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Archive for October, 2011

Here’s a TRUE scary story about things that bite in the night!

In NYC, I struggle with insomnia.  I think it’s because I’m afraid I might miss out on something.  But when I stay with Mom and Pops Solatorio in the one room house in Hālawa Valley, sleep comes easily and I don’t stir until morning.  Well, at least that’s what happens most nights…

This story takes place on June 29, 2011.

We’d had a busy day.

Pops and I had worked since the sun came up–we’d even hiked up to Moʻoʻula Falls with some guests that had come into the Valley.   Once the day’s work was finished, we took turns bathing and cleaning up.  Mom had fixed a delicious dinner that we ate on the lānai of their one room house–I call it Hālawa Hale, Hālawa House.

After we’d eaten and we’d washed the dishes, we sat together in the house and talked-story until late in the evening.  It’s a lot more fun than sitting around, mindlessly watching television.  We shared funny stories and Pops, of course, shared a cultural lesson or two.  (It’s the best!  The “classroom” never closes!)

Hālawa Hale doesn’t have electricity. (No telephone, either!)  There’s a small generator that we run for a short while some evenings.  It provides enough electricity to run an overhead light and charge a camera battery or two.  Mostly we use oil lamps that burn with citronella oil.  It smells awesome–and it helps to keep the bugs away.

Mom and Pops sleep in the back of the house, each in their own bed.  I usually sleep in the front of the house.  I rearrange the furniture to carve out a little space on the floor.  A futon mattress, a pillow and a sheet makes a cozy bed.

Once we turn off the generator and lower the flame in the oil lamps, the house takes on an almost “enchanted” feel.  It makes me think of those little houses you’d read about in a fairy tale.  Our little cottage in the woods

That night, we had a wonderful period of rain.  (In fact, we’d had rain almost every night for a week.)  I was lying in my spot, listening to the winds through the windows and the sound of the rain pelting the metal roof.  I’d taken off my eyeglasses and laid them beside my flashlight on the floor.   With heavy eyelids, I watched shadows dance on the walls.

Sleep came quickly.  But it didn’t last long.

At 3:48 AM, Mom cries out from her bed.  ”Ouch!  It bit me!  It bit me!”

“Mom!  What is it?” Pops calls to her.

“The centipede!  It bit me!”  I hear her moving around quickly–shuffling as she puts on her rubber slippers.

I struggle to open my eyes.  I’m completely disoriented as I reach for my glasses beside me.  We have no lights except for the dim lamps.  I frantically search for a flashlight, patting my hands along the floor.

“There it is!” she yells.

Pops calls out, “Step on it, Mom!  Step on it!”

WHAM!  She smacks her foot down on the wooden floor.

“Aarrggh!  ’Da buggah wen’ bit me, again!” she yelps.  And then I see a rubber slipper flying right towards me.  Mom has kicked it off as she tries to get away from the nighttime invader.

Ok.  Now I’m REALLY awake!

I dodge the flying shoe (and the centipede?!) and I jump onto the couch.  ”Pops!  Mom!  Are you guys ok?”

“Son!  Get off of the floor!  There’s a centipede in the house!” Pops calls out to me.  ”And Mom just kicked it toward YOU!”

I find my flashlight and put on a pair of rubber slippers and move quickly to help turn the flames up in the oil lamps.  Pops makes his way out in the rain to the generator.  A loud mechanical roar rips through the quiet and the house is flooded with light as the generator brings the overhead light to life.

I look over at Mom who is rubbing the bite areas on her neck and her ankle.  ”In all the years I’ve lived here,” she said, “I’ve never been bitten.  And now TWICE in one night.”  I take her hand and lead her over to her chair in the front of the house and she sits.  She applies a topical medicine she keeps in a box by the door.

“Mom, how are you feeling?” Pops asks her.

I see the look of concern in his eyes.  Not only because she’s been hurt, but also because we don’t know how she’ll react to the sting.  For some people, the reaction is not too bad–just pain and swelling.  But for others, the reaction to a centipede sting can be severe–even fatal if their throat swells shut.  And we are in Hālawa Valley–without a telephone.  And about an hour’s drive from town and the nearest hospital.

“I’m ok–but we need to spray, ” she tells him.

“We are really good at spraying [insecticide] to prevent this kind of thing,” he explains.  ”But with all of the rain we’ve been having, the centipedes must be trying to come inside and stay dry.”

I head outside with a flashlight and make my way to the storage unit where they keep their insect spray.  Bringing it back inside to Pops, I ask how I can help.  He takes the canister from my hands and begins to work immediately–like an expert.  ”Just stay with Mom.”

She had been bitten on the neck.

“It must have crawled up the wall behind my bed and onto my neck.  I felt something moving, so I moved and then it bit me,” she says.  That’s when she jumped out of bed and instinctively put on her shoes.   And then she saw the centipede making a run for it so she stomped on it.  But… she’d only managed to stomp on half of it.  ”The thing must have crawled up the back of my slipper and bitten me, again, here on my ankle!”  She rubs medicine where she’d been stung the second time.

I sit, staring at her with my mouth open–completely blown away by the strength and tenacity of that little creature.  And completely CREEPED OUT by the thought of having one of ‘em crawling on me!  Yikes!  To think I’d been sharing the floor with it only minutes before!  Not to mention having it flung at my sleeping space along with Mom’s shoe when it attacked a second time!

Pops sprays the perimeter of the house–inside and out–and then joins Mom and I in the front room.  We make breakfast.  Pancakes and eggs.  Pops and I watch watched Mom to make sure she is ok.  And we talk.  And we talk.  And we talk.

Finally, the sun breaks through the clouds with a pink light.  The rain disappears.  Morning has arrived.

Thankfully, pain and some mild swelling are the worst of Mom’s reaction to the stings.

We never did find the centipede that night.  Maybe it managed to escape when we opened one of the doors.

Or maybe it’s still there.


Happy Halloween, gang.

*Please click HERE to see some (really scary!) images of the centipedes found in Hawaiʻi.

*And please click HERE to read a great post about centipede bites.  I found it while I was doing an internet search for images.


Aloha kākou!

Here’s this week’s question:

Which of these 4 phrases is a way of saying “Good morning!” in Hawaiian?

A.  ”Aloha kakahiaka!”

B.  ”Aloha awakea!”

C.  ”Aloha ʻauinalā!”

D.  ”Aloha ahiahi!”

• Please submit your answer by posting a reply to this entry on the blog.
• All correct answers will be eligible to win a special email message from me.
• One winner will be randomly chosen at 11:59pm HST.

Will YOU be this week’s lucky winner?

Good Luck!

Aloha Poʻalima! Happy Aloha Friday!

**Crooner Update:  Nicely done, gang!

You all impress me, for sure.  Everyone had the correct answer!

And that answer is A.  ”Aloha kakahiaka!”

And this week’s winner, chosen randomly from all of the correct answers is… (Drum roll, please…) CAROL!  Congrats, Carol–you’re this week’s Trivia Superstar!

A giant MAHALo to everyone for taking part in this week’s challenge!  (And I hope you’ll play along next week, too!)

Happy Weekend, gang.

A hui hou…



An Anchor

Thursday, October 27, 2011

kamaka, kamaka ukulele, 'ukulele, standard ukulele, soprano ukulele

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele

I was going to title this “Using the ʻUkulele as an Anchor.”

But then I pictured a bunch of people in boats and  (gasp!) throwing their ‘ukuleles overboard and trying to literally use them an an anchor.  The image made me laugh.  And I was equally horrified by the thought.

But it’s what I’ve been trying to do lately: use the ʻukulele as an anchor.

Or more specifically: Using the SOUND of the ʻukulele as an anchor to the present moment.

Here’s the scoop:

A series of traumatic events in my youth rocked my world.  As a survival technique, I learned to “disassociate.”

It’s not that uncommon.  We all do it–at least to a certain extent.  When the going gets rough, we “check out” (mentally) and go to a happy place.  Perhaps a happier time in the past.  Or even dream of a happy time to come in the future.

And let me be clear:  I’m so thankful to have been able to do that as a kid.  I’m pretty sure it saved my life.

However, if that becomes a standard practice/habit for you, you run the risk of losing touch with the present.

Think about how much time you spend during the day thinking about “What if…” (future) or “I should have…” (past).  It’s pretty wild how little time many of us stay rooted in the PRESENT moment.

That’s a HUGE problem for me.

Recently, I was reading about a Buddhist tradition that uses the sound of a bell to remind the practitioners to “come back to the present moment.”

The sound, in essence, wakes them from their dream state.  It helps them to become aware of the NOW.  It serves like an anchor–something to hold on to.

And I was thinking that I could do the same thing with my ‘ukulele.

For example, I spend a significant part of my day studying about the ancient traditions of an ancient valley.  Then I spend time studying “vintage” songs–the crooner classics–that I love so much.  And I also spend a piece of my day working on a writing project that explores events from my personal past.  That’s a lot of living in the PAST.

As a champion worry wart, I spend a lot of time dreaming up catastrophes.  Yup.  Like  ”What if the (insert potential tragedy/catastrophe) happens?  How will I/we/the world deal with that?”  Living in the FUTURE.  (And not even in a fun way.  Yuck!)


One thing that I keep close at hand is my ʻukulele.

You guys know how much I value a simple strum break.  The sound of those 4 simple strings helps to ground me.

It’s like my “bell.”  My anchor to the present.


This week, I’ve been taking a moment to really LISTEN to the ʻukulele.

To strum it very consciously.  And I’m not talking about doing that for an entire song.  I strum a simple chord a few times.  (Maybe 3 times in a row.  Or perhaps a simple “Hawaiian vamp” that you might hear at the start of so many classic hula tunes.)

And I really LISTEN to it.  This isn’t about listening to see if my ‘ukulele is tune.  Or even to strum the opening of a tune I’m about to play.  This is just to listen to the sound.

And I’ve gotta tell you:  it’s helping.

It’s really neat to be able to strum and take a deep breath and just listen.

So, I thought I’d pass this little practice along to you.

Maybe it will help you, too!

Using the ʻukulele as an anchor to the present moment.

Right on.

What tools/tricks/techniques help YOU stay anchored to the present moment?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear from you.


The Crooner’s Weekly “TOP 5″ (10.26.11)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ukulele Croonerʻs Weekly TOP 3 iPod Jason Poole Accidental Hawaiian Crooner

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!

**And I wanted to send a special birthday shout out to my buddy, Grace!  HAU’OLI LĀ HĀNAU E GRACE!!

Here are the TOP 5 SONGS from my iPod this week:

1. Lei Aloha  (Chick Daniels’ recording on the album A Beachboy Party)

I am so obsessed with this song!  (Ok, I’m so obsessed with this whole album!)

Are you guys familiar with it?  The album is like a little peephole into the past.  In 1963, Waltah Clarke threw a party for some of the legendary beachboys of Waikīkī (no… not the California band, the Beach Boys!) and recorded music from the event–and produced this album!  And its billed as “Duke Kahanamoku presents: A Beachboy Party with Waltah Clarke.”  The legendary Duke Kahanamoku!  True story!  The album makes me feel like I was one of the privileged folks in attendance that night.  And YOU can feel that way, too, just by listening!

This song, written by one of the most famous Waikīkī beachboys, Chick Daniels, rocks!  A great hapa-haole tune that makes me grin from ear to ear!  The beauty is in the simplicity of the arrangement.  Vocals, ‘ukulele, steel guitar, bass–and maybe a guitar?    I don’t have the names of all of the musicians that played that night, but it must have been a stellar lineup.

Chick Daniels’ vocals–and his stylistic choices–provide a shining example of the style of music that was being presented during the “golden days” of Waikīkī’s beachboys.  A rare glimpse.  A treat!

*Please click HERE to read more about Chick Daniels and the Waikīkī beachboys.

2. Ka Pua Mohala (Kūpaoa’s recording on the album English Rose)

This song came on while I was cooking dinner the other night.  And I had to stop chopping vegetables and just listen…

Written by the Hawaiian langauge master, Puakea Nogelmeir, it’s not a piece for someone looking for a song with just a few lyrics!  In fact, after listening to it, I had to go find the album’s liner notes–which, thankfully, include the lyrics!–and I was amazed at how complex they are.  Complex, but so rich!  And so wonderful!  The sound of ‘Ōlelo Hawaiʻi delights my ears.  And Puakea’s compositions are among my all-time favorite.

And when paired with the stunning harmonies of Kūpaoa, it’s a guaranteed win!  Their voices dance around each other, weaving in and out and creating a beautiful tapestry of sound.

I love this mele.  And I love their recording.

*Please click HERE to visit Kūpaoa’s website.

*Please click HERE to read more about Puakea Nogelmeir.

3. Kauaʻi Beauty (Lono’s recording on the album Old Style II)

I love Lono’s voice!  It takes me to Molokai instantly–he’s a pillar of the musical scene there!  And I love the “old style” he brings to the songs.

This classic mele, attributed to Henry Waiʻau, describes the beauty of the island of Kauaʻi.  Is there perhaps another meaning to the song?  Could the kaona (hidden meaning) be about a beloved?  One can only infer, but it’s not hard to imagine…

It’s awesome.  Lono’s recording makes me feel like I’m sitting at a kanikapila–jamming with other musicicans at sunset on Molokai.  Mahalo for that, Lono!

*Please click HERE to visit Lono’s website.

4. Bring Me Your Cup (Pure Heart’s recording on the album Pure Heart)

A blast from the past!

When I bought this album, I was just learning to play the ʻukulele.  This was one of the songs my friends and I learned so that we could jam together.  This music warmed many cold NYC nights.

So awesome!   So much fun!

So many memories come flooding back when I hear the fantastic talents of these young guys!  A favorite track from a favorite album.

5. Haunani Kī Hoʻalu (Kuʻuipo Kumukahi’s recording on the album Nā Hiwa Kupuna O Kuʻu One Hānau)

Kī hoʻalu (slack key guitar) music soothes my weary body and soul.

And this week, I’ve been delighted to by this recording.

According to the album’s liner notes, she wrote the song for her friend, the one and only Haunani Apoliona.

*Please click HERE to visit Kuʻuipo’s website.

What are YOU listening to?  Drop me a line and let me know!

And, as always, a giant MAHALO to Puna and the gang at for being an awesome Hawaiian music resource. You all make the world a better place!

**10.31.11 Crooner Note:  Please note the correction!  The friend that inspired Ku’uipo Kumukahi’s composition is the one and only Haunani Apoliona and not Haunani Apolima as I’d originally posted.  A giant MAHALO to Auntie Maria for catching that!   Please see Auntie Maria’s comment below for more information.  (Auē! No wonder I didn’t recognize the name when I typed that!  Ha!  Now I do!)  


Strummin’ in the City (#38)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kamaka 'ukulele, Inwood Hill Park, Jason Poole

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele in Inwood Hill Park (NYC 10.25.11)

A lot of folks find it hard to believe that I carry my ‘ukulele with me all the time.

But you never know when you might feel like strumming!

And as Pops is always quick to advise: E ho’omākaukau. Be prepared.

Ah… the life of an urban strummer!

(Do you like the ʻukulele in the photo? Check out for some of the best ʻukuleles on the planet!)



Monday, October 24, 2011

Today I am grateful for the gift of a new day.  Mahalo for that!