Commentary: Kama’aina Blues

by Alan McNarie

Kama’aina: someone who’s been here long enough to look at a place in the present, see it as it once was, see it as it will be, and care deeply about all three.  I just spent two days on the Kona side for the first time in years–met my lady friend Kersten’s brother and his wife for the first time and enjoyed the visit, but that enjoyment was tempered by Kama’aina pain. They’d rented a time-share in Waikoloa. I took them to see Kalako-Honokahau National Historic Park, one of my favorite spots on the island: one of the few places left in the islands where, in the past, I’ve seen not just endangered species such as ae’o (black-necked stilts) and ‘alae ke’oke’o (Hawaiian coots), but whole flocks of them. Yesterday, though, all I saw were a single ‘alae ke’oke’o and a few sandpipers. On previous visits I’ve seen dozens of green sea turtles, either hauled out to sun or grazing on algae in the tide pools; yesterday I only saw three or four. I’m hoping that the birds and turtles were just displaced temporarily by the storm, and will return…. Yesterday evening, while Kersten nursed a migraine at our darkened room, I went snorkeling with Kersten’s brother at Anaeho’omalu. We saw only two yellow tangs; almost all 0f the few fish we did observe were small, drab species–probably thanks to the damned aquarium trade.

But one thing was getting more abundant on the Kona Coast:  shopping centers. New developments seemed to be sprouting like fungi all along Highway 19 from Waikoloa to Kailua-Kona. The whole North Kona Coast, which was the home mainly to feral donkeys, a few beach parks and the ruins of ancient Hawaiian villages when I first got here, appears to be on its way to becoming a strip city….

I’m sure many or most of the tourists who sunbathe and play golf at the Waikoloa resorts don’t share this kind of temporal migraine, this painful triple vision; they just see the luxurious cocoon of the resorts, without seeing how much the land is changing. The only glimpses they get of the past may be the petroglyphs along the golf course trails, the romanticized biographies of Hawaiian royalty on the plaques in the King’s Market, and the bowdlerized and inaccurate  “Hawaiian luaus” where they feast on roast pig and pineapple while “hula dancers” shake their hips furiously to the wild rhythms of Tahiti. I think Kersten’s brother and his wife are probably more sensitive than many to these conflicts of place and time; they edit a newsletter for their own community in Arizona, where some of the same conflicts must be happening.  But how could they know that the very place where they came for a happy getaway was arousing such deep conflicts in their resident relatives?  How can they guess that, when our smiles fade too quickly, the smile at seeing them is genuine, but the sadness comes from seeing the land? How can they possibly discern the difference between what we feel about this place and what we feel about them?

How many other visitors notice the tired scowls and forced smiles of the wait help, who likely caught the Hele-On from Puna or Ka’u in the wee hours of the morning in order to reach their minimum-wage jobs? How many of them realize that once, all along this coast, every bay and cove held a Hawaiian village instead of a luxury hotel or subdivision?  How many of them glimpse the pain of what was lost, and will be lost, to give them their few days in an artificial “Paradise”?

And yet it’s not their fault.  They’re trying to get away from their own troubles in their own homes in far-off places, and paying dearly for the privilege.  So we hide our pain and we smile, and some of us get a few dollars from the resorts’ corporate owners to help maintain the illusion.

Today marks the 27th anniversary of the day that I first stepped off the plane in Hilo. Since that day, I’ve worked first as a teacher, then as a paralegal helping the victims of family violence, then as a journalist, giving people information that they needed to know and might not have learned otherwise. I’ve celebrated local artists and local culture, have tracked off-island money in local elections, and have helped to provoke at least four full-fledged grassroots rebellions with the stories I’ve reported. I like to think that I’ve given enough back overall to earn my place on this island that I love so much, though sometimes I wonder.  For the past 15 years or so, I’ve been joking that I was “almost a kama’aina”–and would be until the day I die.

I’m going to stop saying that now.  I’m at least a novice kama’aina.  It hurts too much, now, for me to think I’m anything else. But I know that what I feel is only a scratch compared to the pain of those with older roots. How magnified would my sadness be, if my ancestors had lived in one of those vanished coastal villages–if they’d toiled for generations, piling the rocks of those mighty fishpond dikes at Kaloko-Honokahau? What would I feel if my great-great-grandmother had left my great-grandfather’s piko in one of those holes pecked in the pahoehoe beside what is now the seventh green, but I’m only welcome to come to visit that spot, now, if I’m a corporate employee or the guest of one of the guests? How would I feel if my ancestral village  lay under the foundation of a time-share condo?

There is too much pain, too much sadness deep in the bones of this beautiful island. Kama’aina are the ones who are gifted to feel it.


Daughter Carries on Mom’s Tradition of Giving

Kathleen Inouye is giving a gift of warmth.

In memory of her mother, Misao Noguchi, who passed away at the age of 93 on April 17, 2014, Inouye has donated 10 hand-made beanies to patients receiving treatment at Hilo Medical Center’s Hawaii Pacific Oncology Center.

“I am carrying on my mom’s legacy,” said Kathy. Each beanie takes six to seven hours of dedication to make.

“A lot of our patients wear beanies to keep warm,” notes Julie Leach, Nurse Manager at the Oncology Center. “Kathy’s gifts are more than a donation. They are assurances to our patients that one more person in our community cares for them.”

“My mother retired with 25 years of service as a licensed practical nurse at the Old Folks Home in Ola`a and at Hilo Medical Center’s Extended Care Facility,” said Inouye. “Upon her retirement, she was asked to crochet beanies to donate to the Hilo Medical Center’s cancer unit.” When Noguchi first started work at Hilo Medical Center, then Hilo Hospital, she was a young, single nurses who living above the hospital in a pink dormitory that is now affectionately known as “The Pink Palace.” She and her fellow nurses played volleyball in the yard by the dorms.

“People say my mother had the hands of a genius because she was so good at knitting, crocheting, sewing and crafts,” said Inouye. “She taught me how to knit when I was eight years old. She always carried her needlework and, as an avid sports fan, she did her needlework while cheering on the Vulcans, Hilo High, and attending the Haili Tournament.  I truly cherish and am grateful for all of the wonderful and precious hours spent with my mom as we knitted, talked and had fun together,” said Kathleen. “I am hoping to continue knitting beanies and donating them to the patients at Hawaii Pacific Oncology Center.”

Donations to Hilo Medical Center are made through the Hilo Medical Center Foundation by contacting the office at 935-2957.


Sentiment — Not Just About Jesse; About Violence And Suffering

Jesse, who used to surf and has a son, and a mother in Pahoa, and who has been increasing growing skinnier and more disturbed in recent years,  went off on the wrong wahine.  A man associated with the woman tracked Jesse down and beat him with a broken bottle. I witnessed Jesse go off on the wahine — and, I thought, at first,  hit her —as they appeared to be waiting for the bus in front of Pahoa Cash and Carry around 4 p.m. today. Headed that way, I rushed with a handful of others in the community to stop Jesse’s confrontation with the woman.  After being swarmed by the group and berated by several people, Jesse dropped to the ground on his back in submission and cried out for the bus to come.  He walked away as I was heading off, and I told him it was time to “get (his) shit together,” and go sit down somewhere to “cool (his) jets.” He asked if I had a car, I said no, and he veered off and headed for Island Naturals as I went to Luquin’s.  Come to find out, after passing by Cash and Carry from the Malama O Puna candidate forum, Jesse went and sat at the Natch, and the braddah who the woman called after Jesse was in her face found Jesse. It took the Natch over an hour to clean up the blood. Jesse was last seen leaving Pahoa by ambulance.

***Commentary*** Not Really About A Shoplifter Per Se

By Tiffany Edwards Hunt

You may or may not know this but my family owns a retail shop on the island.  And we have had a perennial problem with shoplifting. Now and then I have mentioned my clashes with the thieves. Today, in yet another confrontation with yet another shoplifter, I was hit with all sorts of epiphanies and was overcome with a wave of empathy that motivated me to respond differently than I have in the past.

The shoplifter is a 15-year-old boy, who is a friend of a friend and who come in to the shop often to talk story with us and to use a skateboard tool.  This week, after using the shop’s tool to tighten the bearings on his skateboard, he took advantage of the shop being busy and stuffed some tee shirts in his book bag. He was caught on video surveillance, and we were prepared to call authorities.  But, because he is a friend of a friend, he was given an opportunity to bring the tee shirts back this morning.

Last night and early this morning, I replayed the scenes of the theft in my mind, infuriated at the thought of him coming in to borrow the shop tool and making small talk as a distraction while he stole from us.  The illusion is that we own all our merchandise.  We struggle to survive in a small village that, some days, has more vagrants and panhandlers coming through our doors than actual customers. Like most small-business owners, we live off our good credit with a heavy dose of credit card debt to keep us hungry.

Every time that I have confronted a shoplifter, it is with a fierceness that is motivated by the thought of our children who we hope will some day take over our business, hopefully, minus our debts.

When the boy showed up with his mother this morning and put four tees he had taken from us on the counter, I greeted him with the same sort of fierceness that motivated me to track down and confront Georgie Santos in 2007; to chase after and confront Alyson Correia and other shoplifters in December 2009 and Jahbari Lawfer in April 2011, to confront Chantelle Kalani in July 2010, and to track down and confront Tarra Swenson in October 2011.

“Why did you think that we should fund your wardrobe?” I asked the boy.  He didn’t understand the question.  I rephrased, “Why did you take these shirts?” “Because I thought they would look nice on me,” he responded.  I got more infuriated with the boy.  I told him what I told you, about the illusion of us owning everything in the store. We are not rich, we struggle and worry about making ends meet.   Read more

Sentiment — Happy 94th Birthday, Auntie Helene!

Born in 1918, Helene Hale turns 94 on Friday, March 23, 2012.  The first African American elected to office in Hawaii and the first woman to hold an executive position in county government after the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani, Hale served on the County of Hawaii Board of Supervisors from 1955 to 1963, and from 1963 until 1965 she was the County's Chairman and Executive Officer. She was also a member of the Hawaii County Council from 1980 to 1984, 1988 to 1992 and 1992 to 1994.  In 2000 she was elected to represent the Puna District in the Hawaii State Legislature.  She served as a legislator for 6 years — until she was 88 years old.  The recently dedicated $8.6 million Pahoa gym was named after her since she helped pave the way for its completion. She was born in Minneapolis and came to Hawaii as a school teacher in 1947.  (Hale photo by Tiffany Edwards Hunt. All rights reserved. Use with permission only.)

***Commentary*** An Apology To My Former Editor

Yesterday I called my former boss, Reed Flickinger, editor of the West Hawaii Today, after not speaking to him for several years.  “I’ve decided you’re pretty low on the Richter scale of assholes,” I told him.  Publishing on my own and dealing with the perils of being a so-called public figure in doing so, I actually am really starting to appreciate Reed and his difficult position as newspaper editor.  Having encountered some genuinely mean-spirited and miserable people out here in the blogosphere and continually being harassed by at least one of them, I can see now that Reed is clearly not a bad person. It was time to bury the hatchet.   I told him on the phone and I say it publicly here, I am sorry for calling Reed names, including a scandal monger and an asshole, in conversations and in previous posts.  I recognize that he has the public good in mind, and I actually appreciate how tough-skinned he is about this profession.  Five years after I resigned as one of his writers, I can tell you that I have learned from him.  And I truly respect him for being among my teachers.

Letters — Kudos From Montana

Hi Tiffany,
Mary Furlong here. I ran the video in the County Council for years while you were reporting.  You are doing an amazing job of creating a safe place for community discourse at great cost to you and your family, so I was delighted that you are being recognized by the press club.

And here’s something else.  I live in a small town in  Montana now and have started recording the Commission Meetings here and hope to clone your delivery system by making the meetings available online and running advertising on the side to at least cover expenses.  So you inspired this 60 yr old woman to take a walk on the wild side.

I read your blog often and appreciate your integrity.  Every couple years I’ll express that gratitude.   Especially when that deviant man tries to intimidate and silence you.

Aloha and don’t let the bastards get you down.
Mary Furlong
Superior Montana

Big Island Press Club — Who, Me? Member of The Year? A Pat On The Back For The Media Symposium

(Media release) — The Big Island Press Club on Saturday recognized Member of the Year Tiffany Edwards Hunt, publisher of the World Wide Web Log Big Island Chronicle, for her role in organizing a media symposium at the University of Hawaii at Hilo last year.

We also recognized Rod Thompson, treasurer and retired Star-Bulletin reporter, for organizing the Project of the Year, a Halloween get-together at his house at his own expense.

The honors were presented at the Hilo Yacht Club during the Annual Dinner, which was attended by more than 30 people. Dr. John Pezzuto, founding dean of the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Pharmacy, gave the keynote address, which touched on the role of the pharmacy college in the community and the results of his research regarding the compound reservatrol.

(Submitted by Peter Sur.)

Letters — From A South Carolina Thespian, Acting In The Laramie Project


My name is Hannah Johnson and I am currently in the midst of rehearsals for The Laramie Project. I saw your blog in response to Ten Years Later. I was hoping to talk to you about what it was like in Laramie for you? I would really love chatting with you.

Thank you

Hannah (Hojo Barreto)

Coastal Carolina University

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

***Commentary*** Please Stand By, Back To Regular Programming Shortly

Aloha faithful Big Island Chronicle readers,
Sorry if I have seemed distant lately — with all the blog drama, I have had very little motivation to put my thoughts into words in the limited time I have to write. Along with having a less-than-warm-and-fuzzy feeling for blogging, I have also been very busy with an extra-long list of things to do. Topping the list was my son’s first birthday, which, in true Hawaiian style, included a luau. I had to make a Costco run to prepare for the party and, since I was going to Kona, I ended up arranging for and conducting a couple of interviews for some freelance stories I have been meaning to write. That meant an overnight stay on the other side, which, inevitably made for more blog fodder. But it also made for quite a full and mentally taxing week.
I thought today was going to be the day that I sat down and cleared my inbox of all the news I have to share with you. Alas, after a day of celebrating my boy’s birthday, my daughter came down with a fever and vomited multiple times throughout the night. My Sunday list just got rearranged and nursing my child is my chief concern at this point. I also have quite a bit more laundry to do as a result of the pukefest. So, what that means for you is that you should 1. dose up on vitamin C and 2. expect to hear from me after I get our house in order. Hopefully, you all will have a great and productive week. Stay healthy, despite the odds.

***Commentary*** A Criminal Harassment Complaint — One Of The Many Perils Of Blogging

Chalk it up as one of the many perils of blogging, I suppose.

I just got off the telephone with a police officer telling me that Tom Lackey has initiated a criminal harassment complaint against me for my blog entry about his March 20 bench trial for drunk driving. This is the same man who, since November, has regularly published on his website libelous, salacious, and emotionally disturbing cartoons depicting me being raped, sodomized and committing adultery.

Suffice it to say — with two young children who I will not allow to be victimized as a course of my writing life — I truly have to wonder if this website is worth all the trouble.  I don’t make much money doing this; it has been a labor of love of writing and publishing that I embarked on this venture — and there are generally way more headaches than feelings like I’m doing any public good with this.

In recent days, there have been people justifying Lackey’s emotionally disturbing cartoons, suggesting I am a “public figure” because I regularly publish news and commentary.  Say what you will, but I don’t think the fact that I am a public personality justifies the cyber rape and ensuing distress I have had to endure the past three months.

So, now I’m off to visit with a lawyer and pay a retainer fee, which is pretty much going to wipe out all the money I have saved in my Tiffany Edwards Communications bank account. If you have any interest in this website, you might want to donate to my CU Hawaii bank account or push the “donate” button to the right. To truly resolve the Tom Lackey matter, I’m going to have to pay a good amount in legal fees.

As I have stated elsewhere, if you have seen Lackey’s cartoon depictions of me and you find them as emotionally disturbing as me, I kindly ask you to write a letter addressed to the following:

Tiffany Edwards Hunt

P.O. Box 557

Kurtistown, HI  96760