Wow! And I’m not referring to the recently introduced CR2S word-of-week feature. We’re talking like “whew,” a mixture of shock and relief; exhaling while wiping a sweaty brow. Like when a car speeds through a red light while yours is green; how you felt when someone wanted to meet the spouse at a reunion and you couldn’t remember the person’s name. A tough note criticizing a recent column has given me pause, a wow! moment. Let’s go back to square one and reconstruct the situation.
When I wrote my annual Father’s Day message, it was a rewrite of earlier efforts to explain the strained father-son relationship of Issei/Nisei; a favorite topic because it always gets a rise out of readers; serving as a key that would unlock fond (and otherwise) memories of childhood years. For whatever reason, maybe because male Nisei have been reduced to a handful of wizened and weary survivors, this year’s reprise prompted a surprisingly harsh critique from a displeased male reader.
Sticking out like a pimple among the usual mix of melancholy and pleasurable reflections, this one *excoriated me for perpetuating the myth of the inscrutable Japanese, doubling the charge by inferring that my preference for ladies was due to lack of manliness. He declined to man up with a name and address, adding the caveat that nothing was to be used for quotation!
[*Excoriated = wow = word of week = meaning “disapproving, turned off, unhappy.” Logical question you ask: Why not use a word everyone understands? Well, it goes like this in my convoluted mind: Some words look good in print although seldom used in speech. Like “penultimate” (next to last). Maybe once or twice in my lifetime I would utter that word in conversation: “I’m the penultimate person to use the bathroom.” Nah. But how about, “This might be the penultimate CR2S column”? Yah. Anyway, gomen if my choice of words bothers you every now and again. It just so happens I’m, you know, a smart-ass.]
Art Ryon, a former Los Angeles Times columnist (“Ham on Ryon”), advised me a long time ago “to develop a thick skin, like a rhino, not teeth” (clever, no?) if I ventured into the world of by-lined feature writing. No matter how full of yourself, satisfied or proud, there would always be those who disagree or dislike. The successful keep those numbers at a minimum, but you must listen to the disgruntled as well as the pleased. (This conversation took place at the Redwood Inn, a newsman’s watering hole that used to be on First Street.)
Getting back to the guy who thinks I’m a cross between a mule and a donkey, I was tempted to disregard the request for anonymity and tear into his venomous complaints. But I won’t. If it makes him feel good calling me names, so be it. It just reminded me that I often use a nasty term too loosely and too often, so thanks, Pal.
But, damn, darn, shoot, I can’t just let it go completely.
Admittedly, the man had a fairly reasonable point: That my personal father/son relationship was not representative of all Issei/Nisei. He pointed out how his strict old-country upbringing (kendo, jujitsu, Japanese school) paid off professionally as well as in marriage. With few warm embraces or compliments in his bank of memories, he nonetheless wed and raised his brood (two girls and a boy) in carbon-copy manner, and now enjoys seven grandchildren of equal merit and accomplishment. Good for you but doesn’t matter.
Others who wrote (all ladies) agreed the Father’s Day column resulted in nothing but warm recollections. Here’s a sample of what I failed to take into consideration, the rapport of father and daughter:
“[Your column] … brought back warm memories of my dad. He was a quiet yet amazing man – a humanitarian who taught himself to read English. It wasn’t easy when you brought home a bad report card … He loved baseball … (despite) a broken nose due to being hit by a ball in Japan … didn’t dampen his love for the game. Thank you for giving me a chance to remember my dad and all the good things he stood for. — MM
Methinks in referencing the era of Nisei, I am sometimes remiss in treating the period strictly from a male point of view. While we may have done stoop labor for peon wages, joined the service and experienced sundry indignities, females were restricted even more so: servile as school girl or servant, laboring in the fields and canneries, as menial as stuffing envelopes. I’m glad for you, Mutsuko M, your dad was probably just as proud of you.
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.