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.

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