Benihana Birsday

Y. Peter Kang is a senior majoring in Asian American studies. Send comments to [email protected]





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My birthday is this Thursday, April 27. I will be 22 years old. The big deuce-deuce. I found out that I share a birthday with notables such as Ulysses S. Grant, announcer Casey Kasem, singer Sheena Easton, and basketball Hall of Famer George Gervin. Boring!

One thing I find interesting is discovering special events in history that happened on my birthday.

On April 27, 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, after traveling three-quarters of the way around the globe, was killed during a tribal skirmish in the Philippines. His ships continued the voyage without him and returned to Spain, thus completing the first circumnavigation of the world.

What people don't know is that Magellan was killed because the natives envied his Euro-tights so much that they had to have them. True story.

On April 27, 1805, a force led by the U.S. Marines captured the city of Derna, on the shores of Tripoli. After spotting a Volkswagen bus, U.S. Marine Corps PFC Henry Simmons was reported to have yelled at his friend and fellow Marine Martin Smith, "It's the Libyans! Run for it, Marty!" Not a true story.

These historical events made me put my whole life into perspective. As a result, I've decided to come up with my own chronology of some of my more memorable birthdays, April 27.

1978 - I enter the world at 6:06 a.m., a beautiful 7-pound bouncing bundle of joy. I was born at John Muir Hospital in Walnut Creek, Calif. John Muir is credited with the invention of Yosemite National Park.

1979 - On my first birthday, I finally master the art of peek-a-boo. In celebration, I take a giant dump in my pants.

1984 - At my behest, my mom forces my 10-year-old brother to bring cupcakes and punch for my kindergarten class party. While riding to school with the unwieldy treats on his Huffy bike with banana seat, he was given a citation from a policeman for riding on the wrong side of the street. The experience introduces him to the world of juvenile delinquency.

1989 - My family celebrates my 11th birthday at Benihana, the leading Asian theme restaurant in the country. That night was really strange. For one thing, our master chef wasn't Japanese. He wasn't even Asian, he was white. But that's not what was strange, I'm all for white guys being sushi chefs, Benihana chefs, whatever.

What was weird was that he was an imposter. Don't understand? Well, picture a white guy doing a very, very bad impression of Japanese-accented English. I don't know if management made him do it or what, but the guy tried to front like he was Japanese. He was also wearing some kind of makeup to make him look more tan or something; the entire situation was very bizarre. My family was just like, "We know you're not Japanese, buddy, you're not fooling anyone."

Not only that, but he sucked at doing those little Benihana knife tricks. It took him three or four attempts to flip a shrimp tail into the top of his hat.

But the night got better when they brought out a little piece of cake and sang "Happy Birthday." The hostesses, who were Japanese, sang it like this: "Heppy birsday to you, heppy birsday to you." Ahh, my family was relieved to finally hear some genuine Japanese-accented English. My brothers wrote on the Polaroid picture they gave us: "Benihana Birsday. 4/27/89."

1991 - I celebrate my entrance into the tumultuous teen years by taking a trip to the waterslides with several friends.

One memory from that day stands out. After riding a slide, I see a girl in a white bathing suit - about my age - using one of those outdoor showers.

"Holy crap!" I say to my best friend in a hushed voice you reserve for these kind of situations. "Quick, look, look!" The poor girl had blood trickling down her leg - an unanticipated menstrual cycle. We all felt strange after that. Every girl's swimsuit nightmare, or so I've heard from the girls I told this story to.

1994 - Sweet sixteen. Oh, the freedoms that come with the age 16 and a brand spanking new license. However, I had the misfortune of taking my driving test at the Pleasanton DMV, home of the dreaded Iranian Lady. The Iranian Lady was infamous for failing people. So guess what? Just my luck, I get her and I freaking fail. An automatic fail. You just don't know what it's like to hear, "OK, that's enough, the test is over. Turn off the engine ... OK, let's see here ... You failed!"

When I got back home (driven by my Mom), my brother greeted me at the door with, "You failed? AHAHAHAHA! I knew it!" What a jerk. Two weeks later, I went to the Walnut Creek DMV, busted a 94 and my life was never the same.

1999 - Big 21st birthday. I don't remember too much after drink number 18, but from what my friends tell me, we had a damn good time. Some of the memories from that night are mixed up with my friends' 21st birthday saturnalias. (Warning: Drink responsibly.)

That reminds me, one of my favorite things to do on 21st birthdays is to give the birthday boy/girl shots filled with water and see if they can tell the difference. Or I drink the shot of water and make them drink something nasty, like gin or bourbon.

2000 - Who knows what memories this next birthday will bring. All I know is, I hope I don't take a dump in my pants.

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