The aunties and tūtū’s (grandmothers) sat happily around the table “talking story” under the protective branches of the Kukui tree stringing its nuts into beautiful necklaces. Since the kamali’i (children: “KEH-muh-LEE-‘ee”) were closer to the ground, they eagerly searched for the fallen nuts hidden in the moist grass underneath. The women would teach the stringing technique to the girls who were trusted more with a needle than the boys. Since it’s all about merchandising, gift shops are pleased to sell you these shiny black or brown “beaded” necklaces to be worn as leis by both men and women. An authentic handmade Kukui nut lei given in the spirit of Aloha is worn with pride and a big happy, smiley face.
Since I spark to all things crafty and garden-y, I loved learning about the beautiful Kukui tree from Pi’ilani Lua (“PEE-‘ee-LAH-nee loo-AH”) as we stood under the welcoming shade it provided before she started our tour of the awe-inspiring Kahanu Garden (http://ntbg.org/gardens/kahanu.php). And by-the-by…Uncle Harry Mitchell from Ke’anae (who sadly is no longer with us) used Kukui nuts for his high blood pressure potion. Let’s hope this was not the cause of his passing because daily he would mix one teaspoon of a roasted, ground-up nut kernel…along with garlic juice. If you talked story with Uncle Harry, I bet you had to sit across the Kukui nut table. Besides the nuts, the Hawaiians use the tree’s bark and flowers for all sorts of medicinal purposes from constipation to swollen joints. The Kukui is the state tree of Hawaii and is also known as the Candlenut tree. You just shell the nuts, skewer them on a coconut stick, light them and…instant candle (!) or…bonfire if you set the whole tree on fire.
LINDA, ME & PI’ILANI
PALM-THATCHED ROOF OF CANOE HALE (HOUSE: “HAH-leh”) WITH THE HEIAU IN THE BACKGROUND.
My friend and terrific author, Linda Ballou (lindaballoutalkingtoyou.blogspot.com) also shared this lovely afternoon with me and our wonderful guide Pi’ilani. Linda’s interest, based on her book Wai-nani, A Voice from Old Hawai’i, was learning about the magnificent Pi’ilanihale Heiau (“HEH-ee-AH-oo”)…”believed to be the largest ancient place of worship in Polynesia.” All the best stonemasons in Hana completed the restoration and stabilization of this massive lava-rock structure in 1999 after years of the jungle trying to take it over.
BREADFRUIT…THE REASON THE PILLSBURY DOUGH BOY DOES THE HULA.
A MUSEUM BOTANICAL
A LORRAINE BRODEK BOTANICAL
Another collection in the “world’s largest category” and pride of Kahanu Garden is the rich grove of breadfruit trees. One tree can yield up to 200 grapefruit-sized fruits per season and when ripe can be roasted, baked, fried or boiled…just like a potato which is similar in taste. The best part is that it smells like fresh bread coming out of the oven…thus its name. Once again, Hawaiian ancestors have taught families to use almost everything to the max and not to waste a bit of what they grow. The termite resistant wood of the Breadfruit tree is used for building structures and outrigger canoes. Its pulp makes paper (tapa) and its compounds can treat sore eyes and keep those darn mosquitoes away…better than Deet.
As we wrapped up our tour, Pi’ilani cautioned that we should not walk under the coconut trees. She pointed to a sign: DANGER! DO NOT WALK ANYWHERE NEAR COCONUT TREES! ” That’s because coconut trees can blow their tops?” I questioned. The real reason of course is that falling coconuts can seriously put a dent in your head whereas kukui nuts just bounce off and onto the lei-making table.
A SIGN IN ANOTHER GARDEN SHOWS THE TREE TAKING AIM. PLUS A MAN RUNNING WITH A SUCKER?
How to know when you’ve been away from your tropical paradise too long:
1. You’ve got moss growing where your feet should have been:
2. You’ve got bananas coming out of your hoses and hydraulics:
3. Plus there are ferns procreating in your tires:
4. And idle hands are a jungle’s workshop:
5. The chicken eggs have hatched and they’ve taken over your road:
6. Because your tractor has now become a garden ornament:
We are cleared for takeoff and headed back to Hana. In addition to the five-hour flight followed by additional hours of food shopping, we then face the two-hour drive on the Hana Highway for our final lap home. This can be the most challenging part of our long, tiring day.
The Hana Highway has been designated one of the most beautiful in the United States (unless you’re throwing up, then it’s not) and was dubbed the Hana Millenium Legacy Trail during the Clinton administration. One would think we would be thrilled to exchange our two-hour drive on the #405 freeway (covering only ten miles) in Los Angeles as opposed to spending the same amount of time driving the curvy 34 miles to Hana. Originally the highway was a treacherous, winding, rocky dirt road on which the sugar plantation workers commuted to and from the small town and its sugar cane fields. It has evolved through the years to feature 620 curves (someone actually counted them?) and 59 bridges of which 46 are one-lane.
But this is not the problem for local residents using the highway after a day of tackling the aisles at CostCo and WalMart on the Isle of Maui. Here’s the real problem that I’ve identified after years of research on my part. Much of America is suffering from a couple of genetic disorders. One is PPO(X) deficiency caused by the lack of the “Pronto Pull-Over” gene with chromosome X and the other is FT(Y) or “Fail to Yield” syndrome. Definitely, causal types of mutations and DNA stuff are involved here. It seems impossible for slower drivers to pull over at the next convenient turn-out and let the speedier locals pass. This syndrome is particularly apparent in those tourists seen gripping the steering wheel for dear life in a Chrysler 300. If you’ve rented a Chrysler 300, you shouldn’t be on the Hana Highway. If you’ve rented a Prius, a Mini-Cooper or a Jeep Wrangler…okay. There’s another part of my independent survey that also spells trouble. That’s when I end up behind a red Jeep with the top pulled back and a young dude at the wheel with a blonde whose pony tail is blowing out the hole in her ball cap. His dude-ism will not allow him to pull to the side for any reason…particularly if a woman driver (God forbid) is trying to pass him. It is a sign of weakness and cuts a big notch in his crotch.
Here are some quick tips if you’ve left the never-ending, straight, corn-row roads of Kansas or Oklahoma and find yourself negotiating the 95th hairpin curve on the Hana Highway hugging the side of the cliff. To help, I’ve included a picture of a rear-view mirror…it’s up there on your windshield to look into from time to time to see who’s following you. If there are cars snaking behind you the length of a roller coaster, you’re going too SLOW. Ya think? Please pull over. If the lead car then flashes its lights, PULEEZE(!) pull over. And if that same car’s driver starts honking like a crazy person…for God’s Sakes PULL OVER!…like on the first honk…not the 15th. Why would you want somebody like that behind you anyway? You’re about to give him a stroke and he might knock you all the way from Old Kaenae to Kailua-Kona. Courteously, let him pass in the spirit of Aloha and continue to enjoy the magnificent waterfalls in the beautiful rain forest without a mule train of cars behind you.
This is the very reason that we stuck a “MOVE OVER” sign at the top of our windshield. The trouble is we’ve had people ask us how someone can read it because it’s spelled backwards…”REVO EVOM”. There is no hope. They’ve never used a rear view mirror before. Since I’m the designated driver heading home, it’ll be survival of the fittest on the road back to Hana…slow-mo style.
Tom’s new knee is a go! Three days after lift-off, he has returned from outer space (no longer on morphine) and is walking the earthly halls without being attached to tubes and monitors. He has improved from frowny pain face #8 (severe) to smiley face #2 (mild) on the Faces Pain Scale that serves as the #1 pain barometer in hospitals these days. The credit for Tom’s rapid progress goes to everyone in mission control…the surgeon, the doctors, the hospital, the nurses, the PT’s (physical therapists) and the amazing care from ALL involved with helping him take his first giant Titanium step for mankind.
So, if you’re going to go under the knife, the hammer and the chisel to get that new knee in place, Dr. Paul Gilbert, his team and their shiny new-joint tool bench are the best. Then internist, Dr. George Jung (aka George of the Jungle) and cardiologist, Dr. Greg Geisler (lover of Hana, Maui) made sure that Tom’s other body parts (like his heart) were pumping and working to get him through surgery.
Upon arriving at pre-op, Tom put on his new-fangled dressing gown and then nurses started entering his vital information into computer devices which then started tracking his every move from medication to blood pressure. All this worked just fine as long as he could remember his birth date. That’s where I became valuable, particularly when he started telling everyone he was born in 1984. The blue, kind of bubble-suit-gown that he was now tied into had openings that looked like suction holes in which you’d insert a vacuum cleaner hose. In this case, once hooked up, the nurse could start blowing warm air into his various body parts to prevent hypothermia during surgery or while he laid there on a cold, hard gurney. In Tom’s case, it sort of looked like he was being given a penile implant or some kind of blow therapy. Obviously, the hospital didn’t want anyone thinking that, so they installed cute little shades on the small window in the room’s door. I think that any of us facing a hospital stay would dream that the experience could be like staying at the Four Seasons Resort Hotel. The Huntington Hospital in Pasadena comes as close to that as you can get. Upon arriving, valet parking welcomes you. And it’s the best deal in town…only $7 per day. I noticed that the Huntington focuses on that name now and not the Huntington Memorial which still stands as the original sign at the entrance. To me, the word “memorial” conjures up cemetery and/or funeral-like feelings as a place where you check in, but don’t check out. Once inside the beautiful building, the entire support staff (from nurses to those who keep your room sparkling) are the friendliest and most responsive that we’ve experienced in a hospital setting. Push a button and you get lively, happy nurses. In Tom’s case, it was Shwe (pronounced “Shway”) and Shirley who eagerly came to his side in 30 seconds. No kidding. …to be cont’d in next week’s blog.