HORSE’S MOUTH: Seagulls and Old Ed

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YOSHINAGA-GEORGEBy GEORGE YOSHINAGA

(Published May 31, 2014)

Well, the election is just a flip of the calendar way. That would be the first week in June.

One of the interesting races, of course, is the election of the new sheriff for Los Angeles County because a Japanese American candidate is among the seven seeking the post.

That would be Paul Tanaka. As of this writing, Paul might be considered the longshot in the race. Seems like most of the media, including The Los Angeles Times, are endorsing other candidates, which brings me to the question: If a newspaper endorses a candidate, how do they come to the conclusion of naming their choice?

At The Times, for example, is it the choice of the publisher? Or the editor? Or is it the result of a survey taken by the newspaper with its staff, with the candidate getting the most support from the staff getting the endorsement?

Needless to say, The L.A. Times is one of the largest publications in the U.S. if their circulation is to be used as a guide, so I’m sure their endorsement of a candidate will influence a lot of voters.

It’s been my opinion, as a newspaperman myself, that the publication itself shouldn’t endorse candidates. However, if the publisher or editor wants to do so and they make their choices public with an endorsement, it wouldn’t be out of place.

Hey, I’m endorsing Tanaka for sheriff and I have printed my endorsement in a past column. At least he’s my choice. I don’t know how the rest of the Rafu staff feels about Tanaka’s bid, but at least the readers know whom I’m endorsing.

I know that in most elections, the choice is made between candidates because of their political ties. That is, the candidate is Republican or Democrat or independent.

In the race for sheriff, the candidates’ political ties should have no bearing.

Oh well, we’ll know in less than five days how the polling turned out.

Hopefully, I can address him as “Sheriff Tanaka” the day after the polls close.

So take that, L.A. Times!

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Yes, I watch a lot of TV. When one reaches my age, watching TV becomes part of one’s life.

Topping the list of programs I watch is the newscast. After that, it’s probably game shows like the two that run back-to-back, which would be “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune.”

That’s because viewers can involve themselves in game shows.

Since I am a writer for a news publication, watching newscasts is part of my daily life. I pick up a few ideas for my column.

For example, there was a news story about a European basketball star whose last name is “Fucka.”

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking because when I saw the name, I thought the same thing.

His name, in spite of its spelling, is pronounced “Footchka.”

Don’t laugh.

No, I don’t know what his nationality might be.

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It will become common knowledge in the near future.

That is, if you like Hawaiian food and look forward to dining on it, you may not have to travel to the Islands to enjoy it.

Well, not exactly the Hawaiian Islands. The other “island” would be Japan.

According to the latest out of Japan, Hawaiian food restaurants are becoming so popular that they are popping up all over their country.

I don’t know about going all the way to Japan to dine on Hawaiian food. Hey, just drive to Las Vegas. They have a lot of great Hawaiian food eateries there.

I guess that can be expected because so many Islanders travel to the Nevada city.

I know. Some of you may want to know just what “Hawaiian food” is. Well, I guess the best explanation might be, “You know, dah kine.”

Enuff said.

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As I wrote in my previous column about going to Vegas for the first time in nearly six months, from the looks of things, it might be another six months before I get there again.

Wow! Only two visits to Vegas in a year? Needless to say, I’ll try to break that streak.

As most of you know, my trips have been cut back because I can’t drive too much these days.

At least because my wife says, “No, unless you get someone to help drive, we’re staying at home.”

I tell her, “Hey, if I can drive from Gardena to Little Tokyo, I can handle the wheel to Vegas, too.”

Me and my big mouth. Now she won’t let me drive to J-Town.

Well, maybe Editor Gwen can give me a ride. She lives in Gardena, so hopping into her car would be an easy task.

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itsuki hiroshi (for horse)Speaking of Vegas, I came across the photo I’m tossing in here.

It was taken a few years ago when I arranged the booking of Japanese singer Hiroshi Itsuki, who appeared on the stage at the Hilton Hotel on The Strip in Vegas.

Itsuki, who was considered “the Frank Sinatra of Japan,” was the first non-English-speaking entertainer to perform on the main stage of a Vegas hotel.

He drew a large audience of Japanese tourists visiting Vegas.

After he completed his performance, he told me it was one of the most exciting shows he had done.

The hotel was pleased with the way things turned out.

When I first proposed his appearance, they refused, but after several days of negotiations, they agreed to let him take the center stage.

He went back to Japan with a smile on his face and we became life-long friends.

Hey, that may not mean much in the U.S., but having him as a friend was like having Frank Sinatra calling me a friend.

Yeah, I know. Some of you are probably thinking, “Man, that Horse must be desperate for column material if he has to run stories about a Japanese vocalist.” And you might be right.

When I sat down to write for the Saturday Rafu, I didn’t have too much material in mind, but running across Itsuki’s photo helped me fill some space.

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I’ll wind up today’s chatter with the following, titled “Old Guys and a Bucket of Shrimp.”

This is a true story: It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean.

Old Ed comes strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his hand is a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze.

Everyone’s gone, except a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts and his bucket of shrimp.

Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky, a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward the lanky frame standing on the end of the pier.

Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen carefully, you can see him say with a smile, “Thank you, thank you.”

In a few short minutes, the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn’t leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place.

When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs and they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home.

If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like a funny old duck, as my dad used to say. Or a guy who’s a sandwich shy of a picnic. To onlookers, he’s just another old codger, lost in his own weird world.

To the onlookers, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They seem altogether unimportant.

Old folks do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters.

Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida. That’s too bad. They’d do well to know him better.

His full name, Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero back in World War I and flew missions with combat pilots in World War II. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his crew went down. Miraculously, all the men survived, crawled out of the plane and climbed into a raft.

Capt. Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun, they fought the sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger. By the eighth day, their rations ran out. No food, no water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were.

They needed a miracle. That afternoon, they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged. All he could hear was the splash of the waves against the raft.

Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on top of his cap. It was a seagull.

Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off and he and his starving crew made a meal.

They were found and rescued after 24 days at sea.

Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal but he never forgot the sacrifices of that first life-saving seagull. And he never stopped saying, “Thank you.”

That’s why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.

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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