From BAMBOO RIDGE Issue Number 30, Spring 1986, First Quarter

From “A Haole Stops in Kaimuki”
                               by Jim Harstad

          Mr. Perreira is the stocky, smiling, Portuguese man who runs the Bank of Hawaii parking lot in Kaimuki Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. He explains that he lets somebody else run the lot Thursdays and Fridays because he does not want to be a millionaire.
          We have known each other since the early 1970s, when our sons played football for the Kapiolani Tigers in the Honolulu Pop Warner League.
          Whenever we see each other we shake hands and talk. I don't think he remembers my name. He calls me Handsome. He must know that I, with my gray beard and bald head, am flattered. I don't remember his first name. I call him Mr. Perreira.
          Yesterday when I went to the bank to see how badly I was overdrawn and try to cover it, Mr. Perreira was wearing a lei of pikakes and carnations. He shook my hand and said it was his birthday. He said he was 40. Mr. Perreira is a joker. I said he didn't look a day over 30. He laughed and said I looked more handsome every time he saw me. We both laughed. Mr. Perreira's face turns a jolly red when he laughs. He has a long, friendly face.
          Then he said his wife gave him the lei. It was left over from yesterday, when it was her birthday. She was 62. Then Mr. Perreira said, again, that today was his birthday and that he was 40. And he laughed. The flowers on the lei were wilting and turning brown, but they still smelled good. Mr. Perreira said his birthday came right after his wife's. I could not tell if he meant that or not. He had put it in my head that it was his birthday, and I wanted it to be that way, though we both knew it would be ludicrous to believe either of us would ever see 40 again. He was older than me. Was he older than his wife? “Happy birthday, Mr. Perreira,” I said. “I've got to go hold up the bank.”
          ”OK, Handsome,” he said. “Don't get caught.”
          . . .

“What's a Girl To Do?”
                    by Janice Mirikitani

I went to college
to get a degree
since I was told
I wouldn't amount to anything
without paper and education
and learn how to talk
saying nothing.
                    So I cloistered
in towers of academia
memorized a lot
so I could make sense
At parties, act white
on demand, be acceptable
catch a good man
settle down
raise babies
and grow middle aged.
                    What's a girl to do?
I was taught that
art was for art's sake
to be elevated above life
which was transient
since I would
settle down, raise babies
and grow middle aged.
                    What's a girl to do?
In a country of good christians
where all people are equal,
the best system in the world
for liberty/democracy
even you can make it
if you try,
what would you do except desire
to be adept and successful
with a modern kitchen and picket
fence and respectable?
So I made this tongue
a slab of cement,
a white stone etched with my name,
killed my stories with knives
and knitting needles and clorox bleach,
slept a lot,
hid in my mysteriousness and fooled
a lot of people by not saying
                    What's a girl to do?

And then people were going to Korea
and Manila and Vietnam and killing and being killed;
and then somebody died in Memphis
and Birmingham and Kent State and Jackson State
and Montgomery and Selma and People's Park
and West Oakland and Kearny Street . . .
                    What's a girl to do?

Did you
          dye your hair auburn?
did you
          study astrology?
did you
          find est?
did you
          fake orgasm?
did you
          paint your kitchen white?
did you
          still fake orgasm?
Did you?

Trapped between the darkness
of silence and outrage,
I went crazy.
          I tore out my tongue
of cement in a fit,
cried a lot,
slashed my wrists and twitched on my bathroom floor,
tried to drown myself in the Pacific,
braided my hair with seaweed,
ate kim chee and garlic
walked picket lines and
sang the Hallelujah chorus to white folks
          dug a hole
in wet sand,
planted my tongue,
wrote my name a hundred times,
began to remember.
Couldn't sleep anymore,
began to remember,

Harvested my tongue
and learned how to speak.

                    What's a girl to do?


Jim Harstad and I go back a bit. Two Fridays ago we celebrated that fact by drinking a bunch of beers and talking about everything under the sun and beyond. He is still as handsome as ever : ) But of course, it is a truth universally acknowledged that ALL Norwegians are handsome. And lest you remind me that I'm only half Norwegian, I would remind you that not only are ALL Koreans handsome as well, but that Hapas are the handsomest of all : )

          Coincidentally, Jim just made 41. It's true, now that he's a year over, that he will actually not see 40 again. Ironically, his wife Cheryl just hit 40. So she is actually seeing 40. I think even Jerry Seinfeld would say that this is truly ironic. And in a way, this means that Jim is seeing 40 again, vicariously. A really, really belated 41st and 40th birthday to you both : )

          Oh, oddly enough, this year September will mark the 32nd year of my acquaintance with Jim. Okay, so I've known Jim for 31+ years, he just had his 41st birthday . . . Ahhh, don't do the age math — just play along : )

          At the time of publication, Jim was teaching English at the University Lab School — he was, in fact, my 11th- and 12th-grade English teacher — Go Jr. Bows! : ) He did then, and he still does, live in Palolo Valley, and he still stops in Kaimuki to keep an eye on his bank balance — as far as I know : )

Janice Mirikitani had worked as a poet and editor for 15 years. She was currently editing a new Asian Women's Anthology, a project of Asian Women United. And I just gotta say that this is one of the most powerful poems from past BR issues that I've posted to this point.

Mahalo for reading!

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