Archive for August, 2011

Hau`oli Lā Hānau

The story I’ve been told is this: when my paternal grandmother left her second husband, she and my father packed up their belongings and boarded a plane for Japan. Since it was the late 60’s, there was a layover in Honolulu to refuel. The stop was probably no more than a few hours, but my grandmother (being the stubborn person that she was), demanded to get off the plane to stretch her legs.

Long story short, she loved Hawai’i so much that she was living there permanently within months after going back to Akita.

This is how I came to have my “Grandma in Hawai’i.”

Grandma's modeling pics

She gave me my first ukulele when I was three. She made an excellent reason to make the trip to Hawai’i every couple of years for summer vacation. She was the only one who ever called me by my middle name on a regular basis (which is also my Japanese name). She would send me letters that were always written on her typewriter and were finished off with an elaborate signature. And she only gave and accepted gifts from Macy’s, Liberty House, and Neiman Marcus.

Today would have been her ninetieth birthday. I wish I knew more about her, but sadly she was the black sheep of a very traditional Japanese family (i.e. never going to find out anything before 1960), and my dad doesn’t really like to talk about his past. The little bits and pieces I do know come from miscellaneous pictures and a cardboard box of her belongings. My memories of her are simply made up of her long hair, shopping excursions at Liberty House, and remembering to respond to my seldom used Japanese name.

Old Photo

Hawai’i is a place full of memories for me, and a good majority of them include my grandmother. She’s been gone for almost fifteen years, but there’s a tiny part of me that still expects to meet up with her at the Ala Moana Center for another shopping date.

I Love Margarita, She’s a Sweet Gal

In Santa Monica, you can see this sign if you park in the structure near 2nd and Wilshire (and if you park towards the promenade side):


It’s just an ad for Mexican food and something that belongs to Margarita:

I’m guessing the bottom half of the sign must have blown away during a windy session or they had a tight budget and hoped that people would think that margaritas were being offered instead. It’s things that this that break my heart, because I’m sure Miss Margarita could have offered something wonderful.

Seriously, people. Take the time to do a little spell checking before you put stuff up. Demand a discount from your printer if the item didn’t come out the way you wanted. And placing the sign on the back of your establishment does not guarantee that it will not be criticized. A lot of employees would park on that side of the structure (I’m speaking from experience) and probably see it at least four times a week.

Oh well.

Me with Richard Simmons

So that happened.

I knew that a lot of crazy things were going to happen during my three weeks in Vegas, but nothing prepared me for this event: all fifty-one contestants (District of Columbia was her own entity, not Puerto Rico) would be hula-hooping in Chinese Laundry-brand wedges at the Miracle Mile Shops with Richard Simmons. There may have been a chance that it was listed on the schedule a few days before the shoot, but after multiple schedule changes, anyone’s guess was as good as mine.

How do you prepare for an encounter with Richard Simmons when you’re running on fumes? You get coffee, in any form. I decided to go with an iced coffee, Vietnamese-style:


Even after coffee and a power nap, the cleanest image I could grab of the man while we were in the same room was this:


The crazy Richard Simmons that you see on TV is exactly how he is in person. I thought he might break away from his character when I asked him to sign an appearance release, but no such luck. Our conversation went a little something like this:
Me: Mr. Simmons?
RS: (after kissing me on the cheek) CALL ME RICHARD!
Me: Richard, can I have you fill out this release?
RS: (after he started filling out the form)WHERE DO I LIVE?! MICHAEL (his manager)! MICHAEL, WHERE DO I LIVE?!

He took the girls down through the casino to the Miracle Mile shops. I swear I could hear his voice while I was still in the production office on the floor above.

It was truly an amazing experience, and it was a little tricky for me not to be starstruck with him around. Hands down this was my favorite shoot out of the whole pageant. :)