The interchange between the 105 and 405 freeways in Los Angeles is dedicated to the life of Sadao S. Munemori. Born in Los Angeles in 1922, Munemori was a Japanese American who served in World War II. In 1944, he was killed on the Gothic Line in Italy while saving the lives of two of his comrades. When I drive past the memorial sign, the flash of the English transliteration of his Japanese name germinates a spontaneous daydream in me. Driving, I think of the story of my own family here. I think of generations descending from Japanese immigrants. I think of seed farmers, chicken farmers, and shoe makers. I think of internment camps, detention sites, and train rides through vast barren lands thousands of miles from a place thought of as home. I think of the Chinese Elm trees my grandmother told me they planted in their camp in eastern Colorado, and how the trees must be so thirsty for water today. I always knew there was a memorial statue for Sadao somewhere in Italy, but I was unsure of its location. I thought to look for it when I was visiting the marble quarry on Mount Altissimo. Coincidentally, it happened to be only a few minutes away in Pietrasanta. I went to visit Sadao. I stood next to him imagining the similarities in the trajectories of both our lineages, and how we found ourselves, though under drastically different circumstances, in the Apuan Alps. When I returned to Los Angeles I brought with me a small piece of marble I found in the quarry. I took this small rock with me in rush hour traffic and pulled over to the side of the freeway. I ran out of the car and placed this underneath Sadao’s sign. It looked like a small piece of freeway rubble. Now, when I drive by his sign, I can see a little white glimmer of Mount Altissimo on the side of the 405.
– Text by David Horvitz