About jp 吉平

john patrick | 吉平 is a former superhero from seattle | usa

Lost Ukulele

I had been looking for my soprano ukulele for days. It wasn’t in the trunk of my car. Wasn’t in the apartment. Wasn’t in my classroom. This morning I went to the storage unit and it wasn’t there either.

I drove to the ukulele store in Fremont, you know the place. The same place I had picked out the lost ukulele years ago. I told everybody my sad story; did I misplace it? Was it stolen? Did I leave it somewhere? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

The employees understood how sad I was; a lost instrument is a dread that musicians understand. Some of us are animists; we see our instruments with souls of their own. Others of us see our instruments as a place where our own souls live; losing an instrument feels a little like losing yourself. In a bad way.

I picked out another ukulele, which was just like my lost one, except that it had a cool Polynesian pattern printed on the face. It came with a cool carrying case. It felt nice in my arms and sounded right. I put it on my credit card and walked out.

I got to my car, feeling both relieved that I had a new ukulele, and also still ashamed that I had lost the original. I wondered what I’d do with my day. I decided to go to Bauhaus Coffee to grade papers. Fitting, I thought, Bauhaus is the last place I remember taking my old ukulele…

Then I wondered if Bauhaus is actually the place I lost my ukulele. I called them and they said no, nobody has found a ukulele… except, wait a second, actually yes, there’s a ukulele here. I started my car and drove there immediately, and parked in a loading zone.

My ukulele was in its soft case, on the counter behind the cashier. I had to wait for the needy people in front of me to order what might have been the first coffee drink in their lives, they had so many questions. Finally they left and the cashier handed me my ukulele. I was so happy and grateful and wanted to tell the cashier how relieved I felt, but then my enormous belly swiped a stack of biodegradable plastic water cups and they scattered all over the floor. I apologized as I picked up the cups and then left before my belly could knock over anything else.

I got back in the car and had a new problem; now I had my cherished old ukulele back, plus a very similar new ukulele with a cool Polynesian print on the face and a super cool bag. I keep them both, right?

I drove back to the ukulele store and returned the cool new ukulele and its cool new bag. I got back to the ukulele store before my ukulele store parking expired. I felt a little sheepish but the employees, all musicians themselves, felt relieved for me and were happy to make the return.

When you buy a ukulele, you should feel enthralled. You should not feel, as I did, a mix of relief and shame. Someday I may lose the ukuleles I own due to theft or natural disaster or extreme stupidity, and have to buy a new instrument just to fill the void. I’m sure I would have loved the new instrument had I kept it, but I probably would have never stopped missing the old one.

I own five ukuleles now; they serve different functions and I need them all. Two are travel ukuleles (a soprano for practice, tenor for performance), two serious instruments (one is a tenor, the other is a concert that has electronics), and then I have a cheaper, glow-in-the dark waterproof instrument that I keep in my classroom for emergencies. At this point I’m happy with my collection, and if I buy a new one it will probably be out of lust; instrument lust.

At least, I hope it will be out of lust, and not out of loss.

Seal of Approval

Yesterday I was standing on a beach on Maury Island, looking across Quartermaster Harbor to the Burton Peninsula on Vashon Island.  There was a break in the hard drizzle, and the sun was still high in the sky and on the water.  I saw an eagle, a seagull, and some kind of diving bird, which rose above the water, and then punched the beak first to snatch a smelt or a herring out of its path.

My friend J had asked for a singing lesson; earlier that day, he had asked me what a melody was. Anyway, we’re standing on the beach; actually it was probably a rocky tide flat, as barnacles clung to every rock.  I ask him to sing Happy Birthday to me, we play “match pitch” and “knock over that object with your voice;” you know, the usual first voice lesson. At one point we were both singing “I Will Survive.”

Anyway, the best part was that a face popped out of the water to watch us. It was a small, dark face that was the same color as the dark ripples in the water.  “Is that a seal?” I ask, and my friend said, “Yep, that’s awesome.”  And we continued our lesson.

Later, back at the house, we were talking with a L, who has lived on that property for years. Yes, he said, that seal pop’s his head out of the water when I go out there to sing. He told of a nephew, who was also down at the water singing, and had also been startled by a face in the water.

Seal Portrait Session

Apparently this seal investigates human singing. Seems reasonable. If I lived on that island I’d be singing to that seal all the time. I would call him Seal, and sing Kiss from a Rose to him.  I have always wanted to be on a first name basis with any marine mammal, outside of nutrias.

I’d like to imagine that the seal enjoyed our singing lesson, or that it approved.  It didn’t complain, at least.

Rey del día

Hey I’m 47 today.  Thanks to my mama who did all the work.  Thanks also to family and friends near and far.  Fashion headwear by TheKnittedPrincess.

Priority Boarding or What?

So my local airport, Seattle Tacoma International, is a hub for Alaska Airlines, which has been running a super fun (and kind of silly) promotion since 2014; wear your Russell Wilson jersey, and get priority boarding on any flight Alaska flies out of SeaTac.

I didn’t do it in 2014, but when they brought it back in February of 2015, I dropped $85 and bought the jersey before my flight to San Diego. Getting priority boarding for the jersey is silly, it means I board the plane maybe three minutes before I normally would have. It was silly, but it was super fun; back then I actually used the word “exquisite”.

Here’s how it works; the gate agent calls for priority boarding for anyone wearing the Russell Wilson jersey. All the smug Californians who can’t wait to get the hell out of Seattle all scoff, because they assume that nobody knew about that (even though it’s been on since 2014, I believe). So they crowd around the velvet rope to the jetway, and I am a small voice behind them saying, “excuse me.”  They part, gasping, and I walk happily up to the jetway to bloop my phone, and thank the gate agent. Once I’m aboard I take my seat, and I have just enough time to take a selfie and post it before the entire rest of the plane gets on.

One time, a man looked at me slyly and said, chuckling, “I bet you planned that!”  And I said, yes, the promotion has been going on for a couple of years.

The next time I flew out of SeaTac, was a year later. I wore my jersey and waited patiently but priority boarding was never called. I tweeted @alaskaair to ask ‘what gives?’ and Ángel the designated tweeter said to come back during football season and try again. I was surprised, because I didn’t remember the promotional material saying anything about the football season only, and when I did look at the website, I saw a big fat nothing about the promotion only being during the football season.  Seemed weird, since the first time I got priority boarding, it was mid February, well after the Superbowl.

Ever since then, whenever I fly out of SeaTac I tweet the @alaskaair account to see if it’s happening or not. Every time. In fact, if you search twitter for both our handles “@jpv206 @alaskaair” you’ll find a complete record of our conversations, including them apologizing to me on three occasions.

The first time, when they said that it was only during the season, I was disappointed but took it at face value. The second time it happened, I didn’t want to make a big deal about it; but another passenger actually pointed to me and said, “this guy should be getting priority boarding!” I tweeted them and they apologized. Also that time there was an issue of a really old fruit & cheese plate; I tweeted them a photo of my rotten apple and they gave me a $15 credit. As a diabetic, I would actually have preferred to have had a proper apple when I needed it.

Last week on my flight to SJO, they failed to call priority boarding again.  Anyway, this time I was disappointed enough to ask the gate agent why they didn’t call for priority boarding for the jerseys, and she said that she hadn’t heard about it yet, that the company hadn’t made an announcement to say if it was on or off. I got on the plane, tweeted the company, and the company apologized and said it was definitely on.

Look, as I said before, it’s a silly promotion, it doesn’t really help me fly or make my life better; it’s just a little bit of spirit and fun. If this promotion is over, I want them to just tell me, so I don’t have to get excited about it.

I’m flying again in November and again in December; holiday travel both times. It might be hectic at the gate, and hectic at the airport. I’ll tweet them before I go, to make sure the promo is still on, and when I get to the gate, this time I’ll ask them, the promo is on, right? Because this company has made a chump out of me three times out of six already. We’ll see if that helps remind them.  They should stop calling it a priority boarding promotion, and call it an “apology promotion” instead, since that’s what I get half the time.

Saturday Sketches

It’s my last week of my 46th year on this earth. I know there will be a work happy hour, hope there will be karaoke in the evening.

Easy Gig

I would live with my sister indefinitely if I could. But I need a shorter commute. I need to have a commute short enough that it’s not an excuse not to go to the gym. Also I miss my own stuff, and I miss making soap.

My current gig might be the easiest I’ve ever had. All my classes for the entire year are planned down to the minute. Grading is a breeze, since it’s only levels one and two, and assessments are super simple. I’ve gone from four preps to two. I hardly ever take work home. What’s more, I dress in dressy jeans, and a flannel that’s not tucked in. I brought my slacks and dress shirts to the cleaners yesterday and I’m thinking about not picking them up.

By the way, this new job gave me a huge pay boost, so I’m doing things like paying off debts and putting money in my savings… the opposite of what I was doing in California.  I might go shopping later to buy more work clothes:  flannel shirts and dressy jeans.

Like I Never Left

This morning I got up and drove to the Group Health clinic on Capitol Hill, just like I used to before I moved to California. I heard there was a name change but I’m one of those people who calls things by their old names. Anyway, I parked in the same garage as five years ago, walked into the same lab through the same slow-ass automatic door. Sat in the same chair to do my blood draw, and made the same tired blood-draw joke, “I’m not scared (of the needle), I’m just going to look over there.”

Afterward I treated myself to breakfast at the 14 Carrot, just like I used to five years ago. I noticed the lady who used to serve me all the time wasn’t there, and I thought to myself, aha, time marches on, and people do as well. But then I asked the cashier, and he said that she was just away on vacation in Greece, and that the kids were there working (they had served me, actually) and that those Greeks are crazy! I was glad to hear that the lady was still around, that she had nice kids, and I agreed that the Greeks are crazy… in a good way.  So all of that was not that different after all.

I went down to Pioneer Square to grade papers at Zeitgeist, as I often did five years ago. When I went to park, a man blocked two open spots and just idled there, waiting for his lady friend to pick up some coffee. I think he noticed that I wanted a spot, and didn’t budge, so I pulled around and parked in another open spot. What a bag of dicks that guy was for blocking two spots. But, just as I would have done five years ago, I found a different solution, said nothing, and then let it bother me for the next ten minutes. Anyway, I graded all my papers (easy gig!) and put my work away for the weekend.

As I drove back to West Seattle there was a cool podcast about the Amsterdam fire chief who had to set straight a bunch of super sexist and racist firefighters; listening to it made me sneer at all the jackass northern Europeans I’ve had the displeasure of meeting in my travels who hated Americans for being sexist and racist. Of course at the same time I missed my non-sexist, non-racist northern European friends who I had the pleasure of meeting during my travels. And I did a quick mental review of the Dutch language that they taught me.

For lunch I went down to the beach, as I might have done five years ago, and got the cod combination at Sunfish Café.  Those crazy Greek uncles (crazy in a good way) gave me extra seafood, which they do now, and we gossiped a little about another crazy Greek restauranteur who we used to know who was crazy… in a different way (knowing glance).  Anyway now I am stuffed.

I am, of course, hoping to go on some new Seattle adventures now that I’m back, but it’s going to require some more effort. In most aspects of my life, it’s feeling more like I never left.

With Apologies to Scumbags

So it seems as if the current president tried to pressure the president of Ukraine into investigating the son of his rival, during a phone call back in July. Apparently White House officials were alarmed by this behavior, so they tried to bury the records of this phone call (along with other politically embarrassing, but not classified presidential gaffes) in a double secret system. A whistleblower reported this, and Congress demanded the transcripts, and now there is an official impeachment hearing.

The president’s twittorical defense is that whistleblowers and leaks are despicable, the press and congress are trying to make him look bad, and that Nadler, Schiff, and AOC+3 are some “Do Nothing Democrat Savages.”  It is honestly hard to imagine that he has any knowledge of the US Constitution, since it seems that the whistlelblower, the leaks, the press, and Congressional Democrats are actually looking out for the well-being of the American people by going after this despot, and doing their respective jobs. Every second of every minute he looks more like a tyrant, and when he defends himself he does so the way a tyrant would; with irrational arguments and ad-hominem attacks, in the face of real legal and ethical accusations regarding behavior he admits to.

He is a scumbag.

All The Teabags In China

So when I lived in China, I saw my Chinese friends and coworkers drinking whole leaf tea. They would put the whole leaves in the bottom of the cup, and top it with hot water, without any kind of infuser or tea bag or filter. The whole dry leaves would hydrate, and when they sank to the bottom of the cup waterlogged, the tea was ready to drink. At work, Chinese people enjoyed their tea in glass bottles, where they could view their plump, relaxed leaves all day long.

Nobody ever explicitly said that tea in teabags was beneath them, but they did tell me that teabags were the worst; they were filled with broken tea leaves, the stuff not good enough for their glass bottles. Low quality. In addition to that, there was also idea that a teabag was a pulp and paper product, what exactly is a pulp and paper product leaching into your beverage? Yuck.

I explained this concept to some friends of mine a couple months ago, self-proclaimed “tea people,” who appreciated my trips to Wing Hop Fung 永合豐 tea supermarket in Monterey Park, but were shocked to learn that whole leaf teas could be filtered by gravity alone.

Anyway, now it seems that those teabags are actually nylon, and they’re leaching microplastics into your drink. So maybe we should all go back to gravity-filtered, hand picked, whole leaf teas, and leave the teabagging to the Urban Dictionary.


You Come Back Anytime, Sweetie

It’s 64º in Seattle with occasional stray raindrops. Not cold unless you’re outside all day.

This morning I was at my favorite 24-hour diner, the Square Knot in Georgetown.  I was eating my 2 eggs over medium, and I heard the waitress at the register cheerfully say, “I know what you want! You want a little cup of coffee!”  I looked over and there was a small woman, bundled up in a puffy jacket and knit cap, dressed for being outside all day, with the waitress at the register.

I was a little surprised that I hadn’t heard the woman walk behind me; nor did I hear her say hello to the waitress.  The waitress served her some coffee in a small to-go cup, and the next thing I know, the waitress was saying, “No no, honey; that’s too much!”  I looked over and the waitress was pushing the woman’s money back into her hand.  There might have been $20 in small bills.

That’s when I connected the dots. The woman is dressed for being outside all day because she’s homeless. She doesn’t speak or know the price of a small cup of coffee because she lives with mental illness.  The woman walked silently behind me, back out to the door and through the plate glass window I saw her cherishing that coffee, smiling as she looked into the cup. As she was leaving the waitress called back to her, “you come back anytime sweetie.”

It occurred to me later that the woman might have been deaf or hard of hearing. I’m used to Deaf people who vocalize, but of course many have learned to not vocalize around hearing people, who can be fragile and easily scared.  It also occurs to me, now, that I could have bought the lady some breakfast. But as usual my mind wasn’t that fast in the moment. In any case, everyone seemed happy.

Life is hard and we all face challenges. I want to live in the America where we treat each other with kindness and dignity, where we don’t have to shit on others to prosper or feel like we’re prospering. Part of me wonders if that whole scene played out around me so that I could learn a lesson about kindness.

Minutes before seeing this scene play out around me, I was fighting mad about this article about the disgraceful injustices at the southern border. It’s not a particularly explosive article at this point; it’s actually par for the course nowadays.

The United States of America used to welcome refugees and asylum seekers; we used to have porous borders that allowed workers to come and go. Now we presume that refugees and asylum seekers are criminals, and we use their very lives to deter others from coming. Don’t come, it’s not worth it, we say, Americans are too cruel.

Our hardened borders means that people are forced to leave their countries and stay permanently, because living here with no legal status or rights is preferable to the violence and/or lack of economic opportunities in their home countries.  They contribute to our economy, work hard, and pay sales taxes and often income taxes; and commit crimes against Americans at a lower rate than Americans do. They raise their kids here; their kids go to school and play on soccer teams with our kids. They sit next to us at church and on the bus; they enjoy three day weekends and Thanksgiving break. Some of them are guilty of wanting the American Dream for themselves and their children. Others are just here to build better lives for themselves so they can go back to the countries they love someday.

However, smugly comfortable Americans are panicked that new immigrants will bring poverty, crime, and brownness,  and erase their smug comfort. They fight over a slice of the pie; they don’t see that immigrants are actually making the pie. So they harden the border, make asylum impossible, and betray the promise of this country.

The summer reading book was Stevenson’s Just Mercy, which I couldn’t finish because I the injustice turned my stomach. It’s a wonderful and insightful book, but it describes the injustice against poor African Americans that makes me angry.  Slavery and its repercussions are the original sin of the United States of America. Then the other day, the school librarian checked out a copy of Takei’s They Called Us Enemy for me. It’s Takei’s story of the Japanese Internment, another time when Americans forgot who they were supposed to be. Both of these books are hard for me to read; it’s the America I want to leave behind.

I prefer the America of the kind waitress.

I feel like some Americans have to shit on others to feel prosperous and comfortable.  I don’t know how to change their hearts.


Stormy Weather

I’m back in the 206 nowadays, teaching Spanish at an archdiocesan high school in North Seattle. For the moment I’m crashing in my sister and brother-in-law’s guest room in the Admiral district, but I’ll have my own pad in before too long; probably in North Seattle.  I’m coming to terms with it.

The new school is a funny place for me. All the professional stuff is super cool; they seem to be “on it” in every way.  My own job as a Spanish teacher is a new challenge; all my lessons are planned for the whole year down to the minute; not by me. In fact, it’s a challenge to me to understand the lesson plans and to make them happen effectively and on time. So far I’m a little inconsistent; I’ll keep at it.

The funny might be me; I miss working for the Jesuits. The other day after lunch it took me a second to realize the Examen wasn’t going to come on. I was told that Friday lunch is always grilled cheese; I think that’s a year-round meatless Friday. Last week at happy hour, my new co-workers were commenting that we’d get fired if we exercised our right to marriage equality. The Jesuits at Brebeuf in Indianapolis chose to lose their charter from the bishop rather than to fire an employee who chose to get married. Firing people because of a monogamous commitment doesn’t seem like the Good News to me.

So yup, I work for the bishop now. We’ll see what the new guy does. The one that just left testified before the state legislature in 2013 that marriage equality would be the end of all civilization. After him, they rolled out a nun in a habit, who said the old ADAM AND STEVE line to the state legislature; it was so embarrassing. We’re all supposed to hate gay people because of a stupid bigoted rhyme.

I’ve been going to a drum circle on Tuesday nights; bought my own djembe. It’s kind of an embarrassing one; super high pitched, super synthetic. In ukulele news, I’m working on “If I Only Had a Brain,” “I will Survive,” and “I Only Have Eyes For You.”  I heard that someone at a nearby school that I used to work for is already sick with the flu, so I went out and got the flu shot already; I think the shots have allowed me to sit out the last two flu seasons, and I’m trying to keep that streak alive.

I went to dinner with J last Saturday night; we went to Señor Moose in Ballard. I think that’s my favorite Mexican restaurant in Seattle.  Afterward, I drove home in an epic thunderstorm, the kind that never happens here.  The lightning was blinding and relentless; the rain was coming down so hard that it was scary to drive… for Seattlites!  There was water standing on the Admiral Way exit on the West Seattle Freeway. I guess I made it home from the desert.