Waikiki is really beautiful despite the efforts of commercialization! I could almost see what it used to be before it became what it is now. Like the original wood moldings carved by Italian artisans in the late 1800s that resides beneath the atrocious peeling lead-based paint in a Brooklyn brownstone. I would have loved to have experienced that Waikiki. But, it’s way past too late…Now, like NY and cities across the USA and the world over, including Yokohama, it’s a corporate clusterfuck: Starbuck’s, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, Old Navy, Walmart, etc…
Well, if you’re a coffee junkie like me you stop for a caffeine blast at one of the 20 Starbucks within walking distance of Waikiki Beach. And while you’re sitting in the outdoor cafe basking in the restoring pacific breeze, the sun warming your soul and renewing the luster your skin lacked, luxuriating in all the beautiful diversity around you that you’ve missed so much, the Blacks and Whites, Asians and Polynesians, while you’re savoring life and wallowing in its glorious potential, you hear a familiar word. It cuts through your solace like a fire truck’s siren or a gun shot: Gaijin. (foreigner)
Two Japanese guys are sitting near you, also basking, glowing like two million dollars, enjoying Hawaiian beneficence, chatting about the previous night’s entertainment.
One guy (In Japanese): That party last night was great, wasn’t it?
His Friend: Yes, it sure was, wasn’t it? But I wish there were more foreigners there. All the girls were Japanese. I’m tired of Japanese girls. I want to meet some foreign babes.
One guy: You’re right, of course. But, the foreign girls can’t speak Japanese and your English sucks.
His friend: Mine is better than yours, but you’re right, it does suck doesn’t it? And, it would have probably been dangerous if there were foreigners there. Oh, but how I love foreign chicks…especially the blond-haired, big breasted…
Me: Pardon me!
The guys turn and show surprise at my ability to say pardon me in their language.
So, I add, in Japanese: Do you know what country this is?
Guys: Of course, (then in English) this is America.
Me: That’s right! (still in Japanese) And, here, in this country, you guys are the foreigners, right?
Guys: (blushing, trying to respond in English) You are right….(switching to Japanese) we are so sorry if we offended you. (back to English) So sorry!
Me: (still in Japanese) You should say Americans are dangerous people, and that you want to meet some American girls because they have big breast and blond hair…
Guys: (they finally give up trying to speak English and say in Japanese ) That is very true…very sorry!
Me: No problem…There are so many Japanese here you probably forgot you are the foreigners in a foreign country.
Guys (Still dumbfounded and flabbergasted) You’re right, of course.
Me: Well, enjoy your stay in America. And if you really want to meet American girls, why don’t you go nampa (pick up) some of the staff girls in these shops around here? They all seem to be able to speak Japanese and some of them are cute.
Guys: That’s a good idea…thanks.
Me: No sweat.
No sweat. I lied. How dare these mofos come to my country calling my people foreigners and dangerous! Mannnn….
Tokyo humorists have given Hawaii a nickname which it retains. It”s called 二十四区 which means the 24th ward of Japan’s capital city (Tokyo has 23 wards), reminiscent of jokes about Japan, in the event of another war with the US, not bombing the West Coast states because it already owns them.
Walking around Waikiki you can hardly laugh, though. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the obscene number of Japanese if I hadn’t lived in Japan for so long. Or, even if I had known they were Japanese it wouldn’t have bothered me because Japanese tourism was a big part of NYC life, too, and they never bothered me then. But now… I can smell Japanese like a fart in a car and I was a little vexed that I would have to spend the remainder of vacation with them when being away from them was part of the reason I needed a vacation in the first place.
There are many interesting things to do in Waikiki and I tried to squeeze a few of them into this holiday. I hate to be hectic on vacation, though. I prefer to take it easy and relax…sleep late and walk slowly. But, I had to get some jet skiing in and a ride in a submarine caught my eyes, as well as a traditional Hawaiian Luau.
Well, it rained on my luau and on my jet skiing, but, though my claustrophobia kicked in and I almost had a panic attack, the submarine ride was out of this world!
The best part of all was that during these activities I was able to be the natural me. I was usually accompanied by people traveling from around the states, or other countries around the world, besides Japan, and none of them had that iwakan （違和感） thing that Japanese people have so we were able to enjoy each others company. Japanese kept conspicuously separate. While everyone else seems to mix and mangle, the Japanese had their own buses, their own tours, their own everything…and had the nerve to bring their iwakan to my country, ducking and dodging me at every opportunity because, unfortunately, in Waikiki they can actually engage in a variety of activities and never have to use English or encounter “foreigners” or rather Americans nor travellers from any other countries.
By the time the third day came around I was so tight with self-righteous furor that I needed to let off some steam. A fellow tourist recommended a gun club.
A gun club?
Works for me, he’d said.
I’d never gone to one before and I couldn’t imagine it could do anything to my stress level aside from increase it. But I gave it a shot, pun intended.
The Waikiki Gun Club is where I went and it turned out to be the best move of my vacation.
When I arrived, the receptionist was helping two Japanese couples ahead of me, in Japanese, but I could hear her accent: Chinese. By the time she got around to me she looked wasted.
Me: You’re not Japanese, are you?
Staff: No…I’m from China.
Me: I thought so.
Staff: But I can speak Japanese, Korean, and English too.
Staff: First time?
Me: Yes it is.
Staff: Yeah, I can always tell the first timers…You should try one of our premium packages.
Me: Really? Isn’t it dangerous for a beginner to fire one of these? (I point at the 44 magnum)
Staff: Not at all…I do it often and look how little I am. And you’re a big strong man!
Me: Ok, fine. I’ll try this one with the Tec 9 and the M-16.
Staff: Good choice! Which kind of target would you like? We have bulls eyes and silhouettes and here we have Osama Bin Laden…very popular. But you can’t aim at his head…
Me: Why not?
Staff: You just can’t…club rules.
Me: Probably couldn’t hit it anyway…Do you have any Japanese targets?
Me: That’s was just a joke.
Staff: A good one!
Me: I’ll take the silhouette, then.
Guns always just seemed like something that it would be nice to have in an emergency but the thought of purchasing one, owning one, carrying one, or firing one had never seriously entered my head…until Hawaii. I could never really understand the appeal of guns…for fun. I’ve never hunted and aside for Basic Training back in the late 80s I’ve never even fired a weapon at a target. I was a Sharp Shooter in the army though…I used to imagine the silhouettes were my drill Sargents.
I watched movies like “Bowling for Columbine” (perhaps the best documentary about modern day America ever made) and I saw those “gun nuts” and I said to myself geez I’m glad I don’t live in middle America.
I mean what kind of person puts a gun in the hands of a seven-year old, for fun?
You know, when I fired the first couple of shots I kept thinking what if the kick breaks my arm or what if this, though well-maintained, not-so new looking handgun backfires on me. Then what? Can’t write! But, I told myself, as I usually do when I’m afraid to do something, just do it.
And I did it…
I didn’t see these pictures until later…and when I saw my smile I felt a shiver up my spine.
I mean, what does pure joy look like anyway?
When I walked out of the Waikiki Gun Club I felt transformed! I understood police officers and the NRA, Charleston Heston and Cowboys and every friggin’ gun-toting image I have lurking in my subconscious. Even the ones that used to make me cringe…scary how fast that shit can happen. I actually thought about skeet shooting and hunting. Outside the club in the streets of Waikiki, I had nothing but love for everyone.
And for the remainder of my vacation the Japanese would not even approach vexing me…My high lasted until I got back to Narita Airport.
Man, if I find a gun club in Yokohama that might spell the end of Loco.