My Kind of Town
Don Chapman

Trouble next door

» Kaneohe

The fist tap that Lt. Basel Zakly Faris, USMC, and his buddy Lt. Joe Matsuo exchanged as they dribbled basketballs onto the court of the district park gym had nothing to do with hoops.

"So, Baz, since you never would have met your future wife if I hadn't, quote-unquote, dragged you along today," Joe said, "does this mean I get to be your best man? Is that kosher in a Muslim wedding, a Buddhist best man?"

"Of course. Imam Ibrahim is wise in these matters."

Joe had introduced Baz to the young imam. Of Syrian heritage, trained in the classic Islam but disillusioned with the terrorists who claimed Islam, he turned to Sufism. Sufis, he'd explained, believed there was one God who had many faces and names, and had followers who believed different things and read various holy books, but the message of each distilled down to "Do unto others as you would have them do to you and your family." Sufis meditated, seeking to diminish the ego and physical desires, to find a higher self.

"Basically," said Joe, who spent much of his youth at the Pearl City Hongwanji, "it's Buddhism in the name of Allah."

"You got it," the imam said. "Sufis recognize Buddha as one of the great master teachers, and above all value love, compassion and tolerance."

After shooting around and warming up, Joe said "A little 1-on-1?"

"Be careful what you ask for, bro."

At a rangy 6-foot-3, Baz was taller and had longer arms, but the 6-foot-1 Joe was quick as a chameleon and had serious hops. Both could hit the 3-pointer or slash to the hoop. They killed in 2-on-2, and their 1-on-1 battles were knock-down, drag-out deals, as this one would be.

Up the hill at UH-Windward, meanwhile, Fatima bin Laden and Jennifer Hira had just finished registering for classes.

"You know," Fatima said as they reached Jen's red VW bug, "I really appreciate your offer to stay with your family, but I was thinking, with your daughter and your jobs, I don't want, well ... It makes sense for me to live close to school, so I was thinking ... "

"Rent an apartment."


So they drove down to Times, bought a copy of the Star-Bulletin and within three hours had moved Fatima into a furnished cottage on the side of the landlord's house, Mr. and Mrs. Lop Chong. It was on TheBus line and even came with a view of Kaneohe Bay.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until after she'd paid her first month's rent and a security deposit that she smelled the familiar aroma of grilling lamb kebobs drifting from the house next door and asked about it. "That's Mrs. Hamzad," Mrs. Lop Chong said. "She has a Middle Eastern catering company."

And used a certain taxi driver named Awad to make deliveries.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek. His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin. He can be e-mailed at dchapman@midweek.com

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