Thursday, March 27, 2008

Major Magician

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened February or March, 1958. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

After my Father returned from the Mountain we had a new friend visit. I have always thought of him as Major Magician. I can't remember his name. I called him that because he was an amateur magician, always ready to impress me with some trick. He carried cards and pieces of rope and handkerchiefs around. My favorites were the rope tricks. I think it was another hint of a nascent interest in topology. I cared less about the tricks themselves than the different kinds of knots he could show me.

We had another dog-related incident that showed the interesting consequences of living in a country where dog is on the menu. While entertaining Major Magician a Chinese man dropped by to deliver a package. Ordinarily we would take the package at the gate, but because we had a guest we just buzzed the delivery man in. The dog, Koko, went berserk.

Koko was the most laid back dog you ever saw. Until then. We couldn't figure out why he went nuts until Major Magician mentioned that Koko might have a good idea what our visitor has been eating lately.

Mind you, I have no problem with eating dog. I'd be willing to try it. I'm just saying, if you live in a country where it's customary, keep an eye on Fido. He could take it personally.

Major Magician was the first regular friend that my Father had in Taiwan that interacted with the rest of us. He and his wife lived on the opposite side of Taipei in a middle-class neighborhood dominated by walled pre-war Japanese-style housing.

We went to visit them one evening. It was a beautiful house. The adults gathered around a table in what looked like a meditating room. It was a bare room with a long sliding paper wall that separated it from the main living room, and had glass doors opening to a walled garden. Major & Mrs. Magician used it for a dining room, usually. This night they used it to play four-way strip poker with my parents.

I was supposed to nap on a couch in the other room, but somehow when your Mother is playing strip poker in the next room it's hard to sleep. Especially with all the giggling. I had to get up and ask for a glass of water. Sure enough, by the time I got there Mom had lost. She always lost. Which was weird, because I'm sure she was the best poker player.

We loved the Japanese-style house, and hated the Chinese-style house that we had been living in, that we didn't renew our 6 month lease on the latter, and moved into one of the houses in Major Magician's neighborhood.

Our new house was a one-story house on a narrow dirt road. We were one block North from a large expanse of rice paddies. I learned what rice paddies smell like up close. They smell just like water buffaloes, which smell like a cross between an outhouse and old gym shoes. Fortunately, the prevailing winds favored us.

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