Monday, February 20, 2012

Cherry Kool-Aid

I sat on the picnic table bench inside Brother Jimmy’s BBQ and looked around at the spouses who’d gathered for the welcome event. There weren’t many of us here and Ja had mentioned there were around 190 students in his class. Judging by the 30 spouses that showed up with our students, there were A LOT of single kids here with zero support system. I took another swallow of my Carib, mentally noted that we’d now been on the island for thirteen weeks and looked over at my husband talking to Matt.

My “Spouse Sponsor” was a woman named Sara and I’d started addressing her as Yoda because she had more faith in me surviving this expedition than I did. Her husband, Matt, was a Fourth Semester and we’d been paired together because like us they were non-traditional and had kids. Yeah for me! Unfortunately, Sara and her boys were back in Canada visiting family. Luckily Matt was able to make it to the dinner and Jameson used this opportunity to query him on the school, classes, instructors and adjusting to the life of a med student at the age of 40.

I was uninterested in talk of MCB so I flagged our server, ordered another Carib and found that Grey had made his way to the foosball table and was locked in a match with an attractive young girl. Most excellent.  At that moment, two of Jameson’s classmates walked in, ordered a party bowl (think fish bowl and long straws) and then sat down directly behind me. I recognized them from Registration because they’d been chattering about Tantra and Grey wouldn’t stop asking me if it was legal in this country to “club” when you’re 12. Remembering their conversation about Tantra, I started sipping my fresh Carib and listened to them gossip.

The cute girl in the horizontal striped mini-dress, wedges and sculptured nails began, “No, seriously. Oh my gawd! What was that song last night? The new one… something like ‘It’s Tricky’… do you remember it?”

In response to this remark, the other young, spry and wrinkle free min-dress clad med student said, “Yeeeeeesss! I loved that song. So, so looking it up on iTunes. Who was that band?”

My face must have registered shock because Jameson actually stopped talking to Matt to ask me if I was okay. When I didn’t respond he snapped his fingers in front of my face and said, “Wife? What’s wrong? Can you hear me?”

Slowly turning toward Jameson, I closed my mouth. I wasn’t sure where to begin. These chippies were talking about Run DMC, the forefathers of Hip Hop, as if they were trendy accessories like the Cosmo on Sex in the City.   The song “It’s Tricky” came out the summer before my eighth grade year. I spent that summer craving cherry Kool-Aid because some study said it caused cancer in lab rats and my mother had forbidden Kool-Aid of all flavors in our house. These girls probably weren’t even born yet.   

“Babe,” I started, “These girls behind us are in your class. They’re talking about Run DMC like, like… they’re a new flavor of Doritos.”

He inspected the girls, “Okay…”

“Do I need to spell it out for you?”

“I guess…”

“Crap, Ja! These ‘classmates’ of yours don’t know who Run DMC is because they’re parents probably hadn’t even met each other in the mid-80’s. Don’t you see what this means?”

I had Jameson and Matts attention at this time and both were trying to figure out what was going on. Here is this First Semester with his act together and his wife is having a panic attack in a BBQ joint over a Hip Hop group from the 80’s. Classic. This was exactly the reason why I’d needed that z-something medication from Patty.

“I. Am. Old.” I’d said it. We had an attorney on retainer, a CPA, IRA’s and 401K’s. These girls had jell-o shots, an endless supply of cute shoes, smart phones and parents paying their way.  The weight of moving to the island, selling our stuff and being surrounded by 20-somethings everyday had just come out.  I was sure at that moment my elevens were like a neon sign on my forehead.

After a slight pause, my husband and Matt both started laughing and then continued on with their talk of some other class.

Mental Checklist: when we get back to the condo, watch the Tracy Ullman DVD’s that Taffi sent and sell some stocks. I’m flying home to get Botox, Starbucks and Krispy Kreme.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cafe` de Columbia

Jameson had already left for class and I could hear Grey in his room… singing? Yep, he was definitely singing 'Beat It'. Or – was it the Weird Al Yankovic version, 'Eat It'.

“Grey – you need to hustle,” I yelled down the hall toward his bathroom. “School starts in 10 minutes and I am NOT driving you 6 blocks to school. “

“Mom, chill. I’m ready,” and he strolled down the hall while slinging his backpack over his shoulder.

Grey hated the fact that he was required to wear a school uniform and I was just surprised that it took him until 7th grade to start caring about his clothes.  He kissed my cheek and added while heading to the front door, “Have fun talking on the phone all day.”

I grabbed my coffee cup from the counter and sat down at my desk. Back in Redmond I’d had my own home office with a view of the greenbelt that backed up to our home. On the island my office was the kitchen, my desk the kitchen table and my view from the sliding glass doors overlooked a pool I was never able to use due to my crazy work schedule.

 I sipped my coffee and looked at my calendar for the day. My first “call” was with Taffi and I had about 2 minutes to get my list ready. With the 3 hour time difference and our work schedules it had been impossible to Skype for more than 5 minutes here and there. Today she was on the east coast for work so we’d scheduled a call while she was driving to her client and I'd set aside time to give her updates. Taff refused to read any of the e-mails I’d sent because she knew she’d have questions and would want instant gratification. I missed her.

My computer chirped the Skype ring and I answered, “Taffi-licious! I miss you!”

The answer I got was a rustling noise, her swearing and the sounds of Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”.


“Kel. Gawd! There you are. The Bluetooth in this rental is for shit. How are you, beezy?”

“Taff, I have so much to tell you. I made a list –“

“Of course you did,” she cut me off. “First things first, how long has it been since I’ve seen you? It feels like 6 weeks. Is that right?”

She was right.

“Do you know we’ve moved into a new moon phase? You need to have a reading. Do they even have that there?”

Mental Checklist: e-mail Max and explain the severity of Taffi’s addiction to the Astrology app on Facebook. Schedule an intervention.

“Yes, Taff. Well aware. Already spoke with Dionne Warwick. I have fun stuff for you. Is there anything about the school you want to know before I spill the goods?”

“Does the husband like school?”

“Um, yes and no. Ja says that the instructors cram so much information into a week that it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose.”

“Huh. Has he taken any tests yet or do they do it all in one big final like undergrad?”

These were legitimate questions. Max must have prepped her. “He did take one test, it was called a block and he passed. They basically have these exams every 4 weeks and they test on all of the instruction during that time.  Then, at the end of the semester, they take a shelf.”

“A shelf? Who named that?”

“No idea. Next question.”

I took a sip of my coffee, crossed my legs and waited for Taff’s next question. “What’s the school look like? I mean is it like when we were in school? Oh, and what are his classmates like? Ohmuhgawd! I just said classmates in reference to Ja’s life now,” Taffi shouted and then burst into laughter. I waited for her to calm down before answering.

“The school reminds me of a small community college. It has one dorm, one main building with a couple of branches or wings and large grounds. Simple but not too exciting. Oh,” I added, “You should look on our friend Benji’s site. I’ll mail you the info. Do you realize that the recruiters from AUC actually refer would-be students to his website for information? Seriously. Dude should get a discount.”

“Wait,” Taffi halted. “Is this the Juan Valdez kid?”

“Taff, Juan Valdez is coffee and he’s not even real. Benji Ho is the student who left right when we arrived. He has a website with like… everything about the school and the island.”

“Riiiight. I get it. But, Ja was Skyping Max a bunch of stuff he was reading and how it feels like the guy is still there because there is so much crap on his page. It made me think of the Juan Valdez commercial. You know how he just pops up when people are drinking coffee? I get an image of this Benji kid showing up on your balcony with like, I don’t know, island brochures or something.”

“Yes, it’s the Juan Valdez kid.”

“Just so I know, is there a Starbucks, Tully’s, SBC, ANY coffee house?”

“You don’t want to hear my answer.”

“Next topic, I’m ready for the good stuff.”

“We took a tour of the campus when we first arrived and as we were leaving we overheard a girl explaining to three others that she was a Fifth Semester and if these Firsties, to use her word, ever go to Tantra they absolutely should NOT make out with anyone because the whole school would know. Grey wanted to stick around and hear the rest, but we made him keep walking.”

“A. What is Tantra?”


“Ahh… what did this girl look like? Was she wearing a bikini and drinking while passing along this message?”

“Nice, smartass. Clothes, no bikini. No drink in hand and she was darling. I’d flap my jaws if I made out with her. What am I saying – Grey called three of his friends from hockey to relay that story. Does that tell you what this girl looked like?”

“Picture painted. Next.”

I spent the next 20 minutes telling Taffi about the venomous centipedes, explaining what Dengue Fever was and how mosquitoes could really become extinct without upsetting the circle of life, our struggles with the daily loss of water, internet and occasionally electricity. I even gave her Ja’s grueling daily schedule of waking at 5AM to study before class, going to class, eating, going to lab, studying, eating with the family and studying again before bed. Her biggest concern was how Jameson was going to get a tan with so much studying – why else would you go to medical school on an island.

Taffi and I said our goodbyes while she pulled into her client’s office parking lot. I could hear her cursing at “the Bluetooth” while trying to figure out how to turn it off. 

Mental Checklist: download 'The Wedding Singer' from iTunes then curse Taffi for her love of Billy Idol. And Google “Eyes Without a Face”. What the heck does that even mean?