Friday, February 10, 2017

Koon Woon's Diary notes --- 26 years ago on October 23, 1991

Diary notes of Koon Woon for Oct 23, 1991:

A father’s hand covers a son’s hand, and his length laps the son’s. He is stirring a wok of chop suey in the Chinese-American restaurant kitchen. The son, in the slow hours, in a waiter’s yellow jacket, secretly hopes that business will never get better, that the quarrelsome customers will stay home and cook their own hamburgers and spaghetti, drink Coke instead of tea, as he, in the fugitive hours, ponders the texts of Ludwig von Wittgenstein, Hughes and Creswell, and Immanuel Kant thrown in for good measure. He is home from the erudite university for the summer, in the folds of the reversed prejudices of his Chinese-American family; however, it must be said, the father does not confuse chop suey with potato salad, mortgage with taxes, firemen with insurance salesmen, for dealing with various realities he has become to a degree objective.

While the son seeks truths that last longer than the life of a restaurant in a small town, or longer than all the McDonalds in all towns, but alas, he will find in books only in the phantom hours, when traffic has slowed to a halt, when husbands are exhausted from work at pulp and shingle mills, tired from demanding wives and unruly children, only small towns facts that go unrecorded, such as the locals betting with the local bookies on Team A, and his truths in books that exist only in books, giving that he wears thick glasses. And he is all too busy thinking that he is thinking and all the while never thinks about what his father is thinking.

The son doesn’t imagine the day will come years after his father’s death, when a long-trusted family friend will casually say, “You walk like your father now.” Now, suddenly like a cloudless day in October, he is free, free from the tangles of bickering philosophers, the webs of literary jealousy, when he thinks of his late father, how his back had, in the span of forty years bending over the wok, had become a bow, like the bow of William Tell, and he shall take his children and grandchildren like he would take and positions arrows, set them firmly in place, and shoot them, shoot them toward the stars… 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Drive to Nowhere

A Drive to Nowhere

Like I would just jump into the car; it was variously a ’55 Plymouth, a ’61 Comet, or a ’68 Plymouth again. Where would I go? There was no one I know on a Saturday. The weekends, the dreaded weekends. My search for psychic sustenance begins with those fifty mile drives to nowhere.

The family restaurant would be busy on the weekends. I would need to work until three in the morning on both Friday and Saturday nights, amid the grease vapors and the clanging of the wok, steam from the noodle vat and the steam table. I was eighteen and still a senior in high school in the coastal town of Aberdeen, Washington. These are the towns that the freeway missed in Richard Hugo’s poetry. The rain was melancholic and it drip and slanted all day, and I was trapped being “Number-One-Son” of a Chinese immigrant family, born to Kim and Bill who operated the Hong Kong Café on Simpson Avenue which was on the Highway 101 as it slices through the logging town of Aberdeen, where logging trucks carried the long logs with dancing red flags on them to warn the drives behind it. This road goes up to Forks, Washington and eventually to Port Angeles as it looped around the Olympia Peninsula. And going south, the same two –lane road would lead to Pacifica, California.

I worked variously as waiter, cook, and occasionally manager. Except for work and study, I was lonely and alone. I was so lonely that I enjoyed reading Silas Marner in my room during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only two days that we closed the café. My parents had undergone the world-wide Depression in their youth in China and then the Sino-Japanese War. I was so lonely that the book on the back seat of my car, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness was actually a good dialogue with an imaginary companion. I knew the writer in the sense that he knew me, he knew my loneliness. It was a small town, and there were few minorities in it. There was a black janitor at the Smoke Shop Café, owned by the mayor. I suspect that he was there for a reason, just like the only black student at the local Grays Harbor College was a football player. The black janitor seemed to recede into the wood panels of the café dining room as he mopped it during idle hours.

I remember I kept on filling the coffee cup of the girl with the dark Spanish eyes that came alone or with her sister, mostly alone. She drank her coffee black and I was the awkward waiter in the slow hours of the afternoon. She and I never chit-chat and I never learned her name, but somehow once I summoned the nerve to asked her whether she lived at home. She said she lived away from home alone and as long as she doesn’t get into trouble, it was OK with her mom. She was a year older and had dropped out of high school. I was also a part-time worker at the Aberdeen post office and I drove the truck two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon picking up mail from street boxes. And on Saturday, I had the downtown walking route. I had a regulation uniform on, and I felt like a worker, a government worker.

The way out of town was a windy road, evergreens on both sides, a monotonous green with firs shooting up 30 to 40 feet. These were new growth and I was a fourth generation immigrant to these parts of lands. I was wondering how far I could go and how high I could rise. But all I could envision was driving a modest car to work at Boeing and perhaps have a son and a daughter and live again in a modest house, befitting of an electrical engineer. Everybody in high school said I could have become whatever I wanted to.

I didn’t go that far, I drove to Ocean Shores and back then in 1968 it was only one street along the beach front with the burr of the crabgrass waving in the wind. There were summer homes that people did not live in during the winter. It was fog and winter mists as described in Ken Kesey’s novel Sometimes a Great Notion. He was talking about the roads in Oregon. Here the crabgrass rose from the sand, an occasional gull, and the steady sloshing waves greeted my loneliness, and I encounter no other cars.

Koon Woon

November 1, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

Open letter to President Xi of China and other interested parties

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Open letter to President Xi of China and other interested parties

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Protection Racketeering ---- Open letter to President Xi of China and other interested parties

There is a nut, who should be evaluated by mental health agencies, named Mar or Ma who stops me when I walk on 18th Ave. South in Seattle and talks about protection racketeering.

President Xi, as you know, we villagers do not go to the police. But we know you have sensors in Seattle.

And by the time I post this post, you probably already know all the facts of the case. Do what is appropriate.

The first thing to do is to clamp down on gambling. As the philosopher John Searle says, gaming is a grim business for some. If they lost too much they want others to bail them out.

It is better to cure them of their bad habits then it is for the law-abiding citizens to rescue them.


Koon Woon 
aka Lock Kau Koon

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Mr. Schuler and the Triple-L, a vignette by Koon Woon

Mr. Schiller and the Triple-L

"Do you need help with going to the bathroom?" he asked.

"No," I answered. This was the first of a series of questions that I didn't feel like replying to, as it was cold and austere in his office.

"Do you have any dietary restrictions?"

I didn't like the word "restrictions" and so I said "No." The snow was drifting down outside the window. I had lugged my suitcase from the road to this compound because the taxi couldn't drive in the uncovered snow. It was a bad year in Seattle. The worst snow in 20 years. But the hospital paid for the cab.

"You know," Mr. Schiller peered over his steel-rimmed glasses, "Mr. Woon, I think you are a smart man. You can think your way through troubles, and so I don't think you will be here too long."

The space heaters made a clicking sound. The heater was trying to come on, but it rather sounded like Morse or military codes. And Mr. Schiller was not a literary figure but a former colonel in the Air Force.

"Do you have a will?"

I did not answer. Such a question is not culturally-sensitive.

"Do you have a will?"

He asked again. His head had suddenly looked very large.

"I am very tired," I feigned in a weak voice. Can we do this interview at a later time? Now I do need to go to the bathroom.

"You will do just fine here. I am thinking of putting you to work here. Being part of the scheme of things will make you feel more at home here." He then "volunteered" me to help the breakfast cook to wash dishes.

"You won't be here very long," he repeated. He picked up the phone, and a few minutes later Andy came and led me to my cottage.

I saw three beds in my room, one of the three rooms in the cottage. I peered into another room where the television sound bites were coming from. I saw three motley men sitting at the edge of their beds, each watching to a separate TV. I thought, "Oh shit, here is where I am going to be, waiting for Godot."

But then I remember what the Colonel had said, "You won't be here very long."

I saw that in the alcove there was a little table with a jigsaw puzzle in progress.

I sat there for a moment. I looked out the window. I was in my winter jacket and the cottage was unheated. The snow was drifting down. It was 4 pm or so, but it was already getting dark and the white snowflakes drifts and drifts down, and some of them landed in the crotch of a birch tree.

I realized finally I was at the Triple L. I was not in a hurry to meet my fellow residents. I took out my journal. This was going to be a serious writers' retreat. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fat Aunt

Fat Aunt

He rang the doorbell hard. Eventually a woman pushed the door curtain a crack and looked out. Opening the door, she spoke, “You here already? Where is luggage?” He looked at her short rotund body in sweats, her face is catfish-like; she is shorter and fatter than he remembers of her seven years ago.

“It is at the Greyhound station,” he answered her question almost involuntarily.

“So, if you don’t like Fat Aunt, you  just go back to Aberdeen, eh?” Expecting no answer, she tells him to follow her upstairs. “Be careful of Buddha figurines on steps,” she admonishes, “they worth money.”  He made a mental image of someone escaping a fire and tumbling down the stairs because  of tripping over the figurines. Money can cost you your life, he thought to himself.

Two weeks earlier in Seattle he got a call from his father telling him of his cousin Martin’s funeral. His father told him to come home immediately. He took the Greyhound home. His father told him what had happened.

“Martin got out of corrections, found his girl friend shacking up with a Wah Ching,” his father begins to relate what he had heard from the Old Guy Benny. Apparently, Benny went down to San Francisco and questioned the guy who killed Martin. Martin had in a fit of jealousy climbed through his rival’s window at night armed with a knife.  As he approached the sleeping couple, his ex-girlfriend screamed. The new lover grabbed his gun from under his pillow and shot Martin in the neck. Martin kept coming. The new boyfriend shot him again in the neck. Incredible as it seemed, Martin was still upright and kept coming. Two more rapid shots to the neck finally put him down. Benny told his father,  “It was self-defense. There is nothing we can do.”

His father then said, “You go and keep your Aunt company. She is lonely now her youngest son died.”
So, he came to stay with his Aunt as a matter of family obligation. Fat Aunt put him in Martin’s room.

The minute he stepped into Martin’s room, he had a peculiar sense that it reeked of hyper-masculinity.
In the semi-darkness the first thing he noticed was a black panther figurine on the dresser, a stack of Hustler on the foot of the bed and a Bruce Lee poster  with chucks on the wall. But he was so tired he immediately crashed onto the bed and slept.

In the middle of the night, Fat Aunt roused him from his sleep. “I want you  make  phone call for me to Hong Kong,” Fat Aunt ordered, “It is mid afternoon there now and I am looking for a boy to claim for a godson so  he keep Martin’s memory alive.” Fat Aunt was all business, like the boss of two sweatshops she was. The nephew had spent some time in Hong Kong and knew that it was “funny business.” Nevertheless, he dialed the number Fat Aunt gave him and handed the phone over to her.

“You go back to Aberdeen now and go back school in Seattle. I don’t need you now.  I will have someone  honor  memory of my son. Since the nephew was born in China, he knew something was in the works but he doesn’t ask. He is a mathematics student. And he is also a philosophy student. He quoted Wittgenstein to himself, “Whereof one can speak, thereof must one speak clearly, and whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one remain silent. All I know is that it costs money to make a telephone call to Hong Kong, he thought to himself, and all I did was to dial a number which I knew nothing about.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Another mentally-ill or a threat?

Yesterday I bought some pants at the Goodwill. They were too long and I was taking them to Kevin's alteration on Beacon Avenue. On my way there on 18th Avenue South between College Avenue and Bayview, a Chinese man stopped me. He has done this once or twice before, I don't see him in the neighborhood except on these occasions.

He says his name is "Ma," and their family association, as with the Lockes (which I am one) don't have family association halls anymore. I don't have any idea why he would tell me this, but he treated me as if I had something to do with the Locke family, something of a leadership value.

It is not clear what he was talking about. But the tone of delivery is unreasonable for talking to a stranger. Somehow I feel that it was a threat.

Next time, if that ever comes to pass, I will confront him and ask him for his phone number and his address.

Monday, January 5, 2015


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