City Life is Exhausting

It’s been a full week of city living for me, and while I am very much enjoying myself, I find myself increasingly weary. This is the closest I have ever come to living in a major city- every other time I have been in a big place like this it has been hotel living, where you eat out every meal and they clean up after you. I haven’t had to grocery shop or do the day to day things. It’s a real change in lifestyle- just schlepping groceries back to the place is a different experience- you don’t load up the family truckster and just come home- you have to pick what you need more carefully because you have to haul it back by foot or pay for a cab, and that doesn’t even go into the storage issues of a small condo.
This place is super expensive, so I have only been eating out once a day, and some nights not even that. Devon and I went out all three nights.

I do enjoy all the sun, though. It’s been just what I needed, although I have found my hours have changed dramatically. I get up at 4:30 and work until the dogs get up, then feed and walk them and work some more. Spend a couple hours in the pool, get some more stuff done, and then next thing you know it’s dinner time, and by nine or ten I am falling asleep in the chair.

This condo complex has a doorman, in this case a doorlady, and she is a pleasant young lady from somewhere in Africa who sounds exactly like one of the characters in No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. She really has the most amazing smile, and every time I go somewhere when she is working, I come back with a chocolate for her.

I was talking on twitter how I don’t understand why people in real America hate it when people don’t speak English. I love it. I know no one is talking to me. Also, the other upside is that since I have no internal monologue and often say inappropriate things, when I don’t speak the same language as people, there are fewer awkward moments.

I’m rambling.

86 replies
  1. 1
    lamh36 says:

    Sounds like you are having a great time!

    Have you been to the beach yet?

    How much time you have left on your trip?

    Ya may recall I went to Miama a couple of months ago for the Janet Jackson concert. I didn’t get much time to do the true touristy thing, since I was not alone and was primarily there for the concert.

    I guess I want to revisit and do the touristy stuff, but then again…IDK that I want to…

    Have fun, and enjoy the beach!

  2. 2
    ruemara says:

    I’m NY raised. I miss the way how people talking in different accents and languages makes this ambient music, so you won’t see me understanding it either.

  3. 3
    khead says:

    I was talking on twitter how I don’t understand why people in real America hate it when people don’t speak English. I love it.

    I don’t get it either. Also, you are right about Maryland crabs even though it was a bad year due to immigration issues and the PA floods.

  4. 4
    lamh36 says:

    Oh, and I’m a city girl (WHO DAT BABY). I’m not some big clubber/nightlife/city girl fun type though. But when I have spent time in a place that’s “country”, I do get that city girl attitude…LOL.

  5. 5
    The Midnight Lurker says:

    To Cole: Party on, brother! The blog is fine!

    To Jackals: Psst! Does anybody else smell smoke?

  6. 6
    Kineslaw says:

    As someone who has lived in Miami Beach, I totally get it. I always say living in Miami is better in theory than in practice, and I LOVE living in cities. Just choosing a Publix to go to is a game of trade-offs. And it is the worse place for good, reasonably priced restaurants I’ve ever been.
    But the weather, beach and car-light, bike heavy existence will probably pull me back at some point.

  7. 7
    West of the Rockies says:

    Open thread, so I will just confess here that I find Steve Kornacki and his constant gesticulation wearying.

  8. 8
    magurakurin says:

    Roughly 60% of the world speaks at least two languages fluently. Only 40% is monolingual. Speaking multiple languages is normal, it’s the monolinguals who are odd. Maybe they are jealous and their inadequacy makes them act out. who knows? more likely they are just garden variety assholes.

  9. 9
    Mary G says:

    I use Instacart, where you click on things at the grocery store and someone shops for you and brings it all to your house. It’s like Uber, ridiculously underpriced – my delivery fee today was $3.99. I give the actual driver/shopper 20%, which is a lot, but I don’t like taking advantage of people. The tip is optional and they suggest some tiny amount, but I raise it. It’s great, because they go to a range of stores and I pick Stater Brothers, whose prices are lower and who pay their employees what their union negotiates. I was using Pavillions, which is wicked expensive. We had Amazon Fresh for a month or two, but they pulled out of our area.

  10. 10
    lamh36 says:

    oooh…I just got my e-tickets for the GRAMMY Aretha Franklin tribute show at the Shrine!!

    I’m so excited.

    Anyone ever been to a performance at the Shrine Auditorium? We’ve got upper mezzanine seats, for $35 and the amount of talent we’ll see, I’m ok with high up seats!

    Me and sis gonna walk into the Shrine like…

    THIS for Auntie Re Re!

  11. 11
    TS (the original) says:

    @West of the Rockies: Enjoin – but I also found, when watching a trump video on his show – apart from trumps ramblings – those bobbleheads behind trump, trying to pretend something intelligent was being said, were laughable. Other than anyone with a guaranteed seat in congress, these people will be unemployable when trump is brought down.

    White man on the show YELLING over black woman on the show – am I surprised. She was giving McConnell some blame – CORRECT – while white man disagreed.

  12. 12
    Frankensteinbeck says:

    You know why, Cole. It’s because they are not being catered to. It’s a minor piece of proof that the world does not revolve around white Christian men, and sometimes non-whites do things without asking permission first. Depending on how threatened they feel about their whiteness, even a reminder this small can drive them into a rage of demanding things be done their way and only their way.

  13. 13
    Brachiator says:

    Great comments, John Cole. Love your impressions of the city.

    I love cities, especially the energy of “maximum cities” like New York, Mumbai or Chicago.

    But I also have family in a small town in Texas, and enjoyed hanging out there during teenage summers and occasional adult visits (but would never move back there.)

  14. 14
    Mart says:

    Think Cole is smitten. That can lead one to rambling.

  15. 15
    JanieM says:

    Seconding John and ruemara about hearing other languages. I live in rural Maine but work for a company in Cambridge MA, and though I’ve slowed down as I near retirement, for years I spent at least a week a month in a company apartment just outside Harvard Square. When people asked me how it was, one of the first things I would say was that it was great, I could walk into the Square in the morning and hear twenty languages before breakfast.

    I envy bilingual people — I once went on a work trip to Brussels, and my colleagues there could switch seamlessly amongst French, Dutch, and English. I studied several languages over the years but never got (or took) a chance to go live in another country where I would be forced to become fluent. These days it’s all I can do to remember how to say “Salaam alaykum” or “Sidee tahay” (which I was taught as something like “sah-te-hay”) to the Somali people at the farmer’s market in the summer. Yes, even in Maine we’re acquiring more languages to listen to!!!

  16. 16
    Steeplejack says:

    @West of the Rockies:

    Amen to that.

    Last week when I was eating dinner at a local pub I saw on ESPN (no sound) that they had a Steve Kornacki clone doing the same shtick, right down to drawing on the giant interactive screen, but for sports. Ugh.

  17. 17
    jl says:

    Thanks for update. I guess the vacay was the perfect mix of relaxation and liberal education.
    But, I thought Cole spent the day floating in the pool, doing manatee impressions.

    Now we learn that Cole’s host did not stock up for his guest and Cole has been running around shopping for himself, and he is romancing the doorlady.
    Wow, the blog ethics scandals for this blog just keep rolling in.

    And another commenter may have mentioned it, but just because you hear other people speaking another language, that doesn’t mean they don’t speak English.
    So, hope Cole isn’t letting fly too much with his random non-internal-monologued thoughts aloud.

  18. 18
    John S. says:

    Glad you’re enjoying your time here in South Florida!

    Miami is a little too much for me, so I live in the exurbs of Broward, about an hour north of where you are. But really, it’s one giant sprawling megalopolis.

    You can drive from where you are all the way up to Jupiter in Palm Beach, and it’s like one huge never ending city.

  19. 19
    Immanentize says:

    Cole, What is this “work” you speak of? You are on vacation. I the anti-work.

  20. 20
    Immanentize says:

    @Immanentize: “Vacation is the anti-work.”

  21. 21
    Steeplejack says:


    Or maybe it’s just simple geography. Most bilinguals come into contact with the different languages on a regular basis and have a need, or a strong motivation, to be fluent. In Europe, for example, a different language is typically just a few hundred miles away, if that. In the United States, you can go a thousand miles or more without running into a “foreign” language. No need to learn anything other than English.

    (And, no, I’m not talking about running into immigrants or minority groups speaking something other than English. I’m talking about running into some area with a different “official” language.)

  22. 22
    Olivia says:

    @magurakurin: The jerks I know who complain about other languages being spoken have mentioned that they think that the people speaking another language are being sneaky and they are sure that the are talking about them. I really do envy people who speak more than one language. I have been working on learning Spanish for years but remembering how to put together words and phrases was so much simpler when I was 40 than it is now at nearly 70.

  23. 23
    debbie says:


    I miss that about NYC, and I was only there for 17 years. All the hick accents sound the same to me.

  24. 24
    WaterGirl says:

    @Immanentize: I think he described it as a working vacation. You still have to work, but at least you get to do it in a different setting. :-)

    Plus, in a different setting, the bullshit you have to deal with is probably different bullshit from the usual, so that’s a plus.

  25. 25
    satby says:

    As in so many other things, American Exceptionalism meant that the rest of the world would learn English and Americans could go all over the world and never have to learn another language. So when languages are taught in school it’s an afterthought and no one expects to become fluent, in fact lots of students drop foreign language classes as soon as they’ve met the minimum requirements for a diploma.
    And we’ve only shortchanged ourselves and our children. It’s our MO.

  26. 26
    realbtl says:

    Just after Christmas I flew down to Oakland CA. Montana to SLC 99% white. As soon as I got to the OAK waiting area it was Ah, people different that I. Glad my daughter is moving back to the Bay Area in a year.

  27. 27
    NotMax says:

    because you have to haul it back by foot or pay for a cab

    You drove there. Presumably you didn’t sell the car upon arrival.

  28. 28
    plato says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Yup, look no further than the ‘white house’.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Mary G says:

    @lamh36: The Shrine is super old and the last time I was there was in the 80s, but if they haven’t messed it up the sound should be good. It only holds 6,300 people.

  31. 31
    Aleta says:

    @JanieM: I read that one of the young singers who performed the duet at Janet Mills’ inauguration, Shy Paca, arrived from Nambia last April. Natalia Mbadu came from Angola a few years ago.

    (For anyone interested, they sang “Girl on Fire”

  32. 32

    John, I’m glad you are enjoying your vacation on Miami Beach. Ironically, as a resident on the mainland across the causeway, I avoid South Beach like the plague: it’s crowded, noisy, and traffic is horrible. But the people who live and work there are to be commended for their dedication to making it what attracts people.

    Too bad you won’t get to see the Art Deco Festival in two weeks. It’s a hoot.

  33. 33
    FlyingToaster says:


    I was talking on twitter how I don’t understand why people in real America hate it when people don’t speak English.

    It’s paranoia.

    I know several assholes like this; one from suburban Philly, one from southern small-town Indiana, and one from Tennessee. All white women, the Philly one is Jewish.

    They all assume if someone is speaking Spanish at the grocery (the clerk and the bagger, for instance), that they’re talking about their customer. I asked WarriorGirl (who speaks Spanish), “So, what were they talking about?” “Their kids.”

    They assume if someone’s speaking another language on the subway, that they’re talking about their fellow passengers. I know from hearing German and Dutch speakers on the T, that they’re talking about how to get to the Union Oyster House or the JFK library.

    They assume that if the Japanese tour group at [Harvard, MIT, Tufts, BU] is speaking Japanese, that they’re talking about the unwashed peasant Americans. My middle sister tells me they’re complaining about how old everything looks, and trying to figure out where the toilets are.

    If you assume that you have to be afraid of what the other guy is saying, you need a shrink.

  34. 34
    CaseyL says:

    I lived in South Florida for many years, and the language music was a dozen dialects of Spanish plus Haitian patois.

    I moved to the Pacific NW, and learned a new music: Chinese, Japanese, Indian and…Spanish.

    I’ve tried multiple times to learn Spanish, but never get beyond the very basic stuff. And that’s reading it or speaking it – anyone who speaks Spanish fluently always talks too fast for me to catch more than one word in twenty.

  35. 35
    satby says:

    @Steeplejack: ability or the necessity to frequently use more than one language certainly builds multilingual skills. I studied German in high school, Japanese in college, and have picked up smatterings of Spanish just by living in a large city with a big Spanish speaking population. Plus occasional phrases I remember of Khmer and Thai… But I only remember things I frequently had to say and have completely forgotten everything I never used outside a classroom.

  36. 36
    eemom says:

    I think you’ll like it better at the Outer Banks when you get a chance to go there. (Still sad that the hurricane ruined it for you last October.)

  37. 37
    WaterGirl says:

    @Mustang Bobby: A Mustang Bobby sighting in an evening thread! Are pigs flying?

    Glad to see your nym, and I hope all is well with you.

  38. 38
    Adam L Silverman says:

    I was talking on twitter how I don’t understand why people in real America hate it when people don’t speak English. I love it. I know no one is talking to me.

    I lived in Miami for two years, they’re actually talking about you.

  39. 39
    geg6 says:


    That said (I agree with your comment mostly), some of us took years of a foreign language and it just never stuck. I took three years of French in high school and two in college and I can’t speak French enough to actually use it. I can still read it, mostly. But no way can I converse or understand someone conversing in it. I greatly admire bilingual people and am gobsmacked by anyone who is multilingual. I can also read some in German (from my grandfather) But in no way can I hold a conversation in it.

  40. 40

    It’s a real change in lifestyle- just schlepping groceries back to the place is a different experience- you don’t load up the family truckster and just come home- you have to pick what you need more carefully because you have to haul it back by foot or pay for a cab, and that doesn’t even go into the storage issues of a small condo.

    It’s a different lifestyle, but if you had more time you’d find you could adapt. Since the local light rail line opened up a station across the street from my work, I’ve given up commuting by car. One of the things I like about it is that there is a cluster of supermarkets on the way to the station. Since I can stop for groceries on the way home any day I feel like it, I don’t have to plan my menu for the whole week. I can decide any day I want something from the store and pick it up with very little added effort. The biggest thing for me has been switching from a fanny pack to a backpack as my main way of carrying my stuff, since it’s much easier to bring groceries home with a good bag.

  41. 41
    Adam L Silverman says:

    you don’t load up the family truckster and just come home

    I’ve lived in Miami, Atlanta, Denver, Philadelphia, and New York (actually Long Island), this is exactly what everyone with a car does. They also do this in Carlisle, PA, Conway, AR (bedroom community for Little Rock), Gainesville, FL, and Las Vegas, NM.

  42. 42
    evap says:

    I know exactly what you mean, JC. We have a huge international grocery store in Atlanta with sections for just about every country/cuisine you can imagine. You can get stuff there that you can’t get anywhere else, just as a small example the noodles made from sweet potato starch that you need to make Korean chap jae. I love going there and walking around watching and listening to all the people picking up stuff from their native country and talking in different languages. It makes me happy to see people from around the world all obsessed with food like I am.

  43. 43
    Mary G says:

    @lamh36: From a yelp review, sounds like the bathrooms haven’t been updated:

    RESTROOMS: There’s only two in the venue. One that’s downstairs by the entrance and a smaller one towards the very back of the venue. The downstairs restroom has a ton of stalls, but there’s still a ridiculously long line. The one towards the back of the venue is much smaller, but at least you don’t have to walk too far and miss your spot. However, the line is pretty long, so I recommend going early.

  44. 44
    Gwangung says:

    My parents and grandparents often spoke Chinese in public. It was mostly about the idiot grandchildren and what a pain in the asses we were.

    They never talked about the non-Chinese speaking folks…unless they were being assholes.


  45. 45
    Adam L Silverman says:


    the Philly one is Jewish

    I’m pretty sure I’ve dated her.//

  46. 46
    magurakurin says:

    @FlyingToaster: this is so accurate. One thing that dawned on me rather early as I began to understand another language, first Spanish and then later Japanese, is that everybody is just talking about the same things…their job, their kids, the ball game, what’s for dinner, etc. We all already know everything that’s being said, it’s just that the code is changed. It’s not all the big of a mystery, it’s just talking. People who think someone is secretly talking about them, as you said, need a shrink. Unless they are Cole walking out of the elevator into the lobby in his boxers…in which case everyone in every language is probably talking about him at that moment.

  47. 47
    MagdaInBlack says:

    That! Is exactly how I feel about it…and why I enjoy it.
    Excellent way of describing it, thank you!

  48. 48
    Jager says:

    Our friends in South Florida have told us that Havana 1957 is great place to eat. My experience in Florida has been that if old Cubans eat there, the Cuban food is great, I asked my friend Barry if there were old Cubans eating there, he said “It’s full of them.”

  49. 49
    Nicole says:

    What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual
    What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual
    What do you call someone who only speaks one language? American

    My son’s school includes a number of families for whom English is not the primary language. It’s fun hearing half a dozen languages just between dropping him off at the classroom and walking to the elevator. And makes me disappointed in myself that I don’t speak anything fluently other than English. I’ve tried very hard to learn a couple of other languages over my lifetime but I have a really hard time hearing when one word ends and another begins when listening to a native speaker.

    Also, I liked Miami Beach when I visited. Rained, which was a bummer, but cleared up enough to get one nice afternoon/evening in the ocean. Until the jellies arrived, anyway. Glad John is having a good visit!

  50. 50
    JanieM says:

    @satby: Well in fairness to the fact that Americans aren’t the only assholes in the world, Chinese exceptionalism means that plenty of people I met in China when I spent a month there a few years ago was sure that any day now, Chinese would replace English as the world’s lingua franca. Some of them even insisted that it was partly because their writing system was so much easier!!! ;-)

    @Aleta: Last time I checked, which was a few years ago, there were 60+ native languages among the children in the Portland public school system. That’s a heck of a challenge for such a small city. Wouldn’t it be fun if every “new Mainer” or “new American” family was paired with an “old Mainer” or “old American” family so everyone could learn each other’s languages?

  51. 51
    WaterGirl says:

    Wow, this place used to be hopping on Friday evening. I should have made the new year’s resolution that everyone else apparently did: Get a life.

    Off to catch up on TV, I guess. My DVR was at 98% full in November, trying to get it down to 75% before all the shows start coming back in January.

  52. 52

    @Brachiator: I too love cities, although none as much as amchi Mumbai, for I was born there. Languages, I speak a few and understand more than I speak. As for Spanish, I think it would be easier for me to learn Spanish than husband kitteh’s mother tongue Tamil. I miss hearing other languages being spoken especially my mother tongue.
    When I speak with husband kitteh I speak in more than one language at time. It happens pretty naturally.
    @ruemara: I love NYC. It reminds me so much of Mumbai.

  53. 53
    JanieM says:

    @FlyingToaster: I was walking along in Harvard Square a couple of summers ago and two young women from China, with very little English (but more English than I have Chinese!) stopped me and asked where they could find “tea.” It took us a few rounds before I figured out that they meant “the T.”

    ETA: It’s funny how much confusion can arise from the presence or absence of an article. I once typed a PhD dissertation for a student from Japan who was extremely fluent in English, except that articles gave her a lot of trouble.

  54. 54

    @Gwangung: Its so conceited for people think that people speaking in another language are speaking about them. You are not that special Mr and Mrs MAGA.

  55. 55
    What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us? says:

    Don’t get the paranoia about people talkin foreighn either. City living…in a walkable place like DC it’s not that much work to run errands. Grocery store, dry cleaners, pharmacy, several restaurants, all within easy walking distance… it’s actually less work than driving miles to any or all of the above. I almost loathe having to get in the car. It’s all about what you are used to I guess.

  56. 56
    Adam L Silverman says:

    They got to Coulter!

  57. 57
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @evap: actually, we have two—the Buford Highway Farmers Market isn’t quite as large as Dekalb, but it has aisles for products from more countries than I’ve even heard of, and you won’t find a giant wall of green like they have on the north side of the building anywhere else.

  58. 58
    Yutsano says:

    @Adam L Silverman: Uh-oh…smells like Ann got cut out of that sweet sweet Koch lucre. Bitterness is strong in that one.

  59. 59
    lamh36 says:

    If anyone has been to Shrine Auditorium in LA for a concert performance fecently? If so, what seats are better? Upper Mezzanine, or Rear Orchestra? If you had a choice which would you pick?

    @Mary G: If it hasn’t been updated, which seats would you pick?

  60. 60
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @Yutsano: The Deep State got to her!

  61. 61

    I think she hasn’t discovered the sarcasm font.

  62. 62
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    Last year I had to move to Albuquerque and live with my daughter in a 2 bedroom near campus to attend my NP classes. I spent all spring, summer and last fall there most days of the week.

    I normally live in a pretty rural area of the state, near a nice city, but we drive everywhere. Only homeless people and folks with broken down vehicles walk here (unless they live near our state university campus). But in ABQ, near the University, it was so different.. The cool thing about “Nob Hill” is it’s incredible walkable community. Restaurants, brew pubs, grocery stores, and more all all over the place. Many days, I walked to the grocery store, the hardware store, the pet store, and took the bus to class. People in these neighborhoods walk or bike, lots of parents with their kiddos in towcarts are everywhere. For once in my life I understood why my friend who lived in NYC for 10 years not only loved it, she never bought a car until she moved here.

    It was such a wonderful change from the way things are back home that I really think I’d like city living now, as long as it had that kind of community feeling and I could find a way to drive less.

  63. 63

    @Adam L Silverman: Isn’t that a sign of the End Times in Revelation?

  64. 64
    FlyingToaster says:

    @Adam L Silverman: No, because I’ve known her since she was 16 and she married the guy she was dating then. Lucky you, believe me.

    I banned her from my home after she lectured my mom about childrearing. That is, an elderly woman who raised 4 taxpayers, and is very very good with kids under age 8.

  65. 65
    Quinerly says:

    @Ella in New Mexico: adore Nobb Hill. Especially love the Irish bar…. Two Fools Tavern. Fun area.

  66. 66
    Dan B says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Ditto the love of Mumbai. The fact that water is nearby is wonderful. The bazaar freaked me out. It makes the most crowded parts of London and New York seem tame. We stayed in a penthouse in the neighbirhood west of Chowpatty Beach so it was an upper class visit.

  67. 67
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: The 4th seal of the apocalypse

  68. 68
    Adam L Silverman says:

    @FlyingToaster: Tracking.

  69. 69
    MagdaInBlack says:

    That, and my other thought is always “Why are you eavesdropping on a private conversation anyway?”

  70. 70
    karensky says:

    I love this post. I am so glad that you have been having a good time, schlepping and sweating and all. I liked your comments about language especially.

  71. 71

    @Dan B: Which bazaar did you go to? There are so many. I am from South Mumbai, further south than Chowpatty.

    Did you take the Harbor line train? It is like stepping back in time.

  72. 72
    Ohio Mom says:

    @Adam L Silverman: The other day, Coulter predicted Trump would not be president at the end of the year. This makes two Coulter statements that I don’t know how to process.

    What is going on? Are pigs flying? Is it true a stopped clock is right twice a day and these are her two times? Did she get hit on the head and go sane?

    I guess we should be happy for every reasonable thing that comes out of her mouth. I will be appreciative as soon as I get my balance back.

  73. 73
    John Cole says:


    You drove there. Presumably you didn’t sell the car upon arrival.

    My car is at the airport in longterm parking. I didn’t want to have to deal with it while I was living in a condo on an island. Figured it would be just easier to park in longterm, take a cab to the condo, and then take cabs/uber if I am going somewhere out of walking distance.

  74. 74

    Jai Gange Bhagirathi
    He is singing about the origin story of Ganga, of how Bhagirath brought Ganga from the heavens to earth.

  75. 75
    Pogonip says:

    @magurakurin: If a person who speaks two languages is bilingual, and a person who speaks three is trilingual, what do you call a person who speaks only one language?

    —An American! 😄

  76. 76
    The Pale Scot says:

    Referring to your previous post you should definitely look into finding a pool to do laps in JC. It can seem dull for the first month, but eventually your cardio gets an uptick and you’ll not want to miss it. Check with the doc but I think it’s definitely slowed down the arthritis in my shoulders. Switch between strokes every lap. And just walking or pogoing in the shadow end works different muscle sets. Pool will be heated!

  77. 77
    Scamp Dog says:

    @FlyingToaster: When I was a grad student at Texas A&M, I’d wonder what some of the foreign moms at the grocery store would be telling their kids, maybe some kind of Confucian wisdom if they were Chinese? Then I spent a year studying Chinese in Taiwan, after which I did a postdoc at Penn State. There I heard the Chinese moms in grocery stores tell their kids things like “Ni de maozi bie diu le!” aka “Don’t drop your hat!” Yep, that’s the kind of wisdom you need to impart to small children. :)

  78. 78
    poleaxedbyboatwork says:


    I was walking along in Harvard Square a couple of summers ago and two young women from China, with very little English (but more English than I have Chinese!) stopped me and asked where they could find “tea.” It took us a few rounds before I figured out that they meant “the T.”

    Some years back, prior to attending a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique in Chicago with friends from Alaska, my big-hearted conscientious yenta-wanna-bes friends introduced me to a young woman who was going thru a rough patch (her mother had just died, she was devastated). My wife had been killed in a car crash a few years previous, so we were a coupla lost souls who found each other inna raw, tender moment. It was very nice, and it lasted until we eventually agreed that we were better together as friends than partners, but … the consolations of companionship are atimes a blessing. We are still dear friends, am thankful to say. In any event, she invited me to go tramping about on the Camino de Santiago with her that spring, so we did.

    Somewhere in Basque country, my friend gotta urinary tract infection, so we stoppt into a pharmacia for to find sulfa. She musta said the word sulfa ten times, until a light went on and the pharamcist exclaimed in victory: “Ahhhh, sooooolfa!”

    It’s remarkable how oft fruitful communication skates onna razor’s edge and relies for safe delivery upon abundant good-faith.

  79. 79
    eemom says:

    My parents spoke Greek when they didn’t want my sister and me to understand, but I usually did. To this day I understand the language much, much better than I speak it, cuz I never learned the basic rules of grammar. I do have a decent accent though, thanks to my mother being a native speaker.

  80. 80
    MoxieM says:

    I too am an admirer of multilinguals … well, to be clear, my kiddo edits technical manuscripts in 3 languages (English, German, French), ensuring that the translation of one into another language is correct. She often has to acquire new specific vocab to do this. OK, total Mom brag–but justified, I think. Also? This is what a liberal arts education is good for, btw. She was instantly employed when she got her BA, unlike many friends who struggled more. Of course she started her language education earlier (public school, offered everything from Mandarin to Portuguese.)

    I grew up with French as a 2nd language, but it’s damned rusty. I’ve been thinking about joining a conversation group or something–once I move back to civilization, i.e., a citified area, that is. Many repeated attempts to learn German are, well, funny. I can understand a fair bit, but am rendered mute. This may be a good thing!

  81. 81
    The Pale Scot says:


    “Music has magic,
    That stuff of syncopation

    Went to see Pavoratti in Central Park in ’93, we took a circuit around the field, every ten feet or so I’m hearing a different language, everyone watching P and being happy. Luciano singing Serenata, it was like a dream. And I hadn’t even ingested the mushrooms yet :)

    One time I thought I’d check out this store front on St. Mark’s near Ave. A that was offering lessons in Gaelic. Everyone there were illegal Irish from the west counties keeping their skills up ’cause I’ll be going back”. I felt like I walked into the Python sketch where all the students in the Italian language class are from Italy

  82. 82
    SWMBO says:

    I have a friend whose mother is Chinese and dad is Caucasian. She speaks and writes Chinese. When she lived here in south Florida she wanted to learn Spanish. She watched Spanish soap operas and learned to speak it fairly well. When they moved to NY, she watched them on cable. She says it keeps her “ear” for it and she keeps up with her shows too.

  83. 83
    JanieM says:

    @MoxieM: Your mention of joining a conversation group reminded me of this program in Lewiston, where (mostly)older Francophone Mainers and French-speaking immigrants, especially from Africa, have joined a group to speak the language. Great way to keep the language alive here!

  84. 84
    Spadizzly says:


    What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual
    What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual
    What do you call someone who only speaks one language? American

    Recently I was in a deli in Brighton Beach, where the clientele spoke mostly Ukrainian and Russian when I heard 2 guys half my age speaking an unfamiliar language. I’ve always loved languages and was curious to learn what these guys were speaking, so I waited for a break and then asked them in English what language were they speaking.

    They told me they were speaking Russian, and hilarity ensued when I laughed and switching to Russian told them not to bullshit me and that we all know that they weren’t speaking Russian. They looked at each other sheepishly and then told me “Uzbek.”

    That reminded me of some graffiti I saw in Brooklyn back in the ’80s where “fucking Uzbeks” was spray-painted in Russian script on a sidewalk. Shaking my head, I asked them in English wtf did they tell me they were speaking Russian when it was obvious they weren’t.

    “Because we thought you were American.”
    “I am” (rim-shot)

  85. 85
    Faith Ferguson says:

    @JanieM: cool! I love that the language is bringing old-timers and newcomers together. But Lewiston would be a few hours drive…

  86. 86
    Evap says:

    @Steve in the ATL: yep, I was talking about the Buford international fm, not the Dekalb fm. DFM has any exotic produce you can imagine but is not so good on things like the Korean noodles. I love both!

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