Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Freedoniad: A Tale of Epic Adventure in which Two BFFs Travel the Universe and End up in Dunkirk, New York

Bumping this to the top (from 2014) because why not? Some of us need a break from weary weather.
And another thing

This is the story of Sparkychan and Gojochan and how they started in Jersey City, New Jersey, traveled the universe, and ended up in Dunkirk in upstate New York. Sparkychan’s the pink one and Gojochan’s the grey one. “Chan”, as I’m sure you know, is a Japanese diminutive and is appended to the names of children, where it has affectionate connotations. “Sparky” is obvious enough, and as for “Gojo,” that’s short for “Gojira,” which became “Godzilla” when rendered into English.

I bought the two toys so I could pose them among some of Jersey City’s grimier spots, as you see them above. I named them when I started using them in stories I told to two young girls I’d recently met.

Except that I didn’t really meet them.

I met their father.

Except that I didn’t really meet him either.

Not in the “real” world.

I met him online, at Bérubé’s joint, where he posted as The Constructivist. Bérubé – that’s Michael Bérubé, formerly president of the Modern Language Association – ran a real sociable place, where The Constructivist and I joined a bunch of others in a major interwebs project/party. And that is how I more or less – the details don’t matter – ended up at Mostly Harmless, one of The Constructivist’s blogs.

These days he mostly posts about women’s golf. But back in those days he would also post about his two young daughters, which he identified as onechan (the older one) and imoto (the younger one). I believe onechan was between three and four at the time.

So on July 9, 2007, I posted following photo addressed to onechan and with this title: “Waiting for her in America, but with fond memories of Japan.”


The Constructivist is on the faculty at the State University of New York at Freedonia and lives in Dunkirk with his family. His wife is Japanese and they were in Japan for a year. He was on a Fulbright and she was visiting with her family in Chiba Fukuoka. Hence the photo’s title.

The tree’s not exactly a Bodhi tree, but you get the idea. You’ll also notice that I jacked up the saturation at bit, which I sometimes do. Anyhow, the sisters had a nice conversation about Sparkychan and Gojochan (though I hadn’t yet named them), which is reported in the comments HERE.

One thing led to another and I ended up posting a bunch of anecdotes from the life of Sparkychan and Gojochan, which The Constructivist has helpfully gathered together: The Collected Adventures of Sparkychan & Gojochan (Thus Far). But the best story of them all is the last one: Sparkychan & Gojochan Adventure Time Mystery Theatre. That’s the one where the two BFFs get captured by a very mean creature,


who then packs them into a box,


and puts the box in a canister that gets sent out into space,

spaceship gojo.jpg

and that’s how the story ends.

Well, not quite. There’s a back-story – there always is, isn’t there? – that takes the story one more move.

When the family left America for Japan the girls were too young to have strong attachments outside the family. But things changed in Japan and onechan in particular was feeling anxious about leaving her Japanese friends. So Uncle Bill, that’s me, got a jivometric mind jolt: What if I send Sparkychan and Gojochan to the girls when they get home to Dunkirk? The dolls could bridge the gap between the girls’ two homes. They met Sparkychan and Gojochan in Japan, and now they can play with them in America.

So that’s what I did. That story was a pretext for the package that arrived a couple of days after the family got back home. The box you see in the photo is the very box I packed the dolls into. I then FedExed it to Dunkirk so it would arrive at the right time.

Here’s what happened when they opened the package (in the comments):
And there was much rejoicing! More than ten minutes' worth and counting. Key refrains include:

"They comed to us! Why did they come?"

"They're not talking. It's pretend!"

"The kyoryu (dino toy outside) is Gojochan's tomodachi (friend)!"

As I'm typing this, she's telling her mom about it in Japanese. Then she brought Sparkychan to watch me type. Then she went back to telling her mom more in Japanese!

Onechan has already decided that Sparkychan is hers and Gojochan is imoto's.

The celebrations continue! Imoto keeps saying "Go!!!"
Herewith endeth the lesson.

The lesson?

Yes, the lesson.

What lesson?

Which one do you want? The one about the importance of stories, the one about fiction and reality, the one about trust, the one about friendship, the one about the Internet?

All of them, we want all of them!

* * * * *



Why call it “The Freedoniad” when none of it takes place in Freedonia?

On the one hand, I didn’t want to use “Dunkirk” twice in the title, so I couldn’t call it the “Dunkirkiad,” which is, if anything, even clunkier than “Freedoniad.”

I can see that, still...

The Constructivist is on the faculty at Freedonia even if none of the story took place there. More importantly, Freedonia is a small kingdom in possibly the best Marx Brothers film, Duck Soup.

Ah, I understand.


  1. Hey, Bill, thanks for the nostalgia jolt! Onechan turns 11 in December and has reread every Harry Potter book so often she's now into time turner fan fiction where the protagonists' kids travel back in time to interact with their parents when they were their age. Imoto just turned 8 and a half and is fearless when it coms to watching fantasy movies (all of LOTR and The Hobbit). We're bonding catching up on Once Upon a Time's older seasons so we can see what happens with the Frozen characters this season.

    So things are going well.

    One small correction: the Full Metal Archivist's family is in Chiba; we got placed in Fukuoka b/c of the Fulbright!

  2. Hmmm...interesting thing about those Potters. I've been told they're done in ring-composition. Haven't read any myself so I don't know. But good to hear the Onechan's a reader and Imoto loves fantasy. I made the correction about FMA's family.

  3. Aw, that's really sweet, Bill. I love your creativity with the camera and the kids.

    1. Thanks, Bryan. As I indicated, when I started taking the photos I didn't have any stories in mind, much less telling them to a pair of sisters half way around the world. I was just interested in setting those two dolls in gritty Jersey City settings. And then things just happened. Alas, there isn't nearly enough of this kind of thing on the web.

  4. Maybe if I can pry loose the time I should do a new edition of my digital storytelling book.