Saturday, April 30, 2011

Family (continued)

Cause of Recession

Mom's stroke confines her to a wheelchair.  While she rehabbed, we restructure her house.  We add ramps, remodel bathrooms, remove furniture and carpet.  When she returns, we gather in the living room.  Her caregiver guides her into kisses, cheers and hugs.

We compliment her on a new sweater.  She says she purchased it on QVC, the shopping channel.  We laugh because we know mom's an relentless shop-a-holic.   Mail-order magazines from Macy's, Cold Water Creek and Spiegels abound her dining room and kitchen.   Bedrooms, recreation room and garage are filled with unwrapped and unopened boxes and orders.

"You're always buying things.  When I called them and said I was Marta Flor, the woman in the call-center asked if I knew you."  injects my youngest sister.

Arlene, our cousin, laughs, exclaiming, "You too!  They asked me the same question."

Shortly after mom's passing in 2007, the U. S. economy tanked.  We know why!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Family (continued)

Home Cookin’

Oders from my father’s homeland waft Catalina’s kitchen.   Memories of my mother’s chicken adobo revive.  American of Irish, English and German heritage, mom cooked Filipino dishes so well that women from the community considered her a Pinay.   She hosted holiday meals from friends and family fusing pancit, rice, pinakbit and other island favorites with American dishes.

It’s my cousin Arlene’s birthday this evening.  Catalina uncovers a recipe similar to mom’s.   She blends chicken, garlic, rice vinegar, bay leaves and Lauriat soy to provide authenticity.   We weaves them in her crockpot.   Bland at first, she introduces more peppercorn, garlic, bay leaf, garlic salt and a dash of poultry seasoning.   Four hours later, we journey to the Philippines through taste and smells.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Family and Friends

Lost Letters

Clearing my basement,
 I discover Claude’s letter.  

He enlisted to fly.

“…you rave about the Australian women,

they must be unreal. I can hardly wait to go there.”

I smile. 

“…afraid I’m no longer 
a virgin.
Had a great time
 and paid for it.  
Didn’t  study.  

Blew the navigation quiz.”

Over beers, we'd spoken of girls,

laughed as college boys 
with lives ahead.

“See you for sure at Christmas 
around the 21st.”

Then, my unread response, 
sadly returned and kept.

The real price of war

* Claude Dennison and I became friends while studying at Seattle University.  Following graduation, he enlisted in the Naval Air while I served aboard the USS McMorris (DE-1036).  We kept in communication.   I was coming off active duty and he was planning leave in 1968.  We planned to grab a Christmas drink and relive old times.  He was killed when his plane crashed.   

As children, we traipsed the woods,
careened the nettled bluff 
to the beach at Cherry Point.
We'd snare starfish, dodge 
and wade tidepools.

Sand sifted through
 our toes,  
sandfleas nipped ankles
 we rested on the logs.

Older cousin
 John conned
us into
 smoking driftwood. 

In other times, our parents
 took us to Colman Park

to play in the sandboxes. We’d argue.

Throw sand trying to bury each
until mom scolded us to stop.

Now, sons and daughters plough 
Iraq desert
and Afghan hills where sun and sand seeps 
their bones and bodies.

Thursday, April 21, 2011



Sun sifts leaves to walkway shadows
of black Spanish gates.
Overhead two Red Admirals skirr.
A dragonfly skips across the sky.
Rufus hummingbirds zit-zit
the Chinese lanterns
seeking nectar.

Nocturnal notes from a practicing pianist
seep the hollow.  Purple dust settles
on the path were bumblebees
spread confetti from the Ceanothus.
No honey bees attend though Nils,
my neighbor, stationed hives in his yard.

Too late or too early for the swallows.
Settling back, I scrunch grass
between my toes.  I am cool in this
brief hiatus...this momentary solitude.

A Lake Walk

A fog toupee covers Larson Lake.
The shiny surface, a bald calm.
Ami and I dawdle the bank
of monk-rimmed grass.
We circle the mulch trail in a slow
sniff and chew walk.  She selects
the long stemmed grass for reasons
know only to her.  At thirteen,
no longer an agile border collie,
we travel the level path which
is more secure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Family (continued)

A Distant Cousin Plays Baseball

Verla, my mom's cousin,
wrote that her nephew, Chris
played baseball for Arizona.

Sport afficienado, I sought him
on their website.
Pleasant surprise.
They were playing here in April.

Dashed off a quick e-mail to their coach:
"Could Chris come to a family dinner?"

Out of the blue, Verla called.
Arizona wanted to know:
"Were we really relatives?"
...before giving permission.

Days before the games,
a cell phone call...
"Hi!  This is Chris!
Can we meet for lunch?
I have time Friday."

Mount Rainier in the backdrop,
my brother, his son and I sit
in sun-drenched stands
hardly containing our pride
in the young left-fielder.

Autographing balls for kids,
doubling off a runner.
We watch a rising star in our family..
no matter how many galaxies removed.

Jesse, Habitat voluneteer retires.
Clown wannable,
she calles cousin Barbo
for advice.

"Barbos's a gentle clown!" she reprots.
White, borad-faced smile,
surrounded in yellow folds and flowers.
Her high squeaky voice
delights kids at parades.

Jesse, gentle clown protege,
cultivates wishes and laughter
in impoverished Guatamalan
and Costa Rican children.

*  Chris Frey played outfield for the University of Arizona and later in the Colorado Rockies system.  He's currently in the  Philidelphia Phillies system.  Verla Moser is his aunt and my mom's cousin.

*  Barbo is Barbara Mendoza, the daughter of my Aunt Margaret "Toots" Mendoza.  She's a professional clown who actually attended clown college.  

* Jesse Strauss,  a great friend and former co-worker,  leads a Habitat for Humanities team each year to build homes for poor families in different parts of the world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Neighborhood (continued)

Altar Boy

Father Haggerty, a Maryknoll priest, attempted to teach me Latin.  He gave me the prayer book so I could practice the words.  The first response began “Intro ibo ad altare dei…”   It took me a while to remember all the words but eventually I learned.  I served my first Mass at Immaculate Conception when I was in Fifth Grade.

Our house was minutes away from the Church so the walk was easy.  Living close posed a disadvantage.   The nuns frequently assigned me the 6:30 a.m. Mass.   Winters were especially difficult.   I’d hurry through the dark, solitude of snow-laden streets to light the candles, fill the crucibles with water and wine and prepare the altar. 

Mass ended, I scurried home for a quick breakfast before returning to school.   The worst part of living nearby occurred in summer when the nuns assigned me to serve each week including Sunday’s Benediction.  The scheduling impinged on vacation.

Mom and dad hosted holiday dinners for our family, new Filipino arrivals and Manongs.  They always invited a priest or two.   Mom baked turkey or fried chicken, ham, rice, mashed potatoes and peas.   Her meals always included one or two Fllipino delicacies like adobo or pancit.  She’d prepare her fabulous apple and pumpkin pie for desert or she’d make leche flan.

Dad provided the liquor. They drank crème de mint and Manischewitz wine. Pretty awful stuff in retrospect.  But, not nearly as awful as the altar wine.  Most of us chugged a sip or two when the priest left. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Family (continued)

Uncle Frank

Hunched in thought,

futility of resistance sensed,

he relaxes into the inevitable.

His opponent, a circumspect young 
black man,
watches my uncle's torment.

Both mathematicians, they silently honor

the equations of combat
the painful joy of engagement.


* Franciso Flor first came to the United States in the early '50s to study mathematics at the University of Washington.  After a teaching career at Adamson University, Manila, he returned in 1968 with his family and taught at Seattle Vocational Institute.  A lover of chess, he asked if I knew anyone who he could play.  A dear friend, Hanigen Pitri, also a math teacher, agreed to a few games.   The following year, my uncle passed away.  I always recall his joy at playing, though he lost all three matches.

A Mother's Sign

Daphne, mother's favorite, 
blossoms in cool, early Spring.
Its pink-white flowers offer brief fragrance,
then pass until another season.

Catalina and I prepare for nuptuals
this warm July.  Our florist, Mitch
gathers purple iris for St. Ignatius Chapel.
For bride and bridesmaids, he
bouquets calla lilies to symbolize
her Latino heritage.
I wear a barong Tagalog
featuring stephanotis.
The boutonnieres arrrive
mixed with daphne.

"They bloomed yesterday.
Mom blessed your wedding."
Mitch says.

* Catalina and I married in July 2009 two years following  my mother, Louise Flor, died.  In the heat of mid-summer, daphne actually bloomed in Mitch Acevedo's yard the day before the wedding.  It was mom's favorite flower.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Family (continued)

Ties that Bind

“Start with the wide end of your necktie on the right, extending about twelve inches below the narrow end to the left.   Cross the wide end over the narrow end…”  I speak as Javi stands before me, dressing for his high school Homecoming Dance.  He needs help tying a Windsor.  He looks posh in his black sport jacket, a distant departure from his usual jeans and sweatshirts.

Javier,  my stepson of five months, presents novel challenges.  Living alone most of my life, I was  uncertain about living with a seventeen year-old.  I’d spent my off-hours, reading, writing and enjoying the serenity of singleness.  Teens, I’d come to learn, spend incalculable hours immersed in video games, hanging with friends or declaring their desire for adulthood.  Few hours are actually devoted to working, reading or quiet…with the exception of sleeping late.  I’m still adjusting.

“Pull the wide end up through the loop between the collar and tie and then bring it down.”   I continue.

My mind drifts to those early years when my dad ushered me into our walk-in closet where he selected one of his ties from the rack.   It went with my new blue blazer "The Gomes’ are coming to dinner and you need to wear a sport-coat with a tie.  I’m going to show you how to tie it.”

“Can’t I just wear a clip-on?”   Makes life easier, I thought.

“You need to learn to dress.  Someday, you’ll apply for a job or meet the right girl.  It’s important.”  He asserted.

“Pull the wide end under the narrow end and back through the loop…”  I continue with Javier.  “You have a choice to either bring it to the left or right.  Either path works.  One makes a more narrow but sophisticated knot.  The other is more traditional."   I follow. “Who’s the lucky girl?”

“Anisa.”  He responds.   “The dance is at Sammamish.  After, we’ll have dinner.  Bunch of us’re going to a restaurant on Alki.”

“Nice.”  I say, knowing the place.  “Go the traditional way.”

My father dressed well.  It was important to Filipinos.   Something of a cultural inheritance from the Spanish.   It meant fitting in…having an education…being employed.  The Spanish passed along the idea that shined shoes were a sign of a cabellero and not a lowly peon, compelled to walk dusty roads instead of riding a horse.   Three hundred years of rule, left this residue in the Philippines.

“Cross the wide end from right to left before pulling it up through the loop.”   Dad proceeded to the next step.  “Manongs Eddie and Pablo will be joining us.  Your mother invited Father O’Brien as well.  You want to make a good impression.”

My eyes rolled.  It’s all about looking good.  Dad wanted me to be the best altar boy at church.  I supposed this made points with God.

“Pull the wide end down through the knot in front.”   We near the end of the lesson.  “How’d you meet her?”  I query Javier.

He answers that she’s in his class and on the tennis team.  Tells me she’s quite a player and went to state last year.  They just have fun together.  The dinner will have ten to twelve couples.  A father of one of  his classmates owns the restaurant and cut them a deal.

I say,  “Sounds like fun. We’re about done.  Last step, use both hands, tighten the knot and draw it to the collar.”

He does.  Looks in the mirror at the Windsor.  “Thanks.”

I stand back.  Give him the once over.  I think about my dad gone now seven years.  I recall his words and use them now. “Looks good.  You should be a hit!”

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Fauntleroy Cove - October 9, 2005

Ami and I saunter beach

through driftwood bones 
of fir, cedar and pine.

She border collies her way
 Scotch Broom and grassy swale.

Clever gulls drop clams on rocks

then struggle over carcasses.

Shell shards remain.

Few fishermen patiently cast the shore.

Ami has grown older. 
White hairs define her face

and the walk has become 
more tiring.

Fireweed Season, WestCrest

Fireweed now rusted,

We ramble past the colored foliage.

Ami and Pepper rush ahead

kicking dust, sniffing all.

On top branch Sumac,

a solitary Ana stands guard.

No sense of passing season.

Others have fled
 for light, warmth
and greater forage.

My dogs and I 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Morning coffee slowly sipped.

Through window, I watch grey clouds

pass pale ferries plying Sound.

Serene hiatus from crowds.

Scotch broom waterfalls welcome.

Its golden plume the future.

Lone sparrow trebles high branch.

Young herald poised to nurture.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Woodland Park – 2000

Woodland Park
picnic suspended.
Awaits brother and niece.
Emerald lawn cools
food and our bare feet.
Across the bustling field,
children line
for circling pony rides.
Christopher, my nephew declines.
Uninterested or fearing the unknown?
I wondered dejectedly.
Enthusiastic adventurer, Beija arrives.

“Let’s go!”

Reluctant Christopher joins –
Afraid of being eclipsed.


Crossing kitchen, she discovers Grandma's recipe for poppers. 
Pretty simple. 
Combine flour and water.
  Eight years old.
 Mom makes her first attempt at cooking.
 Grandma's in the pasture
 tending cows.
 Surprise her!
   Grandma returns
 to a flour-dust 
sifted floor.
 Wood stove heatless. 
No poppers popped. 
Grandma's displeased.
  Today, mom huddles in a wheelchair. 
Her family fed and grown.
 Dad has passed.
   Few surprises remain.

* Mom passed in 2007 four years after dad.  A wonderful cook, her repertoire was eclectic and included American, Chinese, Filipino and Italian recipes. She hosted many dinners and her table filled with family, friends, Manongs and local priests.  She made the best apple and pumpkin pies.

Monday, April 11, 2011



Elderly Vietnamese woman

dips gloved hands into
 street recycle bins.

She fishes aluminum
Stomps each flat.

Places her catch
 in cloth sacks
hung from
 a bamboo length.

Slinging pole over shoulder,

she vanishes down street.

In her old country,
she fetched water for survival

with the same skill.

The Arrival

At my bus stop, 
a homeless derelict

lounges across the shelter bench
draped with coarse blanket

protection from morning's cold and rain.

 I stand in drizzle

rather than intrude

on his makeshift bedroom.
A put-upon courtesy, 

I mutter silently and grouse.

The rain washes
 my irritation.

The bus will come.
I will go with others

to warmth and comfort.

The Plagues

We ascend the hill in darkness

through frigid morning drizzle

past the shadowed, sullen

gauntlet of locust people

mired in the mud below.

Lice-plagued men and women

asleep in their stench,

unsheltered and oblivious

to the smell of stale urine

rising from the steps.

Heads lowered,

we avoid their blemished, cattle-boiled faces,

as we leapfrog puddled pavement

to the sanctuary of our comfort cubes.

The day passes uneventfully
 as the primal light recedes,

we descend to the streets below

cross the flooded septic Styx.

We traverse these same unwashed and fallow

whose lives are spent in traded blood

drinking the death of discards.
Theirs, the endless hunger
 of tormented souls,

salved only by begged bread-scraps,

time and death.

We pass without notice

or compassion.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Neighborhood (continued)


What did we do before computer games?   

Spring and summers, we assemble carts built of two-by-fours.   Drill holes into the centerboard and axel a cross-bar.   Scavenge roller skates for wheels that we attach to the undersides.  Strap on rope for steering and a plywood seat for the driver.   We drag our racers to the top of Cherry Street and freefall the hill, braking with tennis shoes.

Sometimes, we take a tennis ball.   Binko stands near the steps of his house while one of us fields the street behind.  He ricochets the ball against the stairs.   Struck with force, it carries over your head…a homerun.   Gets past you on the asphalt, a single.  Field it cleanly for an out.  Three and you’re “up.”

Phil and Jimbo, the Giron brothers, hang a rope from the Maple in front of their house.  We climb a lower limb ten feet above the sidewalk.  Pretend Tarzans, we swing over the concrete river to the hillside.  They charge three laurel leaves for each turn.

Santiago Beltran, the original “Green Hornet”, rumbles the neighborhood in his green Harley.   Wears a leather helmet and jacket.   He lets kids ride the saddle behind him.  Summer evenings, he invites the neighborhood to movies in the family backyard.  Sets his projector and screen on the patio.  Provides folding chairs for the adults.  Feet hanging the deck, we watch cartoons and newsreels into the sweet night.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Gothic wings stretched,

silhouetted cormorants sit

atop harbor pillars

guarding Vashon entry.

Silent witnesses to each passage.

like Roman legionnaires

in Galecian castros at dawn

and sentinels through the ages,

they peer over foggy hill and seascape

in search of some elusive enemy.

In these discordant times,

their vigilance soothes
 shelters us from critical thoughts.

Their presence--a refuge from reason.

Early Birdland

After night rain, I saunter the thistle paths of Roxhill sedge.  
From a high aspen, a redwing 
orchestrates a hummingbird tango. 
Squirrels peer from cottonwood balconies
 and goldfinch flirt the bush.
 In reeds, a shy rail wistfully seeks a partner.
 Scaups flutter the swamp and rush-grass, 
preferring to line dance. 
 The seasons change rhythms bidding 
the swallows to swing the sky.  
Watchful crows cling to power-lines 
cawing their own time.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Neighborhood (continued)


Months into 1960, my father purchased a new ’59 Pontiac.   Built like a small aircraft carrier, its wide hood and fins challenged tight spaces.  He chose a station wagon because the family expanded with the addition of two more foster children.  The roominess provided comfort needed for our frequent road trips to Ferndale, Vancouver or Portland.  Dad protected his investment by leasing a garage from Maryknoll Church,  down the street.

I didn’t have a car and needed one for my upcoming prom.   Showing up in a new ride…even if it was a station wagon…would surely impress my date.  I badgered my father for months before he relented.

After a night of dancing, I blearily returned home.   Lined the car up to negotiate the garage entrance. Stepped forcefully on the accelerator.  Grimaced as the passenger-side scraped against the concrete.  Damned the width and wings.

I crept into the house…resolved to fess up.  Honesty the best policy.  Better a quick death.  Peered into my parent’s darkened bedroom and whispered apologies for the damage.  Not hearing a protest, I quietly slunk into my room.  Tomorrow another day.

The following morning, I tumbled to the kitchen.  Mom hovered over the stove. “Where’s dad?  Is he mad?"  I explained my accident.

“Don’t worry.  He’s down looking at it.  He did the same thing last week.”

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Alaska Series (continued)

Weekends - King Cove

Saturdays, Aleut fishermen return.  Our canning complete, we shower and have dinner.  Later, a movie or dance at the bunkhouse. Jimmy plays his sax. Freddie strums a washtub bass. Girls come to mingle and flirt. 

Sundays, we climb the bluff north from town to fire our guns.   I pack a .22 rifle and kill a gull.  Kenny carries a .32 Barretta, a bullet in the chamber.  By accident, he shoots himself.  They send him home. I sell my gun.

We play ping-pong or shoot hoops in a warehouse where we hang a rim.  Sometimes, we stroll King Cove’s boardwalk to it’s sweet shop for shakes. Native girls hang out there.

Alaska Series No. 11

Laigo’s “East is West” *

Mahogany artist of mahogany men fashions homage to Filipinos
who crossed the ocean of dreams.  Articulates it with Alaskeros,
sakadas, waiters,  asparagus and hop pickers, nurses, pensionados,
barbers and boxers.   Accents it with gambling dens, cockfights,
dime-dances, brothels and bunkhouses. Adorns it with in-laws and outlaws 
of the Spanish cross and Moorish moon.

Pinoys arrived with tamaraw and carabao memories.
Silent servants apprenticed in this new Eden. 
Melting into the melting pot.  Clinging to an adobo past,
they came…
Hearts in search of America,

Your east-west star celebrates their memory and yours.

Alaska Series No. 12

* I wrote this final Alaska Series work in memory of Val Laigo.  His sculpture, a tritych,can be viewed at Jose Rizal Park on Beacon Hill in Seattle. He positioned it to look west toward the Philippines and east to the United States.  He opened the star as a symbolic entrance and as a way of looking back.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Neighborhood (continued)

Bicycle Adventures

In Fourth Grade, my parents buy me a Schwinn bicycle for Christmas.  Maroon with cream trim.  Joe Caasi’s folks also buy him one.  Green with white trim.   Dad takes me to the Pacific School playground for lessons.  After a few spills, I get it.

Soon after, Joe and I venture forth.  We cycle from our homes to Madrona Park along Lake Washington on to Mount Baker for a swim.  We return home through the tunnel from the bridge, up Empire Way past the Yesler Library, another frequented place.

We pedal Sixteenth to Madison through the stately Capital Hill homes until reaching Volunteer Park and the Art Museum.   Chinese camel statues with soldiers stand the entrance.  We dismount and clamber aboard.  Pretend we journey the Silk Road through Gobi sands, sneaking past the guards to treasure-filled rooms.

The museum holds remarkable Japanese screens with iconic blackbirds and terracotta statues from the graveyard period.  I’m drawn to carved-ivory perfume bottles and horsehair paintbrushes.

We discover the greenhouse.  Imagine ourselves in tropic jungle hunting boar.  Wander bromeliad, palm, bird of paradise and ginger.   Marvel at the Corpse Flower, Staghorn fern, hibiscus and orchid.  Gardenia fragrances the air.  We could be deep in a Philippine jungle.

We return along Fifteenth.  Marilyn’s Freeze on Madison serves many flavored shakes.  Not just chocolate, strawberry or vanilla.  The offer root-beer, banana, raspberry and blackberry.  It’s across from the Venetian Theater where I later watch Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotton in “Niagara” and wonder about my Italian cousins who live there.  I wonder about Marilyn too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011



A year had passed.

We gathered as a family

Phalaenopsis our tribute

to our father.

Origins in common
both transplant Philippine flowers.
Fourished on these shores

Elegance in life

Gentle in passing.
His spirit sign.


Father crossed from Philippines.

He came in coldest winter.
Sought new life, home, beginning…

A handsome orchid transplant.

*  A year following our father's death in 2003, mom, my brother, sisters and me visited his crypt in Holyrood. On arriving, we realized that we'd forgotten flowers.  Patti and I went in search of a supermarket.  Unable to find one, we spotted a Home Depot which we knew had potted flowers.  We found orchids for sale.   On turning the plant tag over, we saw that they had been raised in the Philippines.

Monday, April 4, 2011


"Hola! My name...Miguelito.
You want something to eat?
Second umbrella. 
See my sign! Come.

"Gracias. Maybe, later. We must walk first.

"Okay. Remember...second umbrella...

Crossing bridge over Mismalloya stream,

we wend our way through avaricious venders,

stroll the neglected concrete path,

watch the ocean grind boulders to sand. 

Frigate birds glide like angels overhead.

A solitary cat escorts us up cobbled steps.

The hotel awaits in the humid jungle,

little changed since Huston's film.
Gated doors bar our Eden's entry.

Below, the false iguana clings forever to a pole
awaiting any fallen.

Disillusioned, we descend to the second umbrella,
respite from the purgatory sun.
Waves bathe the shore,
as we scan life's ensuing sea.
We must wait our time. 

Under paradise shade, we share pescado and pan
while the healing pelicano warms wings 

and watches while we nourish ourselves
awaiting resurrection.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Alaska Series (continued)

Packing and Shipping
Few fish today.  Mr. Acena sends us to the warehouse.  We toil the day to dusk. We pallet 50 pound salmon cartons. Backs break.  Moling drives his blue Clark forklift. Careens like a carabao through rows of crated canyons. Chomping cigar, he stacks loads three high … longshore for distant tables.

Alaska Steamships anchor. We handpack cargo holes. Little time for sleep.
America must be fed.

Alaska Series No. 9

Letter from Linda (1965)
The Blue Goose, a seaplane, swoons over the town bringing mail.  Descends on King Cove’s rocky shore, delivering word from home.  We collect in the bunkhouse, like hungry chicks in a nest, our hands stretch for sustenance.  I gather my letters.  Recline on my bunk.   Linda writes:  

“My high school boyfriend’s back.  We've been dating.  I'm getting married. You weren’t ready.   Don’t write.  Mom reads my mail.  Take care of yourself.”

I slip on my waders.  Wobble from the bunkhouse to the shore-bank. Manongs clench bait-cans and metal rods,  fishing the shallow lagoon.   Lure octopus from submerged rocks.  

I select a rod and wander into the water.

Alaska Series No.  10

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Neighborhood (continued)

Was it worth it?   I pick up my newspapers in an alley garage on Seventeenth Avenue.  Slide and slip down Union through snow-troughs toward my Times route.  My bag burgeons front and back with Wednesday’s news and ads.   I roll them as I walk.  Two, my-age boys jump me.  Spin me around.  Taunt me.  Shove snowballs down my back.  Throw me to the ground.  They leave.  I rise and complete my deliveries.  

Brent Larson sold papers at the nearby A&P.   Half Swede.  Half Filipino.  He's a dangerous mix of Viking and Mandirigma -  warriors of their cultures.  Asks if I want to get even.  Said he’d help.  Weeks later, we track one down near Temple de Hirsch.

Brent encourages us to fight.   We pound each other.  Grapple the ground.  My nose bleeds as I slam my opponents head against the sidewalk.  He’s crimson with my blood and crying.  Brent pulls us apart.  Warns him about messin’.   I’m just happy it ended.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Alaska Series (continued)

Manong Ralph Agbalog
He enters our room. Perfumed and pomade hair.
Sports a cardigan sweater.  Seats himself on my bunk. 
Eyes Linda’s picture.  “You marry?”

In conversation, I learn he’d killed a man
over a gambling debt.  “Punched him in the jaw.
Dropped him on a curb.
Hit his head.  Manslaughter.”

He tries to teach me pai gow which I don’t get. 
“Better, you don’t understand.”

Alaska Series No. 7

Steam soars ‘round the catch ‘n can.  
Hot ovens brim with salmon.
Kings, Pinks an’ Sockeye cookin’.
Soon too grace the country’s pans.

Charlie Woods stokes the retorts.
Loves “Bird.” Carried two .38 Police Specials.
I’ll never leave.  I’m wanted
in the lower forty eight.”

Alaska Series No. 8