Friday, October 29, 2010

Asian Village Walks

          ~ for G man

Crank: A light name for a serious man,
son of an itinerant preacher--a trouble-shooter
who took his family on the road
from little town to little town, across states,
to take over failing churches and raise them up again.
The son seems to have inherited the spirit
of the father, still traveling, still setting down
new roots…

Wayland Crank: Stocky, short blond hair slicked back,
blocky jaw, a ready smile, and booming tenor—
a good colleague, a perfect walking partner
with a hello, a how-do-you-do, to everyone
we met among these blocks of shifting tides:
from Whites to Mexicans to Hmong back to Mexicans.

Wayland and I often walked south along Winery
across Kings Canyon Boulevard,
by the Home Depot that replaced the dilapidated old K-Mart
which for years was a haunted
playground for local kids,
around  the well-churned soccer fields,
back through the Food Maxx parking lot
with its dwindling customers.

Or we walked west along Kings Canyon, by Ernie’s Bakery
whose windows have displayed Mexican pastries “since 1962” ,
pass the old-style barber shop where a red, white and blue
barber’s pole still revolves by the front door,
around the corner where the closed Ritmo Latino stands
surrounded by numerous pay day loans,
to the new Olmos Elementary school
built where demolished homes once stood.

But our favorite route was east
through the Creekside apartments,
across Willow, through a block of old ranch houses
where the last white man on the block strolls
among his shady oaks and lush grapevines,
looking conspicuous next to the immigrant yards
with their groves of bamboos and bananas,
to Trolley Creek Park with its Victorian gables
and graffitied sidewalks that testify
to new stakes being claimed.

Only now that Wayland has moved on,
only now as I am walking alone
along these shifting routes, do I feel the discomfort,
when my mumbled hellos and how-do-you-dos
to the occasional elderly white lady, the Mexican teen-ager, the African-American man
go unanswered or returned with a suspicious look,
do I realize that it may take years--
maybe generations--
for me, a Hmong man, to walk here
with the confidence and ease
of Wayland Crank.

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