Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Japanese John Wayne

So this a week ago today my Grandpa Jimmy Shinoda passed away. It was a very sad time for my family but I feel so lucky that I was able to say my goodbyes before he passed unlike some of my other cousins and sibling. Between the time he passed and the funeral I was in charge of creating two poster boards. One board was a timeline of his life through pictures and the other poster had everyone's memories of grandpa Jimmy. I would like to take a moment to share some of the memories people shared.

The first one is mine...
One of the things I loved about Grandpa was his sense of humor and his creativity. Every Christmas and birthday Grandpa would come up with awesome gift wrapping ideas. He never used the typical wrapping paper, ribbon or even scotch tape. Instead he used super glue, packing tape, bubble wrap, warehouse boxes or other miscellaneous things he found. It was always an adventure trying to open up our gifts. I could tell that Grandpa always got a kick out of watching us try as hard as we could to get our presents out of the mess he called wrapping. One of his most memorable gift wrapping ideas was when he put a fifty dollar bill and some change into a little cookie tin and super glued the top on. I think that was his best because I remember trying to open up this small tin for 20 minutes so I could get my money. It wasn't until my dad got out some pliers that we were able to open it. I'm sure that in Grandpa's mind he thought that I had cheated because I didn't technically open the tin by myself.
After many years of Grandpa's gift wrapping I thought that it would be funny if I came up with my own creative wrapping for Grandpa's birthday present. I had bought Grandpa a pair of Rainbow sandals (since he tried on mine and loved them) and thought it would be hilarious to put them in a grocery bag and then put bubble wrap around that. Then for the final touch I wrapped packing tape around the whole thing. I was very proud of myself and I gave Grandpa his present thinking it was soooo funny. But Grandpa showed me that I shouldn't mess with the master because he whipped out his pocket knife and cut a big slit in the side and pulled out the sandals. I'm sure that at that point he was laughing on the inside at me and thinking, "Nice try." This one thing that I loved about Grandpa will definitely be something that I will try to incorporate into my gift giving at Christmas.

The next memory is from my cousin's fiancee Chris...
For the first day in a long time, the world is without Grandpa Jimmy Shinoda, aka Catherine’s Grandfather, James Shinoda.
And that is a damn shame.
So I thought I’d share a story about Grandpa Jimmy that will probably almost make me cry (EDIT: did. That’s twice in one year now) while writing and in subsequent readings of it. It’s not a sad story at all. It’s actually pretty awesome. But usually it’s the awesome stories that make you the saddest, because they remind you of how awesome something was that will never be again.
In 2006, I took my first trip out to meet Catherine’s family in California. I had never been to California, I was totally in to Catherine, and I was about to meet all the people that were important in her life. Needless to say, this was a big trip for me. We had also decided to tie-in a trip to the World Series of Poker so that I could play in a $1000 tournament. I get nervous for that tournament approximately 12 months in advance, so you know, no biggie.
Then I discovered that Catherine’s grandfather would be meeting us in Las Vegas. At this time, I barely knew Catherine’s mom, dad, sister, etc. let alone her grandfather. However, I did know that Grandpa was a big deal, and, like the godfather, if he thought I was cool, others would think that. Or at least that’s how I pictured it in my head.
I was really into this mohawk that I had at the time (photo not found), and the only thing I could think about when I arrived in Vegas was how I was going to make the final table of my tournament, I was going to get on TV, and I was going to have a mohawk while doing. How cool was I going to be?
I totally forgot that Grandpa Jimmy would be showing up at the tournament to meet Catherine, and that by meeting Catherine, I would be meeting him. Shortly after that, I realized that I had a mohawk, I was fairly shabbily dressed, I was playing in a poker tournament with a bunch of really really classy people who alternate between hurling things and obscenities, and I was playing with some of Catherine’s money since she had decided to help back such a classy guy like myself. I was also, of course, wearing shorts so that my tattoos were visible.
If I were Grandpa Jimmy, I probably would have punched me and rescued Catherine.
But he didn’t. He shook my hand and asked if we wanted to get something to eat. I was so wowed by this. Either Catherine had brought a slew of bad boyfriends before Grandpa Jimmy, and he was willing to accept whatever was put in front of him, or he was willing to judge me when he actually knew me.
As it turned out, I really hit the jackpot by meeting Grandpa Jimmy. I told Catherine later that I thought he was like John Wayne, if John Wayne were Japanese. He used to play poker in Vegas before every kid like me thought it was cool. He told me about playing 5 card draw in some of the casinos. Five card draw? Like, with six shooters too or just regular?
He said very little that night, but when he did, I was on the edge of my seat. And he had this walk. I can’t even explain it. I mean, he was John Wayne. That’s all I can say. In my mind, from that day on, I knew John Wayne, and he actually lived in Santa Ana, California, and he was Catherine’s grandfather. This is good.
Luckily for me, I got the chance to go back to Grandpa Jimmy’s house many times. In subsequent meetings, I learned that John Wayne liked to crack jokes, talked more than John Wayne and lots of other people do, and definitely enjoyed playing Spider Solitaire, almost as much as he loved being around his family. And even though Catherine thought my John Wayne assessment was way off, his house was the hub of activity for the whole family. I was definitely not the only one who thought Grandpa was cool.
I only knew Grandpa Jimmy for a few years, so I can imagine what the people who were close to him for a lifetime are feeling right now. I can only say that I have some sliver of understanding as to why you feel the way you do right now. I wish I could have known him longer.
Two things are certain. First, I will never cruise the strip in Vegas without thinking about him and that memorable first meeting. It’s hardly a bad thing to think of John Wayne when you’re in Vegas. And second, I’ll always remember to try to think like Grandpa Jimmy when my daughter or granddaughter brings a boy up for inspection.
I’m so glad he did that for me.

I love Chris' Japanese John Wayne reference! The last memory I wanted to put up was one of Joseph's...

Grandpa ate everything except for duck feet because it was too chewy. One night while on a business trip in Dallas Debbie, Bambi, Grandpa and I were eating at a Chinese restaurant with the family from Lin's. I am not a fan of seafood and with my luck I was not in control of my meal choices. For dinner we would be eating family style and one person decided what we were going to eat, which was mostly seafood. I turned down many dishes that were passed to me and I felt bad because I was a guest. One of the last dishes brought out was duck feet boiled and dipped in a very light almost tasteless vinegar sauce. I was offered one and I saw Grandpa take one so I said to myself, "If Grandpa has one then it is probably somewhat edible." So I took one.
Shortly after I took a duck foot Grandpa said that he couldn't eat it because it was too chewy so I was running solo in the game of Fear Factor. I was amoured with only chopsticks so I knew that I couldn't cut it into little pieces. The only way to eat it was to put the whole thing in my mouth. I was able to eat other gross things or 2 years in the Philippines but this was the worst thing I have ever eaten. There was no taste but the texture was so bad that just writing this still makes my stomach churn. As I broke down the cartilage broke but was incased by strong rubbery skin and I was forced to swallow it whole. As I chewed my eyes watered and I looked over at Grandpa. He was watching me with great enjoyment while I was about to puke. After dinner I asked him why he didn't eat the duck feet and he said, "I would never eat duck feet. It's gross." I was puking up all that night. I was sharing a room with Grandpa and he would wake up, eat a piece of hard candy and watch me go back and forth to the bathroom. Everytime he would look at me for the next couple of days he would smile and start chuckling. That was the last time I tried matching his food consumption.