Friday, October 21, 2005


I drove the highways and back roads a lot during my seven years in Viet Nam. Probably much more than I should have. I drove by thousands of mud wall/thatch roof huts.

Outside many of these one-room hovels were brick and mortar edifices. These had been built in tribute to and in memory of a dead ancestor.

It always struck me how much the housing for the dead was so much better than the housing for the living. It seemed a huge waste of assets.

Such a waste is not limited to any particular culture.

When I was a young boy, my parents sent me to visit relatives in Northern California during summer vacation. It was a large family I visited. They had 7 or 8 kids of their own but it was a big house.

The father of this brood was a half Indian. (What does that have to do with the story?) (Nothing. That’s just to piss you off.)

Sometimes in the middle of the night, he would come home roaring drunk. (See, that’s why you had to point out he was half Indian.) (Not at all. What are you, a racist? Some of my best friends would come home roaring drunk in the middle of the night, and they’re not Indians.)
As a little kid, that terrified me. I’d hide under the covers.

Years later, as a young adult, I’d visit them occasionally. Just to show you how poor my family was, I was the “Rich Relative.” Now tell me that’s not sad. (You’re right, that’s sad.) They considered me rich because I always had a job that paid real money. They’d point me out to the small children. “See that feller over thar? He’s not on welfare!” And they’d stare at me with their mouths open like I was from another planet.

My uncle, the drunken Indian, (See, there you go again.) would always seem to be ill when I visited. I thought he was feigning it for my benefit because he was so embarrassed about how he’d behaved in my youth. (Why does it always have to be about you? The guy can’t be sick without it being about you?) (For once you’re right.) Then he died. (See! I’m doing my “I told you so” dance.) (Asshole!)

So the whole family went into their fake mourning. By that time there were married children so in-laws had to be sucked in. It was a disaster. Guilt was rampant. I think everyone in the immediate and extended family went into debt just to prove how much they loved this universally hated a-hole.

They may be paying off the debt to this day.

What a waste of assets.


Post a Comment

<< Home