Boarding the Frontrunner

Monday afternoon I stood on the Frontrunner platform, waiting for the train home. The train arrived, and as the doors opened, I stood to the side, because I have a very useful habit of courtesy when it comes to public transportation.

I waited for any deboarding passengers while I watched two patrons get on without waiting. The first passenger was an Asian-looking man, and the second passenger was a Caucasian-looking woman. When the man boarded first, the woman called out to him, “Hey, ladies first!” The man briefly looked over his shoulder and mumbled that he was sorry. Then the woman replied, “That’s okay; it’s the American culture.”

Maybe it was because the news of inaccurately racist comments toward the newly crowned Miss America was fresh on my mind (for instance, instead of hearing spelling bee jokes [which is somehow less offensive to me because Indian Americans have dominated spelling bees recently, and I love it], all I read were terrorist/Muslim remarks) that this little scenario rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it’s my slightly progressive way of thinking where I never assume “ladies first”; there are times that I’ll let men on the train before me just because I feel like being kind.

I don’t know anything about these two individuals. It’s interesting that the woman assumed the man wasn’t American, when it could be that the man just didn’t see her, or that he didn’t feel like being kind at that moment, or any number of reasons. It’s also interesting that with whatever assumptions the woman made, she felt prompted to “teach” the man about American culture, which: is this type of etiquette/courtesy a strictly American thing? Why was what the woman said so disparaging to me? Maybe the woman was trying to demonstrate to the man that she was trying to be more understanding, that she was trying to make up for yelling at him.

Am I assuming American exceptionalism where it wasn’t there, and maybe I should just conclude that the woman was trying to be more understanding of someone who wasn’t like her? Do I assume that she thought she was extending a kindness when she did not know its core was offensive (then, offensive according to whom)? Is that closer to the “American” culture?

At the same time, if I had an experience where someone had not observed an “American” custom with me, I would try to be more understanding and think that person perhaps came from a different culture.  Maybe that person wasn’t raised that way, but that doesn’t mean the behavior isn’t necessarily American. And then I’m still left wondering what counts as American, and what doesn’t.

Therein lies so many more assumptions.

Move Along, Just Another Vague Post Here

Could two men have been more polarizing?

Thanks to everyone who voted. To those who didn’t: really?

One time on facebook I posted a biased article about a politician who said a very dumb thing about the very serious subject of rape, and the writer presented the article such that the this politician’s philosophy represented his entire political party. We all say things we regret, and we all latch onto the mistakes of those we want to lose to feel a sense of winning, advantage. We stand on any defeat — at any cost — to gain even minimal height. Definitely, rape is serious, but I wonder just how seriously we should have taken one (or several) politician(s) with a relatively fringey opinion.

I should have been more thoughtful about posting that article.

It must be so, so hard to be the President of the United States. I was president of the Free Club with some of my college roommates, and it was hard. All we had to do was get things for free. We could go to grocery stores and try all the free samples, get rebates, win prizes. I didn’t know how much responsibility I had.

I was nervous for both men. I was ready to support both men. Throughout this election season, I thought secretly, if one wins, couldn’t he appoint the other to be an advisor or something? A member of the Cabinet? Wasn’t one’s healthcare plan modeled after the other? Wasn’t that earlier healthcare plan one of greatest achievements of the one candidate? Couldn’t one use his business expertise to advise the other about fixing the economy? If one wins, couldn’t one consult the other in foreign policy or legislation deadlocks? What would our divided Congress do if these two men actually worked together?

What if?

What the if?

That’s not how politics works.

But that’s how we can work.

If our nation continues to divide, I won’t have a choice but to run for president of my square block in Orem, Utah. I’d construct a soundproof highway barrier that would reduce freeway noise and would still let my citizens see the sunset. I’d also reduce rent.

If we can’t at least seek to understand other points of view and acknowledge when others try to understand ours, then our nation will continue its downward spiral into a pit of poop.

If we sidestep accountability and responsibility in our own lives, families will crumble, and entire communities will landslide into the pit of poop.

If we pray for our country but are unkind to one another: pit of poop.

Are these two men standing on opposite ends of this pit?

Or are a better state and happier times a happy medium of something less poopy?

States of America, we are supposed to be United.

Let us make that true.

We Voted!

He’s wearing purple. I’m wearing red. We aim to confuse.

We didn’t wait longer than 10 minutes in line. We arrived at Orem Elementary School just before 5:30 this evening.

While we stood in line, we talked pretty loudly about some of the headlines we’d seen throughout the day.

We approached the table and our names were the only two Rs on the last page in the R section of the registered voter binder.

The poll worker gave me an electronic card. The machine I used is very different and so much more . . . modern than the machine I used when I voted in NYC. What was this fancy touchscreen? Why didn’t I have to walk into a booth and close a curtain and use all my brute strength to vote?

I spent maybe at least 5 minutes voting/playing with the fancy machine. I watched the ballot print through a little plastic window. I removed my electronic card in time for a poll worker to check a number on the machine I used. Apparently I was the 47th person today to use that machine.

Reilly waited for me just outside the gym/auditorium/second cafeteria where voted.

We ate. We came home. We took a picture.

We feel pretty good.

From My Window Last Night

In Provo, we celebrated pretend 4th of July on the 2nd of July. I don’t feel like explaining why the big party couldn’t be on real 4th of July. There’s a big event called the Stadium of Fire, and big guest stars show up and sing then fireworks go boom in the sky and it’s apparently a lot of fun.

I think this is my first time in Provo during the 4th of July. Maybe I was here sometime in the 90s, but I honestly can’t remember that far back without pulling my cerebral cortex.

Anyway, everyone was off doing something, and I have a pretty good view from my bedroom window, so I turned off my light and waited for the show to begin. I didn’t get to hear any of the accompanying music – I do like patriotic music – but I also missed the performances of David Archuleta and Brad Paisley. I’m sort of bummed about Brad Paisley. Dude can play a guitar.

The fireworks lasted about 20 minutes, and here are the last 3 minutes or so. What I like about pretend 4th of July is that I get to see a lot more fireworks shows on real 4th of July. And I’ll keep remembering all the ways America is awesome before returning to feeling that a lot of Americans are not awesome. That kind of blind patriotism doesn’t only apply to America; I saw it in Africa, too, but mostly among the kids, but they were kids, and we don’t have any excuse, really, because it’s not just our kids who are acting like that. I’m not absolving the adults from being lousy examples to their kids, because they’re adults and they should understand their responsibility to bring up children to be healthy thinkers and honest and community members and not zealots who base their decisions on fallacy and ignorance. I’m not knocking gratitude or democracy or a lot of the things that make America a great country, because America is wonderful. Keep being grateful, but just stop being stupid. You know who you are.

Because Globalization Is Important

Sharing cultures is a wonderful experience, n’est-ce pas? Yeah, we’re Americans. We found various ways to not assimilate. And most of the time, it was fun. And sometimes it felt like home. And doesn’t everything American make the world a better place? Couldn’t Americans also find ways to be better through other cultures? I may add to these lists later, but here’s a start.

-Napoleon, donne-moi tes tots!
-Cherche les tiens!
-Non. Je meurs de faim!

So, we were on our way to class one morning, and very randomly, after Sarah and I stepped off the school bus, we started quoting Napoleon Dynamite in French. It got me through that two-or-so-hour lecture in a dark classroom. By golly, if I couldn’t talk about geopolitics in French, I can certainly quote a dorky American movie. A+ for me.

“And I was like baby, baby, baby, oh
Like baby, baby, baby, no…”

NON. NO. NO. No. Please stop singing that song. Stop sounding so cheery when you sing it. Stop sounding exactly like Justin Bieber when he sings it. Why are so many of the women who are returned missionaries singing this? Why does Justin Bieber sound like a woman? And how do they know so many of his songs? I sealed my lips and clenched my jaw. And I brushed my hair on behalf of Justin Bieber.

“Hey, Macarena…”

They taught. The village kids. The Macarena. There has got to be a better way to westernize and/or modernize old cultures. Or maybe in some aspects we should leave them alone. Maybe they’re better off knowing one of the worst line dances ever (the absolute worst being the Cha-Cha Slide). But to be fair, both parties benefited from dancing and laughing together. I was glad they schooled us (4-1?) in a soccer match.

Coke, Sprite, Fanta, Pringles

We personally didn’t bring these over, but they found their way ahead of us in order to comfort us. BECAUSE WE NEEDED COMFORT. These were familiar tastes, and they kept us calm. And less nauseous.  But I don’t think I’ve ever drunk so much soda in all my life.


We probably helped Senegal set a record for how many times the people used the word Toubab. Sort of like Gringo. With me, they had different guesses: Japonaise (4), Chinoise (2), Corée (1). So, that was fun.

So, what temporal influences did Senegal have on us?

1. Brushing our teeth with bottled water
2. Baguettes. I will be just fine if I don’t see another baguette for a long time. (Though I do miss taking the sacrament with baguette bread. Which is probably wrong to say, but it’s true.)
3. Akon. Yes, kids. He’s from Senegal.
4. Yassa poulet. A chicken dish with rice. I probably ate it at least four times and may never eat it again.
5. Vendors. They were seriously traumatizing. The harpies on Gorée were the worst. Then maybe the guys who led us into a sweatshop warehouse. All true stories.

I Had A Spam Comment Today Waiting for Review

And it went something like this:

Thanks for possibility to write on your website,
I read some of the posts and I think it is great!
I haven’t been up to anything recently.
Anyway thanks for the post.
Here is my site:


Well, I disabled the link that my newfound friend left as a part of her signature, but I left it the blue color that trademarks the drug she’s advertising. I mean, I could have changed the type all to black. But Ms. viagara has read some of my posts. She writes truth! I know this! She made the effort to tell me what’s up in her life (BAD pun not intended), and, she thanks me for writing AND thanks me for letting her comment. Showcase the spam, leave her name in royal blue: it’s the least I can do, right? Wow, it’s SO easy to make friends.

In other news, I applied for a passport today. I waited less than 20 minutes in line. Downtown, at that federal post office building on Church Street. 20. Minutes. Not too shabby at all. Bureaucrazy is not dead, but maybe was out to lunch. My attendant was an Asian woman named Ms. Lui, and she was as helpful and patient as can be. It is truly a day of miracles. That brown booklet, that 10-year ticket to ride should land in my grubby little paws in about a month. World, you are an oyster, and it is mine. MINE!

I hope I can find some time to write meatier stuff this weekend.

Oh! I’ll be visiting Jacksonville April 24-27. I’m very excited.

American Memory

She sat at her computer. She’d been thinking all day what she could do. It was Saturday afternoon, November 15, 2008. Her mom and stepdad had left just the day before. She threw a pretty big party three days ago. That was a lot of fun.

It had been a little more than two weeks since her interview. Her officer told her she passed the test, but she was anxious because for some reason she had two (2) alien registration numbers. Why would she have two? She didn’t even know about that second number until her interview. Her mind raced, her heart seemed to stop. It was 1982; she was six years old. She wasn’t supposed to worry about her status in America.

She brought her thoughts back to the present. She was going to a party that evening. It was going to be variety-show style. She considered only showing up as a spectator, but it sounded most everyone was going to perform. The butterflies fluttered in her stomach. She knew she had to do something.

She had an idea of what she would do. She spent the rest of the afternoon working on her act. She paced the words. She tried different speeds until one felt right. She snapped her fingers.

She took a shower.

She put on a cute shirt and her good jeans.

She did her makeup.

She stepped out and hopped on the subway uptown.

She arrived at the party destination. People were still setting up the living room. There was a posterboard that listed those who wanted to perform. Someone asked her where she wanted to be in the lineup. She said she wanted to be somewhere in the middle. She announced she’d be doing a recitation.

Everyone could make up a name tag. The name tags needed to say “I am [something positive and catchy].”

She put on her name tag. 


The party started.

There was speed drawing.

And song spoofing.

And sign language.

And magic tricks.

And “Thriller” dancing.

She followed the (American) Pledge of Allegiance in French.

She introduced her act by saying she was going to stay with the patriotic theme. She announced her successful interview. The crowd clapped. She said she was going to recite the Preamble to the Constitution. She said she would love it if the crowd accompanied her by humming “God Bless America.”

She snapped her fingers. The humming began.

We the people.

The humming continued.

Promote the general Welfare.

The humming came close to ending.

She decided to slow it way down, since she started too fast.


My home sweet home.

Many cheers from the crowd. She pumped her fists in the air. The applause was loud. She felt proud. She thanked everyone. She gave a few high fives and sat down quickly.

The following act was a Russian revolutionary chant.

Of course it was.


SO close, people. Hours away, really. Exciting!

An American Portrait

Taken on Wednesday, November 12, 2008.
I apologize to those of you who didn’t fit in the photo.  


Front Row, L-R:
Sonya: my fellow Obama supporter and Jon Stewart fan.
Craigh and Linda: now live out of state, want to attend the swearing in, whenever that is
Arly: I’m really sorry your mouth looks like that. I know your hair is thicker than I drew it, too
Tom: never smiles for photos; may be a little tired, as the party went past 9pm
Ted: the beard is a good look on him; he likes talking politics and movies
Sarah: I would have loved for her to make a nice cake with pretty fondant for the party
Jenny: your hair looks fabulous short
Duane: way to go with the red shirt, and way to look ultra smart in those glasses

Second row, L-R:
M-A: one of my favorite bloggers and funny, beautiful moms
Leolani: Mom talked about about her a lot after the party; she was probably her favorite
Andrea HM: one of my favorite funny people, ate about 10 sliders
Amy: Becky’s cousin, and one of my personal heroes
Mom: considerably taller than Tom and Ted
Scott: theater man with a day job; appropriately dressed in a blue tie
Andrea B: one of my favorite sweet and funny people; phenomenal baker and great writer; brought Twinkies
Paul B: Andrea B’s husband; in crazy love with his wife; probably the best man-nurse alive
Vicki J: one of my church crazy youth leaders; we got back in touch in the last few months

Third row, L-R:
Ross: Andrea HM’s husband; great teacher; got nearly all the civics questions right; brought American, chocolate chip cookies
Jamie: a former co-worker; brought me American, Godiva chocolates
Becky: roommate, one of my BFFs; taught me all I know about American runway walks
Ajay: the other roommate; said later how friendly and open my friends are
Bradley: a friend who likes higher maths; we used to go running together, in America
Andrew: brought animal crackers that included donkeys and elephants

Back row, L-R:
Garrett: curly hair, blue facial features; very sweet guy; mom loves his hair
Greg: old high school friend, lives near Chicago, we all should go American bowling again, yes?
Little Emmett: son of Greg and Beth; cute smile, right?
Beth: Greg’s wife, perfect and wonderful match for him
Barbara: one of my seminary teachers; quite a remarkable writer

Mom and I streamed the apartment in red, white, and blue. We nearly caught the apartment on fire, only because we wanted the FDNY to make a guest appearance. TOTALLY American. I gave a speech to you, America. I lost my notes, but I only wrote a few lines anyway. And I don’t remember what I said off the cuff. According to witnesses, it wasn’t too shabby. I praised you, America. I praised your citizens who are my friends and inspire me with their greatness. And, America, you clapped. And I felt immeasurably blessed.

Really, People?

Yesterday’s Search Terms:

timmy yates    
unique scripture mastery game  
“my roommate” hemorrhoid cream  
bill cosby jock itch  
scripture mastery games  
flirty banter  

What are you looking for, folks? Look at the third and fourth items on the list. Who actually strings words together like that, in those exact combinations? Well, at least you spelled hemorrhoid correctly. But I don’t get why you would want to find anything on “bill cosby jock itch.” ON MY BLOG? SERIOUSLY? To be fair, if you’ve never read my blog, then I can’t blame you for going in for the click, only to be disappointed.

Y’all are weird.

For you newcomers who have figured out I’m Mormon, and for those of you who already know, I might come out (ahem) later with a few thoughts on the whole Proposition 8 (CA) /Amendment 2 (FL)/and (wherever else they have this legislation UP FOR A VOTE). Yeah, I know, the populace also voted against desegregation, and I’m not sure how I feel about prisoners such as the Menendez brothers, who killed their parents, being allowed to marry. And what about the atheists who deny or don’t see/acknowledge God and his definition of marriage, but it’s okay if the couple is a man and a woman, and then what about gay atheists and then gay Christians and then is this really a civil rights issue or a fight between American values and Christian values. Then if they pass this legislation, the next logical step would be to legalize polygamy. I’ve mentioned that before. And the kids, what about the kids? I’ll tell you right now, it’s a struggle. I sense and foresee division within the church, and I dread estranging friends. And yet …

Like I said, later.