(Featured Image: author at far left, Buck, Mike, ?, Kevin, Dave, Guy, Walter, Mac, Tm Cdr Peter A.)

I’m what they call a Polyglot, me, so I fancy… meaning I have a lot of glots. Poly means ‘many’ and glot means ‘tongue’; a man of many tongues. And you know what they say about a man who has many tongues… he can tell many more lies.

I became obsessed with the Chinese language as a young boy. I couldn’t possibly explain the feeling. It was just so mysterious and difficult. At the time I thought that learning the Chinese language had to be the most difficult feat in the (known) universe. To this day I still believe that no two Chinese people are ever perfectly certain just what the other is talking about.

At my high school, a science teacher had lived in Beijing for a time, and he offered Chinese language to our curriculum, more as a joke than anything else, knowing nobody would sign up for it. He was wrong. One young punk signed up. “We can’t run a class with just one student; we need five.” He told me.

“I don’t even have five friends” I thought. It was going to be tough to even get into the toughest class in school. At home that evening I mentioned to my mother that I wanted to take Chinese. “No,” she told me—WTF… come again?? “You’ll fail it because it’s too hard and then you will end up in summer school, and I’m not going through that.”

Ok every book, every brochure, every pamphlet, every movie, every scientific endeavor that ever delved into the psychological enigma of parenting will tell you that THAT… is a bad parenting technique to instill confidence in your child. What the fuck ma? Maybe you’d be more fulfilled if I became a gay pedophile crack addict, or a democrat… or went into the Navy, yeah the Navy! Where’ your messiah now, ma?

So I did what any self-loathing young punk would do at the sound of “no”… I went to the library and checked out a thick book on Elementary Mandarin Chinese (Wade Giles). For the entire summer I sat daily at the kitchen table and studied a chapter a day. My mother, probably feeling a bit guilty over her brash lack of support, and seeing me study so hard, bought me a Chinese language course on record… so now I could hear the sounds.

“Wow, you really are dead set on learning that language, huh?”