Tuesday, May 27, 2008


And so it was that Sara kidnapped Joe and buried him deep in the jungle after dark, with nothing but an empty gas tank and a scooter attached to it. She thought it was fun. He thought it was "fun." Notice how differently you read the word "fun" from the way you read the word fun. The pause means everything.

"I love living on the edge," was followed by, "I thought the road would be turning away from the mountains by now," and, "Wow, would you look at that gas gauge!" and, "It doesn't really look like anyone lives out here, does it?" Everything being said was being said by Sara. And a good thing too. I go into survival mode when minutes are all I have before motor melt-down, and before my super sonic metabolizing tummy is stranded miles from food. And then if I let myself talk, I'm wasting precious energy.

The jungle doesn't offer too much by way of light either. Especially at night. In fact, it shrouds any that might have been, were the moon and stars visible. So pot holes and sharp bends in "the road less traveled" become unanticipated guests--the kind you don't invite on purpose, but who find out about the party anyway and come--the very characteristic that keeps them off the invitee list in the first place . We almost died 37 times that night. I counted. Not out loud, mind you. And who's idea was this anyway? Why did I go along with this? Once again, not out loud.

"Wow! What an adventure!" and then, "Gee, I've never seen the gas gauge so low!" Man Sara, could you just pick one? I have a hard time keeping track of what mood we're in when you go from excited to aghast so quickly. I'm focussed on the one: what our first move is when the engine stops and the head-lights go out. It's a good thing you're here telling me what an adventure we're having. Somehow I forget that part until I'm safely at the dinner table with a mound of edibles in front of me and a crowd of thrill seekers around me waiting on a good story. Yes, then it's an adventure. But now, it's survival.

And then the engine stopped. And the lights went out, and we had to use scooter parts as make-shift weapons to hunt food for the next three weeks. Not really, but unfortunately, there's nothing more exciting or dangerous about the story. The road eventually headed back out toward civilization like Sara predicted and within a few miles we saw a gas station. The only other thing remotely interesting about it was the three wrong turns I took within a five minutes span at the same intersection. I was still in survival mode, still thinking we were lost, so I couldn't recognize a thing and my internal compass kept changing it's mind every time I made a decision. Then Sara says she's known where we are for a half hour now and that she's "letting me figure it out" for fun. Oh wait, for "fun." Give me something strong. A beer with as much root in there as possible. How long have you known where we are, Sara? What kind of freakish double sided, slap job are you trying to pull here? Lure a trusting joe into the promised bliss of nighttime scooter riding, throw in the suggestion of a mountainous view point, and then pretend to get lost coming down the other side. It's your fault I had to change my drawers when I got home. See what I go through here? Oh, you think I'm your cute little brother? That I love getting tricked, poked, stuffed in laundry machines, and picked on by big lovable sister bear? Well, not this one. I'm letting you know right now, a storm's coming . . . a storm's coming.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

had a birthday

I had a birthday.
They shouted.
They chanted my name,
brought down houses,
scattered little pieces of colored paper,
wrote me tributes,
made me cakes,
made me smiles.
And then they sang to me.

But then they weren't singing.
No more smiles were being made,
no more cakes,
no more words or colored paper.
The houses stood straight;
no shouting brought them down.
No chanting reached my ears.
Everyone was sleeping...

and I was sitting.
I was sitting and being 27
for the first time--
the stillness finally confirming it.

But "the tree was happy"
and so was the aging boy.
He was sitting and he was happy.
He had been given a birthday.

Monday, May 5, 2008

"Where's Waldo the White Guy" and other typical pictures of an American in China

Dear Meagan (my cousinly one),
In an effort to meet your request, I've posted here a few pictures more focused on my Chinese experience and less on my glamorous complexion.

. . . Although, it's a bit difficult to see the sights without being a sight, if you're American. Hence, the continued element of "I'm a rockstar--at least, I must be because people I've never met keep asking to have their picture taken with me." Gavin may actually be a rockstar, but I can at least feel like one, right? I don't write songs, I just wear white skin and a ball cap.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

... you are my haha!

Steve once received a love note from one of his students with these sentiments, "you are my haha!" Any man would be jealous of such open adoration from a student. So I'm unashamed of my jealousy. And being thus unashamed, I work to extract similar displays of affection from my own students, and if I can, everyone else's. A few weeks ago I began unleashing the secret weapon I keep hidden atop my humerus bone and beneath my bulging right sleeve. The kindergarten children have never seen something so defined in their life. Or so their bugged out eyes and shrieks of amazement tell me. Everyone wants to palm the mass. Because for little people, seeing isn't believing--touching and poking is. I've never felt like a bigger man than under the awe struck gaze of little Taiwanese children. We get a lot of language out of it too. The kids now know how to say, "buff stud, ripped, cut, you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger," and other everyday phrases. It also works with teaching comparison modes. "Mr. Joe is bigger than Mr. Steve, Mr. Joe is hotter, studlier, and gets more girls than Mr. Steve." Then we go on field trips . . . over to Mr. Steve's class to demonstrate what we've learned. There's a rumor going around that Steve is secretly convening with some of his students after regular school hours to form a fight club bent on beating me and my class into submission. But this is English class, Steve. It's all about the talk, not the walk. So make sure at least you draw out the language while you prepare your little army.