No Speak Engrish

At the table for five, my father struggles to explain the nature of the ba-wan. 
"I don’t know the words to describe it," he says. He forms a circle with his hands but that’s as far as he goes with it. There are a lot of things from the old country that he’s never figured out how to translate.
My stepmother hails the proprietor’s son, our waiter — who, like me, was not born in the old country and whose Taiwanese fluency rivals mine. 
"Yes, ’scuse me," my stepmother says. "We like order A1. One more."

At the table for five, my father struggles to explain the nature of the ba-wan

"I don’t know the words to describe it," he says. He forms a circle with his hands but that’s as far as he goes with it. There are a lot of things from the old country that he’s never figured out how to translate.

My stepmother hails the proprietor’s son, our waiter — who, like me, was not born in the old country and whose Taiwanese fluency rivals mine. 

"Yes, ’scuse me," my stepmother says. "We like order A1. One more."

Waiting out the rain under the bridge.

Waiting out the rain under the bridge.

The ringer and I discuss signs that your neighborhood may have sold out.

"How about a second bubble tea place?” I suggest. “Within two blocks of the first one. And obviously we’re not talking Chinatown.”

"Eh, hard to quantify it like that," the ringer points out. "Because what if it’s one of those half-restaurant-half-bubble-tea joints? Then it’s like it doesn’t really count as a whole bubble-tea joint. I don’t think I buy it.”

"Okay. Fair enough," I say. "What about nail salons? Expressed in terms of density.”

"Too hard to figure out a consistent metric," counters the ringer. "If you were to calculate it, say, on a per-block basis, then it’s going to vary a lot by neighborhood. Who’s to say there are too many or too few?"

"Okay," I continue. "How about this one — expo center opening up down the street?”

"Hmm. All right, I may have to give you that one."

"And across the street from the expo…is the second lobster roll establishment within walking distance of your front door.”

What? Tell me again where you’re living now.”

Master Chu to the rescue.


Ang Lee, Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)

At the park, the driver, out of breath, shakes his head at the ground and laughs.

"Dude, it’s like I can’t play this game anymore," he tells me. "I don’t know what happened."

Since the summer, he’s been spending all his free time fixing his newly purchased fixer-upper. It’s not something I had expected out of him; two years ago he was still perfecting the art of playing darts. Now he’s a landlord who will happily explain to you the finer points of marble floor tiling.

We lose the game by ten. Smoked.

"Sorry, man," he says. "I think I’m done."

On the sidelines, he takes out his phone to show me documentation of the latest progress.

"This is the first-floor vanity, we put it in yesterday. We’re doing the kitchen cabinets next week…"

All this building-a-home stuff — I find it so alien, even at my age.

"Who got next?" someone yells.

"Not us," I reply.

Coin-operated light switch.


King Hu, The Four Moods—Anger (1970)

Could we also have one of these where we talk about good things?

— First comment heard after delivering my team’s retrospective.

From the inside, it ssuks to be skuzz.

From the inside, it ssuks to be skuzz.

At the 1:18 mark, an Al Leong death scene.

image

I don’t blame the consultant for wanting to pack the room (at $300 per head), but thirty-some people split into five teams turns out to be too many. At my table there are seven representing six companies: developer, product manager, analytics guy, three UX designers, and me.

Six men, one woman. Over the course of the day, three of the men will assume the role of Holder of the Sharpie. The woman, it is decided, will sketch the personas. The two minority reps (me and a South Asian) take a back seat to the proceedings; the room has glass on three sides, and the echo of “them” drowns out both of us.

Listen to us require some effort, Kemosabe — we no force you, if you not want

One of the slides in the consultant’s deck (barely visible because of the sunlight flooding the room) is a black-and-white picture of a rock guitarist. “Okay, so I’m dating myself a little with this slide,” says the consultant. “Does anyone know who this is?”

"Greg Allman?" asks a guy in the back.

"No. But that’s a good guess — similar era. Anyone else?"

From my seat, all I can see is the hair. “Malmsteen?” I ask.

The consultant laughs. “Malmsteen! No, it’s not Malmsteen. But I haven’t heard anyone guess that before. Malmsteen…I like it.”

After learning why this photo is relevant to our business model, we do a fifteen-minute hypothesizing exercise. The echo of Kemosabes reverberates before I can chime in with a suggestion:

We believe that [opera singing lessons] for [張] will achieve [increased volume and range of the upper register]. We will know this to be true when we see [him voluntarily sing “Strong as Death" at his next karaoke outing.

11th Street Vineyard

11th Street Vineyard

Aurora bagelalis

Aurora bagelalis

The landlord finally breaks out the scraper and the solvents…

She spares Jake and Elwood.