Independence Day

Working as a university police officer, I felt that education should be a part of what I do. With that philosophy, anytime I worked on the 4th of July, I would give people the option of answering a question in order to get out of receiving a ticket. I would ask people if they could name one person who signed the Declaration of Independence. Many people would answer George Washington, but it turns out that General Washington was busy preparing to defend Manhattan from the British and wasn’t available to sign.

I had a significant number of people who were able to answer the question properly, more than you might guess, but the people that answered the best were usually immigrants who had or were currently studying for their naturalization or elementary-school aged children. I once had a University athlete who couldn’t name anyone, but his ten-year-old cousin, in the passenger seat, was able to give me six names.   

On a particular 4th of July, I spotted a homeless man, drinking an alcoholic beverage from inside a brown paper bag. I detained him and obtained his identification and even began writing his citation. Then I remembered my rule and reminded myself that it wouldn’t be fair not to give him the same chance that I had given everyone else.

I told him that if he could name one person who had signed the Declaration of Independence, that I would let him go without a citation. He thought for a few moments and then I saw him reach an epiphany; I could almost see the light bulb appear above his head. He reached into the brown paper bag and lifted out a brown, glass, beer bottle with a familiar blue label.

“Sam Adams!” he shouted.

I wished I could have given him extra credit for having visual aids.

Chinese Line Dancing

This entry originally appeared in G. Allen Wilbanks’ blog when I guest blogged for him, in June 2019.

A while back, my best friend and fellow author, G, asked if I could write a guest blog for his webpage. Being the dinosaur that I am, I asked what does it need to be about? Are there any criteria? What are my boundaries? Deadlines? G refused to give me a straight answer on anything. Whatever you want it to be, he said, casually, like that meant something. No boundaries and no deadlines. Perfect. Six months later, here we are. But I have a story to tell. An absolutely true story. Believe it or don’t.

Many years ago, I was providing a police presence at a sporting event on the University where I worked. I know that it was a Pan-Pacific tournament between the USA and China, and I remember it being a women’s volleyball event, mostly because my memory of the time is filled with young women in shorts and kneepads; I don’t really know what that says about me. Anyway, this was a day-long event with multiple games on multiple courts; I couldn’t begin to tell you how many games were actually played, but it seemed like a lot.

In between each set of games, the arena floor was cleared, country music would play, and a group of middle-aged, Chinese women in jeans and yellow T-shirts walked out onto the hardwood floor and began line dancing. I heard Achy-Breaky Heart way too many times (two?). After the second or third time they appeared, I moved close enough to read the red lettering on the shirts and was not significantly surprised to see Chinese Line Dancing Association of San Francisco. I asked one of my co-workers if line dancing was a fad in China and this was some way of honoring them for their appearance at our campus.

My co-worker simply replied, “Wes, I’m Korean. Why are you asking me about Chinese culture.”

I tried to explain that I wasn’t asking her as an expert on all things Asian, but I gave up, recognizing the playful dig for what it was, albeit a little late. We actually engaged in conversation with many other employees in the arena that day about the oddity that was the Chinese Line Dancing Association and why they were appearing at this particular, University hosted sporting event. Was it a fad (already discussed)? Was someone in the Association related to someone producing the event? Was it an organized crime thing (you want the event to be safe, you take my mother-in-law’s dance group)?

Finally, near the end of the day, I happened across the University building manager who worked directly with the production company managing this Volleyball Tournament.

“Hey, so why is the Chinese Line Dancing Association of San Francisco performing between each match? Is it a fad or does someone in production owe money to a loan shark?”

The building manager looked me in the eye and said, “The production manager told his assistant to find Chinese Lion Dancers.”

Thank you and enjoy.

  San Francisco Chinese Line Dance Association

 Chinese Lion Dancers