Monday, June 30, 2008

Grad Night

There's some traditions that don't change, and for those of us in Southern California, one of them is Grad Night at Disneyland.

While I'm on a roll about graduation, I might as well reminisce about Grad Night, too.

I sure do look stupid in the picture, but as with the picture I used for this blog's inaugural post, so many years have gone by since then that now I can laugh about it. Hmm.. what a great tie and shirt combo.. was I wearing my pajama top?

The girl is Mitzi Takemoto. She looks great in the picture and I hereby apologize in advance should any of her friends run across the picture and make fun of her taste in guys.

The thing is, I hardly knew her. She went to a different high school and it was my friend Dennis who introduced me to her. He said I should ask her to Grad Night and I didn't believe she would say yes, but he kept nagging so I did and she did say yes. Dennis took her friend, Fumi Otani.

My most vivid memory was riding in the bus out to Anaheim. Dennis, Fumi, Mitzi and I sat near the front along with our other friend Duane. Fumi seemed very intent on listening to Duane and his date, Karen, talk. Finally, she asked him something.

"Your voice sounds so familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?"

Duane thought about it and shrugged. "I don't think so."

But Fumi was persistent. Finally, she put two and two together. "I talked to you on the phone," she said. "You called and asked to speak to Karen and I told you that you had the wrong number."

It turned out that Karen's last name was also Otani. Duane had met her somewhere but didn't get her phone number, so he called every Otani in the phone book trying to reach her. One of them happened to be Fumi, who was not related to Karen.

We all got a good laugh out of that one. I don't remember much about the rest of the evening until we got back to Dorsey around 6:00 the next morning, all wiped out. We took the girls back to Silverlake in Dennis' car, then returned to our Crenshaw neighborhood. Dennis dropped me off and I slept very well after that.

Oh, I also remember that Mitzi was very nice but for whatever reason, as far as I can remember that was the last time I saw her.

Years later - like lots of years, someone I knew told me that she was Mitzi's cousin. Small world, eh?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Graduation Day - Part Two

Yesterday's post was about my high school graduation, so today we move back three years to graduating from junior high.

Unlike high school, I felt sadness when leaving junior high. There were friends that I figured I would never see again, and I was right.

Our commencement exercises took place in more mundane surroundings, the school auditorium. In the late morning, rather than the evening - which was good since the school was not in an area you'd want to be in at night.

All I remember is having lunch with my mom and sister at the International House of Pancakes (pre "IHOP" days) on Stocker. I don't remember anything about the ceremony itself.

I do remember the friends I was sad to leave, though. Three of them, my best friends, although of no relation to each other, all had the same last name. Alan Jones, Michael Jones and John Jones. Then there was the girl I had a secret crush on: Lena Wong. And the girl who had a crush on me, although I pretended I didn't care: Jane Kuwata. And Lena's friend Eva Quon, as nice a person as anyone could be.

There were other friends but I don't mention their names here because we went to the same high school later on. But the ones whose names I did mention, I never saw them after junior high. Well, I actually did run into Lena a few years ago, at of all places a funeral. She recognized me but not vice versa. And we caught up on the years that had gone by at the luncheon honoring the deceased, after the funeral. Yes, I did tell her I had a secret crush on her, which we could both laugh about since so many years had passed.

Since I made that confession, I'll make this one here, too for whatever it is worth. Jane, I did care. You were really sweet. I was flattered but I was a knucklehead!

Junior high was different than high school. Everyone seemed more innocent, more sincere. Things got too politicial in high school. Or maybe it was because I just didn't see, or that our junior high was different.

Anyway, I have fond memories of junior high and you'll read about them in posts to come. Here's a YouTube video that takes me back to the 9th grade. One, way back then, that I secretly dedicated to my secret crush.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Graduation Day - Part One

Mid-June always brings with it a feeling in the air that reminds me of graduation. In particular, graduation from junior high (now they call it middle school) and high school. And it puts me in a certain mood.

I'm going to talk about high school graduation today.

Our graduation took place not on our high school football field or in our auditorium, but at the Hollywood Bowl. It was a school tradition. Perhaps it was because only a fool would be out at night in the neighborhood around my high school, but for whatever reason, we had the supposed privilege of our commencement exercises taking place at the Hollywood Bowl.

I wasn't even planning on participating until my parents found out and forced me to get my cap and gown and promise to be in the ceremony. All I could think of was escaping high school, the sooner the better.

The ceremony was rather uneventful for the most part. At one point the principal, Dr. Davis, made a mistake by inadvertently using a word that was supposed to be saved as a cue for us to stand up. In context we knew it was not time to stand, yet some people just heard the word and stood, so that caused a few others to stand up and it wound up with half the graduating class standing up and the other half motioning them to sit down, and everyone looking at each other sheepishly.

Then there was snickering when the Pillsbury Homemaker of the Year award was announced. And when the Sears Boy of the Year award was announced, derisive calls of, "Hey boy!" emanated from the audience. The poor parents.

The only enlightening moment of the entire ceremony came when one of our brighter and more accomplished students gave a speech. She introduced herself as Fujie Ota, pronouncing her first name as "Foo-jee-eh," which is proper (and she ought to know, right?). Well, we all looked at each other in astonishment because all through high school we had called or referred to her as "Foo-jee" without the "eh" at the end.

Finally I heard my name - only once since I won no awards - and I marched across the stage to receive my fake diploma. I received it with a big smile. I was soooo happy.

Afterwards I ran into Denise Chin. She was crying because it was an emotional occasion. I was grinning from ear to ear because it was an emotional occasion. We bid each other good luck, me feeling not an ounce of sadness, and went our separate ways.

I figured anyone I really wanted to see I would still see after high school so why be sad. I was too happy at the prospect of not being confined and watching the clock any more.

Well, I never saw Denise after that and at times I do wonder what happened with her because she was a nice person. Maybe she will Google her name and come to this blog one day. Foojee-eh was also a nice person and again, maybe she will google her name (or my name) and arrive here.

What did we do to celebrate our freedom? My buddies and I did what we usually did, we had a rendezvous at Bob's Big Boy on La Cienega Boulevard.

Here's a YouTube video of a song that takes me back to those days.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Easy Livin' - It Was the Best of Times

Well this entry becomes unstuck in time (see yesterday's post if you don't know what the heck I am talking about) as I talk about present and past.

Greg is briefly back from Texas. Friday evening we had dinner at Pizza Place California, where the above picture is taken. I decline to post the picture that includes me, and Julie refused to have her picture taken, so that's just Lisa, Katie and Greg.

Food-wise, the place was great. The service only so-so. We had to keep asking for stuff like water and more of those garlicky rolls that will give you killer breath.

Saturday night Katie saw the "Sounds and Voices of J-Town" benefit concert sponsored by the JACCC, headlined by Tia Carrere. But what was of most interest to me was the first act, Mariko and The Music Company.

Now I am too cheap to pay $45 for a ticket so I asked Katie how the concert was. This was over lunch at Shaka's in Alhambra who had the misfortune of a broken air conditioner on this 100+ degree day. Yet, we and quite a few other people sat there and suffered. Dey serve lot of shave ice dat day, dats fo sure.

Anyway, she said Ms. Carrere sounded weird by screaming a lot in Hawaiian, but her favorite performer was Mariko and her backup band. The reason I say they were of interest to me is because I had some of the best times of my life with Dennis Yokotake, their keyboard player.

No, I'm not gay so don't go raising your eyebrows. He and I used to play in the same band ages ago. We went by the name of Easy Livin' and got tired of telling people there was no "g" at the end of Livin'.

As I have often told whoever will listen, the time when Easy Livin' was together was the most funnest time of my life. Our lead singer, Teri Ann Kusumoto, later sang for Hiroshima. That was our claim to fame, sort of. The rest of us included Duane Kamei, Michael Kosaka and myself. Back then, Mariko and Duane's brother were in a band called Free Flight. Those were the days of Blarney's Castle, Roger Young Auditorium, The Elk's Club, Swalley's, The Phrog, etc.

Certainly I would have come around to writing about this in future posts (and I still will) but the concert brought it to mind and prompted this particular post.

Below is a YouTube video I ran across of The Music Company playing at Paul's Kitchen. They sure look like they're having fun, which made me miss those days all the more. Take a look:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Every Picture Tells a Story

Way back in 1977 I bought a hardbound book with blank 8.5" x 11" pages. It had a black, textured cover and I had decided from that day onward for the rest of my life, I would make daily entries therein to my "journal."

I gave my journal a name: Every Picture Tells a Story, after the title song from the 1971 album of the same name by Rod Stewart.

Funny thing, I had hardly any pictures in it. I was inspired by the grand globetrotting nature of that song and I fantasized my own grand adventures, set forth on the pages of my journal. And that was the reason for the name.

This "journal" was also based on the trait possessed by Billy Pilgrim the main character in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. He would become "unstuck" in time. That is, he found himself traveling past and present, here and there, and that is what I wrote in my first entry that I would do in my journal: jump around and write about whatever came to my mind at the time.

I was fabulously prolific in the beginning, having much personal history to document in those pages and seemingly not sufficient time to capture it all. Eventually I caught up to the present day at which time the pace slowed.

And like so many bursts of initial enthusiasm, soon the pace slowed to a crawl, each day a recount of the mundane. Nevertheless I faithfully continued my daily entries.

Let's see.. I would say I made daily entries from August of 1977 until sometime in 1979 or perhaps 1980. Then my entries became more sporadic until I began to marvel at how long it had been since my previous writing.

Then one day something happened and I made an impulsive decision to rid myself of these chronicles of a good part of my life. By that time I was up to 5 volumes. And unceremoniously into the trash can they went.

I don't even remember exactly why I did that but I regret doing so. Never get rid of pictures, writings, etc., because one day you'll regret it.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life. You have to preserve your Casablancas.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Time For Everything

Welcome to the inaugural post for my blog.

Yes, that's me in the picture. I always thought I looked like Meathead (Michael Stivic's on All in the Family, played by Rob Reiner). The Japanese Meathead?

I'm not sure how long ago that picture was taken but long enough that I can laugh along with you at it now.

The posts for this blog reflect whatever suited my writing fancy for the moment: past, present, future - whatever. You're welcome to come along for the ride and leave a comment if you'd like.

The following is from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, one of my favorite Bible passages:

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

And that applies to the posts for this blog, as well.