TigerBlog never met Irv Mondschein, the legendary men's track and field coach at Penn from the 1960s through the 1980s, including all of TB's time there.
TB does know Brian Mondschein, Irv's
son and the assistant women's track and field coach at Princeton. Brian
was an All-America decathlete at the University of Washington as an
undergraduate, and he has had a long career as a college track and field
Perhaps it's come from hanging around so close to Peter Farrell or maybe it's just how he's wired but Brian Mondschein is one funny individual. With him, the material is usually good, but it's the subtle delivery that really puts him over the top.
Beyond that, though, Brian is also deep. Way deeper than TigerBlog would have guessed at least until he read Brian's entry in the "Tiger Writes" staff writing competition. It is incredible.
Don't believe TigerBlog. You can read it for yourself, since TB asked Brian for his permission to reprint it as a Guest TigerBlog. And you can see all of the winning entries HERE.
Anyway, here is what Brian had to say:
My father was a Brooklyn-born Jew attending New
York University on the G.I. bill who met and married a Hawaiian-born
Japanese grad student at Columbia. I think of myself as the poster child
for ethnic outliers. Growing up, the kids at my elementary school were
either Irish, or Italian, or Polish, or Irish-Italian, or, well… they
were something. I was seven, and I asked my parents what I was. My
mother told me I was Jewpanese. “Yes,” my father said, nodding. “You are
Years later I realized that the Jewpanese
were not a bona fide ethnic group, which explained why I had never met
any other Jewpanese children at school.
My brother and I
grew up in Levittown, New York in the late 50s and early 60s. Levittown
was only slightly more enlightened intellectually and culturally than a
few other places I have since lived, places often referred to as the
“Deep South.” I married a Southerner, and if you are Jewpanese from New
York, imagine how disappointing it must be to hear one’s mother-in-law
refer to the Civil War as the “Wah of Nawthen Agression.”
people really think like this?” I thought to myself, as I have often
thought to myself during a lifetime of thinking things to myself. But I
said nothing. The teachable moments are few for those surrounding the
Jewpanese living in the South. Even as an adult living in the Louisiana,
I felt my primary obligation was neither to correct nor instruct, but
to survive, or should I say: live smoothly, without incident. And in
that sense, I can find some similarities to the situation Southern
students of color who come North for their education experience.
you live in a state where the saying, “Thank God for Mississippi and
Alabama,” lingers as an afterthought to every national survey involving
health, education and the general welfare of the populace, being part of
“the other” prohibits you from speaking out in many situations where
injustice is either perceived, detected, or runs rampant. It isn’t as
easy as you would think to speak out about injustice, or to act in the
name of social or racial equality, whether you are in Princeton, New
Jersey, or Princeton, Mississippi, although the smart money says that
when you do speak out, you are less likely to get bitten by a police dog
in New Jersey.
But nonetheless you sense things, you feel things. Things to you sometimes seem quietly not right.
In Levittown, the paper boy on his Stingray bike delivered the news to our doorstep 365 days a year.
was probably four years older than I, two years older than my brother,
and he wore boots with heels, his hair slicked and coiffed like the rock
and roll singers of the time. Each day he would wait until he got to
the end of our block, and then he would yell “Chink!” at my brother and
me. It always seemed odd that he would never say anything when he was
directly in front of our house. And I would never even look up at him,
hoping that this was the day he had decided to stop yelling “chink” at
us. But it never was.
There came a day one November that my brother had had enough, and he confronted the paperboy.
the buzzing in my ears I could not hear a word they were saying, but I
knew from the way the paperboy kept tilting his head sideways at my
brother trouble was in the works. They began to fight, and the paperboy
landed punches that felt as if they were landing sickeningly on my own
stomach and chest. My brother was not fighting, it seemed. He was just
sort of holding on. I noticed that the paperboy’s pants, the tight jeans
that teenage hoods wore in those days, now had a tear in them, and
there was some blood coming from his knee. My brother tightened his grip
on the paperboy while they struggled on the ground. I saw that the
paperboy had begun to cry. Finally, my brother stood up, the paperboy
still face down and motionless on the ground, trying not to cry but the
tears still streaming across his reddened cheeks. “We’re not Chinks,” my
brother said to him, “We’re Japs.”
We rode off on my
brother’s bike with me on the handle bars and my brother peddling down
our street. We rode through a pile of yellow and brown leaves, and I
kicked the pile with both my feet.
It’s possible to
think of your mind as a kitchen strainer or a common sieve. Most of your
experiences pass through easily and are long forgotten, but for one
reason or another, and sometimes it seems pretty random, things get
trapped by the sieve. What’s interesting is that we don’t really get to
choose what memories get trapped, what events in our lives make up who
we are and how we think. One day something touches a chord in us,
unleashing feelings that we never acted on or never knew we had, and we
find ourselves doing things that surprise us and others around us. We
are standing up for ourselves in a manner of speaking, or we are
standing up for our brothers and sisters, or a group of people, or just
people we feel connected to. Sometimes the injustice is so far removed
from where we are at present that the standing up part almost seems
contrived or misdirected. But doing the right thing always feels like
the right thing, and, well, if we don’t like that there are people
occupying the President’s office, think only to yourself that the
President seems pretty good with it, so you might as well be too. Maybe
he knows something that you don’t.
As for myself, as
untouched as I am as an adult by the transgressions of the real world, I
am but one step away in my mind from the boy I was in Levittown, New
York, watching my older brother fighting in the street against what I
would now call ignorance, but what I thought of back then as tyranny.
Perhaps the part of us that once felt alien and mistreated, while
different for everyone, may be the key to understanding some of the
things that are happening on our campus and in our country.
And the Jewish part of Jewpanese?
OMG. A whole other story.