NIkons, Silettes & Declined JapadogsSunday, January 09, 2011
My father was married to my mother who was a Filipino and he tolerated my domineering Spanish grandmother. He got along with all of them.
My first indication of the existence of racism happened when one of my friends visited me. He was a school mate from the American Grammar School I went to. I invited my friend Mario, who lived across the street and Miguelito who lived around the corner. My friend from school on the next day asked me, “Is Mario Jewish and Miguelito Italian?” I answered that Mario was German but that I had no clue what he meant by Jewish. I further informed him that Miguelito was not Italian since my mother had told me that he and his family were Calabrian.
My first indication that something was amiss with nationalities was one day around 1948 ( I was 6). My mother was combing my hair and told me that with the longish hair that was covering one of my eyes I looked like Hitler. “Who is Hitler?” I asked her. “He was a terrible German,” She replied. I was a bit confused as my friend Mario Hertzberg was a German, too and he didn’t seem like a bad sort.
I asked Mario about Hitler. He was 6, too but he seemed to know. Hitler killed my older brother when we were in Germany and he gave me the name of some place with a German place name where it had happened.
My Grandmother, very much a Spaniard was always telling me that the Jews had killed Christ. She said it in a matter of fact tone of voice that didn’t seem to hide any animosity. And she was always gracious to Mario.
By the time I was 10 I considered myself a superior English boy and I made fun of Argentine made blue jeans and anything else Argentine except the steaks so often enjoyed or the apples I frequently ate in such large quantities that I was relegated to bed by my doctor, Doctor Imperiale (who did house calls). His cure for my ills consisted of soda water, fresh cheese and apple sauce (?). This was to be eaten with Melba toast without any butter.
Once we moved in Mexico I became a superior Argentine in a country of dark-skinned Mexicans who did not seem to know how to kick a football properly.
When we moved to Nueva Rosita, Coahuila in Northern Mexico I felt inferior in the presence of Sammy Simpson, a tall American who wore beautiful blue jeans that were finely pressed. He could pass an American football and played a game I never did play well, called baseball. As an Argentine/English boy I felt diminished in his presence.
In 1957 at St. Ed’s in Austin, I found myself in no-man’s-land. I was blonde and too white to be Mexican or a Latino and I was certainly not from the United States to pass as an American. One of my only friends was John Straney (of similar background, a white boy who spoke perfect Spanish) with whom I shared an interest in German WWII armamentes, airlplanes, tanks and uniforms.
|Lauren before the Japadog|
I was confused as my Uncle Luís Miranda had been a wealthy chemist in Manila in the late 30s. He was in charge of quality control for San Miguel Beer and created new ice cream flavours, of the San Miguel subsidiary, Magnolia Ice Cream Company. In fact my uncle had helped introduce Coca Cola to the Philippines.
When the Japanese army was on its way to take Manila, My uncle told my aunt Fermina, “I am on my way to the beer plant, I don’t wan the Japs to drink my beer.” He sabotaged the works. I will never know if the Japanese somehow found out as they took over his palatial home as their headquarters for the duration of their occupation.
When I first met Robby, his son in Buenos Aires in 1952 we played toy soldiers in the garden. Robby told me how cruel and terrible the Japs had been. When I would force Robby to be the enemy he always relented as long as he was German. He told me that the Germans were good and fair soldiers and that their prisoner-war-camps were not at all like those of the Japanese. I was a bit confused and I told him about Mario and his brother. Robby told me it was probably not true at all.
|About to try the Japadog|
In 1960 my Uncle Tony came to visit us in our home in Mexico City and he showed me a new acquisition which he had bough in Germany (his second wife was German). It was a beautiful camera that was almost a spitting image of the Contax I had always wanted. It was a rangefinder camera, beautifully made, and it had a strange name on it. It was a Nikon. I quizzed my uncle who told me that the Japanese were no longer imitating German cameras but were making stuff on their own.
I think it was then that I began to think for myself and decided that quality did not necessarily have anything to do with country of origin. By then I was telling all my friends that Mexican beef was terrible in comparison with Argentine meat and the same applied to fruit, vegetables and dairy products.
The above long introduction is but and explanation on my delight at being able to go to a restaurant on Robson and be able to ask, without guilt, “I want two Japadogs.” It was this Saturday that Rosemary, Lauren and I decided to try them at their recently opened restaurant (previously they have been delighting long queues of customers on a hot dog stand on Smythe and Burrard.
We ordered the Terimayo which had narrow slivers of shredded sea weed. Lauren flatly refused to even take a bite. I like mine and Rosemary ate half of Lauren’s. Later when we picked up Rebecca she hungrily at what was left and lambasted her sister for not being adventurous.
My guess is that the ever courteous Japanese now allow us to use the word Jap as long as it is followed by adog. I do remember those Blue Hawk comic books (los Halcones Negros in Spanish) of my youth which had language like, “Those dirty German dogs!” and “Filthy Commie reds.”
The world has changed. But not all that much if you read the papers these days.