My father was the funniest mathematician I’ve ever known. In his younger days Dad’s humor was often at the expense of others and frequently tended toward the acerbic. Since I didn’t grow up in the same household, I was mostly spared the barb of what could be a quite sharp wit. But I did develop early an appreciation for the occasional concise and cutting insight.

As he grew older, he seemed to develop a capacity to appreciate the more generally absurd aspects of living and so the point of his humor then frequently found expression in the more mundane and less personal aspects of the human condition and its subsets.

I’m happy to report that near to the end of his life I even noticed a capacity to find amusement in his own decisions, circumstances and self. Even at his most acerbic, Dad always appreciated a good job, well done.

He was an aficionado of Japanese food–perhaps in part because there is so much that is necessary to do well in preparing a decent Japanese meal. Wherever he lived for any length of time he managed to locate at least one more or less acceptable Japanese restaurant. Good job, dad!

I first appreciated the maturation of his humor when we were leaving a restaurant outside of Chapel Hill, NC after a particularly nice meal of tempura and sushi accompanied by a chillilin of warm sake. Dad detoured from the door and approached the sushi chefs, Mexican all, and warmly thanked them: “Arigato, chico!”

In linking those words plucked from two distinct cultures Dad implied a wealth of appreciation for much more than the chef’s artistry. His “arigato” acknowledged the guy’s culinary accomplishment, sure, but by this particular tip of his linguistic hat he managed to convey a genuine respect for a good job, performed well in an unusual profession and meeting the expectations of two cultures foreign to the chef’s own. Way to go, Chico!

Really, Dad’s verbal feat seemed to me at least as elegant as the Mexican’s sushi. And so, like any number of his better phrases, I appropriated this one and began the long wait for the appropriate occasion to properly employ it.

In the little Dominican village where I am living there is a restaurant, “La Adventura de Jean.” The locals all know it as “Francis’s place.” The food is consistent and fresh and good, the menu is varied and the prices fair; the ambiance is pleasant and the pizza is arguably the best in town. And now, on Friday evenings, the regular kitchen staff at Francis’s place is joined by a Dominican named José.

José is known for his barbecue and for a number of other things. ¿But sushi? Who knew? Hell, who could have guessed?

And so on Friday I had a very nice miso soup, an excellent tempura and some totally acceptable California rolls all fresh and reasonably priced right here in Las Galeras!

Arigato, José.

And thanks to you, too, Francis.

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