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.

1 comment:

  1. Strange. I grew up in Paia and hung around some of the places mentioned in the column-- the shoreline was our playground and it wasn't uncommon to shortcut through what I suppose was private property even now to get there. I grew up on Luna Lane with Charley's Juice Stand opening on the corner of our street on Hana Highway with the eponymous dalmation present near the building. At that age, I suppose it didn't seem dangerous as much as that was just those guys hanging around town and the beach.