In 1934, the snow-covered Sierras peeking over a brown rampart of foothills looked close enough to touch. Our strawberry fields shimmered in the summer heat. Grape trellises shaded tongue-in-groove walls, but the little yellow house my father built felt stifling in the summer. We’d eat a lunch of okazu (vegetables from our garden, mixed with a small amount of meat) and rice. Then I would rest beside Papa on a wooden platform in the shade of our walnut tree.
One hot day, my younger brother Yukio sauntered by and said, “I sure would like to have some ice cream.”
I sat up. “Let’s make some.”
I ran to the barn for the berries and found my older brother Jun assembling wooden crates. Soft or discolored fruit would not sell. Overripe strawberries–the sweetest and best tasting–were for us. Gathering in the backyard, we placed the berries in the inner chamber of the ice cream maker and poured a can of milk from the cupboard over them. Then we put chipped ice and rock salt in the outer chamber and cranked. As time passed, the crank became heavier.
Mama taught us giri, or duty. We shared the work and the bounty because that’s what Japanese American children did. Perhaps the toil and anticipation was what made our ice cream so delicious.
During the winter’s rainy season, the pastures of the Sacramento Valley turned a lush green. Beyond a barbwire fence, within sight of our house, lay a clover field owned by the landlady, Miss. Welch. With her permission, my brothers and I played there. In the simple dress my mother made, I liked to search for four-leaf clovers. One afternoon I decided to do somersaults.
After I did a few, Yukio’s voice carried from near the house. “I see London. I see France. I see somebody’s underpants.”
I tried to ignore him, but he wouldn’t stop. Finally, I ran to the fence, spread two strands, and slipped through. Laughing, Yukio led me around the barn and the persimmon tree. Then he climbed the walnut tree. I fetched the hose and shot water at him.
Relations between the races were courteous, but each group kept to itself. The Japanese farmers and farm laborers lived simply and worked in the fields, while some of the whites I knew were wealthy. Occasionally, Mama told me to take some of our strawberries to Miss Welch, the spinster who owned a hundred acres of pasture and orchards, ten of which we leased. On those days, our dog Rover and I walked along a barbwire fence. Beyond it, Miss Welch’s tall, white Victorian house overlooked assorted fruit trees. I ascended her freshly-painted steps.
The slender, gray-haired woman opened the door with a warm smile. “Come in, Aiko.”
Shyly, I stepped inside. “Mama sent me with strawberries.”
Miss Welch walked past a fancy kerosene stove to a jar on a wooden counter. She reached in and handed me two pieces of chocolate fudge.
I felt my face glow. “Thank you,”
After hurrying home with Rover, I found Yukio playing marbles under our grape arbor. “Look what Miss Welch gave me.” I broke off a piece of fudge for Yukio and lay back to enjoy the rare treat.
Vine tendrils grasped the trellis like slender fingers. Above a chaotic tangle, shoots rose toward the sun as if vying to be the first to reach the sky.
Jun, Yukio and I walked a mile to elementary school. Half the students were Japanese. A lady with teardrop glasses and a toothy smile taught the combined fifth and sixth grades. Sitting in the second row, I occasionally heard whispering from the back. James, an Italian boy with black, wavy hair a year ahead of me, often passed notes and talked. Though no one admitted it, I think most of our boys envied the way James played soccer at recess. By far the best player, he could elude two or three defenders and score almost at will.
When I entered sixth grade, James went on to seventh, which made our class quieter. I saw him at recess with a group of white boys, kicking a brown ball on the soccer field. The sport never caught on with us, perhaps because showing off brought out group ridicule, or what I call Japanese backbiting.
During afternoon recess, James approached our gang. “Hey, you guys want to play soccer? I’ll teach you.”
After an awkward pause, one of the boys said, “I think you have a bet with your friends that you can beat them with a Japanese team.”
“What I do with my money is my business.”
“Gambling is illegal.”
James grinned. “My uncle told me a thing is only illegal if you get caught.”
Jun and some of the older boys shrugged and stepped forward. I wanted to join but was afraid of being the only girl.
Yukio, my kid brother, beckoned. “Come on. I’m smaller than you.”
I looked at my scuffed Mary Janes. “All right.”
“Great.” James looked us over. “We’ll meet here at morning recess to practice.”
The next day James brought a beat-up soccer ball to school. At recess he showed us some ball tricks, paying more attention to me than the others. There were sullen looks. Knowing the boys would gossip about us, I stayed on the far side of the group. The following mornings James barely gave me a glance as he drilled us in passing, ball-handling, and how to take a shot. Mostly he was patient, though a couple of times he walked away, muttering under his breath. After a week he pronounced us ready.
We played on a muddy grass field where a couple of sandbags marked each goal. Miss Rockwell, the young upper grades teacher with a big nose, refereed. The other team consisted of seventh and eighth grade white boys. Although they lacked James’s slick moves, they passed and dribbled better than us Japanese. They would surround James, steal the ball, and score. We lost 14 to 1.
As the season progressed the grass on the field turned brown, and we returned to class covered with dust. We learned the game and a couple of times narrowed the deficit to a single goal. When that happened, the other side would huddle together and come out with grim faces. The game became rough, with tripping, elbowing, and the bigger white players shoving us aside. Our people accused Miss Rockwell of favoring the white boys, but I think they just hid their infractions.
After Memorial Day, a heat wave turned the Valley into an oven, and the teachers kept us out of the sun at recess. On the second-to-last day of school the temperature dropped, though it was still uncomfortable. James, who had been on his best behavior since the games started, begged for permission to play. Reluctantly, Miss Rockwell agreed. The other side scored three quick goals, but then they stopped running after loose balls. With James yelling directions, we tied the score. When they got the ball back, the white boys swarmed to our goal. James had taught our smaller players to find an open space. I was watching a battle for the ball when it soared and fell at my feet. Their goalie had moved up field but was running toward me. I poked the ball ahead a couple of times and kicked as hard as I could. As I watched the ball cross the goal line, something big hit me. I fell in a cloud of dust.
When I looked up, James was pushing the goalie’s shoulders. “Want to eat a knuckle sandwich?”
The boy made a fist. “It was an accident.”
“I got two words for you, and they ain’t ‘Merry Christmas.’”
Miss Rockwell threw both of them out of the game for fighting.
Jun called our team together and looked around the circle of faces. “This is not a game anymore. This is about honor.”
We pressed the attack. Their new goalie had to make a couple of diving saves. Then the ball sailed back. I was the only one on our side of the field, and I ran to defend the goal. When I turned around, a boy with the ball was running in my direction.
James raised his fist and shouted, “Knuckle sandwich!”
The boy, who was nearly twice my height, could have maneuvered past. Instead he launched a shot over my head. Before it hit the ground, the bell ending recess sounded.
“No goal!” shouted Miss Rockwell. “It would have gone over the crossbar.”
James ran toward me with his arms open wide. At the last moment he stopped and flashed me a smile. “You were great.”
“We just did what you taught us.” I looked away.
At lunchtime James met with the other team. I suspect money changed hands. After school Jun, Yukio and I started home with a dozen Japanese, most of them friends of my little brother. The only shade on the patched asphalt road was the wooden telephone poles, which reminded me of stick men carrying wires on their shoulders.
James hurried to our group. “Hey, team. You three want to go to Costa’s to celebrate our victory?”
“We don’t have any money,” said Yukio.
James grinned. “My treat.”
Jun edged between James and me. “We’re supposed to go straight home.”
“If I did everything my parents told me, I’d shrivel up like summer grass.”
“Sometimes we visit friends.” I tried to look cheerful to compensate for my brothers’ dour faces. “We can say you are a friend.”
James’s appraising glance made me uncomfortable. “Yeah, whatever. Where do you guys go on Wednesdays? After school I see a gang headed toward the river.”
I waited a few seconds before filling the silence. “Japanese school.”
“This is America!”
“We learn the history, language and customs of Japan. Last time we learned the proper way to sit.”
James squatted. “I know how to sit.”
“You’re supposed to kneel resting on your feet.”
“Our sister has a new boyfriend,” said Yukio in Japanese, which we spoke at home.
“What did they say?” James looked suspiciously at my brothers.
I tried not to blush. “They’re teasing.”
“I tease my sisters all the time.”
“The Japanese have a saying. The nail that stands up gets hammered down. We’re supposed to do what everyone else does. Anyone who’s odd gets teased.”
“I’m weird, but I can’t help myself.” James staggered with his tongue hanging out.
I told James about Papa, who walked across the desert from Mexico with a friend, and Mama, who left everything she knew to cross the ocean with a taciturn man to whom she had been introduced as his potential bride. James was so different from us Japanese, who worshipped our teachers and obeyed our parents. I wanted to get to know him. I didn’t dare ply him with questions in front of my brothers.
Costa’s general store was a narrow room on the side of a house. We chose our sweets, which we ate in the building’s shade. On the way back James described sneaking into barns, stealing street signs, and playing softball on a pasture where they had to avoid cow pies. He wanted to become a pitcher like Dizzy Dean of the St. Louis Cardinals, whose games he followed on the radio. Before we came within sight of our house, he left with a spring in his step.
When we got home, Mama was at her treadle sewing machine.
“Jun, what is that you are carrying?”
“A friend of Aiko’s treated us.”
“What Japanese would be so extravagant?”
“It was a white boy in our class. He taught us how to play soccer.”
Mama frowned. “Aiko, come here.”
I held out the treat. “We saved some for you.”
“You have brought haji [shame] to our family!” Mama seized the chocolate, broke it in half, and threw it in the rubbish bin.
“I’m sorry, Mama.”
“You must never speak to that white boy again.”
On the last day of school, graduations were announced. I was going on to the combined seventh and eighth grade class. Jun would attend high school. At recess I learned that James, who had flunked math and gotten a D in English, would remain in the seventh grade. He was sitting under the cypress across from the school’s twin blue doors, looking dejected.
When I walked past, he said, “Hey, Aiko.”
I ignored him. All that summer I felt I had betrayed a friend. The morning before school started in the fall, I wrote a note:
I couldn’t say anything because Mama told me not to talk to you. Thank you for teaching us soccer. I hope you do well this year.
That first day James sat one row behind me, but I never glanced back. At morning recess he sat under the cypress, watching some Japanese girls play jacks.
As I walked past, he said, “Hey, Aiko.”
Feeling everyone’s eyes on me, I couldn’t drop the note or look at him. I slinked back, but the same thing happened. When the bell rang, the note was no longer in my hand. Blushing, I searched but couldn’t find it.
On the way out for afternoon recess, James appeared at my side. “I know you can’t talk to me, but if I flunk again Ma said she’s gonna sit on me. That ain’t no joke ’cause Ma is big as a house. I can’t figure out long division, and I thought that since I showed you how to kick a soccer ball, you could point to where those numbers go. We can sit with my books between us, so people won’t think something’s going on.”
I don’t remember agreeing, but he acted as if I did. James put three books beside him beneath the tree, and I sat on the other side of them. Through gestures and instructions written on scraps of paper, I went over his homework. We met under the cypress the following day. Half a dozen white boys gathered around us. They made a kissing sound.
James stood, fists clenched. “You got something to say to me?”
In the tense silence, a crow cawed in the tree above us. The door to the school opened.
Miss Rockwell stepped out. “James, Aiko, come inside.”
We followed her into the classroom.
She closed the door and sat behind her desk. “I don’t want the two of you sitting together outside.”
“We ain’t touching or nothing,” said James. “I seen eighth graders doing all kinds of stuff.”
“If someone from the Asiatic Exclusion League sees you, he’ll complain about Yellow Peril and get the entire staff of the school fired.”
“Isn’t that a disease carried by mosquitoes?” I asked.
“The League is second cousin to the Nazis. The American Legion, the California Federation of Labor, and the Sacramento Bee support their policies. Don’t mess with them.”
James gestured with his arms. “If I flunk math, Ma is gonna throw me outta the house.”
I looked around the room. “May we stay in here?”
“State regulations require a time of physical activity,” replied Miss Rockwell.
“Every morning I gather eggs, feed the rabbits, and prepare our bathhouse. On weekends I dig weeds or pick berries.”
“I play with the guys after school.” James pantomimed swinging a bat.
The teacher glanced out the window. “I’ll talk to the principal.”
Through the autumn and winter James and I sat in the back of the classroom during morning recess. I never spoke to him and became adept at writing notes. With the teacher working at her desk, we confined our communications to schoolwork. On the rare occasions when she left, James would make jokes or strange noises. I enjoyed his company, particularly when he watched me with mischief in his brown eyes. Though he wasn’t strikingly handsome, his emotions lay close to the surface. Japanese were taught to be competitive but never show pride, to be obedient and never show resentment, to be polite and never show anger. James’s face displayed all those things, enough so that I wondered what his family was like. When good weather returned in the spring, our sessions became less frequent. It was the soccer season, and Japanese played on mixed teams with whites.
I was surprised Mama never learned of our tutoring sessions. The gratitude of the players saved us. Yukio told me he and his friends made a pledge of silence and spread the word that anyone who prattled about us would incur the scorn of every Japanese soccer player.
In June, James was double-promoted and graduated. A year later I followed him to West Sacramento High School. My grades were good enough for me to study college prep and hope to land a scholarship to a drama school in the East. But my duty was to my family. I learned typing and shorthand in the business curriculum. My income as a secretary would help on the farm and could put my future husband through college.
I never said more than a few words to male classmates until spring, when my best friend begged me to accompany her brother to the senior play. As a favor I agreed. Mama was furious because I was only fourteen, but I was determined to honor my commitment. The Japanese boy arrived at our house in a new Model-A Ford. When I opened our door, he handed me a gorgeous gardenia corsage. He was tongue-tied and took me to a Shakespearian play that made no sense to me. My first date was boring.
Despite the freedom provided by a large student body, there was one ironclad rule. No racial mixing between the sexes. Jun told me an interracial couple holding hands almost started a riot. My father had a saying, Shikata ga nai. It can’t be helped. James and I smiled at each other in passing but never spoke. I heard he was on the baseball team and had a pretty blonde girlfriend. In my junior year I went to a game and sat in the back with the Japanese. Although we never made eye contact, I got the feeling he knew I was there. James played shortstop, where he fielded with fluid grace. He seemed to try too hard and never got a hit.
After graduating, Jun and I attended junior college. With the Great Depression ending, fruit prices were on the rise. One evening Jun proposed buying four acres from the landlady. Japanese immigrants were barred from becoming naturalized citizens or owning land, but their children, who were citizens by birth, could. Papa objected that white people were too lazy to compete with Japanese. They would find a way to take the land away.
I think Papa was proud to be an American. A portrait of George Washington overlooked our big oval dining table. As the third-born son he would have inherited nothing from his family, but here he had a Model-T Ford with the back cut out to make a pickup truck, a camera with which he loved to take pictures of us, and the prestige of being the most prosperous Japanese farmer in our neighborhood.
On small, crowded islands, Japanese conformed to get along. Social cohesiveness became our strength. But in America, I wanted to spread my wings.
One sunny December morning I was relaxing on the swing Papa made from an old tire and a rope hanging from a walnut tree branch. Jun ran out of the house and announced the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. That day we buried Papa’s camera—so no one would think he was a spy—and threw his rifle into a creek. Then we built a bonfire. We tossed in books, pictures, phonograph records, anything Japanese. For months wild rumors circulated. One claimed the Japanese Army had landed in Oregon and was marching on Sacramento. Another said our men, several of whom had been arrested and interrogated, would be imprisoned on an island at the southern tip of Chile. Yukio told me a teacher at the Japanese school had been handcuffed in front of his children and made to sit on the floor while the FBI ransacked their home. The teacher was taken to a concentration camp that allowed no visitors.
The following April the strawberries were ripening. Papa said it would be a good crop. I was standing beside the wooden mailbox he built, marveling at how it seemed to shrink over the years, when I spotted a notice on a telephone pole:
INSTRUCTIONS TO ALL PERSONS OF JAPANESE ANCESTRY . . .
Japanese residing in California and the western half of Oregon and Washington would be relocated, by order of President Roosevelt.
We had two weeks to dispose of what we couldn’t carry and travel to an Assembly Center. Papa sold the crop, farm equipment, small truck, rabbits, chickens, furniture and a store of lumber for $350. Yukio took our dog to the pound. We were so busy that I hardly noticed my surroundings. I was outside filling the chickens’ water crock when a voice made my heart leap.
I glimpsed a figure in blue coveralls hurrying away. Then I spotted a paper airplane that settled in the irrigation ditch. The note on it read:
Here at sunrise tomorrow.
That night, in my dream, I stood on a beach beneath the stars. A cold wind blew, but I wore my summer dress. Out of the sea rose a huge, dark wave. Turning to run, I saw a giant George Washington silhouetted against the sky. I woke with a cry. Something kept hitting my chest like a hammer. I donned a jacket and went out. Light from a fat crescent moon made irregular bright patches amidst shadows. The walnut tree looked like a monster with twisting tentacles. I sat on the swing and pumped, letting the wind caress my face.
A shadowed apparition rose from our resting platform. I put my feet on the ground to run.
“It’s me.” James’s voice sounded deeper than I remembered.
“I couldn’t sleep.”
“My old man got on one of his drunks. I had to get out for my own safety.”
I slipped out of the tire. “It’s beautiful here. You don’t notice those things until you’re about to leave.”
“You’re . . .” He stepped closer, and I caught his pungent scent. “I been thinking of going to Saint Louis. Maybe find a semi-pro team to develop my skills and catch the eye of some Cardinals scout. Coach said I had talent. I just gotta develop it.”
“What about your girlfriend?”
“She makes me feel great, you know? But she’s a little slow on the uptake. I ain’t no genius myself, but if I was . . .”
The warmth inside me chased away the night’s chill. “You were a fine teacher.”
“Baseball ain’t for old men, so I could be a coach when I retire.” He glanced toward the ground. “I got eighty-four dollars to my name and a general education high school diploma. It ain’t much of a life, I know, but it’s all I got. Will you . . . I mean, I ain’t the type . . .”
“I couldn’t leave my family. Not at a time like this. But there is something you can do for me.”
“I kept the shoes that kicked the goal in our soccer game. It wouldn’t look right to take them when we have to pack all of our possessions in a few suitcases, but they mean a lot to me. Can you keep them until I come back?”
“Sure.” He sounded disappointed.
I reached into my jacket pockets and handed him my Mary Janes. “Thank you.”
“Don’t worry about what’s going to happen. If they do anything to you, I’ll walk up to that stinking Roosevelt and punch him in the mouth.”
“When this is over, I’ll meet you at your mother’s house. We can exchange stories.”
I wanted him to kiss me, to have that memory for the difficult times ahead. But I could never lie to Mama. Slowly, savoring each moment, I walked with him to the road. Crickets serenaded us. I was only five feet tall and James, who had not seemed much bigger during our tutoring sessions, towered over me.
At the mailbox he turned. “Be careful. It’s crazy out there. I got stopped one night ’cause I got black hair. Some jerk thought I was a spy. There are guys in my neighborhood with shotguns, ready to shoot anyone who looks Japanese.”
“We’re going to Marysville and probably inland after that. There are bound to be hard feelings, so it would be better not to visit.”
“I’m gonna join the Marines and give Tojo a knuckle sandwich for starting this war.”
I remembered the Day of Infamy speech and the horrible lie the President told that turned the country against us. “Jun says Roosevelt kept the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor when any sane person would have based it in San Francisco because he wanted it to be attacked. He’s using us, calling the Japanese sneaky, to unite the country against Hitler.”
“They bombed us!”
Half light and half shadow, he reminded me of my dream. Behind him hummocks of the Coast Range were waves on a black sea. Beyond them lay the skyscrapers of San Francisco, which I longed to visit.
“I used to think about you all the time.” I sensed our spirits flowing like a mist into the space between us and mingling. “Maybe it was a crush. So many things were forbidden, and Japanese children do what they’re told.”
He swayed, as if uncertain of what to do. “You been on my mind, too. The things Pa and his friends say… I won’t repeat them. One of my baseball buddies convinced me anything between us was impossible here. I thought Saint Louis would be different.”
“We are taught to accept the gifts, good and bad, that fate hands us.” I stepped back and waved. “Everything we do connects us to the world and through it to each other. I’ll feel you every time I kick a soccer ball.”
“I’ll feel you when I see numbers.”
Walking to the house, I didn’t dare look back because I wanted so badly to run into his arms.
Two months later we shared a tarpaper barracks with five other families. We had a potbelly wood-and-coal-burning stove, iron cots, straw-filled mattresses, and a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The toilet stalls lacked doors, and the showers were communal. Some girls went late at night or put bags over their heads. I played countless games of pinochle. There were dances on weekends, but I never found a beau. Though the boys were eager to tell funny stories, I couldn’t sense who they were inside. I liked to wake before dawn and stroll within sight of the barbwire fence. When the moon was up, I imagined James watching it with me.
I got a job as a waitress in the mess hall and later became a typist at the housing office. Tule Lake Camp lay in a dusty lakebed whose shells we gathered to make necklaces. One day a friend and I obtained permission to climb Castle Rock Mountain. From the summit, where evacuees had erected a large wooden cross, we could see our city of sixteen thousand surrounded by a tall fence and guard towers. Shikata ga nai.
The following year—1943—the Army announced it would accept Japanese Americans from camps like ours scattered in remote areas across the western half of the country. There were bitter debates, particularly about the loyalty oath our recruits had to sign. By autumn of 1944 word had spread of the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Their motto was “Go for Broke,” and it was said that they were more afraid of haji than enemy bullets. When he became old enough, Yukio volunteered. He wanted to become an engineer, and the G.I. Bill was the only way he could afford the tuition. His friends scoffed that Japanese American engineers were only hired to make coffee and count paper clips. Yukio countered that when the whites saw how well we fought, the old prejudices would melt away. His letters never described the dangers, just the cold, mud, and endless walking.
When travel restrictions eased that year, I left for Gregg Business College in Chicago. The following spring, in a place called Monte Altissimo, Yukio was killed by German artillery.
After the War, in Chicago’s close-knit Japanese American community, I met a veteran of the 442nd who was studying at the Illinois Institute of Technology to be a civil engineer. He asked me to marry him. His smile reminded me of Yukio, and he had the Japanese sense of giri. I told him that before I gave my answer, I had to go to California.
By 1946, incidents of arson, vandalism, and shots fired into the homes of returnees had dissipated. Sacramento was booming, and the suburbs were expanding toward our old farm. James’s family lived in a dilapidated house just outside of town. When I rang the bell, an obese woman with salt-and-pepper hair answered the door. Despite the pinched brow and disappointment etched on her face, the resolve in her hazel eyes reminded me of James.
I smiled. “I used to live in that yellow house down the road. I knew James—”
She slammed the door in my face. Perhaps it was a premonition that made me say, louder than I intended, “My little brother was killed fighting for America.” Hearing no response, I turned to the fields I knew so well.
“Hey, miss!” The woman opened the door and lumbered onto the porch. “I didn’t mean to be rude, but my son died at Iwo Jima two years ago.”
She invited me in and over a heavy lunch told me the trials of being his mother: the high-strung teacher with a screechy voice, the irate neighbor who threatened to shoot him, the soft-spoken policeman who described his own troubled childhood, and the gangster uncle she swore to kill if he ever allowed her son to work for him. I told her the time I watched Mama help Yukio get dressed. He bent over nude and backed toward me saying, “Kiss my ass.” When I didn’t respond, he moved closer and said it again. Silence. He took another step. My hand flew with a loud smack.
We cried in each other’s arms.
There wasn’t much space in the house, so they had moved his things to the attic. Inside a trunk, hidden under some sports paraphernalia, were my Mary Janes, polished and shiny like new. Below them were a few of the notes I wrote to him.
I live in a pink stucco ranch house with a view of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. My husband is a stoic Japanese, hard-working and dedicated to his family like my father. We have fruit trees on the hill, and the sea breeze allows me to work in my garden year round. My Mary Janes lie on the file cabinet beside my desk. Beneath them is a note to James, written on the back of my English homework:
This morning from our bathhouse I saw the sunrise above the mountains.
It beckoned to a place where everything is beautiful and dreams come true.
(This story first appeared in the literary magazine Pleiades.)
Ron Morita grew up in Chicago’s northwest side and the San Francisco Bay Area. He earned an MS in physiology from UCLA’s Brain Research Institute because so much of what we consider ourselves to be is in the brain. Finding himself more practical than theoretical, he received a MS in biomedical engineering from Case Western Reserve. In Greater Boston he designed electronics for Medtronic, iRobot, Lockheed Martin, and others. He honed his craft in writing groups and at Harvard Extension. His short fiction appeared in Pleiades, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, The Chamber Four Lit Mag, and other magazines. His five unpublished novels include an exposé on the fire alarm industry and the settling of a new world by star travelers. He attends the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and lives on a knoll among the redwoods in the off-grid house he designed.