Oahu, the Gathering Place
As wave after wave of immigrants landed on the shores of our tiny island, we welcomed them like the Hawaiians of 1820 welcomed New England missionaries. Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos and more: Virtually all came seeking work and better lives for their families. Most recently, fleeing terrifying environmental conditions produced by American nuclear tests, Micronesians have been arriving in large numbers. All are equal in our eyes. All of worthy of second chances.
Now is a time to look around and appreciate how these many ethnicities have enriched our island, known as the Gathering Place. Now is a time to look around and appreciate how strangers from other lands have always enriched America as well.
Now is time to say “mahalo,” thank you, for the blessings that our circumstances have bestowed upon us … and to share them.
What We Hope to Be
“This island represents all that we are and all that we hope to be,” declared President John F. Kennedy upon his arrival on Oahu in 1963. As you look around, all that we are is obvious: Everyone and nearly everything is from somewhere else. Even the original Hawaiians came from islands far to the south, while waves of immigrants and refugees included disapproving missionaries, bloodthirsty whalers, sugarcane workers from China, Japan, the Philippines, Portugal and beyond, mainland escapees and more. Most recently, Micronesians whose islands were poisoned by American nuclear tests decades ago have added to our population. They came … they come … they will keep coming.
What we hope to be — what we pledge to be — is a place where everyone is welcome. Even as the nation debates in unprecedented ways who is worthy of crossing the threshhold into America, we want to give, we want to share. It is who we are. It is aloha.
Missing: a Thousand Words
I go swimming every day, nearly, and typically nearby. The closest beach to our home in Palolo is in Kahala, where houses and their prices don’t know when to stop growing. Last week I saw something amazing, although I can’t prove it: the picture worth a thousand words is missing.
As I was getting out of the water, a young fisherman beached his one-man kayak. Long and sleek, it featured a hollow interior where you could put a fish if you caught one. (I never do; for me it would hold snacks.) The fisherman reached inside and pulled out a 30-lb ono … then a 50-lb ono … then a 20-lb ahi. I was flabbergasted. In all my years here, I have never seen such a thing.
It was around noon, and the man had been fishing since early morning, miles off the coast. He was taking the fish to auction, where I suspect he swapped them for $500 or so.
“Is this a typical catch for you?” I asked.
“Pretty much,” he replied.
“How often do you go?”
“Whenever my wife lets me.”
“Say, don’t you catch ono and ahi by trolling?” I persisted. “How the heck do you do that?”
“Paddle as fast as you can.”
I only wish I had a picture. …
Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
It’s brand-new year. A fresh playing field sprawls in front of us, though some might claim that 2016 has pinned the home team inside its own five yard line, the game nearly over. Ain’t so!
In Hawaii we celebrate how just and joyful life can be. The aloha spirit is very real, a gift we cherish with the intention of sharing. It is the act of living consciously, sustainably, aware of inequalities of circumstance and committed to making things better for all. In that, it is quintessentially American and Hawaiian alike.
Please accept this gift. Take it home with your tan, your purchases and your memories that likely will last a lifetime. With aloha, 2017 can be our very best year ever.
Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
‘Tis the Season
Some would claim that we have no seasons, but we do, and this is one of them. Christmastime in Hawaii is wonderful. If it’s cold back home, it’s not here. If time drags back home, it won’t here. If you wake up at home, look out the window and say, “Hmmm … another day of this?”, don’t worry: Here you’ll say, “Wow … another day in Hawaii!”
We’d like to recommend one special thing among many — Honolulu City Lights. Every year the City & County of Honolulu sponsors this marvelous celebration down at Honolulu Hale, our city hall. A giant Christmas tree shares top billing with Santa and Mrs. Claus (above). The lovely building and surroundings are ablaze with Christmas lights. Decorated Christmas trees aplenty are inside, while outdoor Christmas displays, kiddie rides and imaginative vendors can’t be missed.
Every year we take a ride on the Waikiki Trolley to see the lights. Just ask your hotel concierge about this or head to waikikitrolley.com. Tonight’s our night for 2016 … hope to see you there!
Go and Do
In the dark this morning, before I left for golf on the far side of the island, it was raining. I got dressed and hopped into my car anyway, piloting the old Saab onto H1, through Honolulu and toward Ewa, where I had a 7 a.m. tee time. It rained nearly all the way — past Aloha Stadium and Pearl City, even in Kunia, where I turned off and headed makai. Five minutes later I was at the Hawaii Prince Golf Course. It stopped raining.
After golf (don’t ask about my score), I went for a swim and shower in Kahala, baking under the midday sun. In the distance, a rain squall crouched in Hanauma Bay, then sped toward us. Ten minutes later it arrived, and nearly everyone left the beach. Ten minutes after that, it was gone. Beautiful blue skies — and plenty of parking.
If you want to go somewhere and do something on Oahu, go and do. Seldom does rain in one spot dictate what will be happening there in a few minutes, much less what is what is happening elsewhere, now or later.
No one has done more to enhance this website than my best friend in Hawaii, marvelous photographer Terry O’Halloran. His shots of Oahu are the best we have and the ones we are proudest to display. To see many more of them, head to photohalloran.com.
In a few short weeks, Terry and his beautiful wife, Ann, will leave Hawaii to travel the world. Maybe they will return, but it’s only a maybe. They are an adaptable couple, ready and able to see the best in every place, and they’ll have no trouble savoring the sweetness of wherever they end up.
Terry and I have been friends for decades. For many years now, every Tuesday morning at dawn has been Terry time. We are golf partners, with emphasis upon the second word. Our membership in the WTNG club (We’re not that good) has been earned the hard way, which comes easy to duffers like us. He is the better golfer, but I don’t let that stop me from thinking otherwise.
At my age, friends leave, one way or another. Of course, they never really do. But the “hello” hugs and the “see you next week” hugs and the hugs in between take more imagination when they’re gone. I’m not yet comfortable with the thought of Terry-hugless Tuesday, and there’s a good chance I’ll never be.
Aloha means many things. With Terry, it could only mean love.
Last summer was our first with mango and avocado trees in the backyard. “Oh, how lucky we are,” we said as lavish flowers became dainty ball bearings, then dime-sized fruit, then golf balls and tennis balls in the dozens and dozens. Then the tennis balls ballooned and the trees silently groaned. They are mothers, those trees, with keiki growing so fast that you could never get to Goodwill often enough to keep them in sneakers.
The mango tree in the yard adjoining ours shelters a small shed with a tin roof. One day we heard what sounded like a gunshot. Nobody shoots anybody anymore in Palolo, so we were puzzled rather than scared. Later in our backyard we heard it again, 20 feet away. BAM! A mango dive-bombed the tin roof. This went on for weeks, day and night. It will go on for weeks this summer, too. BAM! BAM! BAM!
If you need mangoes and avocados this summer, call me. I’ll trade you for earplugs.
If it’s Kamehameha Day, it’s summer. Nearly all the kids are out of school. Plumeria crowd tree limbs like eager young men sporting boutonnieres at the senior prom, minus the eager young men. Mangoes are MMA-fist-sized, threatening to rain. The southern swell sees more surfers than waves at Ala Moana Bowls.
Some think it’s summer here all the time, but it’s not. Summer is hotter, and hotter every year. Summer is languid, days and nights to take a deep breath and start something new. If you like to be in the water at dawn, you get up earlier. If you like a sunset cocktail, you toast a little later.
In early summer we look back at early summers past, season-shaping days from childhood. Well-oiled baseball gloves ready to stretch. Tan lines still invisible, but not for long. Lawn mowers rumbling on the school yard during finals. Summer songs and summer loves.
Next summer, your memories will be of this summer, these days in Hawaii. Make them the best they can be!
Spring has sprung.
In our backyard, avocados the size of marbles cluster in little patches on a tree strewn with them. On one of our two mango trees, baby mangoes beam temptingly from lower branches, though harsh valley winds have thrown some to the ground already. Our plumeria tree seems to have exploded overnight, gearing up for May Day. Birds of paradise strut, almost unapproachable in their regal emerald perches.
It’s been dry, but still these signs of Hawaiian spring are posted like politicians’ pleas before elections. Already we are making plans for mangoes on the grill, mango chutney, frozen mango slices lifted from the frig when no one is looking. Chilled avocado soup is on our To Do list this year, too, but it’s been there since 2008. Hmmm …
“Do you have seasons in Hawaii?” mainland friends ask. While you’re here, enjoy some answers. Spring has sprung.
One of my very best friends just died. Steve Lent’s life was long and good, and what he did made Hawaii, especially Waikiki, a better place. His passing makes me appreciate where I live even more, makes me humbly grateful for the extraordinary blessings that come with every day here.
I mention this now, for you to read, after taking my daily swim. I’m from Ohio, and the Pacific Ocean is not there just yet, so I’ve been going in the water every chance I get for the past 43 years. How could I not? I watch for the green flash and double rainbows, because we didn’t have those in Ohio either, nor plumeria blossoms in the backyard alongside flowering mango and avocado trees.
I’m sure there were and are all sorts of special reasons to celebrate every day where I grew up, but it is here in Hawaii that I found my magic. I pray that this magic blesses you while you’re here, too, and that you’ll take it home and share it, as Steve shared himself with me.
Let’s say that, instead of Hawaii, you had gone to a dude ranch for your vacation — where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day. Well, you can bet your shiny spurs that one discouraging word would be this: Don’t do what you can’t do. If you’re a novice rider, slow down. If you’re a good one, keep your eyes open for danger. Don’t break your pretty neck!
That’s our theme at the moment, too — discouraging words that make sense … words that can possibly save your life. Especially when you go in the water here, as we do every day, make sure you know what you’re doing. Do NOT swim on the North Shore right now, nor get too close to the shoreline. Do NOT bodysurf at Sandy Beach. DO learn to snorkel properly before you enter Hanauma Bay.
For today’s beach and water safety info, DO call 369-3333. And DO call every day. Stay safe … and you’ll have a much better time than you could ever have on a dude ranch!
Common-sense safety and breathtaking thrills can be awkward travel mates, but both deserve attention this week. Safety first:
Keeping you safe and happy is our top priority, and we’ll bet it is yours as well. In this vein, we are delighted to partner in the very first daily beach report for visitors.
Shifting conditions at the beaches encircling Oahu call for easily accessible, up-to-date information. Hawaii’s undisputed authority in ocean action is Gary Kewley and his Surf News Network, the go-to place for Hawaii surfers — and now your place to go, too! Every day, before you head to the beach, head to surfnewsnetwork.com or call 808.369.3333. And we mean every day, please: safety first!
Gary also keeps us posted on this week’s thrills: Monster surf is approaching Oahu’s North Shore, and the fabled “Eddie” may be on. Honoring heroic Eddie Aikau, who died in 1978 trying to save fellow crew members on the Hokulea, our legendary Polynesian sailing canoe, this epic surf event is held only in the biggest conditions. Fifty-footers will arrive on Wednesday afternoon into Thursday, and watching the action is thrilling indeed. Once again, visit surfnewsnetwork.com or call 808.369.3333 for information.
Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
Hauoli Makahiki Hou! Happy New Year!
Welcome to 2016, a year of discoveries and delights. if you’re here right now, don’t waste a precious minute. Swim, sail, surf, snorkel … and shop! Savor our precious Hawaiian culture and get to know us a little better. Eat poi and kalua pig at a luau. Have a shave ice or two. Seek out keiki (children’s) hula and slack key guitar and the best place to witness the green flash. Get up early and drive to Kailua for a walk on the beach at sunrise. Hike Diamond Head to say you’ve done it or Koko Crater to see as far as you can see.
There’s no end to roadside attractions and surprises around the bend on our island. Nor is there anything but aloha in our hearts as we remain grateful for every single day.
Mahalo for visiting. We’re glad you’re here!
Hawaiian Christmas, Then and Now
The Hawaiian version of The Twelve Days of Christmas was penned in 1959 by three young guys eating Chinese food near Diamond Head. There is some chance that alcohol was served. Much has changed since that year, when Hawaii became the 50th state. But much has remained the same.
Mynah birds continue to perch in papaya trees. Coconuts abound. We still eat dried squid, kalua pig and local shrimp, and we drink beer. Lei stands in Chinatown remain vibrant. We have an ukulele or two or three at home, and if you substitute “iPhones” for “televisions,” the final day’s enthusiasm is as valid as ever. The only thing out of favor, in fact, are the eleven missionaries, whose imposition of Western values is no longer cause for celebration in many circles.
Then and now, what rings truest in this and every season are the six hula lessons.
The single best way to know who we are is to witness the pageantry and pride of a keiki (children’s) hula performance. There’s nothing cuter, and there’s no purer link to Hawaiian culture, without which we would be just another warm place awash with iPhones.
Hula is serious business. It is as much fun as it looks, but learning is not easy for the mind or body. With guidance provided by accomplished kumu hula, local children as young as three take their first steps into this magical storytelling tradition, which is how Hawaiian history was passed down through the ages prior to the arrival of disapproving missionaries.
Especially at Christmastime, you’re likely to see kids doing auana (modern) hula, rather than kahiko (ancient). Regardless, these tiny dancers are our past, present and future, and if you have a chance to see some keiki hula this year, see it you must.
Twelve Days of Christmas, Hawaiian-Style
For 40 years I’ve been trying to properly recite the Hawaiian Twelve Days of Christmas. If I had memorized just one day every three years, I’d have spent the last four holiday seasons thrilling myself. But no, I still can’t do it.
No. 1 is easy, of course — one mynah bird in one papaya tree. Then there are two coconuts, three dried squid, four flower lei and five big, fat pigs. After that, who knows?
This year I’ve decided to share them with you, which will inspire me to learn them once and for all. We are doing them one day at a time with a Santa-at-Honolulu-Hale introduction. It’s supposed to be fun and easy, but it’s not. Try to find a pleasant picture of three dried squid and you’ll see what I mean.
When we’re pau, we’ll leave them up till New Year’s Day, when we’ll start playing a whole new ballgame. Follow along with us if you will — and Mele Kalikimaka to you and yours!
‘Tis the Season
I remember my first Christmas in Hawaii. From my hotel-room lanai, I gazed across Kalakaua Avenue at palm trees, the Royal Hawaiian, the blue sky and bluer ocean, and thought, “Where’s the snow?” I can’t remember if I went surfing, but I should have.
What you should do during this beautiful season is twofold: what we do, and what you can’t do at home. Two top stops for us are the Honolulu City Lights extravaganza at our city hall, Honolulu Hale, and performances around town of keiki (children’s) hula. On Saturday, December 12, our four-year-old daughter will have her first hula performance. It will be at around 10 o’clock at Windward Mall, and you’ll never see anything cuter.
Go down to Honolulu Hale some evening after dark. (The Waikiki Trolley has a great tour.) There you will see Santa and Mrs. Claus, our official city Christmas tree, a bounty of decorated trees inside the building itself, a bunch of displays and lights outside, and many, many local families. It’s fun!
As for what you can’t do at home: If you can’t dive into the Pacific Ocean and pop up to see Diamond Head and rainbows where you live, you should do that … today!
Mom was right: If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all. However, we remain bewildered by what we find when we search for information about our hometown on the web. I just Googled “casual Waikiki dining,” for example, and here’s what I was fed at Yelp:
• The first two restaurants aren’t in Waikiki.
• No. 3 is Duke’s — hooray for Yelp!
• I’ve never heard of No. 4.
• No. 5 is a fancy place.
• No. 6 is an ultra-fancy place that’ll cost you a couple hundred bucks. It’s not in Waikiki.
• No. 7 and No. 8 are not in Waikiki.
• No. 9 is Hula Grill, where you go when you can’t get into Duke’s.
• No 10 is a Japanese cafeteria.
This is not as egregious as being told to go to the Don Ho show after he died, so maybe things are improving. However, for a taste of what’s both real and real good, head to the dining section right here. Mom would have approved.
All The News That Fits
The New York Times began a recent story on Honolulu noting the ‘fragrance of an orchid lei,’ then recommended Sunday brunch at Halekulani after shopping in Kailua. I’ll bet millions of people saw it, and I am wondering how many of them know that orchid lei (not leis) have no fragrance, and that Kailua Town and Halekulani, the hotel, are on different sides of the island.
We love The Times. We were raised with it, and the crossword puzzle has pride of place in a little room in our house where we spend time every day. It’s a bummer to learn that at least the travel section can’t be trusted, but I guess the truth didn’t fit in the story’s word-count.
Even mighty Google leads us astray. A while ago I searched for ‘Waikiki entertainment,’ just to see what would pop up. Lo and behold, I was urged to see the Don Ho show, which I have done many times. Don and I played golf together, too. Sadly, he passed away a few years back, and there’s some chance that he’s now in a duet with Elvis.
You can trust what you read here. Truth-telling is part of our mission. We share with you what we share with our family and friends. It puts a smile on our faces, and hopefully you’ll be wearing one yourself … today.
Mangoes and Camels
In our backyard are two mango trees. And an avocado tree. And a starfruit tree next door that hangs over the fence.
When we moved in recently, the mangoes on our trees were tiny keiki (children). They were so cute. We couldn’t wait for them to grow up. Then they did, many dozens of them weighing down branches like too-heavy earrings on dowagers’ wrinkled lobes. They grow, they droop, they fall. They’re all over the place. If we started eating them now, we would finish by Christmas. Maybe.
Our mangoes remind me of camels in the Sahara Desert. I crossed it in 1975 with a great friend of mine, Walter Ordway, who just drowned trying to save his dog. When we saw out first wild camel, the Land Rover in which we had hitched a ride slowed to a crawl. We crept as close as we could to the camel, then stopped, carefully and quietly opened the doors, and walked a short distance before dropping to our bellies to take pictures of the beautiful wild being. A camel! Not in a zoo, not with any people. Wild!
Fast forward several days: We’re in the Land Rover still. It is very hot. There are wild camels on the barely visible track across the desert. Lots of wild camels, as there have been for a while now. Beep, beep, beeeeep! We honk the horn loudly. Get out of the damn way, camels!
Be careful what you wish for.