Monday, May 31, 2010

Maui Views - I'ao Valley

Here's a little taste of Maui.  One of the biggest of the Hawaiian Islands and a destination for many of those 

preferring a "resort" holiday.  Too bad people arrive at their big beige and pink hotels with golf courses planted to remind them of Connecticut or San Diego

 and never go outside to see the stunning natural beauty of Maui.  If you only have a little bit of time to travel between the islands, to the northwest, just outside Kahului where the airport is located, is the I'ao valley.  (The drive from Kahului to Kapalua and back in the same corner of the island is also shorter than the famous drive to Hana and will give you much more intimate views of island life.)

Where you will get gorgeous views and a snapshot of Hawaiian life and culture before the islands became highly developped.  The I'ao Valley State Park has hikes and streams and Hawaiian sites as well as a "village" of houses representing the various cultures that predominate in Hawaii.

  There you will see charming examples of Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, Philipino and Portuguese typical homes.  

And be reminded of the simple appeal of being in Hawaii, to just be outdoors in it's gentle air

and immerse yourself in its waters.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Here are a few more glimpses of Paradise for you all.

  Hope you find a little of your own kind of Paradise this weekend!

Lantern Floating Ceremony - Honolulu

Every Memorial Day in Honolulu, at the end of a lazy day at the beach,  a ceremony takes place

that embraces all, visitors to the island, and locals alike, to honor and remember

their departed loved ones.  It derives from a Japanese tradition and is presided over by a local Japanese Buddhist leader.   

People are able to write messages, thoughts, prayers, or simply the names of their loved ones 

on square paper lanterns which are lit by candles from the inside.   Some push them directly into the sea from the shore.  Others are loaded onto double-hulled canoes which are rowed out beyond the breakwaters.  Where the lanterns are set out onto the sea - to float away into the wider world.

As the evening falls people gather closer to the shore, in order to see.  The boats set out.  A hush falls on everyone.

Some go out into the water for a closer look.

And peace descends.  

Here's a link to the event website's flickr photostream that will give you a better look at the lanterns. And maybe the inspiration to have a lantern floating festival wherever it is that you live.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

By Special Request - More Honolulu Pics

So Thomas from At My Porch asked me to post some pictures of other buildings he liked and knew from his time in Honolulu a couple years back.  In fact there are some quite remarkable structures here and it might take me awhile to get around to all of them, once I start compiling my own list.  I'll start above with the Hawaii State Art Museum which is located right across the street from Iolani Palace and the State Capitol.  It looks like a big pink cake from the front which I find very pleasing.  Inside is a very nice selection of mostly Hawaiian artists.  It's definitely worth a visit if you are in town.  You will be very impressed by the collection, the level of craftsmanship and sophistication of the ideas incorporated into the art making.

There is also a good little restaurant in here called DownTown (open for lunch only) which has a sister restaurant called Town in Kaimuki (Honolulu neighborhood overlooking the Diamond Head crater).  The food is extremely fresh Mediterranean style cuisine made daily (lots of vegetables, lightly prepared, but savory with flavors allowed to announce themselves)  with a slight island twist and a huge proportion of the ingredients locally produced.  The Town family are very proud to be part of the Slow Food movement.  Eating at one or the other of these is always a highlight of my visits.  

I also posted this building because of the stories associated with it.  It was once the place on land that U.S. servicemen would come to during WWII for help, food, a shower, whatever it was they needed before or after stretching their legs around and about Honolulu.  Apparently it was not uncommon that the polished floor of the lobby would be covered at night with the bodies of sleeping servicemen who had not managed other arrangements after their nights on the town.  It's an image that you have to chuckle at.

Here is the Alexander and Baldwin building, one that Thomas requested.  It is an elegant, imposing Italianate structure.  Beautiful decorated with graceful ornaments and tile in a fusion of art nouveau and Chinese vernacular styles.

I'm morally ambivalent about this building because it was built by the offspring of missionaries who became extremely wealthy during their time in Hawaii and undoubtedly profited from the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.  They are some of the largest landowners in Hawaii, having been involved in the sugar and pineapple plantations as well as now owning the shipping entity that has a virtual monopoly on transportation of almost everything between Hawaii and the mainland and around the South Pacific.  But there is no question that whoever was responsible for this building at A&B had excellent taste or excellent judgement in architectural advice.

Get aload of the Kanaka (Hawaiian) feet in the rubber slippers.  You don't see those kine everyday!

Beautiful chinese carvings.  Lotsa limestone.

In England this would be called Edwardian tile work I think.  Not sure exactly what date we're working from here.  Maybe Thomas will know.

A soupcon of Spanish/Moorish style in the tiles, LOVE LOVE those limestone planters with the carved feet.  Where have you ever seen anything like that?  Love the laciness of the coral.

Planter details, in case you want to recreate this at your house!

Gorgeous doors and entry ways.

Next up the Brewer House.  This house was difficult to photograph because a narrow mall and then a highrise were pressed right up against it from the front and you can see from the back it was also squeezed by skyscrapers.  Also built for one of the "Big Five" families/entities who had the Hawaiian economy in their grip during the "territorial" days.  The Brewers eventually sold many of their holdings to A&B.

I would say this is a blend of Asian and Spanish/Moorish styles.  (Thomas help me out!)  But it's beautiful

in its sobriety and its volumes, the warmth of the stones used to construct it, its positive and negative spaces, Japanese roof lines, and tiling which contribute a wonderful heft and texture.  As well as lightening the whole via the subtly reflective quality of the roof tiles.  It's a wonderful example/precursor of a residential style that has been reproduced with varying degrees of success across the islands.

Love this entry way.  Aren't you convinced that inside it would be a cool and soothing atmosphere where only murmuring goes on and refreshing drinks are served?

A couple more examples.  The one above dates from the late 1870's.  I would call it a sort of Victorian Italianate melange.  The chunkiness blended with the lacey-ness is very typical of local styles from that time.

More chunkiness and great texture with local lava stone in a building that was occupied by Japanese merchants I'm guessing.  And pretty classically Victorian brick and paintwork behind.

A window 

at the Honolulu Police Department!  This must have been the very first Police Station in Honolulu.  Pretty Spanish huh?  But still so pretty.  They haven't tried to ruin improve it.

And remember that deco Fire Station from my earlier post?  Here's what's using up all its airspace these days.  Can't stop progress apparently!  All of this can be walked and seen in less than an hour and is steps from Chinatown.  On the other hand, there's something called the beach............

For more Hawaii architecture posts see my LABELS on the right.  

Thanks to all of you who left such nice comments on the last post.  It's always tough to untangle the homecoming feelings every time I come back so that was harder to "write" than I expected it to be.  So nice you "got" it!

Aloha!  Ahui Hou!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Corner View - At the End of the Street

At the end of the street, when I am visiting in Hawaii, this is what I find: Chinatown.  But it is an END only in that sense, that it is what I find at the end of a short journey.  Or if an end is only really about coming full circle.

Because this  is the place where my story of life really BEGAN.  And where the story of the Chinese in Honolulu began. Where many, including my mother's family, marked time in cramped Chinatown rooms, until they could find the house up in the green hills underneath a mango tree.  (Which looking up the streets to catch a glimpse of, is still one of the prettiest sights in the world to me.)

For me, it was the starting point from which my mother and I left, journeying on a bus in a morning rain over the cane filled hills to visit one of her sisters.  This is where my love affair with food and color incubated, as I accompanied my grandmother on her Saturday shopping trips.  This is where, shopping with my mother, we would meet old friends of hers from highschool and stop in dim restaurants to eat huge bowls of crispy wonton and noodles studded with chunks of red roast pork and green vegetables.  Under lacquered lanterns and the cooling breezes of giant fans.

Which would keep me looking for such noodles everywhere I went for the rest of my life!

This is where my love of the search began.  The search for the delicious, and sunny, measured, sheltered pleasure.

Today this place doesn't know itself if it's at a beginning or an end.

Daily it still buzzes with color and vibrancy.  The shops open early and bring their goodies out onto the streets.  The shoppers pour out of buses and stream down alleys to find both necessities and delight.

It is vivid and pungent.  Aromatic and sweet.  Fish still flop here in tubs of fresh water.  And whatever

 you want to eat, from any part of any animal, you can find it.  (Oh, does that spoil the tone a bit?)

But many of Honolulu's Chinese no longer come here, businesses have been taken over by Vietnamese and Phillipinos, intent on their own beginnings.  Once the Vietnamese restauranteurs tried to rename the area (or at least a street) for Saigon.  This was met with a great outcry.  And ultimately never happened.   All the Chinese came out of the hills and the suburbs:  "Impossible!"  This was still and always would be CHINATOWN.  Somebody's auntie or grandma would ALWAYS need to come here to buy lychee in season, or chinese parsley cheaper than at the supermarket or a special sauce or noodles or dried fish.  It was the Chinese who built and made Chinatown.  Just because it wasn't SO Chinese anymore didn't mean that it STOPPED 


And yet, many of the buildings are neglected now.  People no longer meet here for banquets or do major deals in Chinatown.  Only a few dragon dancers still train here, the noodle makers and jewelers are disappearing.  The pharmacies with their mysterious bins, jars, and drawers of dried shards, stalks and powders are part of myth and legend now.

The beauty queens are a relic of times past.   It's not what it was.

But Chinatown will never be OVER in the minds of the local Chinese.

Never.  Over.  Because to them, life is a circle.  There is neither a beginning nor an end.  It is all one. 

Absolute Oneness.

We are neither Coming or Going.  In or Out.  Up or Down.  Cold or Hot.  Near or Far.  But a little bit of each.  So that we keep ourselves in balance.  So that we can get to the end of that next street. And (as I keep discovering) find our starting point again.................!

For other Corner Views:  jane, ladybug-zen, ian, bonnie, esti, sophie, cele, modsquad,

Monday, May 24, 2010

Much Aloha!

Sorry for a bit of a late start to the week - I've snuck off to Honolulu, naughty me.  I've caught myself a bit wrong footed.  I have loads of L.A. themed posts for you but very little prepared Hawaii stuff.  But maybe you will like a look at the variety of architecture you'll find in Honolulu.  All to be found in a very small area, i.e., you could walk a couple hours in a circle and see all these things.

This is a gorgeously sited Spanish colonial style compound of buildings called McKinley Highschool.  If Obama hadn't gone to the posh private school down the road, he probably would have ended up here!

A beautiful, soberly colored quite large Japanese temple.  Oh! and Yes!  It might have been infiltrated by Christians - I'm noticing that cross in front......It happens.  Especially in Hawaii.

A deco fire station on the borders of Chinatown

A mid-century high rise that is now empty and for lease, last tenant was a homeless shelter.  Hawaii, like everywhere else is in love only with it's new construction and leaves the old stuff in the dust.

Another sixties relic, a parking garage.  There is now an art gallery in the ground floor which is ground zero for a vibrant community art scene.

Another view of "Mark's Garage" - love all the stripe-y action going on!

This is the state Archive building.  I have a feeling it soon will be outgrown, if it is not already.  It is sited well off the road, so if you are visiting Honolulu, you'll really have to look to find it, between the State Capitol Building and Iolani Palace.  It may be an "Ossipoff" building.  He is the premier Honolulu mid-century architect whose buildings are very prized here.  I love the volumes of the overhang, the square window panes, and the siting under a giant banyan tree. The State Capitol building echoes some of these themes with a top heavy structure supported by columns and verticals that could remind one of banyan shoots.

So it's not all about grass shacks and pink hotels.  (Or Tiffany's and Coach!)

I must say, I'm glad to be here.  I drove through Chinatown and all the smells of my childhood wafted out at me.  And I can't wait to get some brioche-y raisin bread from St. Germain, our local Franco-Japanese bakery.  Ono-ono as we say here. 

OK All!  Much Aloha and more soon!