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Entries in High School (7)


Fellow travelers

The students at Yulee High all had "I Am ______" buttons. Elliot's reads, "I Am Legend." Well played. I’m sitting in the half-empty first-class cabin (thanks to a fortuitous upgrade), winging my way home, knowing that I’m less than 5,000 Delta miles away from qualifying for “Diamond” Medallion status—a dubious honor at best. It officially means that I’m spending far too much time away from my family.

If there’s a level above Diamond, it’s probably passed on like some secret handshake at a candle-lit fraternity swearing-in ceremony. Let’s hope for my sake, we never find out.

My goodly wife, Leesha, does come along when she can. Or more aptly, when she chooses to do so. “That’s okay Hon, you go to Des Moines in winter, I’ll tag along for Palm Beach,” is a familiar, and entirely understandable refrain. And the kid-posse does accompany me as well, but alas, the school year is still in full swing.

But despite the bout of homesickness, the week was a grand time.

Northern Trust put on a tremendous event in Fort Myers, followed by my whirlwind weekend on Amelia Island which included daily, crack-o-dawn treks to Jacksonville for morning news segments, a trio of story-generations workshops at Yulee High School, a sold-out Books & Jazz event featuring yours truly, and a pleasant siege of signings, talkings, hand-shakings, and other book-doings through Saturday.

Susan and I share the same editor. And are equally grateful.The best part was meeting (and hearing) authors Rick Bragg and Susan Vreeland.

For an author on the road, fellow travelers are as close to family as one can get, even if it’s just a laugh, a handshake, and a pat on the back.


A picture is worth a thousand homework assignments

A special shout-out to Karen Hansen and her 9th grade literature class. It's truly an honor.

My oldest daughter goes to an alternative high school. I’ll wait a moment while you close your eyes and envision what kind of school that is. For most it’s that other school, filled with pregnant teens, stoner kids from group homes, or adolescents with scars from cutting, hidden beneath their shirtsleeves. And some of those stereotypes used to be true. But not always.

In Haley’s case, she’s a young woman cursed with the belief that she’s always the smartest kid in the room (and occasionally she actually is. Shhhhh…don’t tell her I said that). Either way, the jockocracy of your typical high school did nothing for her, so she switched schools to work ahead and will graduate six months early. (Go Hails!)

There’s just something special and unique about alternative high schools—and the students and teachers therein. And their supportive parents. So it was an absolute delight to hear from an alternative school in Seattle that’s been reading HOTEL.

I could go on and on, but this photo kinda says it all.


I used to be Chinese

ais.jpgI found my old college ID today. My first thought was "holy crap, I need to call the Hair Club for Men!" My second thought––was that I used to be Chinese. I’m not sure I am anymore.

My dad, George William Ford Jr.—was 100% Chinese. And despite the Western name (long story), he spoke fluent Cantonese. My mom on the other hand was Betty Crocker white. So I have a lot in common with Mr. Spock. We’re both half-breeds sporting bad haircuts. (There’s that hair thing again––calling Dr. Freud).

Growing up, there was no mistaking it. I was that one ethnic looking kid in all my class photos. I remember kids asking me things like "do you celebrate Christmas?" No, but Pearl Harbor Day is quite festive.

And when I graduated from the largest high school in Washington State, of the 400+ grads, there were only about ten of us that knew our way around a set of chopsticks. It was so bad that people on occasion mistook me for my good friend Rey. Keep in mind, I’m half-Chinese. Rey was Hawaiian/Filipino, six inches shorter, thirty pounds heavier and sported a mustache. Yup, aside from that it was like looking in a mirror.

I grew up in your typical Chinese-American home. We had decorative Buddhas all over the place, Chinese prints, Asian lamps and furniture. My dad ran a Chinese restaurant and taught martial arts on the side. If you ever go to an "authentic" Chinese restaurant, where the cashier is the only one who speaks broken "Chinglish", where little kids run around like they live there––that was me.

But now that I’m exploring adulthood I’ve realized how American I’ve become. My wife is blond (usually, shhhh, don’t tell). And except for my daughter Madi, who has Asian eyes so beautiful they could stop traffic, the rest of my family looks pretty much like their last name could be Von Yorgesbergerstein. Or simply, Ford.

With that in mind, I’m nourishing my roots through my work. You can catch a glimpse of it at Tribe’s Flashing in the Gutters.

There’s a little ditty entitled Dim Sum. Let me know what you think.

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