By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO
If you’re a successful lawyer, what happens when 10% of your clients go to jail? No big deal, you cultivate new ones. But if you were a barber and slowly lost your clientele to age (and female hairdressers), a younger customer replacement pool did not materialize. [There were once three barber shops in Li’l Tokio.]
Today ethnicity doesn’t restrict realtors, restaurateurs, CPAs, bartenders. But fish and gardening routes, once strict Japanese domains, became workplace dinosaurs. And you don’t see a whole lot of old-fashioned dirt farming anymore, let alone chicken coops. Now it’s all modernized and corporate.
When you stop to think about it, some of us have witnessed and played a role in the wholesale turnover in the challenging world of “making a living.” The barriers and restrictions of 65 years ago no longer exist and you can (try to) seek whatever your goal might be; there are no glass or bamboo ceilings [allegedly]. Today’s Yon/Go-sei can strive for whatever, whenever, wherever. Obviously there are no slamdunks, but meritocracy wasn’t always the name of the game.
Naw, not to fret, folks. This isn’t a prelude to another “when I was young” rant or a recall of the good old bad days. This week I’m simply looking for a smooth segue into talking about someone very dear to my heart: Moi. Which should be no great surprise since CR2S is my favorite creation and main interest these days. Even more than strawberries and bacon, and a smidgen above the ever elusive and provocative “O-bah-keh-san.”
Since it’s safe to assume none of you are columnists, I’ll let you in on a little secret: We’re really not all that smart, engaging, informed or worldly. But I guess maybe you knew that already. We are wordsmiths, plain and simple, opinionated and often self-important. If you read The Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine and The New Yorker, you might wonder why there is war, poverty and a hole in the ozone. Their writers have all the (right) answers. The problem is the response, or the lack thereof. The public will read and take sides, but seldom react. There are a multitude of bloggers and social media on the Internet who add to the miasma of punditry and authority. Hot air is cheap and in great abundance these days.
I’m sitting here wondering what’s in the future as far as dear old CR2S is concerned. If truth be told, and it is always so in this corner, I peruse the daily obituaries because every name that appears represents one less reader. And like the obsolete, forlorn barber, there are no youthful prospects on the near horizon to serve as replacements.
While Rafu’s aging readership continues in decline, CR2S seeks to broaden its appeal and relevance. I wish the newspaper would, too. A formidable challenge for both.
Got an unexpected lift recently when conversing with a Sansei. She related how her relationship with an isolated father had improved, getting a better idea of what made him tick through the lens of a fellow Nisei (me). Since he never talked about wartime experiences, “I had no idea what he went through, except for bits and pieces” garnered from a more forthcoming uncle and auntie. She assumed from age and camp background that CR2S presented missing insight to a stoic parent. Maybe being a sociology major enabled her to relate my writing to Papa’s reticence. Whatever. Because in the end, I think she was thanking me for being honest, warts and all, thus cracking open some of her closed doors.
On the other end of the teeter-totter, my two boys are the epitome of Quiet Sansei, politely listening to continual recitations of The War and its aftermath. No upward rolling of eyes allowed. You know that old saw about “Mi casa es su casa?” Well, while one Hiroto was constantly espousing, the ballast was a very sensible, level-headed mother.
I have a small circle of readers who serve as unofficial editors; free to critique and criticize with abandon. Such oversight is necessary because it’s too easy to get carried away when seemingly on a roll; needed guidance when trying to reach an audience that isn’t Nisei.
[Recently lost an avid booster in Oregon, a friend from Riverside days, who distributed CR2Ss to a dozen former classmates; including a UC regent, a judge and the three most attractive and popular girls in our class. Most had Hillsborough, Pacific Palisades and Newport Beach addresses. Which means zilch, I know, but worth remembering if I ever got a flat tire in their lofty neighborhoods. Also mentioned because it meant 12 more white folks became deeply interested in the travails of the Nisei, camp and postwar. As for the trio of still attractive matrons (proof that youth can be purchased), reunions were made memorable because they forgot I was a crew-cut Jappo who raised the grade point average but not their libido.]
It’s safe to say writing about and for a dying generation has about as bright a future as a typewriter or clothespin. But you know, I do believe I’ll shuffle along for a while longer, with or without endorsement. I’ve got nothing better to do and even though admittedly falling short some weeks, this Wednesday Page Three space beckons like a siren.
Did I say something early on about not musing? I did? Shame on me!
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.