The Death of Affordability in Hawaii

Coming back to Hawaii – there are lots of obvious changes – there are now lots of really expensive trendy shops. Whole Foods is here and you can spend a fortune on groceries if you choose to, Bed Bath and Beyond, Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc – the list goes on and on. There is … Continue reading “The Death of Affordability in Hawaii”

Coming back to Hawaii – there are lots of obvious changes – there are now lots of really expensive trendy shops. Whole Foods is here and you can spend a fortune on groceries if you choose to, Bed Bath and Beyond, Gucci, Saks Fifth Avenue, etc – the list goes on and on. There is no shortage of expensive shops here – and seeing all of that, it’s easy to forget what used to be in those spaces. Same goes for restaurants – every famous chef you can think of has a great little corner location and all the little great cheap places that used to be here – they’ve all grown into bigger, multi-location restaurants – so you can find the same great food on all the different corners of the island. Here’s the thing though – the quality in those little hole in the wall places that have grown so big has gone down and the prices have gone up. And guess what all those fancy retailers have replaced? Affordable stores. And guess what’s happened to the rents in those little places where you could buy everyday things for living cheaply? They’ve gone up – so no more cheap sponges and coffee in Chinatown – no more cheap produce from Farmer’s Markets – no more dollar stores, no more Grocery Outlets, no more big affordable Daiea markets or semi-affordable Don Quixote – instead those stores are closed and moved off island and Don Quixote is no longer a bargain. Those who have stayed here through the last 10 years may not have noticed – like looking in the mirror each day and missing the ten years of wrinkles – but all the little shops that used to make it affordable to get by each day – those shops are gone. I notice it because I went looking for them – and instead found Chuck E Cheese and an upscale boutique or found higher prices than I get on Amazon. Safeway doesnt do $5 Friday on Oahu. This island has seen real estate prices skyrocket since the recession and at the same time these systemic changes – where affordable shampoo, rice, or toilet scrubbers are no longer available – they are stealing the pennies and dimes. Parking downtown costs $30/hr and an expired meter will cost you $35-$50 depending on where it happens. I’ve always said that Hawai’i was worth what it takes to live here – but I’m not sure about that any longer. It seems that the truth may well be that it has reached the point where paradise is only available to those who already have enough money to not worry about paying $15 for a jar of peanut butter.

Fire At Marco Polo High Rise in Honolulu

I was driving on Kapiolani Blvd yesterday about 3pm when I noticed a lot of police and fire – I looked up and there was smoke coming from high up the building in front of me. It’s a building I used to have a friend that lived in – the smoke grew and then flames stared coming. The quality of my video is bad because I was just holding the phone up as I drove…absolutely awful. Three people died, a dozen injured, and probably at least a dozen apartments destroyed. When I got home to the much smaller building we live in, the first thing I did was a fire drill with Sophia. We went over where the stairs are, what to do if she can’t find us, and where to wait for us if she evacuates and can’t find us.

Much to my surprise, I like living in an apartment building. This is a reminder of one of the many dangers of it.

Back in Paradise – Some Thoughts

I am grateful and happy to be back on Oahu, back in Hawai’i, and back in paradise. I have a few observations that I’d like to share…

First of all -n the value of a good credit rating. I could not have done this if I hadn’t of made a concentrated effort to improve my credit rating and learn how to rock my credit score. I take that back…I could have done it, but the credit makes it much easier.

Second – I still love Kalama Beach Park – but Kailua seems to have had its soul ripped out. I am grateful that we landed in Salt Lake. It’s a whole different world. Kailua really seems to have become a sort of cartoon reality. It makes me sad. It’s a strange Haole sub-culture of money and privelige – yes, it has some very definite charms of its own, but it’s not what I’m looking for – at least not right now.

Third – Lines of tourism. Our first night here – my wife and daughter’s first night in Hawai’i – I wanted them to experience being a tourist – so we stayed at the most touristic hotel of them all – Hilton Hawaiian Village. It was cool. We had a top floor room with a complete ocean view and thanks to my creidt card points/rewards strategy we didn’t have to wait in the 1-hour-long or more check in lines. Yes – money and privelige – if they think you have money, you get the privelige. Joining the awards programs gave us free internet, a free checked bag on Hawaiian Air, and for some reason got us a free upgrade on our room. But, back to lines – our first meal in Hawai’i as a family was another touristic thing I’d never done – The Cheesecake Factory in Waikiki – huge lines, decent food, ridiculous prices, and bad service. The girls loved it – I was not impressed except that the cheesecake was actually the best cheesecake I’ve ever had…which definitely counts for something. We couldn’t get around that line and I noticed something – parties of two got seated almost immediately and the staff tended to seat parties of five or more with preference – as a party of three we were in a sort of limbo until I complained that larger and smaller parties that came in after us were being seated – and then we were seated immediately – 3 and 4 parties are the lowest price point at bigger tables. And, when we were seated – our table was still dirty. A lame line experience. Yesterday, on the 4th of July, I took the girls on my old circle island tour in our new car (not brand new, but thanks to credit strategy just two years old, no money down, no payments for 90 days and financed for 60 months) – in the old days, I did this tour hundreds, maybe even thousands of times – so I have a perspective on the change – the lines at the Kuhuku Shrimp Trucks are complete insanity…people at Romy’s and Giovanni’s are waiting up to two-and-a-half hours to eat garlic or spicy shrimp. We skipped that line when we realized we hadn’t brought cash – Hanane was amazed that anywhere in the US could be cash only – we went to an ATM and then stopped at the Korean shrimp truck – which used to be pretty good but which yesterday gave us big shrimp drowned in melted butter/oil/fat. The line was short for a reason. It was the fourth so there were lines of cars going to the North Shore, massive lines for Dole whip at the Dole plantation, and then when we went to Kailua for the fireworks – lines of cars looking for parking everywhere – we ended up going to a little known beach access in Aikahi and enjoying poke and rice on the beach with a small crowd and a perfect view of the fireworks. A quick drive on the H-3 and we were back home in time to watch the fireworks from the mighty Missouri from the catwalk of our apartment. Ah, I just thought of another couple of crazy lines – Costco. On the 3rd we went to Costco to get a few housewares and dinner…I’ve never seen anything like it. A constant sea of carts four wide and never stopping flowing from the registers to the parking lot and then lines 20-30 deep for food and drinks. Insanity.

Finally – fourth. In Reedsport we furnished our home almost entirely from garage and estate sales. So I haven’t bought things like shower curtains, silverware, dishes, blankets and the like since 2005 or so…as such, and as an antique dealer and estate buyer – I was out of touch with the prices of such things. Now, I’m amazed that anyone ever bought any of the household shit we sold at our sales…yesterday at Ross we bought a set of dishes for $18 – new. We bought a set of silverware for $15 – again new. We not only paid more for used stuff at garage sales and estate sales but we sold this same kind of stuff for more at the sales we ran – used. Beds on the other hand – holy cow. You can pay as much for a bed as you pay for a car – Hanane stepped up and bought our bed or else I was going to find a used one. As it was, we managed to buy a floor model that had been discontinued with a new frame for about 1/3 of the retail cost. Which still was $600 more than I paid for my old jeep cherokee and $400 more than I sold it for.

Our apartment is empty at the moment. Except for our suitcases and the few essentials we have bought. I’m glad I’m not in the retail business any longer. If I were, I would probably focus on beds and furniture – new or ‘certified’ used.

Hawaii Mind Body Spirit Expo – Kooks Are Us

Flashback 2005. This was one of those bizarre days I shared that I still think about. I posted this on my old blog and it inspired a long string of hate and troll attacks that culminated with someone posting my face on pictures of gay porn and posting them on craigslist…totally bizarre.I wonder if that will happen again as I repost this eight years later ~Vago

Another note – it was a dickhead move for me to include the names of the presenters and I have removed them. My apologies. ~Vago

Massage therapy, multi-level marketing, and spiritual coaching. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I went to the Hawaii Convention Center today for the Body Mind Spirit Expo.

I should of expected what it was, a bunch of new age multi-level marketing strategists, Japanese tarot card readers, and nutcase¬†guru types. Instead I had gone with the hope of attending some exciting lectures about alternative healing in a western context. I was hoping to encounter complimentary practitioners and modern perspectives on the viability of holistic methods. Not to be. Instead there was (and I’m not joking) the Celtic Lady (international psychic medium) anIntuitive Past Life Healer Limu, the new superfood, and Psycic Aura Therapy.

While I didn’t attend all the presentationss, my first lecture of the day was the most memorable. I still can’t get rid of the smell. It was the self proclaimed graduate of the school of hard knocks explaining his success at passing life’s many tests. I was annoyed by his continued request to close our eyes…his words here “we have our eyes open all the time, now is a good time to let them rest” I do that at night when I sleep.

Thanks. While he seemed like a very nice man, I wasn’t overly impressed by the following story as a motivational tool. “When I first became homeless, I refused to eat garbage, and then I found a bag full of quarters so that I wouldn’t have to.” Profound. while he never explained how a homeless New York kid got involved with a Cherokee Indian Shaman he did ask all of us to hold out our hands and that’s when he sprayed what smelled and looked like the substance barbers sanitize their combs in on all of us. He said it was his secret potion. I hope it wasn’t anthrax. Even after a huge bike ride and a shower the smell still won’t get off me.

My next lecture was from the Instant Kahuna. She explained that Hawaiian Legend says that a fair headed woman would take a leadership role in the Kahuna Tradition. Apparently, since she is a blond white woman, it must be her. She claimed to be able to heal instantly and that she rediscovered this ancient Hawaiian ability in 2000. I got lost in her rap about chakras. Apparently she has rediscovered some Ayurevedic terminology too. Maybe the Indians have a legend about a fair haired woman too.

A lecture on manifesting your creative goals was the most enjoyable to me. Okay, I admit it, I fell asleep during the meditation and had a dream about the woman I love. When I woke up everyone was clapping. At first I thought they were clapping for me.

My final lecture of the day was the one I had the greatest hope for. During Fundamentals of Complimentary and Alternative Medicine ( I wonder if she is really a doctor), kept telling us about how her employers brand of soy product can ‘repair your DNA’. She said that whatever genetic problems you have inherited in your DNA can be repaired…and she said that if you eat too much chicken it can cause arthritis because it will make your hands look like Chicken Claws.I’m really not making this up. When she was asked a serious question she said that she had just written a ‘medical paper’ on that very thing and changed the subject without saying a word more.

The Expo continues tomorrow (Sunday) from 11 to 6. Admission for both days was $8. If you want to go…you can have my ticket, I won’t be going back. In all more than 50 lectures and 60 exhibitors on a wide variety of topics, including healing and rejuvenation, reincarnation, hands-on spiritual healers, massage therapists, chiropractors, astrologers, angelic counseling, guides and psychics, and looking and feeling great naturally using multi level marketed products that make amazing claims. ..

Small wonder that alternative practitioners and complimentary medicine proponents don’t get taken seriously. Although none of them were at this event that I saw, they tend to get thrown in with this crowd. Too bad.

 

 

Sahara turning green, Hawaii homeless in the brush

As some of you no doubt have noticed, I’m being fairly selective these days about what stories I post here. In this case, since both of these have to do with places I have traveled and lived, I think they fit.

It turns out global warming might actually be good for the environment, especially deserts like the Sahara!

Scientists are now seeing signals that the Sahara desert and surrounding regions are greening due to increasing rainfall.

If sustained, these rains could revitalize drought-ravaged regions, reclaiming them for farming communities.

This desert-shrinking trend is supported by climate models, which predict a return to conditions that turned the Sahara into a lush savanna some 12,000 years ago.

The green shoots of recovery are showing up on satellite images of regions including the Sahel, a semi-desert zone bordering the Sahara to the south that stretches some 2,400 miles (3,860 kilometers).

Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences.

The study suggests huge increases in vegetation in areas including central Chad and western Sudan.

The transition may be occurring because hotter air has more capacity to hold moisture, which in turn creates more rain, said Martin Claussen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany, who was not involved in the new study.

And then this one about the homeless in Hawaii:

Remote, unimproved and isolated O’ahu beaches have become the newest homeless refuge for some of those forced to vacate Wai’anae Coast park encampments in recent months.
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With fewer beach parks available, homeless camps are spreading to unimproved coastal stretches ? with Ma’ili Point and an area beyond Kea’au Beach Park chief among the sites.

More than two years ago, the City and County of Honolulu adopted a strategy to clean up and reclaim city beach parks along the Wai’anae Coast taken over by an explosion of tent dwellers made homeless largely by rapidly rising home prices beginning around 2003.

The strategy became feasible after Hawai’i Gov. Linda Lingle passed an emergency proclamation that allowed the state to fast-track an emergency and transitional homeless shelter system along the Leeward Coast.

Once that system was in place, city police began systematically giving homeless beach people four weeks’ notice to leave a particular beach park by a certain date, after which it would be closed to the public while work crews cleaned and improved the facilities.

When a park reopened, signs were posted stating it would be closed nightly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. ? making it difficult for tent dwellers to regain a foothold.

Since October 2006, hundreds of beach dwellers on the Wai’anae Coast have been displaced as city work crews have conducted park improvement projects at more than half a dozen major beach parks.

In June, a large and long-standing encampment at Depots Beach in Nanakuli disappeared. Two weeks ago, city crews shut down Lahilahi Park in Makaha after the last of some three dozen homeless people pulled up stakes and departed on July 19.

More and more, they are moving to an area between Lualualei Naval Road in Nanakuli and Ma’ili Point along Farrington Highway.

One person who moved there after being evacuated from another beach park is Renee Barrett, 47. Barrett says she has spent much of her life in prison and admits she’s had problems with drug and alcohol abuse. That’s in the past, she insists. Now, she wants only to stay on the beach.

“This is my lifestyle,” said Barrett. “I refuse to go in the shelters. It would be like I’m institutionalized again. I’ve maxed out my time.”

If she’s ever forced to leave the water’s edge, she’ll find shelter on somebody’s porch, she said. Or she’ll sleep on the sidewalk: “I know how to survive.”