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Nā Mana`o Ulu Wale

Random thoughts, casual observations and other bits of fluff

By Roger Close



December 2008

As you may or may not know I have used this little corner of the world to comment at least once or twice on wannabe Hawaiians. You know them. They are usually in front of you in the line for the latest Hawaiian kine music event. They are bragging in their big boy/girl voice to the couple they are with about their most recent annual jaunt to their “home away from home in the islands.” Where, by the way, they own a condo and a beach house which they enthusiastically share with several large `ohana of Hawaiian (termites). You know these wannabes. They are an authority on everything Hawaiian and are insufferable to the point of nausea.

As a general rule when I find myself in close proximity to these imposters, I can pay them no mind and retreat to my special place of inner peace. It’s a peace that comes from the knowledge and quiet self awareness that these wannabe Hawaiians will never ever belong to the exclusive club of which I am a member. Oh yea! One cannot buy, manipulate, or wannabe his or her way into this club. One has to be either born into this club or have been more a part of Hawai`i than a tourist or a casual wannabe. I belong to the 575/576 Club!

Members of the 575/576 Club are very special people with a unique connection to the land, the water, and culture born of hanabaddah days not experienced by less fortunate souls, say from Oklahoma. We members are all famous in our own right. There is Roger the teacher, Danny the warrior, Rochelle the newspaper editor, and…don’t forget…Kimo the plumber. Some 575/576 members have been world renown surfers, Olympians, astronauts, pro footballers, actors, singers, senators, and so on.

Now, however, a 575/576 Club member has gone on to achieve the unimaginable, even by our more famous club members. Remember that skinny kid being raised by his grandparents down on Beretania Street? He has just gone and got himself elected President of the United States! I tell you, club meetings have been buzzing for weeks! And…our club just became a bit more exclusive, considerably more famous, and all its members are walking taller and prouder. May his `aumakua watch over him and continue to provide wise council.

Are you, dear reader, a member of the 575/576 Club? Think of the numbers in your life. If you need help determining whether or not you are a member of this exclusive group of kama`āina, check out Na Mana`o next month.


Last month as I lamented the possible demise of a couple more manmade landmarks of my youth, I recalled the dearly departed Dole pineapple water tower. Now at one point I was fairly knowledgeable about the Dole pineapple cannery that once sat in the tower’s shadow. This as a result of multiple “field trips” with cub scouts, boy scouts, and school. At this point, all I can remember is the noise of the machinery and the fresh juice and pineapple at the end of the tour.

However, I realized I really knew very little about the giant, pineapple tower. Here is some tower trivia. The Dole pineapple water tank was erected in 1927, and was one of the tallest structures on O`ahu in its day at 24 feet in diameter and 195 feet high. The 100,000 gallon tank held water for the cannery’s sprinkler system. With severe rust and corrosion problems, the Dole pineapple was taken down and dismantled in October 1993.

Until next time, Mele Kalikimaka and mālama pono



November 2008

It appears a couple more manmade landmarks of my small kid time on O`ahu are becoming endangered. `Ewa Field and the Waikiki Natatorium are poised to go the way of the Old Pali Highway, Kau Kau Korner, the Dole pineapple water tower, and the Honolulu Stadium. It is hard to see such places disappear when they were once inextricably woven into the fabric of childhood adventures and experiences.

The former `Ewa Marine Corps Air Station, known to this local as `Ewa Field, is on the verge of being developed into shopping malls and housing tracts. There is not much left of the airfield, which began as an airship mooring station in the mid 1920’s, and grew considerably in size during the course of World War II. Weeds and kiawe trees hide foundation outlines, a couple of concrete buildings, dozens of concrete aircraft revetments, and the original runways.

`Ewa Beach resident, John Bond, is waging a one-man campaign to preserve key parts of the old base: the original part of the airfield which includes the sites of the old mooring mast and control tower; sections of both runways that were in existence on December 7, 1941; and some of the base entry roads at the site of the original main gate. Bond is pursuing nomination of the base land to the National Register of Historic Places.

Despite the fact `Ewa Field may be deserving of historical recognition for being one of the first areas to be attacked on December 7th and for the response mustered by outgunned Marines, John Bond’s preservation fight, successful or not, will surely be the last battle for `Ewa Field.

The other O`ahu landmark crumbling to extinction is the 81-year-old Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium, built in 1927 to honor 101 Hawai`i World War I veterans. In its day, the 100-meter saltwater pool attracted top-notch swimmers such as Buster Crabbe and Duke Kahanamoku. The Army used it as a training site during World War II. During the 1950’s and `60’s, O`ahu fifth grade public school students participated in swimming programs in the saltwater pool. However, by 1980 the ocean-fed pool and its underlying structure showed signs of deterioration due to extensive corrosion and cracking, and the natatorium was closed to the public.

For the last 28 years it has continued to fall apart, with the exception of a renovation project completed in 2001 fixing the arch and facades as well as the bleachers and public restrooms. Currently the future of the Waikiki Natatorium is mired in a morass of legal obstacles, permitting issues, engineering studies, shoreline studies, and a mayor who does not want to restore the pool. The only counter to the “destruction by inaction” is a nonprofit citizen group, Friends of the Natatorium, which has pushed for years to see the natatorium restored to its original glory.

It seems to me we ought to error on the side of striving to preserve landmarks from earlier times. So…hooray for Mr. Bond and the Friends of the Natatorium! If nobody rocks and nobody rows, the boat doesn’t go!

Until next time, mālama pono.


October 2008

On a gorgeous Saturday in mid-September I attended an activity last experienced in the early 1960s at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon…a college football game. Yes, as I recall, the PU football program had progressed beyond leather helmets, but the field, bleachers, and lighting were sub-standard even when compared to the facilities of most of today’s high schools. Attending a football game at PU back then was a protracted, tortuous lesson in humility, disappointment, and being a loser…the team rarely won. Pacific dropped its football program in 1991.

So…with that frame of reference I rolled into Corvallis, Oregon to watch the University of Hawaii Warriors (1-1) take on the Oregon State University Beavers (0-2). After walking a mile to the stadium, I fell into a vast sea of orange with 45,059 orange clad piranhas. We’re not in Forest Grove anymore, Toto! I did see a few green specks sitting in portions of the stadium that appeared to be about 30,000 feet up. Imagine traveling 2,700 miles at 30,000 feet to watch your Warriors play, only to be at the same altitude during the game…just looking up that high made my knees knock.

After the first ten minutes of the game, I was certain my history with college football was about to be rewritten…Warriors-7, Beavers-0. I was filled with quiet pride, exhilaration, and the spirit of a “winner.” The key word there was “quiet”…remember the sea of screaming, chanting, frothing orange piranhas!

However, the tide in the orange sea was about to change into a deadly tsunami. At the end of the first half with the score Hawaii-7 and Oregon State-21, there were small signs that my history with college football was going to repeat itself, but in “super sized” proportions. The exhilaration and winning feeling slipped away, replaced with blind hope and a belief the Warriors would return for the second half armed with their 2007 magic and come-from-behind toughness.

Auwe! The second half, for everyone in that stadium who was a Warrior believer, was a l-o-n-g, s-l-o-w, excruciatingly painful death to a final score of 45 to 7. It was two hours of drowning in a huge vat of carrot soup that had been irradiated to a level of fluorescence so as to make it glow in the dark. As I walked back to the car coughing up orange, I remembered why I hadn’t attended a college football game in over 45 years.


On a more upbeat note, wildlife biologists have discovered a large population of endangered Hawaiian Petrel, or `ua`u in the remote mountains of Lana`i. The `ua`u were once common throughout the Hawaiian Islands, but were decimated by the introduction of predators like cats, rats, and barn owls; and the loss of native habitats needed for nesting. The petrels, which had been quite common on Lana`i as well, all but disappeared by the 1980s.

`Ua`u spend most of their lives at sea, returning to land only part of the year to breed and fledge their young. Even then, the birds only return to the upland nesting areas after dark and in the morning they fly to the sea to feed before dawn.

The Lana`i population of petrels are nesting in the upper watershed areas where Castle and Cooke has been implementing a watershed protection program. Castle and Cooke is collaborating with wildlife biologists as they begin to survey and track the `ua`u as well as take steps to control introduced predators.

Until next time, mālama pono…


September 2008

We (my lovely wahine and I) executed a virtual Hawaiian vacation last month for only about $43.00! Here’s how we did it. First we drove 24 miles south to Clinton (on Whidbey Island in Washington) where we parked the car for a cost of $3.00. We hopped on the Mukilteo ferry for free. (It did cost us $8.00 to return to Clinton.) We then caught the #23 Everett Transit bus for a 50 cents apiece, 20 minute ride to downtown Everett. After disembarking the bus at Wetmore and Hewitt Avenues, we walked about six blocks west to Bobby’s Hawaiian Style Restaurant.

Once in the restaurant, the “just like being there” adventure began! Local kine décor, Hawaiian music, kalua pig, Hawaiian bar-b-que pork, rice, mac salad, and a glass of wailua wheat transported us right out of Washington. Enhancing the 2,700 mile leap to the homelands was our fortuitous visit over dinner with restaurant owner and Molokai son, Bobby Nakihei. Wow, just like being at the Poi Bowl in Kāne`ohe or on the porch in Hālawa Valley!

Now, a few caveats to accompany this story. We went to Bobby’s, in addition to its great food and our desire to meet Bobby, because it was the closest to us with easy access to public, mass transportation. So…not to take away from the other onolicious eating establishments advertised in this fine paper which may be closer to your hale. Additionally, I want to let my friend and fellow columnist know that I am not cutting in on his Holo Holo! Danny, no worry…I only get out about once a year!


Here’s the latest on the water and wastewater situation on the west end of Molokai. The state Department of Health ordered Molokai Ranch to continue its services for 90 days. They also ordered Maui County to work with state agencies to develop an emergency plan which will provide alternative drinking water and wastewater services should a crisis situation occur.

At the same time the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved temporary rate increases for two of the three west end water utilities (all subsidiaries of Molokai Ranch). The rate increases which go into effect September 1 are a 90% increase for the customers of one water utility and 178% for the customers of the other. These rate increases are for a six month period with the PUC requiring regular financial reports, status reports, and operational reports from all three utility companies as well as Molokai Properties Limited.

It appears the August 31 st water/wastewater crisis has been averted…at least until November 30 th or maybe even February 28, 2009.


Fortunately, the Honolulu City Parks Department isn’t seriously considering the offer of a California-based entrepreneur’s solution of a zip line cable ride on O`ahu’s Koko Crater to help pay for the upkeep of the popular Koko Crater tramway trail. The abandoned World War II-era tramway is popular with hikers and fitness buffs. However, it is also in need of major safety improvements and maintenance. A 13 person committee is generating several other solutions/alternatives which they will present at the end September.

Apparently, there are several of these zip line tours operating on Kaua`i and one on Maui. I wouldn’t know myself. When I travel to Hawai`i, I go for its warmth, sunshine, beauty, food, good people, and culture…not necessarily in that order…depends on the trip. If I want “rides,” I go to a carnival or a theme park! How about you?

Until next time, mālama pono.



August 2008

I got a phone call the other day from my friend Lawrence Aki on Molokai. He has moved into Hālawa Valley full time. Remember Hālawa has no electricity, potable water, telephones, radio signals, or cell phone reception. He goes the two miles up the hill to Pu`u O Hoku on a daily basis to check for messages on his cell phone. One of the things he mentioned was how much he enjoys the Northwest Hawai`i Times which I have been sending him.

Also moving back to Hālawa on a full time basis is Lawrence’s uncle, Pilipo Solatario. After many years as the Cultural Director at the Molokai Ranch, Uncle Pilipo has returned to the valley of his birth. He is a kupuna with great cultural knowledge, a master storyteller, and a kumu of the Hālawa mo`olelo.

Since my time in Hālawa two years ago, I believe a visitor to the islands really needs to visit only two places: Hālawa Valley to experience the spiritual and physical of the true Hawai`i…the Hawai`i of old; and Honolulu to experience the present day Hawai`i…and unfortunately, the Hawai`i of tomorrow. Everywhere else in the islands is merely somewhere on the path between these two places.

So…go Molokai! Spend some time…a day or two, a week…in Hālawa. Pull weeds from the lo`i, learn of taro patch restoration, hike to Mo` oula Falls, linger awhile with these two gentlemen, and feel the spirit of Hālawa. Most of all, I urge you to listen… lohe pono to learn, to feel, to respect…for the mana is found in the knowledge and respect of the `āina.

The best way to hook-up with Lawrence and his uncle is through Molokai Fish and Dive in Kaunakakai. When you go Hālawa, remember to follow cultural protocol by first asking permission to enter the valley and holding a spirit in your heart honoring the ancestors of Hālawa. Lawrence and/or Uncle Pilipo will take it from there.


Meanwhile, back at “the Ranch,” Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) continues to hammer the people of Molokai. After closing all of their operations and laying off 120 employees, MPL has gone for the jugular. A couple of months ago they announced that as of August 31st they would no longer provide water and wastewater services to the west end of Molokai, including Kualapu`u, unless a subsidy or rate change was applied to cover the expenses of their three utility companies. The Ranch’s CEO has said it would require at least a 278 percent increase in rates to break even.

With the prospect of 1,200 west Molokai customers losing water, state and county officials are scrambling to respond. The Maui County Mayor has sent a letter to the governor asking her to declare Molokai’s impending utility crisis a state of emergency.

Meanwhile, back at “the Ranch,” they continue to deny access to information, records, and facilities of their three utility companies making it difficult for county officials to get a good handle on how much and what it would take to keep water flowing to west end faucets. The Public Utilities Commission representatives have also reported MPL’s unwillingness to cooperate.

As the Lone Ranger would say, “The outlaw gang is hiding out at the Ranch!”

Until next time, mālama pono.


July 2008

A reader responded to something I said in last month’s column. (Whoo-hoo someone is reading my column!) The African American took issue with my assertion that growing up in Hawai`i, my friends and I were color blind and did not judge each other by the color of our skin. Her experience during the late 1960’s early 70’s in Hawai`i was quite the opposite. Furthermore, our gentle reader could not “accept the myth of how ‘color blind it is in Hawai`i,’ simply because it is not true.”

I certainly understand and empathize with this reader on many different levels: different color skin, different times, and different perspectives. My comments were rooted in the good memories of a haole boy growing up in Hawai`i in the 1950’s.


I actually thought I would get some response to the question of what it means to be local, or who is a local? But…alas, no takers! Well, not true. In an e-mail, my esteemed editor suggested that maybe “more important than being island-born, is being island-raised and having just the kind of memories” I write about in this column.  She went on to ask, “Without those, no can be kama`aina or local, right?”

In pondering her thoughts, now I’m thinking it is island-born and island-raised. When I consider the “local” thing even more, maybe it is the two aforementioned conditions plus having lived all your life in Hawai`i…as opposed to expatriate locals. Auwe…it is getting too complicated!

All I know is after having breakfast with some “locals” a couple of weeks ago there seem to be some common attributes (again, my experience) including, but not limited to: genuine, accepting, warm, inclusive, positive, and fun. You know, the kind of folks that if you could pick your family, you’d pick them!


More Primo Beer news! Primo’s owner, Pabst Brewing Company, announced last month the distribution of the bottled version would be expanded to 350 grocery stores, bars, and restaurants statewide in Hawai`i. Seems the company and the distributor underestimated the popularity of the “island’s own” brew, and bottles have been a little hard to find since their reintroduction in March.

Apparently Pabst didn’t pay attention to history. In the 1950’s and 60’s Primo was the state’s best selling beer. So much so, that in 1966, retailers rationed sales to two six-packs per customer.

A draft version of Primo is produced by Keoki Brewing of Kaua`i.


Finally, this month’s fluff…no, Primo in bottles is not fluff! Okay, this month’s trivia question: What is the smallest town in Hawai`i? My answer…you may have a different one: Maunaloa Town on the southwest end of Molokai. In 2000, the population was 230. Sadly, it could be less now and dwindling with the closure of Molokai Ranch and all its operations.

Until next time, mālama pono.


June 2008

It appears this column was responsible for a circuitous “Aloha” last month from a hanabaddah friend, Leslie Yoshinaga. My mind immediately spiraled back about 55 years thinking about “the good ol’ days” and the whereabouts of other small kid time playmates…Rodney Sakata, Sandy Salsberry, George Goo, and my first gal pal Betty Ann Stone. I think George may have married another childhood friend from church, Charlene Ahue. It would be a kick to have a reunion of the group of us who went through Ben Parker Grade School together. Hmmm…actually, I think BettyAnn may have been going to Kamehameha then.

In spite of the regular nuclear bomb drills at school where we would crawl under our desks…not sure how that was going to help…it was a pretty cool time to be a kid. We spent endless hours riding our bikes…miles from home, with no bike helmet, and sans cell phone for constant communication with a parent and friends who were unable to be with us on any given adventure. When we weren’t climbing the monkey pod tree in my back yard, we were on the swing my dad had hung from one of the sturdier branches. The swing had no “fall protection” eighteen inches deep under it…just roots and a worn dirt patch in the grass. I remember many crack-ups riding homemade go-carts (no motors) down the hill to Kahanahou Circle. When “stick close to home” was the order of the day, we would play “cowboys and Indians” with real looking six shooters (cap guns), dodge ball, marbles, tops, or sky-inning. Does anybody remember playing that ball and bat game? Hours, I tell you, we would play that game for hours…at recess at school, in the back yard, and in the street where the ball rolled much better!

How did we ever survive? I don’t remember any of my hanabaddah friends getting lost, abducted, suffering a head injury, and/or having a twisted, violent fascination with guns because they were “the fastest draw in the west”…at least in west Kāne`ohe! We did all that cool stuff…stuff today’s kids don’t do, can’t do for safety reasons. No wonder so many of our youth are overweight, video game addicts! Do you know how many miles we would put on our horses ambushing, chasing, running from, or riding with those cowboys?

The coolest part of those small kid times in Hawai`i was we were all color blind! We never heard much about “Aloha,” but we lived it. Way before Martin Luther King Jr., we judged each other “not by the color of one’s skin but by the content of one’s character.” Thank you for the memories, Leslie!


Are you a “local?” What does that mean, anyway? Does it mean a person born and raised in a place or a person born, raised, and still living in a place? Is a local living in Kaunakakai fit the same definition as a local living in Forest Grove, Oregon? It seems “local” has different meanings to different folks…depending on background, experiences, attitudes, values, and locale. More and more it seems yesterday’s tourists are today’s residents and tomorrow’s “locals.”

I personally like “ kama`āina” as defined in Pukui and Elbert’s Hawaiian Dictionary: “native-born, one born in a place, host;” with the literal meaning that of “land child.”

Until next time, mālama pono.


May 2008

As I reported last month (just sliding under the wire with a separate “breaking news” item as da pepa went to press), Molokai Properties Limited, an affiliate of Hong-Kong based Guocco Leisure Ltd., doing business as Molokai Ranch, shut down its entire operation on Molokai effective April 5, 2008. The company cited local opposition to its La`au Point development project as the primary reason for the closure. The project would have created 200 luxury home lots on the picturesque and pristine southwest coast line of Molokai.

As the Ranch closes and “mothballs” all assets on its 60,000+ acres of property (about one-third of the land on Molokai), approximately 120 employees will be laid off by May 22nd.

Starting about five years ago when this whole Master Plan, La`au Project, Save La`au, development/no development issue began to split the Molokai community, I could passionately argue all sides of the debate. I could understand the issue from a property rights point of view; from a business angle; from the perspective of the “anti-plan”/”save La`au” activist; from the “pro-plan” position; and from the view of the hard working Molokai resident too tired to argue about something he seemingly had little control over. This all changed for me on April 5th, when the Ranch’s “mothballing” took on a distinct look and smell of disrespect, retribution, and vindictiveness.

So far “mothballing” the Ranch’s assets has included the falling of about 30 vibrant coconut trees on and around the Kaluakoi Golf Course to use as barricades to the now vacant course. The Ranch continued with this action instead of cutting down diseased trees and/or accepting the offer from community leaders of kiawe trees to use as barricades. Meanwhile, the swimming pool at the Lodge was drained and filled with sand and the Lodge itself enclosed in hog fencing. There have also been reports of the Ranch dumping blankets, dishes, furniture, etc. (some still packaged) at the landfill. People have suggested donating these items to the Salvation Army, the thrift store, or allowing “loyal” employees to take items home. But…no!

This is the landowner, the company, the employer who has said from the beginning that they have the community’s best interest at heart?


And then…out of the blue…mid April…Molokai Properties Ltd., donated 1,600 acres of its property to the Molokai Land Trust for preservation. The donated land covers five miles along Molokai’s north shore between `Ilio Point and Mo`omomi. This environmentally significant land includes rocky cliffs, an extensive tidal pool system, fishing shrines, and an ancient adze quarry. And…I myself have seen it!

Under the Master Land Use Plan for Molokai Ranch, the land trust could be, or could have been, the recipient of an additional 50,000 acres in gifts and easements of premier native Hawaiian legacy lands.


Finally, there is still scuttlebutt around Molokai that just because the Ranch is shutting down its operations, doesn’t mean they aren’t moving forward with their plans to develop La`au Point. Auwe!


A fluffy hana hou…as of April, Primo beer is back in bottles at supermarkets, restaurants, and bars in Hawai`i. Whoo-hoo!

Until next time, mālama pono

April 2008

Happy spring! Will it ever warm up? Seems like every day for the last month the daytime, high temperatures have been “below normal.” Let’s talk some more about those islands 2,700 miles out in the Pacific and maybe warm ourselves up a bit.

Last month I told you about Mōkapu, the 10-acre island located off Molokai’s north shore, where a rat eradication project was underway to save and restore rare, native species and habitats. As a follow-up, I wanted to share the picture below. It shows the steepness of the 360 foot (above sea level) island with its narrow summit ridge. The picture also gives you a sense of why the island’s habitat is safe from most alien species and other disturbances…including humans. And…why they used a helicopter to disperse the rat bait.


US Fish and Wildlife Service Photo by Heather Eijzenga



Staying with the small island or islet theme, where is Coconut Island? And…what do you know about it?

Being a Kāne`ohe boy, I lived about six decades under the misconception there was only one Coconut Island. However, in e-mail conversations with Editor Rochelle, I find out there is another Coconut Island! (That’s what happens when we don’t use the Hawaiian names for places!)

Moku o Lo`e (“ Island of Lo`e”), the Coconut Island in Kāne`ohe Bay (windward side of O`ahu), is said to have been the home of Lo`e the sister of Kaho`e. According to legend, Kaho`e was a taro farmer in Ha’iku.

Beyond legend, the island was originally a gift to Pauahi Bishop in 1858. The barren and rat infested island was purchased and transformed into a private paradise and playground for the rich and famous in the 1930’s and 40’s by Christian Holmes, owner of Hawaiian Tuna Packers (now Coral Tuna) and heir to the Fleischmann yeast fortune. During the 1950’s, buildings on the island fell into a state of disrepair. About that same era, the island was used as a backdrop for the opening shot of the TV show Gilligan’s Island.

The 28 acre island is now completely owned by the state and is home to the Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology…part of the University of Hawai`i – Manoa. Moku o Lo`e and its six acres of enclosed lagoons are unmatched for the study of coral reefs, marine animals, and coastal environments.

Moku`ola (“ Healing Island”), RdC’s Coconut Island in Hilo Bay, was a pu`uhonua (place of refuge) in old Hawai`i. Rochelle reports in her small kid times she had to swim or use a small boat to reach the island. Today it is a county park with a foot bridge to the island.

The island’s name comes from the legend of a spring on the island with water believed to have great healing qualities. The old Hawaiians would also swim to the island and hide the umbilical cords (piko) of infants in the crevices of a flat stone called Papa-a-Hina to protect them from rats.

Actually, there are several legends about the island. One Hawaiian legend says Moku`ola was once part of the Valley Isle of Maui. It was the portion which held the magic fishhook of the demigod Maui after his failed attempt to join all the Hawaiian Islands together by sort of reeling them in or pulling them closer.

Another legend says if one swam around Moku`ola three times, health would be yours. Hmmm…I suspect if one could swim around Moku`ola three times, one would already be in fairly good health!

So…have you warmed up any? If not, put a sweatshirt on, run down to the nearest coffee shop, and ask someone what they know about Coconut Island…whoops, Islands.

Until next time, mālama pono


March 2008

Word has it the 414 foot yacht owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen was spotted docked at Pier 33 in Honolulu last month. The impressive, football field plus long “ship” comes complete with swimming pool, basketball court, spa, two helipads, seven smaller boats (including a 63 foot tender and a ten person submarine), and a crew of 60. The vessel was reportedly on its way to the Marshall Islands.

Ah, yes, those Pacific Northwest – Hawai`i connections!

Now, where did I put my lottery ticket?


On a more somber note, O`ahu’s last dairy shut down for good last month. The closing of Pacific Dairy in Wai` anae Valley leaves O`ahu residents entirely dependent on imported milk.

Rising feed, shipping, and land costs; urban encroachment; environmental regulations; and stagnant sales have all contributed to the demise of local dairies. As late as 1980, Hawai`i had two dozen dairies and was totally self-sufficient in milk. However, just since 1999, four dairies on O`ahu and three on the Big Island have closed with Pacific Dairy being the eighth to shut down. As a result, milk production in the islands has steadily plummeted from 129 million pounds in 1999 to 33 million pounds through November 7, 2007.

In addition to the loss of O`ahu’s self-sufficiency in local milk, the property occupied by Pacific Dairy has been sold to a transportation company and…surprise, surprise…will not remain in agricultural production.


Mōkapu is a special offshore islet found ⅔ of a mile off Molokai’s north shore and 1.5 miles east of the Kalaupapa Peninsula. (See photo.) This island is protected under Federal jurisdiction as part of Kalaupapa National Historic Park.

The amazing thing about this small island is it contains three species of nesting seabirds: wedge-tailed shearwaters, red and white-tailed tropicbirds, and brown boobies. In addition, Mōkapu is home to a remarkable 29 native plant species of which 17 exist only in Hawai`i, including 11 of the last few ho`awa plants and a small population of loulu lelo palms. It is said Mōkapu contains some of the best remaining native coastal habitat in the state.

So here’s the bad news! It is all being slowly and methodically destroyed by…rats. Rats arrive on this and other islands as stowaways on boats or afloat on driftwood. On this island they are attacking and eating nesting, mother seabirds and their eggs. Rats are also eating the seeds from the loulu lelo palms. Actually, the rats are eating everything they can get their claws on! And…they have no natural predators on the island.


Last month Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came to the rescue with a bait application designed to eradicate the rats. For human protection and to avoid damaging the island, they dispersed approximately 500 pounds of rat bait from a bucket hanging under a helicopter. The bait/pellet ingredients and distribution method are not supposed to be harmful to plants and animals other than rats.

Time will tell if Mōkapu will join the nearly 60 islands world-wide where rats have been successfully eradicated by aerial dispersal.

Until next time, mālama pono.


February 2008

Au-we! The University of Hawai`i football program sure went through some warp-speed changes during the first fifteen days of January. There is an island/Pacific Northwest connection with new Warrior head coach Greg McMackin. In addition to childhood roots in Oregon, his first job out of college and his first “head coach” position was at Aloha High School in Beaverton, Oregon…home of the Aloha Warriors. Coincidence or destiny?


Speaking of island/Pacific Northwest connections…Paddler’s Inn, where I enjoyed many a tuna melt during my seven months on Molokai, was recently purchased by Kamuela Kamakana. Kamakana was raised between Kāne`ohe and Seattle, but his family lineage can be traced back to Molokai over a century ago. His mother, Haunani Kamakana, is a Molokai wahine who currently lives in Washington.

So many strong connections with those islands 2,700 miles away in the middle of the Pacific!


And…it just keeps on going on! A California partnership plans to develop a 949 home subdivision on 257 acres of former sugar cane fields south of Wailuku, Maui. Of course the land is classified as “prime” agricultural use by the state and zoned for agricultural use by the county. And, yes, the developer has submitted a petition to the Land Use Commission to rezone the property from agricultural to urban use.

The project envisions 949 residential units in a mix of single family homes, multifamily units, senior housing, and rental units plus 52 acres of parks and open space. The developer says the project will provide needed housing including an estimated 380 “affordable” units under county guidelines. Notice the word is “units,” not houses. And what does “affordable” mean in a market where low supply and strong demand have pushed prices sky-high…$500,000, $750,000, one million? Affordable for whom? Rich mainlanders further inflating the housing market?

The development could more than double the population of the small community of Ma`alaea, plus add over a thousand additional vehicles to Honoapi`ilani Highway. This two-lane road was already bumper-to-bumper traffic the last time I was on it over a year ago!


There’s more! Developers are proposing to build more than 700 new homes in Kahuku on O`ahu’s windward side…” without substantially increasing the population and traffic.” Really? Yup, you guessed it! More “affordable” homes for folks who “already live in the community with parents and grandparents.” P-l-e-a-s-e! Do these developers really believe anyone buys their kūkae?

Between Ma`alaea and Kahuku that’s upwards of 1,600 mainlanders snatching up their piece of paradise (prime agricultural land) and making it look just like where they came from. Hey, braddah, even mo bettah than building your retirement/snowbird castle on lava lands in Puna!


This just in about “affordability” in Hawai`i. The Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, using data from the third quarter of 2007, ranks Honolulu as the fourth least affordable place to buy a home out of 227 urban housing markets in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. It takes 10.3 times Honolulu’s $63,100 median income to buy a $649,900 median priced home. Any multiple above 3.0, the historical standard of affordability, is considered to be moderately to severely unaffordable.

So…when developers say they will build “affordable” homes in Hawai`i, they mean affordable for folks from Los Angeles, Salinas, and San Francisco. These are the three California cities less affordable than Honolulu.

Until next time, mālama pono


January 2008

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou! Or…Happy New Year! I hope you know that this and hau`oli lā hānau (happy birthday), are translations from English. And…furthermore, the Hawaiians, either prior to or after the arrival of the Tahitians in the 1200’s, never had a single day where they donned party hats, blew whistles, and drank `okolehao to celebrate a “new year.” The Hawaiians, after the arrival of the Tahitians, did have an annual celebration or festival…a makahiki; hence, the word “makahiki,” meaning year, age, annual, or yearly. The Makahiki Festival punctuated the yearly farming cycle in Hawai`i.

During the makahiki time, which began in the month of Ikua (around the middle of our October) and lasted about four of our months, there would be games, special ceremonies in honor of Lono (one of the four major gods), and a taboo on war. The Makahiki Festival also seemed to include our Thanksgiving and April 15th as well. While the maka`ainana (commoners) celebrated the fruitfulness of the earth with feasting and athletic contests, the ali`i (chiefs) collected annual “taxes” in the form of produce and gifts.

It was truly more of a “new year” celebration for the king and high chiefs. For them the Makahiki Festival did guarantee good times to come, because their many storehouses would be full of “tax goods” which would then be used in lucrative trade with foreigners.


Speaking of athletic contests, how about those University of Hawai`i Warriors? As you read this, you will know that they gave those Georgia (poor us ‘cause we didn’t get invited to the national title game and have to play that lowly team from Hawai`i) Bulldogs a good, ol’ fashion `okole whoopin’. I believe! But…no mattah…the 2007 Warrior football team will be remembered for a long, long time for their heart; their selflessness; their exciting offense; their David v. Goliath defense; their many, nail biting, come from behind wins; their belief in themselves, both individually and collectively; their “can and will” attitude; and at least 101 chicken skin moments. Win, lose, or draw in the Sugar Bowl…this team has brought great credit to themselves, their university, and the state of Hawai`i, y’all!


And…speaking of football…well, really the winning Warriors, it seems they fueled a frenetic run on high-definition television cable boxes; high-def televisions; and big, flat-screen TV’s. Electronics retailers in Hawai`i attributed a huge jump in flat-screen TV sales directly to the success of the Warriors, because sales outstripped the usual Christmas bounce. A spokesperson for Oceanic Time Warner Cable said, “It was pretty wild!” By mid-December they had run out of HDTV boxes (more came in). They were hooking up 300 to 400 new HDTV’s a week!


Finally, may 2008 bring you good health and much joy from life’s simple pleasures…like dis pepa. Hopefully, this column will contribute to the quality of the Northwest Hawai`i Times, and bring you an occasional new learning about the `āina we love, a morsel of inspiration, a new perspective, a touch of a forgotten nerve, or…simply a bit of fluff to lighten your load.

Until next time, mālama pono

December 2007

When you get a chance, check out the December issue of Hawai`i Magazine, specifically the story by Bill Harby describing the cultural hike into Molokai’s historic Hālawa Valley. Much of the article focuses on the local guide who leads the hike, Lawrence Aki. Lawrence is my cultural kumu and friend with whom I spent seven months volunteering last year. Go Molokai! Spend the day with Lawrence in Hālawa Valley. Guaranteed “chicken skin” experience!


With the Hawai`i State Legislature passing a bill in special session which allows the Superferry to resume operations during an environmental review and the lifting of a Maui court injunction, the new interisland form of transportation sails once more. That would be to Maui only beginning December 6th. Seems like the Superferry’s public relations folks want to do some work on Kauai before attempting to sail into Nāwiliwili Harbor again.


Meanwhile over on Molokai the State Land Use Commission (LUC) held a hearing on November 15 and 16 to determine the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) submitted by Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) on their planned development at La`au Point. After a full day and a half of impassioned testimony before the LUC by those both for and against “the plan,” MPL withdrew its final EIS. Hmmm…

The withdrawal happened right after one of the commissioners, Ruben Wong, made a motion to reject the acceptability of the EIS. Commissioner Wong’s motion addressed what he felt were inadequacies of the EIS in providing alternatives for water supply, electricity, and the protection of monk seals. MPL will be back!


I keep hearing and reading about people who move to Hawai`i with the staunch belief it is an amazing “melting pot” of cultures. Once they hear about OHA, Kau Inoa, the Akaka Bill, and a plethora of “racist factions” fighting for the recognition and rights of Native Hawaiians, they are stunned. I have an idea! Let’s stop referring to Hawai`i as a “melting pot!”

The notion or theory “melting pot” comes from the pot in which metals are melted at great heat, melding together into a new compound with great strength and other combined advantages. Actually, the “melting pot” theory itself can be criticized as both unrealistic and racist.

I much prefer the “salad bowl” metaphor, where different groups keep their different cultures, religions, practices, and institutions; where the various ingredients in the salad maintain their individual identity and taste enhanced by the flavor and commonality of the salad dressing. I see the dressing in Hawai`i’s salad as Aloha, Pidgin English, Ohana, shorts, and slippas.

In my salad bowl…if you are going to be a cucumber in the salad, you can’t fault the tomatoes for desperately trying to hang on to what’s left of their tomatoness.


Finally, in November I traveled to Hillsboro, Oregon to attend the 60th anniversary celebration of David Hill Elementary School where I serve as principal for eight years. I was most pleased to re-meet Jan Guard who is the office manager at the school. As we chatted she shared a bit of her seventeen years living in Hilo and how much she loves reading “da pepa” each month. It was great talking to you, Jan! One small salad bowl, eh?

Until next time, Mele Kalikimaka and mālama pono.


November 2007

Auwe! The Hawai`i Superferry sure had a short life before 249 mostly part time employees were laid off and the state-of-the-art catamaran found a permanent run at the dock in Honolulu. So what’s the pilikia? It seems like a good idea for the islands: a high-speed ferry to transport people, their cars and/or their goods from O`ahu to the other islands and back at affordable rates. The Superferry could even ease transportation woes, give kama`aina another choice for interisland travel, and make it easier for local small businesses to work from one island to another. Not to mention another “fun” ride for the tourists.

The “problem” has been the same since 1778. How do you embrace economic diversity and opportunity while at the same time managing growth and protecting Hawai`i’s environment and way of life? As one Kaua`i resident put it, “Seems when something from the outside comes to Hawai`i, something in the islands dies.” The activists on Kaua`i have not sugar coated their issue with the Superferry. They say enough is enough…no more invaders! The environmentalists on Maui have cloaked the issue in environmental concerns exacerbated by the fact the Hawai`i Superferry was given a “pass” by the state and was not required to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Now the governor and the legislators are going to huddle up in a special session of the Legislature in an attempt to address the concerns on Kaua`i and Maui by placing rigid operating conditions on the ferry so it may operate while the state conducts a full environmental study. While in their special session, lawmakers also need to pass a new law(s) so as to overturn the court’s decision that the ferry should stay docked for a year or two while environmental impacts are studied.

There is a reason my dad always said it is easier to do it right the first time! Now it is a question of whether restrictions can be devised which satisfy environmental and “invader” worries while allowing the Superferry to operate with a fair chance of economic return. This mess is going to take unprecedented collaboration, common sense, and political leadership at this point. If the governor and the law makers don’t get this right, the Superferry – which has already lost hundreds of thousands of dollars since the end of August – could decide its best chance of recovering losses would be to lease its boats into service elsewhere and sue the state for changing the rules at the last minute after $300 million in investments were made in good faith and contracts to use state harbors were signed.

Meanwhile, I spent six days in Kona in September attending my youngest daughter’s wedding. Five out of the six days there was a huge cruise ship anchored in Kailua Harbor. Not docked, anchored with the ship’s motorized life boats ferrying cruise passengers back and forth to Kailua pier all day long. Those cruise lines did not have to submit an Environmental Impact Statement. So why is the Superferry being singled out? Maybe it just boils down to…enough is enough!


Speaking of EIS…Remember La`au Point? That’s where Molokai Properties Limited (MPL) (Molokai Ranch) is planning to develop a 200 lot subdivision. MPL just submitted their final 3,000 page Environmental Impact Statement on the La`au Point project to the State Land Use Commission (LUC) for review and acceptance. The voluminous document contains the submitted comments of about 130 organizations and individuals on Molokai and MPL’s responses to those comments.

Here’s the rub. Molokai Properties Limited hires the firm to conduct the EIS. Then MPL reviews drafts with the firm who heard, interpreted, and recorded public testimony regarding the proposed development’s environmental impact. (What about its economic, social, and cultural impact?) Finally, MPL pays the firm who rebuts, addresses, negates, or otherwise mitigates possible environmental impact concerns in the final EIS. Hmmm…!

Until next time, mālama pono


October 2007

Once again I must commend a book to you, Olivia: My Life of Exile in Kalaupapa by Olivia Robello Breitha. Olivia journals the life of an eighteen year old girl whose life goes from planning to get married to a diagnosis of leprosy and internment at Kalihi Hospital in a matter of days. Three years later, just after her 21st birthday in 1937, she is shipped to Kalaupapa.

Olivia describes her feelings of isolation, loneliness, hopelessness, depression, defiance, and of being “untouchable.” Her autobiography is a simple, heart wrenching, yet uplifting account of her life…most of it lived in forced isolation at Kalaupapa on the north side of Molokai. Powerful!


Did you know there was another “leper colony” here in the Pacific Northwest corralling and isolating humans during some of the same years as Kalaupapa?

D’Arcy Island is a 32 square mile island in Haro Straight between Vancouver Island and San Juan Island. It was used as a “leper colony” for Chinese immigrants from 1891 to 1924.

Chinese workers were brought to Canada from China and the California goldfields to make up the main labor force for the Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia. Once one of these workers became “afflicted with such a loathsome and dangerous a disease as leprosy,” he/she was taken to D’Arcy Island and left there to die. Unlike Kalaupapa, no one was on the island to care for the handful of men and one woman who lived in deplorable conditions. They had leprosy, they were Chinese, and no government would take responsibility!

My next read…A Measure of Value: The Story of the D’Arcy Island Leper Colony.


British Columbia currently has another, less incidental connection to Hawai`i. Concrete suppliers on O`ahu are importing sand from British Columbia.

Precious Hawai`i sand is disappearing at an alarming rate – not only from beaches, but also from inland ground deposits that have supplied one of the main ingredients in concrete for decades. One of Hawai`i’s biggest concrete suppliers, Hawaiian Cement, regularly ships sand from BC, and the state’s other main supplier, Ameron Hawaii, is on the cusp of having to do something similar when their sand supplies on Maui are exhausted.

Another previously abundant, Hawaiian resource depleted; sustainability in the Hawaiian Islands continues on its downward spiral; and concrete in the Islands becomes more expensive. One would like to hope the latter would slow down the covering of the `aina with cement…but that’s probably just wishful thinking!


Back in March, I recommended the book, Broken Trust: Greed, Mismanagement, and Political Manipulation of America’s Largest Charitable Trust. That bestselling book by federal judge Samuel P. King and UH law professor Randall W. Roth earned the coveted Samuel M. Kamakau Award for the Hawai`i Book of the Year for 2007. The work also won the certificate award in the category of Nonfiction and an honorable mention in Hawaiian Culture at this year’s Ka Palapala Po`okela book awards ceremony.

Have you read that book yet?

Until next time, mālama pono.



September 2007

Just when I think it can’t get any weirder, it does! Now, five non-Hawaiians want to register with the Kau Inoa Native Hawaiian Registration program. In spite of the fact their applications have been added to a separate, non-Hawaiian file, according to an Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) administrator, the “Party of Five” are peeved because they have yet to receive (and probably won’t) “Kau Inoa” T-shirts.

Kau Inoa is the highly publicized effort led by OHA to collect names and signatures for a registry of Native Hawaiians to help form the voting base for a new government. Applicants must be able to prove they have Hawaiian blood, although there is no specific blood quantum requirement. OHA’s position is that the process of building a Native Hawaiian governing entity will be limited to the descendants of the indigenous people of Hawai`i, as has been the case with the creation of other Native American governments on the mainland and in Alaska. The distinct black with red logo “Kau Inoa, To Build a Nation” T-shirts given to registrants have become a source of pride to some Hawaiians and a symbol of sellout to others who feel the forming of a government within the existing state does not go far enough.

Interestingly, four of the “Party of Five,” as well as their attorney, H. William Burgess, were previously involved in legal challenges against Native Hawaiian programs and funding. They argue the programs discriminate based on race. They claim their applying for the registry does not signal support for creating a Hawaiian entity. Rather they want their voices heard in any discussions in the creation and future of a new government in the state of Hawai`i. Burgess was quoted as saying, “Since we’re all Hawaiian – that is, we are all citizens of the state of Hawai`i – we should be entitled to participate in anything that would create a new government in the state of Hawai`i.” They aren’t, they won’t, so expect a lawsuit to follow!

As I have said before…too many wannabe Hawaiians! Born and raised for eighteen years in Hawai`i, and I was never a “Hawaiian.” Forty years a “citizen” of the state of Oregon, and halleluiah, I became an “Oregonian,” but never had a say in the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation or thought I was due a benefit accorded a member of the Siletz. Now I am a “Washingtonian,” not a Lummi, or a Yakima, or Swinomish. Let’s not ever confuse residency with lineage or the ethnicity of a person’s ancestors!


WHEW…heavy stuff! Time for some fluff…

In 1924, construction began on Hawai`i’s tallest building…the Aloha Tower. The 10-story, $190,000 “skyscraper” was completed a year and a half later, opening on September 11, 1926 . The symbol of Honolulu and “boat days” has four clocks each 12 feet in diameter, facing different directions, made of bronze and weighing seven tons. The landmark remained the tallest building in Honolulu until the 1950’s.

Do you know which building replaced it as the tallest building in Honolulu?


Finally, some September dates in Hawaiian history…just so you can be one akamai kine person.

September 29, 1819 – The first whaleships, the Balena from New Bedford and the Equator of Newburyport, arrive in Hawaiian waters. By 1846, whaleship visits to Hawai`i peak with 596 arrivals. Of these, 429 anchor off Lahaina with the rest in Honolulu Harbor.

September 2, 1838 – Lydia Kamaka`eha, later Queen Lili`uokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawai`i is born.

September 26, 1861 – The weekly newspaper Ka Hoku O Ka Pakipika, Star of the Pacific, debuts. It is the first Hawaiian language newspaper published by Native Hawaiians.


August 2007

August has traditionally been a slow month in Hawaiian history. A couple of significant yet darker dates include August 15, 1876, when the U.S. Senate ratified the Reciprocity Treaty allowing sugar and other products to enter the United States from Hawai`i without customs duties; and August 12, 1898, the day Hawai`i’s sovereignty was transferred to the United States.

One August date certainly worthy of celebration is August 24, 1890, the day Duke Paoa Kahanamoku was born in Honolulu.

Bordering on trivia is August 5, 1915, when talking pictures are shown for the first time in Hawai`i at the Bijou in Honolulu.

Personally, two very significant August dates in Hawaiian history include one in August, 1944, when one haole boy was born at Kapi`olani Hospital; and August 1, 1961, when the Pali tunnels officially opened to two-way traffic. No more getting car sick on the trip between Kāne`ohe and Honolulu! Happy Birthday to the Duke and the haole boy!


Latitude: 20º 51.1′ N, Longitude: 157º 15.6′ W

This is the geographic center of Hawai`i which is located off the southwestern shore of Molokai west of Lāna`i. No need to set your GPS…unless you are planning to set sail for the islands in the morning. Just another bit of fluff!


Last month while listening to “All Things Considered” on National Public Radio (NPR), I learned of another archipelago…a group of islands off the western coast of Africa at 15.02 N, 23.34 W. Cape Verde is formed by ten main islands and about eight islets. Of the main islands, all are inhabited except for one, Santa Luiza. All the islands are volcanic with only one active volcano on one of the islands.

The focus of the piece was the half million expatriates who have left Cape Verde, mostly because of persistent draught and famine, and settled in communities in the United States. Indeed, more Cape Verdeans live abroad than in Cape Verde.

As I listened to the story, I was struck by the similarities between Cape Verdean expatriates and Hawaiian expatriates. Profoundly so as the Cape Verdeans living in Rhode Island spoke of “maintaining their culture,” and of a “passionate relationship” with their homeland. They went on to say they were “united by a feeling that can’t be described in English, like something you miss so bad it can’t be replaced…a sense of longing deep inside you.” Their word for this feeling, that sense of longing is… “sodade.” I was amazed at how clearly and succinctly the Cape Verdeans described feelings I have felt and have had difficulty articulating about the islands in which I was born and raised.

I wonder. Do we expatriates of Hawai`i have a single Hawaiian word that captures our “passionate relationship” with our homeland, and that “sense of longing” deep inside each of us? Do we have a single, unifying Hawaiian song describing those feelings? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time, mālama pono.

July 2007

Right after the deadline for the June paper, Valerie and I made the trek to Seattle and spent a Sunday afternoon at the Northwest Folklife Festival hanging out at the Northwest Hawai`i Times booth and watching some great hula. After a little more than a year of writing for “da pepa,” this was my first opportunity to meet Editor Rochelle and most of the paper’s staff “off line.” I here-to-fore held these folks in high regard simply based on e-mails, and on the quality and integrity of their work with the NWHT. After being up close and personal, I have even more respect and admiration! As so many of you know, the staff of this publication are some warm, genuine, quality individuals! I am so pleased I finally had the opportunity to meet and visit with them.

And the hula…so graceful, so professional, so traditional…transported me right back to Molokai!


I was prepared to share with you this month all about liliko`i or “passion fruit” as all first time visitors call it. Then…what do I spy in the June paper? A feature article on the same, including recipes! Humph…you wouldn’t have gotten recipes from me! As usual, RdC covered that “cheerful ball of succulent seeds” quite thoroughly.

However, inquiring minds (Valerie’s) wanted to know from where the name “passion fruit” originated. I had no idea, but I was fairly certain it wasn’t the typical tourist etymology which swirls around Polynesians and the fruit’s aphrodisiac qualities. Now, as a teenager in Hawai`i, I did have a great deal of interest in girls, but I think my heightened feelings/curiosity regarding the opposite sex had more to do with raging hormones that the number of liliko`i eaten.

So…I conducted a little research. It is generally agreed that the name “passion” was given by early European explorers, or Catholic missionaries in South America, who thought the complex structure and pattern of the plant’s flower reminded them of symbols associated with the Passion (suffering) of Christ. The corona threads of the passion flower were seen as a symbol of the crown of thorns, the five stamens signified wounds, the five petals and five sepals symbolized the ten apostles (excluding Judas and Peter), and the three stigmas the nails on the cross.

The etymology of “liliko`i is a little less symbolic. According to a Maui Attractions Newsletter the purple-fruited passion fruit is called liliko`i “because the first seeds in the islands, brought from Australia by Eugene Deleman around 1880, grew in Liliko`i Gulch on Maui.” The yellow variety was supposedly introduced by the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station in 1923.


Is tourism sizzling in Hawai`i or are all you expats returning home on a weekly basis? Just since May 31st, Alaska Airlines announced it will operate daily nonstop service between Seattle and Honolulu, and Seattle and Lihu`e, starting in October. The smiling Eskimo tail logo will also operate daily flight between Honolulu and Anchorage on a seasonal basis starting in December. Qantas Airways is adding three Honolulu flights in March 2008. In addition, ATA Airlines added three new routes in June: between Kona and Oakland, three times a week; between Lihu`e and Oakland, four times a week; and daily between Las Vegas and Maui.

AUWE! More people and more rental cars choking the byways and highways of the islands! Not to worry! The first Hawai`i Superferry is on its way to Honolulu to move 900 passengers and 250 vehicles daily between O`ahu, Maui, and Kauai. So if one island starts to sink from all the rental cars and tourists, they can move them to another!

Until next time, mālama pono.


June 2007

I read a short news item back on May 2nd which said Haumea Hebenstreit Ho, widow of entertainer Don Ho, was the surprise guest at “The Bothers Cazimero’s 30th and final Lei Day concert at the Shell.”

Now, going to the Brothers’ Lei Day concert at the Shell was still on my “to do” list. On the grass, warm trades, stars out, Hawaiian music, great hula…you get the picture, right? So…I hope it’s not the final concert! Maybe just at the Shell? I know the 51 year old Waikiki landmark has serious termite issues in the roof. It was just tented and fumigated in March for the first time since it opened in 1956. The city had to get an emergency contract the infestation was so bad.

Anyway, maybe the Brothers’ 31st Lei Day concert will just be at a different venue. I know they were planning for future Lei Day concerts. Robert Cazimero was quoted as saying prior to this year’s concert, “Big changes are in store for 2008 and beyond.” Hopefully, those “big changes” don’t mean an end to Lei Day concerts by the Brothers Cazimero under a Hawaiian sky.


Do you know what Hawai`i’s leading, locally produced export is? No, not Kona coffee. No, not macadamia nuts. Give up? Bottled seawater! Yup, desalinated seawater is marketed as a health drink in Japan where it sells for $5 for a 1.5 liter bottle. Deep-sea water pumped form 3,000 feet below the Pacific Ocean’s surface is touted as a pure, nutrient-rich drink, thousands of years old, and free of modern impurities.

One company just began harvesting deep-sea drinking water from a ship positioned 3.4 miles off-shore from Ko`olina, O`ahu. Three more companies, including industry leader Koyo USA Corp, are tapped into a Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawai`i Authority (NELHA) pipeline which pumps deep-sea water 1.2 miles off the Kona Coast west of the Kona Airport. Four more companies have plans to tap into the NELHA pipeline.

Companies such as Koyo are attempting to crack the Mainland markets. Koyo has waited 18 months for California ’s permission to sell Koyo’s Mahalo-brand water there.

Another connection to home…a bottle of Pacific Ocean water coming to a market near you!


Still planning to go back to the Islands to retire? Hope you got plenty kala…or several blue tarps! According to a recent ranking, the only place more expensive to buy a home than in Honolulu is the San Francisco Bay area. Zindex.com lists Honolulu’s home price tag of $626,110, second only to the Bay area’s $680,868 price tag.

Of course that $626 thousand figure is a bit low according to a recent Honolulu Board of Realtors report. Sale prices for all of O`ahu’s existing single-family homes and condominiums in April 2007, surged to near-records after four months of weakness. The report indicates the median single-family home resale price in April was $665,000, an 8.1 percent rise from a year earlier and the second highest price since the peak of $668,300 in May 2006.

The median condo price was $325,000, a 9.6 percent rise from a year earlier and the second highest price since the July 2006 record of $329,000.

Auwe! Gotta run…going to check out the median price of a large, blue tarp!


May 2007

Happy Lei Day! As I recall the Lei Day festivities at Ben Parker Grade School in Kaneohe always included the may pole dance. Did you ever do that? We would each have a different colored streamer which extended out from the top of a tall pole to our hands. We would start the routine paired off in boy/girl couples (heart pounding stuff for an eleven year old). Then the music would start and we would do this intricate maneuver/dance winding in and out, streamer up and over, until we all wound up (literally) at the pole with all the streamers wrapped around the pole in an amazingly complex and beautiful pattern. Ah, yes, the “hanabaddah days!”


Seems like my February column regarding the “ugly American” tourists in Hawaii , growing up “haole” in Hawaii , and all the wannabe Hawaiians caused some readers to think to the point they were moved to write a “Letter to the Editor.” It is rewarding to know someone may be reading this column and doubly rewarding that it may be causing a person or two to think. Mahalo, for all your insightful comments!


I always told my staff (in my elementary school principal life) don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions. So…in that spirit and as a follow up to that February column mentioned above, please allow me to offer you three, easy to apply tips on how not to be the “ugly American” tourist in your travels. Whether you are vacationing in Kaunakakai , Hawai`i ; Friday Harbor , Washington ; Paris , France ; Disneyland ; or the county park two miles from home, following these simple behaviors will have the “locals” welcoming you back.

Uncle Roger’s Tips for Being a Responsible Visitor


Go with Humility. Aunty Ruthy and Aunty Judy sold bumper stickers on Molokai which read, “Don’t change Molokai, let Molokai change you.” Seems to me that works for any place one might visit. Besides, we are all just visitors on this planet anyway. Leave no footprints, only good deeds!

Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect. You might be the CEO of the company, but when you are in Forsythe, Montana; your title is “visitor.” You might be well educated, but the guy pumping your gas or whipping up your latte along the interstate may have a masters degree as well. You may know a lot, but nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

Treat Others How They Would Like to be Treated, Not How You Would Like to be Treated . This, of course, is a different twist on the ol’ “Golden Rule.” You may want to be treated and recognized as “the boss,” as someone who “knows it all,” not me. You may like your dog running free on the beach and jumping on people, not me. You may be quite content with the degree of civility that is commonplace in our country today, not me.

You may be visiting the place where I live this summer. I will be the “local,” the kama`āina. You will be the “visitor,” the malihini. Enjoy your time…be courteous, be respectful, be humble, be responsible.

Until then, mālama pono.



April 2007

Last month I left you with the semi-rhetorical question, “Can a place and its people be loved to death?” We know the answer to that question is unequivocally, “Yes!” Furthermore, we have done it, for the most part, merely by our presence. We know that in 1778 (pre European contact) there were between 400,000 and 1,000,000 Hawaiians in the islands. Between disease, forced assimilation, cultural exploitation, fractionalization, interracial marriage, and in general the assault of western culture, there were approximately 5,000 piha kānaka maoli (pure Hawaiians) remaining in the year 2000.

From the earliest contacts between Hawaiians and haole, Hawaiian ali`i women married haole ship captains, businessmen, and entrepreneurs. Later Hawaiians also married immigrants who came to work on the plantations. Generation by generation, there were ever more combinations, bloodlines with four, six, eight ethnic strains. The book Broken Trust puts it all in perspective. “According to government census, there were about 50,000 ‘pure blooded’ Hawaiians and 2,500 part-Hawaiians in 1870 – a twenty to one ratio. Within two generations, the ratio was approximately one to one. In slightly more than another generation, the ratio was one to ten. Today it is believed to be about one to one thousand.”


Which leads me to recommend the book entitled Then There Were None by Martha H. Noyes. The book was based on the documentary film by Elizabeth Kapu`uwailani Lindsey Buyers, Ph.D.


It appears (you never want to get the cart in front of the water buffalo) Valerie and I may be moving from Friday Harbor, San Juan Island to Whidbey Island. Before that happens, I want to share with you the story of how the town of Friday Harbor got its name.

In the1850’s the Hudson’s Bay Company moved its operation on to San Juan Island. The Company had in its employ several kānaka (Hawaiian) sheepherders. The name of one of the shepherds was Joe Pō`alie who was generally known, after his name had been anglicized, as Joe Friday. He grazed his flock on the slopes above the natural harbor and watered them at the spring, which still runs under the main street of town…that would be Spring Street. Sailors passing by saw only the smoke from his camp and began referring to the spot as “Friday’s Harbor.” This became the name of the town, which grew up around the harbor in the 1870’s. The apostrophe and the “s” were later dropped.

There you have it! Friday Harbor, Washington, the only incorporated town in San Juan County and the county seat, was named after a Hawaiian dude! There is also an area on the southern end of the island named, Kānaka Bay. This is where other Hawaiian sheepherders lived and grazed Company sheep.

All I can say is, after coming from those islands in the middle of the Pacific to these islands, I bet Pō`alie, his family, and the other Hawaiians were really cold!

March 2007

Back in the Pacific Northwest …brrrrr, it’s cold!

Before boarding the big bird back to the mainland, I picked up a paperback in one of those little Newsstand shops at Honolulu International. The book, Broken Trust by Samuel P. King and Randall W. Roth, chronicles the “greed, mismanagement, and political manipulation” at America ’s largest charitable trust…the Bishop Estate. A very interesting read which describes a board of trustees running amok while establishing individual fiefdoms and taking nearly $1 million a piece in annual trustee fees.

A couple of side bar facts I learned from the book: a 1995 Wall Street Journal article described Bishop Estate as “the nation’s wealthiest charity,” with an endowment estimated at $10 billion – greater that the combined endowments of Harvard and Yale universities; and, the trust owned 440,184 acres of land at its peak or one in nine acres of land in Hawai`i.

I commend this book to anyone who sits on a board, graduates of Kamehameha Schools, and anyone with a genuine interest in Hawai`i, other than as a vacation spot.


Since leaving education and abandoning my necktie in 1997, I’ve been pretty much a shorts kinda guy. Okay, November through January I would generally give in to the strange looks and inevitable question, “A little cold for shorts, isn’t it?” and wear jeans.

However, after wearing shorts for seven months straight, I found that after one day of wearing jeans since being back on the mainland that they irritate my knees something fierce. So…shorts it is! The problem is, I really get the “stink eye” if I wear them to a nice restaurant or a wedding. Choices, choices…either I become a comfortable hermit wearing shorts or I break down and by a decent pair of slacks that don’t irritate my knees. Hmmm…?


I notice PacificBasin Communications in Honolulu is publishing HAWAII magazine as of the first of the year. Apparently, it is the first time the magazine has actually been published in the Islands . I’m not sure I like the new format. For one, the font size of the articles is unusually small…hard for this ol’ guy to read.

I also noticed with a wry smile the many letters to the editor in the magazine’s latest issue. They included such statements as, “My husband and I have been to the Islands at least 12 times…;” and, “I visit Hawai`i frequently (at least once a year)…;” and finally, “The Superferry will be a great addition to the fun travel within Hawai`i .” I wonder…can you love a place and its people to death?

Until next time, mālama pono.


February 2007

As you read this, I am winging my way back to the Pacific Northwest after seven months on Molokai. It feels good to be heading back to the other “home,” closer to family and friends, but…not so good leaving the warmth, the new friends, and the new appreciations and understandings discovered on this special island. My time volunteering in Hālawa Valley was one of those experiences where I gained so much more than I contributed. What an amazing adventure! Now, it’s time to move on to other adventures…at least for awhile.


I am happy to be getting away from so many tourists and snow birds…most of them haole. Few visit these islands with a sense of wonder…eager to learn, understand, and appreciate. Few come with a commitment to be respectful, considerate, and enlightened. Few arrive with common sense. Many come eager to impress with their position, number of trips to Hawai`i, and/or world travel. Many seem full of themselves, eager to show off their knowledge of the Hawaiian people, culture, and language, when they really know very little. It is obvious when they open their mouths to share their knowledge of Mol-lah-ki-ee. Few of these “visitors” understand that you learn through your ears, not through your mouth.


And…while I’m on a roll! I was born and raised on O`ahu until I left for college on the mainland at age 18. I am a haole, not of missionary descent, but of parents who lived in the islands for 36 years until they moved to the mainland to be close to kids and grandkids. Parents who were not land owners and when they weren’t both working to make ends meet, weren’t “takers,” but “givers” back to their friends and the community.

Hence, as a haole, born and raised in Hawai`i , but not “Hawaiian,” I have always struggled as to “my place.” Here are my “roots,” but not really. Here are my customs, music, traditions, but not really. Here are my small kid memories, my grade school, my high school, almost one third of my life…really!

So…what is it with the many haoles, both on the mainland and in the islands, who try to pass themselves off as “Hawaiians” because they own a condo here, or their father was stationed here with the military, or they lived here “for awhile,” or they have visited here six times, or they spend every winter here, or their cousin married a Hawaiian, or…? Funny, I don’t hear a whole lot of folks claiming to be Washingtonians or Oregonians because they have visited Seattle or the Oregon coast a half dozen times. Too many Hawaiian wannabes!


Finally…for my last, on location report from Molokai. When you go to see Pirates of the Caribbean III, which is currently in production, all the beach scenes with a high, rocky cliff in the background were shot right here on Molokai. Some of the cast and crew spent a week shooting two scenes for the May 25th movie on Pohauku Mauliuli Beach (also known on the island as Make Horse Beach ) on Molokai’s west side. I myself have seen it!

Until next time…mālama pono

January 2007

Valerie and I had the opportunity to join a laulau making assembly line in December. The laulau were assembled in the traditional manner using lu`au leaves, butterfish, pork, and Hawaiian salt all bundled up in a couple of ti leaves. Our job was to tie the laulau. With a dozen folks on “the line,” it took only about an hour and a half to make 500 laulau! After they were cooked, we were able to score a couple. It had been ages since I had laulau (Valerie’s first time) and they were `ono!


In our recent trips into Hālawa Valley we have enjoyed the abundance and tastiness of Surinam cherries. You remember those…growing in the valleys, mountains, and/or as an ornamental in your yard. The fruit is ribbed (7 or 8 ribs) and dark red when ripe with a bit of a peppery taste. They look like perfect, miniature red pumpkins hanging in the tree. I remember them well from my youth hiking around O`ahu.

Photo by Roger Close

Native from Surinam, Guyana and French Guiana to southern Brazil, and to parts of Uruguay, I am not even going to hazard a guess on how this fruit tree ended up in Hawai`i. The cherries are high in Vitamin C and beta-carotene, and I understand make for tasty jam. The Brazilians also spread the leaves from the trees on their floors and when they walk on them an oil is emitted that keeps the flies away.


In an effort to be fiscally responsible, Hawai`i ’s Board of Education is beginning to examine the possible consolidation of low enrollment schools. One “example” presented to the Board is the closing of Maunaloa School in Maunaloa Town on the southwest end of Molokai. The school currently has an enrollment of 57 students…and a capacity for 121 students. The preliminary suggestion includes busing the 57 students to Kaunakakai.

Other possibilities include three other elementary schools on O`ahu: Wailupe Valley Elementary students to Aina Haina Elementary; Liliuokalani students to Aliiolani Elementary in Kaimuki; and Keolu Elementary students to Enchanted Lake Elementary.

I would hope the Board of Education in Hawai`i thinks long and hard before going down that road. They may also want to chat with some of the folks in the Seattle School District before attempting to close any elementary schools.

Why is it we are always trying to save taxpayers’ money by closing down small, low enrollment, neighborhood schools where the students and their needs are well known, closely nurtured, and receive lots of individual attention so we can bus them off to a larger school where they feel out of place, receive less attention (too many kids per class), and slip through the cracks? Then we take the money we saved on closing the schools and throw it at “special” (which includes “extra” and “more” and…?) materials, classes, programs, staff, etc., so these same children can “pass the tests” and we can claim “no child was left behind.” Bigger is not always better…or more efficient, or more effective, or more cost effective!


And with that…Hau`oli Makahiki Hou! Here’s hoping 2007 brings you good health, happiness from the simple pleasures of life, and many new adventures.

Until next time, malama pono


December 2006

One of the many “small keed time” flashbacks Molokai has to offer is the weekly, free, “old style,” backyard Hawaiian music performed by kupuna. Every Friday between 4:00and 6:00PM at Hotel Molokai Na Kupuna performs everything from Tiny Bubbles (complete with bubbles) to Hawaii Aloha. A different group, with a few crossovers from Na Kupuna, performs at the Molokai Ranch Lodge on Sundays at 5:00PM. That day and time just happen to coincide with the Lodge’s “wok night.” I use this weekly buffet and made-to-order stir fry to get my regular fix of manapua. But…not EVERY Sunday!


Speaking of “island kine grinds,” my continual quest for cone sushi has met with sporadic, yet increasingly favorable results of late. It seems this “need-to-have” item is becoming harder and harder to find in these islands. Is it because there are fewer mom and pop stores, fewer general stores, fewer folks who know how to make, or all of the above? Whatever the reason(s), it is darn near impossible to find cone sushi on Molokai. Except lately, I am finding with a bit more regularity the real deal, fist size cone sushi at Big Daddy’s, a Filipino café in Kaunakakai town. However, their knowledge as to when they will have it in and my ability to determine a pattern or hit the right day are all fairly “iffy.” So…when I am able to score cone sushi at Big Daddy’s, it’s a great day in paradise!

Now, in the Seattle area I can usually pick up inari sushi at Haggen’s Market. Inari is smaller than the “real” cone sushi, but it is a reasonable facsimile which fills the cravings there.

Does anyone know of a place in the Seattle area and/or north that consistently has cone sushi?


Back to general stores… Between mile post 13 and 14 on the east end of Molokai is a compound of four or five buildings which have obviously been refurbished inside and out…hunter green exteriors with white trim and red metal roofs. Next to one of the smaller structures and close to the road is a very old, yet also refurbished, gas pump advertising Rainbow Gas at 25 cents a gallon. Well, recently the entire

property went on the market for a cool 2.1 million dollars. And…come to find out…the main building was the Ah Ping General Store. This was the only store on the east end of Molokai from 1901 to 1965. If you remember the Ah Ping General Store or just want to read about the “good ol’ days” in Hawai`i, check out www.wordwiz72.com/now501-5.pdf (Ah Ping General Store description starts on page 22 of Bob Basso’s book excerpt). It reminds me of the times my dad and I would stop after a hike at one of a couple general stores in Kāne`ohe for a Nehi soda and chips…or cone sushi.

Until next time, Mele Kalikimaka!

November 2006

Just to set the record straight, my regular volunteering in Hālawa Valley came to an end on the 29th of September…close to three months of work punctuated by days off for buying groceries and doing laundry. As is the case with most volunteer efforts, I believe I gained way more than I gave! The love-of-my-life joined me on the first of October and we plan to spend the next three months or so on Moloka`i before heading back to the Pacific Northwest. Most of our time so far has been spent swimming, reading, and enjoying the warm weather. Returns to Hālawa are not out of the question, just no more long, working stints.

Hālawa Bay on Molokai with Lamaloa Head
Photo by Roger Close



Auwe! What’s going on in Paradise? At 5:30AM on September 26th I hear what sounds like a freight train roaring through the parking lot of the condominium where I’m staying. Hmmm…no trains here, better look out the window. Whoa! Lots of water roaring through the parking lot! Yup…a flash flood. The water, which is loaded with logs and debris, has engulfed and is swirling around my car at a level about two inches above the bottom of the doors. Within an hour, the water retreats back into its normal stream bed, leaving my car sitting in 16 inches of mud, muck, and debris.

I was most fortunate…no water and mud inside the car, as was the case with several other cars in the parking lot. After a few hours of digging out, hosing the underneath, and lending a hand with some of the general clean-up, I was on my way back to Hālawa Valley to harvest taro.

THEN… 7:08AM, Sunday, October 15th, the freight train was back! Or was it a 747? This time on the roof, causing the whole building to shake, rattle, ‘n roll. Once we figured out it was an earthquake, we just waited for it to stop. Amazingly it kept rolling and shaking with no end in sight, so we dove for cover. I’m not sure what good that would have done if the two floors above had decided to drop in on us on the bottom floor. After the rocking and rolling ceased, we spent the next thirty minutes or so watching the ocean very carefully. And…you know the rest of the story! Oh, you may not know that Moloka`i and Lana`i did not lose power. (BIG smile!)

Interestingly, only one local TV station (KHON) continued to be on the air…broadcasting the Seattle Seahawks game. Go figure! The game was reduced to a test pattern/logo after about an hour, followed by some NEWS (“there has been an earthquake”) about three hours after the fact. We did get some real news from a live body via a Maui radio station (KPOA?) about an hour after the quake. The civil defense warning, you know, you hear “the test” interrupting your favorite music on the radio from time to time, came about three hours after the event. Hmmm...? The investigations into the poor/delayed communication and the total, day-long power outage on O`ahu have already started.


The La`au Point story continues. On October 7th over 200 “Save La`au”/anti-development folks hiked from Dixie Maru beach to La`au point, a four mile trek. The march to La`au was designed to make another powerful statement against Moloka`i Ranch’s planned development of La`au Point.

It appears next steps in the fight could include the picketing of Moloka`i DHHL (Department of Hawaiian Homelands) and OHA offices if those organizations choose not to endorse an anti-development position.

Keep in mind there are also many Moloka`i residents who appear to support the Ranch’s Master Land Use Plan.

Until next time, mālama pono.

October 2006

There have been additional developments in the Lā`au Point issue. On September 13th a hui (group) of about 30 activists led by veteran activist Walter Ritte Jr. occupied Lā`au Point for an unspecified period of time. The occupation is one of the intervention strategies being used to protest the plan to develop 200 luxury estates at Lā`au on the southwest corner of Moloka`i. The development, planned by Moloka`i Properties Limited (Moloka`i Ranch), is part of a land use plan worked out with community representatives over the past few years.

The activists, as well as many Moloka`i residents, believe the development at Lā`au will have an adverse effect on the island’s social structure, limited water resources, and real estate values. At least one of the occupiers has likened the fight over Lā`au Point to that of Kaho`olawe in the 1970s.

It appears Moloka`i Ranch has chosen to ignore the occupation and its participants.

On September 20th the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) Board of Trustees, who are in support of the land use plan, met on Moloka`i. They listened to five and a half hours of testimony from members of a group of 300 who oppose the plan and a contingency of 150 in support of the master land use plan. The OHA trustees said they will consider the testimony and review their support of the plan in the coming weeks and months.


Growing up on O`ahu, Molokai was always (Moh-loh-kī). Then some time during my many years on the mainland Molokai became (Moh-loh-kah-ee). I assumed my previous pronunciation of this island’s name was a result of unenlightened haoleness.

Ah…maybe not so! The locals on Molokai say, “(Moh-loh-kī).” Then recently I picked up a copy of “Tales of Molokai The Voice of Harriet Ne” by Harriet Ahiona Ayau Ne with Gloria L. Cronin, copyright 1992. In the front of the book is the following note by Harriet Ne’s grandson, Edward Halealoha Ayau:

“The reason that the name Molokai [in this book] is left without the glottal stop is because my tūtū wahine (grandmother) says that when she was growing up in Pelekunu it was never pronounced Moloka`i (Moh-loh-kah-ee), but rather Molokai (Moh-loh-kī). Then in about the 1930s, the name changed to Moloka`i, in part she believes because musicians began pronouncing the name that way. Mary Kawena Puku`i, three weeks before her death, called my tūtū and told her that the correct name is Molokai , which means ‘the gathering of the ocean waters.’ On the rugged north coast of the island, the ocean slams hard into the pali. On the south and east shores, the ocean glides gently to shore due to location of reefs at least a quarter of a mile offshore. Hence the name, Molokai , ‘Gathering of the Ocean Waters.’”

So now I’m really confused! Is it Molokai or Moloka`i? Does anyone out there have a thought, or better yet THE definitive word?

Just an aside…I hear many of the visitors to Moloka`i saying, “(Moh-loh-kai-ee).” I just smile and mentally give them a couple of points for effort.

Until next time, mālama pono.

Roger Close, born and raised in Kāne`ohe, O`ahu left the Islands at eighteen to attend Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. He stayed in Oregon and is now a semi-retired educator. He is currently spending nine months on Moloka`i, helping to restore and preserve Hālawa Valley.

September 2006

My small contribution of time and energy in Hālawa Valley continues…twenty one days and counting. Recent endeavors include weed eating the banks of the lo`i and `auwai, pulling weeds from the lo`i, and digging up the stumps and roots of small trees growing in unwanted places. Often it feels like the weeds are winning! The good days are when other volunteers or some of Lawrence’s `ohana are also working…the weeds no win!

I have come to learn that my respect and admiration for Lawrence Aki, as well as his hopes and dreams for the use and preservation of Hālawa Valley , are widely shared by locals and visitors alike.


The next time you return home to Hawai`i or come as a visitor, I urge you, indeed I challenge you to find a lo`i (specifically one with weeds), ask permission of the owner, and spend a few hours pulling weeds. It just may be fun and possibly something between satisfying and spiritual. Most certainly it will be hard work! At a minimum, the taro will thank you.


As I drive to Kaunakakai town for groceries, I notice more and more “Save Lā`au Point” and “No to Lā`au” signs going up along the 13 miles. Actually, they are all over Moloka`i in numbers greater than that of the mongoose! The Lā`au opposition is growing and the fight could become the next big chapter in the “aloha `āina” movement. “Aloha `āina,” a term which goes back at least to 1893 and rekindled again with the landing on Kaho`olawe over 30 years ago.

This is also not the first time the people of Moloka`i have openly defied the island’s largest landowner, Moloka`i Ranch. The first time was in 1975 when the organization Hui Alaloa mobilized to gain access to the mountains and beaches which had been closed off to the general public for years.

Currently, Moloka`i Properties Limited (MPL), historically and commonly known as Moloka`i Ranch, is offering up to 40% of their land in the form of a community based land trust in exchange for the development of 200 luxury estates at Lā`au Point. Lā`au is an area which includes undeveloped coastline, subsistence hunting and fishing areas, and historical and cultural sites at the southwest corner of Moloka`i.

As MPL concludes the last of their public hearings to satisfy the Ranch’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), a large group of anti-Lā`au activists organized by Hui Ho`opakele Āina (a save Lā`au group) is planning intervention strategies to include a full-scale occupation of Lā`au Point. Walter Ritte, organizer of Hui Ho`opakele Āina and member of the Kaho`olawe landings, has been quoted in local papers as saying, “Occupation is a tactic for the warriors. Some people like to go to meetings. Some people like to hold signs. Some people want to occupy the land.”

Adding fuel to the fire is the fear by Hawaiian Homesteaders that the proposed Lā`au Point Estates threaten their water supply. The Department of Hawaiian Homelands could potentially enter the fray if they deem the Lā`au proposal to be detrimental to homesteaders.

Another “fly in the ointment” and perhaps the greater challenge for the opposition, will be reversing the position of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). OHA is in open support of the MPL master plan, as is the Moloka`i Enterprise Community (EC) who voted for the land use plan.

Ultimately, a decision will be made by the State Land Use Commission, whose authorization of a critical zoning change from Agricultural to Rural would mark a point of no return. “Once they agree to that, it’s over,” said Ritte, but he doesn’t think it will ever come to that. Members of Hui Ho`opakele Āina say the fight for Lā`au is just beginning. “Aloha `āina!”

Until next time, mālama pono.


August 2006

Is there anything that smells as sweet as a warm trade wind caressing a plumaria tree in full bloom? That fragrance certainly excites all the senses as well as triggers memories of a childhood yard and many special occasions celebrated with lei. Yes, I am in Hawai`i on the gorgeous and complex island of Moloka`i, the “Friendly Isle.” Indeed, when was the last time you were in the grocery store and the checkout clerk told you of a special on the same brand of dish soap you were purchasing…twice as much soap for only 50 cents more…and then went and got the larger bottle off the shelf for you? Maybe that’s why they call it “Friendly Market!”


Staying in Hālawa Valley is as challenging as it is inspiring, as oppressive as it is peaceful, as harsh as it is beautiful. There is no electricity, no phones (and no, there is no cell phone coverage), and no refrigeration. There is running water piped straight from an abandoned county inch and a half pipe lying on top of the ground or an awai …all gravity fed. The water serves a flush toilet (to a crude septic tank), two sinks, and two showers (one indoor and one outdoor). The water is non-potable. Hence, water for drinking needs to be boiled or brought in. That cool shower at the end of the work day is certainly a highlight!

The work is physical, tiring, and rewarding. The first day a failed lo`i wai (the canal carrying water from one taro patch to another) was repaired. The second and third days saw the clearing of a 40x50 foot area of brush, papaya trees, small kukui nut trees, and other unidentifiable tropicalness in preparation for the siting of a new hale. Other work in the first five days included weed eating, mowing, debris burning, and pulling weeds from the lo`i.

Beyond a doubt, the most inspirational times of the day are early in the morning as Hālawa awakens over a cup of instant coffee and in the evenings as day turns to night. Both times are natural for talking story and my host, Lawrence Aki provides plenty stories. Memories of his childhood in Hālawa; history passed down from his grandparents and great grandparents, uncles and great uncles; cultural knowledge, and his hopes and dreams for the Valley. In my short time in Hālawa Valley I have come to the realization that I was drawn back not so much by the unspoiled beauty of this special piece of Hawai`i, this last sanctuary of the Hawai`i of my youth, but by Lawrence’s inspiring hopes and dreams.

I wonder, can one man ensure the taro lands are used for growing taro; that visitors to this valley ask permission to enter private property and when it is granted treat the `āina with respect; and that the entire valley be preserved and used in culturally appropriate ways for and by future generations of kānaka maole? Only time will tell. And I am proud to spend only a fraction of time in helping to make it so.

Until next time, mālama pono.


July 2006

Aloha and happy summer! For starters this month, I share with you another “I can’t believe it” story from the Big Island.

On May 25th, ten volunteers donned protective suits to clear genetically engineered papaya trees found growing on an organic farm in Kapoho on the Big Island. The owner of the 9.1-acre organic farm speculated birds or the wind spread seeds from nearby farms where SunUp papayas are grown. SunUp and Rainbow varieties were created by the University of Hawai`i and Cornell University researchers to counter the ring spot virus that reduced Big Island papaya harvests by more than 50 percent following its discovery in 1992.

The patented seeds were distributed in 1998 and soon started producing the first genetically modified tree fruit to be sold commercially in the U.S. Genetically engineered papayas are grown commercially only in Hawai`i!

The disease-resistant varieties are banned in Japan, which buys 40 percent of Hawai`i’s annual $16 million papaya crop. So…I wonder who is eating those specially engineered little darlings?

Oh, the hazmat suits were worn to prevent the volunteers from unintentionally spreading more seeds of the genetically altered plants.

And…what’s in your papaya?


On a more pleasant note, last September Hawai`i’s Governor Lingle signed state rules creating the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands State Marine Refuge. The rules of the refuge ban fishing and limit public access to this remarkable archipelago of uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals and atolls, which make up one of the most spectacular marine systems on Earth. This archipelago, known as the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands begins 160 miles to the northwest of Kaua`i, and extends some 1400 miles out into the far reaches of the Pacific.

Under the rules, traditional Hawaiian cultural practices will still be allowed in the area.

The area is also currently in the process of being considered for a National Marine Sanctuary. The state has asked the federal government to extend the state fishing ban into the proposed sanctuary area, which extends about 50 miles from shore.


The Halawa Valley on Moloka`i, photo by Roger CloseAs you read this, I am winging my way to Moloka`i to volunteer my time, energy, and manual labor for the summer in the restoration and preservation of Hālawa Valley. (See the story of Hālawa Valley in June’s column.) I can’t do anything about the “takers” and the “spoilers,” but I can be a “giver” and a “keeper.” I choose not to spend my time mourning the consumption and destruction of the islands as I knew them. I can, and will spend my time taking care of and helping to preserve those few sanctuaries that remain unspoiled.

Hopefully, the editor of the NWHIT will continue to allow me to send nā mana`o o ulu wale from Moloka`i!

Until then, mālama pono.


June 2006

After last month’s saga of Waimea Valley on O`ahu, I want to tell you about another valley, Moloka`i’s Hālawa Valley. This beautiful, lush valley at the end of the road on Moloka`i’s northeast corner is fed by two waterfalls, Moa`ula and H ī puapua.

In the late 1960’s, archaeologists found the remains in Hālawa soil of possibly the oldest settlement in the Hawaiian Islands. By 650 A.D., the ancients had established a sustainable life with kalo (taro) and fish from the bay. The valley also holds two-thirds of Moloka`i’s luakini heiau (sacred temples).

As in all of Hawai`i, life in the valley began to change in the 1900’s. Sustainability in Hālawa Valley was changed drastically by a 1946 tsunami, a 1964 flood, the lure of modern conveniences pulling people away from the difficult work of taro farming, the aging of landowners, and the selling of kuleana (ancestral) lands to outsiders. As land in the valley was abandoned and/or sold, artifact hunters, squatters, marijuana growers, curious tourists, and uninformed islanders began to destroy this cultural, historical, and spiritual treasure.

Enter Lawrence Aki, who along with his older brother, Harry, was born and raised in the valley until the 1964 flood. Lawrence is leading other landowners of the Hālawa Valley Cooperative in the monumental task of reversing history and making the valley pono again. Lawrence is focused on preserving and restoring Hālawa Valley and its ancient traditions…ancestral lo`i are being cleared, the `auwai are running with clear water, kalo is being grown and harvested, and heiau are being restored. One man working against huge odds to ensure this valley not only does not suffer the same demise of other island sanctuaries, but also is restored and preserved.


It appears there is a standoff between Hui M ā lama I N ā Kūpuna o Hawai`i Nei and two other groups, Nā Lei Ali`i Kā wananakoa and the Royal Hawaiian Academy of Traditional Arts, after a four-month mediation between the two sides produced few results. The stalemate is over 83 priceless Hawaiian cultural objects. The objects were transferred by the Bishop Museum to Hui Mālama in late 2000. Rather than returning them to the museum, Hui M ā lama buried the objects in caves on the Big Island from where they were taken in 1905 by David Forbes and other Western explorers. Hui Mālama maintains the objects were funerary and were interred with Native Hawaiians in the cave.

The two groups on the other side contend, “The preponderance of evidence suggests that the items were not funerary. They were hidden away at the time of the abandonment of the traditional (Hawaiian) religion or shortly thereafter. They are cultural items of great importance.” The groups’ fear is these sacred objects (appraised at more than $10 million) are being destroyed and disintegrating in the caves as the battle goes on.

Hui Mālama claims they have yet to see documentation to back up the argument the cultural objects are not funerary.

The next step…the court will direct appointed engineers to determine whether the cave complex is structurally sound enough to enter to retrieve the objects. Hui Mālama maintains it is not safe.

Two sides, both with good intentions and with their respective versions of history, pursuing what they believe to be pono. I am afraid good intentions do not always yield good results. Who will the real losers be at the end of this struggle? Current and future generations of Hawaiians, again?

Stay tuned!

Until next time, mālama pono.


May 2006

As a youngster growing up on O`ahu, my dad and I would hike up Waimea Valley to Waihī Falls (also known historically as Waihe`e Falls and by the widespread misnomer Waimea Falls). W-a-y back then there was nothing but a pig trail, widened by local swimmers, going to the falls and the large swimming pool at the foot of the falls. Undoubtedly, the land belonged to someone, but as a kid, it just seemed like one, huge, tropical playground left unspoiled just for me to explore.

Fast-forward about 40 years and my return to the valley. Auwē, some outfit called Attractions Hawai’i has cleared land; planted grass; put in paved roads and refreshment stands; and cemented around the swimming hole and put in bleachers! And…to add insult to injury, at some point the whole grand scheme to make lots of money off the valley via “Waimea Valley Park” went defunct. The semi-good news was the National Audubon Society was now managing and caring for what was left of the lower portion of the valley. The trolleys were gone; the sideshows silent; and the focus was back on the valley’s scenic beauty, cultural and archaeological significance, and rare and endangered plants. Nevertheless, in my mind the valley had been destroyed…all in the name of making money. I left saddened and angry.

Then what do you know? Waimea Valley has been in the news again the past four months! Apparently, a New York investor, Christian Wolffer, acquired the valley in1996 when he became principal owner of Attractions Hawai’i, which owned the valley and Sea Life Park . Wolffer sold Sea Life Park, but kept the valley, promising to leave it intact. He tried to sell it four years later as a private residence, but environmental groups argued the valley’s cultural importance.

To ensure the valley would remain undeveloped, the city of Honolulu in 2001, moved to acquire the entire valley via condemnation proceedings. Overtime, however, worries over the potential rising cost for the city to pay for the valley prompted city officials to consider a settlement that would have allowed for limited development. On November 21, 2005 , the city council in a 5-4 vote gave preliminary approval to accept landowner Wolffer’s proposed settlement in which the city would own the valley’s lower 300 acres (which is now the Audubon Society-run park) and he would own the valley’s upper 1,575 acres. Wolffer’s plan was to put in large lots for the extremely wealthy and some sort of commercial development. It is interesting to note much of the valley’s lower 300 acres, which would have gone to the city, are marked by ancient cultural sites. However, none of the acreage that would have gone to Wolffer under the agreement has been surveyed.

On December 7, 2005, the Honolulu City Council, set to cast its final vote on the proposed settlement, received a stunning lesson in “people power.” A parade of more than 72 speakers told the council in-no-uncertain terms that the community was ready to take its chances in court. The speakers were supported by the Audubon Society and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs which pledged to come up with the money needed to match whatever price a court ruling decreed for the entire 1,875-acre valley. The council voted 9-0 to reject the proposed settlement.

The court would not get to rule on the fair market value of the valley. On January 14, 2006, an out-of-court settlement was reached. The city of Honolulu with a consortium of governmental agencies and nonprofits will purchase Waimea Valley for 14 million dollars, and keep it undeveloped. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs will assume ownership of the valley, managing the undeveloped property in partnership with the Audubon Society.

On March 15th, this legal settlement designed to preserve the scenic and historic Waimea Valley on O`ahu’s North Shore quietly won approval from the Honolulu City Council. It’s not a pig trail any more and the lower 300 acres are not totally unspoiled, but…the valley won’t be host to tours of mansions of the rich and famous either.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead

Until next time, mālama pono.


April 2006

  • From 1995 – 1999 home prices in Honolulu sagged by 20 percent as Japanese investors bailed. As of the third quarter of 2005, Honolulu was added to the list of metropolitan areas across the nation where house prices were overvalued.
  • On Maui the median price for a single-family home rose from $525,000 in November 2004, to $695,000 in November 2005. Of course the record was last May when the median approached $780K. Looking for something a little less expensive? The median condo price in November was $469,000. Auwe, spendy for fancy “apartment living!”
  • And yes, the median prices for both condos and single-family homes rose on the Big Island and Kaua`i as well!
  • My semi-annual “must read” recommendation…just in case I am not the last person on earth to read it…Eddie Would Go by Stuart Holmes Coleman. It is not only the biography of a courageous waterman and modern day Hawaiian hero, but also the story of the Aikau family who provide a deeper, more powerful understanding to the word “`ohana.”
  • It appears some surfers, not only in Hawai`i, but in California and Maine (?), are turning to wood as part of the trend toward retro surfboards. Would this be like centuries ago when chiefs rode hardwood plank boards as long as 24 feet and perfected the art of surfing on wood in Hawai`i? The retro look will cost you between $1,200 and $1,500, where a fiberglass board is $300-$500 less.
  • Here is another reason to save all your pennies for a return to the home land…like you needed another! Hawai`i leads the nation in seat belt use! Last year Hawai`i ’s 95.3 percent compliance rate nudged out Washington State (95.2 percent) to gain the No. 1 position for the first time. And…the Valley Isle’s ( Maui ) seat belt compliance rate topped the charts with a whopping 97.2 percent. How do they know all that stuff?
  • Hawaiian sovereignty activist and musician George Helm was quoted as saying, “Man is merely the caretaker of the land that maintains his life and nourishes his soul. Therefore, the `āina is sacred…” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone in Hawai`i, (indeed, on the planet) lived by these words in his/her daily life?

 A hui hou (until the next time…) mālama pono!

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