theory geek

September 29, 2005

As a pedagogy major I was not required to enroll in the final semester of theory: 20th Century. As a complete geek I couldn’t not. But I was already taking a very full load, working 19 hours a week, and planning a wedding with my fiance several time zones away, his parents in Michigan, and mine in Canada.

So I audited the class. It was the best decision given the circumstances but of course at the end of the term I was in the practice room instead of the classroom during that hour. I did, however, hold out for more than half the term although I didn’t turn in much work. I did a lot of it, to make sure I got the concept, but I didn’t want to waste my teacher’s time by grading something that didn’t need a grade.

One very cold, dark, early February morning he came into class and announced that he had been tallying up our grades thus far. “I was distraught,” Dr. Taylor began, “to see that Heather had a 6% and I have been sending some of you to see her if you needed any help. But I remembered that she is auditing, so you can continue to see her for tutoring.”

Six months later as I was reading the cards we had received for our wedding I came across one from a friend from the music program. Emily wrote, “Paul, you’re getting a good one. And if you ever need any help with Neopolitan Seconds, she’s your girl.” I laughed.

And then I tried to explain to my drummer husband, and my computer father why that was so funny. They still don’t get it.


travel, residence, etc.

September 21, 2005

Growing up in Canada I was very much a western girl. We did take road trips as a family, but we clung to the west coast as though afraid that the prairies would swallow us whole. (Believe me, my first trip to Edmonton was unnerving for that reason.)

Before I met my husband I had not been further east than Star Valley, Wyoming. Since then we’ve had several cross-country trips so that my “visited” map looks like this (plus a road trip up to Ontario which isn’t included in the US map):

My “lived in US” map looks like this (which explains all the cross-country travel):

Thanks to Dana for giving me the idea and Mike for finding me the link I knew I had seen. Now I hope the rest of you understand my vagabond ways a little better.

Mango Season

September 20, 2005

The seasons in Hawaii as I know them are:

rainy season (aka surf season)
mango season

I learned to cut mangoes by watching Epe do it. She wielded the knife with ease only a Samoan could have. She also knew how to deal with a whole coconut, a skill I never bothered to acquire. And since our posts at the Polynesian Cultural Center were leadership positions in Food and Beverage I had a lot of time to watch the masters at work, and sample the goods. My bosses were Tongan. You cannot tell a Tongan woman “no thank you” when it comes to food; she just keeps telling you to eat it until you succumb. (I never wondered why I gained so much weight.)

I also learned the difference between good mangoes and so so mangoes. (My mum doesn’t like mangoes; I’m sure it’s because she lives in the Yukon so she’s never had a good one.) I missed three mango seasons in Virginia; not only were the mangoes hard to get, but none of them looked appetizing.

But I did get some mangoes out here, a few times before the season was over. Some were better than others, yes, but I had forgotten how much I loved mangoes. And I won culinary points when I brough cut up mangoes to our potluck Mommy & Me one day and everyone marvelled at the large pieces.

Mahalo, Epe Su’a.


September 20, 2005

Have you ever had one of those days? You know what I mean, one of those days when you seem to do everything wrong. (Or even just one really BIG thing wrong.)

We’ve all pushed “send” for an email before re-reading it only to offend the person on the other end. We’ve all said something we didn’t mean. We’ve all spoken or writen in haste. We’ve all been in a hurry and “just this one time” sped down the road only to spend the next ten minutes talking to the police officer and cursing our haste.

And we’ve all made mistakes at work.

There’s a house next to my building. It’s a cute bungalow from those bungalow kits in the 20s. I really like it, stylistically, but ever since the old lady died and left it to her grandchildren it has not been well-maintained. Finally they decided they needed to fix things up (and I suspect they want to sell it while the market it still high. It’s a shambles and they’ll get $850,000 easily.)

I’ve been watching their renos for quite a while. In the beginning I could hardly believe my eyes; I don’t know anything about construction and renovations (no matter how much Trading Spaces I watch) and even I could tell that they were running a Monkey Show and they were doing everything backwards. My neighbour, Henry, is an architect and he and I were talking about it one day. I told him how counterintuitive I thought their process was and he laughed; if even I could tell… I guess they had been doing some things that weren’t up to code, and he, knowing the laws, called the city. It was a monkey show because they had no permit and were trying to keep everything a secret. (Someone please tell me how you can tear the roof off something and hope no one will notice.)

So now, permit in hand and several thousands of dollars later just for that, I’m sure they’re fuming. But they’re still not doing a good job. I saw their roof. The boards were rotten and there was no insulation. This was, after all, a do-it-yourself kit from the 20s. Did they replace the rotten boards? Did they insulate? No. They covered the whole thing with half-inch particle board and started laying the shingles (because as we well know, if you ignore a problem, it will go away.)

They’ve roofed the main part of the house but only placed the materials up for the addition. The boxes of yet-unused shingles and an empty Jack in the Box cup lay on the tar paper (which isn’t even tacked down) where they were left weeks ago. And today it rained all morning.

This, my friends, is not and example of having “just one of those days” where you innocently make a mistake.

But last week a man who had been on the job for twenty years and was considered a specialist in several fields accidently cut a line in a power plant in North Hollywood and for the next few hours Los Angeles and most surrounding cities (including Glendale) were out of power.

Poor guy. He was having just one of those days and I bet he still feels terrible every time he thinks about it.

Mangoes, part one

September 16, 2005

My First Mango

Not quite 16
I was packed a mango
in my lunch
by a woman who
defies explanation
so I won’t
for my day-hike
through the rainforest
of Juneau
and the beginning
of Girls Camp

I didn’t know how to eat it
I waited till the hike was over
it was very ripe
I was very stupid
I was covered in goo
and finally dropped the pit
and remaining flesh
in a bush
hoping a bear would not care
for mango

and went looking for anything
that would clean my hands
and shoes


September 16, 2005

More than just a riveting palindrome, Ogopogo swam through every year I spend in the Okanagan.

My dad came down from Vancouver to visit us one summer when we were still very young (I was six in my memory) and we camped out on the lake. Of course I knew of the monster living in the lake, every child made up stories on the playground. And Ogopogo has a longer history than Nessie, his Scottish cousin (or girlfriend if you ask some of my little friends) which even goes back to local native lore.

On one day at the lake we took a paddleboat out to the island and explored the entrance of the cave reputed to be Ogopogo’s home. It looked like it had been the aquatic party grounds for some teenagers, but as a young child I was convinced it was indeed his cave. The water was dreadfully deep and murky and there was an aura of mystery surrounding the whole thing. The silt shifted under us and for the next several years I told my friends that I knew Ogopogo existed because he swam under our boat.

Do I believe in Ogopogo now? Do I believe in the Lac Champlain monster or Nessie? The scientist in me wants to be a skeptic and deny the allegations, but the child in me speaks louder. I am a believer, if only because the legend brought so much joy to my childhood and pride in my home.


September 16, 2005

My second favourite orchard is an apple orchard. My childhood playmate lived on a farm with not only livestock but an apple orchard. I loved running up and down the rows, playing, dreaming, scheming…

An overripe apple that has fallen but not yet decomposed, while gross to the touch, has the sweetest smell.

But my strongest apple memory is the tradition of making apple pies on a Saturday late September or early October. While I treasure my cherry memories for the solitude their provided I didn’t love apple picking as much as I loved pie day.

I believe it started as a fund-raiser for the boy scouts; no matter, everyone was involved. The men were camped out at one end of the church gym with their apple peeler/corers. (We would steal the peels and snack on them.) They were jovial and told animated stories, only some of which we believed.

In the middle of the gym was a motley crew of young and old, and this was definitely the most transient of stations. Some would cut the apples into bite-sized pieces and then they would be sifted through bins of cinnamon and sugar. (Do I even need to tell you my role at that station? yum!) It was usually younger people here, and I remember working at this station and singing “Enid” (by the Barenaked Ladies) at the top of my lungs. Hmm, I guess at this station we were also in charge of the boom box.

The other end of the gym was where the women rolled out their crusts and assembled the pies. (I have to admit, I even like a little bit of pie crust dough … especially with cinnamon and sugar!) It was here that I stood shoulder to elbow with my mother and my friend’s mothers. They were more serene than the men and really took pride in their work.

We sold hundreds of uncooked pies; ready to be cooked or frozen. People in the community had standing orders with us and anticipated the fall for our apple pies. I guess my parents always bought one or two because I’m quite sure I’ve eaten them, but that isn’t what stayed in my memory, it was the making of the pies that I loved. (incidentally, I do make a better apple pie than any store-bought one I’ve ever tried and it’s probably no small coincidence that I made pies yearly.)

I think it was the first time that I realized that doing something could be even better than the final product.

And as soon as I learned my lesson the Boy Scouts changed their fund-raising policies and pie days ended. It was also the year we moved back up to the Yukon.

Lesson learned; project over.