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hongo 5 Garrett Kaoru Hongo 96 Tears In high school, I was in a special group, the "AP" classes, advanced placement, segregated from the rest ofthe student body. In them were mostly Japanese kids, a few whites, and a black or two — there were never any Chícanos—and that was when the idea ofhierarchies, categories, and "rank" were finally made clear to me. It's certain I'd noticed, thought about it before—in Hawaii, when I was a child, there were always those ofus who could speak, write, a proper kind ofEnglish (we were always favored) and those who had only the pidgin. I remember a boy I was trying to help write a composition. The teacher, Mrs. Yamamoto, had assigned me to him as a kind oftutor (I would have been humiliated had it happened to me), and I was reading over his work, dismayed that it was written in pencil rather than ink, huddling over his shoulder, my hand on his back like an umpire's on a catcher's, following along as he read it aloud to me. "Spelling first," I said, "We check dan spelling," my own propriety sensing this occasion as a scene for pidgin, a discretionary moment oflogocentrism amidst this scene ofdiscipline and écriture. ". . . and went the bird ladat," he read, flatly, without the risk ofemphasis. "What?" I said, suddenly puzzled. "And den the bird ladat went?" he asked, tentatively, feeling corrected, changing his story as a suspect does when leaned on by a cop or D.A. Interrogated. "What's ladat?'·' I asked again. "You know," he answered, suddenly confident, relieved that I had probably only misheard him that it wasn't grammar or the esoteric 6 the minnesota review subtleties of idiomatic, Mainland syntax I was questioning, "Ladat! I went hit dah bird ladat! Ladat I hit dan ball with dah bat ladat! " he said, popping his fists together, chopping down, rolling his wrists in sweet imitation ofa crisp, Aaronish swing. "Ladat," I said, "Yeah." So, by high school, on the Mainland, I'd already internalized the principles of difference between the dim and the quick, counted myself pridefully among the sullen elite, and, jive as I was, carried armfuls of books wherever I went in order to show it. It was my identity, an added sign that, I felt, cast me tropologically free from the anonymity ofother, drifting signifiers as they swaggered by the lockers, making time with chicks, jingling lunch money, scuffling their feet in a cruiser's walk so the steel taps on their shoes would click and scrape, rhythmically, on the pavement. They wore their shirts open, dark wool Pendletons in winter, loud satins, loose and pajamalike in the hot weather, lustrous as fishbelly, exposing a thinjersey undershirt, sexual, strangely cummberbundish in its subculture formality, the rules of its wear, and Christophers, gaudy crucifixes, or later, black and red leather mo-jo pouches dangling like mamori from their necks, signifying, testifying, and talking trash. They were a lateral dance of signifieds, transcendental, Temptations-like, free and unoppressed as they walked. "Free, white, and twenty-one" is the formulaic. Cynical and exclusive, it doesn't mean "Emancipation," that freedman's word, signifyig unlimited potential, an open road like Whitman saw, a view from the prospect ofDemocratic Vistas, a sense ofmagnificence and ofelection. hongo 7 I had two friends in school, one Jewish, one Japanese, both very bright, who became presidents ofour student body. They wanted the recognition and the experience of it I suppose, the status and familiarity with leadership, both as a role for themselves and as an access to power, its rules and disdainful possessors. Weall wanted to get out. Our school was three-thousand, urban, poor and middle-class intermingled, bordered by two freeways, a drainage channel and corridor for powerlines with their monstrous platoons ofbuzzing towers approaching campus through yellow smog. Their lines emerged through the inland distance, across marshlands thick with cricket pumps and thejunkyards along Figueroa. They receded west down Artesia over the derelick rails and crossties ofthe Santa Fe down to Redondo steamplant and the invisible sea. I won't forget the drive-in on the east side. Singular then...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 5-8
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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