Zero to 18

My illustrious biography has been a worked in progress since 1995 when I started learning HTML. I periodically add anecdotes when I remember them. Some of them are life-altering, but most aren’t. My bio is likely full of spelling and grammatical errors, and inconsistent writing style, but it’s likely to suck you in like the Da Vinci Code50 Shades of Grey. Promise.

I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Some people remember things from when they were really young. I am not one of these people. Some people swear they remember facts from their youth: What their mom was wearing. The position of items in the room. The color of paint on the wall. That is not me. My uncle likes to bring up the time he lifted me up as a baby, and I urinated on him. You cannot blame a baby. Babies have 20/800 vision, or so they say. To me, he looked like a urinal. Actually, I just made that part up. I don’t remember what he looked like. My story begins around age 4 or 5 because that’s all I remember.

It looked like a violin. By that, I mean it was in a black case with a familiar hourglass shape. And it was my birthday, but when I opened it up, it wasn’t a violin at all, but an ukulele. And so began the inauspicious start of my musical career. I started taking ukulele lessons with Roy Sakuma in Kaneohe. At the end of each class, he would play something cool on the ukulele, and one week, it was the Charlie’s Angels theme song. Seriously man, who plays the Charlie’s Angels theme on the ukulele? I could not wait to get that good.

My parents made me take gymnastics as a kid. I’m not really sure why, but it was offered at the local Y. I missed class one weekend, and my mom kept telling me I had to go for a “make-up” class the following week. Make-up? Make-up? Boys don’t wear make-up. I was seriously confused.

It took a few more years to realize that words and phrases can have dual meanings.

Living in Hawaii means that there are a lot of bugs. And on this one particular night, there was a trail of ants walking across the wall. I don’t remember how old I was. Maybe 4? 5? Look at the ants crawling in a line. Where are they going? Then I began to wonder what an ant would taste like because children are curious creatures. So I smushed one with my finger and ate it.

Verdict? No taste.

We’ve historically done New Year’s day at our home for the extended family, and on this day at age 4, football was on our 19″ tv. I looked at the screen and it said “Team A vs. Team B,” and I went up to my father and asked, “Daddy, what is ‘vs’?”

He looked at me in a fatherly way and said, “That is a bad word.” I was very confused.

Did you ever notice that “b” and “v” sound very similar?

At the tender age of 5, I started to attend Punahou School. If you know someone on the “mainland” from Hawaii, they are likely from Punahou. And if they were around in the late 80s, we probabaly know each other.

When I was in kindergarten, I got into my one and only fight. I don’t remember the circumstances, but another guy named Allen punched me so I went crying to the teacher. Her advice: stay away from that guy. Being young and naive, I hadn’t learned the valuable lessons that our elders can teach us, so instead I did 10 push-ups and went back for more. Allen punched me again, and I started to cry. Suffice it to say, that experience taught me a couple things. 1) Crying makes you feel better when you are hurt, and 2) Don’t get into fights with people who are bigger than you. (I’ve consequently kicked the dickens out of at least 10 midgets. *just* kidding)

Mom and I had just finished reading a story about Encyclopedia Brown in which he ate a blueberry pie and got it all over his shirt. I thought to myself, “Boy, that guy is dumb…” Unbeknownst to me, my mother had made a blueberry pie as well. After scarfing down a few pieces she pointed at me and started to laugh. When I glanced at my shirt, I was horrified to see that I had actually only consumed 50% of the pie because the other half was on my shirt.

Every day at lunch, we’d rush over from the Winnie Units to the cafeteria, and like clockwork, I’d need to pee. But every day, I would just hold it in, and stand in line with my lunch ticket, and will my way through the line, pressing up against counters or whatever else I thought could staunch the pressure. On this particular day, my bladder must have been particularly full because by the time I made it out of the line to grab my silverware, I started to pee myself.

Now, I’d just like to point out that I was 6. Still too old to be urinating on yourself, but not beyond the realm of the urinaverse. As I was standing there, Justin pointed at me and said “Ew, you’re peeing!” To which I replied, “No I’m not. I’m just spilling my milk!”

I was, in fact, peeing myself.

After this fact was incontrovertible, I was sent to my teacher, who encouraged me to change into the spare clothes that we kept in our “cubby holes.” But in an act of early defiance, I declined ever so graciously, and continued to wear my pee-stained pants for the rest of the day. I believe she might have cringed. Nowadays, when I pee myself silly, I tend to change.

Mr. Hartley was my music teacher for all of grade school. I liked that dude. We used to have a call and response game, where he would play a short melody on the piano, and a student would have to sing it back. Musical memory recall. I was the best. I owned that game. We also sang a song called “Bunny Boogie.”

When I woke up this morning,
Easter eggs were on my mind
So I ran into the garden,
Just to see what I could findBunny Boogie!
Got to hop and hop!
Bunny Boogie!
Guess I’ll never stop!

I liked to man the overhead projector with the lyrics while he played the piano and everyone sang. When we hit the chorus, I started rocking the top prism of the overhead projector like a freaking maniac. A veritable disco inferno. The lyrics were flying up and down the screen like an acid trip.

[stop music]

Everyone was singing and rocking, and all of a sudden Mr. Hartley stopped. Dead silence. He very kindly told me stop rocking the overhead projector, as it might cause damage to the unit. The Bunny Boogie was never the same after that. You’re probably wondering how I remember the lyrics to Bunny Boogie after all these years, and I told you. My memory begins around 4 or 5.

My sister and I took a “Summer Fun” class at the Ka’ahumanu Elementary School. One day we went to the beach for a field trip, and there I was wading in the water, when all of a sudden my body was overcome with pain. I started screaming like a little girl, even though I was a boy. As I came out of the surf, it was apparent to me and the counselors that my body was entangled in the very long tentacle of a Portuguese Man-O-War. I was screaming as they pulled the tail off with their hands and rubbed sand on me and then threw me under the cold shower. Because everyone knows rubbing gritty sand on Man-O-War stings makes it feel better. Actually, not so much. Little girls don’t scream as much as I did.

Although I slipped in an out of self-consciousness until I was about 7, I do remember a funny story about one of our old cats clinging to the underside of my dad’s Toyota Corolla all the way from Kaneohe to Pearl Harbor. He heard a meowing noise once he reached the shipyard, and it turned out to be our cat, which only goes to prove one of my theories: if something is meowing, it’s probably a cat.

When I was in second grade I used to sit next to Jennifer. We somehow got into this habit of playing “chop suey” with our rulers. I would move my fingers around like worms and she would cut them up like chop suey. Boy, that sure was fun back then. She’s a lot smarter now. I don’t think she’d play “chop suey” with me anymore–probably because she realizes that “chop suey” isn’t an authetic Chinese dish, but rather, one concocted by American entrepreneurs during the 1960s.

Donny had been absent from 3rd grade for about a week when we began to smell something a little rancid in Mrs. Hata’s homeroom. A closer inspection revealed that the smell seemed to be emanating from the lockers against the wall. When we opened Donny’s locker we found an old lunch rotting away. This was the first time that I ever saw maggots.

I fell in love with Stephanie in the 4th grade. Mr. E called her “Peaches,” but I don’t quite remember the etymology. We used to write each other love notes and call each other. It was pretty sophisticated 4th grade love. I even played her “The Pink Panther” on the piano to try to impress her. I think she’s engaged now. She’s married now, with kids.

My grandfather was visiting from Korea and I spied the razor in the bathroom that we were sharing. It looked so shiny. Ooh! Ah! What am I? A bird? Do I really need to touch the shiny razor? Yes, I must. I must touch the shiny razor. And not just on the handle, but the actual blade itself. And I will bleed, and start screaming like a little girl, even though I was still a boy.

Punahou has an active outdoor education program, and all 4th grade classes head on over to see the volcanoes on the Big Island each year. My teacher Mrs. Bendix took us with the adjacent class, led by Mr. Eldredge. The trip was pretty uneventful, but as we were waiting to return on the inter-island flight, there was a drunk passenger who started conversing a little with Mr. Eldredge.

As they announced boarding for the flight, Mr. Eldredge told the man and his family that they ought to go ahead of us because we had such a large party, but somewhere in the course of that conversation, the wires got crossed. There was a miscommunication. There was a break down of human discourse. It was the start of something bad.

You know how when two dudes get belligerent, and they start calling each other “pal” with a very sarcastic tone. Yeah, imagine that. “Hey *pal*,” except in this case, Mr. Eldredge’s first name was “Pal.” So there was I — a 9 year old in the airport terminal anticipating watching my first adult fight, and realizing that there was something ironic about the whole situation.

They scuffled a little, but cooler head’s prevailed. But remember, the next time you start picking a fight, and use the phrase “hey pal,” try to remember this little tale, and the strange ironies that life presents.

I realize now that I lied about Mr. Hartley being my music teacher throughout grade school, because in 4th grade I had a different teacher — a dirty blonde, with frizzy hair, named Ms. Thomas. I auditioned for the 4th grade musical “A Christmas on Angel Street.” Scott Pegg and I were the lead — Jed — and I got to sing a solo called “She Wants the Lady.”

She wants the lady,
Maybe I can find a way to buy the pretty ball.
But it’s not the ball at all
[memory lapse]
She wants the lady.

Jed was some kind of street urchin who has to steal to buy his sister the lady doll. Man, my voice was good back then. Pure pre-pubescent goodness. I was like Barry White, you know, if he was a eunuch. And boy, did I have a crush on my music teacher. I bought sheet music to “the A-Team” in 5th grade, and took it to class, and she sightread it. I vowed to learn to play the A-Team theme. It was the next step up from the Pink Panther.

I am a man of my word. I still can play the A-Team.

My dad threw me a “pop-fly” in the empty lot next to our house. I tracked the ball carefully with my glove, but subtle changes in the wind velocity clearly affected the trajectory of the ball, compounding the already evident wind sheers in the area. The ball landed square on my two front teeth and knocked them out. I was pretty pissed at him. Same reason I was pissed when I crashed on my bike for the first time–I was so elated at my sense of balance that I forgot that I didn’t know how to brake, and I chose dad as the scapegoat. Well, needless to say, it wasn’t his fault in either case. (damn wind sheers…)

Ms. Lockhart was a former Navy officer turned 5th grade teacher. It was during a vocabulary lesson one day that we were talking about words that ended with “-age.” She said, “There is a word that ends with ‘-age’ that describes what goes on in those 007 films.” She looked around the room hoping that someone would come up with “espionage,” but instead saw me flailing my arms about like a madman. “Yes, Allen?” she asked. “Is it bondage?” I replied. The 50-something year old woman started to laugh uncontrollably. I didn’t understand why. (She passed away in 2004) (yeah, yeah, I know now)

5th Grade was also the year that I was sent to the 5th and 6th grade supervisor for writing a nasty little song about this kid, Andy. Andy was fat and my song was about this very topic. A rather inconspicuous start for my musical career. I had to sit on the bench right outside the office–such humiliation.

I ran for 6th grade class president against a pretty large field of candidates. There were no primaries back in those days. My platform was based upon the really low water pressure that was found in the Castle Hall water fountains. I remember illustrating to the entire class how it was unsanitary to suck the pipe when the pressure was low, and lo and behold, I won. A few days later, the water pressure was improved, and I take absolutely no credit for that. But it sure made me look good.

Oh my God, Stephanie was in my homeroom again in 6th grade!! What kind of strange fate was this? But then I like Laura a little bit. Ah, choices. And why was Rebecca *always* tardy? Jesus!

I’ve cheated once. 6th grade spelling test. Actually, I remember looking at another kid’s test, but I don’t remember if I actually cheated at that point. I also cheated once playing “Trivial Pursuit.” I saw the answer on the card, and I used it. The stakes were not high.

I have not cheated since.

A lot of new kids join Punahou in the 7th grade. I was in Mrs. Cheong’s class and Megan was the new girl, and damn, she was fine! But then I think Jon dated her. That’s the end of that anecdote.

I walked into Mr. Hu’s homeroom before school began the day that the Challenger exploded. It was hard to grasp the significance at that age, but I remember feeling for the school teacher that died aboard that flight. And the swan-like cloud pattern that the shuttle made is still imprinted in my mind like the day it happened.

I sort of dated Tracy in 7th grade, and by date, I mean sit next to her after school while we waited to be picked up. She did have really neat handwriting, and I copied it to learn how to write more neatly. Elements of her handwriting can still be found in mine today.

I created a fake science project for the State Science Fair in 8th grade concerning the Smurfs. It was pretty damn good, I must say and it did elicit this comment from Tara, “Oh, I always knew they were real!” I think she’s married now.

What is the 8th Grade Boy of the Year, and how did I win it? I shall answer a question with a question. Why are you asking me this? Needless to say, it is not good to reach the zenith of life at 13.

I met Malia backstage at the school production of Fiddler on the Roof. She was a senior and I was a freshman, but I immediately fell in love and I think that had she been younger we could have had something. But at that age, one year makes all the difference and that’s all that needs to be said. I saw her about two years ago. She was going back to school for her masters in archeology. I don’t know where she is now. She works at the Bishop Museum in Hawai’i.

Technical Theatre became a big part of my life during high school. It wasn’t unusual for me, Tim, Josh, Kale, Austin and the rest of the “gang” to put in 16 hour days on Saturday or work until midnight on a school night to get a show up on time. I learned a lot about construction and life in the theatre, but one event sticks in my mind…It was during preparation for a dance show that I had plugged in a 6×9 but the lamp had burned out and I also had to change the connector type from edison to three prong (or something like that). I picked up my knife to cut through the cable, but at the last moment decided to use a pair of insulated wire cutters. I placed the sharp metal against the rubber insulation and put pressure on the handles to begin cutting. Suddenly, my life flashed before my eyes as 220 volts of electricty splayed itself across cut live wires. I had forgotten to unplug the instrument before cutting. It was in that moment of solace that I experienced epiphany. Life is short, don’t play with electricity.

I started to really get into cello about this time. I spent most of my summers practicing up to 10 hours a day, which is one reason my left hand is almost a half-an-inch bigger than my right. I thought that when I went to college, I would become a concert cellist. It’s funny how mutable our dreams really are.

I knew of Kristin from the 6th grade because she was in Ms. Flo’s homeroom and everyone wanted to be in Ms. Flo’s homeroom. But it wasn’t until the 10th grade that we started to “notice” each other. But our tale is a sad one–ah, the star-crossed lovers that we were. Her name might as well have been Kristin Capulet. Needless to say, her good looks, intelligence and charm tormented be for about 4 years. And although nothing ever happened between us, she’s now one of my best friends. She’s currently on the road with the Broadway Tour of Carousel. She’s currently in HawaiiShe’s currently pursuing a Master’s at Harvard. She’s currently in Hawaii dancing and teaching Pilates. She got married and is living in Cambridge, MA! She works with the Trey McIntyre Project in Idaho.

I had never had to deal with death before in my family, so going to Mr. Knowlton’s funeral was somewhat of a shock. He was the 7th and 8th grade supervisor; a quiet, but strong figure that roamed the halls of Bishop surveying the students’ activities. I sat in the chapel listening to the eulogies of his peers and sat blank-faced until the end when I started to cry uncontrollably. I didn’t really know him that well, but there is something about death around you that is frightening. And when you see people you respect or love move on, you can’t help but be affected.

Austin’s church friend, was opening a new bridal shop and rather than pay for real contractors to do the renovation work, he hired us kids instead. We erected a new wall and closet, did some tiling, built display cases, and then had to deal with installing new lights and outlets. Unfortunately, the superintendent of the building didn’t know where the master fuse box was kept, so being young and intrepid, we decided to wire live. Tim climbed into a air-conditioning shaft to install a recessed light into the ceiling while we mingled below. There was a loud noise, broken glass and then a thump from above. Pale faced, Tim emerged from the shaft with small black marks on his hand where the electricity had arc-ed from the live wire. Later that day, I managed to use a screwdriver to connect to screws on a live light switch. In addition to setting a new world record for backwards long jump, I remembered the epiphany that I had experienced only 3 paragraphs before: Life is short, don’t play with electricity.

Much to my father’s chagrin, I did not go on to study electrical engineering. Tim, however, did. The owner of the store died a few years later from AIDS.

We were forced to participate in some sort of Community Service my senior year as a part of the revised economics program. I think the idea was very compelling, however, there was such a disparity in experiences. Zack used to tell us about how he had to feed a quadrapalegic and how she would spit up food on him. Mr. Bowen told us of another kid who was in a program that used animals as therapy for old people. They placed a rabbit in the lap of a mentally disturbed old man who hadn’t said anything coherent in years. In a moment of clarity and lucidness, the old man looked at the rabbit and said, “What the fuck is this?!?”

I remember telling my experience in seminar one day. The old man that I was trying to help starting screaming at me one day; telling me off while all the nurses just ignored both me and him. I felt very helpless and abused and I couldn’t stop crying as I told the story. It’s sometimes difficult to deal with emotional situations that don’t seem to have any rhyme or reason, and which despite your best efforts, you cannot do anything to control. The impact of these situations never lessens with age.

I was never the acting type, but I heard about a casting call that a bunch of friends were going to for the very short-lived CBS drama, Island Son, starring Richard Chamberlain (the king of the mini-series). My friends went to the audition straight from school in their school clothes, so they were fairly well-dressed. I, by contrast, went home and put on a ripped t-shirt and swim trunks. And *this guy* got the part. A speaking part. A part with a credit. Yes, my one and only acting appearance on a major network. However, the show was canceled after one season. They say that my acting technique was simply ahead of its time. They didn’t really say that, but I did get paid a SAG wage, which amounted to a couple thousand bucks, and even received a residual check. It was then that I realized there was nothing more that I wanted than to be an actor. Nothing.

I’m totally kidding about being an actor.

As the senior class president, I gave a speech to the entire student body on the first day of the school year. For whatever reason, I was really into littering back in the days. Wait a second, not me littering, but the fact that littering was bad. So I encouraged all 2,000 students from K-12 to pick up litter. This past year, I was chatting with someone many years younger than me who told me she didn’t remember much, but she did remember that speech.

And that is why your speeches should never encourage people to litter. They will likely remember that for years to come.

You grow up with stereotypes. You assume that the smart people are always the smart people. Valerie and Rachael were the smart people. But then all of a sudden, you realize that there were other smart people who didn’t start to bloom until later, or maybe never really tried that hard, or maybe I just didn’t notice. Tim is a smart person. He went to Cornell, and started doing computer renderings of theatrical lighting designs. Then one summer he decided to write to Industrial Light and Magic for an internship because he was interested in doing special effects. They didn’t have an internship, but they made one for him. And now he’s an Effects Supervisor there. Total bad ass.

That isn’t to say that Valerie and Rachael weren’t smart because they were still the smartest. Rachael later acquired lupus in college, and ended up dropping out of school. She apparently is now disease-free, but it altered her plans quite significantly, and I always wonder what she would have been without the curve ball.

Are you dying for more?