Monterey in 1786: Life in a California Mission, from the Journals of Jean Francois de la Pérouse

The commander’s house, the largest in San Francisco, had a dirt floor “without being boarded, paved, or even reduced to an even surface: the roof was covered in with flags and rushes; the furniture consisted of a very sparing assortment of the meanest kind.” The commander’s wife, while “decently dressed,” received him “seated crosslegged on a mat.”

Gary Kamiya: The “Tenderloin” District, San Francisco

  • What is remarkable about the Tenderloin is that it has remained physically unchanged for more than 80 years. It is a time capsule. The same progressive forces that have kept out ‘progress’ and inadvertently created a Museum of Depravity, have also created a Museum of the Lost City, a vanished world memorialized in the neighborhood’s extraordinary collection of residential hotels. There are hundreds of these historic SROs in the Tenderloin, the largest number in the world. The SROs are the reason that in 2008, the Uptown Tenderloin was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 24th San Francisco neighborhood to be so listed.

— Gary Kamiya, “Adventures in the Skin Trade”

The San Mateo County History Museum (Courthouse Square, Redwood City)

A Ship in the Charles Parsons Gallery of Ship Models

A Ship in the Charles Parsons Gallery of Ship Models

Close-up of a Charles Parson ship model:  What.  A.  Sight.  To.  Behold.

Close-up of a Charles Parson ship model: What. A. Sight. To. Behold.

This is a pretty neat museum, as self and The Man found out last weekend, when we took advantage of free admission for the Chinese New Year Festival in downtown Redwood City.

They have a new exhibit opening Mar. 13:  “Plowing Ahead:  Historic Peninsula Farming”

There is a room called the Charles Parsons Gallery that is full of the most amazing, intricate, hand-built ship models.  Self can imagine how long it took to build each of these!  Last summer, self visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and that museum had a few ship models.  But this gallery in the San Mateo County Historical Museum had about 20, all built by the same San Carlos resident, Mr. Parsons.  Sooo amazingly beautiful and definitely worth repeat viewing.


Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

A Dog and a Girl: Wakako Yamauchi’s “Dogs I Owe To” in ROSEBUD AND OTHER STORIES

“Dogs I Owe To” is a wonderful story from Wakako Yamauchi’s collection Rosebud and Other Stories (University of Hawai’i Press), edited by the fabulous Lillian Howan.  Here’s an excerpt from the Foreword:

Secret desires, unfulfilled longing and irrepressible humor flow through his stories, writings that depict the life of Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans.  Through the medium of her storytelling, the reader enters the world of desert farmers, factory workers, gamblers, housewives, con artists and dreamers, the bitter and the ever-hopeful.

And an excerpt from “Dogs I Owe To” :

The Great American Depression was winding down, but there was little money on the average farm.  We recycled our clothes and ate off the land.  Meat was not a staple at our house.  We didn’t keep animals on the farm because it wasn’t practical.  At that time in America, noncitizens weren’t permitted to own land, and Japanese, by law, were denied citizenship.  Again, by law, land leases to Asian immigrants were limited to three years, so every two or three years, Japanese farmers loaded houses and farm gear on trucks to move to yet another barren patch of land.  We were nomads; there was no hunkering down with large animals.  It was too hard to herd them from place to place.  We even stopped keeping chickens.

It was also before the advent of dry or canned pet food —  not that we could have bought Dickie any.  He was happy to eat leftover rice drenched in soy sauce.  In spring he gnawed on yellow crookneck squash.  He didn’t like eggplant or tomatoes.  He had on occasion mutton or lamb discarded by shepherds who passed through.  He woke up happy to be alive, jumping and bounding in the sharp morning air.  I didn’t allow him to touch me with his dusty paws, especially when I was dressed for school, so he pranced parallel to me, leaping and dancing, happy with even this tiny space in the grand scheme of things.

It’s a beautiful collection.

*     *     *

And, three days after beginning the Yamauchi story, self still hasn’t gotten to the end.  Last night was big shebang at Tita Lily’s house on Sixth Street, in honor of Tita Lily’s 93rd birthday.  There was:

  • ballroom dancing
  • chicken relleno
  • father of execrable Ida, who delivered the biggest snub (to self) a few days ago at the  Balay Daku, which only serves to prove how fierce a father’s love can be (And self heard that he himself doesn’t even get along with Ida!  But blood is always thicker than water, even when that water belongs to the family that has hired not only this man, but his daughter, and his son, and kept them all well-fed for 50 years)
  • leche flan
  • lechon
  • live music
  • mass
  • seafood paella with black rice
  • Zack

Self left early and found that she missed the slide show.  There was a picture of her as a toddler, sitting on the lap of Dearest Mum.  If self had been there to see it, she might very well be in a different place this morning.  She might be at the Balay Daku, attending the annual meeting of the GV & Sons stockholders.

But, as she told cousin Baby Par last night, she is an outsider:  an annoying one, to be sure, yet in the end completely irrelevant.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Just Released: MAKING HOME FROM WAR, Edited by Brian Komei Dempster


Self missed the release party for Making Home From War:  Stories of Japanese American Exile and Resettlement, edited by Brian Komei Dempster:  it was on the 27th of last month (Self missed a lot of things last month:  Seems she might have left half of her brain in Bacolod!)

Brian is an amazing writer.  And he teaches full-time at USF.  And he has a little boy.  And self doesn’t know how he manages to do it all.

Jay went, though. And there’s another reading coming up, the 12th of March, though that one’s in LA, at the Japanese American National Museum.

Other upcoming events:

  • April 16, 3 – 5 pm, Yu-Ai Kai, San Jose
  • May 24, 6:30 pm, San Francisco Main Library

About the book:

Written by twelve Japanese American elders who gathered regularly at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, Making Home From War is a collection of stories about their exodus from concentration camps into a world that in a few short years had drastically changed.  In order to survive, they found the resilience they needed in the form of community, and gathered reserves of strength from family and friends.

Self asked Brian if she could ask him a few questions for an interview, and he graciously agreed to do it next week, when he is on spring break.

The publisher is Heyday Books.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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