The weather was starting to change –coolness was coming into San Francisco. As I got to know my friends, and was partaking in the bars around the area, Joe looking for a place for me to stay, I was learning I was far from being educated in the world of sexuality. That is to say, I didn’t understand the world of homosexuality, and in San Francisco, especially the Castro area it was famous for it, if not down right swamped with homosexuals. Again my Midwestern lack of education came into play. I had been noticing a few things happening that was coming to light. If I knew anything in this area it was primitive at best. And for being prejudice, I didn’t even know the word existed. And so I was an unlearned as a carpenter needing an apprentice.
I had went into a bar the second month I had been in San Francisco, about a block and a half away from the dojo. I sat in the bar and drank for about an hour, and a young good looking man came up to me buying me drinks. I thought it strange at first, but back home it was common for someone to buy you or the whole bar a round of drinks, –nevertheless, having said that, as the time went on, he would not allow me to buy him any drinks back. Then he asked if we could go to his place and drink. I asked, “What for…” he said, “You really don’t know?” He quickly found out I didn’t, and I said I think I need to go. I explained I was taking karate at the dojo around the corner, and I was from Minnesota. I do not think I impressed him, other than being a virgin I suppose, in his eyes.
“Look at the pictures on the walls, around and towards the ceiling, the ones hanging by wires,” he asked me. And so I did.
“Now what do you see?”
“Almost completely naked men,” I said.
“You’re getting it,” he commented, “And don’t worry about buying me a drink, but you will be back for me, I know.” I told him I really had to go but I liked our conversation. I kicked myself in the ass for being so dump, when I left the bar. Then I got thinking about the guy who picked up my matches that fell out of my hands the other day, he almost fell over and got hurt trying to pick them up. He wanted to take me home. Things were starting to fall in place.
Under questioning myself, I tried to recall a few more instances. The guy in the bar by “Sammie’s” kept trying to put his arm around me one early evening, and I told him to stop or I’d get mad and have to do something. He just kept it up, and the bar tender didn’t’ do a thing, so I gave him a solid right elbow in the side of his rib, and he fell over onto the bar, I think I heard it split, and the bar tender called the cops on me.
“Why are you calling the cops on me, he’s the one attacking me, I’m just defending myself,” it wasn’t all truthful, and he knew it, but he was trying to violate me.
“Get out of her before the cops come and haul you in Mister,” he hollered at me, in fear I’d start trouble. It took me a while to put two and two together, and figure out it was a gay bar. Poor man, he was just trying to come on. I thought what next. I left the bar quickly, and watched my language, back then I hardly ever swore anyhow, it was not the thing to do. My mother chased me out of the house at age nine-teen for swearing and I guess I don’t blame her, and this was not the time or place to start.
Year’s later people back home would tell me I was living in a city of sin and perverted people that I had most likely slept with, to include men. I said nothing, for what could you say -these were people from my home town, and they would never understand, I mean never. And if I defended myself, they’d take that as a yes to me having sexual relations with men, and it would just get all around, and god help me with my mother, and you got it, everyone. Again, it was best to leave it alone when I did leave San Francisco.
But as I had learned in San Francisco, it was just a world I knew nothing about, it was part of the times, and it was the way it was. Like old man Mr. Green, it was just the way he was. If anything, I tried to understand, what I didn’t know, which was a lot. I never made protests for anything, Vietnam, Gays, you name it, and life was just too short to get so involved with trying to persuade or change someone to be like you.
I didn’t like drugs either, nor was I experienced in the homosexual world, or for that matter, not all that much in any world besides St. Paul. I had sex one evening with a white prostitute down on Mission Street where I worked by Lilli Ann, I was half drunk, and she was not at all what I wanted, a beast of the raw kind. Another time I had sex with another prostitute downtown San Francisco, she was a black woman, we screwed for hours and she said, “Man, you like to screw, but I got to go make money honey, you can sleep it off here.” She left, and when I woke up, she never took a thing, and I simply walked back to the dojo.
I wasn’t looking to carry on any long term relationship, and to be quite honest, I was wondering why men were finding me attractive, but felt it was best in leaving well enough alone, it would go away. If anything I was more scared to find out which ones were, and what approaching new friends might be of that nature, I needed to kind of rehearse and let them know this was not my preference. I guess it was not acceptable to me to hate, or for that matter beating up people for their likes and dislikes. I would prefer to fight for honor, sport and practice, or safety.
It was a Thursday evening, I had walked back to the dojo, –it was going on 5:30 PM, I had stopped at a Chinese restaurant, ate dinner, some rice with beef and dark gravy and green peppers over the rice, it was delicious, and had some tea, that sunk to the bottom of the tea-pot, that also was excellent. Then again, back to the dojo. By the time I reached the dojo, everyone had left, it was 7:00 PM, usually I got back early to work out, and Friday nights I avoided going back to the dojo because it was Black Belt night until 8:00 PM. None-the-less, I entered the dojo, and sat back placidly against the sofa, the counter to my left, the archway to the gym [dojo] straight ahead stared at me; as it normally did. And then it happened, it was close to 10:00 PM; — what everyone had told me about, the ghost, that is what happened, oh yes, I met him. I can’t describe it emotionally with prose, so I had to write it down after the meeting in poetic verse, I never did give it a name, the poem that is, so let’s do it now, how about “The Ghost of the Collingswood Dojo,” ok? And now for the poem:
I heard him last night
About 10:00 P.M.
(In the silence of the wind)
Trying to get in;
Tapping at the windows
The podium stand;
Knocking over wooden chairs –
As I was half-asleep
In the gym.
I heard him last night
I was standing by the archway –
To the gym;
Alone–in the black-silence
Of his night.
His footsteps passed me –
I saw the wooden floor
I stood in a warrior’s stance
(I remember) —
And said with a cry of sin:
“I wasn’t about to let you in.”
Then with hidden strength
I called to the Lord (although
Something told me to
In less than a second
I heard the silence in the wind:
Leaving in all directions.
Ten years had passed [l978]
I met a woman: she
Seemed to understand more than I
What really took place
In the silence of that night?
(Maybe I was too young back then)
To realize what was really happening):
But before she left–like in
The silence of the wind –
I heard/she said:
“It wasn’t a dream,
But a scheme;
Thank your Lord;
You didn’t challenge Him.”
Even now [l982] as I write –
I can feel his pulling
On my pen.
Note: Originally published in the Minneapolis, Minnesota, Independent Newspaper, “Insight,” January 6th, l983, under the title “About 10:00 P.M.
The evening was a chilling experience, after the event, of yelling into the wide open dojo, where no one really was, the chairs that once were rocking, as many of black belts had told me, and feared to sleep overnight in the dojo, stopped. The steps that made the wood crackling noise as if a giant was walking by me, I could see its [his] weight upon the wooden floor absorb into it, I stood still as still could be. The windows stopped chattering, and went back to its stillness, which was part of the night’s atmosphere, notwithstanding. I would not move out of the dojo, unless told to, the spirits or ghosts would have to deal with me, as I would them. And so I fixed my pillow on the sofa, put down a fighting stick, and went to sleep, as usual.
At all events, I was surprised that Black Belts, highbrowed and such felt they had no power over the unseen world. Stern as they portrayed themselves to be, was this all the courage I could find in them, nothing beyond the visible; doubtless, however, no wonder envy got them. For I did not envy what they had, as they did I; –and I thought I had very little, although Gosei and Buck’s friendship was a treasure. The black belts could not understand, or maybe they could, I was simply enjoying what they had found, the wisdom and golden grain of the Master Yamaguchi. Yet with all this fuss, I was not thinking anything bad of them, for they originally made me feel at home, and I loved them for it. But now they did not like my relationship with Goesi.
One night after eating at the Japanese restaurant, Joe told me he found a place for me to stay with a Mexican family, that he’d show me the place the coming weekend. He then said something very strange.
“The black belts don’t like you chumming up to Gosei so much, I’m telling you to pull back for your own good.”
“What if I don’t,” I asked.
“Well, I’ll have to kick the shit out of you.”
“Listen Joe,” I said, “I might be backward in this big city, and you being a second degree black belt I’d be crazy to fight you, now what do you think I would do.” He looked strange at me, and said, “You tell me.”
“I’d have no choice; I’d do what anyone in my old neighborhood would do, that is, go buy a gun and shoot you.” I was kidding, I think.
He started laughing, “You’re kidding…” then looked at me for an answer.
“You don’t know us Midwesterners do you.” I said cunningly. That was it, he never brought the subject up again, and we remained distant friends, although he let me go to his house the following day to take a shower, I had not taken one for three months, and he throw two bars of soap in and told me not to come out for an hour. To appease him I stayed in for about 40-minutes; couldn’t find another area to scrub.
I didn’t know how anything was going to turn out, only that I wasn’t willing to accommodate the black belts in their game, and they were starting to take a disliking with me, and again there was not much I could do about that. If I had learned anything in Minnesota, it was you do not back away, if need be you get your ass kicked. I guess they had their own commoroady, and I was in the way.
My New Home
[The Latin Family]
Joe came over in the morning with his mother’s car to bring me to this Latin’s family’s home, —I was to rent their screened-in-porch attacked to the house. It wasn’t all that far from the doJo, which was located on Collingswood Street, not far from Market Street which went into downtown San Francisco.
It was Saturday morning, Joe came in the dojo, I could hear the doors open, then up the long flight of stairs, I heard his heavy feet, when he reached the top, I was looking at Buck’s gallery of books in the back of the dojo, I was always amazed how he could have read all these paperbacks, mostly Edgar Rice Burroughs. Sometimes I thought he read them for a distraction, you know, so as not to have to think about maybe unpleasantries at home. Not sure how his home life was though, only met his mother once and they he and his mother both seemed pleasant, and very much to their own, although they seemed to have gotten along also.
“Chick,” Joe called loudly, I heard him. He was always tanned, a natural tan, that Latin look. He had very white teeth, short hair, about 5’ll” and with a leonine head.
“What you up to,” he yelled, —-Goesi was not in yet, it was 8:30 AM.
“We’re lucky, “he commented when he saw me at the other end of the dojo, on the stage area checking out the books.
“Why’s that Joe,” I said.
“Mom needed the car, but decided at the last minute I could use it, in spite of, au–grocery shopping, I suppose. I told her I’d be back before noon.”
“No problem, I got everything ready.” I didn’t have much to carry, just a small suite case, and a medium size box filled with cloths, karate suite, and new york yankees zip up hoodie , a jacket.
“They’re good Spanish folks, you’ll like them,” Joe tried to convince me. I think the whole black-belt committee felt a little safer now,–I say,–safer because now they could have Goesi to themselves. I’ve never competed for his friendship, he gave it willingly, and I was always overwhelmed that he liked me, and proud of it; and at the same time, not really knowing what to say half the time.
I also think part of this move I was about to make was because of Coleman, the black young man, 2nd degree black belt. He had come in one night, it must had been around 10:30 PM, expecting to see me sleeping, he caught me with a girl, a Latin gal from Nicaragua. I had met her on the bus coming to the dojo from work about a month ago, and went over to her house, and her mother jumped all over us with this Spanish lingo, only thing I remember was my little Latin beauty saying in Spanish she didn’t understand, and adios, and we took off. She was slender, with a fine looking face, about 5’4″, and boy she could kiss. We laid in the back of the dojo, where there was another coach for the visitors, and she was half naked and Colman came in. Well, he got even I’m sure.
“Come on let’s go gooo…” said Joe; –he also was anxious to get rid of me. Joe could be hilarious at times, that is, in a concealed annoying way. I don’t think he ever was on his own for a day in his life, but he tried to be a good guy, none the less.
As I got into his Volkswagen he drove down Castro Street. I was thinking of the tournament coming up soon. I would still be part of it all. Maybe not be able to go with the black belts anymore, but Buck would take me back to Berkeley possible, see Goesi in action teaching out at San Francisco State. And possible I’d see the garden spot in the hills and the Claremont Hotel and Tennis club, once again, it was pointed out to me once, I think it was that big white structure on the hill. Things would change, but they had to.
We drove for about ten minutes, we ended up down around Mission and Dolores, in a small neighborhood, to the South of us was these old expensive looking mansions, and the street was filled with beautiful palm trees lined all the way up the street. Now why was I not going into one of them houses I asked myself?
“Here we are Chick,” said Joe. I got out, and he walked me up to the small house, and introduced me to the woman of the house, Joe spoke Spanish, I never knew he could, and spoke it very well.
“Hola, amigo,” she said, “We ee, happiee to oo tenerte, –hav u,” she was trying hard to speak English, and called for her boy, “Georgeeeeeee…
Puedes ayudarme a traducir para el gringo [Can you help me to translate for the blond hair boy]?”
Quickly the young boy who was about eleven years old appeared, in front of me answered his mother by saying: “Si mamá [Yes mother].”
She said something, and I quickly learned he was going to be our interpreter.
“Well, Chick,” said Joe in a happier voice, “I hope all turns out for you.”
“Yaw, thanks Joe, it was real nice of you,” as he removed himself from my presence quickly to get his mother’s car back, for he had to drive back over to Oakland, and it was a little ways, he never turned back to look at me.
write by turner