(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on Feb. 14, 2012)

Thank goodness for the cell phone.

If it weren’t for the cell phone, last Saturday’s issue of the Rafu would have been without my column.

Yeah, I know some will holler, “Don’t we wish.”

At any rate, here’s the story:

I faxed my column from Las Vegas, where I spent four days last week.

The desk clerk at the California Hotel sent the column via fax to the Rafu. However, on Thursday, the day after the fax was sent, I got a call on my cell phone from Maggie. She said my column didn’t arrive.

So I checked with the desk clerk and the fax number I had written on the top of the page had one digit that was mistakenly changed.

So I asked her to resend it. While it was going through the fax machine, Maggie said on the cell, “The column is coming through.”

Now if I didn’t have a cell phone, Maggie would not have been able to reach me. She could have left a message on my room phone, but since I rarely spend any time in my room when I’m in Vegas, we might not have been able to communicate, making it too late to make the Saturday edition.

As I said, thank goodness for the cell phone.

Oh well, I’d better get back to today’s column.

When you’re in Vegas, you can never tell about luck, good or bad.

For three days, I couldn’t hit anything on the slot machines. Well, maybe that’s not completely accurate. I did hit my head on one of the machines in frustration.

When my wife’s sister from Maui arrived, we went to the Fremont Hotel, where she always stays.

Since they wanted to spend a little time together in her room, I stayed in the casino.

I had about two bucks worth of quarters in my pocket and sat down at one of the slots. It was more for killing time than trying to win anything.


Would you believe after tossing in ten quarters, I hit the jackpot?

No, it wasn’t that large a jackpot, but, hey, anything is better than nothing.

At least I recovered some of my losses. Please note, “recovered” my losses but did not make a huge profit, which means I had a few bucks in my pocket when we drove away from Vegas.

I’m not sure why, but, boy, was it crowded at the Cal on Thursday and it was mostly Japanese Americans, about 80 percent, I would guess.

The crowd was made up mainly of Los Angeles-area JAs.

It’s easy to pick out Angelenos from those JAs from Hawaii.

One reason I say this is because as I walk around the casino, strangers come up to me and say, “Aren’t you Horse, the writer?”

Nine such strangers approached me with this question, and they all added, “Don’t quit writing.”

I laugh and tell them I’m too old to keep going.

They respond, “Your age doesn’t matter. You think and write like a young person.”

I guess I never thought about it in that light.

When visitors to Vegas see the gleaming City Hall not far from The Strip, It’s hard to imagine that right close by to the $130 million project, there are hundreds of homeless people.

Once the fastest-growing city in the country, now nearly one-third of the homes in Vegas are in foreclosure. Homes that are occupied are now worth only half of what they were two years ago.

The future is grim.

Yet, there it is, the new $130 million City Hall.

Some experts say it will take 20 years to get to where Vegas was three years ago in terms of collecting tax revenue.

When Vegas began drawing up plans for the new City Hall some five years ago, cash flow was no problem. The city was hiring more and more workers to deal with the growing population.

Now, it’s completely the opposite.

One former Southern Californian moved to Vegas six years ago and bought a three-bedroom home for $280,000. Now it’s worth only $100,000. He’s planning to move back to SoCal, like so many others.

When I read stories like this, I don’t feel badly about losing a few rolls of quarters in the slot machines, especially when seeing so many homeless. A lot of them stand on the street corners with a plastic cup in their hand, asking passersby for handouts.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier, with such a large crowd at the Cal Hotel and casino, it’s hard to visualize that so many people living in the city are becoming homeless.

With the report of the Vegas economy recovering, this may all change in the near future.

In the meantime, Vegas is still my favorite place, a sentiment expressed by those I meet there, mostly older JAs.

I’m curious if the Sansei and Yonsei generation feel the same way about Vegas.

Speaking of the Sansei and Yonsei, the one area of difference between them and the Nisei is that the older JAs had a habit of giving their friends nicknames.

I don’t hear too many Sansei or Yonsei being called by any name other than the ones given to them by their Nisei parents.

In our days, we had nicknames like Barrel, Vulture, Boner, Chops, Naris (“nose” in Spanish), Chicken, Chop, Bird, Rocky, Blackie, Snake, Skunk, Lomo, Kozy, Fatso and, of course, Horse.

There were a lot more, but I’ll have to put on my thinking cap to recall them.

On the other hand, I don’t think Nisei women gave each other nicknames. At least I never heard any.

I guess the current generation just thinks differently than we older JAs did in our younger days.

Just reading about how the current generation thinks about the evacuation and life in camp separates them from what most Nisei think about that era.

I guess the younger ones never experienced being called “Japs,” but that was a common occurrence during our days.

I have some old newspapers that I have kept all these years (the Denver Post being one of them) and almost every story about JAs has “Japs” in the headline.

Heck, there was one story about how the government was “coddling” the JAs at Heart Mountain. It involved bananas.

During the war years, it was tough to get certain products, bananas being one of them, and those who bought bananas had to pay ridiculous prices.

Well, the story about camp and bananas was that the “Japs” in camp were getting all the bananas they wanted, served in the mess halls.

There were a few other food items that the “Japs” were dining on, items that the rest of the country had difficulty getting.

The general feeling was that the U.S. government was coddling the “Japs” in camp.

One of these days, I’ll reprint the entire article so that today’s generation can get a clearer picture of how the media saw the internment of JAs in the ten camps.

As I think back, I don’t remember ever having bananas served to me in our mess halls.

Speaking of food, especially those served in restaurants, the Zagat Survey listed America’s top dining-out spots and Matsuhisa in Los Angeles was included. It was the only Japanese-food-serving eatery named on the list.

I’ve heard about Matsuhisa quite often, but I’ve never dined there. I might give it a try to see what makes it better than a lot of good Japanese-dining spots.

Those of you who watch a lot of TV know that the two Korean automakers, Hyundai and Kia, buy a lot of advertising time on the tube.

They must be getting a lot of “return” for dishing out all that money for their commercials.

The reason?

A recent J.D. Power study indicated that the Hyundai brand tops the list in owner loyalty. Its Elantra sedan was awarded the North American Car of the Year Award.

Hyundai’s success is driven by its value-pricing strategy and its buy-back policy.

I’m kind of curious why, when I’m driving in the Los Angeles area and come to a signal stop, I look around and all I see surrounding my car are Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans.

Maybe I should drive through Koreatown more.

Well, one area where the two Korean models are not listed is under the heading, “What vehicles do car thieves prefer?”

Topping this list is the Honda Accord. Just behind the Accord is the Honda Civic. Next, the Toyota Camry, Acura Integra and Cadillac Escalade.

Nope, No Hyundai or Kia.

Too bad I don’t know any car thieves. If I did, I’d like to ask them what makes them steal one car brand over another.

It might be the appropriate move.

As the only airport outside of Japan with a “Japanese” name, All Nippon Airways may be making the right move to serve Mineta International Airport, located in San Jose.

We all know that the San Jose International Airport is named after a Nisei, Norman Mineta, former mayor of San Jose.

Wouldn’t it to a little confusing for first-time Japanese passengers to hear this announcement in flight? “Mineta Kokusai Kuukou ni tsukimashita.”

They may think they boarded the wrong flight.

Having grown up not far from the San Jose airport, it’s kind of difficult for me to imagine that a Japanese airline will be servicing the facility.

Heck, I remember when the airport was a strawberry farm, or at least surrounded by a strawberry farm.

Oh well, time marches on.

Let’s laugh:

Only in America can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

Only in America is there handicapped parking in front of a skating rink.

Only in America do drug stores make the sick walk all the way to the back for their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes in the front.

Only in America do people order double cheeseburgers, a large donut — and diet soda.

Only in America do banks leave both doors open and have pens chained to the counter.

Only in America do we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight.

Only in America do they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille letters.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and can be reached via email at Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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