What Happens In Vegas ...
Wednesday - November 21, 2007
As my 11 regular readers know, I am a proud resident of Pearl City, Oahu, Hawaii - and I have two Toyota Corollas of various vintages and a Honda Civic in my garage to prove it. And, like all Pearl Citians still on the make, I aspire to some day, oh some day, owning a Camry.
We Pearl Citians take pride in our white Camrys, in our schools, in our high school’s marching band, in our terrific Little League baseball teams - of various vintages, in our high voter turnouts, in our super bus barn, and in our super Hawaiian Electric power poles, bequeathed to us and our neighboring Leeward communities all the way to Kapolei.
Yes, we Pearl Citians are a proud, intelligent, good-looking - but unpretentious - people. Oh, Honolulu habits are creeping in: Two of those $4.50 per cup coffee places have opened in the past couple of years. But one of them, in the best Pearl City tradition, sits on the site of the gas station I patronized for two decades. There’s nothing like the thought of discarded oil changes under your feet as you sip your morning espresso.
I’m not arguing that Pearl City is in any way unique. I mean really, we join our fellow Americans in celebrating all the regular holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and the Fourth of July. And we join our fellow citizens of Hawaii in celebrating all our state holidays: Kamehameha Day, Kuhio Day, Admissions Day and four annual trips to Las Vegas.
I admit that when I moved to Pearl City to teach at the university’s newest campus, I had trouble accustoming myself to the four annual trips to Las Vegas. By the mid-‘70s, I thought I had heard every possible student reason for missing class: a death in the family (“I’m sorry,” I would reply), illnesses accompanied by a doctor’s note (“Are you feeling better?” I would say), a sick child (“Family comes first,” I would advise. “Get your paper in as soon as you can.”).
Then, at the conclusion of one of my first classes west of Red Hill, a student approached and said, “I won’t be in class next week.”
“Why?” asked I, expecting to hear about the lingering illness of a grandparent that required a trip to Kauai.
“We’re taking Grandma to Las Vegas,” said my scholar.
“You’re what?” I replied, before I started to swear.
Oh, I bucked it at first. I took points off for the Las Vegas holidays, issued dire warnings about the consequences - but to no avail. Nothing deterred them. They just went. Las Vegas was, well, what it was: a cultural tradition to be honored.
A cherished cultural tradition. Ask a Pearl Citian on the cusp of retirement what she’s going to do with her new-found leisure, and she’ll reply, “Oh, we’re going to travel.”
Run into that same Pearl Citian a year after retirement and ask: “Whattaya been doin’?”
“Oh, we just got back from a trip,” she’ll say.
You don’t really need to ask, but you do. “Las Vegas,” she replies. And you, of course, say: “Did you win or lose?”
The Pearl Citians’ love of Las Vegas - shared, of course, by 83.9 percent of the rest of Hawaii’s demographic - has made me ponder the neon city’s advertising campaign. You know, the naughty, suggestive: “What happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas.”
I imagine my neighbor Kats, returning from a business trip, stops in Las Vegas for a little R and R. Goes into into a quiet bar one night, has a couple, finds himself in a meaningful, early morning conversation with a beautiful, accomplished, classically trained dancer named Veronica Va-Va-Voom.
They agree to meet for a Las Vegas breakfast the next day at 4 p.m. So Kats invites Va-VaVoom to meet him at the one place he knows well: downtown at the California Hotel and Casino, where Kats will buy VaVa whatever she wants and he can treat his hangover with a bowl of saimin.
The next afternoon, over his noodles, Va-Va - in skirt so short, heels so high, and top so revealing - doesn’t look so beautiful. And Kats recognizes his tragic error.
For two tables away sit Uncle Hiroshi and Aunty Aiko from Maui. Coming in from the casino are two co-workers from Shafter, and peeking from behind two menus across the room are the neighbors two houses up on Aumakua. “Oh, #%$)*&^,” says Kats.
Truth in advertising should require the Sin City’s tag line to read: “What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas - except if you come from Hawaii.”
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