Kai dropped us off in the park and before we had walked ten feet, we were offered a ride by a local;
"Darlins' come on! Where you need to go?"
Don, white, mid-fifties, came to Hawaii with the Navy when he was 18 and has been here ever since.
He retired 15 years ago, now manages an apartment building in Hilo and in his spare time, volunteers to take care of the paddling club that's based out of the park where we leave our dinghy.
The club provides a place for local youth to get involved and off of the streets and away from the rampant influence of methamphetamine ( or "Ice' which i ignorantly referred to as "crack" in my last blog).
The kids get mentored in traditional outrigger paddling and Hawaiian culture and it seems like a a really cool effort on the part of all the volunteers, and one of many things the local community is trying to do to help deal with this crushing epidemic.
Don dropped us off in Banyan park.
It was Sunday and a lazy, hazy, phat and humid vibe hung in the air.
The day wasn't going anywhere in a hurry-so we didn't either.
Hunter and I wandered down the road, under the canopy of these truly epic trees that dangle their witchy tendrils from a hundred feet high and hang thick with Tarzan vines and yet have the luxury of sprouting (what to me would be a forty dollar) orchid plant from just any old branch .
How do they get away with such glories?
This Island is thick with magic.
The locals have named these trees...there are plaques at their bases...Princess-Hawaii- something- or-other-I couldn't read the name. It was a secret, mossed over by some sticky Bromeliad fungus. There was another name on the next tree though, must be for a great King...No? This tree is named after...Richard Nixon?
Tomorrow I definitely need to go to the Information Center and get some answers on this!
Hunter and I kept on walking, full of questions and enjoying the heck out of our new digs.
We saw lots of local children splashing in the lagoon and families spreading out picnics under tents and fathers playing football with their kids...everyone was so cool and friendly and laid back.
It was hard imagine that someplace this idyllic has the highest population of "Ice" users in the country.
'Look at those cute puppies!" Hunter pointed.
Two pretty rough looking dudes were playing with a couple of adorable, rangy puppies.
The older of the two saw Hunter watching them and gave us a big smile and waved us over.
"These be pig dogs, boar killas from Mauka ( toward the mountain), come on ku'uipo...come say hi."
Hunter looked at me to see if it was okay. I glanced at the dudes, they were a tiny bit intimidating but they seemed interesting and we ain't no ordinary Turistas .
We have wandered the Baja and eaten the chocolate clam, we have climbed the mountains Marquasan and can name fifty stars in the night sky...
We wear a badge now.
It says BADASS bitches.
We get a free pass.
Hang with the freaks in the park or drinks at the Four Seasons...
I thought of our great friend Valentine from Anse amyot...
'Why not?" I said, leading Hunter over to shake hands and introduce ourselves.
And this is how we came to meet Pohaku and his young Hawaiin friend (who's name was five consonants and ten vowels long-so, unfortunately, I never quite learned it)
We asked them if the dogs were going to be raised to hunt boars and they said yes, and Hunter told them she knew a little about boar hunting having just come form the Marquesas.
And within five seconds-we were all best buds.
Pohaku was totally wild, super kind, a little wacko, very bright and also ex military, having served in Iraq under Bush...
"I don' like to talk stink, but that a junk war, ya?" he said.
I told him I was inclined to agree.
Then he went on to tell us in a rapid fire and amazing mix of English, Hawaiin, Pidgin and Hebrew ( raised Jewish, originally from Boston) all about his life history and what all the local trees are called and why they are named after people ( for their spirits, which still makes me wonder about Nixon but it did look like a very complicated tree, after all ) and what was up with the local scene and crime and drugs and the various conspiracy theories involved there ( Asian gangs introduced it but it was ignored by the authorities as it affected only the poor communities and that just meant it was even easier for rich people to grab up al the land, so they let it keep going), we also got a lesson on local slang to use so we wouldn't seem like such Malihini's
While we petted the puppies and listened to Puhaku ramble on, I glanced over at his young Hawaiin friend, who had been standing quietly by himself the whole time, looking up at the trees with a smile on his face.
Pohaku ( which means stone 'cause he's a carver. He was given this name in a ceremony by his Hawaiin ohana ( family). I guess this is what happens when you are adopted here) looked over at his buddy;
I smiled, not sure what to say.
"That boy, only 22 years old, Ya. Air force, Afghanistan...shrapnel to the head-now he's like a six year old up here.."
Pohaku tapped his own close- cropped head and shrugged.
"I look out for him, 'cause there no one else who would".
My throat closed up. I wanted to cry.
Hunter looked at me with wide eyes.
"Its like this with all the young vets" Pohaku told us.
"Us old guys from the other wars are the only ones who have any time for these kids."
We told him it was really nice talking to them but we had to get to the market but Pohaku insisted on giving us a ride the rest of the way.
He opened the back of his pick up.
"Climb in the back with Auntie" He told the kid.
"Auntie" was me.
It's a Hawaiian term of endearment for an older woman.
I love this place.
The young vet got in back with Hunter and me.
(Incidentally, on the big Island of Hawaii, it is not illegal to ride in the back of a pick up truck- which all by itself, is reason enough for me to want to move here)
Pohaku took off, yelling interesting factoids about the town which, we couldn't possibly decipher, what with all the wind and noise in the back of the truck.
Then the kid in the back with us suddenly started bawling his eyes out.
Hunter nudged me and looked at him with alarm.
The kid wiped his eyes, which were positively streaming with big fat tears and in this sweet halting voice full of pain and apology and longing for something I can only imagine. he said;
" so beautiful, mama and little kiki going da Market. So good. So sweet."...and then he just kept sobbing.
I have never felt what I should have on a V day.
I have intellectually understood what sacrifices have been made for Country but as a psudeo-conscientious objector to wars in general, my empathy has always taken a back seat to my intellectual idea of the bigger picture.
This day changed all that, for me.
Our little daughter was also front and center for this experience and I will never have to explain to her what our young men and women go through out there on the front lines.
Hunter's eyes filled with tears and she gripped my knee as she looked at the boy in the back of this truck who had left his peaceful island life here and gone though something beyond horrible out there in some desolate mountain pass somewhere an entire world away....
It sure didn't make me understand the WHY any better but I now have a face for the WHO -and that has changed me.
A moment later, we came around the bend to where the Hilo farmers Market sprawls along this honkey tonk of a waterfront town,
its full of crunchy, funky, soul surfers and old hippies and Japanese farmers selling giant pumpkins and potheads selling wheatgrass shakes.
A legion of vets paraded down the street with flags and a drummer beating out a march, and the boy in the back of the truck with us stood and saluted as Pohaku pulled over to the side and opened his door and shouted out military -in- calls to his brothers in colors.
When the parade had passed Pohuku came around and helped Hunter and I out of the truck.
"Here ya go ladies. Hope you enjoyed the ride and learned a little bit about us, Hawaiians ,Ya."
Yeah. Yeah we sure did boys.
Hunter and I gave Pohuku and our friend in the truck, kisses on the cheek...
"Thank you, for your service" I said, and for the first time in my life, I didn't feel self conscious saying it.
|best veggies ever!|
|So many Orchids!|
|Off to market|
|Super cool lantern Kai made out of a coconut|
|Hard to choose|
|Greeting Nakia when they arrive...|
|A few of my favorite things|
|Pohuku and friends|
|Med-moored in the 'hood|