Yesterday, while out on our Sunday drive to the Best Buy to buy a cable, we found ourselves exiting the freeway slowly behind a lumbering Cadillac driven by a elderly gentlemen who, too, was out on a Sunday drive with his wife. I turned to my husband and asked, “What will be our Cadillac, seeing as how neither one of us thinks a Cadillac is anything to strive for?” T’is true, the Cadillac is/was the aim for my grandparents and some of my parents’ older siblings. But now that is not the automobile aspiration of my parents or myself. My husband was silent and contemplated it for a minute, and then after a stop light or two we saw a beautiful beast drive by — a vacation on wheels, and together we said, “Oooh, an RV …” Yes, my husband and I want to the travel around the US in an RV when we retire and 30 – 40-years from now and when we do retire, that RV better drive itself, because I can’t even imagine how much worse my driving could get when I become a senior citizen (anyone who has been in a car with me, knows what I’m talking about …). Ahh, I can see it now, living in an RV, plugging in waypoints into the navigation computer and waking up in a new place every morning like a cruise ship. And we can meet up with other land cruisers we’ve met on the Internet and roam the land as one of the many bands of senior land cruisers (Ryans anyone?). Of course by then, there will be no gas, so it will be fueled by waste or whatever clever fuel alternative emerges victorious from the research that is being done now. It will be wonderful :). But you know, if my dream doesn’t come true and my RV doesn’t drive itself within 30-years, then I’m going to be very, very disappointed.
I’m Jen. I’m a gadget freak and so is my husband — we’re those folks who have no furniture but each of us has 3-computers in our shared office space (mess) and at least 2 iPod products apiece (one for the car, one for the gym, one for the home office, one for work … and so on — somebody help us). Yep, I’m a gamer and hand-in-hand with that I’m into anime and the like. I sorta feel like I’m experiencing the childhood I never had because I spent 6th grade through grad school in the pursuit of a 4.0+ GPA (yes, this is what happens to a lot of those children that were pushed hard to do well … that is if they don’t burn-out and become “Domestic Gods” or “Goddesses”.). I have a little brother who chose childhood over school and I have a feeling that within a few years he’ll overtake me in professional success. He concentrated on learning about people and maintaining relationships — he’s a naturally likeable guy and he’s got the entrapeneurial spirit. We’re mutually jealous of each other, but I imagine he would never imagine that I envy his ease and likeability. He really looks up to big sister, but he has no idea that I look up to him … silly boy! So … I’m starting my 7th quarter of Japanese at UCSD extension. I’ve decided that I aspire to be an anime fansubber. To each his own I suppose. I have the full support of my husband who has me translating manga for him. I just translated my first manga this week. It took me several hours over 5 days. In these 5-days, I have learned to use a kanji dictionary and increased my vocabulary and grammar skills a little bit. I’m quite proud of myself. I’ve began my second manga a couple of days ago. It’s even more challenging than the first since there’s no furigana to help me with the Kanji’s I don’t know. As usual I can understand most of what is being said to me in Japanese (if common conversational words are used) and I can translate text pretty well with the aid of dictionaries, but I have lots of trouble getting it out of my mouth. Everything feels like a tongue twister — chotto hen na no … (I also learned Spanish and understand quite a bit, but I can’t get it out of my mouth either.) Translating text is actually a lot of fun. I find it stimulating because it’s like unscrambling riddles. Sometimes there isn’t a direct translation to English, so a lot adjectives are used to describe an object or a feeling — it’s kinda poetic. Anyhow, my neck hurts from hours of hunching over my dictionaries. I now lose big chunks of the evening and the weekends to translating, which isn’t so bad since my husband has joined WOW. We do these activities in the same space so we have a lot of funny side conversations about what WOW foolishness my husband has involved himself in and I share the Japanese “riddles.” It’s becoming a secret language — it like it :)! Anyhow, that’s enough for today … I’ll try to write something weekly in this blog and we’ll see how it goes :).
So … I suppose this will end once cars start disappearing from the lot and assets (physical and intellectual) grow legs and walk out the door. I’m feeling quite salty about this, but since my previous tirade magically disappeared from an errant mouse-click, I feel like some unseen greater power is telling me to keep my salt to myself.
So it’s Monday morning and my home technology has gone into shock. Apparently somehow last night 9-Gigs of “something” showed up on my hard-drive causing me to have ~300-MB HD space which locked my poor little ‘puter hard. First, things first, disconnect the computer from the Internet … sigh … I imagine I’ll be having fun tonight wiping my drive of some interesting pictures some malicious bug has put on my system. The joys of the Internet … I forgot my badge too, my car was out of gas, and I’m hungry.
So I spent another weekend translating manga and pretending to do laundry. The one thing I noticed is how “analog” my manga translation process is. I’m translating a hard copy book and I’m using 4 paper laden dictionaries — 2 kanji dictionaries and 2 Japanese dictionaries — going from the already big dictionaries to the 40-lb tomes when I run across something uncommon. When working in English I use an online dictionary and thesaurus (“WordSmyth”). It’s not nearly as labor intensive — but I supposed that’s because I know English (so I like to think), whereas every time I come across a new Kanji, particulary if it has lots of strokes, I can’t figure out what the primary radical is. It sounds like I have a little home task — check out what’s online in terms of Japanese to English dictionaries. Considering that I always have to go through the middle-man of furigana, I doubt there is going to be an easy way to do this, especially when the unknown Kanji has no Furigana “cheats”.
So, it’s about a month into the new anime season. My favorites so far are:
-Romeo X Juliet (a new take on the Shakespeare’s famous play — very well done so far)
-Darker than Black (can’t tell whether the main character is good or evil — I like it! The main character is Bad-A##)
-Claymore (a lone half-demon female warrior who takes on a whiny sidekick)
-Reideen (apparently a grown up version of some bad ’80’s anime)
-Hayate Combat Butler (guilty pleasure)
It was Christmas time, the time when my husband and I take 2 – 3-weeks off of work to clean the house, catch-up on anime, manga, movies, and videogames, and spend a weekend attacking a small section of the garage pile. Last year after my manga collection finally took over every flat surface in our bedroom, so we headed down to the local put-your-furniture-together-yourself store and bought 4 bookshelves. After filling the bookshelves (we have books other than manga too), my husband scratched his head and said to me, “this is rediculous. No more manga for you until you get rid of some this.” Huh? Of course, I ignored him and went on my merry way and the manga piled up … Finally, it occured to me a couple of months ago that I could sell some of this stuff online from the very website I had initially purchased the manga. I had already purchased lots of manga from used book sellers upto this point but I never imagined that I could be one of those sellers.
I’m still too timid to participate in online auctions, so I didn’t chose the obvious middle-man website. I went with another that charges a hefty commission, but the processes of setting up a store front, listing items and the actual transaction are so easy and secure feeling that I don’t mind paying for the service. Here’s how the process goes:
1. From within my seller’s account I search for the item I want to sell via the UPC code or ISBN number
2. I give a brief description of the condition of the item via a drop down menu and set the price. When setting the price, the lowest price others are seling the item for is visible.
3. I pick my shipping term — normal, express, and international shipping are possible
4. And then post my item
5. Someone buys my item through the website interface
6. The website sends me a message that the item has been sold and to now ship the item to the buyer — name and address and a summary of the transaction are within the message.
7. Money is deposited into an “escrow” account = cost of item + shipping credit – commission
8. I ship the item to the buyer and then send a courtesy e-mail to let the buyer know the order has been shipped
9. Twice a month the money in the “escrow” account is deposited into my bank account.
It’s a wonderful thing. So far I’ve made $300+ in a couple of months and I’ve cleared out a good deal of manga that isn’t very dear to me. I expanded my “store” to include video games that my husband and I don’t foresee us replaying. Things are going well and I have a good reputation (5/5 stars and some nice comments from some of my buyers). I sell roughly 1 book a day and I have sold books to people all over the US and some internationally. I even have repeat customers!
Anyhow, I’m thankful for this service because it would be rather embarassing and inconvenient to hold a garage sale. For one, I don’t want nosy neighbors picking through my used stuff and making judgements about me based upon the books I read. More importantly, I don’t have set up in my garage on the weekend and actually sell stuff. Managing my little storefront online maybe takes 15-mins of my time per day and $300 buys lots more manga and an extra night or two of eating out :).
What next: My husband and I will spend an upcoming weekend digging through our garage looking for our old Nintendo and Atari sytems and video games. It appears that this old junk fetches a nice price online :).
My maternal grandmother passed away early morning on June 6th, ending several months of pain and suffering upon her wary body. This was one of the 6 days in my life that I had been dreading (the other days being the death of my parents, brother, husband, and such …) because I knew my Mom would take her mother’s death hard and, therefore, I too would have a hard time worrying for her and feeling bad because I would not be able to do much to ease my Mother’s sorrow. The family had been bracing for this day for months and my Mom was beyond her limit and signs of stress were manifesting physically on her body.
The funeral was scheduled for Thursday. My Mom flew out to South Carolina on Tuesday to help her last remaining brother make final arrangements. My father and I followed on Wednesday afternoon and evening, respectively. My arrival to the Greenville airport was rather unceremonious. I sat outside on a concrete planter rim dressed in a hoodie, cropped cargo pants, and socked feet in sandals, with my ever-present backpack affixed texting my husband about state of the airport and the absence of my mother, who, as usual, had turned off her cell phone as soon as she had confirmed that I was on the ground. After a 40-minute wait, my Mom and her sister-in-law showed and with a hug I entered the car and we were on our way. I, of course, wanted to freshen up from the plane ride at the hotel, but my Mom was agitated and vetoed my request instead insisting that we go see the body.
My grandmother was beautiful – minimal make-up was applied to her amazing ageless skin (my grandmother had amazing skin that, even at the age of 86, really never developed wrinkles and she only got gray hair very late in life). She was dressed in a pink flowey dress adorned with little white pearls along the neckline that then ran down her chest. She looked as though she was just sleeping. I should kiss her I thought and then chuckled – as though that would bring her back … I turned my attentions to my Mom who was concerning herself with who sent what flowers. I hugged her and we looked at my grandmother together and cried.
For a San Diego native like me, South Carolina appears to be super green with trees and moss and grass and vines everywhere. Within that green there is screaming life – mostly insects – and after a while it’s just too much for my senses and I long for the scrubby browness of home. My grandmother’s house is located on small triangle of Earth amidst the super greenness on a little path of the road call “Pump Hollow”. It was called “Pump Hollow” because at the end of the path was the community water pump, where not too long ago, folks used go and pump water for daily use. There are two houses situated on this small sliver of land. One is the old house where my Mom grew-up and where I have misty childhood memories of being warmed by a wood burning stove and being confounded by the fact that this house had maybe 3 bare light bulbs and no running hot water (if you wanted a warm bath you had to boil water on the stove). This was a place this suburban brat did not like to visit. The other house is a small trailer juxtaposed by the presence of giant tube TV with an accompanying giant lazy boy chair in which my grandmother always sat. Every time we visited, the trailer was always filled with the sounds of playing great children and their parents desperate to tell their “rich” California relatives about their hardships, pleading with us to give their children a better life in California. This is yet another place this suburban brat didn’t like to visit. The old house was boarded up long ago and nature is now steadily reclaiming it. On this day the trailer is filled with grandchildren, who are now in their 30’s and 40’s and those same great grandchildren who are now teenagers. The house is filled with laughter as they share stories about grandma and enjoy the food the community has provided for the family during the time of mourning. It was surprisingly uplifting.
Upon arrival, I head back to kitchen to finally get some food. There are the usual southern comforts; fried chicken, biscuits, potato salad, and orange soda to choose from. I loaded my plate with chicken and bread and wince at the soda. I gave up soda years ago and I now I find it almost undrinkably sweet. But there’s no such thing as bottled water here … so … As cousins make their way in they all greet my Mom and then begin to interrogate me – what’s your husband like? (They are very curious about interracial marriage.) What do you do at work? Are you day or night shift? What do you do when you are at home? Do you know any stars? And on and on. I answered as best as I could and they seem disappointed that my life is pretty ordinary and their illusions of my wealth are shattered as they learn they drive better cars than me and see that I have had the same cell phone for the past two years. I explain that we just have different priorities. To which they seriously explain to me that there’s no point in saving when you could die tomorrow – a point I didn’t fully understand at the moment but later came to poignantly understand.
And then the pictures come out. One of the cousins who was poking around the trailer found a large envelop containing a bunch of pictures. Some were very recent, taken just weeks ago, and some were very old, chronicling the lives of my Mom and uncles. Most precious to me were some photographs of my Mom when she was about 10 and another when she was about 12-years old. I had never seen pictures of her in her youth and I was surprised to see that she looked just like did when I was younger. In one of the pictures my mother defiantly glares at the camera, her eyes stronger and fiercer than I’ve ever seen them. My Mom explained to me that she did not want to be photographed that day and so she refused to smile. But I could see underneath that defiant glare a small smile of victory. I guess she thought she had somehow defeated the photographer, but instead she had given him the gift of a “priceless” expression.
I pulled out my digital camera to take a picture of the photo. I had fallen in love with my Mom all over again. I see, I thought, this is the expression of a child who escapes Pump Hollow. I then asked the family could I keep a few pictures, and surprisingly they were unattached and allowed me to take them as long I digitized them and put them on a photo sharing website. To which they added that should remember to properly label the images so they know who’s in them. *Record scratching noise* Double-take! Huh?!!! Whoa, wait a minute! You have computers and the Internet?!!!
My mother handled the grief by going non-stop and dragging her family along for the ride such that we were so busy that we couldn’t remind her that her mother had just died. And so the night before the funeral dragged on past 1AM. In that night I must have met 50 relatives, for most of whom this was the first-time meeting. Unable to handle a crowd of strangers, as usual, I began to close in on myself. My shoulders gradually moved up to my ears and I had trouble breathing as more people introduced themselves and gave me the obligatory we’re-related-hug. The stranger hugging really annoyed me and pushed me further into myself as if I had hoped to disappear via implosion. As the night progressed we learned that my little brother and cousin were stuck just outside of Atlanta and going nowhere fast because an injury accident closed the freeway and that my Dad was on his way because his plane had just landed. My aunt, seeing how distressed I was, implored my Mom several times to take me to the hotel, but my Mom wasn’t hearing her. Finally, my aunt put her foot down and reminded my Mom that we had a long day ahead of us tomorrow and that she and I needed rest.
Off we finally went back to Spartanburg. My mom wanted to get my Dad some food as she was sure he hadn’t been fed on the flight and so began a futile search for food in a southern town after 10PM. Sigh … and to my uncle’s house before we can go the hotel to pick up my little brother and meet my Dad, who had a rental car. My little brother, Omari, looked tired but in good spirits. Both of us pressured my Mom to take us to the hotel so we could get some rest.
Finally, we were going to the hotel. My Mom got one room for all of us. I guess she had forgotten that I am a married women and that Omari is well into adulthood, so accordingly Omari and I adjusted our behavior to pre-pubescence to meet her expectations (it’s amazing how parents can make you do that). Everybody in my family except for me snores very loudly and I didn’t bring earplugs expecting that I would have my own hotel room. I accepted the situation and prepared not to sleep only to have my parents leave because my Mom had forgotten her luggage at my uncle’s house. Omari and I got to sleep ASAP, hoping that the short reprieve would allow us to sneak in an hour of good sleep. My parents are a mischievous pair and made as much noise as possible when they came back and called Omari and me a couple of cranky seniors when we complained about the noise. (Okay, so we all returned to pre-pubescence that night.) By this time I was too tired to be aware of the snoring and went back to sleep as soon as my parents had settled.
Continuing on with her non-stop ride, my Mom woke us all up promptly at 7AM (4AM CA times – Ouch). Omari and I stumbled around half-asleep because we were 3 – 4-hours short of a good night’s sleep. Once we were dressed it was time to leave. My Mom was anxious to visit to the funeral home one more time to see her mother and, therefore, neglected our need to break-the-fast, so to speak. My Dad, now the moderating factor in the family, refused to drive us anywhere until we were adequately fed because it was going to be long day.
And so the day went: first stop, my uncle’s house to gather him and my aunt. My Mom rode with her brother and sister-in-law, leaving my Dad with Omari and me. Next, onto Jonesville, during which my little brother shared some wild stories from his college life. Apparently he had a friend on the brink of mental collapse – it was tawdry tale of home wrecking, an innocent fetus, and katanas. Nothing good could come of this I thought and my Dad explained how his friend was making himself unhappy by disrupting the universe with his actions. My Mom went the funeral home and my Dad took us to the church, where my grandmother’s body had already been moved. Outside the church, we met an interesting assortment of people included a classmate of my Mom’s who told us a long tale of his self-inflicted trouble with women. This was yet another tawdry tale of home wrecking and innocent children: This guy at one point was married with a fiancée, a girlfriend in another state, and another girlfriend who happen to be a sheriff. Apparently they all found out about each other during Thanksgiving in a wild twist of fate that had the guy eating 3 Thanksgiving dinners, escaping through his out-of-state girlfriend’s window, and running for his life from his Sheriff girlfriend. He was dressed in purple suit with matching reptile skin boots, looking very much like the lady-killer he was.
But I digress … And now to my grandmother’s house for a prayer circle and to be loaded into limos to ride back the 2-blocks, very slowly, to the church.
The funeral was very nice and personal. A group of the grand- and great-grand-children sang 3 hymns and preacher delivered a sermon aimed directly at my Mom and her brother, reminding them that even Jesus cried at the death of Lazarus and that it was okay for them to cry because it is sad to lose someone you love. The closing of the casket was the hardest part for me because I knew at that moment this was the last time I’d see my grandmoth
er’s form. It always amazes in death how much smaller people look than when they were alive. I guess the more boisterous the personality, the bigger people look to me.
After the funeral my Mom continued her non-stop ride and we were off to visit an ailing friend from her childhood and then next to visit my grand-aunt who is bed ridden and, therefore, couldn’t attend her sister’s funeral. Thank goodness for digital cameras with large viewing screens. I had taken many pictures of the funeral and the activities that preceded it, so we were able to share the images and describe the events that had taken place to her and her son who was caring for her. My grand-aunt looked so happy to be able to see the pictures and said, in what little voice she had left, that it was like she was there. This was truly one of the times I felt the beneficial impact of a digital camera. After the visit, my Mom allowed us a 30-min rest before we were off again to a bbq at my uncle’s house.
While at my uncle’s a few people came by to pay their respects. One woman brought copies of the photos she had taken at the funeral. She had printed the photos out on plain paper, laminated them, and then bound the photos in a decorated folder with ribbons. It was nicely done. There was a humorous photo of my uncle who had made us slightly late to the funeral because he wanted to color his hair to get rid of his the graying temples. His head was shiny where he had applied the colorant, making it look as though he had white stripes racing down the side of his head creating the illusion that he had more gray than what he had tried to cover.
And so “homecoming” came to an end. My grandmother had her “homecoming” in accordance with the Baptist faith and my Mom had her homecoming back to the loving embrace of her brother, extended relatives, and childhood friends. I left feeling very positive about the whole experience despite the weariness, but at the same time I looked forward to comforts of my home in San Diego and to sharing the stories and images collected on this trip with my husband and friends.