Keiro Chats: Meet Paul!

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Name: Paul Isozaki
Age: 65
From: Monterey Park Japanese American Senior Citizen Club

Q: What sustains your quality of life?

Being around young people and socializing with people.
People make me happy. I’m a people person. The young ones make you lively. Mixing young and old is good. I think it’s the greatest thing. The young can learn from the old, and the old need learn new things from the young.

What is your weekly schedule like?

I pick up my grandkids from school two or three times a week, and babysit them once or twice a week. I do a lot of gardening at home, but I also own an apartment so I go there once a week to clean up or do some gardening there. I also go to a lot of meetings, like Japanese American club or my politics club. I also read the LA Times newspaper every day.

My blood sugar level was coming up, and I didn’t want to be on medication, so I started exercising. I go hiking once a week with the same friend. I do yoga four times a week.  I also used to swim four to five times a week, 1.125 miles a day, however I hurt my back, and although it’s getting better, I haven’t been able to swim.

What do you look forward to each week?

I look forward to hiking on Tuesdays. I have four senior friends I like to go with. Dancing on Wednesday and Friday, as well as Saturday.

What contributes to your happiness?

Marijuana. Drugs have been part of my life since middle school, and probably have not stopped, but I slowed down when I had kids. They did not know until they were in college that their dad was doing pot.

But even higher than that are my grandkids – my grandkids are No. 1, and I have five of them. So, I babysit them, take them to the museum and to the zoo. We take the Metro, no driving because parking is expensive. I want my grandkids to see other people. I don’t want them to be sheltered; I need them to see people of other skin colors.

Dancing makes me happy, too. I don’t want to practice, I just want to dance. I’ve been dancing for 10 years. I used to go fishing — I needed to catch fish, especially tuna. I would make the sashimi and give it to as many people as I could.

I have a different view in life than other people. I didn’t spoil my kids. I wanted them to be grounded, so I raised them poor. My son recently passed his captain’s test as a firefighter. He thanked me for raising him tough; I was hard on him … you may even say mean. The end result of hard work and raising them tough was that my kids ended up doing so well, so that’s what makes me happy.

Has your definition of happiness has changed over time?

I’m a radical. I wanted to see change when I was young. I wanted Asians to be treated better. I was called a Jap. “You’re a small Japanese, you’re no good, you can’t play sports.” But I wanted no more war, I wanted peace. I wanted change.

Now, I look at life differently than the immediate change. I am rooting for the underdog, the poor people. People on drugs, homeless people, I’m rooting for them.

I’m not so much the leader out there anymore, I’m the cheerleader. That brings me happiness. I’ve changed. I’m a grandpa type of guy now.

What sustains your quality of life?

Being around young people and socializing with people.

People make me happy. I’m a people person. The young ones make you lively. Mixing young and old is good. I think it’s the greatest thing. The young can learn from the old, and the old need learn new things from the young. I like dance and senior citizen stuff, but it’s to help old people socialize and be happy, to help them get out of the house.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Raising three great kids with a full-time job I’m proud of.

I was not an easy math teacher. I was strict. I gave quizzes all the time. If that’s the way to get to this kid, I did it so he learned math. My former students call me “Iso.” When I bump into them some of them tell me, “you really taught me my math.”

But I think my major accomplishment is helping Hilda Solis win the election to run for congress.

She was running against Congressman Matthew Martinez, who was in office for 14 years, for seven terms. Everyone figured he would win again. I was teaching government at that time, and I made my students do 60 hours of community service of their choice. The class started in September, and the election was November. Many of my students campaigned for Solis every day, and she won the election. What happened here is that we fought a big political machine. We ran and we won.

Are there any barriers that prevent you from having your desired quality of life?

I have back pain, and that’s one thing, but I’m more concerned for the future of the younger kids. They aren’t going to have what we had. Every generation was better, but the next generation may not be better than the previous.

Do you have any goals you are working towards right now?

There are two city councilmen I would like to see voted out of office. I just want the people to be respected, and hopefully get new councilmembers for this city. I’m fighting a battle against another machine; I don’t mind being the little guy fighting the big guy. But, I am scared to fall when I’m on the top of the mountain skiing. (laughs)

I will be honest, this is the last political battle. I think I have the right to enjoy the rest of my life; and politics is not enjoyable.

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