Monday, April 09, 2007

Five easy pieces

I was intrigued by a posting at Where's My Cape? last week where a reader had posed five individual questions to be answered -- a meme of sorts, but personalized. I thought it was a neat idea, but I figured KC has been pretty busy with the double blogging and impending birthday preparations and what-not. I thought I wouldn't bother her.

To my glee, I found another five questions directed to laloca at Baggage Carousel 4 this evening. Laloca and I go waaaay back -- she knows more about me than I almost want to imply, which is what happens when you meet at 14 and her first words to you are, "Why are you talking to him? You should talk to me" -- and I thought, what could she possibly come up with for me?

Her questions turn out to be spot-on, and even allow me to talk about a couple things I have been thinking about blogging about anyway. Since I just finished a huge batch of grading (and can therefore really get back to writing tomorrow), I will delay going to bed just yet to respond.

1. in the wee hours of the morning, you toss and turn as your dreams take a nasty turn into nightmares. you've entered the march madness office pool, and your picks have Crime Zone vs. Un Chien Andalou and Heavy Metal vs. The Day After in the final four. Then, in a surprising upset, nuclear war falls to bladerunner-esque Lima. what did you eat before going to sleep?

Let me delay my response for a moment to fill in everyone (including laloca) about how perfect this question is.

The whole brackets thing may seem old hat now that March Madness has come and gone and I didn't participate in the actual basketball thing anyway. (This may be residual effects from when AU came thisclose in 2002 to making it to the dance, bringing ESPN to campus and driving me batty with the constant voice-mail messages to "support our team at the pep rally!" -- only to have us then lose by one point to Holy Cross. Secretly, I was pleased, having attended said rally with my misanthropic TA, both of us wearing black and saying "rah" at inappropriate moments.) I have, however, been unusually active in an internet version called Band Madness, which I accidentally caught in its first week. The concept of deciding which is better, the Eagles or the Pet Shop Boys (I voted the latter, naturally), makes me smile. It shouldn't, but it does.

This question also brings up a movie called Crime Zone, which is a major blast from the past that has come back to haunt me lately. Directed by Luis Llosa for Roger Corman's production company way back in 1988, this post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie is pretty good for the crapola-level it was aiming for; it also features a large number of random cameo appearances by many people I went to high school with: two English teachers as bickering shopkeepers, the librarian as a freeze-dried aristocrat, an ex-girlfriend as a robotic bank-teller. As it turns out, I actually auditioned for this film, for a role as a profane 15-year-old taxi driver who said "fuck" a lot. (Given that I was kinda born-again at the time, the audition was lots of fun.) Given that the only lead film roles I've gotten were in three productions by a former student (including one entry into the 24 Hour Film Festival, where I played the superhero Shoe-Man), you may tell that I didn't get the job.

Fast-forward fifteen years: I am now a film academic asked to present something on American production techniques used in Latin America for a conference. I decide to expand what was essentially a footnote in my book to a full-blown presentation on Luis Llosa's films for Corman. (The original title: "Babes in the Amazon, Ponch in the Andes: Roger Corman and Peruvian Cinema.) In the process, I bought copies of all these old films, including Crime Zone. The paper went over well enough that colleagues of mine who were putting together a book on Latin American exploitation film have asked me to expand this piece for their collection, which I'll have to have done by mid-summer. Funny how things work out.

Back to the question: what did I eat to generate such a nightmare? Easy: I must have eaten the god-awful pizza and sangría sold on the Calle de los Pizzas in Miraflores in Lima. Circa 1988, this was consumed nearly every other weekend before going out dancing at Nirvana. It was cheap and awful -- and back then I didn't know I was semi-lactose intolerant. So I'm sure nightmares would have been the alternate result.

2. paper or plastic?

Usually plastic, because then I don't have to buy more plastic bags to use as trash bags. But I'm shopping a lot at Trader Joe's these days, which means a lot of paper. Since I'm in Takoma Park, I will answer what is in my trunk: hemp.

3. how does it feel to be rapidly approaching your 14th birthday?

Laloca asks this question because, in her mind, I am still 15 and getting younger. This is because I replaced her as youngest-person-in-the-class when I moved to Lima in 1986. She has never forgotten this, nor has she let me forget this. As a result, the following conversation ensued only a few years ago when I joined her and her boyfriend for some birthday sushi:

MIDDENTO: So how does it feel to be 30?
LALOCA: [shrugs] Really, not any different than 29.
MIDDENTO: That's funny. Because now you look 30. [Boyfriend literally spits out his miso.] You know, I think I've been waiting 15 years for my being younger than you to finally pay off.

Sigh.

In any case, it's great to finally be turning 14. I appear to be growing a chest hair and, if I'm lucky, I'll get that Wham! cassette I've been asking for. (George Michael is so the next thing in music. No, he is.)

4. if you could ask anyone in the world (living, dead, or as yet unborn) a single question - and have it answered with full honesty - who would you ask, when would you ask, and what would the question be?

J.J.'s gorgeous elegy for his grandmother (really, go read it now, it's gorgeous) reminded me of a moment with my own grandmother in 1998. Abuelita's mind had long since gone to Alzheimer's, though she was healthier than anyone else in the family otherwise. (She would live two more years, in fact, after this moment.) She was, however, confined to her house, shuffling back and forth with the help of a nurse, hunched over with very vacant eyes. My aunt took primary responsibility for her, and had done so for several years.

I was there doing the first research for The Book and Angela had come with me. By that point, we were already engaged -- and yet, for reasons that still baffle me, my aunt wouldn't let Angela meet Abuelita. I found this silly, but I respected her decision.

I had brought a video camera to get some footage for some language instructional videos for the Spanish language program at Michigan -- and, on one of the last days, I decided to shoot just a few minutes of footage of my grandmother so that I could bring that back to my mother as a gift. And, choosing to do this while my aunt was out, I asked Angela to come with me to meet her. It was the only time they got to meet and I thought I would just get some random shots of my grandmother sitting. The minute I turned the camera on, however, my abuelita changed: hunched as she was, she suddenly straightened up, looked at the camera and walked sprightlier than I had seen her walking in years. And, caught on film, there was a mischievous glimmer that I recognized from years earlier when I was little and she would conspire with my uncle Ernesto to douse me with water balloons.

My question, therefore, would be a very simple one to my grandmother at that moment: Are you really still in there -- and if so, how are you?

5. your inanimate object question: you are a table. describe yourself, and what is on you.

I am a coffee table made of light-colored wood, sturdy but with relatively thin legs, lacquered lightly. No drawer, just the table, with only a little bit of ornamentation at the lip. Books and magazines are in piles on me, along with some dust and someone's stocking'd feet.

and the bonus, i-didn't-come-up-with-it-myself question: as i was going to st. ives, i met a man with seven wives. each wife had seven sacks, each sack had seven cats. each cat had seven kits. kits, cats, sacks, wives, what kind of sack can hold fifty-six felines without breaking?

Hemp. More importantly, however, is the question: how did you get all those damn cats in the bag without your arm getting torn to shreds?

**
I'd be happy to direct five questions of my own creation to anyone who requests them. It's more fun than I thought it would be -- and definitely not your everyday meme.

4 comments:

KC said...

Silly Jeff. Bother-schmother. I'm never too busy to help out a friend. Plus, I just saved a whole lot of time by ordering the birthday cake from Giant, the DORA birthday cake...

Oh and we're making Sangria too.

Although, if it were me asking the questions, you'd definitely have to answer my signature superhero one.

The View From Dupont said...

Well then, I'll put my hat in - five questions, please?

J.J. said...

I'll take five questions too.

You've been updating with fury! I've missed out. Didn't know about Premiere. Never read it, though. Every time I get my EW, I mourn for it. I've been planning to write about it, actually.

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