My wife and I and our son were down from Seattle, visiting her sister, and their parents from Huntsville were there as well. Also my wife’s father’s sister’s son, who is my wife’s cousin as well as my wife’s sister’s cousin, and from San Francisco. Also his nephew, from Atlanta, although the nephew did not participate in this story. I don’t know how it came up, but my sister-in-law told my niece, who is also my wife’s cousin’s mother’s brother’s grand-daughter, that they, her grandparents, almost named her Schumpta (if you don’t hear the name often it sounds like SCHOOMP-THUH). My niece was not impressed by this, so she went with her second cousin into the play room to make a tower out of Magnatiles for my son, who was at the time taking a nap, to knock over.
So I mentioned to my wife that if I had been a girl, my parents would have named me Angela. And I said if they had, it would have been awkward for her, falling in love with an Angela and everything. My wife said it would have been no problem; she would have just called me Mangela. This made me laugh uproariously, and I tried to think of a way to use Mangela in a tweet about gender fluidity, but I couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t potentially offensive.
My wife’s cousin was explaining how he and his wife had a business that sourced gluten-free flour to companies. And my mother-in-law said she was very proud of all of the cousins (her sibling’s children and her sibling-in-law’s children). My sister-in-law made a joke about our stripper cousin. (We don’t have a stripper cousin but if we did I would respect the job, as I have had the privilege of watching a stripper perform and it would be hypocritical to judge. Also, it’s a job that I imagine is much more difficult than it looks, and something I couldn’t do, even if I wasn’t middle-aged and out of shape and going bald and a man and have terrible taste in g-strings. Basically, I’m too lazy).
The conversation got a bit garbled and we had to repeat what my sister-in-law had said, and my wife laughed and replied that our stripper cousin’s name was Mangela. And again I tried to think of some kind of joke, like maybe Mangela was a special-needs stripper, and in much the same way that people reference a so-called “short bus” for special-needs kids, Mangela him/herself worked a half-pole, or a “short-pole,” but again I couldn’t think of a way to bring it up without being offensive, not to mention the difficulty in even setting up the joke without being ponderous and tedious.
And then my wife mentioned how “Mangela” was a funny name because it sounds like “Manjula,” a not-uncommon Indian name. Upon hearing this my father-in-law said he had a masi named Manjula, masi being a word for your mother’s sister. Incidentally, the word for father’s sister is foi, so my wife’s cousin’s mother is her foi. That’s not material to this story either. But when my father-in-law mentioned his Manjula-masi that made my wife and her sister laugh, and then I had to explain to my sister-in-law how we got to Manjula in the first place.
This sparked my father-in-law to ask if I didn’t have an ex-girlfriend named Angela, or a friend maybe, and my wife and I said we did, once. Friend not girlfriend. My sister-in-law asked if she was the crazy one, and we said yes, although that might have been another friend of ours. And then she asked if that was the friend who’s brother went missing on a hike for three days, and we had to keep saying that Angela didn’t have a brother. Which made us think she must be referring to a different crazy friend. And to be clear, crazy in these contexts means mentally ill, not zany.
At this point I was trying to think of other woman’s name with “man” in them, so I could add a W-O, and I came up with “Samantha is such a hard-core feminist, she changed her named so Sawomantha.” I may tweet that. I don’t actually know anyone named Samantha.
Finally my wife remembered that the friend who had the brother who went missing for three days was her co-worker Anne. Who isn’t a friend at all. And that Angela, by the way, was also a co-worker, and a friend, and by coincidence our neighbor before she moved to Austin. Also, she suffered from a crippling depression, poor thing. But I think she’s better now. And I might as well mention that Angela’s ex-boyfriend bought her house from her, not right when they broke up of course, but after she had rented it to another coworker for a while, who, when his wife got pregnant, ended up moving just a few miles away from where my wife and I had moved, although we still own that first house and rent it to some very nice people. Angela’s ex-boyfriend got married and they had a baby but they still live in that house he bought from his ex. But never mind. None of that has anything to do with this.
Anne’s brother, the one who had been missing for three days on a hike, it turns out, is a cardiologist. In fact, when my father-in-law was in Seattle, visiting my wife and I and our son, he was having some chest pains, so first we called his sister’s husband, who is a cardiologist, the same sister’s husband who’s son was visiting my wife’s sister at the same time we were. And then we called my wife’s sister for some reason, maybe because she knew someone who knew cardiologists, because she gave us the number for a cardiologist in a San Francisco, who recommended we talk to someone he knew and highly recommended in Seattle, who was, you guessed it, my wife’s co-worker’s brother, the one who had once gone missing for three days.
My wife remembered all of this and reminded us about it. And then my wife’s cousin asked us if we’d read that long article in the new York Times about the four Indian’s who had died on Mt. Everest, about how their families were trying to recover the bodies. He’d brought it up, he explained, because a cardiologist had also been on the mountain that day, and he had not only filmed the four Indians, way above him on the mountain, as they died, but he had felt bad about not helping them, even though doing so probably would have gotten him killed too.
My sister-in-law’s father asked who was the Indian with the camera, and my wife said not an Indian, a cardiologist, and I made a joke about it wasn’t an Indian, but instead a cardiologist, as if an Indian can’t be a cardiologist, which was funny given that my wife’s father’s sister’s husband, who is also my sister-in-law’s cousin’s father, is a cardiologist, and also Indian. And I tried to think of a joke about how if you’re Indian and studying cardiology you spend so much time inside with books that you turn pale and aren’t Indian anymore, but I also tried to think of a way to tie in how climbing Mt. Everest would turn you white, especially if you died. But nothing came to mind.
Then my wife recalled than when she and her sister were kids, they went to Switzerland, with their parents, and it was pointed out to them that a person who was travelling past Jungfrau could see little black dots on the mountain face, and those were people who had died, and been left there, as it was too expensive and dangerous to retrieve the bodies. I managed to say something that wasn’t a joke about how folks could use drones to retrieve the bodies, these days, and then I found a way to turn it into a joke about gung-ho drone-flying bros upping their game from drone racing to a competition to see who could fetch the most bodies off a mountain. Everyone laughed.
My wife’s cousin’s mother’s brother then mentioned how there were some Indians, Parsees, who don’t burn or bury their dead, but hanging them in a well for birds to eat. I replied that not only was I aware of this, but that I happened to know that there was a Parsee sanctuary very close to where his brother lived in Mumbai (a place my wife and I had visited before we were married). Then my wife’s mother asked what did Jews do with their dead, and my wife’s cousin made a joke about not knowing if she’d said Jews or Juice. I was going to try and think of a joke about Jews and Juice, but instead I told my mother-in-law that Jews bury their died just like Christians do, something I know because my wife and my son and necessarily the coworker who had moved out of Angela’s house when he and his wife had a baby, live within a few miles of a Jewish cemetery.
My sister-in-law’s cousin’s father’s wife’s brother’s wife then said she thought that Jews and Parsees were a lot alike, which is why she’d asked, but my wife’s sister’s daughter’s second cousin’s grandmother’s brother said no, the Parsees had originally come from a different part of the Middle East. I tried to think of a way to use the word “Semitic” but couldn’t. But I did mention how it was odd that when I was growing up in Wichita, I happened to live with a few miles of several cemeteries, and now, in Seattle, I also live within a few miles of several cemeteries.
I explained this was because when these towns were smaller, the cemeteries were outside of town, and then as the towns grew, they overtook the cemeteries. My mother’s in-law’s nephew then said that in a town on the East Coast, which I am assuming was not far from where his nephew’s grandfather the cardiologist lived, they kept their cemetery right in the center of town, which was a problem because when hurricane Sandy came through it uprooted several large elm trees, which unearthed lots of graves, bones and all.
I don’t remember what we talked about after that.