Sharing Mana‘o

Today’s column is being written the old-fashioned way, by flickering candlelight on a sheet of college-ruled notebook paper, thanks to saucy Flossie and the power outage she caused.

By the way, how does one get on the committee that gives names to natural disasters? I’d like to volunteer my services or, at least, my advice. I really feel that tropical storms and hurricanes should have names that sound menacing or sinister, in order for the general public to take them seriously. We should assign the Disney folks to the task. Wouldn’t you be concerned – and therefore take the appropriate precautions – if you heard that Tropical Storm Cruella was coming? Or Hurricane Maleficent? Flossie sounds like a goodhearted saloon girl, like Miss Kitty in “Gunsmoke.” Miss Flossie’s comin’, y’all! Git out the welcome wagon!

But I digress, which, I’m discovering, is easier to do with pen and paper than on a keyboard. I suppose it’s because I’ve conditioned myself to see computers as work tools. Cursive writing puts me into a relaxed, rambling state of mind, sort of like a stream of consciousness exercise.

Nowadays I rarely put pen to paper, except to sign my name. I used to take a few minutes each night to scribble in my journal, but since I began “Sharing Mana’o” two and a half years ago, I’ve made only half a dozen entries. For the most part, the column has satisfied my desire to chronicle thoughts and feelings; it’s like a semiprivate weekly diary. In fact, I sometimes feel guilty accepting a paycheck for doing something so enjoyable and therapeutic. Don’t tell that to The Maui News, though. The guilt is fleeting, and I do need the money.

I also need to get back into the habit of journaling. Having kept a diary intermittently since the age of 10, I know that, for me, it’s a necessary habit. Over the years, I’ve filled dozens of books with my rants and raves, fantasies and fears. Writing in longhand seems to release the emotional floodgates, and the words just burst onto the paper.

Perhaps it comes from being an only child with no siblings in whom to confide. Although a couple of friends have told me that my idea of preteen sisters giggling and gossiping under the sheets at bedtime is highly romanticized, and that they would have happily traded their sisters for my diary.

One of the most traumatic experiences of my tween years occurred when several male classmates got their grubby little hands on my diary. They weren’t bad boys. They weren’t even the kolohe type, really. But they did grab my diary and read it. I was mortified. The boy who sheepishly returned it to me had been the object of my 7th-grade dreams, described in great detail and purple ink on those pages. At the time, I found no comfort in seeing that he was just as embarrassed as I was. Now that I look back on it, it was pretty funny. And it taught me something.

I burned that diary and started a new one, choosing my words and topics carefully. But I quickly realized that self-censorship defeats the purpose of a diary, so I reverted to pouring my heart out with abandon. And I found a better place to hide my diary.

My grown-up writings are even more candid, so I’ve added a regular ritual to my journaling habit. Every so often, I go back and read what I’ve written and then tear out the pages that I wouldn’t want anyone to see. That’s what I learned; the value of a diary is in the writing of it, not the reading.

But I’ve digressed yet again. And now the lights are back on – mahalo, Maui Electric crews! – so I’m going to transcribe this chicken-scratch into an emailable version for the editors now. Then I’m going to pick up the pen again and write a few pages in my journal. If I can remember where I hid 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

My house is uncomfortably quiet now that my three granddaughters have returned to Michigan after two weeks on Maui. They stayed with me so their father and his bride could have a decent honeymoon here. While the newlyweds enjoyed their alone time, my mom and I took the girls and my son’s new in-laws around for their first look at Maui.

I love showing off our beloved island to visitors, sharing the magic of Maui with spellbound newcomers. The bonus that comes with hosting these tours is that I get to rediscover the natural wonders of our island, as well as the fun stuff that we’ve created for other people’s amusement.

Of course, the Haleakala summit was at the top of our to-do list. Talk about bonuses, the silverswords were in bloom, and we all took pictures next to a 5-foot-tall plant in full glory. The girls were in awe as we drove through and ultimately above the clouds. “I hope we don’t bump into any airplanes,” one of the grown-ups joked, and my littlest granddaughter’s eyes widened.

“I’ll watch for planes, Grandma, so you can just watch where you’re driving.”

They were less excited to see nene geese at the visitor center than they were by the colorful feral chickens at Kepaniwai. The oldest girl, nearly 13, used her smartphone to take pictures of the parking lot poultry as well as every house in the heritage gardens.

We caught tadpoles in the koi pond with our bare hands, since I’d forgotten to bring paper cups. And I had to keep close watch on the middle child, who wanted to leap across the winding canal that leads to the Filipino garden. I didn’t mention that I used to love doing that at her age, but I did tell her about the little boy who pushed the rest of us kids aside so he could beat us to the little stone bridges, ran to the first bridge and promptly fell off the side into the murky green water. “If you fall in, you’ll scare the fish,” I told her, which is what the little boy’s parents had told him.

I still think he may have jumped rather than slipped.

We got soaking wet in the bumper boat lagoon at the Maui Golf and Sports Park at Maalaea. The park was hosting a couple of birthday parties that day, and the bumper boat action was fast and furious. Even my 88-year-old mother was fair game for the kids’ water cannons. After several rounds of battle, the girls and I dried off on the X-treme trampoline. I’m thinking of having my next birthday party there.

We marveled at the Kupanaha magic show at Ka’anapali Beach Hotel, window shopped at Whaler’s Village, rocked with Willie K and his band at Kimo’s on Front Street. While the in-laws drove to Hana, I took the girls to ride the tram and feed the ducks at Maui Tropical Plantation.

It was a pleasure revisiting the Plantation and the Maui Ocean Center, two places that we tend to view (mistakenly) as “just for tourists.” Both offer kama’aina rates and, even for lifetime locals like me, environmental education. I learned more about things I thought I already knew, and gained an even deeper appreciation for our flora and fauna. And I love the addition of the Kumu Farms market at the Plantation. Now I can go grind Bruddah Willy’s Sticky Ribs and mac-and-cheese at the takeout window, then stroll over to the farm market and pick up some fresh, organic veggies and fruits to appease my guilt.

As tour guide and grandma, I became reacquainted with not only the tropical paradise we locals often take for granted, but also the joy of carefree youth. I played air hockey and skee-ball at the Fun Factory and frolicked in the fountain at the Maui Mall, where both my son and my mother scolded me for getting the girls wet after dinner. We went swimming in Iao Stream and sunned on the river rocks, and I taught them how to squirt water at each other by squeezing their cupped palms together just below the water surface. We played silly guessing games, blew giant bubbles, danced barefoot on the grass.

Now that my house is empty and still, I feel an urge to escape the silence. I’ve promised to treat myself to an afternoon at the beach or in Iao Valley, at least once a week, so I can hear the happy sounds of children’s laughter mingled with the natural symphony of pounding waves or flowing water.

Or maybe I’ll spend the weekend practicing my bumper boat skills in preparation for my birthday party.

* 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

My son, who has been living in Michigan for the past 17 years, came home last week for the first time in over five years. I’ve never been away from Maui for more than a few months at a time, and I’m pretty sure that when Jimmy left to attend college, his plan was to return home after a few years of exploring the Mainland. Of course, life rarely goes according to plan.

Happily, last Saturday did. It was his wedding day, and it went almost exactly the way it had been planned, a small and simple ceremony, just a few miles from where Jimmy grew up. His bride and her parents, as well as the two groomsmen, had never been to Maui, so the outdoor wedding in Waihee, conducted by the wonderful Leiohu Ryder, was an exceptionally memorable experience for them, filled with true aloha.

Jimmy’s first wedding was also memorable, in a very different way. It took place in Michigan 12 years ago, in the aftermath of 9/11. My mother and I were the out-of-town guests that time, and you can imagine what an ordeal it was to travel by air in the week following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Fortunately for Jimmy and his in-laws, flying to Maui was not nearly as stressful, even with three young daughters and way too much luggage. Mom and I greeted them at the airport with homemade plumeria lei, and we took the weary travelers to Zippy’s for their first local-kine meal.

A couple of days later, Jimmy’s groomsmen arrived, one from Michigan, the other from San Diego. Although I wasn’t along for the ride, I know he enjoyed showing them his island home, perhaps even more than they enjoyed seeing it. In a few short days, and in between wedding preparations, he managed to take his friends and fiancee on a fairly comprehensive tour of Maui, the kind that only a local boy could give.

Iao Valley was the first stop, followed by a drive through our Waiehu neighborhood and Happy Valley, where they must have stopped for Takamiya Market fried squid or ahi bits. They haven’t done the Kahakuloa drive yet, but I’m pretty sure they got as far as Camp Maluhia. They covered the Kahului increments too, so Jimmy could show them his grade school alma mater and his old stomping (or skateboarding) grounds.

Stocked with Spam musubi, they went swimming at Twin Falls, where Jimmy was shocked to see a parking lot and restroom facilities. He took them on a walking tour of Makawao town, including Komoda Bakery and the little boutique called Goodies, which was once the house where his grandmother was born and raised. They explored the back roads of Olinda and the black sands of Waianapanapa, checked out the waves from Hookipa to Kanaha to Big Beach.

Naturally, the tour included culinary highlights like Ululani’s Shave Ice, Tasty Crust pancakes, and peanut butter chocolate mochi from Maui Specialty Chocolates. The boys loved Tasaka Guri Guri, even without azuki beans (maybe they had some in their shave ice . . . I know they did have the condensed milk snowcap).

I haven’t had nearly as much alone time with Jimmy as I’d like, but we can do that on his next visit home. For the past week, I’ve had the unexpected pleasure of watching my son from the sidelines as he juggles the roles of host, husband, father and local boy. I can see that he is relishing each moment of this sentimental journey, merging his past with his future.

I don’t care what Thomas Wolfe said, you CAN go home again . . . if you’re lucky enough to call Maui home.

* 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 of my favorite childhood pastimes was poring through the family photos stored in my grandfather’s weathered old steamer trunk, a treasure chest full of precious memories. Mom inherited Ji-chan’s trunk after he passed away at the age of 90. I was 9 years old and very close to my grandfather, having spent time with him nearly every day since toddlerhood. Going through his collection of portraits and snapshots with Mom was therapeutic and comforting.

I was entranced by the portrait of Ji-chan’s first son and daughter, who died long before Mom was born. Enlarged and colorized, it looked like a pastel rendition of the original photograph, taken not long before the children drowned together in a punawai. I never tired of hearing Mom tell the tragic story.

The trunk inspired happier recollections too, as Mom filled me in on the subjects of the many wedding and graduation photos. I especially liked hearing about my grandmother, whom I never met. There were only a couple of images of her: a tiny creased snapshot of a woman in a muslin apron and a more formal portrait with Ji-chan. Most captivating was her funeral photo, a 3-foot panoramic record of all who attended the service.

We kept Ji-chan’s funeral photo in the trunk too, rolled up like a scroll and stored next to his wife’s. I remember posing for that one – and several others – on the lawn outside Nakamura Mortuary. The immediate family was arranged around the casket and everyone else formed a line on either side, three or four deep. When the photographer gave the signal, we’d all try to stand perfectly still while he slowly panned the camera from left to right. Mom once told me about a clever little boy who started out on one side of the line, then ran behind the crowd to the other side so that he appeared twice in the same photo, like identical twin bookends.

There were very few candid photos of my mother and her siblings as children, probably because owning a camera was a luxury back then. We do have dozens of snapshots from Ji-chan’s one trip back to Japan, including his send-off at the old Kahului Airport. My favorite is the one in which my lei-bedecked grandfather and I are posed in the center of a gaggle of cousins, Ji-chan with his hands on my shoulders and a bemused smile on his face.

Though he spoke very little English and I knew even less Japanese, we had no problem communicating. When Mom fried fish for dinner, he’d let me have one of the crunchy eyeballs, even though it was his favorite part, because he said it would make me smart. Or did he say it would improve my vision? I’m not sure. Either way, I wish I’d eaten more eyeballs.

Ji-chan and I sometimes bathed together in the furo at my auntie’s Hali’imaile home. He’d let me use his Japanese washcloth, softer and lighter than my terry-cloth towel. His wrinkled skin fascinated me; it looked like brown crepe paper and felt as soft as velvet, and I wished I would someday have skin just like his. Of course, I was 4 or 5 at the time. Now that someday is a lot closer, I’d like to rescind that request.

Ji-chan has been on my mind lately because I am enjoying the company of my three granddaughters for a couple of weeks. Lilly, Lotus, and Lula are visiting from Michigan for the first time in seven years, though we last saw each other a year ago. The one good thing about being a long-distance grandparent is that you fully appreciate each precious moment you get to spend with the grandkids. So please forgive me if I’m a bit distracted these days; I’m savoring my grandma time.

My son is hapa and the mother of his children is Caucasian, so the girls are one-quarter Asian (Japanese and Okinawan). One has black hair and blue-gray eyes, one has brown hair and brown eyes, one has blond hair and light blue eyes, but they all have Ji-chan’s chin. We all do, all of the descendants of Mitsujiro Shibasaki. I’ve been told it’s an underbite, an overbite, a sign of strong character, evidence of a stubborn nature and, most unnerving of all, a Jay Leno chin.

I prefer to think of it as the Shibasaki chin. As a self-conscious teenager, I hated the way it made me look different from most girls. Now, of course, I’ve embraced it as one of Ji-chan’s gifts. I look at my granddaughters and see my son and myself in them, and I wonder how they feel about their chins.

Maybe I’ll fry some fish for dinner tonight.

* 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

It’s official. Mana’o Radio 91.5FM is no more. Long live Mana’o Radio 91.7FM!

After 11 years on the air as low-power FM (LPFM) radio station KEAO-LP, limited to 100 watts of broadcast power, the Mana’o Radio ‘ohana just got its varsity letters: KMNO-FM. Still noncommercial, all-volunteer and extremely eclectic, our little station has moved up, literally. The transmitter is now perched on the upper slopes of Haleakala and we sit a bit higher on the frequency band.

The move to 91.7 was prompted three years ago, when we were notified by the FCC that someone had been granted a permit to construct a station on Oahu at our 91.5 frequency. As an LPFM station, lowest on the radio totem pole, our choices were to apply for a new frequency or do nothing and be drowned out eventually by the big boys on Oahu. Tempting as it was to gamble that their full power station would not get off the ground and on the air by its deadline (which is what happened – or didn’t happen), we decided to take control of our destiny. We had to compete with another Oahu entity for our chosen frequency, but we prevailed in our application for a full-power, noncommercial license, and now Mana’o Radio 91.7FM is alive and well . . . mostly.

We’re still working out some technical issues. Soon, though, you’ll be able to hear us in most parts of the island. Our reach has already expanded to Kihei and Huelo. The other night, I took a drive to see how far westward we could be heard, and it was loud and clear up to the scenic lookout on the pali. After that, an Oahu Christian station at 91.9 overcame our weakened signal. But one of Michael McCartney’s long-distance listeners reported that we could be heard in Kailua, Oahu. Sketchy, but there.

That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. Sketchy, but there. Like running on autopilot, not fully engaged in the task at hand. I should be elated, thrilled and overcome with joy at the fulfillment of an impossible dream. I am, of course, happy and relieved and, most of all, grateful for the invaluable contributions of our volunteers and supporters, far too numerous to name here, although special recognition must go to Mark Harmer and Harmer Communications and to our broadcast engineers, Don Mussell and John Bruce.

Two years ago in this space, I wrote a letter to my late husband, Barry Shannon, filling him in on the progress of our baby, the little LPFM that could. When we started Mana’o Radio in our spare bedroom, we honestly didn’t know whether it would survive its initial three-year license. Happily, by the time Barry passed on in 2007, he did so with the confidence that the station would not just survive, but thrive. What a blessing, to be able to fulfill your life’s goal before moving on to the next life. Moving to full power was beyond his wildest dreams.

I suppose that accounts for the sketchiness of my state of mind, the static interference in my emotional wavelength. Mana’o Radio as Barry and I knew it, as we created it, is no more. The preteen I wrote about in my letter has suddenly grown into a full-power adult. Like Barry, its presence continues to be felt, but nonetheless it’s left my nest and now I have a forlorn little room full of silenced equipment and wires that lead nowhere. It’s like when my son left home for college; I sat in his bedroom every morning for weeks, crying into his pillow. That bedroom, incidentally, became the first Mana’o Radio control room.

The other possibility is that the disruption I’m feeling is actually physical rather than emotional. Eleven years of living directly under a radio antenna, albeit low power, must have some kind of effect on the human body. At least that’s what several concerned friends have told me. I used to laugh off their fears with my theory that the radiation was a source of personal energy. After all, Mana’o Radio was our miracle baby; we probably had some kind of magical symbiotic relationship going. It couldn’t possibly be hazardous to our health.

Now that the transmitter down the hall from my bedroom has been disconnected, the house is definitely quieter. Not audibly, but energetically. I’m just not sure whether it’s a feeling of peace or sadness. One thing’s for sure: I’m not going to waste any time crying into a pillow or over a processor. I’m converting the transmitter and operations room into my home studio and moving Barry’s urn to the shelf that holds miles of taped KC&BS radio shows done over our 23 years together.

Long live Mana’o Radio 91.7FM. Long live sweet memories.

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