Lyn and Thang were of Vietnamese extraction. The former being a girl and the latter a boy was classmates of mine also. Both were of consanguineous relation. When the bell rang signalizing the discontinuance of that day in school, I walked with Lyn and Thang to their residential apartment, which was located not too far from where Elizabeth stayed. I could get to my friends place from two different directions. Walking down Coldwater Canyon Av to Vose I made a right, and going down this street I reached alcove where I turned left, and continuing further up I came to Barbra Ann Street. I went through an enclosed alleyway before coming to my classmates’ neighborhood. Sometimes when walking back to the Coldwater Apartment building I would go down Barbra Ann to Alcove then Goodland. I passed Elizabeth’s house before I finally turned down Basset onto Coldwater Canyon Av. Either way I walked or returned I had to cross the alleyway to go to Lyn and Thang’s apartment; or mine. When my friends and I passed through the narrow passageway there were chain locked fences on each side. Behind these concrete walls stood with graffiti sprawled across them. This is quite common in California as other States. Gang members claiming their turf or insulting those who are rivals could be seen on walls, but especially in alleyways like the one Lyn, Thang, and I walked through.
Emerging from the other end of the passageway there off to the side was a maple tree. Its leaves bedazzled me. There sugar brown foliage with a blend of yellow and red seemed to reflect a spectrum of other colors as they fluttered under the sunshine. When a leaf fell it appeared like felicitous tears for a blissful season. The scepter of autumn did show its regalia of exquisite, priceless gems of earth’s treasure. Stepping forth from the alley I could hear the rustling of leaves. Lyn, Thang, and I were in the vicinity where they lived. We had come on a street that curved. Aside of it two story unit apartments became apparent. As the street straightened more apartments and houses were situated as those before them. They all ran in correspondence to the whole street. Upon making it to Lyn and Thang’s place, the two would go inside to put their books away, and then come back outside and dabble with me in a game of blackjacks. We did not play long because about an hour later their parents called them inside. They had apprised me of the Vietnamese tradition. They were to pay homage to their deity, Buddha. Buddhism is much a part of the Asian culture per se. This is especially true of those Eastern and Central regions.
Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was a spiritual guru somewhere during the first and second century. His birth is uncertain. His death is even more of a mystery, though some speculate he might have died between 486 to 483 BCE. Some have even theorized he probably expired in 411 to 400 BCE. Whatever the time of his demise he did exist, and the religion of Buddhism was founded on his teachings. The word Buddha means awakened or enlightened one. This was the import of what he taught. There is an account given of how at the age 29 as a prince Siddhartha departed from his palace to go meet his subjects. His father sought to hide from him the sick, aged, diseased, and dead. However he met an old man suffering. Siddhartha charioteer, Channa explained to him all grow old. Henceforth, the Prince decided to travel more beyond the palace walls. As he did the royal son encountered a diseased man, decaying corpse, and an ascetic. This depressed him, and so Siddhartha made the decision to live the life of an ascetic. He desired to prevent aging. He relinquished all material possessions, and transverse the country teaching his message.
Lyn and Thang’s parents paid homage to their god devoutly. Daily they worshiped what was considered their immortalized teacher. My conjecture is that they meditated before a representation of the god Buddha as they hummed or chanted. I am not sure of how the ritual was done however. My relationship with my schoolmates did not last long, and had an end similar to Elizabeth’s, except religion would correlate with the separation. It happened on that usual walk to my friends’ apartment. It was Thang and on foot talking as we headed in the direction of his dwelling place. Lyn had not been present. If I recall correctly she remained home because of a cold. On the way there I began to ask Thang about his religion. He told me what he understood it to be, or rather what his body of beliefs were, as a central point of the Vietnamese custom. In returned I shared with him my religious values. My mother a practicing Christian had early in the lives of my brothers and I instill biblical principles. She would tell us of those holy men of antiquity. The most dominant subject Wallace, Marcus and I heard was the children of Israel. My mother often recited this story to us because she said my brothers and I were so out of control she deemed us similar to those who disobeyed God. My mind was most impressionable at this time. I retained much. I repeated to Thang what I learned. He had questions about my beliefs as well. When he and I reached his familiar abode, he went inside, and stayed there for a while. When he finally did come out, he relayed to me his parents’ message. They simply did not want me to return to their apartment. As the predicament with Elizabeth and I was not understood the circumstance with Lyn and Thang’s parents was even less apprehended. When I matured I could rationalize that my schoolmates’ parents did not want me to diffuse my religious beliefs. The Vietnamese during the 80’s most likely judged Christianity as corrupt western views. If so, this attitude would stem back to the Vietnamese War.
I have read that those who hold sacred office in the Catholic organization attempted to convert the native Vietnamese to Catholicism. The North Vietnamese and their allies refused. Sometime later war was initiated by the United States of America. Many in our country considered it an aimless conflict. It was never really comprehended why the war in the first place. Few hold the belief that the Vietnamese war had been instigated by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Whether it is true or not what is interesting is that the Vietnamese War was also named Spelly’s War. Cardinal Spellman was evidently a holder of holy office. He went on numerous occasions to the warfront to encourage the soldiers. The commander of the American forces was General Westmoreland, himself a Roman Catholic. Although there is no evidence of Cardinal Spellman’s motives or agenda, it is a noteworthy fact that he oversaw the war in conjunction with Westmoreland. I did not see Lyn or Thang ever again, but I still walked to their neighborhood. I associated myself with other kids from The Coldwater Canyon Elementary school. There was Maria, Carol, Marcos, and many others.
Since the vicinity had a large part of Hispanics, I found myself in company with that group the most. It was here I attended my first Mexican party. A young Hispanic woman arranged a birthday party for her daughter. Children who lived near the girl came to this special occasion. The Party was held above from where Lyn and Thang’s stayed. They did not come as one could only know the reason why. There was lots of food, entertainment, and kids. I played, ate, and it seemed like one endless round of fun. I did not think it would ever stop. Towards the end of the party a donkey of papier-mâché was suspended in the air, or what is known as a piñata. Within it were fruits, candies, and gifts of Latin concoction. The birthday girl was the first blind-folded, a stick or baseball bat placed in her hand; she swung until she hit the piñata. It spent around in an axis and oscillated until she made contact a second time. If she could not breach the material fabricated donkey, other kids tried it. At last, after constant impact the piñata split, and what was inside had come to be extricated. The day began to wane as the children lessen. They slowly disappeared inside their places. The sun blazed, its form appeared like a circular mirage of pure heat. It seemed to peer through the domain of its chambers; like the penetrating gaze of God. When it disappeared beneath the horizon, a soft blue color draped the twilight sky, until it passed into the dark night. The last few kids withdrew into their apartments. All was silent.
I had come to this neighborhood many of days. I watched more than a thousand sunsets from this place I frequented. It was late in the night for child such as me when I began to walk home. At around 8:00p.m. I made my way through the alleyway. This was dangerous looking back in hindsight. I could have been abducted, raped, or killed. It had taken me about thirty-minutes to reach the Coldwater Canyon Apartment Building. My mother never liked when I came home passed 6:00p.m., and she could not find me because she didn’t know of my whereabouts. She feared for my safety. Although she scolded me, I disregarded her reproofs. It was at this point in my life that I begin to rebel. I had always felt like something missing in my life. My vexed soul could not articulate the vicissitudes of harsh reality. When I went around other children I yearned for the happiness they had; though I enjoyed my childhood to a large degree, inside there was a distant desire to have that family belonging. I observed Mexican families as they were constantly surrounded by family members. They all had smiles on their faces from having a sense of acceptance, and I wanted this. I can truly say it was my first thought of intrigue with the Latin culture.
My mother never neglected or showed any lack of solicitude towards me so as to give rise to such feelings in myself. I could not interpret my emotions, yet they harassed me. I somehow had the impression I was out of place. I consistently felt an insatiable longing to be received by others. Maybe not having my biological father had to do with this unwanted disturbance. Yet it could have been a foreboding of some future event. My life today might have been that presentiment I once retained as a child. Through the years it would all unfold.
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