329: punchwhitey

I know you’re looking at the subject of this e-mail and thinking “Say what?” But listen, it’s really funny: I was in SoHo with my brother when we came up with this game where we’d punch each other everytime we saw a personage of the Caucasian persuasion. So instead of “Punchbuggy! No punchbacks!” at the sight of a VW Beetle, we’d yell “Punchwhitey!” and punch. Given that we were in SoHo at the time, we had a lot of punching to do.

So yeah, my Christmas was good, and no it wasn’t all punching. My flight on Christmas Eve morning was uneventful, as my travel plans went unaffected by snowstorms that hit the Midwest everywhere but in Chicago. It was just cold as balls, and the walk to the el was hard on my hatless self. But once I was on the plane with some pretzels and a cup of ice water, everything was beautiful, baby, just beautiful. Except that the seatbelt did not fit. Sometime between my November trip to Vegas and my Christmas trip to Queens, I either gained enough weight to merit a seatbelt extender, or I was on a plane with skimpy seatbelt yardage. Instead of asking one of the flight attendants for an extender, as I couldn’t be sure that said extender would be discreet enough to pass for, say, a napkin or a pair of headphones, I simply braced myself during takeoff and landing. And it was fine, but I had my epiphany. I mean, shit, if I can’t even be sure that I’ll be able to squeeze into a plane seatbelt, or ride a Segway, or enjoy a small rollercoaster without having to hold my breath and worry that the safety bar will snap during a particularly sharp turn, then clearly, I am doing something wrong. Naturally, my parents pick me up at the airport and take me home for a lunch of that classic New York pizza with the orange grease that you have to blot. Delicious.

In case you were wondering, I didn’t get out too much during my visit home. My parents always complained that I didn’t spend any time with them on previous visits, and they were right. Why hang out with my moody mother and my stern father when I could run around the city smoking with Nadine? Well, Nadine’s quit and anyway, she and Nick were visiting Nick’s family in Buffalo until Monday anyway. Olivia was on Long Island with her family, and I hadn’t heard from Kim in a while, so it was me and Mom and endless pitchers on instant iced tea. While Jackie chatted with friends via AIM and Justin updated his web site, my mom and I reverted to our usual: I watched Lifetime while she clipped coupons. My older sister would call every few minutes for feedback on things she wanted to buy for family members (our agreement was, she’d buy presents for the family and Patrick and I would just pay her back). She came in late, after Patrick had some home but before Dad came home at midnight. So we wrapped presents, watched A Christmas Story, and opened presents instead of going to Midnight Mass. Everybody stayed up until 3:00 am watching Benny Hill which, strangely enough, did not prevent me from falling asleep.

We all woke up late Christmas Day, so we were twenty minutes late to Ched & Gerhard‘s. We had to stop to get them some flowers from the guy selling flowers and balloons at the gas station on Sutphin Boulevard. While Joseline picked a bouquet, I watched a man wearing a Santa hat blowing up two Nemo balloons with air from the free pump. A pair of Latina women walked past with a few small children in tow, all dressed in elaborately beaded party dresses. Then off we were again, up steep 85th Avenue to Christmas dinner and the only family we have left in New York City. My immediately family are not good at staying in touch, so my sister knew we’d have to bring something to disarm Ched and Gerhard slightly. That something was the cat, Mango. Mango was led into the house on a pink leash, her litter pan (which is actually just a disposable aluminum pan at the moment) settled in a dim corner and not underfoot. So there was no danger of Ched stepping in it as she set out placemats, brewed a pot of tea, and yelled at us all for not calling her more. She always was very good at multi-tasking. Gerhard puffed on his pipe and barked at us, albeit in a good-natured sort of way, to stop eating so many cookies or we’d spoil our appetite. After all sorts of fuss, we sat down to lunch and caught up on the last few months. So many memories caught up in their house, which is actually one of my favorite places in the world. Their furniture is mid-century Danish or early 70s American, so it’s all polished sleek wood with not a shred of macrame in sight. And it’s all scaled well if you’re not too tall, so Gerhard had to stoop to sit down for lunch or to sit in his arm chair and talk about rations in pre-war Germany. The living room smells faintly of pipe tobacco and paper. The grown-ups talk about my dad’s recent trip to the Philippines. He said it’s weird to visit a place you haven’t seen in over twenty years. Everything was dirtier and faster and brighter than before. More signs in English, and more children who run up to you on the street and ask you for money. His parents’, the house in which he was raised, was reinforced with concrete and new tile in the common areas.

The chicken coop is gone, but Grandma’s grotto with the intimidating Virgin Mary is still in place. There is a dog who has just had puppies. My cousin Janice married the son of a successful engineer, so the wedding was appropriately lovely. My dad, as a primary sponsor, received a seat of honor at the wedding. He spent a lot of time with his brother Butch, Janice’s father. Not so much with his other brother, Richie, who is raising six kids alone after the passing of his wife. My cousin Janice is very fair, and looks like her mother, Cynthia (who to me looks like she’d be right at home in a Pedro Almodovar movie as a fabulous yet hysterical society matron), and my aunt Lourdes. And my grandfather is still ailing, but a bit better under Richie’s care (he’s a doctor). Grandma’s been fitted with hearing aids.

After lunch, I helped Ched and Gerhard clean up while they asked about me.

Ched: “So how’s Kim?”
Me: “Oh she’s good. I think. She’s pretty busy.”
Ched: “What is she doing now?”
Me: “Oh she’s taking classes at Columbia.”
Ched: “Oh that’s nice.”
Me: “Volunteering at an animal hospital. I think.”
Ched: “Uh huh.”
Me: “She lives with her boyfriend.”
Gerhard: “Uh oh.”

Yeah, I guess you could say they’re old fashioned.

Dessert was a creamy Entenmann’s cheesecake, fruitcake, and German cookies. I drank several pots of tea while Ched told us all about the boy my dad’s sister Lourdes left behind in the Philippines thirty years ago. Ooh, the drama. It still lives. We spent the rest of the afternoon gossiping about other family members, going through Ched’s closet for clothes to give to my sister Joseline, and taking group pictures in the living room, just like old times. I exchanged e-mail address with Gerhard so I could send him copies of Dad’s Philippines pictures, and pictures I had taken on Christmas Day. I hugged them goodbye, helped herd the cat into the van, and drove back to College Point in the dark. We weren’t home for long, as we had to drive Joseline back to her apartment in upper Manhattan. So we were back in the van, driving through Central Park and singing along to Journey’s “Separate Ways” on the radio.

My dad had to work on Sunday, and I was feeling sluggish, so I didn’t leave the house to meet up with Joseline in SoHo. It was while I waited with Patrick and Jackie that we came up with the punchwhitey game. We didn’t play punchwhitey for long, as we ended up getting dinner at the Excellent Dumpling House for dinner. The fried pork dumplings were, in fact, fucking excellent. The scallion pancakes were aight, but I’ve had better at Sweet ‘n’ Tart. All throughout, my sister Jackie didn’t say much, but she usually doesn’t. She’s a sneaky sort of presence, looking like Yoko when she isn’t hiding her hair underneath a knit cap of some kind. So we dragged her around as we hit H & M, Iceberg Army Navy, and a number of other stores before we decided to call Patrick’s friend Henry and go see a movie. After a few stops and starts, we end up at the Loews in Times Square, which itself is a nightmarish strip of chain restaurant outlets, stores selling useless crap, and critically panned but popular shows. Oh, and the Sanrio store, which is sacred to me. We saw “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events”, but not before we had to sit through about thirty minutes of trailers, commercials, and endless calls for us to turn off our cell phones and pagers. And the movie, though silly, was worth it. I wish the acting troupe had more to do instead of just hanging out in the background and looking weird. It just seemed a waste to have Jane Adams, Jennifer Coolidge, Luis Guzman, and Craig Ferguson in a movie and not doing anything with them. In the movie of my life, Jennifer Coolidge is my sixth grade music teacher, the woman who wore wooden Candie’s slides with the high heels ripped off and had no music credentials at all. She just played us the soundtrack to “Dirty Dancing” all year and made us memorize the lyrics.

So movie was good. Better than that was making it back to College Point from Times Square in less than an hour. And I slept a lot on Jackie’s soft-ass mattress, waking up late to watch more television and shower and go to dinner in the East Village with Olivia, Charles, Nick, and Nadine. Nick looked downright foxy with his new haircut, and Olivia had her hair up in pigtails. We were all fetching, even when stuffing our faces with samosas.

And this reminds me, Kim: I owe you a very long phone call, or a long e-mail. Your choice. Also, did Amanda have her baby yet? Just wondering.

After dinner, I walked to Beard Papa with Olivia and Charles to buy cream puffs for the subway ride home. I didn’t eat any on the train, as I lucked into an express, complete with drunk Russians. One of them swung a cane and frightened off a group of Asian girls into the next car, and the other took large swigs from a large plastic bottle of vodka and yelled about how Mao Tse Tong was a funny name for such a strange strange man. They made no sense, and they kind of scared me, but I couldn’t tear myself away. You couldn’t buy this kind of entertainment.

Tuesday evening, after another long day of doing absolutely nothing, Patrick and Justin took me to the airport, saw me to the security line, and went back home. My flight was the last of the night, too late to make connections to any other flights so there were only 24 people on the flight, 29 if you included the crew. I thought about asking for an upgrade to first class, which only had one passenger, but I was perfectly fine in coach. I probably stayed because I was elated to discover that the seatbelts fit fine, the Coca-Cola was just as fizzy in coach as it was in first class (and I got the whole can!), and the flight attendants gave me all the back issues of People magazine they’d been hoarding in the back. I tucked myself in with an exclusive on Kirstie Alley’s road to weight gain, and drifted in and out of sleep on the flight home.


“i need to learn about other cultures so i can mock them”
[patrick jo-jo davila]

The Waitresses – Christmas Wrapping; The Smiths – Handsome Devil; TV on the Radio – The Wrong Way; (Smog) – Cold Blooded Old Times; Public Enemy – Night of The Living Baseheads; Royal Trux – Inside Game



~ by Jasmine on December 30, 2004.

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