Book festival attracts real characters
ASIDE from bringing hundreds of writers, performers and musicians together, the Hawaii Book and Music Festival this weekend was sort of a weird Twilight Zonian affair in which various characters I either knew or had always wanted to know materialized like specters among the white tents spread across the grounds of Honolulu Hale.
I was there to (Caution: Book Plug Ahead) sign copies of my book, "Hey Waiter, There's an Umbrella in My Drink!" but one of the first people I came across was (Caution: CD Plug Ahead) Sonya Mendez, who was promoting her new CD, "Back to the Islands." We went to Aiea High School together, but our experiences were different, to put it mildly. She was the talented songbird and future recording artist, popular with everyone on campus, and I was in the "Downward Bound Program." Her CD has a song on it called "Mr. Charlie," but unless it's about a haole who gets tied up in class by local punks while the teach flees, I don't think it's about me.
Then I ran into someone who had a huge impact on my life, former Star-Bulletin managing editor John Simonds. He hired me to work at this paper, but he had an interesting employment policy. Before you could start at the Star-Bulletin, you had to do two years at the Pacific Daily News on Guam. Since I was up to my armpits in snow working at a newspaper in Wheeling, W.Va., at the time, the offer seemed reasonable.
THEN I RAN into Lyle Nelson, former Star-Bulletin reporter, who showed me the ropes as a police reporter here after I had concluded my Guam sentence. Lyle is a golf fanatic, and the first thing he did when we got off from work at the police station was take me to the Hawaii Kai Executive Course where I somehow accidentally managed to make a hole-in-one on the 16th hole. Lyle, in 40 years of golf on just about every golf course in the world, had never made a hole-in-one, so you can imagine how happy it made him to see some rookie reporter fly one in on his first time on the course. If I were Lyle, I would have wrapped a 9-iron around my neck. Standing with Lyle at the book fair was Jim Becker, the legendary Star-Bulletin columnist and AP foreign correspondent. He told a great story about playing golf at Augusta National while covering the Masters, something Lyle also never got to do in his 40 years of golf, so I edged away before homicide ensued.
Then I ran into former Star-Bulletin photographer Bob Young. I had always been a fan of Young, one of the great surfing photographers of all time. We got into a bit of an argument as to whether the surfer in one of his most famous shots of the Banzai Pipeline was Butch Van Artsdalen or Don Stroud. I said it was Stroud and had the autograph to prove it. He wouldn't budge. It was like, just because he took the picture, he thought he was right. Some people.
There were so many other specters of the past who materialized, I thought Rod Serling might show up. And he probably would have had a great story for Lyle about the time he played golf with Alfred Hitchcock at St. Andrews.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
at any book retailer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org