Saturday, November 15, 2008

Royal Birthday

The Merrie Monarch!


Kuhio Avenue, Waikiki

"The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."

- Martin Luther King Jr.

"The heart of a fool is his mouth, but the mouth of a wise man is his heart."

- Ben Franklin

"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

- Nelson Mandela

Walking in Waikiki
"A Perfect Day”
Visitors strolling Waikiki on a recent morning were visibly curious about rather un-ordinary events at the triangle park just where Kuhio Avenue begins. Masons stood honor guard in their feathered hats, capes, swords and medallia. Dignitaries hob-nobbed in their VIP seats, while Royal Society members, their Hawaiian faces older, yet even more beautiful year to year, sat in their archaic black finery, still faithful at their unique intersection of history and heart. They were all there to commemorate the 172nd birthday (Sunday November 16) of David Kalakaua, Hawaii’s last king. Trotting through Fort DeRussy, late as usual, I could hear the Royal Hawaiian Band and felt what I imagined was the special excitement of hurrying to a royal occasion. As I reached the ceremony, noted historian and musician Palani Vaughn was singing one of his own monarchy-themed compositions with the band. As the birds chirped along, a glorified traffic-island (albeit with a stately statue of the sovereign) became truly a timeless piece of sovereign Hawaiian soil. “He’s still our King…in our hearts.” One lady told me. A humane dignity, local style, prevailed; equal parts pride and humility. Chatting with me as the band stood down Maestro Nakasone explained that it was Kamehameha III who chartered “our” band. Good for Kam III! For it has often seemed to me that Kalakaua had the most formidable wealth of “firsts” and foundings under his kingly belt. According to the Councils General, city officials and other grand Pooh-Bahs who spoke, these 'firsts' included the first Honolulu power plant, the Honolulu fire department, and the initial invitation of Japanese subjects to live and work in the Kingdom of Hawaii. As we all sang “Hawaii Aloha,” Hawaii's anthem, a Royal Society gentleman shared a brief smile with me. When the band concluded he walked over, shared one of his lei also, and accepted a kiss. That’s my Hawaii – even here in bustling Waikiki. The sweetness of life in these isles is definitely still around if you care to believe in it. Even busy Palani Vaughn made time to talk story afterwards with a stranger about the magical night of Kalakaua’s birth, and about the powerful Heiau (temple) of Mana Mana at the foot of sacred Puowaina (Punchbowl) where Queen’s Hospital stands today. But it was not all serious; Palani told me with a wink that the famous Iolani Palace telephone system probably served mostly to warn the king and his fellow card players (including Robert Louis Stevenson) that the queen was coming to break up the party! “One prophesy marked Kalakaua’s life and reign,” Palani told me. “Shortly before his birth, it was prophesied that the ancient Hawaiian bones would live again.” Just to think how close the world came to losing Hula, to losing Hawaiian culture and language forever! I gratefully said a silent “Hauoli (happy) La (day) [of] Hanau (birth)” to the man who championed and defended these treasures that spread widening joy around the world today: the “Merrie Monarch” Kawika (“David”) Kalakaua, the king who fulfilled a prophecy. . . A short walk away, at the Hawaii Convention Center, the second annual International Waikiki Hula Conference was underway. Hula dancers, their fans and supporters from all over the globe had gathered to learn from among the most honored and acknowledged Kumu Hula (Hula Masters) in Hawaii Nei. When I spotted living treasure Uncle George Na`ope signing autographs I knew that this was the place for the REAL stuff. Uncle George is one of the seminal figures in Hula and a guiding force behind Hula’s annual “Olympics” the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo every spring. His kolohe (mischievous) dancing before the exhausted and emotional festival crowd as the judges tabulate three days of competition is a highpoint of da year for many of us. Just seeing him walk down Ali’i Drive (wearing more Hawaiian bracelets than me) when I lived in Kona made any day special. The list of conference participants, workshops and presentations mark this event a do-not-miss for serious students of Hula (you know who you are. Akelamalu?). The Waikiki Improvement Association sure came up with an “only in Hawaii” event that should run for years to come (and just at a quiet time for hotels too, clever “win-win”). . . What a day! I needed the hard stuff: Kimchee - and only the authentic kind could help me. Fortunately Palama Supermarket is just off Kalakaua Avenue on nearby Makaloa Street. Here among the (to me) incomprehensible groceries and kitchen wares can be found authentic Korean food ready-to-eat at a price anyone can appreciate! Soups, stews, beef, chicken and bi bim bap, all with a side of macaroni salad, perfect rice, and of course Korean penicillin: kimchee! I suggest you enjoy some for your health despite what your non-Korean ohana (family & close friends) might say about your fragrance afterwards. . . Mid November already! Soon we will see the beginning of "Honolulu City Lights" with the lighting of the civic Christmas tree and the kick-off electric parade. Heck, we all know that Mayor Mufi is going sing! Flashing-lighted garbage trucks, and meter maid three-wheelers tricked out to be Santa’s reindeer, just might bring a tear to your eye when no one’s looking. See you there? Early christmas dreams of a bowl game for our college football team dance in our heads too. . . dance hula that is, in this place that we love, where you can attend a king’s party, enjoy authentic world-class culture, or eat down-home kau kau (food) on-the-hoof. . . when you’re hoofing in Waikiki. . .
Aloha! Cloudia


Sepiru Chris said...


Thanks for bringing us to the intersection of history and heart, where Kuhio Avenue begins, with you.


Charles Gramlich said...

What an interesting ceremony. Would have loved to see it.


christmas is coming everywhere, even if the sun is going to be shining right through it!

Brother Tobias said...

Fascinating. I gather President Clinton formally apologised for the overthrow of the monarchy, and that there is still a degree of controversy about the legality of Hawaii's secession! It's another wotld out there.
I love the tree on Kuhio Avenue.

Akelamalu said...

Oh this is all so interesting Cloudia and I really must learn the Hula! Thankyou for the insights into your beautiful island. :)

gigihawaii said...

Cloudia, many thanks for sharing dinner with us last night. The curry at Bombay Restaurant was superb as was the literary conversation.

David Cranmer said...

I came to your site through Travis Erwin's blog and I must say it brought back some nice memories. I stopped by Waikiki back in 1996 on my way to Johnston Atoll. I was stationed in the Army at the time guarding the chemical munitions that was stored on the island. Hawaii is such a beautiful place with a rich history and wonderful people. Maybe some day I will get back. I enjoyed your post and site a lot. Thank you.

pattinase (abbott) said...

There is nothing more beautiful than watching a lovely woman do the hula.

Travis Erwin said...

You blogs are very calming. You make me feel as if I'm there relaxing alongside you.

Barbara Martin said...

Beautiful tree on Kuhio Avenue, and the history was great to learn. I need another trip back there to energize. Thanks, Cloudia.

Barrie said...

Great photos. And love the history lesson.

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing another day in your wonderful town! I love the photos and agree with Travis that I feel relaxed after a visit here!

Junosmom said...

Your MTM posts are my weekly "visit" to Hawaii, since I'm not likely to get there soon. It is in the cards for my later years.

Cloudia said...

Mahalo to you ALL for visiting!

Yes, Brother Tobias, there is dispute in some quarters about the political situation here in Hawaii(i.e. the legality of the monarchy's overthrow, and the rights of the original Hawaiian people.

I appreciate each & every one of you who 'walk along' with me here in Waikiki!