I Got Game by Akira Ohiso

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I walk with Cy to Market and Leary. She holds my phone as she follows the Geocaching app to our destination - Mural at Bergen Place. I realize that she has seen this mural before so the payoff of finding it won’t be as exciting. When we arrive there will not be a search through shrubs, an overturning of rocks, deciphering a hint.

She wants to go to another cache. The nearest one is .9 miles away near the ship canal next to Fred Meyers. I know her so well in many ways, yet this 8-year old girl is also a mystery.

In the last 2 years, I watched my mother deteriorate to a shell of herself finally passing last year in hospice a few days before Thanksgiving. Since then, I tolerate the grief, but have not yet processed her loss.

Cy and my two other children have experienced a half-hearted father preoccupied (denial) with losing his mother. I hear her voice calling my name like a beloved song. Aural neurons firing wish-fulfillment.

We walk along Leary to our next destination. Cy is completely herself. I am self-conscious as a father, modeled by my own father who left early in the morning and returned in the evening exhausted by a full day of work and 2.5 hours of commuting on a the Long Island Railroad. He didn’t have the energy or the modeling himself to engage me or my sister. He tried on the weekends and during his corporate allotted vacation time, but my mom was the emotional ballast who put in long hours. Like anything with meaning, it takes time.

These days my father tries his best to ask for time, but I am busy with my own family. The guilt hangs around like a fart.

It’s in my court. Double fault.

I spoke to a friend recently who expressed that most people of our generation were raised by parents with limited emotional awareness. Culturally, mental health was not talked about. Silence created households where addiction, abuse, trauma and mental illness festered. Gender roles were binary and oppressive. Language enforced rules and social conformity.

These are generalizations, yet, as a social worker, I feel like my childhood left lots of emotional gaps where parental and societal awareness could have helped. I often went it alone.

Granted, my inclination was not to share feelings, but maybe I didn’t express my feelings because I didn’t think that I could.

I don’t blame my parents today. It’s part of who I am. They did raise me to be creative, curious and kind. I am aware that I was not always aware. Did I shut down my feelings to protect myself?

Several years ago, I sat in a therapist’s office in a rural town in upstate New York. It was just after a depressive episode. I was anxious, obsessed with losing weight. Years earlier, a therapist thought my weight loss was associate with my sense of self. Losing weight meant I was disappearing.

Was I losing weight because I was disappearing or was I disappearing because I was losing weight? I realized that I needed to say what hurt me. I needed to listen to my own words about myself.

Since my teens, I’ve always straddled the tectonic shifts of my identity. “Who am I?” is always the central question. I acutely felt the “otherness” in my twoness. I learned that I needed to be hyper-vigilante about how I was perceived in different social settings from one day to the next. It was self-preservation to be half myself depending on the audience in front of me.

We follow the coordinates to a dock near Fred Meyers. A person sleeps in a wool wrap covered in leaves. The hint on the geocaching app says “A plant like no other.” We search for about twenty minutes. I make sure Cy does not touch used hypodermic needles in the wood chips of an underused community beautification project.

I notice a plastic plant (Fred Meyer?) sticking upside out of the bottom of a fence pole. A plant like no other? I yell to Cy and she runs over excitedly. We pull the plant out which is attached to a plastic pillbox and a lever system with a rusty hook at the other end. When I pull the plant down the rusty hook goes up.

In the pillbox is a plastic bag emblazoned with a cartoon character and the confident words “I got game.” Inside the plastic bag is a piece of paper with the signatures of previous geocachers. We are number 5.

Cy’s wonder is precious and I see myself in her. After miles of walking, Cy is hungry. We eat lunch at the Jolly Roger Taproom a few blocks away. She orders a cheeseburger slider and fries. I order three oyster sliders and a pint. We are so hungry, we eat in silence.

Analog Moves by Akira Ohiso

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Since giving up Instagram a few weeks ago, I am finding much more time to explore other interests.

The initial detox took about two weeks. I noticed increased anxiety, melancholy and boredom. When I was out and about, I often had the phantom urge to take Instagram-worthy photos. When the urge passed life went on. I didn’t have the stress and worry of posting or the obligation to keep checking my likes count. The feeling turned to relief.

I have more time to be in my head. Things slow down when you opt out of the daily digital cycle. Dormant brain activity begins to process again, the thaw of thoughts.

I recently purchased a starter record player. I used to spend hours playing records on my father’s Pioneer SX-780. He used to sit on the couch listening to classical music, occasionally The Beatles. During Christmas, the Johnny Mathis Christmas album was in heavy rotation. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

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I purchased the Victrola VTA-65, an all-in-one model with FM radio and Bluetooth. The speakers are limited, but I hooked up a sound bar to add some EQ and volume.

There are two record stores up the street from me; Bop Street Records and Sonic Boom. Bop Street has more used and rare finds, while Sonic Boom focuses on independent contemporary music.

It is my first record excursion since the mid-eighties when, I think, the last LP I purchased was The Unforgettable Fire by U2. Back then I shopped at Record World and Tower Records, the former closing in 1992, the latter holding out until 2006.

Cassettes became the better choice because I could play them in a car or on my double cassette box radio. The mobility of your own music had great appeal. You no longer had to sit next to a turntable to share your collection. You could cruise down Main Street or lounge on the beach. Kids roamed schoolyards with boom boxes they got for Christmas. I distinctly remember an older kid walking through the junior high cafeteria blasting “Always Something There to Remind Me” by Naked Eyes.

As cassettes became more popular, the vinyl sections of record stores began to shrink. The soft flipping of LPs was replaced by the plastic clack of cassettes in security cases to prevent shoplifting.

Progress destroyed the obsessive appeal of album cover art and liner notes. Some of the cassettes included lyrics, but they were on thin folded paper that often crumpled over time. The puffy refolding did not fit back easily into the cassette case.

Still, I miss the inconvenience, the need to get up and flip the album to hear more music. Streaming music is endlessly limited. With too many choices, I am encouraged to skip around never listening to an album in full. There is always a better recommendation to explore.

I miss the deep cuts I endured to get to the hits, but eventually liked then loved. Song orders were conceptual and deliberate. A full-album experience was an experience.

Without further ado, my first vinyl purchases since 1984:

Camping Trip by Akira Ohiso

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Gold Bar, Startup, Money Creek…our capitalism embedded in town names where contemporary poverty comes up to Route 2 like lapping waves.

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After Skykomish, we enter Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests. Low clouds cover mountaintops where vegetation is sparse. Sage brush and pine trees blanket the lower elevations. Rocky faces and swathes of logged land expose the vertiginous earth like a shaved cat after surgery.

I read that the Columbia Glacier located in the Henry M. Jackson Wilderness has been receding for decades. In the future, these protected mountains will be safe refuge from the rising oceans. Then the rural towns along Route 2 will be gentrified, the coasts barnacled clapboard and rust.

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We drive east on Route 2 towards Stevens Pass. The pass is named after John Frank Stevens who was the first non-indigenous person to discover it’s viability for a railroad route over the North Cascades. Plenty of native people traversed the pass before him, but it’s a white man who is memorialized.

I notice tan lines in the mountains that look like an amusement park track of some kind. This is the Pacific Crest Trail, a hiking trail that runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.

Our campsite on Lake Wenatchee opens at 2:30pm. We are an hour early so we continue on Route 2 to Leavenworth, a fabricated Bavarian town conceived by town leaders in the sixties to increase tourism. Today, it’s a lucrative business that reminds me of Disneyland - the Bavarian Quarter.

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Beers, brats, ticky tacky shops selling t-shirts, taffy and MAGA baseball caps. A religious man holds a bible over his head and states that Jesus spoke English. Tourists lick ice cream cones and snap selfies.

We reach the North Campsite at Lake Wenatchee State Park about 3:30pm. I am able to set up the tent in about 20 minutes, not bad for a beginner.

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The kids explore the campgrounds by wandering through human-made walking paths that move towards the center like spokes on a wheel. In the center, restrooms, showers and a playground with wood chips. An outer access road circles the campgrounds.

Our spot has a designated pad for our tent and a fire pit. We are told to put food away to deter bears. I used to live in the Catskills where black bears roamed. Typically, if you made a lot of noise bears steered clear unless you got in the way of their cubs.

We have an emergency bear spray that contains capsaicin, a natural component of cayenne peppers and found in pepper spray. If all else fails…

The campground is a cacophony of vacation behavior; kids biking, dogs, food prep, toddler screams an acoustic guitar mangling Dylan(who mangles Dylan). Apparently, when you go camping you should pack as many domestic comforts into your vehicle as possible to recreate you comfy home in a designated area replete with showers, bathrooms and park rangers delivering firewood. That’s if you have a comfy home?

We pioneer with privilege because that’s what we’ve always done. Let’s pretend and play tent to tap an ancient impulse of human bondage and annihilation.

I enjoy a glass of camper-friendly boxed wine by the fire I started with the assistance of a fluorescent Bic lighter, fire starters and dried and split firewood.

The bears will be sure to avoid this worn patch of woods.

Instant Nature by Akira Ohiso

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Epstein commits suicide in his jail cell. Trump blames the Clintons. Top back-to-school buys: bullet-proof backpacks. I unplug Google Home from the wall. “Hey Google, you’re dead.”

”I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

Sunday morning. I talk to my father who vents about an upcoming dental procedure. Since my mother died, he’s had no emotional ballast. Through adult eyes, I wonder if he ever did. My mother grew up with an alcoholic father where she was socialized to maintain statis. Did she enable my father? Did she enable me?

In hindsight, I was a spirited child and a difficult teen. I was hard to parent because of my impulsivity and lack of focus. My kindergarten teacher told my mother during a parent-teacher conference, “Akira’s just here to play.”

Yet, my mother gave me room to be. And a lot of my upbringing was a series of starts and stops, choices I made. Today, I acknowledge my self-sabotage, my feelings of inadequacy and my reasons for quitting. Wisdom has given me the confidence to honor my limits. Just saying “no” is revolutionary for people with histories of low self-esteem.

I have been doing analog excursions with the kids. To me, they are self-consciously “analog”, to the kids “excursions.” My parental guilt needs to acknowledge the “providence” in providence.

My oldest son is fascinated with instant cameras. He cannot believe that I lived in a world where you could not delete photos. The photo came out depicting reality, pimples and all.

My daughter asked for a Fuji instant camera for her birthday. She walks around our apartment mostly taking picture of our cat. She waves the ejected photo like a fan, a developing technique I remember adults doing when I was a kid.

I walk with my oldest son around the neighborhood so he can experiment with the camera. To him, the film feels precious. He doesn’t want to waste it. I encourage him to waste film and find his artistic eye.

He takes some nice outdoor shots and has no desire to share them on Instagram or Snapchat. When we return home, he puts them in a photo album.

Public Art Portable Works Purchase: Fresh Perspectives II by Akira Ohiso

Two of Akira’s digital prints were purchased by the City of Seattle for their portable art collection.

“The City of Seattle owns over 3,000 portable artworks in its Civic Art Collection and has been collecting for over 40 years. These artworks will enter the Seattle Public Utilities Portable Works Collection managed by the Office of Arts & Culture. They will be displayed throughout city galleries and offices.”

Red Lines, Digital Mixed-media, 2018

Red Lines, Digital Mixed-media, 2018

My Muslim Neighbor, Digital Collage, 2019

My Muslim Neighbor, Digital Collage, 2019

Dead Philanthropists by Akira Ohiso

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The American Museum of Natural History has always been one of my favorite museums. I remember taking the Long Island Railroad into Penn Station with my parents. We walked through the station corridor towards 8th and into the warm sooty subway, hopping the C train to 81st Street.

I begged my parents to buy me a hot pretzel with mustard from one of the street vendors. Then I would sit on the stone steps staring at Teddy Roosevelt on his horse.

We often visited Sagamore Hill, Teddy Roosevelt’s summer home in Oyster Bay, NY. The furnished rooms were time capsules into the way life was at the turn of the 20th century. It was a rugged American narrative that I was taught and believed in, unaware of the privilege and continuing fortification of white supremacy that undermined my mixed-race heritage.

When my relatives visited from Japan, we took them to Sagamore Hill to experience something “American,” at least in my father’s eyes who did whatever he could to assimilate when he immigrated to the United States in the early sixties.

America’s two atomic bombs knocked some good ole’ moral sense into those Japs.

The dioramas of animals in their natural habitats continues to fascinate me as an adult, especially in an age where museums are increasingly using digital technologies to create exhibits.

They are so a part of my kids everyday lives that they found the analog dioramas to be the most engaging exhibits.

Kids run from one diorama to the next trying to be the first to get to the next animal scene; an octopus being devoured by a whale, a bear hunting for fish, a sea otter rolling playfully in seaweed. Is being first nurture or nature?

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We walked through the Hayden Planetarium, but the exhibits were dated. Moore’s Law assures that contemporary exhibits always need to be on trend. Maybe Bloomberg, Trump or the Sacher Family will sponsor a wing? The experience of a dinosaur walking across a flat screen is commonplace and finite. The dusty dioramas are timeless.

Growing up on my street in the seventies, teenagers with leather fringed clothing would often go to the planetarium for the Floyd laser shows. I would hear them talking about it when we played Running Bases; manhole cover eavesdropping. I knew there was something rebellious about it.

I worked briefly at the museum in the Events & Conference Services department where I was privy to wealthy New Yorkers and Fortune 500 companies renting wings of the museum for weddings, award ceremonies and galas.

The names of dead philanthropists are as prominent as the exhibits.

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Patina by Akira Ohiso

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An Uber drops us at 8th and 34th next to Port Authority. Brown men with no shirts sleep against the shaded wall on cardboard boxes. The humidity is a threshold you cross. The air smells of bus exhaust, pretzels and chicanery.

The streets are crowded with Europeans sporting different fashion trends. People hand out discount passes to Broadway shows, bus tours and the Empire State Building. The spiel is always a tad deceitful; you pay less now, you don’t have to wait on lines then, you are missing out.

Pedestrian plazas are just more place to get hassled by low-paid pleasure pushers. Construction zones cattle pedestrians into the streets and into cordoned spaces surrounded by orange transportation barriers. Bottle-necking is a common pedestrian pattern in NYC. At DON’T WALK signs, people take pictures of novel nothingness, filming with a selfie stick and narrating their Instagram story.

A group of black men hand out CDs, but then ask for money once it’s in your hands. If you ignore them, they say things like “You don’t have to be afraid of black people.”

Madam Tussaud’s, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, McDonald’s, Sephora, Disney, Hershey’s, TCKTS, Fuji Water, H&M, Barclay’s, Forever 21, T-Mobile, LG, Levi’s, Elmo, Spider-Man, The Naked Cowboy, New York Times, Red Lobster, The Hulk, ACENQRWS1237.

Time Square is a multi-media clusterfuck.

We take the Q to Herald Square and walk to the Empire State Building. Macy’s is a city block of fast fashion like consumed water bottles overflowing from corner sanitation cans. Concrete barriers can’t stop a semi-automatic shooting spree.

On a Sunday morning, only tourists walk the streets and engage with predatory tour bus employees. I miss the Seattle Freeze.

My son’s friend wants to visit the top of the Empire State Building. We spend $240 for 7 tickets. It’s a hit job.

We are corralled into Disney-like traffic flow patterns around corners so the wait doesn’t break our anticipatory spirit. I take a picture of the Freedom Tower because that’s what you do. We spend 20 minutes on the Observation Deck and are done.

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Side streets in Manhattan are a backstage of sorts. It’s where loading docks, hotel alleys, dumpsters and kitchen doors are apparatuses of the consumer spectacle on the main drags.

We walk 33rd Street west towards The Vessel, a giant Escher-esque sculpture in Hudson Yards.

MSG looks like a mod stereo speaker from the sixties. It’s ugly, but ironic. The original Pennsylvania Station, a beautiful Beaux-Arts structure, was torn down in a time when modernity meant progress. Today, such a structure would be a architectural treasure.

On Eighth and 33rd, the James A. Farley Post Office is being renovated into the Moynihan Train Hall, named after the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who advocated for a new Pennsylvania Station in the Farley building decades ago. When completed, it will become a new transportation hub for a relevant-conscious city trying to retain an exodus of residents.

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The Westside train yards have been transformed into Hudson Yards, a commercial and residential hub that connects the High Line, the Javits Center and the continuing development of the Hudson riverfront. The Vessel is the centerpiece.

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We walk through a mall to the Vessel. A security guard gives us directions. “Turn left at Cartier.” I notice again the dearth of actual shoppers. Lots of people congregate around the Vessel.

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The shiny copper exterior attracts people to their own visage in the monolith. I wonder if the stewards of this sculpture will let the copper patina?

Aquamarine and purple swirls, Neiman Marcus long gone.

Damn Yankees by Akira Ohiso

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I take the boys to Yankee Stadium to watch the Bombers play the Red Sox. We get to the park early, but the lines to get in are already long. Only a few gates are opened.

An exasperated older man behind me says, bromidically, “This is the post-9/11 world we live in.” With anachronistic assuredness, he doesn’t notice people walking through a gate with no lines.

Clear, a biometric company, has a gate that allows people who sign up ($15 per month) to skip long lines at airports and stadium events. Clear technology scans your eyes and fingerprints. You simply walk through without showing ID.

Eventually this will be the norm. Face recognition will replace any need to carry identification and even money. What will the people selling $1 water bottles outside the stadium do? Valu-Pack disposable scanners.

We sit in the grandstands right behind the left field foul pole. A family from Sheffield, England is at their first Yankee game.

I strike up a conversation with the father who is a high school teacher. We talk about the similarities between baseball and cricket eventually getting to the topics of Trump and Brexit.

He tells me that Brexit is supported by many people who didn’t know what they were voting for. It was marketed as a nationalistic solution to immigration and a lagging economy, but instead it has put many people out of work who relied on EU membership for their livelihoods.

I mention similarities between Trump and Johnson and their ability to use fear to garner votes and power at the expense of citizens not in the know.

He agrees. Do dispel the idea that the United States is synonymous with Trumpian politics, he often reminds his students that more than half of Americans do not support Trump.

The Yankees beat the Red Sox 9-2.

Two deadly shootings occured at a Walmart in El Paso and a bar in Dayton, Ohio. 29 people were killed. The suspects are both white men in their early twenties. Angry white men with guns are the most dangerous threat to Americans…and Mitch McConnell.