Tag Archives: kid-Ginger

The curious case of an orthodontist, Kid-Ginger, and fungus

20 Feb

Puberty is rough.  Orthodontists are scam artists.  My mother is a sadist.

In 1996 these three truths collided to create the perfect storm.

At 14, I looked like this:

Simultaneously, my 10 year old bro looked like this:

The cool kids on the block, we were not.

What we lacked in trend-setting however, we made up for in mediocrity.

Naturally, neither of us ever wore our headgear.

And yes Mom, I know you are reading this and already getting irritated that you lost that battle, but I ask you to look at those two faces and feel pride.

Can’t do it, can you?

Anyway, let’s get back to the story.

As a result of never wearing our headgear, neither of our overbites were improving.  I was in the onset of my teenage rebellious hayday so this did not bother me.

Kid-Ginger however, had other problems.

At only 10, he was still anxious to please my parents and all figures of authority.  Every month on the night before our visit to the orthodontist, he’d strap the shiny apparatus into place and hope against all odds that one night of donning the robotic creation would fix his face.

Deep down however, he knew this wouldn’t work and so he’d get nervous.  Pacing around his room, he was always trying to think of ways to alleviate the oncoming argument between himself, the orthodontist, and our parents.

Nothing ever worked.  Every month, the morning would arrive, and we’d troop into the appointment like lambs to the slaughter.

Not one for privacy, this particular orthodontist had one giant room with several dental chairs in a row.  It was a Fordistic haven for the humiliation of  American youth and their teeth.

Kid-Ginger and I were usually seated next to one another.

It was during one such morning while I waited for the assistant to come and hook my head up to the Matrix and disassemble my mouth; that I chose to glance over at what was happening on my little bro’s end.

The orthodontist was just leaning over to take a look in Kid-Ginger’s open mouth.  Sweat gathering on the little guys forehead, he looked up in fear as Dr. Iago’s face twisted into pure disgust and he backed several steps away from my brother’s chair.

His eyes scanning his assistants in fear, he loudly announced:

“Someone get me the manual, we’ve got a situation here.”

Then, cautiously re-approaching the redhead’s chair he took another repulsed glance and said:

“Son, is that hurting you?  How long has THAT been growing in your mouth?”

Kid-Ginger’s cheeks now the color of beets, he shook his head nervously and asked:

“how long has what, is this about the headgear, I don’t know, I wear it, well I try to wear it, what is happening in my mouth?!”

My dental chair at this point had gone from seat of doom to the best seat in the house as I watched this melodrama unfold.

“Kid, your tongue is black.  Did you eat licorice for breakfast?  Do you brush your teeth? Where is that darn manual Peggy!!!”

(Peggy was the assistant I had been awaiting, so her scramble to locate the manual containing all mouth diseases did not bother me in the slightest)

Kid-Ginger, rapidly approaching black-out mode shook his feet and insisted he had not eaten anything for breakfast because he had been too nervous.

By this point all of the assistants were peering into my brother’s mouth in order to identify the problem.

Each of them looked horrified.

Booming over the intercom I suddenly heard the words:

“Would the father of Kid-Ginger please come into the workroom immediately please.  The father of Kid-Ginger.”

Enter in one sarcastic lawyer of a father.  My father.

“Sir, we need to show you the situation that is your son’s mouth.  I’m afraid we can’t work on him today.  Until we identify the fungus, we can’t associate our tools with it.  As of right now, it appears to be something called Black Hairy Tongue.”

I watched unblinkingly as my father glanced into his youngest offspring’s mouth.  His own jaw fell open, he stopped breathing, and he demanded of my brother:

“What in Gods name have you been eating?  Good lord do you ever brush your teeth?  Son, your tongue is absolutely black.  How long has it been like that?!?! What do you mean you haven’t noticed?  How on Earth can you possibly not have noticed?!?!? How many times do I have to tell you to USE YOUR HEAD?!?!”

The room went silent.

All eyes fixed on Kid-Ginger as he stared at my father like a deer in headlights.


Slight ruffle of pages as the various assistants found new diseases in the manual and peered nervously into the gaping hole in my brother’s face. Shaking their heads no, the shuffling of pages continued.

More silence.

Finally, my father ordered the two of us to the car.  On the ride home, he continued to question my silently shaking brother.  Staring out the window in sheer terror, it appeared Kid-Ginger had gone mute.

Ten minutes passed.  Tension in the vehicle was high.

Then finally, the trembling voice of one 10 year old redhead announced:

“Well, I did drink a lot of Pepto Bismol last night, I was so nervous about today”

My father turned his head and stared at his son in disbelief.

“You were so nervous about the appointment you drank that stuff?  You hate that stuff.”

“I know Dad, but I didn’t know what else to do”

Later that evening it was discovered via prehistoric internet searching that Pepto Bismol can turn your tongue black if drunk in excess.

Turns out Kid-Ginger never had a fungus after all.  By dinnertime, he was fine.

My stomach was not so great though.

Having laughed so hard through the entire ordeal, my tummy ached for days.


kid-ginger goes rogue

18 Mar

When he was four, my brother tried to dress up as an old woman to escape the nursery section of a bowling alley.

If you’ve been following my shenanigans, you’ll recall that I had a babysitter growing up who believed herself to be the reincarnate of Michelangelo.  Well, she also loved bowling.  A lot.  An avid bowler, if you will.

She routinely convened with fellow senior citizens at the local establishment near our house.  Since kid-ginger wasn’t in school yet, he had to pass the time in the day-care center of this particular ball-heaving, pin-knocking venue.  She bowled twice a week, which is a lot of sock-odor and cigarette stained walls for a child (same child twenty years later has no problem frequenting dive bars-but this was different-this was involuntary).

So it was one day after a fifteen minute car ride in which he was forced to listen to Sammy Davis Jr sing Candy Man on repeat (her favorite-and by repeat I mean press-on nails rewinding the cassette tape each time the song ended); that my brother plotted a revolution.

I’m not quite sure how he managed it, but somehow the little creature rounded a gang of comrades (fellow four year-olds, willing to take action).  As he explained later that afternoon (from behind his bedroom door where he had been banished like most felons of his era), a group of them distracted the ‘warden’ by engaging in a massive peanut-butter and saltine cracker battle.  This diversion allowed one small red-headed brother of mine to escape out the door of the nursery, and don himself in various pieces of grandmother attire.

When they found him in the parking lot, he was wearing a flower-print jacket and some sort of hat he has forever been unable to identify.  He was upset at the lack of available eye-wear, as this clearly would have perfected the disguise.  Never mind the height problem, nor the cherub-faced child gazing up from underneath the moth-ball soaked garments.  No, for him the glasses would have ensured safe-passage through the parking lot to freedom.

Freedom by the way, was a pancake house across the street.

I never told him this but the day his attempted escape failed, he gained the respect of one very proud, very impressed older sister.

wine-tasting zilla-fam style

6 Mar

The greatest defense for any crime ever committed was uttered by my brother as he stood in the driveway, holding the broken antennae of my father’s truck in his trembling fist:

‘Dad, my mind made me do it’.

Yes, we Christen’s are known for our slick, stealth, and graceful behavior in all situations.  We’ve been bred for greatness, thats for damn sure, and absolutely no one is going to take that away from us.  Or at least thats what we tell each other.

For his part, my father has done much to further the public humiliations that tend to scatter our family outings.  In particular-family outings in Paris.

Enter dear reader, into the small cafe down the cobblestone street where one blonde anglophone sits with his two offspring during the summer of 1999.  The children, new to Paris, have been promised a local meal by their father-who is determined to show them how to properly dine in French culture.

Starting of course, with the wine.

Before the waiter arrives at the table with the bottle, the proud father turns to his children and mutters:

‘listen kids, I am going to show you how to properly taste wine.  It’s a big deal in this country, and something you should learn.   There’s a whole process, it’s pretty neat’

The children watch in anticipation as the waiter approaches holding a bottle of what is undoubtedly very expensive, very fine wine.  Both sets of wide eyes gaze upon the label as it is presented to their father.  They hold their breath in anticipation as the cork is popped open, and the thick red fluid splashes into the glass of the most intelligent man they know.  Their eyes sparkle as the ritual unfolds before them, their father holds the glass up to the light, swirls the liquid, takes a deep sniff of the scent, lowers it to his lips, and………


Causing the red wine to cover himself, his children, and the elderly couple sitting next to the American family.

Elderly couple not amused.  Children in a fit of hysterical laughter.  Father frozen like a deer in headlights.

He would later blame allergies.  But kid-ginger and I-we’re pretty sure his mind made him do it.

the Honk Kong episode

1 Mar

When I was 15 my mother, brother and I went to visit my father in Hong Kong.  It was the first time we travelled internationally together, and in what would quickly become a family tradition-we managed to make culturally-inept morons of ourselves.

Granted, it didn’t take much for us to stand out.  My dad is 6ft, my mother resembles Diane Keaton, I’m blonde, and my brother is a redhead. Blending in with the Chinese is not really an option.  Add to this equation several tour guide books, an obnoxious teenager with headphones permanently stuck to her head (yours truly), copious amounts of denim, and a travelers backpack (worn by dad-not sure what in the hell he kept in there)-and you get the equivalent of National Lampoon’s Hong Kong Adventure.

We visited various sites, ate at a plethora of restaurants with food my brother and I had never seen before, and spent most of our time trying not to be separated by the constant crowds of people.  My dad had rules set in place for us to follow.  They included simple things like not wandering off by oneself and not keeping money in ones back-pocket.  One morning as we set off for our daily site-seeing agenda, he gave strict instruction not to take pictures of anything in a square through which we had to pass.

It was full of people selling various souvenirs, begging, and offering rides on rickshaws.  Dad insisted we keep our cameras down in order to avoid further attention on ourselves.  Upon entering the square, it was obvious why he had been so clear in his instruction.  People crowded the area, selling everything they could think of.  We were instantly spotted and bombarded with statues, books, jewelry, and jade.  The three of us stood quietly in the mess of street vendors while awaiting further instruction from my father.

I’m not exactly sure what happened next-but somehow things took a definite turn for the dramatic.

I remember my father asking me to read something out on the map for him.  The two of us attempted to find our bearings when we heard the commotion, which incidentally turned out to be my brother yelling:

“I’m coming Mom, I’ve got you!!!!”

Dad and I glanced up just in time to see first my mother, and then my brother be rushed off into the streets of Hong Kong on two separate rickshaws.  They were both screaming.  Both sets of limbs flayed about as they attempted to gain body control in the rickety contraptions.  Each of them looked horrified, and neither could get out of whatever situation it was they had stumbled upon.  The drivers seemed all too happy to run off with our family members in tow, bare-feet clambering against the ground as they wheeled down the street.

Dad and I gaped at the disappearing figures as they were ushered away.  By the time we had a second to react, they were both completely out of site.  We had absolutely no idea what had happened.

Evidently, my mother had decided to take pictures of the rickshaw drivers.

One of them took this as a sign that she wanted a ride, threw her into the back of the cart, and ran away.  In an act of heroism, kid-ginger followed suit by launching himself into a separate cart, and let the driver of that cart run-without a common language for directions.

Fortunately for Dad and I (who stood helplessly in the square without the slightest notion of what to do next)-the two risk-takers returned about fifteen minutes after their unscheduled departure.

I will never forget the look on my dad’s face as he screamed in English at the rickshaw drivers-each of whom screamed back in Chinese.  He had to pay, they did take the tourists for a ride after all.  Jaw-clenched, he threw cash into their fists as my mother and brother hugged in tearful reunion.   You would have thought one of them had faced the death-penalty.

Turns out they just went around the block, screaming at each other the entire time.

That was the dawn of my family’s international travel days.

Inter-cultural relations haven’t been the same since.

gangster tour

24 Feb

My brother and I once got a midnight tour of Old San Juan from a Puerto Rican gangster.  He took a liking to us in a hole-in-the-wall bar off the beaten tourist track.  We probably should have noticed his status in the community by the way that the locals reacted to him as he sauntered into the dirty place and hung up his fedora.  However, in our typical sibling tradition-one of us had fallen for the bartender so we were well into shameless flirting and receiving free cocktails.  Hence-we were the two whitest, tipsiest patrons of the establishment.  I blame my bro; for it was he who had fallen for the woman who kept refilling our drinks after his red-headed brain told him ridiculous tipping was a fantastic idea.  But I digress, back to the gangster.

He walked in and a seat opened next to us as the previous tenant instantly vacated the stool in order to please our future tour guide.  My brother, well into his mode of mingling with locals, instantly patted him on the back and asked him how he was doing.  It was clear this guy was not used to such blatant idiocy flaunted in his face.  However, something about our moronic grins and chatty nature appealed to him, and soon the man was ordering rounds of shots and asking us about our travels.

Let’s call him Slick, shall we?  He was donning a fantastically tailored suit, full with suspenders, a cigar, and of course-the fedora.  So for the purpose of my story, lets agree that Slick is an appropriate title.

It just so happened that our parents had sent us out that evening in search of good tips for a traditional local restaurant for my fathers birthday.  They wanted something genuine, not too touristy, and of course-delicious.  When I mentioned this to Slick, his eyes instantly lit up.  Three shots of tequila were ordered, and Slick moved between my brother and I, arms over both of us, cigar dangling-and said:

‘why it just so happens I own the oldest restaurant in town’

Several cocktails and a headache later, my brother and I returned to the hotel.  We had been promised full-treatment for the whole family the next evening, and Slick went above and beyond in delivering his word.

The hostess was awaiting us at eight the next evening, with a special room prepared.  My parents were treated amazingly, with little stories about each of the dishes and the history of the restaurant.  After dinner, kid-ginger and I were invited out to drinks back at the same bar from the previous evening.  Two hours later, we returned to the now closed restaurant where my brother was given full reigns of the bar, and I watched in amazement as Slick pulled out a book that looked like it belonged on a pirate ship.  Inside it were the autographs of hundreds of celebrities, some of them old-glamour Hollywood who had frequented the establishment.

Slick handed us each a pen, had us sign it (which we both found insane as clearly we are all-but celebrity material), and then announced that if we wanted to see the real Old San Juan, he was the best tour-guide in town.

So it was that we walked until the sun came up through the cobblestone streets.  Slick pointed out various sites, and even got us into the front lawn a government residency after a small word with the police guards in front of it.  There were amazing gardens inside, and he insisted we wander through them.  Everywhere he took us, people moved aside for Slick.  We received drinks, stories, and a tremendous amount of laughter before the night was through.  Naturally, we applauded ourselves as we stumbled back to the hotel on the joys of mingling with the locals when traveling.

It was one of the greatest travel nights I’ve ever had.  Just goes to show what a smile, a bit of ignorance, and a gangster can get you in Puerto Rico.