Bass Speaker

I’ve been away at college for two weeks. I’m waiting for something to happen, for the great adventure to begin. My roommate is a freaky rich Jewish girl from Texas whose father owns a woman’s clothing line. I don’t like her; she doesn’t like me and worse still, she’s taken up smoking. I’d specified a non-smoking roommate, and here’s Ellen, smoking. Not because she likes smoking but because the older girls are cool and flick their ashes into the little hole in the top of the Coke can.

It’s announced in a dorm meeting that the school is holding a “mixer” with Regis College, a men’s college. This is how we were supposed to meet boys and date and fall in love and get engaged and get a ring so we could have a “ringing” ceremony. This is an event in which a girl orders a candle and corsage (or the dorm does it, I don’t know) in her favorite color. There is then a small party with cake and everyone sits in a circle. The ring is slid down the candle and the candle, corsage and ring are passed from girl to girl so everyone can see the ring. Even at 18 the phallic allusions are completely obvious to me. To them?

Anyway, I dress up for the mixer — cute tweed jumper made by my mom. Shades of green to bring out the color of my eyes (they are green), and go with my suite-mates and evil roommate. I’m nervous and irked. Something doesn’t feel right to me; I don’t think anyone will ask me to dance; I’m not looking for a boyfriend. I’m looking for adventure and change and action. I have already suffered my first real broken heart and boys are scary. I also don’t see me going through the process and ending up at a “ringing”. I am simply confused.

The mixer is in the college dining hall — where we also had our formal dances. It is a beautiful room, in fact the college is beautiful. After I leave, I’ll realize what I left behind.

The girls stand around and the boys stand around. Back then boys looked like young men and girls looked like young women. Today, it seems, girls often look like experienced hookers and boys look like eighth graders. Sure, the counterculture is alive and well, but not everywhere and certainly not at a Catholic men’s college where the boys come from nor at my college. The “kids” are well-dressed, clean, attractive and shy. It isn’t quite high school, but it isn’t quite NOT. There is no alcohol served (it is a Baptist college) and few people in that milieu use drugs. The only ones I know are two girls from California, from LA, Palos Verdes Estates. In the heart of Colorado these girls insist California skiing is better. Sacrilege. I’d gotten high with them a couple of times, walking down the street to Stapleton Airport, sitting in an empty field and watching the airborne planes change color as the sun set.

In the corner, on an elevated stage is the band, a local band. Sugarloaf. They have a decent kit — the best I’ve seen, anyway in my no-rock-concert adolescence. As for the band? Not Steppenwolf, Tim Buckley or The Moody Blues, but the best I’ve seen so far. And, you know, their one hit is about a lady with green eyes. That would be me. Is it me?

I  won’t dance. I am short, dark haired. I wear glasses. I do not look like the girl a guy would walk into a room and dance with. At least (at most?) I don’t think I do. My California friends get bored and leave, stopping to ask me if I want to get high. My roommate finds a nice Catholic boy to dance with and I see him, later, lighting her cigarette. My suite mates vanish at some point, but later I will help one of them puke out her first Boones Farm overdose. At a certain point in this, my first college mixer, I realize that the best thing there, for me, is the bass speaker. I sit down as close to it as I can. I try to look as if I am in love with the band (I can hardly stand them) imagining that if I look like a groupie I might become one and my adventures would start.

Rainbow

I’m looking at old posts and eliminating those that just don’t have any reason to hang around, taking up space and not being read. But this one? I think it’s worth reposting. It’s based on the old style of Daily Prompts and I’ve included that, too. It was originally posted on my birthday five years ago. 🙂

January 7, 2014 Write about anything you’d like, but make sure that all seven colors of the rainbow — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet — make an appearance in the post, either through word or image.

——————–
“Let the sun stay in my back, unseen!
The waterfall I now behold with growing
Delight as it roars down to the ravine.
From fall to fall a thousand streams are flowing.
A thousand more are plunging, effervescent,
And high up in the air the spray is glowing.
Out of this thunder rises, iridescent,
Enduring through all change the motley bow,
Now painted clearly, now evanescent,
Spreading a fragrant, cooling spray below.
The rainbow mirrors human love and strive:
In many-hued reflection we have life.”
Goethe, Faust II, trans. Walter Kauffman

———————-
m-EkoN8lNLXW1r_M7xjEIgAWe were just girls, nearly women. Young women. It now seems very long ago and very far away. “A secret, fraternal, Masonic organization for girls of teen age.” Love, religion, nature, immortality, fidelity, patriotism and service. The two offices I held during those brief years were Nature (yellow) and Service. Sweet prophecy? I couldn’t know back then, aged fourteen, that love of nature and service to others as a teacher would turn out to be my life.

———————–

Denver's pridefest parade through downtownWe sat on a grassy hillside in Cheeseman Park looking down toward Colfax. We couldn’t see the street, but we could hear the commotion, yelling and music.

“You wouldn’t march in that? Why?”

“It’s ridiculous. If ALL they are is the way they f… then they need more than a parade to save them. I hope I’m more than my ‘sexual preference.’ Preference? Who’d choose this? I’m shut out from the basic, most natural, most common unit of human society. I won’t have a family. I won’t have a wife and a house and all of the things other people take for granted. I’m not ‘proud’ of it.”

I knew this was true. I knew that however much I loved him — or he loved me — that love was not going to change a certain basic and elemental fact of his nature.

“You’re not ashamed of it, are you? That’s…”

“No. What is there to be ashamed of? It’s a simple fact of my existence. I have to make a life around it. Everyone makes a life around something. Come here, life.” He pulled me toward him. “You know those guys marching in that parade? They wouldn’t understand this.” He kissed me long and hard. “It’s all one or the other for them. They’re more narrow minded than straights.”

————————

sspaceRainbow flags hung over balconies with the big word, “Pace” printed on them. Italy was “on our side” in the fracas in Iraq. It didn’t occur to me what that meant until I wandered around the Pinacoteca of the Castello Sforza and found galleries that were open in 2000 were, in 2004, closed.

A scaffold surrounded the cathedral, too, and I wasn’t sure if it was for repair and restoration or for something more sinister. The sanctuary was shut to everyone but people who were there to pray. There was no wandering around its cavernous interior, visiting chapels and looking at paintings, sculptures, reliquaries and puzzling over their makers and the aspirations or sorrows of those who loved them in centuries past. 

I was relegated to the crypt and there I saw the place where St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine. I tDuomo_di_milano_sivualttarihought about that. In writing Martin of Gfenn I’d developed a kind of friendship with St. Augustine. Martin’s Commander refers to St. Augustine often and the Rule of the Order of the Knights of St. Lazarus is based on St. Augustine’s rule for life in a religious community. I had read St. Augustine’s Confessions and pieces of The City of God and overall I’d come to like him, too. I went down the narrow stone steps to the bottom of the cathedral, the bottom? I was sure that it was not. I was sure that if there were steps I would go down and down and down until I would find myself at the beginning of time.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/03/23/rdp-saturday-tracery/

More than Just Brushes

I have a lot of paintbrushes. I’ve had the four in the featured photo since I was in grad school. Two of them were payment for work I did for the YWCA of Denver. I was paid in art supplies, and I still think that was a good deal. I did silk-screened posters, illustrations for brochures and even some watercolor art posters. I bought the other two during the time I was painting with gouache (1980/81), which led to a one person show at Cafe Nepenthes (RIP), a coffee house on Market Street in Denver.

I bought six beautiful brushes in Switzerland in 1997. In the process of cleaning the art room, I took them out of their wooden box and put them in this coffee can for active duty because, as I told them, “Someday is here.” I used one on my most recent oil painting. I am sure there are brushes in my collection I will never use.

Lavazza Coffee Can and my favorite bouquet

Some of my brushes were given to me by artists who couldn’t paint any more. My friend Michael lost his sight to macular degeneration and gave me some of his brushes for a Christmas present. Sally, a short time from the end of her life’s journey, knew in her soul she was done painting. When she handed her brushes to me, I remembered her retirement party more than twenty years earlier when those brushes had been a gift to her from our school.

Sally’s Brushes

Paintbrushes represent potential. When they gave me their brushes, I felt as if my friends were deeding to me their potential.

My friends’ brushes are not always responsive to me. Maybe they’re waiting for their REAL master or they’ve been worn in the direction in which their previous owners painted.

One of my brushes wears the traces of my brother. Once, in the mid-1990s, I was visiting him and his ex-wife. I was in my painted tables phase at the time. My brother picked up one of my brushes and lectured me on brush care. He then trimmed the bristles so the brush would work better.

The brush my brother trimmed

My brother could be pretty strident giving an art lecture (he thought he knew everything and he really did know a lot) but brush care is critical and, probably, also, kind of personal. It depends mostly on what medium an artist works in. A thin water-based medium, like water color or gouache, is a soap and water thing. But acrylic — which washes out with soap and water — can cling to the base of the bristles near the ferule and wreck the brush. That’s what my brother’s lecture was about. Oil paints are (obviously) not water soluble so a dip in solvent (I use Gamblin’s odor free mineral spirits, Gamsol) followed by a soap and water wash works well for me. I use The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver. I then let my brushes air dry upside down so nothing clings to the base of the bristles before I put them back in the bouquet.

I have brushes with which to paint fresco. I went to fresco school in LA some fifteen years ago, and I hope that sometime down the road — maybe this summer — I’ll paint some small frescoes on the backs of the porcelain tiles in my garage, left over from the remodel they did before I moved in. I just takes a lot of space to paint fresco — it’s messy.

Some women get their hair done, or get a mani-pedi or a massage when they’re down. I guess I buy new paintbrushes. Last March, before my hip surgery, I bought a beautiful brush made of mongoose hair. Still, I use those four old brushes the most.

Side Canals

Venice is a “city for lovers” but I have no idea why except that historically and physically it’s a perfect metaphor for the complicated and inscrutable labyrinth of love. I have been there three times, two of those times in the midst of a romantic conundrum. Venice was, at least, distracting.

It exerts incredible pressure on the lone female tourist with all the honeymoon couples, posing on the Rialto Bridge over the grand canal, asking me to take their photo while they look into the lens with feigned happiness and real perplexity. Venice is the world’s locus for “Just ask for directions, David!” and “No. I know where we are.”

It’s a good place to visit if you’ve always dreamed of medieval Byzantium because it’s there. Venetians stole it in the 12th century and brought it home as best they could, along with the bones of St. Mark.

I love Venice. Away from the main spots — Piazza San Marco, the Rialto — it’s a secretive, mysterious, living city. I do not know how anyone could see everything without living there a while. I also wish I’d known more history, at least when I was there in 2000. In 2004, I enjoyed the luxury of staying on the train as it discharged passengers and loaded passengers who were, like me, going to Trieste.

There are so many films set in Venice, but my favorite, the one that captures it best, is Bread and Tulips or Pane e Tulipani.

________________________

A Story…

I awaken bewildered in this silent compartment. The train has stopped. The calm young lovers speaking in soft tones are gone. I look at the station. Pesceria di Garda. Lago di Garda. It’s not the first time I pass over something without seeing. In the town of Limone, on this same lake, Goethe first saw lemon trees. My sleepy musing comes from the thought of how exotic had been a lemon to Goethe, a symbol of a place so distant and magical, it became the object of all his dreaming. The locomotive shudders to a start. My head against the padded back of the high seat and my face to the window, I quickly return to sleep in this cradle of a train, relentlessly forward, ever side to side.  

Mi scusi, signora, il biglietto per favore.

Who is he talking to? My thoughts are far away and I am with them. Tomorrow is my last day in Italy. I am already in tomorrow or nowhere or in a dream. In regrets? 

Signora?” A gentle tap on my shoulder.

Mi dispiace.”

I hand him my ticket. He validates it with his paper punch and continues moving through the train. There are only two other passengers in my car. Could there be very many more on this whole train? It’s after ten p.m.

He returns, “Are you American?”
“Yes,” I answer, looking up.
“May I sit with you?”
“Yes.”
Parla italiano un po, si?”
Si, ma non bene. Solo un po.”
Va bene. Anche io. Parlo un po di Inglesa. Forse possiamo communicare?”
Spero che si!” I laugh. “Ma, per communicare, la lingua non e il unico problema.” I grin at him.

He has sincere blue eyes, pale skin, a receding hairline. He loves to travel; he likes his job because he sometimes meets interesting people, “Like you,” he says, gently flirting. He speaks of Venice, how he likes it better in the winter when the tourists are gone, and the streets are filled with fog.

“Venice like that,” he says, “you can believe you are in the past.”
“All Europe is like that for me,” I tell him, “maybe for all Americans. European streets are stories; they are dreams.” 
“For you?”
“For me, certainly, for me.”
“Do you like Italy?”
“I love Italy.”
“Why? What do you love about Italy?” He settles back, his arms folded across his chest, a warm glint in his eye. “I uomini,” I should say, “The men,” I don’t think to say it. Flirtation is far from my thoughts; he has asked the question I was working out in my sleep. I am leaving Italy and, with all my heart, and longing, I love what I am leaving.
“I have to think.”
“If you have to think, you don’t like anything.”
“No. It’s a language problem. I don’t know how to say it.”
“Say it in English, then.”
“No, just wait. I can do this, I can tell you in Italian.”

I don’t like to cross over into the confusing twilight of English that doesn’t belong here. I love my language, sure, but Italian streets–and certainly this day — do not reflect the crushed, rebuilt, borrowed sounds of English, the sliding of syllables into silence. Even constrained by my limited vocabulary and primitive grammar, I have been more in Italy by speaking Italian. Of this day in particular I want every small moment that remains of Venice, my nostalgic espresso in honor of a beloved, now dead, friend, Pietro, beneath the Lion at Piazza San Marco, the changing evocative light above canals, the tourists like strings of bright Venetian beads dragged by destinations across the Rialto Bridge. The only English I’ve heard or spoken all day was but an echo of Goethe; “Please, can you take our photo?” “With pleasure,” I answered, and photographed a honeymooning German couple. Still, I don’t know how I will be able to answer this man’s question or frame my rather complex notion in my Italian baby talk. 

He waits, nervous.

“Ah,” I say, “Posso. Mi piace che in italia la vita classica vive insieme della energia moderna.”
He stares, surprised, then, “Bello. Profondo.
Allora.”
“What do you do? You are not an ordinary person.”
“Sure. I’m ordinary.”
“No. Ordinary people do not say things like ‘The classical life lives together with the modern energy’. That is extraordinary. What do you do?”
I think, only a moment, “I am a writer.”
“What do you write? Romances, stories about love?”
“No, no, that doesn’t interest me.”
“Mysteries?”
“No.”
“Oh, no. Historical fiction.”
“Ah, that’s why you would be aware of that, the classical life, you would look for it here.”
“I guess so.”
“Are you stopping in Milano?”
“Yes. I’m staying with some friends.”
“How long will you be in Milano?”
“Only one day more. I go back day after tomorrow.”
He looks at me intently. “A pity.”
“I think so, too.”

We look away from each other. He looks out the window across the aisle, I through the window next to me. The train keeps its steady movement. I feel his eyes, and see them reflected in the dark window. I turn.

“You can write about this. You can write about this train ride.”

I look at him for a moment. I see my whole story in this compartment on this train. Though I am going home, I should not go home; I realize in the next moment that I never really will.

“I will. I will write this story.”

The featured photo is one I took in 2000 as I wandered the backstreets of Venice, looking for a real story, distancing myself from my bewildered heart. 


Wander…

Morning came, beautiful and dazzling blue. I awoke fresh and feeling something I had not felt in a very long time. I felt as if I could dance forever on ballerina toes; I felt as if I could fly. Mark was up, washing dishes.

“Good morning!” I sang to him. “How are you?”

“Shut up.”

“I see you’re fine. I’m so glad.”

“Don’t start.”

“I won’t. I don’t feel like fighting any more. I don’t feel like fighting anything. I feel wonderful.”

“You would.”

“Well?

I kissed his cheek, and he pulled back, like a small boy evading a smelly-old aunt. “Oh my, you don’t like me any more. C’est l’amour.”

I was wearing khaki pants and my favorite turquoise shirt, turquoise like the New Mexico sky, like the window frames of New Mexico houses.

“What’s on the agenda today?” I asked, making coffee.

“You leave.”

“Not until evening. Sorry.”

“What time?”

“Plane leaves at 7. I had to stay forty-eight hours. You know that.”

“I know. What do you want to do?”

“I want to go to the Art Institute.”

“You have to go alone.”

“OK.”

“I have to work. Paul left.”

“What do you mean, ‘left’?”

“He’s gone to Colorado to buy boots.”

“Ah. You don’t have boots in Chicago?”

“We sell boots. They’re for the store.”

“Great! I won’t have to spend the whole day in the car.”

“I guess not.”

Mark was not happy. I began to see that he was tired, sad, drained. But then, I’d had no experience in the night with someone. I’d simply slept. I knew very well the hell of our day together, but no idea what had gone on between him and Paul at night, what conversations, fights, discussions. It was none of my business, and I sought no confidences.

“The other thing is, Paul took my car. I have his.”

“So?” 

“Paul’s car won’t make it to the airport.”

“Call me a taxi.”

“You can’t afford it.”

“You can.”

I mixed up some Instant Breakfast and poured my coffee. I guess because Paul was gone or because I was leaving, we began to calm down and to talk sensibly. I walked around the bedroom, finding my things and packing. Mark watched and talked. “What are you going to do?”

“Did I tell you about the foreign service exam?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I passed it. Now I’m waiting to hear where and when I take the oral test.”

“Why do you want to join the Foreign Service?”

“I just want to leave the country.”

“Why?”

“Why not? You’ve lived in France, Italy, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. You’ve left the country, so you know what I mean, or you should know what I mean.”

“I don’t know.”

“I just want exposure, Mark. To see things, know things.”

“Honey, you’ve already seen more of life than 99% of most Americans. It’s not that great to go away.”

“Maybe you’re right, but I don’t know that.”

“I’m telling you.”

“I have to. All my life I’ve wanted to live someplace with a different way of thinking, of doing things. I need to get perspective, experiences. I feel so blind.”

“Well, you’re not blind.”

__________________________________________

From Fledging….

Color

Twenty-two years ago, for Christmas, I got this:

You can see it hasn’t been used. I’ve been doing little watercolor painting/drawings and last night I thought, “It’s time.”

Whether I’m actively making art or not, I think of art supplies as “real wealth.” That’s an idea I got from Alan Watts during an ethics class in college. He made the distinction between symbolic and real wealth. Real wealth is things you have and can use. They don’t lose value. Symbolic wealth (money), on the other hand, is tied to purchasing power and CAN lose value. Of the two, Watts insisted, REAL wealth is more important. It was his argument against debt and in favor of frugality and minimalism.

When I got my Christmas present from my Swiss family ($200 CHF) my friend and I walked down to Jelmoli, a beautiful department store then in Glattzentrum in Wallisellen, a suburb of Zürich, where they lived, and bought this set of pencils.

It was too precious and too beautiful to dip into. That’s kind of absurd because I’ve been using and re-stocking a 40 pencil set for nearly 30 years. It’s real pencils and no different from what I’ve been using, but all this time it’s represented magical potential.

Anyway, I’m going to start using them on the little consequenceless watercolors I’m doing.

Cat Food

Long long ago in a faraway land known as San Diego I had 10 cats. More accurately, they had me. I only wanted two, but they brought their pals and their pals brought their pals. My international students adopted cats then returned to their home countries, leaving us their cat. Our vet found cats and called us. “We found a beautiful cat living in a VW in a junk yard.” THAT couldn’t have been random. They were LOOKING. Anyway, there we were. Ten cats. All kinds. The Mexican kids on my street called me “La Bruja de Los Gatos.” The Cat Witch.

OH WELL.

This problem (not sure yet if it was a problem) was exacerbated because the cats were fed on the veranda, outside the back door. One night my roommate and I looked out and saw two NEW “cats” peacefully eating from the cat dishes. The cats — my cats — hung out at a distance from the new comers, watching warily as the newcomers ate. We named them. There really wasn’t much choice since the other “cats” all had names. We named them “Vagrant and Fragrant.”


https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/01/24/rdp-thursday-vagrant/

Stopping Traffic

We’d been told that people would stare at us in China. I expected people to really notice my tall, blue-eyed ex, but no one told me I would stop traffic.

It happened a lot. In Guangzhou, where there was only a handful of non-Asian foreigners, I expected it. The most notable moment came as my ex and I were attempting to get off Bus 22 to change to a tram. As we headed to the back door of the double bus, the doors opened. It was incredibly annoying that people getting on the bus NEVER waited for people to get off the bus. “Personal space” was a non-existent element in Chinese society. People pushed and shoved all the time and we were finally prepared to fight our way off any bus we were on. But that day…

Usually it was a stream of people getting on and a stream of people getting off and we just maneuvered through this like streams converging or diverging or waves or something. But one day an old woman from the countryside happened to look up and see me. She saw my eyes.

OK, I was younger and my hair was reddish brown, but you can still maybe get the idea that they are pea-soup green. The old woman stopped, pointed, yelled, in Cantonese, “Like a cat!” She looked frightened and froze where she stood.

My ex was outside the bus and I was in and the bus driver closed the door. SO… I got off at the next stop and walked back.

The funniest was in Shanghai. In our ONE day there I managed to create a disturbance that attracted the police. We were walking in a neighborhood. The day was sweltering hot. No sane Shanghainese was going to stay in a tiny, dark, airless apartment. They had all pulled out their folding chairs, set up their charcoal stoves for tea and dinner, sat in the comparative cool (compared to Hell) fanning themselves, talking, laughing, spitting, cooking living life on the sidewalk and into the street, leaving a lane for bicycles. As we walked by, someone noticed my eyes. I heard it again, this time in Shanghainese, “Like a cat!” EVERYONE stood up and came over to look at me. Traffic couldn’t move through the intersection.

The cops broke up the “riot” and told us to move along. We went back to our hotel, surprised that in Shanghai, which was once a very cosmopolitan city, and even then had far more foreigners than did Guangzhou, that no one seemed to have seen green eyes before.

Which makes me think of racism. I had some negative experiences, too, in China. After I got used to the idea that I wasn’t completely human in the minds of most of the people I met or saw on the street, I didn’t care any more. It wasn’t my “white privilege;” it was just the realization that I was a very unusual sight. There were times when we were pushed, shoved, called names. One night rocks were thrown at us as we waited for a tram. Lots of things happened that said, “Yankee, go home.” I had paperwork that said I was Chinese and I had a job, in case anything happened, I had a legal identity. There was nothing I could do about my appearance or the fact that, for some Chinese, the devil has my coloring. “Gingers” don’t get a very good rap in any culture and it’s only slightly better for little white-haired ladies. 🙂

Hainan Island, Part Four, Opera

All Beauty had no electricity, but when the Hainan Opera came to the village for two nights, they brought a generator. The stage in the village (most villages had stages built for propaganda speeches and plays during Mao) was lit, decorated, transformed. Everyone brought chairs and stools from home. For five fen (cents) we bought funnel shaped paper filled with tiny, salted mussels (popcorn?).

As we settled down to watch, an older man with a crew cut, pulled his chair near ours and greeted our friends. He was an English teacher at the local school. Mr. Shi.

The Chinese audience for Chinese opera (or any concert) never gives the artists their full attention, and following this tradition, Zhu, Fu and Mr. Shi were soon engaged in a very animated conversation. The ex and I hopelessly tried to follow the story on the stage. I couldn’t begin to read the “captions” projected on the side of the stage, Chinese characters. I wasn’t fluent enough to keep up. (One of the wonderful aspects of Chinese is that though there are hundreds if not thousands of different languages spoken in China, everyone writes the same way.)

When I asked my friends what was going on in the opera, Zhu said, “It doesn’t matter. It’s just an old culture thing.” Blessings on the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution for that. My friends knew as little as I did about the vivid cacophony on stage

Strangely, maybe, I really liked the opera. The beautiful costumes, the stylized movements punctuated by banging gongs and drums, the makeup, the masks — wondrous. When I came back to the United States I saw several as they traveled the country. My favorite — and the favorite of most Chinese children — is the Monkey King.

Painting of the Monkey King on a ceiling in Beijing



Next — A new angle the Vietnam War

Hainan Island, Part Three: “Ho Gai Da Mi!”

Jim, my ex-husband, likes kids and there were a lot of them in All Beauty. Jim got the idea of learning to say, “What is this?” in Hainanese then letting the kids take him around the village and teach him words.

Everyone was fascinated by his beard. Jim let the kids examine it and then asked them, “Ho gai da mi?”

“Shu!”

This went on the our first day on All Beauty. “Ho gai da mi? Ho gai da mi? Ho gai da mi?”

Jim learned words for lots of things. Chest, book, tree, beds, baby, chicken. At dinner the little kids asked their mom/aunt, “They don’t have these things in America? The American doesn’t know what a tree is or a book or anything.”

Our friends told us later and taught Jim to say, “What do you call this?”

I don’t remember that phrase, unfortunately. We did learn a phrase that is absolutely profound and beautiful to express the sensation of having no clue at all about what’s going on, “Ah-kyak-a-looie.” It literally means, “As a baby duck listens to thunder.”