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Goosing the conch blower

These are tough times, but the next time you feel like whining about your job, I want you to think of Saul Kahiihikolo. Saul’s job at the Manele Bay Resort is to wrap a floral sarong around his otherwise naked body and, just as the sun is setting over Hulopoe Bay, stand out by the resort pool like some sort of ancient Hawaiian warrior who has mysteriously been transported here through some weird cosmic time warp, and run around lighting tiki torches while blowing on a triton shell that is a family heirloom.

photo by Macduff Everton

photo by Macduff Everton

It’s not so much the tiki torches and blowing the conch that is unnerving to Saul as it is the half-looped women, drinking pina coladas at the outside bar, who always rush over to have their pictures taken with him while goosing his ass from behind. That would account for the sometimes flat notes that come out of the conch. 

But Saul is a professional. He offers up little more than an uncomfortable smile when they whisper “What’s underneath the sarong?” while snuggling up against his bare chest.

The minute one of the gals snaps the group photo, Saul is off, jogging to another corner of the pool, carrying his flame high above his head like an Olympic torch runner, anxious, no doubt, to light that last tiki torch and get the hell on out of here.

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Learning to play the ukulele

Here’s my New Year’s resolution: I’m going to learn to play the ukulele and start a band called  #7 Road. I decided to do this last night while Macduff and I were sitting in the Hale Ahe Ahe Lounge listening to our cocktail waitress, Camille, sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” during one of her breaks.

“Look,” I said to Macduff, “if the cocktail waitress can get up on stage in front of a hundred people or so and sing an old Judy Garland song, why shouldn’t we as well?”

Well, said Macduff, probably because neither of us can sing and Camille can. He had a point. Then he slapped my knee and said, “But I can play the conch. What do you play?”

Nothing, I told him. “Well, hell, why don’t you take up the ukulele,” he said. “It’s easier than playing the conch.”

So this morning I went down to a little gift shop in Lanai City and bought a ukulele with pineapples embossed on the top. And if Suzie is around over at the Dis ‘n’ Dat store later today, I’m going to see if she’ll show me how to tune it and pick a chord or two. How hard can it be? It’s only got four strings.

photo by Macduff Everton

photo by Macduff Everton

As for how we decided to name our band #7 Road, well that’s another story. We were driving down one of those roads we weren’t supposed to be driving down to the Garden of the Gods. We were driving, driving, driving and not really seeing anything but a tobacco-colored road and grass as high as an elephant’s eye, as they say in Oklahoma, when all of a sudden there was a turnoff going to only-god-knows where. There was just this one little sign that said #7 Road. And Macduff said, “Let me take your picture next to that road sign.”

Why? I asked him.

“Because,” he said, “it will be perfect for our album cover.”

So there you have it. The album cover for #7 Road. Which we expect to put out just as soon as we can convince Camille to join our band and I learn how to play the ukulele. Stay tuned. 

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Paniolo rancheros and a cocktail

There are two things I really love about the Lodge at Koele. The first is the Hawaiian Paniolo Rancheros they serve for breakfast. It’s such a mish-mash of cultures—just like the island itself. They start with slow-cooked kalua pork (kalua being the traditional Hawaiian cooking method of cooking a whole pig, covered in ti leaves, in an underground pit) which is shredded and mounded over fried rice (Chinese!) and add linguica (Portuguese!) topped with two eggs over-easy (American!) on top of a tortilla, covering the whole thing in a smoky chipotle ranchero sauce (Mexican!). I love traditional huevos rancheros but paniolo rancheros kicks butt.

photo by Macduff Everton

photo by Macduff Everton

The other thing I’ve gotten just a bit addicted to is the bar’s Shipwreck cocktail which is made with Hypnotiq, a pale blue blend of vodka, tropical fruit juices, and Cognac, mixed with pineapple juice. They go down real easy.

Of course, I try not to indulge in the Paniolo Rancheros and a Shipwreck at the same time. But since today is the last day of the year, I indulged a bit at breakfast. And I must say, they were perfect together. This might become my favorite brunch combo this summer. 

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Hula Girl and the princess

Last night Macduff and I were moaning about the lack of culture on the island when the cocktail waitress at the Lodge bar overheard us and said if we wanted to find authentic Hawaiian culture, we should head down to the Hale Ahe Ahe Lounge at the Manele Bay Resort. There’s a torch lighting ceremony at dusk, she said, and, even better, live authentic Hawaiian music in the lounge. So lickety-split we fired down Manele Road, through the heart of what used to be the pineapple plantation.

We got to the resort, overlooking the jaw-dropping beauty of Hulopoe Bay, half an hour or so before sundown. In the lobby, a guy was softly playing the ukulele while a small, dark-haired beauty did a slow, graceful hula. I think Macduff was smitten. By the girl, not the ukulele player.

photo by Macduff Everton

photo by Macduff Everton

“The light!” he whispered to me. “The light!”

Yes, of course. The goddamn light. He wanted to shoot her. Not in the lobby, of course. That would be too easy. No, he wanted to take her across the bay to the volcanic rock outcropping known as Pu’u Pehe—Sweetheart Rock.

Arrangements (involving a wad of bills) were quickly made with the manager of the resort. The three of us then hopped back into the Jeep, abandoning Ukulele Boy, and headed across the bay at breakneck speed in a race against the setting sun.

Once there, our Hula Girl swayed like a palm tree in the sea breeze above the craggy red rocks of the shoreline, telling us the ancient story of Sweetheart Rock while Macduff began shooting her with the sunset as backdrop.

photo by David Lansing

photo by David Lansing

There was a ravishing young princess from Maui, she told us, who was captured by a fine-looking warrior from Lanai. He brought her back to the island to be his wife, but like a lot of guys, he was worried she might have eyes for someone else so he did a really stupid thing: He hid her in a sea cave. Right here at the bottom of the cliff we were standing on. Well, one day the warrior was off doing whatever warriors do and a storm came up. Big wind, big waves. The young princess drowns. Having made a mess of things, the warrior takes her body, climbs the steep rocks where we were standing, and buries her in a tomb. Then, sensibly enough, he jumped off the cliff to his death. End of story.

“But there really is no tomb, right?” Macduff said. “They never found any bones or anything up there, did they?”

“That’s because,” says our Hula Girl, “the gods hid her body.”

“Or maybe the gods brought her and her boyfriend back to life,” I said, “and they moved to a different part of the island. Maybe they’re the ones that painted all the petroglyphs we can’t find. Maybe that’s why we can’t find them. They’re like the bones of the princess.”

Hula Girl smiled at me. “I like that story,” she said. “You must be part Hawaiian.”

If I’m not, perhaps I could work on it.


photo by Macduff Everton

photo by Macduff Everton



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Sex in a pineapple field

This morning there was an attractive middle-aged woman sitting behind a table in the lobby of the Lodge at Koele selling jewelry that she makes. Her name was Susan Hunter. There were only a few people in the lobby and she seemed kind of bored so I went over with my coffee and chatted with her. In addition to selling jewelry a few days a week, she and her husband, Michael, run a B&B on the island oddly named Dreams Come True. She said she and Michael came to Lanai from Sri Lanka almost 25 years ago.

photo by Macduff Everton

photo by Macduff Everton

“Back then, the smell of sweet pineapple was everywhere. When it was in season, it perfumed the air.”

She told the story, which I’d heard before, of how, in the late ‘80s, Dole began to phase out pineapple production because they couldn’t compete with pineapples coming from places like the Philippines.

“By 1994, all the pineapple fields on the island were gone.” Not that she thinks that’s necessarily a bad think. “But it wasn’t all good, either,” she said, echoing Derwin’s comments about plantation life being harsh. Still, Susan thinks Lanai is the last great bastion of the aloha spirit. “The peace and quiet and energy here is extraordinary,” she said as she idly fingered a red coral necklace around her throat. “The town—Lanai City—is tiny. And in five minutes, you can be in the outdoors, snorkeling, hiking, hunting.” She smiled at me and, with a mischievous gleam in her eye added, “And where else in Hawaii can you drive a few miles out of town and make love in the middle of what used to be a pineapple field?”

Well, I can’t honestly answer that. But I must admit it’s got me to thinking.

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