Friday, July 1, 2016

Reconciling Our Imperialist Past

          We really like to celebrate democracy in this country. This weekend expect fireworks, barbeques, and rodeos commemorating our break from England. We abhorred being a colony, a backwater place far from the center of politics and culture where we had no say in Parliament in London. And so—exactly two-hundred and forty years ago on Monday—our self-proclaimed representatives got together in Philadelphia and declared our very own Brexit from Britain.
          A lot has changed. Our country has developed its own history, accents, sports, culture, and, of course, government and courts. This week the Supreme Court wrapped up its term for the year. Unfortunately, it declined to review a case that a lot of us in the Pacific had our eyes on.
The case raised troubling questions and went to the heart of what it means to be an American; more specifically, an American-Samoan.
Let me explain. Over a century ago, we were at war against and defeated Spain. Unlike European powers that unabashedly controlled territories around the globe, we Americans liked to imagine of ourselves cut from a different cloth. We broke free from colonial oppressors and started a new country. The thought of having a colony of our own was incongruent with our democratic tradition.
And yet, we had just conquered a European country with a very old and expansive empire that once contained most of central and South America, the Caribbean, and a scattering of islands spread over the Pacific. Through treaty negotiations, we acquired some of their old holdings in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Pacific, which included the Philippines and Guam.
This was part of a grander plan. In addition to the old Spanish holdings, the United States encouraged the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom and in 1899 acquired from the Germans what we now call American Samoa.
These acquisitions sparked a national debate. Was this the end of our democracy? Massachusetts Senator George Frisbie Hoar eloquently pointed out in the Senate chamber that the United States had no business running colonies: “Now, I claim that under the Declaration of Independence you cannot govern a foreign territory; a foreign people, another people than your own; that you cannot subjugate them and govern them against their will, because you think it is for their good, when they do not; because you think you are going to give them the blessings of liberty.”
          But Senator Hoar was in the minority. Another Senator summarized the position of most of his colleagues with this: “Providence has given the United States the duty of extending Christian civilization. We come as ministering angels, not despots.”
          So much for anti-imperialism. But whatever happened to those acquisitions and the people living there? That’s where Lene Tuaua comes into play. Tuaua was born in American Samoa and later moved to California, where he was educated and served as a corrections officer. Tuaua and others served in the United States military. Many saw action in Vietnam and other conflicts. But they’re not citizens of the United States. They are what Congress calls “non-citizen nationals” and their rights and privileges don’t flow from the constitution. They’re a creature of congressional legislation.
          This should sound familiar for most students of Hawaiian history. It is not unlike the ambiguous and unclear standing locals had during the long territorial period for Hawaii. Except this is the twenty-first century.
          Tuaua and a few others, including a Hawaii resident, brought a lawsuit challenging the power of Congress to define their non-citizenship. They argued that the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment makes it clear that everyone born in the United States “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” This would include American Samoa.
          Not so. What stood in the way of their interpretation is a series of cases decided by the high court during the old debate over colonies. These cases—appropriately named the Insular Cases—carved out an ambiguity for territories that weren’t quite States, but not free from the United States either. In other words, the Court provided the Constitutional cover for imperialism to happen.
          The rationale for the Insular Cases is not surprising. In one opinion, the Supreme Court noted that far-flung lands “inhabited by alien races, differing from us in religion, customs, laws, methods of taxation, and modes of thought” may make the administration of government and justice “according to Anglo-Saxon principles” impossible. (Hawaii would later prove that wrong when it became a State in 1959).
          Tuaua and the others figured it was time to depart from this line of cases. Perhaps the strangest turn came when the Obama Administration opposed the plaintiffs and urged courts to uphold Congressional power. The case made its way to federal appeals court and it looked like the Supreme Court of the United States was going to take it up and hear the case. Hopes were riding high, but were dashed last month when the Court refused to review it.

          Congress prevailed and Tuaua and the others are still “non-citizen nationals.” It’s too bad. A rejection of colonial and territorial status would have righted the ship and affirmed our disdain for colonies—just like the first generations of Americans centuries ago. It would have made Independence Day a bit brighter this year.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Kihei House Race Heating Up

    It’s hot in Kihei. That fact is neither newsworthy nor controversial. But what is newsworthy is the heating up of the South Maui House seat. Democrats have got a real primary on their hands this year.
    In one corner you have our incumbent, the twenty-seven- year-old Kaniela Ing—arguably the youngest incumbent in our State’s history. Ing ran for office in 2012, beat out three other candidates in the primary, and then beat then-Republican and former-police officer incumbent George Fontaine.
     Ing grew up on Maui. His campaign website boasts of having a father who waited tables at Raffles in Wailea while his mom sold shoes at Liberty House (that was the anchor store at the Queen Kaahumanu Center back in the 1980s for you newcomers). He worked in pineapple fields over the summer and graduated among the first class of the Kamehameha Schools Maui Campus in 2006.
     He was the first in his family to go to college and is proud of it. In college he made a splash by being elected the first neighbor islander to serve as the student body president. His spouse is a civil rights activist. They have a newborn son.
     Then there’s his challenger: Deidre Tegarden. It’s unclear if she came from Maui, but she did attend McKinley High School in Honolulu. Her mother was a journalist and she had the fortunate opportunity to travel extensively through Asia as a young woman. She earned a degree in Chinese and Japanese studies from the University of Maryland.
     She’s fluent in Chinese and Japanese and lived abroad before moving to Maui in 1997. Her first job on the island was with the Outrigger Hotel and Resort in Wailea as the Conference Services Manager. She was also a manager of the Hula Bowl Maui event, where she was in charge of logistics, sales, and marketing.
     Tegarden’s background appears to be in coordinating ceremonies and events between Hawaii and Asia. In government she worked under the administration of Mayor Charmaine Tavares and later Governor Neil Abercrombie as Chief of Protocol for the State of Hawaii.
     Tegarden has been campaigning hard in Kihei. Her signs can be found from Maui Meadows to Kalama Park. She’s also got the endorsements of major labor unions on the island, including hotel workers and carpenters. Ing, however, has the endorsement of the Sierra Club and is starting to campaign too.
     The race is just starting to heat up. This week, the Maui News reported that in announcing his Sierra Club endorsement, Ing argued that the primary election “presents a clear choice between the old boy network’s trajectory of unchecked growth or a new grass-roots approach of smart growth and environmental stewardship.”
     Tegarden was quick to respond and called the announcement a “petty political rhetoric and attack.” She got into it herself by claiming that Ing has the one of the lowest attendance rates in the Legislature and that he is the “only Neighbor Island committee chair not to pass any legislation these past two years[.]”
     Ing shot back. He called the attendance dig a “mainland-style attack” that has “no place on Maui.” He explained his tardiness was caused by committee meetings running late and by being on Maui. He explained some absences were caused by health concerns for his partner and the birth of his son.
      As for passing bills, Tegarden got it wrong. Ing told the Maui News that he authored a bill requiring state board members to have some kind of training in Native Hawaiian law and landscaping to require native indigenous plants.
     But there’s more to it than that. In 2014, Ing introduced and was the first to sign off on a bill that allowed same-day registration, a progressive move toward opening the voting franchise. The bill allows those who would otherwise be eligible to vote but were late in registering, to vote at absentee polls or the voting booth itself on election day. It has the dramatic effect of increasing the voter franchise and empowering more people to participate in democracy. Ironically, Gov. Abercrombie, Tegarden’s former boss, signed it into law.
     And of course there’s the high school. Both candidates are crediting themselves in getting a Kihei High School built. Ing says that he helped funnel monies toward its construction and secured the support of lawmakers to make it happen. Tegarden credited herself for walking the ranch land grounds in 2011 with former Gov. Abercrombie, who later “signed the paperwork to acquire the land.”
     And so it begins. Everyone likes to claim that they want to run a clean campaign, but I have my doubts. I think folks actually want to the see the candidates go at it like this to see what they’re made of. It may be hot in South Maui right now, but given that this is just the start of what could be war of words between the candidates, it’s only going to get hotter.

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Meditation on the H-Word

I use a word in my column that until recently has never caused pause for me until recently. It’s a word we all know. I have known it my entire life. It’s been used to describe me. I’ve used it to describe myself and used it to describe others. But perhaps I shouldn’t.
I use the word “haole” interchangeably with Caucasian and white. No, I don’t apply the word to non-Hawaiians like Asians or even Portuguese. It was just the word we use to describe white people in Hawaii. But then not too long ago, someone pointed out to me that the word brought back painful memories of his school days, when local kids would use the term with disdain. I started talking to others about the use of the word, and many whites consider it racist or prejudicial.
Let’s start with its meaning; its literal meaning. One story is that the word means “without breath or life.” Many believe this word became associated with foreigners—particularly white foreigners—who were ignorant of the traditional greeting among Hawaiians, in which people got close enough to share each other’s breath. Those who didn’t do that were considered “without breath” or life (ha meaning breath or life and ole meaning without).
This origin has its critics. University of Hawaii linguist Albert Schutz pointed out that this origin story is too dismissive of the languages use of long vowels and glottal stops. The word haole has neither the ‘okina or the kahako, while the shorter words ha (with a long “a”) and ’ole does. For Schutz, there is no evidence that this is the true etymology of the word.
The term was around before statehood. Nineteenth-century scholar, David Malo, uses it in his writings to refer to not people, but things that were of foreign origin. Chants use the word to describe people from far off places like Tahiti or the Marquesas.
At some point, the word went from describing something foreign to describing an ethnic group: Caucasians. When that happened is unclear, but it might have happened fairly early on. Hawaiian dictionaries point out that Native Hawaiians used the term to apply to Americans and Europeans during the period of the kingdom.
Now I personally have nothing wrong with the word—even when it’s used as a pejorative. Kanaka maoli, a newer term used to describe Native Hawaiians, have a long and justified list of grievances against the whites who came to the islands.
Caucasians may have brought over things like mirrors, nails, and other trinkets that were alluring at the time, but they also brought disease, capitalism, and a way of thinking and life that resulted in complete destruction to their way of life and culture. They were the harbingers of great change for the islands and its inhabitants. And not every change was a good thing.
Being mad at what happened is understandable. After all, the whites came to these islands and took everything. They introduced diseases, converted inhabitants to a new religion, made up private property, and then brought about the overthrow of an independent kingdom.
The sentiment isn’t reserved for just Hawaiians. During the plantation era, sugar and pineapple companies brought in whites to run their plantations and it didn’t matter how much experience they had in the islands. They oversaw workers and managers of other races. Even in our post-plantation era, Caucasians still are in management and leadership positions—and it’s worse when folks are imported from the mainland.
At that point, the word haole meant more than just white, which is why Portuguese folks aren’t considered haole. Locals use the term to describe a certain insensitivity to the island way of life. For example, if a person comes into a workplace and constantly talks about how things are done in far off and arguably more efficient places like California or the mainland, you might be branded a haole.
Which brings its usage on school campuses, the beach, and just about anywhere else in the islands. Is it an insult? Sure. It can be. The noun is oftentimes preceded by colorful adjectives like “dumb,” “stupid,” or of course, the gerund form of the f-word. It is oftentimes used to describe a white person who is out of step with local culture, but sometimes it is used well within local culture.
For many newcomers, who grew up and became accustomed to living within a white majority on the mainland, this is a jarring and shocking experience. But that doesn’t mean it’s justified to make fun of someone’s race.

And that brings me back to my column. At first I felt that the word haole was perfectly fine. Those who were insulted by the term or hurt by it are just being too sensitive and need to realize the long history of imperialism here. But at the same time, it is unfair to judge folks and their attitudes toward the islands and its people by virtue of the color of their skin. So maybe I am the one who should be more sensitive.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hawaii's Legacy of Segregated Schools

          Oliver Brown was a welder for the Santa Fe Railroad living in Topeka, Kansas. His daughter went to a public school. But instead of walking seven blocks from their home to Sumner Elementary. Linda had to ride in a bus every day. The Browns were black. Sumner Elementary was for white students only and it was against the law for Linda to attend.
In 1951, Brown joined others in a class action against his local Board of Education. They sued on the grounds that laws designed to segregate white children from children of color was unconstitutional.
          Racially segregated schools were found all over the country. It was against the law for a white student to go to schools designed for children of color. And of course, children of color were absolutely prohibited from going to a white school.
          After years of arguing their case through the federal courts, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled these laws violated the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This week marked the sixty-second anniversary of perhaps the most famous opinion from the high court.
That opinion changed the way we do things. Racially-segregated schools are not only unconstitutional, but the changes in our society have made it repugnant for most people. But what about Hawaii?
Unlike the Jim Crow South or Kansas in the 1950s, the territory didn’t have black letter laws that racially segregated the schools. It was more subtle than that. Hawaii took different approach.
Mandatory education for children in the islands goes back to the days of the Hawaiian Kingdom. In 1835, the government started requiring children to go to school. Back then, most of the children were either Hawaiian or the descendants of white missionaries. The mass immigration of Asian and other European workers had yet to come.
Segregation started when the missionaries, most if not all of whom were white, built schools designed primarily to educate their own children and to isolate them from the native population. Perhaps the most famous example of these schools is Punahou School established in 1842. (In contrast, the Lahainaluna Seminary in 1831 was designed to educate the Hawaiian people.).
By the time the United States acquired the islands as a territory at the start of the twentieth century, the majority of public school students were Asian-American children of plantation laborers. The few haole students tended to go to private schools.
But after the expansion of the military in the islands brought a new wave of whites migrated to the islands, newcomers were hesitant to send their children to school with the Asian-American sons and daughters of plantation workers.
The federal government reported in 1920 that many white and Hawaiian parents did not want to send their kids to public schools “because their children would be outnumbered in their classes by the orientals, who have little in common with them and whose language difficulties impede the progress of all.” Parents also complained that integrating proper English speakers with students from non-English speaking homes held them back. They also feared that if they were left with a majority of “non-American” students, they would be susceptible to foreign influences.
The territory’s education agency, the Department of Public Instruction, responded by setting up special schools for students who were proficient in proper English. Pidgin wouldn’t cut it.
And so a dual education system grew in Hawaii. English Standard Schools like Roosevelt High School on Oahu or Kaunoa Elementary in Spreckelsville on Maui had a majority of haole students. Everyone else went to “district schools” like McKinley High School.
As the years went on, criticism mounted. In 1940, a little elementary school in Nuuanu Valley was selected to become an English Standard School. The local kids at Maemae Elementary were going to be bussed out of their community to make way for haoles. Protests erupted in front of Iolani Palace.
Parents with Asian, Hawaiian, and Portuguese surnames petitioned the government arguing that the segregation of children who don’t speak proper English was prejudicial and unfair. After all, it was up to the schools to teach proper English in the first place. Maemae Elementary ended up becoming a partial English Standard School anyways and some kids had to be bussed out.
Gradually, the pressure lead to the end of the English Standard School system. By the time the Browns won their case in 1954, Hawaii had become more integrated. Of course, there were still holdouts. Maui held on to its English Standard Schools until 1963.
Most people these days agree with the holding and agree that the Hawaii experiment was a bad one. And yet, to this day, there are still schools that are predominantly white and those where most students are people of color.

It’s still happening.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Factions and Tribalism in the State House

There are 51 elected officials making up the Hawaii House of Representatives, each of whom represents districts throughout the state. Forty-four are Democrats, seven Republicans. That tells us very little.
This week, the online publication Civil Beat uncovered the fluid and chaotic groups that constitute the House. The groupings in the House are much more fractious than Democrat versus Republican.
The tribalism in the House begins (and ends) with Maui's own Joe Souki. Souki has been in the House since 1982. He served as speaker of the House for six years in the 1990s.
So what does the speaker even do? The speaker is the top spot presiding over the business of the House. The speaker's role is to assign other House members to subcommittees and dole out who presides as chair over what. Needless to say, it's a powerful position. Legislation lives and dies by the complicated procedure of hearings, committee reviews and readings in the House.
Anyway, Souki presided over the House for six years before stepping down from the position in 1999. Maui has had its fair share. Before Souki, Elmer Cravalho of Paia and Kihei's Tadao Beppu both held the post in the 1960s and '70s.
The new speaker came from Oahu, is younger than Souki by at least 20 years, but had been in the House for a longer period of time. Calvin Say had been representing the district covering St. Louis Heights, Palolo and Kaimuki since the late '70s. When he became the speaker, he was the first Chinese-American to hold the post.
Say's speakership was long and contentious. He held the post for 13 years. Say developed a system of allies in the House and sidelined those who opposed him.
For a Democrat, he's pretty conservative. For example, Say drew a lot of heat in 2010 over civil unions. After then-Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the bill, progressives and labor unions pressured the Legislature to hold a special session to override the veto. The Senate appeared to be willing, but Say's House wouldn't budge. The matter was dead.
Then there was the issue of where Say actually lived. During his time as speaker, Say faced a residency challenge. Did Say really live in the district he represented? His house on 10th Avenue became the subject of controversy in 2014 and 2015. It may have looked vacant, but he was vindicated and successfully proved what he had said: He resides in Kaimuki.
No one really cared by then. He had been stripped of the speakership. Over the years of Say's leadership, a number of sidelined representatives formed a group of their own and were named the Dissidents.
In 2013, the Dissidents were able to ally with some moderate Republicans who were used to being sidelined and took down Say and his allies. The new speaker needed to have experience and needed to keep the peace among Dissidents, Republicans and others along for the ride. They brought back Souki.
Souki has been speaker for the last three years, and he's still going strong. Souki has his supporters who are neither Dissidents nor Say supporters. In the three years under his leadership, the name Dissident has stuck, even though they are a majority of lawmakers in the House and even though they basically can dictate policy, finance and procedure as they see fit.
They've flexed their muscles over the last three years, passing progressive legislation. They've established marijuana dispensaries, hailed the long-awaited, same-sex marriage bill, and have addressed other progressive causes.
Of course, Say is still around, but his supporters are dwindling. The only real opposition is a handful of hardline, conservative Republicans, and a few splinter groups that break from the pack every now and again.
One group is nicknamed the Fab Four, and it's spearheaded by Upcountry's Kyle Yamashita. Yamashita's group started as just four, but lately his number has increased to include a few others. They are less progressive than the majority and often vote as a group on bills. Their positions are oftentimes indistinguishable from another splinter group, the Three Amigos, named after three Oahu Representatives.
In case you're wondering, Maui is doing well. Angus McKelvey is a longtime Souki supporter. Kaniela Ing and Justin Woodson are considered Dissidents (even though Woodson wasn't around when Say was speaker). Lynn DeCoite is new to the scene and her allegiances aren't yet known.
Now that the business of the House is over, the election campaigns can begin in earnest. Splinter groups come and go. Even majorities dwindle. This is the true ebb and flow of Hawaii politics. All of them are Democrats. We get that, but the alliances formed in the People's House are much harder to discern. The divisions don't seem to be based on policy or geography. It's, well, just politics.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Other Hawaiian Islands

Just exactly how many islands are in the Hawaiian Islands? Eight, right? (Don’t forget Kahoolawe and Niihau.). One answer is on our State flag. Eight wide, horizontal stripes in red, white, and blue (but not in that order oddly enough), are proudly on display waving everywhere you go. Those eight stripes represent our eight islands in Hawaii. Too bad it’s not right. There’s more to Hawaii from Niihau to the Big Island.
With strange-sounding names like Pearl and Hermes, Lisianski, and the French Frigate Shoals, the rest of the Hawaiian Islands are an isolated and lengthy chain of atolls, seamounts, and specs of land that are dwarfed by the eight main islands. The Northwestern or Leeward Islands are older, uninhabited, and very mysterious.
The biggest of these islands are also the closest. One-hundred-and-sixty-six miles to the northwest of Kauai you’ll find a windswept and lonely rock jutting out of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a dramatic setting. Although it’s only one square mile, Nihoa Island has sea cliffs rising 900 feet into the air. It looks like something you’d see off the coast of Scotland instead of the central Pacific.
Beyond that lies Mokumanamana, a rocky crescent rising only a few hundred feet above sea level. When Captain La Perouse made his way through Hawaii, he christened the island after the Jacques Necker, a finance minister in France. Since then its Hawaiian name has been restored.
Native Hawaiians knew these islands were out there. Chants and other stories passed down through generations have referred to these places. Folktales indicate that this was the final settlement of the menehune. But by the time the islands had been settled and came into contact with Europeans, no one was living there. They were uninhabited by the time the first Europeans arrived there in 1789.
This isn’t the only place where that’s happened in the Pacific. Archaeologists have found small, marginal islands that once were inhabited but were later abandoned. The Cook Islands have Palmerston and Suwarrow. The Phoenix Islands have Howland. And we have Nihoa and Necker.
In the days of the Hawaiian Kingdom, these two islands were reclaimed by the crown. Queen Kaahumanu visited Nihoa in 1822 and declared that it was part of the Hawaiian Islands. During the reign of Kamehameha IV, the king sent a captain to claim Mokumanamana in 1857—which sparked some controversy with France that remained unsettled until 1894, when it was firmly part of the Hawaiian government.
So who were these people living out at the far, far end of the Hawaiian Islands? Nobody really knows. It wasn’t until the 1920s when the Bishop Museum sent out a band of archaeologists. Both islands were full of relatively undisturbed sites, encampments, and temples. They estimated that Nihoa could hold about 100 people there, but resources like fresh water must have been really limited.
But it was the artifacts that they brought back with them that make the place so strange. The icons on Nihoa and Necker look nothing like the images found in the rest of the islands. Stone carvings depict round, neckless heads that show traces of a faint smile.
Did the Bishop Museum archaeologists find a lost tribe? Who were these people? The prevailing theory takes us back to the golden age of Polynesian voyaging. For decades now, archaeologists and anthropologists have hypothesized that Hawaii was settled by two distinct waves of migrants from the South Seas.
The first wave came around 500 to 750 A.D. and they were from the Marquesas Islands. Centuries later, voyagers from Tahiti arrived. For centuries it was believed that the islanders made frequent trips across the long distances from Hawaii and the Society Islands. Then around 1300 it stopped. Hawaii remained in isolation and developed its own culture and heritage until European contact.
So where does Nihoa and Necker fit in? For the archaeologists in the 1920s, it was believed that the islanders out there were an outpost and remnant from the first wave of migrants. This nicely fits into the menehune theory.
But that may be changing. Recently, Dr. Kekuewa Kikiloi has posited a different view. That the islanders out there were very much part of the rest of Hawaiian society. They traveled frequently to Kauai and the main islands as a means for survival.
He compared it to the way we live now. In an interview, Dr. Kikiloi said that it was not unlike our dependency of Matson shipping to and from the mainland for our own survival.

Will we ever know what life was like for these islanders? Probably not. Much of their traditions and stories have been lost to time. They mystery islands will continue to hold their secrets.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Back when Paia used to be Dangerous . . .

Just before Baldwin Avenue makes its ignoble end at the T-shaped intersection with Hana Highway, you can check out the latest building coming up in the middle of Paia town. It's right next to the old Mercantile building that now houses Milagros restaurant. (I remember when it used to be an ice cream parlor and video game arcade called Ice Creams and Dreams.)
The building looks like it's going to provide more commercial space in a town where space is a hot commodity. I have little doubt that the newest stores in Paia will cater to the new money and folks who walk its streets.
These days you can find everything you need in Paia to fit your fancy-free and bourgeois lifestyle: tofu and turmeric vitamins from Mana Foods, a tattoo from the Paia Tattoo Parlor, high-end swim trunks from Imrie and organic pizza from Flatbread and locally brewed beers at Cafe Mambo. One thing that's a little harder to find is open space.
That little patch of land next to Milagros used to be a green square right in the heart of Paia town. When I was in high school, the town was really different. There was no traffic jam going all the way to Spreckelsville. There was less stuff to buy in Paia, too.
But those bygone days were no paradise. It was a little rougher back then too. Teenagers hung around Paia Bay to pick fights and break into cars. At night the dirt lot behind Charley's would oftentimes turn into a makeshift boxing ring for drunken hooligans.
Then there were the hippies. Sure, they aren't anything new to the north shore. The first wave came in the 1960s shortly after statehood. They camped and congregated far away from towns like Wailuku and Lahaina and far from sleepy plantation towns like Paia. They lived out in the boonies of Huelo, Haiku and Peahi. Some preferred the scorpions and sands of Makena.
By the time the late 20th century rolled around, Maui for the most part made peace with her hippies. Gone were the days of police officers and local boys roughing up longhairs for no real reason. Sure, the crackdown on drum circles at Little Beach happens now and again, but with much less frequency as the bygone and wild days of the 1970s and '80s.
It seemed that as the first wave hippies got a little older and wiser, as they started to enroll their kids in public schools or at private institutions, they too settled into the fabric of our island community. They found a place on island right along the descendants of plantation workers and conservative, condo-living retirees on the south shore.
Then Jerry Garcia died.
The cornerstone of the jam band of all jam bands, the Grateful Dead, died of a heart attack eight days after his 53rd birthday in 1995. That summer, thousands gathered in San Francisco, his hometown. The park and the house where the Dead used to live on Haight Street was covered in flowers and memorabilia. A year later, band mates spread some of his ashes on the banks of the Ganges River in India following a lunar eclipse.
The hordes of the young, impressionable and unwashed, who normally follow the band all over the globe, had nowhere to go.
I'm still not sure how or why Paia, Maui, Hawaii became the beacon for the Deadheads. Nonetheless, the '90s saw an influx of young star children. They all started hanging out in the grassy spot off of Baldwin Avenue next to Milagros. I remember seeing these star children assembled in tightly packed drum circles, playing hacky sack or sometimes just begging for change.
A few Milagros workers remember that the lowest part of the grassy lot formed near their building. It would often turn into a puddle with mud and a deceptive layer of grass floating on top. The puddle was formidable and would easily become knee deep after a good rain. Those in the know would avoid that spot, but the unwary would often step in it and get their slippers stuck in the mud. Milagros employees quickly christened this corner of the makeshift park the "hippie trap."
Paia eventually weathered the newest wave of hippies. The crowd disbanded. Many moved on, and a few stayed behind like always. Rumblings from the dark, gravel part of the Charley's parking lot are a thing of the past.
The gravel lot has been replaced with the paved and odious paid parking lot, where several folks refuse to park out of principle. And the grassy lot? It's a thing of the past.
The hippie trap is being replaced with a tourist trap. And they'll make off with much more than a pair of grubby slippers.