November 25, 2013
November 14, 2013
November 12, 2013
November 10, 2013
I still don't really understand what satisfaction he got from scoring points on his credulous and naive children, but whatever thrill it was it must have enough for him to continue it for far too long. Very seldom could we turn the tables on him and when we did it was almost invariably accidental.
My parents went to Mexico one year. I think I must have been 8 or 9 years old. They brought back presents for us. I can't remember what my sister got, but my brother got a red basketwork dragon that I was intensely jealous of. I got a wooden sculpture which has been with me ever since. I named him Atrocious. It was explained to me that this was a sculpture of an African lion done by a woodcarver who had never seen one. We all got heavy Mexican serapes that had the neck slit sewn shut so we could use them as blankets. My father gleefully told me that the figure on my blanket was Chac-Mool, and Aztec god who demanded freshly extracted and still throbbing, human hearts as a sacrifice.
Stuff like that didn't bother me at all. The blanket went on my bed. I toyed with the idea of sacrificing one of my siblings to the god, but it seemed overly messy and uncomfortable to explain and clean-up afterwards. The lion was placed in a position of honor on one of my bedroom bookshelves (yes, even then my bedroom was lined with books).
A few days later, I walked into our apartment kitchen to find my father busily searching the drawers. Since he had a can in one of his hands, I assumed he was looking for the can opener. I found it for him. He was excited and announced with great pomp and circumstance that I was just the person he was looking for. This was enough to instantly make me wary. He had smuggled a can of chili peppers back from Mexico and he wanted me to be the first to try them.
Without actually running out of the room in fear, I explained that there was no possibility of my acting as taster for his royal highness. He insisted that these peppers weren't THAT hot. I insisted that I didn't trust him. "Then just dip your finger in the juice," he said, " and put a drop on your tongue. I continued to refuse. I had been caught too many times before.
He finally tried to suggest that my refusal was due to my wimpiness and lack of character. I remained steadfast. He smirked at me and popped a whole pepper into his mouth and bit down.
There's an expression that comes over a persons face when they've done something without sufficient thought. I have seen it on the face of a woman who liked the look of the pretty green stuff on the side of her first plate of sushi and popped a walnut-sized lump of wasabi into her mouth. I have seen it on the face of a friend who ordered a brew pub's hottest chili con carne and their special beer of the day, not realizing that their chili was intensely spicy and that the beer of the day was jalapeno. I have imagined my own face after having told a waiter at an Indian restaurant that I liked the heat of chilis and that they should amp it up for me. The first time I saw it, however, was on my father's face that morning.
There was a very slight widening of the eyes, damped down quickly by pride and not wanting to seem surprised. Then came a flush starting at the base of the neck as the heat hit for real and started to spread. It was clear that had I not been there he would have spit it out, so I stayed. The flush reached his forehead and he started to sweat while still trying to maintain a poker-face. He didn't want to swallow it, but I wasn't about to let him of the hook that easily.
Then came the bonus, he reached up to wipe the sweat off his brow ... with the hand he'd used to take the pepper from the can. I stood there quietly as if waiting for his verdict on the deliciousness of the peppers and my loss at refusing to go first. More sweat started to trickle down, this time washing the minute traces of pepper juice down through his eyebrows and into his eyes. He waved, as if to dismiss me and raced to the bathroom where I heard him spit out the pepper and wash his hands and face over and over again.
His eyes were red for the rest of the day. I never saw that can of peppers again.
The kicker to this story is that I am a great aficionado of chilis now. I grow my own jalapenos, and habaneros, I have jars of hot chili and curry powders, and containers of Jolokia (ghost peppers) and Trinidad Scorpion peppers in the cupboard and use them regularly. I am sure that the peppers that destroyed my father's composure all those years ago, would be mild to me now.
November 3, 2013
I got home, after two weeks in Boulder CO, last Saturday evening and was immediately faced with several pounds of mail. Somewhere in the stacks was a jury summons and questionnaire that needed to be filled out before Monday. I did triage on the mail on Sunday to find it, filled it out, called to confirm they needed me, and before I knew it the day was gone.
On Monday, I arrived at the courthouse, as ordered, at 8 am, waited in line to confirm my identity and prove that I was an upstanding citizen. Then watched a video which tried to persuade me that I was being a mensch by doing my duty. Then I waited. Eventually I was called to a Superior Court criminal case about drunk driving ... I was excused. Then I waited. Eventually I was called to a Superior Court civil case about someone suing about tripping on an uneven parking lot that was covered in snow at a popular local roast beef sandwich shop ... I was excused and it was obvious which lawyer had chosen to exclude me. I waited. They told me to go to lunch. I went to the local hotdog stand and ordered a vegetarian sausage. I hear someone behind me mutter "Dammit, I knew I fucked-up." I looked over my shoulder and saw the lawyer for the plaintiff who had excluded me. I ate my veggie dog. I waited.
I was finally seated in a jury for the housing court fpr a landlord vs. tenant dispute. I didn't like the landlord's attorney, and I liked him less when it turned out that the landlord was a corporation. He also seemed to concentrate on minor technical stuff when it was obvious that there were significant overarching property management problems.
I did like the tenant's attorney. She was bright and personable underlining the problems and did a bang-up job for the tenant. Unfortunately, her client had been a bit disingenuous and had obviously manipulated the situation.
I found myself, sadly, finding for the landlord. This so devastated my sense of rightness that I ended up unable to write for a while. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that I'd had no time to renew my prescription for attention medication. I'll have the new scrip on Monday, just in time for the final phase of my colonoscopy diet. So don't expect anything coherent from me before Wednesday at the earliest.