Here is whats missing in Honolulu….and I don’t mean Not Native American Restaurants

I understand why…the cost of renting space here is insanely prohibitive…if you are going to have a space it has to be able to generate at least enough to pay for itself – i.e. Be a very profitable little enterprise anywhere else in the USA…but here in Honolulu, there is a big obvious gap (and … Continue reading “Here is whats missing in Honolulu….and I don’t mean Not Native American Restaurants”

I understand why…the cost of renting space here is insanely prohibitive…if you are going to have a space it has to be able to generate at least enough to pay for itself – i.e. Be a very profitable little enterprise anywhere else in the USA…but here in Honolulu, there is a big obvious gap (and I’m not talking about the complete and total lack of Native American restaurants anywhere…anywhere in the world) I’m talking about micro-museums – little owner passionate shops that focus on the insane hobbies or odd interests of a single person – Gordy’s Fairhaven Pharmacy in Bellingham, Washington or the Bug Zoo in Victoria, BC – the museum of bad record album covers or the museum of bottles bill collected. These little places are completely missing in Honolulu. Also missing are hobby and passion stores – meaning things like doll hospitals and Teddy Bear museums (there was one, but it was an animatronic Korean thing and it closed after three years, I never saw it).

The main reason, I believe, is that even a small dumpy space tends to cost at least $1000/month – and that requires quite a large volume of sales or admissions. Sure, on a rainy day there might be 1000 tourists looking for something to do that isn’t the Bishop Museum, the Honolulu Zoo or Aquarium, a bus tour, the Polynesian Cultural Center, or The Honolulu Museum of Art (can I please still call it the Academy of Arts?) but that means you need to collect $5 each from those 1000 people to cover your rent, utilities, insurance, the rent of your home, your home utilities, food, childcare, and other expenses. That’s a big risk in a city where 97% of days are beachworthy.

I don’t have a solution. Just like I don’t have an answer as to why there aren’t millions of Native American restaurants in North America but you can find pretty much every other ethnicity’s cuisine.

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.

Critical Mass Honolulu – Making the Streets Safe for Bicyclists.

16-12-08_1633This article first appeared in Ka Leo, the University of Hawaii student newspaper in 2008, but there were a few things in it that were cut that I thought were important.

For those who don’t know, Critical Mass is an event typically held on the last Friday of every month in cities around the world where bicyclists and, less frequently, unicyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters, roller skaters and other self-propelled commuters take to the streets en masse.

While the ride was originally founded with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to bicyclists, the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets.

Critical Mass: Making the Streets Safe for Bicyclists
By Vago Damitio

If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle in Honolulu, you know that it can be a death defying adventure. Far too often drivers don’t see bicycles when they pull out, change lanes, or turn into driveways. Bicyclists also seem to be invisible to the City and County of Honolulu if one uses the criteria of bicycle lanes, signage, and maintenance of the few bike lanes that do exist on Oahu. For those who ride commuter bikes, a bike path filed with gravel, glass, or trash is almost worse than not having a lane. As a result of all of this, nearly every bicyclist on Oahu has at least one story of near death, honking and yelling motorists who think bicycles don’t have the right to use lanes, angry pedestrians who rightly don’t think bicyclists should be on the sidewalks, or flat tires caused by badly maintained bike lanes.

Much of this frustration boiled over on Friday, February 29th when hundreds of bicycle riders took to the streets in a flash mob style critical mass ride through rush hour traffic on some on Oahu’s busiest (and most dangerous to bike riders) streets. The ride was spread from person to person using word of mouth, text messaging, craigslist, and cellphones. Since it is against the law to have an unregistered parade, organizers didn’t really organize anything. There was no set route, no official rally cry, and no agenda. In fact, there weren’t really even any organizers- simply a bunch of people who are tired of being treated like they don’t deserve to be able to use Oahu’s busy roads.

Among those who rode were visitors from mainland cities who saw the notice on craigslist and decided to rent bikes and participate. “We ride in critical mass rides in Chicago,” a visitor said. “It’s crazy there. Thousands of riders blocking traffic for hours on end. It’s really paved the way to make Chicago a more bike friendly city.”

Her husband pointed out that Chicago officials have tried to make the Critical Mass rides illegal but they continue to happen on the last Friday of every month. “It’s like trying to put protestors in a protest zone,” he said. “It goes against the main point.”

And the main point of Critical Mass is that if enough bike riders band together, they can turn the tables on who rules the road. Motorists on Oahu got a taste of what it’s like to play second fiddle with Friday’s ride. Riders gathered at the state capital starting at 4:30 pm and then rode through busy downtown streets, Chinatown then on to King Street all the way to Kalakaua and a slow ride through Waikiki. Riders occupied all lanes and made the larger, usually dangerous vehicles wait. Some motorists became irate and began to lay on their horns, aggressively bump the rear tires of the bicycles in the rear, or yell foul epithets from their air conditioned interiors.

Riders generally responded with the much used call and response “Who’s streets?” “Our streets.” Several riders were ticketed by police in Chinatown though most chose not to stop when the police turned on their siren. One bystander on Nu’uanu asked “Is the point of this that you can break the law?” a rider responded by saying that the point was that bicyclists are treated as second class citizens on Oahu. The overwhelming response of pedestrians was to cheer as the bikes went by. Numerous bicyclists who were heading the other direction turned around and joined the fun ride and this caused cheers from spectators and riders alike.

Noticeably absent were the colorful faux-Lemond bike jerseys and expensive bicycle shorts, though at least one such rider sprinted through the mass and cussed about how it was slowing him down. Friday’s riders were mostly un-helmeted, casually dressed, every day people who like to use their bikes to get from place to place. Some riders wore political messages on their shirts such as “One less car on the road” or “Bikes are zero-emission”. Slogans seemed to be the exception rather than the rule though and overpriced bikes and gear were not observed amongst the crowd- except for the one angry Lemonde wannabe.

The critical mass was a huge success with the ride finishing where it began around 7 pm.
One sad personal note, after the Critical Mass I joined friends at the Ward Entertainment Complex. While I was eating spaghetti, someone snipped my bike cable and made off with my ride. Security was nowhere to be found. Don’t worry though, I have another bike. If you’d like to become involved in bicycle politics or just meet for a casual weekly ride, you can join us at Manoa Gardens on Thursdays at 4:30 pm. We plan on riding for an hour, then drinking beers and talking story. See you there. </blockquote>