Showing posts from September, 2009

Miss Aloha Nui

Way back when I first moved to the Big Island, I was walking past a storefront when a flier for the Miss Aloha Nui pageant caught my eye. It was a call for entries in a beauty pageant, with a photo of an enormous and lovely beauty queen, waving, her arms tapering to small graceful fingers.

The flier listed the qualifications for entrants:
- Must be female
- Must weigh at least 200 pounds
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- Must be a current resident of Hawaii

A few days after the contest, the winner rides in the Aloha Week parade on the main street of Waimea, with the hula halaus dancing on flatbed trucks and highstepping all-haole marching bands. The first year we watched the parade, the winner laughed and cooed "Aloha! Aloha!" to all of us sitting on the curb-- her subjects. She was fantastic-- she filled the whole car and blew kisses and her friends and admirers ran up to her and gave her kisses as she went.

The next year the winner was a quietly dignified queen, staring proudl…

Signs of the Times

The other day I drove past a "We Buy Gold and Silver" place, just as a woman was walking out.

She was crying, pulling herself together, wiping her eyes on her naked wrists.

Us 'n Them

Sometimes I feel like my relationships are racially nuetral.
And then sometimes I'm reminded that there's probably no such thing.

The other day a playgroup mom, Kahea, brought a whole mountain of hand-crafted goodie bags for the kids-- left over from her daughter's one-year luau. These were amazing-- filled with handmade chinese pretzels-- cripsy litle whisps of deep fried goodness, in intricate many-petaled flower shapes. She laughed and said it took her and her sister and mom hours standing over the hot oil with special pretzel irons to finish the hundreds for the party and the gift bags.

I said, "Wow, I can't believe you guys did all that by hand!"

Another mom, Bee, said, "Well, we don't have anything better to do!"

I was confused. Is Bee related to Kahea? Did she help with the luau too? Then I realized. She was speaking as a Local person to a non-Local person. When I said, "you guys" I meant Kahea and her family. What Bee heard was, &…

Secret Places

I've mentioned before that where the Big Island was all walls and barriers, Kauai is open corridors and accessible guideposts. Our favorite spots on the Big Island were unvisited, practically inaccessible, and we only learned about them after years of quiet and humble observation. But here, nearly every beach is clearly identified in ubiquitous guidebooks, and the vast swaths of public land are crisscrossed with neatly marked trails.

It's pleasant-- I feel like less of an intruder. I don't have to work so hard to go someplace new. It's also sad-- where the Big Island is still keeping her secrets, Kauai has been thoroughly colonized and marked by the outsider's use. Who else would need all that interpretation of the landscape?

But there are still mysteries. And there is something urgently itchy about the unexplored territories on the island-- people's favorite fishing spots and family-secret hunting trails-- plain on a map but unnoticed unless you know what you…


I ran into an aqcuaintance in the Costco eatery the other day (finest 1$ dining on island!) and she invited me to come learn a hula with her church group for their upcoming luau. I really want to learn hula-- those slow-moving women of all sizes, eyes following their hands, the steady rocking rhythm, back and forth. But I've been too shy to just call a halau and sign up. So I was eager to give it a try last night.

On the way there I had the weirdest sensation that I should just turn around and go home. But I felt obligated-- I had told this girl I was coming, she'd asked me several times. I didn't have anywhere else to be-- no legitimate excuse for turning around. So obligation and guilt won out over my intuition.

Will I never learn?

I got there and a large group of people were preparing food. I saw my aqcuaintance--Meghan-- she seemed to be in the middle of high-level negotiations about the state of the chopped onions for the lomi lomi salmon. I sauntered up to one choppi…