'Lite's' out


POSTED: Sunday, March 01, 2009

I think the strangest reaction I got during nearly 20 years of writing “;Honolulu Lite”; was a letter from a guy threatening to blow me away with a .357 Magnum for making fun of mo-peds. It was then I realized how difficult it would be writing a humor column in these times when lunatic asylums are no longer in business and semiliterate, heavily armed mo-ped riders would be among my readers.

The fact is, I started writing a humor column after being a crime and investigative reporter, where I met people like hit man Ronny Ching. And during that time, covering everything from Colombian drug gangs to Hawaii organized crime figures, I NEVER got a death threat. Say what you will about hit men, but they are professionals. They wouldn't kill you unless they were paid to.

The other thing I learned fairly early on about writing a humor column is that satire is dangerous. If someone reads the column and doesn't understand it is satire, they get extremely upset. When I explained to one irate caller that a particular column was satire, he shouted, “;Then why don't you label it satire!”; I said, “;Because I don't know how to spell satire.”; He missed that one, too. Luckily, he rode the bus, not a mo-ped. (Parts of the above story may have been fictionalized for dramatic effect.)

And that's the other thing: I found it a lot easier (and safer) to write a humor column if I just made stuff up. Then if I got an angry call or e-mail, I'd just say, “;Dude, I made all that up.”; And he'd say, well, OK then.

I'M GOING DOWN memory lane here because this will be my final “;Honolulu Lite.”; Newspapers everywhere are facing hard times because of the economy and the challenges of competing with “;free”; news to be found on TV, radio and the Internet. The Star-Bulletin is no exception. The paper is downsizing and reorganizing, and I thought this would be a good time for me to leave the stage with a wink and a smile and the (mostly) good memories of how much fun it's been to write in this space.

I was lucky. Most newspapers wouldn't consider having an in-house humorist. And, frankly, I expected the editors to wise up to my shenanigans years ago. But I am leaving the Star-Bulletin voluntarily, partly to make a space for someone younger who would have been laid off, but mostly so I can have the thrill of job hunting in the worst economy since the Great Depression. (Little-known historical fact: The Great Depression was preceded by the Great Vague Feeling of Uneasiness.)

I'm not retiring. I figure there must be tons of opportunities for slightly overweight humorists. I think I'd make an amusing car-wash attendant, for instance. But really, I'm just giving myself some time to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

I was saddened to hear that legendary Star-Bulletin cartoonist Corky Trinidad died just a few weeks ago. He was something of a mentor to me and illustrated my first book of columns (”;Hey, Tourist! Buy This Book!”;). Corky and I weren't great businessmen. I believe we split 72 cents per book in royalties.

But Corky told me something when I first started writing “;Honolulu Lite.”; He said, “;Throw away your first idea because everyone else is going to have it.”; It was brilliant advice and I tried to follow it, although I concede that there were a few days after consuming a bad bottle of wine that I wrote about the first thing that popped into my head, usually about geckos. But I've written more than 2,000 columns, and you have to concede that that's at least a great deal of typing.

So, I say so long and aloha to Corky and all you faithful, easily entertained readers. And I apologize to mo-ped riders everywhere.