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The Bottle

By Momii Palapaz

He held the bottle, jerking the slushy ketchup as it splashed out. The red, thick liquid flew out and landed on mom. Dad was mad. Dad was drunk. As my sister and I watched, in shock and fear, mom looked defeated, saying nothing. She wiped the spray of red off her clothes. Dinner came to a halt. This wasn’t a crisis, this was just another day. Another dinner with dad ranting and raving.

14 million, or one in eight persons are alcoholics in the U.S. California’s citizens, with the most purchasing, consumed 85.7 million gallons in 2020. The mention of boring facts and statistics aren’t enough to explain the discomfort of experiencing an abusive alcoholic user. The numbers hang there without a reason.

New water holes and inventions of sweet tasting, liquor infused beverages are flooding the market. Marketing from the liquor industry teases the prospects of vulnerable customers. Down a shot, or guzzle another bottle to smother the dark. Take a sip for courage, confidence, happiness, only to wake up sour and useless.

I was born into alcoholism. My mother’s father was a mean drunk, consuming a case of beer daily. Her grandfather, who she said was “so nice,” manufactured sake, a Japanese wine concoction made of rice.

It’s “too sensitive to ask about,” I “lack emotional well being,” our families are “still struggling at 70-90 years old. Will we still be traumatized in 60 years?” Over and over, the clobber hit my heart. I was not alone. I was part of a core of generations in the same club of trauma. “I feel so much anger.” “All the yonsei (fourth generation) in my family suffer from anxiety, depression, PTSD and other trauma related issues.”

"Assembly center" for Japanese-Americans in Los Angeles County. April 1942

Everyone at the healing circle were descendants of over 120,000 Japanese American families incarcerated in concentrations throughout the west and midwest states of the USA in 1943. Five generations untangling the secrecy, shame, embarrassment and racism.

My father, a hard working mailman, was expert in maximum speed and efficiency. Usually hungover but able, he was known as a functioning alcoholic. Clocking out at the end of his workday, he immediately hit the bars of the SF financial district. He came home hours later, making the full round of bus stops, sleeping past his destination. We laughed and were glad he made it home safely.

Through the years, I have come to understand his weakness toward alcohol. Despite his addiction, dad was a reader, writer, a union man much more. He introduced me to books by Richard Wright. Dad shared a novel called “Manchild In A Promised Land, about childhood in a poverty stricken Black neighborhood, written by Claude Brown. His affection for jazz filled our SF apartment with music from Charlie Parker, and favorite drummers Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones. I will always love my father.

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