Monday, March 24, 2008


You have probably heard of gay-dar but have you heard of weird-ar? Maybe it is not actually weird-ar but something for akin to a weird-magnet. Well, what ever you want to call it, I have one on steroids.

True story:

Several weeks ago I took public transportation from the Antelope Valley to Downey--if you aren't familiar with these places suffice it to say that the trip involved a communter train, a metro light rail, a bus and a lot of patience. Why not drive you may be asking. Well, let me state number one fact to remember about me: I HATE FREEWAYS! (I am a casuality waiting to happen just sitting quietly at my desk--add in high speeds, the need to make snappy decisions, millions of other drivers and my normal bad sense of direction--need I say more?) Also since this was an interview, the County would not be putting milage reimbursement cash into my pocket, taking the train seems like a good idea--at the time.

Everything started out normal, I sat down in my seat and turned on my Ipod to occupy the next two hours to LA's Union Station. A sat down into the seat ajacent to me, I aknowledged him (maybe my first mistake of the day). Next thing I know chatty-Cathy is telling all about his short micromanaging boss. OK, nothing really too weird here, lots of people make small talk on the train. I leave my podcast to another time and sympathetically listen to him until he got off at Glendale, the stop before Union Station. I make it onto the Metro, the bus, and through the interview without further incident. The return trip is where the real story starts.

The direct bus back to the Metro station was late. A high school girl tells me that the 120 will also go to the Metro line, just a different station. While we are waiting for the bus, she tells me she commutes from the projects everyday because she doesn't want to deal with gang stuff and she wants to just finish high school and get on with her life. Reality check in place, I get on the 120 which proceeds to go through some rather dodgy neighborhoods. Just so happens the Metro stop is located at the end of a particularly long block of project-y looking apartment blocks. I get off the bus with no clue where the actual station is.

Some young Hispanic guy kindly guides me to the stop. He speaks about 5 words in English--"You are very beautiful" are four of them. So we this nice guy is actually just hitting on me. He asks for my phone number--I say I have a boyfriend. He asks me to come to his house--I say the boyfriend wouldn't like that. He says please give me your phone number--I say my boyfriend is a big military guy. This keeps him quiet long enough for his stop to come up and he gets off.

I get off the Metro at Union Station, start walking up the stairs and someone says "Now here's the exercise for the day." Like an idiot I make eye contact. He looks at me and says "Hey, I'm Steve what would it take to take a pretty lady like you out to dinner?" I say my boyfriend wouldn't like that. (This fictional boyfriend comes in very handy, I find) He continues saying stuff but I do my best keep my eyes forward and unfocused. I let Steve walk ahead of me and make sure he has found other things to occupy his attention before I head to the commuter train--Metro Link.

I sit down next to a couple of women and get out my book to read. Everything goes smoothly, we leave Union Station, stop at Glendale, Burbank, Sun Valley, Sylmar without incident. Somewhere between Sylmar and Newhall, this guy comes along the aisle and I hear "There you are!" I look up and see that it is the guy from the morning. What had he been doing since Glendale--looking for me up and down the train? How did he even know that I would be on that one. He sits down and starts talking to me. I used up all my talking to a stranger for polite conversation lines that morning. I really didn't have anything more to say to him. Really!!

So the conversation lags, I let it. I look up at him and he gives me this cheesy smile and...wait for it...waggelling eyebrows. Eeeewe! And to make it all the more obscene this guy has a half pound wedding ring sitting on his finger. Let me just say that one more time, Eeeewe!.

So the next hour was spent with waggelling eyebrows and pervert smiles. Maybe, I should have just gotten up and left but really what can you do? Provoking the weird human might cause undesired effects.

I got off the train, went home and showered all the weirdness off me. I pondered why these things seem to happen to me. My Librarian II interview was also marked by a weirdie encounter at the Jack in the Box. Maybe, in an attempt to prepare for the exam, I was emitting I'm open and approachable, ready to talk to you vibes. My friend also said that I do have that friendly open Southern demean er that weirdies take advantage of. Hardened city people don' have the same problem with weirdies. She also recommended that if I really wanted to scary the weirdie off, I should just pick my nose. She reports that even the strangest weirdie would be put off by such behaviour. She hasn't tried it but she is confident that it will work. I keep this in mind but somehow I don't see myself testing the theory.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Riff on a New Season

It's Spring again, the winter is fading into another memory. Another chance at a new beginning seeing as New Years' (Western and Chinese) resolutions have have piled up unused in the corner. Time for them to be swept out, windows opened, fresh air let in.

In Japan, the vernal and autumnal equinoxes (shunbun & shuubun respectivally) are national holidays. These holidays are marked by cleaning graves and leaving offerings to long past ancestors. I appreciated the closeness that the Japanese have with nature, superstition and the cycle of life. The subtle appreciation of falling cherry blossoms; throwing beans on Setsubun to chase demons away and inviting luck in; the haunting sounds of a bon-dance on a warm summer eve; Osouji (big cleanings), bonnenkai (end of the year parties)and sun-rise hikes on New Year's Day, washing hands for shrine visits, safe driving charms hanging from rear view mirrors, drinking beer wearing yukata at roof-top beer gardens; the earthly flavors of a bowl of tea served in a delicately scented tatami room, girls wearing hakamas with combat boots for graduation and more.

I find that where ever I am, I relate time now with the rhythms of my life in Japan. Now I am teaching Japanese to a group of believe it or not teens and ni-sei/san-sei (Second & Third generation Japanese) middle-aged women. How much more surreal can you get, the foreigner delivering language and culture to those who lost it along the way to American assimilation.

This year Shunbun no hi and Good Friday coincided. This day that would have been a holiday had I been living in Japan (for the former) or in Hawaii (for the later). But instead, I found myself on a long commute to Library Headquarters interviewing for the next stage in this new life I have been leading. New beginnings, old memories, time passes a new season begins.