I lived in Seattle for a little over ten years and became familiar enough with the city. Among the major neighborhoods, I frequented the U District the most after Capitol Hill, where I lived. In contrast, I visited Ballard and Fremont the least, mainly because it took longer to get there on bus. (I owned a car for less than a year.) I might have gone to Ballard no more than twice, and learned most about it from a fellow who supervised one of my L’Arche disabled housemates at their work. This fellow was inducted into the Sons of Norway, the ethnic organization whose members met at the Leif Erickson Lodge in Ballard, and knew quite a few things about the neighborhood.
My last post notes a fire that I experienced in Minnesota back in the 1980s. After I posted the link on Facebook, a fellow former refugee responded that he remembers people ran out of the building that night and carrying “nothing but boomboxes.”
Funny, you say, but it is illustrative of two things. First, Vietnamese music was very, very important to the refugees. Second, after automobiles boomboxes were the most valuable possessions for many refugees back then, especially men in the twenties and thirties, some of whom populated the apartment building that was burned down.
This popular song did not cross my mind at all when I first conceived this list. A passing comment from Jason Gibbs, however, made me think more about it. Later, reading a published comment from the song’s composer prompted its inclusion. It is the least conventional choice for this list, since there isn’t anything overtly about refugees. Yet for reasons below, it speaks subtly about the experience of adjustment to the new land by Vietnamese refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere during the 1970s and 1980s.
This post is the only one in the series without a YouTube video. In fact, here is the only online link to the recording that I could find, and the upload is hardly perfect. It’s true that I’d like to throw in one or two obscure songs in a list of mostly well-known tunes. Even there I was quite surprised at the Internet neglect of this song.
December 1, 2016: The link above still works, but I’ve just uploaded the song on YouTube and it has better audio quality.
Thanks to a coincidence of spring break and Super Tuesday, I read more election news and analysis this week than any week in my life. Apolitical in most ways, I think that we are living in interesting times for only the third time in the last three decades. There was Tiananmen Square in the summer of 1989 and September 11 twelve years later. Now, this wild and bewildering campaign season. “What is going on, America?” asked my former dissertation advisor at the end of his Christmas letter. And it was only early January when he wrote it.