By BILL YEE
As a part of retirement or semi-retirement, one of my goals was to write a column. The focus of the column would be somewhat like what Charles McCabe, “The Fearless Spectator,” did for The San Francisco Chronicle or what Steve Lopez has done for The Los Angeles Times, and of course The Horse for The Rafu Shimpo. I was a religious follower of all three.
I started reading McCabe’s column in high school and continued beyond until he passed in 1983. The primary focus of his writings was the human condition. He grew up poor in New York and was a bit of a curmudgeon and a functioning alcoholic. He was a contrarian on many of the popular issues of the ’69s to ’80s.
Lopez has been outstanding chronicling the issues and inhabitants of the city of Los Angeles. Currently in semi-retirement, he is focusing on aging and issues related to retirement.
The Horse, of course, chronicled the Japanese American community with his own brand of editorial comment.
As a side note, one of my retirement “bucket list” items was to write a history of the Chinese laundry. In my research, that fortunately had already happened. It was done quite well by Professor John Jung, a former professor at Long Beach State.
He not only wrote a history of the Chinese laundry but also wrote books about the Mississippi Delta Chinese and Chinese restaurants.
In sharing this goal with one of my colleagues, my friend Victor Sandoval became my writing mentor. He advised me to find something I was interested in and just write.
He also advised me to write notes on potential topics and it would help inspire me. I begin every column as stream-of-consciousness notes.
It was Victor’s encouragement that started me on this writing journey. He told me, don’t think about writing, just write and let your audience judge your efforts. If you have writer’s block, you really don’t trust that you have something worthwhile to say that your readers will react to.
For a guy who was a remedial speller and not a grammar whiz, I have also needed someone to edit my stuff without judgment but offer helpful hints.
Although that person wishes to remain anonymous, I appreciate that she cleans up each of my efforts before I submit them to editor Gwen. She is also invaluable in suggesting topics. For example, she is behind many of the Nisei stories.
Looking back on my files, I have been writing columns for The Rafu Shimpo since 2015. I am grateful that editor Gwen has allowed me to have a place for my ramblings. It really been both a form of therapy and discipline. This was especially true during the pandemic.
Writing the column has let me chronicle for my kids some of my childhood memories. Hopefully when I am gone, they can refer back to my columns about my Baby Boomer experiences growing up in San Francisco.
It has been rewarding to chronicle the lives of some of my wife’s relatives and notable members of the JA community, especially the Nisei generation.
Many of this generation, The Greatest Generation, have been generous in allowing me to share their unique stories and how they overcame the trials of internment and rebuilding their lives despite the injustices they had to endure.
What has also been rewarding and perhaps has massaged my ego is getting letters from readers and their reaction to my columns. The readers have been generous in their positive comments and encouragement of my efforts.
My son Derek said I have a following at Bethany Congregational Church in Santa Barbara.
A few columns has been found their way to other websites and one column was cited in a college paper by the granddaughter of actor Bill Saito.
Last Christmas, a producer for KCBS Radio in San Francisco interviewed me about being a Christmas baby after reading my column on the subject in The Rafu.
Finally, at a funeral a few years ago, someone recognized me as that writer in The Rafu Shimpo. That too was pretty cool, my 15 seconds of fame.
For a while I let my writing slip due to other commitments, but recently I decided to try and produce a piece every two to three weeks, so here is the latest effort!
Bill Yee is a retired Alhambra High School history teacher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.