Progress

Progress

Aloha!

There have been lots of changes in the 12 years since I began going to Oahu’s North Shore. So much of what passes for progress is really just a tearing down of the old and established.

In the old days people build a simple beach shack on the waterfront. Now those shacks are being torn down and fancy mansions are going in. This is all outside money, locals can’t afford to buy beachfront anymore. Just as anywhere, someone will always have deeper pockets. But the simple, laid-back beach lifestyle seems to be disappearing. Any given weekend on the North Shore shows cars lined up, jockeying for positions to park. People who own land get aggravated, trying to keep tourists from parking on their lawns, and in their driveways. Mike finally had to sink posts and string chain across his mom’s lawn to keep Tourist’s off it. There is a 30-year-old avocado tree in her yard there with the best avocados I’ve ever had. The pit is small, and the flesh is like butter. People come along and pick the avocados without asking, and one girl was picking so many she was reselling them at a fruit-stand. Not cool.

Here is a before photo of a beach shack on the North Shore, right at waterfront:

North Shore Beach Shack

They tore down the house next to it, and here is the brand new one being built:

New Beachfront House, North Shore

It may become a vacation rental, which will mean a clash of the old and the new, with lots of people, cars and loud parties.

Mike has three brothers and someday they will be faced with the decision to keep the beach house or sell for a tidy sum. I don’t know which way it will go, but I do know the North Shore is not the laid-back place it was. And people from thirty or fifty years ago would really have some stories to tell.

As Carly Simon sang, These are the Good Old Days.

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

Aloha, Jamaica

 

Your Opinion, Please

Maui Weather Today: High of 84, Low of 72

Your Opinion, Please

Aloha!

Sociologists tell us that the reason we are never quite satisfied is in our hunting and gathering DNA. If our ancestors had been satisfied after finding those first berries, they would not have kept looking for more, and would have starved to death.

So here in Paradise, the something more that many of us wish for is 1) A Target store (it’s in talks) 2) a Trader Joe’s (will never happen) and 3) lower prices (ain’t never gonna happen.) Or is it?

There is something all over the Maui news sources now that I wanted to get your opinion on. A developer from the Mainland is trying to build a huge Outlet Mall in Kihei. Many locals don’t want it, they say it will just cause traffic and congestion.  One of our biggest concerns here on Maui is that we don’t want to become Oahu. If we wanted to live on Oahu, we’d move there. The developers maintain that it will be good for the economy here and create jobs.

The people on both sides of the argument seem to be missing the bigger picture:

1) how are they going to keep prices low, at Outlet Store prices, when they have paid to ship this merchandise across the ocean? and

2) Who is really going to shop there?

Your opinion please: Would you spend your time shopping at an Outlet Mall on Maui?

What do you mainly come to Maui to do? Relax? Swim/go to the beach? Boating/Diving/Water activities? Hiking? Driving around to see the scenery?

Shopping on Maui? And if so, what do you buy? Souveniers? Clothing?

My experience with Outlet Malls is limited, though I do know people who are addicted to them and basically plan their trips to the East coast around them. It seems these malls are always full of merchandise that didn’t sell well otherwise. And here’s something I’ve always wondered about chain stores in Maui in general: how do they move the Winter merchandise? If you walk into the Gap or Banana Republic in the Shops at Wailea and see boots and hats in there, are you moved to buy them and take them home? Because I know the Mauians aren’t buying them. Unless of course someone is making a trip to cold country, but my experience has been that when I really needed something like that, it wasn’t in the stores right then anyway.

So let’s say the Outlet Mall goes in. Who is really going to buy those winter goods and haul them home, when they can get them back in Milwaukee just fine? Also, and this is the biggee for me–airlines now charge good money for bags that used to be free.

So are you really going to come to Maui and fill up a suitcase at an Outlet Mall and pay to haul the stuff home? Are you going to spend your time on Maui shopping at an Outlet Mall, or will you think “I could do this back home”? I will tally the responses I get and submit them as a Letter to the Editor of both The Maui News http://mauinews.com/ and The Maui Weekly http://mauiweekly.com/ Your opinion, please…

And if you are local, are you in favor of the Outlet Mall?

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

The Road not Taken

Maui Weather Today: High of 85. Low of 72.

The Road Not Taken…in Maui

Aloha!

My niece Alyssa just graduated from high school. This is what I will tell her:

When you move to Maui, it’s a pretty sure bet that you are not one to follow the crowd. This sounds counter-intuitive, I know, since the crowd thinks it wants to live here. But to actually leave your home, your family, and move to Maui is something entirely different. Now you’re walking the walk, not just talking the talk. I sorta envy those who grew up here..they have such close family ties. I miss my family and thought they would visit much more often than they do.  But it’s a different world now, it’s expensive to fly, it’s expensive just to get by.

All I knew was that I wanted to live somewhere warm. I was sick of being cold my whole childhood and I was determined to do whatever it took to leave the Chicago area. First I moved to California. Then to Hawaii. Everyone wants to know: how can you afford to live there? How can you own a house? They write to me and ask me that.  I once saw an interview with Michael J. Fox where he talked about the concept of “selling your twenties to buy your thirties”. While my friends were grooving at concerts, going on cruises and living the good life in their twenties, I was saving money, then building a house and delaying gratification.

It’s about choices.

I have a friend who built a house and also bought a bookstore in Mexico. People ask her, too, how did you afford to do this? Her answer: sacrifice. She and her husband lived in the Bay area, worked very hard, and saved every penny they could. They chose not to have children. They bought the land, then built the house with cash, little by little, making trips to Mexico to do the work themselves.  Choices.

Today the choices are even less clear: technology whispers from every corner “buy me, buy me”. Eric Gilliom http://ericgilliom.com/and Willi K http://www.barefootnatives.com/ from Maui did a song about Maui where they talk about not owning a cell phone and driving a Maui cruiser (junk) car. The Road Not Taken is often a beater car covered with red dirt in Maui. It’s often a cinder-block house with jalousie windows. It’s often a bunch of roomates.

My Kenmore dishwasher is 33 years old. I am not making this up. It came with the house we tore down to build this one. It looks like someone tied it to the bumper of a car and dragged it behind.  The racks inside are broken and rusting. It’s quite noisy. But is still works. So we are not rushing out to replace it to the tune of $700-$1,000. Every single thing on Maui is expensive.

I was in Foodland in Pukalani yesterday and they have hit a new personal best of $6.49 for a loaf of rye bread. I will soon not be buying bread! Also, our coconut tree in the front yard was dying, so we had to have it removed. The Samoan guy wanted $200. but Mike talked him down to $150. plus all the tangerines he wanted off our tree. The Ironwood tree is enormous and was threatening our roof. It was going to be a King’s ransom to get it trimmed, so Mike shaped a surfboard, had it glassed, and traded the tree trimmer for the board. (A Mike Turkington surfboard is a coveted item: www.amazon.com/The-Curt-Mastalka-Collection…/B002M4NM0M  or https://www.google.com/search?q=mike+turkington+surfer&hl=en&prmd). Every day now it seems we say “There is more going out than coming in.” I know it is the same across the country…but what is the cost of living where you live?

Between the cost of gas, and food (bread!) and electricity on Maui, I don’t know how people with three children are keeping up. A commentary by Lisa Darcy in the Maui Weekly http://mauiweekly.com/ Executive Director of the Ho’omoana Foundation, talked about how she is “witnessing more people in need who are doing everything right and still unable to meet their basic needs or their family’s basic needs” because so many agencies have had to make cutbacks. Lisa ended with these words: “As long as I have (dental) floss, I am in a socioecnomic bracket well ahead of most of the world. This is not something I take for granted, nor that fact that I have a warm, safe place to sleep tonight.”

Moving to Maui is The Road Not Taken. It’s well and good to tell yourself the beaches and warm weather will make up for not having “things.” It’s another to be able to afford bread and to be able to put gas in your car.

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

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

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