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Nomadic View

No.2 2009

A Wanderer's Observations

Black Man's Hand My First Job Chinese Restaurant

The Shooting Interview with Vincent Shaw- Part 2 Annus Horribilus in Turkey

Selected Posts from :

Black Man's Hand

The Shooting




My First Job Chinese



Interview with Vincent ShawPart 2 Annus Horribilus in Turkey

The Thief fiction


Nomadic View Magazine is a collection of blog posts from All stories contained are copy written and are to be reprinted by permission only. If you have any comments or questions about the magazine or the material, feel free to contact me at the blog. Any contributions are welcome as well.



Black Man's Hand

I don't recall any particular instruction in my home on the subject of race. Originally Posted 11/7/08 3

Black Man's Hand

However it was done, as my parents often did, so covertly and so successfully, that I never even noticed it. My parents were very clever that way and they taught me a great many things in a very subtle way. Of course, it was a time of significant changes in attitudes about race and Arkansas, where they had been raised was hardly the most progressive in this regard in the 60s. They were not perfect, but overall they were slightly better than most in that time and in that place. Sometimes, however, my liberal sensibilities were shaken by a remark that I deemed unforgivable. It is easy to be condescending and judgmental of parents when you are a teenager, especially a sheltered child of the shopping malls and subdivisions and well-funded education. It was easy to turn up my nose at some spare remark my mother might make about “niggers.” When I called her on it, she would say,”No.. now. Not all blacks are niggers. Only the ones that think they are better than the whites.” This was enough to confuse me for I hadn't worked out all the details of my opinions.. I still haven't.


Black Man's Hand On this subject, my father was less conservative than my mother and his feelings had been shaped by practical experience. He had fought in Korean alongside of black Americans. “Listen, when people are shooting at you, you don't got a lot of time to decide who you want on your side firing back.” My father had a few black coworkers as friends at the plant. His co-worker was married to a white woman and my mother took her stand, “I have nothing against it in theory. But I just feel sorry for the poor children.” (Satisfyingly ironic at this moment in history, isn't it? Too bad my mother didn't live long enough to see this day.) I recall sitting in her mother's kitchen and my grandfather, Sam, was teasing my grandmother because she refused to take free eggs off a black man. “Sam, Sam. Don't tell that.” Still, at her funereal, I learned that, to my astonishment, she privately tutored black children when she was a teacher. This was one reason that she was popular with the black families although some irrational notions trapped in her mind were hard to dispel.


Black Man's Hand On the furthest extreme was my uncle. My uncle would regularly tell me when I visited his farm in Arkansas, “They're no better than monkeys.” He would have a disgusted look on his face. “Why, have you ever looked at a black man's hand? Well, have you? Looks just like a monkey's.” This was something I heard just about every time I was there. The first times it struck me as a joke and that he was surely pretending to believe this. And then, it began to annoy me because it appeared- and this is true for all bigotry- that he would not be happy until I appeared to share his convictions. I can say, I never did but this meant having to hear the same rubbish over and over. “Have you ever seen a black man's hands? The palm of his hands?” Finally, I told my father how much this disturbed me and that I was having trouble even listening to him if he had to keep repeating these things. I was taught, you see, as a guest in somebody's home, you must treat them with respect and courtesy but this was becoming harder and harder.


American Soldiers in Korea My father, hewing his pocket knife on the whetstone, listened and smiled to himself. “Oh that's just Ernest. You have to remember he never fought in Korean. He fought in World War II.�


Black Man's Hand “So.” “Eisenhower brought black and whites together in Korean for the first time.” I was not convinced. “But still.. is it right? Is that an excuse?” My father sighed. “No. But you got to look at it this way. When do you think was the last time he looked at a black man's hand?” “I wouldn't know.” “I do. Never. I would bet he has never been been within a mile of a black man.” And that was perfectly correct. This kind of bigotry is based on ignorance and an extreme lack of experience with the larger world we must share with other peoples. Whether they are aware of it or not, these people live in a shrinking world, looking and finding negative examples to support their underdeveloped ideas. It isn't an excuse by any means, and there are certain things that thinking people must not tolerate. However, that could be a reason, at least, one reason. And armed with the reason for a problem, we may be able to find a solution. My father slowly folded his knife and smiled at me “How the hell would he know what a black man's hand looked like?”


A Terragen Summer Photo

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The Shooting What happens in the suburbs STAYS in the suburbs


elderly woman wakes up with a start, shocked by some distant noise. It is about seven or eight in the morning, She gets out bed slowly, and makes her way down the steps and into her kitchen. She makes her breakfast and all the while she is drinking her coffee, she has the most peculiar feeling. At that moment, she notices from the corner of her eye, a strange shape moving past the picture window in the living room. As she creeps around the corner, she can clearly make out a tall man peering into her home.  10

The Shooting

Bravely, she unlocks the door, leaving the chain on, and asks the man what he wants. It is a policeman and he is trying to speak to her but suddenly, she realizes that she has forgotten to attach her hearing aid. A bit later, the officer is telling her very slowly and very gently, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, lady, but a car has run into the side of your house.” She notices , over his shoulder, a gathering of curious neighbors in her front yard, a pair of muddy tears across the grass and a greenish Impala improbably parked in her lawn. Somebody is taking photographs. Then, the policeman takes her elbow and says,”And, there’s a dead man in the car.” All this occurred in the summer when I turned nine. My subdivision in St. Louis county was an extremely quiet place to live normally. Summers in humid August and it felt like Time itself was slowly rolling to a stop. Tract homes of the same design and  families with striking similarities. At that time, crime, especially murder was something that belonged in the city. There was, of course, the occasional act of vandalism- usually as a kind of revenge to a crank. But murder? It had seemed unthinkable.  This wasn’t the Bronx, for goodness sakes. And most surprising of all was the confessed murderer was none other than my own neighbor, Mr. Staten.


The Shooting George Staten was a heavy white haired (a crew-cut) Texan. He was so shy that, to us children, he often seemed gruff. On the other hand, his exuberant wife, Fay, with her hair dyed jet black and spun like confection, was like a sister to my mother and George was a good friend to my dad.

The story behind this peculiar event was fairly straightforward. They would spend hours taking apart things and putting things back together, from lawn-mowers to carburetors, in some kind of hope of improvement. Like my father, George had traveled up from the backwaters -of Texas, in his case- in search of work in the city. After the Korean War, as the Cold War really took off and the airline industry developed, McDonnell Douglas, , created a kind of  hiring vacuum, sucking up all the undereducated veterans returning home. The story behind this peculiar event was fairly straightforward. Fay, unable to sleep, was watching TV late into the night. She heard a strange noise and when she went to the window to look, she was surprised to find a unidentified car parked in their own driveway. Still more worrying, in the darkness, she saw two strangers moving about in the shadows. She woke her husband and told him this news. He, being a Texan, unlocked the firearm cabinet and withdrew a rifle. As he left the house, the two men tried to flee, one ran off down the street and the other (presumably the owner of the car) hopped into the driver’s seat and pulled back out of the driveway. What happened next can only be verified by the witness and murderer. George had his rifle up on his shoulder targeting the driver, as a threat only. However, at that moment, the driver gambled that it was a bluff and aimed his revolver at Mr. Staten. In self-defense, he fired his rifle, the bullet entering the right temple and exiting under his arm. The car rolled down the street lazily, flopping over the curb and bumped into the side of a home at the end of the street.


There was only one problem. When the police later searched the car, they found no weapon at all. It was theorized that the driver had pointed his finger at my neighbor, attempting to frighten him. Obviously, he had never met a man from Texas. When the police located the dead man’s partner, they learned that the pair had spent most of the night breaking into homes and cars and removing as much as possible. When Fay had looked out the window, they had just begun loading it into the back seat of their Impala. Police also told our families that this pair were quite familiar to the authorities, having committed similar crimes in other neighborhoods. So began the worst year of living for the Statens. Law suits were immediately filed by grieving relatives of the victim. George lost so much time from his work that nearly lost his job and his house. He certainly lost his privacy with news crews all over the neighborhood. Worst of all, the victim had had a lot of friends whose characters were apparently no better. And for many months, they would take turn throwing bottles through the Staten’s front windows.

Obviously, he had never met a man from Texas. I recall one day, as summer was coming to a close, Fay had just left our home and her son dashed back to our home and told us to come quick. We all darted outside and saw poor Fay rolling about on the ground, crying and senselessly clutching at herself. I stood there with my eyes as wide as possible, trying to take in every detail. So, I noted to myself, this is what a nervous breakdown actually looks like. There was one thing I could never understand about the shooting. How was it possible that I could have slept through this high drama? After all, murder, as regrettable as it was, was something that people liked discussing and watching on TV and in the cinema. Almost every episode of McMillan and Wife had at least one murder. And this was an event- my own event- that I could have shared in great detail with my friends when school opened. And the murderer was my own next door neighborhood. Somebody I knew. And yet, somehow, it all happened while I was calmly sleeping, dreaming my happy dreams of swimming and high diving, of GI Joes, and Gilligan's Island, and daring exploits on bicycles. We later figured the sound of the rifle was drowned out by our air conditioner running at full blast.  August nights are usually quite unbearable in St. Louis so in the end, I decided the trade-off was probably worth it.


My First Job Chinese Restaurant

My father was a firm believer that hard work solidified the

human character- an antidote to too much television watching, no doubt, although he himself probably hated his job more than he openly admitted. As well as being a presumptive promoter of the American work ethic, he also believed that I felt that everything was going to be handed to me on a silver platter and it wasn't. You had to work for it. Somehow I gave him the idea that I felt that the world owed me living- I never quite understood this phrase which probably made it true- and buddy, I was headed for a rude awakening one day. Very soon.


My First Job - Chinese Restaurant I was told I had better stop and smell the coffee. A few days after my 16th birthday, my father gave me plenty of opportunity to smell the coffee by waking me up every morning at 5 a.m to ask me if I had found a job yet. That was his way and it took me a long time and a lot of growing to understand my father and for him to understand me.

I have had an unusually wide range of employment and very few of them I actually enjoyed. My very first formal job was a part-time position at Pagoda Chinese Restaurant when I turned 16. My boss' name was, I kid you not, Harry Wong. He was a pretty nice boss but a nervous man who had a tendency to avoid eye contact and say, "Yeah, right." for every question. His wife who was always pregnant in the time I was there- like some perpetually ripening melon- and worked in the back, cooking and chopping cabbage and onions. Assorted relatives added the appropriate Oriental complexion to the establishment with Harry himself doling out the Mai Tais with umbrellas and coconut flavor cocktails.

Pagoda was a popular place and at that time, my neighborhood did not have much in the way of international cuisine. It was ideally located near a large shopping mall, a MacDonald's and a quasi-ritzy hotel. The decor of a Chinese restaurant, if it is worth its stuff, must be  dim and slightly strange, tassels hang from lights, dragons on walls, reliefs on the doors, and nearly recognizable songs which turn out to be sung in a twangy Chinese female voice.


My First Job - Chinese Restaurant Initially I started out as a waiter. I was given a butterscotch color jacket that constantly seemed to crawl up my back all night, black clip on bow tie, black polyester pants and a white shirt. Harry was rather fussy when it came to the appearance of his staff. Waiter training was covered in about 3 minutes my first day. It was not hard work, but you had to stand on your feet all day and keep your eyes open for empty glasses and plates. My career as a waiter, sadly, did not last long. After accidentally pouring jasmine tea down a poor child's back, I was hastily demoted to the position of dish washer. Dish washing was hot and steamy work and not a lot of fun. The waiters found inordinate pleasure in withholding the trays of dirty dishes and glasses and such as long as possible and then bringing them all at once. The washing equipment was just barely functional and it was often rough going trying to keep up with the traffic. Steam would fill the room when the doors of the dishwasher were flung open. The trays holding the newly cleaned dishes were scalding hot and had to be stacked and plates had to be double checked and returned for further use. The conversations between the kitchen, if not in Chinese, usually interesting enough and nobody seemed to take things very seriously but amongst the waiters arguments and peeved looks and hissed remarks were commonplace. It was the effect of having to smile and be polite all day for minimum wage plus tips.


Interview with Vincent Shaw- Part 2 Annus Horribilus in Turkey In Part 1 of this interview with Vince Shaw, we heard of his experiences working in a private company in Turkey. On advice of the company's lawyer, Shaw became a partner. Shaw soon learned that legal requirements for working permission were not at all that clear for company partners in Turkey. Now last time, you told us that a local tax oficial came to your office and fined you for working illegally. Despite the fact that you actually owned a percentage of the company. Correct. Then the foreigner's office called me and ordered me to report to the police station at nine on a Friday morning. I imagine you were pretty shaken up. Did you have any idea what they wanted? I had a very bad feeling. But I kept saying to myself. Maybe it is a formality or something. I kept thinking that if it was really bad news, wouldn't they come to the office and take me there? So you went there. When I got there, they asked for my passport and my ikhamet izin. That is a little blue book they give you to show you are in the country legally. The woman told me that, since I had been found to be working illegally, I had broken the terms of my permission and that I would have to leave the country within 5 days. And I would not be able to return for a year. Actually, they were not too sure. It was possible that I would not be able to return for 5 years. They were, like, very uncompromising and that was their final answer. They didn't care about the details. What? Did you tell them the circumstances? It was a simple case for them. I had worked illegally. My permission to live in Turkey was being taken away. How did you feel at that moment? I nearly fainted. I mean, I really nearly fainted. Some of the secretaries started looking at me, like they were frightened I was about to fall in the floor. I was about to. Five days? How long had you been living in Turkey before that? Over ten years. And that didn't mean anything to them? Nada.


Interview with Vincent Shaw- Part 2 Your next step was to... Well I found a new lawyer. He was recommended to me by a long time friend. I mean, that afternoon. He told me that my case was unusual. He would open a legal action in order for a judge to look over my case. But he added something else. He said that during the time that my case was awaiting a judge's review, the police could force me to leave the country. So I had to be careful and change my address immediately. Is that legal? Can they kick you out of a country with a review pending? According to the European Human Rights Agreements, No. The lawyer said, that it was technically illegal for them to deport me before a judge looks over the case and makes a decision. However, it happens every day in Turkey. I see. Go on. So I tried to stay away. I was staying with a friend waiting for the judge's decision. But then my luck ran out one day. Some plain clothes police came up to me on the street and asked to see my passport. He was very very serious. He told me that I had to come with him, no questions. He said he had been watching my apartment for a week. I suppose you mentioned the legal review? Eh. Yeah. He didn't think much about it. It was a Saturday. I didn't have much money on me. He drove me to a police station on the other side of town. Luckily I had managed to call my good Turkish friend and he was trying to get a handle on things as much as possible. When I got to the police station, there wasn't anybody else there. I asked to have a translator there but the police officer said it wasn't necessary. I was able to call the US embassy in Ankara. The woman there said she would call around and see what she could find out. That's it? Weren't you frightened? Like, Midnight Express. Yeah, well, it was not Midnight Express. But I was shell-shocked, that's for sure. I mean, the funny thing was, I was trying to work in the country legally. I thought that the lawyer had done everything correctly. He had told me I was legitimate. I mean, I suppose I could understand it if I had knowingly tried to get away with breaking the law. Anyway, after the guy interviewed me, he told me that they would be deporting me that evening on the first boat to Greece. After that, they took me downstairs and put me in a holding area with about a dozen other guys. You mean in a jail cell? No. It was more like an army barracks. There were all kinds of refugees there. A guy from Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. I can imagine you were the only American there. Of course. But I have to say, the other guys there were not unfriendly. The worst reaction was indifference. Most of them were kind of amazed to see an American in the jail with them. Turkey and America were supposed to be friends. When I told them how I got there, they couldn't believe it. Maybe they thought I was a spy or CIA or something. Later my friend came to the jail and they let me talk to him. We talked to the director or whatever he was and asked him if there was some way I could delay being deported until I could get some money and some clothes. He agreed, but said I would have to stay overnight in jail and be deported the next day.


Interview with Vincent Shaw- Part 2 Did you speak to the US Embassy? What did they say? Did they send anybody to help you? The woman there made a call to the Izmir branch and that person simply repeated what the foreigner's office had said. I had broken the law. Later, I asked the consul that what on earth were job duties if it wasn't to help Americans in a time like this? What did she say? She said they were only there to renew passports and transport the bodies of Americans back home when necessary. I told her that she seemed more useful to dead Americans than living ones. Those people are absolutely clueless. What about the lawyer? He 'd demanded money upfront. So he was like the invisible man. He was unavailable, in other words. So you had to stay in the jail overnight? Correct. But I had to give credit to the police there. I think they felt some sympathy for me. Of course, that didn't make any difference. They were all following orders and they didn't want to make any enemies by asking any questions. . They tried to be as hospitable as they could. They allowed me to stay in a private area so I wouldn't be in any danger. Isn't that called solitary confinement? No. Well, they let me out of the holding area and I was able to watch TV. Then when it was time to go to bed, they put me in a separate area alone. I didn't sleep much, of course. The irony of it was all the other refugees were desperately trying to escape Turkey and go to Europe. Here I was desperate to stay in Turkey but being kicked into Europe. It is still kind of funny when I think about it. It wasn't funny at the time, of course. Then the following day, my friend had managed to collect some money and some clothes in a bag. The police tried to get me to sign something before I left. I learned that it was a confession that I had agreed to my “crime� and I would agree not to return to Turkey for 60 months. Five years. Did you sign THAT? No. I refused to sign it. Later they said, it had been a mistake. I would be able to come back in a year. So the next day, I was escorted to Cesme and put on a boat to Greece. I can't imagine what you must have been feeling. I was in shock, I guess. They had treated me like a criminal when I had tried to follow the laws. I had tried to get legal advice from so called experts and nobody knew what the law was. There is a reason for this. There is no law in Turkey. It changes from person to person and from day to day. You sound bitter. It is hard not to be. I mean, I was not caught stealing cars. Or dealing drugs or murdering anybody. And I had been in Turkey for a long time without any problem. I felt really broken hearted I guess.


Interview with Vincent Shaw- Part 2 So you were now heading to Greece. How far away was that? Oh it was close. Chios is real close. In fact, you can see the lights of Turkey from the island. That made it worse. I was like some kind of exile. I found a place to stay that night and tried to pull myself together. In the end, I stayed there most of the summer. It wasn't a holiday. It should have been. But I waited and waited for the judge's ruling in my case. I waited three months. The courts shut down during the summer. Can you believe that? Everybody goes on vacation in summer. The judge decided against my case later learned. I wonder if he had even looked at my file. After three months, I went to renew my tourist visa for Greece and they tell me that it was impossible. They were part of something called Schengen. What's that exactly? Many of the European countries are in a union and it is like the United States of Europe. If you enter one, you have enter them all. According to what the Greek police told me, as an American, you can only stay in any Schengen country for three months. Then you have to leave and you cannot return for another six months. So, you can not leave for a day and come back and have a new three month tourist visa. You have to leave after three months and not come back for another three months. It's crazy. Is that possible? So an American cannot stay in Europe for more than three months? That's what they said. So I decided I had had enough of it. I decided to go back to the states for awhile. Take a break from traveling and recuperate a little. You went to New York I think. I have one question. You came back to Turkey. Why? I mean, after all that terrible treatment. The corrupt business partner, the crooked lawyers, the officials and the police. Why on earth would you come back? Turkey is my home. I wasn't born there but I think of it as my home. Turkish people are the best. I mean, you can make a list of all the people here that screw up my life but then on the other hand, there were a lot of people, close friends, that worried about me and broke their backs trying to get me back here. You can't just throw away ten years of your life when a crisis happens. Maybe I am an idiot, I don't know. But I really don't want to give up on Turkey. Not just yet anyway.


Fiction Department

The Thief You smiled back at me shyly, distantly as I pressed the button on my brownie camera. Then you turned away. An hour later, you and your family had to leave that beach and I never saw you again. The clouds rolled in from the sea twenty minutes later and it turned cold. It was the last day of summer, as it turned out. I don't know what became of you. I imagine you married some handsome businessman. I hope you had a fulfilling life. I hope you were happy. #

I read somewhere that certain primitive tribes- I forget where- dread to have themselves photographed. It is like stealing, they say. but the theft of a soul. Jmorgan 2009


Nomadic View Magazine- No. 2  

The second issue of Nomadic View Magazine all articles based on the blog ""

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