Islands Linked by Ocean book launch!

For Lisa Linn Kanae’s book launch at UH Manoa on March 19th, I made sure to arrive early. Why? I knew I had a spot reserved in the Second Great Condom Race! The backstory: Since I hadn’t seen the first one at KCC, I asked if there could be one at the book launch. To my surprise, this request was approved — and apparently I was going to be one of the special chosen participants! The lineup: Lee Tonouchi, Craig Howes, Susan Schultz, Kimo Armitage, Michael Puleloa, Kyle Koza, and me.

SPOILER: To find out what happened at the Second Great Condom Race, scroll down to the bottom. In consideration of Bamboo babies and their equally important Bamboo begetters, this last section will probably not be in the print newsletter. For everyone else, web exclusive!

Eric Chock began the event with this rueful observation: “We’re older than more than half the people in this room.” Many of the 100+ people at the event were students, though professors, other academics, and just local literati in general also showed up in impressive numbers.

After a moving introduction by Kimo Armitage, Lisa Linn Kanae thanked Bamboo Ridge: “I don’t know how many writers have been in this room, under this ceiling, because of Bamboo Ridge … I’m one of them.”

She then told the audience about her coworker’s librarian mother, a story that I hope makes it into her next collection. Her coworker bought a copy of Islands Linked by Ocean for her mother, a librarian on the mainland who enjoyed receiving any book at any time from anywhere. However, the coworker was worried about the first story, “The Steersman,” because of the profanity sprinkled throughout. Her mother was not one for expletives. So she took a post-it from the ever-practical Mae Lum, whose post-it system — where people waiting in line for book signings write the recipient’s name on a post-it — has prevented many names from being misspelled by the author. On her post-it, the coworker wrote “Beverly,” her mother’s name, and then the singular addendum: “I suggest you skip the first story …” Lisa dutifully wrote down the suggestion. To her audience, she revealed the second half of the comment left unwritten: “ because the rest of the book’s gonna kick a**.”

Lisa began with “Sassy,” the now-famous and still-hilarious story about the infamous condom race. She read all of “The Steersman” — its expletive-explosion of a first section, the gruesome middle, and the lyrical ending. When she sang, an audience member murmured, “Beautiful.” She got a huge room-wide laugh for “Balls to da walls! And, uh, no mind dis, but I gotta include da ladies too, so, vaginas to da walls” (16) When she reached Cyril’s fall into the Ala Wai, people forgot all inhibitions and yelled “eww,” “ugh!” and similar sentiments.

After Lisa finished, she asked, “You think Beverly would like that story?” Heck yes.

Holly Bruland won the door prize, causing the audience to receive this biographical gem from Lisa: “Oh my god … she’s Ingoes!” Or, the character in “The Steersman” named after “sweet Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie” (13).

People cried, “Hana hou!” as Lisa rested after reading. When Lisa asked Eric and Darrell (and others in general), “How long was that story?”, somebody distinctly said, “Not long enough.” Indeed!

Web exclusive:
Before the reading began, Lisa called up the condom contestants. We hovered over the table and fiddled with the Alka-Seltzer and condom packets while waiting for the race to begin. GO! I dropped in my Alka-Seltzer tablet and fumbled with the condom and shot glass, painfully aware that I was the last one still trying to cover the shot glass’s rim with the condom. I was finally able to step back and watch the proceedings. I watched my glass in car-crash-riveted horror, my expression probably providing good photographic fodder for Darrell the cameraman. Put it this way: While I didn’t win because the condom flew off the glass, I might have been able to win Most Realistic, and no I’m not going to elaborate more than that. (If you ask nice, you can probably get the photos from Darrell. I personally have not seen the photos yet.)

Who won? Craig Howes! The condom on his glass stayed on the longest, trapping so much air inside that it kind of looked like … well I’ll quote Lisa here, who said it best: “Craig, yours look like a snake wen’ swallow one rat”. It stayed on well past the end of the game and lasting until the end of Eric’s speech, when it shot off the glass, flew spectacularly into the air, and splat landed onto the stage like a rapidly-deflating balloon. I don’t know if that was caught on camera, unfortunately, but it was a night of hilarious embarrassment, swearing, laughter, and nostalgia, and not a night likely to be forgotten any time soon.

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