The and Teh: How My Brain Teases Me

I spend a lot of time punching out words on a keyboard. I am a fairly fast and accurate typist, thankfully. It was the best skill I ever learned in high school, and the only one I still remember. I took a business class and during one six-week period we studied typing on those lovely old electric typewriters. I never would have suspected that the burgeoning era of personal computering was right around the corner, but when it arrived, I already knew how to type. I couldn’t be happier especially after I’ve seen my fair share of hunt and peckers throughout my days.

But, even on a good day, any typist will make mistakes. One mistake which I have been making a lot lately is I’ve been typing TEH for the THE. Now any general observer might thing that’s a just a mistaken switch of two letters rendering a meaningless word that I must swiftly correct. However, if you have ever visited Malaysia, you will know that ‘teh’ is not a random word. It means ‘tea’ and it forms the beginning of one of my favorite drinks in the world – a drink so luscious and rich that I think about it all the time – now literally all the time when my ‘the’ becomes ‘teh.’ What is this lusciousness called? teh ais

Literal translation is ‘tea ice’ but this is not your standard ice tea of America. Ha. I scoff. It is the wonderful Malaysian pulled-tea (teh tarik) with ice added to it. It is a tempting blend of black tea, ice, and sweetened condensed milk, blended to an incredibly satisfying concoction which couldn’t be a better compliment to the spicy and fragrant dishes which used to accompany me every lunch in Malaysia.

Every typing mistake ‘teh’ brings me back to the hold and smoldering lunch stalls with fans buzzing wickedly overhead and so much sizzle and smoke in the air that it was sometimes hard to breathe. Ah, I miss it!

I don’t know whether to thank or scold my typing skills. Are my mistakes trying to taunt me, or are they bringing back the good memories for me to savor?

Ah, teh ais. Here’s to you:

A Teh Tarik Master

 

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Dear Facebook Feed, Why so Political? (aka: bring back the cats)

You’ve probably noticed it too: Facebook has once again become overly political. I haven’t noticed it this bad since the 2016 election cycle. The uproar this time is about immigration and families and children and … you know, all that other political stuff that shouldn’t be in my Facebook feed.

Yes, we are friends, and I wouldn’t mind talking with you about politics, you know, like sitting down and actually chatting back and forth like a dialogue, of two people, who use logic, and reason, and discuss, even if they don’t agree … I wouldn’t mind that, dear friend, but what exactly are you proving or doing or saying by putting that politically charged article link or meme on my Facebook feed?

Are you trying to persuade someone? You aren’t?

Are you looking for a hopelessly purposeless argument? You may get one.

If you really want to affect change or convince people to act, then do it in an appropriate forum.

HINT: Facebook is not an appropriate forum.

What is an appropriate forum? Well, hey, go argue with someone in the comments on HuffPost or Fox News.  Go to a political rally. Go walk around with a sign in front of the White House. Preach all you want, yell all you want, show everyone how smart you are and how informed you are. Do it.

Just not on my Facebook feed.

Seriously, why are you preaching to your friends? If your friends agree with you then you aren’t changing anything only preaching to the choir. Amen!

If your friends don’t agree with you, you are just causing them angst that their feed is filling up with stuff they don’t want to see. And, no, you won’t change their point of view.

No, you won’t.

So really, my friend, your political posts on Facebook serve no purpose. None. Except possibly annoy people.

So from now on, please …

  • show me what you had for dinner
  • let me see the cake you baked for your daughter’s birthday
  • tell me about your trip to Spain
  • share with me your heartaches and what I can do to help
  • tell me where you are, maybe we can meet up
  • cats, go ahead, post stupid cat videos

I prefer a Facebook to be about friends, not politics.

Now, I do love talking politics. I’d be happy to meet and chat with you one day. But let’s do it face-to-face as adults.  We may not agree with each other on everything, but that’s all right. We will still end the evening as friends.

But if politics continue to show up in my Facebook feed, I can’t make that guarantee.

A (Really Good) Week in the Life

Some weeks are ordinary.

This is not one of them.

The daily rhythm of life can, at times, pull us away from that which we most desire on this earth – connection, family, and the glimpse of a dream.  All of that stuff is happening to me this week, and it dwarfs whatever daily gripes or complaints I may have had during this past year.

It all started as my first year of teaching theatre finished in Saudi Arabia, and so we headed “home” to the USA for a blissful summer of family, friends, and functions.

The festivities started when we arrived in New York and were whisked away to see my first grandson for the first time ever. Wow doesn’t begin to describe it. I shall, at another time, write more fully about what becoming a grandfather means to me, in addition to what it means to time–I’m not as young as I once was. But the joy that a four-month-old brings a family is palpable by the minute. Joy oozes from the cries, the coos, the laughter, and the smiles. Those smiles. Wow. Those smiles. I was overcome with joy and so proud to be a grandfather.

I also made it home in time to witness the baptism of my grandson with the child’s other grandfather, from Korea, able to officiate over the ceremony with all of the family from both sides of the world present. It was a precious moment, good enough for mounting on a greeting card.  I hadn’t seen any of my children in six months due to the nature of my work, so it was special to all be together to say the least.

Now, my first week back in New York will end on a far more insignificant note: I, for the first time, get to see one of my plays produced in New York City.

While it may pale in comparison to holding my grandson, it will, nonetheless, be a remarkable moment to sit in the audience at the Gallery Players’ Theatre in Brooklyn to watch the world premiere of my short play: “The Birth of Technicolor.”

Yes, I feel blessed.

 

When Was the Last Time an Author Graced the Cover of a Novel? Probably never.

There’s a reason why novelists don’t put their photos on the cover of their books the same way the latest hip-hop stars pose on theirs.

Let’s face it: novelists hide in dark quiet corners, hunched over a screen, tapping out nerdy words for hours on end. Novelists have disheveled hair, four-eyed faces, pale skin,  rounded-waistlines and a host of other descriptions never seen on the cover of Vogue without spending hours in the Photoshop chop-shop. Novelists don’t spend a lot of time at the gym, but you might find them sitting for hours under a tree, looking at the pattern of ant columns while waiting for the perfect murder clue to make itself obvious so it can be plopped into the latest plot. (How can that ant carry that leaf on its back? Ah-ha! New superhero idea!) Novelists create words of grittiness and glamour, of fantastical realms and hard-truth real-life. They wipe away image and pretentiousness to delve into the heart of the matter–the uncovered motive, the sheer nakedness of belief which leads to any manner of sordid tales. Novelists eat too much, sleep too little, drink too much, exercise too little. (Unless you’re referring to exercising their brain. They would be Olympic champs if that was a sport.)

So is it any wonder that novelists don’t grace the cover of their books. How many people would buy a book with a pale, bespectacled visage sitting on a bench under a tree?  (I’m sure we’d have a goofy smile on our face, too!)

Novelists are meant for small, blurry mug-shots on the back cover of their paperbacks. Nothing more.

Pop stars, however, were made for album covers. Literally. Photoshopped faces and slim bodies with parts hanging out all over are the requisite requirement of album covers. Image is king.

But isn’t image king for novels, too?

Absolutely! And that’s why authors don’t grace the cover!

Unless, that is, if it’s a non-fictional title and the personality, not the story, is driving the sales. That’s when the celebrity chefs and TV personalities plop their images on the cover of their books and ride to the top-sellers list based on their other profession.

But for the novelist, who would dare think that their coffee-fueled or hungover eyes would ever elicit a sale?

 

So keep looking for those stock images, authors. We’re destined for the back cover or the obscure blog post.

And you know what? That’s just fine with me.

Sitting in Public without a Device

You’ve probably seen the meme that goes something like this: I saw this person at a coffee shop, sitting alone, not on his phone, doing nothing but sipping his coffee. Like a mad man.
That is of course funny because it’s not often when you see a person in public doing nothing. Just sitting there. Possibly just thinking, to himself. Crazy stuff, right?
Well, as I was sitting in a delightful little restaurant/pub in Ireland, I realized I didn’t have Internet and I was dining alone, so I thought I would try it – just sit there and do nothing until my food came. Easy, right?
At first I didn’t know how to do nothing. I felt self conscious, I didn’t know where to look. How bizarre. I scratched my head. I rubbed my hand across the table. I tapped my finger. I glanced around slowly to see if anyone was looking at me. I’m sure they were. They had to be There was this lunatic just sitting there doing nothing in public. But there I sat, trying to focus on something. Hey look, a salt shaker. Yeah, it was pathetic.
Then the thinking started. It was slow at first, as my mind wavered back and forth between self-consciousness and being distracted by a thought. But then the old writer’s instinct kicked in. I started forgetting where I was, and I thought about the script I was working on. I thought of this character and this person. I thought of how great it’s been hanging out in Ireland, even though I miss my family. By the time my food arrived, I had survived the passing of time without talking to anyone and without using a digital device, and I didn’t have it devolve into some ominous plot against humanity. One can survive without a device in public.
Ok, so now I proved to myself that it can be done, I better open Evernote and jot all this down for my blog before I forget the experience. Don’t worry. I can write this note while I’m off-line.

Another One to Love

Love is not an exhaustible commodity.

We know this because when a new person enters our lives, and we love them, we don’t have to release love’s pressure valve and let out a little love from our opposite end to compensate.

Love is more akin to the expanding universe. It finds new voids and new spaces which weren’t there, and it doesn’t spread thinner and thinner like a tsunami eventually drying up on land. No. Love is as deep at its origin as it is at its point of expansion.

That’s a marvelous thought, isn’t it?

This topic has been on my mind, mainly because today I became a grandfather. My grandson, whom I will not be able to meet for a few more months, is a new and immediate object of my love. He hasn’t done anything to earn my love. He just has it by the virtue of being born to my daughter.

Love is automatic. It’s not coerced. It’s not purchased. It’s there. Just like that, the number of people in the world that I love has expanded by one.

And this got me thinking.

What would the world look like if we all understood this truth about love and acted on love’s expanding principles? What downcast soul would be brightened? What violent act would be stopped? How many broken hearts would be mended?

What would happen if we each expanded our reach of love by one more person outside of our regular sphere of influence?

We would all be richer for it.

This is my first lesson of being a grandfather.