Koon Woon, 8/14/2017
Current Occupation: Koon's current occupation is mathematics and logic tutor, freelance writer, editor, literary consultant and publisher.
Previous Occupation: Koon's previous occupations include running a restaurant and as an employee of the US Postal Service.
Contact Information: Koon started working in the family restaurant at age 12. Then he worked for the US post office. He earned his BA degree in creative writing from Antioch University and his MLS in literary arts from Fort Hays State University. He currently works as editor and publisher of Goldfish Press. Here is a link to Poetry Foundation website about Koon https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/koon-woon
A Drive to Nowhere
Like I would just jump into the car; it was variously a ’55 Plymouth, a ’61 Comet, or a ’68 Plymouth again. Where would I go? There was no one I know on a Saturday. The weekends, the dreaded weekends. My search for psychic sustenance begins with those fifty mile drives to nowhere.
The family restaurant would be busy on the weekends. I would need to work until three in the morning on both Friday and Saturday nights, amid the grease vapors and the clanging of the wok, steam from the noodle vat and the steam table. I was eighteen and still a senior in high school in the coastal town of Aberdeen, Washington. These are the towns that the freeway missed in Richard Hugo’s poetry. The rain was melancholic and it drip and slanted all day, and I was trapped being “Number-One-Son” of a Chinese immigrant family, born to Kim and Bill who operated the Hong Kong Café on Simpson Avenue which was on the Highway 101 as it slices through the logging town of Aberdeen, where logging trucks carried the long logs with dancing red flags on them to warn the drives behind them. This road goes up to Forks, Washington and eventually to Port Angeles as it looped around the Olympia Peninsula. And going south, the same two –lane road would lead to Pacifica, California.
I worked variously as waiter, cook, and occasionally manager. Except for work and study, I was lonely and alone. I was so lonely that I enjoyed reading Silas Marner in my room during the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only two days that we closed the café. My parents had undergone the world-wide Depression in their youth in China and then the Sino-Japanese War. I was so lonely that the book on the back seat of my car, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness was actually a good dialogue with an imaginary companion. I knew the writer in the sense that he knew me, he knew my loneliness. It was a small town, and there were few minorities in it. There was a black janitor at the Smoke Shop Café, owned by the mayor. I suspect that he was there for a reason, just like the only black student at the local Grays Harbor College was a football player. The black janitor seemed to recede into the wood panels of the café dining room as he mopped it during idle hours.
I remember I keep on filling the coffee cup of the girl with the dark Spanish eyes that came alone or with her sister, mostly alone. She drank her coffee black and I was the awkward waiter in the slow hours of the afternoon. She and I never chit-chat and I never learned her name, but somehow once I summoned the nerve to asked her whether she lived at home. She said she lived away from home alone and as long as she doesn’t get into trouble, it was OK with her mom. She was a year older and had dropped out of high school. I was also a part-time worker at the Aberdeen post office and I drove the truck two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon picking up mail from street boxes. And on Saturday, I had the downtown walking route. I had a regulation uniform on, and I felt like a worker, a government worker.
The way out of town was a windy road, evergreens on both sides, a monotonous green with firs shouting up 30 to 40 feet. These were new growth and I was a fourth generation immigrant to these parts of lands. I was wondering how far I could go and how high I could rise. But all I could envision was driving a modest car to work at Boeing and perhaps have a son and a daughter and live again in a modest house, befitting of an electrical engineer. Everybody in high school said I could have become whatever I wanted to.
I didn’t go that far, I drove to Ocean Shores and back then in 1968 it was only one street along the beach front with the burr of the crabgrass waving in the wind. There were summer homes that people did not live in during the winter. It was fog and winter mists as described in Ken Kesey’s novel Sometimes a Great Notion. He was talking about the roads in Oregon. Here the crabgrass rose from the sand, an occasional gull, and the steady sloshing waves greeted my loneliness, and I encounter no other cars.