Sunday, June 11, 2006
Listen to Your Elders: Save the South Central Farm
An Interview with a 130-Year Old Issei Grapefruit Tree
by Tony Osumi
The following interview was conducted with the wise 130 year-old Grapefruit tree living in the JACCC plaza located on San Pedro Street, between Second and Third Street in Little Tokyo.
Tony Osumi: Grapefruit Tree, how have you been? It’s been 10 years since I first interviewed you. Thank you for speaking with me again.
Grapefruit Tree: My pleasure, young man.
TO: To help some of our newer readers, may I ask you again when you were born?
GT: Back in the late 1800s, 1870 or so. My mom, dad, sister, brother, the whole family, a citrus grove, grew up on 2nd Street near Central Ave.
TO: That’s amazing. You’re over 130 years old. So genki.
GT: I try. My leaves have grayed, my bark has wrinkled, and as the young people say, “There’s more junk in the trunk,” but I still got my noggin—knock on wood.
TO: Can you talk about your sapling-hood?
GT: Let me see… When I was just knee-high I wanted to be a Redwood. I looked up to them giant Sequoias boys. I mean, who doesn’t? When I was a teenager I was really self-conscious. It was rough being yellow in the 1880s. In my 20s I thought the road to success was transplanting to Florida and getting a 9 to 5 for Sunkist Inc. But it never felt right.
TO: What do you mean?
GT: I got tired of all the manure. Then in my 40s I had a midlife crisis and started a long distance relationship with much younger beauty. Her name was Sugar Caine, from Hawaii.
TO: From Hawaii...
GT: I can picture her now, tall, slender and growin’ in the sun.
TO: Growin’ in the sun…
GT: Enough! She was a sweet, sweet girl, but it didn’t work out. She ended up with a good-looking Coffee Tree from Kona.
TO: You must have been broken hearted.
GT: I was for years. But the truth is, it wasn’t until I was in my 50s that I embraced my J-Town roots and really blossomed. I’m living proof it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf.
TO: What are you doing these days?
GT: Well, right now I’ve been helping out the South Central Farmers. The 14-acre farm is over on 41st Street and Alameda. Not too far from J-Town.
To read the rest of the interview, go to the kuidaosumi website.