Thursday, August 30, 2007

$1.25 special @ Eggs n' Things (circa 1985)

Up and down the lists I go. I'll start at the top of the Gone ... never forgotten names. Though Eggs n' Things is located on the fringes of Ala Wai Park and the Ala Wai Canal, and though it isn't exactly "gone" it is definitely a great memory.

Back in the day, when New Wave and Punk were still kings, Eggs n' Things was frequented by a mix of tourists, locals and punk rockers from nearby Wave Waikiki. The $1.25 special — two eggs and three pancakes — was a total bargain. Tasty, filling, and best of all, E&T had coconut syrup. This was and still is a serious breakfast joint. Hardly any place carries coconut syrup.

Parking was always an issue. Ena Road and the nearby streets are always congested, but a patient driver finds a spot. The $1.25 special was good only between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. One time, Greg, Guy, Clayton (?) and I actually forgot about E&T and headed to King's Bakery for some grinds at 1 a.m. We sat, the waitress went to get the menus, and my brain clicked. What were we doing there when Eggs n' Things has the special?

It was a tough call since the waitress had already served us water. We decided to leave one quarter each and bail. We were quick, and the pancakes and eggs were good at E&T. It's been years since I've been back, probably not since the 1980s, but the special will never be forgotten by hungry, broke college kids like us. Too bad I didn't take any pics!

Since that era, E&T moved around the corner from Ena Road to Kalakaua Ave. They even have a site.

Eggs n' Things

I just checked the menu. That same eggs and pancakes special is now $6.25. Holy crap! The food still looks great though. Check out the pictures on the site.

Eggs n' Things
1911- B Kalakaua Avenue · Honolulu, Hawaii · 96815
Phone: (808) 949-0820 Fax: (808) 247-5689
11:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Closed: Afternoons

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mo'ili'ili Mochi & Candies (circa 1975)

There's so much to reminisce about, it can feel overwhelming. But I'll start with Mo'ili'ili Mochi & Candies.

On those days when mom would have me and my little brother, Kimo, walk with her from our block (where the fire station used to be) to Star Market, I suppose we dreaded it. Mom always made sure we went shishi before we left, and also had a glass of water. She was concerned about hydration that way. I was about 8 to 10 years old when we did these walks to get groceries. It felt like 10 miles away, but we seemed pretty healthy now that I look back.

On the way home, we stopped by Mo'ili'ili Mochi & Candies sometimes. Most of the time, she kept walking and we kept begging, "Ma, let us get chichidango! Please!" And our mom, being deaf (literally) just kept going. She'd turn back, knowing what we wanted, but also knowing that her wallet was almost empty and that the mochi store doesn't take food stamps, haha... she kept going and Kimo and I would grunt and catch up, those bags of groceries slumping in our arms.

But the times when we got those chichidango were GREAT. Those pink, yellow and white colors just called out to my stomach so much. To this day, I don't turn down a chance to get some, even though I prefer the regular bean mochi.

It was a sad time, of course, when the mochi shop closed down. After decades of serving the community, gone. Turned out the store moved across town to Liliha, of all places. Still the same name, but might as well have been on Mars for a youngster like me. It was later, during college, that I learned that my part-time on-campus job led me to the new owner of the mochi shop. Her name was Eva, can't remember the last name. The nicest lady you'd ever meet.

I came across this story online at MidWeek in December 2006 that covered the gamut of great mochi shops on Oahu. In the story, I see that my favorite old mochi store has new ownership, still located in Liliha. I should go there sometimes, just for old time sake, and support an establishment that was an apple in my youthful eye. Where the store once stood, Kuni Dry Goods now exists. That's a whole 'nother story, how Kuni used to have the bigger space on the corner, but the demand for sewing material and classes diminished over the years as society changed. Now Kinko's is there, busy day and night.

I would love to go back in time to the mochi store, with my grown-up wallet and a few more bucks in it, and buy all the chichidango I want to my heart's content. And I'd buy a ton of mochi for Kimo and mom, too. That would definitely make them smile.

Note: I'm searching the net for a photo of the exact kind of chichidango that was at Mo'ili'ili Mochi. Very tough to find. Other mochi shops have pink and green chichidango, but none have the pink, yellow and white that I see so vividly in my mind's eye. Maybe I'll have to go to the store in Liliha and see if they make the same kind that was in the store 30 years ago. This is becoming a little bit of a mystery hunt.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Traffic Cams Rule

This is no throwback post. It's just a link to the City and County of Honolulu's wonderful Traffic Camera site.

C&C Honolulu Traffic Camera Site

This particular page refers you to the Waikiki/Mo'ili'ili/Manoa areas, but you can access other neighborhoods easily. You can look for camera views by district, or with six camera views on one page, like the one I posted above. This won't stop traffic from clogging our roads, but it can reduce your stress by knowing what areas to avoid. Definitely reduces my stress.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Some notes from the Old School

Peter, one of the original Ala Wai Park lifers, suggested these places for the Ala Wai Soul lists:

• Fastop. During college, I won a contest that gave me $5 worth of free food each week for a year. I was a sucker for the pecan pie slices, but after awhile I got tired of those and even the hot dogs. The Ala Wai boys, though, never tired of any free food.

• Parker Books. We would catch the bus to Pearl City and check out the comics. An older African-American man owned the place, and along with Kam Swap Meet and the monthly Comic Convention at Mo'ili'ili Community Center, was one of the stops for any comic collector back in the mid- to late-1970s.

• Kam Drive-In. We saw some films there, can't remember what. As I mentioned, my biggest memory of the place was all about comics. JJ and I would meet up after delivering Sunday morning newspapers and take the bus from Mo'ili'ili to Kam Drive-In. Comics were kept in low-grade plastic covers back then and the sun would practically melt them enough that you could smell it. Mylar was a few years away. I often spent more money at Fun Factory next door at Pearlridge than I did on comics. Spent $19 once. That was a tragedy.

• Froggie's/Jelly's. Froggies was another comic-book landmark. I wasn't there much, but all the comicholics I knew went there a lot. Some of them got into the Dungeons and Dragons games, including my brother, Kimo. I'm not saying they were dorks and nerds. That wouldn't be my place.

• Masu's Massive Plate Lunch. Right by Ala Moana. Massive is right. We often got there late (no car) and took whatever they had left, which was usually the ono and sweet teri chicken, and also the hearty chili. Masu's eventually relocated to Liliha, but the owners retired a couple of months ago. The newspapers and TV stations gave Masu's their proper due.

• Kewalo's lunch wagon. Peter is big on this memory, but I hardly ate there. May or may not still be there.

• Likelike Drive-In. Again, Peter is fond of the place. An alternative to Zippy's for a late-night scarf, he writes. I'm no fan of LIkelike, though. The food is average at best.

• Diner's. Excellent nomination by Peter. The locations were on Beretania near Mo'ili'ili Field and even Kalakaua near the old police station. For us broke kids, the $1.25 hamburger special was a must. The chain shut down several years ago, essentially replaced by the much more successful L&L Drive In chain.

Kimo notes that the most unique thing about the old soda machine at the fire station was that it was an original RC Cola soda machine. Most people have forgotten that RC Cola regularly beat Coca Cola and Pepsi in taste tests. I liked RC pretty good, but not enough to miss it like I missed 7-Up. Good thing they brought 7-Up back recently. Still the best of the lemon-lime sodas.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Of coral reefs and blind mullet

One of the best things about growing up in the Mo'ili'ili/University area was access to some unique things. One of them was the UH Lab School's summer science program that Mrs. (Thelma) Odo enrolled me in as a fifth grader. Though the program was not part of Ala Wai Elementary School, she signed me up and off I went for three weeks or so.

UH Lab School seemed far away for a kid whose entire world covered a range of three or four blocks on Kapiolani Blvd. and University Ave. But it was only a 15-minute walk, really. Though I skipped the first couple of days in favor of Ala Wai Summer Fun with my friends, my mom got on my case and I went to the science program.

It was a great experience. Will Kyselka, the University of Hawaii professor, was one of the instructors. Imagine that. A sage old guy dealing with 10-year-olds! He was cool. We went on field trips almost every day, including one to the UH quarry, known in the old days as Kamoiliili quarry. Though campus construction had obliterated much of it, there was still much to be seen in 1976. Kyselka showed us coral reef remnants and blew our minds. The quarry is a few miles from the sea, and there's a 60-foot (or so) drop from the upper-campus surface to the lower campus where we stood.

My interest in the geologic formations of Mo'ili'ili has never waned. Folks in the area know about the blind mullets under the busy traffic intersections of King and University. Leah Colucci is a cave explorer who has preserved images and observations on a site called

The historical background of the caves ties into the Ala Wai Watershed, which ties into the enormous fields of taro and rice that existed there in the early 20th century. The eviction of those highly successful Hawaiian and Chinese farmers from the land is another story I want to dig into eventually.

It also ties into the reason why that filthy little ditch next to Isenberg Street was (still is?) called "Duck Pond."

Mrs. Odo, the one who signed me up for the science program, once laid out an old map of the community and explained what used to be here and there before Chunky's Drive-In and The Willows. I don't remember most of it, but I remember the feeling of amazement. Growing up on concrete leaves little to the imagination. It's only after hanging out in some of the area's remaining areas that still have foliage — like Ala Wai and Manoa-Palolo stream — that it seems possible that this was once a thriving agricultural haven.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Landmarks of Mo'ili'ili

There are landmarks, real shrines of my childhood, that are about to come crumbling down soon.

Bowl-O-Drome. Varsity Theater. It's sad, it's progress. It surprises me that there are longtime residents of Mo'ili'ili (and Ala Wai) who readily accept change so easily. I don't. The building has been in disrepair for many years, hasn't been occupied just as long.

I already lived through the destruction of adjacent Honolulu Stadium, which has turned out to be a great thing for folks who enjoy walking through its replacement, Old Stadium Park. However, there's a need for a sizable, central and affordable sports facility — particularly for the high schools, small colleges and even winter league baseball. Central and East Honolulu have been devoid of this niche since the old stadium was razed in 1975, which for a kid at the time (like me), is a lost era that hasn't been replaced.

And there's my beloved Varsity Theater, used for art films in recent years. My first film there was "Rokcy" in 1976 and I can never drive past the place without a bit of heartbreak stirring in my heart. The theater closed shop last month and is slated to come down as Bishop Estate, its owner, plans to build student housing for nearby University of Hawaii. I'm not against housing. It's in major shortage and has been since I was a student at UH in the 1980s. However, a little creativity would spare the facade of Varsity Theater — arguably Mo'ili'ili's best known and most handsome landmark. I suggest that the facade be saved and used as the entrance for the housing development's offices. Or better yet, use the facade as the entrance for a restaurant.

The location is in proximity of Manoa Valley, Makiki, even Waikiki, and a trio of new restaurants would be a magnet for the neighborhood economy.

Same can be said of Stadium Bowl-O-Drome, which is in a more residential area of Mo'ili'ili, but would be a fitting spot for a new Big City Diner. Though the popular eatery has another location in Kaimuki, a 10-minute drive away, Bowl-O-Drome is built with retro design all over it. It's just my personal fantasy, I know, but it's close enough to Waikiki that it could offer an alternative for tourists while still catering to local tastes.

Just some rambling thoughts about landmarks of Mo'ili'ili, and how they affect my soul. I don't ever expect to hear the sound of pin action in Bowl-O-Drome again, but that doesn't mean we can't attempt to preserve the grandeur and classic beauty of the place. I'm not so willing to let go of these places.

Look, I know that it can be hard to equate anything from a concrete jungle to anything soul. But it's true. Though the watershed of Ala Wai was virtually destroyed and covered with concrete, the spirit of the people who remained, who arrived, lives on no matter what is constructed and torn down. And it will live on.

I think of the Varsity Theater and how it survived through 70 years of Mo'ili'ili's development — a leg East in the development of then "suburban" Honolulu — and I wonder how much of a miracle it would be to see the memories and beauty of the place live on.

Check out a wonderful ode to Varsity Theater here.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Soul in Ala Wai?

I know what's gonna happen.

Some folks will say, "Paul, why did you name this blog 'Ala Wai'? Don't you know everybody's going to think about the disgusting Ala Wai Canal?"

Some other people might say, "Soul? Ala Wai? What the hell do Ala Wai and Soul have to do with each other?"

Well, it's kinda simple. I grew up near Ala Wai Park. The only thing separating us from the riff-raffs and hookers of Waikiki was the canal. Looking back, that was a pretty damn good thing. The formative years of my life before age 5 were lived elsewhere. A lot of chaos that I rather not remember. But after 5? That's when things got better. Not richer. Not easier. But better. That's all because of Ala Wai Park.

That's where I learned to play sports. Some organized. A lot just in the open park, or as they say on the mainland, on the sandlots. I made friends with other kids who were poor as me, and I mean living on food stamps and other government assistance. I made friends with kids who lived in condomiumns overlooking the park. We had a wide range of guys who only wanted to play football, play basketball, play baseball, play chase master, Army ... you name it, we came to the park to do that.

Color, ethnicity, religion, money ... that stuff did not matter. It never does when you're banging heads and throwing touchdown passes in the most important game of your life, in the middle of a huge grass field on a mid-summer day at scorching Ala Wai Park.

OK, so maybe it makes a little sense. That's what Ala Wai means to Pupule Paul. But Soul?

Yes. Soul. As I got older and we all got into music and popping and movies, we all learned the rules of life. Sometimes the easy way. Usually the harder way. But we learned together, and we didn't need big bucks or nice cars to appreciate what we had. And the music ... we loved our music. This was the 1970s and '80s, and we all loved R&B. Earth Wind & Fire. Commodores. Kool & the Gang. We loved our Soul music. And of course, we loved our Rap music. This is before it was categorized and marketed as "Hip Hop," when we lived for it and didn't need MTV to tell us what was cool and what wasn't.

There are a lot of reasons why Soul and this place are intertwined for me. It was through my friendships there that I first encountered trouble with the law. Nothing major. Just stupid late-night stuff involving curfew. It was also there where my friendships brought me in touch with the Holy Spirit, all because I dared to go to a church event with friends. It was just teenagers and a lot of fun stuff before I realized something was reaching into me. The power of forgiveness. It was ... it was soul changing.

Maybe you get what I'm saying. Maybe not. But I want to write it all down, bit by bit, before I get too old and start to forget the treasures of my childhood and youth. It's still in me, and undeniably so.

So I hope you enjoy this. It won't just be about Ala Wai, won't necessarily be about my memories, either. Everywhere I've been to in Hawaii, there's real soul. People who are down to earth and absolutely giving of their time and aloha. That's what makes every neighborhood and community eternally rich, at least in my eyes. I've been to a lot of places, and they're so memorable because I cannot forget the soul of each one.

I hope you enjoy. I will, I guarantee it.