Saturday, January 17, 2009


"Where we love is home, Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

"Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and
grow old wanting to get back to." John Ed Pearce
"Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect!" Owens Lee Pomeroy

When I moved to Oahu from the Big Island, the neighborhood of Kalihi was Honolulu to me. To most visitors, heck – even to many locals- Kalihi is synonymous with industrial Nimitz Highway between the airport and Downtown. Most folks drive past the small factories, commercial businesses, docks, oil transport, and all the other necessities that most of us ignore without realizing that there is a gritty, but historic and homey neighborhood just blocks off the highway. Kalihi is working class and affordable, and (most importantly) it is a genuine neighborhood, perhaps Honolulu’s (or even Hawaii’s!) signature neighborhood – its lots more than a dusty highway! Kalihi Kai is the area makai (ocean-ward) of Nimitz Highway: little streets full of tiny, urban residences, the like of which are rarely seen this side of Hawaii 50 reruns on TV. At the shore one can look out at tiny Mokuea Island, which once was a flourishing Hawaiian fishing village, and is still visited by locals to fish or just get away from the city for a while. Between Nimitz and School Street (towards the mountains) is called Kalihi Waena, served by King Street and Dillingham Boulevard. Tiny, indispensable industries line Kalani and Colburn Streets. This is a tough urban enclave where successive waves of immigrants work hard, move up, and move on – possibly to lovely Kalihi Valley (Kalihi Uka) way up in the hills, where the Like Like Highway travels over the Ko`olau mountains like the Pali Highway’s poorer sister, ending in working class country-town Kaneohe, rather than the Pali’s rapidly gentrifying Kailua destination with it’s art galleries and beachfront homes. Being from Kalihi, saying that you graduated from Farrington High School, MEANS something in this town. It means that you are a down-to-earth person who has worked hard for all you ever got, and who never forgets where you came from. Yes, when I was fresh off the jet from Kona, Kalihi WAS my Honolulu, the bars, the jobs, the affordable housing, the amazing mix of people and cultures, the friends-for-life. That’s my Kalihi – food stands, happy-sticky children, the music, the great grassroots organizations like KOKUA Kalihi Valley, and the smell of diesel from Dillingham Blvd mixing with the Korean Kalbi Beef. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. If you go, especially check out Bob’s Barbecue at Dillingham & Waiakamilo, Mitsu Ken on School Street (go early in the day for garlic chicken!), or Papa Al’s favorite “classic hole-in-the-wall”, Ethel’s on Kalihi St. You GO Kalihi! You’ll always be special to me! . . .