that I looked ´´French. Or...Canadian. You look French Canadian. You know, like Quebecois.´´ I can honestly say that I´ve never heard that before, but okay, and I´m glad that at least one person couldn´t immediately tell that I was a gringa.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I´m not much for carreteando

´´Carretear´´ is a Chilean verb that means ´´to go out at night and bar-hop.´´ The last gringa who lived with my host family, La Julia (when Chileans talk about someone, they refer to him/her with articles: La Emily, El John, etc) went out six out of seven nights of the week, often not returning home until sun-up, and I think sometimes they expect me to follow in her footsteps, even though they confessed to me that they thought it was too much. I guess I worry that they'll think I´m lame or boring if I prefer to stay home once in awhile.

That said, I do enjoy going out, and last week I went out Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, returning home between midnight and three in the morning every night. So, you know, it´s not like I´m just sitting around. But I have noticed that I have a different style of going out than some of the other North American students, and that´s what I want to talk about in this entry.

The thing is, I love going out to a bar, cafe, or restaurant for a few drinks with a small group of friends to listen to music or to have an in-depth and increasingly emphatic conversation. Or, for that matter, staying in or going to someone´s house for the same. I would count it among one of my favorite activities. That´s why I loved Friday night so much: a group of us made specific plans to meet at a certain place at a certain time, and after meeting and realizing the group was too large to stick together, we split in half. Carla, Alisa, Jake, Jon and I went to a bar called El Irlandes for a couple beers and then went to this awesome artsy cafe/bar where the floor was covered with mosaics and there were sculptures everywhere. We had fun, we laughed a lot, we had some great conversations, blah blah blah. It was, like, one of my top ten college nights, probably.

Saturday night was totally different, and kind of typified what I don´t enjoy about going out. Jon and I had made previous plans to meet in Viña, where we both live, to go into Valparaiso to a bar where Kristin´s host brother was playing the guitar. When I got to our meeting place, he told me that he had talked with Kristin and the plans had changed, okay, no big deal. About ten other North Americans from our group were there and we decided to go out with them. We all went to a bar/restaurant near the Plaza de Viña and had a drink. But because it was such a comparatively large group, and since everyone in the group wasn´t friends with everyone else (I didn´t even know the name of one of the girls), the conversations were fractured, stilted, and shallow. After awhile, two people decided that everyone had to leave to walk to this discotheque about a mile away, so we left. As we walked, Carla told me some super-sketchy things she had heard about the place we were going to from Mariel, who was in Valpo last fall. Neither of us really likes to dance, or at least not discotheque/club-style, so we kind of decided that we would walk with the group and check it out, and if it looked sketchy, we would leave together right away. When we got there, it was in a kind of scary part of town and there was a huge crowd of people in front, waiting to get in. Not our scene, and anyways, I didn´t want to drink anymore that night and we both wanted to be home before 1:30 or so. So she, Jon, and I decided to leave, and some people got a little pissy.

I know some people really love going out carreteando, club-hopping, dancing, whatever until the wee (or not-so-wee, because seven am? Not wee) hours of the morning. I respect that. But I´m not one of them, and I think I should be able to assert that without being made to feel like a child or being told ´´We´re in a foreign country, everything´s going to fucking look sketchy.´´

I like to sit and talk with friends and maybe have a couple drinks and listen to music. I don´t like putting myself in situations where I don´t feel safe and where I feel forced to do something I don´t enjoy. And that´s my main point, I guess. I just hope there are Chileans who feel the same way I do.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Simran,Katie J, and Sarah, you would absolutely die

I seriously have a list of things to write about, but right now the most important thing is: I found a tango class!!!

The other night, I met some people from my group at La Piedra Feliz, this bar on Avenida Errazuriz in Valparaiso, since Wednesdays are jazz night and whatnot. (On a side note, whenever I´m able to get myself anywhere new, it´s an achievement. I´m always amazed and proud of myself when I can find someplace I´m trying to get to. But more about that later, because transportation is one of the things I´ll be writing about.) When I arrived at the bar (and yes, it does mean ´´The Happy Stone,´´ and no, I don´t know why), the guy at the door gave me this little flyer of upcoming events and groups who would be playing there. I noticed that it advertised tango classes every Thursday at nine pm and my friend Mariah from Lewis & Clark said that she would go with me.

Our first class was yesterday, and I absolutely loved it. The teacher, Francisco, is the most stereotypical tango teacher that you can imagine: tall and thin (he was probably about six one or two--pretty much the tallest man I´ve seen here), with long gray hair pulled back into a ponytail and dressed dramatically in gray, black, and red. The venue itself was just as you would picture it, wooden tables, red curtains, vintage posters and advertisements on the walls, dim and smoky, the works. There were less than ten other people there and they were all regulars who had been dancing for years; Mariah and I were the youngest by, oh, about twenty-five or thirty years. We started from the very beginning. Francisco was a great teacher, but very intense. He gave us exercises that we´re supposed to do at home to strengthen our ankles, recommended that we start listening to tango music to familiarize ourselves with the genre, and told us that we should start coming to La Piedra Feliz on Saturdays to watch the tango dancers and see how they dress and behave. After the class, we stayed for a little bit and talked with two of the women about what we were studying and stuff like that. Everyone was incredibly friendly and supportive and kissed us goodbye and told us that they hoped we would come back. I have a wonderful time. Plus, the entire class, which lasted from nine until midnight, was only two thousand pesos, less than four dollars.

The funniest thing, to me, was that I totally thought that Francisco was, like, a professional tango dancer, but he told us that he was actually a veterinary surgeon`. You just never know.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Living a la chilena

I´m falling in love with my host family, I think.

We all found out who our host families were on Sunday, our last day in Santiago (Santiasco, hee). The photo I received showed a young, smiling woman holding a baby, standing next to a grinning, muscle-bound, tattooed man. ´´He looks like he´s from Los Angeles,´´ John, one of my friends in the group, remarked. The man and the woman each held the hand of a solemn looking little girl dressed completely in pink, including pink eyeshadow that was applied heavily enough that it showed up in a low-resolution digital picture. Stapled to the front of the picture were a few lines about the family: it said that they were a calm, open-minded, relaxed family that liked to spend time at home, at the beach, and in the countryside. In other words, perfect for me.

Meeting them, however, was anything but calm and relaxed. All four of them came to pick me up from the bus drop-off point when we arrived in Valparaiso. After kissing hello and loading my stuff into the back of their car, Ambar (the mom) and Carlos (the dad) started talking to me a mile a minute; Lisuanne, the five-year-old, wanted to show me a snail she had found on their balcony; and the baby Meysue started crying. All of this while we were speeding down the highway at ninety miles an hour (seriously; I snuck a peek at the spedometer), a CD of Spanish-language children´s songs blaring, Lisuanne singing along and Ambar bouncing Mey on her lap. It was chaotic and overwhelming and illegal in several ways in the United States. But you know what? It was also...kind of joyous, and fun.

When we arrived at their apartment in Viña del Mar, I met the other members of the family: my abuelo, Antonio; and the maid/nanny Maria, who comes everyday around eight in the morning and goes home around eight in the evening. Maria had made a special lunch in honor of my arrival, and Antonio was making pisco sours, the unoffical national drink of Chile, composed of pisco (fermented muscatel grape juice), lemon juice, sugar, and egg white. Lisu´s friend Michelle was over for the afternoon, so the table was completely full: Carlos, Antonio, Maria, Lisu, Michelle, me, and Ambar, who was holding Mey on her lap. Ambar proposed a brindis (toast), and it was very sweet and welcoming.

So, I guess the bottom line is that Chile continues to go well. It´s pretty overwhelming sometimes, figuring out how to get around, which micros and colectivos (buses and taxies that follow a fixed route, respectively) I need to take to get where I´m going, trying to keep my head above water linguistically, not to mention that I don´t know if I´ll ever get used to seeing so many stray dogs and cats in the streets. But I´m constantly glad that I´m here, and I´m optimistic that things will continue to get better. (One thing that definitely needs to get better, pronto, is the weather, because damn, it´s cold. I mean, it´s not raining, but there´s this kind of damp cold, and there´s no central heating anywhere. I should have brought more warm clothes.)

One more thing about my family is that we´ve been having a lot of conversations about politics, and it´s been super-interestante. However, that´s a whole other topic for another, probably much longer, post. Until then, ¡chau!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

The most striking thing I´ve ever seen

I hope I never get used to seeing the Andes rising above the city.

Yesterday we were driving around Santiago in our huge, conspicuous, embarrasing ´´Turismo Internacional´´ bus when we turned down a street. Suddenly, we could see the cordillera of the Andes, perfectly clear, snow-capped, pure. It was breath-taking, and I mean that in the literal sense that I gasped. Santiago is one of the most polluted cities in the world, and usually the smog is so thick that I guess you can´t see the Andes. El Mercurio, the national newspaper, prints a smog index on the front page every day; by some stroke of luck, or maybe it was the rain, we had enjoyed a couple consecutive days on the green, or lowest, level.

Because the view was so unusually good, our program director Marcia quickly decided to take advantage of the opportunity, and we went to a park where we could ride a funicular to a vista. From there, we could see the city of Santiago, spreading out to the horizon, and rising above it the Andes, like sleeping giants. It was so beautiful and striking that I felt like crying.

Before coming here, I had heard really negative things about Santiago: it´s big, it´s confusing, it´s dirty, the people are mean, but above all, that it was ugly. Maybe it´s been the weather, or maybe I´m just happy to be in Chile, but I like Santiago much more than I expected. And I love, but love, walking down the street, looking east, and seeing the Andes.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Alive!

I didn´t really want to start my first Chilean post all, ´´Well, here I am in Chile!´´ like a doof, but, well, here I am in Chile. Incidentally, did you know that keyboards manufactured for Spanish-language speakers have different layouts? It´s true. The letters are all the same--QWERTY and all that--but they´ve got a special ñ key, which is just all kinds of cool. The problem is, it´s right where I reach with my pinky to make a semicolon, and that´s my favorite punctuation mark. Plus, the dashes and quotations semicolons and tabs and shifts are all arranged differently. It´s very disorientating--it took me like five minutes to sign into my webmail account, because I kept making this funky little letter by accident: ç. It´s always the little things, you know? (Oh, plus there´s a ¿ key. It shares a button with ¡, at the right most end of the number row.)

The flight(s) were pretty uneventful; as it turned out, Carla, Mariah, and Julia and I were all travelling together from Portland to Dallas/Forth Worth, then Alexis met us there and we flew to Santiago. I was glad I didn´t have to navigate the airports alone. Carla and I seem to have hit it off pretty well, yay. I saw more cowboy hats in the Dallas airport than I expected.

This afternoon we met the rest of the estadounidenses--we´re forty, in all, which is more than I expected--breakfasted, rested, lunched, then went to see the fantastic Rodin exposition at the Museo de Bellas Artes. We hit some of the highlights of Santiago on the drive there, like the Casa Moneda, the government buildings, etc. Downtown Santiago reminded me of downtown Portland, with the buildings and the park blocks, but Santiago was much bigger, with more pollution and palm trees.

The Chileans seem very cosmopolitan, judging from the way they´re dressed--the uniform for the women seems to be a long dark peacot or dress jacket and a fluffy scarf knotted around the neck in the European style.

Someone´s waiting to use the hotel computer, so I´ve got to go. Until tomorrow, ¡buenas noches! (Gotta love that upside-down exclamation key!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

It always goes quickly at the end (part two)

I thought I would have more time to update, but everything got really chaotic all at once and now we're loading the car, quick quick quick, my internet got disconnected before Flickr finished updating my photos, Friendster's down for some bizarre reason and now DeAnn will have to kill me, my stuff's not completely packed yet so I'm stuffing it into plastic shopping bags to reorganize tonight at the hotel in Portland, I hope I remember all my toiletries, where's my other journal, oh God the backpack I was planning on packing is totally too heavy and I can't fit it in my suitcase, deep breaths.

Whew.

Okay.

I wanted to upload some pictures of the summer school kids, as well as a picture of this really hilarious-in-a-Schadenfreudistic-way self-esteem poster, but I don't have time. I'm sorry. You will see them sometime. Today was my last day with them, and it was very moving.

My address. I will love you forever if you send me mail. No packages, though: they take forever at customs and are heavily taxed, apparently.

Jessica Jobanek
ATTN: Marcia Vera
CIEE--Programma Internacional de Intercambio
Av. Brasil 2950
Valparaíso, CHILE

I'm a horrible correspondent, ask any of my friends from home. However, I'm going to try to send out emails, I will keep updating this blog, and I will send you snail mail if you email me your address. I'm not taking my computer with me, so I'm not sure when I'll next have internet access; certainly by the time I begin at the University in a month or so, and hopefully much sooner.

A plea: please update your blogs. I care about what goes on in y'alls' lives.

One more cup of coffee for the road
One more cup of coffee 'fore I go
To the valley below.


--The White Stripes, "One More Cup of Coffee"

And so it begins.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Clifford Geertz never had it so good

Last semester for Qualitative Research Methods, an anthropology class, I wrote my ethnography about the uses of religious iconography (saint medallions and crosses) by Latin American young adults--what goes into the decision to wear a cross or a medal, what relationship does the wearer have to the object, stuff like that. After a few interviews, it evolved into an investigation into the relationship between functional and substantive uses of religious iconography. The young men (only one man) and women I interviewed wore crosses and medals for substantive reasons (they believed in the substance of the object, in other words in its authentic religious nature and value), and also for functional reasons (it performed a function in their lives, either as a reminder of family, heritage, mission, comfort, etc). The ethnography clocked in at just under twenty pages, the longest paper I've ever written; it's also notable for being one of the very few papers that I did not procrastinate in writing.

I was happy with how it turned out, and with the way the topic evolved as I researched and interviewed, but it wasn't really the paper I set out to write. My curiosity peaked by four or five years or working with the predominantly Catholic kids at the Migrant Summer School, I initially wanted to write about the significance of the Virgin Mary to migrant elementary schoolers. Unfortunately, when I presented that idea to my anthropology professor, she said that I would have to get parental consent forms signed before I could interview anybody under eighteen. Damn The Man!

Today, I realized again what an interesting ethnography that would have been. In my class, we're focusing on Important Latinos, working our way up through history from the Conquest to the Zapatistas. So far we've done La Malinche (I thought that was a strange choice since she's kind of reviled as a traitor to her people, but I guess she was important to the history of Mexico), Montezuma II, and Juan Diego. For those of you who aren't Catholic and never watched the classic Wishbone episode in which the story is reenacted with a Jack Russel Terrier in the lead role, Juan Diego was the sixteenth-century Aztec Indian to whom the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico and Emperess of the Americas, first appeared.

As soon as the kids saw "Juan Diego" written on the whiteboard at the beginning of class, Y, one of the girls, shot up her hand, all, "I know who he is!" The teacher asked her to not tell the other kids, so that it would be a surprise to them, but she was fit to burst so I asked her to quietly tell me what she knew about Juan Diego. Excitedly, she told me the story in great detail, showed me the medal of the Virgin that she wore on a chain around her neck, and told me another story about some Mexican shepherd kids who had had a vision of the Virgin.

It's not just her, either. The kids are basically all Catholic, as far as I know, and several of them wear crosses or, more commonly, medals of the Virgin of Guadalupe. I've seen at least one kid wearing a t-shirt with a big picture of the Virgin on the back, and one girl told me that she has a poster or a tapestry of some sort with the Virgin's image on it hanging above her bed. The class would be a goldmine for an ethnography. I completely understand the necessity of parental consent forms, and how unethical it is to interview children without their parents' permission, and I'm not going to do it. Besides, the ethnography I did write turned out well, was handed in about two months ago, and has been graded.

But man, it would have been interesting.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Living in conversation with Etty

"Slowly but surely I have been soaking Rilke up these last few months: the man, his work, and his life. And that is probably the only right way with literature, with study, with people, or with anything else: to let it all soak in, to let it mature slowly inside you until it has become a part of yourself. That, too, is a growing process. Everything is a growing process. And in between, emotions and sensations that strike you like lightning. But still the most important thing is the organic process of growing."(page 102, An Interruped Life)

It's been a year since I took the Mysticism class at the University of Oregon, where I was first introduced to Etty Hillesum. Ever since, I feel that I have slowly but surely, in her own words, been soaking her up: the woman, her work, her life. I feel closer to her than I feel to some friends and family members; she's become my mentor, my guidance counselor, my point of reference. She is maturing inside me, slowly become a part of myself.

Etty wasn't the first person to lead me to Rainer Maria Rilke, but her devotion to the poet increased my own desire to get to know him. I decided a little while ago that I'm going to use these next six months to soak myself in Rilke: to get to know, as Etty said, the man, his work, and his life. I've been struggling in deciding which books to take with me, because I'm already overpacking, but I think I'm going to take a thin, paperback edition of Letters to a Young Poet, a double edition of Sonnets to Orpheus and Duino Elegies, a collection of his letters, and Diary of a Young Poet, a collection of the journals he kept during his youth. And of course, I'm taking Etty's journals. And my own journals.

To be very unobtrustive, and very insignificant, always striving for more simplicity. Yes, to become simple and live simply, not only within yourself but in your everyday dealings. Don't make ripples all around you, don't try so hard to be interesting, keep your distance, be honest, fight the desire to be thought fascinating by the outside work. Instead, reach for true simplicity in your inner life and in your surroundings, and also work. Yes, work. It doesn't matter at what, I still haven't found solid ground under my feet, but whether it's Russian essays or reading Dostoyevsky and Jung or having a talk, all of these can be work. And have confidence that it will all come together and everything will turn out all right in the end. That confidence is something I've had for a long time." (page 102)

That's the part that I have trouble with.

Etty

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

Sarah and I spent today at the Oregon Country Fair; it was incredible, just as it was last year. I generally hate crowds and noise and confusion and dust (that's why I'm moving to a large South American city, of course), but there's something about that place that's so peaceful and full of love and openness. I can't believe that I spent 18 years living in Eugene and I only started going to the Country Fair last year. I didn't know what I was missing!

Overall, it was the ideal way to spend my last Saturday in Eugene.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Where else could I learn how to say "fart" in Spanish? **

Two eProps to the Lane ESD Migrant Education Summer School, which began on Tuesday. I'm in the third and fourth grade classroom and oh my God, the kids, I wish you could see them. Out of the class of about thirty, I recognize about half from last year. The first day always starts late because the teachers have to gather the kids from the playground, so I was just cooling my jets in the classroom, poking around a little while I waited for the kids to come in. I found an attendence sheet, and seeing some of the familiar names...I don't know how to describe it; it was just very moving. These kids, they've all moved around a lot, usually from Mexico to California, then around California and up to Oregon; Y, one of the girls, told me that she's been to about ten different schools. That their families have achieved enough stability that the kids are able to participate in the Migrant Summer School for two, three years in a row is so heartening. It's just...last summer, at the end of the program, a few of the kids wrote me cards and said they hoped to see me next year. I knew I was going to be volunteering again, but I didn't want to promise the kids that I'd see them because I have no way of knowing what their family situation is, where they'll be in a year, if they'll still be in Springfield or Oregon or even in the US. And that the kids remember me, remember my name, remember the origami I thought them, a year later, makes me feel as though I'm really making some sort of difference or an impression in their lives.

In particular, I felt that way about R, a serious-faced, exceptionally bright nine-year-old boy. Last summer at the beginning of the program, R and his family had only been in the US about two months. He didn't know any English at all. Some Mexican teachers were visiting the school on an international education tour, and they quizzed the kids questions about Mexican history and culture; R was the only one who could answer them. This year, when I gave R the reading evaluation test on Tuesday, we chatted for a few minutes in English. He told me that the school year went well, that learning English was hard, but he thinks he's getting it. Later that day, the Sra. Steff, the head teacher in my classroom, asked the kids if any of them knew who Padre Hidalgo was. Not only was R the only one to have heard of Miguel Hidalgo, but he answered her in English. I'm so proud of him and all he's accomplished, and I hope the Migrant Summer School has played some part in his achievement.

So I'm having a good time. Actually, the three hours a day, four days a week for four weeks I spend with the kids has consistently been the best part of my summers for the past five years. This year I'm cutting it short--I'll only be volunteering for Friday then Monday and Tuesday of next week, then on Wednesday me voy.

** It's "pedo." Writing p2ac2 is short-hand for pedos acedos, or "rotton farts." Feel free to use this information to your advantage if ever you need to establish street cred among Mexican elementary-schoolers.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Breakfast of Champions

In Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut called the Star-Spangled Banner "gibberish sprinkled with question marks." I thought that was tremendously witty a couple months ago when I read the book, and now I repeat to myself or to my companions every time the national anthem is played.

The 4th of July is a conflicted holiday for me, as I think it is for a lot of people. I love America, but I don't always love what America does; I'm patriotic, but I get nervous around other patriotic people because I don't know in what way they're patriotic, you know? I'm proud of my family and of our past, our history, my ancestors coming to the US; I'm awed by the foundation of the country and by the bravery and idealism of a document like the Declaration of Independence, but at the same time, rah-rah-rah-my-country-right-or-wrong stuff leads to nothing but trouble. This article did make me laugh really hard, though. I think my favorite blessing is #9--I exercise it on a near-daily basis. Warning: the article mocks Canada fairly mercilessly.

I had a lot to say but then Mr. Migraine decided to drop by and now I think I need to just go lie down. Right now it feels as though a tiny little gnome is standing over my right eyebrow with a jackhammer.

A quotation from East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. Somehow, it seems appropriate on this day. If you haven't read the book, read it. It takes a while to get into but it's an incredible journey.

Lee sighed. He had worked so hard, so tenderly, and his work seemd to have succeeded. He said softly, "We're a violent people, Cal. Does it seem strange to you that I include myself? Maybe it's true that we are all descended from the restless, the nervous, the criminals, the arguers and brawlers, but also from the brave and independent and generous. If our ancestors had not been that, they would have stayed in their home plots in the other world and starved over the squeezed-out soil."

Cal turned his head toward Lee, and his face had lost its tightness. He smiled, and Lee knew he had not fooled the boy entirely. Cal knew now it was a job--a well-done job--and he was grateful.

Lee went on, "That's why I include myself. We all have that heritage, no matter what old land our fathers left. All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It's a breed--selected out by accident. And so we're overbrave and overfearful--we're kind and cruel as children. We're overfriendly and at the same time frightened of strangers. We boast and are impressed. We're oversentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic--and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We through our energy about like waste. In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture. Can it be that our critics have not the key or the language of our culture? That's what we are, Cal--all of us. You aren't very different."

"Talk away," said Cal, and he smiled and repeated, "Talk away."

Sunday, July 03, 2005

That's what you yell! That's what you yell!

The highlight of tonight's Eugene Emeralds game, without a doubt, was the running commentary delivered by the possibly stoned high-schoolers sitting behind us. There were three girls and a guy, all in their late teens; my brother said he knew them from school, so they were all probably going into their senior year. The girls were wearing the requisite tank tops, ruffled minis or low-rise jeans, and flip-flops; the guy ("Neil," we soon learned his name was) was wearing a shirt with a popped collar (HATE!), sunglasses, and a trucker hat. I was prepared to dislike them (shallow, I know, but I have a low tolerance for popped collars and trucker hats), but they actually entertained my brother and me throughout the game and will, most likely, live in immortality among my family.

Before the game, the blondest and prettiest of the girls, Emma, went down to the dugout along the first baseline to try to get #12, Brian Cavanaugh's, number. Kira went down with her for moral support. At this point, I was still trying to maintain some appearance that I wasn't just blatently eavesdropping on them and watching them, so I don't know exactly what went on, but it seems that Emma kept chickening out when Brian Cavanaugh walked by her. Pretty soon, Neil had whipped out his cell phone and had called Kira (who was standing maybe fifty yards away from us). Neil: "KIRA! MAKE EMMA TALK TO #12! He's walked by her like THREE TIMES! Tell Emma to stop being such a TURD!"

Emma returned numberless and in shame. However, soon all was forgotten when the Ems took the field. When Brian Cavanaugh ran out to right field, Neil screamed "BRIAN!!!!" Whenever Brian came up to bat, Neil screamed "BRIAN!!!" Whenever another player scored a run and everyone else was cheering, Neil would be--you guessed it--screaming "BRIAN!!!" When they played the "Charge!" music, Neil screamed "BRIAN!!!" They played the when-you're-happy-and-you-know-it song, the foursome behind us modifed it slightly:

"When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!
BRI--AN!!
When you're happy and you know it, clap your hands!
CAV--ENAUGH!!
"

They played the YMCA song, and Neil spelled out "B--R--I--A--N!!!" Whenever Brian struck out or was thrown out at a base or, really, whenever the Ems got three outs, Neil yelled, "THAT'S OKAY, BRIAN!!!" Except the best part was that Neil had this really loud laugh, kind of like "HYUH HYUH HUYH!!!" and he cracked himself up so often that usually he only got through the "BRI--" before he started laughing. So every few minutes we'd hear "BRI--hyuh hyuh hyuh!!!" as he and the three girls collapsed in giggles.

Neil also forgot what Brian's last name was, and kept asking, "Is it Mackinaw? Caviar? Cavalaugh?"

Also, at one point Neil got a call on his cell phone, and was heard to utter the now-immortal line: "You're calling from BOSTON? Boston, NEW YORK?" At one point, they played the Sponge Bob-Square Pants theme song over the loudspeakers (yeah, I don't know why either), only it was in some non-English language that I didn't recognize. I don't think it was Spanish. Neil yelled, "What IS this? Is this DUTCH?"

In conclusion: "BRIAN!!!"

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Sandra! How could you do this to us?

Damn! Sandra Day O'Connor retiring, while not the worst thing that could happen, is high on the list. She's been the swing vote in, like, 3/4 of the recent decisions; wasn't she the deciding vote in Roe v. Wade so many years ago? It's hard not to be totally cynical and fatalistic about this. Damn damn damn.