HORSE’S MOUTH: A Few Words from Paul Takahashi

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By GEORGE YOSHINAGA

Who could ever imagine that in the middle of summer there would be a rainstorm just north of Barstow so violent that traffic on southbound Highway 15 was almost brought to a standstill?

I was heading home from Vegas and was caught up in the storm.

In all the years I’ve been traveling to and from Vegas, I’ve never experienced anything like it.

Gee, en route to Vegas, the temperature in Barstow was 105.

And a day after we got back to Gardena, looking at the weather report, the temperature in Barstow was back up to 109.

Well, as they say in Vegas, “that’s luck.”

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I know I mentioned (again) the name of Paul Takahashi, who is a reporter for The Las Vegas Sun.

Well, Rafu staffer J.K. Yamamoto forwarded me the following letter from Takahashi. It was posted on the Rafu website back in November, but I didn’t see it until now. Here is the letter:

“Thanks again for the mention in your column, George.

“However, I’m puzzled over your fascination with my career and – as you put it – ‘how a Japanese American landed a job with a publication in Vegas.’ It almost sounds as if you’re surprised a Japanese American was able to get a job at a mainstream newspaper.

“Since you didn’t try to reach me before writing about me (my contact information is on every story), let me elaborate for you how I became a reporter so as to sate your curious curiosity.

“I’ve always been a news junkie who loves to tell stories. I’ve known I wanted to become a journalist since I began working for my high school newspaper and became its editor-in-chief. I liked journalism so much, I went to college and majored in it.

“Indeed, I’m a Japanese American who is working at The Las Vegas Sun. But I’m also a proud graduate of a Chicago-area university, an avid hiker and cycler and a technology geek who is working at The Las Vegas Sun.

“You see, my ethnicity is not how I define myself entirely. While I may be a minority journalist at a mainstream media outlet, that is not my sole identity. I am more than the color of my skin and the countries where my parents were born.

“It shouldn’t be surprising in this day and age that there is a Nisei working at The Sun as there are many other Asian Americans who work in U.S. newsrooms. The Asian American Journalists Association – of which I am a member – has more than 1,500 members working at newspapers and TV stations across this country.

“Each of us ‘landed a job’ in journalism just like any of our Caucasian, African American, Hispanic and Native American colleagues did. It’s because of our knack for storytelling, our dogged pursuit for the truth and our tenacious persistence in the face of uncertain times. Nothing more, nothing less.

“As a society living in the 21st century, we must acknowledge the important role that race and culture plays in our communities. But we must also strive for a world where an Asian American byline doesn’t raise an eyebrow.”

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I learned on my recent trip to Vegas that people who visit there are different from those you might find elsewhere. An example:

As I mentioned in my column from Vegas, I arrived Saturday shortly after noon. Went to bed about 9:30 on Saturday.

Sunday morning, as I was putting on my clothes for another day, I noticed that my checkbook was missing.

I then remembered I had put it in the back pocket of my trousers when leaving Gardena. Which meant I dropped it in the casino.

Needless to say, I panicked.

I ran down to the check-in clerk and explained the situation.

She told me to contact a security officer.

I did and he told me to follow him to his office.

Once inside, he opened the safe and found three checkbooks.

He asked me for my ID, so I gave him my driver’s license.

After checking it, he told me to sign a document and then handed the checkbook to me.

I glanced through the checkbook and everything seemed to be in order. That is, no checks seemed to be missing.

I thanked the officer, ran up to my room and put the checkbook in my travel bag, thinking how stupid it was to be carrying it in my pocket.

The incident made me realize that there are honest people around because the finder certainly could have attempted to cash one of the checks, even for a small amount.

Well, live and learn.

It’s bad enough losing while playing the slots, but to lose by losing a checkbook is something I never gave a thought to.

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Here’s a bit of news I never thought I would be writing.

It’s the passing of popular entertainer Poncie Ponce, who died last week on July 19.

Isn’t that an irony? Poncie passing on my birthday.

I met Poncie when he had a regular role on a TV detective series back in the ’50s.

I used to get bit parts in the series, so I met him and we became friends.

He was a popular vocalist and entertained at many Japanese American events.

He also performed in Las Vegas.

Poncie was from a small town in Maui called Paia, which was next door to where my wife came from, Puunene.

Over the years, Poncie was a regular attendee at the Puunene reunion held by former residents of the town who now live in the Los Angeles area.

So now, with great sadness I say, “Aloha, Poncie.”

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As I told Editor Gwen, today’s column is being written two days late because my computer stopped printing.

So I called my son, who came over and checked it out.

After tinkering around with the PC, he let out a big laugh.

Something funny?

He said my printer was out of ink.

And sure enough, he was right.

How could such a thing happen?

Well, previously, if the ink was getting low, a notice would appear on the screen.

In this instance, I wasn’t forewarned that I was running out.

I’m not sure how this happened, but it did, so I guess I’d better pay closer attention to how much I’m typing.

Hopefully, it won’t happen again, but just to make sure, I purchased two extra ink boxes.

At least I won’t have to be writing a column at 10:30 at night since Gwen said she would pick up my stuff tomorrow morning.

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As I have probably over-mentioned, my sons, with the assistance of David Lebby, general manager of The California Hotel and Main Street Station, held a birthday party for me during our visit last weekend.

Yeah, complete with a birthday cake, which means Mr. Lebby spent a lot of time in preparing the party.

I never thought I’d ever have a birthday party in Las Vegas.

But there I was with my three sons and their families singing “Happy Birthday.”

And I can tell you, it was a great feeling, even if I am now 88.

Heck, my car can’t even reach 88 on the speedometer.

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Well, let me wind up with a tidbit of news from Japan.

As I mentioned a while back, Japan will be charging a fee for those wanting to climb the famed Mt. Fuji.

The charge? Ten bucks.

The payment is voluntary, but climbers are seen dropping 1,000-yen notes into the collection box.

The fee will be collected from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

But American climbers may not pay the fee because the signs for payment are in Japanese, not English.

Those who pay the fee will receive a metal badge illustrated with Mt. Fuji as a souvenir. The badges come in different colors and may be the reason, even though it’s voluntary, all the Japanese pay the $10 fee.

Those Japanese who were asked said they felt the fee was “reasonable.”

Naruhodo.

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

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