tan clan.


he came to california when he was just a kid. thirteen, fourteen, couldn't have been much older than that. i see him now; he's standing in line with his mother at the bank, and he's never seen so many different looking people in his life. whites, asians, blacks, latinos - it's a weird place, and it takes him a while to get used to it. they talk differently, too. they speak in english, but it's not the kind of english he learned in school. it sounds different. it sounds funny. and the women dress nice. they all wear long dresses and pearl earrings, and have shiny handbags. he is terrified of this place, but he is also amazed.

he knows he's there for good now. it's san francisco, and it's much colder than what he was used to. all his brothers and sisters are with him, and they all live together in a small house on judah street. he goes to school, and he finds it difficult to communicate with the other students. the teacher tells him that he's not a very good student, that he needs to try harder. he feels like he's trying, but it's still not good enough. the teacher is a fat, mean old white lady, and she carries a ruler around, threatening to hit her kids with it, though she never does.

he comes home and he plays marbles with his brothers, and some other neighborhood boys. they play cards, and they all go to a neighbor's house to watch the ed sullivan show. he listens to the radio, and his favorites are the supremes, herman's hermits, the beatles, and sly and the family stone. he thinks it's cool to be black, and he tries to grow his hair out so he can have a fro, but it doesn't work. it looks awful, and he cuts it again.

he thinks about white girls and what it might be like to sleep with one. he sees playboy on the high shelves in convenience stores, and he thinks that when he gets older, he will buy an issue every month. he fantasizes about other teachers in the school, a friend of the family, the twin girls who play tennis in the park, girls in magazines, girls on tv, charlie's angels, jackie o., barbara benton. he goes to the school dances, but he isn't very good at socializing.

soon, his parents announce that they're moving to sacramento. he packs everything up, and he's a little sad to leave the house, but not as sad as when he left his home. everything he owns fits in one large box, one suitcase, and one duffel bag. he doesn't know where sacramento is - he'd never even heard of it - so he was surprised when they only drove for two hours. the drive was spectacular, though. he sat in the back of a pickup truck with his brothers, and he loved the cool summer air blowing all around him.

the way i see it, they arrive just as the sun is setting. the city hasn't been developed that much, and there isn't traffic or suburban sprawl everywhere. it's mostly grass and farmland and green trees everywhere. he's told not to unpack everything just yet because they'll probably move again, so he just unpacks what he needs: clothes, mostly, and his radio. he lies in bed with his hands under his head, and he stares at the ceiling, all the while thinking that life is a crazy adventure, and where will it take him next.

he's told that there will be no more school, that he's a grown up now, and he's gotta work. he paints houses with his brothers, and they earn some cash. pretty soon, the family has enough money saved up to buy a house on rosemont drive. they all move in, and he's told that he can finally unpack, that this is home. this is the place he can finally call home again. he and his brothers and sisters go out and celebrate their new house. they go to a discotheque in old sacramento, and they drink and dance like there's no tomorrow.

the family opens a convenience store on capitol ave. in downtown sacramento. it's named after one of the brothers, and it's called mike's food store. by then, he's old enough to look at the playboy magazines the store receives, but he doesn't buy one every month like he used to think he would. he stands behind the counter and sells the newspaper to old men in tweed jackets, cigarettes and liquor to hippies, twinkies and lollipops to children. he's proud of the store, and running it is easy enough.

this was america, the 1970s, and there he was, selling coca-cola to a customer.

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