Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Thai curry and missing Al

Bangkok Chef is busy, busy, busy.

I pass the Nuuanu eatery almost daily now on my way to visit my mom, and the place is filled to the gills. Parking is so tight, more often than not I can't get my cherished chicken curry, so unique among curries because of that perfect blend of coconut milk, curry paste and basil. When parking at Bangkok Chef is impossible and their curry is inaccessible, that is a major letdown. Somehow, life goes on.

There was a time when Mr. Baseball, a.k.a. Greg Hornet, and Al and I would hit Keo's on King Street, next to the old Police Station, for curry, sticky rice and those awesome tapioca-banana-coconut milk desserts. Their curry ranged in heat from mild to medium to hot. I always got the mild. Hornet got the medium. Al, being the proud Korean that he was, always wanted hot. Then he'd pile on more chili sauce when the food arrived.

Al has been missing from our old circle for years now. Nobody knows where he is, or will admit to it, at least. Maybe he's in trouble. Maybe he likes going off into the great unknown. But having Thai curry tonight -- from Bangkok Chef (there was a single, sparse parking spot open) -- even three hours old and cold, brings back those old memories of tanking Heineken beers (circa 1988) with that spicy curry. It was the first time I ever liked Heineken, which is normally bitter, but makes for the best complement to Thai curry.

Here's hoping that one day old Al will have Thai curry with Mr. Baseball and I again. For now, solitude and Bass Ale -- instead of Heineken -- will have to do.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Wreck-oning Times

Does it just seem like a lot of classic spots are shutting their doors lately? Or is it reality? Let's take a look back at the past several months.

• Kam Bowl. Demolished entirely, even the entrance with the "triangle" structure. Walgreen's on the way.

• Masu's Massive Plate Lunch. Closed shop for good.

• McCully Chop Sui. Also closed shop, replaced by a furniture store. Bless the heart of the store owners. They want to keep the neon lights up. They know it's a landmark.

• McCully Fire Station. Located in Mo'ili'ili. Construction for a new fire station is underway.

And now, Varsity Theater, the landmark of all landmarks, nothing but a pile of rubble and asbestos dust. Just a matter of time before Stadium Bowl-O-Drome faces the wrecking ball. I still haven't gotten around to editing the final pics of the Varsity Theater destruction. Just lost the heart to do it last week, but I'll make myself do it now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

R.I.P. Varsity Theater (1938-2008)

I had hopes that the facade of Varsity Theater would be spared long before Bishop Estate announced two weeks ago that the 70-year-old landmark would be destroyed. This morning (Monday), as I returned home from downtown, I was in shock at seeing the facade being pummeled by a backhoe that somehow got onto the roof. As I looked in my rear-view mirror, the workers sprayed water onto the facade and the backhoe blasted away. The facade, which one announced titles like "ROCKY" to the Mo'ili'ili community, rocked up and down for a good minute before it finally smashed to the pavement. Within 15 minutes, the backhoe had sent me into a surreal state of shock. All of it was down, tattered, crumbled and twisted concrete and steel. Looking at it now, it was like they cut the off the head of a giant turtle, but its body -- the theater -- still stands.

Later in the day, a bank teller across the street asked how I was doing. "I feel sick," I said. "They just wrecked my favorite theater." The teller assured me that the owner of a restaurant across the street had saved the signage of the facade, as well as the ancient film projectors that used to sit near the curb. I wasn't assured, though. The facade and the theater will be replaced by a parking lot, and then later, student housing. All the mold and asbestos in the world will tumble down to make those developments happen. I just wish the facade could've been saved. Maybe it can be replicated one day.

The theater itself still stands, but will be demolished soon enough. That's when the finality will really be upon us, those of us who grew up in this great place and felt a deeply-rooted sense of loss as progress stomps on history and culture.

Rest in peace, Varsity Theater. Gone is Honolulu Stadium. Gone is Chunky's Drive-In. Soon to be gone is Stadium Bowl-O-Drome. The landmarks of my childhood, disappearing one by one.

See photos of the Varsity Theater's final night of operation on Ryan Ozawa's Flickr page.