Whenever I meet someone new and they ask me what I do for a living, I always hesitate. I wear a lot of hats, and it feels impolite to run through the list when the person asking is just trying to make small talk. Like when someone says, "How are you?" and receives a detailed medical report. I think certain questions should be answered in five words or less. "I'm fine; how are you?" or "I work for the county" or "I'm a Maui News columnist" or "I talk for a living" - all of which are true.
I am blessed to have several occupations, each of which brings me great pleasure. As different as they are, they complement each other, and they all come with added benefits. I've enjoyed a long career in radio and television. My day job at Kaunoa Senior Services affords me the opportunity to learn from hundreds of kupuna, while helping to enrich their golden years. On evenings and weekends, I pursue my passion for performing, which brings me into contact with even more people. And then I get to write about the folks I meet and the fun I have, and share my memories with you.
Last weekend was exceptionally satisfying. In between Thursday night storytelling at the Makena resort and hosting Polynesian revues aboard the Pride of America on Sunday, I had two delightful gigs.
Friday evening, I took my mom and my alter ego, Tita, to a surprise 80th birthday party for Yuki Ng. Unbeknownst to the birthday girl, I'd spent some time with her family and close friends the week before to collect anecdotes and facts. By the time we met, I knew much more about her than she could have imagined, and she was genuinely surprised when Tita stood up to tell "da story of Yuki's life." It was the story of a loving, lovely lady, and I felt privileged to tell it.
The following night, I emceed the Maui High Class of '69 reunion. What a great bunch of rowdy revelers! And because I'm a few years younger - and a Baldwin grad - they had me feeling pretty feisty too. I told all my Viagra jokes and made a few "R" rated comments. Well, actually, Tita did. I myself was a little self-conscious because Mayor Alan Arakawa was one of the celebrating classmates.
The biggest surprise - and treasure - of the weekend came from another member of the Class of '69, Moana Hirata. Her youngest sister, Ilima Murata, was my best friend throughout my grammar school years. Back then, our families called us Lima-chan and Sa-chan (my Japanese name is Sadae), but our classmates knew us as Ruth and Kathy. The folks closest to me still call me Sa-chan, and I'm sure it's the same with Lima-chan.
Moana handed me a CD from Ruth, labeled "Early Recording of Sa-chan and Lima-chan." I had forgotten about our escapades with her family's tape recorder. Apparently, we taped ourselves over her three older sisters' favorite radio programs, because the CD plays like an audition tape: snippets of talk interspersed with music. As I listened to it the next morning, I was alternately amused, enchanted . . . and mortified.
All my adult life, I've remembered my childhood self as a shy, soft-spoken little girl. But there are no sweet or dainty voices on this recording; in fact, we sound even rowdier than the '69 Sabers. There are several voices on the tape, and I recognized Lima-chan's immediately. By process of elimination, I concluded that the sassy, bossy microphone hog was me.
Me: Ruth got stuck nose.
Ruth: Yeah, I get runny nose. (giggles) My nose stay running away.
Me: Go catch 'em, then!! (extreme giggles and cackling)
We sang MAD Magazine song parodies, conducted fake interviews and made all sorts of extremely unladylike sounds. I'm pretty sure I'm the one imitating Maxwell Smart, as well as the manic football play-by-play announcer.
The added bonus of this preserved piece of personal history is the soundtrack we so blithely recorded over. Fortunately, we didn't erase all of it, and so I now have excerpts from the KPOI broadcast day of June 11, 1967. Legendary Poi Boys Mike Hamlin, Dave Donnelly and Tom Moffatt are all there, playing songs like "Silence is Golden" and "Sunshine Superman." Uncle Tom even reads a commercial for Muntz Stereo's Kamehameha Day special - stereo tape cartridge units for your car, as low as $29.95!
Thanks, Lima-chan, for the priceless gift. And thanks for helping me start on my career path at the age of 9.
What do I do for a living? In five words or less . . . I do what I love. And love what I do. OK, that's 10 words, but what else would you expect from a lifelong microphone hog?
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.