City Lights Books
North Beach
Late Friday afternoon


In his words:

My past is buried in saffron-colored Southeast Asia. When I immigrated to the U.S., I brought with me a few tangible memories (for instance, the tessellated satchel from my school years), but I left the rest behind to stew under the hostile sun, to swim in the monsoon deluge from the Bay of Bengal. My recollections remain hidden in the Buddhist temples and the coconut groves, in the quiet monasteries and the muddy riverbanks. The fishermen with sinewy shoulders, the Buddhist monks with crooked teeth, and the brown-skinned matriarchs haggling over the price of a sack of rice will serve as temporary custodians of my personal history. They know that one day, when the country is free from the clutch of the military regime, I’ll return to reclaim my childhood.

I now live nearly 8,000 miles across the Pacific from my homeland. Here, several time zones removed from my origin, I’ve made a new home for myself among the secondhand bookshops, the Beatnik-haunted cafes, and the fog-choked city streets. But in the rumbles of the cable cars and the shouts at the farmers’ market, I still hear echoes of the temple bells and the open bazaars of the Far East.

Visiting my birthplace nearly 100 years before I was born, Rudyard Kipling once wrote, “This is Burma, and it will be quite unlike any land you know about.” Sometimes, my childhood friends, who’d never ventured beyond their own shores, inquired, “What’s America like?” I’m tempted to reply, “This is San Francisco, and it’s quite unlike any other American city you know about.”


Kenneth’s blog:

The rest of Kenneth’s photo shoot.


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