Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Albondigas, no te dije ?

When I was in Junior High, half of my day was made up of Spanish, Math & Science. I have talked about my weakness in math and science in these pages, but I have stayed away from forgien languages.The subject is very painful.

In those days, Spanish was taught using the dialouge method.You were given big red book(Spanish, ALM,Level One) with a series of dialouges in it that you had to memorize. Each person would spit out the dialouge in front of the class on a given day. sometimes, you would be assigned a part of a dialouge. This was much easier. "Wade, you will play the part of Isabel today." (four lines at worst). The dialouges all revolved around school and the problems of Jr. High children, assuming that the biggest problems that Jr High students had, took place in the "biblioteca" or involved toca discos descompuesto. I once told a cab driver in Mazatlan that my hotel was "no muy lejos de aqui, enfrente de la Iglesia. " It was the only sentence from the dialouges which I was every able to use. Even in school I never found a use for "que lastima, se me olvido el cuaderno". Oh, now and then, as a joke, someone might see a cute girl and say "quien es este chica?", but not very often. reminding someone of the Spanish class was in bad taste.

My teacher was a Chilean, Mrs Pybus, who could not stand me. I had her in 7th grade, and again as a Senior in High School, when she advised me to join the Army now, because I was sure to flunk out of college and get drafted. I was tempted to tell her not to worry, my Counselor had already told me that "there is not a college in this country that I would recommend you for." Gee, thanks.I got even with Mrs Pybus by publishing both the Englsih and Spanish versions of my classic poem "La Publica Playa" in the student literary magazine at the end of the year. Since I did not know any Spanish, I mangled the translation. She thought that I had mistranslated from the English. This was not true, The poem was written by me in Spanish, so not only was the Spanish mangled, but the English Translation as well. I reprint both translations herein.

La Publica Playa

Me gusto el agua
en la publica playa.
Pero el agua es frio,
en los pies con mio."

The Public Beach

I like the water at the public beach.
But it's cold on my feet.

The poem was placed in the literary magazine over strenuous objections from the editor, one Tom Brune, who felt that it was a joke. He was angry because he wanted my page for another of his "masterpieces", he had only seven or eight in the journal already. My buddy Jeff Franks, however, insisted that my piece was going in and commissioned a student from the art department to draw dangling "Christ feet" for the background of the piece. It looked beautiful and, because of the gravitas lent by the feet of our redeememer, people actually took the poem seriously.Some people that is, not those who knew me, and not Mrs Pybus. She was furious when shown the magazine by a fellow Spanish teacher. As I recall, I had published the poem under my nom de plume "Paco". This had been my nane in Spanish Class since the third grade. Mrs Pybus had a pretty damn good idea just who "Paco" was.

The problem of course was that I had made her look bad.I had put together the Spanish poem for an assignment because it sort of rhymed and I thought that the juxtaposition of likeing the water, but it being painful at the same time, was a nice touch. Of course the Spanish I used was not done properly and so the English Translation was wrong. Mrs Pybus properly felt that I was humiliating her after all these years, and doing so in front of her peers. Actually, it was her fault. I had turned the poem into her as an assignment earlier in the year. It had come back with an ambiguous check mark on it, which could have meant either "good job" or "you did the assignment". Come to find out that it was the later.Too bad. Too bad for Pybus, but Paco was famous.The only other person who complained about the translation was my English teacher who actually felt that I was a good poet and did not understand why I had not entered any of the poems I had done for her. She spoke fluent Spanish and spent an unconscionable amount of time in front of my English class trying to ungarble the translation. She finally had to give up.

In 1975, my Spanish days ended at last as I finally struggled through Spanish II in college. I got a B. To this day, I am prouder of that grade than any other grade I ever received at any level of education.After 14 years of on and off struggle with the lanuage, I had succeded, and could graduate college !Many years later, the internet introduced translation services for msot any language. I ran my poem through, and here, at last, are the computer translations of my classic.

I like the water in the public beach.
But the water is cold in the feet with mine.

Me gusta el agua en la playa publica.
Pero a mis frio a mies pies.

It loses something in the translation. - Paco-

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