Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fishing the Ala Wai in the olden days

I was never a fisherman anywhere, not like guys who are seriously into it. But there are plenty of folks who experienced fishing all over, including the Ala Wai Canal back in the days when it was much less polluted.

This morning, I came across a great blog at Kaulapi World about one man's childhood memories of fishing at the Ala Wai with his father. It's been only one generation since the cementing of the Ala Wai Watershed, but practically all has been lost in such a short period of time. Gone are the taro fields, duck ponds — the breadbasket of Oahu just a century ago — leaving us with remnants of what used to be.

My memories of fishing there are limited to occasional crabbing with Pack 333 (Cub Scouts) and watching the occasional fisherman hook up along the water, usually near McCully bridge. The crabbing was more exciting, of course, thanks to the humongous Samoan crabs. I don't know if the crabs were really from Samoa. They had big old pinchers, though, and they loved going after those aku heads everybody used as bait.

Tossing the crab nets, a circular metal frame holding a weave of rope similar to a basketball net, was probably the most fun for me. Not that I was good at it. But even back then, in the mid-1970s, I was aware of the toxins and poisons in the waters. A summer science class at UH, one for fifth graders, was all I needed. Will Kyselka led us on a tour up the Ala Wai and up Manoa-Palolo Stream, taking samples of the water along the way. All of the water was later measured for lead content. It wasn't a happy result, but it wasn't entirely shocking, either.

One day, probably, the entire watershed will be restored by Mother Nature. We probably won't be around to see foliage and vegetation run amok around and through all our man-made structures. Until then, all there is within the area are obnoxious motorists blasting their engines and all the dysfunctional symptoms that come with an overpopulated place. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Washington Middle School

I love it when art and education mesh into something as brilliant, vivid and resourceful as this. One of the best ways to empower kids is through art. Well done.

Click on photo for full size

I ran a lot on these courts at Washington Intermediate School in the 1979-80 season. Our coach, Dwight Sato, worked us hard. It was worth every drop of sweat. I played on four teams at Boys Club, where our team (Panthers) won the title, to the all-star team that traveled to Santa Monica, Calif. That was a turning point for me. My 'like' for basketball turned into 'love'. It happened for a lot of us from McCully and Mo'ili'ili back then, and not surprisingly, quite a few kids were recruited by ILH schools.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kokua Market

The Michael Jackson tribute mural gets the attention, but it's the other mural that gets to my heart.

Kokua Market moved in years ago, but before that, the location was the site of Mo‘ili├Žili Store. Good memories of that place and the nice ladies who worked there. My mom always liked shopping there.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ice cream!

This machine is still on the ‘Iolani school campus after decades. As kids, we used to walk over from Ala Wai Park to Club 100 for ice-cold water to drink. Sometimes we'd venture to the tennis courts at ‘Iolani, where they also had ice-water fountains PLUS this ice-cream machine.

Back then the ice cream was just 25¢, but when the tennis courts were bulldozed to make way for the new science building/football bleachers/parking garage, I thought for sure the ice cream machine was history.

But nope, they never let it go. And so it sits, even though it's out of order for now, right there next to the athletic office and the Father Bray display. Machine's probably 35 years old, but I can't wait to get a creamsicle out of there.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


I find it puzzling, but not worrisome, that I have almost zero interest in the NBA playoffs this year. In fact, I haven't cared much about the NBA since fantasy season ended. Kudos to my brother, Kimo, who won our Larry Bird Association championship. (I came in third or fourth.)

I also had minimal interest in March Madness for the first time in maybe three decades. What's happening to me? Not sure.

I find myself obsessed with material about our neighborhoods and cities, our communities and islands, our environment and development. We are connected to our homes, however you define 'home', whether we acknowledge this or not. So this is not a sad change for me, at age 43. I'm leaving behind some old interests and pastimes, I guess, but have a new passion for things that have always meant something to me. Walking to school every day (except when I rode TheBus), it's impossible to not notice the trees, streams, concrete congestion of urban Honolulu. My favorite was walking over the Date Street bridge to Kaimuki High School.

During the early 1980s, bouganvilla (sp) bushes grew tall and wide and lush. Brilliant hues of goldenrod and violet and peach and white, from one side of the Manoa-Palolo Stream to the other. Along with expansive branches of trees on both sides of the stream, it was a place to stop for a minute and just admire nature.

One day, the bouganvillas and trees were gone. The stream was barren of covering and shade. Bare stumps and dirt remained on each side of the stream. It was sad.

I remember a few years after that, walking up the road from our new residence (also in town), a beautiful old tree had been chopped down. All that was left was a massive stump, surrounded by fast-food restaurant concrete, a gas station... it was shocking. I never forgot it. I suppose, looking back, I came to accept living in a land of concrete. I suppose a part of me hated it. That may be why I enjoyed living on the Big Island for eight years.

Well, the point I was going to make is this: the Ala Wai Watershed was a bountiful place of harvest for the island of O'ahu for generations until most of it was filled in by the Dillingham Corp. and turned into Waikiki, McCully and Mo'ili'ili as we know them now. But there's still lots of "open" space at Ala Wai, even a lush public garden next to my old school, Ala Wai Elementary, that's been there for almost 30 years now. Everything that grows there is gloriously green.

Ala Wai will return to its original state one day, perhaps a thousand years from now. Ten thousand years. That's what it was created to do: produce a watershed that sustains life. I'd like to see that happen in just a tiny increment. Lord knows we have enough concrete. If that means clean-ups, redesign, community projects and innovation, I'm all for it. Takes many hands to bring out the potential of the land.

Friday, March 27, 2009

McCully Fire Station update

It was always odd that the fire station I grew up near -- on the corner of Date Street and University Avenue in Mo'ili'ili -- was always called McCully Fire Station. Whatevahs. I used to go there to pick up my newspapers from Mr. Wong, and for an entire year, I delivered the Honolulu Star-Bulletin right across the street from the fire station. Anyway, the old station went down last year and the new one is looking pretty good. Modern.

Most of my friends will probably agree: one of the best things about the old fire station was the soda machine out back. Was only 25¢ for a can of Diamond Head, circa 1978. Grape and Strawberry were my favorites.

Can Bowl-O-Drome be saved?

Yes, I know the property and structure (what's left of it) are owned by Bishop Estate. That doesn't mean there can't be a creative, inspiring vision. Here's my vision, and whether you find it lacking in any way is just fine by me.

1. Restore the building. That's right. Crumbling, aging and musty, the building is a true landmark that was a sidekick to the old Honolulu Stadium. Doubt me? I grew up a few blocks away and can't remember how many times I walked past (or through) Bowl-O-Drome on the way to Wigwam or the library. The building's design is a throwback that has retro lines and height that would be beautiful again, if only there could be a well-deserved facelift.

2. Why bother? Because Honolulu is losing more and more of its landmarks. Many of the structures that go back to statehood days, to a brighter time in our history -- an era with more aloha and trust -- are going down in the name of progress. I suggest that progress and history can co-exist and actually thrive together. I suggest that the building be spared and that any development be constructed above and/or around the building. A condo could easily be built above, taking an architectural cue from the existing design.

3. Turning the bowling alley into a center for physical activity -- for youth, elderly and everyone else in between -- would make the location a mecca once again. There are tremendous projects growing across the nation that tie old communities together again, and they do it with an accent on being green. Save part of the alley, maybe four lanes, and turn the rest into areas for indoor sports (volleyball and basketball), as well as yoga, Pilates, aerobics (you name it), as well as a blended space than can serve as a lobby and meeting area. The diner that was in Bowl-O-Drome can be resurrected, as well. Go for the gusto!

Preposterous? Sure. But I sense a longing in the community for more unity and peace, as opposed to concrete and isolation.

I wish there were an association or group that would work together to collaborate and build on ideas. I'd call it SOUL: South Oahu Urban League. There's so much I'd like to see done, but if we could just save one precious place for the future, that would be enough for me.