Bumper to bumper traffic is something I expect when I drive to Little Tokyo from Gardena on the Harbor Freeway. It’s not something I anticipate when driving on Highway 15 coming home from Vegas.
This past week I spent a few days in Vegas but made it a point to return before the New Year’s traffic clogged the highway. Obviously a lot of people had the same idea.
I left Wednesday morning and by the time I got to Primm (California/Nevada state line), cars were starting to back up. So it was almost bumper to bumper all the way back to California. In fact, the traffic didn’t start moving at regular speed until I got to the 210 Freeway.
It took me about six and a half hours to get back to Gardena. It’s normally a four and a half hour drive so it took me two extra hours to get home.
Heck, in normal traffic I can drive to San Jose in six and a half hours.
And the human traffic at The California and Main Street Station Hotel was almost as bad as the auto traffic on the highway. I’ve never seen the two hotels so crowded as it was last week.
This was even more noticeable when I went to lunch or dinner at the Market Street Cafe and the Main Street buffet. The lines were so long at both places I almost lost my appetite.
Oh well, I guess since it was the holiday season it was to be expected. Seems like there were a lot of Los Angeles area folks at The Cal. Every time I turned around I bumped into someone I knew. And as I always comment, the first exchange of words are, “Well, how you doing?” Reference is, of course, to one’s luck or lack of luck in the casino.
Saw a fellow slot player whom I’ve mentioned in the past, name of John Kimak. We met many years ago because we played the same slot machines.
He’s still playing and is still winning. It’s almost like a fairy tale. On this trip as I watched him play, he hit $4,500. Heck, I can’t even hit for 45 cents.
About two years ago, he hit the progressive jackpot. Yep, $150,000. He told me he was going to write a book about his success on the keno slot machine. I hope he can send me a comp copy.
Oh yeah, those of you who may have hit a jackpot at the Cal know that the casino usually takes a photo of winners so they can publish it in their monthly newsletter.
Well, Kimak had his photo taken after his latest triumph and he gave me a copy. So I thought I would put it in my column and, who knows, the next I see him I will give him a copy of my column. Hopefully he will tip me 25 cents.
It’s always nice to say, “It was a great way to start the New Year.”
In this case, I was invited to the Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Church’s 39th annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen” this past Sunday.
The Rev. Matsubayashi of the church and his charming wife, Kay, extended an invitation for me and my wife to the event.
Last year, the Reverend asked me to be one of the judges for the program which pits the women singers against the men.
In Japanese, it’s called the competition between the red and white teams with the red being the women and the white being the men.
It was a tough call to pick the winner when I was one of the judges, so this year, I enjoyed the program a lot more because I didn’t have to make the decision on which side won the competition.
This year’s panel of judges gave the winning trophy to the red team. Either side could have won and I doubt if there would have been too many complaints. Both the women and men performed really well.
I guess my only complaint, if I had to make a complaint, was that the program was a bit long. It lasted about four and a half hours. However, because all the contestants performed so well, I really didn’t mind sitting that long to hear them perform.
There was a “sell-out” audience in attendance. I would guess about 400 people turned out for the annual program.
I’m sure it took a lot of time and effort to put on the program so I congratulate the Nishi Hongwanji for producing the entertaining event.
Rev. Matsubayashi said that next year will be the 40th anniversary of the event so they will probably put together an even more impressive renewal. They have the date set already. It will be Jan. 9, 2011.
Gosh, the years really fly, don’t they? Especially for those of us who are now senior citizens.
Oh yeah, before I forget to mention it, the 2009 Nisei Week Queen and her court were guests at the event. In fact, they sat in the row of seats directly behind my wife and me.
Didn’t get to meet any of them, which seems to be the way things are in this era.
In the old days when I used to hang around J-Town and attended events where the Queen and her court were present, the young ladies would go out of their way to meet and greet people.
Nowadays they seem to be standoffish (I guess that’s a word) and don’t seem to mingle with the public.
The Sunday event had a special room for the guests during intermission and the Queen and princesses were there. I was invited to join the other guests and sat (again) next to the young ladies but nary a “Hello” or a smile.
Well, maybe they didn’t think it was necessary to smile and say “Hello” to an 84-year-old man.
Just a thought.
Speaking of an 84-year-old man, reader Ted Maesaki made reference to my age in a letter he sent me. He wrote:
“Ake mashite omedeto gozaimasu. Happy New Year to Tiger. Is it our year, are you going to be 84 this year? Or did I make you upset? You are probably saying, ’I’m not that old yet.’
“Does your wife make traditional New Year’s Japanese food, Osechi ryori? Or do you just go out to McDonald’s (ha, ha).
“Since my mom cannot cook anymore, my wife took over and we cut down a little on traditional Japanese dishes. We sill do eat ozoni, kazunoko, kuro mame, konbu, tai and some other kinds. I know that many of these dishes having meanings, like good luck, long life, prosperity, etc. Maybe you or some of your readers might know and they can tell me the meaning of certain dishes that would be interesting to know and we can tell our children and grandchildren.
“I sure wish this year will start off better than last year. I went to at least 10 funerals in the first four months last year.
“Guess how many weddings I attended last year? None.
“Whereas my son has attended many weddings. This is a sign of getting old. More funerals and less weddings. So sad.
“As I may have mentioned to you before, I belong to the West Covina senior group’s ‘Leisure Club.’ Our membership is slowly dwindling down. Maybe if you come to our meeting one day and be a “keynote speaker,” you might attract some new people for us.
“You and some of your readers mentioned that Gardena where you live had changed a lot from the old days (good or bad).
“I lived in Temple City in the San Gabriel Valley since 1982 and it has changed quite a bit over the last 15 years or so.
‘We have so many Chinese, Vietnamese people who live here now, the driving has become quite dangerous. I see many of these people driving while on cell phone, talking and without any signal, they make U-turns in the middle of the street.
“My Chinese friend told me that in Hong Kong people make U-turns when they see a parking pace on the opposite side of the street. I don’ know if this is worse than ‘kamikaze’ taxi drivers in downtown Tokyo. Talking about driving, one of your readers mentioned that she got a ticket from photo enforced red light traffic signal.
“One of our ‘Leisure Club’ member’s husband get a similar citation and I think she told me that it was over $400, too. She told me that he went to court and asked the Judge to lower the fine since he is a senior. I don’t know exactly what happened at the court, but his case was dismissed and he only had to pay a $10 court fee and his citation was fully refunded back to him. Can you believe this?
“De wa kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shi masu. Gambatte kudasai.”
Thanks for your letter, Ted. The length kind of it makes it a little easier to fill my space today.
In response to some of the matters you brought to light, I was born in the Year of the Ox. That was 1925.
I will be 85 this year. I’m already 84.
I don’t think your “Leisure Club” members would want to hear me talk. Heck, if you announced that I was going to be the keynote speaker, you might even lose some members.
Sadly, you’re right about funerals and weddings. I can’t even remember the last wedding I attended.
As for funerals, sadly, I already have one to attend this coming week.
I used to kind of “keep score” about the number of funerals I attended during the year, but I stopped that. It became too disheartening.
Well, enuff said.
Like most of you, part of my New Year’s day is to spend it in front of the TV set, watching the Rose Parade. This became a habit when I once had the privilege of riding on a float in the Parade.
This year I wasn’t aware that there was a Japanese high school band participating until I saw the Kansei High School group passing by on the TV screen.
Was kind of disappointed that Hawaii didn’t participate in the Parade this year. The Island used to send a high school group almost every year. I guess the economy in the Islands is pretty bad.
I know they are furloughing teachers over there.
Back to the Rose Parade.
Among the most noticeable participants in the annual event are horses. Which might cause some of you to think, “With so many horses in the parade, do any of them poop while marching by?”
Hey, the length of the Parade route is over six miles so it’s possible.
Yes, it is possible. That’s why from among the hundreds of volunteers who work on the Parade some are assigned to clean up after the prancing ponies.
Most of the volunteers are students from Pasadena Community College. They get up at 2 a.m. on Parade day and arm themselves with shovels and rolling plastic trashcans. Despite the dirty work, the students say they’re happy to participate in the world-famous Parade.
They probably wouldn’t feel that way if one of the horses was a newspaper columnist named, “Horse.”
The following sounds like something I concocted out of my wild imagination but it isn’t. It almost happened.
As I often write when I return from my Vegas trips, I have breakfast at least once with my old friend, Rose Kakuuchi and her sister, Grace.
It’s a good respite from just sitting in front of a slot machine, donating to the Las Vegas economy.
This past trip, we did enjoy having breakfast and chatting.
Now comes the reason I am making mention of our get together.
On Saturday at Santa Anita, would you believe there was a horse named “Rosa Grace” running in the 8th race? Not only that, in the 9th race, there was a horse named “Rose Roar” entered.
Talk about playing hunches.
So I jumped in my car and went to the races.
“Rosa Grace” was a long shot, going off at odds of 18 to 1.
Too long for a win bet. So, I decided to put a place parlay from “Rosa Grace” to “Rose Roar.”
I calculated that “Rosa Grace” would pay $13 to place.
Since I’m normally a $20 bettor when I wager to win, I boosted it to $40 because it was place.
Well, “Rosa Grace” finished in a photo for place, but I was nosed out.
No need to say that “Rose Roar” did place and pay 10 bucks.
Do the math and you’ll know how much I missed out.
So what else is new?
Speaking of Rose and her sister living in Vegas, it seems a lot of seniors are contemplating moving there to live out their retirement.
Well, perhaps it isn’t that great a choice.
According to a current research, with the growing senior population, the State of Nevada feels that there will be a great strain on health care and other social services.
This is expected to put a strain on seniors residing in Vegas. Even the old-timers do hit a jackpot every now and then. Or should that read “if” and “when.”
Just a thought.
On the mainland, we “kotonks” call it “snow cone.” In Hawaii, they call it, “shaved ice.”
I thought about this when I saw a photo of our President who spent ten days during the holidays in Honolulu.
He was caught by the media photos enjoying “shaved ice” at one of his favorite places for the popular dish.
It was a place where he enjoyed “shaved ice” when he was a resident of Honolulu long before anyone ever imagined that one day he would be living in the While House.
I once asked an Island friend why they called it, “shaved ice.” He looked at me and replied, “What else can you call ice that is shaved?”
When I told him we called it, “Snow cone,” he laughed and said, “We don’t know what snow looks like in Hawaii.”
He had a good point. Maybe we kotonks should also call it “shaved ice.”
A least the President would know what we were talking about if we did call it “shaved ice.”
Oh well, maybe that’s why the Islanders call us “kotonks.”
I guess I can call this the first laugher of the year since it is now 2010 and I’m starting off with my first column in the Year Of The Tiger (No, not Tiger Woods, but the Chinese astrological calendar).
A cute little San Fernando Valley blond teenager wanting to earn some extra money for the semester break, decided to hire herself out as a “handy woman” and started canvassing the nearby well-to-do neighborhoods.
She went to the front door of the first house and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do.
“Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch,” he said. “How much will you charge me?”
Delighted, the girl quickly responded, “How about $50?”
The man agreed and told her that the paintbrushes and everything she would need was in the garage.
His wife, overhearing the conversation said to him, “Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?”
He responded, “That’s a bit cynical, isn’t it?”
The wife replied, “You’re right. I guess I’m starting to believe all those dumb blond jokes we been getting by e-mail lately.”
Later that day, the little blonde came back to the door to collect her money.
“You’re finished already?” the startled husband asked.
“Yes,” replied the blond, “and I even had paint left over, so I gave it two coats.”
Impressed, the man reached in his pocket for the $50 and handed her an additional $10 for a tip.
“Thank you, she told the man. “By the way,” she added, “it’s not a Porch, it’s a Lexus.”
George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] com. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The