by Charlie Chin. Posted February 8, 2023.
At exactly 8:00 AM every Monday through Friday, the grey-haired crew at table 8 of Henry’s Hawaiian Diner sit down for breakfast. Their ritual included politely asking Marci the waitress if Henry was in. The answer is always no, because it happens that Henry has been dead for quite a while. When he was still alive, the crew always said hello to Henry as he worked in the kitchen. Long after Henry was buried, as a tribute to his memory, when they sat down and got their menus, they always inquired if he was in the house.
Marci the waitress was Henry’s daughter and the current owner. The over-the-hill “Boys” at table 8 had been her adopted “godfathers” since she started working at the diner during her high school years. Chuck Chan, Surf Dog Leong, Victor Labrador, and Ichiro Shimizu had watched Marci grow up over the years. They had seen her through a couple of jerk boyfriends, a cheating husband, and a very bad car accident that wasn’t her fault. Often, a much-needed red envelope of money would appear during the times when things were rough. This helped a lot while she was raising her two daughters by herself. When she was finally able to pay off all the debts and buy the restaurant outright, it was arranged that table 8 would always be reserved for the “Boys.”
Every morning they politely flirted with Marci and told outrageous stories that some people said might be true. Surf Dog Leong took a sip of coffee and kicked it off.
“What the most bizarre sexual experience you’ve ever had?” Chuck Chan smiled broadly,
“Did I ever tell you about Mona, the girl that I was dating who never took her socks off? In one voice they all responded,
“Yeah, yeah, we all know. She had six toes.” A little miffed, Chuck silently poured more syrup on his pancakes. Victor took a shot,
“I was courting a lady once; she was raised on a farm. She used to neigh like a horse when she made love.” Chuck became interested.
“When was this?” Ichiro cut in,
“Must have been about twenty years ago. That was the last time Victor was still capable of playing “Johnny rides the pony.” When the laughing died down, Chuck Chan began with another one,
“Here’s a story that begins with a phone call from my friend Judy Takata. When she told me what was happening, I asked, “Is this a joke?” It turns out it wasn’t a joke, she explained.
“It’s true. I’m sitting on the bed with him now. I had to wait till he fell asleep to call. You must help me Chuck, I didn’t know who else to call.”
Victor looked up from his plate lunch,
“Wait a minute, who’s this about? Do I know her?”
“Judy Takata is a well-known J-town community activist. We met when we were all involved in that “Save Webster Street” event. She was always on the soap box talking about the need for the oppressed proletariat to cast off the oppressive boot of the military industrial complex from off their necks.” Victor picked up a ketchup bottle and inquired,
“So, she’s a communist?”
“Naw, she’s a little more to the left. Anyway, when we first met, she was seeing a guy named Tony Baxter. You all know him, he was from Michigan, totally into Japanese food, marital arts, and of course, an Asian girlfriend. When she caught him in bed with another woman, she packed her things, poured sugar into his SUV’s gas tank, and dumped him like twenty pounds at a Weight Watchers meeting.
Then the next thing I heard was she had fallen in love with a national from Japan and they were living together. He worked at a joint on Clement Street called “Ramen O Rama.” His name was Takashi, had long maroon dyed hair, too many tattoos on his thin arms, and claimed he was in the States to make it big as a Hip Hop star. On Erte’s birthday I had lunch with Lydia the costume designer in North Beach and she confided to me that almost overnight, Judy Takata turned from a “Fist in your face Feminist” into a garage band Geisha. That’s love, I guess, personally I wouldn’t know.
Anyway, the next month I went to the Pistahan Filipino Festival,”
Victor sat back and looked disappointed,
“You went to the Pistahan Festival, and you didn’t call me?” Chuck ignored him.
“And I was brought up to date by Handsome Harry Hong, it seems that because Judy’s new boyfriend needed a Green Card, about a week before, Judy and Takashi got married at San Francisco City Hall.
Now it was more than a month later, and out of the blue she was calling me for advice about some bizarre Nippon curse.” She explained,
“You see Chuck, Takashi my husband, lost his first wife in Japan when she tried to commit suicide.” I tried to be comforting.
“Oh, sorry to hear that. What happened?”
“Well, she used to have a pet hamster named Musashi that she loved. She let it run freely around the apartment. One night Takashi came home drunk and stepped on it by accident. She didn’t realize what had happened until the next morning when she saw the blood on his socks. Takashi tried to suggest that the hamster was depressed and had run away, but she didn’t buy it. She was so upset, that she cursed him with a traditional Japanese Shinto spell and then she jumped out the window.” Surf Dog Leong was shocked,
“Oh my God, she died jumping out the window?” Chuck went on,
“Actually no. They lived in a ground level apartment and when she jumped out of the window, she tumbled out onto the sidewalk and bumped her head on the curb. Dazed and disoriented, she wandered into traffic, and she was hit by a passing Bento Delivery Pedi-cab. Of course, the driver was inconsolable. I tried to be the voice of reason with Judy.
“Come on Judy, you were raised in the States, you don’t believe all that Shinto curse stuff, do you?”
“It doesn’t matter what I believe, he believes it.”
“So, what’s the deal?”