Category Archives: Asian Diaspora

Sledding in Woodside Queens 2013

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35. Sledding in Woodside/
With the people of the world/
Human gravity/
#haiku

http://bit.ly/V7d1pW

2/10/13

50. The snowy hillside/
In Woodside’s Doughboy playground/
Is peppered with fun/
#haiku

51. Here Colombians/
Bengalis, Tibetans as/
Americans slide/
#haiku

52. Snowy experience/
ReCaptured digitally/
Are sent to tropics/
#haiku

53. iPad made movies/
Of happy Americans/
Are sent far away/
#haiku

54. Woman with hijab/
Gucci covered iPad films/
Her smiling children/
#haiku

55. Korean father/
Roars down the tree covered hill/
Ecstatically loud/
#haiku

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56. Mexican fam’ly/
Unloads children & their sleds/
Then tackle papí/
#haiku

57. Americans all/
We enjoy democracy/
Of our acceptance/
#haiku

36. Sledding with children/
Overshot my playfulness/
Collided with age/
#haiku

37. Clenching rope handles/
Spinning beyond all control/
Damaged ring finger/
#haiku

38. Regretting my ride/
Because I injured myself/
Shows a lack of faith/
#haiku

39. Staying young inside/
More important than safety/
For immortal* souls/
#haiku *eternal

40. Aging bodies recede/
To within our comfort zone/
Abandoning youth/
#haiku

41. Aches and troubles/
Of old immaturity/
Are truly priceless/
#haiku

42. Youthfulness’s worth/
Though dangerous to old men/
Keeps their spirits fresh/
#haiku

43. Adventure’s value/
Is an internal journey/
Exploring within*/
#haiku *our souls

44. The pains in my body/
Temporarily remind/
My mind I’m alive/
#haiku

45. This throbbing finger/
Beats the rhythm of my heart/
Where I can feel it/
#haiku

46. I regret nothing/
Because I’m educated/
By experience/
#haiku

47. While I don’t like pain/
It reminds me I’m alive/
Here to live for now/
#haiku

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48. Wedding tourniquet/
The ring keeps my red blood in/
The heart of my life/
#haiku

49. Ring’s Symbol becomes/
An active agent in life/
I cherish it so/
#haiku

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Strange History

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I found this “This Day In History” report below on the internet today and there is some sort of strange resonance in these three facts that I can’t just name now. I just wanted to get into your head.

Today is Tuesday, Oct. 9, the 282nd day of 2007. There are 83 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Oct. 9, 1967, Latin American guerrilla leader Che Guevara was executed while attempting to incite revolution in Bolivia.

On this date:

In 1446, the Korean alphabet, created under the aegis of King Sejong, was first published.

In 1701, the Collegiate School of Connecticut — later Yale University — was chartered.

In 1776, a group of Spanish missionaries settled in present-day San Francisco.

Quickly Kids

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Chandler at 12, 2 years out of Cali, took the subway to and from 7th grade herself today. She and Aneka were escorted to the subway by Aneka’s Hijabed mom, who had decided that nothing eventful was going to happen on the way to or from school to our talented daughters. The last couple of times is was my turn to escort them I was little more than an afterthought. They spent the whole time on the way to school discussing the layers of the atmosphere for a science test. They know the way and they never looked back for me, assuming I’d be alright. Chandler reported that on the way back they had fun, buying icees and talking with their friends on the N or W and 7 all the way home.

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Lennox (5) is writing lots of letters, cards and books to my dad, whose birthday just passed. The image is of one of her ice cream cone calculations (how many scoops, how many flavors and how high it would be, etc.). Kindergarten seems to agree with this little scholar.

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Mason’s soccer team, which I coach, is 3 and 0, and Mason is tied for the team lead with 6 goals. This week was a bye-week and I actually missed schlepping out to Greenpoint for the Tuesday night practice. We’ve got to work on “running off the ball.” In the last game one of Mason’s goals was particularly nice. He got the ball with a defender right on him about 2o’ from the goal. He pulled it back and to the right to get a shot around the defender and nailed it to the far side of the goal (passed the goalie who was out of position).

We are all good, and I miss all of you.

Kiko’s Patron (Reindeer Games III) and a Walk in Woodside

We had so much fun at Coney Island.

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But First, A Walk in Woodside with my best girl

Yesterday was an amazingly nice day. I took the kids to school early because they had a field trip. After I dropped them off I fixed up the bike I found for Lennox, finding that the tires held air and the rust came off of the handlebars. The chain seems to be much better now that it is oiled, so all is good. After I dropped them off Linda and I futzed around for a an hour talking, in the nice satisfying way that married couples can. I talked Linda into walking me to the hardware store, bike shop and the 99¢ store. Though she was reluctant we had a grand time once we got out, playing “what if-“on where we should live and other things that otherwise stressed us.

If we move to Woodside (which is where we ended up walking) we would or could save huge amounts of money. After I got my bike out of the shop and training wheels for Lennox’s little pink bike we came across a terraced garden with water storage, drip irrigation and PVC Plumbing trellises for the beans to grow on behind the fence above the Woodside LIRR Station. There was an older man holding sway over the 2000 feet of arable land tucked behind the fence above the tracks at Woodside Ave and 63rd street. Tons of hot peppers, beans and other ‘crops’ I couldn’t discern were in terraced plots the size of mattresses (infant, twin, king and queen) climbing the right-of-way between the platform above the tracks and the fence. There was one farmer/gardener with that kind of plot in the Garden in University Village, but he used “black fertilizer” so we were a bit afraid of him.

Next we met a couple of guys after the meeting who both live in Big Six. They both sang its praises, and pointed out the benefits of living there, in spite of the recent problems (corruption, fee increases). John, who looked about my age, said he was retiring (one of the luxuries of low rent) and told us that he complex actually has fairly big cash reserves, so it should be OK right now. Jim, with the ponytail and amazing complexion, said that he thinks it is safe, doesn’t worry when his 24-year-old daughter walks from the subway late at night, has a dog and a cat, but can’t seem to get a storage space (he’s been on the wait list for storage for a “big six” years). John said that he doesn’t have a parking spot, but usually gets parking whenever he comes home within a building or two of his home.

Finally we went to La Flor Café and had a nouvelle Mexican lunch worthy of Picante or Jimmy Bean’s. The vegetable Tacos were freshly sautéed and sprinkled with a wonderful piquant queso fresca with a strong flavor. The marinated pork steak (whose proper name I forget) had a wonderful citrusy aftertaste. It was a sandwich, called a torta, that blew our minds. We shared an excellent Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookie for desert and it was like being back in the Gormet Ghetto of Berkeley again, except we were under the El at 52nd St and Roosevelt.

I came home and put the training wheels on Lennox’s bike and took it up to her daycare to pick her up. When I gave her the neck-chain with the keys to her bike her face lit up like she had been ambushed by Christmas. She told Elexa and Christina that she was going to ride her bike home proudly. Needless to say after dinner we went to the park and she rode around the play structure, benches and park building endlessly. It was a good day!

Here’s the latest installment of Kiko’s Tale. He will be back soon, but I’ve got to set up the bike racing, which I’m still waiting to hear feedback on. If you ride, formally, with clubs and packs check this for realism and send me a line. And of course, if you want to start from the beginning, go here.

“Well, shit, it’s like this,” he confessed. “On the way here this delivery guy, on his delivery bike, wearing delivery guy clothes, came past me as I climbed the bridge. I mean, that’s where I rule. I was holding my like pumping up the bridge at a great clip and this freakin’ Spanish guy on a cheap bike with a chain locked around the seat-post breezes past me like I’m riding Barney in front of a drugstore.” Thinking, he added, “I don’t even think he was breathin’ hard. I mean, hell, I was beaten.”

There was a lot of disbelief, and none of the pack thought that he was serious. They had ridden together for over two years and they knew each other pretty well and to a man the pack thought that a) Mike must have lost his girlfriend and b) that the Spanish guy was a figment of his dumped and tortured imagination. Delivery-guys do not beat bike racers up hills. Especially not the guy who had led them, gasping, up most of the hills that morning. Not possible. Period.

On the ride home he thought about the kid he’d learn later was named Kiko and worked delivering food in the Financial district. This kid, no, not kid, man, only a man could make that piece of shit bike glide up the bridge he was now climbing so effortlessly. He could see the rear-wheel suspension bouncing as he pumped the pedals and hear the basket rattle as they went over the expansion plate. The bike was like a mechanical bull bouncing up and down under the rider as he passed him. Everything about the bike was loose and rattled. It sounded like it was held together by a second-rate-duct-tape-force-field rather than screws, nuts and bolts.

Bindi Up

A poem considered, imagined, and executed in Sunnyside, Queens, NY 11104


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BINDI UP

Brocade sari once the color of spring plenty
Was the green in a rainbow of twenty

Wrapped tight over the increased girth of age
The filigree frayed by carried kids now grown

Embroider’d swans fray’d down growing younger
Fluffy fowls lined up on fields of green ochre

The garish saris of her youth are worn
The young flesh that they hung on now hangs

Life drawn down by time and care and worry
Pulled towards the earth she sprung from so far away

Still the spring sees the once precious sari
Wrapped and tucked with clinical precision

Trailing a cart of grandkids’ food or clothes
Around seven blocks of western Queens

He thinks, as he watches, only the bindi
Buoys young poise now sari’d together

Doesn’t long for the days he unwrapp’d her
Just loves the life they’ve found here together

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BINDI UP

Draft 1

Brocade sari once the color of spring leaves
That was once one of a set of twenty

Wrapped tight over the increased girth of age
The filigree frayed by carried kids, now grown

Embroidered swans grown backwards to frayed down
Fluffy fowls lined up on fields of fall green

The garish saris of her youth are worn
The young flesh that they hung on now hangs

Life drawn down by time and care and worry
Pulled towards the earth she sprung from so far away

Still the spring sees the once precious sari
Wrapped and tucked with clinical precision

Trailing a cart of grandkids’ food or clothes
Around a few blocks of western Queens

Wicked gravity condensed around her
Twice the force of the adjoining time there

He thinks it is only the bindi that
She wears that holds her up in the shower

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Prep for Prep: Testing Day

Return to Queens

Chinmoy as he sat on Mason’s lap on the way back from Manhattan.

Mason and I went to Alpha Donuts to get a bite to eat before we went to Manhattan. It was early and bitingly cold as it’s been in the post-global-warning portion of our winter. We got the sandwich and hailed a cab into Manhattan. Mason must have been a bit nervous because he only at half the sandwich, though he ate some bites after I got started on it. Prep for Prep will allow the winners of the testing sweepstakes to go to the most expensive and elite schools in the city for free. It will include two years of academic summer camps and tutoring bootcamp every Wednesday evening for the next couple of years. The kids were, on this cold Saturday morning, unconcerned with these frigid facts.

As we walked up to Trinity School on west 91st another cab pulled up and in the front seat was Rafin, another of Mason’s friends with his father (driving) and his mother (in back). This was not a stressful test where the kids are pinned to the scantron sheets like butterflies, as they will be for the SATs, MCATs, GREs and the like. This wasn’t even as stressful as the ELA and Math tests (the academic storm troopers of No Child Left Behind). The kids were all loose and because they had beenrecomended by their teachers and principles. In that sense, they were all already winners no matter how they scored.

We all headed into the chapel to wait for the Prep for Prep test. As we walked in we immediately saw Chinmoy and his dad sitting in front and we scooted in next to them. Mason and Chinmoy were hailing kids all over the room, everything from broad goofy waves to reserved finger waves depending on the kids they were hailing. Within five minutes the boys joined Sharar, Musfiqer, Rafin and Nasra a girl whose African mom wears a loose sequined Hijab that rarely covers all of her hair. They all moved down to the front and started a PS150 click in the very front. These kids, a fair representation of Western Queens, had confidence that will make them fit in well at the private schools of Manhattan, given half a chance.

They were the first out of the room when the call was made and four hours later they all came out together laughing at how simple the test was. We all squeezed into Chinmoy’s Dad’s compact Ford Contour for the ride back to Sunnyside. The boys and Sharar’s Mom all squeezed in back while the men spread out in front. We crawled across Manhattan and down to the Queensboro Bridge and back home. I am so grateful for that ride home because it allowed me to see the kids enjoying their victory over metrics, testing and norms. They mightn’t all have done all that well, but they came out of the exam with the sense of posibility and prowess that can’t be bought. It has been a long time since I’ve been in an overcrowded car full of promise and hope. Today I rode shotgun.

The boys were in high spirits and it was a great scene that the plastic Khali watched from Chinmoy’s dad’s dash board all the way home. Her necklace of heads and bloody tongue was an accurate representation of the triumphantilism that Mason’s coterie from PS150 felt after taking the test. I thik that in thier minds they too had their foot up on the chest of a vanquished enemy (the demi god statistico of metrics).

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God I love Queens

Springtime Observations

When I first came to Sunnyside, when my kids were young these are some of the springtime bservations I made: I took these walks After the Kids went to sleep out and along the Streets of Queens. The businesses and people I saw there deserve cataloguing for future reference. As I look at my notes I see that there will be little or no way that I could possibly accurately recount the shops and businesses and streets and feel that I got there and tried to jot down. I want to include it in my fiction, and probably will. But I don’t know how.

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One night, a hot and sticky night, I went for the first of my nocturnal rambles. I figured I’d see much the same thing as I saw during the day, just closer and at a kid-free more leisurely pace. In some ways that is exactly what happened. In other’s I was in for an awakening which I could have never predicted. First the small awakenings:

There was much more ethnic variety than I’d been able to comprehend. Shops which looked like fast food joints were actually new Asian fast-food chains like “Tofu and Noodles.” The thing that got me about that one was that it was not of any specific Asian ethnicity. Rather, this was the first sort of Pan-Asian fast food joint. They were marketing to the lively late night Asian teenager crowd that probably doesn’t self segregate along ethnic lines besides East Asian. There I saw the familiar throngs of well dressed teens with cool gear and nice cars hanging out, but because it wasn’t Chinese or Korean or Japanese on the face of it I sort of assumed it was Pan Asian. (I know now it is a Korean Restaurant, with some Japanese touches: good food.)

Another epiphany from my walk was that a lot of what had formerly been bodegas were now actually “Halal Butchers” selling meat and products from the Arab World. At least two of these born-again bodegas were run by Pakistanis. (My favorite is the Halal Chinese place on Greenpoint and 43rd that is packed on friday nites.) I doubt that there is much friction out on 74th street between Pakistanis and Indians (Muslims and Hindus) Or Caribbean Indians and South Asian Indians, but if there is this is the first show of a micro diaspora away from 74th Street by Pakistanis. (Actually, I’ve learned that Sunnyside is the center of a Bangladeshi and Nepalese satellite community.)

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Now the biggest shock about that jaunt out Queens Blvd and back was the nocturnal emergence of white people. This is not to say that there aren’t Whites out during the day, in fact I’d say that there are always enough whites about to remind you of their presence, if not primacy.

This had been an Irish neighborhood once, and still is really. But the folks you see about during the day are an entirely different breed. Retired people, Mothers with kids, night workers with the pallor of capitalism, Drunks who’ve tippled their way out of the mainstream, and dopefiends forever proving the equal opportunity of the disease of addiction all wander, stumble, shop and carouse the streets during the day.

At rush hour you start to see a different class or crop of whites. Well dressed silver-haired men in expensive clothes of no definite vintage. Timeless men who look like Brooks Brother’s models and we’ve been told had all left the city for the suburbs salt the crowds leaving the stations with their Tip O’Neal white mops. Visually polished enough to look like bit players on a Lexus ad, these men have the broad working class brogue of the White New Yorker: Italian syncopation with a slightly jewish drawl and Broad Gaelic vowels. “They-e they go. Breakin’ me Shoes. Jheez-s.”

(Of course, just under my radar when I originally wrote this, were the Romanians, Turks, and Russians that live in Sunnyside by the hundreds. I really couldn’t see them when I was just visiting from California, but now that I live here I am .very aware of them because my kids play with their kids and we struggle for the same peace as new New Yorkers.)

The difference being that the people who aren’t Irish who live in the neighborhood now can’t pass as Native Born. I’d imagine that there are the same amount of Irish in the area as there always was, but now you can tell that they are a large minority or a small Majority. I reckon that there is less friction now that the physical/visible test for Irish no longer works. Getting along seems to be what folks do best here now.

But at night. At night there was a strange paradigmatic shift. Now it seemed like all of the Irish bars were twice as big and three times as bright. Where there might have been one per block amongst other shops and businesses, they were now the only business open on most blocks and they were lively. “The Wall,” “McSorley’s,” “The Ferryman,” and “McGuinness'” were all bursting with a surprisingly young and upscale clientele. Maybe it’s my Manhattan snobbery, but I just didn’t expect to see so many young and well dressed white folks in that black, brown, yellow, beige and gray league of nations in the shadows of the 7 train.

Handsome and happy Irish people were bursting out onto the street through the windows and doors. (It wasn’t hot enough for AC yet.) College kids and immigrant plasterers, Lawyers and office workers were the discrete leafs of some whole shamrock I could have never imagined until that night. Happy and indifferent to me and the other people of color who walked along, Sunnyside Irish, in contrast to the Boston Irish of my youth are unconcerned with “the other.” I guess that a good economy and a strong influx of Native born Irish will have that effect on a people.

Then there were the younger people. Dressed to match the silver haired gentlemen, there were preppy young Irish kids all over the place. Crossing under the el, coming out of all of the side streets north of the tracks there were blond happy kids who looked like they should have been at a country club someplace not on Queens Blvd passing the Halal Butcher or “Tofu and Noodles.” Little Black dresses below long blond hair, accompanied Polo Blazers over Gap white Chinos. Pearls and gold in discrete portions orbited like satellites these pale Lunas. These folks appeared out of nowhere, looking simultaneously out of place and right at home. I know that the only thing that made this noteworthy to me was my own narrow mind. I have bought hook line and sinker the lie that all the whites who could afford to leave the city have.

Visually these might have been Ivy Leaguers except better dressed. But their wraith-like appearance on Queens Blvd. showed them to be more real that the imagined blue bloods of the Ivy League and its sisters. These kids hazarded out into the real multi-cultural world in a way that college kids rarely do. This is not the veneer of multiculti, rather it is the “real-deal.” Not only do we have geographic diversity layered on top of ethnic and racial diversity but there is also class and dream diversity to boot. In fact there is more class diversity in one of those Irish pubs than in all the freshman comp courses I’ve taught at UC Berkeley in the last 7 years.