Sunday, February 29, 2004

Something has to be done.

Attention all Westerners!

Haiku are not just the correct number of syllables! You also have to include a reference to the season.

For example, let's take Basho:

In the cicada's cry
No sign can foretell
How soon it must die.

There is a reference to summer there. Cicadas are summer pests! Not winter or spring or autumn. Summer!

Here's one by Issa:

A sudden shower falls -
and naked I am riding
on a naked horse!

See? The rainy season! That nuance of Japanese weather takes place in about May.

Now examine a Western sampling from the Periodic Table of Haiku:

brittle alloy
corroded by salt
one hot pot

Salt-corroding can happen at any time! Salt-corroding is not bound by seasonal change!

This is what the Male Librarian Centrefold claims is a haiku:

japanese sento
gnarled bodies as pine trees
age -- my destiny

Sure, Mr. Centrefold, you have references to the transience of life. But in what season are you bathing? Give us a reddening maple leaf or an errant snowflake or even a mislaid cherry blossom petal!

And the Erotic Haiku Collection has:

Guessing the technique
Relatives smile

Come on! Humans mate in any season. Get some daffodils involved! Bring in Punxsutawney Pete! Mention that jack o'lantern voyeur! You have to pinpoint more than the lecherous grins your perverted family members are sporting.

Or else:

Back to your sonnets, soundrels!

Sunday, February 29, 2004

I just noticed that, according to the wonders of Sitemeter, some Brazilian stumbled on my site while looking up "aunt spanking bad boys with leather slipper." Now I can't remember when I wrote about any aunts disciplining the rougher elements of manhood in that way, but I share Yahoo space with "DevilF**k.com -- INTENSE MOTHER F**KING S**T!"

There is obviously some connection between motherhood and Satan. My best friend had banner ads promoting the two side by side. Having never experienced motherhood, I cannot give a balanced opinion in this regard.

I was #59 in this "aunt slipper-spanking" search, with this descriptive excerpt: "... Older teenage boys drove around the Colosseum making fun of the ... Never squish them with a slipper. An egg might remain ... I had a bad feeling. Don't open your backpack ..."

Recently someone else stumbled on my site while looking up "stereotypical caucasian dinner." Of course, that would be the August entry where I described a stereotypical caucasian breakfast: nettle-and-moorfowl oatmeal, ground cardamom seeds with coffee ice cubes, and the ubiquitous bacon and tentacles.

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Morning of February 29, 2004 dream:

This guy who snubbed me last November and I were walking. He was white. He picked up two East Asian ladies. The three of them walked ahead of me, laughing, while I followed silently from behind.

Some of the houses along the streets had high gates, as they do in Transylvanian villages.

In a covered courtyard, there was torpedo hanging from the ceiling. Someone ordered me to swing the torpedo into the television affixed to the opposite wall. On the television was a film about the sea.

They promised me the torpedo would not explode on contact. I set forth on my task.

I almost managed to swing the torpedo into the television. I decided to take a break. I wandered around the garden in the back.

When I returned to my task, one of the ladies was busy swinging the torpedo. The torpedo was very close to the television screen. "Hey, you're going to steal my accolades! Give me that torpedo!" She pushed me away.

Suddenly, the snubber runs from the street into the courtyard. His sword slices through the woman's shoulders as if they were tepid butter. He amputated both of her arms!

My shock was such that I immediately woke up. But, still half in my dream, I saw the poor woman, months later, watching the doctors place her newborn baby on her chest. Then I saw, still in my half-awake, half-asleep state, that both mother and baby would have to be spoonfed.

The dream dictionary reports: "the loss of entire arms [denotes] unusual depression in trade. Afflicted persons should be warned to watchfulness after this dream."

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Surrealist compliment of the day: Were giraffe's antennae to sprout from your barnacled elbows, one could but weep for the pretense of a fallen chamber pot.

Any sentence that uses barnacle as an adjective is a good sentence.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Eve, after two years, has tracked me down again! Woo hoo! My elementary school best friend is back!

Saturday, February 28, 2004

I should be doing a million other things. But I took a two-hour call from me best friend. O! the chortling about Deuce Bigalo & possum hunting & feathers! Then the weird Southern accents as we went into a half hour of making jokes about being Tennessee inbreds. She is even going to get me a special recording "How to Fake an Irish Accent."

And she wrote a special posting, just for me, about cockroaches.

Plus, we gave each other new nicknames. She is Sonny (that's short for Son). I am now Scrappy (because I only have scraps of paper instead of business cards).

Only ten more months until I can see her again...

Saturday, February 28, 2004

"It turns out, for instance, that people will often consciously choose against their own happiness."

Saturday, February 28, 2004

A famous writer recounts his days as a sex slave.

Female sex slaves are pretty de rigueur. But when we hear about a white male sex slave in some part of Africa we can never expect to find on a world map, then we must click on this link. Mutual exploitation is right.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

"The rule of juxtaposition, for example, explains that one ingredient will seem tasteless if it is served with another, more tasty ingredient. Conversely, the flavorful ingredient's taste will be sharpened."

Women have been applying molecular gastronomy to their lives for years. How do I know this? Because I am that tasteless ingredient - the pablum bath in which Toblerone pyramids wallow.

More scientifically, I have gathered data from my recent excursions and, plotting it on a graph, a pattern emerged. Three out of four girlfriend outings shows me to be the cracker that underlies the beluga caviar. My success, at the very least, is that I am sharpening the flavour of the flavourful ingredient: two out of the three ladies snagged a man.

The fourth girlfriend outing fell into the rule of dominance: "an ingredient with a dominant taste (a very sweet-tasting ingredient such as chocolate, for instance) must always be 'awakened' by an ingredient with another dominant taste (an acidic food, for example)." Though the truffle of the night gathered a whole gaggle of fellows about her, at the very least I had the attentions of a hook-nosed mathematician. I was that acidic orange complementing chocolate.

Future girlfriend outings will have me starring as one of the following ingredients in each pair:

Spice bread ice cream & crab syrup.

Smoked bacon & egg ice cream.

Oysters & passion-fruit jelly.

Tobacco-flavored ice cream & liquid nitrogen.

Sardines & sorbet toast.

Friday, February 27, 2004

For Charles:


Friday, February 27, 2004

Should I have bought that book about tattoos?

It wasn't one of those new Natural History of Whatever type books with lots of trivia. Most of it is probably rather boring.

But it does have a picture of a tattooed cow.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Octopuses in aquariums play tricks on their keepers. They take apart water pumps. They leap out of corners, ejecting ink into their owners' faces. They sneak out of their tanks, eat fish from other tanks and then sneak back into their tanks. The wet trail "along the walls and the floor" gives them away.

Cuttlefish dream.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Aside from Gadhaffi, Gadhafi, Ghadafi, Ghaddafi, Kadhafi, Khadafi, Khadafy, Qadaffi, Qadhafi and Qathafi, there are more than 600 other ways to transliterate Mu'ammar Gadaffi.

Friday, February 27, 2004

A forced grin is called a risus sardonicus.

Friday, February 27, 2004

"Deception is the hallmark of intelligence."

Eric Scigliano, Discover magazine, 2003.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The fireplace at the library was toasty. Books about blood and tattoos and eccentrics surrounded me.

A mother lost her child. A police officer questioned everyone. A husband spoke aloud while his wife whispered to him not to disturb me. The child was reading in the part of the library diagonally opposite of me.

In the end, the librarian tricked me into paying more for sale books.

Friday, February 27, 2004

I met a guy last night.

I brought up Romania. Turns out he was also a radio DJ in Romania. I was disappointed to have my one shining achievement dimmed.

He tried to make me feel better by telling me about the smoking goat he met in the Carpathian Mountains.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

When writing about Anisoara's health conditions, I realized that I cannot spell hemorraghing. There, even now I messed it up.

Few words get the better of me. But hemorrhaging is a nasty cutthroat hiding in the shadows outside of vocabulary's tavern.

I memorize hemorrhaging by writing it out over a few times:

"Dengue fever, much like Ebola, makes mice and men alike to go a-hemorrhaging."

"I nearly wasted away as a result of nasal hemorrhaging."

"Doctor, can't you stop that bobcat from hemorrhaging all over the fine china?"

Each sentence confuses me more. From whence two Rs? Was that H always so awfully mobile?

This is a job for mnemonics.

Like Mrs. Vandertramp for French learners, mnemonics helped me memorize the Mohs Scale.

Talc + gypsum + calcite + fluorite + apatite + orthoclase + quartz + topaz + corundum + diamond = Those girls can flirt and other queer things can do.


Talc + gypsum + calcite + fluorite + apatite + orthoclase + quartz + topaz + corundum + diamond = Tall gyroscopes can fly apart, orbiting quickly to complete disintegration.

Hemorrhaging thus becomes:


Other suggestions welcome.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Parental advice for cheering up:

Mom: Do my taxes for me. Get a boyfriend. Wait until I visit. Then you'll have balamuc (chaos).

Dad: Swear maniacally at everyone. Curse people to hell. Sneer more. Promise me you'll do this. Then I'll find you a nice boyfriend here in Alba Iulia. I have a room you can use as an office and you can teach English to nice Romanian boys and then you can decide which one you'll marry. Because a Romanian boy will really appreciate moving to Canada, they'll like you more.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Everyone put in a business card. I just wrote my name on a scrap of paper. Sona said her mother always wins at these draws.

I must win this time, I silently pleaded.

I won.

Now I can drink three cups of coffee on Starbucks.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Charles said that beetles don't have tongues but they do have Latin in their mouths. The awesome power of Google, when unleashed, led me to hairy honeybee eyeball when I looked for beetle tongue. Vacuum cleaner palp on a lady bug, by the way, is the new background on my computer. Next week it's gonna be ladybug fungus.

The beetle tongue will have to wait for a trip to the library.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Our company moved to a new office. We went from a seawater location to a freshwater one. Normarily I consider myself more of an oceanic person (and I already miss the Barnet Highway and all the turn-of-the-twentieth-century houses along the way).

But there are a few good things about the new office. I see airplanes. Yesterday, in a meeting, I was listening to Gwen the account manager speak. I tried to concentrate on her face. Behind her I could see the planes, having just taken off from the Vancouver International Airport, like flies swarming above her head.

An errand after work took me in the direction of the airport. I would even have gone to the airport, had it not been for my appointment. One of these days I'll go there and hang out in departures and pretend I am about to go back to some major city whose name starts with the letter B.

When I first returned to Vancouver, I thought I was here to stay. Eight months of travelling always culminates in a desire to stay put for a long, long time.

I thought I was cured of the travel bug. I'd look at airplanes and was glad to be planted on the ground. I grew up in Vancouver and I had come back to stay. No more suitcases, no more hasty friendships, no more walking aimlessly through London or Taipei or Tokyo or Addis Ababa or Helsinki. Many of my friends and the greatest concentration of relatives reside here. I have a big house. All my books are in one place. The libraries have pine tables and fireplaces. Nothing was going to make me budge.

Then something started nibbling at my strength. First, I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement that I was going away for Christmas. The moment I walked out the door of my office on December 19th, even though I had just been told I might not have a job waiting for me when I returned, I was happy. I drove fast, as if it would somehow speed up time.

Minor tremors of fear before I was at the airport...what if I missed my flight? What if I got into a car accident? What if the taxi driver sneezed and swerved off a cliff? What if I was arrested for trying to smuggle a pomelo into the United States? What if the travel agent sent me to Wyoming instead of Illinois?

I did make it to Chicago, though U.S. Customs insisted the pomelo go into quarantine.

Chicago was not exactly a Budapest. It was good enough, though. Strangers would peer over my book and ask me if I liked the Maginificent Mile. Whether I was watching an instructional video on joint-rolling or snorting at a Medusa postcard in gift shops, men and women would turn their heads to smile at me. And, most unusual, people vied for my time.

In my absence, Vancouver suddenly turned brown. The sunshine on Vancouver magnified the wrinkles and liver spots, just like the bright light above a bar bathroom mirror.

Vancouver also suddenly shrank. Do I really know every street? Today I tried out new routes from the office. Yet I had been on all those streets before. Not one of them was completely new to me. I try to lose myself in the maze of streets. Every strange street merges with some well-known street. Even worse, I now have to drive past my first high school,* the White Trash High School. The demographics seem to have shifted towards a different race, but the ghosts of my past overlap with the present day.**

And the language here! It never changes! I like weird accents.*** Yesterday, before I could stop myself the following, in a faux Scottish accent that would have film critics lambasting my efforts, came out of my mouth: "Aye, when ye crowlin' ferlie be a-hoistin' the Jolly Roger, I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee wi' murd'ring pattle..." I stopped myself too late, a victim of the aghast Vancouver stare. And English everywhere! Mandarin has largely disappeared from our shores. The wreckage of Romanian has long sank under the Patullo Bridge. English even diluted the French on cereal boxes into a weak concoction of random letters.

The travel bug is stirring. I have invitations from Sal to visit New York; Beth as always tells me I am welcome in Chicago; Arizona Cheryl promises me lots of frybread on the Navajo Reservation; there is an urgency to see Shirley while she remains in Calgary and then the promise of a lengthier jaunt to New Zealand hangs before me.

Something fun and exciting had better happen soon.

*I attended three different high schools: the White Trash High School, the Maoist High School and the Woo Hoo Acid High School.

**At this point I got a phone call from another alienated Vancouverite.

***My caller hypnotically repeated my rendition of ci-teee.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

So Frank wrote about beetles today.

Which reminded me of my pet beetles.

Japanese kids and middle aged men collect beetles. One of the elementary schools where I worked gave me a beetle husband-and-wife set.

For the beetles' dinner, the children gave me a glob of purple beetle jelly. The male beetle hugged the jelly and began licking it. Every few hours, I peeked in the box. The male beetle never let go of its jelly.

The next day I gave my pet beetles to a middle aged man.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Anisoara's modesty (and teeth) prevented a thorough examination of further signs of hemorrhaging. Yet it seems like the problem is less severe than on Sunday night.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

In the universe there is matter. Alongside matter is energy. By looking at an EEG, we know thought is energy.

The tea cup reader thus explained the validity of her craft.

The strict laws of physics ended there and the haphazard guessing of a seventy-something fortune teller took over.

A bird brings a message.

"Even if I see in my cup an arctic petrel swooping down, about to rip some unfortunate fish out of the water, by some barren rocky coast off Ellesmere Island?"

"Yes," she said.

"I also see an elephant in my cup," I added.

"An elephant never forgets. You are clutching at some distant tragedy and the cup is telling you to let go."

"Now what about this rhinocerus here?"

"You are obviously trying to shield yourself from something."

"And I see a man and a woman in a row boat."

"That means you will get far, slowly, if you cooperate."

But the woman in my cup was holding a parasol, not an oar.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Anisoara bled again last night. This time the hemorrhaging was very severe.

It could be one of many possibilities. She might have diarrhea or she might be constipated, like last time. Maybe she fell. But she had been in her cage for two days. If the holy spirit impregnated her, well, she's pregnant. But the Messiah probably can't lead the virtuous into heaven in hamster form. Plus, those boy hamsters got kind of scared when I had them fingerprinted for the background check.

The only other possibility is that she is having a period. It is very rare, but some female hamsters menstruate once or (even more rarely) twice during their lifetimes. Either that or it's hamster cervical cancer.

When I woke up she seemed to be ok. No more blood.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Learn Romanian through Romanian Hip-Hop.

Which I need, because I cannot figure out this lyric in an Ultra TT song: "She's so bingoasa." Cosmin's mammoth dictionary does not have that word. Bingoasa has been leaving me sleepless for months.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Karen's parrots will each receive one of these psittacine* training CDs next Christmas. Karen, get ready to have your birds talk sexy!

*psittacine = parrotlike, for those of you who are too lazy to look it up.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Alas. A year too late to be of any benefit to me:

Art Writer wanted
Metropolis is looking for a writer to take over its weekly, two-page art section at the end of February. The ideal candidate will have writing experience, be familiar with the Tokyo art scene, be knowledgeable about art history, and be able to speak reasonable Japanese. The duties include a weekly review, a short news item and exhibition listings. If you�re interested, please send a cover letter, resume and writing samples to John McGee at

Sunday, February 22, 2004

I am dancing around my living room now!!

I finished my two illustrations and delivered them and was reassured they were decent!!

Thus I wish joy and goodwill to all humanity tonight!

Sunday, February 22, 2004

I was just looking for an adjective like musteline.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Found in Tokyo Classifieds: Pretty mermaid seeks company.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Decisions are hard to make. So when I get spam with imperatives in the subject line, I feel a sense of relief that I don't have to make any difficult choices that day.

For example, today Daisy Sanford wrote "Buy watches bud." She probably forgot my real name and had to revert to the generic "bud." Spammers are so busy sending out millions of emails, they can't be that particular. I understand.

I am glad Daisy wrote to me. Because, when I got up this morning, I just had no idea what to do with my time. There were so many possibilities. An entire free day ahead of me. How does one choose between playing frisbee with a pack of mandrills and sewing extra fingers on gloves and testing parachutes off the kitchen table? People are so busy these days. No one can get everything done. But, Daisy got straight to the point. I now realize that yes, buying watches does take precedence over all these trifling things on which I would have wasted my time.

Later today, when I join the mandrills in that frisbee game, I will definitely heed Alison Elliot's subject line: "deplete extra primate forgetting coors." Any extra mandrills not bringing a can of coors will indeed be destroyed. I mean, Alison is right. Every Sunday some mandrill who hasn't signed the frisbee list just shows up and expects it can join in. It was getting ridiculous. The field was full of mandrills and all of them were expecting me to bring the beer. I am sick of being a doormat.

Tad Byrd also kindly divulged the secret of successful people everywhere. He wrote: "Look and feel super in 2004 offend." This advice couldn't have come at a better time. I was not looking super, nor was I feeling super. I had no idea how to turn my life around. So this year, I will offend. I'll tell that loser in the cubicle next to mine just what I think of his ceramic piggie collection. I'll run amok in the lunch room wearing only intertwined telephone cords. I'll upset baskets of peaches at the local farmers market and I'll make lewd comments about children's artwork in front of the child artists. Success, elude me no more!

Thank you, Daisy, Alison and Tad.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Sona went to a palm reader who used a felt pen to trace the lines in her hand.

He asked what she really wanted to know.

"Will I get married?"

"If you really want to."

"Ok, I really want to. When will I get married?"

"Your husband will be bald."

It cost her $10.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Looking over the comments on my February 18th entry, I have so much to say. I need a new entry to elaborate on working in Japan.

When I first got to Japan, Mr. Moriya put me at a desk in city hall and told me to stay put. I read all the books on theories of teaching, then I read all the books on the more practical aspects of teaching. Then I made a few lesson plans. Then I made worksheets. Less than a month into this and still nowhere near a school, I finished all my self-appointed tasks.

I asked Mr. Moriya for my work. He told me to relax. But I couldn't relax when office gossip pinpointed me as the supreme slacker. I mentioned my concerns to Mr. Imai, one of the city councilors. He said it was perfectly within my rights to pull out the complete works of George Eliot and read for the rest of my Japanese career.

"Why people in Japan have careers just based on reading the morning and afternoon editions of the paper," he said. (Direct quote, translated into English.)

The next day I looked around the office. The guy over in the Continuing Education department had his head down on his desk. He snored through his two hour afternoon nap. The city hall gallery director lectured his secretaries for two hours on the importance of pickling their vegetables in a traditional Japanese way. I nodded a lot and promised him I would.

Things progressively got worse.

Lunches stretched into unbearable hours - as long as there was some squishy sea urchin piece of anatomy I didn't mind. Company dinners were a horror of beer-chugging and fresh sushi. And all those presents - cookies, biscuits, crackers, jellies, table cloths, towels, tea towels, bottles of French wine, happi coats, folding fans, hankerchiefs, ear picks, coasters, fine chinaware, hardcover sets of the collected letters of the Brontes and a fully-annotated translation of the Tale of Genji, imported teas, perfumed amulets, porcelain incense holders, a full-sized plastic model of an iguana, tickets to Kabuki ghost spectacles, a $1000 USD kimono. The strain was too much.

So I came back to Canada.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Shirley gave me a lipstick from her purse. "Try it," she said.

I opened it and rolled up the lipstick. Instead of a slab of colour, a little sheet of paper rolled up. Numbers of police stations, hospitals and shelters.

This is how Shirley passes on vital information to her domestic violence clients whose husbands watch their every move.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Another human dream crushed.

Luckily, hamster aspirations are being achieved. The hamster MIDI orchestra makes good music. Thanks, Joe!

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Chinese face-reading is a little bit of fortune-telling, a little bit of Chinese medicine and quite a bit of behavioural prediction.

The instructor, San Chang, explained that there were 21 types of eyebrows to analyse, among the other kinds of mouths, eyes, noses and ears. But Chinese face-reading doesn't stop with the face. There are texts about different kinds of feet, hands and breasts. Even sleeping positions carry some meaning.

With 21 pages of notes, I don't really know where to begin. Of course you should take the course if you live in the Lower Mainland - $25 for an extremely informative 3.5 hours. For those of you who can never expect to meet Mr. Chang, I'll divulge a few of his secrets here.

When I was analysing my friends' faces tonight, everyone was curious about Hitler's face. I skipped over Ho Chi Min and Barbra Streisand and Stalin. Below is how Mr. Chang describes Hitler's face.

Ears = normal and well-formed = intelligent

The space between his eye and outer eyebrow = smaller than the width of an index finger = family disputes and tendency to change physical dwellings often

Eyebrows = unruly = uncooperative siblings

Outer eye corner = slightly sunken = (for men) problems with relationships and marriage

Nose = straight = good health

Saturday, February 21, 2004

One night I had a little thing at my house. I invited a few people over. A friend asked if she could bring another friend.

"The more the merrier," said I.

Half an hour before everyone was to arrive, she phones me to say she has a bad cold and she can't make it. But her friend would still be coming. You see, he'd left the house already. He had no cell phone. There was no way to reach him now and make him go back.

I growled at my friend and she succumbed. She did indeed have a cold so I excused her to leave after an hour. The friend stayed.

Last night she suddenly remembered that he thought we were being set up.

My lonesome life was moving along nicely prior to this. Work, home, feed hamster, read book, write blog, sleep, work, home, feed hamster, read book, write blog, sleep. A never-varying cycle. I amputated all extraneous emotion from my life. Survival as an automaton was surprisingly comfortable. I have roughly lived out half my life and I thought that I might be able to carry on the latter half completely devoid of all feeling. Maybe I could not care that I am a complete failure at everything I do.

Then, even with my male moratorium in place, keeping company solely with rodents and human females, avoiding all public spaces, staring only ever straight ahead of me - I still manage to get rejected.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Transylvania looks like a cheesy horror film?!

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Frank is right. In Romanian toes are "fingers on your feet."

Meanwhile, Frank, I must say I do miss the programming on ProTV. After a year, I can still remember the ProTV jingle.

Um, I also found your joke highly amusing. But I can't distinguish whether the amusement stems from the fact that it is extremely funny or whether it's funny because some Irish person knows what a basinica is. Not just a basina, but a basinica.

Seems like Romania also leads in the category of top 10 tasteless countries.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

In the name of research, I watched the sloth videos over and over again to get a feel for how this animal moves. Watch the "sloth climbing on power lines" and "sloth sleeping in tree fork" very carefully.

"Grey squirrel barking with nut in mouth": whippy tail!

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Saturday, February 21, 2004

I've wondered. Is this true?

There are church services across the street on Sundays.

On Sundays I usually am lounging about. But sometimes I get out of the house. When I come home on those Sunday afternoons, I see the church signs. The first church sign reads What. A little farther up the hill there is is. Then there's a sign with your, followed by purpose, in, and life? If you put them all together they read "What is your purpose in life?"

Or maybe the old white lady, still limber, who fetches the signs at the end of the day mixed them up in the morning. Maybe the order was switched. Perhaps the sign scribe meant them to say "What life is in your purpose?"

Every time I see those signs I begin thinking about purposes and lives. Do I have either of them? Does anyone? What am I contributing to the smooth running of the world?

After weeks of thought, I've defined my role in life. Ultimately it boils down to three things:

1. I am the instrument by which my mother, father and sister accomplish their banking from afar. They send me bits of information and I pay bills and figure out their taxes. Obviously I am essential to their wellbeing in Europe. Yet this is a symbiotic relationship. For my labour, they reward me with postcards and emails describing trips to Greece and Germany and Moldova. Once they even gave me a bookmark from the Salvador Dali Museum in Spain because I "like art."

2. I keep a whole valley in France employed through my Brie-eating habits. Because of me, all the little villages dotting this valley don't even bother with all those laws that other parts of their country need to protect their industry. They don't even need to market their location's beauty to the tourists. My Brie consumption assures that Brie production remains a viable economic option. Again, this is a two-way relationship. In return for my services to their communities, the grateful villagers send me a gift grape once a year.

3. I provide a safe haven for spiders. For example, in one of my unused bathrooms, there are seven of them. By the front door there are a couple. Spiders know that if they are threatened with abusive behaviour in other houses they can come over to the safety here. I even entertain my guests: sometimes, when they are crawling on the ceiling, I scrunch up balls of paper and play catch with them. Plus, the spiders don't even have to put up with the drudgery of spinning webs here. They are free to enjoy themselves. I don't expect anything in return. I let them stay out of my abundant spirit of human compassion.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

This made me yearn for life in Asia:

Date: Fri, 13 Feb 2004 06:00:38 -0000
Subject: [jetaaej] www.jetaa.com
To: jetaaej@yahoogroups.com

Dear JETAA Eastern Japan members,

We received the following urgent one-time employment opportunity. Please contact the person listed below for all inquiries. Thsi [sic] may on step in the direction of being like a Bill Murray in "Lost in Translation."


Ricoh Japan is looking for a model for their latest advert.

Time & Date: 22 February (Sunday) for approximately 8 hours
Venue: Ginza showroom
Pay: 16,000 yen

The job: pretend to use the fax machine/computer/printer/be in a

What they are looking for: someone to project a good "business" image.
Caucasian woman in early 20s.
Caucasian or Black woman in 30s.
Middle Eastern man in 30s.
Caucasian or Black man in 30s.

Auditions will be held on 16 February (Monday) including a 30-minute interview.
No Japanese language skills necessary.

Ms. S
TEL: 03-3455-8861

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

An email:

Electric Typewriter in working condition - available FREE to the first person who comes in person to claim it from either Tony or Ibrahim.

I send an email back: "That typewriter is mine!"

But when I get there, some mysterious stranger says, "Yer here for the typewriter? You're too late." Add sinister to mysterious.

Back at my desk, mourning my loss, I get an email from the stranger:

You can have the typewriter. I was going to give it to my mom because she only has a manual typewriter but I just talked to her and she said that she doesn�t want it. Enjoy!

So I am the new owner of a the typewriter behemoth from the Pleistocene. Why did I want another typewriter?

Keep me away from free champagne in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Thanks to Shirley's humanitarian efforts, a raccoon managed to cross West Fourth.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

One day, Pitt Bull Jen formally asked me for my hamster's hand in Friendsterhood.

"I've heard so much about your hamster, I feel like I know her already," said Jen.

So I divulged Anisoara's email address. The next day (it took me months to get my Friendsters to answer that fast) Anisoara not only had Jen as a Friendster. Midi the Pitt Bull also sneaked in as a new Friendster.

Mind you, I have warned Anisoara of the drawbacks facing a gerbil-sized hamster hanging out with such a tough crowd.

She is at that stage in the hamster lifecycle where she simply won't listen to experience. I suppose she just has to make all the mistakes I made at that age.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

I am extremely depressed to report that my hamster gets more Friendster mail than I do.

Pixie, another hamster, a blonde one, just wrote to Anisoara asking her to be Friendsters.

Well, maybe all the hamsters on Friendster can interlink. A whole hamster networking club, online, changing the face of Friendster. Maybe all the other Friendster-clone sites will segregate into various pet factions. "Iguanas? Oh, that would be in Ringo. Himalayan blue-striped hummingbirds? Try Tribe."

Pixie is pretty cute, actually.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Do you like Egyptology?

It's not often you hear that question.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Absolute frustration tonight.

The composition is all wrong. I photocopied the components and moved them around the page. It seemed to work, but when I inked it #$#@&!! A fresh sheet of vellum. But it looked worse the second time. The jellyfish degenerated into squiggles. The waves are too serrated. Worse, my sloth looks more like a fluffly teddy bear - where is the algae in his fur?

Kathy said she will give me a couple more days. The deadline is Wednesday, but that means I get Thursday and Friday. So Saturday morning I will deliver my two contributions.


Writing is so much easier. Remove all adverbs and adjectives, avoid passive voice, edit, edit, edit.

Anyone can be a writer.

If I can't have a sloth, at least I have my deformed little blog child.

Monday, February 16, 2004

The only thing I have to say right now is, read Safe Area Gorazde. I order you!

How frightening.

I remember standing in Turnu-Severin, looking over to Yugoslavia and thinking of what was happening just slightly farther than I could see. Imagine that in 1979, our lives were saved by sneaking into that very place.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

I noticed her gross hands in August 2002.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Before I forget. More fascinating Romanian statistics:

1. We are the #9 theatre-going country in the world, with 578 Romanians out of every 1,000 seeing a play each year.

2. Romania made the 7th movie with the most extras. The War of Independence, from 1912, had 80,000 of them.

3. Romania, with 15,000 video rental outlets, is #5 on the top 10 countries with the most video rental outlets.

4. Romania ties with the US at the #6 spot for sulphur dioxide emitters in the world. Um, did I mention I consider myself predominantly Canadian?

5. Romania is #2 on the top 10 spirit-drinking countries in the world. Therefore, it follows that my consumption should be a healthy 4 litres a year. I'll be substituting tuica for tea tonight.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

This Valentine's Day I only reciprocated greetings. As there are no candidates for typical Valentine's affections, there were no calls or cards required of me. Except you-know-who.

Yesterday I tried to call but no response. My first reaction was, "Oh shit. He changed his number."

I tried again today. Making sure I would catch him at home, 6:30 AM his time.

It's funny to think that, as completely isolated as I am, somewhere in the world there is one person who loves me more than anyone else ever will. And it's funny that things can't be better.

Well, I'm glad my phonecall made someone so happy. Just when I thought my existence was redundant and I had no right to occupy this part of the world, I feel slightly better.

Anyhow, enough of the sentimental stuff.

I thought I deserved some cheering up and Petro-Canada provided the chocolate. Tea and chocolate and Safe Area Gorazde, then back to work.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Belly + Henna + Driving = Poo Poo Pattern

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Updated Valentine's Day 2004 Statistics:

1 female well-wisher
2 male well-wishers
1 card from female well-wisher
1 flyer from real estate agent
0 bills

Saturday, February 14, 2004

I have been really tired recently. Stressed. Battling a cold.

So I can't read entire sentences without dozing off.

During these difficult times, there is only one book that can keep me entertained:

The Top Ten of Everything 1999.

So it's outdated. But some things will never change. Like all the hamster facts.

The hamster has emerged as a top ten contender on three lists so far.

At 16 days the golden hamster has one of the shortest mammalian gestation periods. It is fourth on the list, after the short-nosed bandicoot, the opossum and the shrew.

The golden hamster is also one of the most prolific mammals, at #3 with an average litter of 11 hamsterlings. The Malagasy tenrec is the #1 baby-spewing mammal in the world, with 25 mini tenrecs to a litter, and the Virginian opposom follows with an average of 22 children.

Yet of the top 10 sleepiest animals, the hamster drops to sixth place, shared with the squirrel, for a mere 14 hours a day spent sleeping. The rest of the list is lemur (16 hours), opossum and armadillo (19 hours), sloth (20 hours) and, in the #1 place, the koala which only wakes for 2 hours of the day.

Come on, hamsters, you can beat the opossums!

After hamsters, I was interested in how my favourite places fared.

Ethiopia is #6 on the top 10 camel countries, with a 1997 camel population of 1,030,000. It is also #8 in the top 10 goat countries (16,900,000 goats), #6 on the top 10 horse countries (2,750,000 horses) and #7 on the top 10 cattle countries (29,900,000 cows). I am very proud of you, Ethiopia!

Romania appeared in plenty of the boring World War I and II top ten lists. It gets interesting later on: Romania has the #5 spot on the 10 worst rail disasters in Europe list. Moldova finally appeared as the 5th most accident prone country in the world and Romania as the 9th. Romania is #8 in the top 10 fastest shrinking countries in the world.

The #1 cause of work-related injuries in Canada is overexertion. I will be taking the next week off, Raspberry. ;)

Chicago appeared on too many lists. But their famous Iroquis Theatre fire is #6 on the 10 worst disasters at theatre and entertainment venues. Plus you have 59 independent bookstores, putting you at the #2 spot on that list, and you have the third largest public library in the US.

Something to ruminate on: the countries with the highest proportion of women enrolled in university are the United Arab Emirates (78%), Cyprus (77%), Qatar (72%), Mongolia (70%), Kuwait (66%) and Myanmar (64%).

The beagle is #8 on the list of 10 stupidest dogs.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

I've finally got around to putting links to the other blogs I read.

I wasn't sure if I should honour* some of the writers as "Friends" and not merely entities floating about in cyberspace. Because I do exchange private emails with some of them. That pretty well means we are best friends in today's cyber culture. And I did meet Mighty Fast Pig in person.

In the end, I decided that, yes, I have few friends and I can't pull the wool over anyone's eyes and my few friends have such a good time offline they don't keep me virtually entertained for hours. So Friends stays put, with links leading to black holes.

More links coming, as soon as the laboratory tests results attest that they are safe for human consumption.

My other online projects will have to wait a little.

*Please. Please. Let me be selfish and arrogant. This week somniferous malarial me got a total of three cruel put-downs.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Latest dream:

Some unmentionables. Nothing raunchy. I was trying to please two people at once in my dream, but I think I pissed off both of them. So the two of you who were in my dream, I am truly sorry.

Then I found a mirror. I realized one of my teeth looks like a fang from certain angles. I spent a major portion of my dream gawking at my fang. This morning I checked. No fang. Whew.

Analysis, courtesy of dream dictionary: to dream of seeing yourself in a mirror, denotes that you will meet many discouraging issues, and sickness will cause you distress and loss in fortune.


Saturday, February 14, 2004

Value Village Weekly Statistics:

1 blue shirt with (appropriately enough) lightbulbs
1 electrified tanktop
1 tight yellow skirt for the office
1 red Seduction top for ??
1 sky blue Seduction skirt with wave texture
1 blue-purple crushed velvet tanktop (New Year's Eve attire?)
1 pink test tube sweater
1 grey blue Swiss decor top
I navy blue t-shirt with sparkly comet
1 black French tanktop (!)
1 joyful candy-coloured almost-halter-top
1 black Princess t-shirt with real jewels (my imagination permits the jewels to be authentic)
1 Falco tape
1 soup cookbook (For Dummies)
1 dream dictionary

= $62.17 (average $4.14 per item)

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Valentine's Day 2004 Statistics:

1 female well-wisher
1 male well-wisher
1 card from female well-wisher
1 flyer from real estate agent
0 bills

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Finally, again in the pet classifieds, there is this ad:

Try Us for Free!
Call Landmine 604-XXX-XXXX.

Intriguing, isn't it? They must accompany dog and owner on walks. Owner is too old or too lazy or too disgusted to scoop the poop. So that's where Dog Waste Removal Service would come in.

The part about "Call Landmine" also puzzles one. Landmines are dangerous. They maim and kill hundreds of civilians each year. However, Dog Waste Removal Service revolutionized the use of landmines in canine sanitation. Unless Landmine refers to an employee of Dog Waste Removal Service. But what sort of person goes by "Landmine" and would you want him anywhere near your dog's bottom?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

There are other animals in today's pet classifieds.

Aside from a free cat, some one-year-old canaries and yet another free dog, there are some $15 fancy baby guinea pigs and 23 $10 bunnies.

I have been staring at guinea pig pictures all day. Guinea pigs communicate by sound. Each squeak and grunt means something. One guinea pig, from a cavy anthropologist point of view, would be a waste. A whole herd of guinea pigs could provide hours of research.

Animal hoarders are loathsome. If I can transform my potential guinea pig colony into some money-making scheme, there would be no animal hoarder/crazy spinster stigma. The Incas had guinea pigs working for them; guinea pigs therefore have some economic value. I am still not clear how guinea pigs can work for me. So far I thought about them herding something. I also thought they would make pack animals. Maybe saddle them with little baskets and take them on my forest herb-gathering forays. An estimated 200 guinea pigs might provide enough power to pull me in a carriage. I could eliminate "car" from my monthly budget.

The 23 bunnies would cost me an initial $230.

It is even harder to come up with a business venture involving rabbits. I am specifically looking for something that does not involve them floating in a stew or being flayed for some rich broad's coat.

With Easter soon upon us, I could walk around the city with a basket and charge people to pet the rabbits.

This is not such a far-fetched idea. Gypsies in Romania parade their lambs and charge 10,000 lei for a pet. Last year, one of my radio fans gave me a newborn lamb. I was about to break the Gypsy lamb-petting monopoly when my hotel managers expressed an interest in lamb chops.

What about staged rabbit wrestling matches? Or harnessing rabbits to some windmill-type apparatus to generate electricity? Or starting my own portable petting zoo for children's parties?

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Beagles are another kind of dog I believe I will like.

Last year, when I decided I needed a pet in my life, I spent hours viewing dogs. Somehow, someone passed my information to a beagle owner in Alberta. This lady wanted me to buy her two beagles for $500, shipping included.

Two beagles. They could keep each other company while I was at work. I would finally know the joy of frequenting dog parks.

The pictures looked really cute.

My mother helped me make the back yard escape-proof. She warned me not to let the dogs scratch the sofa or pee on the carpet.

In the end I knew I would be powerless to stop my beagles from mischief. I called the beagle lady back and turned down her beagles.

Beagles since have begun to haunt me.

Whenever I look in the "Pets Classified" a beagle is always listed - and "free to good home" to boot!

Tonight there are two free beagles out there.

"Darlings," I want to say to them, "Why are you free? Is something wrong with you? Do you breed in your owner's slippers? Do you harpoon endangered whales? Do you instigate riots? Do you run amok in courts of law?"

But know this, sweet beagles: if I had the means, I would take you in.

May no vivisectionist adopt you.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

The site metre here has these amazing results. In the lead, at 30 % are readers belonging to the Central Standard Time Zone. Or perhaps I should say reader. Thank you, Beth, for making me look popular.

West Coast readers make up 26% of my visitors. Thank you, Raspberry.

I just went back to compare statistics. The Eastern Standard Time Zone is now at 30%, leaving the Central Standard Time Zone at 29%. Encroaching from the back is Romanian Standard Time is at 9%. A mysterious 3% of my visitors are from Finland.

Then at 1% are visitors from the middle of Atlantic (Napoleon's ghost), from Western France or the Eastern UK, from Uzbekistan, and from the Philippines.

How exciting that my influence is spreading worldwide.

Er, the hamster has emerged. Time to get back to work.

Anisoara (the hamster) writes: 1wg

Thursday, February 12, 2004

At the library, I browsed through the comic books on the lowest shelf. On the other side of the shelf, in the cookbook section, was a short white-bearded little elf man in black jogging pants and a grey sweatshirt. He scratched his armpit. Then his hand slipped down and he scratched his crotch.

I wonder what he was thinking of cooking.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Who likes hypocrisy?

I hate seeing animals in cages.

Yet, yes, I am a hamster owner.

My hamster stays in a cage while I am at work. Otherwise she would chew through all the electric cords. Luckily she sleeps most of that time. So I feel a little better.

But at night, when I am home and she is awake, she gets mad at me if I don't let her out. She angrily chews the cage bars. As a result the fur on top of her snout has thinned.

Her balding nose is a reminder that I need to follow through with my convictions.

Tonight I am trying something new.

This room is quite small. I can write, read, eat brie, enjoy a glass of wine and keep an eye on the hamster.

Hamsters, however, can always find hiding places.

I was just on my knees, alarmed that there is a little nook, hamster-sized, under a shelf. The path proved too windy for my arm to reach and the shelf too heavy to lift.

"Come out of there, you little rascal!!" I growled.

Remembering that honey, rather than vinegar, catches more hamsters, I changed my tone: "Sweetie pie, come out, I shall give you something yummy for your tummy-wummy."

Since she remains under the shelf, I shall simply have to wait her out.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

"What are you reading?" he asked.

I showed him the marketing textbook.

"Marketing is evil." he said.

He was an anarchist.

Last month I told someone that my first job after graduating was to write speeches for Bill Gates.

"But Microsoft is evil," said this other fellow.


Wednesday, February 11, 2004

There were too many details in my latest dream. I think I was in Africa or Haiti. With my mom or, perhaps it was Aunt Jemima, I swam far into the ocean. We could not see the shore anymore. We got onto a passing boat.

When we were back on shore, we were listening to a speech. There was a little girl and a little boy beside me. The little girl - pervert! - pinched the boy's bum and laughed. Then the little boy laughed. I didn't know whether to laugh along. So I woke up.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Seems like I have another cousin in Moldova. I grew up with only Valentin, Catalin, Mirella and glimpses of Lucian. My other cousin was murdered before I could meet him again.

But the Moldovan side is very fecund.

The latest cousin is a ship captain called Sasha.

Niki says he's very cool.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

One night recently I was unhappy. I read The Book of Bunny Suicides. And I lived to tell the tale.

My humour is rather nasty. I also really like Callahan. And I liked all the mean Far Side strips, the ones with babies about to suffer some calamity. I also subscribe to the Morbid Read du Jour.

How did I become this morbid? I can't pinpoint the exact moment, except that I have an aversion to the overly popular. Babies are very popular. Children are very popular. Life, as opposed to suicide, is very popular. So I built a natural defense against these things.

The New Kids on the Block were also once very popular. My friend Eve loved them. Every girl in junior high school loved them. Except me. For some reason - and this might be the precise moment in my lifespan to which my anti-popularity affliction dates - I did not find any of the New Kids attractive.

Eve loved Joey (I think). At one point she switched allegiances to Jonathan Knight.*

Eve asked me which of the New Kids I liked. I was too shy to say none of them. If I admitted the truth, the girls would ostracize me. I had to make up something.

Joey, Jordan and Jonathan were too stereotypically pretty for my tastes.

No one liked poor Danny. Including me. I called him Horse Face. Admittedly, it was not nice of me. Danny, if you are reading this, please don't go through life worried how you look. You know you can't please everyone; beauty is in the eye of the beholder; and I'm pretty ugly myself if that makes you feel better.

So I picked Donnie. The rebel.

Once I had a New Kids on the Block crush, I thought I was safe from prying questions. It was cool to be blase about your crush in high school. So everyone thought I was being low-key about loving Donnie: actually I liked the guy in Krull.** It was like Romeo and Juliet. I loved the forbidden outsider.

Two years passed with no one uncovering my ruse.

Then the New Kids announced that their world tour would land in Vancouver. Eve, of course, wanted to go. As her best friend and an alleged New Kids on the Block fan, my obligation was to join her. Tickets cost $60.

Did I maintain my double life - outwardly crushing over Donnie, yet secretly attracted to pucker-faced monsters in B movies? Did I beg my parents for that $60 - the equivalent of ten Depeche Mode tapes?

I suppose in retrospect I am glad that my first concert was not New Kids on the Block. Eve was disappointed that I was not the big fan I pretended to be. She went with three other girls from our school. Older teenage boys drove around the Colosseum making fun of the girls.

Despite everything the conclusion is still, unfortunately, to err on the popular side. Eve went on to get her Master's Degree in Economics, a great job in Texas and an EU passport, I mean a French husband. Me, on the other hand, I just got an assignment to write reviews of bellydancing instructional videos. I can't help thinking that some great cosmic turtle is merely handing me table scraps.

*Sorry. Photos of the New Kids are hard to procure. Their obscurity might be an invitation for me to like them.

**I even had the Krull boardgame. I think I still have the video.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I like two new people: Charles and Frank. They have weird blogs.

For example, Charles yesterday listed his phone number on his blog. I didn't write it down. Now it's no longer on his blog.

Charles, I would have copied your number. I would have kept it around for when I have a few cents left on a phone card but Beth isn't around and the card doesn't have enough for a call to Romania.

I didn't copy it down yesterday because I already am far behind in the long distance to-phone list. I left a message on Arizona Cheryl's answering machine and I promised to call again. Shirley is still waiting for my return call from a week ago. And I still need to call JJ to beg my belongings back.

Besides I operate better with the written word. I border on mute in person.

I really like the January 26th posting.

Frank won me over with this. Then I read about the chinchilla.

It was that Romania stuff that drew me to his blog in the first place. I am especially curious as to where the Blade Runner part of Bucuresti is. I have been to the Little Mermaid part of Bucuresti and the Pinocchio neighbourhood of Bucuresti. I have cousins in the Enrique Iglesias-and-stripper section of Bucuresti.

The prospect of seeing more pictures of cute furry animals will keep me lingering, Frank. So let's see some chinchilla next!

I also like his weirdness.

Monday, February 09, 2004

My latest discovery are the Fante Asafo flags of Ghana.

Go, crocodile!

Monday, February 09, 2004

I've always wondered about dogs too. A Muarice Sendak reference thrown in.

The only dog for me is a Romanian street mongrel.

Monday, February 09, 2004

A new word from a gardening catalogue: rodenticide.

Add that to fungicide, particide, homicide, fratricide, regicide, suicide, and genocide.

Wait! There are more. And more here. Now if there were only more utricides (one who stabs an inflated skin vessel instead of killing someone) than homicides.

Monday, February 09, 2004

"Hi, I'm Henry James. You may know me as an exactingly subtle novelist who peels away the artifices of European civilization to expose the twitching nerves of the human animal. But sometimes even an expatriate aesthete needs to turn up the screw of fitness! For a while, my gut was looking like a golden bowl. Now I'm an ambassador of abs. And you can be, too. With the help of my Bostonian System, you'll have buns of steel and the wings of a dove! Remember: It's time to start living the life you've imagined."

I'm a sucker for anything with even a bit of Henry James.

Monday, February 09, 2004

I was aiming for Starscream, but this guy will do:

Which Colossal Death Robot Are You?

Monday, February 09, 2004

One more thing about cockroaches. Each time a cockroach wandered in, JJ was nonchalant. I could not resume doing anything. With the roach in the room, who knew when it might fly to me? I always watched the cockroach . I was ready to run to safety.

JJ warned me that if you stare at a cockroach, it will come to you.

Like vampires. If you invite a vampire into your house, he will forever plague you.

Cockroaches also sense fear. I have been herded into corners by the beasts, who know full well I am powerless.

My method for killing them was to spray them with insecticide until they die. Then I would sweep them out the door and down to Jonathan's apartment. I also tried the dishwashing detergent method: flip over a roach and drown it.

Never squish them with a slipper. An egg might remain on the sole and hatch. The little roachling will avenge its mother's death. Born with the screams of its parent still lingering in its brain, the orphan targets humanity.

Monday, February 09, 2004

The thing about cold medication is that you sleep a lot. And the thing about sleeping a lot is that you end up dreaming a lot.

Dream #1

I was in Tienhsiang for a fourth visit. I woke up in my dream to find myself on a familiar spot. In 1998, I picked that spot to hitch-hike my way out of Taroko Gorge. The previous year I had just arrived in Taiwan and assailed the mountain with the temple. I hiked up alone because my Taiwanese guide refused to strain herself. "I might become muscular," she protested. Taiwanese women think the muscles developed in a half hour walk could mar their beauty.

In a tree by the temple was an old man monkey. He frowned. He defecated. I watched the poops fall down. No one was under the tree.

Now in my dream, I walked up from the hitch-hiking spot to the temple. There were no monkeys. There was a little house just farther off from the temple. The door was open so I went in. (I subscribe to the Joxter code of ethics.)

The man in the house did not notice me coming in. Across from the door were bird cages piled up the ceiling. I feel sorry for animals in cages. (To make up for my hypocrisy, even my hamster gets a healthy dose of freedom each night.) I went to look at the birds. There were little finches and canaries and two toucans.

The man still did not realize I was in his house. The cage doors faced the wall. Between the wall and the doors was a little space. My hand went over the cages and unhooked the doors. For a moment the finches did not move. I thought I would have to reach into the cage and remove them. But they understood; they flew out and through the open door. One bird remained. I rattled the cage a bit and it, too, finally flew out. Then I moved on to the canaries. I worried that the toucans might not escape unnoticed, being such big, colourful birds.

When all the birds were gone, I turned to leave. The man suddenly noticed me.

"Hello, where are you from?"

I had no time for chitchat: "Canada. Goodbye."

The grateful birds perched in the trees surrounding their former prison. The toucans smiled at me. Then all the birds flew off.

Dream #2

We can trace the background to this dream to two recent events. Last Tuesday, sitting at my desk at work, I had a cockroach hallucination. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cockroach darting towards my keyboard. In Asia, I had many such hallucinations. They are the product of a well-founded roach phobia. Since leaving Asia a year ago, my hallucinations lessened. There is no explanation for my most recent phantom cockroach encounter. On Saturday I was at a stoplight. Beside my car was a homeless person's shopping cart and a giant rusted-metal cockroach.

In my dream, I was in the Budapest Formule 1 or in Chiba's Route One Hotel. Many people were staying with me in a giant hotel room.

I had a bad feeling. "Don't open your backpack!"

It was too late. My sister opened her backpack and a cockroach jumped out. A big Taiwanese roach. That can swim and fly and withstand whatever Armageddon throws at it.

The roach darted into a closet.

I cannot be in a room knowing there is a cockroach sharing my space. The cockroach must die!

For a hotel room, the closet was full of junk. Just what cockroaches love. A mess.

I began pulling out boxes. At the back of my mind a storm of worry - I had no weapon. And, as always, when you expect a cockroach, it will show up. But instead of the one cockroach jumping out, four popped up!

Giant Asian cockroaches have a number of magical powers. Like the fer-de-lance in Central America, cockroaches have the ability to multiply in the twinkling of an eye. Unlike the fer-de-lance, where there was one roach there will be not two, but a multitude.

They ran in opposite directions. Typical cockroach strategy.

I hunted them down. I killed three of them. With newspapers and a drinking glass. The fourth cockroach escaped because the phone rang and I woke up. Until my next dream, Blattella asahinai!

Monday, February 09, 2004

Meat Or Accident?

I dare not go there.

Monday, February 09, 2004

As you can tell from the link below, Morbid Fact Du Jour is back. The Comtesse was away on business for a week, leaving me to wander the world of pink teddy bears and flower prints.

Kate, who introduced me to daily morbidity, has reappeared in my life. The only conversation we had was, "Are you still subscribing to the Morbid Fact? Isn't it great?"

Generally I can't stand looking at those surgery shows on TV (in the days I did watch TV) or even thinking about cadavers. Years ago I decided to spend the hour before watching the Blair Witch Project perusing Arizona Cheryl's anatomy books. There's something about the recently dead that creeps me out. But not so bodies that have been dead for centuries. The skeleton in the Sighisoara clock tower never bothered me. (Sighisoara, by the way, is the birthplace of Vlad the Impaler.) Arizona Cheryl's borrowings from the university bone library also didn't bother me. We even took some grotesque photos. Mummies also don't seem to bother me so much, as do freshly dead animals.

Last year at almost this time, I was handed 22 just-beheaded chickens. At first, plucking the feathers from the neck area, I found the blood there already clotting. It was almost jelly-like. Inside the chickens were half-formed eggs. They were yellow and soft.

Ok, tea's on.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Woke up an hour ago. Feeling lousy. All over body aches. Scratchy sore throat. Dizziness. Stuffed-up sinuses. But the bog people have put it in perspective. It could be worse.

P.S. The editor in me deplores the fact that a nose wound itself around Tollund Man's neck.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

I am still working on the August 9, 2002 New York Times crossword puzzle. Sixteen across: "Juarez" Oscar nominee Brian. I broke down and looked it up. Turns out he's an Oscar nominee from 1939. Then I realized he was a nominee, not even a winner. Well, five answers down, 58 left to go. Help?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Goldfish cheats death.

Goldfish longevity contender.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Vatican City

Your Holiness,

I am writing to complain about negligent behaviour on the part of one of your saints, Agnes. January 21st, I was led to believe, is her day. I was also misled into thinking that, on her night, if I forsook my supper, I could expect to dream of my future husband.

Following instructions, I indeed did not eat anything after 4 PM on January 20th. Supperless to bed I retired; happy, despite my hunger.

Instead of visions of delight, women populated my dreams in the honeyed middle of the night. There was only one shadowy bloke whose face I could not see.

For someone so adamantly against homosexuality and promiscuity, I am getting mixed signals here. Is your saint suggesting I convert? Am I the victim of a botched circumcision? Or is the inclusion of the shadowy fellow a reminder that I should couple with strangers?

I simply want to stop spending so much idle time ordering hallucinogenic houseplants from gardening catalogues and more of it tending to my husband's every whim. I am looking for a man who wants his beer fetched while he enjoys a football game with his buddies. Please explain which saint provides the services to get me such a husband.

Your Holiness' most humble servant,

F. G. Maktaaq
Stepford, Connecticut

Sunday, February 08, 2004

It's official. I have a cold. It's been two years since I had a sickness of any kind. Oh, except that bout of food poisoning last year.

I was feeling invincible. And yes, I started being arrogant. People around me were swooning from the Big Flu. I went on feeling just fine. I thought I had superior genes and I toughened myself through exposure to third world microbes. I was born in Romania, so that automatically exempts me from allergies and your other plebian complaints. If I can drink Ethiopian well water and eat cockroach-tread food, the common cold was a minor opponent. Couldn't even get past the first-line of defense.

Something is obviously wrong with homeland security. How can I survive all that undeveloped countries have to offer, yet am dismantled by a mere commoner of a virus? Intelligence was all wrong. There will have to an inquiry.

"You can't leave yet," they said. "You're the one who said vodka was better than whiskey." ("Help us finish the bottle" was implied.)

I tried to stay longer. Two more sips proved that I needed Neo Citran more than a lemon-lime-grapefruit-mango-vodka juice.

Morning and I am feeling even worse. Despite wearing a Technicolour dream coat to bed. Pista's toque, JJ's unraveling sweatshirt, and the orange Tweety Bird pyjamas mom got me from Bucuresti. Dad's bathrobe is the signature piece that holds all together. I am still freezing. Tea should be ready in a few minutes.

This might pre-empt my evening plans. Damn.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

My only excuse is that I was sixteen. That and I was a weird Maoist pseudo-intellectual. Please be gentle with my high school poetry.

On a Scene of the Brittany Coast

The Fox's Bride is with gossamer veiled;
Wanderers of the Welkin rob the maid
Of brilliant dower 'round her head;
The Ruler of the Waves, He screams,
A million tongues lash the broken teeth,
The ragged lips are washed with milk,
�Rogues return the treasure thieved!�
Emerald Sea swallows the Dewdrop Sky
While lonesome Lighthouse with liquid Maenads
Revels midst Bacchanalia's Dances,
Drunken of the Raining Wine:
Ambrosia spilling of Heaven's Vine.

Malediction to the Grave Robbers

Where found thee this stony skull,
Of silver splendour so engraved,
A crown of worth
Thieved of some ancient grave?

How dost thou count the value,
As filthy paper scraps,
Those precious tokens,
Or as thy brother's bones, perhaps?

Hide! Hide! Darkness is thy mistress;
In the ditch thou showst thy wares,
Only in nocturnal safety
Thy hateful profession dares!

Demons! Demons! Scurry to thy damn Legions!
Gnaw the bones thou treasures so
Snap the sinews, suck the marrow,
Why dost thy parasitic numbers grow?

To thy mistress' arms,
Go! To thy mephitic lair, flee!
Cease your thievery:
Leave those of dust to be.

Vasilisa at Baba Yaga's House

Yet almost grinning, the lips seem drawn taut
O'er sharped teeth: a darkly grin that isn't;
Black coils creep from his head: tangles furious,
Oh, oh, his - the eyes - twisting, thrashing those,
Writhing brilliants dug of serpents' skulls,
Not kindsome pools for bathing maidens;
Deep wells where dark things there be hidden,
Greedy depths that lust to drown: the hunt,
Behind him step a faithful servant;
Long, black, his cape flutters through the forest,
Embracing pine, smothering th'other,
Crouching, grabbing, trilling, tearing;
A banner studded tells of his nearing,
Dark, dark is his coming, darker still it shall;
The house, even it quivers at his pass.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Jen, if I ever visit Baltimore, I am going to on this ghost tour. What a lovely area! Makes me sad I didn't take advantage of London last year - but I was saving the Jack the Ripper tour for Beth. FongYee: stay put. I will one day make it to Cambridge and take your tour. Beth, your parents are right. I should visit in warmer weather. Then I can go on the Excursions Into The Unknown tour. Not sure if I am a luxury-bus sort of person, but this other tour might be good too.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

After seeing, from a moving car, one of Chicago's haunted cemeteries, I thought 'twould be a swell idea to be a ghost host myself. When far-off friends visit Vancouver, we could go down a checklist of haunted houses and buildings here. I already know of five haunted buildings in the Lower Mainland. More research is needed. Robert C. Belyk's book Ghosts: True Stories from British Columbia is the ubiquitous guide to local supernatural occurrences.

Scholars divide ghosts into two categories: those who haunt places and those who haunt people. Hauntings might be like a film of past, playing what once occured in the vicinity.*

Crisis apparitions might also appear to the living within twelve hours of a death. Nela, my mother's best friend, dreamt one night that her father appeared from the woods behind her house in Canada. In her dream, she asked how her father, living in Romania, suddenly came to Canada. He answered that he simply wanted to see her. The next morning - we all know what's coming - she gets phonecall from Romania that her father passed away during the night.**

Ghost scholars say that hauntings may simply be a means for spirits to announce their continued presence. Tricks like turning on lights and opening doors are the spiritual equivalent of attention deficit children.

Which brings me to my ghost.

After nearly a year of inactivity, I heard the footsteps coming up the stairs again. Friends suggest it could be the house expanding or contracting. But the weather recently remains constant. There were no sudden changes in temperature. Someone suggested I had mice in my house. There is no smell to back this up, nor droppings or any evidence of gnawing. As well, the footsteps sound heavy, manlike, and they move with a human speed. They begin from the middle of the stairway. The sound gets louder as they approach. Then, once they reach the top of the stairs, the footsteps continue across the floor to the doors of two adjacent bedrooms. (Where, needless to say, I am not spending the night.)

Having never been in this house alone until a few months ago, I asked my sister if she has ever heard this disquieting noise. She knew all about the ghost, which is why she never slept in those bedrooms either when she was alone in the house.

Which brings me to my heating bill for December.

I went away for two weeks. Clutching a list of things to do before leaving, I went through the house checking off my tasks. I delivered the hamster to a temporary caregiver. I packed enough pairs of underwear to last the whole trip. I scrubbed the bathtub in case the person watering my plants decided to judge my housekeeping skills. I turned off the heat.

Two weeks later, I arrive home and the house is as hot as a greenhouse. I consulted my list of pre-departure tasks and "turn off heat" was crossed off. I don't cross anything off until I completely complete something. It's happened before that I crossed off items on to-do lists before finishing them. I've learned from those mistakes. It is not possible that I would trick myself.

I phoned the person watering my plants. Why, both times he came by, the house was hot.

The heat control panel is on a wall directly in front of the stairwell and beside the two bedroom doors. Obviously it is the ghost playing havoc with my finances.

However, as the person watering my plants said, if the heat was off, some calamity might have transpired in the cold snap this winter. Is my spirit a benign one? Is it helping me avoid greater calamity?

This week, after hearing my resurrected ghost, I had a dream.

Mom, dad, Niki and I were visiting Nela and Fane at their former house in Port Coquitlam. I had to study. I left the dining room and went alone to Serge's room so I could sit at his desk. Something stood behind me. Turning around, I saw no one.

Yet I couldn't shake off the feeling that there was someone behind me. I got up and went to Dan's room. I noticed there was a shirt carelessly tossed on his bed. I closed the door to his room, then immediately opened it. The shirt lay neatly folded on the bed. I re-crumpled the shirt, went out of the room and closed the door. After a second, I threw the door open again. The shirt was once again folded. I went in, shook the shirt, threw it on the bed and, as I turned around to go out again, I felt something happening behind me. I spun around and there was the shirt, folded.

I immediately went back to Serge's room, closed the door and sat to study. I looked at my book without reading. Serge was messier than Dan. There were many clothes thrown about. I felt something happening behind me. All the clothes were folded and on the bed directly behind my chair.

That was it. I went back to rejoin the crowd in the dining room. We went out for a walk. When we came back, the door was open. Nela looked shocked. She was certain that she had closed it. I then told them what took place in the bedrooms upstairs.

Even though my dream ghost and perhaps my own ghost are trying to be helpful, their presence is still not too welcome. Sorry to hurt your feelings, dear ghosts!

*Most people think we are seeing the image of the ghost. But I think some ghost sightings might be what we are seeing through a ghost's eyes. For example, there is the case of a British ghost that was always seen through an opening in a wall. When renovators removed the lower half of the wall, instead of seeing the whole ghost, spectators would still see the ghost only from waist up. If it were this ghost we were seeing, why would the ghost replay itself with its lower body missing? Why would it go to such lengths to remind us of the lower half of the wall?

On the other hand, if we look at it from the point of view that we have stepped into a ghost's point of view, we can easily explain this wall ghost. The image of the person behind the wall, from waist up, was so ingrained in someone's mind that after death this sight remained fixed to that area. The ghost through whose eyes were are seeing remembers the person behind the wall so strongly, that we - seeing through her or his eyes - see only this image too. The image of the person is what the ghost remembers, and is independent of the wall. Spectators throughout history have only seen half the person regardless of whether the wall was there or not.

My theory might explain other sightings. Anne Boleyn walking around with her head under her arm; she might be playing over and over again in Henry's guilty conscience. It's hard to believe that a coquettish woman like her, in death, would allow herself to be seen in so undignified a manner. It's like some 1950s housewife going to the supermarket without makeup. It is possible, though, to believe that someone's fear of seeing Boleyn come after them is what we are seeing being replayed.

**I strongly believe in ESP, from a scientific point of view. In Grade Twelve Biology, when the textbook said that brains emit electric currents, I knew my theories were true. Too bad I never pursued that biology degree.

Friday, February 06, 2004

I almost went to bed, then I remembered what I had to be happy about today. This morning I got an email from my sister who is attending the opening of her very first solo exhibition in Chisinau. She is hanging out with Ulay, some Moldovan punk band called Gandul Matei*, the famous Zdob si Zdub, and some other pop stars she didn't mention. What really made my day is that she met one of the characters in Playing the Moldovans at Tennis.

Iulian Robu was Tony Hawks' interpreter in Chisinau. Hawks says he's shy, paranoid and formal. I liked him.

Niki says he's not so bad in person - though it might mean other things for my taste.

That made me really happy. Now I know a famous person through my jet-setting sister.

*I've never heard of them so get me an album, ok, Niki? Or you can introduce me to this guy.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Asia Wong wrote 300 love letters to strangers. Sounds like my kind of hobby. Maybe I'll look up addresses in Sri Lanka and write them some love letters. Or Malawi. They could use a few surrealist love letters in Lilongwe. President Bakili Muluzi might appreciate my efforts at seeking love overseas.

But I won't be writing to anyone arrested within the last 18 calendar months for engaging in prostitution. So if you engaged in prostitution within the last 18 calendar months, I will simply have to flirt with you in person.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Last Friday, Non-Arizona Cheryl and her savvy sister chatted with men in a bar. It was noisy. The band had just stopped playing. The music was still reverberating in my head. Temporarily deaf, I leaned over to hear. Perhaps someone was talking to me. Because the next thing I heard was "You are so quiet."

Next fellow. I saw his lips moving.

"Sorry, I can't hear," I said.

"Your name is Sorina?"



What I need is Silent Dating.

I sit down at the bar, see someone tantalizing across the room, jot a compliment ("Your earlobes remind me of the succulent wild boars roaming through the pampas grasses of the Himalayan foothills") and pass it down.

A note returns: "Why, I make wild boars practice celibacy!"

Back goes my response: "And I vandalize equestrian statues! Wow! We have so much in common!"

The Tantalizer's face wrinkles in disgust: "This is going too fast for me. I need some space."

Undeterred, I turn my attentions to the lovely peg-legged aristocrat standing nearby. I furiously scribble, "Don't tell me you were caught in a horde of teething lemurs too!"

And the Aristocrat writes back: "Mon Dieu! I thought I was the only survivor of the Great Madagascar Rampage of '59!"

On my return note I pen a meow.

The Aristocrat smiles lasciviously and writes: "Shall we embrace ennui together?"

Yes, I think Silent Dating might work for me.

Friday, February 06, 2004

As some of you know, a lightbulb company employs me and a random number of monkeys to type up Hamlet. They don't provide manuscripts of Hamlet. We punch in every morning at 8:30 AM sharp, sip on some tea while exchanging pleasantries with the engineering baboons, log in to our computers and open the special Shakespeare database that records our daily progress.

Attached to each computer is the lightbulb we test. Whenever we type a word in the correct direction (even a or I will do), the lightbulb lights up.

Unless it is a dud, in which case it is sent back to the factory to be stomped on by elephants.

I do have a slight advantage over the monkeys because:

a. I read Hamlet in high school.

b. I watched the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet.

c. I attended a five-hour French performance of Hamlet at the Comédie Française.

d. I watched Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

e. I own a copy of Hamlet Coles Notes.

All this might seem unethical, but remember that "thought does not become a young woman." I assure you that I do not think at all while I am at work and therefore at no risk at all to the efficiency of future lightbulbs.

The monkeys, depending on which continent they call home, like to use fancy words such as morxiousness, happuity, viffinotion, and waquinapping. South American monkeys particularly like pobbingtonutional.

As I try to avoid thought - after all a qualification for the position - I steer towards words like ligangulatoratory and frapazmastic.

Our plot devices generally emphasise the highlights of the Wittenburg Hamlet. Other lightbulb factories use the Krakow version or even the disputed Genovese Hamlet. Most Shakespearean scholars agree that Polonius only thrust the spoon into the pudding before the big sword fight, not after. Our factory therefore firmly upholds the Wittenburg Hamlet.

This week 27 of the lightbulbs I tested went to the elephant room while 2985 lightbulbs went on to a long shelf life in far-flung lightbulb specialty shops of the empire. I am not the most prolific lightbulb tester in the factory. Yet my retelling of Hamlet passes enough lightbulbs that the factory allows me to return day after day.

My meagre earnings go a long way toward realizing my dream of owning a pencil. I say my factory is wonderful!

Friday, February 06, 2004

Decapitated teddy bears.

I need a few of these. Can't bear to slaughter my childhood teddy bears. But a stranger teddy bear's head - then I would finally be able to recreate my Salome & John the Baptist, and Judith and Holofernes fantasies. That's better than Charlie!

Friday, February 06, 2004

I don't get it. Let's what the tea? What do we do to the tea?

Friday, February 06, 2004

The Japanese are my kind of people:

Thursday, February 05, 2004


That's hamster typing.

Anisoara got rather dejected in her hamster ball so I am giving her free run of the desk.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

As always, any snippet of good news that slips into my life brings along a big companion called Misfortune. This poster will go over my fireplace mantle.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

So I came across the blog of some guy I met on a mere two occasions last summer at a book club. For the last few months I have discovered many things about him that he didn't reveal at the book club. That he is into kinky sex, for example.

At first, I wanted to tell him I was reading his blog. For months I read it, knowing that one day soon we shall meet again. However, I always schedule something on the book club night. I haven't met the book club since September. Since, I couldn't make it to the book club, I meant to email him and let him know I was reading it.

Once I read his article on some fetish club I realized that, in the three hours I spent in his presence, he showed a very different side of his personality. With his thick glasses and overwhelming interest in science fiction novels, I imagined his tastes running into manga rather than real, live sex. Because Japanese cartoon chicks seem to have so much more to offer than real women.

If I email him now, maybe he will get creeped out and think I was stalking him. For the record, I found his blog while browsing the book club website. Will he believe me if I say I am an avid reader because I like blogs written by people I know? Will he be alarmed that some vague acquiantance can betray him to the entire book club?

When I first started Maktaaq, it did give me the heebie jeebies that someone might read and think what a bad writer I am. And what if they wrote and told me how stupid I was? (It's only happened once so far.) What if I complained about X, Y read it and told X? I had to watch who I gossiped about. Then there is the problem of offending differing tastes while I mutter about my political and social views.

I started this blog while I was in Japan so that I could save a bit of money on telephone bills. In 2002 there was still almost no cable internet, least of all in my rural location. Precious minutes disappeared for each email I sent out; even with answering emails in a Word document, then cutting and pasting into the email. The purpose of this blog was to ramble all in one go about the books I was reading. Instead of writing ten emails about the exact same book to ten people, plus all the necessary salutations, I could now reach the whole lot.

In recent months I abhorred the idea of adding a counter to this site. My friends say they read it but I thought they were just being polite. With a counter stuck firmly at one, I would possibly not bear to go on living.

When one of the managers at my company started her own blog - again, I love reading the blogs of people I know - my interest in writing magnified to pre-high school graduation levels. Then one day, her blog had a counter. Ha, what's good enough for her is far too above me, I thought. And then, as if taunting me, she put up a link ordering her readers to "get your own free counter." Cornered, I had no choice but to comply. If, after a week, the counter was still at one, I would remove the dratted thing and sweep my embarrassment under the rug. No one had to know how unpopular I am on the web.

Oddly enough it is now around 200, after less than two weeks of putting it up. All these viewers can't possibly be my friends and I disabled it from recording my own visits.

So it seems as if there are strangers at least stumbling upon my ravings. To appeal to the common blog-reader, I have decided to become (albeit briefly) a sex doll reviewer.

I give you my ratings of REALDOLLS!

Charlie: so Charlie is anus-optional. And his weight changes drastically if one chooses the anus version. Does the anus affect the $7000 price tag?

Mai: the doll for men who can't even seduce a living Asian woman.

Nika: this company is really into representing the myriad of the Asian experience! Here we have what seems to be a Filipino doll. I didn't know there was a skin tone called Asian (or African).

Melissa: Don't you hate it when your dress suddenly slips off? Thank God, Melissa's necklace stayed put.

Angela: those FlexxWire fingers can be "posed without worry of wire fatigue."

Britney: the FAQ warns against storing the doll with clothing on. Don't forget to remove those socks!

Nameless Blue Doll: for the Nosferatu fans.

The J-Lo: does she know she's become a love doll?

The torso: I so miss those nineteenth century dissection theatres.

Now then, counter, let's see some more numbers!


Did anyone else think of the Stepford Wives?

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

I found out about the apron show via That Rabbit Girl.

See? Here, by wearing your apron in public spaces, one can remember aprons. The emphasis, despite the allusion to 21st century aprons, is on the historical apron, the past, not the present of the apron.

When we were neighbours in Japan, we both noticed that women in our rural town rarely took off their aprons. Mrs. Imai, as soon as she came from work, would slip into her apron.

Once we both acquired Japanese mothers, we both found ourselves subtly merging into Japanese wifehood. My gifts went from slinky dresses and discreet jewellry to shapleless granny clothes and ungainly pantsuits. The colours were hardly complementary: bland beiges and dark maroons.

Beth once showed me her giant diarrhea-brown tent dress. Five baboons could have fit inside. Beth wanted to burn the thing, but I suggested she turn the new fabric into some craft project.

When the time came for me to leave Japan, I felt too bad for Mrs. Imai when I was packing my bags. I didn't really want to take those elephant marm outfits with me. But she watched me prepare my luggage. I knew she bought these clothes for me with as much love as she held for her own daughter. So I transported everything to Canada and founded a museum devoted to the Japanese housewife within my bedroom closet.

The one thing that didn't make it to Canada was the apron.

My apron was a perfectly nice fabric - brown with red roses. It wrapped around my whole body, much like a nineteenth century apron. To me it felt like straitjacket. Each night, as I offered to help Mrs. Imai prepare dinner, I had no choice but to put on my apron. JJ, her son, also helped with dinner. He didn't wear an apron.

In Japanese households, even ones less traditional than the Imais', Japanese wives (and established girlfriends) do not eat with the rest of the family. Their purpose is to facilitate the constant arrival of hot dishes. Indeed, on two occasions, the Imai patriarch snapped at me for eating at the table.

The apron is just another uniform that Japanese women wear. A Japanese banking advertisement once had the lifecycle of a woman displayed in photographs of women's uniforms: a Donald Duck suit for adolescent girls, the office uniform* of young women and the white wedding frock. Not so glamourous, the bank left out the apron-and-daikon look that is the final metamorphosis in Japanese womanhood.**

That apron looked better draped over a door knob than wrapped around me. I felt as if I would never sit at the dining room table again. Perhaps I might become a kitchen drinker*** like Mrs. Imai once was. The apron felt like a straitjacket.

One day, I came to the Imais' house for dinner, dreading having to put on that rose-covered prison. After washing my hands, I dutifully reached for my apron. It was not behind the door or on the staircase or in the living room.

From that day forward, no one in the family mentioned my apron. Mrs. Imai did not buy me a new one. I had nothing to do with its disappearance.

I am grateful that the Imai's understood and discreetly made the apron disappear.

Just in case, if an Imai should visit while I was painting, I bought a very masculine blue faux-leather apron at a gardening centre.

*Office ladies wear their regular clothes on the street and change into their uniforms at work. Some women make career choices based solely on what uniform is worn in a particular industry or company. (I'm not exaggerating.)

**Another well-known ad features a stereotypical housewife with an apron and a daikon - the big radish that is a staple of the Japanese diet. JJ told me she represents the everywoman.

***A Japanese housewife alcoholic. She drinks alone in the kitchen while her family eats dinner together in the next room.



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