|Henry and Keiko's record|
|It's in the mail|
Back on January 24th of this year, my brother-in-law Chuck Pefley put up a post about the Panama Hotel. Chuck generally posts a neat photograph that he's taken in and around Seattle on almost a daily basis. I follow him not only because he's my brother-in-law, but because he's an excellent photographer and a source for models for a number of my pieces of art. I don't know whether he discovered the book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet first and the hotel later or the other way around. It really doesn't matter to me whether the chicken or the egg came first. There's a fascinating story to be told about the Panama, and Chuck discovered it long before I did. Because the photograph he'd posted involved a gold leaf sign, I was hooked.
My wife and daughter and I were going to go to Seattle in a few days, but I managed to follow the link Chuck had given to the Author Jamie Ford's blog, quickly skimmed it and discovered a small but very meaningful connection which I planned on exploring - after returning home from Seattle. We arrived in Seattle to an empty house - Chuck was at work, and my sister was in Tacoma with my brother Dan, doing what she does best. After unloading the car, I was ready to sit down and take a nap (at my age, it's almost a necessity). I can nap anywhere and in my short trek to the couch, I spotted Jamie's book on my sister's desk, picked it up, and quickly fell in love. No nap. Book. GOOD book. Over the next two days I read it. I'm a history nut. This had some really good meat in a very soft shell.
Chuck took us to the Tea Room of the Panama Hotel for an evening cup of Rooibos tea, and I was able to experience first hand the basement of the Panama. More meat. The story sucked me right in. After returning to Chuck and Penny's that evening, I read the Author's notes at the back of the book. They're there for a reason. Jamie lives in Montana.
As a young man, my father had spent time at Fort Lincoln, south of Bismarck, North Dakota. My grandfather was an Immigration officer charged with guarding German, Italian and Japanese 'prisoners' at Fort Lincoln during WWII. My father also met my mother while attending Catholic High School in Bismarck, so I knew some of the story of the internments.
A key element in the love story which Jamie has written is a 78 recording of a Seattle Jazz legend by the name of Oscar Holden. I will not reveal the significance of the recording. Suffice it to say it is a key element in Henry's life, and in the belongings of thirty-seven Japanese families in the basement of the Panama Hotel.
I created the record label for a recording that does not exist, but because Jamie had brought some of my childhood family memories back to me, I gave him something tangible last Saturday that existed only in his creative 'storyland'. What I received from Jamie was a signed First Edition of his wonderful novel of love lost - and found - in the grooves of a 78 record. Thank You Jamie. You did my spirit good. There's more songs yet to be sung.