BY PAUL CHADERJIAN
Once there were and there were not…
Trade winds keep the Tiki lounge overlooking Waikiki breezy and cool. Frozen and blended tropical drinks with rum, strawberries and bananas have made everyone giddy.
“To free and fair elections,” says one of them.
They laugh and drink.
“Wait, wait,” says another. “To the Genocide museum in DC.”
They take another swig.
With the panoramic view from the windowless Hula’s as the backdrop, a group of unlikely friends meet to forge a new Armenia in paradise.
Beirut. Rome. Vegas. Aleppo. Los Angeles. Houston. Manila. They have come from far away places and range in age from 23 to 73.
A few are Armenian; others Armenian by marriage. One can shoot you to death from a mile away. Another is known for the best Middle Eastern cuisine on the islands.
The oldest in the group is a retiree after a long career in protecting the environment. The youngest in the group is an engineer from the land of the Phoenicians, here to help build the new mass transit system for the Polynesians.
The banker is a military wife. Mary from Manila is here via a marriage and years of work in Beirut. The writer of this tale is on the rock to keep track of missing hikers, swimmers in trouble and water main breaks for local TV news.
There is applause as the live band imitating Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s rendition of “What A Wonderful World” takes a break from playing island music.
On the table are the group’s favorites: tsunami ahi poke, shrimp summer rolls and a variety of pupu.
At the table is an Angelina surfer who guards intellectual property in court. Next to her is the CEO of AMS Natural Inc, which makes and distributes health supplements with names like Anahit.
Also at the table is a 30-something from DC. She’s in charge of a group of crazy Filipino bank tellers whose only worry is where they get their hair done and love eating the three dozen fried dough Malasadas she brings to them every Monday.
“To Mother Armenia on this Mother’s Day,” she says. They raise their glasses.
“To catching the bastards who firebombed Tsomak’s bar,” says the Syrian jeweler turned chef, an island resident now more than two decades. They all nod in silence.
“True revolutionaries and outsiders like Tsomak are always on the cutting edge,” says the news writer. “They may get shot down and firebombed, but in a few years their ideas become mainstream.”
“I am Hye Tahd,” says the banker.
“True dat (that),” chimes in the chef.
“You’re all watching Sunday, right?” She asks. “ANCA telethon dot org.”
“We’re all connected,” says the writer.
“Yup, yup,” they say.
“Did you guys cover the court case against the Maui Armenian who’s driving around saying he was a federal agent,” asks the chef.
“Don’t get me started on that stupid story,” says the writer. “It wasn’t even a story but we acted like it was the most important thing on all the islands that night.”
“He even bought a bomb-sniffing dog,” says the engineer. “What is that all about?”
“Who’s going to join us at St. Mark’s Saturday,” asks Mary from Manila. “The archbishop is coming from Cairo for a special service.”
“I’ll go,” says the lawyer. “We need to show our support to the Coptic Church, but we need our own church here.”
“The Prelacy is already on Honolulu Avenue in La Crescenta,” says the writer. “Now we have to work on a church in Honolulu.”
“Good job, by the way,” says the engineer named after a Hollywood movie star. “You got the Honolulu-Yerevan sister city proclamation through.”
“Yeah. We all did,” says the lawyer. “George had to do something. The Gulen Turkish cult is trying to infiltrate the education system on Oahu and teach its backwards version of history.”
“When will these guys just stop,” says the engineer. “Just fess up. Admit to your crime of Genocide and stop killing the Hrant Dinks of our world.”
“Who would think the Turks would target Honolulu,” says the young CEO. “That’s why we have to be vigilant. The work of Hai Tahd is never done.”
As if on cue, the clinking of the glasses, the background music, the dialogue throughout the restaurant stop in unison. Then everyone, from busboys to the musicians, patrons to bartenders says, “I am Hai Tahd.”
“Hey, there’s Oprah,” says the writer. “And she’s with Rihanna. What are they doing here?”
“Movie premier for Battleship,” says the engineer. “Now if only Kim Kardashian was here too. It would be cool.”
“Doesn’t Geragos represent Rihanna’s ex,” asks Mary from Manila. “I read on Hollyscoop she and Chris got back together.”
“Who cares,” says the banker. “By the way, thanks Varouj. The photo-shopped pic of Ararat behind downtown Honolulu was very clever. Very clever.”
“They call it augmented reality,” says the writer. “In the 21st century, you don’t have to feel far from home. You just look at your smart phone or notebook computer and see Ararat superimposed over any scene.”
“Framed picture of Ararat, you need no more that kine,” says Varouj.
“You’re speaking Pidgen [the native tongue] now,” laughs the writer.
“You live long time on the rock,” says the chef, “you talk like their kine [kind].”
“Did you guys see the pictures of the balloons exploding at the political rally,” asks Mary. “Isn’t that crazy. So glad no one died.”
“Our people are crazy,” says Phillip the sharp shooter. “What business does someone have confusing gases that fill-up balloons. But we’re all crazy, sitting on this rock and dreaming of the other one.”
“Yeah,” says the writer. “But no matter how far you try to run from us, you end up sipping Lava Flows and quoting Saroyan.”
“Hear, hear,” says the retired environmentalist.
“Who wants to hike Koko Head tomorrow,” asks the engineer with the movie star good looks.
“Uhm, not again” says the lawyer.
“It took me 48 minutes to reach the top,” says the writer.
“It gets faster every time,” says the engineer.
“Pass,” says the chef. “But I’ll have coffee ready at Mary’s Mediterranean Kitchen when you’re done.”
“We need to get Mary’s on Food Network,” says the lawyer. “Did you see the guy on the city college TV commercial, Darakjian. He’s promoting auto mechanic classes.”
“How ‘bout the eye doctor, Zobian,” says the CEO. “His ad is up before all the indie films at the Kahala Mall.”
“We got history here,” says the environmentalist. “Arman Manookian was a Genocide survivor who came here with the Marine Corps and was known as the Van Gogh of Hawaii.”
“Don’t forget the Armenian from Calcutta, Paul Chater,” says the lawyer. “He was one of the founding fathers of Hong Kong and hosted Hawaii’s last reigning King David Kalakaua at a luncheon in 1881.”
“Wonder if Paul Chater ever came to Oahu,” says the writer.
“Probably did,” says the chef.
“We’re everywhere,” says the banker,”
“And we’re the best kine [kind],” says the supplement king and CEO.
“Mahalo (thank you) for that,” says the environmentalist.
“Cheers. I’ll drink to that. Genatz,” says the writer. “Bottoms up.”
And three apples fell from heaven: one for the storyteller, one for him who made him tell it, and one for all of you who are Hai Tahd.