CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Trayvon Martin Could (Not) Have Been Me

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By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

Have another confession to make, meaning the mea culpas are coming at an alarming rate lately. Let it be known CR2S is no longer left or right, more like (self)centered. Being unaffiliated is the best way to go these days. With no binding alliances or convictions, I can become a human pretzel and bend to my own whim and will(iam). 

Robert Galbraith writes a mystery novel that sells several hundred covers. It is later revealed the book was authored under a pseudonym and was written by J.K. Rowling. The revelation makes it a bestseller and bookshelves are emptied. Maybe not exactly Rupert Murdock-like intrigue, but why am I the only one frowning? Should Oprah not be unhappy? 

Fright 214 is piloted by Captain Sum Ting Wong and co-pilot Wi Tu Lo; reported by a San Francisco television station with a straight unsaved face. We’re talking San Fran, people, which has a Chinese mayor and a Chinatown nonpareil. Someone has the sophomoric gall to write that material for a (white) news anchor and no one catches it before being read on air? As an aftermath, Asiana Air was preparing to sue the station until someone in legal wisely advises, “Ah, no.” [CR2S can play the game, too. And let’s be real, amigo, who among us has never laughed at a Chinese name joke?]

But it’s the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman brouhaha that sticks in my craw, whatever and wherever that may be. We should be aware by now there is justice and there is the law; often never the twain shall meet. And following questionable verdicts, there are the inevitable protests. [When South Los Angeles burst into flames in the ’60s, youthful exuberance (no brains) led CR2S to seek a first-hand view of the city burning; actually to see if B&B Stylists for Men had survived. B&B, owned and operated by three Ishihara brothers, had two outlets in the middle of the rioting. Local residents guarded both establishments while everything around them burned to the ground. It would later become Penthouse Clothes in Crenshaw Square, Gardena, Monterey Park and Santa Ana.]

At USC School of Journalism, there were no blacks or Mexicans. Among all the look-alike whites, there was a single Jappo. It never dawned on me that a new major in business, architecture or English probably made a whole lot of cents.

As a newly minted college grad, fearless, unemployed and somewhat homeless, I found myself trying to dig a floundering newspaper out from under a pile of debt. Dr. James M. Goto was the bamboozled publisher of The Crossroads, a Japanese American weekly that was truly at a crossroads. Dr. G was a well-known Li’l Tokio physician [married to an equally prominent Dr. Masako Kusuyanagi]who never intended to be a philanthropist. But he played the role quite well, if inadvertently. 

He had a pleasure boat, the Lucky Doc, when fishing meant work for most; he sponsored talented Nisei basketball and bowling teams; Robert Watanabe, who would become a renowned sports orthopedist, on occasion would sleep in Doc’s South San Pedro Street office. The benevolent doctor was bankrolling the all-English tabloid in the wake of three vernacular dailies, two other established weeklies and numerous newsletters. It was an ambitious dream turning into a nightmare. In lieu of salary, he offered this fledgling dreamer use of his private hideaway home in the exclusive hills of South Pasadena.

A narrow winding road was a nightly challenge for my ’40s Ford heap. Voila! A South Pas patrol car would magically appear as soon as I headed up the incline. The frustrated tail ended after a week of watching me park where I didn’t belong. But not once did they high-beam or venture to stop me. Instead of a “stand your ground” law back then, it was a matter of knowing where you were supposed to belong.

Future wife M worked as a housegirl in a Holmby Hills mansion during a courting year. It may sound demeaning but it was the only way a student living in Compton could attend UCLA; maid work in exchange for board and room. I would borrow my best pal’s cranky Chevy [who conveniently worked graveyard]; which meant putting a piece of cardboard beneath the crankshaft when parked because it leaked oil; Beverly Hills driveways were not allowed grease splotches.

After leaving at 10 p.m., guest curfew hour, again like clockwork [and South Pasadena]I would be followed by a squad car until reaching the L.A. city limits; where the hoi polloi and unwashed could cruise the streets sans a Bev Hills cop escort. But again, never a trumped-up excuse to ever stop me. Of course, I didn’t wear no hoodie.

Those bygone memories revived and roiled after the Zimmerman verdict. But no, there is no wish to compare intimidation or profiling. [But I would like to know if the Trayvon photo we see in the media  is of a 12-year-old, rather than 17.]     

A drunken Marine orders three of us off a Utah sidewalk one long-ago night. That moment was scary, but nervously laughed about later. I thought about that evening when reading about the movie “Fruitvale Station.” I marvel at the fact we collectively experienced so very few tragic confrontations. I can’t help but wonder why. 

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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