In the early, early days of M.’s and my relationship, he took me to Berkeley CA. There are several glorious stories from that one adventure, but this story is smaller. Because we were in Berkeley, which is in the Bay Area, which also includes Daly City, and because — in his culture and mine — when one is “right close by” to a relative one absolutely must visit, or at least make a phone call, but almost certainly visit, and because he had three younger cousins who were at university over by Daly City,
we met his cousins for dinner at the Barrio Fiesta over near Daly City.
There is another version of this story, more important and richer in detail, that centers on this my first time to be presented to any of M.’s kinfolk (and the family gossip networks are strong and deep), but this story is only a tiny bit of that.
During the course of the meal, as they — as cousins do — catch up on each others’ lives and re-establish their bonds, the four of them (M. and three cousins) start laughing about the prevalence of Filipinos in the Bay Area, particularly south of the bay. And at the airport. And, and, and. M.’s cousin A., to close her funny tale involving unexpected rapid-fire Tagalog in a TSA line (unexpected in part because she answered back when she wasn’t supposed to), says:
“You know… they’re EVERYWHERE!”
(I found this funny in part because—they? Not we? But mostly because a Filipino accent is a very particular thing, and you should hear it that way.)
Strangely enough, this is true. Filipinos in the US are only rarely recognized as such, and yet are sprinkled in varying densities throughout the nation. You likely know at least a handful of Filipinos and have just not realized it.
Anyway. M. and I have used this as a catchphrase ever since.
Crossing the St. John’s campus after dinner to get to my room, I’m bustling along because I want — need — to pack, and preferably before the Over the Rhine concert. Ahead of me I see a lanky, dark-haired young man that I’d registered back in the cafeteria at breakfast this morning, also crossing the quad though with a companion.
This is not going where you think it is. His features are ethnically more central Chinese, to go with his 6’5″+ frame. They grow basketball players like Yao Ming there.
This is where it’s going: he’s wearing a Rice Owls service day T-shirt, dated 2016.
I catch up to him, and do the middle-aged-lady thing by interrupting his walk and conversation: “Are you a Rice alum?”
He gives his second supper to his (friend? colleague?) and shoos him into a classroom building, so he can continue walking with me. He tells me I’m the first Owl alum he’s met off campus—I’m an Owl in the wild, as it were. We talk of this and that, comparing the things we like about Rice-ness over the thirty-year gap in experiences. I tell him about when Willy turned around, a story which he had not yet heard (! what are they teaching them these days?!). He’s here as a summer research fellow, nearly ready to head back to Houston and then off to a year abroad studying in Switzerland.
As we’re concluding our conversation, getting ready to return to our research and packing, another Glen Workshop participant walks up. “Wait! Are you a Rice Owl? My daughter is an Owl! She graduated in 2014!” “What college?” we ask. “Oh, right—McMurtry!”
You know-? They’re EVERYWHERE!