Sharing Mana‘o

Last week, I was blessed with a day on Kauai. Literally, one day. I was on the island for just 24 hours, most of them spent in Waimea. It was only my third visit to West Kauai in over 50 years; the previous two were quick sightseeing jaunts up to the Waimea Canyon lookout, with no time to linger in town. So I was looking forward to exploring the area at my leisure, after an evening of storytelling at the Historic Waimea Theater.

The occasion was the 37th annual Waimea Town Celebration (WTC), a weeklong jubilee presented by the West Kauai Business and Professional Association. According to the association, it’s Kauai’s largest and oldest annual festival. Like our Maui Fair, the WTC provides major fundraising and outreach opportunities for local nonprofit groups. I was impressed with the scope of the event, a multifaceted celebration for a multifaceted community.

Headline entertainment included Fiji and Sean Na’auao, as well as Maui’s own ‘Ekolu and Uncle George Kahumoku Jr. Local athletes competed in canoe and standup paddle races, softball and basketball tournaments, fun runs, even a Hawaiian rodeo. Cultural exhibits and presentations included a three-act play about Kaumuali’i, Kauai’s last king, and a film festival featuring local favorites like “Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau” alongside movies from Japan, Korea and North America.

Puni Patrick and Thomas Nizo of the WTC were warm and wonderful hosts, putting together an evening of “Tales and Treats” in which local vendors served up desserts to go along with my Japanese obake stories and Hawaiian legends. My favorites were the cupcakes, adorned with bloody pagodas and severed heads. I was too chicken to try the fiery chili pepper chocolates, created in honor of the night’s Pele tales.

In talking story with the audience during the show, I was surprised to learn that the WTC featured a favorite comfort food that I always thought was exclusive to the Maui Fair.

“What? You have flying saucers? What do you put in yours?”

“Hamburger and cheese,” they yelled in unison.

“CHEESE?!!” I gasped, “In your flying saucers?!”

They laughed and shouted that it wouldn’t be a flying saucer without cheese, although some variations include other ingredients.

“Like corn?” I asked.

“CORN?!!” they gasped.

It was a delightful cultural exchange. Unfortunately, I had to return home before the food court was set up, so there was no sampling.

I spent the night at the Waimea Plantation Cottages, an old sugar mill camp turned resort. Dozens of homes built between 1900 and the 1920s have been beautifully restored, yet each retains the personality of the original occupants. The shingle at the front door of my two-bedroom house read “No. 75, S. Oyama” and a colorful croton hedge framed the wraparound lanai. Through the old-fashioned paneled windowpanes, I could see banana trees in the yard across the lane and a bamboo patch behind the cottage next door.

I fell asleep after a relaxing soak in the claw-footed bathtub, but a few hours later was abruptly awakened by the screech of a severe weather alert on my smartphone and the roar of heavy rain on the totan roof. Once I silenced my phone, the steady rain was actually soothing, and I slept soundly for another few hours.

In the morning, I made a pot of coffee and stepped onto the back porch just in time to see a bright yellow flash of lightning, immediately followed by a crack of thunder that rattled the entire house. After a few more roof-shakers, the storm slowly rolled on, and by checkout time the downpour had eased into a moderate drizzle. Waiting out the storm in the old Oyama house reminded me of rainy days spent at my aunt’s Haliimaile home. The smell of damp wood and the sound of a hundred little waterfalls running off the ridges of the roof comforted me.

In town, WTC volunteers were setting up food and craft booths on the muddy grounds of the old sugar mill. Navigating through puddles and parking confusion, they took it all in stride, turning inconvenience into a happy adventure. I heard no complaints or grumbling, just laughter and excited chatter.

I had just enough time to venture up to the canyon lookout before the hourlong drive to the Lihue airport. The panoramic view was only slightly obscured by quickly moving clouds; the vibrant shades of red and green stood out in the mist. I took several family pictures for tourists and captured a couple of roosters on video as they chased each other around the parking lot.

It was a sweet taste of Waimea, enough to lure me back for next year’s Waimea Town Celebration. Heck, they had me at “flying saucer.”

* 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

The phrase “senior moment” has become a cute euphemism for episodes of forgetfulness, but the phrase holds a different, deeper connotation for me.

Looking over the page and a half of obituary and funeral notices in last Sunday’s Maui News, I was saddened to see two familiar names. Isabel and Abbie were generous, strong, beautiful Hawaiian women, a couple of classy ladies I’d met through my county job at Kaunoa Senior Services. Though I hadn’t seen either of them for several years, I still considered them friends, two of the many wonderful kupuna I’ve had the privilege of knowing.

Isabel Kaha, 90, was the lead volunteer when I became coordinator for Kaunoa’s Wailuku lunch site nearly 20 years ago, and she taught me the ropes, having assisted several site managers before me. She wasn’t the warm-and-fuzzy type; in fact, she could be rather stern, but there wasn’t a mean bone in her body. Keenly observant and fiercely protective, she was more a lioness than a mother hen, dispensing tough love to the other seniors and to me. After she stopped attending the program, I often saw her at her favorite talk-story hangout, the Maui Mall, wearing her papale with the red flower lei hatband. To this day, I think of Isabel whenever I walk through the center stage area of the mall.

Abigail Akima died a month short of her 86th birthday. Gentle and soft-spoken, Abbie always had a warm hug and a sweet smile for everyone at our Kihei lunch site. Although a bit forgetful, she’d perk up and recount her favorite memories whenever we talked about her late husband, Frank Sr., who was the custodian at the old KMVI/Maui News back in the 1970s. She was delighted that I remembered him from my first radio job and her two youngest children from our days together at Baldwin High. Talking story with Abbie always cheered and relaxed me.

Losing clients and friends to death is the toughest part of working with seniors. It’s inevitable, of course, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. My late husband tried to console me each time by saying, “Well, you’ve got another guardian angel now.” I’ve learned to not dwell on their departures and focus instead on the special moments shared with each. My personal senior moments.

Kathy Couch is the caregiver/program coordinator for Maui Adult Day Care Centers (MADCC). The seniors she works with are generally more frail and less independent than my lunch program participants. Many are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Part of Kathy’s job is to help their families and caregivers understand and cope with the changes that dementia brings to their loved ones.

One day, the adult son of a client stormed into Kathy’s office, visibly angry. He had come to pick up his father and was shocked to see the older man sitting quietly with one of the center’s baby dolls in his arms. “Why is my father playing with dolls? You shouldn’t be giving dolls to men! Don’t EVER give my dad a doll again!”

Kathy calmed the man and accompanied him to his father’s side. The elderly Japanese man was cradling the doll gently, speaking to it in hushed tones. The son asked gruffly, “Eh, why you holding that doll?”

Getting no response, he asked again, with an impatient tap to his father’s shoulder. The silver-haired man looked up with a smile. Stroking the doll’s head, he said proudly, “This is my son. He’s such a good boy, no cry, no fuss. I love this boy.”

Tears welled in the son’s eyes as the old man continued to sing the praises of his precious baby boy. After a while, the younger man gently removed the doll from his father’s arms and set it down on the table. He walked his dad out of the center without another word.

A week or so later, he returned to Kathy’s office and asked her what kind of doll he should buy for their home. Seeing and hearing his father express his love for his baby – reliving their own early bonding – was an incredible, unforgettable moment, he said. He wanted to experience more moments like that.

This Saturday morning, Kathy and I will join hundreds of volunteers and supporters at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center for the 2014 Family Caregiver Walk. The money raised will go toward programs at all five of MADCC’s facilities, including support for caregivers and scholarships for those in financial need. It’s an opportunity to help provide memorable moments for many more Mauians.

Senior moments. I cherish each and every one of mine.

* 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 you undoubtedly know, Friday is Valentine’s Day. Those of you who didn’t know or had forgotten (that’s right, guys, I’m talkin’ ’bout you!), consider yourselves lucky. You just got a two-day warning. Plenty of time to order flowers or pick out a nice gift for your special someone. Don’t let it slip by and then try to appease her with the old line, “But honey, every day is Valentine’s Day when I’m with you!”

My late husband used that line every year. In our 23 years together, he never got me anything for Valentine’s Day. I’d say, “Well, if every day is Valentine’s Day, shouldn’t you be bringing me chocolates and roses every day?” Then he’d trot out the argument that Valentine’s Day is a commercialized, made-up holiday, invented to sell greeting cards and such to sentimental fools like me. That excuse didn’t work any better than the first one. But it did arouse my curiosity.

Who was St. Valentine, anyway? Turns out there are at least three different saints by that name; legend has it that all three were martyred on Feb. 14 of different years. Pope Gelasius I, near the end of the fifth century, declared the date to be a Christian feast day, St. Valentine’s Day. Most scholars believe the Valentine he meant to honor was a third-century priest who defied Roman emperor Claudius II. Claudius, believing that single men made better soldiers, outlawed marriage for young men. The sympathetic priest continued to secretly marry young couples until he was discovered and put to death.

It wasn’t until the 14th century that the day became associated with romance. Chaucer is generally credited with making the first reference in his poem “The Parliament of Fowls.”

For this was on St. Valentine’s Day,

When every fowl cometh there to choose his mate.

From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, handwritten notes and tokens of affection were exchanged by lovers in England. By the time the practice spread to America, traditional valentines were handmade cards, decorated with lace and ribbons. The oldest valentine still in existence was written in 1415 by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. The poem is now part of the manuscript collection at London’s British Museum.

In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland of Massachusetts began selling the first mass-produced Valentine’s Day cards in the United States. You know the rest of the story. According to the Greeting Card Association, 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards will be sold this year. It’s the second-biggest card-giving occasion of the year, behind Christmas.

Nobody sends cards on Singles Awareness Day (SAD), which is celebrated on Feb. 15. According to the website, the day was established by single folks who were fed up with the whole Valentine’s Day hoopla and tired of feeling left out. So they encourage singles to proudly stand up and shout that it’s OK to be single!

SAD started out as an alternative celebration on Feb. 14, but I guess sharing the day with a billion card-sending lovers turned out to be just too . . . sad. Another reason given for moving the day to the 15th was to protest the commercialization of Valentine’s Day. The site suggests celebrating SAD by sending flowers to yourself or organizing a party for your single friends, although, it seems to me that sending flowers contradicts their stated anti-commercialism. The party idea sounds good, though. Other suggestions from the SAD movement include volunteering for the day, traveling, going to the movies, anything that makes you feel good and perhaps distracts you from loneliness.

Happily, although Friday will be my sixth Valentine’s Day alone, loneliness has not been an issue for me. And as I told you earlier, even when my husband was alive, I never got a valentine from him. To his credit, however, he did leave me an occasional handwritten note. Never on Valentine’s Day, of course. That would have ruined his argument and proved him to be more sentimental than he cared to admit.

I, on the other hand, freely admit to being sentimental. And now that I’ve learned about SAD, I plan to celebrate both days with dinner and dancing on my own. And chocolate. I’m definitely buying myself some chocolate. After all, every day is chocolate day.

* 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

Today, I’m serving the pupu sampler instead of the plate lunch. This week’s column is a mixed bag – several unrelated topics, none of them meaty enough to fill this space alone, but hopefully, tasty and satisfying nonetheless.

Topic No. 1: “Maui Connections”

When Rick Chatenever retired from his longtime role of Maui News entertainment and features editor last year, I mourned the loss of his Maui Scene column, “Making the Scene.” An occasional moviegoer at best, I appreciated Rick’s style of film review: informative and insightful, with none of the “hipper-than-thou” attitude that so many critics exude. And I liked the way he would use the movie of the week as a springboard to stories closer to home, sharing his mana’o like an old friend over a cup of coffee.

In last week’s debut of his new column, Rick mentioned that 20 years on Maui does not an old-timer make. Perhaps not, but it’s ample time to connect deeply with the place and the people he obviously loves. I look forward to reading about those “Maui Connections” with my Tuesday morning coffee.

Welcome back home, Rick!

Topic No. 2: Bruno Mars

Even in 2011, when Time Magazine named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world, I didn’t pay too much attention to Bruno Mars. As pleased as I was to see a young local boy rise to international fame, I figured he was the flavor of the month in the fickle world of pop music. In my mind, he was still 5-year-old Bruno Hernandez, introduced to Hawaii media in 1990 as the world’s youngest Elvis impersonator. I remember seeing him on TV with his dad; not only was “Little Elvis” impossibly adorable, the kid was good.

Well, he’s still cute and charismatic, but he’s grown way beyond “good.” His electrifying halftime performance last Sunday gave me chicken skin. To think that this world-class performer was born and raised in Hawaii, the product of a musical family and a public school education (he graduated from Roosevelt, which also counts Alfred Apaka and Yvonne Elliman among its alumni), my inner tita was bursting with pride.

The rest of me was filled with concern for Bruno’s band, instruments in hand, executing those high-energy synchronized dance moves. I was afraid someone would have a heart attack, especially after the Red Hot Chili Peppers bounded onstage. I mean, those guys are MY age! By the time the set climaxed with all of them jumping around, my own heart was racing.

OK, so maybe the pounding in my chest was due to my deep appreciation for good-looking, smooth-moving, old-school funk musicians. I’m a sucker for fancy footwork and gold lame jackets. So what? It was a fabulous, super show, and Bruno proved himself worthy of all the pregame hype.

Topic No. 3: Kendama

I love it when old things become new again. Like the resurgence of milk covers during my son’s childhood, the popularity of kendama reassures me that, despite their sophistication, today’s high-tech kids can still appreciate simple pleasures.

I never got the hang of kendama myself. I was much better at Kabonkers, the pair of brightly colored, hard-as-rock resin balls that we’d clack together by swinging the connecting cord. I had the bruised forearms and bumps on my head to prove my dedication to the sport. My favorite ball-on-a-string toy, however, was the one that attached to your ankle for a game similar to jump-rope. The object was to get the ball into orbit around one foot while jumping over the cord with the other. I can’t remember what it was called, but I’m pretty sure it was made by Wham-O. Which is the sound I’d make hitting the ground, after getting tangled up in the ball-propelled string.

Topic No. 4: Procrastination

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time now, but . . .

I’ve been a procrastinator for most of my life. My son is the same way, although I had high hopes for him when he was born nearly four weeks before his predicted due date. That turned out to be the first and last time either of us finished anything a month ahead of schedule.

I suppose I should be more aggressive about conquering procrastination. It’s not something I’m proud of; on the other hand, I’m not really ashamed of it either. In fact, I believe my tendency to put things off until the last minute has enhanced my ability to cope with the stress of deadlines. I’ve given myself no other choice than to perform under pressure. Sure, you could point out that I wouldn’t have any stress to cope with if I stopped procrastinating, but I disagree. And one of these days, I’ll come up with a good argument to prove my point.

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