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. :)

Happy 4th of July!


Back in the day, television stations would sign off with a little clip that probably went something like this:

My grandfather apparently got teary-eyed every time he saw it on TV. That story touches my heart a little bit, especially since he had been placed in the Manzanar Internment Camp during WWII. Had it been me in that situation, I’d hold a grudge and snap the TV off before the first note would have sounded.

Have a fun and save Fourth, everyone!

Where I Went

So I fell off the face of the planet for a few weeks, but it was all for a good cause: I had three weeks of work in Las Vegas.

What the hell was I working on in Vegas? Something that involved fifty-one girls, sashes, sponsors, and general chaos wherever we went:

By luck, I was recommended by a friend for this job as a Production Assistant. I became part of the team that gave the audience a glimpse of what the girls did for fun prior to the pageant. It was crazy, exhausting, and a lot of fun. (I’m still trying to recover energy to just even scrape together this post for you.)

I had to wait until the whole production was over, but I did manage to grab some shots behind the scenes on my phone. All can be found here.

Most insane moment during the entire gig? Being in a room with Richard Simmons and fifty-one girls, all of them hula-hooping.

Where I’ve Been…

As good as it gets when someone’s eyes have just opened.

Mind you, I’m not getting a puppy. I’m all for adopting dogs from shelters and saving strays. There are tons of dogs out there who need a good home, and I don’t encourage people to breed their pets.

HOWEVER, a friend of mine’s dog just had a litter and I haven’t held a puppy in seventeen years. There’s something wickedly adorable about holding a creature that fits in the palm of your hand which will grow to be about forty pounds in just six months.

I’ve been visiting my friend every weekend to participate in puppy-sitting and potty patrol. I’ve been bitten, peed on, and checked for milk (it’s amazing how fast puppies find your boobs, even when you’re holding them at arm’s length). I’ve broken up games when someone’s being a little too rough (which breaks down to having more teeth and being a little bit bigger in size). I’ve even chased a squatting pup so the poo doesn’t hit the carpet.

Me being a mommy? Highly doubtful. Me raising a puppy one of these days? Definitely probable.

Yes, I Still Count Them

It would have been my labrador’s 17th birthday today.

Day 9: Murphy

This blog has been quiet as of late, but it’s been a stressful month. As soon as things settle, there will be activity again.

Close To Home: Part 2

After nearly nintey-six hours of waiting in uncertainty, I finally got word from Japan. And it’s all good (or at least as good as it can be): my relatives in Fukushima were inland far enough to escape the tsunami and are all alive. A cousin in Tokyo had a better stroke of luck in contacting people by phone, then called us with his findings.

I cannot even begin to tell you how relieved I am that they’re alive. Over the weekend I kept my attention focused on the news, getting frustrated when no new information was coming forward. I had to limit my exposure to just what I found on the internet because I couldn’t stop crying whenever I watched television. One of the pictures that’s been floating around the internet from Japan pretty much sums up how I felt over the weekend:

Sunday night was spent at my grandmother’s house. Originally we’d planned to get together to celebrate belated birthdays (and we still did), but we couldn’t help but keep our eyes glued to the screen: my grandmother has NHK (a family Christmas gift) and it was on the entire time we were there. Pictures of our relatives were on the coffee table and my grandmother was pointing out the ones she hadn’t heard from. It was surreal: potentially a quarter of my heritage had been completely destroyed by a natural disaster, but all we could do was wait.

Monday night we’d finally heard from most of the relatives in Fukushima, which was a relief. The only one we hadn’t heard from was Fukui-chan, my grandmother’s cousin, who lives in the Sendai area. She’s probably the same age as my grandmother (who just turned ninety), and all I could think of was what I’d seen in pictures: old people being carried out on the backs of soldiers (best case scenario).

Last night we got a call around 9:30 on the landline. Usually that means something bad has happened, but this time around it was good news: Fukui-chan is okay and is currently staying with her daughter. With that, I felt like I could finally stop worrying about a small part of the tragedy and start worrying about my country of culture as a whole.

Japan has a very, very long road ahead in the recovery process. If the threat of nuclear distaster wasn’t in the air, I’d recommend that they burn the debris and try to start from scratch. There’s too much damage everywhere to even start picking things up and disposing of them properly. How any of those people have the willpower to go back to where their house stood to look for something to salvage is beyond me. And since I can’t go over there and phsyically help, I’ve sent donations through Red Cross and World Giving (found via this link on CNN).

Of course, there’s a very big THANK YOU to everyone who sent good vibes and well wishes during this whole thing. There’s a huge comfort in knowing that I’ve got support from the internet, especially when I’ve done little more than interacted with you through Twitter. I sincerely believe that this helped me find my family safely, and that if we keep sending positive thoughts, the other missing people will be found as well. (At the very least, the dead will be found and identified so that they can rest in peace.)

My only bit of humor at this point is that the nuclear crisis may bring Godzilla into being and that he could save Japan. How, I’m not sure. But he’s done it before.

Close To Home

Like many of the major disasters that have happened during my short stint on Earth, I was a little bit late in finding out about the tragedy that struck Japan on March 11th.

My friend Sherry sent me a text at about 7 AM, asking me if I heard about what happened in Japan. The last thing I’d seen in the news was the resignation of a cabinet member because he accepted foreign money during his campaign, and I thought that’s what she was referring to.

She told me that there was an 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

My first thought was that large cities collapsed, similar to what happened in China back in 2008. It wasn’t until I turned on my computer did I realize it was much worse.

Footage of the tsunami showed waves wiping out homes, cars, entire towns like they were crumbs on a tablecloth. Fires were consuming buildings like they were kindling. Crowds of people trying to reach higher ground, watching the wreckage float past them.

It’s horrible for anyone to look at.

Being as American as I am, I can’t help but keep at least one foot in the country of my cultural heritage. I scan the LA Times and Wikipedia for news. I watch NHK when I have the chance. By birth, I’d be the cousin once removed from the lineup. Two-thirds of my name is Japanese. You’d better believe the earthquake had me concerned.

My concern turned into high-level worry when I heard about the power plant in Fukushima. My maternal grandmother’s family is from that area, and we still have cousins who live on the family land. The pictures I had seen of the place showed little more than your basic Japanese country house, complete with a small scale vegetable garden and a convenient trip from our ancestors’ graves. (If I was asked to spend the night during a visit, I’d do the bare minimum stay.)

I stopped watching the news as of yesterday. For one, the lack of information is incredibly frustrating. For another, the images of the wreckage and the survivors leaves me in tears. It was enough to see small children being scanned to see if they had any radiation contamination and to hear that iodine tablets were being prepared for distribution.

We finally got some news about family today. A cousin of my grandmother has lost her house. We’re not sure how the others are faring; we can’t get through on the phone. Another cousin in Tokyo managed to call us to let us know he and his family are okay; my grandmother gave him a list of numbers in Fukushima to try.

I’m trying to lose myself by following Tweets and posts on Facebook, but I feel guilty. I’ve got power, food, water, and a relatively solid roof over my head. I don’t know if my relatives have even that much right now.

I know I haven’t been a bundle of joy to be around these past two days, but I feel so helpless.

So That Happened

It looks like it’s just not a good day to use Google Chrome.