Archive for the ‘My Version’ category

Snow Days

February 7, 2007

もう一度布団にもぐる窓の雪

Once more

I crawl beneath the comforter.

Snow at the window

TH 1956

U

nfortunately for me, there is not enough snow on the window sill to justify more time in bed, as Dad imagined back in 1956. If there were a few more inches on the ground, a few more clouds threatening to disrupt traffic, then there would be a chance for school to call for a snow day. But that seems unlikely at the moment. The ground outside is white, but I can still distinguish the lines separating the sidewalk from the lawn, a telltale sign that there is barely an inch of snow on the ground.

Born and raised in sunny California, I often wondered what it was like to look forward to snow days as a kid. Would I meet my friends for a snowball fight? Could I make a snowman in my front lawn? During the winter months, the only precipitation we saw was rain. And you cannot do anything with rain.

But it did hail once; I think I was in the 7th grade. Now, the upper stratosphere over LA could reach freezing levels, surprising us occasionally with a smattering of hail that usually melted on contact with any earthly object. But this 7th grade hail was different–at least for a few moments. I was bored, as usual, trying my best to entertain myself by printing words in the margins of my notebook. I printed in a faux-gothic style the word “Fickle Finger of Fate”, a phrase I had picked up from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. I have never been accused of being artistic, but I have always liked texts, not just to read, but to look at. Script, fancy print, even signatures have always caught my attention, and I fancied myself a competent copier of them. At the moment, I was admiring my latest artistic rendering of the “Fickle Finger of Fate” when I heard screams and cackles from the outdoor second floor hallway.

Immediately drawn to a new distraction, I rushed outside and saw pointing to the ground. I pushed my way to the chest-high wall and looked over the ledge and was shocked to see a ground that was completely white.

“It’s snowing” was the refrain streaming out of everyone’s mouths. But one of the teachers, obviously more knowledgeable about things meteorological, set us straight. “It’s hail,” she said. “It’s probably cold enough for it not to melt right away.”

She was very matter of fact in her attempts to quell our excitement, but her words went unnoticed. The ground had turned white, the Earth seemed to have bumped off its axis.

“Its snow,” I thought, even though I knew it was hail. I wanted to run downstairs and grab a handful of my first fistful of snow. I wanted taste it. I wanted to make a snow angel. But our teacher herded us back into the classroom, assuring us the “hail” would still be there when school let out in another thirty minutes. But when the school bell rang at 3:20 PM, the hail had turned to rain and the school ground had returned to asphalt black.

* * * * *

It’s now 4:44 AM and I can still see the outline of the sidewalk outside. It has stopped snowing and the likelihood of a snow day seems as remote as ever. I wish it would have snowed a bit more so I could enact what my Dad composed some fifty years ago. But as I peak through the blinds of my second floor bedroom window, I remember the feeling that my first “snow” aroused. I find it pleasant and perhaps a bit reassuring that now, having grown up to be a teacher, I can still find the prospects of snow exciting.

Advertisements

Poetry is My Gig

October 25, 2006

T

oday I spoke on Japanese poetry and it made me realize how much I love talking about poetry and how it reflects who we are as humans. I truly believe that we interpret everything in our lives–consciously or not–by associating them with our past experiences. Some may be relevant, some may not, but experience influences how we interpret any given situation we confront. And since we all have different experiences, no two people interpret the same situation in exactly the same way–although they may be similar.

There are those who would argue vehemently against me, and I welcome their input. It would be stupid of me to think I know everything, although there are some I have met–both liberals and conservative–who think they have all the answers. Well, bully for them. I always admire a person who is confident to the max. I just make sure I stay out of their way, and hope they never get elected to office. *ahem*

In any event, poetry requires the reader to respond to the sparse words on a page. The more experience you have–whether you are well-read or simply worldly–allows you to read more into a poem, to get more out of it, to enjoy its many nuances. And this is a direct reflection of the human condition. Every time we are confronted with a situation–a red light, a large credit card balance, or a hot date–we are required to respond and the more experience we have, the better we will respond to the situation–stopping, using either a heavy duty shredder or antiperspirant. Not that I’m trying to justify my profession or the field of literature.

But this is what I do–profess the beauty and relevance of poetry. And I love doing it.

Getting To Know Someone From A to Z

C – Career: Education; specifically, I am a college professor teaching Japanese language and literature. My field of expertise is premodern court poetry, focusing on the intertextual nature of poems of the late-Heian early Kamakura period.

P.S.

The song I have playing is 48 kbps–I don’t want anyone to get hung up loading my page. My own copy is 128 kbps, so if you like it enough to want it, please leave me a message and I will be more than happy to share…

I Swear, I’m Normal… Sorta

April 23, 2006

R

eally. I am not abnormal. I am not some Cleanliness-Is-Next-to-Godliness Nazi trying to sterilize the world (see yesterday’s entry). If anyone one of you were to come to my office, you’d notice it is a mess. I have been know to go showerless over the weekend, if I don’t leave the house. I’ll wear the same clothes from Friday to Sunday, much to M’s chagrin… Wait, did I just say I was not abnormal? Okay, maybe I am a little, but not because I’m a clean freak…

All my life, I’ve lived under non-sterile conditions. I grew up in a time when playing outside in the mud or the local lake or the public sand box was the norm. I remember that we used to wash our pots and dishes with sand when we went camping–as if detergent would pollute the environment but cooking oils and other human food stuffs wouldn’t. I practiced the 5 second rule before it became popular. Brush it off if its dry or rinse it with water if its wet, then pop it in the mouth. Although I don’t do this anymore, I am not so queasy about most conditions–whether physiologically or mentally.

Sharing food with other is no big deal either. I’m sure many of my Asian brothers and sisters–okay, nephews and nieces–were taught to use the back side of the chopsticks when picking food from a communal plate. Well, not in my family, and even with a lot of my friends in Japan. No need to flip them over–we’re all family, y’know? I’ve shared many a pop bottle and later beer cans with friends without even thinking of wiping it clean. Although I draw the line with those who string out saliva as they pull the drink away from their mouths. I must admit that looks pretty gross, don’t you think? But still, when I’m among friends, we are family without a doubt.

But even among family members, there are limits. When I used to change my daughters diapers, I always washed my hands afterwards. If a family member forgot to flush the toilet, they would get dressed down at the dinner table. When preparing food, we must all wash our hands first, and when we prepare chicken or fish, the plastic cutting board always gets a thorough cleaning before any vegetables come in contact with it. It’s the unknown foreign bacteria that I am afraid of these days. Salmonella, E coli. Yes, these and whatever other bacteria may be lurking around public restrooms.

So I hope I have convinced some of you that I am not overly anal (no pun intended) about cleanliness, but certain situations must be addressed with cleanliness in mind…

Truth AND Dare

Caz, one of the sites I read, used to play Truth or Dare pretty regularly with her readers. I have participated once or twice, but I was wondering if maybe some of you would like to try some Truth AND Dare. For those of you who sometimes forget–or forgo–flushing the public urinal (I have to believe that you all wash your hands, right?) and think its no big deal, I dare you to admit this to your girlfriend or mother or sister, and report their reactions here or on your own site. Any takers?

I Won’t Be Shaking His Hands

April 22, 2006

P

reviously, I have written about the bad urinal habit of some men at school. I hate the idea of toilet plumes filling the air with little droplets of urine. I hate to piss even more into someone else’s piss–because he lacked the courtesy to flush his own–splattering our mixed piss onto my clothes–If you think splatter doesn’t get onto you to some degree, you’re fooling yourself. So I will flush before I piss, but the thought of the pluming droplets being someone else’s urine is enough to make me want to hold it until I get home.

Anyway, not flushing after yourself is a pretty disgusting habit. But I sometimes gave these guys the benefit of the doubt: Public toilets are pretty filthy and no one really wants to touch anything not attached to their own body. So the other day, I walk into the head to take a leak and there’s a guy who is just finishing. Of course, he doesn’t flush. But I figure he’s one of those clean freaks, unwilling to touch anything in the restroom. Still, I would think that you would have to at least touch the water faucet to wash your hands, right? Well, out of the corner of my eye, I watch this dude stop in front of the mirror, fix his hair a bit, pick his nose, and leave… WITHOUT WASHING HIS HANDS!

Oh my freakin’ God!

I’m kinda stunned as I try to figure out what I just witnessed. The toilet handle is too dirty to flush his own piss, but his dick–and of course the very fingers he was just holding them with–were clean enough to touch up his hair and pick his nose. Where do these guys come from? I think our school should make a hygiene class a part of the General Curriculum Requirement. No one should graduate a university without realizing how discourteous it is to not flush after one’s self, and how FILTHY it is to not wash hands.

But at that moment, all I could think of was: Omigod! Where is he going? To class? Is he going hand in a paper to his professor with fingers filmy with his urine and snot? Will he sit at a desk, leaving his germs for the next student to wipe up? Will he put his arms around his girl friend’s bare shoulder? Will he shake your hand? Will you then shake mine? Oh crap, this is disgusting! Do any of my students practice these very same habits? Handing in papers to me? Coming into my office? Sitting in my chairs? Touching my books? OooOoOoooOoh!

The thoughts were swirling around my brain so fast, that I got dizzy and almost missed the urinal myself. O-toh-toh-toh. Nice save. After I finished and flushed, I washed my hands extra vigorously, seemingly to wash enough for him and me. But in reality I was probably trying to wash the images out of my mind vicariously through my hands.

Anyway, not to put too fine a point on it–When you’re in a public toilet, please flush after yourself, and definitely wash your hands after you use the toilet.

This has been an unpaid public service announcement.

Don’t You Think?

April 6, 2006

B

eing old(er) suggests more experience. And at 50, I have had my share of experiences. Some of it good, lots of it bad, all of it learning. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ve learned my lesson well. I have bumbled my way through a number of bad experiences, some I have repeated a few times. As you might imagine, all these experiences fall within the very narrow scope of an Asian American male, so I should be the last guy to give anyone advice, don’t you think?

Still, some people come to me for advice. I have to tell them that I don’t know the answer, as most of the issues fall within the very narrow scope of their individual lives. The best thing I do is ask questions. As an academic, this is one of the few things I do well. So when a student comes to me with a question–What should I do when I graduate? How do I tell this girl I like her? How do I get this boy off my back?–I usually start by asking questions about their concerns: How do you really feel about it? How badly do you want to do whatever it is you want to do? Fortunately for me, the person will usually come up with his own answer, and I will look like a genius… which I’m not. Well, maybe just a little, not because I give advice, but because I don’t. People really have to take care of their own shit, don’t you think?

Advice seekers are not limited to my students. I get a few inquiries here as well, such as the following

Hey Onigiriman, could you please advise me on the old-fashioned (proper) form/method of dating. I recently went on a blind date with a girl and am interested in getting to know her better. I was brought up in a conservative household but with the dynamic area of dating I forget what is and should be proper? Thanks!

Posted 7/26/2005 at 11:36 PM by Cboy918

First, sorry to be so late, like eight months after your blind date. I meant to write this earlier, but i never got around to it. And besides, what the heck do you mean by old-fashioned? Are you suggesting I’m an old fart? Hrumph! Well, perhaps I am–ok, ok, I know that I am. Anyway, what was the question? Oh yeah… The proper form of dating…

I didn’t know if there is a proper” form. I presume you mean how to act, right? Some gys will take flowers, go to the best restaurants, whatever. These are nice, but behavior, I think, is more crucial. But we are all different. What one guy can do, another guy can’t. What one girl will accept as funny, another would consider an insult. The variables are too great. For example… hmm… let’s see… um… I was actually quite a flirt. I might be considered a flirt even now by some, but it has nothing to do with the words or the lines. It’s the attitude… and practice. I’ve been doing it for a long time, and so what I can get away with may not be so easy for others. But this is a topic for another post, I think.

There is one principle, however, that I try to abide by–I emphasize that this is something I TRY to do, because I am such a dork sometimes that I forget my own principle. Be that as it may, the one thing I always try to do is show respect. I respect her opinion, her ideas, her words, her values, and of course her body. I like to talk–God knows I like to talk–but I also listen. If she offers an opinion, I don’t toss it off, even if–particularly if–I don’t agree with it. I mean, it’s okay to disagree, but I don’t treat it as if it were useless discourse. I will ask her about it, probe her more, ask her to explain her position–politely, of course. I don’t force my opinion or values onto her, and I don’t talk about it so much either, unless she actually asks me. I sometimes catch myself talking too much when it’s too late–she’s either rolling her eyes already or looking right through me at the wall behind me.

Finally, I don’t touch her unless I am absolutely positive it’s okay to do so. I won’t hold her hands, unless she extends it for me to grab, like when we’re getting out of a cab. If she doesn’t mind my touch, she’ll squeeze my hand or arm a bit when she wants to emphasize a point; she’ll lean into me when she laughs, she’ll make an effort to sit next to me when we are in a group. She’ll signal something. The exception, of course, is “the handshake.” To me, this has always been the kiss of death. Been great talking to ya’. Please understand that this is the most intimate you’ll ever get with me. Brrrrrrrr.

One other thing. I always try to be a gentleman. Yes, this is the age of equality. Men and women are equal. But since you asked me, and I AM old-fashioned, I will tell you that while men and women are equals, we are not the same, we are not identical. I hold open doors for the woman I am with. For M, I will open and shut the car door for her. She often opens the door herself once I park the car, but I will make every effort to shoot to the other side and open it for her. At restaurants, movie theaters, when we enter the house, it is always ladies first. Once, we were in DC on New Year’s Eve, and it was frosty. M wore a coat, but it wasn’t warm enough for her, so I pealed off mine to cover her. She looked nice and toasty. Unfortunately, certain parts of my anatomy still do not function properly to this day… just kidding. The bottom line is that you must be willing to do ANYTHING for her. And it starts with the dating and continues for as long as you are with her. I REFUSE to have someone talk behind my back about what a lout I was. I mean, holding a door open. How hard is that? I think I would look pretty pathetic if I complained that it was too much trouble. I’m sure to get a lot of crap from “Today’s women”, but I’m sorry, I’m old fashioned. So sue me.

In any event, these are the principles I try to follow even today. But these are my values, and I would never suggest that you should do the same. But there are worse things you could do than being respectful and gentlemanly toward your date, don’t you think?