Sharing Mana‘o

For such a small (140 square miles) island, Lanai is rich in history and legend. The story of Kaulula’au is one of my favorites. The only son of Maui chief Kaka’alaneo, Kaulula’au was the first human inhabitant of Lanai. In fact, the tiny island’s full and traditional name is Lana’i O Kaulula’au – Kaulula’au’s Day of Conquest.

As the legend goes, Lanai was home to the evil spirit Pahulu and his ghostly followers, who would kill and devour any man who dared land on its shores. Early in the 15th century, when Kaka’alaneo ruled Lele (now known as Lahaina), Kaulula’au was a bright but mischievous young man. Exasperated by Kaulula’au’s antics, which included uprooting taro and destroying breadfruit crops, his father banished him to the island of man-eating spirits.

Through trickery and persistence – and with the help of his god Lono Kaulula’au destroyed the ghosts and lit a bonfire to signal his victory. When they saw the flames, the people of Lele rejoiced, and Kaka’alaneo sent 800 settlers across the channel. Kaulula’au reigned as chief of Lanai, fulfilling the family priest’s prophecy that he would be destructive in his youth but would later accomplish great feats of strength and bravery.

I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that there are no breadfruit trees on Lanai. Supposedly, the incorrigible Kaulula’au pulled up all the ulu when he first landed on the island, before Pahulu and the cannibal ghosts demanded his attention. Taro was the first crop grown on Lanai. At the turn of the 20th century, the Gibson family, which by then owned most of the island, attempted to raise sugar cane. Their Maunalei Sugar Co. folded after only two years. In 1922, James Dole of Hawaiian Pineapple Co. (later Dole Food Co.) bought the island and turned it into the world’s largest pineapple plantation.

By the late 1950s, Hawaiian pineapple cultivation was at its peak, with little Lanai producing almost 75 percent of the world’s supply. But in the mid-60s, the industry began a slow decline, and within a decade, the number of pineapple canneries in the state dwindled to three.

Still known as The Pineapple Isle, even though it has been more than 20 years since the last harvest in 1992, Lanai today is home to a little more than 3,000 people. Oracle Corp. CEO Larry Ellison now owns 98 percent of the island. There are two resorts, one historic hotel, and no traffic lights on the island, making it a truly unique visitor destination.

I’ve made less than a dozen trips to Lanai in my lifetime, all but one visit were work-related. Like many Mauians, I rarely think about the island until it comes into view as I’m driving over the pali to Lahaina. Every so often, it occurs to me that a weekend or even just a day on Lanai would be a perfect, affordable minivacation. But I never follow through.

The folks at the Lanai Community Association (LCA) would like to change that. Since 1945, the nonprofit LCA has supported the community through recreational activities for youth and senior citizens, academic scholarships and community celebrations. Each summer, it gives us Mauians a perfect reason to travel to our serene little sister island: the annual Pineapple Festival, Lanai’s largest event of the year.

The 2014 Pineapple Festival will be held July 4 and 5, featuring entertainment, exhibits, craft booths and, of course, lots of onolicious food. Highlights include a cooking contest with one of Lanai’s favorite sons, Adam Tabura of Food Network fame, and a musical performance by Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner Weldon Kekauoha. Festivities run from 2 to 6 p.m. on Friday the 4th and resume at 3 p.m. Saturday with a parade at Dole Park. The festival closes at 9 p.m. with a spectacular fireworks display.

If you want to see the fireworks but don’t want to make an overnight trip, you’re in luck. On Saturday night only, Expeditions will run a late-night ferry from Manele Bay to Lahaina, departing at 10 p.m. The company is also offering land shuttle service between Manele Harbor and Dole Park on Saturday.

For more information on this year’s Pineapple Festival, or if you’re interested in participating as a vendor, call Darlene Endrina at (808) 559-0471.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kathycollins@hawaii.rr.com.

Sharing Mana‘o

It’s been nearly a year since the state enacted tougher penalties for distracted driving. Using your cellphone or other hand-held electronic device while driving is punishable by fines of $100 for the first offense, $200 for a second offense within a year, $300 for a third offense within two years, and the fines are doubled in school or construction zones.

I don’t know what the statistics say, but my personal observations tell me that higher fines haven’t been an effective deterrent. Nor have those painfully sobering public service announcements on TV, the ones in which a grieving friend or relative shows the last text message sent by a loved one, right before the crash. I still see drivers holding their phones to their ears, or worse yet, in front of their faces.

Only one thing keeps me from rolling down my window and chastising these folks. OK, two things. Self-preservation and guilt. Yes, I, too, am guilty of driving distractedly.

It has nothing to do with cellphones or iPods or even GPS. Those above-mentioned TV spots were enough to cure my compulsion to text at stoplights. Friends who know me as a CrackBerry addict may not believe it, but my phone stays in my pocket or otherwise out of reach whenever I’m driving.

Political sign wavers and giant campaign banners no longer catch my attention. The new trend of larger-than-life candidate portraits has broken me of the habit of examining the roadside signs of the season. I’m sure they’re all nice people, as friendly as they are photogenic, but it makes me uncomfortable to see them staring back at me with those fixed, not-quite-natural smiles. Some of our neighborhood street corners look like theater marquees laden with movie posters. Let’s just hope the candidates don’t start using action photos instead of the quaint, high school graduation-style portraits.

Now that I’m immune to the distracting signage around me, I find myself staring at the cars in front of me, pondering the meanings of cryptic vanity license plates and, lately, the names of car models.

It’s fascinating, the way car names reflect changing societal values. A few decades ago, when we liked our men macho, not metrosexual, guys drove around in Mustangs and Challengers. The dudes in Detroit named their cars after dangerous animals, like Barracudas and Vipers. Or weapons like the Cutlass and LeSabre. As women became more liberated and men more sensitive, cars – and their names – got cuter. Remember the AMC Gremlin? The Dodge Brat? Animal namesakes were tamed; we still had Broncos and Rangers, but now the Pinto and Colt joined the herd.

Now, with Asian automakers supplying most of our vehicles and trying to appeal to our enlightened lifestyles, car names are kinder, gentler, downright peaceful, in fact. The in-your-face Thunderbirds and Chargers have been eased aside by Insight and Fusion. On Kaahumanu Avenue yesterday, I found myself behind an Aspire, which inspired me to research my own car’s name.

My Yaris, according to Toyota, got its name from the Greek goddess Charis, who symbolized beauty and elegance. Not exactly how I would describe my little blue economy compact, but I guess there was no mythological representative for cuteness. A Toyota spokesperson said, “We put (Charis) together with the German expression of agreement, YA. We think the name symbolizes the car’s broad appeal in styling and really represents Toyota’s next generation of global cars.”

My friends call it the BlueBerry, which I think is a much more accurate description.

In looking up Yaris, I found a list of wonderfully weird names, assembled by Forbes Magazine. In Japan, you could find yourself staring at the bumper of a Honda Life Dunk, a Mazda Bongo, a Volugrafo Bimbo, or my favorite, a Daihatsu Naked.

Talk about distracted driving.

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

Sharing Mana‘o

You probably didn’t notice, but while you were going about your daily business a week ago, a Category 4 hurricane slammed into Hawaii. Virtually.

The annual Makani Pahili hurricane preparedness exercise is coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program and conducted by the State of Hawaii and all four counties, along with federal agencies, including the armed forces, and nongovernmental organizations. In this year’s scenario, the storm hit the Big Island first, at around 3:30 p.m. Monday, June 2. Maui felt its wrath a few hours later, and by 11 p.m. the hurricane had moved on to Oahu, leaving much of our county in shambles.

As a volunteer from the county’s Department of Housing and Human Concerns, I had a tiny role in the aftermath of the mock catastrophe, joining an impressively competent team in the Maui Civil Defense Agency’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Makani Pahili exercise play is serious stuff, not so much a drill as a comprehensive test of our disaster response procedures and problem-solving abilities. Realism is key; participants respond to status reports and service requests as they would in an actual emergency.

I worked the last segment of the three-day exercise, when the focus had shifted from response to recovery. My duties ranged from ordering portable latrines for community shelters to answering county workers’ questions about whether their paychecks would be processed on time. Our human services team was also charged with finding long-term housing solutions for over 20,000 Mauians and setting up PODs – points of distribution – for food and water.

It was a fascinating, eye-opening experience. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in both the Maui and Honolulu EOCs, but never as a participant in the operations.

When Hurricane Iwa hit Hawaii in 1982, I was one of six reporters for Honolulu’s all-news radio station, KHVH Newsradio 99. Assigned to cover the city & county’s emergency response, I was at a press conference at the EOC in downtown Honolulu while Iwa was battering the island of Kauai. With no telephone service available to file my report, I had to walk to the radio station, about four blocks away from City Hall.

Even on a normal trade wind day, the design of the municipal office building created a wind tunnel at the lobby entrance. On this night, with Iwa’s gusts swirling around the structure, I had difficulty just getting the door open. The moment I stepped outside, the wind lifted me several inches above the ground, and I took two or three steps in the air before landing, thankfully, on both feet. If not for the recording equipment bag, heavy on my shoulder, I would probably have sailed into space. Or bounced along the sidewalk like an urban tumbleweed. Fortunately, I cleared the mini-cyclone with my air steps and the rest of the walk was uneventful. And eerie.

Downtown Honolulu was completely dark except for the flicker of flashlights and candles in a few office windows and the occasional headlights of police patrol cars. No one else was on the street and the only sounds came from leaves and debris rustling over the sidewalks and the wind whistling through the concrete jungle. It was eerie yet beautiful, a moment of solitude imposed on the city by Mother Nature.

Iwa was only a Category 1 hurricane. Iniki, 10 years later, was a Category 4 when it hit Kauai. We on Maui were blessed to have weathered both storms relatively untouched. Every time a hurricane watch fizzles out, the very real threat of complacency grows. Nowadays, the general chorus is, “Oh, those things always hit Kauai.” We stock up on toilet paper and bottled water, but we don’t really expect disaster to strike here.

The folks at Maui Civil Defense and their Makani Pahili partners know better. Last month, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center announced that it expects an above-normal hurricane season this year, with four to seven tropical cyclones likely, compared to four or five in an average season. The odds are rising against us, and we need to be prepared for the inevitable change in luck. From what I observed during my brief shift at the EOC last week, our emergency response system is ready. Are you?

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Every household should have an emergency kit and a plan. You can find the Citizens Guide to Disaster Preparedness and other valuable information at the Civil Defense page of the County of Maui’s website: www.mauicounty.gov.

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

Sharing Mana‘o

Turns out my late husband was wrong when he divided the world into cat people and dog people. There are bird people, fish people, people people, all kinds of people. I know, because I heard from each kind after last week’s column about some of my feline friends.

Mostly, I heard from dog people. Most of my friends are dog people. So I’m devoting this week’s column to canines. Equal time and all that.

It’s not that I don’t like dogs; I just prefer cats. But I have a soft spot for all domesticated creatures. Except birds. I’ve only met one bird that I liked and felt comfortable enough to hold. His name is Kuuipo, and he really is a sweetheart, treating me to a serenade each time I visit his humans’ house. When Dorothy and Les first acquired this little cockatiel, he would perch on my wrist and tug at my Hawaiian bracelet. But now that he’s full grown, he shies away from my touch and will only sing to me from inside his cage. I guess he figured out I’m a cat person.

But I digress. Sorry, dog people. As I was saying, I’m actually quite fond of dogs. I even owned one once; a fluffy, cream-white terrier mix with a tiny stub where her tail should have been. Jingles was my most cherished childhood Christmas present. My parents gave her to me after I pleaded with them for years to let me have a puppy. She was my first real pet, preceded by turtles Tommy and Tubby, Karla the Koi and probably hundreds of guppies. I even had a tilapia named Tillie. Yes, a tilapia.

Oops, got off the dog track again. I’ll save the fish stories for another column. Back to Jingles. Besides being sweet-tempered and unbearably adorable, she was an award-winning dog. When she was 2, I entered her in the Maui County Fair’s annual Poi Dog Contest. I spent weeks teaching her to jump through a hula hoop, like a circus pup. We’d start with the hoop about 6 inches off the ground, then raise it a little more each week. By the time the big day rolled around, I knew she was sure to win the trophy for Mutt with the Best Trick.

There were at least a dozen other contestants, and I don’t even remember what their talents were. Jingles sailed through her neon pink hoop on the warm-up runs: 6 inches, 12 inches, no problem. When I held the hoop 2 feet off the ground (her personal best), she took a running start, stopped abruptly at the point where she should have begun her spring, and calmly walked under the hoop. My dad thought it showed superior intelligence, but the judges were not impressed. We went home with the trophy for Mutt with the Shortest Tail.

In my adolescence, Jingles really was my best friend, though it was my mother who actually took care of her. And Mom is definitely not a dog person, so I owe her a deep debt of gratitude.

I never owned another dog, but like Mom, I became the caretaker by default for one poor pooch whose owner had good intentions but little sense of responsibility. Twenty-five years ago, at the remote beach home where I acquired my cat colony, our landlord became the reluctant owner of a scrawny young pit bull, the runt of his litter. Brah was bowlegged and had the most forlorn eyes I’d ever seen. He was kept chained near the driveway and served as an unenthusiastic watchdog. Eventually, with the landlord’s permission, I started walking Brah daily and bathing him occasionally. He seemed to appreciate the attention, but he wasn’t very affectionate, nor energetic.

One day, when I was alone at the house, a strange car pulled into the driveway just as I was coming to get Brah for a walk on the beach. The young men in the car were rowdy and loud, and I informed them they were on private property and needed to leave. Brah lay on the ground, seemingly oblivious. The driver stepped up his attitude, and I suddenly felt threatened. At that moment, Brah exploded into action, as if we were of one mind. He sprang at the car, snarling viciously, straining at his chain, snapping at the tires. The boys peeled out of the driveway, and Brah gave them a parting bark before trotting back to me. He licked my face for the first time and gazed at me with those sweet soulful eyes. That was the closest I’ve ever come to being a dog person.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kathycollins@hawaii.rr.com.


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