Déardaoin, Lúnasa 20, 2009

My Uncle Tom

I spent last Friday with him and his Philipine wife and in-laws. He is the most succesful member of my moms generation; ex-marine, world traveller, mid-level executive for Sprint, inveterate fratboy but a good guy all the same. Fully convinced of the superiority of the suburban life; semi-conciously derisive of the small town and the inner city, but warm enough. He is perfectly convinced that I tyoo shall scorn the city once I settle down, since it's self-evident that the city is only for young partiers and the sorry bastards in the ghettos too poor to leave. To be agreeible I told him that if/when I have a family I could very well live in a place like Evanston, an inner ring-suburb with enough space for free parking and medium-sized yards, and of course the presence of Northwestern gives it a very Lincoln feel. I doubt that I will ever see the ways in which a large city is inadequate for raising a family that strike him as so obvious. My children will read Wittgenstien and cower under the monkeybars at recess. Still I wasn't exactly lying. I like Evanston truly enough, that place is cute as a puppy in a schoolgirl's raincoat. Fuck yeah Evanston.

Tom picked me up on Friday afternoon in Lakeview and we meandered are way to the spot on near north Milwaukee where I had seen a couple Polish cafes once but I've forgotten exactly where they were and there was no place to park. We ended up eating at some gulag hot dog place on Milwaukee and Lake where he had a Chicago dog and I had a weak Philly steak. After lunch we made our way to the Eisenhower and rode the freeways to his in-laws place in Glendale Heights; somewhere between O'Hare and Elgin. The thirty mile drive took three hours. I was resisting the urge to weep while Tom was nonplussed. He's from D.C. which according to him has the worst traffic in the world. I told him that our Circle Interchange was the worst in America. He was still nonplussed.

We kept the conversation light and impersonal. Seventies rock and Husker football mostly. He asked where Nicole was and I said at work. He said she was free to come out if she wanted to. She texted me that evening and said she was gambling in Hammond and I texted that that and please stay there.

That evening his relatives had a barbeque of grilled chicken and lamb with hot sauces and egg roles and a shitload of rice with flan and cheesecake for desert. Aunt Elsa, Tom's wife, criticized my dress and dirtiness. She is the twin sister of Kahn from 'King of The Hill' and I had been out drinking vodka with Nicole the night before and had'nt showered. The relatives didn't mind. They spoke a tongue called Visayan to each other and I noticed it had quite a lot of Spanish in it. I asked Tom about it and he basically repeated what I had already noticed. He went on to say that the Phillipines has hundreds of different languages and dialects and that there was a good deal of dispute over what made a proper language or just a dialect.

I could smell how tirethe grass was in the daylight. I could feel my ears straining to catch the hum of cars and grinding metal they've become used to and you hear locusts and see stars at night.

The Visiyans (I didn't ask them if they were the cats who had themselves crucified on Good Friday.) are very open about homosexuality. The gay cousins ate at table in full drag. They looked like broads living out of a cheap motel room. Nicky is a broad in a cheap hotel room but she has thrift store style.

My Uncle was very eager to take me to the backyard after I was finished eating. He said it was customery at family gatherings in the Phillipines for men and women to segregate and hang with their own kind. Well alright. This is in fact what ends up happening at most gatherings everywhere. Some cultures make an official more out of it and think they're special, and that's alright. There was an impromptu singing group with an acoustic guitar playing love songs by Marvin Gaye and the Beatles and The Eagles and Journey. My uncle explained that this was traditional as well. Why thanks Tom. The only foreign culture here is suburbs, and your ways are strange indeed. There was an brother of the family who kept feeding me Bud Lights. The in-laws were terribly kind to me the whole time. I took some barbecue home and ate it with a 40 of Mickey's and it was delicious.

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