Moving to Maui– Part Five

And the gods kept laughing…

About the time I really relaxed into Maui mode and thought if I just had some friends (Lahaina was a lonely place unless you hung out at bars, one of it’s mottos is: “Lahaina– a drinking town with a fishing problem”)… the owner of the condo I was renting from informed me that she was selling.

Would I like to buy it? she asked. YES, I’d  love to buy it– but I still had a house back in California to deal with. Purchase price wasn’t even the big issue, things were cheap then. It was the bleepin’ Homeowner’s Fees. For a one-bedroom condo: $1,200 month. I almost swallowed my chewing gum.

So I started searching for a place to live. I looked in the paper–this should be a piece of cake, right? Right. Maui was in the middle of a housing crisis in 1999 and there were no rentals. Craigslist didn’t exist yet, so the newspaper was the only resource.

The reason there was a housing crisis, ironically, was that things WERE so cheap. People from the mainland (listen closely here, because it’s the reason Hawaiians have no time for mainlanders) were coming to the island and buying things up faster than Lindsey Lohan lands in jail. So all the condos were disapperaing from the rental market, because the owners were buying them and them leaving them sit empty. They had been taken out of the rental pool and turned into vacation homes, effectively leaving the locals no place to rent.

I didn’t know this at the time, of course. I just couldn’t understand why every time I called on a unit it was already gone. ALWAYS. But I had about a month to look, so I wasn’t panicking. Yet.

The panic was to come later.

An acquaintance recommended a room-mate situation, and starting to get savvy to the way things worked on Maui, I saw that word of mouth would probably be my only hope. Getting desperate, I said yes. The guy offering the room was a well-known Lahaina realtor, about 65 years old, and the place had a view, was gorgeous, and cheap. (This should have been my clue.) I thought, why not? It’s an adventure, right?

The adventure turned to oh, *&%*!  when I stumbled out of my room that first morning and found him standing facing the kitchen sink, STARK NAKED. I tried to flee, but not fast enough, because he turned around in all his glory.

I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee for the morning, and I was faced with a room-mate who was not only a pervert but a nudist. I had already signed a lease.

The smile on his face said it all.

My cute house back on the mainland where I had a business, and friends, and family was sounding better all the time. Maybe I was supposed to just cash in my chips and go home…

A hui hou! (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

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Language Skills

Aloha!

If you’ve been to Hawaii, you know that there are only thirteen letters in the Hawaiian alphabet. So they had to get really creative and repeat the letters, which led to each word being about sixteen syllables long. Street names you eventually get used to: Kamehameha, Lahainaluna. The language itself and how it’s used casually was another thing entirely when I moved here.

For instance, at the end of my first day of work at the tennis courts, my boss showed up and said, “You’re all pow.” I’m what? Is this a way of saying I did a good job? I’m fired? What?” I must have had a stupid look on my face because she repeated it. Again, me, with the stupid look. Boss: “Pow. Pow. All done.”

So after work, I asked an aquaintance. “The word for all done is Pow? Like, bang, zoom?” She laughed. “No, it’s P-A-U. All pau means “all done.” Pau hana means “work is over.” Hana, like the town? Oh my, this was confusing. Then the next day my boss said she was going to run the marathon on the Pauley, and to be prepared for extra traffic. Okay, I really suck at this. This time I just asked her, because she apparently was going to just keep speaking this foreign language and expecting me to keep up.

Pauley was actually Pali, and it means “Cliffs” in Hawaiian. So the place on the road into Lahaina (where the tunnel is) has cliffs on either side of it. So that’s the Pali, the name of the road. There is also a Pali on Oahu, but there it goes over the mountain, and the superstition is: “You don’t take pork over the Pali after dark, or something bad will happen, like you’ll wreak your car.” Okay, so I guess you need to get your grocery shopping done and high-tail it back over the mountain pass before the sun goes down.

That, or you just don’t eat pork.

A hui hou! (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Moving to Maui- Part Four

Aloha!

I figured after the embarrassment and absurdity of the late night cleaning incident (see The Move to Maui, Part Three) things were bound to calm down for a little while. Right?

People often ask me if it’s true that you must work two jobs to afford to live on Maui. The truth: it depends on what those jobs are. The General Manager of the hotel is obviously not going to need  a second job. The waitress, bartender, or lowly concierge working part-time (Me!)…probably yes. It also depends on how lavish a lifestyle you’re used to, what you like to eat, where you want to live, how extensive your vices….pretty much like anywhere else.

I took a second job as a Tennis Court Supervisor at another hotel. This sounds important,doesn’t it? But all I did was check players in, sweep the courts twice a day (by hand) and haul five-gallon jugs of ice-water out to the courts and hoist them up to waist-high stands out there. (Arrrggh! He-man style.) Being that I weighed 100 pounds dripping wet, this was not the wisest thing to be doing, which came back to haunt me, more on that later…but in the meantime I looked for a job in my own field of interior design.

As I’ve said in earlier posts,it’s pretty unusual to be able to move to Hawaii and keep your former lifestyle…unless that former lifestyle involves a hefty trust fund or you need a Brinks truck to move your bank account.

Since I had been in business for myself as a stressed-out designer, I thought it was time to go to work for someone else. (This was back when the idea of finding another job was not absurd.) I got a job nailed down with a place that imported Balinese and Thai furniture.  The owner was leaving on a buying trip and said I could start work when she got back. Whoo-hoo! A job! Then she got back and said she’d “changed her mind.” That was all. No other reason given.

This was my first of many lessons about Maui-ites. They are….different. (Disclaimer: obviously this does not mean everybody, it just seems like it when you live here.)

I’m trying to figure out how to put it delicately. I guess I’ll go with “quirky” as a nice way to say spacy, flaky, and unpredictable in one all-purpose word. It’s as if all the disenfranchised and disenchanted people in the world who can’t quite seem to pull it together in other places all wake up at some point and say, “I know! I’ll move to Paradise! That will solve everything.” So they do. But then everybody else is expected to deal with their… eccentricities.

Case in point: My next job interview was with a design firm (I’ll never tell!) that was owned by a husband-and-wife. I wore a silk dress, looked and acted professional, and was told I had the job. But whoa, nelly! Not so fast. The husband had interviewed me. Then the wife entered the room and the whole climate changed from warm Hawaii breezes to Iceland.

Turns out they were divorced but still in business together. And she saw me as some sort of competition for her husband (therapy, anyone?) but of course I was ten steps behind, my head swiveling from one to the other as they argued. I was trying to make sense of all this as a scene from Jerry Springer erupted and I thought they were going to come to blows right there on the floor. The last thing I heard as I hoofed it out of there in my high heels was her screaming at him, all the way out to the parking lot.

For the record, I didn’t want the job. I had asked a simple question: “Since you have to order all the furniture sight-unseen to get it to the island, what happens when it gets here and it’s hard a rock?” Their answer: “You lie through your teeth and tell them it’s the most comfortable couch you’ve ever sat on.” So I was out of there anyway, even before they went at each other’s jugulars.  Not the way I do business, folks. And good luck with those anger management issues.

So I kept working my manini (small) jobs, learning that nothing in Paradise was as it had seemed when I had come here on vacation, and wondered what was in store for me next.

Whatever it was, I was hoping it wouldn’t involve Jerry Springer.

A hui hou! (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button at the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Mahalos

Aloha All,

In Hawaii people speak pidgin (well, at least the ones who grew up here) and it’s a kind of shorthand English, a mashup of languages constructed during the reign of sugar plantation days when workers were brought from Japan and the Phillipines and no one could communicate with each other.

So most people know that “Mahalo” means thank you. But “Mahalos” is pidgin, it’s like the shaka sign of thank yous. It shows you’re local and you know what you’re talking about, i.e. “Mahalos, man.” I know this because Mike grew up here and it is truly like living with a foreigner to have a girl from the midwest and a haole boy from Hawaii living in the same house. This man would eat fish three times a day. I’m a good cook, and it will never matter how great my French cooking skills become, that man is gonna want fish, preferably on the grill…or raw.

I remember the first time he came home with a big ahi tuna he’d caught it off the boat. He threw it , still flopping, down on the patio and I watched him carve that thing up so fast I thought I hope I never get on the wrong side of him, because he has some serious knife skills. I was to find out he has some serious survival skills, period. Like he could have been the original “Survivor” but without the ego or attitude.

As far as the pidgin, when Mike was in the fire department, the firemen used to tease him that as a haole boy he was more Hawaiian than they were. That was the highest compliment they could give.

I got to watch the pidgin in action when we built our house. Mike would send me down to Kahului for a plumbing part (I was the “Runner”–that was my official title and I took it very seriously!) or a pile of wood or whatever.Now you’ve gotta realize I’m Swedish-Irish with blondish hair and blue-green eyes. And I would gamely go into the plumbing supply store and try to get waited on. And I waited. And I waited. And I would be routinely ignored by the guys in there and come home without the part, no matter how politely I asked.

Mike would be quite aggravated that I hadn’t accomplished this simple mission. So we would jump in the truck together, drive back down the hill and go to the same place. He would speak pidgin. And in two minutes he’d have his plumbing part. Like magic.

Anybody out there had a similar experience? Because my friend in Kula looks pretty much like me, except she was a model so she’s much taller and stunning (okay, maybe she doesn’t look like me) and she had all the same problems when they were building their house. No pidgin, no part.

I write this to say “Mahalos” to all of you who have written to tell me how much you’re enjoying the blog. That rocks, to know that the time I put in is worth it. I hope to bring a little bit of Hawaii to you all as often as I can. But on that note, it might be a short while before I can blog again. Those of you who follow the blog know that I was gone from Maui for five months last year because my stepdad was dying of cancer and I went to California to care for him. Well, now my mom just had major surgery so I’m back on a plane to CA tomorrow to care for her. Once I know Mom is good, I’ll be back at this, I promise.

So Mahalos and Aloha for now. See you real soon! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the right.

Jamaica

Is Hawaii Worth It?

Aloha,

In the brand new issue of “Honolulu Magazine” that just hit newstands here, the cover asks this question: Is Hawaii Worth it?

It then cleverly lists the pros and cons:

Sunshine……………………………..$5.00 gallon milk

3rd Safest City in the U.S………Solid Gold Electric Bill

Mangoes from Neighbors……….Living w/ your parents till age 35

Surf’s Up!…………………………….You just can’t get there from here (anywhere!)

Then: “I Stay Broke” (local pidgin for I’m always broke!)

And: Median Single-Family Home Price: $597,000. ($625,00 Honolulu). Cost in Witchita? $155,200. In St. Louis: $126,800.

From Editor A. Kam Napier’s Page in Honolulu Magazine, Titled “Paying the Paradise Tax:

“Unlike the residents of 49 other states, who can only dream of living in Hawaii, we actually know what it’s like to live here. While there’s much to be grateful for, we know that Hawaii is not always a bed of roses, or even a lei of plumeria. Mainly, this is because we have what a friend of mine calls America’s “most expensive ordinary life.” According to MetroTrends, an online publication from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, Urban Institute, Honolulu lost more residents between 2004 and 2010 through out-migration to other U.S. cities than it gained from in-migration. (Top three places to which Honoluluans fled: Los Angeles, San Diego and—shocking, I know—Las Vegas.) We also earned a D grade from MetroTrends for economic security, mainly for housing unaffordability.”

 So what do you think? Is Hawaii really worth it? Would it be worth it to you?

A hui hou! (til next time). If you’d like to subscibe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Does ‘Oprah’s Farm’ mean Winfrey’s moving to Maui?

Aloha!

Oprah Winfrey’s Maui house is just fifteen minutes from mine. She built a pretty unassuming farm-style house in Kula, after buying out the rancher.

Kula is in “Upcountry” Maui, on the slopes of Haleakala mountain. In January, several websites quoted a story in the National Enquirer saying that Winfrey had joked that she’d move to the Valley Isle to run an organic farm if her new cable channel didn’t work out. An article at:http://www.bizjournals.com/pacific/blog/2012/04/does-oprahs-farm-mean-winfreys.html also commented on this. Interesting. Oprah also had land in Indiana, not far from where I grew up, which she sold. The last issue of her magazine said she loves to cook. I wonder if she’ll start showing up at the Upcountry Farmer’s Market that we frequent at the crack of dawn every Saturday morning, selling veggies and herbs? Well, sure!

Doing the drive up to see Oprah’s house has become “the thing to do” for tourists. Oprah should have someone sell tickets at the gate and charge for tourists to snap photos. She’d make a bundle.

Oprah has hired celebrity chef Bev Gannon of Hali’imaile General Store(www.bevgannonrestaurants.com) to cook for her on occasion when she’s here visiting. I know this because my friend Wendy knows Bev. A saying you hear all the time on Maui is, “It’s a small island.” This means rumors fly, and also that you’d better mind your P’s&Q’s because someone you know just saw what you did.

The reason for the low (almost non-existent) rate of rape and murder on Maui? Because whatever you do, your Auntie or Uncle or “cuz” will know about it. And let’s face it…there’s no escaping off an island. They just simply shut down the airport.

It’s a small island. So how come I haven’t run into Oprah?

A hui hou! (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Copyright Jamaica Michaels 2012. All rights reserved. May not be reblogged or reprinted without express written permission of author.

Moving to Maui, Part Three

Aloha,

So I now had a part-time job on Maui and a place to live, at the Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas, which is a combination of hotel and condos:

I had brought along one suitcase and my bicycle. The condo I was renting had four plates, four forks, four glasses. Life was simple, and I was discovering I liked it this way. No boxes of unorganized Christmas decorations haunting me from the attic. No closet full of winter clothes. No grandmother’s china gathering dust.

Actually, my design clients in Maui tell me that that’s the very best part about a vacation home on Maui: no stuff. So if that’s what we all aspire to, why do we own so much stuff? The truth is, it owns us…

Anyway, I was settling in, and deciding what to do about my life back in California. Condo life was agreeing with me. Until, that is, the night of the infamous late-night condo cleaning incident. I’m pretty sure they still talk about it at the front desk there.

Here’s the scene: it’s HOT in Maui. So once the sun went down and it cooled off, I decided to do a little cleaning. I put on a thin white t-shirt. And that was all. Get the picture? Hold that thought.

I opened the door to the condo and tossed out the throw rugs to shake later. Now there are fire codes in hotels, and safety codes, and these all conspire to create self-closing doors. Big, heavy, metal self-closing doors. A huge gust of wind blew through and WHAM! The saying “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out” was suddenly reality.

Except that now I was out. Locked out of my condo on the outside walkway three floors up in nothing but a see-through t-shirt.The only thing that could have made it worse would have been if I was out on a tiny ledge, like in the movies. If there was ever a time I wished to be beamed up, Scotty, it was now.

What to do, what to do?

I yanked my t-shirt down over what  I could cover, got into the (now functioning) elevator and rode downstairs. I moved like a lady in a too-tight skirt, mincing my way to the front desk. I stopped just short of it and called around a support beam: “Hey, excuse me! I’ve lost my key and I’m locked out.”

The night clerk was named Mary. Mary was suspected of doing a little nipping at the bottle she kept stashed behind the desk (actually, a lot of nipping) because the boss wasn’t there at night to know the difference. Mary looked over in a fog and tried to focus on me.

“Who’s that? Who’s there?”

I called out my name. I told her which condo I was in. But Mary didn’t know me from a tourist.

“Well, what do you want? I can’t hear you. Come over here to the front desk!”

I sighed, clutched my shirt, and began my slow journey into the middle of the lobby. At just the same moment that a tourist couple entered and wanted to check in. I sidled up to the front desk, turned my back to them and whispered loudly,  “I’m locked out. I can’t get in. Do you have a spare key to my apartment?”

“Well no, of course not. I’ll have to call the maintenance guys. I don’t know who’s on duty.”

The maintenance GUYS? Great. Just great. The gods who had come out of the sky in my deux a machina moment and given me a great apartment and a job were now extracting their pound of flesh. Literally. I was sure I could hear them laughing up there.

I yanked my t-shirt down as hard as I could as the tired tourists glared at me. I steeled myself for the moment my Savior With a Key would get his eye-full. Luckily he was a gentleman, and pretended that it was common-place for him to have to have to let stranded women in see-through t-shirts and no bottoms into their apartments. Let me tell you though, I made sure he walked ahead of me on my walk of shame.

Like I said, I’m pretty sure they still talk about this at the front desk, because let’s not forget, I NOW WORKED THERE!  And I know I made the maintenance guys’ Hall of Fame for stupid guest tricks at the hotel. Except, that is, that just the week before I had dropped my key down the teeny little crack in the elevator shaft and they had to rescue me from that.

What are the chances? And how could a woman who was smart enough to own a home and manage a business keep pulling these incredibly dumb stunts? Deux a machina.

And the gods laughed.

A hui hou! (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

Copyright Jamaica Michaels, 2012. All rights reserved. May not be reblogged or reprinted without express written permission of the author.