I continue to reread books. I was drawn this week to “Ishi: in two worlds, a biography of the last wild Indian in North America,” by Theodora Kroeber. Ishi was the lone survivor of a California Native American tribe, the Yani. In the early 20th century he wandered into the white “civilized” world. He was “adopted” by anthropologists at the University of California and for several years lived in the anthropology museum.
Ishi’s story is fascinating. Several chapters explore how he and a small band of this tribe lived concealed in the hills. Slowly the survivors died and Ishi was alone. He emerges and adapts to a new life living the the museum. White man’s customs and expectations. He is a curiosity, exhibition specimen, but somehow seems to retain his personal, ancestral identity. Ishi shows his new white friends how to make fire, skin animals, chip arrow and spear heads.
Ishi seems to understand and adapt to white culture. He accepts something like a handshake because although foreign and strange to him it is the way of the new world. I recall an encounter with a group Nicaraguan teens. They were hanging out near their cars along Lake Managua. I wanted to photograph them. But how should I approach? One boy waved to me. I approached; took some fun photos. We had crossed a cultural divide.
Another recent reread was “Gangsters, Murderers, and Weirdos” — can you guesss, “New York City’s Lower East Side,” by Eric Ferrara. Several years ago we spent several days in NYC with John and Barbara Paglione. One afternoon we took a tour with the author. The Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown. Ferrara responded to our “food” interests pointing out restaurants, bakeries, groceries, and the last pickle shop in the neighborhood. Of course I ordered his book from Amazon.
The Lower East Side was a different world. Ferrara explores it through newspaper and police records. Much of what he discovers is sordid. Street after street; block after block; house after house; the scene of all types of crimes; shootings; murders. It’s an interesting read. Most characters are not famous; although there is the ocassional well known Lucky Luciano or Meyer Lansky. Would be a fantastic guide for a walk in the neighborhood.
So many books. So many worlds.