Waves, Whales and Wags

Aloha!

We are staying on Oahu’s North Shore with Mike’s brother and sister-in-law. It’s a time of tears and remembrances (Mike’s mom passed away last month), but also of laughter and telling stories around the kitchen table.

The North Shore is busy – – TOO busy for someone like Mike – – who remembers the old days when there was no traffic and he had surf spots practically to himself.

image

Now there’s a surf contest every time you turn around,
and the daily surf lineup is fierce with competition for a wave. (I used to think surfers were mellow before I met Mike. Ha!)

image

Traffic, which is one way into Haleiwa and one way out, single lanes – – (unless you’re willing to drive the looonng way around the island), is snarled and tempers flare. I’ve sat for an hour trying to go from Haleiwa (Ha-lay-ee-va) to Foodland, and that’s normally a 10–15 minute drive. The world is getting smaller, there are more and more people, and Hawaii is no exception.

As if the waves aren’t enough of a draw, there are the whales. We had all walked to the beach for sunset, lawn chairs in tow, and the sun was a brilliant orangey-red thanks to the VOG factor (volcanic organic gas). Riveting–until we noticed the whale puffs to our right…then it was like a tennis match – – faces swinging left to sunset, right to whales, back to sunset, not wanting to miss anything.

We had all swung right when two very large whales broke the water surface and did a perfectly synchronized double-breach, mid – air. Like 4th of July, the crowd oohed and ahhed. It was as if we were at Sea World watching a dolphin show, but with huge whales, in the wild, with no trainer. Mike said he had seen a double- breach maybe 30 times in his entire life in Hawaii. I had never seen it. What a special moment. No photo of course – – and if I’d had my head glued to a camera I wouldn’t have truly experienced it.

Then there are the weddings (and engagements) taking place on the beach… Flashes going off from large professional cameras and processions of barefoot dressed – up bridesmaids and beaming brides.

Lastly, the dogs, who frolic with circles of friends in the water, on the shore, and sometimes in a conga line. I half expect them to dance, they are just so darned happy to be Hawaii beach dogs.

So if you come to Oahu’s North Shore, be sure to pack your patience – – particularly if you have your heart set on the famous Matsumoto’s shave ice. The line is always out the door!

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button to the right or on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Have You Seen ‘Aloha’ ?

Aloha!

The Cameron Crowe-directed film ‘Aloha,’ set in Hawaii on Oahu, just seems to keep stirring the pot. Crowe has defended himself on a series of issues, and the film was the subject of one of the leaked emails in the Sony hack where SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal weighed in on production cost overruns and had scathing words for the movie.

Now comes Guy Aoki, head and founder of MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian-Americans) where in a press release to the New York Post, he accused Columbia Pictures of a “whitewashed” version of Hawaii. “Caucasians only make up 30% of the population (of Hawaii), but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99%,” he said. “This comes in a long line of films: “The Descendants,” “50 First Dates,” “Blue Crush,” “Pearl Harbor” –that uses Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there,” Aoki said.

“Aloha” stars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Alec Baldwin and Bill Murray in the story of a military contractor (Cooper) who moves to Hawaii for work and falls for an energetic Air Force member (Stone).

According to Aoki, the largest roles for Islanders in “Aloha” are characters without names, some of whom are described as “Indian pedestrian,” “Upscale Japanese tourist,” and “upscale restaurant guest.” Aoki asks, “How can you educate your audience to the ‘rich history’ of Hawaii by using mostly white people and excluding the majority of the people who live there and who helped build that history?”

Wonder if he’s ever seen a little television show called “Magnum, P.I”?

A Hollywood Reporter article of 5/23/15 by Ryan Gajewski quotes a source from the movie as saying that no member of MANAA has yet to see the film or read the script and that the films storyline centers on “the spirit of the Hawaiian people.”

What do you think of the movies Aoki called out that were filmed in Hawaii? In letters to me, many blog readers name “The Descendants” as a movie shot in Hawaii that “gets them through the winter.”
Do you even care what a movie shot in Hawaii is about….because you watch mostly for the scenery?
And if you’re local, do you feel under-represented or misrepresented in Hollywood? Please weigh in…

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button to the right, or on the Homepage. Thanks for reading along!

Aloha, Jamaica

You Can Check Out Any Time You Like

Aloha!

Remember the line from the Eagle’s song “Hotel California” that says, “You can check out anytime you like… But you can never leave”?

Seems like someone could’ve written the same about Maui. There are tourists who come here, fall in love with Maui and Hawaii, and really don’t want to go home. I was one of them.

This can have a flipside. I’ve talked to many people who move here and then can’t leave, even if they want to. They’ve quit their jobs. They’ve paid a lot of money to shut down their lives on the mainland, ship their cars, all their paperwork, and all their worldly possessions, and here they are. Stuck. Can’t afford to do it in reverse.

One man had a business here where he placed banks of computers in hotel lobbies, including the hotel where I worked. When we chatted he said, “(Expletive) Maui. I moved here with my wife, found out we can’t stand it, and now we’re stuck here.” And his business was quickly obsolete – the hotels installed Wi-Fi for guest’s laptops and iPads instead.

This is why I encourage anyone to give Maui a trial–run before pulling up stakes, selling their homes and businesses, and paying shipping fees to get their lives here. A recent blog post had a letter from a reader on Kauai who moved there five years ago. She gave a wonderful overview, but also said, “Would I do it again, knowing what I know? I don’t know. ”

Recently a friend who came to Maui twenty years ago said, “When I moved here, everyone told me, ‘Maui is healing place.’ Well, they neglected to mention that you’re supposed to get healed…and then leave!”

Could be why so many people stay only two years. They’ve gotten what Maui could offer them, from the sun, the ocean, a major change… and they’re done. Yes, my friend is one of those who feels stuck….bought a home and is self-employed. Now what? (“We are all just prisoners here, of our own device.”)

Realize, too, that each Hawaiian island is different. Each has its own culture; on Oahu it can be a bit easier to assimilate because the military is there, and they are used to outsiders. There are that many more tourists, that many more more people. It’s different on Maui where people who grew up here often have a very negative view of people who move here and “spoil” their island. Caucasians are suspect, because in their history it was the Caucasians who stole their islands from the monarchy. The same person who posted the long comment recently beginning with “You seem to have left a lot out” also said, “Once you submerge yourself into the culture, ‘Welcome to Hawaii…now leave,’ has quite a bit of meaning and truth to it.”

There are those who come here, love it, and would never dream of leaving. And then there are the others, whose dreams go up in (cane) smoke. Food for thought, in case you’re considering checking into The Hotel Maui. (“Last thing I remember, I was running for the door… I had to find the passage back to the place I was before.”)

A hui hou! If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the Follow button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

The Logisitics of Living on an Island

Aloha!

Friends recented visited us from Oahu’s North Shore, and shared a story about trying to buy a car on the mainland. “But why would someone go all the way to the mainland to buy a car?” you might ask.

Well, there’s the fact that it costs around $8,009-$10,000 less on the mainland. And there’s so much less to choose from in Hawaii. (We won’t cover what it’s like trying to buy a car on Maui…. if the Oahu folks feel less than excited with their prices and selections, you can imagine our dilemma. Here, cars are first shipped from the mainland to Oahu, unloaded, put on a boat with Young Brothers and they ship them to Maui–with the attendant mark up. The last time we bought a used car we flew to Oahu, bought it, and had it shipped back to Maui.)

Sound crazy? Such are the logistics of living on an island.

So our friends called around on the mainland, located the exact car (Jeep) they wanted right down to the color, and put down a deposit on their credit card over the phone. Then they bought plane tickets and flew to California with the intention of driving their brand-new car around for 10 days rather than having to spend the money on a Rent-A-Car.

Except, that’s not what happened. They got to the car dealership and were told that their car has been sold. Seems the salesman was not allowed to take a deposit over the phone, as in, “We don’t TAKE deposits!” Our friends fired back, “Well someone here sure did!” But they apparently had put that salesman in the Jeep Witness Protection Program and wouldn’t let them talk to (yell at) him.

Lots of negotiating ensued as our friends worked their way up the management food chain. They demanded their airfare be covered. They demanded money for a rental car, since they now had nothing to drive and hadn’t budgeted for a rental. On and on it went.

But management wouldn’t budge. Our friends had to get on the phone and start all over trying to find the Jeep of their dreams. As luck would have it, they found one for less money, and it all came out okay in the end. But it was very tense there for a while–they probably got a few grey hairs. They still had all the time and paperwork of registering, licensing and then shipping the new car to Hawaii–and every person they talked to from the DMV to the dealership to the shippers gave them a different story. Quite the run-around.

Just thought I would share this as one of the essential logistics of living in Hawaii: do we REALLY want to go try to find a car on the mainland, then have to ship it, to save about ten grand?

And just in case you are wondering: we recently shipped a car from the mainland that was already registered in California. It was significantly higher to register it in Hawaii, as was the insurance. California charges for registration according to how old the car is (so the fee drops over time) and Hawai charges according to weight. I’m pretty sure my car weighs the same from one year to the next! So this explains why every year when I would say to Mike, “Doesn’t it seem like our registration should’ve gone down by now?” that I was pipe – dreaming. It’s not going to go down.

Logistics are those things that people who have never lived in Maui
1) don’t think about, and
2) probably don’t believe, even after we explain it to them.

One of those joys of living on a rock in the middle of the ocean!

A hui hou. Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button to the right, or on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

Reader Asks About Electric Costs on Maui

Aloha!

A reader wrote to ask:

My husband and I just returned from our visit to Maui. We have been tossing the idea about of just moving there. We live in Northern CA where it reaches above the 100 mark. It was warmer this visit, but not unbearable….we had left where it was up to 102+. Although there are some costs that are not real out of the ordinary, the electric is three times what we pay here. My question to you is…..if you have the solar or photo-voltaric (sp?) what would the average cost be for an average 1200 sq ft home in upcountry or kihei? Thank you 🙂

Answer: If you follow this blog, you know that we had a photovoltaic system put on our roof at the end of last year. On the news yesterday they said we have had over 90° heat for 15 out of the last 17 days in Hawaii. And for the first time in many years, I feel like I can run the air conditioning. (Thank goodness, because otherwise I would be Miss Crankypants that no one would want to live with.) Before the photovoltaic, our electric bills were running almost $400 per month, and that puts a dent in anyone’s budget. (We just didn’t run the air conditioner.) Add to that the high cost of food, the high cost of gasoline, and the high cost of housing, and living in Maui can become a luxury that many people decide they can’t afford.
As far as the cost for the system, loans are available. They charge by the panel, based on your electrical useage. Our home needed 19 panels, at $1,000. per panel. Our friends, who have two small houses on their property plus an art studio, paid $36,000 for their photovoltaic system.

image

But here’s the caveat: even with the state and federal tax breaks, it takes 3 to 5 years to break even. So our bill has dropped to between $18 and $30 per month, and our friend’s base rate is $36 per month. This is supposed to be the rate to “tie-in” to the system.
BUT, and this is a large but: Hawaiian Electric Company on Oahu has seen their intake drop dramatically due to homeowners putting in these systems. They are now asking for a rate hike to a minimum of $50 per household, even for those with a photovoltaic system. So essentially, private homeowners are funding their own electricity, and now the electric companies want a piece of that.

How long can it be before Maui Electric company follows suit?

Also, you are fortunate if our electric rate (killowatt per hour) is only three times higher than what you pay. Where I came from, Maui was five times higher. Living in Kihei is hotter than Upcountry. But the higher you go up Haleakala mountain, the colder it gets…

Haleakala Mountain, note the VOG!

Haleakala Mountain, note the VOG!


and then you end up figuring out how to HEAT it. There is no natural gas on Maui.

For those planning to move to Maui and rent, ask about the electricity costs, if it is not included in the rent, because you are definitely going to want to budget for it. I make it a practice to ask to see the electricity bills when I buy a house, too.

Thanks for the question, and thank you for reading along!

A hui hou. If you’d like to stay in the loop, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage, or to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

North Shore Oahu

Aloha!

Today this blog is coming to you from the North Shore of Oahu:

Ke’Iki Beach, North Shore

Always when we get to Mike’s Mom’s North Shore house, I am struck by how moldy everything is. When a house is a half-block from the beach, there is salt spray, then dirt and mold grows on top of that .Also, the house sits in the trees

North Shore House

which keeps it cool, but the mold likes that even better. If no one has been here in months it can take a week to clean it all, easy (the geckos think they own the place, and gecko poop is like cement) but the beauty of having the beach a half block away usually makes it all worth it. I love this beach because it has trees that overhang it.

Ke’Iki Beach. North Shore

Someone told me when I first moved to Hawaii that Hawaii is best done in the shade. I thought they were crazy. Now I crave the shade, especially after having a suspicious spot removed twice from my nose. One friend calls living in Hawaii the “20 year skin-cancer plan.”

Last night there was a wedding at the beach. The groomsmen all wore long-sleeved white dress shirts with khaki pants which they rolled up to keep them out of the surf and sand. The bridesmaids all wore bright yellow sundresses. The ringbearer, who was about three years old, also had a white long sleeve shirt, khaki pants and a teeny tiny yellow tie that matched the sundresses. It appeared to be a destination wedding but where were the parents? There were no parents or grandparents in evidence. To me that is not a wedding.

One of the things I love about the North Shore is a hike in the mountains where I rarely see anyone else. A problem on Maui at times is that it has become so overrun with tourists. When you vacation on Maui it is not so obvious, but when you live here and have guests and want to take them hiking, it’s frustrating.

In the same way that Maui has many different personalities each island has a distinct personality. So within Oahu are many different personalities also. The North Shore is determined to retain its laid-back charm. The motto here is “Keep the Country country.” Currently there are plans to build an old-style hotel in downtown Haliewa. If you Google photos of Haliewa, the old hotel on the river was spectacular. Andy Anderson wants to re-create that, however the locals want a Beachpark and restrooms. I don’t live here; who am I to say who is right or wrong?
It is easy to get worked up about issues like this on Maui but as a tourist to a Oahu, it doesn’t affect my day-to-day life. Isn’t this true no matter where you live?

I would say in all the years I’ve been coming to the North Shore, the biggest change has been the traffic, it used to feel like the Country, and the traffic was in “town.” But that was BTB: “Before The Book” that changed everything. In Maui, it was “Maui Revealed“, then the other islands got their own versions. At my job we called it “that damn book”, because it gave every last secret away…every hiking spot, every waterfall. It made the locals crazy, there was no place left for just us. On Oahu they must have written about the turtles on the North Shore, because the tourists swarm the spot on the highway where the turtles are on the beach, darting across the highway at every point helter-skelter, and tying up traffic into an irritating snarl. What should be a ten-minute trip into Haleiwa Town becomes 30 minutes or an hour…just what we want to do on vacation. Then winter comes with the big swells, and more traffic from the surf contests. There is no escaping it now
I am here, resting and playing and hiking…and sitting in traffic. Not the North Shore we all used to know.

Thought for the day: All intellectual improvement arises from leisure.

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