High Noon, Happy Hour One & Two, Sunset, Midnight, Sunrise

Day one in Madison. Pre-registration with my English Department advisor to select the first three courses toward the MA.
          I waited for the signal to change so I could cross University Avenue. A car carrying four fresh-faced farm lads suddenly pulled sharply from the outer lane to a dead stop in front of me.
          The youngster in the front passenger seat rolled down his window, looked up at me, smiled, and shouted, "Remember Pearl Harbor!" The four exploded in laughter and roared off.
          I stood there picturing Pearl Harbor. Remember it? I could see it from my house back home.

Rathskellar Happy Hour: $2.75 pitchers. Len, my Japanese buddy, and I sit at the bar. Tora! Tora! Tora! comes on TV. The crowd gets into the movie like they get into Badger football.
          "Fucking Japs!"
          "Hope they're not talking about us," Len says, swiveling. Our proximity to the screen makes it seem everyone is watching us.
          "Finish this pitcher outside?" I suggest.
          Near the exit, a guy yells sing-song gibberish in Len's face.
          "Hold this," handing me his glass. Len pushes him up against the wall. "Saying something to me?"
          The student wilts.
          Happy Hour ended outside on The Terrace.

My parents met in the Rathskellar. Dad would come in with his war buddies to drink trays of beers after classes.
          One day he marched over to the table where my mom sat with her sorority sisters. “Stand up, and if you’re not taller than me, I’ll take you to a movie.” My mom stood up; she was a half inch taller than my dad.
          My Chicago-native mom knew few Asians growing up. “Your dad was the most handsome man I’d ever met.”
          After they’d dated a few months, my mom was asked to leave her sorority.
          Some things change.

I lived on University Avenue across from The Wooden Nickel. My favorite bar hosted a diverse regular clientele, including a UW Madison English Department professor who taught Early American Literature. I always sat by myself reading.
          One evening a regular rolls in and happily announces that his brother in Baraboo blew away a coon the other night with a shotgun when the bastard broke into his house.
          "Goddamn niggers," another regular says. "I'd like to blow every one of um away."
          I survey all the laughing white faces.
          That was the last time I ever went to my favorite bar.

Manual typewriters = all-nighters. This paper's "God sI Love: Reversals in Forster's A Passage to India." I reach for cigarettes. Last one. Crap. Save it.
          Winter jacket on, I'm out in the cold. Can't I live by Stop-N-Shop? On State Street, I light up, hoping it will keep me warm.
          A guy stumbles into me. "Can I get a cigarette?"
          "Sorry. Last one."
          "You slant-eyed son-of-a-bitch!"
          I stare through him. My mind's on getting cigarettes, jumping back into Forster.
          He's glaring at me.
          "Sorry," I say, "it's really my last one."
          I hear his "Fuck you gook!" fade behind me.

February is Madison's cruelest month. The ad reads, "Record and tape sales." Only 7:00 a.m. but a woman answers and gives me directions.
          The application is easy. At 8:30 a tall, dark gentleman pushes through the front door and walks into the back. She follows him with my application.
          Fifteen minutes later he buzzes and I walk back. He doesn't look up.
          "Honolulu?" he asks, reading.
          "Yes, that's in Hawaii."
          He stands up beaming, extends his hand. "El Santos, Kam School, Class of '59."
          El hires me on the spot to manage Galaxy of Sound — West Towne.
          I mua, Kamehameha.

Mahalo for reading!

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