Sharing Mana‘o

I got all choked up over an omelet the other day. No, I didn’t choke on the omelet; it was delicious, a Tex-Mex style concoction. But it wasn’t the jalapenos that made me misty-eyed and sniffly.

The omelet was one of the first things I tried at the new Bamboo Grille, which opened last week in the old Nazo’s at Puuone Plaza. Owned by Kimberly Endo, Bamboo Grille is basically the long-awaited return of Fran’s Island Grill, formerly Norm’s Cafe, both of which were located at the old Hale Lava on Lower Main, which is now Ohana Karaoke and Restaurant. Waiting for my order, gazing out the window at the West Maui Mountains, I got lost in decades of Central Maui diner history.

When I was a child, Hale Lava and Tasty Crust were my favorite dinner joints, mostly because of the extras. Hale Lava had jukebox selectors at each table, a dime a song or three tunes for a quarter. And I spent hours fantasizing about the indoor miniature garden at Tasty Crust. I imagined myself like Alice in Wonderland, shrunken down to the size of my troll dolls, wandering over the lava rocks and mini-streams. The display is long gone, but thankfully, Tasty Crust remains in the same Mill Street location, still serving up world famous hot cakes.

My parents and my auntie and uncle bowled in the Maui Pine league every Friday night at Aloha Lanes, and we’d stop next door at Kurasaki’s Cafe for dinner and a slice of their scrumptious pies. Nearly 50 years later, you can still get delicious pies and pastries there, only now it’s Stillwell’s Bakery & Cafe. In between the Kurasakis and the Stillwells, the place was occupied by Colonel Sanders, as a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise – Maui’s first, I believe.

On special occasions, my dad would take us to Maui Frontier in Kahului for steak and lobster and a tossed salad with Roquefort dressing. That’s what he always ordered, and so it was my favorite too, “heavy on the dressing.” The Frontier became The Landing, then the Chart House, and now Cary & Eddie’s Hideaway.

Kama’aina who remember the Maui Frontier also may recall Wimpy’s Corner, where the Paia Fishmarket now stands. Some may even remember when owner Amy Yonashiro opened Ma-chan’s Ozazu-ya in the brand new Kaahumanu Shopping Center, back in the mid-70s. A decade later, she moved operations to the Kahului Industrial Area and named her new place Jack’s Inn, where, to this day, you can still get the best Okinawan style pork on the island.

The dry noodles and manju at Sam Sato’s are just as delicious as I remember them being at the old Puunene restaurant, before it moved to Happy Valley and then to the current Wailuku Millyard site. I’m too young to remember the first Sam Sato store in Spreckelsville, but I do have a few faded memories of the original Tokyo Tei, across Wells Street from the Wailuku Fire station, before it moved to Puuone Plaza. Which brings us back to Bamboo Grille and my tear-inducing omelet.

My late husband, Barry Shannon, and I were among the many regulars at the old Norm’s and then at Fran’s. We had breakfast there every Sunday and dinner several times a week. Barry especially loved the Ranchero omelet, topped with salsa and sour cream. It was too spicy for me; I usually had kalua pork hash and eggs. Or fried rice. Or banana pancakes. Or the Nalu melt or roast pork or bamboo steamed ono or shrimp curry or any of the daily specials. But Barry always had the Ranchero for breakfast, and sometimes for lunch or dinner. That was the other thing he loved about Norm’s/Fran’s – you could get breakfast any time of day.

I’m not the only one who remembers Barry’s Ranchero habit. A month or so ago, Kimberly called to ask whether I would mind if she renamed the omelet after its biggest fan. So it wasn’t a surprise to open the Bamboo Grille menu and see my late husband’s name on the first page. Of course, I had to order the Barry Shannon omelet. I could almost hear his voice as I picked out most of the jalapenos: “You’re leaving behind the best part!”

Sorry, Barry, I’m a wimp. Look at me. I’m crying over an omelet. But don’t worry, it won’t happen again. Next time, I’m having kalua pork hash with a single stack pancake, heavy on the butter.

* 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 love this gig. One of the perks of being a columnist for The Maui News is the wide range of feedback from readers. When I began Sharing Mana’o two and a half years ago, I thought of this column as a weekly exercise in one-way communication, like delivering a speech rather than participating in a conversation. But you readers set me straight from the start.

My first column, about my personal history with our hometown newspaper, spurred responses from folks I hadn’t seen in years. It hadn’t occurred to me that The Maui News would be read by anyone beyond our shores. I was aware of the online edition, of course, but being the page-turning dinosaur I am (I still subscribe to daily delivery), I was surprised to hear from displaced Mauians and lifelong Mainlanders.

A couple of months later, I was even more amazed when I wrote about Ed Asner and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) and, less than 24 hours after publication, I received emails from AFTRA officials on both coasts. That cemented my respect for the power of the Internet.

Yet, as much as I enjoy the virtual contact, it doesn’t diminish the impact of good, old-fashioned, face-to-face communication. After I wrote about substituting chocolate for cigarettes in my struggle to quit smoking, people walked up to me on the street and handed me giant candy bars and Hershey’s Kisses. You can’t email chocolate. Or hugs. This year’s Valentine’s Day column about giving hugs with a sincere “I love you” brought me a whole lotta sugar.

I’ve emerged from the store to find handwritten notes on my windshield. I’ve had dozens of quick conversations with strangers in the car next to me at the traffic light, and countless coffee counter encounters. I’ve been privileged to hear and read precious recollections of old-time Maui from all sorts of folks. And the worldwide exposure via the online issues have brought me back in touch with childhood friends and old flames, even an ex-husband in Thailand.

I’ve been honored to receive many poignant, powerful, deeply personal stories from readers, following columns about my dear departed father and my late husband. The exploits of my very much alive mother have also generated a lot of response, most of it being, “I can’t believe your mom did THAT!”

Sometimes I hear from the subjects of my columns, like longtime Baldwin High School Band Director Lance Jo, or my grade school principal, Bill Tavares. Mr. Tavares and I have enjoyed several telephone talk story sessions since my column on Makawao School memories.

Two weeks ago, I mentioned kama’aina songwriter/playwright/entrepreneur Eaton “Bob” Magoon, who wrote the local classic “Mr. Sun Cho Lee.” Not only did Bob Magoon give us “Numbah One Day of Christmas” and many other pidgin songs, he, together with Jack Law, created the legendary Hula’s Bar and Lei Stand in Waikiki.

I was fortunate to live on Oahu during the heyday of Hula’s and the surrounding Kuhio District. My best friend and I were in our 20s, focused on our media careers and uninterested in romance. Actually, I was happily married and she was happily single. What better, safer place to spend our girls’ nights out than in Hawaii’s biggest and best gay nightclub? We’d dance all night with gorgeous men who never leered or tossed out lame pickup lines. Not to us, anyway.

I spoke with Jack Law once while covering a news story, but I never got to meet Bob Magoon, much as I wanted to. In researching my recent column, I learned that he’s now living in Northern California, and that Jack threw a 90th birthday party for him last year, at Hula’s, of course, which is now at the Kapahulu end of Waikiki.

So you can imagine my surprise at hearing a voice mail message that began with “Hello, Kathy. This is Bobby Magoon.” I returned the call immediately, and he answered with a strong but somewhat weary voice. He graciously thanked me for the mention and I babbled my gratitude for his gifts of song and a safe place to dance. Within minutes, we were chatting like old friends. He told me about the plans to put his Broadway play “13 Daughters” on film and I told him about my alter ego Tita. By the time he sang “Fish and Poi” to me, his baritone was full of life and laughter. We talked – and sang – for a delightful half-hour. He promised to mail me a DVD of “13 Daughters” and I’m sending him “Tita’s Night Befo’ Christmas.” We plan to meet on his next visit home.

I love this gig.

* 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’ve been thinking about ‘aumakua and animal spirit guides, ever since an unusual encounter a few weeks ago. I was stopped at a traffic light at a busy intersection on my way to work, running late as usual. Seconds before the light turned green, a tiny sparrow suddenly appeared on the hood of my car. It gazed at me through the windshield and then, to my surprise, it hopped toward me and perched on a windshield wiper, still staring at me.

“Fly away, silly, before you get hurt,” I implored aloud. The bird just cocked its head and continued its staredown. When the car in front of us began to move, I inched forward, thinking the little guy would be startled into flight. Instead, it hunkered down and glared at me, standing its ground even as we picked up our pace. Through the intersection and a left turn onto Kaahumanu Avenue, feathers ruffling in the wind, the bird held on, never once taking its beady eyes off me. I was on the verge of mild panic, but my tiny hitchhiker was amazingly calm, considering its precarious situation.

I managed to cross two lanes of morning rush hour traffic to pull into a gas station, convinced by now that my feathered friend’s feet had somehow gotten stuck in the wiper blade. I parked the car, got out and slammed the door shut; the bird just sat and watched me. Not wanting to touch it, and not knowing what else to do, I decided to get a cup of coffee. “Please be gone when I get back!”

And he was.

I’m not very comfortable around birds, big or small. I appreciate their beauty and admire their abilities, but I’m never completely at ease around them. I blame Alfred Hitchcock for that. “The Birds” was the first horror film I remember seeing, and it gave me not just nightmares, but frightening daydreams as well. All through childhood, and even after getting my driver’s license, I would get nervous every time I rode or drove past the Wailuku fire station on Wells Street, under the huge tree with the chattering mynahs.

Years later, living on Oahu with my young son, we had a couple of Hitchcock moments during our frequent visits to the Honolulu Zoo. It was in the early ’80s, when the feral pigeon population was already a major nuisance. (By 1991, there were 10,000 of them!) Just the motion of tossing something out would bring a hundred flapping birds to your feet before the morsel even hit the ground. Once, we were sitting on the grass with our picnic lunch, with 20 or 30 pigeons at bay, watching us intently. Jimmy put his plate down to reach for a drink, and one brave bird swooped in and started dragging away his hot dog in its beak. We surrendered the hot dog and our picnic space, as the rest of the flock swarmed in for their share.

According to the Chinese zodiac, I’m a Rooster, and I do seem to match the attributes of that sign. So you’d think I’d be more of a bird lover rather than the cat person I am. I love cats. I can relate to cats. I think I may have been a cat in a previous life. And I aspire to be one in a future life. Make that nine future lives.

My late husband was not a bird lover either. He tolerated cats and liked dogs; he felt his spirit animal was the wolf. His Chinese zodiac sign was the Dragon. So it surprised me when, soon after his death in 2007, several intuitive people told me that Barry’s spirit would stay in touch through birds; that I could look forward to signs like a stray feather in my path or an unexpected songbird serenade. Sure enough, I’ve had a number of chicken skin moments like those, at times when I needed them most.

There are at least a dozen Internet quizzes you can take to find your spirit animal. Mine is indeed the cat or tiger, according to the personality test I took. OK, actually, that was the third quiz I tried. The first two assigned me the hawk and the wolf. Hmm. Hawk, Rooster . . . maybe I’m a bird person after all.

Still, I feel much more in tune with my feline than my feathered self. But that hitchhiking sparrow was pretty cool. As a friend suggested, it may have been Barry reminding me to slow down. And it didn’t leave tracks all over my windshield and hood the way the neighborhood cat does.

* 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

One thing I wen’ notice ’bout dis place:

All us guys, we tease da odda race.

It’s amazing we can live in da same place.

– from “Mr. Sun Cho Lee,” by Eaton “Bob” Magoon

If you’re familiar with those lyrics, you’re probably saying to yourself, “That’s a Beamer Brothers song!” Yes, Keola and Kapono Beamer’s delightful rendition of this social commentary is a local classic, one of the most popular pieces of contemporary Hawaiian music ever recorded. But it was Bob Magoon who wrote it. That’s right, one haole wen’ write dat song.

Actually, Magoon is hapa-haole and most definitely a kama’aina. He also wrote “Numbah One Day of Christmas,” the pidgin version of “12 Days of Christmas.” Although he no longer resides here, his legacy will live on in Hawaii as long as pidgin is still spoken. I figure that’s about . . . forever.

Mr. Sun Cho Lee, Mr. Conrad Jones, Mr. Kazu Tanaka and the rest of Mr. Magoon’s crew have been dancing in my head ever since I read Ben Lowenthal’s “The State of Aloha” column last Friday. Mr. Lowenthal’s eloquent, candid analysis of “Kill Haole Day” prompted musings as well as memories.

I attended Baldwin High School a couple of decades before Ben, when “Kill Haole Day” wasn’t confined to the last day of school, but could be declared at any time through the coconut wireless. For a few angry young men, every day was “Kill Haole Day.” Some bullies also observed “Slap a Jap Day.” Racial discord wasn’t just a locals-versus-haoles thing.

In my 8th-grade year, schools were still grouping students by academic track record, separating the “good” students from the underachievers and branding both as such. The inevitable resentment drove the boys from the “B” class to single out two local Japanese boys from the “A” class for an after-school brawl. The two were threatened with a mass beating if they didn’t fight each other. At the time, we all saw it as a racial issue, but now I realize it was more of a class conflict.

The ballad of Mr. Sun Cho Lee also appears to draw racial lines, but underscores our similarities and our common plight. Comedian Frank DeLima has long professed the value of ethnic humor as a safety valve for racial tensions. With so many cultures sharing such limited space, we acknowledge our differences with laughter to keep from killing each other.

Before we learned to laugh at each other and at ourselves, we had to learn how to communicate. Pidgin was born out of necessity on the sugar plantations that brought most of our Asian and European ancestors here. Throughout its history, it has been misunderstood and maligned, but it lives on as the language of Hawaii’s people. I consider it to be my first language, with standard English running a close second.

In “Pidgin: The Voice of Hawaii,” filmmakers Marlene Booth and Kanalu Young examine the roots, the rise and fall, and the rebirth of our local tongue. The award-winning documentary has been hailed as a joyful testament to pidgin and its people, a lesson in how language contributes to identity. I remember meeting with Marlene at a little cafe in Manoa Valley nearly 10 years ago, when she was starting her serious research. As a storyteller steeped in pidgin pride, I was delighted by her passion for the project and impressed by her thoughtful approach.

Incredibly, I’ve yet to see the entire film, having missed several screening opportunities. I plan to rectify that June 14 at the Lahaina Restoration Foundation’s “Ha’ina Hou – Let the Story Be Told” 2nd Friday event. The one-hour documentary will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on the Baldwin Home Museum lawn, free of charge. The foundation also will conduct its popular candlelight tour of the museum from 6 to 8:30; the $7 fee includes admission to the Wo Hing Museum as well.

“Pidgin: The Voice of Hawaii” delivers the message that you can’t really understand Hawaii until you understand pidgin. And you don’t have to be a fluent speaker to understand and appreciate the film or its message. Despite its critics, pidgin lives on as not just the voice, but the heart and soul of Hawaii’s people.

Fo’ evah, brah. Fo’ real kine.

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