26 Feb


One year ago I found a thousand dollars, or maybe I should say a thousand dollars found me. The story behind the money and what it means to me as a first generation Chinese-American is not a coincidence. I didn’t keep the money but the experience has been a priceless creative prompt. Below is the beginning of a 2000 thousand word essay I’m working on, and a good friend will be helping me shoot a short film in April. The quote at the top of my blog by Wendell Berry reads, “We are nothing without stories.” This story found me, a multi-media storyteller, so that I could share it. 

* * *

Sometimes a walk with your dog is not just a walk with your dog…

That’s what the detective told me after the case was closed.

It started when I found a missing man’s clothes on a beach. Gnarled tree stumps carried from headwater streams shared the shoreline with plastic bottles, candy wrappers, and the occasional hypothermic needle. Cranes dotted the river’s banks perched over the water like herons waiting for prey, though cranes lack the grace of vertebrae. The metal reverb of shipping containers echoed across the water. Ospreys and gulls traded calls. Vessels of all sizes sliced the surface of the river. Cormorants bobbed in their wakes diving for long minutes in search of food. Cars raced East and West on the bridges, salmon charged upstream, and century old sturgeon sifted through silt in the depths.

I roamed the river’s edge, pocketed pebbles and wrestled large pieces of driftwood back to my van for my garden. My footprints were crisscrossed with the drag marks of my latest finds. Big Head, my dog, pawed and chewed at the logs as we moved along, steady but unhurried like the currents at our side.

I noticed the black briefcase first. Zippers open, sand sticking to the cloth areas. With thoughts of heroin needles, I searched the main compartment and pockets never plunging my hand blindly. No identification. Empty. Then I noticed the shoes, the shirts, and the pants nearby. I wondered if the contents had spilled out naturally or if someone dumped it looking for bounty. I knelt, reached for the nearest pants pocket and felt the unmistakable shape of a wad of money, rolled and bending slightly with each squeeze of my hand.

My eyes shot up and down the bank.  Was there a body? Was someone watching? Was I getting involved in something I should avoid? Not wanting to stand up with the wad of bills, I pretended to tie my shoes, slipped the money into my socks and scurried away. Back in my van I counted the money–ten one hundred dollar bills, cold and damp from the river…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe scene a year ago with the Fremont Bridge in the background. 

* * *

Rainbow NZjpg   Ryan Chin is the creator of, Without Rain There Can Be No Rainbows, a multimedia memoir about his teaching experience in New Zealand. Mr. Chin likes to call it a pet and teacher memoir sandwiched into an overseas adventure. The book is available at Amazon and locally at Powell’s Books. When he’s not finding large sums of money, he can be found wrestling with his boys (furry and non-furry). 


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