Cruising the Green of Second Avenue

Wild Child Publishing has issued the second volume of short stories in Cruising the Green of Second Avenue. The tales take up where Vol. I left off — bringing back Klein the Biker, Straight Charlie and Sammy the Madman while introducing new characters stumbling over life’s difficulties in the late 60s. Vol. II is an e-book published by Wild Child Publishing that you can download, save as a pdf (Adobe) file and print. Read both volumes and see that life isn't all that serious. Find it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other online book sellers.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Horrors in My Oregon Hometown

Forest Grove in the 1940s
Nicholas Kristof wrote a horrifying op-ed piece in the Aug. 14 New York Times, describing teenage racial bullying.  A classmate tells a Mexican-American girl, “We’re going to deport your ass [when Trump is elected].”  And they chant “Build a wall!”  The divisiveness is only part of my horror; worse, Kristof was writing about the small Oregon town where I grew up. 

His descriptions challenged my memories because I was a product of Forest Grove’s Central elementary school and Harvey Clark middle school.  (Clark was founder of the town’s Pacific University who, ironically, created the first school to educate Indians, mixed-breed children and orphans in the 1840s.) 

In the 1940s and ‘50s we saw no prejudice.  But then, Forest Grove had no blacks, no Latinos, no more Indians and — possibly — only a handful of Jews.  It was accepted knowledge that these people were not allowed to spend the night in town.  Mexican migrants could work the fields, but no one knew where they stayed.  I saw the first and only blacks when we drove into Portland 20 miles away.  Pacific had a number of Hawaiian students, but they weren’t “townies” so they didn’t count. 

Forest Grove's Pacific Avenue today.
While Mom was descended from over 200 years of New Englanders, Dad was German-American, which raised a tiny bit of skepticism during World War II.  This white utopia ended when my family moved in 1954 to the Los Angeles area, followed by another move to New Jersey “back East.”  As we all do, I grew up and married a Taiwanese woman.  My younger brother married a non-observant Jewish girl.  A cousin married a black, but she was a folk singer who ran away to Greenwich Village.  We had left the provincialism of that farm and logging town.  We had begun to see the world in all its beauty and diversity. 

Will Forest Grove ever be exposed to people who are “different”?  Oregon has its legacy of the black exclusion law enacted in 1844 that ordered whipping of blacks — 39 lashes once every six months — until they left the territory.  Today, African-Americans still make up only 2 percent of Oregon’s population, Latinos 12 percent and Asians 4 percent.