Monday, March 31, 2008

My Town Monday Series - Washington, DC at night

For this week's installment of Travis' My Town Monday posts, I have done a night tour of the DC monuments.

Whenever I have a friend come into town who has never been to Washington, DC, my favorite thing to do is to take them on a driving tour of the monuments. First off, I am not a big people person so the crowds during the day drive me crazy. Luckily at night, there is hardly anyone around. Secondly, the monuments are absolutely beautiful at night. Below is a picture of Pennsylvania Avenue which takes you right up to the Capitol Building. Lining the avenue are federal government buildings, from the Old Post Office to the National Archives. This is federal government worker central.

Copyright by wyntuition available from

Heading down to Constitution Avenue, we drive parallel the National Mall. For those of you who do not know what the National Mall is, it is not a shopping center. The Mall is the term used to describe the open national park area that starts from the steps of the Capitol building and leads all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, a distance of approximately two miles. All along the National Mall, from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, there are the Smithsonian museums. This link will take you to a map of the National Mall and show you exactly where all the museums are as well as the lovely outdoor skating rink. The museums are simply spectacular. Starting at the Capitol, past the reflecting pool, you will find the brand new National Museum of the American Indian on your left and the East wing of the National Gallery of Art to your right. And straight down on either side are The National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, The American History Museum, the African Art Museum, the Holocaust Museum and the funny round Hirshorn Museum. You could spend days wandering the Mall and still not see everything there is to see. And these are just the museums on the National Mall. There are even more museums in DC.

Copyright by Scott Ableman available from

From the Capitol steps, if you look straight down the great expanse of the Mall, you will see the Washington monument. And beyond it is the Lincoln memorial. To me, seeing the Washington monument during the day does not excite me. It is a tall pointy white building that does not show itself to great advantage during the day. But at night, this funny thing becomes an architectural marvel and a thing of beauty.
Copyright by ashoe available on Flickr. com

Behind the Washington Monument, there are the war memorials. There are three very different memorials for three different wars. World War II, The Korean War and the Vietnam War. The World War II memorial is an amazing sight at night. It is really a plaza with a rainbow pool and 56 granite pillars surrounding it which represent the unification of a nation at war. There are two large pavilions that mark the north and south sides of the plaza. They symbolize the two important battle theaters of WWII, the Pacific and The Atlantic theaters. There is also a Freedom Wall with 4,000 gold stars to honor the more than 400,000 Americans who lost their lives during the conflict.

Vietnam Memorial Copyright by doclam01 available via Flickr. com

The Vietnam War is now world famous as the winning entry of at the time, a 21 year old architecture student. Two long black granite walls which grow in height into a large angle, the corner meeting at the two walls highest points. The memorial bears the names of 58,000 servicemen killed or missing during this conflict. I have been to this memorial many times since it was built in 1982. Whether I see it during the day or night, in crowds or alone, this memorial always moves me to great sadness, cocoons me in a silent peaceful mourning for those whose names grace this beautiful monument.

The war memorials seem to be situated in such a way that they point to the Lincoln memorial. Like some kind of ancient Greek temple, the large seated statue of Lincoln is surrounded by 36 columns. There is even a bookstore on the first floor.

This night time drive through the monuments would not be complete if I didn't take you by the Jefferson memorial and the tidal basin. A little domed building holds the bronzed statue of Thomas Jefferson but more importantly some of Jefferson's most famous phrases are etched into the walls. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights..."

If you are planning to come to the DC area, now is the time to come for at this particular moment in time, the cherry blossoms have begun to bloom. And all along the tidal basin where the Jefferson monument sits, the hundreds of cherry trees that line the banks of the tidal basin are beginning to wake up. Delicate snow white and pink petals are blossoming on branches that have been bare too long. Within a few days they will all burst forth to unveil a great canopy of fragrant cherry blossoms. Walking along the basin promenade, under the boughs of spectacular color, you will fall in love with our nation's capital.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Delicious new treat sensation

Today a friend of Oldest brought over a box of Japanese cookies. They looked innocuous enough with pictures of some round red fruit in front although it was all in Japanese. Somewhere on the side I can make out the words Kisyu Ume and inside the foil wrappers, the word Pretzel. After her friend left, Oldest brings over the cookie box and asks if she can have one.

Sure go ahead I say. Eagerly she opens the box and shoves a stick in her mouth. All of a sudden a curious and utterly horrible expression overcomes her face and she immediately spits out the cookie.

"It tastes disgusting," she says. She hands me half of the long, thin pink stick she had just bitten. Curious I take the inoffensive looking thing. It has the strangest perfume-like fragrance but with the added funk of rotten fruit notes. Just the smell alone is enough to put you off of it, but then I took a small bite. Oh Lord she was not lying! Please get this horrible taste out of my mouth!!!!! I cannot describe the salty, vinegary, sour, rotten and generally disgusting taste that assaulted me. I spat it out and tried desperately to rinse the taste out to no avail. Hours later I could still smell the faintest whiff of the perfume-like-rot clinging to my lips. I realize only after looking it up that Ume is salted, pickled plum and while it is a delicacy in Japan, it is also an acquired taste.

"What's going on?" Angus asks with a curious look. She has been busy playing in the other room and only comes over at our riotous ways. Oldest quietly hands her another stick from her very full pack.

Angus grabs it and pops it in her mouth. The immediate look of horror that overcomes her sends me and Oldest into laughing fits.

"Why did you let me eat that?" Angus asks with a look of utter betrayal on her face.

"Because it was too funny," I reply wiping my eyes.

Youngest has been watching the proceedings the whole time with absolute fascination. Angus tries to foist the rest on Youngest but Youngest runs away. She is no fool.

At that moment, Da Man returns home. Oldest and I look at each other and we begin to grin and giggle. Angus realizing our evil intent, begins to run towards her father, intent on warning him.

"NO Dad! Don't eat it..." I catch Angus and wrapping a hand around her mouth plead with her not to say anything and bribe her with more Pokemon cards. She agrees but decides she can't watch the carnage and runs away.

"Hi Dad! Welcome home!" Oldest says, all smiles.

"Hey honey, I'm glad you are home, S gave Oldest a box of cookies but we can't make out what they might be. Here try one and tell us what you think."

Da Man reaches eagerly for a cookie and take a large bite. The immediate reaction is all that we could have hoped for as aghast he runs to the kitchen to spit out the cookie. I thought I was going to have a coronary laughing as hard as I did. The look of horrified revulsion was beyond priceless. I only wish I could make him eat it over and over again for my general amusement.

Oldest and I are debating what to do with the rest of the nasty treat when I say, "Hey, Auntie is coming over for dinner tomorrow!"

Oldest and I grin evilly. I place the box carefully back into the pantry. I cannot wait to see my sister's face when she tries our new treat.

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Town Monday

Alright, since I am currently in New York City, having enjoyed Easter Sunday with my folks, I have decided to be perverse and write My Town Monday post for Travis not on Brooklyn, but on Washington, DC. In fact today I am going to take you through Georgetown. Why would I pour salt in my own wound after my Hoyas humiliating defeat at the hands of upstart Davidson? Because I am just that kind of masochist.

So when I speak of Georgetown, I am not speaking of the University, although it is located here. What I am referring to is a neighborhood of Washington, DC which sits along the Potomac River.

Copyright mutbka from

Long before the white man came to its borders, Georgetown was known as Tahoga and was a peaceful Indian village. There are no real documented facts to what happened to the Indians. But let’s put it this way, once there was a thriving Indian village, insert white people, and then there wasn’t.

After killing off, I mean, relocating all the native Indians, the white settlers founded Georgetown in 1751. This predates the establishment of Washington as a city. In fact, Georgetown was originally part of Maryland and was a busy Maryland tobacco port. When the District of Columbia was created in 1791, Maryland lost Georgetown to the newly developed capital.

Tourists love to come to Georgetown. It is known as a shopping and eating mecca for the fashionable elite of Washington, DC. But a little known fact about Georgetown is that this chic, elegant, neighborhood that is almost exclusively white and ridiculously expensive to live in, was once the center of a thriving slave trade and an all black community.

In a Washington Post article by Andrew Stephen, dated July 16, 2006, he speaks about Georgetown’s hidden history and how a “combination of legislative, social and economic pressures gradually forced nearly all the black people out, turning the neighborhood into the wealthy, effectively all-white enclave it is today.”

“Between 1865 and 1870, its black population increased from 1,935 to 3,271. Over the next two or three decades, a skilled black working class started to emerge alongside a handful of black professionals. But countless laws and regulations that continued well into the 20th century prevented true economic and social emancipation: Only white passengers were allowed to ride on Georgetown's new electric streetcars, for example, enabling them to commute to Washington for well-paying jobs that were effectively denied to blacks. Then came a series of economic blows that began to seal the fate of Georgetown's blacks. The Potomac silted up, virtually ending the industrial effectiveness of Georgetown's harbor. The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which flowed through Georgetown and was crucial to many businesses such as flour and paper mills, flooded disastrously in 1889. Blacks were the first to lose their jobs when countless firms went bust. By 1910, the black population of Georgetown had peaked, and when the Great Depression struck 19 years later, more and more blacks found themselves displaced by whites taking menial jobs.

C&O Canal copright by Bethany L. King from

"Perversely, FDR's New Deal then began to work against blacks in Georgetown. Thousands of well-paid white government workers poured into Washington, creating further demand for housing and pushing property prices ever higher in Georgetown. "The dispossession of the Negro resident [of Georgetown]," the Conference on Better Housing Among Negroes reported, "is jointly managed by the city's leading realtors and their allied banks and trust companies. Two pieces of legislation passed in the 20th century by none other than Congress itself, though, were the final straws for Georgetown's blacks. The ostensible purpose of the District of Columbia Alley Dwelling Act of 1934 was to get rid of slums; but I suspect that to a House with only one black member and a Senate with none at all, slums and blacks were synonymous."

"Then, in 1950, Congress passed the Old Georgetown Act "to preserve and protect places of historic interest," but it had the effect of making Georgetown's gentrification legally enforceable. It was pushed through despite fears from "Negro groups," The Washington Post reported at the time, that it "might drive them from the area." Less than a decade later, Georgetown's black population had dwindled to fewer than 3 percent, and in 1972 The Post noted that fewer than 250 remained, 'so few that some Georgetown residents are unaware they are there.'" (Stephens, Andrew. “Georgetown's Hidden History.” Washington Post. 16 July 2006.)

You don’t see any of this history in the wealthy Georgetown of today. The Georgetown business association claims that “Our village in the nation's capital is widely known for its historic charm and European feel.” The historic charm they refer to does not include the slave trade or the fact that at one point Georgetown had a reputation of being one of the worst slums of Washington. No mention of its sordid past is made. No discussion of the anomaly of several African-American churches, like the oldest Mount Zion United Methodist Church, filled with churchgoers who do not live in Georgetown.

Waterfront copyright by M.V. Jantzen from

The concept of putting the word “hidden” with “history” is always appalling to me. History must be an open book so that we can learn, understand and always remind ourselves of the good and bad of humanity. And so I share this post and this article with you today so that one day when you do come to Georgetown, you can look around you with a clear eye of what the fancy shops and restaurants of Georgetown really cover and how the richest real estate of Washington, DC was virtually stolen from the Native Indians and African American communities.

Next Monday, I will give you more of a walking tour of DC and less of a history lesson.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I am not here

I have lost my mind. I am not here. I am going blind. Too many papers to grade. Too much of it crap. I am not here. But enjoy this funny video instead.

Monday, March 17, 2008

My Town Monday Series Part 2

I forgot to participate in My Town Monday with Travis last week due to sheer and utter forgetfulness brought on by age and stupidity. So this week I wanted to make sure I prepared myself ahead of time. Here are some fun facts I dug out about Brooklyn:
  • Brooklyn was once a separate city. In 1898, it was united with the other four boroughs (Queens, Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island) to form what we now know as the City of Greater New York.
  • Brooklyn's population of nearly 2.5 million people, would make it the fourth largest city in the U.S. today, if it was its own city.
  • Brooklyn is located on the island of Long Island but is not considered part of Long Island.
  • The Brooklyn Children's Museum is the world's first museum for children.
Today I wanted to take you somewhere that I loved. The Brooklyn public library - the Grand Army Plaza library. If you ever saw the movie Matilda and remember the scene of Matilda walking to the library with her red wagon full of books, then you have a sense of what I was like. The closest library to me was a good fifteen blocks away. If I was lucky, my mother would walk me down once a month and let me stack up with as many books as I could that we would wheel away in her little portable shopping cart. Then we would hit the A&P for some groceries on the way home and maybe buy me a Coke. When she wasn't around, I would walk down myself. I was taking public transportation and walking everywhere since I was 8 years old. I was the quintessential latch key kid.

I wasn't allowed to watch alot of tv and my folks were always working so I spent alot of time reading. It was my gameboy, my playstation, my cable channels - it was all my entertainment. Children these days are so spoiled with all the electronic gadgets and toys out there that they have really lost the pleasure of a good book. Something I have rectified in my own house by being the Big Bad Mommy and banning all electronic devices on school nights. Since my kids just received a Wii as a present from their Aunt, this rule has been a huge sore point in the house. But I am evil, I laugh at their whining, I scoff at their pleas for fairness. It's not fair? I growl, you lazy little ingrates have no idea of what unfair really is. Stinky Mommy they call me.

Anyway, my local library was pretty small, but when I was thirteen, I discovered the central library. My father drove me there when I had to do a book report and all the books I needed were not at my local branch. I remember walking in and being awed at this big beautiful library. The huge, high ceilinged reading rooms and the impressive number of reference librarians. Soon after, I would take the bus and transfer twice to get to the library on my own.

The library is located on Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue and as you can see from the above picture, it is huge. It was built in 1941 and its architecture was created to resemble an open book, with the spine on Grand Army Plaza and the building’s two wings opening like pages onto Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue. Above the door, a lovely inscription that says "When men have wit to read and will to know - the door to learning is the open book."

This was the library that opened up my world to a world of books I never imagined. Science fiction, fantasy, historical novels, regency novels, etc. What my little library had in limited supply were now availabe in endless supply. It was heaven. I spent alot of time there shifting from the first floor reading room to the right of the front doors and the second floor reading rooms depending upon the location of various smelly vagrants that would inhabit comfortable areas of the library. Now don't get me wrong, if I were homeless, I would probably spend all my times at the library also, but I have this thing with my nose. I can't breathe if it stinks. So sitting anywhere near a homeless person would irritate the crap out of me. And there was this one very large homeless person that always sat in the first floor reading room right smack in the middle of the room. When he was there, there wasn't a spot far enough in the room to get away from the wretched smell. Plus, he had or pretended to have Tourrets Syndrome and was prone to shouting out random things like "Gonorrhea!" and "Suck my Dick!" Usually the latter would come out when any female walked by so I wondered how real the Tourrets was. And it didn't matter if the girl walking by was a perky young thing or an 85 year old saggy breasted granny, he wasn't very picky. However, no matter how many times he was escorted it out, he would always be back in a week or two. Quiet for the first hour or so before screaming STD terms and requests for a blowjob would finally send him on his way. Luckily the library was big enough that there was always another reading room far enough I could run away to.

When I started at NYU, I finally found a library that I would love more than Grand Army. NYU's Bobst library is an architectural marvel and the best place to hide and study. A place of windows and cubicles and millions and milions of books. Bobst became my new favorite library, but I never forgot learning how great a library was at Grand Army. Or how annoying a stinky horny homeless man could be.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Random Funny Things My Kids Say - Part 8

For awhile now Youngest has been calling random people she sees Humans. It is her way of differentiating people from animals. I didn't think anything of it until she began doing it loudly in public. Only then did I realize how funny and potentially offensive, it sounds. For example, the other day at my local supermarket, the high school students at a nearby high school came in a huge swarm. Youngest watched the mass exodus and announced in her loud child's voice, "Mommy the HUMANS are coming!!!"

No matter how many times I tell her to say people, person, man, woman, boy or girl, she prefers to use the term Human. She might tack on boy or girl to differentiate what kind of human, but that is as far as she goes. For example:

Mommy that human boy waved at me!
Look at that funny human.

The human has a dog!

Is she a bad Human or a good Human?

That Human picked his nose.

Is that a Human out there in front of our car?

Why did that Human cross the road?
What's the matter with that Human?

So I took Youngest to Target, my favorite store in the whole world, and we were being rung up by the cashier who was the most tatooed, pierced, dyed person I've seen since leaving NYU behind. Her head was half shaved/half dyed with bits of purple, magenta, aquamarine and black with about ten piercings in one eyebrow, both ears and a big stud in her nose. Her makeup was Marilyn Manson style goth black. Needless to say, Youngest was scared. She was sitting in the child seat of the shopping cart and she kept hiding her face in my coat while the cashier was ringing us up. At one point, Youngest peered out to look just as the cashier looked straight at her. This so surprised Youngest that instead of hiding her face in my coat she just screwed her eyes shut tight and asked me in a loud whisper, "Mommy, stop that Human from looking at me!"

"Shhhhh!" I said, embarrassed. "Don't be rude."

Youngest refused to open her eyes.

"Are we done yet?" she asked, eyes still tightly shut.

Cashier smiled sardonically at my apologetic smile.

"Whatever," Goth girl said, "I like when kids are scared of me. Then they leave me alone."

I mumbled an apology, took my receipt and started pushing the cart out. Youngest finally opened her eyes and peered carefully around me to take a final look at the Goth girl. When we were finally safely out of the store she announced, "Mommy, that was Noooo Human."

"You might be right," I said.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Therese Fowler's Souvenir

I've been following Therese Fowler's publishing story for over a year now because she is the type of author who is willing to let the rest of us know what this whole process has been like for her. Over at her blog Making it Up, she has shared nearly every step of the process and now we faithful blog buddies get to share her book with the rest of the world.

I was fortunate enough to receive an Advanced Reader Edition of Souvenir on my Barbados trip last November. I had a briefcase full of final papers to grade for the plane ride home. Only two papers in I decided I needed an entertainment break and picked up Souvenir for a short interlude. Let me put it this way. I never graded the rest of the papers on that flight. It took me two chapters to get hooked, but once I was hooked, I couldn't put it down. I teared, blew my nose, sniffed through the whole last part of the book. Afterwards, I was still too emotionally involved in to the characters to even think about grading silly final papers.

To be perfectly honest, I was surprised that I liked Souvenir as much as I did for it is not the type of book that I would normally pick up. I'm not a Nicholas Sparks fan, I don't read chick lit, and I am sort of the anti-romantic. Not that I don't like a good love story, I do, but it has to be really well done and not make me roll my eyes. Oh yes, I am a big eye roller. And I will have to admit, no offense Therese, that at the beginning of Souvenir, my eyes were rolling just a bit. Why, do you ask, when I clearly liked it so much? Let me explain. The concept of the book is that the MC, Meg Powell loves her high school sweetheart, Carson McKay, but in order to save her family's business (horse farm), she marries a rich guy. Conveniently, she sleeps with Carson on the day of her wedding, rejects him and refuses to tell him why she is rejecting him. So right off the back we know we have to deal with the big Misunderstanding. Yes, my eyes were rolling because I hate the big Misunderstanding. You just want to reach in through the pages of the book and smack her silly for being such a matyr. Listen, if it was me, I would have married for money, told Carson all about it (cause he's hot) and then insisted he wait for me for a couple of years. Then I would have divorced the rich fart and been with my true love. But then there would be no real story, right? Well that is why Therese wrote this book and not me. But I do admit that I felt like the ugly old crone in The Princess Bride. I wanted to yell at Meg "Boo, boo! You had true love and you threw it away like it was garbage. That's what we should call you now, the Queen of Garbage!" But here you can see just from my reaction that I had already begun to form an attachment with Meg from the way I was yelling at her, (all in my head, of course). And this is where Souvenir ultimately became such a winner for me.

This book is all about Meg, and to some extent her daughter, Savannah. Carson pops back in as a rich and famous rock star (oh yeah, my eyes went a little haywire there) and even the deadbeat rich husband has some importance in the story. But the book, for me is all about Meg and she is really a character that you grow to love, respect and really admire. Just as Carson is popping back into her life, Meg is diagnosed with a terrible disease. (By this point, the only thing my eyes were doing were leaking sympathetic tears.) The decisions she makes and how she carries herself through the rest of the book had me crying and smiling in admiration. I loved Meg. I respected her. I liked Carson only because he made Meg happy. Her story as sad as it is, is also uplifting and I grew to really care for her character. And I think that is high praise to give any author.

The BookReporter has an excellent interview with Therese that answers alot of the basic "How did you become a writer and how did you write this book?" type questions. But I wanted to ask Therese just a few more that she was gracious enough to answer for me. So here they are:

Me: Hi Therese! Congratulations on your remarkable debut and also for how well Souvenir is doing. Souvenir is a Random House hardcover bestseller and you must be incredibly thrilled. I know I am excited for you. So now that you are a published author, I have to ask, what would be the best piece of writing advice you could give to a non-published writer?

Therese: This is really more "business" than "writing" advice, but it's essential: Don't make the mistake of submitting work to agents too soon. Often we're so eager to go agent-shopping that we start sending out queries before the work has been vetted by someone who can be objective about it, before it has been revised and polished. With most agents, you get ONE shot to entice them to request your full manuscript, and ONE shot to wow them with it once they do. So even though simply finishing a novel feels like an accomplishment worthy of winning representation, resist the urge to query right away. You don't want to blow your chance to land your first-choice agent. When the work IS ready, be both selective and realistic in deciding who to query. A good match is crucial to having a good publishing experience.

Me: What part of the publishing process has been a pleasant surprise for you? What has been an unpleasant surprise?

Therese: Pleasant surprise: that someone like me, with no prior publishing credentials and no connections, could land a great agent and be so well published right out of the gate. When we're in the aspiring stage, we tend to focus on the sale of our manuscript to a single publisher, so I was amazed by the foreign, audio, large print, and book club rights sales that followed my primary sale in short order--well, preceded it, in the case of my German and Italian deals. I never expected my first book to be my publisher's lead title. I certainly didn't imagine that Barnes & Noble would choose Souvenir as a Book Club selection (coming up in May)! All of this makes for an auspicious start, as one reviewer noted--but I would not have believed it could happen to me. It just goes to show that the "secret" to getting published (at any level) is NOT "who you know," it's "what you write."

Unpleasant surprise: my PW review! Whoever reviewed Souvenir for that publication came up with an opinion that was SO contradictory to what I've heard and seen elsewhere that it still stymies me. Among other things, the review claims that, "unfortunately Fowler does little to create narrative tension," and yet I had been hearing--and continue to hear--from readers and other reviewers those wonderful words, "Impossible to put down." PW claims the characters aren't well-rendered, and yet I regularly hear from readers who care about them deeply. In the most marked of contrasts, Library Journal gave the book a starred review. There's no telling whether the reviewer who gets your book will be truly skilled at the job. The trade reviewers are freelancers and, in the case of PW and Kirkus, anonymous, which means you can't track them for quality or consistency. There are editors overseeing things, of course, but that's no comfort to the scores of authors whose books get not only panned (often erroneously) but sneered at too. Forget the author's feelings: no bookseller's or reader's interests are being served by such a review. John Grisham noted in a recent interview how wrong it seems that ordinary writers are reviewing other writers' books for major publications; as he pointed out, film critics aren't filmmakers; music critics aren't songwriters. Book critics ideally should not be writers who are earning $50 a review as a side job. Really good freelance reviewers do exist, but they are not the norm. I'm quite open to any fair and well-considered review, but now I know that's not always what I'm going to get.

Me: Well regardless of what that PW reviewer thought, Souvenir is doing really well and it has had such high expectations from the start. It sold in auction and in ten foreign territories right off the bat. It's a lead title for Random House. All of this makes me wonder if while writing Souvenir, did you ever get a sense that this might be it? That this might be the one to get published? Something that felt perhaps righter about Souvenir than your previous two books?

Therese: Not definitively, no. I was aware, though, that the writing came more easily than with my two previous attempts. And I did feel I'd honed in on my target market better. The question of whether or not my agent would agree, though, was a nail-biter. In fact, after I'd mailed off the manuscript I was sure that what I'd written was crap. It wasn't until after my agent started reading and gave me some preliminary feedback that I dared to imagine that Souvenir would make the cut.

Me: I know that for me, what I took away from Souvenir is the importance of having lived a meaningful life. What do you hope is the one thing that readers should take away from Souvenir?

Therese: THE one thing? That's tough...but perhaps the most central and useful take-away is that we should all strive to live consciously.

Thanks Therese. And now get back to work on book 2 as I am now anxiously waiting to read a second Therese Fowler book.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Asians with Unexpected Accents

When I first came down to Washington, DC, I met my first Texan Asian American at law school. Listening to his twangy Texan drawl, I laughed and said I’d never met an Asian with a southern accent before.

He replied, “Sheeeeeeet, I never met an Aaaaaaaaasyun weeeeth uh Nyooooo Yoooork acceeeennn beeeefore neeeether. Yoooooo tawk reeeeeal funny. Yooooo sound lak dat Nanny gal on teeeeee veeeee.”

Uh, Fran Dresher? I’m from Brooklyn, not Staten Island. Needless to say, I was a bit offended.

“And you sound like Gomer Pyle, Golly!” I mocked.

“Ahh, doooohn know whooooo you’re tawkin’ about,” he laughed good naturedly. “Yoooooo dun taaaaaawk toooooo fast."

“And, yoooooooo talk tooooooooo slow!” I replied. Needless to say we became good friends even as we mocked each other viciously. He reminded me of a Korean American comic I saw a long time ago on Comedy Central. Too bad I can’t remember his name cause that boy was funny. But he did this piece about his friend J.B. Daniels. Apparently the J.B. doesn’t stand for anything, so when J.B. went to get his driver’s license, he wrote in “J” --- only, “B” ---- only Daniels. When he got his license it read, Jonly Bonly Daniels. I think it was funnier in person. But for me, part of what made him so funny was the novelty of seeing an Asian American with a southern accent.

This was hit home for me the other day when I was at a restaurant and a sweet older Asian couple was sitting next to me. They looked to be in their late sixties and they were really cute together. When they ordered their meal, they spoke with thick southern accents which made me do a double take. I guess I am so used to older Asians speaking with immigrant accents, that I was surprised when they were not as I had stereotyped them. I loved it! I immediately got into a conversation with them and learned more than I probably ever needed to know. But they were the Lims from Atlanta, Georgia, and they were 4th and 5th generation Chinese Americans who were visiting their grandkids. I adored them and would have gladly adopted them myself.

They reminded me that Korean Americans are newer immigrants. 80% of mainland Korean Americans are first and second generation only. We are the ones with parents that gave us all American names which they promptly mispronounced. My best friend Sylvia’s name is forever pronounced Sylbeeahh. Virginia is Bahjinyah. Bill is Pill. Sam is Sahm. Barry is Bally. Sarah is Sallah. You get the picture. Don’t even think about throwing them off with a Spanish name. I remember my mom calling Ricky Ricardo, Licky Leeeeecahdo. Baballoooo! Licky loves you!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Random Funniness

Waste Managment

This is a terrible picture. The person who took this picture is a wicked person. The person who would laugh at a picture like this is a thoroughly reprehensible blackguard. If you are pure of heart, with a kind, gentle soul, you will not laugh at this picture. Your breast will heave with righteous indignation and sympathy for this poor exploited child. You will write impassioned emails to about their wickedness. You will begin an internet revolution to campaign against evil on the web. I've included a link here. Go quickly! Before they pervert the world even more with their foul ways.

Ok - for the rest of you, who LOL'd, LMAO'd, ROFTL'd? Come on, admit it. I LOL'd so hard I QRSTUVWXYZ'd.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My Town Monday Series

I have joined Travis Erwin for his My Town Monday series where you get to see a little part of various bloggers hometowns. Please pop on by to see Travis and the growing list of travel logs.

So I was going to do the DC area where I now live, but I realized I had already done one recently. Instead, I thought I would give you a little taste of where I grew up. Brooklyn, New York. Specifically, I’m going to talk about Coney Island. Most people have some idea about what Coney Island is, a beach, an amusement park, the roller coaster ride. But I had some fun researching a little bit more about a place that I took for granted growing up.

Copyright Dalton Rooney

When I was young, my parents would take me to Coney Island for the day. We’d drive or take the train down and walk the boardwalk and spend a day in the sun. Because of the way Coney Island beach is situated, it is in sunlight all day long. I loved going there as a kid because of the amusement park, the bumper cars, all the rides, the scary people in the haunted house. Seriously, there were some scary people there, and they didn't even work there, they just hung around drinking beers out of little brown baggies and heckling anyone who walked by. Part of the charm of Coney Island was the colorful inhabitants, half naked women, Hell's Angels motorcyclists with huge guts and huger tatoos, immigrants speaking no English, selling cheap wares. It was one loud, messy, obnoxious noisefest.

As I got older, I realized that the beach was dirty and the boardwalk cheesy and the amusement park shady. I stopped going there when I hit my teens, preferring to go to nearby Manhattan Beach which was smaller and cleaner, and had cuter boys. But I still rode the boardwalks. From where I lived near Ocean Parkway and Avenue P, I could ride my bike straight down to Brighton Beach, also known as Little Odessa. From there, I’d pick up the boardwalk and ride down to Coney Island and back, a round trip of approximately 10 miles for me. It was always a wonderful ride. So when I thought back to Brooklyn, I wanted to revisit a part of my childhood. Turns out PBS decided to do it for me, producing an American Experience program on the history of Coney Island. Below are excerpts from its transcripts.

“On September 1, 1609, one day before he discovered Manhattan, Henry Hudson discovered Coney Island, a five-mile long waste of sand dunes, scrub grass and "coneys," the wild rabbits that gave the place its name. Coney was still a wasteland two centuries later when, in 1847, a side-wheeler from Manhattan began tying up at a makeshift pier on the island's western end. Out on the beach, men served clams and beer under a crude pavilion, amidst raucous bouts of three-card monte and a dice game called "buck-a-luck." "It is a well known fact," one visitor complained, "that picnics are often arranged for the sole benefit of pickpockets, prostitutes and swindlers." Dead bodies were sometimes found rolling in the surf. At the eastern end of the island, as far as possible from the disorder of the west, three vast frame hotels went up.” (American Experience, Coney Island, PBS broadcast, 2000)
“In 1876, the centerpiece of the Philadelphia Exposition was moved to Coney -- an observation tower whose steam-powered elevators lifted people 300 feet above the sea. It was the tallest structure in the United States. After descending from the tower, daring bathers could go for nighttime swims, pulling themselves along ropes under the hissing blaze of primitive arc lamps. People called it "electric bathing."

In 1884, LaMarcus Thompson invented a gravity-powered ride he called a Switchback Railway. The roller coaster was born. Before long, there were refinements-- the Loop-the-Loop and the Flip-Flap railway. The Flip-Flap could take only four passengers at a time, frequently damaged them and soon went out of business. By 1893 the New York Times declared that Coney Island had become "Sodom-by-the-Sea" and worried that its reputation would keep people away. Coney Island astonished, delighted and appalled the nation and took America from the Victorian age into the modern world.” (American Experience, Coney Island, PBS broadcast, 2000)
Coney Island and its three major amusement parks reached its peak popularity in the 1920s drawing millions of people on a nice summer day. But it began to decline in popularity with the start of World War II. Two fires destroyed two of the major amusement parks, Dreamland in 1911 and Luna Park in 1944. The last original park, the Steeplechase, finally closed in 1964. The nations oldest wooden roller coaster, The Cyclone, is still operational at Astroland amusement park. While The Cyclone was built in 1927 and owned by the City, it is operated by Astroland amusement park by a franchise license since the 1950s.

It was also at Coney Island that Charles Feltman invented and sold the first hot dog in 1867. Feltman was a food vendor who sold pies out of an old cart. When his customers asked for sandwiches, Feltman knew that he didn’t have the room to hold the ingredients for sandwiches. Instead, he came up with small charcoal stove and a tin box which he built into his cart to boil sausages and keep his bread rolls. And that is how the hot dog was born. From that illustrious beginning, Nathan’s Famous original hot dog stand first opened in 1916 and is now a landmark of Coney Island. Every 4th of July since 1916, it has sponsored an annual hot dog eating contest. In the last decade, the contest has attracted international television coverage due to amazing contestants from around the world.

At the 2007 contest, Joey Chestnut won by eating 66 Hotdogs & Buns in 12 minutes! This picture shows him holding 60 hot dogs with buns, to give you an idea of how much food we are talking about in the span of 12 minutes. Notice how skinny he is. Him and the previous winner, another skinny man from Japan, can put away more hot dogs and faster than men three times their size and weight. My max is 2 hot dogs before all the chemical preservatives in the hot dogs begins to nauseate me. Just the idea of eating that many hot dogs makes me want to puke my guts out. Once out of sheer torturous curiousity, I watched a telecast of an eating contest. The first time a contestant started gagging, my sympathetic vomit reflex kicked in and I had to change the channel. There is something completely wrong with deliberately eating that much food. How is this a contest? Unless it is a contest for measuring how insane you are. For this incredible feat, he won $10,000 and a yellow mustard belt. $10,000 would barely cover my medical bills if I ate that much.

Speaking of crazy people, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club is a bunch of crazy people who like to swim at the beach during the winter months. The highlight for them is New Year’s Day when additional crazies can join them for a swim in freezing cold waters wearing only a little swimsuit. And this is good for you because women find blue balls so very attractive. It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode. You know the one. Penis. Cold water. Equals shrinkage. How sexy. Viagra anyone?

Last but not least, Coney Island opened up a minor league baseball stadium in 2001. KeySpan Park is the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones who are affiliated with the New York Mets. But since I am a Yankees fan, I have nothing more of interest to add to that.

So that's it for now. Next Monday, I will find some other interesting information about Brooklyn before I move back to talking about my current local place of residence. I hope you have found this somewhat entertaining. If you didn't, then make sure you lodge your complaint with the angry little pig up in the right hand corner of this blog. Please speak loudly as the pig is a little hard of hearing.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Clarity of Night entry

I know many of you have already read my entry over at Jason's for his awesome story contest. But I also realized that since I didn't post it here, some of you may not have read it, so I am throwing it up here also. Now if you haven't gone by Jason's please do, I have read some incredible, amazing writing there not only by fellow bloggers (guys you all rock!), but also by tons of new writers who I am in awe of. Wow there is alot of talent out there!

The contest was based on a beautiful picture of a bare branched tree. Most of the entries were dark, depressing, sad, scary - it was definitely an interesting view into how all different writers interpreted this one same picture. I myself did not go that route, and by now I'm sure you must have realized that if I can incorporate excrement or flatulence into anything I write, I will. I got alot of terrific comments which made me happy. This is definitely a fiction piece because I reworked things all 3 of my kids said and fashioned one precocious little boy out of them. Then I reworked dialogue to flow evenly over 250 words. So it rose out of true conversations but has been reworked to a fiction piece. Thanks to those of you have had read it and commented.

Entry #19

Do Trees Sleep?
by Ello

Tommy stared out the window at the bare limbs of the dogwood tree in the backyard.

“Mom, do trees sleep?” he asked his Mom who was busy preparing dinner.

“Yes, they sleep during the winter. That’s why their branches are bare. They’re hibernating. And in the spring, they wake up in all their glory.”

“Oh yeah! I know about hibernating. Like bears. They eat lots and lots of food and get really fat and sleep all winter long. And their body eats the food they already eated in their fat bellies while they’re sleeping.”

“Er, um, something like that.”

Tommy sat at the kitchen table. He grabbed an apple and began to munch.

“Um, Mom?”


“Do bears poop while they sleep?”

Mom paused in mid slice. “Uh, no. I don’t think so.”

“But then, where does the poop go?”

“I think they just hold it in until they wake up.”

“But won’t that give the bear a tummy ache?”

“I don’t know…”

“Cause when I gotta go poop and I try to hold it in, my tummy hurts real bad. I wouldn’t be able to sleep.”

“Seriously, I’m not sure…”

“AND they must have the biggest, stinkiest poops in the whole world after months and months of not pooping! That’s really gross!” Tommy howled with laughter as he warmed to his topic.

“OK, enough! I don’t want to hear another word about poop!” Mom was exasperated.

Silence again for several minutes.



“Do bears fart while they hibernate?”