The Oakland Post

Holiday traditions: A little piece of who you are

Leticia Cezário Santos, Marketing Director December 7, 2022

The Holidays are here! Independently of how you celebrate it, I'm sure this time of the year brings many memories to your mind.  Traditions are often around long enough to make us stop noticing them,...

Federal judge rules male-only draft unconstitutional

Laurel Kraus, Managing Editor March 6, 2019

Compulsory service, or mandatory military service for a period of time, is currently a requirement for all citizens in various countries including Norway and Israel. A United States Federal Court judge,...

Postie Perspectives: Reflections

By Andrew Wernette July 21, 2014

There is a certain joy in mowing down tumbleweeds with your car, I’ve discovered. I encountered them on a road going through a windy plain in northern Arizona, where they slowly rolled across the pavement in front of me. Sometimes it would time out just right, and pshhhh! I’d watch them explode to pieces in my rearview mirror.

A dollar bill sat on my hanging corkboard in my room. I received it a very long time ago. There was nothing special about it except that it was crisp and flat, and I rarely come across bills in such a condition. I put the flat dollar away in a box, and many years later I found it again and put it on my corkboard to decorate it. I never spent it. Since it had remained perfect for so long, I wanted to keep it unspoiled.

Last night I looked at the flat dollar bill as I have for some time now, and I remembered a metaphor I once learned. There are those medieval tales of a dragon holding a damsel or some sort of treasure hostage, and then a knight (like St. George) comes along and slays it. The dragon has no real use for whatever he has in his clutches, but yet fiercely clings to it anyway. It can be interpreted that the dragon is one’s ego, which tends to cling to money, ideas, hidden talents, true self, etc. out of pride or fear of revealing or sharing it to the outside world. Meanwhile, the “treasure” sits idle and useless. It follows that, if you can “slay” your ego, you will be able to utilize that which you have and reap its true benefits.

I thought about that as I looked at the pretty-but-useless dollar bill, which led me to consider all the other, more important things I haven’t used, said or shared out of fear or pride; all those missed opportunities. I reached over and took the bill. I looked over its perfection once more. Then I took out my wallet and slipped it in with the other bills. I slowly folded the wallet and placed it back into my pocket.

On Rochester Road, between college and my town, there is a large, gated cemetery. It is relatively new and mostly empty. Through the gates there is a large statue of an angel, and then two edifices. The second one is very grand and made of dark stone, a striking building among the surrounding land. I have always espied it in passing, wondering if it was a giant mausoleum. So one day I decided to pull in and see for myself.

It was exactly what I thought: a giant house of the dead. I wandered past the bronze statue of Mary and the Christ in the atrium and stepped into the main corridor, which was lined with vaults of black marble. It was trim, well-lit and silent; almost futuristic in feeling. I began walking down the carpeted hall.

There were many empty vaults, but a good number of them had names embossed on the marble plates. Some were older, some recent. I saw only one other person throughout the building, and he stared solemnly at one of the graves near the floor. There was a withdrawn emotion in his face.

Upstairs there was a second floor to the mausoleum, which was almost identical to the first. I walked on, looking at the surnames. Not a soul stirred in the great hall, yet I did not feel alone, either. I was surrounded, by silence.

Eventually I descended the staircase and walked out the door of the building. I drove my car to the gate, leaving behind the black edifice and the cemetery shrouded in white.

After my mate climbed down, I went up the ladder through the hatch and found myself standing on the tarred roof of the apartment. It was a cool November evening, and the lights were beginning to sparkle. I looked across Brooklyn over to distant Manhattan. I might have felt more excitement for that moment if I hadn’t been so exhausted. After a minute or so I clamored back down the hatch to where my work crew bustled about.

You have to understand: we worked from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. for days on end, looking after disorientated storm evacuees in the basement of Lehman College in the Bronx. The hours were long, and I watched as personnel shuffled down and up the hallway late into the night. When morning came, our small crew slept on cots in one of the glass badminton rooms, trying to beat away our exhaustion. It was strange waking up each day to see the onset of evening; little time was left to just wander around. There was drama and weirdness brewing within our crew, too. So when our shift ended one morning after many nights of keeping the watch, my brawny, Native pal Forrest and I decided to sacrifice some hours of sleep in order to go out and explore.

We stepped out of the shelter into the buzzing freedom of the morning air, and we walked down the street to the nearby train station. I had suggested Little Italy, since I had once stayed in that area long ago. We took the train into Manhattan and rode it all the way down to Canal. When we emerged onto the street, the city greeted us with all its glorious, chaotic splendor.

We were in Chinatown. “I think it’s this way,” I said to Forrest, and we began to search around. Our exhaustion slowly gave away to the wonders around us. It was all vaguely familiar to me from eight years ago; I just had to get my bearings straight. We stepped into a shop to ask for directions and were pointed in the opposite way. After moving along the sidewalks past bustling doorways, we hit a street that immediately struck my memory. This was it.

The two of us wandered into the quaint neighborhood dressed in red, green and white. “Let’s go there,” I said, and we ducked into a fancy bakery that I recognized; I got a pastry, he a coffee. All around us there were Old World delis, cafes and shop names written in italiano. We inhaled the sights, smells, noises and tastes as we began exploring the blocks.

Suddenly, he came out of nowhere: a tall man in a voluptuous fur coat stopped us on the sidewalk, and with a rolling Italian accent he asked: “You hungry?”

He gestured to his restaurant that we happened to be in front of. “Want real Italian food? Come on in. I’m Italian, my chef’s Italian. Come in. They call me the Italian Bear.”

Forrest and I looked at each other. Why not, we thought.

“You don’t like the food, you don’t pay,” the Italian Bear said as he led us in. We were shown a table in the back of the dim restaurant, and the man yelled to his cook, “We have customers!” He hurriedly gave us menus with bread and olive oil.

The two of us chose to split a plate, and we decided to order the most unusual thing on the menu: deep-fried calamari with linguini. We looked around the small dining area, eating our bread. Eventually we got our linguini. I savored its crunchy, smoky flavor.

“There’s something with the sauce,” Forrest told me. Indeed, it tasted as if it was a little burnt. He looked at his dish.

“I think I’ll take that guy up on his offer of not paying.”

I tried to talk him out of it. Eventually, I offered to cover the whole bill. I paid and we stepped back out into the daylight.

Nothing compared to the taste of freedom. We continued to mingle between Little Italy and Chinatown, but after awhile we decided that we had seen everything we could. So we receded back underground and rode back to the Bronx: back to the daysleeping and the nights of keeping watch. But we had managed to break into the light, if only for a few hours.

Our crew was recalled back to California three days later.

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