Sharing Mana‘o

OK, peeps, enough already with the Peeps.

The brightly colored, sugary marshmallow treats are celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, and apparently they’ve hired a press agent for the occasion. Newspaper articles, TV commercials, online blogs; they even have a Facebook page. In the last week, I’ve learned that Peeps come in a variety of shapes for different occasions: gingerbread men for Christmas, pumpkins for Halloween, even hearts and teddy bears for Valentine’s Day. But a true Peeps purist will acknowledge only the yellow chicks as being worthy of the name, while modernist Peeps peeps blog about diorama contests, microwave duels, Peepsonality tests, and Peepsza recipes.

Peeps were never my favorite Easter candy. They were just a bit too sweet for my taste and I thought their spongy texture was kind of creepy. I preferred chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies and speckled Robin’s Eggs. I liked the hollow chocolate bunnies, too, because their ears were much easier to bite off than the solid ones. But the real prize, as far as I was concerned, was the Cadbury egg with its white creme filling, complete with gooey yellow “yolk.” And yes, I’m aware that most people would consider a simulated raw egg to be considerably creepier than a chewy cartoon chick, as my late husband used to point out. Barry loved Peeps when he was a child, but as an adult with diabetes, he was forced to give them up. I think my lack of Peep appreciation (aPeeps-ciation?) confounded him.

We did agree that no Easter basket would be complete without a smattering of jelly beans – the big, fat classic kind, not those fancy-pantsy little gourmet ones. I do like Jelly Bellies, but we’re talking tradition here. I used to trade away the purple and pink ones for my favorites, the green and yellow.

It’s been years since I last popped a green jelly bean, decades since my last egg hunt. My earliest Easter memories are of sunrise services at Pookela Church in Makawao. I remember parading with the other little girls in our pastel dresses, patent leather Mary Janes with lace-trimmed white socks and, of course, our Easter bonnets: curved-brim straw hats, satin-covered pillboxes, class project chapeaus fashioned out of construction paper. We scoured the churchyard hunting for eggs in the cool, crisp Upcountry air, and brought our bounty into the dining hall to eat along with freshly baked hot cross buns and cups of steaming cocoa.

The last Easter sunrise service I attended was in the early 1970s, during my sophomore year at Baldwin High School. My friend Barbara picked me up in her Volkswagen Beetle and we drove to the Kaanapali golf course for an inspirational service, followed by an equally refreshing dip in the ocean. At 7 a.m., most hotel guests were still asleep in their rooms, so we had the whole beach to ourselves. It was a glorious day.

Twenty-five years later, I spent Easter Sunday in a different kind of church. Haleakala was Barry’s favorite place on Earth, a haven and a heaven. He’d go in for four or five days at a time, relishing the solitude and the physical challenge, reveling in the sheer magnificence of nature. After years of cajoling, he finally talked me into joining him on Easter weekend, 1997. It was everything he had promised, and more. We talked about making it an annual tradition, but we only managed one more Easter in the crater together. Life just got too busy and, truthfully, as awestruck as I was by Haleakala, I preferred dining out to camping out. I was a softie, a Cadbury egg, married to a rough-and-tumble Peep.

Ten years after he introduced me to his place of worship, almost to the day, and also on an Easter weekend, Barry departed on his final solo trek. His soul left his body in a Phoenix hospital bed, but I’m fairly certain it flew straight to Haleakala.

Each year since then, I’ve celebrated certain occasions with a few reflective hours at the summit. This year, I thought about doing an overnight crater trip in his memory, either on Easter weekend or his 6th Rebirthday, which is the following Sunday. Of course, I dismissed that thought pretty quickly and came up with a better plan: a personal Easter sunrise ceremony at the crater rim lookout, with a thermos of French roast coffee and a basket full of classic yellow Peeps. I’m hoping the altitude will have a favorable effect on their texture. If not, I’ll eat just one and use the rest to build a memorial diorama. As irreverent as that may seem, I know Barry would aPeeps-ciate it.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

I was talking trash with a good friend recently. It wasn’t an incident of one-upmanship or an exchange of snaps; the phrase “yo’ mama” was never uttered. My friend, an innovative, environmentally conscious artist, is one of the nicest folks I know. The trash we were talking was literal. We were discussing the Art of Trash show opening April 19 for three weeks at the Maui Mall.

Organized by Community Work Day, Art of Trash is an annual exhibition of art created from recycled materials. Juror Ira Ono says he will be looking for well-constructed pieces that make a personal statement about our fragile island environment, pieces that address the concepts of reuse and recycling. Each year the show gets bigger and better. There’s even a band, the Junkyard Dogs, playing rock ‘n’ roll on junk instruments. Real junk instruments, like guitars and drum sets made from Wesson Oil cans and other reusable rubbish.

But the best part, for me, is the opening night Trashion Show, featuring recyclable couture. It’s one of my favorite annual gigs, only this time I won’t be there. I have another engagement, one that has me walking on air with an extra big spring in my step. But I’ll save that for another column.

So the trash talk got me thinking. Each year, students at Pomaikai School have wowed the crowd with their amazingly creative trashions. Newspapers, packing peanuts, Doritos bags . . . all have found new life as wearable art. I’ve come to the conclusion that adolescents make the best trashion designers, probably because their youthful perspective helps them see the potential in discarded items more easily than the distracted, jaded eyes of grownups.

Remember gum wrapper chains? It was a pair of preteen girls who reportedly presented Barbra Streisand with a colorful bolero vest made completely out of gum wrapper chains. Supposedly, the diva was overwhelmed by the gift – verklempt, even!- and she gasped, “You chewed all this gum for ME?!”

I chewed a lot of gum and wove a lot of wrappers myself. My chains were exclusively Wrigley’s: Doublemint green, Juicy Fruit yellow, Spearmint white. The bonus that came with Wrigley’s gum was the inner foil wrapper. We’d carefully peel the thin foil from its waxed-paper backing and use the shiny tiny sheets for a second project – gum wrapper balls, which were a lot cooler than they sound.

We used only the micro-thin foil layer, so this was a long-term commitment. A full five-stick pack was just enough to start with. We crumpled and rolled the foils together into a little ball, then added to it by wrapping single sheets around the ball and rolling it around on our desks. The trick was to use a great deal of pressure, so that you’d have a solid little ball, a handcrafted BB. We each had one ball that we carried around and built on every chance we got. It was like having a pet rock, only better, because you could feed your ball and watch it grow. Mine ended up being as big as a bambucha marble and just as heavy. I could have easily made smaller ones to use as jewelry.

Come to think of it, trashion design, for the home as well as the body, has been part of island life since the plantation era. Rice bag shorts and crazy quilts. Hot pads made by stitching together cloth-covered bottle caps. And who could forget the crocheted Primo Beer can hats of the 1970s?

It’s a fine tradition, and these memories have given me a few ideas for next year’s trashion showcase. If I start chewing gum again today, I might be able to outdo Streisand’s vest. Perhaps a hot little red dress out of Dentyne gum wrappers, accessorized with ball bearing earrings and, of course, a crocheted Diet Coke can hat. I don’t drink beer and the red Coke logo on the silver can would go well with the red dress and the silver earrings. And surely, if I think long enough, I can come up with a use for the hundreds of rubber bands I’ve collected over years of subscribing to The Maui News. I welcome your suggestions. Perhaps we’ll strut the runway together at next year’s Art of Trash.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

As I write this, I’m wearing my official Makawao RAMS (Really Awesome Makawao Student) T-shirt and a grin that’s been stuck on my face since last week, when I visited my grade school alma mater. Forty-five years after leaving Makawao Elementary School as a 7th-grader, I returned last Thursday night to participate in the Read Aloud Program (RAP).

Administered by the nonprofit Read Aloud America, RAP is aimed at building a lifelong love of reading among families. Hundreds of parents and children crowd into school cafeterias for high-energy, fun-filled RAP sessions. As a guest RAPper for the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of reading to parents at several elementary schools. But when I learned that this semester’s series would be held at Makawao School, I literally jumped for joy.

The thought of returning to the hallowed halls of my youth delighted the sentimental fool in me. My memories of Makawao School go beyond sweet; they practically drip guava syrup. Even my most embarrassing schoolyard moments are recalled with warm, fuzzy giggles. Perhaps it was just a gentler, more innocent time, but I feel fortunate to have spent my grammar school years there. That’s what we called it back then. I used to wonder why we had to bother with arithmetic and science on top of grammar.

On RAP night, I arrived early so that I’d have time to explore. The first thing I noticed was that the cafeteria had shrunk to half its size. The wood frame windows at the serving counter were just as I remembered, so were the concrete steps where I slipped in my new shoes and rode the stairs from top to bottom, on my bottom. Yet the cafeteria itself was way smaller than I had pictured it. I know, our perception of size is influenced by our own size. But I’m not much bigger now than when I was in the 6th grade.

Peeking though the counter windows into the kitchen, I could see the door to the cafeteria manager’s office. Back in the day, at least at our school, kids actually looked forward to cafeteria duty. Mrs. Makimoto never yelled; instead, she enticed and rewarded us with her crunchy cinnamon toast and lilikoi juice poured from ice cold metal pitchers.

I walked through the entire school, delighting in my memories: our kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Sakamoto, showing us how to stand and walk like little ladies, one foot in front of the other . . . Mrs. Holomalia’s flowery perfume filling our 4th-grade classroom . . . Mrs. Pacheco admonishing us to “get on the kinipopo!” I had never heard that expression before entering the 3rd grade, but I knew what it meant right away – shape up!

One day in class, Mrs. Pacheco heard two of the boys snickering over a naughty playground rhyme:

“Indian, Indian, hiding in the grass.

“Cowboy, cowboy, shoot ’em in the –.”

Indignantly, she shoved several desks together and instructed the boys to climb on and crouch on their hands and knees. Then she gave each of us a rubber band and marched us in a circle around the rascals as they recited the poem, over and over, and we enacted the shoot ’em part. I’m sure their budding male egos felt more pain than their, umm, other parts. And they were lucky, Mrs. Pacheco didn’t send them and their parts to the principal’s office for a paddling.

Mr. Tavares ruled Makawao School with a firm hand and an eagle eye, administering tough love long before it became a catch phrase. Always impeccably dressed in white shirt and tie, he spent more time around the campus than at his desk. He’d visit our classrooms, chat with us at recess, all the while instilling high standards of behavior and enforcing a strict dress code.

Once, at a school assembly, he stunned us all by barging into the cafeteria barefooted, his shoes laced together and slung around his neck. His tie was undone, his shirt untucked, his pants rolled up to his knees. He jumped onto a table and shouted at us, “Is this what you want your school to look like? Does this make you proud?”

I’ll never forget that lecture. It wasn’t the content of his message that struck me; it was the passion of his delivery. Even as a child, I could see that he cared so deeply for us, he was willing to go far beyond his comfort level to shape us into responsible, self-respecting citizens.

That was the kind of care and love we felt every day as little Rams. From Mr. Tavares to Takerui, the janitor/handyman, all of the faculty and staff nurtured us as if we were their own. It was a Really Awesome Memorable School and yes, Mr. Tavares, I’m proud of us.

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is

Sharing Mana‘o

A very Merry Unbirthday to you, to you . . .

– from the 1951 Disney film “Alice in Wonderland”

Lewis Carroll coined the term “unbirthday” in “Through the Looking-Glass,” the sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” But if you grew up in Hawaii during the 1960s or ’70s, you probably associate the idea and the song with Checkers and Pogo.

Stars of Hawaii’s longest-running locally produced TV show (1967-1982), Mr. Checkers and Pogo Poge greeted us every day after school with cartoons and a cast of crazy characters like Professor Fun and Super Spy McPig. The lucky kids in the studio audience played games like Eat the Doughnut Off the String or Whistle With a Mouthful of Soda Crackers. When the Unbirthday Song played, the camera would pan across the peanut gallery and come to rest on one smiling face. That was the luckiest kid of all, the one who got to celebrate his or her unbirthday by pulling out a fistful of pennies from a big jar. The celebrant also got a party hat and, I think, a cake from Leonard’s Bakery.

I like the idea of surprising friends with unbirthday presents or parties. Or giving yourself permission to occasionally observe your own unbirthday. I do think, though, that unbirthdays, like birthdays, should be celebrated just once a year, otherwise they lose their specialness. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you only get two days a year. I like to stretch my birthday partying over a full week and I see no reason to do my unbirthday any differently.

Birthdays and unbirthdays – and rebirthdays – are heavy on my mind right now. ‘Tis the season to be melancholy. Sorry, that was overly dramatic just for the sake of a rhyme. I’m not sad, I’m just sentimental. This is an eventful time of the year for me, with several big birth-related days to commemorate.

My late husband, Barry Shannon, would have turned 73 on Friday. And on Monday, our baby, Mana’o Radio, marks 11 years on the air. Barry would be proud to see our little nonprofit, noncommercial, extremely eclectic radio station now. He’s been gone for more than half its life, but his presence is still felt there and over the air. He bristled whenever I used the word “little” to describe our low-power FM station, admonishing me to expand my vision, think big-time.

Well, guess what, Barry . . . we’re going big-time. As Mana’o enters its 12th year, we’re getting ready to move the transmitter and increase our wattage and our reach. We’ll be moving up the FM dial, too, from 91.5 to 91.7. When we do, our signal will reach all of Maui, except for Hana. So we’ll be celebrating our 11th birthday for much longer than a week, with various benefit events to raise the funds needed for new equipment.

But two birthdays do not a season make. I boarded this emotional roller coaster Feb. 7, my late father’s birthday. Mom and I observed the day as we have for the past 14 years, with dinner at Sheik’s. Daddy probably averaged three meals a week at the Kahului diner, over some 30 years. Every year, I tell myself I should order fried chicken or spare ribs, his favorites, but I always end up getting the chop steak or mahi. Or breaded teri. Mom orders something different from me, and we split and share our dinners while we reminisce.

The next milestone on this annual sentimental journey is Barry’s rebirthday, the anniversary of his death. April 7 makes six years. In widow years, that could be a lifetime or the blink of an eye. I plan to mark the occasion privately and simply. I’m sure Barry will approve. Even though he never liked celebrating his birthday, I think he would appreciate the idea of a rebirthday remembrance.

Two of my three granddaughters were born at the end of April and the beginning of May. They’re still young enough to love every minute of their birthdays. And I enjoy celebrating with them, even if it’s long distance.

But right in between those purely joyful occasions comes the last of Barry’s Big Three. May Day would have been our 24th wedding anniversary. I haven’t yet decided how to commemorate this one, but it’s a safe bet that I’ll spend part of it in tears, sentimental fool that I am.

It’s OK, though. I already have a plan to ensure that I finish this season on a high note. I’m going to throw me a surprise unbirthday party, right around May 2. And it’s going to last for a week.

A very Merry Unbirthday to me, to me . . .

* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is