It’s a Whole Different World in Hawaii

Weather in Maui today: Abundant sunshine. High around 85F. Winds NE at 20 to 30 mph

It’s a Whole Different World in Hawaii

Please Note: This post was published two days before Andy Griffith passed away. Weird timing. RIP, Ange. “Andy Griffith Dead at 86”.

Aloha!

Recognize the guy in the image above? Good ol’ Barney from the Andy Griffith show. There’s a magic show in Lahaina called Warren and Annabelle’s, and the magician, Warren, is from North Carolina. So the running schtick of the evening is that we are in “Mayberry” and he assigns show names to audience members who participate, such as “Goober” “Andy” and “Ain’t Bee” (sic).  To show you that it’s a whole different world in Hawaii http://www.warrenandannabelles.com/ I will tell you about our time there. First of all, Warren is an amazing magician and great comedian. As a concierge, I sent guests from the hotel there constantly, telling them. “you will laugh till your sides hurt.” The first time Mike and I went, I laughed so hard I had tears in my eyes as Warren managed to make the Goober character look ridiculous, and Aunt Bee found someone else’s watch in her purse from across the room.

I noticed as the evening went on that Mike wasn’t laughing. I thought maybe he didn’t feel well. The whole audience would erupt and he would just sit there, stony faced. I decided to not let it bother me and just enjoy the evening. Afterwards as we were walking out I said, “Don’t you feel well?” No, he felt fine. “Then why weren’t you laughing with the rest of us?” He looked at me with a strange expresion and said he had no idea what Warren was talking about up there. “What’s a Goober?” he asked.

It took a moment for this to compute. “You mean you never saw The Andy Griffith Show? http://www.imayberry.com/. Uncomfortable silence. Andy? Barney? Opie? You know, Ron Howard as a kid? http://twitter.com/RealRonHoward/ By now he had that deer in the headlights look which I had come to know meant I was traveling dangerous ground that was no doubt rooted in a Hawaii upbringing. He does not find this amusing.

After a little more careful prodding he admitted: “We didn’t get TV out on the North Shore.” (He grew up on Oahu.) “The mountains were in the way and we couldn’t get the signal.”

You know the sound of a needle scratching across a record? That was my brain. I had been together with this man for how many years now….and hadn’t managed to stumble across this piece of information? Don’t get me wrong…Mike has been around the world twice, surfing (it didn’t hurt that he had a brother who worked for Pan Am and back then immediate family could fly for free!) so it isn’t like he’d never been off the island. It’s just his experience of living on an island and the gaps in his popular culture knowledge that amaze me. “What the heck did you do at night?” I asked. “Slept!” he said. “I’d been up since dawn surfing.”

I envy Mike his childhood in Hawaii. It’s as near-perfect a childhood I’ve ever heard anyone describe, filled with the ocean, water sports, sunshine, cutting school to go surfing (with little to no reprecussions!) going barefoot to school, and sneaking out at night to go down to the beach. He has an impressive collection of  “floats” : Japanese fishing floats made of what we think of today as sea-glass, light blue and sea-green, some of them still wrapped in the thick twine used to hold them to the line. http://www.glassfloatjunkie.com/They are some of his most precious possesions, and it’s rare to find them intact anymore, at least in Hawaii. Note the rolling pin shape, or “roller”:

Mike found these on the beach in Kailua, where he grew up. If you’d like to learn more about these floats, go to  http://home.comcast.net/~4miller/aboutfloats/about.html

In the inverse of the way Mike’s never seen a raccoon, chipmunk or snake (three staples of my Indiana upbringing) he can go into the jungle in Hawaii and name every tree, plant and berry…and know which ones are safe to eat. If I were ever to get shipwrecked on a deserted island, he’s the guy I’d want to have along. He’d have a wild pig caught and roasting over a fire on a spit in the time it would take me to figure out which way was North.

Just don’t ask him to name the guy in the picture at the top of this post.

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

Thanks for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Just Another Day in Paradise

Just another day in Paradise…

Aloha!

I woke this morning to sunshine, as almost every morning. I LOVE that, it’s one of the main reasons I moved to Maui. It’s like I just jones for sunshine. It makes everyone feel better, don’t you think? Shortly after I got up, they began burning sugar cane. We look out across the fields from our back porch:

and then it grew:

Let’s not forget that they burn the PVC irrigation pipe as well…all those toxins released into our Maui air. Then it started raining, at the same time that the sun was out. And I was treated to a rainbow:

Which kept metamorphasizing, and then the sky grew brighter:

And it stopped raining.

I came inside, washed my hands and when I picked up the hand towel in the bathroom, under it was a baby centipede. No matter what people say about the babies of all creatures being cute, that does not apply to baby centipedes. They just looked ticked off and like they can’t wait to find someone to sting.

All this within a 60-minute time period.  When you live on Maui, who needs television? Just another day in Paradise.

Question: When you’ve been to Maui, have you ever seen the burning sugar cane? What was your understanding of it?

And…what was the best rainbow you ever saw, and where?

Thought for the day: “The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances.” — Martha Washington

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

Thanks for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

End of an Era

Aloha!

If you follow this blog, you know that I worked part-time as a concierge/Activities Coordinator at the Maui Kaanapali Villas (http://astonmauikaanapalivillas.3dhawaii.com/ for about ten years. I loved my job. I was good at my job. I really enjoyed meeting tourists from all over the world, and the best day ever was meeting some folks from France whom I invited up to the house, we became friends, and then they invited us to France. We went and it was fabulous. Wow.

I began my job at the Villas in 1999. The main reason I took the job was to have someting to do while I built my interior design business in Hawaii. Also, with that job, we’d get to do the Activities on Maui for free (a major perk). So about once a year we could go do something fun with each company, and we’d also get a discount for our guests who were visiting. This job was totally commission-based and that’s something people need to understand about jobs in Hawaii. They are low-paying or commission unless you have a great office job, or a job in the medical profession, law profession, etc.

There are also instances of people being private or sub-contractors, which is what Mike is as a Captain on the Scoth Mist out of Lahaina. He doesn’t make a great wage and then must pay self-employment tax on that. So people like him, in edition to waiters, waitresses and bartenders, rely on tips.

At my job, two things happened: the first was September 11th, which absolutely froze tourism to Hawaii. My take-home pay dipped dramatically. Very slowly people started coming back to Hawaii, and then we got the second hit: the stock market plunge of late 2007. No tourists. When they did finally start coming, we saw a shift: people who before would have stayed at a resort such as the Four Seasons were looking for less-expensive places to stay. Or, people were coming who were getting killer deals on airlines that wanted to fill seats, and these people just wanted a place to stay.

But people weren’t coming to Maui to spend any extra money, so my pay dipped again. And again. By the time it was all said and done, I was making one-half to one-third what I had been when I started there. At the same time our gas prices on Maui shot to the highest in the nation, so it was no longer feasible for me to drive all the way to Lahaina for what little pay I was making. I simply couldn’t stay in a job where I was making less than the kid at McDonald’s.

In these low-paying Maui jobs, you hope for tips. But I can count on ten fingers the number of times I was tipped in ten years, and I was someone who bent over backwards for people and always has a smile on my face. I made sure people were going to have the time of their lives in Maui. So why didn’t people think to tip? Because they assumed I was getting a per-hour wage.

I addition to what has gone on in our nation’s economy, Hawaii’s economy is tourist-based. We also took some very hard hits as both Aloha Airlines went under, and then Maui Land and Pine. I have a friend who worked at ML&P for years and retired with the understanding that she would have health insurance forever. When they went under, there went her health insurance.

When you come to Hawaii and are wondering whether to tip, consider this: hotel bellhops and Skycaps at the airport see turnover all day long. We know a Skycap who owns a large house on Kaanapali hillside, he does so well.  But I would spend a minimum of an hour and and a quarter with guests planning their vacations, sometimes two hours. In an eight hour day, how many people could I really serve? When things slowed down, sometimes I would sit all day with no one. Tips would have helped bridge the pay gap, but I served far fewer people than most tip-related jobs. Every once in a while a guest would ask “Am I allowed to tip you?” and I would say “Of course!” So if can afford to tip when you come to Maui, please do. Please realize that workers here depend on it. If you can afford to tip well, all the better.

I will now get down off my soap box.

As it turns out, the company I worked for all those years just lost their contract with that hotel. Owners bid on the opportunity to have thier Activity company at a hotel, and if they have a monopoly of many Activity Desks in hotels, they can bid more. That’s what happened. So sad to say, the company will no longer be there. And the women I worked with are now out of jobs, because the new company has their own workers. Takeovers happen even in Paradise.

I am sad for my former co-workers and can’t really believe that an Activity company that has been there for 30 years is no more.

A hui hou (til later). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page.

Aloha, Jamaica

Name that Wind

Aloha!

Many people write to tell me they want to move to Maui. One of the ways to be sure where you want to live is to sleep around (the island, that is). I have friends who came to Maui on vacation numerous times and each time stayed on a different part of the island to get a feel for where they would want to live. Seemed like a good plan. When I met them, they said they had ruled out Pukalani because it has “wind like a freight train.” I just wish I’d met them before I moved to Pukalani.

The Italians have eight words for wind. Vento is one of them. Then there is the French mistral. What we need is a name like that just for the Pukalani wind. Pukalani means “hole in the sky” or literally, beautiful hole in the sky…which means we get lots of sunshine, as opposed to Kula and Olinda (up the mountain) which are often shrouded in the clouds, and I love that about Pukalani. When I met Mike he owned a house in Kula and when you opened the windows up there, the clouds literally blew right through the house. It was beautiful to watch them. The downside to that was that everything he had smelled like mold, and he had bronchitis repeatedly. I said no thank you.

When we built our house in Pukalani, we lived first in a rental, and it was a mile away. Talk about micro-climates…I didn’t know Pukalani had the wind (please name that wind) because the rental was one mile up, toward Kula. (There is also a  wind line in Kaanapali, right at the stoplight at Kai Ala drive. Anything north of there means wind. Like Kapalua.) So we built, and one of the guys we hired to help work on the house casually mentioned the wind. As in “It’s gonna blow every single day because of the convection effect with the mountain.” Seems that the mountain literally pulls the wind up, my guess is from Maalaea (which deserves it’s own special name for wind down there, whatever Hawaiian words that mean “wind from hell’.) I just didn’t realize this was going to be a daily occurance, I thought it was a fluke type of thing.

My next door neighbor said it blew so long one time he thought he was going to lose his mind. I understand now, having lived here since 2002. If I known I would have positioned the overhead garage door differently, it’s just a big open invitation to red dirt every time we open it. That goes for our front door as well as the kitchen door…each time they’re opened everything on the kitchen table, on the counter, on the desk, blows all over tarnation. It’s a paper chase to pin things down, paper weight them. It’s like a sitcom where the same thing happens over and over. And if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, I guess I’m insane.

Or need to stop going in and out of my house.

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

Aloha, Jamaica

Try Wait

Aloha!
I’m writing this tonight with a glass of champage and a shot of St. Germain by my side, so we’ll see how it goes. I discovered that stuff in France. Need I say more?

The need for alcoholic assistance came in the form of a trip to the Maui DMV today. Need I say more? Also, Mike is off-island on Oahu visiting his mother, who just flew in from Savannah to spend the summer (not winter) in Hawaii.

Huh? That’s the reaction I get when I tell them she has a house here that she only uses in the summer, but the mosquitos in Savannah are the size of Volkswagens and there’s a long tradition there of leaving in the summer to escape the heat. So she heads to the North Shore, and Mike heads over there to see her. I’m a big believer in the relationship adage “If you don’t go away, how can I miss you?” so I’m a happy camper as I tuck into a huge stacks of books while he’s gone.

Normally I don’t break out the bubbly, but like I said, I visited the DMV after dropping him at the Kahului airport this morning. The DMV is right next to IHOP, so I had a game plan: get my new driver’s license and then hop over to IHOP for breakfast. So I didn’t eat. Then I left my cup of coffee on the kitchen counter as I was rushed out the door because Mike was gonna be late. Those who know me know I don’t function in the morning, especially without coffee. Quote:”I’m incapable of anything other than marmalade and mumbling before noon. ” (10 am for me.)

Here’s the thing about the Maui DMV. They lie. Right to your face! I got there at 8:50 am and there was NO ONE in line ahead of me. There were about fifteen people seated, but I told myself that they were there to do everything from pay their Real Propery Taxes (as opposed to their phoney ones?) to registering their Maui cruisers. So when the girl at the front desk told me “It’ll be forty-five minutes, tops” I, like an idiot, believed her. I’d brought “Blogging For Dummies” along (I have the computer skills of a rock) and pretty little stick’em notes to notate stuff. I was all set.

Except I hadn’t had any breakfast. And I’d only had a half-cup of coffee. And there are all these new RULES in our increasingly bizarre post 9-11 world, the least of which is you have to bring your passport to the DMV now. Passport, check. (Put it in the car the night before). Then she told me I needed my Social Security card. Would you believe I’d put that sucker in the car to take it to the safety deposit box, unbeknownst to me that I’d be needing it? I jogged back out to the car, afterall, I only had 45 minutes. …

An hour and ten minutes in, I had to pee. I watched the marquee anxiously and the “A” window where I was supposed to appear wasn’t budging. In fact I began to suspect that whoever was in charge of the “A” window had gone to pee herself, because there is NO bathroom in the DMV. I had a dilemma. Do I jog halfway acaross the mall to the bathroom and lose my place in line, or do I risk leaving a puddle on the seat (I have a bladder the size of a gnat. My Mom and I are affectionately called “Tiny Tank” and “Tiny Tank 2”. We are loads of fun to take on car trips, especially together.)

I careened up to Window “C” as soon as someone left it and asked the VISW (Very Important State Worker)  if I could be excused. I felt like I was back in school and needed a hall pass. Now I had been there an hour and fifteen minutes. She checked her screen and admonished me to “hurry.”

EXCUSE ME. Isn’t the fact of them not hurrying what had put me in this pickle to begin with? And wasn’t I told 45 minutes, which I accepted in good faith? I ran. All around the building and through the mall, like the wind, which is tough with a full gnat’s bladder. I made it just in time, then ran all the way back, puffing in my rubbah slippahs. I screeched back into the DMV.

“Try wait”. It’s a bumper sticker you’ll see a lot here, along with “Slow down, this ain’t the mainland.” There is nothing that will hurry them up. They are on island time, which, just in case you were wondering, is not a myth.

An hour and a half later, hungry and cranky, I got my shot at the “A”  window. The VISW took one look at my paperwork and rejected it. Seems in all the confusion of “Where’s your passport? Where’s your social security card? Please deposit your firstborn at the next window”…I hadn’t filled out my application for a new license.

The VISW was not amused.

In all, it took an hour and forty minutes, but I now have a new Hawaii State driver’s license and my hair looks Mah-ve-lous, darling. Happens about twice a year on Maui. Must have been the wind-blown look from all the running.

Disclainer: All errors and typos on this page are entirelt the fault of the St. Grermain.

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

Aloha, Jamaica

Where you grad?

Aloha!

Visiting Hawaii, I always thought the lei was one of the very best parts. To wear fresh flowers around your neck just feels so organic. And the fact that men get in touch with their sensitive sides enough to wear them also..what more could you ask for? Apparently, lots of them at once! Here are Hawaii graduation pictures. (In pidgin it’s “Where you grad?”) I don’t know about you, but my graduation looked nothing like this:

The first time I experienced this, I found myself just giggling at what a joyful sight it is. What a great memory for the graduate.

Congratuations, graduates! Anything is possible

For more on the lei, see the post “Differences Too” in this blog’s archives.

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

Aloha, Jamaica

You know you live in Hawaii when…

Aloha!

You know you live in Hawaii when…

  • You find a dead gecko in your toaster in the morning and a slimy black lizard in your bed at night. The lizard was the hardest. I was dead asleep and felt something in the small of my back. Groggily I put my hand under there and it came up full of lizard. The geckos I don’t mind, but those black lizards look and move like snakes. I screeched loud enough to wake Pele.
  •  You get into your closed car on a summer day and your sunglasses steam up when you put them on. Now that’s hot.
  • If the menu lists macaroni salad as a vegetable, you know you’re in Hawaii. Locals go to the mainland and complain, “How come they no get plate lunch heah?” Plate lunches (with minor variations of meat) are: teriyaki beef or teriyaki chicken with two large scoops of rice and macaroni salad. They LOVE their starch.
  • You’re at the beach and there are chickens running around.
  • Everywhere you go people are eating and partying in their garages and car ports, not inside the house.
  • A local family has built a barn, planted a large tree or otherwise blocked out entirely their stunning view, completely oblivious. Meanwhile, the haoles are howling if someone plants a twig in front of a view they paid dearly for.
  • Termites are eating everything you own no matter what “guaranteed” method you used to control them. Our neighbors down the street tore down their thirty-year-old house and built another right on the same spot because the termites were eating it to the ground. Also, there are no Antiques stores on Maui. There’s a reason for that: the termites ate everything long ago.

A hui hou! (til next time). Thought for the day: There are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going.

Aloha, Jamaica