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Pacific Coast Driver

I missed my 7:50 am flight Thursday despite waking at 4:30 that morning. I thought of Miss Weber, my Jr. high school English teacher, who admonished me any time I was tardy by telling me, “If you you’re late for the plane, John, that’s it. The plane will leave without you.” Of course, she’s right and it violates the spirit of her sage words to say that for US $25.00 you can take a later flight, but it’s true. The catch was three delirious hours spent in an iPod-assisted trance watching airport workers shuttle luggage and refuel planes on the tarmac. With my sunglasses on, I could have been watching a long-running video, I was that unmolested.

One of the things about California (north of Pismo Beach and south of Petaluma) is that everyone deals with people who do not look like themselves on a daily basis. I told my uncle (and Catherine and my mom) that this affects one’s understanding of self, of social embeddedness, of human value. I’m not saying California is a racial utopia. I am saying I like seeing lots of different people in lots of different contexts. I like not being the only person of mixed-race. I love that mixed-race doesn’t just mean African-American and Euro-American. Nothing personal against my white friends, but sometimes it’s disheartening to be amongst whites who seem to know nothing better than how to be white. I tire of being black instead of black and Korean.

On Friday morning while driving down Hwy 1 to Monterey, I nearly lost my mind because I drive, now, like an Ohioan. Californians seem all to have an genetic sense of the boundaries of their cars. One car will cross three lanes of traffic to pass a slower-moving car in one lane and wedge in front of a much faster-moving tightly-packed line of cars, on a curve, at speeds near 80 mph, and no one will so much as honk or tap brakes. The driver doing the passing will have silver hair, and she will be on a cell phone. Safe driving aside, I am a serious non in the Golden State.

Resolving to keep my birds perched upon the wheel, I cognized the facts of my low blood sugar and continued lack of sleep, slowly and with great concentration. When I walked into the Bagel Bakery on Alvarado, I saw on the overhead television a chop-socky video in Cantonese with subtitles in perfect American English idiom. The video transfer also seemed superb, with deep blacks, rich midtones, and few artifacts. The young Chinese Cambodian who helped me spoke barely a word of English, but he knew what “New Yorker on garlic” meant.

Once I saw the folds of smoked salmon, the tomato slices, and the slivers of red onion bordered by fluffy cream cheese clouds, when I started to make this Pacific translation of New York Jewishness a part of me, chop-socky Kung fu flick overhead beaming its perfect masculine ballet, I knew things were headed straight for all right. end of article