I was fifteen years old forty years ago. I'd gotten my California learner's permit on the Friday before June 4th--the first day I was eligible. My father bought me a scabrous red and black 1963 Chevrolet Corvair standard shift so that I would learn to shift for myself...
My research tells me that Petulia Clark and Harry Belafonte had generated controversy a month earlier because a white woman touched a black man on television. We were still mourning Martin Luther King's death. Andy Warhol had been shot on the third of June, although I have no recollection of giving a damn.
Menlo Park, California was a typical California suburb and it was my home. In the expanded bungalow of my parents in East Menlo Park, I was a happy, thriving nerdlet. My father was working at a warehouse in the city of Brisbane. Location scouts picked a site near his job for the climax of the car chase in an action film starring one of my dad's heroes: Steve McQueen. My dad would point out to us the disparity between the explosion and the careening villain's car in the chase's climax. Bullitt may not have made sense but it was a hit.
Dicky Dietz was the catcher for the San Francisco Giants. We kids loved saying his name. Mays and McCovey and Marichal and McCormick and Perry were our heroes. We had a new distraction on the east side of the bay: The Oakland Athletics. Jerks named Jackson and Rudi and Bando and Campaneris were foreign entities to us.
Mom and dad bought me a crystal radio set. I had won first prize in a science fair two months before and they wanted me to have everything my inquiring mind wanted. It was the height of The Space Age and every rocket launch was an event.
I was still sorting out the vagaries of my first love. It is a love that abides all these years later. It is the tragedy that became my triumph. It is the dilemma that helped me become a man.
Tuning that cheap crystal radio was my only priority that night all those years ago. I heard the haunted, shattered voices. Ambassador Hotel. "On To Chicago!" Sirhan Sirhan? "Will he live?" Daybreak in front of the TV. I don't remember going to school that day. There was a chance. There's always a chance. Dum spiro, spero. And then, Robert Francis Kennedy was dead.
And today, I sit typing this in Hawaii, the proud proprietor of my own business. Loved and in love. A man fifty-five years old. Celebrating the nomination of an African-American man for my party's candidacy for president.
Aloha! Aloha! Aloha!