His next shave will probably be in another 8-12 years, unless he inherits his beard characteristics from him VN side. I asked my FIL, who said he has never shaved a day in his life, and my BIL who said he almost never shaves. Since Wallstreet has very few Asian features physically, I assume he'll get his facial/body hair characteristics from my side, which is to say he'll be able to grow a beard in a week. (Not a full beard, but clearly "I'm growing a beard," not "oh, you were too lazy to shave for a day or two.")
Speaking of body hair, and speaking of things you really don't want to discuss with your mother (not that we were discussing the latter, but this is going to be a rather rambling, and I hope amusing post), I'm not the first White person Nom has ever been with. Every time she did date someone White, her mother would ask her, "Is it true that White people have hair all over their bodies?" Also, apparently, MIL once came across an article in a French language magazine (newspaper?), and asked Nom, in Vietnamese, to explain the term "le sexe oral." If there weren't proof that her parents had sex at least twice, Nom would doubt they ever had. For that matter, I know my siblings and I are the products of virgin births.
Back to shaving. Many men like to shave. I don't. It's an annoying thing to have to do each morning. At various times of my life, I have worn a beard. When I was younger, that was more a function of whether my military time was Active or regularly drilling Reserve versus inactive Reserve. I was in the Navy when beards were permitted and did have one, shaving it off when they changed the regulations. Now I'm used to being clean-shaven, plus in modern society, being a graybeard literally as well as metaphorically doesn't confer gravitas, it makes you look scraggly. I frequently don't shave on weekends because I don't like doing it, and don't have to look professional. I use an electric most of the time, but after not having shaved for 3 days, the stubble is rather thick and rough, so I use a manual razor. Not really sure what to call those anymore. I grew up calling them "safety razors." They were so named in contradistinction to straight razors, at a time when electric razors didn't exist. I confess to being confused when I first read Jack London, with people fighting with razors. I knew they didn't have electric razors, but had never seen a straight razor, so had no idea how you could hurt someone with a safety razor. By the time I started shaving, I understood what a straight razor was, and wanted to shave with one. My father wisely pointed out that I'd likely cut my own throat, and got me an electric razor. Actually it was an old one that had belonged to our Grandpa Jimmy. Instead of an on-off switch, there was a little wheel that you flicked to start it turning. It was my brother's first razor, and then mine. I don't know what ever happened to it; both of us "graduated" to rotary-head razors, which do seem to work a little better.
Grandpa Jimmy died before I really have much memory of him, except that he was a good man, and the accidental cause of a minor linguistic confusion in me that lasted until my 20's. He was my maternal grandmother's second husband, and was born and raised in Italy. He came to the US as a young boy, and I believe served in the US Army in WWI. Like many Italians, even when speaking English, he frequently threw in the word capisce. (Heck, most New Yorkers of whatever background use it.) In my family, there were a dozen or so Yiddish words that we used frequently: mensch, kibitz, etc. (Again, most New Yorkers of whatever background use them.) When you're 6? (8? 12?), you don't think about the linguistic derivation of how you speak. I knew capisce wasn't English, we used it in my family, ergo it must be Yiddish. Some time in my 20's I began to find it strange that so many Italians used that particular Yiddish word, and eventually the had the light bulb/facepalm moment and realized the word was Italian.
Straight razors. I have a few times been shaved by a barber with a straight razor. It is partly luxurious, and partly scary. Someone literally has a razor-sharp blade at your throat. Especially considering that the first time was on a street corner in Pakistan. Eddy, my barber, said that when he was a boy growing up in Lebanon, 50? 60? years ago, it was normal for men to stop at the barbershop en route to work to get shaved. They'd wait their turn, get shaved, then stop for coffee (Lebanese coffee, which is what we call Turkish coffee), waiting their turn to get served for that. In short, leisurely lifestyle which did not involve a high work ethic. Many countries that people in First World nations are terrible workaholics; then they can't understand why they themselves are poor.
Eddy is a great barber, with a good work ethic, and also offers you a coffee when you're there. Not Arab/Turkish style, but at least a good espresso, and occasionally something stronger.
Happy Vietnamese New Year to all my Gentle Readers. (Yes, same lunar new year as other Chinese and other Asian countries.) The festival is called Tết, which apparently just means "festival." I'm coming to realize that many terms in VN (and other languages) which sound so exotic to our ears have very prosaic meanings in those languages. For example, the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur is located at a muddy estuary of the river. In Malay, it means "muddy estuary." And we think Western developers give our housing developments lame names.
Friday Nom took the kids to Temple, to get some modicum of their culture, and charm all the elders with how cute they are (he added, modestly).
Saturday night we went out with the immediate family for traditional food. We went to Snowden Deli. I said traditional food, I didn't say whose tradition. They loved the smoked meat. Less enthusiastic about the potato knish and cheese blintzes (the latter, to be honest, were not great). Hey, if N. American Jews can eat Chinese food on Christmas Eve, my VN relatives can have Jewish Deli for Tết. Maybe next year for Rosh Hashanah, we'll go out for VN.
Not quite as cuddly as cats and the bills for groceries and fire insurance have gone up considerably. Also as can be seen in the picture, formerly unknown to folklore, dragons love their coffee. On the other hand, these as a choice of pets does suit the family eccentricity.
Yeah, okay, they’re plastic. Nom’s Uncle bought them to Wallstreet (or maybe for both kids, not sure). Don’t think said uncle has an especial fondness for dragons or other fantasy fiction, but he was right on that the kids took to them immediately. Also, Wallstreet, even at age 2, knew what they were. Nom accidentally referred to them as dinosaurs one day, and Wallstreet immediately corrected her.
I know there are dragons in Vietnamese mythos, but don’t figure as large as they do in Chinese. (The original oligarchs in VN, the Lak Lords (sp?) derived their legitimacy from being the descendants of the Mountain God and the Sea Dragoness (or perhaps the Mountain Goddess and the Sea Dragon - I forget which). No worse than claiming suzerainity based on some miscellaneous cutlery thrown to you by a tart in a lake.
Have gotten back into reading some. Downloaded some SF of dubious quality but adequate to pass the time. One was Andre Norton’s Star Soldiers. Not sure if a novel in 2 parts, or two linked novels 5000 years(?) apart in same universe. The second half is a bit Foundation-esque at the edges of the collapse of the Galactic Empire. Made me think of how much of her work has an undertone of melancholy, vanished empires (the Forerunner races) in it. Currently reading the 5th in Gail Carringer’s “Soulless” series (called “Timeless”). Definitely enjoyable fluff.
What triggered going to a bookstore was finding my stash of "lucky money." Vietnamese New Year tradition, the elders give everyone else a coin or small bill in a red envelope to bring luck and prosperity in the new year. I always felt that I should use it for something special, and put it away in a drawer - several years' worth when I came across it recently. Still not a huge sum, but enough to actually buy something. I metaphorically scratched my head, and decided a book was the ideal item.
I had a dental appointment, and I knew there was a bookstore nearby, so planned to stop there on the way home. Going into the store, I hit the brain-lock, and realized part of that was insufficient caffeine. Fortunately they had a coffee shop attached. Unfortunately it was a certain Seattle-based major chain, but
Caffeine finally perking thru my system, I spent some lovely time browsing, and eventually settled on 2 books (more than my lucky money covered, but I had some standard money on me also). One was about Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan, written by a reporter who had been embedded with a unit, and one was a popular science book on astrophysics. (Only downside is that it was written by Neil DeGrass Tyson, who although is an eminent scientist, and very good at popular explanations of science, also lead the evil movement that down-graded Pluto from a
Have mentioned that HF has 3 linguistic influences: Vietnamese, French and English. When she very first started talking, she would mix words from the different languages into her, admittedly very short, sentences. We thought it was cute, but knew she'd grow out of it, which she basically has done already. Sometimes she'll put in the wrong word, but that is because that is the only word she knows, because we use it. Eg: even when we're speaking English, we tend to say couche instead of diaper (nappies to you non-North-American Anglophones). Now, she knows which language is which, and speaks to the appropriate person in that language. Combine that with her desire that things be "like they 'sposed ta be" (even more than most toddlers) and we have the following bizarre result. When I try one of my few words in VN, she smiles and says, "noooo-ooooo." Initially I thought my accent was so bad (which it is) that even a toddler couldn't stand it. Now, I realize it's more her saying, "no, Papa, you aren't the one who speaks VN, that's grandma and grandpa, you speak English."
1. I confess to once having had a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte when I was desperate for caffeine and there was no other option (forgive me, gods of coffee). It was actually good, as long as you accept it for what it is: ersatz flavored sweetness that happens to contain caffeine. Okay as long as this what you want, and you don't confuse it with coffee, sorta the drinkable equivalent of the difference between Macdonald's and dining.
2. From a discussion with ravensron "American" coffee can often be little more than brown tinged water these days, but note comments about old-fashioned percolator coffee. Of course, that was in the good ole days in the US, when men were men, women were women, and sheep were nervous. The meaning of "regular" varies with where you are. I was surprised the first time someone asked if I wanted regular coffee and it came with <s>crap</s> milk and sugar in it. My friend who was an RCAF fighter pilot in the Cold War days used to call that "NATO standard." Taking that up a notch for adding stuff is the Canadian "double double" which is with two milk and two sugar, mostly at Timmies (a.k.a. Tim Hortons, a national chain/institution).
3. Following suggestions by mme_n_b I tried cold extraction, both with and without Vodka. It is smooth, and very highly caffeinated. However, I find the version made with water to be rather boring to the taste, whereas the Vodka adds a lovely bite to it. I always was found of Irish Coffee and coffee with Kahlua. Alcohol and coffee: mixing two the essential food groups, let's you do stupid things faster and with more energy. I also tried making Turkish coffee, which I used to do regularly, but haven't in many years. I seem to have lost the touch. Going to have to work on it.
4. Last but not least, when I want to have "dessert in a cup," I'll sometimes make Vietnamese coffee, a.k.a. café sho da (literally "coffee ice milk"). It's made by slow dripping chicory coffee into iced sweetened condensed milk. An even better dessert than cappuccino. Yum (just like certain Vietnamese women I know/am married to).
Nom & I have decided to do the deed, and that requires a ring. Planning for anything requires 110% of the available time. Since the wedding itself is on relatively short notice, Nom only has a month to drive herself crazy. If we had a whole year, then she'd have a whole year to drive herself crazy, and things wouldn't end up being done any better.
Things that need arranging for a wedding:
1. deciding who to marry - check
2. type of ceremony/presiding official - check
3. guest list - check
4. venue for wedding & reception - check
5. flowers - check (ordered)
6. rings - check (well, ordered, not yet in hand)
7. wedding dress (and yeah, the groom has to wear something also)
8. hair & makeup (bride, not groom)
9. photographer, if you insist (we do)
Although last week Nom was despairing of our moving forward, as you can see, much has been organized.
Today we took care of item 6. We started out by going to Birks, which is the big-name, high quality Canadian jewelry store, the equivalent of Tiffany's in the US. Got a good, if quick, education on what to look for, along with massive sticker shock. Then we went to Le Parchemin, a very well known Montreal jeweler (same company also owns bookstores, which I like). Slightly less sticker shock, but still up there. Finally we went to Creation Paul H, a purely local outfit. Equally good quality, if you know what you are looking for, and better prices. On top of that, one of Nom's aunts works there, so we got the "family price." We are interested in getting simple, lovely, & classic rings. Plus, I had recently decided to start wearing one earring on my next birthday (details when that happens), so I ordered that also.
As I've mentioned before, with the VN community still mostly being relatively recent immigrants, there's a lot of "I know a guy who knows a guy." I'm not making fun, as my family in NYC is only 1-2 generations removed from that. It's really helping us with this wedding. Items 5-9 are all through contacts in the VN community, getting us equal quality for less money. I'm fine with that. I will be getting the highest quality wife; the rest is a detail.
The good news: she purposely crawled.
The bad news: she purposely crawled. All fine and well when doing it to follow me down the hall. Not so fine to do it when the purpose is finding sharp and/or fragile and/or hot and/or otherwise dangerous objects.
In other news, she seems to be beginning to understand language. Specifically Vietnamese. Ba ngoai comes over several days/week for several hours, and mostly speaks Vietnamese to her. If she is holding something, and you say chaw dah (spelling?) to her, she hands it to you. Also, if you say bye-bye (sorta Vietnamese - well, near universal), she waves.
(1) A/C: After calling a couple of well-recommended firms, who were totally useless, we ended up with the VN “I know a guy who knows a guy.” He came when he said, got it fixed in short order, and left with a smile. Didn’t speak English and not a lot of French, but fortunately have my in-house translator.
(2) Ice cream: Kem CoBa, which means "Auntie Three's Ice Cream" in VN. The line was half-way around the block, but worth the wait. While I was waiting on line with HF in her stroller (and Nom was scouting out the flavours), an older woman asked me if it were any good. "THE best, certainly in Montreal; haven't been to every other city on earth, but the best I've had in any of them so far," I replied. "So the line is worth it?" "Yes." It is even better than Annabelle's Ice Cream in Portsmouth NH. We had one dish with Salted Butter and Orange Cardamon, and one cone with soft Strawberry and Coconut swirled together. Seriously yum. Also bought bagels at Fairmount Bagel which is just up the street, and THE Montreal bagel store.
(3) Llama: A local petting zoo had a few animals on display at the Atwater Market when we'd strolled up to get some fish for tonight. HF could see them, but didn't really react to them. At her age, the concept of 'other things actually existing and that should be meaningful to me' does not exist.
Nom keeps asking why her uncle picked Montreal when they left VN. Answer: they speak French here and he forgot to check a weather map. I don't even have that excuse. Bleh!
( Friday Night )
( Saturday morning )
( Saturday night )
Yes, today is New Years Day. No, not on the Western solar calendar, on the Chinese lunar calendar, so it’s Chinese New Year. Well, in this case, Vietnamese New Year, a.k.a. Tet. Had dinner with Nom’s family last night, and went to temple with her today. Red is the color of luck in Asia, so people often wear red to celebrate. I do have one red shirt, so wore that. (Well, dark red, but it’s the thought that counts.)* They also give a token gift of money in a red & gold envelope, usually the elder to the younger. Red for luck; gold, and the money itself, for prosperity. Nom gave one to her nieces, and her father gave one to each of us. I’ve noticed that often people are bored with the holidays of their own traditions (been doing them for years) but enjoy partaking of their friends’ traditions. Christians love being invited to Passover Seder, Jews and Buddhists love trimming Christmas Trees, etc. I’m fairly secular, but I went to temple with Nom out of respect for her. The head monk also gave me an envelope, oddly enough, containing US$1. I’ve tucked it in my US passport for luck and prosperity when traveling. Not sure what I’ll do with the one from her father; I feel like I somehow have to pass on the luck and the good wishes. Will think of something.
*Color-coded holidays? Red shirt for Tet, green shirt for St. Patrick’s Day. Not sure what to wear on other holidays.
Last weekend, Nom and I and her brother and sister-in-law ate at a very good, small, VN restaurant which happens to be near my hospital. SIL had a delicious dish called my kho*, and let me try some. Nom told me how to pronounce it, and even wrote it down so I could get it if I happened to go there without her.
Today, after Lymphoma Clinic, another doc and I decided to go out to lunch, and I suggested this place. I asked for my kho.
“We don’t have it.”
In case I was pronouncing it wrong, I showed him it in writing.
“Yes, I know it. We used to serve it, but has not been on the menu for many years.”
Well, possibly I fell through a rift in the space-time continuum, or was trapped in Faerie, but “a last week” doesn’t equal “many years.”
Ended up having some VN equivalent of chicken noodle soup (good for a raspy throat in any ethnicity) and later texted Nom. She confirmed that many Asian restaurants simply will only serve white people what they think the white people will like, and that’s that.
*There are as many different versions of this as there are people who make it. Basically it’s beef and noodles with a bit of broth with ginger, yellow onion, lemongrass, Chinese five-spice, star anise, and bay leaf. The broth is on the side, and you add as much as you want, depending on how soup-like you want it.
Evil Secretary is Evil - Story as promised. There’s a drug rep we are friends with. Most of them are interchangeable, but a few are special. Actually, we’re down to the last one like that; the others have moved or retired. This woman had confided in ES that she had a thing for men in uniform (apparently there were firemen at her house one day…) Not the she was ever going to act on it - happily married with two kids - but does have a “thing.” (BTW: where were all these women when I was wandering around in uniform all those years.) Anyhow, coupla weeks ago, had a young patient from Canadian Forces in the office, who needed a return visit around same day said Rep was due. Nice-looking in a wholesome boy-next-store kind of way, pleasant manner, well-built, etc. So…. he’s talking to ES when the Rep comes in and sits down. I’m in the next room, I hear this happening, I laugh to myself, I walk out to the reception area, looking innocent. ES is behind the reception desk. Young Soldier in uniform standing in front of desk talking to her. Rep sitting behind him, mouth open, eyes wide, almost drooling. She knew we’d sandbagged her, but enjoyed the show anyhow.
Weather. Actually warm today. Mid-November, in Montreal. Should be snowing by now. I’m not complaining.
Buddhism. Buddhists don’t keep any special day as the Sabbath, but going with the flow in a county where Sunday is the traditional Sabbath, that is when they often go to temple. Nom is Buddhist, used to go to temple regularly, but Sunday is one of the few days we get to see each other. Feel bad about her not going because of me (almost). Considered going with her, but not really going to sit and listen to people chanting for 2 hours in a language I don’t understand. Yesterday we did go briefly, so she could pay her respects to her ancestors. We stayed for lunch, which was remarkably good vegetarian. That was the first time I ever had tofu that I actually liked. Still, the cliché about “an hour later you’re hungry again” did apply. Fortunately we “happened” to have some pastry we’d bought earlier (Buddhism and pastry - is this a great city or what).
Other vegetarian. In my further adventures of veggie sandwiches, made an almond butter and honeycrisp apple sandwich on a slice of pain miche. Yum. Never used to be able to eat almond butter, because although my brain said “almond butter,” my eyes said “peanut butter,” and my taste buds got confused. This time it all came together.
Exercise. Going well. Finally getting back up to good cardio level workouts. Between that and the better diet, weight has finally come back down below 196 (okay, only by an ounce, but below is below).