Criminal Christmas in Paradise–A Snapshot into Local Culture on the Other Side of the Tracks

Honolulu, Hawaii, Christmas 2019

Potluck meals are a staple of Hawaiian culture. The shared meal made up of different dishes provided by the individual members for consumption by all bonds the group family style. It is not necessary for everyone to contribute and no one keeps track of who brought a dish and who did not. You do not have to bring food in order to eat. If an unexpected person turns up, that person is welcome to eat too. Usually people will insist that she join the group. Local people believe it is very bad luck to argue where food is being prepared, set out, or eaten because the spirit of dissension can go into the food and spread to the people sharing the meal.

Illegal Gambling Establishments, “Game Rooms”

I went to a game room in search of a story for this blog, although I do not remember exactly where it was. The same people were there playing electronic machines that remind me of unsophisticated 1980’s Atari video games. At the side of the room was a long table with pots of food, plates, forks, knives–a Christmas Potluck. At the game room! Every now and then Honolulu Police decide to raid the game rooms and shut them down, and after a few weeks or months they reappear in the same spot of a different spot. There are violent incidents because tens of thousands of dollars are gambled on a daily basis and people want to get their hands on that money by hook or by crook. If something goes down, the game rooms get shut down. The game room I visited only just started functioning this month. I don’t know if something bad happened there, but if it did, it happened when there wasn’t food being served because fighting in the vicinity of a meal is simply not done. Today, the gamblers and the staff members I was told did the cooking, were family.

Fitting in at the game room

I could have asked to eat if I wanted to and they would not have denied me. I did not want to stay long because people want you to spend money in their establishment and gambling is not my thing. I do not gamble because unlike when I was young, I now know I too could get addicted to the most uninteresting, unappealing practice, in a dingy setting where desperate people linger hoping to rob you. In my youth I would not have worried about my vulnerability because I thought I was invulnerable. I have spent most of my adult life doing things I did not even know existed in the world and had I known I would have denied any desire to participate. “Me? No way. Never.” That’s what I would have said about gambling. Now I side with the people in the 12 step meetings who talk about how you haven’t done something yet, but you might because yet stands for “You’re Eligible Too.” I avoid gambling and game-rooms because they suck a lot of people in, and it is the only addiction I have seen that is more expensive than crack. To be polite I put a $20 in the machine, and in less than a minute of pressing the button trying to shoot the electronic fish swimming on the screen, my turn was over and my money was gone. I did not try again. I imagine if I had won I might have been in trouble and decided to come back to do it again. I can say this, losing is not addictive!

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