Wanted: Used and Unused Ukes

Here on the Big Island
By Kelly Moran

Wanted: Used and Unused Ukes

How many of you have an ‘ukulele somewhere that you never play any more?

Perhaps it was a souvenir of your first-ever trip to Hawaii, and has rested in your closet (along with that matching aloha shirt and mu’umu’u that you now realize no local couples ever wear).  Or perhaps you do keep the uke handy, and you remember “My Dog Has Fleas” – the old mnemonic for tuning the open strings.  But you never seem to find the time to actually tune it or give it more than a strum or two.  Even when you hear some virtuoso like Jake Shimabukuro or Britny Paiva play one on TV or in concert, and you wonder if, maybe, you ought to take it up again, just to see if . . . well, you know.  That’s why it’s still just sitting there.

So, if your old uke is collecting dust, or waiting in vain for you touch the strings, maybe it would be happier in someone else’s hands – those of someone who wants to learn to play but can’t afford a decent instrument.

You’ve probably seen very high-quality instruments – beautiful (and beautiful-sounding) works of the woodsmith’s art – in music stores all across Hawaii, costing a few hundred dollars.  But most serviceable ukes are far from being luxury items.  While some tinny souvenir ukes cost $20 or less, it takes $50-100 to buy a truly playable “first uke,” and while that’s not a lot of money to most of us, it’s still out of reach for plenty of young, would-be players.


Soprano pineapple ukulele, baritone ukulele and taropatch baritone ukulele.


So I want you to know that the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH-H) is asking for donations of ukes to be played in a new class, beginning this coming Spring semester, called Contemporary Island Music.  It will be taught by Lito Arkangel, a popular local performer who teaches in the UH-H Hawaiian Language College and the Kinesiology & Health Sciences Dept.  (Undergrads note: this will be a three-credit course, academically listed as MUS 198.)


Lito Arkangel


Jackie Pualani Johnson, head of the UH-H Performing Arts Dept., says that Arkangel’s class will be “a survey of contemporary music in Hawai’i beginning in the 1970s and culminating with today’s popular music. Emphasis will be on performance, via the understanding of multi-cultural influences that shaped each era, the styles of composers, and the development of musical trends in Hawai’i. Students will participate in group activities, presentations, and required performances. Practical experience with singing and ‘ukulele will be included.

“If you have a ‘previously loved’ instrument that you are interested in donating, the Performing Arts Department will be happy to write a donation letter for tax purposes.  Please let me know via e-mail (jpjohnso@hawaii.edu) and we’ll be happy to pick up the instrument, too, to make it convenient for you.”

Sounds good to me!  Got a uke you can spare for a worthy cause?

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Extraordinary Acreage


By Kelly Moran

Extraordinary Acreage

“They don’t get much bigger than this, so close to town!” said the friend I was showing around the property, “or have so many different things to like.”  It’s true: on these 321 acres are fruit orchards, pastures, woodlands, a house with a bird’s-eye view over Hilo Bay, and two year-round streams.  And there are practically no limits to what you could do with the land, if you wanted to buy it.

Extraordinary Acreage

In fact, you’re too late: it’s already in escrow. But I just have to say that this is one of the most appealing properties I have ever represented, in large part because downtown Hilo is only about five minutes’ drive from just about anywhere on the land.  Nearly every other parcel of 100, 200, 300 acres or more that you might find on the Big Island will be pretty far out in the country, whereas this place is just north of Hilo, on the Hamakua side of the Wailuku River.

2. DSC_0087 (2)

For much of the 20th century, the land was planted in sugar cane, but when the plantation closed in the ‘90s, it was sold to a local family.  It could have been turned into house-lots; so it was rezoned from “Agriculture” to “RS 7.5” – meaning that residential lots there could be as small as 7,500 square feet.  If such a development had happened, it would have become the largest single suburb of Hilo.  But amazingly, that didn’t happen.  The new owners had it down-zoned back to Agriculture, which limits any subdivision of the land to lots of at least five acres each.

The land is crisscrossed with well-maintained dirt roads, giving easy access to all of its uses.  Some of the orchards (in rambutan, lychee, mangosteen, longon, and coffee) are leased to a local farming concern; and some pastures are leased to cattle ranchers.


There are some small agricultural research facilities as well, and of course, there’s that three-bedroom, two-bath house with the amazing view from its grand lanai!  More homes could easily be built, either on high knolls with views, or along the streams, with their waterfalls and swimming-holes.


Here’s an aerial video of the property:  [https://www.dropbox.com/l/QpnDFws3KdUSdsCmGs6wCr ]

But there’s one more thing about the place that speaks to what makes the Big Island and its people so special.  At the makai end (its farthest downhill point), there is an acre that fronts on Wainaku St., the arterial of the Pu’ueo neighborhood, adjacent to Clem Akina Park.  Although it could easily be developed for apartments, the sellers hope that the new owners will do as they’ve done all along.  They lease the lot to the County for a dollar a year, which doubles the size of Pu’ueo’s only public park and playground.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – La Cage aux Folles – the Palace Theater’s Fall Musical

by Kelly Moran

La Cage aux Folles – the Palace Theater’s Fall Musical

Suppose your son or daughter wanted to marry someone whose family you didn’t like?  Maybe you’re political opposites . . . or you just don’t like the way they live . . . or both?  And now they’re coming to dinner, to meet you!

That’s the dilemma at the heart of La Cage aux Folles, the 13th annual Fall Musical at Hilo’s Historic Palace Theater.  The French title is slang for “the madhouse” — an appropriate description for this madcap farce.  Based on a French play, the “book” was adapted by Harvey Fierstein, who won a Tony Award for it; and the music and lyrics are by Jerry Herman, who previously wrote the musicals Mame and Hello Dolly.

La Cage aux Folles - the Palace Theater's Fall Musical

Georges (Saul Rollason) owns the night club next door, where the star attraction is his longtime partner Albin (Douglas Wayman), who’s famous as “ZaZa,” a female-impersonator in drag.  Georges’s son Jean-Michel (Kevin Landucci) lives with them, and sheer madness ensues when he announces he has invited his fiancée Anne (Dana Bebmanoff) and her ultra-conservative, anti-gay parents (Michael Stevens and Erin Smith) to meet them.

Georges and Albin

Georges (Saul Rollason) reacts in mock-horror when his partner Albin (Douglas Wayman) says he wants to meet the uptight, homophobic parents of the girl Georges’s son wants to marry. Photo by Daniel Nathaniel.


What should they do?  Maybe Albin could pretend to be an “uncle,” and act macho, with coaching by their neighbors Monsieur and Madame Renaud (Randall McEndree and Stephanie Becher)?  Or maybe he should get up in drag and pretend to be Jean-Michel’s “mother”?  It doesn’t help that their “maid” Jacob (Alston Albarado) is given to hilarious antics of his own.  Nor that, right next door, the show must go on, with the “Cagelles and Cagettes” (Billy Shakley, Norman Arancon, Tanya Aynessazian, Cole Stremski-Borero, Carmen Richardson and Amber Lopez) dancing up a storm. When Jacob burns the dinner, everyone retires to a restaurant run by Jacqueline (Justine A. Thompson), but they won’t be able to relax there, either.  You’ll have to come to the show to find out what happens next!

Doug Michael and Dancers

During a rehearsal, Director Doug Scheer (far right) and Choreographer Michael Misita (next to him) strike a pose with four of the “Cagelles and Cagettes” dancers, Cole Stremski-Borero, Tanya Aynessazian, Billy Shakley and (below) Norman Arancon. Photo by Daniel Nathaniel.


Also in the cast are Phill Russell, Gene Gold, Jherrie Rubeyiat, Bria Callaway, Katherine Wilson, Stephanie Hull, Mary Chapman and Jessica Dempsey.  Michael Misita is the Choreographer.  Catherine McPherson is Stage Manager.  And Music Director Cheryl “Quack” Moore will lead the Palace/Cage aux Folles band.

ZaZa and The Cagelles

ZaZa (Douglas Wayman) is the star attraction at La Cage aux Folles, in a dance number with the Cagelles. Photo by Daniel Nathaniel.


For the show’s Director, Doug Scheer, “La Cage aux Folles is really about the relationship between Georges and Albin — their marriage, their partnership, whatever you want to call it, which is not really different from any other relationship between two people who love each other, and who stay together as a family through thick and thin.  Bigotry does come into it.  That homophobic politician ultimately gets a better understanding of gay people – that we’re just like everybody else.

“But I believe that people in Hawaii will see something that’s actually very familiar,” he said.  “There are so many hanai families here, with cousins raised as siblings, or relatives and family friends who take in the children of their troubled neighbors.  Extended and non-standard family life is part of the culture here.  I’m sure that audiences will be able to relate to this story, and understand that unconventional families are really the same, underneath it all.”

The Cagelles

The Cagelles are the dancers at the nightclub called La Cage aux Folles (“the madhouse”). Photo by Daniel Nathaniel.


La Cage aux Folles will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings October 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18; with matinees at 2:30 p.m. Sundays October 12 and 19.  Tickets are $15 in advance; $20 on the day of the show.  The box office is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; advance tickets can also be purchased with credit cards, over the phone, at 934-7010.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Nice Weather for Ducks


By Kelly Moran

Nice Weather for Ducks


“Duck Duck Goose” is a kids’ game of tag.  But there are plenty of real ducks and geese in Hilo; and you can see them, any time, at the Wailoa River Recreation Area, better known as “Wailoa Park.”

Ducks and geese at Wailoa Park

Ducks and geese at Wailoa Park


It’s the estuary of the river whose flow waxes and wanes with the rainfall, which is low right now.  It drains half of Hilo, spreads out into ponds, in the park, that spanned by Oriental bridges; then it narrows again where small boats are moored; and finally it flows under the Wailoa Bridge and out into Hilo Bay just beside the racks of racing canoes.

The park’s pavilions are rented well in advance for parties and civic functions.  But the sprawling, grassy, inland acreage is rarely full of people.  Some of the trees along the Park’s boundaries fell during August’s hurricane, closing a footpath to the Waiakea Villas condo complex.

Downed trees on the water's edge of Wailoa Park

Downed trees on the water’s edge of Wailoa Park


The main entrance to the park, however, is always open.  And it’s easy, especially on a weekday, to wander all over and cross the bridges, without seeing anyone except the occasional fisherman, or a family with a small child feeding the ducks.

Feeding time at Wailoa Park

Feeding time at Wailoa Park


Fisherman and son at Wailoa Park

Fisherman and son at Wailoa Park


When I say it’s “nice weather for ducks,” I don’t mean it’s raining.  (And I have no idea whether water really does roll off a duck’s back.) What I mean is: these last few weeks of hot, relatively dry weather, are perfect for getting down to Wailoa Park and seeing those ducks.  And geese.

Among the ducks, Mallards and Muscovys predominate.  Mallard males are the ones with greenish-black heads and iridescent back feathers; the female Mallards are dowdy by comparison, with light-brown and dark-brown feathers and a blue splash in the wing.

A Mallard couple

A Mallard couple


Muscovys are unmistakable – they’re the ones with bright red fleshy growths on their heads.

You will always recognize a Muscovy duck

You will always recognize a Muscovy duck


Among the geese, many are the gray Canada geese, with a white “stripe” on their necks.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose


You’ll see so many geese and ducks together that it’s likely all their genes are “kapakahi” – the local/Hawaiian term for all-mixed-together (like a chop-salad, or vegetables in a stir-fry).

Which reminds me: you can’t eat any of these birds from the park – they’re all protected.


And, speaking of the Waiakea Villas condos located adjacent to Wailoa park, check out this featured listing — it’s the largest condo in the complex:


HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – What Happened in the Primary Election?


By Kelly Moran


What Happened in the Primary Election?
The results of September’s primary election were unusual, and the Puna district of the Big Island had a lot to do with that.

Republicans who won their party’s nominations were candidates widely expected to win; but the Democrats’ primary generated some surprises.  The incumbent governor, Democrat Neil Abercrombie, running for re-nomination, was soundly defeated by the president of the State Senate, David Ige.  (In conceding, Abercrombie fully endorsed Ige for November’s general election against the Republican former Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona, and former Honolulu mayor Mufi Hanneman, a Democrat who’s running as an independent.)

This unprecedented rejection of a sitting governor in his party’s primary is hard to explain.  Abercrombie claimed that he lost because Republicans crossed over to vote against him.  It’s true that they were angered when he called for a special legislative session to enact Hawaii’s same-sex marriage law – but Ige favored, pushed for and voted for that law, too.  More likely, Abercrombe had alienated three key Democratic voting blocs that had supported him during his long career: the teachers’ unions, after unpleasant contract negotiations; older voters, by asking legislators to tax private pensions (they refused); and Americans of Japanese ancestry (AJAs), by naming his Lieutenant Governor, Brian Schatz, to the U.S. Senate seat vacated when longtime Senator Daniel K. Inouye died last year.  This was apparently contrary to what some of them believed was Inouye’s dying wish: that the job should go to U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa, who is AJA.

Hanabusa challenged Schatz in the primary for it, and pre-election polls differed on who was ahead.  (This election was only for filling the two remaining years of Inouye’s term.  A full six-year term will be contested in 2016.)  On primary election day, some early returns showed Hanabusa leading, but by the final count, Schatz emerged about 1,500 votes ahead.

However, two precincts in Puna had not been able to vote that day – their polling places were closed due to the damage wrought by Hurricane Iselle a few days before.  Some absentee ballots from those precincts had been submitted, and were included in the day’s count.  But around 6,000 eligible voters there had not yet voted.  The state’s election office said it would mail out absentee ballots to them, but – with roads still blocked – that could not be done.  So a make-up election was scheduled for a date two weeks later.  That – at least in theory – meant that those Puna voters would decide the primary.

But could they really have changed the outcome?

The news media generally characterized the election as being Puna’s to decide, but some dissenters felt that those voters could not have made a difference.  Nearly everyone feels that the state elections office made inconsistent decisions, and could have done a better job explaining Hawaii’s vote-counting rules and election challenges.

So the Big Island Press Club is going to explore these issues in a 90-minute panel discussion in Hilo.  It will begin at noon on Friday October 10, at Restaurant Kenichi, 684 Kilauea Ave.  Tickets are $19.50, which also includes a buffet lunch.

The four panelists are all news media professionals.

Kathleen A. Frankovic was, for more than 30 years, the chief public-opinion pollster for CBS Television Network News.  [Full disclosure: Kathy retired to Hilo, and is one of my home-buyer clients.]

Kathleen Frankovic

Kathleen Frankovic


Chad Blair is a reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat, and has previously reported for Pacific Business News and Hawaii Public Radio.

2013 July 23 Gridiron  SA photo by Craig T. Kojima

Chad Blair:  2013 July 23 Gridiron  SA photo by Craig T. Kojima


Todd Belt is a professor of political science at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, and the author of several books on elections and mass media.

Todd Belt

Todd Belt


Moderating the panel is Nancy Cook Lauer, a reporter for West Hawaii Today, and current President of the Big Island Press Club.

Nancy Cook Lauer

Nancy Cook Lauer


For more information:  www.bipcelectionluncheon.eventbrite.com



By Kelly Moran

Life Goes On

“Hurricane Downs Trees” was last month’s big headline; and “Lava Cuts Highway” may well be next month’s big headline.  But right now, the big news in Hilo is that it’s hot.

This time of year is often the warmest, and on occasion the thermometer can hit 90, though that won’t break any records.  But for the last few weeks, daytime Hilo temps have been consistently above 85.  Some nights, a few clouds may pile up around Mauna Kea, dropping a sprinkle or two on some mauka communities.  But in Hilo itself there’s been virtually no rain to break this heat-wave for a month or so.

One effect can be seen at the Farmers’ Markets, perhaps most vividly in the rare proliferation of “dragon fruit.”  They are the fruit of those ropey cacti that you see on rock walls, especially on the drier, western side of the Big Island.  (Honolulu’s famous night-blooming cereus is in the same cactus family.)

Dragon Fruit Cacti on a Rock Wall

Dragon Fruit Cacti on a Rock Wall


But with all this heat, and in the absence of precipitation that could stunt or rot cactus fruit in Hilo, our local eastside cacti are enjoying the rare dry spell that allows them to set fruit and keep it growing until their green skin turns red at maturity.

Dragon Fruit in the Farmers Market

Dragon Fruit in the Farmers Market


Unripe Dragon Fruit

Dragon Fruit – Unripe


Two kinds of dragon fruit are on the market, the difference being the color – red or white – of the flesh inside.  On the outside they look the same, but the vendors know their sources, and will tell you which is which.  In general, the white flesh is firmer, with very tiny black seeds; the red fruit is softer, with slightly larger seeds; and though both are sweet, the reds tend to be sweeter – they’re also rarer, and hence more expensive.  If you’ve eaten the fruits of prickly-pear cacti, the taste is similar; if you haven’t, imagine a not-so-juicy watermelon.

Chilled fruit is great in hot weather, but when temperatures go up, many people figure it’s time to visit someplace that’s air-conditioned.  So here’s one that, while popular with tourists, is visited by relatively few people who live here: the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory.

Between Hilo and Kea‘au on Hwy 11, follow the signs for Macadamia Drive, and after three miles through papaya and mac-nut orchards, you’ll come to the factory. The last time I was there, the factory itself was not running; harvest and maintenance schedules control its calendar, and you may want to call ahead and ask if you’ll be seeing it run.  But there is a self-guided self-guided tour along the outside wall.  You peer through big windows at the machinery, and watch instructive videos that explain the processes of sorting, seasoning and packaging in a delightfully humorous way.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory - Tour Video

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory – Tour Video


Finally, there is that air-conditioned visitors’ center [www.maunaloa.com/visitor-center], where a dozen different flavors of nuts are for sale.  Besides “dry roasted” and “sea salt,” there are exotic savories like wasabi-teriyaki, and Maui onion and garlic.  And for one’s sweet tooth, there are nuts that are “glazed” with Kona coffee, and nuts that are “enrobed” with several kinds of chocolate.  You will notice, however, that like wineries and coffee mills, the mac-nut factory does not undercut its retailers; you’ll pay pretty much the same prices here as anywhere else in Hawaii.

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitors Center

Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Visitors Center


HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Nature Always Wins (Part 3 of 3)


By Kelly Moran

Nature Always Wins (Part III) [see Part I]

Puna’s population has grown enormously since the 1960s, when the big subdivisions were created: Hawaiian Paradise Park (HPP), Nanawale Estates, Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Shores, Ainaloa, and Orchidland.  The lots were not expensive – some cost as little as a Volkswagen Bug.  Back then, it was assumed that only retirees, farmers and hippies would want to live so far (20 or more miles) from Hilo.  Developers were encouraged, but not required, to install curbs, gutters and sidewalks along their interior roads; but since there was only one paved road in and out of Puna anyway – the two-lane State Highway 130 – it seemed pointless to bring the subdivision streets up to even that modest standard.  But after the sugar industry was shuttered, in the 1980s, many people who worked in Hilo started buying the relatively inexpensive lots out in Puna, and commuting along Hwy 130.  Traffic increased, and the morning and evening drive-times became so frustratingly congested, that finally, in 2010, the State began a project to widen Hwy 130 between Kea‘au and Pahoa, and to install roundabouts where Pahoa’s main street and the largest subdivision roads feed into the highway.

But there have long been calls to upgrade two dirt roads, makai of and roughly parallel to the highway, so they could take some of the traffic load away from the highway.  One is Railroad Ave. which, when it had tracks, carried sugarcane trains from Kapoho all the way to Hilo.  The other, hugging the coast, and very rugged even for 4WD vehicles, is called Government Beach Road; it originally linked Kapoho with Kaloli Point in HPP.  From lack of foresight, however, neither of these roads goes its full length, anymore; they’re in segments, interrupted by overgrown lots, and allowed to become residential, in some places enabling homes to be built within their rights-of-way.  And nothing was ever done to improve them.  Until now.

The lava from Pu‘u O‘o, which in September emerged in the forest-reserve above Pahoa town, is steadily flowing downhill, burning the ohia and waiawi trees and everything else in its path.  No one knows exactly where it will go, nor when nor if it will stop before reaching the ocean.  Whether or not it goes through the streets of Pahoa, it would have to cross Hwy 130 somewhere; and that would force everyone on the Kapoho side of Pahoa to evacuate along Railroad and/or the Beach road.

Here is video captured by Mick Kalber, flying with Paradise Helicopters, showing the lava flow burning its way through trees, as it nears the edge of the forest.

County and state highway departments are working, right now, punching through undeveloped brushlands to connect their segments, and improve them at least enough to be passable by ordinary cars.  Lava would eventually cross those roads too, although by that time, it should be possible to repair and re-open Hwy 130.  And there is talk of (once again) repairing the Chain of Craters road.  That would enable people in lower Puna to get out by going up through the National Park to Volcano.

Lower Puna and Subdivisions

Here is an official county map of the roads undergoing improvement. Photograph of an official Hawaii County map showing planned roadwork. Much of it is already well underway.


Whatever happens, it is important to remember that the Island of Hawaii is alive.  We take our friends and family to Halemaumau and gape at the big crater; we walk through the steam-vents; we hike trails that, only a few years ago, were eruption sites.  We stop along the jet-black landscape of Kona, leaving bits of white coral as our graffiti, but little thinking what that land must have been like when it was a miles-wide river of red-hot molten rock.

Hurricanes form every summer, in the warm waters of the Pacific, but they “hardly ever” come ashore in Hawaii.  And as frequent as eruptions have always been, we only rarely get to see their end-game, when lava makes its inexorable way down from summit to sea.  And whether we choose to accept this phenomenon of nature as expressing the will of the volcano goddess Pele, or prefer to examine it through the scientific lenses of volcanology and seismology, it is a defining characteristic of life on the Big Island.  Those of us who choose to live here are compelled to accept the fact that, whatever we may do to make a home for ourselves on this living island, in the end, Nature will always win.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Nature Always Wins (Part 2 of 3)


By Kelly Moran

Nature Always Wins (Part II)


As if a hurricane in August weren’t enough trouble for the Puna district [see Part I], a new source of trouble arose in September.  It seemed to echo the words of an old hymn: “No more water, but the fire next time.”

There are three active volcanoes on the Big Island.  Hualalai, in the west, rises above North Kona and South Kohala. The flows from its last eruption, in the early 19th century, are what you drive through on the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway.  Mauna Loa, the biggest volcano on earth, takes up half of the entire island.  It erupted briefly in the 1970s and ‘80s, but hasn’t made much of an impact on the island since the 1920s, when its lava burned through an enormous wedge of South Kona, including what’s now called Hawaiian Ocean View Estates.

But Kilauea is the most active, having been erupting on-and-off for centuries, and in continuous eruption since 1983.  Like its neighbors, Kilauea is a “shield” volcano, meaning that its summit does not come to a (stereotypical) point, like Fuji.  Rather, it’s a lengthy ridge called a “rift zone,” along which vents can emerge almost anywhere – and do.

Kilauea Volcano

1959 Eruption of Kilauea Volcano by Hawaii Volcano Observatory, USGS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


In 1960, a previously unknown vent at the far end of Kilauea’s East Rift Zone opened up under the village of Kapoho.  In the 1970s, lava from vents within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed the Chain of Craters road.  A couple of times, the road was repaired, but new flows cut through it again and again, and the effort was discontinued.  Kilauea eventually wiped out the park’s heiaus and historic sites along the coast, and flowed beyond the park’s boundaries, where it smothered a couple of subdivisions, two famously photogenic black-sand beaches, the spring-fed Queen’s Bath pond, and much of what had been a thriving, mostly native Hawaiian neighborhood called Kalapana.

For the past ten years or so, Kilauea’s most active vent has been under the cinder cone called Pu‘u O‘o.   Lava there has tended to pool and puddle close to the vent, making the surface swell, then slowing down and dribbling off in the general direction of the ocean (makai), but stopping far uphill, well short of the coast.

Puu Oo - Crater Lava pond 1990

“Puu Oo – Crater Lava pond 1990” by J.D. Griggs – USGS HVO. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


In early September, though, lava originating at Pu‘u O‘o found (or created) a lava-tube, through which it has since been moving at high speed downhill on the inland side of the East Rift Zone: that is: mauka, into the island, heading toward a rural subdivision and – beyond it – to the little town of Pahoa.  (To Be Continued … Read Next, Part 3 of 3)

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Nature Always Wins (Part 1 of 3)


By Kelly Moran

Nature Always Wins [Part I]

In My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins is trying to teach young Eliza Doolittle to say the “h” at the start of words, since Cockney folks like her tend to drop it (as in “’ow are you?” or “’ave a nice day”). So he gives her this sentence to practice: “In Hartford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly ever happen.”


He might have added “Hawaii” to that list – meaning the Big Island of Hawaii, which had apparently never experienced a direct hit by a hurricane, at least not since haoles started keeping written records about 200 years ago.  But that changed last August, when a hurricane named “Iselle” slammed into the eastern corner of our diamond-shaped island.  The south- and east-facing flatlands of the Puna district took the biggest hit.  Iselle tore solar panels off roofs, and some roofs off houses; but the felling of trees – one kind of tree in particular – caused the most serious and widespread damage.

Slideshow - Hawaii News Now

During the 20th century, Puna was extensively planted with trees to replace ohia and other native species that had been logged off, and to make forests out of fields where sugar cane land had gone fallow.  Everyone – developers especially, who were subdividing land into house-lots – believed that people needed trees, both for shade and for giving or restoring a tropical look-and-feel to the place.  The tree-of-choice for this enterprise was albezia (Falcataria moluccana), from the islands of Southeast Asia.  It seemed ideal.  One of the fastest-growing trees in the world, albezia can reach 60 feet in just ten years; it produces a wide-spreading canopy that drops lots of seeds, and thereby extends its range without further human effort.


Unfortunately, albezia is trouble.  Those long branches are brittle, easily snapped away by strong winds; and sometimes, for no good reason, they just break off and fall.  Land in Puna is very young, geologically, so there isn’t much soil above the underlying lava; all trees there are shallow-rooted; so heavy, mature albezia are therefore extremely vulnerable to being toppled in a storm.  And that tendency to colonize new ground squeezes out other trees, and turns otherwise vacant lots into a forest of practically no other tree but itself.  Albezia definitely lives up to its nickname: “The Tree that Ate Puna.”

Albezia Tree
Albezia Tree


So, when Iselle struck on Thursday August 7, its 60-mph wet winds whipped down acre after acre of albezias.  Branches and trunks crashed into on houses, pulled down utility lines, and blocked even the widest roads, isolating pockets of neighborhoods, and cutting off electricity, telephone and cable-TV.  Many homes in Puna had catchment-tanks for rainwater, but unless they also had a generator, they had no way to pump that water through their faucets.  This was an emergency, the likes of which had not been seen anywhere in the state since hurricane Iniki devastated Kauai in 1992.

Iselle Tree Cleanup

Road crew workers clearing the main thoroughfares of the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Iselle in Pahoa, Hawaii, 08 August 2014.  [LA Times – www.veooz.com/news/QHP36N9.html]


And just two days later, on Saturday Aug. 9, Hawaii held its Primary Election.  With several thousand people unable to get to their polling-places, two precincts in Pun were closed, and a make-up election for those precincts was scheduled in the weeks ahead.  When those folks did finally vote, they did not alter the election-day results.  But the delay added to a general malaise – which admittedly had been growing for many years – that Puna is a backwater, about which the rest of the County and State care little.  But the fact remains that Puna is beautiful, verdant, and one of the most affordable places to live in Hawaii . . . if you don’t mind also being downrift of an active volcano!  (To Be Continued …. Read next, Part 2 of 3)

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – High Victorian Fun in Volcano

By Kelly Moran

High Victorian Fun in Volcano

Every few years, one of the greatest legacies of the Victorian Era is celebrated on the Big Island. If you enjoy musical comedies, you can thank the “operettas” that premiered in London in the 1880s and ‘90s. Their tone was light and comic; much of the dialog was spoken; the songs introduced the characters and advanced the plot – in other words, the model for all the musical comedies that have followed.

The greatest (and still the funniest) of the Victorian operettas were invented by two rather unlikely collaborators.  Sir Arthur Sullivan was a celebrated classical composer. His theater pieces are snappy and beautiful and immensely memorable, but he thought he was wasting his talents on such light fare. Sir William S. Gilbert was England’s leading humorist, able to fill his lyrics with more rhymes in English than anyone before, and few since. But he had no ear for music. Yet the entertainments that Gilbert and Sullivan created together have been performed continuously, all over the world. You can be sure that there is a G&S production on stage, somewhere, right now.

In fact, you can see one here on the Big Island this coming weekend and next. G&S operettas are a regular feature of the Kilauea Drama and Entertainment Network (KDEN), presented at the Kilauea Theater, in Volcano. Producer/Director Suzi Bond has been doing two musical shows a year, there, for ten years, and this is the fifth in her G&S series.

On stage this year is Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse. Though not as well-known as The Mikado and HMS Pinafore, this one has plenty of what G&S operettas are famous for: lovesick maidens, hidden identities, an elderly spinster, a hero who’s not as bold as he might like to be, and a “topsy-turvy” conflict between love and duty. (Full disclosure: I’ve gotten the lowdown on Gilbert and Sullivan from one of my clients, who’s in the show.) The plot of Ruddigore is laugh-out-loud funny, a quirky parody of old-time lurid melodramas, complete with a mustache-twirling villain, and ghosts who come to life from their painted portraits!

Dame Hannah + Bridesmaids

Dame Hannah (l.) astonishes the corps of professional bridesmaids with the legend of the witch’s curse on all the Baronets of Ruddigore.

The orchestra is large, and so is the cast, with much young local talent — as there always is in the KDEN shows. And the theater itself is a little 280-seat gem inside Kilauea Military Camp, built by the WPA and CCC in the 1930s for servicemen’s R&R, within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (From about half an hour before show-time, you won’t have to pay the park admission if you’re going to the theater.)

Ghosts Torment the newest Baronet

The ghosts of his ancestors hound the newest Baronet of Ruddigore to suffer the curse: he must commit one heinous crime a day or die in agony.


There are six upcoming performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays July 18, 19, 25 and 26; and 2:30 matinees on Sundays July 20 and 27. Tickets are available in Hilo at The Most Irresistible Shop, in Volcano at Kilauea General Store, and in Kea’au at Kea’au Natural Foods. The price is $15 general; $12 for students, $10 for children. Call KDEN at 982-7344 or email kden73@aol.com for more info about this delightful musical — oops, I mean operetta.