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May Mao May 25, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Monthly Mao.
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May Mao

A little background first.  I’d seen Mao around.  His milky-white china presence presided over all things Asian at Marz, my neighborhood source for campy culture.  I was armed with a gift certificate, so there was no stopping me. As the salewoman, who was wearing a bejewelled bandoleer, rolled Mao into a burrito of tissue paper, she mused, “Sometimes when people have a gift certificate, they rush to spend it all at once. You know,  we get new things in every week.”  Could she sense impending buyer’s remorse, or did she just want Mao for herself?

Once home, I placed Mao in the dining room in front of the mirror in the built-in china cabinet.  I stood back to take in the total effect.  Instinctively, I checked my purse to make sure I hadn’t lost the receipt.   Just in case.  My husband walked by and gave Mao a sideways glance.  “Cool,” he said without missing a beat.  Really?  Cool!  But politically uncool?  I googled Mao on Wikipedia in an attempt to try to ease my conscience.  It didn’t look good.  I looked him up in The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy by E.D. Hirsch, Jr.  It didn’t help that Mao’s entry was opposite Mother Teresa’s.   I decided to sleep on it.

The next morning I called my friend Christine and told her I’d developed a full-blown case of buyer’s remorse.  She drove over to check out the damage.  “I don’t think it’s bad at all,” she said.  “Most people will just think it’s Winston Churchill,” she added,  pointing to Mao’s double-breasted coat. If this was meant to reassure me, it had the opposite effect.  Did I know anyone THAT ignorant?  If so, I vowed to purge them from my address book in a Cultural Revolution of my own.

When I’d bought the large stone Buddha for the garden, I’d wrestled it into the passenger seat and fastened the seatbelt.  I remember feeling a sense of peace descend over me as I drove home, with Buddha beside me riding shotgun.  Not so with Mao.  Marz is closed Mondays,  so I decided I’d return him Tuesday.  I just hoped the same saleswoman wasn’t working.

But on Tuesday, Mao looked different.  Or maybe I was looking at him differently.  “Maybe I could surround him with broken pieces of white china that all have Made in China printed on them, ” I suggested.   My husband nodded, obviously not wanting to interfere with my creative stream of consciousness.   “Why don’t you just make him lean to the left,”  he said, sipping his coffee.  Great minds DO think alike!

There was one detail I’d overlooked.  I didn’t have any broken pieces of white china.  Let’s see, what do we have that’s white?  I emerged from the kitchen with a bag of rice, which my husband grabbed.  “You can’t use basmati!” he chided.  He returned with a big bag of short-grained rice and we spent the next hour rearranging  the rice.  It was like playing with one of those desktop Zen sand gardens.  When everything was just so, we lit the candles and stood back.  “Cool,” I said.   And I really meant it.

So meet May Mao.  June Mao will make his debut June 1.  I plan to use Monthly Mao as an excuse to finally learn Photoshop.   

As a footnote, my eldest son, Taylor, was down from Santa Cruz last week. When he first walked through the dining room, he did a double take. “What’s with the statue of Mao?”  he asked.  “Oh, your mom bought it,” my husband said.  “Oh, okay, that explains it,”  Taylor said.  And that was that.











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