Category Archives: Photography

Poetry: “Bird Stories” Featuring Image: ‘The Eyes of Bougainvillea”

Bird Stories

 

I

 

aging birds that

once hopped fields, 

sang on clotheslines,

now straddle trees.

hot wind across the desert 

fluffs cactus wrens,

branches bend; eaves hide warblers

that echo dark canyons. 

under cumulous skies, thunder claps

like flaps of feathers

upsetting the balance of alighting night owls

 

II

 

a robin’s egg hatches in the trellis,

sparrows jet over blooms

then dance on the wood-block tree

at the end of spring, is the nest

half full? half empty?

vines hang to cover light

the babies nest 

above the doghouse

 

III

 

crack/break of hummingbird eggs

shelled beaks

chanting canticles

background fiddles weave patterns

violins, violence

opposites attract

the doves crow for harmony

Written By: Gloria Keeley

About the Author: I’m a graduate of San Francisco State University with a BA and MA in Creative Writing. My work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Slipstream, Forum and other journals. I graduated from CCSF and I taught at CCSF for 34 years and was the editor of Forum in 1969.

Eyes of Bougainvillea_Photography

Visual Art Piece “Eyes of Bougainvillea” By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Artist: As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

Fiction Piece: “The Flesh of the Father”, Featuring Image: “The Sunset”

Flesh of the Father

     “Oh, thank you. Is my breath bad?” my Father Ari asked. “No, it’s just the thing I do when I am having one,” said my Uncle Zeb. I watched the transaction as if it was in slow motion. My father, a devout vegan, accepted not any Altoid but an Altoid from the red-bordered tin box!

     As we stood in Beth Chaim Synagogue, immediate family on one side, friends on the other, I looked around to see if my Mother Melissa had witnessed the ultimate sin. Nope. She was focused straight and center on my Cousin Elba. I scanned across another bench, in the most modest houses of assembly and both my brother and sister were flipping through a mini-Torah. “No look, that’s the right one,” Jerone stated. “No it’s not. I will show you,” Ziva stated. “Shhh. Not now you two,” my mother responded with one sideways finger at her lips.

    I watched as my Cousin Elba and her new husband Rakel smashed the wine goblet and the largest family members of the relative hierarchy, carried them down the aisle, out to the reception room. It wasn’t long before everyone was seated and eating. I was seated to the left of my Father. I know Mom had filled out the green-bordered meal cards for Elba’s special day, ensuring we all received “proper” dishes. Exactly the way it has been since I can remember up until now.

     For the rest of the night I watched my father like a hawk. He was a field mouse and I hadn’t eaten in days. I scanned his every movement. I even followed him twice to the men’s room. I watched as he ate the vegan-prepared meal. I kept thinking there would be some sort of a facial expression or a sign, letting me know he was no longer one of us. But nothing. Instead, he exclaimed with his typical gastronomic response, “These plum-roasted green beans are superb,” and with his last bite, “Oh, those carnivores have nothing on us!” For the first time while listening to my Father, contempt filled me up. I was tempted at least four or five times to say something but I always remembered Mom’s Rules of Veganism. In this case, Rule #4, “Don’t Make A Scene.” We flew home the next day. 

     My Mom and Dad were vegan before they met. Mom began in high school at the Athenia School for the Gifted. She was drama. She was debate. She stood for change. Dad’s dad was a farmer and raised soy. Zayde drank a lot and wasn’t a good farmer. Money concerns were prevalent and his family mainly ate soy, vegetables and nuts. Dad just got used to being meatless.

     After the wedding, I never missed a family meal or a family restaurant outing. I found myself watching my Father eat every Vegan-strictive mouthful. I couldn’t help but watch every spoonful of veggie soup. Every fork full of roasted Brussel sprouts. Every slice of flourless, sugar-free carob cake.  It wasn’t a guarantee of his faith but it left me somewhat satisfied.

     “Kids, you’ll thank us when you’re older,” my Mom would exclaim as she passed around another round of roasted peppercorn tofu, her favorite. You could hear The Smiths playing in the living room.

And the flesh you so fancifully fry

Is not succulent, tasty or kind

It’s death for no reason

And death for no reason is murder

     When my parents married, we were told, they decided their children weren’t only going to be raised Jewish but we would eat “nothing with a face”. We also weren’t allowed to consume any eggs, dairy or sugary products. It was a Portland Public Television and private Hebrew school only household. Talk about the chosen!

     Since the wedding, I relived all the times standing with my compadres at the local creamy. Always waiting to be last, so no one could hear my order. “Yes, I’ll have two-scoops of the dairy-free, sugar-free taro root, please.” I always followed the rules. I was “Team Vegan-Lacto-Ovo-No Sugar” all the way!

     I found myself going through his pant and coat pockets whenever I had an alone moment, usually a Saturday afternoon when they had gone to the park with Jerone and Ziva. I was hoping for some sign. But I always came up empty handed. The best I could do were a few empty sugar-free Jolly Rancher wrappers. If Father had left the faith it didn’t show. So far, the Incident of the Altoid was a one-off.

     We’d always get invited to outdoor functions with all of the other soccer-mom-dads. Mom would always assemble our “relief pack”. Usually, homemade ginger beer, veggie sticks, hummus, a 3-bean salad and Linda McCartney’s Field Sausage with golden potatoes.  Dad always brought our unsullied Hibachi with separate utensils for barbecuing and consumption.

     At these functions, positioning was everything. Downwind of the BBQ pits was forbidden. Once the carcasses hit the grill, we’d position ourselves with the The Klein Family, usually at 12 o’clock. They didn’t eat pork or anything cooked next to it. I’d keep an eye on Father to see if he’d be coaxed out of the pocket but no chance. He’d use the homemade ginger beer to draw a family friend over to the “safe side” for a frank discussion about politics or the upcoming Fall Oregon Hiking Schedule. Artisanal anything is a human magnet in the Willamette Valley.

   That June, I turned 17 and college brochures and Oregon summers allowed me to be sometimes slightly distracted about my Father’s spring-time indiscretion but never quite forgotten. There was wind surfing on the Hood River with my girlfriend Shiva and kissing after dark at the Bonneville Dam. The roses began to bloom and their aroma wafted through every memory. I started night soccer in mid-September. We got to play at the “good” fields, just past the Pearl District heading towards Powell’s Books.

     One Wednesday night, after practice, with Mom at her book club and Dad at his iron-working class, Shiva and I were crisscrossing through all of the local artist’s lofts, ending up on Lovejoy Street. It was always fashionable and lively with hip brands, indie boutiques, reclaimed warehouse spaces, artisan coffee shops, contemporary art, photography and glass works. Afterward we could hang near the wading fountain. The Portland weather was perfect for the first time in months. Everyone in shorts and not an umbrella in sight.

     Shiva said, “Hey, isn’t that your dad?” She pointed toward a new shi-shi restaurant, The Pearl Tavern. I spotted my Father standing outside with two of his artisan buddies. I looked at Shiva and exclaimed, “Hey wait, meat! That’s a steakhouse!”

     My Father and his company walked into the restaurant and were quickly seated in the front window. My knees buckled for a brief moment. I took a deep breath and took a wider stance. I insisted Shiva go home and I would see her tomorrow at school. She was concerned but I watched her disappear into the Indian Summer evening.

    For the next thirty minutes, I was awash in a myriad of emotions. Anger would trump confusion. Resentment would overtake confusion. This wasn’t the Garden Grove or Shangra-La’s. These eateries were safe zones for many of us. No temptation to be seen. But the tavern! Vegan blasphemy!

    Just after 9:30pm, standing behind the cover of two huge ficus trees, I witnessed something that would change my life forever. I saw my Father cutting into a ribeye steak. I saw him smiling and taking bites. Some small, some larger. He seemed so peaceful and at ease. He was laughing and washing down his bovine with a tall heady brew, as if he had done it a thousand times before.

    After my Father had said goodbye to his friends and began walking down the street. I confronted him just past Jamison Square. “Father, can I talk to you!” I said. “Wow, Asher where did you come from? What are you doing here?” I clenched my teeth and said, “I saw everything! How could you!” My dad grabbed me and hugged me for a very long time. I could smell the gristle on him.

    For the next two hours, sitting outside our house in our 2009 Prius, my father and I discussed everything from deception (white lies versus a big lie) to Altoids (Red vs. Green). “It started with a beef broth soup by accident a few years ago. These days, it’s a once a month with the guys. The showering, flossing and brushing afterward is imperative. I think your Mom knows but hasn’t said a word” he said with a bit of apprehension.

     Dad still towed the Vegan-line, “Asher, the manufacturing of raising cattle and chickens is still a poor food source because it destroys the land, pollutes the rivers and its all-out torture. And in the end, a total blood-bath slaughter.”

     While talking to him, I remembered all of the PETA-inspired videos we all watched as a family, when I was just a pre-teen. The “crippled chicken” campaign hobbling against McDonald’s stating, “Your UnHappy Meal is Ready!” or the “Furry” farm animals wishing everyone a “Happy Veggie New Year!”

     “But then why?” I exclaimed. He responded, “Asher, I am imperfect”.  He continued, “Asher you’ll be leaving us soon and heading to college. You’ll be a man. You’ll be making your own decisions. Your mother and I have set the table. You will get to choose.”

     I remember Mom’s “Rules” once again. Rule #6 “When Someone Is Discussing Their Healthy Eating, Never Pounce.” I guess this pertained, even to my own father.

     A few nights later, at dinner, Mom passed around her latest peanut sauce, green bean concoction. Jerone and Ziva were talking to their posse of imaginary friends. Sitar music was lofting in from the living room. I cleared my throat and started slow and took a deep breath. “Mom”. She looked over at me with a smile. “You know one day, maybe not tomorrow, or even next month but soon, I may want to have regular ice cream.” Involuntarily, my eyes squinted and my upper lip and nose moved closer to my eyes. “Maybe even a store-bought candy bar.”  I exhaled the rest of the air in my lungs. I took a short breath and continued as I glanced over to my dad, “But I will never eat meat.” She gave me a half-smile but as her gaze shifted to my dad, it disappeared. Rule #10-Don’t Argue About Diet.    

Written By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Author: As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

The Sunset_Visual Arts_Photography

Visual Art Piece “The Sunset” By: Nia Bankova 

About the Artist: Nia, a SoCal native who recently moved to the Bay Area for college, took photography all throughout high school, with a concentration in portraiture, but started doing more landscapes as she settled into San Francisco. Nowadays, you can find her with her nose in a book, and scribbling poems.

Poem:”The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street” Featuring Image: “Way Back Home”

The

        Slanted

                    Winds

        Down 

 

The afternoon fog will roll in from the North

                                                                   and burn off first from the South.

                 The bridges will hold the droplets of moisture

                                                   until dinnertime as lovers embrace through locked

                                                                                 lips, while a wingless angel forgotten,

                  stands at the glistening edge,

                                                leaping, ending the present.


She’ll flick the kitchen light on first

                 and wake up her youngest last,

                                 standing slipper-less in the hallway,

                                                                remembering the miscarriage

                 who couldn’t wait, tears always

                                                  for the impatient.

 

They say she didn’t suffer long,

                          she went quick, the rigor mortis

                                                     set in as the body bag’s zipper snagged

                                                                      her lacy front nightgown her daughter

                          bought for her on a Mother’s Day,

                                                           years ago, forgotten.

 

She still doesn’t allow her husband 

                              to undress her at night, only cradle

                                             her softly with the nightlight visible

               and her calls to the detective go unreturned,

                              while her rape kit remains untested,

                                            nine months old.

 

Once gentrification visits a neighborhood,

                                                                    who will remember              that name,

                                                                                      those people,

                                                                                                     that corner,

                              whose culture,

                                                                   that lost identity

                                                   which invites us in to stay.

 

The wind whips up and grabs

                                                the leaves and debris of last night,

                                                               becoming today and the future,

                  as a woman stands with her newborn

                                                                                    cradled in her arms, 

                                stale teardrops upon her neckline,

                 her ignored, days old soiled hand

                                                                   extended outward,

                                                 begging for her next meal.          

Written By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Author: As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

 

Visual Art By: Eunbin Lee

About the Artist: I am a student studying photography from Korea. Living in a new culture and environment of the United States, I try to express through pictures what I felt based on various daily experiences. I feel a sense of freedom by expressing it through my photographs rather than words. I hope people can feel the feelings that I want to convey through my photos.

Way back home_Visual Arts_Photography

Fiction Piece “The Final Visit”; Featuring Visual Art Submission “Old Souls”

The Final Visit

Written By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Author: 

As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

Chapter One

I am looking up. At first, I am unaware of my positioning. Am I laying down? Or am I standing up? All I can see is blue. Maybe a ceiling. Suddenly it opens like a mouth about to grab onto a spoonful of morning cereal, and I see the kitchen from my childhood. I begin to hear the Eagles “Take It To The Limit”. Dad used to listen to it after he had a few beers. He knew the words, All Alone at the end of the evening, And the bright lights have faded to blue. Dad is bouncing me on his knee as he takes a swig of his favorite 40oz. of Olympia. I can feel his muscular leg between my legs. “Daddy, is this what it’s like to ride a real horse?” I look up at his face. I can see the small grey hairs in his goatee. His lips begin to move but he’s not saying anything. His image slowly disappears and I am now standing alone in front of a glass window. It spans at least ten feet in each direction. He’s suddenly on the other side. His body is in the sign of the cross. He’s dressed all in white. I reach out and place my hand on the glass. It’s hot to the touch. I pull my hand away quickly. Abruptly, a drape drops and I hear the sound of an emergency room privacy curtain quickly closed, when something has become very serious. It’s pitch black. I take a deep breath and I hold it. I continue to hold my breath. I begin to feel the pressure in my face as it begins to redden. I want the curtain to open. I reach out for it but my hand goes limp. I begin to feel faint. I exhale and begin coughing uncontrollably. I awaken. The morning had arrived.

I’m looking up at the ceiling. There are a few cracks intersecting towards my open unscreened window.  It’s framing a very blue sky. “Fuck! It’s a sunny day,” I say. I begin to sing, I was thinking ‘bout a woman who might have loved me, I never knew. You know I’ve always been a dreamer. The tears begin. I couldn’t stop them. I breathed deeply through my nostrils and slowly exhaled through my mouth. I turned on my side, lifted up my legs, sat upright and put my feet on the floor next to my crumpled-up “mom” jeans and balled up elastic beige-colored socks covered in little red hearts. I thought, I really need to do laundry. “Damn, I wish it was a grey, rainy day”. I thought it would be more appropriate for the last visit. I reached for a rubber band on the nightstand, stood up, fashioned a pony-tail as I walked toward the bathroom, which I am sure needed a good scrubbing. 

The shower water seemed to take extra long to warm. I ran my hand through the cold water a few times. Each time I could feel my nipples react and harden. I still don’t know why that happens but I’ve decided I like it.

I remember the first time I bathed without my father. I was probably six years old. We had a child-like yet very adult discussion, actually more like an argument about my abilities to not damage the bathroom floor and flood the apartment units below. He had witnessed my toy ship flotilla creation a year before in the bathroom sink. Niagara Falls had relocated to 1031 E. 14th Street, there were no survivors. See, none of my little girlfriends still bathed with their fathers but then again, they all had mothers at home. Tisha and Claudia had started making fun of me about it. The “discussion” ended with him sitting on the toilet seat giving me scrubbing instructions through the shower curtain. After a few more Dad and Daughter original instructional YouTube-like videos, Dad left me to my own hygiene; abet hair and teeth.

By the time I was 10-years-old, Dad’s appearances at morning showers were almost non-existent. Living in the Bay Area was becoming more and more challenging financially. Of course, at that age I thought we were rich. Flat screens in more than one room in the house, Pop Tarts at every meal (if I wanted them) and a maid. Of course, later in life I realized we didn’t have an actual maid. They were women my father had met “out-in-the-field”, brought home, fucked regularly and who didn’t mind taking care of me when Dad’s jobs took him further away from home.

Lucinda was my favorite. She had beautiful red hair, she smiled all the time, always wore bright colored long-sleeve shirts (even in summer), and her eyes twinkled. I know now she was a heroin addict but her imagination was expansive and she could always distract me when he hadn’t come home in months. I am always amazed at the ability of any drug addict to manipulate any situation, at any time with a few simple sentences. “Your Dad? Oh, he called three times when you were at school! He’ll be home….soon. He loves you dearly and can’t wait to kiss your beautiful face. How about we go watch Friends and I’ll make Mac’n Cheese?” Rachel, Ross, Monica, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and melted cheese. Yes, I loved Lucinda most.

Sometimes when Dad would finally come home, he was always wearing the same clothes he left with, as if only a morning and afternoon had passed. Sometimes when he came home, he’d be wearing really nice clothes and have a bunch of expensive jewelry for me. Gold chains, silver bracelets, pearl earrings and even diamond rings. Nothing ever matched and the rings never fit.

Dad and I had started living in Alameda County. First in Oakland, then El Cerrito and then finally El Sobrante. Alma was his newest and she was the strictest, at least with me. I had to be in bed by 8:30pm. If I forgot to brush my teeth, take out the garbage or leave just one dirty dish in the sink, I would be punished. Sometimes I’d be hit with a wooden spoon. When I hid the wooden spoon, Alma would spank me really hard with her braided belt. After a while, I found it easier to obey her demands and stop hiding utensils.

However, Alma did have a positive influence on me. She taught me about the power in the stars, the earth and the flowers. She told me stories about the radiance of sunrays and their relationship with the waning and waxing of the moonbeams. I learned to see the universe in the eyes of my first German Shepard puppy and the ultimate joy in the laughter and smiles of the young children running around our local playground. She always said, “Always look for the happiness in everything.”

Alma did have one ultimate rule. I wasn’t allowed to ever answer the telephone. However, one night, Alma was showering and the telephone rang. I let it ring. Then it stopped. A few minutes passed and it began again. The phone and I danced a few times and I finally picked it up. I said, “Hello?” No answer. I cleared my throat and said a little louder, “Hello?” Finally, a voice said, “HELLO, YOU HAVE RECEIVED A TELEPHONE CALL FROM A PRISONER IN THE ALAMEDA COUNTY JAIL SYSTEM. PLEASE PUSH THE NUMBER ONE TO ACCEPT.” I quickly hung up the phone. We didn’t know any prisoners, and after that call, I was afraid to pick up the phone ever again.

Visual Art Piece Photographed by Nadine Peralta

Old Souls_Visual Arts_Photography

“She tipped her head, and the world twisted on its axis.” (Zach Hauptman)

D Grey Comfort_Visual Arts_Photography
Comfort by Daine Grey, photograph

Four Trees for a Name

by Zach Hauptman

Firsts are powerful. They’re seeds devouring the last of their nutrients to grow towards sunlight. They follow patterns laid out by the lines of the universe–a riot of roots that grow into flowers, the first thorn on a blackberry bush precisely placed, even when the thorn pierces a thumb.

But firsts are deceptive. Energy undirected can kill. Split cells become cancerous.

The Fair Folk devour firsts, are made of energy in potentia. Follow their promises on the lines laid out exactly and reap the benefits. Step off the path and never find your way home again.

This is why humans are such fascinating creatures. Potential energy is converted to action, breaking patterns and putting them back together. Creative energy is the peculiar synthesis of habit and creation. Beneath the bark of our defenses, the fae, like mistletoe, seem young and soft but are deadly and pointed towards the heart.

*   *   *

In the earliest memories, all you knew was the pair of iron shears hung with red ribbon above your crib, a mobile that you watched turn in air currents. And then you closed your eyes and slept.

*   *   *

This is what happened the first time you met a fairy.

You were six, and finally allowed to sit on your own horse at the Golden Gate Park Carousel. Your hands were sticky from the bar of pink popcorn your mothers bought, and you left fingerprints on the mane of your caramel-colored horse. The only things you knew about fairies were what you learned from Peter Pan, and even then you knew better than to believe technicolor lies.

The horse was one of the ones that didn’t move, so you could watch the dingy carousel glass and line of children waiting for their turn without getting sick and falling off. Somewhere on the third rotation, you saw, in a space between older children, something broken with glassine skin and wings that sputtered and flapped at the wrong angles.

With the bravery of a small child, you climbed down from your horse. Probably it was a good thing that the carousel was coming to a stop then, because even now you’re not sure you wouldn’t have just taken a leap of faith off the platform. Maybe your mothers called to you, but you had eyes for cotton candy blue dandelion hair and wings with edges that stuck out at 90 degree angles but somehow still managed to fly just far enough ahead of you that you had to run a little to catch up across the expanse of pavement. It settled beneath a tree, the sweep of dirt and grass extending out to lap at the edge of the sidewalk.

“I want to play with you,” it said, and it had too many teeth. “Tell me your name.”

When your mothers swept you into their arms, two steps into the span of dirt and just before the line of flat-capped yellow mushrooms curved into an uneven oval, the fairy hissed and bared silver needle fangs. It sounded too loud, as though you’d left the sounds of shrieking kids at the carousel far away.

At school the next day, the wind whipped your hair into knots so tight your mothers had to cut them out, and the scrape on your leg from where you fell off the swings looked like a hemicircle of too sharp teeth.

The iron nail sat beside your backpack the next day and, though your mothers never said anything, you pocketed it and hugged them both.

Continue reading “She tipped her head, and the world twisted on its axis.” (Zach Hauptman)

“I may be as average as they come in so many respects, … but I’m not a dummy.” (Dana Wagner)

Old Town Parking_photography
Old Town Parking by Chiao En Huang
Chiao En Huang studies Graphic Design in CCSF. Currently, Chiao works at speciality coffee shop SPRO. “Obviously, [to] create is one of my biggest hobbies. I also do a lot of painting and drawing. Line (geometric) and color are two really big inspiration for me.” More work can be viewed at Chiao En Huang’s website: www.chiaondesign.com.

A Simple Task

by Dana Wagner

Call me Kobayashi.

That’s what the short, clean-cut Japanese man in the dark suit had said when he’d given me the small package.  If his name had actually been Kobayashi, he wouldn’t have said it the way he had, but as I walked through the afternoon crowd in the Ginza district with the brown-paper-covered parcel under my arm, I was still wondering why he’d picked that as his cipher … and why he’d picked a cipher at all, an obviously fabricated pseudonym that had been completely unnecessary since I was highly unlikely to ever see him again.  It seemed pointless, a deception merely for the sake of itself.  Maybe that had been the point, simply to impress upon me how little I knew.  You do not know my name, he was saying, you do not know anything about me, and there is very little of this you will ever understand.

Not that I needed much reminding.  As a foreigner living in Tokyo, I felt uncertain and unwelcome even on the best of days.  The man allowed into the party solely because he could score something everyone there wanted, tolerated and even spoken to, but with whom no one wanted any kind of personal connection.  The Japanese would smile, buy you business meals, make small talk, get drunk with you, and play at being your guides through their complex society while they sought to exploit your knowledge of western markets, but they would never, ever let you in or do anything to give you any illusions about being truly trusted or included.  They barely let each other into their inner lives, and they weren’t about to shake off centuries of xenophobia and emotional repression for a nondescript American businessman like me.  I was no stranger to being the painfully self-aware stranger in their midst.  So why was it eating at me that this Japanese man of indeterminate age, whom I had never seen before and would hope never to see again, had bothered to give me a transparently fake name?

Because he had bothered.  That was the thing about the Japanese I dealt with in my business interactions, whether inside or outside the office.  They never bothered with anything gratuitous.  If they had to suck it up and place a veneer of hospitality on top of their forced relationships with the corporate emissaries of the West, they would, but they weren’t going to put anything more into it than necessary.  Everything they did and shared with a gaijin like me was a deliberate choice and had a desired purpose.  Often it was immediately clear to me what it was, sometimes it wouldn’t become clear until much later, and sometimes I would never figure it out.  But always I knew it was there.  There was always something.  If this squat Japanese man who’d pushed the package towards me across his desk had told me to call him Kobayashi, then there had been a reason, and I was focused on trying to puzzle out what it had been.

Continue reading “I may be as average as they come in so many respects, … but I’m not a dummy.” (Dana Wagner)