Going out with my wife

There is nothing like going out somewhere with my wife.  We have been together for 16 years now, and the moments that we share together are as precious to me as the moments that we have shared together since we met.

A lot of people do not know what we have gone through.  Normally, these moments are private, thought-provoking moments.  But, in the interest of bringing special moments to light, I have decided to bring just a few out into the open.

  1. On our first date, I drove us out to a bonfire at the beach in my friend’s car that I had borrowed for night.  I really didn’t want to go, but he and his wife put me up for a while, and they wanted some time alone.  My second date, I took my wife and her teenage daughter to Virtual World, to hold a virtual race on a virtual Mars outpost.  The three of us had a lot of virtual fun that night, that spawned a need for her daughter to accompany us on many more excursions.
  2. When my wife and I bought our first car, we thought we would not be able to afford it.  My daughter and her husband were visiting us that day.  Our car lasted long enough to break down at the dealership that we went to.  But, we returned home, driving a brand new car.
  3. The day I contacted my ex-fiance’, our relationship almost ended.  You see, her father had died.  For a short time, I was very close to my former fiance’, and we shared a kind of silent communication with each other.  It seemed strange that I would even attempt to contact her after her father’s passing, but we found that we had changed so much.  She had already been married 5 times when we met again.  But a spark still seemed to light up between us when we were brought together again.  My wife was crying, thinking that I would rekindle a love that had been extinguished for almost 10 years before.  But, there was nothing left between my former fiance’ and I, and we both found that whatever had been there died between us long before.  But, my wife stayed with me through that hard time, and trusted me.  I swore to myself not to break her trust.
  4. The day my father called me on the phone, telling me that my son had died in an automobile accident while I was at work, my wife came home from work to be waiting for me an hour later.  She held me for what seemed like forever, made all of the plans for my family to stay in a hotel where we lived, while I made calls to school, my family and my friends.  My wife and her daughter, my friends, and people I knew from work were at the funeral for me besides my family, to comfort me and help me to grow.
  5. The day that the twin towers came down in New York, my wife was at home watching television, and we heard about what happened at work.  We were devastated at work because we lost many clients that day, many people that we had met, talked to day after day, even exchanged jokes with from time to time.  Work closed down that day, and my wife was waiting for me at home.  We packed up a picnic, headed out to the beach, and listened to the radio with a lot of people we knew from work.  It was a special day for us; full of grief, reflection, and a lot of conversation.
  6. The day my wife brought home a sheltie sable that “pooped” on our rug, I was ecstatic.  Not by the poop on the rug, but by the dog that seemed to take to me immediately, much to the chagrin of my wife.  All of our children seemed to be jealous of our dog, perhaps because they felt the dog received more attention from us that they were getting.  By the way, our dog only made a mess on our carpet for the entire time we had her, and when our dog passed away, it was one of the lowest points in our lives.
  7. The day my wife told me that my sister had called to tell me that my father had passed away was awful.  I was teaching that day, and actually finished the class.  My wife made arrangements for me to fly to my parent’s home for the funeral.  Unfortunately, she could not go with me, because we did not have enough money at the time to weather our dog in a kennel.  So, my wife stayed to watch the dog while I dealt with the drama that would unfold during my father’s funeral.  My wife was there for me, to pick up the pieces.
  8. The day my wife and I married was the strangest day of our lives.  The minister who married us said, “So, you want to waste a perfectly good friendship?”  An Elvis impersonator came into our wedding as well.  We didn’t expect him to show up, but he did.  We respect Elvis, and his fans, but we didn’t ask for him.  After the ceremony, we looked at each other and laughed about the day, about the money we spent, and about the years we have been together.  And we both agreed that it was a really weird day.

This Sunday is our anniversary, and we are both working.  My wife works from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., while I just work for about 4 hours.  It will be a Sunday, just like any other day, but it won’t be any other day.  It will be a day for us to remember our moments together, and how we have ridden over the bumps and potholes in our life together.  But, the one thing I alway let my wife know is just how crazy I am about her, and how the bad and the good have cemented our relationship into something really lasting.  I will always treasure these moments, and the fact that my wife stuck it out with me, from thick and thin, for better or worse, we will be together to ride out what the world has to offer us together.

Not Giving Up (To be continued…)

I have a 60-ish student in class, who believes that he is not being hired because of his age.  He snarls about younger people getting all the work, and refers to them as “punks”.  This student has 3 degrees (B.S. in Structural Mechanics, M.S. in Engineering and a J.D. in Law), and has been out of work for over 1 year.  He has zero computer skills (has problems using a mouse, does not know his way around the computer), and states that he despises the computer.  He also complains of feet problems and wants to learn at home.

I am 53 years old, and am self-taught.  I learned how to use the computer in the 1980’s, and have been working with computers ever since.  Unlike my student however, I continue to learn how to master applications as well as formatting techniques, and web page design.  I have a B.S. in Computer Science and an M.A. in Education.

I can remember when we used the keyboard to get around the computer, making use of command line functions.  My first computer was a Kaypro 2X, I paid over $6,000 for it when it was new.  I would be lucky to get $150 for it today.  Hiring criteria in the 80s and 90s was measured in keystrokes per hour (kph).  WToday, the criteria generally ranges from Word to Excel, PowerPoint to Access (depending on the position).  The mouse has changed the face of computing, making today’s applications more user-friendly.  Yet, I still find people from many walks of life who have not, and (in some cases) refuse to learn how to use these applications.  There are many reasons one can offer why they may not want to learn how to use today’s mainstream application powerhouses, but to not learn how to use today’s office applications can seriously limit one’s ability to find gainful employment.

More to come…

Times are hard on many of us right now.  Resumes have to be written in order to sell ourselves to prospective employers.  We are in an age where diligence is key if we are going to find work.  We have to be flexible, willing to learn new skill sets, ready to take on any challenges.  The days of complaining are over, we cannot afford to allow ourselves to become complacent, otherwise our peers will pass us by.  The competition for jobs is fierce, there is always room for growth.  I know too many people who are very good at what they do — to a point where they have become arrogant about their skills.  But, no one is immune to being laid off.  The unions have priced the U.S. worker out of work.  We have become too expensive for the employer, and we take offense when we are offered pay lower than what we were earning before.  Lower wages being offered in other countries have enticed U.S. business to take their need for employees elsewhere.

A person who is unwilling to learn new skill sets has a high probability of not being hired…regardless of their education, status or position.  In the past 2 years, I have been training out-of-work managers, project managers, vice presidents, even former business owners.  All of these individuals had someone else to do the work for them, and now they have to learn fundamental computer skill sets if they are going to survive the recession.  Even those who were once cock sure of their success have been falling by the wayside.  I see these people every day, and hurt for them.

So, what can be done about raising one’s skill sets?  Don’t complain.  We can’t blame the young, or blame the old, or blame the experienced.  Blame ourselves for not being willing to send out a tailored resume and cover letter for every single job.  Blame ourselves for not finding public assistance to receive training to gain the skill sets that you need.  Blame ourselves for not sacrificing the time to learn, despite any responsibilities you may have.  There is no choice.  We must learn new skill sets or count yourself among those who have been out of work for years.  I have been in that category, and picked myself up out of the muck.  I earned my degree, and continue to learn every day.  I work on my resume, work hard for my students, work hard for my school and work hard for my livelihood. Doors don’t slam open.  ~John M. Shanahan, The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All  Time (In Two Lines or Less)

climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.

Not Giving Up (To be continued…)

I have a 60-ish student in class, who believes that he is not being hired because of his age.  He snarls about younger people getting all the work, and refers to them as “punks”.  This student has 3 degrees (B.S. in Structural Mechanics, M.S. in Engineering and a J.D. in Law), and has been out of work for over 1 year.  He has zero computer skills (has problems using a mouse, does not know his way around the computer), and states that he despises the computer.  He also complains of feet problems and wants to learn at home.

I am 53 years old, and am self-taught.  I learned how to use the computer in the 1980’s, and have been working with computers ever since.  Unlike my student however, I continue to learn how to master applications as well as formatting techniques, and web page design.  I have a B.S. in Computer Science and an M.A. in Education.

I can remember when we used the keyboard to get around the computer, making use of command line functions.  My first computer was a Kaypro 2X, I paid over $6,000 for it when it was new.  I would be lucky to get $150 for it today.  Hiring criteria in the 80s and 90s was measured in keystrokes per hour (kph).  WToday, the criteria generally ranges from Word to Excel, PowerPoint to Access (depending on the position).  The mouse has changed the face of computing, making today’s applications more user-friendly.  Yet, I still find people from many walks of life who have not, and (in some cases) refuse to learn how to use these applications.  There are many reasons one can offer why they may not want to learn how to use today’s mainstream application powerhouses, but to not learn how to use today’s office applications can seriously limit one’s ability to find gainful employment.

More to come…

Working Like a Teacher…errr, Writer

It looks like I have some great people reading my blog.  I have decided to “fess up” a little about myself.

I have been writing since 1985.  I have won international literary awards for my work, was a published short story writer, and had a chance to write for a San Diego paper as well.  If you have ever had a chance to do something you love, my time on the paper probably hits my all time high.  I would be in at 6 o’clock A.M. and refused to leave until 8 o’clock P.M.  I was dedicated to my craft…there was no person alive who could tear me away from my job.  My byline was featured on the front page of the paper during my tenure.  The editor told me that I had found my calling, but alas…it would not last.

You see, I was in the military.  The paper was “The Hoist“, and I could only spend 2 weeks at the paper.  It took a lot for me to finagle the opportunity to contribute as a journalist for the paper, and I aggressively pursued every assignment I was given.  The editor loved my work so much, that he requested to keep me assigned to the paper for an additional two weeks.  I was ecstatic.  So it was with a heavy heart, when my time came to return to my command.  But those memories were indelibly stamped (for me) in bona fide newspaper ink, in a box that probably no one will ever open, that will remain in my parent’s home for my mother to treasure until the day she passes.

There is nothing like recognition for your work, and I only hope to keep earning your praise as I continue to update my blog.

Old College Papers: The Revolution of Language (conclusion)

Perhaps the reluctance of many to accept new vernacular words as part of their vocabulary into a social or personal climate is due largely to a misunderstanding of American subcultures.  A major problem in countries around the world is that of ethnic identity.  When a person who is not Asian thinks of Asia for example, may conjure up images of the Japanese or Chinese people.  Yet, though the Chinese may have a large population, or the Japanese popular because of their active roles in business, they do not make up Asia as a whole.  Rather, China and Japan make up part of a larger conglomerate of nations as a whole.  The same can be said about the American culture.  For countless years, when a person thought of an American, the immediate image that was conjured up was a person of Caucasian descent.  It was this image that minority ideals came to be born in the mid-sixties.  The premise for Ebonics was that African slaves displaced in America developed a new language with grammatical rules and rhythms that could be traced back to Africa.  A controversial debate ensued on this premise that centered on the need for educators and linguists in general to understand that African Americans were not speaking in English incorrectly.  It was this African American “system of ideas” that was gathered together to create an identity for African American ethnic groups.  There were two inherently wrong assumptions with this theory:  1.  That the people who arrived on the shores of America from the pits of Spanish and Dutch slave holds, culturally and linguistically hailed from a common place.  2.  That the people all spoke in a like tongue without regard to region, class or educational level.  In fact, the opposite was true.  These people had been literally ripped away from their native regions and tribes.  Their customs, religions, even their languages were swallowed up by the yawing maw of slavery.  Ebonics as a dialect, reflects all the social vernacular and sophistication of the African American linguistic system.  The same example can be given for every other ethnic group with has crossed the physical boundaries of American soil since the country’s inception.
Should Ebonics be set aside as a separate language?  Several years ago, this very question was posed to the populace of cities throughout the United States of America.  Their response was an emphatic, no.  Many stated that the African American vernacular is nothing more than a composite of slang words and expressions that originated from the boroughs and climate of many inner city projects.  A prime example is that New York City is host to a myriad conglomeration of regional boroughs, all with their own micro-cultural versions of English.  Perhaps the definition of vernacular describes the mood of many in the debate against Ebonics:  A variety of such everyday language specific to a social group or region:  The vernaculars of New York City.
Educators and linguists continue to wrestle with the question of Ebonics.   “Because language is at the same time both political and personal, it is essential that we understand the political and personal ramifications of the variations of English that we teach. Thus it is essential that we learn about, and represent to the best of our ability, the variations of our language (I include here variations occurring in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and countless other places), as well as variations in register and in communicative behavior in the English-speaking world. Of course this is a tall order, for as this book makes clear, understanding variation even within the U.S. is a gargantuan task. Yet those who represent the English language in classrooms would best set that as a goal. It is irresponsible for any English teacher to represent some dialectal forms as “wrong,” or worse, to represent those dialectal forms as stemming from ignorance, or inability to communicate correctly. In this sense the authors’ crusade against the traditionally judgmental majority is justified, though possibly hopeless, or at best difficult. We teachers will have to live with the insecurity that stems from the linguistic fact that standard English contains a great deal of variation, even when limited to versions observed in the U.S. or in more limited geographical areas, and that nobody has access to the “correct version” by birthright or any other means.”

The question of whether Ebonics should be embraced as a language continues to be hotly debated in many camps, but what remains is that as a language and symbol of our American culture, our form of English will continue to change with the times, as it has since the dawning of the American Revolution.

Old College Papers: The Revolution of Language (More to come…)

Since the day our country was formed, words from every conceivable language have been adopted into our vernacular of language that is uniquely American.  Of note, are slang expressions which originated from our African American community.  Words such as: “crib”, which mean home, and “phat”, which means “great”, are just two examples of a growing repetoire of regional idioms which have become typical words of our english language.  Started in African American communities, these words have also become synonymous with German, French, Indian, Japanese, Chinese words integrated into what is now part of our American culture.
What of these words that originate from inner city America?  Are they a language or a dialect, what changes take place as they are incorporated into our English language, and should socio-cultural vernacular such as African American slang be incorporated into our language or set aside as a separate language called “Ebonics“?
Some words must be integrated into a cultural language as a general form of assimilation as a matter of the evolutionary growth of a language.  These words become almost icons of a particular time or generation that comes of age within a specific society used to convey thoughts and or describe emotions or opinions.  This “codified” resolution of nouns, verbs or adjectives are often different from accepted forms of language, often utilized in social situations.   “The rapid decline is largely due to economic and political pressures on minority communities which remove the new generation’s motivation for sticking to their traditional language. The languages are not inherently deficient in any way. The situation is a global tragedy in the classical Greek mould, for the demise of native languages is an unintended byproduct of external forces that the participants cannot control. No one actively wants these thousands of languages to die. Yet they seem fated to die.”  It is difficult for people from other countries to learn our language, which could attest to the fact that many immigrants to the U.S. today tend to migrate to micro-communities made up of people who speak their native language such as Germonics or Russionics.

>>More to come…

Old College Papers: The Quest for the Holy Grail

One of my colleagues was aghast when I told her about posting my old college paper on my blog.  She felt that it was a mistake for me to do so.  After some thought, I have come to the conclusion that if a college student is able to find these posts, out of so many millions of posts on the web…go for it.  If their professor is worth their salt, they will notice the difference between my writing style and their student’s.

This next post was (on a whim) written in support of the supposition that many single women today look for their “knight in shining armor”, the man who will come dashing into their life on a white horse and carry them away to his castle, where they will live happily ever after.  What I find amusing is a complaint common to most young women today, and that the young man of today has no manners; he is selfish, tactless, infantile and boorish.

The Quest for a Perfect Grail: The Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome

Opening Statement

Tantamount to the Battle of the Sexes and the Fight to Remain Young, is the quest of us all to find perfection in our mate.

Opening Arguments

  1. Many heterosexual women long to find the one man who is the epitome of what they alone term as perfection, generally feeling instead that reality will only give them a fraction of what they desire.

Supporting Arguments

  • The beginning of the search:  Is every potential knight really a spectre of her father, as Freud had suspected?
  • The dating period:  Is the perspective suitor worthy of a symbol or two (perhaps three) of her love?  Or is he simply another Black Knight waiting to snatch her and carry her screaming to his dark lair?
  • The reality period:  Now that reality has set in, and the persona of the mate has surfaced, what is our prince charming really like?  Is he an ogre, or a knight deserving to sit at the round table?

Many heterosexual men long to find the one woman who is their idea of a perfect partner, generally choosing instead, a personality that is just as frustrated with them as they are with themselves.

Supporting Arguments

  • The beginning of the search:  Must every lady who is well met, look as frail or take on the guise of Mother, as Freud suspected?
  • The dating period:  Has the damsel or lady quothed us a symbol of her love, something to fight for, or are we simply attracted to her ample qualities?
  • The reality period:  Now that reality has set in, is she supportive of our goals, or is our perception that she is really a wicked witch, intent on taking over our kingdom to rob us of our worldly possessions?

Both sexes often choose partners who are incompatible with them in regard to personality, height, weight, culture or interests in order to find what they feel others consider perfect.

Supporting Arguments

  • Natural vs. Logical selection of a mate, when we allow our perceptions are clouded by our own weaknesses and desires.
  • Natural vs. Logical actions during courtship, the fight for attention.
  • The reality of present-day marriage, our expectations vs. our realities and how they often clash.

Closing Statement

The problem in finding that Knight in Shining Armor or Maiden in Distress is that akin to searching for the Holy Grail, we all must realize that our distortions and perceptions of reality play a key role in who we approach as a partner to grow old and eventually die with

Old College Papers: Once Upon a Samurai…

For the next month, I will be posting old college papers that I have written over the years.  Keep in mind, I have attended a lot of college, so have written a bunch of papers.  Since I was just going over my old college papers, I wondered if anything would ever come of them –that was until I started thinking of this blog.  I came upon this one.  I still try to live my life in the way of the Bushido.  I am no samurai by any means, but the practices and customs of these long lost warriors has been something I have admired.

The most memorable book I ever read was Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo.  More than just a book, Hagakure is a philosophy of a bygone era, that of the Japanese samurai.  Written by a Buddhist monk, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, who was once a samurai Hagakure epitomizes the glory of what was once feudal Japan.  Brutal and harsh, it also harbors a simple message of the need for common sense and humility.  Depicting life in 17th century Japan, Hagakure proclaims the names of those who died in the service of Japanese lords and masters with the clarity of a gong.  It is the paradox of the Japanese samurai and the bushido culture that is depicted in this book, their self-discipline, their demeanor, the way they were raised and the way that they died.  Hagakure held a place for me in my heart, helping me to understand a philosophy and way of life that longed to course through my heart.  For though I consider myself an American, this book helped me to understand a wanton resignation to discover the roots that made up part of the blood that flowed in my veins and a reason why I looked, felt and acted so differently from everyone else I knew as a child – a lesson in history that was never taught in school.

The philosophy of Japanese culture has always been steeped in mystery, even today; many people of western thought often find its inherent simplicity difficult to understand.  17th century Japan was fraught with problems, issues and politics that continue to affect our modern societies of the day.  Crime was prevalent, though justice was often swift – certain death for the offender in the guise of a beheading or torture.  Much like our national guard, police and army wrapped up into one, the samurai warriors were the knights of Japan, employed in roles as judges, juries and executioners.  More often than not, it was the samurai who were executed or ordered to execute themselves in the name
of honor to their liege and lord. 1
When Lord Katsushige was young, his father, Lord Naoshige, instructed him “For practice in cutting, execute some men who have been condemned to death.” Thus, in the place that is now within the western gate, ten men were lined up, and Katsushige continued to decapitate one after another until he had executed nine of them. When he came to the tenth, he saw that the man was young and healthy and said, “I’m tired of cutting now. I’ll spare this man’s life.” And the man’s life was saved.
2“If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one’s body and soul to his master.” The self-discipline inherent in the Japanese samurai and the bushido code were learned from childhood. The Spartan way of life was the destiny of a samurai warrior; feelings of pride and lust for luxury were emotions to be avoided.  Elation when one was happy was a sure sign of danger, while feelings of pride and extravagance when things were going well: sinful and unseemly. Bitterness was the panacea for a hyperactive disposition, while intelligence, humanity and courage, worthy goals to achieve.

The Way of the Samurai was an eye-opening description of bushido belief, a window into the heart of the samurai warrior.  3“To die without gaining one’s aim is a dog’s death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one’s heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.”  Contrary to my western thought, it took time for me to digest what was being said, but when I realized the simplicity of this tenet, I suddenly realized just how this kind of thinking could change my life.  Almost epitomizing Machiavellian theory, what I realized was that the need in Japanese culture for complete obedience to the noble ruler.  It was expected to be an obedience that required no hesitation, but quick-thinking action in service of one’s master, a servant class that held a province in abeyance in regard to the noble’s wishes.
Yet, within this code, I found a certain tug of familiarity and warmth, a willingness to give my life in service to my country as a U.S. serviceman with dignity and honor.

It was Hagakure that helped me form a bond with my personal identity – a shadowy, existential entity I never found as an American.  It was within this code that I uncovered a certain understanding of myself, a piece to a jigsaw puzzle
that I had trouble comprehending since my pubescent adolescence.  A teenager from a troubled childhood, I drank and smoked at 14, sampling drugs to find my inner self.  Filled with anger, my journeys left me filled with nothing but ambivalence and frustration in the futility of finding my calling in life.
Hagakure evoked a slow change for me in the course of time.  Littered with entrails of broken relationships and scraps of knowledge from a hardened life, it helped me see the beauty and magnificence of what life has to offer.  Throughout our culture, so many young men and women of diverse backgrounds have traversed the tumult of their teenage years in search of an inner identity.  I did not find mine until I was well into my mid-thirties.  My search was over, my hunger for inner guidance sated with the knowledge that being half-Japanese, I was not so different after all.  Little did I know that I would find my answers nestled in the pages of a book written 500 years ago, in 17thcentury Japan, by a man born on June 12, 1659.


1 Hagakure: The Book of the
Samurai, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, William Scott Wilson
(Translator), Reissue
edition (March 1992) Page 57

2 1 Hagakure:
The Book of the Samurai, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo,
William Scott Wilson (Translator), Reissue
edition (March 1992) Page 129

3 1 Hagakure:
The Book of the Samurai, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo,
William Scott Wilson (Translator), Reissue
edition (March 1992) Page 3

Realizing my Age

My youngest child is going to graduate from high school in less than a month.  I am now realizing my age.

Looking back, I cannot believe everthing I have been able to do, and what I have lived through.  I have seen human beings walking on the moon — okay, maybe not literally, but I did on television.  I have witnessed countless assassinations, as well as assassination attempts on television as well.  I have been through an 8.2 earthquake, a typhoon, 2 volcanoes and a really bad marriage.  I guess I’m doing okay.  I am now happily married, love my children and grandchildren (can’t keep up with the grandchildren’s names, though), and am very happy doing what I do.  I am writing this blog, spilling everything out to the world, completing my book, and am ready for more adventure.  What more is there to life?

On the darker side, I watched 60 minutes on CNBC today, and learned about the plight of many Americans who are out of work.  Many people are out of work here in my city.  Estimates are at 40% unemployed right now.  That is scary, and I am asking if we are in a depression, rather than a recession.  Businesses are closing down right and left, and the country is on the verge of bankruptcy.  China has become a global powerhouse and more countries are suffering the same fate as us.  It is as if we are running backward in global power to the heydays of China.  We’re talking a long time ago, folks.

In short, the world is turning and working just as it has for so many millenia.  Nothing has really changed.  The ebb and flow of life is happening as you read this, and we simply go on existing in our day-to-day lives.  The world continues on its merry path, and we are along for the ride.  Does it matter if you have money?  No.  Does it matter if you have power?  No.  You cannot change the world as it is, and you cannot save everyone.  You can attempt to touch a life or two, perhaps improve it for one person besides yourself.  Just remember that without the problems we face, life becomes a stagnant pool, pests flying all around it, waiting to sting anything that comes near it.  Our hurdles are there to let us know that we are still alive.

Being A Mutt

I am a mutt.  Yes, this comment may be a bit vague, but it is what I am.

My father was born in Boston and raised in Brazil, the son of a Swiss-German who originally emigrated to Brazil.  My father’s mother was the daughter of a very wealthy (and large) Brazilian family.  Both of his parents worked for the state department as interpreters.  My grandfather was also a physicist.

My mother is Japanese.  She was the daughter of a once-wealthy businessman who was a direct descendant of a samurai clan.  Her father graduated from the top university in Japan (only 5% of the country’s population ever graduate from this prestigious university) and instead of deciding to go into politics like many of his peers, went into international business instead.  World War II became his bane.  He lost all of his clients, having to retool his business to manufacture uniforms for the Japanese army at his cost (it was that or have the government take over his business).  In the end, the cost of the war eventually took its toll on my grandfather — he saved his business, but ended up selling it due to health problems.

I was a military brat.  I don’t remember living in one place for more than two years until I joined the service in 1976.  My childhood consisted of making friends, only to wave goodbye to them, as their parents moved or we did.  I did not know what it was like to cement lifelong friendships with others until I joined the military.  Up to that point, I was lost as a person.  I did not have any kind of personal identity.  I was not white, black, brown, or any other color we have assigned to different races here in the United States.  I looked asian, yet had a Swiss-German name.  People mistook me for Tony Orlando as a teen.  I spent my mid-teen years in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Those were very turbulent years for me.  We landed on the moon, and I was going through my first crushes.  At school, I was teased for the way I looked.  Because I was a mutt, I did not fit into the asian-american culture, and because of a brown skin color, I was ostracized because I was not lily white.  I was teased for the slant of my eyes by bullies, who I eventually put in their place, myself.  I was alone, a literal “Stranger in a A Strange Land“.  Even in the military, I was occasionally subjected to racist remarks about me.  I took life seriously, and the comments about me hurt.  That was for a while.

As I aged, so did our culture.  We survived race riots in Harlem, Watts, so many different urban areas throughout the United States.  I suddenly realized that others were going through worse than I ever did, and felt empathy for anyone who has ever been singled out for the color of their skin.  We pride ourselves in the steps we have taken forward in appreciating each other, despite the color of our skin.  There are times when we take steps backward as a culture.  Businesses and schools stumble in our efforts to see each other for what we are, regardless of our skin color.  We are getting better, I think.  We still have a long way to go, but we are improving as a culture.

I found out one very important thing as an American.  I am not alone.  So many of us are mutts nowadays,  as interracial marriages blur the lines of what was once a uni-racial institution.  I think Bill Murray’s character, John Winger in “Stripes” was right, when he said, “Cut it out! Cut it out! Cut it out! The hell’s the matter with you? Stupid! We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! Here’s proof: his nose is cold! But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more loveable than the mutt. Who saw “Old Yeller?” Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end?”

Yes, we should revel in the fact that we are all different people.  As our world becomes older, it is my hope that we will one day banish racism from our vocabulary.  I look forward to the day when someone reading this blog will screw up their eyes, wrinkle their nose and think, we really acted like that?  And somewhere, I will smile in the knowledge that we have come a long way in learning to respect one another.