Out of Boulder Experience (1917-1951)

I attended a Tet (Vietnamese New Year) celebration in Denver the other night. It takes a lot to get me out of Boulder, if I can’t get there by bike it might as well be on a different planet. It’s a common Boulder state of mind. Nonetheless I loaded the minivan up with a bunch of friends and we practiced our karaoke songs in on the drive over. Tet is always a fun party and it is very un-Boulder.


The Ao Dai fashion show, traditional Vietnamese dress.

Definitely not in Boulder.


Karaoke, Denver style.

The hostess is Vietnamese and enjoys sharing her culture with American friends. She toasted her husband over a six-course meal and it was the most unintentionally funny tribute I have ever heard. It was peppered with things like, “You are an okay husband but your parenting skills need work,” and “I told him to shape up or find a good lawyer,” and “I can always go back to Vietnam if you don’t treat me right,” yet it was touching. It was obvious that she loves him and is very, very happy.

A comedian once said that French and Italian aren’t romance languages, the real language of love is Vietnamese.

Have you ever heard Vietnamese people talk? It sounds like cats fighting. It is a sharp, loud, guttural language. I used to cower in terror when my Vietnamese mother would “talk” to her sisters. I thought they were going to kill each other yet the next day they’d be serenely tucking into some Phở like nothing happened. I don’t speak the language so all that I hear is the combative tone.

After hearing my friend’s, um, tribute to her husband, Zeb offered this insight, “Maybe the Vietnamese language sounds insulting because are insulting each other. That’s how they express love.” And a lightbulb went on in my head. Maybe my mom and I don’t have problems at all. Maybe she’s just Vietnamese and I’m not.

How does a daughter of a Vietnamese woman not get the Vietnamese culture? For one, we’ve always been isolated in a largely American environment. She never taught me Vietnamese, probably because my first language is Thai (I was born in Bangkok) and she watched my fluency slip away at age four when we moved to the US. She saw the futility in teaching me Vietnamese in Utah. We never lived around relatives or any semblance of a Vietnamese community. I have always felt 100% American and that has caused a cultural rift between us.

My mom has a way of saying things that hurt my feelings, even compliments. After listening to my friend, I realize that my mom doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, that’s simply how some Vietnamese communicate, and it is perfectly acceptable among the Vietnamese. My friend’s husband gets this about his wife but I haven’t managed to connect the dots until now. I’m not sure where I am going with this but I feel a sense of relief. My relationship with my friend has taught me a lot about my mom and has helped soften the blows of our communication.

It’s embarrassing that I had to be 41 to figure this out and I don’t know if it will truly change our relationship, I’ve long given up on miracles. I have to accept and love her the way she is, but last night was a revelation I am truly glad for.


The ladies practiced this Gangnam Style routine for months, driving our hostess’s husband nuts.

Yesterday wasn’t a good day for me, as you might have gathered if you watched the video from Viv on the Verge. Some really nice people wrote to make sure I was okay, I cannot tell you how much that means to me. I took a chill-pill and spent the day putting things away. I managed to not have a full-blown freak-out but I must have been radiating hostility because Cato brought me a really nice cake today (salted caramel, yum!) to make me feel better. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve such kindness.

Anywhoo, I spent today moving bookshelves around. In the absence of a studio I need punch up my pole room. Zeb was a doll about helping me make it happen. More on that later.

Here are the spoils of today:


Me working in the pole room, considerably more relaxed than yesterday.


35 items, baby.


I love Jellycat stuffed animals. It is hard to part with any of them. FREE.


Vegetarian Times magazine. FREE.


Complete unabridged Lord of The Rings cassette tapes (10-11 cassettes each). All tapes are present. The Hobbit is abridged (4 cassettes). My boys LOVED listening to these. $5 each.


Framed print with plexiglass. $10.


Tropical wood sampler from Costa Rica. Each type is labeled. FREE.


Go Fish card game. FREE.


Great books. Castle by David Macauley, One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey, The Sign of the Seahorse and the Red Balloon. $3 each.


Finally. a beauty shot of a very large bottle of Courvoisier. Zeb picked up the entire thing for $8.50 at an estate sale. It was probably 30 years old and magnificent. I miss that brandy, it took us a long time to finish it off. I am including this to remind myself of Zeb’s great talents. Yes, he brings home lots and lots of stuff that makes me insane, but he also brings home some mighty fine treasures.

4 thoughts on “Out of Boulder Experience (1917-1951)

  1. Its similar in the UK, you are only polite and courteous to people that you either do not know very well or do not like. When you can walk into a room and be greeted with a profanity you have true friends. Verbal abuse is a sign of affection in the UK, and so is being made fun of.

  2. No! Not the Cooks Illustrated magazines… how will you ever make the creamy (yet cream less) tomato soup this summer!

    Love the ideas about Vietnamese communication and the revelation about your Mom. Excellent that such a good toast can bring about interesting ideas in those who have the privilege of listening. Ben and I were just talking about how we need to be more snarky with our compliment of each other just so we can tell just how much we appreciate one another. She nailed it.

    • Don’t worry, I’ve made the creamless creamy tomato soup and have already transcribed it into my own collection of favorites. It’s spooky how we think so much alike.

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