One of the problems with growing up is that eventually you reach the point in life where the clods you grew up with are now in charge. When you're a kid, you don't think twice about who the pilot is flying the airplane. But one day, you realize that the child who used to always forget his phone number is now performing neurosurgery on someone. Or you know that the chef at your favorite restaurant used to eat mud.
But none of that compares to my own sobering moment when I realized that a pal from my earlier days was now the mayor of the City of Honolulu.
Fortunately, I didn't know Peter Carlisle as a child. Just the thought of that gives me chills -- a really loud eight-year-old with a bushy moustache. We became friends in graduate school at UCLA. He was in law school, though still -- how shall I put it? -- unformed as a mature adult. I was getting my Masters degree in screenwriting.
And now the people of Honolulu elected Peter the mayor? Yes, I know they'd elected him City Prosecutor four times. But it's one thing to be City Prosecutor, where the only thing people care about is "did you convict the bad guys?" -- and Peter and his staff did, which is why he kept getting re-elected. And it's something else entirely to be in charge of everything... and represent your city.
I'm sure that the people of Honolulu are happy with Peter Carlisle as a fine representative of their city. But they didn't see him go to the Pizza Palace seven nights in a row to watch the movie The Producers, over and over and over (and over) again on the big screen TV, rather than study. Or they didn't see him watching the "Three Blind Mice" scene in Monty Python's And Now for Something Completely Different, and losing all self-control, actually hyperventilating with so much apoplectic laughter that he literally nearly passed out. The voters may see an effective former City Prosecutor. But this is who I see.
Here's how difficult it is for me. One particularly violent criminal, after getting convicted, called Peter "the most evil man in Hawaii." Or something like that. I don't remember exactly, though, because I was too busy convulsed in hysterics. What everyone in Honolulu saw was the intensity of the high-profile trial. All I could see was the camping trip Peter and I took up the Pacific Coast Highway after grad school, which didn't mesh with Evil Genius, unless you count how annoying he got when he didn't get his way, or tried to repeatedly sing the wrong lyrics to "Marian the Librarian." Hey, I didn't like to let him drive, that's why it's hard for me to see him in charge of a city.
Yes, that little dot in the back, off the Oregon coast, is the current Mayor of Honolulu. Trust me, it's the best way to see him. Small and at a distance.
There is one telling memory of that trip. It came at the U.S. border, as we were re-entering the country from Canada. Two just-graduated students, without a haircut in a while, beards a few days old, a little grungy, camping gear in the trunk, returning from Vancouver. Needless-to-say, the Customs Guard thought he had easy pickings. However, though most college students would be panicked, Peter and I were actually amused. What we knew was that, between us, Peter Carlisle was so squeaky clean that, when the trip was over, he was heading to Honolulu to begin work for the City Prosecutor's office. And I, to this day, have never taken any drugs in my life, including not a puff of marijuana.
The guard however was ripping apart the trunk, getting frustrated at his failure to find anything. Suddenly, his eyes lit up -- "Hey, Mike, I think I got something!!!", he excitedly shouted to his partner and victoriously held up an object. "What's this?!," he snarked, certain he'd found a roach clip. Peter and I took a close, bemused look. "That's a tweezer," I said. The officer slammed the trunk and stormed off. Peter and I calmly drove off, laughing. Me to Hollywood, Peter to somehow eventually become Mayor of Honolulu.
Yes, I know citizens want their mayor to be lily pure. But they also want them to show some semblance of a life. When Bill Clinton insisted he never inhaled, people ridiculed him in disbelief. Imagine if Peter Carlisle claimed he upset a Customs Officer who couldn't even find a marijuana seed after a college camping trip to Canada. There's laid back, and there's comatose.
It gets worse.
A few years ago, Peter had a law enforcement conference in Orange County, but flew first to Los Angeles to visit. I met him at the airport, he paid the $5 parking, and I handed him the receipt. Except that he wouldn't take it. He said he didn't want people asking why he was charging the people of Honolulu for a personal visit. I told him that was idiotic -- he was actually there for a conference. I actually had to park. He said, no, if he'd flown directly to Orange County, the conference would have picked him up for free. He wouldn't take it. Totally refused. It was a receipt for five dollars.
It gets worse.
Rather than put in a charge for a hotel room, he came over and stayed on the couch. A year later, this lifelong cheapskate was running for Mayor of Honolulu.
Yes, yes, I know that that sounds noble and honest and clean. But I think it's ludicrous. I wanted to say to him, geez, guy, get a life. But I didn't mean for it to be as Mayor of Honolulu.
To be clear, Peter Carlisle is the very opposite of a milquetoast, and that's the problem. The world sees this public figure, but I see the college loon underneath.
I see the guy who went to a University of Hawaii football game on his wedding night -- in a tuxedo, with his wife in her bridal gown. I see the guy who called me at 3 in the morning, just because he knew it was three hours earlier in Hawaii and he could annoy me. I see the guy who invited me to the first trial he ever handled and... well, let's just say he regrets it.
And so, because I see the Peter Carlisle I knew as a college student, it's a struggle to get past the reality that that guy is now Mayor of Honolulu.
I comfort myself with the knowledge of two things. One, that Peter Carlisle married far above himself, and so the wonderful, no nonsense Judy is around to make sure he's responsible. And two, I don't live in Honolulu.
I'm sure that Peter Carlisle is a wonderful mayor. But I just don't want to be around to see how he does it.
And I want to see his birth certificate.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg