I’ve started a companion site to this blog called Flaneur Photography. Like my travel blog, the idea is to see the world from a sidewalk perspective. Unlike the photography on this blog, all the photography on Flaneur Photography will be taken with an iPhone. And the photos themselves will tell the story–so no words. It’s a tumblr blog and I’ll be updating it daily. You can check it out by clicking on the link for Flaneur Photography in the header.
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There aren’t a lot of dining choices in Lanai City. The best of the lot is probably the Lanai City Grille in the Hotel Lanai which, until 1990, was the only hotel on the island. James D. Dole himself built the inn in 1923, mainly as a place to house Dole executives from the mainland. The rustic furnishings—worn hardwood floors, old ceiling fans, chintz curtains—give it a certain historical charm, if you like that sort of thing.
The hotel restaurant used to be called Henry Clay’s Rottisserie and was run by a guy from New Orleans named Henry Clay Richardson. I ate there a couple of times and the food was good, but it always felt a bit odd to me to be dining on cajun shrimp, eggplant creole, and pecan pie on the Pineapple Island.
In some ways it seems like nothing ever changes on Lanai and in other ways, it seems they change all the time. Mostly, I guess, the change comes from those who visit the island and then decide to move here and see if they can make a go of it. Henry Clay Richardson was one of those people. He took over the Hotel Lanai in 1996, ran it for a decade, then—for whatever reason—sold it off to new owners.
So it goes.
Anyway, another place I like quite a bit is Pele’s Other Garden Deli and Bistro, next to the Pine Isle Market. It’s basically a deli in what used to be the Lanai Visitor Information Center. Its owners, Mark and Barbara Zigmond, moved here from Jersey over a decade ago. When I asked Mark why they moved here, he said, “Just wanted to drop out of the rat race.”
Well, okay, but owning a deli in Lanai City isn’t exactly kickin’ back and taking it easy. They serve lunch from 11 to 3, close for an hour or so in the afternoon, and then transform the little pseudo-New York deli into a casual Jersey Italian restaurant for dinner. Mark cooks, Barbara acts as hostess and waitress when she’s not behind the cash register.
Macduff and I have had lunch there a couple of times and we really enjoyed their good-sized pastrami and swiss (if you order it as the #5, you get a free pickle). We also enjoyed joking around with Barbara who is, as they say, a full-figured gal. The first day we ate there, she was wearing a white t-shirt with the words HOT MELONS sort of wrapping around her….well, melons.
“You must get some comments about that t-shirt,” Macduff said.
“Oh, yeah,” Barbara said, laughing. “It’s a good conversation starter.”
If you happen to stop in there some time and she’s not wearing the shirt, ask her where the hot melons are. Maybe she’ll show you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.