The band was in-between songs and there were still tables open when I walked in to the Dragon Upstairs last Saturday, just behind a group of retiree-aged hipsters. “C’mon in,” boomed a voice from a dimly-lit corner; the band gestured for us to do the same. I gamely follow a white-haired man in a pin-stripped fedora into the intimate, match-box sized club.
Stressing and pressurizing the local as a site of “critical resistance” posits a more dynamic way of imagining the relationship of a region, nation, and globe in which difference is not subsumed nor reified but circulated and affirmed” (Wilson 14).
I side-stepped the bell of a trumpet held close and low, nodding to the band while snaking past the potentially expectoration-flecked front line, to the raised seating area where Rowen, Miki and Hank sat holding court at the best table in the house.
It was only the second time I’d met Hank, the owner of both the Dragon Upstairs and Hank’s Cafe, another live music venue downstairs in the same Nuuanu Street building. Last year was the first time we’d met, I’d interviewed him for an article for Hawaii Luxury magazine. He’d impressed me with his charisma and passion for music. I’d sat at the bar drinking chardonnay, asking questions and scribbling notes for my story. Eventually he leaned in and spelled it out: “I want Hawaiian jazz.”
I’m always down for a live performance. Regardless of event type, seeing things live always adds a new dimension to appreciate, be it a baseball game, stand-up comedy routine or concert of any genre. Last week, I experienced a Broadway style musical, Flower Drum Song on an extended run at Diamond Head Theatre. These performers are working it, singing, dancing, acting… they have my full respect. Having a live, mini-orchestra there was also unexpected and fun.
This youtube clip of a 2006 performance looks like someone snuck it in the theater. Minus the thong(!) it is very much like what we saw at DHT. (The last minute or so appears to be some… thing… else….. perhaps was under the recording?)
The dailies of course loved the show. They love everything that’s locally produced; it’s the CODB in Hawaii. (see comments) Me I’m not really a “musicals person” (and yea those are “scare quotes”). LoL. But I tried to put that aside since I was there for a class assignment to think about the performance in terms of the reading we had done the previous week in a book by Coco Fusco called English is Broken Here.
The task was to consider what Fusco would say about the Flower Drum Song performance at DHT. As concerned as she is with Latino/a issues, I do not think Fusco would speak too directly to the content of a supposedly reappropriated (re-reappropriated?) performance of Asian otherness in a United Statesian* style in the illegally occupied Kingdom of Hawaii. But that’s an admittedly presumptuous guess.
Peace parades in Waikiki vary greatly in goals, turnout, funding
It caught my eye right away on Friday night as we’re driving into Waikiki to catch Johnny Fiasco at Lotus. There is a giant, blinking, orange sign right where Kuhio and Kalakaua split, a changing display that looked like: PEACE MARCH SUNDAY 6 PM ROAD CLOSED PEACE MARCH SUNDAY 6PM. Peace March? WTH? It struck me so odd that I twittered it.
Immediately conjured in my mind are earnest hippies in tank tops (armpit hair) and face paint playing drums and leading a small group in a tinny anti-war chant while sailors on leave curse and give them the finger. Some punk activists would probably be in the mix, cute revolutionaries with shaved heads and low-slung fatigues. But I’m thinking, isn’t the anniversary of the Iraq war past already? I put it out of mind, went to the club and danced the night away.
So Sunday around 6:20 PM, I bike into Waikiki expecting to see some hippies and home-made signs. I notice a fairly heavy police presence, with lots of the main roadways blocked. This must be some big-ass peace protest. It’s overcast and my hair is already wet from the swim I took earlier; I figure if I look a little bedraggled, I’ll blend. I picture myself riding alongside the protesters, easily mistaken for one of them, yet not slow to laugh if the street theatre gets too ridiculous.
As I head towards Kalakaua Ave, a red-bearded bum smiles and says “nice dreads.” Great, I guess I do blend. Just then surreality slaps me upside the head. A day-glo troupe comes dancing down the street, rows and rows of them, singing and smiling, looking like Falun Gong meets Up With People.
I’m a little frightened as I capture these short video clips. Focus!
“Oh pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth,
that I am meek and gentle with these butchers
thou art the ruins of the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times
woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy
which like dumb mouths do ope their ruby lips
to beg the voice and utterance of thy my tongue”
That is all I can remember of Antony’s speech over the murdered body of Julius Caesar in William Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar. Those seven lines stayed with me since high school freshman(?) English. Only misremembered one pronoun! Yet I don’t think Mr. “balding” Spalding would be impressed, since I didn’t know the rest.
“A curse shall light upon the limbs of men;
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy;
Blood and destruction shall be so in use
And dreadful objects so familiar
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quarter’d with the hands of war;
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds:
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.”
Wow, that’s gross. Now I feel like reading Shakespeare again. Or, maybe I’ll just celebrate the Ides of March with a nice glass of wine instead.
The image is James Purefoy as Mark Antony in the underrated HBO series Rome.