HORSE’S MOUTH: A Town Called Zzyzx

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

I hope readers don’t turn the page when I open today’s column with “let’s talk a little baseball.”

It’s just a short piece.

Whenever a Major League team signs a player from Japan, the print media always inserts a story about the transaction.

Well, the other day the Oakland A’s signed a player named Kitamura and I couldn’t find the story anywhere except in The Star Advertiser, the Honolulu newspaper.

Maybe it’s because Kitamura’s first name is Pi’ikea and he’s not from Japan.

He is a Sansei and was the outstanding player on the University of Hawaii team.

During the past season, he had 205 hits, 114 RBIs and 106 runs scored.

He will be joining the Oakland club this week.

If memory serves me correctly, he’ll be the third Japanese American to join a Major League team.

I’m sure The Rafu will run the story on KABC newscaster David Ono’s program that will be shown on Channel 7 next Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

The special show will feature a story about the Japanese Americans’ experience at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center.

And if I’m lucky, David’s special may show my participation in the telecast along with Jack Kunitomi, with whom I worked on the camp newspaper.

However, I assume Jack will be featured.

I’ll be looking forward to watching the telecast whether I’m included or not.

David filmed part of his special at Little Tokyo’s Japanese American National Museum about three months ago.

I’m not quite sure how I was invited to participate in the filming, but it was an interesting afternoon for me to be included since I always watch Dave’s newscast on Channel 7.

Well, we’ll see how it turns out as far as my participation is concerned.

Needless to say, Harry Honda is probably the last old-time veteran Nisei newspaperman still around.

And from time to time he sends me stuff from the old days.

He headlines his piece “Friends in our age group will relate”:

“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, yet the youngest you’ll ever be, so enjoy this day while it lasts.

“Your kids are becoming you, but your grandchildren are perfect.

“Going out is good, but coming home is better.

“You forget names but it’s okay because other people forgot they even knew you.

“You realize you’re never going to be really good at anything, especially golf.

“The things you used to care to do, you no longer care about, but you really care that you don’t care to do them anymore.

“You miss the old days when everything worked with just an on-and-off switch.

“You tend to use more four-letter words — “What?” When?”

“Now that you can afford expensive jewelry, it’s not safe to wear it anywhere.

“You notice that everything they sell in stores is sleeveless.

“What used to be freckles are now liver spots.

“Everybody whispers.

“You have three sizes of clothes in your closet, two of which you will never wear.

“But old is good in some things: old songs, old movies, and best of all, old friends.

“Stay well, old friends. Send this on to other old friends and let them laugh in agreement.

“It’s not what you gather, but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you have lived.”

Thanks, Harry. I’m glad I can call you an old friend. And I will pass this on to readers who know you as an old friend.

Whenever your name pops up, I am reminded of the good old days when every day, after we put that day’s edition “to bed,” the staffers from the Rafu, Kashu Mainichi, and Shin Nichi Bei newspapers used to gather at the old Sugar Bowl coffee shop to chat about the events of the day in J-Town.

Those were the days.

This is kind of a touchy issue, but I see that the City of San Francisco is denying a visit from a Japanese politician for his remarks on the “comfort women” issue that have spread across the world.

I guess to the modern generation, what the Japanese politician has to say is unacceptable.

But hey, those who are familiar with Japan can understand why the politician has made the comments that he has regarding the issue.

Those familiar with old Japan know the issue is really not an issue.

Heck, I remember when Tokyo had an entire district in the city providing “comfort women” for its citizens. I can’t recall the name of the district. I think was Yoshiwara.

When I landed in Japan with the U.S. Occupation Forces at the end of World War II, I was stationed in Osaka and there was a similar district in that city.

The Japanese looked at these areas like we Americans might look at a shopping center.

So I can see why the politician has his opinion on the comfort women issue.

And for San Francisco to deny his visit is kind of out of whack.

Oh well, it will be interesting how this issue works out.

I want to thank Bacon Sakatani for sending me copies of The Heart Mountain Sentinel that contained my sports column.

I knew the papers existed but didn’t know they could be sent to anyone via email.

He also sent copies to my youngest son, who was more than surprised that his “old man” was a newspaper columnist nearly 70 years ago,

I got a chuckle out of reading some of my columns when I was still a teenager (18) in camp.

Also read what was labeled as my “sayonara” column as I left camp for the Army.

So it was one camp (relocation) to another (U.S. Army).

The camp I was assigned to was in Florida, so I had to readjust from the climate in Wyoming.

I guess it wasn’t that difficult to adjust because the climate between the two sites wasn’t really that different.

What was different was the way we lived.

In Heart Mountain, I could get up any time I wanted.

At Camp Blanding, we had to get up with the bugle at 5 a.m. every day.

Then we had to lug around all of our military equipment, including our M-1 rifles, all day long.

In camp, I put on my jeans and shirt and that was that.

Gee, what am I doing reliving my days in an Army uniform?

Yeah, I know.

You’re wondering when I am going to chat about Las Vegas.

Well, I thought about it myself and what do you think came to my mind?

It’s the drive to Vegas.

I’m sure those of you who drive to Vegas always see the signs reading “Zzyzx” along Highway 15 about 15 minutes before you pass through Baker.

If you are like me, you’ve probably wondered where on earth they came up with a name like that for a site in the middle of the desert.

Well I did a little digging and found that Zzyzx is the name that replaced Soda Springs, which is located near the mouth of the Mojave River.

The spot has a long history as a rest stop and a way station for travelers on the Mojave Road and in the 1860s was the site of Hancock Redoubt built by the U.S. Army.

The area is subject to severe flash flooding.

The land on which Zzyzx mineral springs was built was reverted to the government and in 1976 the Bureau of Land Management granted permission to the California State University to manage the former resort, which was converted into a facility called the Desert Studies Center that conducts research into the Mojave Desert environment.

Zzyzx has been the subject of more than one song title, an album title, a movie name, a fictional company in a TV series, and even the name of a prison.

Okay, now you have the history of Zzyzx, so the next time you see the sign on your way to Vegas, just before you get to Baker, you will know all about the site.

Good luck in Vegas. No I don’t think we’ll bump into each other because I don’t have a Vegas trip on my calendar for at least until late July.

Just received a photo from a young lady I met at the recent Heart Mountain reunion. It reminded me that as we all age — heck, most of us were teenagers in camp — we can’t recognize a lot of folks who were interned in Wyoming.

At any rate, the young lady took a photo of me with a lady who came by our table.

When I saw the photo and name, I suddenly realized that she was a good friend during camp days but didn’t recognize her as such.

Since she gave me her married name instead of the name I knew her by in camp, it never occurred to me who she was.

I’m sure she thought, “What’s with Horse? He doesn’t even recognize me.”

It’s happened before at other Heart Mountain reunions, but usually when I don’t recognize the person, he or she will say, “Remember when we did such and such a thing,” to try to refresh my memory.

One thing that makes it difficult is that most of the folks I meet for the first time since camp all seem like they didn’t age.

That may be a little difficult to accept since they are all the same age as me, and you know I don’t look like a spring chicken.

One of the things that impress me about computers is that people can send me recordings of music. Especially Japanese songs.

I got one of my favorite Japanese songs the other day, so when I have nothing to do I listen to it over and over.

The title of the song is “Ue wo Muite Arukou.”

It’s performed by a half-dozen Japanese vocalists, so that makes it even more enjoyable.

So when I finish today’s column, you know what I will be doing.

Well, it’s time to laugh.

A filthy rich Florida man decided he wanted to throw a party and invited all of his buddies and neighbors.

He also invited Leroy, the only redneck in the neighborhood.

He held the party around the pool in the backyard of his mansion.

Leroy was having a good time drinking, dancing, eating shrimp, oysters and barbecue, and flirting with all the women.

At the height of the party, the host said, “I have a 10-foot man-eating gator in my pool and I’ll give a million dollars to anyone who has the nerve to jump in.”

The words were barely out of his mouth when there was a loud splash. Everyone turned around and saw Leroy in the pool.

Leroy was fighting the gator and kicking its rear. Leroy was jabbing it in the eyes with his thumb, throwing punches, head butts, and choke holds, biting the gator on the tail and flipping it through the air like some kind of judo instructor.

Finally. Leroy strangled the gator and let it float to the top like a dime-store goldfish.

Leroy slowly climbed out of the pool and everyone was staring at him in disbelief.

The host said, “Well, Leroy, I reckon I owe you a million dollars.”

“No, that’s okay. I don’t want it,” said Leroy.

The rich man said, “Man, I have to give you something. You won the bet. How about half a million?”

Again, Leroy said no.

Confused, the rich man asked, “Well, Leroy, then what do you want?”

Leroy said, “I want the name of the SOB who pushed me into the pool.”

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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1 Comment

  1. Takasumi A Kojima on

    Horse: Regarding you comments on the Comfort Women.

    I’m glad that you mentioned, why such an outcry regarding Comfort Women and your comments about Red Light Districts in Japan.

    There are still today, many bars and massage parlors surrounding U S Military bases in Japan, Korea, and formerly in Philippine, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Thailand.

    The host country and U S Military condones these facilities as they relieve tension and reduces the chances of raping of girls of the host country by the U S Military personnel.

    The people in Asian countries consider sexual activities as part of life and do not have such puritan attitude as Emily Murase; if Emily would work in any Asian country she would understand the attitude of Asian regarding sexual outlets provided by various organization.

    Most Nisei soldiers who were stationed in Japan or Korea enjoyed the pampering by the bar girls and would jump at a chance to re-live their service tour in Japan.

    There is no difference between U S soldiers and the Japanese Army regarding sexual outlets; they each require a comfort women outlets; in the Japanese case their Army provided their own women; while the US Military used the services of the host country.

    When Horse mention Yoshiwara red light district in early post-war era; the Eight Army stationed in Yokohama had their own red light district which covered almost twenty blocks adjacent to the Yokohama rail-station; and Generals and Admirals had their own comfort women stationed on the Bluff Area of Yokohama, adjacent to the Motomachi shopping area.

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