What came first, the music or the misery?
– Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
Mixtape #5: Teresa Teng, “The Moon Represents My Heart”
“She was so beautiful and she died so young.”
“So tragic. So pretty.”
Summer in suburban Toronto, the eight-track player plays Teresa Teng, Neil Diamond, Elvis. “Moon River.” We talk; we eat. The food of immigrant assimilation and overcompensation, post-war Catholic survival guilt, and North American aspirations.
Sara Lee chocolate-chip pound cake. Jello pudding pops. Tang and Nestle Iced Tea (straight from the can), Kool Aid, Hi-C Ecto Cooler. Grape Hubba Bubba, Welch’s Grape soda, candy cigarettes. Fun Dip, Pixie Stix, Lik-M-Aid.
“You have to be good. You have to be careful.”
“Don’t be like your father.”
Pringles, Cheetos, Combos (pizza flavor). French-bread microwave pizza with a shiny silver cardboard reflector to “crisp” the cheese and bread. Swansons’ TV dinners with the fudge brownie and tater tots. Sesame balls and egg tarts and Danish butter cookies, and after, the canister for storage.
“Such a shame. Young, pretty girl…”
“So pretty. What a waste.”
“Would it be as much of a shame if she’d been ugly?”
“Of course. But it’s different.”
Heavenly Hash sherbet, popsicles in long plastic strips of liquid in blue and red and orange, Mint Milano cookies, Goldfish crackers, Keebler’s Elves, Oreos, Duncan Hines’ Soft-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookies, Velveeta and Wispread, Ritz Crackers, Teddy Grahams, Alpha Bits and Cookie Crunch cereal, Steak-Ummms with American cheese, Laughing Cow Cheese, Polly-O String Cheese, Kraft mac and cheese with cut-up hot dogs, ramen with cut-up hot dogs, rice with cut-up hot dogs. A cut-up hot dog with cheese injected through the middle, damp and room temperature in tinfoil for school lunch.
Sloppy Joes. Libby’s corned beef hash with onions and tomato on rice, or fried into patties with Sriracha. Beef and tomato and onion on rice with Tabasco on top. Spam in tomato noodle soup, in fried rice, for breakfast, Spam all the time.
“She’s in danger of getting fat.”
“None for you. You need discipline.”