I truly understand what she has experienced and the decisions she has made. Although I have not altered my appearance at all, I identify myself as being Asian American. I am completely aware that all four of my Jewish grandparents came from Eastern Europe, that my father was born in England, and that my mother spent six years living with her grandmother in Hungary, during World War One.
I have ample reason to believe that I am Asian, although I haven’t quite locked in on which Asian community I best identify with.
When I moved to San Francisco in 1960, I would regularly venture into Chinatown for an eighty-five cent meal of chicken-fried rice at Hooey Loey Goey’s basement restaurant on Jackson Street
I taught at San Jose State University twice, and from 1969 to 1971, when I was also working on my masters, before a night class, I would go to Japantown for a meal at Minato Sushi restaurant.
When I taught at Fresno State from 1971 to 1973, a female companion of mine was Yoshiko, my graduate assistant was Samuel, and both were Japanese Americans. His brother Ken was my dentist. When I went to Hong Kong, I stayed with a former Chinese student and his family. His parents took me to dine at a restaurant in a mall where there were thousands of Chinese and no Caucasians, and I felt quite comfortable among my own people.
My most consistent student contacts from my teaching days at San Jose State are a Chinese-American woman, a Chinese-American man and a Korean man, both of whom live in New York. I also keep in touch with my former Japanese-American student at Sunset magazine.
I still drive seventy-five miles up to San Francisco’s Chinatown, both to visit Tane, a friend of more than forty years who runs the Wok Shop on Grant Avenue, and to acquire my Chinese medicine at a reasonable price. I usually purchase Pe Min Kan Wan pills to stop my sinus drain, Gan Mau Ling pills to prevent a cold, and have used other products such Kang Gu Zeng Sheng, Ging Qi Hua Tan Wan, Yang Cheng, and Shuangliao Houfeng San for other internal ailments. My medicine cabinet would not be complete without Zheng Gu Shui, Tiger Balm and Wong To Yick, to apply to my aches and pains.
I always check with Tane to see what is the best restaurant at the time for a vegetarian Chinese meal, and lately it has been the House of Nanking.
When I taught at San Jose State University from 1986 to 2008, I introduced a class on how the American media covered the illegal Japanese American internment, and would bring in former Japanese-American internees to my class. I would also take the students to the Japanese-American Museum. I also became close friends with many of the members. While at SJSU, every Tuesday and Thursday evenings, I would play table tennis in the Student Union, and most of the players were Vietnamese-Americans.
I have been taking table tennis lessons for years at Top Spin in San Jose with members of the Li family who are my friends. Vietnamese-American friends owned it, and many of the players there and at Northern California tournaments are Asian. My two favorite doubles partners in tournaments were Hackie Honda, a Japanese-American, and Kent Leung, a Chinese American. We won many a tournament, until they both passed on.
Until my knees gave out, I took Taiko drum lessons from a Japanese-American woman, and still see her when I attend the annual Japanese Fair here in town.
I also visit San Jose’s Japantown for many of their festivals, and to talk with a sculptor friend of mine. We have one of his fine sculptures in our back yard, which we designed and built as a Japanese garden.
My wife and I are members of the Living Tao Foundation, and we practice Tai Ji that we have learned from our teacher Chungliang. We attend his workshops in Esalen twice a year with our daughter. I have several of Chungliang’s designed tee shirts, as well as one from the Japan Fair whose symbol says “ah.” I also wear a Tao medallion on one chain, and have a Gok Hoy Way one on another. Gok Hoy Way is my Chinese name, and it means Gotliffe, Great As An Ocean. My Hong Kong friend had it made for me many years ago, and I also have business cards printed in both Chinese and English, from when I had one of several writing assignments in Hong Kong.
I have written articles on the Japanese-American ukulele makers in Hawaii, the Kamaka family, and have visited with the master player Ohta-San, and the young virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro. When I did take lessons in my home, the instructor was Chinese-American.
I get massages on a regular basis from either Xiao, Ching, Ping or Ying, and all four of them were born in Mainland China. I greet them with “Nihao”, and thank them with “xie xie” when I leave. I have an outstanding instructional tape for learning to speak Mandarin, but must confess that I haven’t learned that much. I did teach my Mandarin-speaking masseuses how to improve their English, and for six-months I spent an hour with them each Monday morning, and received a “free” massage in return. I have a 3” x 5” card with basic Vietnamese on it, and use it primarily to greet the Vietnamese woman working at the post office.
We have eaten excellent meals at Chinese and Japanese restaurants here, but when I want sushi and miso soup, my Spanish-born wife tops any restaurant fare with her own creations.
Thank you Rachel Dolezal for your bravery. Your actions have inspired me to finally get out of the closet, and tell the world who really am. I am an Asian-American, Jewish man, who enjoys watching his wife light the Shabes candles and chant the blessings in Hebrew, every Friday night.