Friday, November 26, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the country that celebrates it. What did I have for Thanksgiving. A cold and some yellow Thai curry. It was good, but I would have preferred some turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, that sort of thing. By the time next Thanksgiving comes around, I'll be famished for that sort of food, I imagine.

Had a cold/fever thing going on on Wednesday, so I didn't go to school. Had to teach at an elementary school on Thursday, but all my materials were at the junior high because I hadn't gone in on Wednesday, so I had to drive to the junior high first, then run over to the elementary. I was in a rush and pressed for time, and when I ran into the copy room Fujita sensei and Kyoto sensei (vice-principal) were making copies at two of the machines. Fujita sensei asked me if something was wrong, and I quickly said back in Japanese that I'd forgotten my things, and Kyoto sensei whirled around with a suprised look on his face and said, "Chris san, daijyobu desu ka?" (Are you okay? Is everything all right? etc/). I told him it was, but it was sort of funny. The last time he tried to speak to me (he can't speak English) I could barely understand him. All the teachers had gone to a different school for a meeting at the end of the day. I still had an hour to go before I could leave, but he had said something to me and all I'd been able to catch was shigoto (work/job) and accident and (ki o tsukette). It was raining out and all I could figure was that he was saying work was over and I could go home, but to be careful not to get into an accident since the roads were bad. This is of course what I *wanted* to hear as well, and I figured if it wasn't what he was actually saying I could just play dumb gaijin. I *was* right and he had been telling me that, but I know I'd looked like I didn't understand that day and just said, "honto?" really? and "doomo" thanks, as an answer. Which is my standard issue response for when I don't understand anything. But on Thursday he was so funny when he heard me make a few actual sentences. Then yesterday one of the ninth graders stopped me by a door Kyoto sensei was fixing and said he heard I was sick, and I told him Yoku narimashita (I got better) and Kyoto sensei did another doubletake. The unfortunate thing in all of this is that he's probably going to assume I can hold a conversation with him and attempt to do so again at some point in the near future, where I'll blink a lot and say "honto" and "doomo" whenever it *feels* appropriate. hehe.

Seriously, though, my Japanese is getting better by leaps and bounds sometimes, and other days it feels like I can't understand a thing. I've decided some of it relates to what mood I'm in, and some of it depends on who's speaking to me. Some people are very clear and I understand them easily. Some speak too fast and mash their words together, so I can't get definite beginning and ends to what they're saying. I often will understand the beginning and end of some people's sentences, but won't get any of the middle. Little kids are hard to understand because it's like they have a seperate language. They use kid slang and cut out the formal articles and endings to verbs I'm learning, and generally have these voices that are sort of well, you know, little kid voices, blah blah blah blahing, and everything runs together. I think little kids are the hardest speakers for me to understand.

In any case, I have a few more pictures from my trip to Hakone and Kamakura with my friends. The trip was a lot of fun. I saw some new things and new scenery.

This is a kuro tamago (black egg) which we ate in Hell, a place in the mountains where they boil the eggs in natural hotsprings which turn them black. I think because of the high sulfur content in the water maybe? Anyway, if you eat one of the black eggs of Hell they are supposed to grant you an extra seven years of life.

So I ate two.

Here's the color version of the picture Kevin touched up of me in front of the koi pond.

And a picture of me bathing the Buddha at the top of the mountains.

Oh, and a pic from the beginning of the month on the day after the election. My contribution to the writers with drinks movement.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

So my friends and I took a trip to Hakone and Kamakura this past weekend. Beth has put up some of the pictures on her website, so I'll direct you to that page for now. I'll grab a few more photos off her soon and post them here as well.

Here's one Kevin took of me at a koi pool outside our onsen (natural hot spring). He's touched it up with his computer wiz skills to look very cool. The other pics you can find at this web page.

Haven't gone over to get the pictures off Kevin and Beth yet, so I'll indulge in Ms. Bond's parlor games today.

Grab the nearest book at hand. Go to page 42. Select your favorite sentence. Post it and the name of the book in your journal (add these instructions to your journal as well).

From Tillie Olsen's "Yonnondio: From the Thirties"

"And Beauty? Until the mammoth stone beauty of the city has carved itself into their blood, the children can lie on their bellies near the edge of the cliff and watch the trains and freights, the glittering railroad tracks, the broken bottles dumped below, the rubbish moving on the littered belly of the river."

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Finally back from a weekend vacation at an onsen and visiting shrines and daibutsu (the Big Buddha) in Hakone and Kamakura. Lots of good pictures to come once I download them from Kevin and Beth's camera.

But until then, just this: Language has become a somewhat barbaric device for me. In doing my best to learn Japanese, I've had to come face to face with language's limitations. It started as I began learning Japanese and thought, oh that expression feels so rustic or so flimsy, or sometimes I'd feel that the Japanese grammar felt primitive or something to that effect, until suddenly there was a transmission of these feelings about Japanese to my perspective on English, and I now often feel the same way about English, and now Language in general. I'm feeling outside of language, so to speak, rather than inside. This is very difficult for me, even though it's also an interesting condition, because language has always been my home, the element where I felt most me. Words and sentences and paragraphs, all the components of composition were sexy, admirable, magical, amazing, good, wise, beautiful, delicious. Now I feel like words have become these hollow blocks that we clunk together and why don't we just scratch some pictures on the cave wall with a stone too? I guess I'm feeling like a curtain has been pulled back and the thing I loved most in the world, that I put faith in more than anything, has been revealed to have an emptiness behind it, a darkened stage. At the same time, I recognize this moment as a place where one makes a decision. To accept that emptiness, or to have faith not in words per se, but in the fact that as human beings we try to express ourselves period. That the endeavor itself is the thing to have faith in.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Off to an onsen with my friends for the weekend. See y'all later.

Monday, November 15, 2004

So I changed my picture on my blog. I like the black and white one that my friend Kevin took, god, it must be two years ago now. Close to that, I think. But I haven't had that scruffy little goatee growing forever and ever, so I took this picture with my cell phone last night. Now I feel a bit more updated.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

A restless night trapped in a conscious sort of sleep where I involuntarily conjugated Japanese verbs for hours, making potential sentences, practicing conjuctions, and forming "Shall we" and "Would you like to" questions. Then I woke up, went to school and am now listening to the same crap all over again.

Sometimes I feel like I'm fifteen and working under the table at my first job, washing dishes in this dive of a restaurant in my hometown. I'd get home around midnight and go to sleep so that I could get up for school the next day and for the next two hours I'd dream about washing dishes. I finally had to quit. Then I started stocking shelves at the Super Duper grocery store in Mecca, the next town over, which wasn't much better. Then I dreamed of stacking soup cans and milk jugs. During college I waited tables at a country club for a year, and then I mainly dreamed about being stuck in the country club all night long, as if those rich people I served owned me.

Right now I feel like Japanese is owning me. Sometimes my head feels crowded and I would just like some space.

Also I love America even if stupid old Bush was elected President.

*misses everyone*

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Finally finished David Mitchell's, Cloud Atlas. It was really worth the trip to Tokyo to attain a copy of it. The book is a virtuoso performance, brilliantly structured, wonderfully plotted with lots of twists and turns, with a rainbow of genres to sample as you read it. The book's structure is 6 different narratives that interweave through space and time, and each narrative is a different genre. One is historical, one mystery, one thriller, one science fiction, one a sort of comedy of manners, etc. And it's all about power politics and the evolutions and demises of social orders throughout history and the individual's responsibility to those rises and falls. In the wake of the election despair, it was a heartening book.

A spoiler follows. A really big spoiler, so just don't read on if you don't want to read the actual *end of the book*. It the very end of the book that sums up how I feel (more than ever) after the results of this election.

** Jackson is the narrator's son

"A life spent shaping a world I *want* Jackson to inherit, not one I *fear* Jackson shall inherit, this strikes me as a life worth the living. Upon my return to San Francisco, I shall pledge myself to the Abolitionist cause, because I owe my life to a self-freed slave, & because I must begin somewhere.

I hear my father-in-law's response. 'oho, fine, Whiggish sentiments, Adam. But don't tell *me* about justice! Ride to Tennessee on an ass & convince the red-necks that they are merely white-washed negroes & their negroes are black-washed Whites! Sail to the Old World, tell 'em their imperial slaves' rights are as inalienable as the Queen of Belgium's! Oh, you'll grow hoarse, poor & grey in caucuses! You'll be spat on, shot at, lynched, pacified with medals, spurned by backwoodsmen! Crucified! Naive, dreaming Adam. He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean!'

Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Sometimes I just want to run through the streets screaming at the top of my lungs because I'm fed up with so many little things all leeching at me for attention and it would be easier to go crazy for a little while and let off some of the steam building inside me instead of bursting into a million little pieces.

This is one of those times.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

More words to buoy your spirits from Jeanette Winterson, my choice of minister.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

As of late (as of the election) I have been sorrowful, as probably noticed in previous posts, and casting about for a way out of all the despair. I'd already been aching to dance for the past two months, but didn't know anywhere to go around here (other than to take the train into Tokyo and look for a good place there). So last night in a moment of spontaneity, I called a guy who was hired by the same company that brought me here and asked if he knew any places. He directed me to a place in Tsuchira City, just fifteen/twenty minutes away, called Orbit. So I went. By myself. I don't think I've ever gone to a dance club (where I wasn't already a regular) by myself, but times are rough and I'm in Japan so I did it.

How to begin describing the evening is difficult. First of all, it was a Japanese Hip Hop club. Second of all, I was the only foreigner there. Yeahhh, great start.

So I walked in and am immediately assaulted by bouncers who speak Japanese I've never heard of and suddenly I'm back to grunting and making hand gestures. We figure out the cover charge and then I'm given a body search (they knew those words in English). Then I'm let inside.

Inside is a fucking MTV video. I am not joking. Even now, hours and hours later, I am caught between a feeling of, Oh my god, this is so damned artificial, and oh my god, this is so damned cool. The place was packed, and all the Japanese were dressed like Hip Hop people from television (not like actual real life Hip Hop people on the streets). They are blinging it and all the girls have those little J-LO white fuzzy caps she made famous, and tight pants cinched tight at the waist or else baggy camoflauge pants, midriff tube shirts, all of them basically, and lots of huge gold hoop earrings. I think the only exception was one Japanese woman who wore like a piece of black and blue stretchy material from her breasts now to her upper thighs and had a wicked choppy haircut, but you could tell there was something different about her. She was the one the guys all danced with and the girls sort of smiled fakely at. The guys had the requisite long ass basketball jerseys and polo shirts and baggie jeans, etc. Lots of skull caps and baseball caps turned sideways. Lots of NY Yankees caps. Everyone was pretty immaculately sculpted to look Hip Hop.

I wasn't. I was pretty much just wearing a pair of jeans and a black and gray jersey from the Gap I got probably two years ago (which I still like obviously). So um, I didn't fit in even with my clothes.

So I positioned myself at the bar, which was tended by the cutest damned Japanese girl with dreadlocks and really smart looking square blackframed glasses. She just wore a sweatshirt and jeans, and I still think she was the hottest girl there, even though she wasn't all done up. Dreadlocks are strangely attractive on a Japanese woman, especially when she contrasts them with the Indie Rock square black framed glasses. I could tell she was probably a cut above the trendies.

After about an hour of watching and sort of bobbing around, this guy comes over to me and asks me (in Japanese) if I can talk in Japanese. I tell him I can a little. We exchange names. He's Naoki. These are his friends sort of hiding shyly behind him, Tomo and Kento. They're commercial artists. (Leave it to artist types to befriend a lonely foreigner) in an all Japanese hangout. They've come with a young friend of theirs from their workplace, a nineteen year old girl who is a regular at Orbit. So Naoki buys me a drink, then I buy him one, I learn how to say "black person" in Japanese (because they are all calling each other black people whenever they do a good dance move, I think like saying "you're so ghetto" maybe) and though our conversation is limited we talk for about an hour and then hit the dance floor itself.

What a relief. I was afraid to go out into that space by myself for fear there'd be an uprising, but having an actual Japanese person who's befriended you makes things much easier. It gives everyone else the message that you've been checked out by another member of the family and are cool. So I did my little dance and heard lots of people saying, "Sugoi! Jozu!" Oh look, incredible, he's good. At one point this girl and I were trading J-LO moves. I can do an incredible hand to face move if I do say so myself, and if this chick didn't have the damned J-Lo outfit on, I would have beat her, damn it! Instead I still think she one-upped me, just cause she had the whole J-LO look going too.

I didn't dance quite the same as them. They dance like they were all trying out for a Missy Elliot video. That's not the Hip Hop dancing I learned. I learned at clubs in Youngstown, which isn't as "choreographed". At one point in the night, they had a stage show of regulars who did group dances. It was really incredible stuff, because here these people had put together amazingly difficult routines in groups (so Japanese, no individuals on their own here) and this isn't like a job, this is the thing they do to blow off steam and have fun, but it's so damned worked at and crafted. If they need Asian dancers for Hip Hop videos, damn, come over here. They can do it and don't even have the training. Somehow they've managed to train themselves.

Because really, there is not a large black population here, so the subculture they're imitating hasn't brought this to Japan. It's been brought by television and movies and music. There is something just a little bit off in the Hip Hop culture here. All the moves are professional, all the clothes cut too well, and when they dance, it's got an air of gentleness to it, whereas in Hip Hop clubs back home, you sometimes think the dancers are angry or might break out into a fight by the serious looks on their faces. I like both styles, though. And man can these Japanese DJs spin. I'm not sure I've heard finer mixes in the states. I mean, really.

It was a long night. I finally decided to leave because it felt like I'd been there forever, but you know, people were still there, dancing, the bar was still serving. I'm not usually out before a place closes. Usually the places closes and has to chase me out. So it was a weird feeling to choose to leave before a dance club closed. On my way out, two door girls made me stop before I left so they could give me the schedule for the rest of November, and that made me feel good because it made me feel welcome to come back.

When I got outside and looked at my cell phone, I saw it was 4:30 in the morning and sort of gasped and felt like I'd just been stolen away by fairies into the underside of a hill for many hours. I guess it's true. Japanese clubs don't close until the people have decided the party's over. Sugoi!

And I am happy because I've finally found a place to get my freak on.

(Oh, and a side note: I got a note this morning from Pindeldyboz, saying they're going to publish my short story, "The Other Angelas", so even more yay!)

Friday, November 05, 2004

Oops, I forgot to post one more thing with those pictures of the school where I teach and some of my students. This is a map of Ohio's distribution of votes during the election. Take notice of the Northeastern corner. *That's* where I grew up, and I'm damned proud of that corner.

Some pics I took today to focus on the cool kids around me, rather than the mess back home.

Front garden

Front Entrance

Front windows, second and third stories

The kids' bike shelter

My car in the front lot.

The inner courtyard during cleaning time.

The courtyard after cleaning time.

Two ni nensei girls (8th graders)

Two san nensei girls (9th graders) and their kendo teacher.

Two ni nensei boys after cleaning time. The one with the tiger stripe bandana keeps telling me he wears underwear with tiger stripes too, and thinks this is hilarious.

One of my san nensei boys (9th grade) hamming it up for the camera.

A group of my ichi nensei boys (7th graders).

My bad boys from the ni nensei (8th grade) from left to right: Ogata, takayuki, Kazuki (the lap dancer), and Tadashii.

Me and Takayuki

Thursday, November 04, 2004

So yes, another post, not so long after the last one. But I'm not sure what else to do. I've been sitting at home all night after a long day of working with Japanese children (wondering while I'm teaching them the names of the months how long I can keep doing something like that when it feels like the earth has just been tugged out from underneath me) and so at home again, I just sit on my legless Japanese chair and listen to music and stare into space, listening to music for comfort. And it's hard to find the right music right now too. A lot just doesn't feel right. I've ended up listening to Bjork's "Desired Constellation" so many times, and it does feel right for some reason. Mostly because of the howling in it, the despair. I had an hour there in the late afternoon where I felt invigorated and thought all the sensible things like how there's lots of people who didn't want this to happen and we're not so alone in our beliefs and *our* values, and that we'll rally and change things, and resist the progessive evil that's building in America with the conservative Christians gaining more and more power (yes, evil. evil evil evil EVIL). But then I just snapped into my first depression sleep in I don't know how long. Things have been going really well for me for a while, but now I'm just despairing. What will America look like in four years? I keep having fearful visions of The Handmaid's Tale. Go rent that movie and hold up a picture of the Bush family next to it. They fit right into that 80s Christian dystopia. It scares the hell out of me, the way the conservatives are already leaping and baying at the possibility of changing the supreme court to conservative activist judges, overturning Rowe vs. Wade, virtually criminalizing anyone who is not heterosexual, excluding anyone who chooses to arrange their romantic lives outside of the Christian institute of marriage. Their bloodthirsty, and I feel powerless at the moment. I know everyone is saying we need to pick ourselves up and move on, but I honestly just don't know how to do that. I'm an emotionalist about things. My head can tell me everything sensible, and I try to follow reason, but if my heart isn't in it, it's just not going to happen. So sue me.

Everything's changed now. I'm not even sure how to go about writing now. What's important? How can I really do something to make the world right, or moving in the right direction? Intolerance and fear and uncertainty, the fuel of the Bush administration, has dismantled years of civil rights progress in a matter of a few years. The only thing I can think of at the moment is not to allow them to do anything further, at least not to go down without a fight, kicking and screaming.

But how to do am I going to make it right, as Bjork would say. That's the real question.


It's tricky when
You feel that someone
Has done something
On your behalf

It's slippery when
Your sense of justice
Murmurs underneath
And you're asking yourself:

How am I going to make it right?

With a palmful of stars
I shake them like dice
I throw them on the table
Until the desired constellation appears
And I ask myself:

How am I going to make it right?
How am I going to make it right?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I don't think I'll be posting for a while, not till I get over this. My heart is broken. I don't care that Kerry lost. I care that Bush won. I care that I don't feel comfortable in my own culture, that I'm surrounded by people who would deprive me of my rights, my voice, my opinion, who would make me second class in many circumstances, who will gain more and more power over the next 4 years and who knows what they'll do with it then.

I'm glad I'm not in America right now. My country has failed.

Whenever I complained or critiqued aspects of America in the past, a lot of people back home in Ohio would just say, If you don't like it here then go somewhere else, as if America had nothing wrong with it, as if critiquing your own country to make it *better* isn't a patriotic thing to do.

Well you got what you wanted. I've gone somewhere else.

I don't know when I'll ever even come back to it. Not for a long time, if I can help it.

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell said that by law, provisional and absentee ballots won't be counted until 11 days after the election. He said he could not immediately put an estimate on the number of those ballots, but he said 250,000 might not be out of the realm of possibility.

While he said the exact number of provisional ballots was unknown, he said it is "trending toward 175,000."


Start counting. My ballot's in that pile, damn it.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Check this story out. My friend Elad's got a whole little series of these great hip little revisioned fairytales, very American, and I can't wait to see them all published.

Okay, so it's Election Day back in the States. Please go vote for John Kerry, or else I may have to stay in Japan for the next four years. You want me to come home, don't you?

Onto other news. I think it is safe to say everyone at Edosaki Junior High is completely comfortable with me now, and that I am with them as well. The reason I say this is that in the past couple of weeks, the craziest things have been said and done while I'm at work. Not just with students but the teachers also. It started out seemingly with just that group of bad boys asking if I liked pornography, then it escalated to them asking what my penis size was, and now it's just become a free for all to ask the foreign teacher just about anything you want. I think this is because I'm laid back and have made a real attempt to be a part of their lives (and school is a huge part of a Japanese person's life, much bigger than your average American's I'd say, for lots of reasons that are difficult to go into just now). But in any case, the school is a family in and of itself in ways that I just didn't see American schools being when I was in junior high and high school, and from what I know now, still isn't. So here I am, the new American teacher (my predecessor was a Canadian woman) and after two months, all the padding has been taken off and everyone is treating me like, well, like part of the family. I'm now privy to some of the darker aspects of the students' lives that the other teachers have to deal with (because the teachers hold themselves responsible for these kids lives as if they were their parents also) and as I've mentioned I've been invited to go to the Onsen trip (though I can't go because it's way expensive, and it turns out none of the younger crew of teachers is going, and only one English speaker) and the kids have taken the gloves off and are asking all sorts of things. The aforementioned questions about pornography, penis size, and now I've been cornered by a group of girls who are also interested in genitalia and have a horrible sense of humor in that they keep saying "teabag" and laughing like crazy about it. Use your imagination. Yes, that's what they're talking about. Mmhmm. *That* teabag. Then today while I was giving a reading test to a group of students and suddenly this boy who is doing his reading test starts to try and give me a lap dance. I have no clue what he was thinking, but he was really blase about it and no one else thought anything of it either. It wasn't really a lap dance, but he kept trying to crawl onto my knee and do that bouncy thing the boys do together. I just ignored him and graded him as he finished reading and he went back to his seat and that was that. Then in another class, after I've done a little discussion on Thanksgiving history, a boy raises his hand and wants to know what "Fuck you" means. He says he knows it's bad but he wants to know why. I heard him say "fuck you" but Fujita sensei told me he wants to know why it's bad. She was very calm, with a little smirk on her face, and she didn't stop him, just looked at me for the reason, so I proceeded to give the kids a lesson on the meanings of "Fuck you". Not something I ever expected to happen. I told them people say it when they're angry or mad or want to be rude. When they're fighting with each other, or when someone says something that offends them, someone might say it, but that they have to be careful, it sounds funny here, but this is generally a nonviolent society but if they ever were dealing with Americans here or in American itself, they should be careful because someone might not think it's funny and a fight could start. They seemed impressed by that knowledge, and I could see them tabulating it into their register of English and the pragmatics of it. Why I said it could start a fight is because there are many cases of American servicemen here in Japan getting into horrible fights with Japanese people, mostly because they've been drunk and misunderstood what someone has said to them, and for many other reasons which I choose not to go into. Later Fujita sensei told me she hopes I'm okay with fielding questions like that. She was happy I'd just told them its meaning and didn't make a fuss about it because she thinks it's important they know what these things mean, even the bad words. She told me about 15 years ago a Japanese boy was living in America as an exchange student and was shot and killed because he didn't know the meaning of the word "freeze". Apparently someone held him up or something and said freeze, and he didn't know to stop. So they shot him. Since then Fujita sensei said she's been very adamant about letting the kids know slang as well as proper English. She said not all teachers do this, but it's her own philosophy. Language isn't just cute and fun and games. If these kids go abroad, they should know what things mean other than "How's the weather?" and "I like such and such, I don't like such and such," or "When's your birthday?" etc. Yet another high mark in my book for Ms. Fujita.

Many of the kids want me to learn their names. This is very difficult as there are over 700 of them. And on top of that, their names are very foreign to my ears. (not even the Japanese teachers know all of them, and the kids wear badges with their names on them, but it's only helpful to the Japanese teachers because they're in Kanji) Some names are more foreign sounding to me than others. I'm okay with remembering some Japanese names that have made it into the American consciousness for one reason or another, but some I've just never heard and it takes me a while to get those sounds set in my head as a person's name. I actually already do know many of them, the persistent ones who want a relationship with me. Sho, the baseball player, his friends Shohei and Taiki. A group of eighth grade boys named Takayuki, Ogata, Kazuki (the lap dancer), Yusuke, Tadashi, and Masashi. Jun Miyamoto, who runs on the track team with me and said, "I want to be Chris's friend," to me the other day. Aww, put on the cute music. Eri and Terada and Yuka and Yuki, my English speech team girls, Daiki, the new boy who also joined the speech team this year. Yuta, the boy genius who writes poetry in English, Kenji, Shinji, Asami, Midori, Onuma, Chihiro and Yumi and Naomi (three of my special ed girls), Tomohiro, Tomohito, Shoto and Yuya (my special ed boys) and more, but enough already. You can see they are names you don't encounter on a daily or monthly basis in America, and for some people never. But I'm trying to know as many as possible because it's important to the kids, and really it's important to me too, because I know them and I want their names to be as familiar to me as they themselves are.

After the "fuck you" lesson, Fujita sensei and I went back to our desks in the teacher's office (we sit side by side) and traded further slang. She was so funny, giggling about some of the things she was teaching me and about the things I was teaching her that she'd never heard when she was in America. She said, "I love slang but I didn't hear as much as I wanted to when I lived in America because mostly we were around very "proper" Americans who didn't really just be relaxed with my husband and I. They treated us like tourists." And I said, "Well girlfriend, you got the right American to learn some slang. I grew up in the country and during and after college I mostly lived in the hood. Two perfect places for slang." She said, "Girlfriend?" and then, "What is this 'hood'?"

So I said, "Lesson One. You've heard of Oprah, right?"

After the election: