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Aloha, oy vey!
(How I spent a month in Paradise
and learned to live with the smell of
burning sugar cane)
by Mad Dog

 

 

What this means is a well-kept secret, just like the Maui handshake and the fraternal finger greeting, which I’d love to describe but I’m afraid if I do da local boys will track me down, tie me to a surfboard, and feed me to the sea turtles.

     Hawaii is beautiful. Palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze, crystal clear blue water, Mai Tais at sunset, and flattened toads every three feet. On Maui, it turns out, toads have no natural enemies. Well, except cars.

     One of the first things you notice when you go to Hawaii is the language. It only has twelve letters and they’re all vowels. Someone should sell a few of them back to Pat and Vanna.

     Interestingly, other than street names there are only two words in Hawaiian: aloha and mahalo. Aloha is an all-purpose word that means hello, good-bye, love, and "don’t forget to tip me". Mahalo means thank you. I think. It’s a little confusing since you see it everywhere, including the swinging flaps of the trash cans at Taco Bell which makes me wonder if it might actually be Spanish for "Deposit Chihuahuas here."

     The reason Hawaiian isn’t spoken more in the islands is because the missionaries tried to stomp it out, just like they did walking barefoot, nudity (nude bathing is still illegal and enforced in Hawaii), and sex in any position including their namesake, which even they didn’t use. Or so they told their children.

     To get around this, native Hawaiians spent hours developing their own variant language called pidgin, which is a combination of Hawaiian, Chinese, Portuguese, and bad English. Dat’s why da local boys talk about having stuffs for do and da kine.

     What sentences like this mean is a well-kept secret, just like the Maui handshake and the fraternal finger greeting, which I’d love to describe but I’m afraid if I do da local boys will track me down, tie me to a surfboard, and feed me to the sea turtles which, by the way, are an endangered species. That means they’re smart enough to avoid the tourists.



Of course I was the only one at the festival eating Tahitian food. All the Hawaiians and Polynesians were chowing down on nachos, na’aukake (hot dogs), and me ke kili (chili dogs).
     If you do get to hear some real Hawaiian being spoken you’ll discover that it’s a very musical language which is good, since Hawaii’s only other musical contribution is the ukulele, and it’s actually Portuguese. The best place to hear traditional Hawaiian music is at hula demonstrations, which are held every 30 feet or 20 minutes, whichever comes first. If you want to hear contemporary Hawaiian music, listen to radio station KPOA. This is a fun radio station, partly because the DJ’s have names like Maia Papaya.

     In case you haven’t listened to contemporary Hawaiian music lately, it mostly consists of songs about the idyllic life on the islands. These are the Harlequin Romance novels of the music world. The rest of the playlist is remakes of songs that should never be remade, like Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime and anything by 10cc..

     Amazingly, even though you’re in Paradise you still have to eat. But Hawaiian food is hard to find on Maui. Picture Paris without baguettes, New York without knishes, or London with edible food. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Yet on Maui it’s easier to find Japanese food, Korean barbecue, or Jack in the Box than it is a Hawaiian restaurant. In fact there doesn’t seem to be one, though you can find laulau (stuffed ti leaves) at Azeka’s, pork luau at the lunch wagon at Hana Bay, and Spam musubi (sushi) just about everywhere. That’s right, in addition to having the most snorkle rental shops per capita, Hawaii’s also the Spam Eating Capital of the World.

     Finding Tahitian food was easier, it was right there at the Polynesian Tahiti Fete. The fafa (corned beef, luau leaf, and coconut milk), Mai’ia (taro and banana), and ulu pua'a (corned beef, ulu, and onion) were all delicious. I never realized corned beef was Tahitian, though it makes sense when you realize the Lost Tribe of Israel actually ended up in Tahiti. This was an easy mistake to make back then since AAA didn’t exist so there were no accurate Triptiks to Miami Beach.

     Of course I was the only one at the festival eating Tahitian food. All the Hawaiians and Polynesians were chowing down on nachos, na’aukake (hot dogs), and me ke kili (chili dogs).

huladog1.jpg (25029 bytes)    By far, the easiest place to find Hawaiian food is at a luau, where the centerpiece is a big fat pig—the Hawaiian symbol of the tourist. The Old Lahaina Luau is fun. Contrary to what you may think, there’s a lot more to a luau than Mai Tai’s and a huge buffet—there are the half-naked men and women dancing the hula.
 

Get with it! If you want to serve a real Hawaiian pizza you should put Spam and macaroni salad on it.

      At the Old Lahaina Luau they wiggle their way through the history of the hula, from the rapid hip movement of the Tahitian hula where they try to shake those damned little biting ants off, to the sensual motions of the Hawaiian hula where they tell a story with their hands. Of course since no one’s watching their hands so they could be saying anything. I personally enjoyed the "I’d Rather Be Surfing" hula the most.

     (To answer the question that’s on everyone’s mind: Yes, I did find out what they wear under their grass skirts. Kilts. Just like the Supreme Court justices wear under their robes.)

     Oddly, the luau buffet doesn’t include the one item you find on every lunch plate on Maui—the national dish, macaroni salad. It was served with Japanese katsu. It was served with laulau. There were even macaroni salad muffins at the coffee shop for breakfast. Just kidding. But I guarantee there will be now that I’ve given them the idea.

     Some of the best food on Maui is Chicago style pizza. And why shouldn’t it be? If you’re going to be a melting pot you might as well melt some cheese, right? BJ’s Chicago Style Pizza serves big fat pies on a scale that sits on your table so you can see how much you’ve eaten. Good idea. That way at the end of the night you realize you ate 4 lbs. of pizza and look like Takamiyama, the Hawaiian sumo wrestler.

     BJ’s offers all kinds of toppings, yet there’s no Hawaiian pizza to be found. You know, the award-winning combination of ham and pineapple you see on the mainland but nobody has ever ordered. Get with it! If you want to serve a real Hawaiian pizza you should put Spam and macaroni salad on it.

 

It’s impossible to spend any time in Hawaii without an endless loop of Spike Jones’ Hawaiian War Chant playing in your head 24 hours a day.

     There are a few other things I discovered while on Maui:
  • There’s no Hawaiian word for public transportation.
  • There are no hula hoops to be found, not even on the male dancers who get the women hooting and hollering at their pelvic thrusts, so much so that I expected the women to start shoving money down the guys’ sarongs.
  • Doing crossword puzzles eventually pays off—I actually saw a 4-letter word for Hawaiian goose while I was there. Yup, the nene.
  • The Hawaiian islands weren’t really formed from volcanic action, it only looks that way. They’re actually great big ant hills. And let me tell you, the ants are still pissed that people settled there.
  • It’s impossible to spend any time in Hawaii without an endless loop of Spike Jones’ Hawaiian War Chant playing in your head 24 hours a day.
  • And Polynesian Paralysis (otherwise known as Island Inertia) sets in two hours after you first take off your shoes and doesn’t go away until three days after your plane lands on the mainland.

     Oh yeah. After a while you actually do get used to the constant smell of burning sugar cane fields.

    

1998 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Cut them up and they make great hula skirts.

 

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