Saturday, September 15, 2007

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Me Talk Pretty One Day Book Review

Back in 2005, I had a book called “50 Essays” for my rhetoric and composition class. The book was a compilation of essays that we had to respond on. Among those essays, there was one entitled Me Talk Pretty One Day, from David Sedaris. It was my second semester as a college student in the United States and although I liked literature, I read the essays just for the grade. No pleasure on reading those.

But that story in particular caused me to read it a second time.

In Me Talk Pretty One Day, Sedaris writes about his attempts to learn French. He describes the frustation of trying to learn a foreign language when simple daily tasks become a great challenge. Struggling. Trying to talk pretty. Perhaps, writing pretty one day.

Two years passed by and one day, at 5 am, while zombiying around in the Salt Lake City, I decided to run to the bookstore in search for anything to entertain myselft. I was waiting for a flight that would take to Portland, Maine.

As I complete my search through the magazine section unsuccessfully, I approach the book shelves and soon enough I saw a title I immediately recognized, Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, sitting just next to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

I flipped through the pages and although I had long wanted to read Al Gore’s book, I decided to purchase Sedaris’ instead.

I was tired, under rested and had a book on my hands and a pillow hanging off my backpack. Reading the book at that time did not seem like good idea, but I opened the book and read the first paragraph of an essay entitled “Go Carolyna.”

What a funny book!

Sedaris stories are so personal. He welcomes you into his family recounting tales with effortless wit. The stories contained in Me Talk Pretty One Day are unconventionally funny, yet simple and captivating. At the same time, Sedaris’ essays explore the human condition and family ties.

He has the ability of making you think you are one of his closest friends.
It’s like stumbling into a grocery shop in Manhattan and asking,

“Hey David, How’s Hugh doing?”

Me Talk Pretty One Day is the culmination of artistic spontaneity, quality writing and humor at its best.

Favorite tales include:

Go Carolina
Giant Dreams, Midget Abilities
See You Yesterday
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Jesus Shaves
The Tapeworm Is In
The Late Show


Enjoy the reading of “Big Boy.”

Big Boy
by David Sedaris
(excerpt from Me Talk Pretty One Day)

It was Easter Sunday in Chicago, and my sister Amy and I were attending an afternoon dinner at the home of our friend John. The weather was nice, and he'd set up a table in the backyard so that we might sit in the sun. Everyone had taken their places, when I excused myself to visit the bathroom, and there, in the toilet, was the absolute biggest turd I have ever seen in my life - no toilet paper or anything, just this long and coiled specimen, as thick as a burrito. I flushed the toilet, and the big turd trembled. It shifted position, but that was it. This thing wasn't going anywhere. I thought briefly of leaving it behind for someone else to take care of, but it was too late for that. Too late, because before getting up from the table, I'd stupidly told everyone where I was going. "I'll be back in a minute," I'd said. "I'm just going to run to the bathroom."

My whereabouts were public knowledge. I should have said I was going to make a phone call. I'd planned to urinate and maybe run a little water over my face, but now I had this to deal with. The tank refilled, and I made a silent promise. The deal was that if this thing would go away, I'd repay the world by performing some unexpected act of kindness. I flushed the toilet a second time, and the big turd spun a lazy circle. "Go on," I whispered. "Scoot! Shoo!" I turned away, ready to perform my good deed, but when I looked back down, there it was, bobbing to the surface in a fresh pool of water. Just then someone knocked on the door, and I stated to panic.

"Just a minute."

At an early age my mother sat me down and explained that everyone has bowel movements. "Everyone," she'd said. "Even the president and his wife." She'd mentioned our neighbors, the priest, and several of the actors we saw each week on television. I'd gotten the overall picture, but natural or not, there was no way I was going to take responsibility for this one. "Just a minute." I seriously considered lifting this turd out of the toilet and tossing it out the window. It honestly crossed my mind, but john lived on the ground floor and a dozen people were seated at a picnic table ten feet away. They'd see the window open and notice something dropping to the ground. And these were people who would surely gather round and investigate. Then there I'd be with my unspeakably filthy hands, trying to explain that it wasn't mine. But why bother throwing it out the window if it wasn't mine? No one would have believed me except the person who had left it in the first place, and chances were pretty slim that the freak in question would suddenly step forward and own up to it. I was trapped.

"I'll be out in a second!"

I scrambled for a plunger and used the handle to break the turd into manageable pieces, all the while thinking that it wasn't fair, that this was technically not my job. Another flush and it still didn't go down. Come on, pal. Let's move it. While waiting for the tank to refill, I thought maybe I should wash my hair. It wasn't dirty, but I needed some excuse to cover the amount of time I was spending in the bathroom. Quick, I thought. Do something. By now the other guests were probably thinking I was the type of person who uses dinner parties as an opportunity to defecate and catch up on my reading.

"Here I come. I'm just washing up."

One more flush and it was all over. The thing was gone and out of my life. I opened the door, to find my friend Janet, who said, "Well, it's about time." And I was left thinking that the person who'd abandoned the huge turd had no problem with it, so why did I? Why the big deal? Had it been left there to teach me a lesson? Had a lesson been learned? Did it have anything to do with Easter? I resolved to put it all behind me, and then I stepped outside to begin examining the suspects

Saturday, September 1, 2007

From West to East

On Getting to Redding, CA.

Redding, CA August 6-9

The flight 6360 to San Francisco is scheduled to take off at 6:30 pm, but at about 6:00 they announce the flight would be delayed due to the weather.

So I sit down, make a couple of calls, start some small-talks and wait.

About 7:00 pm, it is announced that flight 6360 was indefinitely delayed until further notice.

At that point, passengers started to freak out, and the airport became a real mess. The flight to Los Angeles had also been delayed and the Denver airport had been shut down.

Looking around, I see a legion of hopeless business freaks with their Blackberries ringing mercilessly as they tried to accommodate the latest call, e-mails, and airport updates. Coffee shops were packed with I-don’t-know-what-to-do backpackers. A Mormon mom chases her six kids around. A German girl sits down and wonders when she’d make to Germany.

I keep myself calm. There’s nothing more unattractive than stressed over-reactive people like the lady in front of me who had lost her flight for her own incompetence but tried to blame on the Asian girl who worked at the airport.

“Let me talk to your supervisor,” she insists. “I did not hear anyone calling my name for the flight.”

“But I called the passenger many times before the plane took off,” said the Asian lady whose patience meter was about to call it.

The complainer hung one of those fancy designer bags on her skin-over-bone left arm. She had probably puked her lettuce sandwich and diet Coke just before she lost her flight. She wore big glasses for the sun that had long hidden behind the Rockies. She laughed sarcastically at the Asian lady as if she didn’t know who she was talking to, her attitude as big as her pushed-out boobs.

I observed it all and laughed at the situation.

At around 8 o’clock, the same Asian lady announces that flight 6360 was now scheduled to take off at 9.30 pm.

“Thank God, at least I will be stuck in California.”

I call Tom, my boss, and suggest him that once in San Francisco I could rent a car and drive north to Redding.

In the middle of the multitude of pissed-off passengers, a small framed, short-haired lady with glasses who sat in front of me kept looking at me as I talked to Tom. She was dressed like she was about to go on a hike and had just finished talking to someone on the cell phone she borrowed from someone else.

“Hi, you are going to Redding?,” she asks. “I’m going to Chico.”

Since I didn’t know where Chico was, I stared at her like I had nothing to do with that.

“Redding is about one hour south of Chico,” she continues. “Maybe we could rent a car and split the bill, we drive to Chico, you drop me off there and then you continue your trip to Redding.”

“Well, I still have to make a couple of calls, but we if nothing works out …” I pause attempting to think a little more of what to say, “that could be our last resource.”

“By the way , I’m Sherry,” she says with a smile.

“I’m Leandro.”



“Nice to meet you,” she says as we shake hands. “Where are you from?”

Although the idea of engaging on a night five-hour drive with someone that I had just met in the airport seemed very awkward at first, I realized I had no choice and after talking to Sherry she was for ten minutes she was no stranger to me. She seemed a very positive person that no delayed or cancelled flights would ruin her day. Sherry looked like one of my first art teachers, Vera. Funny enough, later she tells me she taught art at a college in Chico, Sherry was a sculpture professor.

At 9.30 pm, with a half-moon shining outside the plane’s window, we take off over the Great Salt Lake. Short flight, at 10.20 pm we land at the foggy SFO. I check the screens to get any information about my connecting flight and realize the plane of my stand-by flight that was supposed to have taken off at 9.50 pm was not even in the airport yet. Another Asian lady told us that the flight would probably be cancelled.

Sherry looks at me. I look at her. “We'll drive!”

We take a crowded train toward the Rent-a-car place. As get there we realize we are not alone, lines of I-wanna-get homes trying to get a car.

I approach the lady from Avis and say, “I want to rent a car to Redding.”

“ID please,” she says.

I proudly hand her out my very own Texas driver’s license as my almost dead cell phone insisted to ring.

“I’m sorry, but you can’t rent a car,” She said straightforwardly, “You have to be 25 to rent a car.”

Pissed off with my underageness I pick up the ringing the phone.

“Hey Tom.”
“Where you at,” he asks.
“I’m in San Francisco airport trying to rent a car, but I can’t because I’m underage.”
“Underage?" ... “I’m sorry about that, what are you going to do now”
“Hold a sec Tom, I call you back in a bit,” I finished the conversation before my cell phone gave its life up.

“Here’s the deal,” she pauses with the tranquility of a monk. “I rent a car on my name, we head to Chico and you can stay over at my house. Tomorrow morning we find a way to get you to Redding.”

I call Tom back and tell him that I was going to Chico and that I would stay overnight at this lady’s house that I’d just met at the airport and that in the morning I’d try to find a way to Redding.


it’s 11 pm.

“I'm actually from Chico, but I am now here in the San Francisco area for a camp,” Tom says.

Sherry and I get the car and head out the airport. The drive begins on the jammed traffic outside the airport. Try to shortcut this way, turn left and then right. Stop at a traffic light ask some random people on the streets for direction.

“So, tell me how you ended up in the United States,” Sherry asks as we cross the San Francisco Golden Bridge.

Trapped inside the small white chevy for the next five hours, we had no choice but to engage in a long, prolific conversation that included my whole life story, metal sculptures, Japan, photography and walnut trees.

At around three in the morning we arrive at her beautiful house that hid behind storage facilities in the middle of nowhere. I saw no neighborhood houses nearby, the wind blowing making the trees look like it would be behind them I would be murdered.

“Here’s your room.”

At 7 pm I wake happy to be alive.

I would never think Sherry would be able to kill anyone. I actually thought of how crazy she was for letting a stranger that looked like a foreign terrorist and was called LE-AN-DRO stay over her house. There’s always a haunting feeling that installs in the back of your head telling you you are about to be part of terror movie.

In the morning, I walk downstairs toward the kitchen. As I enter the room, I see this big wall that looked it had been vandalized by thousand teenagers that were high on pot. Unfinished drawings, some sort of graffiti artwork that didn’t make sense to me.

I look out the window and see a man picking up some dead tree branches in the backyard.

“He must be Sherry’s husband,” I thought.

The man enters the kitchen not noticing that I was there. As he sees me, he jumps off.

“Hi, you scared me,” Paul says a little embarrassed. “I’m Paul.”

It turned out Paul had been to Brazil several times, listened to Brazilian popular music and eaten cheese in Belo Horizonte. We chatted for a little while until they drove me to Tom’s house where his wife, Julie, waited to take me to Redding.
Once in Redding, I can concentrate in coaching volleyball. But obviously I would force our hosts to take us to the world-famous Sundial Bridge over the Sacramento River. The Sundial Bridge, built by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatravas, is a beautiful architectural art piece that has become the milestone of Redding. Tons of visitors stop by the Turtle Bay Park to take a few shots of the bridge and enjoy the beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. - photo by Lucas Mobley

One a pleasant evening our hosts take us coaches to see the famous bridge. We watch the people walk by and the transparent waters of Sacramento river run off.

In this trip, I also “learned” how to play poker.

San Ramon, CA – Aug. 13-17

Seeing the Oakland Bay through the plane's window is entertaining. Beautifull views and perfectly squared neighborhoods, hills covered with million-dollar houses. I land to Oakland at the scheduled time. This time there was no delays or driving through the night. Nechia, the Dougherty High School coach and two other camp coaches were waiting to pick me up at the airport. We pass by a sign that says San Leandro. Eyes catching every single detail.

San Ramon is a very wealthy area, big houses and perfectly manicured lawns that looked like painting. Dougherty Valley High School was the most expensive High School ever built in the United States, with a bill going over 600 million dollars you can imagine what type of neighborhood you’ll would have there.

In this camp I work with Kevin Ring who's the head coach of University of California San Diego men’s volleyball team. We have a great time in San Ramon and work pretty well together. It took us a great deal of effort to make the girls understand what working hard really mean. They were mostly freshmen and sophomores, some of them had never played volleyball before.

Our host Nechia made our stay much more comfortable. She is one of those people who have genuine interest in you, she makes you feel special, is very enthusiastic about her job and works really hard to ensure all is going great.

I get back to Provo on Friday night thinking on how Maine would be like.

Eating lobsta in Maine

Biddeford, ME - Aug 20-24

City Hall - Biddeford, ME

What to expect from Maine? Well, I had to google it to see where it was located on a map. All I knew that I was in the east coast, but wouldn’t have thought that it was almost in Canada, in the extreme northeast part of the US.

It was a long journey. I left the Salt Lake City airport at 7.05 am and flew in to Phoenix, Arizona. Then I took a connecting flight to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and from there to La Guardia airport in New York. At 11.30 pm, I arrive in Portland, Maine.

The state of Maine is quite unique. It’s covered with tall dark-green trees that reminded me of the Atlantic forest in Brazil.

I went to Maine also determined to eat lobster, which the locals call lobsta. I tell our host that I’d had never eaten lobsta before with hopes of being offered one.

On Wednesday lunch, I had my first Maine lobsta.

It’s quite a messy meal. Suck the meat out the lobsta’s legs. Break their claws, devour the pinkish-white meat. Remember to save the tail for last as it has the best of it.

Everyday after camp, the coaches were invited to one the campers’ house for dinner. It was another opportunity to get to know them. We played games and ate good food.

The girls were crazy! They had so much energy that made me wonder if that was normal. There were many characters in that high school team. Laurie the “English girl”, SKINNY, T-ankle, The Sistas, Borboleta, Sasha Powerhouse.

On our last camp day, we were taken to the Saco Bay. There I ate my first Haddock Sandwich, burned my tongue on hot seafood soup and spilled my Coca-cola over the rocks.