Wednesday, 6 February 2008

A Little Weirdness

My blogging pal Carolie has tagged me for a meme. She had every right to do this: I made her post her bogus blogging rules a while back and she was a great sport, exceeding even my highest expectations. It has taken me some time to getting around to this meme, though. I'll tell you what it's about right now: posting weird things about yourself. My mind has been spinning ever since; I got tagged for a similar meme a month ago and I never managed to play along. It wasn't as though I had nothing to write that held me back; my problem was that I didn't know where to start.


* Link to the person that tagged you (done that) and post the rules on your blog (doing that)

* Share five random and/or weird facts about yourself on your blog (this is where it gets tricky: five? only five?)

Share the five top places on your “want to see or want to see again” list.

* Tag a minimum of five random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment in their blog. (I'm warning you right now that I may not do this. In fact, I probably won't. What can I say? One of the weird and random things about me is that I'm a rugged individualist, a rule-breaking libertarian with a mind of her own. Besides, you can't make me. God, I love not being in high school any more! Decades after graduating, and the thrill still hasn't worn off!)


1) Twenty years ago, I was dragged by my hair across the tatami floor of a pub in Kagurazaka, near Iidabashi Station, in Tokyo. I wasn't very drunk and the time, and it didn't really hurt. I'd just been bragging to a small group of colleagues about my great-grandfather, a short red-head with a fiery temper and a thick, tough thatch of hair. His party piece was being lifted off the floor by his hair, and I told everyone I was sure you could do the same with me. One of my colleagues, convinced I was exaggerating, challenged me. I let him drag me from one corner of the room to another by my hair, which at that time reached past my waist. There were many witnesses, including a waitress with a full load of drinks who gasped and blushed and looked the other way. Two years later, I married this colleague and we've been together ever since.

2) I can recite Spartacus's Ode to the Gladiators, The Owl and the Pussycat, Longfellow's Skeleton in Armor, Poe's Annabel Lee, and many, many more. Both of my parents were keen on oratory and graded us for delivery, projection, and the ability to recite without stumbling. Sadly, no one has ever asked me to recite even one of these. All that hard work -- wasted!

3) I am still (sort of) able to stand on my head, do the splits, and touch my tongue to my nose. Not all at once, of course, but individually. I might be able to do these all at once, but I'd need a lot of practice.

4) My cat imitations are so good that I can fool both cats and people with them. I've had this unique ability since I was five. I once convinced my parents that we had a cat locked somewhere in the house; before they actually started prying off floorboards, I finally confessed. It was so much fun that it was almost a pity to give myself up.

5) I once worked as a dish-washer at Japanese restaurant in Amsterdam. I was backpacking around Europe and found an advertisement for waiting staff at the Youth Hostel I was staying at in the Red Light District. (I didn't realize it was the Red Light District until one of the other dish-washers clued me in later.) The advertisement was in Japanese, and when I called and told them that I had worked as a waitress and could speak Japanese but was in fact Caucasian, they hired me as a dish-washer there. The owner of the restaurant turned out to have gone to the same university where I was a graduate student; he took pity on me and let me sleep in the room where the waitresses changed into their kimonos. I worked there for two months and had a blast. To this day, I can really get wineglasses clean -- fast.


1) My old high school. I haven't been back in ages, but whenever I pass it, I get a rush just remembering that I don't have to go there anymore.

2) China. But I wish I could have seen it before they started industrializing it.

3) India and all of Indochina. I know, I know: it's sneaky lumping a country and one entire region together like that, and a little insensitive too. But I'm doing it anyway: I'm greedy.

4) The U.S.A. From one end to the other, including Hawaii and Alaska. It's so beautiful and there is so much variation. And I've been gone so long that I almost feel like I'm in a foreign country when I go back. And I hate that.

5) All of Central and South America. And while I'm at it, I'll throw in Mexico too, which is a wonderful country. I can't believe I've gotten to my age without having been to Peru or Brazil; there's just no excuse for it.

6) (Wait! It's supposed to be only five! Yes, I know: I can count. But this is my blog and I'm a rugged individualist who bucks the rules, etc., etc. Besides, I don't really want to see my old high school, but I couldn't resist putting that in.) Africa. From one end to the other, and please don't forget Madagasgar.

And since I've come this far, what the hell: Europe too -- all of it. And Australia. and New Zealand and Canada and both poles. All the islands. All of Asia. It sometimes makes me feel like crying to know that there are parts of the world that I will never see.

That's it, folks! I had so much fun doing this that I'm tempted to tag myself and do it all over again. But I won't.

If anyone else wants to do this, please let me know and I will happily tag you, posting your link right here. If not -- well, I'm a rugged individualist and I'm bucking the rules and all that. And besides, I'm feeling lazy right now thinking of all that traveling...


debra said...

It's pretty sobering (no pun intended) to look back at some of the things we did when our judgment was, shall we say, less refined. I could name a few things....
I'd like to visit a lot of the smae places + a few more. I've never been abroad. Been to Mexico but never to Europe. Something to look forward to.

The Anti-Wife said...

It's about time you did the 5 random things! I thought you forgot about it. I want to go all the same places you do but only if they are safe for traveling. I think it might be prudent to wait on some of them.

Carole said...

I would like you to recite Annabel Lee for the storytellers blog and then after a brief clearing of the throat do a cat imitation. This is really a good skill if you indeed have it, but I want to be the judge of it.

Carole said...

Your technique for getting a life mate is curious. Still it worked. Perhaps you could write an advice column.

Eryl Shields said...

I'm going to have to come over soon to hear that cat impression!

Mary Witzl said...

Debra -- I have been to a lot of foreign countries and even lived in some of them, but the awful truth is that I want more. I hear the stories of other long-term expatriates and yearn to have visited some of the places they've been to. Then I read your comment and see myself for what I am: insatiable. But you DO have something to look forward to: Many seasoned travelers longingly recall the thrill of going abroad for the first time. You will have all the more fun when you finally go!

Anti-wife -- You are right, of course. I would start with the safer ones, but no doubt as soon as I'd booked my tickets, some of them would slide onto the not-safe list. I feel sad to think that I may never see places like Afghanistan and the Hindu Kush.

Carole -- How about if I get Eryl to be the judge, thus sparing Kim from having to make a trip all the way over here to monitor my technical progress with the storytelling stuff? I get the feeling that Eryl is as skeptical as you are about my cat imitation, but if this isn't enough for you, I'll try and give it a go.

As for my hair-pulling incident, I didn't know the man was going to become my husband at the time, and I can assure you, his caveman act had little to do with it. He had been ribbing me about what he called my exaggerations for a week or two, and I suspect he wanted to make a point. He was amazed when I actually took him up on it and let him pull me along, and impressed as can be that it didn't hurt. I've got a tough scalp.

Eryl -- Bring a cat when you come! Mine is a little tired of my performance, to tell you the truth, and only glances around the room for a brief while before she yawns and gives me a dirty look.

Kappa no He said...

Those were wonderful! The hair-dragging had me stitches.

I think it's really neat that your parents encouraged memorization. Julyan's tutor here is big on that. I once memorized a kabuki play (I performed onstage) but I have since forgotten it. Do you find you have to occasionally review outloud or you forget?

ChristineEldin said...

OMG!!! I love your story about your colleague/wench-pulling husband!!!!!
Do you still have long hair? I just wrote in my last post I have a fetish for long hair (male or female). May I run my fingers through your hair. Braid it and brush it?
heh heh!!!! (seriously....)


Ello said...

Mary I could visualize you being dragged by your hair and that just cracks me up! And dishwashing in the red light district? Oh my how fun! And I agree on places you want to go. I'm right there with you but I would include Japan and Korea since I've never been.

A Paperback Writer said...

The cat thing I can relate to. I can also fool both other cats and people with my various meows. I learned to do it by imitating the cat we had when I was 12. I used to have "conversations" with it.
But, I cannot relate to the hair thing. You must have one tough scalp, woman. My hair is also long and thick (somewhere in my blog archives is a photo of me from behind, showing lots of hair). At one point it hung 4 inches below my knees. It's generally about fingertip-length, and I would consider waist-length hair "short" on me.
But I could NEVER tolerate having anyone pull me by my hair. I'm no tenderhead, but that would HURT.
I am not worthy to stand in your scalp-shadow. I am in awe.

Mary Witzl said...

Kappa -- I'd like to say that I never need to review these, but in fact I forget certain phrases, especially in Spartacus's Ode to the Gladiators. I sometimes review these out loud (and don't I get some stares!), but what I generally do is recite them to myself while I'm swimming. They give me the illusion that I'm keeping my brain sharp.

Christine -- What a shame that you're so far away; like almost everyone in my family, I am crazy about having my hair brushed, pulled, etc. Yes, I still have long hair, which I periodically cut off and donate to charity; I'm due to be shorn in exactly one month.

I too love to brush and braid hair and often find my fingers itching when I see a particularly good, healthy looking crop on someone's head. I've braided all sorts of hair in my time and my kids constantly have to fight me off.

Ello -- Glad you liked the hair incident! It struck me at the time that it would make a good story some day.

I didn't add Japan and Korea to my list as I have been to Korea four times and spent so much time in Japan, but in fact I would dearly love to see both again. I want to live in Japan again, in fact, and we may well end up doing this.

APW -- Another cat speaker! What would they call us: felitongues? That sounds pretty weird, and I'm not sure I like it, either; my tongue is not rough.

In fact, I really do have a tough scalp. As a kid, I used to pull on my hair to comfort myself. I had to have my head shaved when I was two because I had pulled out so much hair it looked like I had mange. To this day, I love having my hair pulled, brushed and generally handled.

With hair past your waist, you MUST have a strong scalp! Long hair gets tangled and pulls unevenly when it does; just coping with it on a daily basis is a tiresome chore, and washing it is a huge bore. I cannot wait to have it cut!

Kim Ayres said...

Being dragged by your hair was clearly a courtship ritual. 50 years of feminism was set back in a instant.

Made me smile

Could be tricky doing it the other way round though...

And yes, you do have to put your cat impression on the net somewhere

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

There is nothing so withering to the soul as a contemptuous glare from your cat when you're trying to play with her.

I think it's great you have all these poems that you carry round in your head with you, accessible whenever you want. Harold Bloom, apparently, is a walking anthology. I do think there's some value in memorization and recitation, even if it seems like a bore at the time. Often it's not until much later that a line will come back and strike you in a whole new light. I wish we'd been made to do more of it at school.

I know The Owl and The Pussycat too! And a few Dickinson poems - though they count as they're so short. And I learnt Longfellow's Psalm Of Life with my granny because she took a lot of heart from it. Isn't that weird we both know Longfellow? Especially since I have very few poems I can recite off by heart. He does have a certain didactic quality to him - not worthy, exactly - not with the negative connotations "worthy" has - but kind of sure-fire, guaranteed-to-work poetic pick-me-ups. Worth knowing and keeping at close hand for when outrageous fortune chucks her slings and arrows.

You've inspired me to go and memorize something now!

Mary Witzl said...

Kim -- Don't worry: he may want to pull my hair now, but he wisely refrains. And my scalp is tough, but the rest of me is still wimpy. Once, during an animated conversation with several others, he tapped me on the wrist and I almost hit the roof.

Now I'm getting a little nervous about my cat impersonation. I'm fully confident that I can deliver, but I worry about not being properly in voice.

Sam -- Hoorway: someone else who knows Longfellow! I know he's not reckoned as a great poet like Dickinson, but what I always liked about Longfellow was his rhythms -- and the stories. Even as a kid I could follow the story in 'The Skeleton in Armor,' and as I was crazy about Vikings at the time, it seemed a natural choice. You are right about the pick-me-ups, too; I find a spirited mental recitation of 'Scots Wha' Hae' wi' Wallace Bled' stands me in good stead on visits to the dentist, and Longfellow's Psalm of Life, though it may be twee, is pretty much my philosophy of life. I love the idea of footprints on the sands of time and plan on leaving some myself.

My mother, who knew more epic poems and ballads than any human I have ever met, offered $1 -- one entire dollar! -- to whichever one of us kids could learn the Rime of the Ancient Mariner first. I was only ten at the time, but God, how I tried. I think I made it as far as the wedding guest beating his breast and gave up. Now I wonder if my mother didn't just offer that dollar for the fun of it, much the way my aunt used to give us a salt shaker and tell us to catch a sparrow by salting its tail. Cruel things!

Now back to those slings and arrows. Thank God for poetry, eh?

Kara said...

And living in the UK, it should be a breeze for you to travel! No 24 hours in transit for you (damn you Pacific Coast). You could pop down here to Romania for weekend jaunt. I've always liked the word "jaunt".

Carolie said...

Wow, Mary! I'm IMPRESSED! You are very cool (and a little weird, but I like that! Hee hee!)

I think we were somehow sisters in another life. Though my hair is baby fine, I've got a lot of it, and a tough scalp. Though I've never gone so far as to allow someone to drag me around caveman-style, I used to prove my toughness by having someone hold my braids while I leaned forward at a sharp angle, trusting the person holding my braids not to let me drop and kiss the floor. Your hair story sounds slightly safer and a whole lot more interesting!

As for the recitation, different pieces, same parental instruction and encouragement -- mostly Robert W. Service ("There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moil for gold, and the Arctic trails have their secret tales that could make your blood run cold..."), Robert Louis Stevenson, A.A. Milne, etc. for us. Oh, and we three heard Mom do "'Shoot if you must this old grey head, but spare your country's flag!' she said. A look of sorrow, a blush of shame, over the face of the leader came..." often enough that I think we've all memorized it unconsciously!

My brother's the cat whisperer in the family. I'd love to see you two confuse a passel of cats together!

I can stand on my head, and sit tailor-fashion on the floor, but forget the splits or the tongue-to-nose thing. Not sure if it's my short tongue or my chasing-parked-cars nose that's the problem. *sigh*

What a cool and hip international story you've got in your dishwasher tale! I loved it, and want to hear more, more, more about that chapter in your life!

THANK YOU for playing along!

Carolie said... for the travel part...can I go with you? *grin*

Mary Witzl said...

Kara -- We've just come back from a two-day jaunt to Northumberland and I am sorry to report that traveling in the U.K. is NOT a breeze! The roads are good, but driving is fiddly and the weather is wet. And remember: I've got a couple of teenagers in tow and it's tough keeping track of their earphones and iPods, their trunks filled with toiletries and accessories. Not to mention making sure of a steady supply of hot water; these are GIRL teenagers I'm talking about.

Carolie -- We really do have a lot in common. I meant to post a few things similar to yours (I once volunteered for The Catholic Worker's Homeless Shelter in Brooklyn and have never forgotten some of the conversations I had with people there, and every time I go to a new dentist I'm always asked if I had my naturally even teeth straightened as a kid), but I decided to go with the more lurid facts about myself, including the hair-pulling incident, instead. But, I HAVE done that braid trick myself, and as long as my hair is well brushed out first, it doesn't hurt a bit.

My father and his father loved Robert W Service and knew 'The Cremation of Sam McGee' by heart. I often think of this poem myself when I am especially cold. Robert L Stevenson and John G Whittier were both favorites of my mother, and she too often quoted Barbara Fritchie to us.

And I'm guessing you'd be a great person to travel with, Carolie. I can't imagine you turning your nose up at weird food or being fussy over where you set your bag down!