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Archive for April, 2010

Aloha kākou! Here’s this week’s question:

What are the small stones called that are often held in the hands of dancers and used as hula implements?

Hint: The name is also a word for “pebble” in Hawaiian.

  • Please post your answer as a reply to this message.
  • All correct answers will be eligible to win a special email message from me.
  • One winner will be randomly chosen at 11:59pm EST.

WillYOUbe this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Happy Aloha Friday!

**Crooner Update: Yup. I’m convinced you guys all called each other. How else could ALL of you get it right??

The answer is ʻ ili ʻili .

So… to play fair and square, I assigned a number to each of you and then went to the random number generator at and the number that came up was 4 which was: (Drum roll, please…) JULIE YU!

Congrats to all of you guys. You rock.

And MAHALO to each of you for playing this week! I hope you’ll play again NEXT WEEK!!

Happy Weekend and HAPPY MAY DAY!!



Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coffee growing on Molokai


It’s one of my favorite things in the world. I love having a freshly brewed cup first thing in the morning.

I also love sipping a cup of REALLY STRONG coffee that has been sitting on a heat source for far too long.

I love it.

And I’m NOT a coffee snob.

I love the coffee from the islands, of course.

But …

I can also totally get down with a “cuppa Joe” from the gas station.

When I was working my corporate gig here in NYC, I would buy a “bucket size” coffee every morning and then drink that until lunchtime. Yes, it would get cold. And, yes, I would continue to drink it as I made my morning rounds.

I can hear coffee aficionados gasping in horror: Sipping a cup of coffee all morning? Egads!

But like I said, I’d order a “bucket size” coffee. It was cheaper than getting a bunch of smaller, fresh cups. And since I’d paid for it, I was determined to drink it all. I’ll admit, it’s an ACQUIRED taste, for sure!

Have you guys been to Coffees of Hawaiʻi on Molokai? It’s a coffee drinker’s paradise. Some of the beans grow RIGHT THERE on the property! Their little café serves up delicious coffee treats. Their gift shop has all sorts of cool stuff—and features work made by local artists! (Which is totally cool because WE’VE GOTTA SUPPORT THE LOCAL ARTISTS! )

And they have LIVE music several times a week!

Coffee, locally produced arts and crafts AND live music. Sounds like heaven, right?

(I’ll be doing a BIG BLOG POST on them soon! But please check out their website here.)

Here’s the irony: I love coffee. And … Molokai has FANTASTIC locally grown coffee readily available for sale and consumption. And …

I don’t drink coffee when I’m in Hālawa Valley.


I know… I still can’t really explain it. The Hālawa Valley cabin is virtually coffee-free. There are a few plasic canisters of the instant stuff tucked away on the shelves. I’m sure it’s only there for the guests who come to visit and/or stay.

But Mom and Pops Solatorio don’t drink it!

They’ve never said that I shouldn’t drink it. They’ve never stood with their hands on their hips and told me that coffee is evil. Or wrong. I think they might have even offered a cup of the instant java to me the first time I stayed there.

But it’s not necessary for them to have a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Or late in the afternoon. Or right before going to bed at night. They can survive without coffee— EVER!

I was shocked. And I was terrified.

As a coffee lover ( AND as a New Yorker who truly believed that he NEEDED his cup of liquid magic in the morning in order to function as a normal human being) I was blown away that I’d ended up in a coffee-free zone!


It happens every time. I get terrible headaches from caffeine withdrawals. But those pass in a few days. And the wonder of being in the historic and wild Hālawa Valley makes it easy to forget about the pain.


I survive. Every time I go there I think I’m not going to make it. But I do. And don’t even need it— desperately–when we leave the valley.

But of course, when we pass a place that offers it, I take full advantage of the situation and buy the BIGGEST cup of coffee they have.

(BTW: My coffee habit ALWAYS resumes the minute I leave Molokai. I don’t know that I’ll ever be coffee-free!)

I know there are coffee lovers out there. And I want to hear from you!

What is that YOU love about the stuff?


Aloha kākou!

I always have my iPod with me. It’s my personal jukebox.

Living in New York City, I spend a lot of time traveling underground via subway–and those rides can be long and boring! But having a collection of great music with me at all times keeps me from losing my mind. I can escape to a tropical isle with the push of a button. Portable paradise!

Here are the TOP 3 SONGS from my iPod this week:

1. Hawaiian Lullaby e (The Brothers Cazimero recording on the album Some Call It Aloha … Don’t Tell)

One of my favorite English language “Hawaiian” songs composed by Hector Venegas and Peter Moon. Its rich language reminds this listener of some of Hawaiʻi’s most beloved elements: rainbows, laughter, starry night, flowers, song birds …

And who better to do it than the incomparable Brothers Cazimero? They create a whole soundscape with their arrangements. Dreamy. I love ‘em.

2. Kawohikūkapulani (Mahi Beamer’s recording on the album Hawaiʻi’s Mahi Beamer)

Helen Desha Beamer’s songs are classics–not only for their beautiful melodies but also because of the RICH language she used when writing them. If you want to understand Hawaiian poetic expression, her songs are a virtual textbook.

And who better to interpret a Helen Desha Beamer composition than her grandson? Mahi Beamer’s amazing vocal prowess never fails delight! His tender vocal delivery and effortless falsetto are something every Hawaiian singer should study. He’s a true master.

3. Kuʻu Ipo I Ka Heʻe Puʻe One (Emma Vearyʻs recording on the album The Best of Emma Veary)

Emma Vearyʻs recording of this song, attributed to Princess Likelike, is one of my all-time favorites. That voice!

And the lush orchestration that Jack de Mello added is absolutely crooneriffic!Wow. So many layers… And so fitting of a song that speaks of a love that simply wasn’t meant to be. Auē!

What have YOU been listening to this week? Drop me a line and let me know!


ʻĀINA ULUWEHI (Hālawa Valley, Molokai)

I’m sitting here at my desk today and looking out a tree covered in stunning green leaves. One thought keeps running through my mind:

Spring is here!

And SPRING makes me think of GARDENS.

Do you guys garden?

We moved around a lot when I was growing up, so we never really had a chance to create a “real” garden. Although I seem to remember my folks had one or two over the years. Tomato plants. Beans. I think we even tried to grow pumpkins once!

I never liked to garden. But the important word in that sentence is LIKED. As in past tense. Things change. People change.

After living in the heart of NYC, I think I would LOVE to garden. I find that I’m envious of my friends who have their own houses with enough land to start even the simplest of gardens.

Maybe it’s the time I’ve been able to spend in Hawaiʻi that’s changed all of that.

Certainly spending time in Hālawa Valley could make a plant lover out of anyone. Either that, or make you run away in horror. It’s THAT extreme. Plants that grow WAY taller than the house can have a dramatic effect on a person!

There’s something rich in the smell of organic material. Dirt. It’s kind of intoxicating to this city-dweller. Here in NYC, we smell all sorts of stuff. Some good. Some, well, not-so-great.

Don’t get me wrong:

There is a lot of DIRT.

Just not the kind of dirt that I’d want to touch with my hands.

A few years ago, I read about a controversial new therapy that a doctor was using to treat people suffering from depression. He said that people (especially city-dwellers) had gotten out of touch with nature. And that disconnection to the natural world was making people sick.

His remedy? One should begin by keeping a bowl of dirt (potting soil or other organic material) readily available.

And then, my favorite part: The patient should spend time every day with their hands in the dirt. Running it through their fingers, etc.

I can’t remember how long it was recommended that a person do it each day, but does it really matter?

Totally wacko? Maybe.

Totally cool? I think so! It couldn’t hurt!

I’m not saying it should be used in place of conventional treatment s! Believe me, as someone who’s suffered from depression, I can honestly say you don’t want to just stop taking your meds and just sit with your hands in dirt!

But as a COMPLIMENTAR Y therapy … I think it’s pretty cool!

One of the things that I love most about Hawaiian songs is the emphasis on the natural world. I’m hard pressed to find a song that doesn’t mention some kind of plant. Or flower. Or wind. Or rainbow. Or waterfall. You get the picture?

It’s deeply embedded in the lexicon of the Hawaiian people.

And it makes me more apt to stop and notice the trees and flowers. (See my Earth Day post here.)

And it makes me interested in how they grow.

Is the city-dweller turning into a county boy?

Well… let’s just say that they still laugh at my “city feet” in Hālawa. (Yes… I STILL need to wear my rubber slippers when walking on sharp rocks. My poor feet are tender!)

But I LOVE getting in the mud in the taro patch. (A future blog post with pictures coming soon!)

I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts about planting. Or dirt therapy. Or references to nature in the Hawaiian lexicon. Or … well …

I’d LOVE to hear from you . So please leave a comment if you feel inspired to do so.

**EXTRA SUPER BONUS: Here are some of my favorite Hawaiian plant/flower resources:






Cherry Blossoms at the Sakura Matsuri in Flushing Meadows, Queens. (4/24/10)

On Saturday, I found myself standing on an improvised asphalt stage facing a semi-circle of mostly Japanese people. And from the bits of conversation that I’d overheard, they were a mostly Japanese speaking audience, as well. We had no sound system for the musicians to use. We were the only non-Japanese group performing at the event.

That’s enough to make a performer take a step back and go “Hmm….”

I was singing for a hula performance with HĀLAU I KA PONO at the Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival) in Flushing, Queens.

The day was beautiful. Picture perfect. A cool breeze. Blue skies. Big fluffy, white clouds above.

The venue was really cool . There are some architectural “ruins” that dominate the space which I’m told were built for the 1964 World’s Fair. All that remain are some bones of the original designs, but I can imagine they were far out and “space age” when they were first constructed and the space was full of wonder-seekers.

To the right of the “stage” were charter busses that had been used to shuttle folks from Manahattan to the event.

Did I mention these full-size busses had been filled to capacity?


There were a lot of people in the audience. Some who had come specifically to see the event. Some who had just happened on the event at they made their way through the park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Everything moved along swiftly with a thrilling performance by a taiko drumming group, a karate demonstration, a children’s marching band and a Japanese chorus. I wasn’t sure what the response was going to be when it was time for us to perform.

An audience sitting in semi-circle can feel like a gang surrounding a victim.

Kumu June introduced the group. Then I introduced the songs we were performing. I told the audience we didn’t have a sound system and suggested they pull close together.

The dancers moved beautifully. Their bodies dancing in harmony with the songs. They looked stunning in their pink mu’umu’u—a reflection of the pink cherry blossoms in full bloom.

The musicians managed to sing loud enough to be heard–even over the occasional plane that flew over the park to land at nearby JFK airport.

After I’d introduced the final number, I returned to the music stand to begin the song. Just then, a gust of wind blew the music sheets off the music stand. There was no way to get everything back together quickly. The audience was looking at us in anticipation. The dancers were looking at us with anticipation.

I walked away from the music stand and stood close to the audience.

When I began to sing, it finally dawned on me.

See, it didn’t matter that we weren’t Japanese.

It didn’t matter that we were singing in a language that I’m sure 99.999% of the audience didn’t understand. (I would say 100%, but to be fair, I can’t honestly say that no one spoke Hawaiian!)

It didn’t even matter that it was difficult to hear the songs.

What mattered was the spirit.

Our portion of the program crossed cultural and linguistic barriers.

We shared ALOHA.

And the audience got it.

Right on.


Aloha kākou! Here’s this week’s question:

Who composed the classic crooner ballad from 1940, LOVELY HULA HANDS?

  • Please post your answer as a reply to this message.
  • All correct answers will be eligible to win a special email message from me.
  • One winner will be randomly chosen at 11:59pm EST.

WillYOUbe this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Happy Aloha Friday!

**Update: You guys are incredible. All 3 of you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT. The answer is R. ALEX ANDERSON. And… I’ve decided to forgo the random selection this week. YOU’RE ALL WINNERS! Congrats, ladies. Right on! Check your emails for the a special WINNER email from me! (Hope it makes you smile!)

And a giant MAHALO to you all for playing. I hope you’ll play again next week!

Have a great weekend! See you on Monday.

A hui hou…