Thursday, August 26, 2010

Remembering Auntie M

Tomorrow I am attending a memorial service/celebration for my late Auntie M.
Cousin A, her daughter, told me it has been therapeutic for her to arrange this, finally, since she had been putting it off for a few years - this third and final part of her mother's funeral after the original service and cremation nine years ago.

Auntie M is originally from Japan, as is her sister - my mother. I thought it was a loving and lovely idea, Cousin A wanting to scatter a portion of her late mother's ashes from the shores of Japan, as well as from the California coast. It seems such fitting symbolism to lay her mother to rest at either end of the vastness that bridges our dual heritage.

It must have been overwhelming for Cousin A to go through the funeral service twice, in two different countries. I can't blame her for wanting to take a break, even for more than a few years. She is an only child. She lived with Auntie M after her parents had divorced. To Cousin A, her mother alone was her family.

I feel lucky because I have so many good memories of Auntie M from before Cousin A was born, and also from after.

I was three when I had first lived in Japan with my family, in my mother's and Auntie M's childhood home. We stayed in my Ojii-san's (grandfather's) house near Tokyo, with Auntie M and her two cats, Pipi and Gohn-chan. I remember the two tiny goldfish that had been won at a summer street festival. I remember thinking they were exclusively mine. Auntie M had put them in a shallow but wide dish for them to swim around in. The fish were easy pickings for Pipi and Gohn-chan.

The second time our family lived in Japan, I was 8-years-old. Auntie M took me and my siblings to the circus in Tokyo. I remember that day because my aunt and I discovered then that we had a love of garlic-flavored potato chips in common.

There are photos of Auntie M and Cousin A's father from the day they took us kids to the Tokyo Zoo. And I was a huge Snoopy fan as a kid, so I will never forget the time that Auntie M took us all to see "Snoopy Come Home" at the movie theater. As an American kid who was sometimes homesick, it was a special treat to watch a movie in English.

Auntie M had a very memorable laugh. Truth be told, hers sounded a lot like the laughter of Arnold Horseshack from "Welcome Back Kotter," a kind of repeated honking sound that was half grunt and half gasp. This was way before the first season of that television show. Maybe the actor, Ron Palillo, stole it from Auntie M.

"Why don't you have any babies, yet?" I once asked her (this was before Cousin A was born).
"Becaus-zu," she answered in her heavily accented English, "I hav-oo you and-o you and-o you and-o you."
She said this while pointing to each of us in turn, me and my three siblings.

My favorite memory of Auntie M is how she would lengthen my name by three extra syllables whenever she was exasperated with me. It wasn't deliberate. She would just accidentally begin saying my siblings' names first, starting with the youngest:
"Teh -Ah -Dah - PEE-TAH!"

My middle name is Tadashi, after my Ojii-san, so it is fitting that Auntie M would inadvertently lengthen my name to a form of "Tad Peter."

Thanks, Auntie M, for the great memories, and for spoiling us kids, before and after Cousin A was born.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You Would So

Before I got my cute lil' smartcar two years ago, I was mostly getting around the freeways of Los Angeles on my Suzuki Burgman scooter. Oh, I had a car back then, too. It was a used '94 Saturn sports coupe. I hastened its demise, though, in less than a decade by tripling the mileage that it had already accumulated.

My cousin, Kousin K, said the funniest thing to me. "It's a good thing you're with Domestic Partner," she had told me. "If you were dating right now you would so need a new car."

"Hey," I protested. "The scooter is the new car."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Totally Teetotaler

I don't drink. I have been of legal drinking age for more than twenty-three years now, and I have never been drunk. I don't feel as if I've missed out on anything.

Maybe it had something to do with being a band geek in high school. Or maybe I was just that much of a goody-goody while growing up. I never had to deal with that kind of peer pressure (or in this case, beer pressure). But I have never liked the taste of any alcoholic beverage, not even wine coolers or champagne.

"You've never been drunk?!" Steve was incredulous. He was the DJ on the first cruise ship I had worked on. "We've got to find something you enjoy drinking, and get you drunk for the first time."

It's almost a shame that I didn't drink. As crew members, we were given an alcohol account to get drinks for free on the ship. The purpose of the account was to get us to socialize more with the passengers, to offer them a drink on the house, in any of the ship's bars and dining areas.

The account had a set limit, though, and was renewed every month. My coworkers came running to me regularly. "Can I put my drinks on your account? I've maxed out mine." They knew that I was barely using up my minimum, even when getting drinks for passengers, with the juice or soft drink beverages I was ordering for myself.

Back home, on land, my roommates loved me. "Let's go out!" they would suggest, knowing I would be more than willing to drive. Even though I didn't drink, I loved to go out dancing, any night of the week. "Okay!" I agreed. "You guys drink and I'll make sure to get us all safely back home!"

"You don't drink?" the Japanese would ask me when I worked in Kyushu. "And you don't smoke? You're not Japanese." No, I am not. Well, I am only half, on my mother's side, but I knew what they meant. I am American through and through when it comes to the cultural norms of social drinking in Japan.

In a small attempt to assimilate, I would have one glass of shou chu (or chu hai ) whenever I went out to dinner with friends in Japan. It is a very mild, clear alcohol, usually mixed with a fruit-flavored (artificially flavored) concentrate. My favorite flavor with shou chu was "Calpico," a high fructose soft drink that is kind of milky and lightly citrusy at the same time, kind of yogurty, really. I learned to love it when I spent part of my childhood in Japan.

I could make a Calpico shou chu last throughout an entire meal. On some nights, during special occasions, I would get really wild and order a second drink - a Kahlúa and milk, which tastes like flan pudding to me. Yum!

Drinking wine is supposed to be healthy for you, even having a glass a day. But I still don't drink. I have never been drunk, not even once. So, tell me: what's the fuss all about? What am I missing?

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I was Purple Peter for twenty years. From 1981 to 2001 I wore something purple every day. On most days the display of my favorite hue was blatant and obvious, such as when wearing my bright purple Levi's 501's, thanks to Rit dye. But on some days it would just be purple socks or a purple watch. Or purple underwear.

"Where's your purple?" people would ask me on days that my trademark was more subtle.

"Why not just get a tattoo in purple and be done with it?" someone else had asked. That would have ruined the fun, I thought. That would have made the game of perpetually being the guy-who-wore-purple rather moot.

After twenty years I was done.

That was the same year I had my hair bleached platinum blond and started wearing a lot of reds. And yellows, and greens, and shades of royal blue.

My hair is back to its natural color (my sister, to my amusement, was suspicious that I am now using dark hair dye). Now, I implement many bright (and not-so-bright) colors in my daily life:

I wear red to work when I am stressed out, frustrated, and angry.

I ride an orange scooter to work and back.

I drive a yellow smart car on the weekends.

I look for bright green shirts to go with my half green/half blue Adidas high tops.

I get compliments when I wear my royal blue dress shirt to work.

I wear purple when I get together with old friends and/or attend reunions, just for old time's sake.

I used to avoid brown. Now I embrace rich, chocolaty shades in my wardrobe.

I wear a black dress shirt to work when I am feeling apathetic.

I love to wear charcoal grey when I am feeling fashionable and confident.

I am not afraid to wear pale pink or even bright pink shirts.

I love to wear white, even though it's so hard to keep clean.

And when I was in high school, my entire bedroom was decorated in rainbows.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hey, Do You Get Yours?

One of the more memorable passengers from my cruise ship days was a young woman named Trish. She was in her mid-to-late twenties and she had slight mental retardation. She was like an outgoing grammar school girl, and she was one of the more ardent fans of the stage revues. She soon became a familiar face, sitting near the front row of the show lounge, right on the carpet, no matter what the scheduled dress code was for the evening.

On most nights, before we had reached the end of our live performance, Trish was usually stretched out on the show lounge carpet, snoring away,

Trish seemed excited to recognize us during the day time, walking throughout the ship's corridors or up on the outer decks. "Hey! Hey, you guys!" she would eagerly call. "Hey, you guys! What are you doing?"

During Trish's cruise, I got dressed in my tuxedo to greet the passengers at the Captain's Cocktail hour, as we did every week on the first formal night. I got on one of the ship's elevators with a couple of the other dancers, Graham in his tux, too, and Jo in one of her cocktail dresses. An elegant and elderly couple were already in the elevator, dressed to the nines.

The three of us greeted them politely, asking the usual questions: Where are you from? Are you enjoying the cruise so far?

The elevator stopped at the next level and Trish stepped in, unaccompanied, wearing a very ruffly, blue party dress.

"Hey! Hey, you guys. What are you doing?" Trish looked pointedly at Jo. "I just got my mennis-stray-shun. Do you get mennis-stray-shun?"

I don't know how we managed to keep from bursting with laughter. I had to look away from Graham and Jo. We didn't want to behave rudely in front of our senior citizen guests, or even in front of Trish.

We waited until after we got out of the elevator and then hooted like loons with the other dancers when we told them what Trish had said in front of a couple of passengers.