What the Heck?
Augie T. sees no changes in Waikiki gig
Comedian Augie Tulba sold out his last show at Brew Moon last week. Next venue: the Sheraton Waikiki. "I'm not going to be a Waikiki act," insists Tulba. "I'm going to tell them, you know who I am? I'm the guy with the shell lei, pretending my name is Kimo, kissing your butt for tips."
Landing on the List: Thursday's Centennial Ball honored the Honolulu 100, a hundred people who over the last century helped make the city what it is. All the honorees were flashed one by one on a video screen. The black-tie audience, 1,250 strong, a who's who of local society, applauded loudest for the 35 Hawaiians on the list, from Duke Kahanamoku to Haunani-Kay Trask, who was shocked to find herself included. "So if everyone loves the Hawaiians," she asks, "why won't they give us our land back?"
The Power of the Press: Two Sundays back, I interviewed people so desperate for a driver's license test that they would sleep in line overnight outside Kapolei Hale.
The next day, the city announced it would hire six new driving examiners. Great, I thought. But it turns out those hires are just temporary, to meet the Christmas break demand. In January, we're back to dysfunctional. The only bright spot: The city may replace the driver's licensing office it shut down in Kaneohe with one in Temple Valley Shopping Center.
Premature Felicitations: Got a Christmas card in the mail this week. From a local business. Relieved none of my friends are that organized.
Melodies Unheard: A great band at Vintners in Paradise, the PBS fundraiser. Gabe Baltazar played sax, Jimmy Borges, Loretta Ables-Sayre and Sonya Mendez alternated on vocals. At evening's end, all four took the stage together. Spirited stuff, including an impromptu bit of scat singing from Baltazar that startled Borges into a double-take. But hardly any of the 500 people at the event were listening.
"I've seen entertainers devastated by that," says Borges. "I always tell them people are there to drink and talk; think of yourself as live Muzak."
Tanks for the Memories: Auditions for Army Community Theatre's production of "CATS" start in a week. Theatre chief Vanita Rae Smith is frustrated. Among the other military scrap she had assembled for the junkyard setting, she wanted an old tank turret. "You think there'd be one on an Army base," she says, "but no." She's having second thoughts anyway, since the tank's gun barrel might be taken as a anatomical reference "not really appropriate for a family stage."
Eat Pie First: Last Wednesday, the Honolulu Seniors Club met at the Ala Wai Community Park recreation center, an aging brick building near the McCully Street Bridge. There were 15 tables of bridge players and two tables of mah-jongg.
At one of the mah-jongg tables sat Sudeyo Murakami and Aiko Kawaguchi. Here since 8 a.m., they'll play mah-jongg until 4 p.m., when Murakami, 84, will drive Kawaguchi, 90, home.
Their playing partners are relative youngsters. Gordon Lau barely qualifies for the group; you have to be 55. Bea Maeda retired as an insurance auditor only three years ago. "These two wear us out," says Maeda. "We can't keep up."
"I never get tired," says Kawaguchi, shuffling the green and white mah-jongg tiles. "I never have aches and pains either."
The game hardly gets started before Kawaguchi wins. "Oh, she wins most of the time," says Lau. Then she tallies up everyone's score in her head. "She's always right," says Maeda. "When you finish counting yourself, she says, 'I told you so.'"
Dues for the Honolulu Seniors are $10 a year. In addition to mah-jongg or bridge every Wednesday, dues bring you free coffee, doughnuts once a month. This day is a big deal -- a pre-Thanksgiving luncheon, with pumpkin pie. Lunch costs $9 a head, but the seniors pay only $6, the club making up the rest.
"I get free lunch," says Kawaguchi. If you're 90 and over, you don't have to pay. Someone mentions Kawaguchi is one of the few that old. "Don't know," says Kawaguchi. "Plenty old-looking people here."
Her prescription for youthful looks: "Beer." Lau says one beer a day might be good for you. "One?!" says Kawaguchi. "I drink three."
Over lunch, I talk to bridge player Connie Ho, retired Wilson Elementary School teacher and president of the club. She introduces me to Mary Jane Chapman, who moved to Honolulu three years ago to be near her son: "One Wednesday I walked in here, and right away I had a nice circle of friends."
Ho is afraid the city might tear down the aging rec center. "Where will we all go?" she wonders.
Ho finds me an extra piece of pie. Everyone insists I eat it. I look around. Nearly every senior has set their lunch aside and is eating the pie first. The wisdom of age.
John Heckathorn's radio show, Heckathorn's Hot Plate, simulcasts weekday evenings from 6 to 7 p.m. on SportsRadio1420 and sister station 1080 AM. Reach him at email@example.com