Finding A New Calling In Life
Wednesday - May 18, 2005
As my descent into geezerhood accelerates, I find myself increasingly asked, “Prof. Boylan, when are you going to retire?” I hear this from a student in, say, my Russian history class as I begin to deliver a lecture on the development of slavery in British America. Ooops. Wrong lecture notes, wrong class, wrong hour, wrong day.
I probably should retire. I am, shall we say, 60ish. Mentally, I’m a couple of steps slower. (A couple of steps, oh conservative critics, just a couple.) Each year my aged eyes look out on youths who appear to need burping rather than teaching.
But I can’t. My reasons are several: a daughter in college, a college office so cluttered it will take years to dig out of, and — most important — no conceivable idea of what I would do in retirement. Oh, I know all the possibilities: Alaska cruises (went on a cruise once; hated it), quarterly trips to Las Vegas (went to Las Vegas once; hated it), and gardening (planted something once; it died).
So what am I supposed to do in those golden years? A couple of weeks ago, I think I found out. And in the damnedest place — at a wedding.
Now understand, I hate weddings almost as much as I hate cruises and Las Vegas. And my record in relation to weddings compares to my skill as a gardener: Twice I’ve been the best man at a wedding; both marriages ended in divorce. Once I was an usher. You got it, the marriage died.
But two weeks ago — at a wedding — I may have found a rich and fulfilling retirement.
The story begins two weeks earlier. I received a call from a lovely calabash niece, the elder child of an eminent Japanese- American dentist and his New England bride. “Uncle Dan,” said she, “I’m sorry for calling you so late, but would you please give a banzai toast at my wedding?”
I hesitated, of course. A haole man of Midwestern origins giving a banzai toast at a local wedding? I’ve seen — heard — banzai toasts. They require panache, rolled R’s, and a Japanese man to deliver them.
But a favorite calabash niece had asked. And, after all, it drew on my three greatest talents: I’m loud, I’m loud and I’m loud.
So I assented. Indeed, on further thought I realized this was a haole man’s assimilationist dream, to be asked to deliver a banzai toast at a local wedding.
But I am not just a haole man; I am also a scholar. So I consulted my Kahuku sensei, Togosan. Togo-san said: “Boylansan, don’t hold glass and lift with each banzai. No. Leave glass on table. Throw arms in air with each banzai; after last one, raise glass.”
So I practiced: “Shinro. Shimpu. Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!” Said Sensei Togo-san: “Good, Boylan-san. But careful with pronunciation. Get those Shinros and shimpus wrong and you’re talking about genitalia.” (Don’t think that warning didn’t get inside my head.)
Then I went to my Palolo Valley sensei, Ishikawa-san. Said Sensei Ishikawa-san: “Good banzai, Boylan-san, but you need hachimaki (headband). I provide.” She did, and I practiced: in the car, in my office, in the shower, in front of the computer, while watching television, in the middle of meals. My wife, the high-strung Filipina — aside from being startled at my banzai bursts — criticized my technique. “Your ‘shinro, shimpu’ needs more volume. You’re throwing your arms up too high.”
Now wait a minute. About mabuhays, I would listen to her. Banzais, no.
I admit it: as the wedding drew near, I fretted. I fussed. On the wedding day, I wasn’t as nervous as the bride, but I definitely had the banzai jitters.
The wedding was lovely; the bride gorgeous beyond words, the haole banzai man nervous. At the reception I drank a lot as fast as I could. Others made conversation. I thought: Shinro. Shimpu. Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!”
Of course, I needn’t have worried. Excuse my immodesty, but I did a spectacular banzai toast. I rolled my r’s; brought my banzais up from the gut, and flung my arms to the heavens.
Afterwards, the wedding planner approached. “Sir,” said she. “You were wonderful. Have you ever considered going professional?”
At that moment, I did.
I envision young Japanese- American women, planning their weddings throughout the Islands (the West Coast? Japan?). “Daddy, I’m going to ask Uncle Seiji to give a banzai toast.”
“Eh, fo’get Uncle Seiji. You hea’ about the haole banzai man? Your cousin Moriko says he’s terrific.”
“D. Blaine Boylan,” my cards will read, “Haole Banzai Man. Complete Banzai Services for Your Wedding or Special Day.” I can’t wait.
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