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Monday, July 28, 2014         

Lee Cataluna

For the past year, Donalyn Dela Cruz has been in the most high-profile and possibly most challenging media relations job in the state, serving as press secretary for Neil Abercrombie, a governor struggling with low voter-approval ratings and a brutal economy.

Get caught speeding in a school zone and you face a higher penalty -- a fine of up to $250. A conviction for selling drugs near a school also carries a greater punishment than selling drugs on just any non-school street corner.

Though she had dreamed of this moment from childhood, when the big day came she wore a dress she bought from Ross and told everybody that that's where she got the outfit. While others would brag about what she's accomplished, Karen Kuioka Hironaga is more comfortable making jokes about the clearance rack.

On Saturday mornings, Burt Fujii drives a delivery truck from Honolulu to Pearl City, out to Waipio, Mililani and Wahiawa, then to Haleiwa, back around to Ewa, up to Makakilo and around to Nanakuli. It's a route that takes him five hours to complete.

The ride along 2,000 feet of historic track takes just a few minutes, even with the locomotive puffing along at a speed slower than a walk. There isn't much to see in the tangle of trees except the faint suggestions of what used to be.

What do you get when you put Roseanne Barr on 46 acres of Big Island outback, give her a gun, a seashell honu necklace, some grinning local buddies and a wild pig problem? Not sure.

There was a time not long ago when the idea of ruthless, spiteful Mufi Hannemann running the state seemed scary and Neil Abercrombie, neatly combed and acting avuncular, appeared the more reasonable choice.

At Kmart in Lihue, the cashiers are still apologizing with every transaction: "Sorry. We don't have bags. Sorry, yeah? No more bags."

The online customer feedback is over the top. Some describe opening the box and bursting into tears. Others swear the pieces are imbued with some sort of magic. One woman quoted Jane Austen. From a garage workshop in Waipahu, the jewelry pieces have been shipped around the world.

Lei Girelli spent the last three decades of her life fighting for the dignity of long-gone strangers. She died June 4 at the age of 82. Her family says she died knowing that she had been victorious.

It is not the most well-known spot in Honolulu, but if you've visited the Hockney exhibit, you'd never forget it.

People in Hawaii have a great capacity for tolerating all sorts of hassles and hardships.

When Onaona Pomroy Maly went to Kauai earlier this month, she was given a gift of Kauai poi to take home.

Yolanda Caluya Domingo was nervous, heart pounding in her chest. As she stood at the lectern at the Blaisdell Concert Hall, about to give the commencement address to her graduating class, she realized it was exactly 11 years ago to the minute that she had been given a second chance.

In the book, Vince is returning to the Philippines, the country of his birth, after 13 years in Hawaii.

Kuulei Santos walks boldly between worlds. She is one of the few Hanapepe salt makers, the dedicated descendants who continue the ancient Hawaiian practice of crystallizing the sea.

We can talk all night about President Barack Obama releasing his "long-form" birth certificate and what it means in terms of national politics, race relations and the lunatic fringe.

On Wednesday morning, Farrington water polo coach Eric Polivka had his phone in one hand and a trash can nearby to do an early morning radio interview.

The Farrington High School girls water polo team lost every game this year.

The effects of the recession are playing out in the thrift store, where volunteers are seeing a surge of customers looking for bargains, fewer donations of high-end items and more people shoving dollar items under their jackets and running out without paying.

When Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s highly anticipated picks for the Board of Education were announced, the one name that stood out in the group was Kim Gennaula.

For close to 60 years, his were the eyes through which Kamehameha students saw themselves. Luryier “Pop” Diamond served as school photographer, and later, photographer emeritus, at the Kapalama campus until he was 96 years old. He died March 10.

A guy from Mililani gets his first role on Broadway, and he's playing the back end of a horse.

Every time there's an earthquake in the Pacific Rim or a storm churning in the ocean hundreds of miles away, there comes the awareness of the gap between how much modern science is able to predict and how much we still don't know.

There are some things Hawaii residents have come to see as sure things: A union job with the state means unassailable benefits. Joe Moore will be there at 6 and 10 p.m. And Dan Akaka will be in Congress for all the days of his life.

How did any Hawaii resident ever leave home without this?
Last summer, Hawaiian Sun Products introduced a line of their beloved juice drinks in powdered form. The idea was to make the favorite island beverages more easily portable and exportable, like Tang for the astronauts.

In the summer of 2009, a friend of Ralph Berger managed to talk the 80-year-old Kahala Nui resident into signing up on eHarmony.

More people on Oahu now work for Walmart than Hawaiian Electric or Bank of Hawaii. On Kauai, Walmart is the fifth-largest private employer, topped by only the Hyatt Poipu, the contractor that runs the PMRF Naval Base, Wilcox Hospital and Princeville Resort.

The Elton John concert to be held on Maui this month sold out so fast that a second show was added, even with tickets that start at $77. But there was a magical night 34 years ago when some Maui folks got to hear Elton John for free.

The year-end countdowns of the most popular musical hits of 2010 all seem to be agreeing on Train's "Hey, Soul Sister" as the song of the year. But not enough credit is being given to the sound of the year. It's been building for a while, but in 2010, the soundtrack of American pop culture was played on the ukulele.

The rumors weren't true, but when you live on an island like Kauai and remember toilet paper shortages because of dock strikes or dangerous winter seas that kept fuel barges from their regular runs, you move first, ask questions later.

The gang name scrawled across the traffic sign was probably meant as a fearsome claiming of territory, except it was a 25 mph sign in a country lane on Kauai where goats nibble on dandelions in front yards and BVDs flap from garage clotheslines.

What must it be like in the back room before the annual press conference when the police chief and the fire chief urge "common sense" for New Year's fireworks? They gotta be shaking their heads, right? Poor guys.

The only theater dedicated to the original work of Hawaii playwrights is in dire financial trouble. First, I must acknowledge my conflict of interest. I have had a long relationship with Kumu Kahua Theatre, which performed my first play in 1998. I have had seven plays produced in the 100-seat theater and have taught summer play-writing courses there.

That the reboot of "Hawaii Five-0" is doing so well at a time when scripted network dramas are desperate to come up with salable ideas says a lot about the durability of the cops-in-paradise genre.

His demise was sensational. His redemption has been quiet and measured. It took Gary Modafferi 13 years to be reinstated to the Hawaii bar. He had to prove himself again and again, answering questions about what he does in his free time, what he learned in treatment and what his family support system is like.

Tomorrow night, the Liberty House HiBoard members, those teen stars of yesteryear, will meet in former Ala Moana Liberty House once again.

The idea came to them so effortlessly that they never stopped to think they might not pull it off. Last summer, track team friends Maya Grossman and Tama Fukuyama were running through Manoa Valley when inspiration struck.

When Australian swimmer Penny Palfrey didn't make it across the Kaieiewaho Channel from Oahu to Kauai last month, the story was all over the news for days. When six swimmers did make it successfully across the 72-mile channel last weekend, they didn't get any attention, just a bag of hot malasadas.

When local people fret about Waikiki parking, it's only partly about the cost. Equally discouraging are the navigational skills required.

In response to a column last week asserting that "Kill Haole Day" is a much-talked-about but otherwise nonexistent annual exercise in Hawaii schools, there were lots of e-mailed anecdotes that started with phrases like "Back in the 1970s ..."

If you look back at the photos, the flowers are exactly the same. Friston Ho'okano had to make sure Abercrombie's flowers were just as tall as Hannemann's, that Hanabusa's heliconias were just as showy as Djou's.

Gov.-elect Neil Abercrombie hasn't even had a chance to adjust the chair behind the big koa desk, and already he has been bombarded by people applying for jobs.

"Kill Haole Day" is largely a myth. That a federal judge has cited it as a long-standing island tradition in a legal opinion is shocking, damaging and wrong.

Some people lose an election, pick themselves up and come out a winner in the next race. Some candidates lose more than they win but still end up moving up the ranks to higher office. And some lose once and are forever a loser, as if they wear their defeat like a scar or a limp.

A hundred years ago a hospital for indigent tuberculosis patients was founded on Maui with $500 in seed money and the amazingly hopeful idea that an incurable disease could somehow be treated.

Are we really going to make like we're surprised about the San Diego teachers catching flak for booking a work conference in Waikiki?

When some couples bicker, they make you want to move house, call an exorcist or shoot them with the water hose. Others make spousal disagreements a wonderful piece of performance art. You know the type. They're going back and forth at the family party about who is supposed to take out the garbage, and everyone has stopped eating to watch the show.

OK, Colleen, time to call Island Movers.

There was Jim Brewer out on the road at 11 p.m. Friday. The Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate was alone in the dark with his banner. He stood on Kalanianaole on the eastbound side, waving into oncoming headlights. As cars passed, he'd turn and wave to the receding taillights.

The cat turns up his nose at "ocean buffet" kibble and only wants that stinky wet stuff in a can. The kid eats only round chickie nuggets, not chickie fingers or chicken strips. The tailgate buddies only want imported beer, not the stuff that's on sale. We weren't so hard to please when there were fewer choices. But when did cockroaches get finicky?

Lei Kahanu Girelli never gave up on the men she could not name but would not forget.

When it was announced last week that the Pagoda Hotel is being sold, the first statement from the new owner were words of reassurance. Local developer Peter Savio let everyone know that though he's planning improvements, he won't go nuts and change the place into something unrecognizable.

You may find yourself standing in line at the bank, documents clutched in your sweaty hand, staring ahead at the construction worker wearing his sunglasses on the back of his neck because maybe he has eyes back there and all of a sudden you notice you're swaying.

Forty-six years ago the cure for lackluster achievement and wasted money was to directly elect school board members, taking the school board appointment power away from the governor.

Never mind the plans for the infinity pool or the fountain shaped like an oversize vase. The new thing in outdoor decor is the fire pit.

A wooden ladder leads to the top of the chiller where his daughter has made a nest for herself with a futon and boxes. After school, she'll climb up to her loft in the little flower shop to do homework while her parents and auntie work into the evening.

The large donation came as a surprise. Retired Kamehameha Schools middle school Principal Diana Lord left $203,694 to the Salvation Army in Hawaii, specifically asking that her estate go to support programs that help elderly people.

Having to move the shop was a scary thing.

It took years, but Alex G. Paman cataloged every ghost, demon and supernatural entity he could find in Asian and Pacific literature. The result of his dogged research is the amazing book "Asian Supernatural -- Including Hawaii and the Pacific" released by Mutual Publishing this summer.

Aw, sparklers too? Really? Sparklers were part of the problem? The city's new ban on fireworks is so comprehensive, it bans just about everything except tiki torches, Bic lighters and mosquito punks.

Yesterday afternoon, Duke Aiona's campaign sent out a big announcement: Duke got his flu shot. Well, good for him that he was a brave boy about it. Too bad it won't protect him from foot in mouth disease.

Blake Oshiro was used to talking politics in Times Aiea. For the last 10 years as the area's representative in the state House, he knew whenever he was in his neighborhood supermarket, people would recognize him and want to bend his ear about potholes or crosswalks. Outside of his district, he was fairly anonymous.

For all the concerns about how the new "Hawaii Five-0" would be changed so much from the original (Kono is a woman?!) so as to be unrecognizable, the reboot is actually much like the old standard, particularly on the hallmarks that made the first one so iconic.

When Mayor Jeremy Harris published his vanity piece "The Renaissance of Honolulu" in 2004, there were vehement assurances from his administration that all profit from the sale of the book would be returned to the city's general fund.

In the sixth-grade class picture from Ewa Beach Elementary, the future football coach is the chubby boy with "back in the day" leather sandals. His dream girl is next to him in a pink muumuu and matching headband that her mother made special for picture-taking day.

If the pass/fail question on Hawaii viewers' mind was whether the new "Hawaii Five-0" would hire local actors for more than "Kimo the waiter" parts, that question was answered with a big "whoo hoo!" when Jonathan Clarke Sypert blasted onto the screen, dreadlocks flying.

It was sad to watch Mufi Hannemann's concession speech on election night. Sad because it's hard to see a big character like that struggling to come to terms with his comeuppance, and sad because despite all his graceful conceding, he still doesn't get it.

A crowd of people poured out of the yellow Yamaguchi school bus and surged into the church like the tide. They rented the bus to take them from Waialua all the way to Kaimuki on a Thursday evening to attend the funeral of their beloved priest.

Why would you invite Rod Tam to a debate? The same reason you'd put Paul Lynde in the center square or have Paula Abdul as a talent judge or book Dennis Rodman and his dress for an awards banquet.

That poor lady needs a chiropractor. Look at her, head stuck to the side, neck all in a kink, one shoulder almost up to her ear. She's gripping the steering wheel like she might be in pain and yelling at the kids in the back seat.

The last time Ann Ruby wore the shirt, people told her to take it off and put it somewhere safe, and while she was at it, to wrap it in plastic for good measure.

What this town needs are billboards. Looming, lighted rectangular signs all along the roadways, all owned by the city or state and rented to DUI defense attorneys, lap band surgeons and, during every election year, politicians. Now that's a practical money-making idea that could dig local government out of the hole left by the recession.

There's what Mufi Hannemann said and what he was going for, and those are two different things. The now famous "I look like you" speech to the carpenters union has been decried as racism, anti-haole-ism, unabashed locals-only-ism.

Danny Graham is washing his clothes in a motel room sink in Canada, talking fondly about the huge bugs on the windshield and the smell of roadkill in the evening air. He pauses, chuckles a little and says, "Just don't call me crazy, OK?"

Last year, the performance was so popular, an extra fourth show was added on several nights. The additions were a huge endorsement for a walking history tour that took place in the steamy pau hana workday hours in downtown Honolulu. The experience transcended the traffic noise and the humidity. It became deeper than an intellectual history exercise. People were dabbing away tears.

Never mind that the announcers called them "Wipe-O" instead of Waipio and mangled almost everyone's name.

Patti Chang and Denise Albano have traveled to remote villages in China, Africa and South America to help poor people, often women, provide for their families. They saw the huge difference just a small loan can make.

Every generation thinks they're the baddest ever; more feisty, outspoken and untamed than their parents and grandparents.

Dr. Jeffrey Akaka doesn't work for the Hawai'i Convention Center, but he's brought in bookings that have meant more than $65 million to the state. He does this through what he calls "mac nut diplomacy."

For such an unpretentious little community, Niu Valley has been home to quite a number of local celebrities. So many, actually, that there could be a "map to the stars' homes" like in Hollywood.

When Kauai County switched to an automated trash collection system this month, the ensuing confusion gripped the island, and it fell to one man to save the day.

Mark Matheson is sleeping on his chest half the night to toughen himself up.

A guy walks into a Goodwill and finds an '80s-era Tom Selleck aloha shirt. No big deal, right? There were a bazillion of those back in the day when "Magnum, P.I." was the king of Thursday night television.

As Kathy Stride talks on the phone, her 2-year-old daughter, Kayleigh, is giggling in the background, asking questions and talking up a storm.

Bah, what's fifty bucks a semester?

Kauai's Lihue Airport is generally a friendly place—much too friendly to be the first in the state to institute full-body security scans for travelers.

Linda Lingle's tenure as governor will be remembered for two big things that didn't happen: Superferry and civil unions. Specifically, Lingle will be remembered for her all-out effort on behalf of Superferry investors and her chilly refusal to sign the bill establishing civil unions.

Duke Aiona has news for you: Hawaii public schools cost taxpayers a lot more now than they did 30 years ago. He's proposing an audit to find out why.

On any given day, Trudy Schandler-Wong gets e-mails from around the world saying, "Mom, I miss you!" Trudy and her husband, Alvin, have been a host family for students at the East-West Center since 1976. They were newlyweds when they started, welcoming in "kids" who were actually around their age.

There are many questions following the unexpected announcement this week that the city has agreed to the Environmental Protection Agency's demand that it upgrade Oahu's sewer system.

It's like Bruce Lee walking through the room of mirrors in "Enter the Dragon." At every turn there's another one waiting to pounce. Every step, every corner, every inadvertent meeting of the eyes brings the potential of another engagement.

The idea came from a tiny town far away. When the Aiu family lived in Florida, they traveled with one of their children on a school excursion.

Jo-Ann Kamuela Kahanamoku-Sterling was the kind of lady who told you exactly what she thought but hinted that her best adventures were too good to share.

Last November, former Chief Justice William S. Richardson sat in his office at the law school that was named in his honor and reflected on his life. He was about to celebrate his 90th birthday with a fundraiser for his beloved UH law school.

The Hawaii Writers Conference, formerly known as the Maui Writers Conference, is dead. Less than a year ago, stories touting the annual event were placed all over local media.

An employment office is like a hospital waiting room. People come in scared. The staff has to be as unflappable as veteran nurses. You start to realize that bad things, unexpected misfortune, can find you regardless of the particulars of your life.

So the phone rings during dinner the other night. Can't be Charles Djou again, right? The campaign is over, he's in D.C. The picture with Nancy Pelosi was in the paper. Must be Habilitat or one of those other unrepentant dinnertime callers.

It isn't quite the entire school dancing to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." It just looks that way.

This year, Tiffany Suh received the Tadashi Sato Scholarship, one of the highest honors for a Hawaii high school artist.


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