swim book
This review is from: The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory (Hardcover)
The amazing part of this review is, author Checkoway emailed me to thank me for my review and we have even made plans to meet in Sacramento. I can’t believe this. I’m still flying high. To members of my book club, shall we select this book for our next round of titles and I assure you, I will invite the author to  join us over our monthly dinner.
Here’s my review:
I sent this email to all my nieces and nephews and to their children:
I highly recommend this book to all of you.
I see why my publisher recommended this book to me. I feel we all need to read this to see how it was with the Japanese Americans way before you and I were born. I also think people born on Maui ought to read this book, along with the non-Maui born residents, so they will appreciate and honor the history of that place.

It’s about Soichi Sakamoto, swimming coach who trained plantation kids to go national by letting them swim and practice in the ditches on Maui. Interestingly, I grew up with his name Sakamoto, Keo Nakama, and others mentioned in this book, yet they were in their prime before I was born so they had become legends by the time I could read. Then the story continues after Pearl Harbor. This is a touching part of our history if you are Japanese from Hawaii, Okinawan, Haole( Caucasian), or  just a human being. I’m sure you’re one of these…ha.
Sakamoto ended up at UH as swimming coach. Won’t tell you if his dream of sending one of the kids from the ditches to the Olympics ever became a reality.

In the book, the author mentions how people were named by their character. One swimmer was called Halo Hirose…pronounced hallow because sometimes he seemed to act as though his brain was filled with too much space.
Reminded me of how my own village Kapoho folks were also called. Our Uncle Jun was called Pe-lute, a Filipino word meaning throwing up from drinking too much. One man was called ke-sha…train in Japanese because his teeth protruded like the front of a train and these became permanent names. So one doesn’t have to be from Hawaii or from Maui to be able to find one’s own history in the story.

At the end, one is left with this feeling that one’s own humanity to another is still, why we are here.

This is the conversation I had with a woman behind the Chinese Take-out counter:

Me: Do you use MSG in your cooking?
Woman: No, I don’t use MSG. Somebody else put MSG in the sauce but I don’t put it in.
Me to self: Use a wrong  pronoun, this is what you get.
Me, pointing to reddish sweet and sour chicken:  Is there food coloring in that?
Woman: Yes, all food coloring. Food coloring in that, too. And she pointed to the orange chicken.
Me: Thank you….and I walked away chuckling… I’m a fast learner.

I shall be telling with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I…

Robert Frost


Do you ever wonder about all those “other roads” you have not taken? There’s two I can think of right now among the many.

Early in my career, I was writing curriculum for the State of Hawaii when a private film company contracted me to write a script to be produced for high school students. This was followed by an offer for a full time job as a script writer. A script writer vs. a curriculum writer. It was clear which would get me to Hollywood. I began leaning toward the more romantic, the more artsy…the less conservative. After weeks of living life as a pendulum, I swung back to my mother’s voice : “Stay with the State. It’s more secure and when you retire, you’re going to need that State retirement and health insurance.”

Another road diverged soon after. During those early years as a classroom teacher, I spent my summers away from Hawaii, knowing I needed to return to the students, refreshed with new experiences. One summer I sent a letter to a ranch in Nebraska, offering to be their summer cook. I pictured all the ranch hands around the rectangular wooden table, asking for seconds of my food cooked with soy sauce. I’ve seen enough John Wayne westerns to know some of those ranch hands are the Marlboro man
“My men would enjoy teriyaki steaks for a change,” the rancher called with a chuckle, and he offered me the job. At the last minute, I turned into a chicken.

I have said no to Paris, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, a bicycle ride throughout China among other invitations because timing just didn’t seem right.

I wonder what my life would have become, had I taken the road less traveled. Having a drink with Jim and Steve as in Cameron and Spielberg?

Having my own Cowboy Cuisine TV show?

As the new year unfolds, do we live safe and comfortable or take risks? Do we use the numbers in our age to determine whether we’re too old for that road less traveled? What are some of your regrets?

What are some of your regrets?

Hey Crow


You gotta lose weight

If you wish to be the star

On top of the tree.

Why We Teach

A former lst  grader posted the following  recently. Let me tell you about her – Suellen. She was a first  grader in my class along with Philip whom I had memorialized a few weeks ago. I had published my first book of poetry then and made a big splash in the papers with a one page story in the Advertiser because in the 70’s, it was still unusual for a poet of Japanese ancestry to go so public. Even the mayor sent flowers to my signing. In fact, one of the judges in the Circuit Court was heard to say, “No Japanese man will ever date her now.”

During all the buzz at the signing I felt someone in the corner of the bookshop. It was Suellen. She shyly came to me and began to empty her pocket of coins, wanting to buy my book. She didn’t have enough so I added my own. A complete stranger who had flown in from Oahu after reading my story in the paper, was also standing in the back of the room and  murmured, “My god, this is so beautiful.” Suellen had made his day and mine.

The following is what Suellen posted on FB:

This is my first grade teacher Frances Kakugawa. She was such a favorite to me and a most loving person. I am so glad to have reconnected with someone who was such a role model and inspired me. Certain Teachers really made you feel like they care about you and she certainly did. Waiakea Elementary School, at age 6… (49 years ago) she remembers me! I just loved her!

Frances Kakugawa's photo.

Happy Book Birthday to Frances Kakugawa!! The fourth book in her popular Wordsworth the Poet picture book series, WORDSWORTH, IT’S IN YOUR POCKET!, is officially out today!


Jama Kim Rattigan's photo.

My conversation with Safeway(SW) and Trader Joe’s (TJ) managers.
Me to SW: Does Safeway consider Mexico local because under your local produce sections, I find a lot of products from Mexico, even in the Organic Section:
SW: That’s because we can’t bring in local products, they would cost too much for customers.
Me: So you’re using non-local products as local to deceive us?

Me to Manager at TJ: Why are all your products from Mexico?
I believe in purchasing organic local products.
TJ: IF we brought in local products, our prices will go up.
Me: Okay, so you’re making it difficult for me to shop here.
TJ: Silence

Even packaged vegetables labeled Organic are from Mexico or elsewhere. Do read labels. I don’t purchase products that give you only infor of where they were packaged…no source.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 137 other followers