Archive for August, 2004


I’m off to the South Dakota Festival of the Book in Sioux Falls, SD, where I’ll be giving a poetry reading with Frank Pommersheim at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday (today) at the Multicultural Center, and another reading/discussion with South Dakota Poet Laureate David Alan Evans and Nebraska Poet Laureate William Kloefkorn (sadly, I, myself, am completely unlaureated) at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday (tomorrow), also at the Multicultural Center.

At any rate, I’ll be back Sunday afternoon, and then, on Monday, donning my academic robes to celebrate the official start of the new academic year. (Literally, too, with the robes. There’s a convocation thingy that involves full regalia.)

I have also, by the way, decided on two new Blog House Rules. (You know, like John Irving, but without the literary or cinematic panache.) They are as follows:

1. No drunk blogging wherein one self-flagellates over one’s chronic state of dorkhood.

2. No drunk dialing in tandem with drunk blogging, in which one simultaneously bemoans one’s chronic state of dorkhood, thereby dorking out even further.

That is all.

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Because . . . unless my gaydar’s off, which is rare, I could swear they’re all gay.

Okay . . . maybe not all of them. Just the ones who are obviously dykes.

The thing is, though, they all wear engagement and wedding rings, and I see them with their “husbands” around town sometimes. Are they simply in denial? Is it all an elaborate ruse to make sure nobody attempts to rattle the closet door?

Sometimes I think that maybe it’s like Minnesota . . . where sometimes you swear the women are gay but they’re really not, and maybe I’m just confused . . . but then one day I was shopping in the Hy-Vee and noticed kd lang was playing over the loudspeakers. And then Melissa Ethridge. And next it was the Indigo Girls.

I wish they would just go ahead and be gay. It would make me feel so much better.

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There’s a low, steady roll of thunder, the popcorn sputter of raindrops striking the air conditioner, and the breathy swish of trees brushing their wet sleeves against the night.

There’s wind, and it makes the wind chimes play their obsessive, four-note melody over and over, the hollow wood chimes softly rattling like bones.

I like it . . . this roll, strike, swish, chime, and rattle. Roll, strike, swish, chime, and rattle.

It makes me sad in the way I like to be sad.

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Now that the birds have discovered the Free Lunch that is my bird feeder, I’ve been able to enjoy watching the birds who come to my front porch. So far, there’s the obsessive-compulsive blue jay who shoves empty sunflower seed husks into one of my rose pots, an entire swarm of house finches, several mourning doves with their songs that sound like deep, hollow wooden flutes, a handful of sparrows, a white breasted nuthatch, a red-headed woodpecker, and a black-and-white something that may or may not be a bobolink.

The mourning doves are particularly bold and on the afternoons when I go out to my front porch to write, they sometimes come and hop about right next to me as I’m tap-tap-tapping away on the laptop.

I also saw a mud swallow’s nest recently under the eaves of the local Pamida. There were four marshmallow-fat baby swallows cheeping and cheeping in the nest, and the mother swallow tried to dive bomb my head when I stood underneath the nest to look at them.

When I tell people about the recent bird-watching, though, for some reason they feel compelled to regale me with gruesome bird-gone-wrong stories.

One acquaintance, for example, described leaving a metal bird feeder out throughout the winter and when it became extremely cold, discovering, much to her horror, the remnants of frozen bird feet stuck to the feeder.

My Japanese Mother described a nest of blue jays outside her kitchen window: “Such cute little babies, all peach-ka peach-ka singing and then next thing you know that bastard neighbor cat came and got it. Only thing that stink cat left is little tiny feet in nest. How you like that? Blue jay suppose to be such good luck but not if get eat up by cat. I hate that cat!”

And then my landlord weighed in yesterday with his two cents, describing a newborn baby bird that had fallen out of a tree. Seeing a swallow’s nest nearby, he put the newborn back in the nest, even though it didn’t look like it was faring too well. The swallows dumped the (by then dead) baby bird back out, though, and abandoned the nest, and when he looked inside the nest several weeks later he found that they’d abandoned their eggs as well. “My wife told me that, basically, I’d taken a dead baby, probably from a different species altogether, and put it in their nest,” my landlord said. “So I guess I left a dead baby in their house.”

“Man,” I said. “That’s gotta be majorly bad feng shui.”

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The anthology Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, has just been released from the University of Illinois Press. Edited by poet (and blogger!) Victoria Chang, who did a marvelous job, the anthology presents a diverse selection of Asian American poets under the age of 40, including fellow bloggers Nick Carbo, Oliver de la Paz, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Yours Truly!

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Two snippets from my day:

Sometimes, when I step outside, The Bean Bean likes to make himself useful by launching himself out the front door onto the porch, where his modus operandi is to roll about in birdseed and poke around for suspicious goings-on. He’s a facilitator, that one.

Well, he slipped out today while I was on my way to water the pots on the front porch, and so I decided to let him sniff about for a little while as I watered. This is when the next door neighbor came out and began snapping away at her hedges with a large pair of metal hedge clippers.

The Bean Bean took one look at those hedge clippers, registered their massive snapping sounds, and then proceeded to freak the fuck out. He dropped low to the ground, ran back and forth along the porch in a dead panic, and then launched himself at the living room windows several times–frantically scrabbling at the slippery glass, and then falling back down on the porch where he scuttled around some more. It was apparent that he wanted back inside the house, so I opened the door and he skittered inside, then immediately went skidding under the bed.

It was at this moment that I realized he’d been frightened by the horrid abomination of what he perceived to be an enormously oversized and freakishly sharp pair of the dreaded cat toenail clippers.

Then, later on in the afternoon, during a phone conversation with my Japanese Mother:

JM: I find such nice cannister for kitchen. So nice elegant tulip (she pronounces it Two-Lip) pattern. You can put coffee, sugar, flour inside. Made in Japan! Do you want it?

AH: Actually, I have kitchen cannisters.

JM: I not talking about cheap-oh plastic kind. Stupid waste-of-money kind. This is very elegant kind. Made in Japan!

AH: My cannisters aren’t plastic . . .

JM: [interruping me] No, not that lousy metal tin kind, either!

AH: Thanks, but I already have a set of ceramic cannisters. They have roosters on them. Don’t you remember? I showed you pictures of my apartment on my computer when we were in Billings.

JM: [getting mad] Yeah, I see it all right! Make me shock! So lousy cock-oh-roo-doo-roo! Who going to get such stupid bad-taste thing like that? Such tacky and low-class! Everybody think you some kind of no-education French farmer. You can’t invite your department over for formal dinner party when look like that. You should have get Two-Lip instead. Good kind. Made in Japan!

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The first time I get called a lesbian is in the fourth grade. I attend a University lab school, and instead of taking fourth-grade classes I go upstairs and take advanced classes in English and math with the eighth and ninth graders. My best friend at this time is a bit of a math genius, and she goes upstairs to take classes with the junior high students as well. Because we’re in the fourth grade, and because we’re best friends, we sometimes hold hands.

“Lesbos!” the junior high boys repeatedly yell at us. “Dykes!” As a matter of principle, I feel that we should continue to hold hands, but my math genius best friend refuses to hold hands with me any longer after several weeks of sustained heckling. Before this happens, though, a well-meaning eighth grader gently takes me aside and tells me that I should really stop holding hands with my best friend. “You don’t want people to think you’re a lesbian, do you?” she asks with concern.

I have a little crush on this girl, this well-meaning eighth grader. Her name is Karen, she has white-blonde hair that she wears feathered back, and she has a charming way of blushing bright red all the way down to her fingertips. I also have a crush on a boy named Robert. He has dirty blonde hair that he wears feathered back and he is nice to me. Sometimes I fantasize that, like a real-life junior high stoner Barbie and Ken, Karen and Robert will date. I’m not really sure what this says about me.

I have no idea what a lesbian is, only that I’m clearly supposed to not want to be one. That it’s terribly important to do whatever it takes to keep people from thinking that I’m a lesbian. That I’m already geeky beyond all human comprehension, too brainy for my own good, bi-racial, and for God’s sake, the last thing I need is for people to think that I’m a lesbian!

I’m in the fourth grade. This is Laramie, Wyoming.

The last time I’m called a lesbian (as an epithet) is about one year ago, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I’m still seeing the Canadian Dyke at the time, and she’s come down for a visit. Seeing the rainbow sticker on the rear window of her car as we’re driving through Sioux Falls, a baseball-hatted young man in a bright red pickup truck with oversized tires revs his engine and pulls up alongside us, then throws his lit cigarette at us. Honking and obscene gestures ensue.

He continues to tailgate us until the Canadian Dyke finally pulls into a parking lot. He squeals into the next space, and spits a wad of tobacco out of his driver’s-side window. His truck has a gun rack. (If this were fiction, his character would be such a stereotype, a cliche, that it would be problematic–a cardboard cutout character that I would have to revise.)

“Faggots!” he screams at us. His face is bright red. He’s apoplectic. He’s probably around the same age as some of my undergraduate students. “You’ve got a fucking faggot sticker on your car. Fucking faggots!”

I stare at him, astonished, through my window.

He stares back. “Fat fucking faggots!” he amends.

I have the absurd desire to burst out laughing. Doesn’t he even know the right slur or epithet to use? A part of me hates him right back and wishes him harm. A part of me wonders idly if he has a loaded gun inside the truck to go with that gun rack. A part of me wants to counsel him: “Honey, we’re not faggots. We’re lesbians. Dykes. Are you retarded? Are you a fucking moron, or what?”

The Canadian Dyke is attempting to leap out of the car to beat the shit out of him, or so she says. I have her firmly grasped by the collar of her shirt and I’m telling her to simply drive away. Undoubtedly, she can probably take him. But I have no desire to see her beat up a young man who’s around the same age as some of my undergraduate students. I’m not convinced that he doesn’t have a gun or a baseball bat inside his truck. The rage I feel is suddenly replaced by exhaustion, hollowness, and depression. Eventually, I talk her into sitting back down into her car and driving away. She’s pissed off at me for the rest of the day.

I’m not really sure what this says about me.

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