Saturday, February 26, 2011

An Albert Saijo memory card: on taking Kaia Sand's North Portland walk

The day before yesterday, I took the walk Kaia Sand developed for her Tinfish Press book, Remember to Wave. The walk begins near Portland's Expo Center, now the site of roller derbies and expositions, but once a center that housed Japanese Americans before they were sent inland to be "interned." I wrote about the walk a couple days back (scroll down!). As I left Portland today on the Amtrak Cascade, we passed near the Expo Center before crossing into Washington State. The ride up the coast is beautiful; near Tacoma you feel nearly as if you are scooting across the water. There are islands, ferries, birds. The ride ends in Seattle in the shadow of the baseball stadium. Oh to see Ichiro play in his American home town!

Here is a memory card I wrote in Portland, which riffs off a phrase from Albert Saijo's Bamboo Ridge book, OUTSPEAKS. It's about our walk, and about how a knowledge of history can alter, or at least complicate, our view of the natural world. It's about signs. And it's about a little girl of whom I'm very fond who accompanied us in her off-road pink roller skates; according to Kaia, Jessi--nearly nine--knows the walk as well as anyone. It's also about the deafness of signs, those that cannot respond to us either by speaking or by taking in the sounds the present offers up. History is not abstract; it is a white noise. The journey from Saijo in his youth to Ichiro in his clatters in one's head like wheels on steel tracks.

Saijo's line comes from his bio note; as a teenager, he was interned at Heart Mountain with his family. Henry Kaiser's creation of Vanport is lauded on a sign sponsored by Kaiser Permanente; its tone differs considerably from other accounts of the housing area located on a flood plane, where many workers died in 1948. You can read Kaiser Permanente's narrative here, as well. The site now offers shelter to wildlife, as to golfers and dog walkers with their eager animals.


BEAUTIFUL BIG SKY COUNTRY HIGH PLATEAU SURROUNDED BY MTS. The girl in pink roller skates found a railroad track leading inland from the Expo Center toward Minidoka. She worries about ducks who live in the water against which we're warned. Silhouetted bellies, an arc of geese under cloud, marshland reclaimed from mortal flood. The sign tells us workers got health care. It sits beside a dog park; a deaf woman tells us police are claiming the park for a training center. She's going to write a letter. Positively no trespassing, reads another sign. When someone's certain she remembers, the psych professor says, she's wrong. When I talk to the deaf woman, she responds. I cannot talk to Henry Kaiser on his sign; history renders him deaf, me dumb. He looks out at the grass, the dog walkers, the few tourists. He cannot hear the truck route, or the trains.


For Jessica Wahnetah


--25 February 2011



1 comment:

Melanie said...

Hello Susan, I was searching for Gompers/Albert Saijo and stumbled upon your blog...great to see that Albert is alive and well in Hawaii...I met him through Gompers his older brother in Mill Valley late seventies, early eighties...before he met his wife Laura, although I met her too, and was at their wedding...he is truly one of a kind and a true "Brujo" and Mystic..
is there a way I can contact him, I see true to form he is not into emailing...my contact info is melanie.araneta@gmail.com thank you God Speed and Happy Easter!!