After work, I drove up Jupiter road, taking the slow road home. I stopped in a Vietnamese restaurant to eat a huge bowl of pho tai--simple beef and vermicelli noodles in a wonderful broth. I love phos, and this one was served in a bright, well-done cafe where the NY Giants played football against the Pittsburgh Steelers on a TV in the corner. Each big play brought a series of exclamations in Vietnamese from the table full of sports fans.
Then I went next door to a haircut place to get my hair reduced to subatomic particles or particulate or particulars or what have you. The woman who cut my hair was nice. She asked me why my wife and I did not have kids. I know it is chic nowadays to take offense at this question, but I never really mind the question. My answer, though, "because we did not have kids", is not very definitive, I admit. I am reminded of my brother's story of asking a relative's wife "how are you doing?" and getting a long "too much information" tale of personal health issues instead.
I asked the barber which day New Year's fell on this year, and, after we established that I meant Vietnamese New Year's, she told me that she did not know--she does not keep a Vietnamese calendar. I mentally chided myself for making an assumption based on her thick accent, and learned a bit better.
She told me about the traditional things during her childhood, although she kept trying to draw American analogies, when what I wanted was to understand differences. I love the idea, though, in Vietnam as well as in other countries, that one pays all one's debts at New Year's. I would not take that literally, but imagine how many metaphoric debts I could redeem. I wanted to ask my barber if she knew the sound of a moon lute, but I felt that would be pressing my luck. I am the sort of person who asks people about the sound of moon lutes on a daily basis, and gets back quizzical stares.
She told me about her sister-in-law, an Anglo, who now speaks good Vietnamese, and of how the barber learned just how good when she tried to switch into Vietnamese to communicate a secret and got an appropriate come-uppance. It's fun listening to someone make an effort to communicate, even if our accents make it hard for us to understand one another. My hair looked good, too. My hair is not hard to cut. I felt a little badly, because the folks who came in while I was being cut wanted all sorts of special hair color things, but I'm boring, hair-wise.
I bought a black and white throwaway camera at a dollar store and took a walk at Spring Creek Trail, which was great fun. Then my wife and I took our younger lhasa on another walk around the neighborhood.
The temperature warmed up into the 60s, and it was so pleasant.
We fulfilled a holiday tradition by meeting my brother's family for a steak dinner at Texas Land and Cattle. They gave me a 4 foot biplane kite I will use and treasure and then lose in a tree. I spoke with my soon-to-be-13 year old nephew of my hope to take him to a chess tournament out of town in 2005. I have in mind a tournament in Houston, with a side trip to the Johnson space center, or a tournament in Tulsa, with a side trip to see our cousins. Perhaps instead, though, we'll end up in Waco, with a side trip riding a slow canoe down the Brazos. I see clearly now the rain is gone and all obstacles fade from in my way.
But now I am missing "Remember the Titans".