Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Once more, for old time's sake

I took this video of Gristle a long time ago, before I left Guangzhou. I edited it and was going to translate it for your pleasure, but I got bored halfway through. So if you don't speak Chinese, nothing past the first thirty seconds will be comprehensible. Nevertheless I believe that his indomitable spirit can be enjoyed by all.

The new semester at my (former) place of employment begins this week. Best wishes to Andy, zero wishes to my replacement, whose presence I'm sure only serves to remind the students of the deep sorrow they felt when they lost me. Medium wishes to my students. I'm sure you'll do fine.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

We Tell Ourselves Guangzhou Stories in Order to Live

Flight CX872, Seat 60H: Showing 1 out of 1 customer review.

Airbus, more like Amistadbus! (2 out of 5 stars)


  • inside the plane.
  • had seatbelt.
  • did not really resemble the historical Amistad.


  • One flight attendant spent the majority of our 12-hour flight flirting with a passenger standing in the galley who, the last time I passed, had just noted that he speaks “some high-school Spanish.” A request for a glass of water was met with a chirpy, “No worries!”, though she made no move to get me water or otherwise break eye contact with the hunky Hispanophone. Water took 20 minutes to arrive, was lukewarm.

  • Seat 60H is close enough to the front of the plane that you can see people in Business class getting better service than you are, but far enough back that in a LOST-type plane crash scenario, your half of the plane would break off and land in the middle of the island, no one would care when you were introduced halfway through the season, and you’d be stuck with a bunch of unrelatable characters and everyone would be rooting for you to die.

  • My mother, traveling next to me in seat 60J (seat 60I went home after being teased by its classmates for wearing 29 pairs of glasses) forwent the standard meals in favor of the “fruit plate” option which turned out to be: one small chunk each of watermelon, cantaloupe, apple, peach. Several grapes. One small, small plate of fruit. “I’m so hungry!” whispered mom, five hours outside of Hong Kong. “See if you can find me some cookies!”

    “How many packs?”


    “What’s several?”

    “Three. Four. Let’s say four.”

    Son went to galley to get cookies. (“‘¡Tengo frio!’, that sort of thing.”) Flight attendant looked up at son as he grabbed a whole handful of Snack Packs and said, concerned, “Are you sure you don’t want a sandwich or something?” Son was embarrassed, refused to get mother cookies for remainder of flight.

  • Someone vomited in one of the bathroom sinks. They tried to wash it out but you could still totally tell.

  • I had to leave Guangzhou for the last time in probably many years, possibly forever. The Guangzhou Story is also ending because I no longer live in Guangzhou. You — all of you who have read, commented, and occasionally mentioned me to friends (even negatively, or pityingly) — have been wonderful.

    Maybe if, later, I have some reflections on my Guangzhou experience, I’ll come back here and share them with you. Maybe if I ever finish subtitling a short video of Gristle I took on our May 1st vacation, I’ll post that here, too.

    For now, though, thanks for the memories. I have some plans for future web projects; if you’d like to be kept in the loop, follow me on twitter and I’ll let you know if and when I do anything, ever again.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Travels with Gristle

It’s travel blog time with Jon, Andy, and Gristle! Join these three young men as they embark on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle. Starring Paul Giamatti as “Jon”, Tomas Haden Church as “Andy”, and Sandra Oh as “Gristle”.

In search of wine. In search of women. In search of themselves.

Monday, April 11, 2011

In Which I Promise To Drink Heineken For the Remainder of my Natural Life

Just imagine: it’s Friday night! Where are you? Maybe you’re at the sports bar, or at the orthopedic surgeon’s. Maybe you’re at shul!

Here’s where I am:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Sister Has a Blog

My sister, who is currently studying abroad in Panama, has started a blog. She’s funny and, these days, more prolific than I am. CHECK IT:


Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It’s been a long, hard week in Guangzhou. Despite my best intentions, I still haven’t told you about the student-written play I’m starring in, Gristle’s new boots, or my attempts to find a way to say “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity” in Chinese (still ongoing).

Someday I will find the time to share those stories (because I’m a story teller! We all are, each and every one of us!), but today is not that day. I’m tired. So grab a glass of wine and a comfortable snuggie — we’re going to spend the evening hearing about Funny Things Chinese People Have Recently Said. I realize this now means I’m no better than Margaret Cho. I’m so, so sorry.

  • I recently had cause to teach some first graders how to say the names of some animals and foods. Some of them are not so good at pronouncing things.

    Me: Hippo.
    Student: Poop potato.

    Me: Cake.
    Student: KKK.
    Me: Cake.
    Student: Cocaine.

    I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: you can’t win ’em all.

  • A student texted me on Sunday morning:

    Ha~ ” Home Alone ” this weekend~oh yeah~

    First, this sounds like a text message my (hypothetical) mother (not my real mother, who is a responsible and conscientious user of SMS technology) might send me, insofar as I do not know what information the sender is trying to convey, nor why they chose to share it with me.

    Second, what exactly does this message mean: is he watching “Home Alone”; is he, in fact, Home Alone; is he watching “Home Alone” while Home Alone; is he currently being attacked by Zhou Pesci and making a rueful reference to a similarly named actor and his star turn as a Wet Bandit; is he worried about an airport mixup; has he just applied aftershave? Not sure.

    I sent back a safe, non-committal response:

    Haha, don’t go too crazy!

    And he immediately replied:

    It’s already crazy enough~I watched anime (the Japanese cartoon) till late night……

    A Chinese version of Girls Gone Wild would be a very different type of video.

  • Gristle had one of those days today where he wanted to practice English. Nevertheless, he didn’t really manage to say much — today, like most days, “practicing English” meant occasionally using an English word or two which, for the record, is not the same as actually speaking English. The one complete sentence he did say was during a story about a woman he sat next to on a plane ride last week. He noted that he was sitting next to a foreign woman and then said in English, “But it’s curious, she was a black.”

    Curious indeed! The case of Gristle and the African Airline Passenger. The game is afoot!

    It’s funny because she’s black, and he has a foot fetish. Never gets old.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Chinese Democracy

Yesterday was my roommate Andy’s birthday! One of his students was going to give him a present, but then it rained and she sent him a message saying that she’d have to cancel because her gift “cannot bear dampness.” Better luck next year, big guy!

Andy’s birthday wasn’t the only big news this week. The national session of the Chinese National People’s Congress concluded last Monday. I am shocked — shocked! — to report that they decided to adopt the Communist Party’s 12th five-year plan with much fanfare and mutual back-slapping.

Five-year plan

Members of the NPC, in what looks suspiciously like a stock photo that a suburban Chinese-American Business Owners Association might use at the inauguration of a new minimall.

That the NPC session was a smashing success is not surprising. What is surprising is that minority delegates to the congress attend the sessions in traditional clothing and hats:

Big hat day

Likely response from the Han contingent: it’s nice of you to come, and I recognize your hat is the size of a watermelon and made of gold, but I don’t think you’re going to make a lot of progress here. Look how many of us there are. Come on.

This recent national democracy outbreak was accompanied by a self-government flare up on a local level: my high school students spent the past week choosing their new student body president. They had an election and everything, just like in America! One difference is that rather than being elected by popular vote, the student body president is chosen by a conference of class representatives. Another thing is that all the candidates and all the class representatives have to be members of the Communist Youth League. You know what the funniest thing about China is? It’s the little differences.

(And do you know who the new president is? It’s Lily, one of my English Corner superstars (she’s the Catholic)! Cat people: your day has come.)

In the democratic spirit, I want to talk to you about the condition of my face. My “mustache” situation has not measurably improved. Nevertheless, because my continued contact with my mustache and my consequent isolation from other human beings, I believe I have developed Stockholm Hair Syndrome, described by wikipedia as a “paradoxical phenomenon” where hostages develop positive feelings towards their captors — in this case, my mustache. To put it to you bluntly: even though my mother’s surgery is over and my task completed, I still have not shaved. And so the hostage situation continues. My captor does not threaten to kill me, but it certainly does threaten to kill my chances of ever reproducing, which, emotionally speaking, is just as bad.

Here’s a picture of the mustache as it stands today:

My mustache

Patty Hearst poses with the Symbionese Liberation Army currently hanging out on her face.

I really hope that I work up the gumption to shave soon before it forces me to rob a bank.

Here’s the connection to democracy: please post your views of my mustache in the comments. The more people who tell me it look awful, the better. I really need some motivation here. Let’s get this thing out of here. Do it for the children that my mustache makes it look like I’m sexual interested in.