Denise at 22

Denise Louie was a young woman I worked with, at an office job in the mid-1970s. She wasn't a friend, but she didn't annoy the hell out of me, and that's rare. She was Asian-American, and bright, I remember, and funny, I assume. No jokes come to mind, but she must've made me laugh; I don't like people who don't, but I liked her.

We talked, but it was only workplace chatter. She mentioned classes at the university, so in addition to working full-time, I vaguely knew that she was also attending college. I never asked what she was studying, though.

She once recommended a movie to me, a Chinese documentary about building a subway, which was playing only at an old theater in the city's International District. Can't remember the title, but the movie was fascinating.

Denise often mentioned the International District. Just south of downtown Seattle, it's a sector that includes the city's Chinatown, Japantown and Little Saigon. Most of Denise's happiest events and stories took place there, or so it seemed from our quick Monday morning "How was your weekend?" conversations.

What did she really care about? I never asked, and didn't much listen. She mentioned politics a few times, but I wasn't political yet, wasn't interested. When Elvis died, she was the person at work who broke the news, but few other memories of Denise come to mind.

She was somebody, like most people are, but I never knew who. We spent 40 hours a week within fifteen feet of each other, that's all, and then one Monday morning she wasn't there. My co-workers and I assumed she was out sick, but at 9:30 or so, we were all called into the boss's office, and somberly told that Denise had been killed the night before.

She'd flown to San Francisco for a sweet weekend with her boyfriend. While eating a late dinner at a restaurant in SF's Chinatown, shots rang out, five people were killed, and Denise and her boyfriend were two of them.

September 4, 1977. Commonly called the Golden Dragon massacre, the murders were gang warfare gone awry, a pinnacle of stupidity — none of the people killed had any connection with any gang.

I'm not a fan of the "true crime" genre, so I won't say any more about that night, but Denise's death flashes across my mind every time there's another mass shooting, which is often, this being America and all. We love our guns, and our right to kill people quickly whenever we're offended, or before we're offended, or for no reason at all.

All the shooters were caught and convicted. The first to be released was Curtis Tam, in 1991 — his sentence was short, because he'd cooperated with police, and identified everyone else who'd been involved. Tom Yu, who was 17 at the time of the murders, was paroled in 2015. Three others remain behind bars, near as I can Google, but I'd be fine with letting them all out, unless they pose an actual threat here in the 21st century.

Golden Dragon

In my on-line searches, I found this photo of the restaurant where Denise died. The building's distinctive yellow criss-cross pattern was instantly familiar to me; my wife and I lived in San Francisco in the 1990s, and ate at that restaurant, at least twice. Unknowingly, of course.

The San Francisco Chronicle's coverage said that Denise had been studying urban planning, which explains why she'd enjoyed that documentary about subways.

A daycare in Seattle's International District was named in her honor. At their website, I learned a tiny bit more about Denise, and what she'd cared about, and I stared at her photo for a while, remembering her. I knew Denise, barely, and remember that smile, snuffed out at just 22 years of age, 44 years ago.



  1. Nicely written piece on Denise. This is what Ed Sanders wrote for The Fugs to sing in about 1970. First the audio, then the lyrics. Wide, wide river.



    Wide, Wide River

    (gospel sound)
    River of shit
    River of shit
    Flow on, flow on, river of shit
    Right from my toes
    On up to my nose
    Flow on, flow on, river of shit

    (transition to Rock)
    I've been swimming In this river of shit
    More than 20 years, and I'm getting tired of it
    Don't like swimming, hope it'll soon run dry
    Got to go on swimming, cause I don't want to die

    (spoken with gospel sound in background):
    Who dealt this mess, anyway?
    Yeah, it's an old card player's term
    But sometimes you can use the old switcheroo and it can be applied to ...
    Frontal politics
    What I mean is ...
    Who was it that set up a system
    Supposedly democratic system
    Where you end up always voting for the lesser of two evils?
    I mean, Was George Washington the lesser of two evils?
    Sometimes I wonder ...
    You got some guy that says
    "For God sake, we've got to stop having violence in this country."
    While he's spending 16,000 dollars a second snuffing gooks

    (gospel sound musical ending)
    A wiiiiiiiiiiiiide, big brown river, yeah, bringing health, wealth, and prosperity to every man, women, and child

    @ Ed Sanders & The Fugs, 1970 (unknown renewal)

    1. Holy effin' cannoli, how did we miss that one when we were talking about the Fugs a few years ago?

    2. The Fugs are a little hit and miss (aren't we all) but if you start with It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest you'll do fine. Most every Fugs song I reference is from that album. Ed and Tuli were going full throttle and Ken Weaver was still with the band then. And they had some real musicians from The Holy Modal Rounders. The joke got old after "Honest", but for at least one album they created art. Nearly every song works.


    3. It's Sinéad O'Connor Day here, and probably tomorrow, too, but after that there's nothing booked so I'll replay some Fugs. :)

  2. The Golden Dragon massacre was even before the Milk-Moscone assassination. It was one of the first mass shootings I remember, right here in the city and the coverage was nonstop for weeks

    I didn't know anyone who was killed or wounded or there but it was big, formative for me. I am sorry it was formative for you too.

    Who could even guess how many mass shootings and killings have been since then. A daily slaughter and the powers that be aren't worried.

    Did you know that Jason Aldean, the singer of that good ol' boys racist pro-gun song Try That In A Small Town, he was on stage when the shooting started at the Las Vegas massacre, 2017 I think. He ran like anyone would and survived, and still believes in guns as the answer.

  3. > A daily slaughter and the powers that be aren't worried.

    Much less to be gained by letting people live, than by keeping the idiots panicked that "Dems will take your guns".

    I wonder sometimes what it would take. If some madman with a machine gun opened fire at a football game and killed a thousand people, would that be enough? I don't think so. There's never enough dead people to change a Republican's mind.


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