Monday, August 21, 2006

Meena #1

I’m not sure there will be a #2 or #3, but I offer the first part for all those of you who know my daughter, Meena. Those of you who have spent much time at The PATIO over the summer will know Meena as the young woman who alternately cooked, brought food, bussed tables, washed dishes, put on CDs, learned dominos, and otherwise ingratiated herself to the regulars. Non-PATIO people know her from other places and other times.

Meena leaves for Istanbul tonight, via Reykjavik, Iceland, Frankfurt, Germany, Graz, Austria, Cologne, Germany, und finally Istanbul. The incidental travel will take a week or so, and I expect Meena will arrive in Turkey without much jet lag. The Reykjavik portion is because she’s traveling Icelandic Airlines from SFO to Frankfurt.

The Graz leg is to see her “auntie’s” new daughter. Meena’s mom has an aunt in Austria whose daughter is Meena’s mom’s first cousin. In the Indian way, your mother’s cousin is like your mother’s sister, and is referred to as “auntie” by your mother’s children, or YOU! In fact, every woman older than you is likely to be referred to as auntie, up to a point. Now Meena is 23 and Shaila, her auntie, is just a tad over 30, so they’re not down with all that. Anyway, there’s a new baby and Meena wanted to see him. From Graz it’s back to Frankfurt, and then on to Cologne, where Meena will meet up with two friends – David Schneider and Thomas Vorpaul.

People familiar with San Francisco’s Zen community, which is very large and active, may know David. He is a Zen Buddhist priest and an old and respected friend of Ted’s. He wrote an excellent book called “Street Zen”, chronicling the amazing life of a Zen Buddhist leader in the San Francisco community. Very interesting reading! Anyway, maybe 10 years ago, David was given the opportunity to go to Cologne and take over the European operations of Shambala Press, which he did. He has remained there, and Meena will see him and his wife and little daughter. More important, is Thomas.

Those of you who are PATIO regulars will recall that, for a couple of months, we had three German post-graduate students as regulars. They were Thomas, Hauke, and Philip. Between the food, the beer, and World Cup football, I don’t know how they got anything else done, but they all seemed to pass their economics courses. Meena and Thomas became a bit of an item, and that’s what’s really important about the Cologne visit. She’s been working as avidly with her German phrase book as with her Turkish one, but Thomas’ English is so good it wouldn’t matter at all. My advice was only to concentrate on the Turkish, since that’s where she’ll be living for the next year (or longer?). Thomas doesn't live in Cologne, but his sister does, so that's where they decided to meet.

You might well ask what Ted got Thomas as a show of solidarity. How ‘bout a lovely Pittsburgh Steelers baseball cap! That’s right! I spared no expense! It’s black on gray, and very tasteful. Now, I have to begin to relate the ins and outs of the game to him, which will be a bit more complex. With soccer, there are basically three rules. First, don’t go offsides. Second, don’t use your hands if you’re not the goalie. Third, you can tackle if it’s clear you’re going for the ball, not the man. Okay, so there are a few other small rules, but that’s the big stuff. And depending which sin you commit and where on the field it occurred, the penalty may be a throw, a kick, or a penalty kick, all in combination with no card, a yellow card, or a red card. Now, on to American football.

There is also offsides in American football, but both sides can get called for it (encroachment and false start, typically). Then there are do-overs with penalties (e.g., kickoff is out of bounds), 5-, 10-, and 15-yard penalties for all sorts of fouls and infractions, big yardage offensive and defensive pass interference penalties, and so on. Three big differences from soccer, aside from the contact and padding that goes along with it, are (1) that specific plays get called on each down; (2) that you change players constantly, and entire teams depending on whether you are on offense or defense; and, (3) every second of time is scrupulously accounted for. And, Thomas, if you study Steelers football, you will understand both the rules, and how the game should be played.

Meena and Alex are both very important to me. I have been fortunate in having them at arms length for a pretty long time now, so I expect I’ll miss Meena. I mean, Istanbul is not exactly Western Massachusetts or upstate New York. Alex has been out of the house longer, so I guess I’m more used to him being a bit scarce. I’m looking forward to trying Skype, and I bought her a little videocam so we can actually see her. There’s some interesting technical stuff out there that I never had in India, Iran, and Saudi Arabia! Anyway, Alex and Meena have both been abroad on their own before, and I have every confidence in them both. That’s not the same as missing someone, and I’m sure to miss Meena.


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