Local Style Partying

Aloha!

So what do the locals do with all their STUFF–since they’re busy having parties in their garages? (Or maybe it’s that haoles just own too much STUFF.)

It was interesting when first moving here to drive around and see people partying in their garages. I mean, even just Friday night barbecues… They open up the garage door, put a picnic table inside, and BAM, a party. And my questions are always the same:

What about having it INSIDE the house? Hmmm?
And who was the first person who ever decided that the garage was an ideal place to get happy?
And where IS all their stuff?

We couldn’t possibly have a party in our garage…at least not one that wouldn’t depress everybody, as they squeezed between the pile of windsurfing boards and the broken vacumn cleaner that (somebody) in the household just can’t bear to toss.

If I have a party in my garage next Friday, will you come?

It’s one of those great mysteries of life….in Hawaii.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Life is Short. Play Hard.

Aloha!

I met my friend, world – class swimmer Suzanne Heim-Bowen, when she came to Maui to compete in the Maui Channel Swim (Lanai to Maui) a few years ago. Mike has served as an escort boat Captain for the teams every Labor Day weekend for twenty years, and Suzanne and I were seated next to each other at the awards banquet.

Suzanne has set three world records in swimming, all after the age of 50. Recently, Deborah J. McDonald made a lively documentary about her, called “The 50-year-old Freshman” (which keeps winning awards):

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What I find especially interesting is that Suzanne was also the first person to swim the Bay-to-Breakers in San Francisco Bay, a treacherous 10 mile swim in 56° water from the Bay Bridge, across the Bay, under the Golden Gate Bridge, and beyond. She was the first person… And she was 24 years old.

So what this means, is that Suzanne has been setting amazing goals, and reaching them, her entire adult life. She just keeps raising the bar higher.

Suzanne was inducted into the International Masters Swimming Hall of Fame, and has swum the English-Channel twice. She’s a polar-bear swimmer in San Francisco Bay, and I’ve sat in the nice, cozy Dolphin Club and watched from a large window as she swam toward Alcatraz in weather that had me wearing a winter coat.

Suzanne set the three world records for women 50-54 in the 200, 400, and 800 meter free. At 50 years old she swam 18:32 in the 1500 M, and broke her own world record by 13 seconds.

Suzanne is warm, funny, and crazy – smart. She is one of my favorite people. Her motto: Life is short. Play hard.

We’ve been talking about dreams here at Mauidailyescape.com. Check out “The 50-year-old Freshman” documentary on Amazon. If you’re a person who automatically thinks “documentary”: dry, boring… This is not. I think you’ll really enjoy it, and even if you’re not a swimmer, it will get your wheels spinning for the next dream in your life…

Note: This Sunday,on the OWN network, Oprah Winfrey interviews Diana Nyad, the swimmer who was 64 when she became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage in under 53 hours. How’s that for a goal?

A hui hou! Mahalo for reading along… If you would like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Positive Outlook?

Aloha!
Tourism is still the driving factor in Maui County’s economy, according to economists at First Hawaiian Bank’s 39th annual Maui Business Outlook Forum. But if you’re thinking of moving to Maui and finding a job, or starting a business, read on.

At its lowest point in the recent deep recession in 2010, the county lost nearly 9,000 jobs. About 5,000 of those jobs have returned, mostly in tourism and other service-related fields, and the unemployment rate is still well above the 3% rate before the recession. In my personal experience, I was working a part-time job on Maui when I was laid off. I found out firsthand that these jobs numbers are not totally accurate: I would never show up as a statistic, because I could not collect unemployment as a part-time employee. So it was as if my job never existed. And I could not collect unemployment, even though I’d been paying into it for years!

In it’s third-quarter “Outlook for the Economy” published last month, the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism projected state unemployment rates to be 4.8% in 2013 and 4.5% in 2014.

As for construction, activity has been on a slow but steady climb since 2011 and has made about a 25% recovery after plummeting to its low point in 2010. However, the economists noted, the opportunities are coming from infastructure and commercial construction, and less from residential and timeshares. So if you’re a guy planning to swing a hammer, be aware of that.

The retail sector also is expected to grow. The Maui Mall will add a T.J. Maxx store, scheduled to open in summer 2015.(Yay.) And the Queen Kaahumanu Center is planning to add new “name brand” shops. (That will be nice, especially after we lost both JCPenney and the Gap. Because of that, I tend to shop for basics on the mainland.)

As far as real estate, based on January – through – July numbers this year, sales for both single – family and condo units were well on their way to numbers not seen since their peak in 2007: 1,000 single family units and 1,300 condos sold. “The market is getting back to where it was,” said the President of Realtors Association of Maui, P. Denise LaCosta.”When inventory is low like this, it means prices will rise, and inventory will continue to shrink.” Maui’s real estate inventory has declined 11-14% over the last 12 months.

Make of these numbers what you will…A number of readers wrote to tell me they were planning to move to Maui. If you are one of those people, please write and tell me if you found jobs. Shauna?

Other than that, we have drought conditions here on Maui, because it’s been hot, hot,hot with NO rain. I got my haircut today and was talking with my hairstylist, who lives in Haiku. She said that Haiku (rainy, eastern-Maui, jungle) used to only get in the high 70s, and it has consistently been 85 to 87 this past week. She said she is “over summer” and “so tired of being hot!” I concur. As I wrote in a past blog post, statistics now show that Maui is 10° hotter than it was 10 years ago…

A hui hou! Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Real Estate is Hot Again

Aloha!

Real estate is on fire in California… I share this with you because the common wisdom is that Hawaii follows California. So if you’re thinking of moving to Hawaii, the time is now.

Yes, I’ve said this before. However, that was before I became personally embroiled in California real estate, and now I see it in the big picture. Home prices in the Bay Area have hit a milestone: median prices for all types of housing topped $500,000 for the first time in five years.

I am the executor of my mother’s estate, which means I needed to sell her house in the Bay Area. It went on the market, had open houses for two weekends, and got 18 offers. 18 offers, people! Almost all of them were well over asking price. I was floored. Then of course, I had to weed through the 18 offers, and ended up countering five of them. It was a very difficult decision to make the final choice, especially knowing that there are many young families out there who are desperate to buy a home while interest rates are historically low.

I have a friend in California who has been actively trying to buy a condo. One of the units she placed an offer on got 28 offers. She was very discouraged, but after five months of looking and putting in offers, she prevailed. The secret in this market is to be extremely patient. Also, to be excited about a house, but not crushed if you don’t get it. Easier said than done.

The reason for the on-fire real estate market in the Bay Area is that housing prices have risen to where underwater homes can finally sell at a profit. And yet, people are still leery of the market, and many are holding back to see where the prices will land. This has created a seller’s market, and a huge demand for very few houses. “I’ve been in real estate for 32 years and this is the lowest inventory we have ever had,” said Caroline Miller, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.”We’ve had multiple-offer markets before, but it’s just incredible. There are anywhere from three offers up to 20 or 30 offers, it’s just been crazy.”

As I said, Hawaii follows California. Are you planning to move to Hawaii? Do you hope to buy a house? Then hurry, please.

What is the housing market like in your area? Please share your stories.

A hui ho! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “follow” button on the homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Jumping the Shark

**Spoiler Alert** If you haven’t yet watched the season premiere of Mad Men and intend to do so, wait to read this. The premiere had 3.4 million viewers. Mad Men swept the best drama category at the Primetime Emmy Awards four
four years running.

Aloha!

Last night’s season premiere of Mad Men opened in Hawaii, so of course it had my full attention. Thanks to Elvis movies (and Bing Crosby’s before him), Hawaii tourism was treated to a perfect storm in the late 1960’s of tourists arriving by droves in ships and planes to spend their hard-earned vacation dollars, and often, to get out of the cold of a mainland winter.

In this season’s opener, Don Draper and wife Megan do just that, as they are in Hawaii checking out a hotel property (Marriott) on Oahu as a possible new client for the ad agency.  Back in New York, Don presents his ad campaign to the guys from Marriott.

(So, I am wondering if you agree with Don’s take on Hawaii….?)

DON: I’ve just come back…and there’s a feeling that’s stayed with me…

MARRIOTT GUY: I’ve been there in the winter–its quite a shock coming back.

DON: Well put, but that could be any vacation. This was very, very different. I think we’re not selling a geographic location–we’re selling an experience. It’s not just a different place–YOU are different. You’d think there’d be an unsettling feeling about something so drastically different, but there’s something else…you don’t miss anything. You’re not homesick.

It puts you in this…state. The air and the water are all the same temperature as your body. It’s sensory. The music, the fragrance, the breeze and the blue…Hawaiian legend has it that the soul can go in and out of the body, but that it usually leaves from a leeward point. (Don shows a sketch of a suit coat, tie, and an abandoned pair of shoes, with bare footprints leading away.) The copy reads:

Hawaii…the jumping-off point.

MARRIOTT: What happened to him?

DON: He got off the plane, took a deep breath, shed his skin and–jumped off.

MARRIOTT (considers this): I think people might think that he died.

DON: Maybe he did, and he went to heaven. Maybe that’s what this feels like.

Okay…so what did you think? Many people seem to feel that being in Hawaii is like dying and going to heaven (albeit without the existential overtones that Don Draper brought to this scene.) When I worked as a concierge and saw hundreds of tourists a month, they would all get the same moony look on their faces in describing coming to Hawaii, or being back in Hawaii.

What do you think that “state” of being is, that Don descibes? Do you think, as he said, that you are different in Hawaii?

Oh, and as far as the title of this post, “Jumping the Shark”…that refers to a Hollywood term (created by Jon Heim) that describes the moment in the evolution of a television show when it begins to decline in quality that is beyond recovery, which is usually a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of gimmick in a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest.

The phrase “jump the shark” comes from a scene in the fifth season premiere of the TV series Happy Days (Sept. 20, 1977) in which the central characters visit Los Angeles and a water-skiing Fonzie (Henry Winkler) answers a challenge by wearing swim trunks and his trademark leather jacket, and jumps over a confined shark. It is commonly believed that the show began a creative decline as the writers ran out of ideas and Happy Days became a caricature of itself (Wikipedia, Jumping the Shark.)

To me, Mad Men just jumped the shark when Don ended up in bed, yet again, with a woman who was not his wife. Seems to me that Matthew Weiner had himself a boring episode (who IS Sandy, the girl with the violin? And why should we care?) so gave it a jolt at the end to wake us all up after two hours of saying “huh?”

Even paradise couldn’t resuscitate this snooze fest for me. So did you see it? What did you think?

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Aloha, Again

Aloha!

Yes, yes, I know, it’s been a while. Those of you who read this blog know that my mother passed away in December. And I’ve been a little busy. If anyone ever offers to make you the Executor of an estate and you’re thinking of it as an honor, word of advice: run screaming in the other direction. But I was given no choice, so there you have it.

Being the Executor of an estate (estate? puh-leeze) is a thankless, mind-numbing exercise in futility, and you spend months chasing your tail. To top it off, my parents were pack-rats (they had twelve of everything) and it’s up to the Executor (that would be me) to clear all of that flotsam (unimportant misc. material) and jetsam (material cast overboard in times of distress to lighten the load) out of the house, so it can be sold. The stuff and the house.

And let me tell you, there were times while I was there when I walked out to their over-stuffed garage and wanted to pick up one of the (twelve) hammers on the work bench and smack myself in the face with it. Because that would have been an excellent diversion from the two-foot pile of paperwork waiting for me inside the house:

IMG_1874

This was from just one drawer, in one of the four desks in my mom’s house.

Currently I am back on Maui because, well, because I actually have a life apart from being the Executor of an estate…however, being one leaves you no time for your own life. I had to get out of California while the getting was good, just to get my own taxes done this year. THEN I get to go back and file my mom’s taxes, and the estate’s taxes. And sell the house. Party-time!

I know that I am back on Maui, because that very first morning, a friendly little German cockroach decided to share my cup of tea with me:IMG_1819

Some things never change.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

3rd Shark Attack in 3 Weeks

Third Shark Attack in Three Weeks

Aloha!
We are three for three here on Maui. Three shark attacks in three weeks. It’s beginning to feel like we’re living in a small town on the eastern seaboard and Jaws is on the loose. There was also a fourth attack off Kauai.

For the first time in 12 years, I have asked Mike to stay out of the water. Usually I’m glad to see him go surfing. It’s kind of like sending him off to church; he comes back with a big smile and attitude adjustment. But this is worrisome, we’ve never seen this kind of shark activity, and Mike, who has lived here his whole life, says he’s never heard of this many shark attacks this close together. The news reports say it may have something to do with an increase in the turtle population, the shark’s favorite food.

30-year old Marc Riglos was participating in the 2012 Maui Roi Roundup, an invasive species spearfishing tournament. He said the shark took a bite of his ankle then tugged it from side to side. “I thought I was going to die out there. (It) was crazy,” he said. With the help of his dive partner he was able to get back into shore, but they were 300 yards out and it took 25 minutes.

Riglos says he hopes that doctors can save his foot. On KHON 2 news last night, they showed him in his hospital bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center. His right ankle is stitched the entire way around. Riglos said his foot was literally hanging by a tendon.

A marine biologist interviewed on KHON said that the best way to fight off a shark is to get your fingers into the shark’s eyesockets or gills and tug hard, and they’ll back off. Um, easier said than done while their jaws are wide open and headed straight for you. When Mike worked as a professional diver, he said that the divers would stay in a circle and if a shark approached they would take the respirators out of their mouths and scream at the shark, and that worked, too.

Seems to me you don’t need a degree from Harvard to figure out you should maybe just stay out of the water right now.

If you have ever seen the “Shermans Lagoon” comic strip, it is a microcosm of marine life and they all have human characteristics. The big, dumb shark Sherman, his wife and son, the crab and the turtle all talk and comment on what’s going on up top. They stake out Unsuspecting Vacationers floating on the surface and decide which ones will taste best for dinner. It sounds morbid, but it’s quite funny.

Given that, I began to wonder if the sharks have just been watching too much television down there… Too many paid political advertisements. They got so frustrated, they just had to take a big BITE out of someone.

At least today that will all be over! And if the shark activity calms down… Well, what can I say. I was right.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica