Best Commute on the Planet

Aloha!

Here on KGMB channel 9, weatherman Guy Hagi often signs off the evening weathercast with, “Best weather on the planet!”

This morning a couple came to visit us with their new baby. They live in Lahaina on the westside, and the wife really wants to move Upcountry… But they are concerned about the commute. I told her for the entire 12 years that I had to commute to Kaanapali, every morning I thought, “How can I possibly complain? This is the best commute on the planet!”

Morning commute on the Pali

Morning commute on the Pali

(I have to say though, when we did our friend Olivier’s commute with him from Cannes, France to Monaco, along the water, it was definitely number two!)

So how would you fill in the blank for Maui?
Best _________ on the planet.

How would you fill in the blank for Hawaii as a whole?
Best _________ on the planet.

Send in your answers! I’m still collecting your “Top 10 things I love about Maui.”

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

Aloha, Jamaica

Affordable Housing in Maui

Maui Weather Today…More of the same.

Affordable Housing in Maui

Aloha!

People write to ask me about living in Maui, and how to afford it. One of the ways that many locals make it work is to build an Ohana. “Ohana” means family in Hawaiian, but in this case refers to a living space, technically attached to the main house. Like an in-law unit.

When we built our house we added an attached ohana. It’s one-bedroom with a nice sized covered lanai, and it shares one wall with our part of the house, which makes the main house more like a duplex. This is a smart move in Hawaii, as many people can’t afford to buy, so it’s a win-win for everybody.

Until it’s not. We got spoiled with our very first tenant, a woman with a big Labrador. She also loved our cat, Lili, and was in fact a vet tech.  “Auntie Amy” as we called her, was heaven sent: she was quiet, clean, and loved to take care of Lili if we had to leave the island (and even took it upon herself to vacuum the house because Lili has allergies to dust and red dirt). I am not making this up. Auntie Amy was with us for five years. I kinda hoped she’d stay till she was eighty.

But then Auntie Amy got cancer and was down for about a year. Then it came back, and she decided she had to move. That’s when we found out about Crazy Tenants.

Crazy Tenants are people who look good on paper but in fact will make you question your own sanity for renting to them.There was Bernard, the old Japanese carpenter who was from Oahu and wanted a temporary place to live while he built a house on Maui. He signed the lease and the next thing we knew he had covered up all the windows with brown paper grocery bags and the place was emitting a very strange odor, like fish left out for two weeks. Then Mike came around the corner and found Bernard changing the locks. A no-no, and against the lease (how can a landlord get in if there’s a fire or a dead person in there?) He muttered something and Mike realized he was paranoid and possibly schizophrenic. His daughter threatened to sue us because there was a spot in the sidewalk that was raised a quarter of an inch and he might trip on it. Bernard moved out.

Then there was the Maui fireman (Mike was a fireman, so we figured this was a sure bet) who lived in the unit for almost six weeks. Then, when the yearly influx of German cockroaches began (it was a  particularly bad year) he accused us of hiding them from him. Um…so we were like keeping them in a cardboard box and only released them once he’d lived there six weeks? Another one moved out.

Then there was Crazy Katie. She promptly moved a boyfriend in (breaking the lease) and then got a cat without permission. We are animal people…we just told her she’d need a pet addendum to the lease. She refused. She started sending strange emails and quoting landlord/tenant code to us. About the time it appeared she was going to spin out, she moved. We breathed a sigh of relief.

After that came a girl who shall remain nameless because she was so scary. I thought I was going to spin out with that one. And each time we said, “We sure miss Auntie Amy.” And we surely did.

These people all appeared normal and looked great on paper. Appearances are deceiving.

This last go-round, we gave up on Maui people and imported a couple from Alaska. Mike teases that he had to import me from California…so we figured it could work with tenants, too. They are a joy. They are quiet and polite and we are happy. They tell us they are happy too.

Affordable housing in Maui? An ohana really only makes your mortgage more affordable if you aren’t putting up with Crazy Tenants.

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 stay?

Maui Weather today: don’t care what they say…it’s windy, chilly and looks like RAIN Upcountry! A very unusual summer.

Where you stay?

Aloha!

In pidgin, “Where you stay?” means where are you…or where do you live? We got invited to a friends’ house for dinner Sunday night. They live near Makawao, and I started thinking about why people live where they do on Maui, and on the way I snapped these horses:

Makawao Horses

And then the rainbow behind them got brighter:

Maui Horses

When I moved to Maui I had only been Upcountry once, on vacation. “Upcountry” refers to the area at the base of Haleakala mountain and includes the communities of Kula, Pukalani, Olinda, Makawao and Haiku, plus surrounding areas. When I vacationed here, someone told me it was where the “normal” people lived (whatever normal is!) meaning full-time Maui residents who wanted to buy a house and not live in a condo. Other than that, I had no idea that there were cowboys and horses and ranches and a Polo Club http://www.mauipoloclub.com/. up here. We went one Sunday to watch Polo and it was a lot of fun.

Makes sense that the country music station is out of Makawao. You see cowboys and cowgirls in boots and Western wear here in this cowpoke town. I thought for a brief moment that it might be fun to own a horse until my friend Jody, who had a horse, clued me in on what it costs to keep one fed on Maui. Nev-er mind. People who live Upcountry are different from those who live in say, Lahaina, and usually the twain shall never meet. Friends we knew from when we lived on the Westside have never been to our home Upcountry, including the formal invite to our Hawaiian house-blessing that we had with a Kumu presiding, complete with maile lei. The general attitude seems to be “We live in Lahaina, we don’t GO Upcountry.” (We don’t need no stinkin’ Upcountry!)

I did an informal poll at the dinner gathering Sunday night. Why do you live where you live on Maui? Our group included a guy who lives in Kihei to be near his job, but is from Madison, WI. (Shout out to my sister Marcia and her husband Richard in Madison!) He said when you’re from the Midwest, the pull to Maui is agricultural. That a Japanese farmer in Maui is no different from a strapping German farmer in Wisconsin. As I toured my friend Wendy’s property that evening I was struck again by how much Makawao looks like Indiana, where I was a kid. Horses and cows and fields. Rapsberry bushes running wild along Wendy’s fence row, just like in Michigan, where she grew up. They say you can never go home again…but do you think we try to recreate what we had as children? It that really why I live Upcountry?

What about you…if you moved to Maui, where would you choose to live and why? The real question is: how would you design your life? Many who live on Maui wish they had a place at the beach for in the winter and a place Upcountry for in the summer when it’s hot. In our dreams!

I saw a funny Facebook post the other day. Someone was vacationing on Maui and said, “I didn’t know until this trip that there was any hiking at all on Maui! I was always all about, ‘Why would anyone ever leave the beach?'”

Exactly. The reasons are as many and varied as the people. The carpenter from Kula who helped us build our house, in referring to Lahaina said, “That’s Disneyland down there.”  Another friend who’d lived in Lahaina but moved Upcountry said that she “grew weary of the transience: everyone’s just there for a year or two…there’s no real sense of community”. And yet the Lahaina people can’t understand why Upcountry people would ever live away from the ocean. For Mike and me, it was a matter of 1) being better able to afford a house, 2) cooler weather (he napped all the time when we lived down there, it was SO hot, he never naps Upcountry and 3) we eventually got our fill of the crowds. Especially Mike. I thought maybe a vein was going to pop in his head or something…

Example: you go to Safeway in Lahaina and the tourists, who have no idea where anything is, have their carts parked sideways, blocking the aisles. And they drive sooo slowly. Looking at the scenery, or more likely, lost.  And clueless that we need to be somewhere, like now. I totally understand this, because as a tourist in Napa Valley a couple of years ago, I nonchalantly headed out from my hotel onto the old two-lane highway for breakfast one morning, and when I glanced in my rearview mirror, a local girl was making a rude gesture and pounding her fist on her watch. Then she sped around me. Stupid tourist, indeed. Yes, they have jobs and time schedules, but don’t they know I’m on vacation?

On Maui, do tourists realize we have jobs, doctor’s appts and dentist appts. to get to, kids to pick up from school…just like they do back at home? Vacation is a bubble people live in for a brief moment that they wish could last and last…so they stretch it out. Slowwwllly.

I find it one of the most interesting phenomenoms that people stake out their little corner of Maui and don’t leave it. You tell yourself you won’t do that when you move here…but somehow it happens. Maybe it’s the winding road into Lahaina that keeps people from going over there. And then you certainly don’t want to drink at a restaurant and then drive that road back home. Or maybe it’s that people work over there and don’t want to drive back over for entertainment? But how does that explain that Lahaina people who don’t want to leave there? Seriously.

Here’s my parting story: when I began my women’s group on Maui, the group of women met for the first time. The idea was to rotate houses for the meetings. There was one girl, April, who lived in Kihei. The rest of us were Upcountry folk. When Karen heard that April was from Kihei she said heatedly, “I am NOT driving to Kihei.” This, my friends, is is a thirty-minute drive, and no one wants to do it. Don’t ask me why, I can’t explain it. I lived in the corn fields of Indiana where we drove thirty minutes for a gallon of milk.

They say there are beach people and mountain people. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

Where you stay?

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