east pacific

Washington Gothic

There is a coffee shop where there was not a coffee shop yesterday. Tomorrow there will be another, somewhere else. You will try to return and it will be gone. You think it is following you. There is only ever one coffee shop.

You are driving and there are trees. They are all the same. You drive past miles and miles and miles of trees. You are driving west, you know that this is the only way out of the trees. There are only trees. There are always the same trees.

In every city you visit, they ask you where you’re from. You say from the other side of the mountains. They are confused, they do not trust you. Everyone knows there is nothing on the other side of the mountains.

The road curves and curves, always in the same direction. The road is infinite, looping back to its own start. You do not know where you are and you do not know how you got here. You follow the road.

In the cities, you hear seagulls. You hear the rush of the ocean but you cannot see it. The smell of salt air stays with you always, in your clothes and in your lungs. It clings until you can no longer detect it. The cold ocean is never far. It waits.

It is raining constantly. Clouds and fog obscure the sun and you cannot remember feeling its light, only striped layers of shadows through the trees and buildings. In the next town over, the rain has vanished. There, they do not know shade. Drive to another town on the endless road. The weather will be different there.

You have seen the same man walk by you in the same direction countless times each day. He is always wearing the same clothes. He is always holding the same drink. Nothing ever changes. The people all look the same, and they never look at you. You are afraid, but it would be worse if they were different.

To the north, there is nothing. To the east, there is endless empty space. To the south are only mysteries and whispers. The water is to the west. The water is the end.

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Hand-drawn and textured pages from a rare Japanese treatise on smallpox called The Essentials of Smallpox written in the late 17th or early 18th century by the Japanese doctor Kanda Gensen. 

Photograph: Wellcome Library, London

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Garden eels, members of the conger eel family, live in the Indo-Pacific, but species are also found in warmer parts of the Atlantic Ocean and East Pacific. These small eels live in burrows on the sea floor and get their name from their practice of poking their heads from their burrows while most of their bodies remain hidden. Since they tend to live in groups, the many eel heads “growing” from the sea floor resemble the plants in a garden.

US Marines climbing down the nets into landing craft during the Battle of Peleliu, September-November 1944.

Peleliu is a small coral island, one of the southern most islands of the present-day Republic of Palau, situated in the western Pacific Ocean, east of the Philippines.

The Battle of Peleliu, codenamed Operation Stalemate II, involved marines of the First Marine Division and later soldiers of the US Army 81st Infantry Division. The aim was to take the airstrip used by Japanese bombers, and which was considered to be of vital strategic importance for the US if they were to continue the liberation of Japanese-occupied Pacific islands, particularly the nearby Philippines.
However, the island proved incredible difficult to secure and the original estimated four-days dragged on in to a bloody two month campaign due to strong Japanese fortifications. The resulting US casualty rate was the highest for the Marine Corps during the Pacific War.

USMC Colonel Merwin Silverthorn, one of the commanders involved in the operation, later remarked that “everything about Peleliu left a bad taste in your mouth.”
Eighteen-year-old Eugene Sledge, who was in the second wave ashore, offers a vivid account of the landings:
“We moved ahead, watching the frightful spectacle. Huge geysers of water rose around the amtracs [landing vehicles] ahead of us as they approached the reef.
The beach was now marked along its length by a continuous sheet of flame backed by a thick wall of smoke. It seemed as though a huge volcano had erupted from the sea, and rather than heading for an island, we were being drawn into the vortex of a flaming abyss. For many it was to be oblivion ….”

Photographer: Griffin
Image courtesy of the United States Marine Corps History Division, Peleliu 117058

(Colourised and researched by Benjamin Thomas from Australia)

Why I love being mixed: Half Japanese, quarter Portuguese, Austrian, Native Hawai’ian.  

I enjoy being a deviation in a mono-ethnic area and connecting with others about cultural intricacies since I look ethnically ambiguous. Sometimes it helps with opening conversation with others. 

My frustrations with being mixed:  There’s difficulty when it comes to the tendency to view my sister and I as specimens to study. Our Japanese side will scrutinize our features and marvel at how my sister (white passing and very tall) looks so different from me. My coworkers and strangers have engaged with me because they are in interracial relationships and want their kids to have “big eyes and light skin” and that “mixed kids are gorgeous and exotic.” Even some members of the lgbtqia community do this- individuals who I have dated have made fetishizing, hurtful comments about how I present and my heritage. But looking back, I think my love for my culture and who I have become because of it has helped overcome those negative feelings of other-ness. You are mixed, you are beautiful, and you are powerful!

“Smoke billows up from the Kowloon Docks and railroad yards after a surprise bombing attack on Hong Kong harbor by the U.S. Army 14th Air Force Oct. 16, 1944. A Japanese fighter plane (left center) turns in a climb to attack the bombers. Between the Royal Navy yard, left, enemy vessels spout flames, and just outside the boat basin, foreground, another ship has been hit.”

(AP)