...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 27, 2006

"Ya got an angel witcha right now."

As far as FameTracker features go, Two Stars, One Slot: When Niche Actors Collide isn't one of my favorites, simply because I often have no idea who the specific actors are, or if I've heard the name, I can't conjure up their image in my mind and I'm too lazy to do a Google Image search. But today's article was great: Battle of the Next Gyllenhaals, pitting Joseph Gordon-Levitt against Shia LeBeouf. Wing Chun didn't mention this in the article, but Gordon-Levitt was the kid in Angels in the Outfield...you know, the movie from the early nineties with Danny Glover and Christopher Lloyd and Tony Danza, where this kid starts having visions of angels helping out his beleagured Anaheim Angels, also known as The Movie My Brother and I Completely Memorized. See, this obessive streak runs through my family, and in Andy (my brother), it mostly manifests itself in movies. He gets hooked on one movie, and then he watches it, oh, three hundred times and then moves on to another one. I'm not exaggerating; throughout elementary school, he used to watch Angels in the Outfield through to the end, then rewind it and watch it again. Whenever he and I were out with our parents and we had to wait for them, we would divide up the characters and run through the dialogue. "Okay, you be JP and Mr. Knox; I'll be Al and Roger and that weird guy." (A couple movie obsessions after Angels in the Outfield, we hit on the original version of Twelve Angry Men...which we've also memorized. It's harder because none of the characters have names, so we refer to them by either the actor's name or their "type." "Okay, you're the old man, and I'm Henry Fonda, and Jessica is the racist guy." We watched that movie until the tape ran out.) Once at an Em's (our local minor-league baseball team) game six or seven years ago, Andy stood up and solemnly started flapping his arms--Roger's signal to Mr. Knox, the team manager, that a certain player had an angel with him.

All this to say that we're huge Joseph Gordon-Levitt fans. But little Roger as the next Jake Gyllenhaal? I don't know how I feel about that. In our minds--or at least, in my mind--he'll always be nine years old and flapping his arms like a maniac.

"You're not in the Midwest, you're in the crappy part of Colorado."

This cracked me up. I was surprised when Kristin told me once in Chile that she was from the Midwest, because in my mind, Minnesota...isn't. It's too far north. (Plus, frankly, everything over on that side of the country is kind of an amorphous blob to me. When my mom and I were visiting colleges on the East Coast four years ago (!) I was surprised it took so long to drive from Massachusetts to Pennslyvania.)

Speaking of which: there's no way Pennsylvania is the Midwest.

Monday, July 24, 2006

If you say it loud enough, you'll always sound precocious

The other day I showed my family one of my best souveneirs of Europe: a brightly colored poster I found in Athens, advertising a local production of Mary Poppins. The title of the musical was in English, while the rest of the information--dates, location, time, price--was in Greek script. I loved it, I explained to my family, because of the unusual juxtaposition of the English and the Greek. My dad snorted at my use of the word "juxtaposition" and teasingly accused my of using a five-dollar word. With my brother egging me on, I continued that I liked how the poster called into question the place of Mary Poppins in popular imagination: can the musical, which is so quintessentially British, be successfully performed by a Greek cast, and if so, what does that mean for Mary Poppins as an icon and a representative of the British canon? What would the success or failure of the Greek Mary Poppins have to say about the possibility of successfully translating pop culture phenomenon to foreign stages and foreign cultures?

I had to stop there because my mom was pretending to throw up. Even now, several weeks after the incident, my dad teases me every time the word "canon" comes up (and it does suprisingly often, if you're looking out for it). But for me, it was only Reason #354 Why I Love the Liberal Arts.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Rainy Day City #12 and #35

(Note: I will never be able to write a blow-by-blow account of Sarah's and my trip to Europe. There's just too much to tell, and if I try to tell it all, then I'll never get anything up here. So, I decided instead that I'm just going to tell some anecdotes from the various places we went, along accompanying pictures. I hope you enjoy!)

Sarah and I couldn't believe it, but it ended up raining in every city we went to. It wasn't usually much, just a day or so, but on the other hand, it also wasn't like Oregon's constant gray drizzle, the kind of rain where you don't so much see or hear it raining as you feel it in the constant clamminess and dampness of your hair. No, when it rained in Europe, it rained: pounding on the tin roof of the roadside restaurant our bus had stopped at on the way from Igoumenitsa to Athens, sending tourists and locals alike scurring into cafés or huddling into Parisian metro stations, bringing out the gypsies selling cheap umbrellas. It was the kind of rain that, although it was a bummer, was a gorgeous bummer, bouncing off the pavement; the kind of rain that you can sit and enjoy watching, and feel as though just watching the rain has been a cultural experience.

We weren't prepared for it in Venice, however. Venice was, after Genoa, the first city we went to, and we were so taken with it that we immediately decided to stay an extra day. It wasn't a museum kind of city, the way Paris was, or a place with a lot of ruins like Rome or Athens, or with a lot of great art like Florence; rather, we spent our days in Venice just wandering the streets, going into churches, enjoying long lunches at courtyard trattorias and lingering over cappuccinos in this cafe a few blocks from the Piazza San Marco that we adopted as our own. Although the area around the Grand Canal and the Piazza San Marco were always crammed with tourists, Venice was a maze of little side streets and scenic corners, old buildings crumbling into the green canals, and I think that was our favorite thing about Venice: within five minutes of walking, you could always, always, get away from the tourists and be by yourself. One afternoon--I think it was our second-to-last evening--we wandered a few blocks from San Marco's and found ourselves alone, contemplating a little arm of the canal with a perfect, small bridge. We stood there, in silence, watching the water ripple and the buildings' reflections in the canal grow longer and longer. After half an hour we left, neither of us saying a word. It was a perfect moment.

The third day was the day of the rainstorm. We had been to several churches in the morning and afternoon and were tired of walking. We went back to our café for a pick-me-up and rested awhile. Sarah said she was all museum'd out, but I was going to try to squeeze in a visit to the Palazzo Ducale, the royal palace/museum off the side of the Piazza, so we made plans to meet in a couple hours at a restaurant her parents had recommended. As I left, I could feel it mist slightly; the air was damp but not cold. It started sprinkling as I walked to the vaporetto stop. (Vaporettos are water buses. There are no cars on the island of Venice, nor on any of the little surrounding islands, so to get places you either walk or take the water bus. There are dozens of lines, just like city bus lines, going to any destination around Venice or along the Grand Canal. Really, pretty much anywhere on the island is within forty-five minute's walk, but the vaporettos were pretty cool, so we took them a lot. Plus, our feet hurt.) I got on the vaporetto heading to the Piazza San Marco, where the Palazzo was. As the water bus slowly criss-crossed the Canal, though, it started to rain harder and harder. The waves grew choppier and choppier and the vaporetto started bucking up and down, so much so that the dock workers had to struggle to rope it to the dock to allow more passengers on. Halfway to the Piazza, BOOM! the sky started to thunder and lightning. There was almost no space in between the bolts of lightning--which weren't the kind that light up the whole sky, but rather the jagged bolts, like weapons thrown down by the gods to smite heathens, which I find a lot scarier--and the cracks of thunder. I was legitimately scared: what's the one place you're not supposed to be during a lightning storm? On the water, right? And here I was on the vaporetto--I might as well have just tossed a toaster into a bathtub.

By the time I got off the vaporetto, the rain was coming down in sheets and the streets leading to the Piazza were deserted. Within twenty seconds of getting off the vaporetto, I was soaked as though I had just showered in my clothes. The Palazzo Ducale was a couple blocks away, and as I ran through the flooded avenue, the church tower started striking the hour. I couldn't help but think how picturesque it all was: running through the pouring rain in Venice as the church bell tolled. That thought kept me from getting angry about the situation: "This could be a scene in a movie!" I thought to myself as I ran.

Unfortunately, the Palazzo Ducale was closed by the time I got there. (Apparently they stop admitting people about an hour before the official closing time.) I was a little disappointed, but pleased that I had had a little adventure getting there. The Piazza San Marco, which was normally crowded with tourists, vendors, and thousands and thousands of pigeons, was empty. I don't know where the pigeons went, but the tourists had all crowded under the overhanging facade of the Palazzo Ducale, and as I hung out there, drying off, I marvelled at the kind of cameraderie among all of us who were taking refuge there. Getting stuck in a rainstorm in Venice wasn't in anyone's plans, but everyone seemed to have a great sense of humor about it, laughing and swapping stories as they watched the rain pound down and flood the Piazza even further. There seemed to be people of every nationality, a lot of Americans but also Asian tourists shivering in shorts and T-shirts, Indian women in long, beautiful saris, some Spanish speakers. I wondered what everyone's story was. I wondered what everyone was planning on doing that afternoon, before the thunder and lightning changed their plans.

After awhile, of course, it stopped raining, and the sun came out. The sky was a gorgeous, dark slate blue, and the late afternoon light reflected off of the water in the flooded Piazza in such a peculiar way that pretty soon everyone was venturing out from under our shared covering, pulling out their cameras, splashing through puddles, taking pictures of the Basilica di San Marco and the Palazzo Ducale as the emerging light cut across them. "This light is gorgeous!" an American woman yelled at me as she ran past with her camera. And it was. Following, my pictures of the Piazza San Marco, taken that afternoon after the rain storm.

(Not captured in the pictures: As I was taking pictures, the pigeons came back out of hiding, and they were feisty. Not one, but TWO of them came out of nowhere and landed on my back, big heavy things beating their wings right by my ears like they were going to carry me off. I screamed...pretty loudly, then got embarrased, looked to see if everyone was staring at me--they were--and beat a hasty retreat. Tippy Hedron, I feel your pain.)

(Okay, screw it. They've been loading for forever and my brother needs the computer--I'll get the pictures up tomorrow or the day after.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Palta and mani

Sometimes there are teachers at the summer school who comes up from Mexico on some kind of educational exchange to observe how things are done here, the techniques used to teach English, how the Mexican and Mexican-American kids are faring in our school system. Often these teachers also rotate classrooms over the four weeks, teaching lessons about Mexican culture or dance. The exchange teacher this year is a woman from the state of Hidalgo. Yesterday she brought over a video of an open-air market in Hidalgo and showed the kids these laminated posters about the different kinds of fruits that grow in Mexico.

There were strawberries, and bananas, and oranges, and peanuts, and avocados, and membrillo, which doesn't even translate because no one eats it in the US. And as she talked, I got a little sad, because the open-air Mexican market made me think of the Mercado Central de Valparaíso, which I passed every day walking from the Casa Central of the University to Gimpert, the building where most of my classes were, or walking from class to the bus stop where I would catch "La Catorce," Number 14, the Little Orange Bus That Could, back to the apartment in Viña. The Mercado in Valpo was a huge orange building, intimidating and dark on the inside, crammed with vendors selling every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable, as well as baskets, cheeses, eggs, chickens, you name it. Stray dogs and cats roamed the sidewalks in front of it. I never ventured into the market itself to buy fruit--I was a little intimidated, frankly--but I passed by the outside sidewalk vendors every day and often bought oranges, avocados, or strawberries. The whistles and catcalls of the men hanging around outside frustrated and intimidated me at first, but eventually I came to ignore them (until mid-December, when, fed up with a lot of things about the university system, I flipped a guy off).

Each fruit that the Mexican teacher mentioned had a Chilean memory associated with it, and as I listened to her name and describe them in Mexican Spanish, it was impossible for me not to translate them to Chilean Spanish in my head.

Fresa, strawberry, became frutilla, which literally means just "little fruit." As far as I know, Chileans are the only ones to call strawberries by this name. Once I bought some somewhere in southern Chile, and the vendor looked at me and said, "I think you guys call them fresas where you're from." I never did find out where she thought I was from, but I think maybe Argentina.

In Chile, a peanut is un maní, not un cacahuate, and an avocado is una palta, not un acuacate. Cacachuate and acuacate, I was told, were only to be used in Mexico, since they come from the Aztec language. Palta was one of the best foods in Chile and was eaten almost every day, scooped out and mashed up with salt and olive oil then spread on delicious pan batido, a kind of Chilean bread that tastes like baguette, or with mayonnaise, tomatos, and beef in a churrasco, a kind of hamburger, Chilean-style.

It's hard to believe it, but one year ago today, I left for Chile. How I miss it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Off to Cousin Camp

Just an FYI that I'll be at the coast with my extended family for the next few days. Blogging will resume as normal when I return!