Saturday, January 20, 2007


My sister called to inform me that one of our cousins from Korea had just landed in Los Angeles for an overnight stay with her travel group touring across North America. She asked if I could come over and meet for dinner.

It was around 5 o'clock in the afternoon when she called, but I hopped into my car right away with no hesitation despite the daunting prospect of driving nearly two hours through rush hour traffic which included downtown LA. I had not seen Mi since my visit to Korea in 1989, and I was not about to pass this one up.

Mi is the second oldest of my aunt's five children all of whom are older than me and my sister. The seven of us grew up together practically as siblings under the same roof at least over three different periods in my childhood years.

There is something you should know about my family.

When I was about four, my father left the family, leaving Mom to fend for herself and the two young children. It was at a time when single motherhood was unheard of and career opportunities for women scarce in this third world country ravaged by war and political and social turmoil. We had nowhere to go when my aunt took us in even though she had her hands full with five rambunctious school aged children and her husband's meager teacher's salary.

Mi greeted me with a warm hug and tears. It was great to see her.

You young people out there may want to note that when we old people get together, we scrutinize each other for signs of aging. I did what I could so as not to highlight my wrinkles and angled myself to conceal the gray around the temples. Sometimes my smile looks more like a scowl because of that.

We reminisced about the past as old friends and family do. Although it was a very difficult period for all of us, there was no shortage of hilarious stories which had us gasp for air. What a time warp that was.

Mi was my favorite cousin. Although some of my cousins loved to terrorize and pick on the baby of the family as you could see below, Mi always loved me and took good care of me.

Then the subject turned to the family dog that we had. She reminded us that his name was Meh-ri. Meh-ri? Doesn't sound like a Korean name, does it? Where did that name come from? I asked.

Following America's military involvement during the Korean war and also generous aid after the cease fire, Koreans got to befriend American soldiers and relief workers who brought them food, medicine, and shelter and helped rebuild the war-torn nation.

They came to owe Americans a debt of gratitude and apparently one way to express it was by naming their dogs after their American friends. Thus two of the most popular dog names to this day in Korea are "Meh-ri" and "Chon" which are the Korean variations of Mary and John respectively.

Since it was against tradition to give their children non-Korean names, this was how Koreans honored their generous American friends who touched their lives in the postwar era. They named their beloved family pets after Americans.

And they ate them.

That was stupid. My joke was, not how Koreans including my aunt's family honored their American friends. So let me make a commitment not to burden you with another stupid dog meat joke again.

BTW, Noah has been doing this a lot lately for some reason. Do you think he's praying? Hey Noah, it's just a joke.

Back to Meh-ri.

I remember the dog very well. He was a Korean Jindo. All of my aunt's five children and my sister were school aged, so they were at school during the day and my mother worked two jobs to save up money to get a place of our own.

My aunt was home with me, but having five children left her very little time to look after me as you can imagine. So Meh-ri was my babysitter and we became inseparable companions.

One cold winter day, Mi recalled, Meh-ri and I were nowhere to be found. They frantically searched all over for us. The gate was locked and I was too small to reach the latch, but my cousins combed the neighborhood and the woods nearby to no avail for hours.

Then it occurred to someone to shine the flashlight into the dog house just in case.

And there we were in the dog house: Meh-ri and I cuddling up together and keeping each other warm and shielded from the cold and harsh world outside. Apparently we had been there huddled up for hours.

Even though it was a period when I first became cognizant of the harsh realities of life and my carefree childhood was nearing an end, Meh-ri showered me with unconditional and pure love. He loved me and took good care of me when no one else could.

That is how I came to love dogs. That is how I became a big dog person.


So what happened to Meh-ri, I asked. Did you guys Wok him?

Mi didn't get the "joke." Understandably so because I said the above in Korean except for the word "Wok.".

Note to self:  When you play on words, you should not mix three different languages (Wok is Chinese), one of which originated from vastly different linguistic roots. I knew that, but I still couldn't help myself. Sometimes a man's gotta do what he's gotta do.

When my aunt's family packed up and moved to Seoul, they couldn't take him with them. So they gave him up for adoption after crying buckets. By then we had moved out to another place, so thankfully I was not there when this happened.

After they settled in Seoul, my uncle took a five hour train ride to visit Meh-ri's new family and to check on him. He could barely afford the trip, but he missed the dog that badly.

By then, Meh-ri had gone to dog heaven. He never ate, my uncle was told. My best childhood friend never recovered from a broken heart when his loved ones left him.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

My life flashing before my eyes

Well, not quite that bad, but close.

After pulling out of my driveway, I flipped the switch to set in motion the windshield wipers and leisurely watched the blades and wiper fluid work in harmony to expunge the dirt and leaves accumulated overnight.

Instead of a sound of the blades and fluid rubbing against the windshield, emanating from the front of my car was more like a chiseling sound. Then I knew something had gone awry: the windshield quickly and completely turned opaque within seconds.

I froze and stopped the car. Thankfully, I was still in the residential area, not on the freeway or a major surface street. I pulled over very slowly, and grabbed the squeegee to scrub off whatever was covering the windshield.

It was not dirt, and the blades were in good shape. The windshield was caked in ice, and the blades were grinding away at it, not fluid and dirt!

Uh..hello, this is Southern California. This isn't supposed to happen here.

We do not allow ice to exist outside freezers around here.

Got back into my car and turned on the heater hoping the internal heat would melt away the ice. It took about 5 minutes.

My readers from the Midwest and the East Coast will probably get a chuckle out of this, but a chill went down my spine at the thought of this happening on the freeway with my car moving at 65 miles an hour.

Never in my 25 years in Southern California had I seen anything like this. I think I'm still in denial. Is there therapy for something like this?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Prediction Contest

Since every talking head is into making prognostications for the new year, we might as well jump on the bandwagon. Reverend Pat Robertson has chimed in with his prediction of a catastrophic terrorist attack on US soil in the latter part of the year. God has told him so.

I would like to invite you to post your predictions for the year 2007.

These are mine. No, God hasn't told me any of these.

  • John Edwards will emerge as the front runner for the Democratic nomination and John McCain for the Republican party. Yawn...

  • NASDAQ will approach a whopping 2,600 while DOW struggles to harbor around 12,700 before dipping to 12,000 (Note to investors: This means you should dump all of your NASDAQ stocks and load up on DOW. My market predictions are always wrong, and if you do the exact opposite, you are guaranteed to double your portfolio in no time).

  • So I predict that my market predictions will be wrong again.

  • We will see more of the same in Iraq (too depressing to elaborate on why)

  • Every single one of Nicole Kidman movies will be a blockbuster. God has told me so. In the offing are (pay attention now)

    • The Invasion: Kidman is a psychiatrist who through her brilliance uncovers the origin of an alien epidemic. This jaw dropping release will leave you stunned and begging for more of Nicole.

    • His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass: This is an adaptation of the first volume in , you guested it, the His Dark Materials trilogy. I have no idea what role Nicole Kidman will be playing, but I am sure it will be yet another breathtaking epic performance from this epic actress.

  • Pat Robertson's dire prediction of a massive terrorist attack on US soil will crash and burn (pardon the pun).

  • If, heaven forbid, a terrorist attack materializes, Pat will of course pat himself on the back for making that call (excuse the lame pun).

  • If not, he will credit himself for having pleaded with God and changing His mind at the last minute to spare the country the trauma of another 9-11 style attack.

  • Either way, we will hear from him again.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

and there is a rat in my house.

I am soliciting your advice.

I really don't want to use the snap mouse trap because of obvious reasons. I have a dog whose clumsy owner will probably step on that thing before he sniffs the bait. Besides, it isn't very humane.

I will probably eat the poison before Noah does too.

It is not the most pleasant project to kick off a new year, but, what can I say? So what pet/human safe ways are there to get rid of house mice/rats?

The Year of the Rat isn't until 2008, in case you are wondering.