Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
On May 20, 1873, San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada, tailor Jacob Davis are given a patent to create work pants reinforced with metal rivets, marking the birth of one of the world’s most famous garments: blue jeans.
Back in the 16th century, the majority of Europeans couldn’t read. In fact, an estimated 61 percent of men in Norwich, near London, couldn’t even write their own name! For shopkeepers and craftspeople, this widespread illiteracy was something of a marketing problem: How could they advertise their businesses to a public that couldn’t read?
One solution was craftsman, or guild, signs. Above the doorway of most medieval businesses hung a metal emblem clearly illustrating the shopkeeper’s profession: A pair of scissors indicated a tailor; a key indicated a locksmith; a fish indicated a fishmonger. As for barbers? A red or blue candy-striped pole usually did the job.
Speaking of barber poles, did I ever tell you about trying to get a haircut as a youngster in my little, mostly Swedish hometown of Kingsburg (near Fresno in the great San Joaquin Valley). People of Japanese descent could not haircuts in town, so we either had to drive a few miles up to Selma to get a haircut from a Mexican barber, or have my grandfather “butcher” me with a pair of hand clippers.
Finally, when I reach junior high, my Dad became friends with a nice, Slavic fellow through the local Lions Club. He said he would cut my hair, as well as my brother’s. It turns out the other barbers in town would not cut hair of Japanese people!
His name was Eddie Pastircak, who had a lovely wife, Pauline, and three daughters, who we grew up with. Bless his heart!
Is there a lesson here? Of course, immigrants, and people who looked like foreigners back in the 50s, and EVEN now, are not treated well. But hey, we are American citizens!!! Yes, the lesson is still trying to get across!!!
After the Army decommissioned the Presidio, I was quite excited about playing golf there. It was billed as “the poor man’s” Olympic Club, with similar small greens, tall trees, and cool misty air permeating the fairways. But the Presidio, with its Western Defense Command, also played a big role in incarcerating the Japanese during World War 2.
The Presidio was the source of 108 civilian exclusion orders and other military directives that enacted President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. These actions forced my Mom’s and Dad’s families, along with all people of Japanese ancestry, citizens or not, from the west coast. It incarcerated them in concentration camps for the duration of the war.
“The Presidio of San Francisco played a pivotal role in the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II,” explains Presidio Trust Curator Liz Melicker. “This exhibition encourages reflection and invites visitors to investigate the issues and decisions that led to this dark chapter in American history. How did leaders arrive at the decision to incarcerate Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens? How did Japanese Americans and others respond to the violation of their civil liberties? And what, as a nation, have we learned that can help us address present-day issues such as mass incarceration, immigration reform, and racial profiling?”
It has been 75 years since the Western Defense Commander Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt signed those 108 orders in Building 35. It led to the removal of 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast, primarily California. The exhibit, Exclusion: The Presidio’s Role in World War II Japanese American Incarceration will run for a year in the Presidio Officer’s Club.
From the website: “The Presidio Trust staff worked with collaborators from the Fred T. Korematsu Institute and the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS), both tenants at the Presidio. The Korematsu Institute and NJAHS provided input from concept development through script review, contributed objects and images to the exhibition, and are collaborating on public programming at the Presidio Officers’ Club’s Moraga Hall and school program development throughout the duration of the exhibition.”
“Exclusion explicitly invites visitors to contemplate what can be learned from this shocking time in our history to help us contend with present-day issues—namely racial profiling, anti-immigrant sentiment, mass incarceration, and civil rights discrimination, as well as questions regarding the Constitutionality of Executive Order 9066,” said Karen Korematsu, Founder and Executive Director of the Fred T. Korematsu
Two-thirds of those imprisoned were American citizens by birth; the others were non-citizens unable to obtain naturalized citizenship by federal law. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor and under the pretext of “military necessity,” these civilians were removed from their homes and detained without due process. Nearly 40 years later, the federal government unequivocally stated that “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership” had motivated this mass incarceration during World War II—not “military necessity.”
“Now more than ever, we need to teach the lessons to be learned about the injustices of Executive Order 9066 and the World War II forced removal and mass incarceration of Japanese Americans,” explained Rosalyn Tonai, Executive Officer of the National Japanese American Historical Society. “This is a significant event in our collective American history and we are sure the Presidio’s exhibition will be the starting point for much meaningful dialogue.”
As you can probably figure out, I have been spending a great deal of time learning more about Relocation, and Executive Order 9066. I have asked many friends and relatives about it as well. And yes, I will probably put it in a book that I am writing about Sansei, the third generation Japanese Americans, of which I am a part.
Yes, it always makes me sad, even brings tears to my eyes. But what I think about most is that such illegal incarceration can happen again. And to then draft the young Japanese American men (Nisei) into the service, I often wonder what my Grandfather must have thought about his wonderful new country and land of opportunity. My Uncle was drafted and served in the Military Intelligence Service for the duration of the war, and in Occupied Japan.
Anytime a single race, religion, or group is singled out as “dangerous” or “the enemy”, this saddest chapter in American freedom is replayed in my mind. Yes, it could be African-Americans, or Latinos, or Muslims, or perhaps even you!
PS: It was a relatively small display, well done, and focused on the role of the Presidio in EO 9066.
Raided the maid’s cart for free toiletries: 29% I have taken things from the maid’s cart, but only for items she forgot to leave in my room, like a face cloth, coffee, or shampoo. And never take the maid’s secret stash of beer or booze!
Stolen food from the hotel breakfast buffet: 60% Again, I assume you are staying elsewhere. If I am staying at the hotel, I do not have a problem taking an apple or banana from the fruit bowl. I did sneak into a Holiday Inn once, in Pucon, Chile. My nearby hotel was so bad that I had to prop a chair against the door the previous night to feel safe. We could not find anywhere else to eat!
Lie to the hotel staff about your honeymoon to get a room upgrade: 10% I have never been desperate enough to try this, especially at my current age. But I think you are well within your rights to point out your customer loyalty, or the need for a “quiet” room.
I certainly hope you are not one of the jerks who gets out of your airline seat when the “fasten seat belt” sign is lit. If so, you are among the 18% that will one day have karma strike it ugly head when you are sitting on the airplane toilet.
Then again, you also piss me off since 6% of you board before your group is called. I earned whatever meager status that I have with the airline, so why are you cheating? If you want to board early, the least you can do is limp aboard or carry a baby doll with the early boarders!
Let me be perfectly clear. Seat recliners, 54% of you, are within your rights, just be gentle about it. Equally obnoxious are those of you who do not know how to use your tray tables or personal entertainment screen on the back of my seat. Pick a show to watch and leave it!!! Above all, do not play a video game on the back of my seat.
Hopefully, most of you have NEVER done these things. I applaud you for following the rules, and making it pleasant for frequent travelers like me. In fact, while you are at it, clone some more of you!!
Many readers are located outside of the United States. They may or may not understand the great American tradition of Thanksgiving. Almost everyone knows that Americans are famous for having a large family feast of turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetable, stuffing, cranberry and pumpkin pie. But there are some nuances that may not be readily apparent to the outsider, the foreigner, who see us only as gluttons on this day of thanks.
Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, since 1863. It was originally a religious observation to give thanks to God. The American version is celebrated to give thanks to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony survive a cold and brutal winter in New England. The very first Thanksgiving lasted three days and fed ninety Native Americans, and 53 pilgrims. Their food was astonishingly similar to ours, and included: turkey, pumpkin, berries, fruit, fish, clams, fowl, venison, and lobster. My guess is that someone baked some bread.
The modern day Thanksgiving menu is similar, containing roast or baked turkey as the centerpiece. Increasingly, baked ham, prime rib, and roast pork are included or substituted. Hence, the use of the name, “Turkey Day” to describe this holiday. The side dishes most commonly used are: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, sweet corn, other fall vegetables, and topped with pumpkin pie. One of our traditions is to add some steamed white rice to the menu, as it tastes great with turkey gravy smothered over it. Likewise, it has become an American custom to provide this dinner at soup kitchens and shelters for those less fortunate. In fact, we participate in a program on Christmas Day that provides a bountiful spread as described above.
But the Thanksgiving weekend, a four day long weekend, also involves travel, time away from work, family reunions, and vacation. In fact, it is the busiest holiday travel weekend of the year. Most government offices are closed, mail is not delivered, and schools are out as well. In New York City, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is an institution, and signals the beginning of the Christmas season. Airlines are packed full of people going home, to loved ones, to the very meal I described above.
Another big American tradition that goes with turkey is football. Since 1934, the Detroit Lions professional football team, has hosted a Thanksgiving Day game. Many college games are also played on this day or during the four day weekend. A few big ones are the Army-Navy football game, and the USC Notre Dame football game. In fact, that was the very first collegiate game I attended. Notre Dame had All American and Heisman winner, Paul Hornung, and USC had Jaguar Jon Arnett. In recent years, professional basketball has also gotten into the act, with a star studded game, with the likes of Kobe, Michael, Magic, Larry, or Lebron playing. The golfers get their share of air time with the famous Skins Game from Hawaii or Palm Springs.
I always enjoyed Thanksgiving because my relatives from Los Angeles would drive up to Fresno for the holiday. Truth be known, they also used this trip to deliver our Christmas presents. We also got our Uncles to play football and basketball with us. In some years, we also went striped bass fishing with my Grandfather up on the Delta for the day. The Aunts went shopping, long before Friday became Black Friday. And we observed the age old tradition of eating leftovers for the next day or so.
In my teenage years, we actually had two neighboring Hispanic families bring home made tamales over to our home. Most of the time, we preferred eating the tamales to having our traditional turkey dinner. Then, the highlight of the day would come. The dinner table would be cleared, and my brother and I would be asked to play poker, with real money, with the adults. We thought it was the greatest thing! I still remember playing once when the pot got really big. My Aunt and Uncles were “warning” me not to get carried away with my betting. But, I had four queens, and I knew I could not lose. I began to get nervous, but hung in there. I won the biggest pot of money, in my life, up to then. What a thrill!
As we got older, went away to college, we still looked forward to this special weekend. Perhaps more than Christmas, it was a time of family togetherness. All the relatives would ask us about school, or work, or play. And we would enjoy their attention. Of course, about this time, they pulled our Christmas gifts out of their car trunks and into the house. We then replaced the empty space in their trunk with oranges that we had picked earlier in the day. Pretty fair trade back in those days.
When people first started visiting from Japan, back in the Fifties and Sixties, many had never seen a turkey. They thought it was a big chicken! What a hoot, or cackle. Most impressive was the turkey leg. They would fight over the leg, thinking that it would bring them good health and vitality. They could never figure out why they needed a nap after eating dinner. And of course, pumpkin pie was a totally foreign notion to Japanese visitors.
One Thanksgiving in my adulthood, I was assigned to cook Thanksgiving dinner, having been accused of never helping to make dinner. I was charged with not only making a turkey, but also a prime rib, and a ham. The ham was no problem. The prime rib was done in the barbecue. But the turkey was a real issue, since I had never done it before. Most challenging was the fact that nobody brought ingredients for the stuffing. But I found some old bread in the freezer, and found an onion and celery in the produce bin. But how would I flavor the stuffing? And I had to use needle and thread to sew up the carcass.
As you might guess, my stuffing did turn out fantastically. Everyone loved it and could not figure out what I did. I found an old dried up stick of salami in the refrigerator. I cut it up into small cubes and added it to the stuffing. Hey Martha and Rachel! The secret is out.
Other Thanksgiving memories tend to fade. These are the ones I best remember. In recent years, we have been traveling. We have ventured out for Thanksgiving dinner in places like Scottsdale, Coronado, Seattle, Pebble Beach, Santa Fe, and San Francisco. In earlier years, I volunteered to work since it was a double time and a half payday. But, I still enjoy turkey dinner, football, poker, and a nap.
My poker heroine
The opportunities to volunteer on Thanksgiving are numerous. I was headed into the City to help with the annual Turkey Trot 5K race, formerly the Run to the Far Side. I also have a sister who volunteers at St. Anthony’s Dining Room. My personal favorite is Glide Memorial Church. One of the former ministers, Lloyd Wake, is from a town near my hometown. He, along with Reverend Cecil Williams, were instrumental in making Glide what it is today. Glide opened in 1929, and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. In the 1960s, it became a magnet of counter culture, and has become perhaps the most liberal church in the United States, if not the world. Among its many contributors have been: Bill Clinton, Warren Buffet, Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, and me.
Glide serves three meals a day, and about 750,000 meals a year. The church also does HIV testing, mental and primary health care, women’s programs, crisis intervention, after school programs, literacy programs, computer training, job skills training, drug and alcohol recovery programs, legal services, and housing with case management. Visitors come from all over the world.
Glide is located at 330 Ellis Street in San Francisco, in the heart of the Tenderloin District. It has become a beacon of hope for the poor, homeless, prostitutes, runaways, alcohol and drug dependents, and any other disenfranchised individuals. Of course, over the years, Emeritus Reverend Cecil Williams has hob-knobbed with the Kennedys, Wilie Brown, Jerry Brown, Bill Clinton, and the Grateful Dead. This has helped keep donations pouring in, despite a dismal economy, and the ever increasing need of the community it serves. If you have never been, I strongly suggest a visit, on a Sunday for a sermon, or any other day, to observe, volunteer, and perhaps donate a few dollars.
Take the Turkey Quiz to test your knowledge: http://home.aristotle.net/Thanksgiving/trivia.asp
Scary Story, Part 2, from another friend:
I have a very funny story about Checkpoint Charlie. My father was born and raised in Berlin, and left in 1939. He moved to the U.S and became involved in highly secretive defense industry that sometimes crossed into CIA. I recorded albums in Berlin from 1987 – 2002 and used to maintain an apartment on a small street that was until the Berlin wall came down a deadend street. I often went to Hannover, where I was working with some other bands, and therefore had to travel back and forth by car, and would enter Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie.