HORSE’S MOUTH: Like Being in J-Town

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

LAS VEGAS— As I frequently write when I’m in Vegas, I chat about weather conditions on my drive from Gardena.

Especially when the weather forecasters on TV news talk about possible snow at lower levels.

The Cajon Pass, more popularly known as Highway 15, rises to heights of 4,500 feet before Victorville, so snow is always a threat.

Fortunately, the skies were clear and the highway fast, so we didn’t face any problems except for a little high wind.

We started our trip at 6 a.m. from Gardena, so the outbound traffic was also no problem.

Besides that, I slept most of the way because my son volunteered to drive all the way to Vegas.

And believe me, I could use the sleep.

Well, now that I got our travel out of the way, what’s happening in Vegas?

I know the L.A. area over the past week was focused on a lot of shootings in the area.

Well, the big news here was about motorists involved in a gunfight that led to the vehicles crashing and causing fatalities.

There seem to be more vehicle crashes here these days. In one case, a truck going the wrong way on the freeway hit another truck, causing a fatality.

Once we check into our room at The Cal, we don’t drive around too much, so I don’t concern myself with the wild drivers here.

I guess one of the problems with traffic here is most of the cars have out-of-state license plates.

Of course, most of the out-of-state vehicles have California plates.

Once, when I drove to The Strip, I kind of took a count of out-of-state cars and I would guess that almost every other car was not from Nevada.

So, for the most part, I park my car in the parking structure at The Cal and stay in the casino at the favorite slot machine during my stay here.

Nope, I haven’t started donating my money in the slots as yet.

When we schedule a three-day stay, I usually just watch others playing and don’t get rolling until the second day.

We arrived on Sunday, so that means Monday is when I start tossing my money into the slots.

My wife is completely different.

After we check in, she doesn’t go to the room, but dashes off to the casino.

Oh well, that’s what we came for, so I guess it’s only natural.

Oh yeah, the reason we’re here is that my sister is visiting.

She stays on The Strip, so we have to drive over there to have dinner with her and her daughter. She flies here from San Jose.

It’s Sunday today as I hammer away on my PC laptop.

In the morning, as we have been doing for a lot of years, we have breakfast with local resident Rosie Kakuuchi and her sister Grace.

It’s one of the highlights of our trips.

She’s a permanent resident of Vegas, so she has a different attitude about this city.

I’ve known her for many years before she moved here with her late husband Jake, who used to give me tips on how to play football when I was trying out for a position at Los Angeles City College.

Well, my feet are getting itchy to get down to the casino, but I’m a columnist before a gambler, so I’ll be stuck on the keyboard for at least another couple hours.

Yeah, before I enter my room, I drop by the paper keno counter and buy 20 games and then keep glancing at the TV set because the hotel telecasts their paper keno games.

So, how do I do with paper keno?

Well, I would guess that I’ve been doing this for at least a dozen years and yes, I did hit the jackpot twice.

A jackpot for a dollar (picking five numbers) pays $1,000, so I guess I’m still ahead.

Okay, let me concentrate on this column, which will appear on Tuesday.

While I was walking through the lobby before “retiring” to my room, I bumped into a friend and needless to say, the one thing he said was, “Hey Horse, don’t you mention my name and that you ran into me. My friends think I’m in my backyard working on my garden.”

Heh heh. Mowing the lawn, maybe?

I’m always curious about why Nisei guys love to visit Vegas, but don’t want anyone to know about their trips.

Hey, I’m the opposite. I enjoy bragging about my Vegas trips. Writing from here is a real joy.

Maybe because people might think I have money to throw away.

If you can call putting 25 cents in a slot machine “throwing my money away.”

Speaking of which, those of you who read my blabbing know that I’ve been playing the California lottery from the first day it was introduced.

How many years is that? About 20, I would guess.

Well would you believe that I forgot to buy my ticket this past Saturday because we were getting packed and ready for this trip?

I don’t even want to look in the local Sunday paper to see what the winning numbers were.

If my numbers did indeed come up I might consider jumping off the top floor of the hotel’s parking lot (about five stories).

Only kidding. When I told my wife I might do it, she laughed but told my son to keep an eye on me.

As I always say, heh heh.

Hey, with my luck the way it is, who knows?

Oh well, maybe I’ll hit a jackpot here.

Does anyone want to loan me a quarter?

Well maybe one of my friends hit the lottery.

In that case, I may ask for a loan of 50 cents.

By the way, the lottery prize this past Saturday was $24 million.

I know a lot of you may be wondering if I have something else to chat about.

Yeah, I still have about three pages to write, so I’d better find something more interesting than jumping off a building.

Of course, these same readers may be thinking, “I hope Horse did win the lottery and didn’t buy a ticket.”

Thanks a lot.

Before I left, I was thinking about going to the Day of Remembrance, which was held the Saturday before last at the National Museum, but something came up and I had to cancel my plan.

However, I’m glad that fellow columnist Ellen Endo attended and wrote her views on the gathering.

However, reading her article made me feel sorry I wasn’t there.

One thing she mentioned was that those in attendance were people who were in their 60s and 70s.

Which means, of course, that most of them weren’t even born until after the war and the camps were closed.

That’s the reason I regret not making it to the program.

I would like to have asked people in that age group questions about their views on the evacuation.

Yeah, I was only 19 myself, but those of us who were of that age are now in our 80s and 90s and we certainly have a different opinion about camp that the current generations (Sansei, Yonsei) have about our days in camp.

I’m pretty sure the current generations would be surprised by some of the views I might give them about camp life.

And I was planning to bring my photo album about camp life.

They would be surprised if they see my album and the kind of activities we engaged in.

Well, maybe it’s because I was a farmer before the war and I personally found camp life a lot different than the stories I hear these days from people who weren’t even born then or were only two, three or four years of age.

An example?

Well, there’s Norm Mineta, who was 10 years old, but because of his highly successful life as an adult, is now the “spokesman” about the evacuation and camp life.

Heck, they even named the San Jose International Airport after him.

Oh well, maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t attend the event.

Gee, what am I doing yakking about the above while I’m sitting here in Las Vegas?

Well, at any rate, I was glad to read Ellen’s views on the above topic, especially the title she gave to her remarks, “Are We Still in Camp?”

Maybe she should have titled her article, “What Do We Really Know About Camp?”

Being in Vegas, I should certainly have a lot of things to chat about besides something that happened over 70 years ago.

Like, maybe how much Vegas has changed since those days when a bunch of us might jump in an old car and drive up here when Downtown Vegas was the place to go because The Strip, as the main attraction to this city, was still in a developing stage.

A sign of this is that most JAs (including tons of people from Hawaii) spend their time (and money) Downtown.

Go to the Cal, Fremont and Main Street hotels and casinos and it feels like being in J-Town, especially with those folks from the Islands.

I know my relatives make at least four trips to Vegas and none of them stay on The Strip.

When I ask them why, most of them say it’s more comfortable staying Downtown.

Simple things.

Like being able to order miso soup.

And finding bottles of shoyu on the tables.

And where else can you order ramen from the menu?

Another thing.

I used to stay on The Strip in the old days, but I was just another tourist.

Downtown, the managers and other big shots would get to know their guests and learn their first names.

I’m often greeted, “Hi George, how’s it going?” The person asking me such a personal question is the general manager of the hotel and it makes me feel really welcomed.

Oh well, enough about Vegas.

I’m now going downstairs to the casino and toss my money into the slot machines.

Well, I’ll be back chatting as I always do in the Saturday edition of The Rafu.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. Thought you might be interested in this statement by the Kaeru Kid in a Nichi Bei article:

    “There are a couple of columnists for the Los Angeles-based JA paper who disparage the perspectives and complaints against the injustices perpetuated against the former wartime inmates — of those who were very young when incarcerated. One argument these writers use is that those who were young while incarcerated during the war probably have little valid memory of their time there. (Two-thirds of the approximately 10,000 inhabitants at Manzanar were under the age of 18, and so in their eyes, these Nikkei were unqualified to have a valid opinion about “camp” life.)
    They also disagreed with the “no-no” boys and both journalists felt these protestors don’t deserve the accolades now being bestowed on them.
    I strongly disagree with these claims.”

    The full article: http://www.nichibei.org/2012/08/the-kaeru-kid-manzanar-and-more-in-lone-pine/

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