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“Life’s Swell” on Outside Magazine

Surfer girl

From the archives of Outside and new to me, this piece about surfer girls by writer Susan Orlean. Orlean immerses herself in the culture of surfer girls of Maui. The girls are aged from about 12 to about 20. Her descriptions of their lives, their challenges, of what it’s like to live the life of a surfer girl in Hawaii, the genuine article, left me feeling woefully inadequate and deprived in some ways, and feeling an unexpected empathy for these princesses of cool.

To be a girl surfer is even cooler, wilder, and more modern than being a guy surfer: Surfing has always been such a male sport that for a man to do it doesn’t defy any received ideas; to be a girl surfer is to be all that surfing represents, plus the extra charge of being a girl in a tough guy’s domain. To be a surfer girl in a cool place like Hawaii is perhaps the apogee of all that is cool and wild and modern and sexy and defiant. The Hana girls, therefore, exist at that highest point — the point where being brave, tan, capable, and independent, and having a real reason to wear all those surf-inspired clothes that other girls wear for fashion, is what matters completely. It is, though, just a moment. It must be hard to imagine an ordinary future and something other than a lunar calendar to consider if you’ve grown up in a small town in Hawaii, surfing all day and night, spending half your time on sand, thinking in terms of point breaks and barrels and roundhouse cutbacks.

Those long sentences are just a bite, read the whole thing on Outside.

Photo by DSuar via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Holoholo Links

Mauna Loa and the snow of Mauna Kea

Mauna Loa and the Snow of Mauna Kea by Kanu101 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

  • If you’ve driven through Kepa’a, you’ve seen the ramshackle shuttered hotel on the mauka (inland) side of the highway. That’s the Coco Palms and here’s what’s going on with that property: Past is present at decaying hotel on the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
  • Snow fell on Mauna Kea recently; on the National Parks of the Pacific Islands blog there are pictures of the unlikely combination of snow and lava.
  • Gooey. Hot. Three kilometers down. Researchers from Ohio have discovered that liquid planet is a lot closer to the surface than previously thought. On Ohio State University Research.
  • Well, that’s one way to celebrate it. “Christmas became an official Hawaiian holiday in 1862. Historical accounts said the occasion was marked by the firing of cannons and flaming tar poured down the sides of Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu to re-create the image of a volcano.” On the Miami Herald.
  • It takes five years, approximately, for the fish to move in. A intentionally sunken ship in Lahaina waters is now a thriving home for sea life. On the Star Advertiser.

When it Rains

Kauai, HI

Storm Clouds at Kauai's Na Pali Coast by jeffgunn via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Since she sits out there in the middle of the Pacific, thousands of miles from the mainland, it’s not that surprising that Hawaii gets blasted by a tropical storms now and then. If you’ve got your heart set on nothing but sunshine for your visit, you might be disappointed when the clouds roll in and it starts to rain. Typically, those tropical rains are transitory, but every now and then you’ll get a run of bad weather. There’s no reason this has to ruin your trip. There’s plenty to do when weather forces you off the beach or out of the rain forest in search of drier pursuits.

Visit a museum: On Oahu, The Bishop Museum has the glorious Hawaiian Hall, plus, there’s a whole hands on selection of science exhibits. The Hawaii State Museum of Art has changing exhibitions of work by Hawaii’s artists — and bonus, the restaurant downstairs is excellent. ‘Iolani Palace, the former seat of the Hawaiian monarchy is a perfect place to learn about the history of Hawaii and to see where Hawaii’s last queen was held prisoner.

See the stars: On the Big Island, the ‘Imiloa astronomy and science center is a fun place to learn the importance of astronomy to the Polynesians that first arrived in the islands by sailing canoe. There’s a sparkly planetarium and plenty of science fun. And it’s not just for kids — we spent a rather diverting afternoon there learning about the sky, electricity, all kind of things.

Peek underwater: Of course, the best way to see Hawaii’s marine life is to strap on a mask and get in the water, but that’s not always practical. Maui Ocean Center is a lovely little aquarium with beautiful tanks full of the island’s marine residents. Waikiki has an aquarium too, it’s one of the oldest in the nation and is home to a few nautiluses, the oddest crustacean you’ll ever want to see.

Go the the mall: Sure, you can shop, but that’s not the point. Often, there’s free entertainment — hula dancers, musicians… all kinds of Hawaiian cultural events take place at the shopping malls throughout the islands. And hey, if you happen to pick up a plate lunch at the food court before trying on some new aloha wear, well, that’s okay too.

Take a lesson: Speaking of getting some culture, you can get involved first hand. Some of the Outrigger hotels offer Hawaiian cultural activities for their guests — games, ukulele lessons, crash courses in Hawaiian language, lei making… check the program where you’re staying or ask the concierge what’s on for the day and join your fellow guests in learning something new.

Do nothing. Ideally with a view. It’s not going to last. So get another cup of coffee — or a cocktail, it’s your holiday! — and watch the sky. Listen to the wind in the coconut palms, the rain on the roof. Take a nap with the windows open. Let your eyes wander out across the horizon of the Pacific. Hawaii wants you to sit still, chill out, take a back seat while Nature drives. Enjoy it.

Holoholo Links

Kaho'olawe Hawaii

Kaho'olawe, Hawaii by Ornellas Would Go via Flickr (Creative Commons)

  • I haven’t bothered diving in the all the news around the new Hawaii 5-0, other, more pop culture addicted types than I will do a better job. But this made me laugh, hard. Hawaii 5-0 bingo cards on PopWatch.
  • Not quite win win, but a step in the right direction: The St. Regis Princeville makes changes to help the endangered Newell’s shearwater.
  • Wow, that thing is huge. The new Disney resort is taking shape at Ko’Olina. Flickr set here, hat tip to The Disney Blog.
  • Crazy. Check out the surfboard front desk backdrop at this new Waikiki hotel. On Luxist.
  • Bring your shopping bag. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the law. Maui’s plastic bag reduction starts in January, 2011.
  • The photo above is from a stunning Flickr set taken on a restoration trip to Kaho’olawe. Click through to see the more.
  • ReThink: Hawaii is on and yes, I am a little sad to not be there for this 2010 edition. Here’s to tropical mellow helping build big ideas.

So Ono! On Hawaiian Food

Giovanni's Shrimp Truck - Kahuku, HI

Giovanni's Kahuku Shrimp Truck by imgdive on Flickr (Creative Commons)

It’s difficult to think about the flavors of Hawaii without going on a global meander. There are so many delicious — ono —  things to eat in the islands and so much cultural diversity that it’s difficult — for me — to define what, exactly, Hawaiian food is. Fresh fruit is a critical part of it — my first stop when I arrive in the islands is typically for a mango smoothie. Seafood is critical — a dish of fresh poke (marinated raw tuna) is an essential stop on your exploration of island grinds. Taro (kalo, in Hawaiian) shows up at the luau buffet and in any number of place, sometimes made palatable for the malahinis (visitors) by incorporation into dinner biscuits. And there’s some barbecue, the classic pig in a pit, or huli huli chicken, coated in a sweet sauce of sugar, ginger, and soy sauce — depending on who’s recipe you use.

The traditional native Hawaiian diet was a less commodified variation on all those items — produce, fresh seafood, some poultry, maybe a pig on a special occasion. But what’s Hawaiian food now? There’s something called Hawaii Regional Cuisine in which local ingredients are reinterpreted by chefs — I had the honor of experiencing this style of food at Chef Mavro’s in Honolulu during a dinner we are still talking about, five years later. But I’ve also eaten very local style — chicken katsu and Portuguese sausage — at CCs in Honoka’a. Chicken katsu is, at the most simplistic, Japanese fried chicken, and Portuguese sausage… well, that’s Portuguese. And there’s Spam, of course, in musubi, in eggs, in sushi rolls. Hawaii can thank the US military for Spam’s arrival on Hawaiian shores, but they have only themselves to blame for its tenacity.

The Portuguese also gave Hawaii the malasada — fried dough — and sweet bread. The Japanese brought mochi, a rice flour sweet that’s filled with bean paste or sesame or even peanut butter. There’s haupia — a sort of coconut jelly pudding that is traditionally Hawaiian, and plenty of good ice cream — Dave’s, Lappert’s, Roselani — which is not traditionally Hawaiian at all but comes in Hawaiian flavors, with mango and mac nut and coffee, of course. Thanks to the Japanese (again) you can get shave ice (leave off the “d”) in either the most simple form, covered in sticky sweet syrup, or you can get it with bean paste and condensed milk, but I draw the line there.

So what is Hawaiian food? It’s garlic shrimp from a North Shore truck, eaten on a picnic bench across the street from the beach. It’s mac nut encrusted halibut with pineapple salsa, grilled and served under a banyan tree at a fancy Maui hotel. It’s take out bento and breakfast burrito with grilled mango and conveyor belt sushi and Thai food at the mall. I like to think about it not because I’m striving to define it, but because it is so varied. And so very ono!

Holoholo Links

Water world around Maui

Waterworld Around Maui by juhansonin via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Reason #402 to Love Hawaii: Diversity

“It was like being in another country. I was so surprised!” –My neighbor, telling me about her first trip to the islands.

“Nobody’s just AMERICAN, we all came from somewhere else! What are you, REALLY?” –French Vietnamese swimsuit booth guy at the International Marketplace.

I love Hawaii’s — Honolulu’s, especially — melting pot culture. Even the Native Hawaiians came from somewhere else originally, taking their big ocean going canoes out into the wide Pacific and navigating by the stars. Then, Captain Cook and his crew arrived, followed by Han Chinese on trade ships. Japanese and Filipino immigrants came to work the sugar cane and pineapple plantations; the Portuguese did the same, bringing with them the braguinha, the precursor to the ukulele.

According to the 2008 Census, under 30% of Hawaii’s population is white — the biggest demographic group is Asian. Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese at almost 40%. In such a small place, it’s not surprising that humans mixed it up and gave us the hapa, mixed race types with (maybe) one white ancestor in there somewhere. Even Hawaiian royalty jumped the fence and married outside the Native Hawaiian community — Hawaii’s last princess, Ka’iulani, had a Scottish father.


T-shirt, Honolulu Airport

All this mixing has created a place that’s American, certainly, but also, like nowhere else in the US. It’s a Zippy’s where you can get eggs and rice next to a Korean place next to a French bakery. It’s a big Hawaiian guy whose grandmother was a British music teacher, the child of missionaries. It’s Barack Obama, a Honolulu born boy with a Kenyan father, our surfing president. It’s an imperfect society to say the least. But at its best, it’s the American melting pot envisioned as a tropical utopia.

If you spend enough time in the islands, you pick up cultural affectations or obsessions not your own. These little pieces of other societies stick to you, you take them home as souvenirs. You end up at your mainland kitchen table — as I did, yesterday — eating cold noodles with furikake and trying to recall what’s included in those take out supermarket bento boxes.

An appreciation for all those mixed up cultures, all they have to offer, is a fine a souvenir from Hawaii as anything you’ll buy in a store. And it’s truly Hawaiian made.

Holoholo Links

Brother Noland, The Father of Jawaiian Music

It’s easy to think of Hawaiian music as something static, a little ukulele, a little lap steel, a sweet falsetto and the resonance of slack key. But it’s very much an evolving form, pulling in outside influences to make something different, but still uniquely Hawaiian. Where Hawaiian music collides with the distinctive beat of Jamaican reggae, you’ll find Brother Noland.

Brother Noland might be best known for Coconut Girl — it’s in the sound track for Pineapple Express and earned him the title “Father of Jawaiian Music.” His new album, Hawaiian Man, has a more traditional tenor, Hawaiian songs sung (mostly) in Hawaiian with lots of sweet chiming notes from his guitar — and some of that melancholy sentiment that makes you pine for the islands. Here’s Brother Noland in the studio recording the title track for Hawaiian Man.

Brother Noland is on tour and he’ll be here in Seattle on September 27th for a show at the Triple Door, a venue that hosts lots of great Hawaiian music. And I’ve got a pair of tickets to give away. All you need to do is leave a comment, I’ll drawn names on September 22nd and notify the winner by email.

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Photo by Woody1778a via Flickr (Creative Commons)