Author Archives: Kevin Comartin

Texas Ranch Safety

“When I go to my, my dad’s ranch. In southwest Texas. It’s about 45 miles from the, from the border to Mexico. Um, and when I bring, uh, when I bring friends down there, to the ranch. He’s huge on safety. Because of rattlesnakes that are out there, and coyotes, and just other animals, and sharp plants that can, that’ll be, detrimental to your health. So he brings all my friends together, and he like, makes us be silent. And he goes, ‘Alright boys, I want you to know, that in all these 800 acres, anything out there can either bite ya, sting ya, prick ya, or even kill ya. And he basically scares all my friends before we, we go out.”

The speech the source’s father makes changes, except for the one saying that is always constant. “Alright boys, I want you to know…” Click here for an audio clip of that saying.

To me it’s important to note a piece of irony with this safety speech, because a big part of Texas ranch culture is shooting guns.

“He, he warns us about the plants and animals, and then we go, shooting animals with guns”.

 

As someone who lived in Texas for ten years, to me this really just reflects Texas culture, especially West Texas. It shows a profound respect for the environment, while at the same time maintaining the idea that Texans have a right to shoot everything in it.

A Grandpa Song

The following is a song that the source’s Grandfather used to sing to her when she was a kid. She originally thought that he wrote the song just for her, but really he took the song “Daisy Bell” a very popular and famous American song, and substituted “Daisy” with the source’s name, Maisie. The clip below has the source first sing the original song, and then her Grandfather’s version.

Grandpa song

“He sang that song to me when I was little and he was, dandling? Is that the right word? Bouncing me on his knee”

 

The song really accomplishes two things. First, it helps the source’s Grandfather expose her to a song that he knows, and shares a piece of his generation with her. Also it created a special connection between Maisie and her Grandpa.

“He was my favorite Grandpa” she said.

Advanced Easter Egg Hunt

“So, my mom is an artist, she’s a painter, and my dad did, um like a lot of writing and stuff, he’s like an English dude. He’s American. Anyways. Um, for Easter, we would, we would have Easter Egg hunts, my sister and I. And um, it started off, we’d come, we’d come downstairs and there’d be these Easter eggs, and you’d open it, and it’d be a scrap of paper that would be cut in a weird shape, and on one side would be like, a part of a drawing, but you don’t know what the drawing is, and on the other side, would be, um, a clue. A poem or a limerick my dad made. That would lead you to, it would be a clue to like, find the next egg, in a different part of the house. And so you’d read the clues and try to find each egg, until you, you finally find the basket. And each of these papers, its the poem on one side and the drawing on the other, and once you got the basket, you’d have all the pieces, you assemble them and you tape it together, and then you’d flip it over and it’d be, like my mom would have, um, she’d uh, she’d have drawn like an Easter themed drawing, like one of them was like me from my senior yearbook photo, but with bunny ears drawn on, and she, um, also drew like the Scream, but with like bunny ears. It’d be a clever take on Easter themes.”

 

This tradition interests me, because it takes the candy, which is usually what Easter is about for kids, and makes it secondary. The riddle clues the source’s dad wrote are almost a sneaky way of making Easter Egg Hunts educational. It is also a way for both of the source’s parents to pass down their love for the arts to their children, and it worked, as the source never mentioned candy once when talking about the Easter Egg Hunt, she remembers her parents for being artists, and taking time to create something for her and her sister.

May Festival

The source went to a private school in San Francisco, and every year the school has a May Celebration.

“Every year we’d have this huge festival, where each grade would sing a song. And um. Then we’d, the eight graders would do the May Pole, and all of the grades would do turkey in the straw, you know line dancing. And then at the very end, um, all- the whole school would line up, um, and each grade would line up shortest to tallest. And we’d all line up and make this huge line, and um, the tallest 8th grader would hold this, uh, dragon head, and behind it would be this sheet that would cover the entire rest of the school. Cause like each grade had 16 or 18 kids, so you know. It was K through 8. So the entire school would then do the dragon dance. The school was built in like 1918, and it was this woman’s house. But um, the house was in a fire, and so they had to leave the school. And then when the original school reopened, they did a parade, from the, from the temporary school to the renovated old building. And the dragon was like a part of the parade, so they do the dragon dance every year to commemorate it.”

 

This festival seems to take a lot from many different cultures. It reflects what a multi-cultural city San Francisco is. The fact that they’d have a may-pole, a European tradition in the same festival as a Dragon dance mirrors the East meets West aspects of the city. While the school was neither European or Chinese, they included aspects of both traditions.

 

 

Spanish Proverb

estomago lleno, corazón contento

In English, this translates into “Full stomach, happy heart”.

The source learned this saying from his host family when he studied abroad in Spain. His host family was Cuban, so he’s not sure if this saying comes from Spain or Cuba.

This proverb reflects the Spanish culture’s deep appreciation for good food, and the importance of family. The fact the the host family taught this to him, to me means that they wanted to make him feel at home, and feel happy.

A Slice of Pie from John Dillinger

“My grandmother, when she was a little girl living in, uh, this really small town Geneva, Indiana. Her parents were farmers. Um, her and her brother were in the soda shop there, the town soda shop, and uh, John Dillinger and a couple of his, uh, running mates, as you can probably see in, the, you know, Public Enemy movie, uh. And they walked in and, and, uh, they. I don’t know if they robbed the place, but they certainly bought her and her brother a slice of pie and a milkshake. To share. And, um. Also-alls that she could say about him was that he was a very nice gentleman, that carried himself, very nicely. And, um, yes.”

Audio Clip

I asked him who normally tells the story.

“My Grandmother”

When does she tell it? In front of the whole family?

“OH, no it’s more of the, thing that- she’ll- you know, it’s- when- (sigh). When she’ll take like a grandchild aside, or like a great-grandchild aside, just to seem, like, and now I bestow upon you this, bit of my life, that you might not know. We- we don’t tell a lot of stories at like, big family dinners, and stuff like that”

Does it come with a moral?

“Oh God no. No no no. No not at all. Uh i-i-it mainly started coming about when John Dillinger became a hot topic again because of the movie. Primarily”

 

There’s no real way to find out if this family legend is true or not, but it’s extremely plausible. For one, the source’s grandmother is giving a first hand account, not relating a story told by someone else. Also, this story reflects much folklore about John Dillinger, who is generally painted as a gentleman, and sort of Robin Hood figure in Indianapolis.

For more info on the American Bank Robber John Dillinger, click here.

 

“When the balls roll around…” Family Saying

When the balls roll around, you better know which side of the nutsack you’re on”      Sound Clip

The source said that this saying, with origins in Austria, was passed down by the men in his family from generation to generation.

The first time he heard the saying, he was playing pee-wee baseball and wanted to quit after being hit by a stray pitch. The source said his father took him aside and “busted that little gem on me. I had know idea what it meant, but it terrified me. And I ended up playing baseball for the better half of that decade.”

“From then, that saying just became kind of loosely incorporated into the fabric of my life.” He claims to get “sideways looks” any time he uses the saying around USC, so he now reserves it for use among “the Dallas community”.

“Literally, I think it means that you just gotta know what your priorities your standards are. But, uh, I think the great thing about a metaphor like that is that it can mean anything to different people, you know?”

 

I think that the saying, more than a proverb about getting priorities straight, the context in which the source’s father first used it towards him, shows that is a way of calling someone’s masculinity into question. This is further reflected by the fact that the source is a fairly typical Texan, and loves “manly” things like football and boxing. The fact that the saying is about balls in a sack almost implies that one doesn’t have any “balls” if they don’t behave a certain way or do certain thing. Its a way to encourage the men in the family to behave in a masculine way.

Dream Premonitions or Deja Vu?

The source believes it is possible to see into the future in dreams. We discussed the sensation of Deja Vu, when the brain stores short term memories as long term memories, giving you the sensation that you’ve seen something before. But in this case, the source had an experience when she had a dream, told somebody about it, and then experience the events of her dream with that person.

“I don’t have any ghost stories, but I have had like, premonitions. Once I had this dream I was in a church. It wasn’t in the chapel, it was in a room that I like knew was inside of a church. There were lots of brown stained glass windows. And, I was sitting at a table and this girl pulls out a bright pamphlet, with the McDonald’s sign on it. And its like an anti- you know, she, it was an anti-McDonald’s thing. And I woke up and I was like, this is a really weird dream. So I told my friend about it, and then like six months later, in fact my friend and I, the same girl, we were at a cooking camp, and the cooking camp was at a church. And, um, but it wasn’t in the chapel, and we’d always eat lunch in this room that had a lot of brown stained glass. And one day one of the girls we made friends with, um, she, we’d like somehow got on the topic of fast food, and she pulls out this pamphlet and it has a McDonald’s sign on it, it was like this anti-McDonalds thing that she and her friends had made, and she was like, handing it out. And this was like six months after I had this dream. So it was like really fucking weird.”

 

This is a strange case. I certainly have had, and many people probably have had experiences like this that were deja vu, but in this case, the source (allegedly) has proof that she had the dream before the event actually happened, because the same friend that she told about the dream, experienced the real event with her. It is impossible to really prove that the source has dream premonitions, but it is also impossible to disprove it. I think that’s why an educated person would believe it were possible to see into the future, even though most would say premonitions are science fiction.

It is considered rude to refuse seconds on a meal

The source’s Grandmother was from the old German sector of Indianapolis, he was careful to include that she lived on the same street as the Vonnegut family. He’s not sure if it’s a German or family practice, but his Grandmother had two beliefs when it came to food. One, that brownies and cake were acceptable breakfast foods, and two, that if you don’t take seconds on a meal, it’s a sign that you don’t like the food.

His Grandmother’s recipes were all old family recipes from Germany, and were for the most part, extremely unhealthy. In particular, he recalls that the family recipe for brownies is over 150 years old, and calls for four sticks of butter.

So his family couldn’t watch their weight, and eat meals with Grandma. If anyone refused seconds on a dish she made, she would be extremely offended. She would take it as a sign you didn’t care for her food, and then threaten to never make that particular dish again.

Needless to say, the source’s Grandmother ended up killing her family with love, his Grandfather suffered from adult onset diabetes, and the source himself is plagued by “body image issues” that follow him to this day.

 

Indiana Corn Folklore

“Knee High by the 4th of July”

In Indiana, and especially in the source’s hometown near Indianapolis, cornfields surround most of the neighborhoods, and this is where all of the neighborhood kids play during the summer. In fact, when the source moved to Los Angeles, he said he was surprised to find that no one else knew how tall corn was supposed be during different parts of the year. He understood “Knee High by the 4th of July” to be common knowledge all over the country.

People in Indiana mark time, especially in the summertime, by how tall the corn is. It is accepted there that if a corn crop is doing well, it will be “Knee high by the 4th of July”. The height of the corn is also indicative of how hot the summer has been, or how much rain has fallen. He said that people use the cornfields in Indiana to gauge the weather conditions, much like people in Malibu watch the ocean for seasonal changes and weather patterns.

The source explained that the saying is used often, mostly in cars as people pass various cornfields and discuss how the crop is coming along that summer.