Talking Story

Hawaii Stories

I’m working on an introduction to short story I wrote that’s going to be in an anthology of retold fairy and other traditional tales published by University of Hawaii. My into is waaaaaay overdue. I’m working on the fourth completely new version–I didn’t like my previous attempts. Hoping fourth time’s the charm.

But as I’ve been thinking about fairy tales and what makes a story Hawaiian vs Islander vs Malihini vs Outsider, I remembered the first time I heard a western fairy tale told through an islander lens. It was a record called Pidgin English Children’s Stories. I heard  it in the “listening center” at Kahului or maybe Kihei elementary school, a corner of a large classroom that had a record player and a couple of big can headphones that connected into the player with giant phone jacks. The headphones were so big–or our heads were so small–we had to hold  them onto our heads with both hands. When I close my eyes, I can still smell the dusty wood smell of the cabinet where the records were kept and even  feel the wobbly cardboard cover. We had two records in our listening center–this one and “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones. Not kidding. Life really is weirder than fiction.

It’s also true that everything is on the internet. Originally recorded in 1961, I found one of the stories from the album–Cinderella–on YouTube. Listening to it again, here’s a lot I didn’t understand as a kid. But maybe the best stories are that way–they grow with us. If you’re interested, here’s the link. And now to get back to that intro I’m writing! (Sorry! It’s coming today, promise!)

  • The caress of humidity and the weight of bushy, bushy hair.
  • The way the elderly security guard’s curt aloha changes when you catch his eye and say, “Oh, ovah dere? Eh, mahalo, Uncle. I get ‘em now.”
  • How his smile now reaches his eyes.
  • Breathing after saltwater goes up your nose and finally clears decades of desert from your sinuses.
  • The newly sharp scent of everything—plumeria, red dirt, garbage, gecko dust, keawe smoke, laundry soap, and coconut sunscreen slathered on pink skin carrying big Matsumoto’s rainbow shave ice.
  • When driving along Kamehameha highway, wave as you slow just enough to let cars merge or turn in front of you because giving them two of your seconds now can literally save hours for others later.
  • Quick car beeps are for howzit; long honks are from the mainland.
  • Modesty and respect are mindsets and not measured in inches.
  • “Where are you from?” and “Where did you go to school?” are the first steps in an intricate how-are-we-related dance.
  • ‘Ohana means EVERY TIME you walk past a certain bakery, the owner chases you through the parking lot and gives you loaves of his amazing bread because you are friends with his cousin’s cousin’s friend.
  • Nervous tourists constantly approach you with questions because you seem to know things like how to get places, what to order, and where bathrooms are. You have to remind yourself to switch off the Pidgin when you respond.
  • It’s “locals,” not Hawaiians, unless they are kanaka maoli.
  • Don’t ask cashiers and security guards where’s a good place to eat. Ask them where THEY like to eat. Kalua pork wrapped in luau leaves and cooked in an imu is a thousand times better than in an Instant Pot, crockpot, or oven. Real plate lunches have poi as a side option. Real haupia tastes like coconut, not cornstarch.
  • Kids and teachers give you side eye when you first walk through the door. You can almost see the WTF thought balloons over their heads. But five minutes later they are calling you Aunty and laughing. They never ask how to pronounce Lehua or Niuhi. Their burning questions are all about ‘Ilima, the dog who obviously isn’t just a dog.

#homeagain #amwriting #HawaiiStories #OneBoyNoWater

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