Friday, February 10, 2012

On learning a second language;

                “Harry Potter, Mick? Really?”
                Will, I believe, held two bachelor’s degrees and both were in something like Creative Writing or Journalism or World Lit or whatever. Still…I sort of appreciated his slight. It meant he expected more of me.
                “It’s in Spanish,” I defended myself by feigning offense.
                “Oh, really?” and he seemed to perk up at this, “Do you speak it?”
                “Well…put it this way. I can read it just fine. I mean…I can speak it and understand it fine too. I just don’t get a lot of practice in conversationally.
                “Ahh,” and he nodded understandingly. “Hey, is that why you were dating that Spanish chick?!”
                “Mexican chick,” I smiled. “And no. I mean, that’s not really why I was dating her but…I guess it gave her a fair amount of intrigue. Her accent was sexy. And we would speak Spanish a fair amount of the time and text in Spanish and stuff.”
                “Dude. That’s awesome. I want a Spanish chick. Why Spanish, though, if you don’t mind my asking? You just really like the Latinas or something?”
                “You mean the race or the…nevermind. I guess Spanish was just the most natural. I mean…I grew up pretty close to Mexico and I took a couple years of it in high school and stuff. But I really got back on the horse after I got back from Peru last summer…”
                “Oh, yeah. How’d that go?”
                “Well…not great, man, to be honest with you. I had my passport stolen and then I had to go all around Lima jumping through hoops and stuff in order to get another one. And all the while, I’m asking everybody questions on like what to do and stuff… And, of course, they’d ramble off a bunch of crap in Spanish at a million miles a minute. I swear, I probably looked pretty weird to them leaning my head in and closing my eyes just to be able to absorb as many of the words as I could. So yeah. The good news is; I made it. But, after getting back, I sort of figured that if my skills were good enough to get through all that then I might as well go for fluent. Ya know?”
                “Gotcha. That’s pretty cool, man. I’ve always wanted to learn another language.”
                “You should. I mean…there’s so many ways to now with like audio and software and stuff. I also listen to a half-hour of Chinese lessons a day. Really. I have for almost two years!”
                “Holy shit. Why?”
                “I don’t know. I guess just ’cause it’s gotta be one of the most fucked up sounding languages there is. You know…with all the tones and stuff? But I also heard that learning other languages keeps the Alzheimer’s at bay. And, you know, nobody wants that shit. So does learning ballroom dancing, supposedly, and Sudoku. But, if you have to take your pick then let’s face it; those last two things suck.”
                “Yeah, that’s for sure. Dude, you totally remind me of this friend of mine…”
                “Oh yeah. What’s his deal?”
                “He like travels a lot and stuff. I mean, don’t get me wrong. That’s probably where most of the similarities end. That, and you kind of look alike. Other than that, though, the kid is sort of a weirdo. I mean, he’s my friend and everything but he’s just one of those guys who’s like…never really settled down or stayed anywhere for very long. I don’t think he’s ever paid rent anywhere. And then, like right out of high school, he was living in his car for like years,” and Will couldn’t help but crack up to himself here as he reconsidered his friend’s eccentricities, “But anyway. So he just got back from South America which is probably another reason you reminded me of him just then. But he…he was down there for like eight or nine years.  Seriously. Eight or nine years and doing just God knows what, man. Doing pretty much the same thing he was doing up here actually. Just sort of drifting. Every once in a while, he would write me. But not an email. I would get an actual fucking letter in the mail…which was actually sort of cool, I guess, since it was mailed all the way from South America. And he’d write to me about just doing odd jobs and stuff and moving all around the whole continent. And every once in a while, he’d mention a new girlfriend and how her family didn’t like him or something. And sometimes he’d own a car and sometimes he’d just hitchhike from place to place…or even walk! Sometimes, he’d walk like hundreds of miles from country to country! And you know what the craziest part is?!”
                “He never did learn how to speak Spanish!”

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why I call it home;

     I wouldn’t call my neighborhood rough by any means but, by Portland standards, it probably is. There’s the occasional shooting but it’s not like I walk around here fearful at all. And sometimes, if I have to leave my building really early in the morning, I could almost swear that the zombie apocalypse did actually happen sometime during the night. I mean, there are bums limping and spitting and scratching and moaning EVERYWHERE! But it wasn’t until last Sunday when I walked out my door at about 8 ‘o’ clock in the morning and saw some kid smoking something through an aluminum can that I really began to wonder if the cops really gave a shit about anything on this side of town save murder. He was just standing there so complacently on the sidewalk smoking that thing like it was nobody’s business! I walked right by him…within two feet of him…and he didn’t even try to conceal what he was doing by turning into a doorway! It was broad fucking daylight out for Christ’s sake!
     But God bless this town because, when you can get away with that, you can get away with just about anything.