Monday, August 04, 2008

Fuck yeah!

My dad gave me this pen upon arriving in the airport in my hometown. Apparently, they sell them at his hospital. It features independently punching fists, and when you write lights sparkle at the base. As for the actual pen function of the pen, just like 5.7 percent of America, it doesn’t work. Welcome back.

On the way back from the airport, my mom took me on a brief flood tour. She mainly showed me the damage that was immediately visible on the way home, and took a side trip through Czech Village, driving ten miles an hour and drifting all over the road while she excitedly gestured toward the house that’s side had completely collapsed revealing the inside of the first and second floors. It was somewhat surreal seeing these houses and businesses I’d become used to with junk and damaged furniture piled out front, a brown line along the siding marking the river’s high point, and a colored sticker marking its level of inhabitability.

Now that it’s been two weeks, I’m getting better at the little instances of culture shock. At first I was always giggling at people around me being tall, or people in service positions being sassy. I was tripping over myself at simple social interactions, like when I entered someone’s house I had to remember not to translate “Ojamashimasu” and slip out of my shoes. Leave the bathroom door open. You don’t have to toast, you can just start drinking, and there’s no need to say anything before or after eating. There are lots of instances where these ritualistic expressions are not only useful, but reflexive for me, and I have to swallow them before they come out, replacing it with an awkward silence. A social hiccup. I’m so used to a single phrase, “otsukaresamadesu” being an appropriate conclusion to any evening, and instead I’ve replaced it with the always socially inappropriate nothing. I hope no one’s noticed too much. The first few days when I was driving around with my mom, I kept jumping whenever I saw a pedestrian or a person on a bicycle because they weren’t Asian. For a while, it seemed like people were yelling all the time, and every business establishment I went into was freezing. Central air is crazy, man. I used to wonder how America was the biggest consumer of energy by a million percent or whatever, but now I can see that it might be because everyone insists on keeping the malls air conditioned down to forty degrees during the hottest part of summer. When I was eating at an Asian fusion restaurant with some friends, they mentioned how the disposable chopsticks were wasteful. We talked about the concept of “my-hashi” (bringing your own non-disposable set of chopsticks) in Japan, and how it was most prevalent among foreigners. They were surprised that the Japanese would thoughtlessly waste so many sets of chopsticks. Mind you, we were sitting in a restaurant in which I was currently freezing my ass off. I explained that it was probably something they’d become so used to in their daily lives that they didn’t even think about it, just like America and it’s central air conditioning.

Oh, and Colin came back a couple days ago, and yesterday we both bowed to a car that slowed down for us to cross the street.

All the while, there’s the undertone of destruction that the flood brought. Strangers talk with each other about what they’ve lost, but we’ve been comparatively lucky. My mom owns a duplex downtown that was flooded—thankfully, my sister had moved out of the first floor before it happened. I went with her for just one day to help. Around the neighborhood, people were piling their debris on the curb and washing their siding. There were lots of notices that had been delivered to each individual house from the city about what they had to do to get their houses up to code. We had to wear special rubber boots and face masks to work there because apparently the mold was kind of dangerous. The first floor windows were broken, and I barely recognized the inside. We worked for a couple hours stripping the walls and hauling buckets of plaster chunks and nails to the curb.

The actual houses my family reside in were nowhere near the floodplain, but apparently my mom’s basement became immersed in about two feet of rain water. This is where we’d kept all the photographs and family keepsakes, not to mention everything I’d asked my mom to store while I was in Japan. They managed to salvage a lot, but it’s really strange. Walking around my mom’s house, I’ll suddenly see my diary from when I was a teenager spread open with paper towels between each crinkled leaf, my own tense cursive bleeding across the page, or water-damaged and thoroughly embarrassing personal letters from friends. Suddenly I turn into a petulant teenager again, snatching these things up and demanding to know, “Who read this?” I find warped pictures I never wanted parents to see. Off-colored birthday gifts that lived in my drawer until water expunged them from the basement.

It’s my embarrassing personal history laid out to dry, and I try to snatch up these pieces of evidence and hide them away, but find that there’s nowhere for me to put them. I don’t live here, never have, and there’s hardly even space for me among this life already partially made by others and filled with too many damn dogs. So I guess the new phase of this journal is finding some place to be. In September, we’re moving to Minneapolis, and tomorrow I’m off to Las Vegas, or as I like to call it “lost wages”. Next time I’ll tell you about my recent experience with karaoke in America. Just so you know, there were mullets.


Blogger pthompso said...

"we both bowed to a car that slowed down for us to cross the street."

-this is such a great image. It illustrates your Japanification perfectly.


9:56 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I love this entry. I wondered how you would take coming back to america. I think the little fighting Uncle Sam is unfortunately too true. I would like another one holding a protest sign saying,"Hell No, We Won't Go!!!"

The devistation of the flood hits me every time I go through downtown. so much of it is desserted. I went to the downtown Farmers Market, and it was great, but a crowd of people gathered on the riverbank after going to the market to watch two huge cranes lift pieces of the enormous railroad bridge and railroad cars with gravel in them trying to clean up the waterway. Frankie and I stood there for a while before we took a walk. Everywhere we still see debris. Our house at 401 included.
Love ya! Mom

12:36 PM  

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