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Sharing Mana‘o

I’m so proud of myself. For the first time in my life, I have my Mainland Christmas presents wrapped and ready to send, well before the Postal Service’s suggested mailing dates. Unless you’re a procrastinator like me, you have no idea what an achievement this is. Every January, as I’m sheepishly mailing post-Christmas presents to faraway friends and family, I tell myself, “This year will be different.” This year, it is. On Black Friday, instead of standing in line at the mall, I’ll be at the post office with my head held high.

Last year, not only did I do Black Friday, I joined the politically incorrect crowd of Thanksgiving Day shoppers. I felt guilty about taking part in the desecration of our most humble holiday, but I suppressed my shame with rationalization. If I could get all my gift shopping done on Thanksgiving weekend, I’d be able to meet the mailing deadlines. The thought of my son’s surprise at receiving his Christmas presents by Christmas Day was reason enough to jump into the retail frenzy. Well, that, and the red boots.

I was going to wait until Friday to hit the stores, feeling as most of my friends did that Thanksgiving Day should be spent in quiet reflection and appreciation. But as I perused the newspaper ads, plotting my shopping strategy, those red boots leapt off the page and into my heart. The caption read: $29.99. Thanksgiving Day only.

So, after a traditional turkey dinner with Mom and a great deal of reflection, I kicked aside my guilt and headed for the Sears shoe section. The advertised boots came in black and gray, too, but there was just one pair of red, knee-high, spike-heeled, fake suede boots. In my size. They fit perfectly and were much more comfortable than they looked.

My best friend was aghast. “I can’t believe you went shopping on Thanksgiving Day! And where on Maui are you going to wear red boots?”

“Anywhere I want,” I giddily replied. I figured I’d get plenty of use out of them during the holiday season, maybe wear them on Valentine’s Day, then put them away until the following Christmas. Even if I only wore them for emcee gigs and stage appearances, I’d surely get my money’s worth out of them.

Turned out to be the best 30 bucks I’ve ever spent. When I put on those red boots, I feel confident, adventurous, happy and sassy. I’ve worn them dozens of times, not just in performance, but out on the town as well. And on one unforgettable night last January, at the Willie K Blues Fest, my boots and I danced onstage with Willie while he and ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons played “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’.” Priceless.

This year, having completed my Christmas shopping, I’m not even glancing at the ads in today’s paper. Tomorrow I’ll enjoy an early dinner with Mom before my regular Thursday evening storytelling gig. According to news reports, many others who spent last Thanksgiving at the mall won’t be back either. A survey by the National Retail Federation, or NRF, indicates that only 18 percent of Thanksgiving weekend shoppers plan to hit the stores on Thanksgiving Day, 5 percent less than last year.

The backlash against Thanksgiving Day shopping began almost immediately after the big retail chains debuted the practice in 2011. A “Boycott Black Thursday” Facebook page was set up by a marketing worker named Brian Rich, who said, “There was something terribly offensive to me about this violent, gluttonous, materialistic shopping holiday eating up the one day we’re just meant to be thankful for what we have.” Rich’s page gathered 7,000 subscribers in its first two years. Today, almost 100,000 Facebookers have signed on, from far-right religious folk who see the trend as an attack on family values, to far-left unionists protesting the unfairness to retail employees.

Even Black Friday has lost a bit of its luster, with the NRF anticipating a slight decline in attendance from last year. More people are shopping online, while others have been turned off by the increase in bad behavior by bargain hunters, including violence. According to one study, one-fourth of Americans planned to have their holiday shopping done by Thanksgiving. Like me. Did I mention how proud I am of myself?

Of course, I still have to get these packages mailed before I can proclaim victory over my traditional holiday procrastination. I should put on my red boots and strut down to the post office today. Then again, I’ve got two more weeks before the deadline . . .

* 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

Coffee, tea or me . . . ow?

The nation’s first cat cafe opened its doors in Oakland, Calif., a few weeks ago, to purring reviews by patrons. Cat Town Cafe, an extension of a volunteer feline rescue organization, serves up coffee and pastries along with quality kitty time. In the cafe’s Cat Zone, six to 20 adoptable cats roam and mingle with visitors who donate $10 to reserve an hour in the zone. Walk-in customers can visit for free, but admission is on a space-available basis, and the first three weekends were booked solid.

Across the bay, KitTea, described as “part gourmet tea house, part cat and human oasis,” is scheduled to open in San Francisco before the end of the year. Similar organizations in a dozen other major U.S. cities are planning to follow suit over the next few months, with names like Catmosphere, Catfe, Meowtropolitan and . . . well, you get the idea.

Cat cafes are wildly popular in Japan – there are 39 in Tokyo alone! – but instead of serving as adoption centers, the Japanese establishments provide a temporary fix for cat lovers who are unable to keep kitties of their own. The shops are furnished like communal living rooms, with couches for the humans and scratching posts for the cats. For roughly the same price as a Cat Town booking, customers sip tea while petting or playing with the feline staff. Or, more likely, being ignored by them. They are, after all, cats.

Organizers of the American cafes are hoping that feline-human interaction in a controlled, comfortable atmosphere will encourage more adoptions of rescue cats. Indeed, nearly all of the original Cat Town kitties were placed in permanent homes within a week of opening. Cat Town and KitTea are basically matchmaking salons; the Japanese cafes are more like hostess bars.

I’d love to see a Tokyo-style cat cafe on Maui. I’d probably spend all my spare time and cash there, stroking cat bellies in a corner booth, exchanging purrs of wisdom and wit with feline soul mates. Hello, my name is Kathy, and I’m a cataholic.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve felt a kinship with cats. My mother’s intense dislike of them didn’t faze me a bit, and I took every opportunity to befriend strays when Mom wasn’t looking. I got my first cat almost immediately after moving out of my parents’ home, and for most of my life since, I’ve been a cat owner.

The lowest point of my 18-year marriage came when my husband developed an allergy to my pair of blue point Himalayans, and I had to give Musashi and Puakea to another cat lover. My wonderfully perceptive and wise mother eased my pain with a surrogate – one of those garden statuettes – and suggested that inanimate cats make better pets anyway. Thus began my prized collection of cat figurines. I’ve rescued ceramic and china cats from garage sales, brought home carved and chiseled strays from Mediterranean marketplaces, adopted handmade fabric felines from artistic friends. None of my cats is worth much monetarily, but I treasure them all, even the Happy Meal promo toys.

When I became a widow seven years ago, friends urged me to get a real cat or two, to help fill the void in my home and my heart.

Instead, I absorbed myself in work and performing, which keep me out of the house for too many hours to be a responsible pet owner. Mom was right; my current cat colony requires little attention beyond an occasional dusting.

I do sometimes miss the interaction and affection that animal companions bring. Fortunately, I have several friends whose dogs are happy to indulge my ear-scratching urges. And I keep a small stash of cat food in my garage for a couple of neighborhood prowlers who visit me from time to time.

One day, when my schedule eases up, I’ll find a living, breathing, purring housemate. Or two. Or more. In the meantime, I need a cat cafe.

* 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

Small town. Big heart.

The “rebranding” of Wailuku town was launched at last week’s First Friday town party as Mayor Alan Arakawa helped unveil a stylish new logo, created by Sae Design and featuring symbolic depictions of taro – which itself represents new life and growth – flanked by flowing waters and the majestic Iao Needle. First Friday-goers snapped up free logo stickers and magnets, and heard the mayor and Brendan Smith of Request Music speak enthusiastically of the historic town’s revitalization.

The reWailuku community branding exercise was a monthslong process led by the Maui Redevelopment Agency, the County of Maui and the Wailuku Community Association. After much research and community input, the WCA led an advisory committee to develop the new image, which is really the old identity, jazzed up in 21st-century fashion. After all, Wailuku town has always been about heart.

Wailuku was a thriving population center in pre-contact Hawaii and the home of Maui’s last king, Kahekili. After the influx of Christian missionaries in the mid-1800s and the subsequent development of the sugar industry, the town in the heart of Maui flourished for another century, until tourism began to supplant sugar as the island’s primary industry. During the plantation era, Wailuku’s image was more downtown than small town. It became the seat of Maui County government in 1905 and remained the island’s hub of commerce and trade through the 1960s.

In the early ’60s, my parents and I lived on Church Street, and my father’s first dental office was at 31 Central Ave. I still remember the office phone number: 321-635. It stuck in my head because it was one of the few telephone numbers that consisted of six digits instead of five, and I thought that was pretty cool. Daddy’s office was next to Nagamine Photo Studio, where Rick Shimomura and I would play while our parents worked. Ricky’s mom, Aunty Florence, would let me check out the newest additions to the View-Master 3-D photo discs when they arrived; I was most fascinated by the Gulliver’s Travels story disc.

When Ricky and his little sister Penny weren’t at Nagamine’s, I’d visit with the Tomokiyo girls at their mother’s shop, Joan’s Furniture and Appliance, also in our building. Eldest sister Mary entranced me with her fashion sketches of evening gowns and miniskirts. And if I behaved well, Mom would take me across the street for a chocolate cupcake from Nashiwa Bakery. Those cupcakes were so tasty and moist, no frosting was needed.

Last Friday, I spent some time on Vineyard Street, reminiscing with brothers Majic and Ed Carson in front of their brand new restaurant, Aria’s. We had a friendly dispute over when the block of Vineyard between Church and Market was converted from a one-way street (I won, by the way – it was in 1996). The Carsons remembered Cabebe Store and Vineyard Tavern, but not Fujimoto Florist or Vineyard Candy Store. My mouth still waters whenever I think of Vineyard’s juicy, red wet li hing mui. Aria’s doesn’t serve up crack seed, but its menu is full of onolicious items. Think local food with Wailea flair, at Wailuku prices.

Strolling Market Street, I talked with other friends about long-gone establishments like Ikeda’s, Maui Bonte, the old pool hall, Emura Jewelry and more, but we had a little difficulty recalling their exact locations. Of course, we all remembered where Kress Store, National Dollar, Kato Dry Goods and Lucy Goo’s Pastry Shop stood on Main Street. When my dad moved his office to the Romero Medical Building on Market, he would sometimes send me to Lucy Goo’s to pick up sloppy cheeseburgers for lunch and a bag of buttery shortbread cookies.

One of the many prominent citizens of old-time Wailuku, Masaru “Pundy” Yokouchi, is remembered not only for having a big heart, but big vision. The Maui Arts & Cultural Center owes its very existence to Pundy and his persistence. His name is sure to be invoked repeatedly this Saturday, as the MACC celebrates 20 years of serving our community.

The MACC’s TWENTYfest will feature great entertainment, local food at 1994 prices, activities for the keiki and more. The party runs from 4 to 8:30 p.m., and admission is free. I have the honor of serving as emcee, and I’m looking forward to it as a continuation of last Friday’s feel-good fun. I know, the center’s street address is in Kahului, but its phone number has a Wailuku prefix, so I consider it to be on the cusp of the two Central Valley towns.

I hope to see you Saturday at TWENTYfest, and in the weeks – no, years – to come on the streets of Wailuku. Like the MACC, our small town with the big heart promises a future as great as its heritage.

* 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

Well, it’s finally over; the most belligerent and divisive campaign season in recent memory is now behind us. At least, I hope it is. This column is being written on the eve of Election Day, so I don’t know what the Wednesday morning headlines will say. It’s possible that at least one race or issue will still be undecided due to legal challenges or technical glitches or, heaven forbid, an act of God.

In recent weeks, I’ve been asked why I haven’t weighed in on the GMO initiative debate.

Certainly, I have my personal opinion on that, and that’s how it will remain: personal. Having worked in broadcast news since before I was old enough to vote, I’m old school. In 1975, the line between news reporting and editorials was clearly drawn, and one of the first lessons I learned was to keep my opinions to myself. My first news director, Mike Hurley, drilled that into me, and my father reinforced it. Daddy pointed to his favorite Maui News reporter, Bob Johnson. “When you read his articles, you get all the facts, but you have no idea how he feels about the subject. That’s a good reporter.”

A couple of years later, when Kelly Dean and I were married and both working as TV news reporters for KITV-4 in Honolulu, an elderly woman approached us at a restaurant. Apologizing for interrupting our dinner, she said she simply had to ask us how she should vote on a particular issue. I told her the decision was hers to make, and her response chilled me. “But you’re the news people, you know more than we do. You’re supposed to tell us how to think.” Kelly spent a few minutes explaining the boundaries between news and opinion, but she left our table frustrated and rather miffed.

Now, as a columnist and a freelance feature writer, I can freely express my feelings about anything I choose. But old habits die hard, and even considering the blurred lines of modern journalism, I’m not comfortable sharing my political views publicly. I still don the news hat every two years, co-anchoring Akaku’s election night coverage, so I try to remain impartial to retain credibility. Besides, I like to think of my column as a refuge from controversy; a warm and happy soft spot in the midst of hard news.

So I’m not going to tell you how I voted on the GMO initiative, but I do want to add my voice to the cry of dismay over the way this battle has been waged. In the last month, I’ve witnessed bad behavior on both sides of the argument.

Families and friendships have been torn apart, and I fear that some relationships will never recover. I’m not sure why or how this issue became such a volatile topic, more so than cane burning, abortion or same-sex marriage. I just hope that future elections on Maui won’t be tainted with the same level of name-calling and negativity.

On a lighter note, last Saturday was full of fun and celebration. In the morning, I joined Dean Wong, Dylan Bode and a bunch of new friends in washing cars to benefit Camp Imua. In the evening, I attended my 40th high school reunion at Mitch Hazama’s Deja Vu dance event. And, as you may have read in The Maui News, it was Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday.

I love Hello Kitty. As a Baldwin High drama geek and band nerd, I tried to resist teenager trends, wanting instead to establish myself as an out-of-the-box thinker, a unique individual. A few years later, when Hello Kitty arrived on Maui, my rebellious nature was suppressed by the irresistible Sanrio display at Shirokiya. I told myself that it was because I’m such a cat person, and besides, this is just a passing fad. Yes, I’m aware of Sanrio’s recent revelation that Hello Kitty is actually a British schoolgirl in silly costumes, but I refuse to accept that. I think it’s a misinformation campaign; a conspiratorial corporate lie. Everyone knows she’s a cat.

My meager Hello Kitty collection consists of a few plush toys, keychains and a watch. It’s dwarfed by my growing assortment of stuffed bears, which I started collecting just a few years ago. Saturday night, I got to bring home a Baldwin bear, one of the table decorations at our class reunion.

Our reunion, though small and far too brief, was the highlight of my weekend. It was a joyful night of reminiscing and dancing. I must say, like Hello Kitty, the BHS Class of ’74 hasn’t aged a bit in 40 years. Best of all, even with all the talking story we did, not one person asked me how I felt about GMOs.

* 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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