Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Aloha No, Straightened Hair, And A Dedication To Sergio Goes

"You look younger," my neighbor told me tonight as I was taking out the trash.

"Really?" I replied, doubtful as I remembered sleeping only six hours the night before.

"It must have been my trip to Hawai'i," I told him. "I felt so relaxed--like I was home."

Even though my last week's Honolulu island hop ended on a bittersweet vibe, I enjoyed moving among people who looked like me. If you're of mixed races and it shows, being in Hawai'i is like being on a planet filled with all your multiracial brothers and sisters. Sure, there are lots of "pure-blooded" East Asians among other races living there, but there are also many folks that are racially unidentifiable--like yourself. And, that feels comfortable. When you're comfortable, you don't frown or wrinkle your face up in defense. So, you look younger!

Of course, I was also happy to be "home" because I got to spend time with my old buddy Scott Lee who greeted me with a fragrant traditional lei and lunch at our favorite King Street Chinese restaurant. Scott Lee and I go way back to 1994, and we love to "talk story" about local culture; of which Scott's an expert having lived on Oahu all his life.

I also hung out with my friend, Lucy, an NYC transplant and professional photographer. Besides munching on a vegan lunch in Kahala and a homemade dinner at her Kailua home on Windward side, we also indulged in a lot of girly stuff like trying on make-up at Ala Moana Mall. We also got our hair done by a young woman selling electronic hair straighteners at a booth.

That's right. After 20 years of wearing my own personal natural--long, thick, wavy, hair with frizzy ends--I allowed myself to get talked into having an electronic implement iron out the ripples of my tresses to give me straight hair. When Adee first approached me, I balked. After all, I am of the natural garden variety. Rarely do I wear make-up, other than lip and nail color, and I don't like fussy hairstyles. But as Adee smoothed out each strand, my thoughts went from skeptical to amused to impressed. I hadn't had straight locks since the mid-1980's when I would spend precious hours rolling my hair in curlers the size of soup cans then sitting under a scorching dryer with a magazine hoping against hope that it wouldn't rain in Seattle where I lived then. Just one drizzly day would undo my hours of hard labor. Later, when I became more of the artist that I am today, I chucked the rollers and hair dryer and went au natural.

When Adee was done, I just knew I had to have the straight look--at least for a while. Call me a sell-out, but I dig variety and my waves had become boring to me.

My friend Lucy saw it differently.

"But you just said at dinner the other night that one of the problems you had with Michelle Obama was her hair," she reminded me. "You didn't like that she relaxes it."

"Yes," I argued weakly, "but I'm half Japanese and I'm just trying to look more like my mother. Besides, my 'do is chemical free."

All I knew was that I wanted a different look, and looking different made me feel different. Somehow, I felt Native Hawai'ian with my new flowing hair. As I walked around Waikiki tossing my untangled mane, I felt that the locals thought I was Native Hawai'ian, too.

Still ain't buying it? Well, here's what hair author Teri LaFlesh told me when I admitted to using a straightening rod on my hair.

"Hey, I checked out your hair! Even straightened it has so much presence. Hair is a crown, and you wear yours with such flair."

If Teri, the hairx-pert, says it's okay, then ya'll back off.

On to a much sadder note. While in Hawai'i, I discovered that a friend had passed away there in July. Although I hadn't been in touch with Sergio Goes for awhile, I always remembered his warm graciousness. Co-founder of the Cinema Paradise Film Festival, Sergio issued me a press badge in 2003, then went out of his way to invite me and Lucy to all of their Red Carpet events and parties. A filmmaker himself, he also gave us copies of his documentary called Black Picket Fence. The story of two aspiring rappers in a NYC project is told with Sergio's deep sensitivity and humanity. Originally hailing from Brazil, Sergio had a keen ability to hone in on things American and his film shows that. Sergio was also known for his amazing photography which appeared in most of Honolulu's local publications. While it hurts to lose such a downright nice person, I feel fortunate that I knew him at all. This week's blog is dedicated to the memory of Sergio Goes. That's him with Lucy in 2003 in the picture above.

To see my straightened hair, watch for the extra blog following this one.

Mahalo nui loa and aloha no. Rest well, dear sweet Sergio.

Your Hip Hapa,

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