Sharing Mana‘o

My late husband often said that there are two kinds of people in the world: cat people and dog people. Actually, what he used to say was that there are cat people and sane people. Barry was a dog person, obviously. But I never held it against him.

He, in turn, was extremely tolerant of my feline tendencies. Extremely. Our first home together was near a north shore beach, in the midst of kiawe and ironwood trees. The area was known as a good place to dump unwanted kittens, and within a year of living there, I had accumulated several dozen cats. They weren’t really pets, as Barry kept reminding me, but I fed them daily and gave each of them names. It was sort of an upscale feral cat colony, and Barry didn’t mind because it kept the feral rats at bay.

Each morning, I filled an old hubcap with dry cat food and set it on a big wooden spool table in the front yard. I’d stroke each cat and greet them by name as they emerged from under the house and out of the thicket. Spooky and Stormy grudgingly allowed me to scratch between their ears while they dined, but dashed back into the kiawe woods after eating their fill. The others took a more leisurely pace, and a few, like Pog and Patches, stayed close to the house, presumably on rat patrol.

Barry agreed to allow indoor privileges to the cat of my choice, and Kimo was my first. He was a true beach cat, accompanying me on afternoon walks along the shore, chasing sand crabs and sharpening his claws on hunks of driftwood. I’d often find him sitting on the crest of the huge sand dune between our house and the beach, surveying his oceanside territory.

When we moved into our Waiehu home, I received a beautiful, sweet-tempered blue point Himalayan kitten as a housewarming gift. Barry wasn’t fond of Musashi, but he indulged me, to the point of letting me adopt another kitten from the same breeder, two years later. Eventually, all that Himalayan hair got to be too much for his allergies, and it was my turn to be understanding and accommodating. With heavy heart, I gave away Musashi and Puakea, and haven’t owned another cat since.

Barry’s allergies are no longer an issue; I’ve been a widow for seven years now, and several friends have suggested I could use some feline companionship. They’re right, I would love to have a furry, purring buddy to come home to. Trouble is, I’m not home enough to properly care for a pet. But one day, probably when I retire, I’ll get a new roomie from the Maui Humane Society’s kitty condo.

Nearly all of my pets have been rescue cats. Kilowatt, a scrappy, skinny orange tabby kitten, was found in a cane field and brought home by my first husband, Jim, the only one of my three spouses who was also a cat person. The first of three cats adopted by Jim and me, Kilowatt was definitely Daddy’s cat. In fact, when we divorced, Jim insisted on joint custody of our son and full custody of Kilowatt.

Our second cat, Marconi, was as devoted to me as Kilowatt was to Jim. He was around 3 months old when we brought him home from the animal shelter, a sleek black kitty with green eyes. His claim to fame was playing fetch. Every evening while watching TV after dinner, I’d toss a crumpled cigarette pack across the room, and Marconi would chase after it, bat it around for a little while, then carry it back in his jaws and drop it into my open hand. After a few rounds, he’d crawl into my lap for a nap. This was our routine for over a year, until my pregnant belly eliminated his comfy perch. When he could no longer fit on my lap, he stopped playing fetch. Our relationship was never the same.

Now I have a new relationship, with a neighborhood cat who looks a lot like Kimo, only with gray patches instead of black. A few weeks ago, I bought a water dish and some cat food for my daily visitor. I don’t know whether he has a home with humans, so I keep the water fresh and put out just a little food each day. I figure, having him around will deter rodents. But he’s not a pet, not really. Even if I do decide to give him a name.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her e-mail address is

Sharing Mana‘o

At first glance, the black-and-white photograph appears rather unremarkable, sad as it might be. The U.S. flag-draped coffin in the center indicates a military funeral; 30 or so mourners stand somberly behind several large floral wreaths. In the background, a simple wooden building bears a small sign with the words “BUDDHIST CHURCH” stenciled above a row of Japanese characters. At the head of the coffin, next to the Buddhist priest, stands a young soldier, presumably, like the deceased, a member of the nisei (2nd generation Japanese-American) 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team.

It’s the caption below the photo that floods my eyes with tears. A funeral for a nisei who had been killed in combat. This funeral was held in an American detention camp, behind barbed wire. The body was brought home to the camp.

The sorrowful scene is part of Eric Saul’s exhibit “Go For Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts” and poignantly illustrates the theme. As President Truman said while addressing the men of the 100th/442nd, “You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice – and you have won.”

Victory, of course, has its price. The U.S. suffered over 400,000 military deaths in World War II. Of the 680 nisei killed in action, 101 were from Maui. Their names are inscribed on the dedication plaque at the Education Center of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in Wailuku.

The “Go For Broke” exhibit is on display at the center until June 13, open to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, including Memorial Day. It is inspiring, infuriating, enlightening, and I plan to return, probably on Monday. I can’t think of a more fitting and proper way to observe Memorial Day. Except, perhaps, for Blossoms for the Brave. This community flower drive and lei-making event will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday on the front lawn of the County Building in Wailuku. More than 2,800 lei are needed to ensure that the graves of each of Maui’s fallen soldiers and honored veterans are properly decorated, Hawaiian style. Most will be placed at Veterans Cemetery in Makawao on Memorial Day by Girl Scouts.

Sponsored by the County of Maui and organized by Kaunoa Senior Services and the Mayor’s Office, the annual event offers everyone the opportunity to express appreciation for our veterans in a meaningful way. In announcing the event, Mayor Alan Arakawa said, “Each lei represents our gratitude for their service, and for the many ways they helped shape the community we live in today.”

Donations of fresh flowers or ti leaves may be dropped off between 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. Friday in the High Street parking lot fronting the County Building. Flowers should be sturdy, like crown flowers, bougainvillea, orchids, etc. Plumeria buds and partially opened plumeria are also good. Ti leaves must be precut and frozen for lei-making. Any amount of lei materials will be welcomed. You can also deliver completed lei; please note that these lei must measure 16 to 24 inches before tying.

Better yet, plan on joining the lei volunteers for an hour or two, or just for 15 minutes, plenty of time to make a lei or two, especially at the shorter than usual length. Ample parking will be available at the War Memorial Sports Complex, in the Ichiro “Iron” Maehara Baseball Stadium parking lot. Free shuttles will depart for the County Building every half-hour from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Whether you are an experienced lei-maker or have never strung a garland, Blossoms for the Brave is a feel-good event not to be missed. Volunteer coaches will guide novices through stringing flowers or twisting ti leaves into garlands of gratitude. You’ll enjoy camaraderie, refreshments and live musical entertainment by Kevin Kanemoto & Friends. I’ll be there as emcee, announcing each 500-lei milestone as we progress toward our goal.

Sitting outdoors under a giant tent, surrounded by fragrant blossoms and friendly smiles, listening to beautiful Hawaiian music and working with fresh flowers and greenery, it’s a lovely way to spend any Friday. The added satisfaction of taking part in a community effort of love and respect makes this Friday, truly, a very special Aloha Friday.

Your silent tents of green

We deck with fragrant flowers;

Yours has the suffering been,

The memory shall be ours.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her e-mail address is

Sharing Mana‘o

My life is in need of order. I know that because I’m in a Tetris mood, rather than my usual Scrabble state of mind. Tetris is a classic video game that requires spatial reasoning skills, a high-tech version of a simple geometric puzzle. When it comes to spatial relations, I am simple-minded indeed. In high school, I always did poorly on the abstract reasoning section of those dreaded aptitude tests. My best scores were in vocabulary; thus, my preference for word games and puzzles.

My father taught me to read before preschool age, and I remember playing with the wooden tiles from our Scrabble game as if they were little square dolls. The tile racks looked like miniature church pews, and I’d line them up neatly before arranging the letters on them. I’d fill each pew with my favorite words of the day – animals, foods, names of friends. Sometimes, in a whimsical mood, I’d just let all the vowels sit together.

I preferred hangman to tic-tac-toe, and crossword puzzles to mazes. Throughout my school years and most of my adult life, word puzzles have been my go-to activity during down time. Like my mom, I used to keep a puzzle book with me, plus a spare one in the bathroom. Now, with Scrabble on my smartphone, I’ve gone paperless.

Jigsaw puzzles were the exception to my obsession with wordplay. My Auntie Alice always had one of those 500-piece scenic panorama puzzles in progress on a small folding table, and I’d work on it while the grown-ups visited. Later, in my teens, I built my own collection of challenging or unusual puzzles, the smaller and more plentiful the pieces, the better. One came in a paint can and, when completed, resembled an uneven puddle of blue paint. No corners, no straight edges, just a can full of oddly shaped pieces. Surprisingly, I was pretty good at jigsaw puzzles.

Not so with those Chinese wooden puzzles, the kind that interlock into complicated geometric shapes. I was confounded and intimidated by them. As many times as my friends showed me, I could never put the darn things together. Years later, I did master Rubik’s Cube, but only after reading the solution.

Fortunately, my son didn’t inherit my ineptitude for 3-D puzzles. When Jimmy was 8 or 9, he solved the cube on his first attempt, in just a couple of minutes. I thought perhaps I had a young genius on my hands, until I asked him to show me how he did it.

“I just peeled off the stickers and put them back in the right place.”


Tetris came out around that time, and after much coaxing, I tried it and was immediately hooked. Jimmy was much better at it than I, but the simplicity of fitting the falling tiles together appealed to me. When I got my first smartphone many years later, Tetris and Scrabble were the two games I installed.

Generally, Scrabble is my weapon of choice against boredom; playing with words is both relaxing and stimulating. I’m such a nerd. But sometimes, the urge to play Tetris comes from deep within. Only lately, I realized that this seems to happen when I’m feeling pressured or overwhelmed by daily life. My gut, rather than my brain, wants to feel the satisfaction of pieces falling into place.

Unfortunately, another recent epiphany caused me to uninstall Tetris from my phone. It finally dawned on me that my trigger-finger problem stems from tightly clutching the phone as I race to line up the tiles with my thumb.

So this weekend, I’m going shopping for an old-fashioned jigsaw puzzle, one of those 1,000-piece monsters or perhaps a paint puddle, if they still make those. Of course, I’ll have to clear my living room table of all the clutter first. Which means I’ll have to complete or discard numerous unfinished projects. I could just store them in my closet, but that would require even more sorting and purging.

Maybe I’ll just get myself a Rubik’s Cube. With removable stickers.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her e-mail address is

Sharing Mana‘o

I bought new eyeglasses this week – my first pair in almost seven years – and I must say, they’re so stylish, I might actually wear them in public.

Generally, I use glasses only for late-night TV viewing, after removing my contact lenses for the day. I like the comfort and convenience of the disposable soft lenses, and since my vision insurance covers just a small portion of the cost, and only for one or the other, I’ve chosen contacts over glasses every year, for the past couple of decades. A year’s supply costs half as much as a good pair of glasses. Of course, I have to admit, vanity plays as large a role as economy in my decision.

Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses. I remember that old saying from grammar school days, when I wasn’t even sure what a pass was, nor did I care. Back then, I thought of glasses as a cool fashion accessory. In the 5th grade, several girls wore glasses regularly, and I was envious of their pearly white cat-eye frames. Glamour gals of the 1960s, like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, wore cat-eyes, and I wanted a pair too. But, alas, my vision was 20/20.

Several years later, another old saying came into play: Be careful what you wish for. After vision tests at school, my parents were advised to take me to an ophthalmologist for further exams, and I received a prescription for my first pair of glasses. Cat eyes were no longer cool. I left Dr. Tofukuji’s office with a pair of gold wire-rimmed granny glasses, or, as we called them, hippie glasses. Mine were not round like John Lennon’s, but rectangular like Roger McGuinn’s.

By the time I was in high school, in the early 1970s, granny glasses were no longer fashionable. I decided I preferred looking good to seeing well, and I started carrying my glasses in my purse rather than on my nose. Fortunately, my eyesight wasn’t all that bad, and I could get by without them, except when driving.

As a young adult, I discovered that wearing the right pair of glasses could project an image of credibility, and so I began using them in the workplace. I had giant bug-eyed, tortoise-shell frames, very Jackie O. Later, I went to the other extreme, rimless spectacles that made me look more studious than stylish.

Eventually, my vision diminished enough to require correction all the time, and I went through several pairs of glasses, updating the style and increasing the lens strength every couple of years. But I never found a pair that suited me completely. So I pushed myself past the lifelong fear of sticking a foreign object in my eye, and tried contact lenses for the first time. I never looked back.

My late husband, also a victim of vanity, refused to get his eyes checked, even when it became obvious that the excellent vision he’d enjoyed throughout his life was deteriorating with age. He started using those over-the-counter magnifying glasses – “cheaters,” he called them – but only at home, and only for reading. Finally, when he had to resort to using a magnifying glass on top of his maximum strength cheaters, he gave in and went to see my eye doctor. He ended up loving his aviator-style bifocals and wore them daily during the last year of his life.

When I was a child, one of my uncles maintained that he didn’t need glasses to read, as long as he held the newspaper at arm’s length. As his nearsightedness increased, or maybe his arms got shorter, he resorted to putting the paper on the floor and standing over it to read. Now that I think about it, he was probably joking when he described that as his morning routine. Uncle Richard was always kidding around, and I do recall seeing him in glasses, the old-fashioned black-rimmed kind that reporters and accountants always wore in old movies.

My new glasses have copper rims and a tasteful display of bling on the earpieces. OK, maybe tasteful isn’t an accurate description. But I like them. And I’m told they’re very much in style. Apparently, nerdy is the new hip. Sexy, even. Look at Tina Fey, Anne Hathaway, Jenny McCarthy, Johnny Depp. You can’t tell me guys don’t make passes at them.

Yes, Johnny Depp, too. I wish I looked as good in my specs as he does in his. And, you know, he probably does get hit on by more men than I do, with or without glasses.

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