Category Archives: Family

$50

I constantly ask myself: “Is this at least $10 worth of fun?”

That seems to be the limit. Any more than that and it just doesn’t seem quite worth it.

 

1. Let’s Go To The Motherfu*kin’ Movies

My best friend got $50 from her parents for her birthday, which was a lot of money, especially for a fifth grader. It was the most money I’d ever seen a kid our age have. It was more money than I’d ever had.

“Shouldn’t’ you save some?” I kept asking.

“Why? We’re already here,” she kept saying back. Here was a movie theatre attached to the mall where we’d already spent a good portion of that $50 on junk food and other things I can’t even remember what.

We saw an animated film that was a bit young for us, but which was the only thing playing at the time. It had odd musical numbers that ultimately proved memorable only because they were slightly less worse than the film itself.

Movie tickets back then were under $10.

The next week and we were broke again, and would remain that way for weeks to come. For weeks on end.

It was almost worth it.

Anyway, it was the best we could do. It was everything that we, between us, could have done.

 

2. Wholesale $50

My dad found $50 on the ground next to the wholesaler’s where we went to every two weeks to pick up vegetables for our small grocery.

“Don’t tell mom.” That was the first thing he said. “Let’s go for pho!” was the second.

We ordered pho dac biet, the special. It came with everything. Usually, we’d get fast food or something else, something cheaper, but a wholesale $50 is a wholesale $50.

“Here, you can have what’s left,” said my dad. He gave me the change from the bill. But the difference between what he gave me and the cost of the meal did not add up and I told him so, thinking perhaps we’d been shortchanged by the server.

“I took $5 for lottery tickets,” he said.

Was it a confession? To this day, I’m still not sure.

 

3. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls

Stephen and I once found a crisp $50 bill at the foot of a frozen waterfall during a hike in the snow. It shone red against the white of the forest floor; a beacon on a cold winter’s day. A sign, if there ever was one.

$50? Think of the possibilities. An easy $50, free and clear!

But. We were living a new life in a new city and were still in the process of settling in. Extra money therefore meant extra responsibility, or at least the sinking feeling that we should act extra responsibly with it.

We used the $50 to buy groceries. Also, toilet paper. The good kind.

No lie. It was everything.

Double ply, double happiness.

Fun notwithstanding.

 

 

 

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Filed under Childhood, Family, Food, People, THE PAST, Thrift

Jiggety-Jig

Home again after cutting our holiday time with family short. By more than half, actually. A good ratio, a nice, sane, solid number. A more than reasonable amount of time, so measured.

There was a part of me that feels guilt – tinges of it – for leaving so soon, so abruptly. But then there’s your family and there are your relatives, your sense of self and the imposition of others.

You get to choose. You do.

It’s all relative, really.

What’s that line anyway? The one between fiction and reality?

I can’t imagine it being so thick, or very strong, if pressed.

 

 

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Filed under Change, Family, Holiday, Relationships

SCM*

*Sweetened condensed milk. It’s one of those substances that I come across without looking for it or expecting it but then it’s there, in my life again.

So. Here. We. Go.

 

1. Open-Faced Sugar Margarine SCM Sandwich

A concoction of my uncle’s making:

1 Slice Any Bread (but best if white bread, the best and worst of the breads)

1 Tub Margarine

Granulated White Sugar, to taste

1 Entire Can SCM

Toast the bread so that the margarine will melt when slathered generously (basically obscenely) over bread. Burn bread, a little, for texture, if desired.

Sprinkle (OK, dump) sugar onto toast.

More slathering, this time of the ENTIRE CAN of SCM onto toast/margarine/sugar.

There. You’re done.

Enjoy?

Diabetic shock.

Enjoy!

 

2. Snack Time

I have a friend who loves SCM so much, there’s basically no stopping him from consuming every last ounce of it every time he gets his hands on it. His indulgent parents (I love them too) sometimes serve him some, especially when he’s feeling down.

They feed him from a saucer. Like a cat. There is often a spoon.

The below is mostly true.

He’ll eat it from the can, he’ll eat it from the saucer, he’ll eat it from a tube (SCM occasionally comes in tube form – easier access maybe? Faster consumption?). He’ll eat it at the table, reclined on a chair, sitting cross-legged on the rug.

(The above was mostly true.)

It never lasts long, the SCM. It’s always gone so fast.

To my friend’s credit, he offers me some every time. But I can’t partake, not of someone else’s pure, unadulterated bliss like that.

There are limits to what we do share and what we should.

 

3. Longevity Forever

There is only one “true” brand of SCM for me, and that’s Longevity Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (Lait Concentré Sucré/Sūa Ôg Tho).

Google it.

The logo features Shou, the Chinese deity for Longevity:

“According to legend, he was carried in his mother’s womb for ten years before being born, and was already an old man when delivered. He is recognized by his high, domed forehead and the peach which he carries as a symbol of immortality. The longevity god is usually shown smiling and friendly, and he may sometimes be carrying a gourd filled with the elixir of life.”

Or so says Wikipedia. Emphasis added, for affect.

Immortality. Elixir of life. SCM.

Go ahead. Treat yourself.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Family, Food, Friends

La Chasse Aux Canards

Growing up, my parents, my mother especially, periodically had fits of home improvement that often manifested in schemes to re-decorate the house.

One time, it was all new lamps (i.e. all the lamps in the house, replaced, with new ones).

One time, they let my aunt’s idiotic boyfriend spray-paint the kitchen cabinets so that they looked like stone – the dark grey textured type you’d find inside derelict amusement park rides (jungle themed or the like), or a poorly drawn cartoon.

One time, they decided paint was passé and wallpapered all the bedrooms, including mine.

My parents. They were (and remain) the “Children are meant to be seen and not heard” type. Which meant they picked out the wallpaper and did not consult us or take any protest on our part either seriously or at all. Which was fine with my siblings and I because we’d long resigned ourselves to living in a cramped house with loud tastes where everything, invariably, clashed. An amusement park ride, of sorts, of its very own.

You had to laugh. You just had to.

They wallpaper my parents picked out for me had dogs on it, at least.

“You like dogs. I got you dogs,” my mom said. “There,” she said, a word with as much finality in our house as, “So, there” or “The End.”

I did like dogs (I do). And was actually surprised that my mom had made such a concession in her decorating on my behalf.

Except. Interspersed with the dogs (a trio of spotted hounds) across the beige and brown background of the wallpaper were long cattail reeds, ducks in various stages of flight and men with guns. Muskets, actually.

A duck hunt frozen mid-frame repeated ad nauseam and plastered across the four walls of my bedroom. I would not have known what to do with such a scene – such a substance as that wallpaper – had I known beforehand that it even existed. But then, just like that, it was in my life and would remain so until we moved from the house, many years later.

I often think about my childhood bedroom as a sanctuary (I had a lock on the door and was generally left alone when in there). But then I remember the wallpaper and remind myself that freedom can be as much a luxury as it is a joke. Concessions can be their own intrusions, dogs or no.

There were men on my wall shooting at ducks.

Sometimes I imagined the ducks got away; other times the dogs or men got them. Eventually, I learned not to see men or ducks or dogs and just let the wallpaper be wallpaper.

Come to think of it: I never thanked my parents for the wallpaper. A part of me thinks that that’s only fair, but then we were never talking about fair, not here or anywhere even remotely close to it.

Were we?

 

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Birds, Change, Family, THE PAST

Express Purpose

I dreamed a family reunion which took place on a magnificent train from a bygone era. All my relatives were there – dead, alive, some I recognized and some who recognized me. Didn’t seem to matter.

The train was a model built to human scale; its dimensions (if not proportions) toy-like but functional, made to serve. No other way to explain it.

It was night. There were orbs of light inside and out and the terrain was a rolling countryside as seen from the track, set firmly on the rim of a long dormant volcano.

Round and round and round we went, making excellent time getting absolutely nowhere.

I noticed. Everyone on the train looked like me, related to me or no.

“What train is this? What train is this?” I asked.

The conductor approached slowly from askance to finally stand before me in all his accustomed glory. A white man with a mustache, impeccable. Red suit, gold buttons that glimmered and shone.

“This is the Oriental Express,” he said, which enraged me.

“Then I want off this train!” Family be damned.

“The only way off this train,” he replied dryly, “is to jump.”

The only way off the racist train was to jump – to throw yourself off – its interminable tracks.

Dreams may be symbolic, but there’s nothing that says they need be subtle.

I woke up angry, somewhat relieved.

But only somewhat.

 

 

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Filed under Dreams, Family, Race, Travel

90 Minutes

Or an hour-and-a-half.

Just about the right amount of time for anything. Anything at all in this vast, cruel world.

***

Runtime

Epics (any movie over 2 hours long) are a stretch for me. Theatres are cramped enough, the pacing of some films making it hard to predict the best time to get up, disturbing everyone, to go to the bathroom; the quality of others clearly showing that the film has been padded so that runtime can act as a sort of compensation.

But cut the thing down by 30 minutes? By 45? By an hour? That’s 90 minutes I’ll sign up for, for the good or the bad.

***

The Beautiful Game

A football match (or “soccer game” or variants thereof depending on your geographical positioning and/or semantic proclivities) lasts about 90 minutes. Plenty of time left after that to get on with the rest of your day.

***

Three of the Same, Please

It’s hard to commit to a feature-length film sometimes. But watching 3 half-hour installments of a mediocre show (or something I’ve seen over and over again)? No problem.

***

Commute

A 90 minute drive can sometimes to done in just over an hour, if conditions are right. An hour drive is a trip, while a 20 minute drive is an errand. A drive over 90 minutes? Well, it’s not like we have to see each other, is it? Might as well drive across the country and make a road trip of it.

***

Good Company

Movies around at or around 90 minutes long (chosen from a gamut of genres and eras):

Beetlejuice (1988) – 1 hr 33 mins.

Dog Soldiers (2002) – 1 hr 45 mins.

Fargo (1996) – 1 hr 38 mins.

Finding Nemo (2003) – 1 hr 41 mins.

Get Out (2017) – 1 hr 44 mins.

Gremlins (1984) – 1 hr 47 mins.

Mulan (1998) – 1 hr 28 mins.

The Babadook (2014) – 1 hr 35 mins.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – 1 hr 16 mins.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – 1 hr 44 mins.

It Follows (2014) – 1 hr 47 mins

Wayne’s World (1992) – 1 hr 35 mins.

***

Dinner With (My) Family

Peak time = 90 minutes. We’ve caught up, desert is finished and oh, look at the time! With traffic (an hour drive, at least) and work tomorrow and the equinox and everything it looks like we’ll have to stop here and do this again another time byeeeee!

***

Themyscira

I once got into a huge argument with a woman in the lobby of a megaplex following a screening of Wonder Woman (2 hrs 29 minutes). Her kids spent most of the film talking, loudly, about what they thought was going to happen during the film as they watched it. I asked them to quiet down numerous times, which they did, for about a minute or so each time. She did nothing to stop them and actually countered, there in the lobby, with: “It’s a movie. They can talk a little!”

There was no winning for anyone that day.

Look. Everybody’s trying to get their money’s worth these days, and going to the movies is not as affordable as it used to be (actually, it can be quite expensive, especially at the megaplexes with the most movies at the best times). This, however, also makes opinions especially cheap, particularly among people already not entirely or even remotely sympathetic to your cause, situation or being.

2 hrs 29 minutes. That’s a long time to build up resentment and regrets. Perhaps 90 minutes of aggravation would have been easier to walk away from. But only in the comparative sense and in this case, I don’t think so.

Also: the woman carried a large piece of driftwood that she had tucked against her shoulders, and which ran down the length of her upper body and into the back of her pants.

So I guess this is also a cautionary tale about picking your battles and what in all honestly you can expect by engaging in them, even in the moment – which, when you think about it, isn’t any time at all and exactly as much as is ever needed.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Family, Movies, People, Sports

3 Ghost Stories

1. Bannister

The first house my parents ever owned was haunted. They lived there for a year then moved before I was born. Whenever we drove past the house (a two story derelict Victorian), my mom would point it out and say, “That’s our old house. It’s haunted.”

She knows this because every night she lived there she dreamed of an old woman who beckoned her from the bottom of the stairs.

Follow me, the woman commanded. Follow me.

It took her entire strength of will for my mom to resist, clinging with all her might to the bannister even as she felt herself irrevocably pulled towards the woman. It happened every night. Every night, the struggle, the temptation.

Sometimes my mom is convinced that it wasn’t a dream, though she never doubts that the ghost was there, real as anything.

Lesson: Better safe than ever sorry.

Sorry, not sorry.

 

2. Bathroom

My aunt often told us the story about how when she was a little girl, she was terrified of having to go the bathroom at night. There were toilet ghosts, you see, that grabbed at her or which appeared in the mirror or in the corners of the room. They stared and laughed at her and ran the length of the ceiling, disappearing behind the toilet and into the walls.

Most nights, this would happen.

Eventually, she learned to hold it until morning. She advised us to do the same, because who knows?

Lesson: Anyone can learn, given the right incentives.

Also: anything can happen if you decide to go wandering at night, even the ridiculous impossible. Even in your own home. Especially in your own house. Ghosts can do more than just beckon.

 

3. Bedroom

My siblings and I shared a bedroom for the years we lived at my grandparents’ house. A multigenerational household it was too (our family of five, my grandparents, a few aunts and an uncle), though for me that just meant dealing with a lot of overbearing bodies: too many talking, jabbering heads, befouling the air around you; too many pairs of hands and feet, taking up space. There was a lot of tension, living in that house, and no escape from it.

I found out much later that my parents, grandparents, my aunts and uncle believed that 1) our bedroom was, indeed, very haunted (specifically by a being that liked to sit on you and draw your “essence” away from your body, as they each in their own turn had experienced), but that they also thought 2) it was OK for us to sleep in the very haunted bedroom because “the ghost won’t bother the children.”

The fact that we knew not to listen to ghosts, the fact that we stayed in that bedroom all night without compliant was proof of that, wasn’t it?

Lesson: The cost of a reprieve can be invaluable if you don’t have to pay for it yourself.

“The ghost won’t bother the children.” They seemed so sure of this. More, it seems that despite their own beliefs, the adults had no trouble transferring the responsibility of their fear to us, of saddling us with the burden of keeping things in check.

I had believed hauntings to be many things. I had not known until then that they could be also be convenient. Expedient to a point, and to a fault.

 

 

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Filed under Family, Ghosts, Interruptions, THE PAST

Won’t Amount to a Hill of These

My habit isn’t to eavesdrop on people, but I do at times catch snatches of conversations that are hard to keep to myself.

 

Yesterday, it was one about beans:

“I can’t eat so many things right now.”

“You want chicken wings? My mom can make chicken – ”

“No.”

“How about tacos?”

“With the kids? Too messy.”

“Oh.”

“You know. I can have chilli. She makes good chilli.”

“Okay! Chilli it is.”

“Problem is, I hate beans in my chilli. Can’t handle them. Especially now.”

“So we’ll ask her not to put them in.”

“Oh, please.”

“What?”

“Remember the time you mentioned you didn’t want beans and she served you a bowl of bean-less chilli and then she gave me mine and it was just full of beans? And I told her, again, that I can’t stomach beans in my chilli and she was like ‘Oh, you don’t like them?’”

“That was just a misunderstanding.”

“No it wasn’t. She hates me. She did it on purpose. Because she hates me.”

“She doesn’t – ”

“She’s crazy and she hates me.”

“Because…she puts beans in your chilli?”

THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO ABOUT BEANS. You didn’t have any beans in your chilli.”

 

Shortly after, it was time for their appointment. I watched as they walked out of my life, presumably forever.

Memory and conviction are odd catalysts in conversation – where they will take you and where they don’t, and what that will do to the rest of your day.

It wasn’t about the beans.

It wasn’t ever about the beans.

 

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Filed under Communications, Family, Food, Relationships, THE FUTURE, THE PAST

The Swan

“Mr. Fister,[*] Cindy wants a swan!”

“Well,” said Fister, looking directly at my face and smiling the way animals do when issuing some imminent threat, “then she can ask for one.”

The exchange was a surprise; I was hovering in the doorway of the school’s Hospitality class waiting for Dolly so we could walk home.

I was not angling for a swan, one of dozens of confectionary creations made that afternoon by the class for parents’ night.

I did not want a swan. I did not want to ask for a swan. The swans looked chalky to me, dry and especially pathetic. They looked like uneven, bottom-heavy worms that tapered upwards into a vague S-shape with two dark sprinkles for eyes and a gob of icing for a beak.

They looked like hell.

Dolly looked at me expectedly. Mr. Fister tucked his small teeth under the greying hair of his handlebar mustache.

Hell is.

“Mr. Fister, can I have a swan?”

Mr. Fister watched as I reluctantly plucked a swan at random; one from among the demented flock before me. That was probably the worst part: that despite everything, I had also brought this on myself.

I took one bite: I was right. It was chalky, dry. It tasted like stale, hollowed-out bread. And something else, far more distasteful…

The incident remains largely forgotten in my daily life. But sometimes, when I encounter ugly birds or badly-executed desserts or unseemly, overbearing men, or when Dolly again does something that particularly annoys, I remember that foul-tasting little swan, the only innocent among the four of us that day.

 

________________________________________________

[*] Was “Fister” even his real name? If it ever mattered, it doesn’t now.

 

 

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Filed under Birds, Education, Family, People, School, THE PAST

Dog Sit

Recently, my sister asked if I wouldn’t mind dog sitting.

I love dogs. Love them! So why not?

I have a dog myself: Louis, my 14 year-old dachshund. More dogs? An additional dog? Sure! Why would I mind? What would there be to mind?

Turns out, I did mind. I mind, a lot.

So much minding over so much to be minded about:

 

1. Smell

Dogs smell. Not just the ability or the power (to smell) but the fact of the thing itself (the smell of dog). Dogs. Smell. Did you know that? This dog, the one I’m dog sitting, smells. Like dog. Like a big dog, so much bigger than a dachshund, let alone a 14 year-old dachshund and his dachshund smell I’ve been smelling for so many years I don’t smell it anymore. Big dog smell. In my house. Just wafting around, riding the currents of our A/C like some rude, musky little ghost.

2. Space

I live in a tiny place with tiny furniture and this dog – with his big dog paws and big dog butt and big dog poops and big scoops of dog food that go into making the big dog poops – cannot seem to maneuver without bumping into something or knocking something down or pushing something – a carefully placed something, mind you, that brings together the room just so – totally, utterly into the worst space imaginable (i.e. to be crushed underfoot or under such garish light or harsh angle(s) as to force me on more than one occasion to question my sense of taste; my ability to see the beauty in life itself).

3. Hair

 Everywhere. Every goddamn nook and cranny in a home full of nooks and crannies. This dog’s hair is not fur but hair, OK? Tiny little eyelash things that – while pixyish and cute upon first blush – have become a plague upon our household. They, too, ride the air currents, whirling here and there, landing where they will, be it in the corners of the room, on the stovetop or in unguarded eyes and noses and mouths. Actually, forget about simply acting as a garnish on our spaghetti or in our tea, these little hairs everywhere are now are part of the chemical makeup of every single thing to be found in our place.

4. Water

This particular dog spills about half the water he drinks out the sides of his mouth while drinking. Socks are a luxury we can no longer afford, lest they become soaked in pungent spillover dog-snot water. Thank god for the hardwood floors, though our place being as old as it is, the water tends to pool in odd places where the wood is uneven, thus forming a series of pools that somehow remind me of the surface of the moon.

 

So, you know, after all this I realized something rather crucial about myself: I may not love dogs. May never have loved them at all. Just my dog. My singular, very particular dog who himself has caused me no end of trouble. No other dogs need apply. I’m good. I’m set.

I’M DONE.

***

Recently, a friend asked to if I wouldn’t mind babysitting.

I’m still laughing.

I have not stopped laughing.

 

 

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Filed under Animals, Dogs, Family, Interruptions, People, Pets