Sunday, July 30, 2006

I'm With the Band

I’ve had two truly strange experiences online.  The first one happened when someone first showed me the Inktomi search engine, the first search engine that used spiders.  I put in the name of an old girlfriend and learned that she had leukemia.  The second one was last Friday when I came across a picture of myself from 43 years ago.  Okay, it was a picture of me with about 30 other people, but at that moment I felt that my computer was haunted in some way.

In 1963, my grandfather provided seed money for a Chinese drum and bugle corps in Sacramento.  The idea was to build community spirit among young Chinese, a la the Meredith Wilson Musical the Music Man which didn’t open on Broadway until 1957.  The Confucius Temple, which started as something of large Chinese community center, was another one of my Grandfather’s projects completed around the same time and I suspect his support of the drum corps was a way to turn the Confucius Temple into a center for another activity.  My Grandfather was one of these characters who was determined to find ways to make the cultural flow run uphill in that my parents’ generation had already started to move to suburban housing developments and my Grandfather still dreamt of a refurbished Chinatown as part of Sacramento’s downtown redevelopment and hence a future center for separate Chinese identity within the city..

I was one of the youngest kids in the drum and bugle corps and hated every minute of it mostly because I wanted to be less noticeably Chinese rather than more clearly Chinese at the time.  As a secondary matter, the band director felt that the younger children weren’t big enough to tote a drum.  The early version of the corps didn’t have any bugles so it was technically a Drum and Lyre corps.  As a result, we smaller ones marched in the back with cymbals that we played in a simple four beat pattern.  In other words, there wasn’t much for me to do.  In any case, the whole reverse psychology bit of making us be more Chinese by engaging in a quintessentially American activity just sucked in my opinion.  

Over the year, I marched in a couple parades, then convinced my parents that I really wanted to quit and would never make any Chinese friends through the drum and bugle corps.  I think I told them that there weren’t any boys my age in the group anyway, which at the time was true.

Some fifteen years later, both my father and grandfather were dying and the Ye Wah Drum and Lyre Corps had changed its name to the “Mandarins” and flourished as a serious drum and bugle corps.  The group decided to honor my Grandfather for his contributions to their success.  I was a twenty two year old who had just completed my first year of law school at the time.  I gave a short acceptance speech on my Grandfather’s behalf and was followed by a longer speech by Robert Matsui who was just beginning what would be a quarter century career in Congress.  That was 1978.  A week later my father died and six weeks after that my grandfather died.  I didn’t think about my drum and bugle corps experience more than in passing until a couple weeks ago when I decided to explore the cymbalism of my time as a parade participant.  

Much to my shock, the Mandarins outlasted the rest of my Granfather's "new" Chinatown. It’s members are no longer exclusively Chinese.  Actually, the Mandarins weren’t  Han Chinese anyway and the original members of the corps were almost all Cantonese :} so maybe whoever changed the name knew something.  They even have their own website complete with an alumni society.  It happened to look at some pictures on the site of the original group and much to my shock, there was a picture of me from 1963 in the months before JFK was shot.  I’m second from the right in the second row from the bottom.  

As you can see, I looked less than happy to be there at the time, but now realize that as much as I tried to bury the memory it helped shape me as an adult with a bit different outlook on life and culture than someone who simply melted into the suburbs.

Sacramento Valley stories



At 7/31/2006 09:45:00 AM, Blogger Ron Franscell said...

A machine with a memory? Indeed, it sounds frightening to me, too. But look on the bright side: It's a kind of immortality you can't ensure yourself.

At 7/31/2006 10:08:00 AM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I just wish I could choose what and how the Internet records my existence. For many of us, the Internet is crawling away drawing portraits of our lives whether we know it or not.
I had some exchanges a year ago about something known as the Akashic Record, but it is indeed mildly spooky.

At 7/31/2006 10:55:00 AM, Blogger pissed off patricia said...

It was spook me too. Don't think I'll go that route.

At 7/31/2006 02:18:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Well, I didn't do a search for myself. I was just looking at the website for a group I had been involved in years ago and was shocked to find a picture of myself even though I wasn't named in the photo.
One day I'll search the web and find out that there's some lost inheritance money waiting for me etc.

At 7/31/2006 03:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the Akashic Record. It is a tad disconcerting at first to realize that the multiverse (many poem place) is a gigantic information more creature than machine perhaps upon whose holographically sensitive hide (holo-visual, holo-kinetic, hologusto etc) nothing, no thing, no whisker of a cat is lost. Every peevish and petty and generous thought, action, supposition, brushing of teeth-- it's all there in living color.

Not because it's a nice or interesting idea that this be so, but because of the nature of the GIC, the Gigantic Information Creature in which everything is preserved, willynilly.

It's painful at first to real-ize this -- then it develops your obsidian sense of humor.

You look cute, cl, if a little vexed.


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