I’d like to tell you about my little brother James. He is the perfect picture of someone who never concedes to the pressure of what other people think. First of all, he is about a foot taller than most people, and his white-boy afro does nothing to counter this image. He likes the color purple and exotic clothing, and it doesn’t shock the people he knows to see him walking around town in a brightly colored vest, a hat and stripped pants. In the winter, he likes to wear a tremendous trench coat that makes him look like a skinny mobster. And of course, I can’t forget his shoes. He has big feet, not abnormal, but large. The thing with James though is that he hates when shoes touch the ends of his toes, so he always buys shoes that are about an inch longer than he needs, giving his whole costume a clown-like feel.
Another of his quirks is that if he feels that he can pull it off, he will always claim the opposite view in a discussion, and argue his side vehemently until the other parties to the conversation either give in or give up. I must admit that this is his most irritating personality quirk, and those who don’t know that he isn’t really serious can take offense. I remember once when he was a child, he asked me what day it was, and I replied that it was Wednesday. He retorted that it was NOT Wednesday, but Tuesday instead. I did a double take and checked the calendar; it was indeed Wednesday. I let my little brother know that he was wrong, and showed him the calendar, and recounted the things that had happened on each of the days since Sunday when we had gone to church. He still insisted that it was Tuesday rather than Wednesday, and of course I wouldn’t back down since I knew I was right. Eventually we both broke down into giggles because of the sheer comedy of our argument.
Today, my brother James has moved to San Fransisco in order to go to culinary school. Even in a town as diverse as San Fransisco, he still comes across as someone who doesn’t mind being himself in any circumstance. I think his sense of self comes from his feeling of assurance that he is correct. As a way of illustration, let me tell you about the time he decided to make a batch of macaroni and cheese. Our family has a favorite recipe for mac and cheese that involves making a cheesy cream sauce with onions and then adding the cooked macaroni and baking the whole thing until it is a delicious, creamy, cheesy, crunchy magnificent concoction that any of us could eat an entire batch of without blinking an eye. So, while making the cream sauce, James mis-read the recipe as calling for eight cups of flour rather than eight tablespoons, which is sixteen times too much flour! The flour is the third ingredient he needed to add, and instead of thinking, ‘hmm, this seems weird, maybe I should re-evaluate,’ he went right on ahead with his recipe. I walked into the kitchen just as he was attempting to “pour” this brick of flour, macaroni, and chunks of cheese (since, of course, they didn’t melt right when mixed with so much flour) into a casserole pan. If I had not stopped him there, he would have baked it and only admitted to his mistake when it came out of the oven inedible. When I asked him why he hadn’t realized that he had made a mistake he told me that he had followed the recipe, and so how could he have made a mistake?
Another amusing facet of my brother’s personality is his use of made up names and words. He has been doing this since he was old enough to talk as a toddler. When I read an email from him, I feel as though I am reading a foreign tongue, as I only recognize half the words. When I ask him what a word means, he replies that it is a portmanteau between two other words that he feels should go together to create a new word that has the meaning he wanted.
I admire my brother’s strength of character, and I am envious of his ability to act as he sees to be correct without regard to the opinion of others. Of course, this tendency can be taken too far, but any good trait when used without moderation can turn sour. Luckily, as my brother has gotten older, he has learned to curb some of his tendencies when appropriate. He even calls me when he has trouble with a recipe and doesn’t know what to do rather than just foraging ahead.