Category Archives: Perspective

If You Catch The Right Wave You Cut Left Because Left Is West

When I lived in Hawaii, I’d take a drive from Waikiki to where my grandmother lived—up along the coast heading east, and it takes you past Hanauma Bay. When my mother was pregnant with me she’d take a walk along the beach. . . . You park your car. If the waves are good you sit and watch and ponder it for a while. You grab your car keys in the towel. And you jump in the ocean. And you have to wait until there is a break in the waves. . . . And you put on a fin—and you only have one fin—and if you catch the right wave you cut left because left is west. . . . Then you cut down into the tube there. You might see the crest rolling and you might see the sun glittering. You might see a sea turtle in profile, sideways, like a hieroglyph in the water. . . . And you spend an hour out there. And if you’ve had a good day you’ve caught six or seven good waves and six or seven not so good waves. And you go back to your car. With a soda or a can of juice. And you sit. And you can watch the sun go down …

– President Barack Obama
From Michael Lewis’ article Obama’s Way in Vanity Fair.

Trumps

Tonight I am thinking/thanking a friend who introduced me to three things that each changed my perspective: 1) giant convertible cars in the shape of a pier but with wheels, 2) Nick Drake, 3) Hungerford’s

Laundryman

If I could hear once more
The call of dark winged birds across the fields
Of rice and slim young bamboo,

If I could see once more
A crane with yellow legs so straight
Among cool water grasses,

If I could touch again
Her hands whose fingers in their sleeve of scarlet
Are softly curled and gentle,

My soul would be content,
O gods,
To iron away eternity.

– Gerald Chan Sieg

From her collection of poems “The Far Journey, 2002” about her father (my great Grandpa Robbie) Robert Chung Chan (Chung Tai P’eng, revolutionary, scholar, exile, laundryman).  Thank you, Alexka.

Polliwogs

It finally got hot today. Summer brings more immediate recollections than other seasons.

My parents would take my sister and me to Grandpa Tom and (Gramps) Grandma Jean’s land that they owned, lying on the outskirts of Farmersville Station, which is about six miles outside of Franklinville, which still doesn’t help much if you don’t live in Western NY. It’s 70-ish miles outside of Rochester. Anyway, on his nice six-acre plot of pines Grandpa Tom put a trailer. From that location he would go to hunt buck, and come back to drink Millers and Manhattans and we would all play Crazy Eights, while enjoying the view from the ridge and swatting mosquitoes, pinching fleas, and hoping that Kiska (a Siberian Husky) would stay away from porcupines and skunks. I remember the electric anticipation that half of the way through the 60-ish mile trip, we would stop in Perry for ice cream, and ponder the Silver Lake Sea Serpent.

The land western-adjacent to Grandpa Tom’s place was a dairy farm. They raised Holsteins, which therefore wired my brain that Holsteins are THE BEST MILK cows and they make the most delicious MILK. In recent terms, I would turn to my son’s phrasing, who would currently summarize it by saying, “I like Holsteins because they’re my favorite.”

At the east end of the property stood a large pond. The mud was thick and would suck at your feet when walking around the edges. I remember a dock but I don’t remember a boat. We spent a lot of time there, and I found delight at trying to capture and hold polliwogs in my hand. The pond was teeming with tadpoles in the spring. It is difficult to describe the joyous feeling of squatting in sludge as a few dozen baby frogs try to swim through your fingers under a blazing sun. The days seemed hotter, then.

Once at the farm while I was in the main barn in an area where the calves and bulls were sequestered, a bull kicked me in my ass, launching my young frame across the room just to let me know that, “Hey, here’s how it feels to get kicked in the ass by a bull.” Point taken.

Another time I ruined an entire day’s worth of milk production by making it butter in the pasteurization vat. I think I was six, maybe seven years old. To this day, I don’t think that it was my fault, and can specifically remember that I did not touch a thing that would purposefully cause such a sabotage. However, the damage was done and I am sure it cost the farmer dearly. The last thing I would ever want to do is hurt the farm. But I probably did anyway.

Kindness Of Strangers

Special thanks to the kind couple who found my wallet on the street outside of MacForce on SE Salmon St. and took it inside to the store, leaving it with the good staff, who contacted me to let me know it was safe. The couple also drove by my house to let me know where it was. This happened Saturday, and I have been in a most excellent mood since.