Sunday, July 29, 2007

Can't Escape the Taggers

ONE
I'm not keen on playing tag. In fact, when my brother and I were little enough for my parents to play games with, the four of us created an alternative to tag. We wouldn't just chase each other around and touch someone and yell "You're it!" We liked hide-and-go-seek more, but it still was a bit too tag-ish for us, so we invented a game we called "Spooky Doo." We'd play this game once it got dark and we'd turn out the rest of the lights so the house would be completely dark. One person would be the seeker and the others would be the hiders. Sometimes two of us were seekers and the other two hiders. I didn't matter how many there were as long as there were some of each role.

The seekers would count down while the hiders hid. At the count of 100, the search was on. Here is where the game changes from just a hide-and-go-seek in the dark. It was the job of the hiders to hide so well they couldn't be found and to stay incredibly alert, for it was the job of the seeker to not only find the hiders, but find them silently, sneak up on them, and scare the living shit out of them. This game inevitably led to screams and shriek-y laughter. I can still remember the way my mom sounded when we succeeded is startling her and how much all of us would laugh. My dad would play it cool; he led us to believe we never succeeded in sneaking up on him, but I'm pretty sure we got him at least once. The game was so much exhilarating fun that regular tag was a poor comparison, and so I've avoided it.

Until now. In the past couple months I've been tagged four times in two different ways. Three folks have tagged me for the "7 Things" meme (in which the blogger posts seven random things about him- or herself), and one has tagged me for the "Rockin' Girl Blogger." I'm not a meme-r or a tagger, so I find this position a bit uncomfortable, but I respect these great women who've sent a tag my way, so I'll take them up, this once . . ..

(To give the props where they are definitely due: The first to tag me was the elegant Susan at The Well Seasoned Cook, who consistently posts well-constructed recipes, often with an South-Asian twist. The second to get me was my pottery, canning, and farmers' market companion, Melissa, at Captain Crochet. The third, Christa--inspiring and indomitable as she gardens in her community plot in Washington, DC--at Calendula & Concrete. And finally, the funny, exuberant Rowena at Rubber Slippers in Italy nominated me for the Rockin' Girl Blogger award. It is a compliment to be considered by each of you. Thank you.)

If it isn't already clear, the "Spooky Doo" story counts as my first random fact.

TWO
As is stereotypically expected in members of my profession, I'm a reader. (Have you ever met an English teacher who didn't love to read? I mean, how could one be a decent English teacher if one wasn't a reader?) I try to get as many books as I can from the library, but I sometimes I just can't help buying books. The last five books I've bought--all from my beloved local independent bookstore Vromans--are: The Macrina Bakery Cookbook, by Leslie Mackie; Eat Pray Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert (who I keep picturing looking like Melissa Gilbert from Little House on the Prairie--Melissa Gilbert in Rome sipping cappuccino, Melissa Gilbert at an ashram in India, meeting a hot Brazilian man in Bali); Gallatin Canyon, by Thomas McGuane; Second Nature: A Gardener's Education, by Michael Pollan; and Flight, by my literary hero Sherman Alexie.

THREE
When I think of the meal that most says home to me, I can smell butter as it browns and the sharp squeak of lemon. I think of Saturday mornings and my mom's crepes with lemon, powdered sugar, and salted butter melted in the same pan in which she fried each crepe. No one makes crepes like my mom, and I've had a lot of crepes from lots of places that should make them well. I think that those who know me well may consider crepes one of my signature dishes too. I've made them in just about every environment imaginable--in friends' cramped kitchens, in a dorm's shared kitchen, even over a camping stove in the rain.

FOUR
Tigger must die.

No, not the lovable bouncing tiger that kept Eeyore afloat while he fought his brave battle against depression--I would never wish ill upon that lifesaver. This Tigger is not a tiger, but a melon. Although I had read it was not a good-tasting melon, the picture of it was so seductively beautiful, that I bought and planted seed in my garden anyway. The picture did not lie; it is a gorgeous fruit. I mean, look at it:

On top of its charming red and gold stripes, it smells like heaven, even before cut open. It is a vigorous grower and bountiful producer. Doesn't it sound wonderful? Unfortunately, even when dead ripe, it tastes like very green banana with not-so-subtle undertones of garlic, black pepper, and garbage. It is my most disappointing crop.

Tomorrow, I'm pulling out its vines and considering what to put in as a replacement.

FIVE
Everyone complains about the food in the UK, but when I think about my visit there, a lot of what I remember is really, really good food. Of course the fish and chips at blew me away, especially since they're often made with sweet, tender European plaice, which is impossible to find in the United States. I also had great Indian food, B&B breakfasts to die for, and darned good pub food made from local, fresh ingredients. I left England with a deep appreciation for rutabagas, or as the English call them, swedes. (I know there is a joke somewhere in there, but I can't seem to tease it out.)

SIX
Two nights ago, I was out for drinks with some friends, and wouldn't you know it, our waiter was a former student of mine. This is an interesting situation.

First, it was odd because I was drinking alcohol in front of someone who, no matter how well I get to know him as an adult, will always at least partly be the 15 year old boy who had a crush on a girl who was also one of my students. I can still remember where each of them sat.

Second, he was a student in my first year of teaching, ten years ago. He's now 26. I'm 32. His current girlfriend, a few years older than himself, went to the same university as I did in Washington, DC, and our tenures there overlapped. This 15-year-old-kid-who-isn't-15 and I are part of the same generation. I'm still wrapping my head around that one.

Third, after a few years in a good paying job, this "kid" is now waiting tables and working on building his career in stand-up comedy. I take pride in my classroom humor, and I'd like to think that he learned a few lessons on timing from me, but I fear what is probably the truth: he may be funnier than I am. I bet he'd figure out how to make that joke about the English swedes.

SEVEN
I moved from central California to Minnesota when I was 15 years old. It was late November, already frozen, and I remember we celebrated Thanksgiving before I started school there. My first day at the new school was understandably rough. No one showed me how to get around the school, and between my first and second period, I got completely lost and ended up in tears in the office. The gruff school secretary gave me no sympathy. She, chilly and silent, led me to my AP Biology classroom where the class was already in full swing, the teacher standing in front of the room talking. I sat in the only empty seat, pulled out my notebook, and prepared myself to take notes on the lecture. The teacher was trying to make a point about genetics, and to do so, he was talking about his trip to Las Vegas over Thanksgiving break. He was going on and on about something amazing he had seen there, some beautiful genetic anomaly: the white taggers.

I wrote down "white taggers." He talked about how strong, beautiful, and intelligent they were. I wrote down "strong, pretty, smart." I tried to follow the lecture as well as I could, but I was completely lost. What was this incredible creature that lived in Las Vegas, proved a genetic point, and sounded like someone who marked up walls for fun?

I asked my parents that night what they were, and at first, they were as puzzled as I. But after a little bit of discussion, we figured it out. You see, in Minnesotan, a "g" at the end of a syllable dramatically changes the sound of the vowels in that syllable. Yup, my teacher was talking about Seigfried and Roy's white tigers.

In Minnesotan, a rutabaga is called a rutabaga, a Swede is called a Swede, but a tiger is not called a tiger.

So, those are my seven random things about me. I'm not going to pass on this meme or to nominate someone else as a Rocking Girl (or Guy) Blogger, not because I don't think folks are worthy, but because I read and enjoy so many blogs that I wouldn't be able to choose. So, my "interweb" friends, keep on doing what you do so well: teaching me, making me think, making me laugh, and getting me to look at the world, at least for a moment, in a new way.

12 comments:

Wendy said...

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this. :) Will be seeking out some of those books you talk about. Always looking for reading material recommendations.
And the "white tagger" story made me laugh. Reminded me of a conversation I once had where I thought the "Yorkie" someone was talking about was a Yorkshire Terrier when in fact it was a kind of chocolate bar.

rowena said...

Very well said, and I'm not in the least bit disappointed that you didn't pass on the RGB award! I'm a pretty reluctant meme-er/tagger myself.

I am glad though that you've introduced me to some new blogs which I am off to check out right now! ;-)

Christa said...

Hi, Christina,
Thanks for writing your response. (I am a totally reluctant meme-r, too, which is why I procrastinated for an entire month when Colleen tagged me in the first place!) I enjoyed your stories, especially the one about the white tagger. Oh, and I now know not to try those tigger melons. I was so intrigued by them, but if they they don't taste any good... forget it.

Have a great week!

Kelly said...

Thanks for this post. I like it that two of the 7 involve a play on tiger/tigger/tagger. Loved reading your list of recent book purchases from Vroman's (the 5 Romans as my brother calls it). One of my book clubs is reading the Gilbert book, and I'm a fan of both Alexie and McGuane.

If you teach long enough, you'll start running into former students everywhere.

Susan said...

No worries, Christina. I promise not to tag you again. I'm quite ambivalent about the whole meme thing, and as the tags pile up, it becomes less flattering and more of a chore. Too bad about the tigger melons; they are quite beautiful and deserve better flavor than nature bestowed on them. They sound like perfect fodder for the compost heap.

Aaron Proctor said...

YAY! I learned more about you!

ann said...

that story about the taggers is Hi-larious! it reminds me of my 9th grade bio teacher. As we were studying evolution he would always bring up the fact that all mammals, no matter what, have gills in the womb.

And then he would pause dramatically and say, most of them lose them before birth, but some people DON'T! and then he'd pull at his collar to reveal a scar on his neck that looked just. like. GILLS! everyone would jump and gasp and scream, and he'd stand at the front of the room laughing so hard he'd cry.

No upper classman ever revealed his secret to the incoming freshmen. It was too grand of a tradition.

Melikay said...

What an enjoyable post!! I need to take writing lessons from you--if such a thing really existed. I love the description of the melon...garbage, yuck! And the taggers...I laughed out loud!! It's always a pleasure to read your posts. I feel inspired...maybe I'll do some editing to mine. :)
BTW, my pickles turned out great...I can't wait to taste them again in a couple of months.
And thanks tons for the rhubarb berry jam recipe--I made more and it's just wonderful. I think the added plums is a nice touch!

Christina said...

Wendy: I've never heard of a chocolate bar called a Yorkie--I would probably assume that Yorkie meant terrier too--not very appetizing! I hope you find a book in the list that you like.

Rowena: Thanks! I think you in particular will like Calendula and Concrete. Check it out.

Christa: You're welcome! Although Tigger is a bust, I highly recommend Collective Farm Woman. It's been early to set fruit and ripen, and each melon has been amazingly delicious.

Kelly: 5 Romans. Love it. I had fun writing this post, and I tried to make as many of the list hang together as possible. And, I ambeginning to see what you mean about students showing up everywhere. When ECG moved in last fall and ordered cable for the house, the man who installed it was a former student of mine. I run into them more and more frequently, but that is simply because there is more and more of them! Over a thousand so far!

Susan: Perfect fodder indeed! I had so much fun pulling out the plant yesterday--sometimes vengeance is sweet (even if a melon isn't)!

Aaron: Hooray! I hope you had fun learning it!

Ann: That is very funny. The best part is that he'd laugh so hard he'd cry. I bought his students got as much kick out of seeing him laugh as seeing his "gills."

Melikay: Thank you! I'm glad you liked the jam. I need a little input from you on pickles because the last batch I made (following the directions from Pickled) had the perfect crunch and the syrup was amazing, but the cucumber pieces themselves ended up too salty. How long did you salt the cukes before making the syrup and canning? Thanks for your help.

Lucy said...

Excellent book recommendations, excellent idea to pull out Tigger (I see from your comments how enjoyable it was to compost - LOVE that feeling too...), and don't the Brits do excellent Indian/Pakistani food?

Pleased that your run-in with unemotional teaching and learning didn't turn you off what is obviously such a passionate career path. Yeah!

Terry B said...

Wow. I just found your blog and was going to skip this post and go straight to some food posts. So glad I didn't--what an interesting, smart, thoughtful writer you are!

You're right about English food, at least the varieties you sought out. I have to say, though, anytime they try to do something outside these realms [except for the famously pricey places in London], they fail miserably. I remember some exceedingly awful Italian food once--this was during the more restrictive pub closing times, the middle of a Sunday afternoon, the only game in town. Yikes.

Christina said...

Lucy: Thank you! Yes, the food from the Indian subcontinent in the UK is great stuff. Thanks for the thoughts on teaching; it is a struggle sometimes to deal with the adults, but the kids are always worth it.

Terry B: WELCOME! I'm glad you found this site, and thank you, thank you, thank you for your compliments. I really appreciate them. Writing is something I'm always working at so you words are especially nice to hear (er, read).