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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Chinese Doppleganger: T. Bertone Chomsky

A Chinese delegation came to Trident Technical College last spring.

I was asked to join the group at Jim 'n Nick's BBQ. Oh, and bring the Chinese translation of your landscape design textbook. There were 12 of us. Four spoke English. I did a lot of vacant nodding.

The delegates were university presidents and vice presidents. Educational elite. At some point, I was introduced and asked to tell them about our horticulture program and, of course, the book. I whipped out the textbook, and they ooh. They ahh. One gentleman was from an agricultural school. He flipped through the pages with purpose while the translator transformed my words into Chinese.

Five minutes later, the agriculture man passed me a pen and then motioned with his hand. He wanted me to sign it. He wanted my signature on the textbook. Why would I give him the only Chinese-translated book I possess without signing it? That would be stupid.

So I signed it. I gave away the coolest coffee table book in my house.

Later, he spoke to me and I nodded, repeating over and over, "I don't understand. I don't understand." I thought he wanted to go outside for a smoke. So I went, what the hell. Instead, we went out to Jim 'n Nick's parking lot for a picture. While someone pointed a camera and counted to three in Chinese, he put his arm around my shoulders and displayed my signed textbook. We took two pictures because he wanted more of Tanger Outlet in the background.

And then he left with my Chinese textbook.

When I got my March royalty check, I noticed an additional line item. The publisher sold 2000 copies of my Chinese translation last fall. And my name had been translated.

T. Bertone Chomsky.

Winner, winner. Chicken dinner.

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