Lau Lau for Christmas Dinner
It was six years ago on Christmas day. My then eight year old son and I were snorkeling about 40 yards off shore at Poipu Beach Kauai. Having taken weekly swimming lessons since he was just 9 months old Taylor felt safe swimming with me out and around a point in hopes of seeing one of the endangered huge green sea turtles.
As we rounded the point up swam two local men with spear guns. They were worried, "Should the boy be out here?" they asked, "Usually only local keiki (kids) come out this far.
Well, "Yes he's been doing this for two years" I replied.
"Well that's good brah, but hey you want to catch an octopus?" he pointed the question directly at Taylor.
"Sure, I can dive to 18 feet" he shouted over the noise of the surf.
"You can not,"
"Yes I can."
"OK, big boy follow me," he challenged He swam with my only child and soon I saw both of them go feet up and straight down down into the blue pacific.
By the time I could get my mask into the water, I saw my little boy shooting straight back up to the surface with a 18" octopus in his fist. "Look Dad, look what I got. He was right there under the coral"
We swam to shore with the octopus in hand. My son with the idea of examining and releasing it. Our hosts with the intention of eating it. But Taylor is also a long time sushi eater and was happy to see how the ink drained onto the sand and back into the water. As we all ate raw octopus my wife and I chatted with the fisherman's buddy.
"Hey, what you doing out here on Christmas day? Your family here?" he inquired.
"No we're all spread out all over so Penny, and Taylor and I come to Hawaii - our favorite place to seek a little peace and quiet at Christmas time," I explained.
"No Ohana (family) eh? That must be hard yea?" he was looking out to the ocean. In an area where many bread winners work two jobs to pay the exorbitant cost of living, nothing is as important as family. "So what you having for dinner?"
"Oh I found a quarter turkey to cook," chimed in Penny with pride she at least had the traditional dish.
"That's no good," he said, "No good to be away from family. No, I think you go home with us for Christmas. Mama is making Lau Lau. Plenty for everyone. That's settled then. You are coming to our house for Christmas." We hadn't said a word.
It really wasn't a question. It was a commandment. And so we, perhaps a little homesick, walked down the beach and up a street to where we found his home and his family and shared a wonderful Christmas dinner Hawaiian Style. The food was delicious. The hospitality was sensational.
FREE GUAVA PIE:
Sure enough Sis came quickly and brought us shrimp appetizers without being asked, "It's very busy. I'll be right back. Here is a little something to tide you over. No charge." We eventually ordered a wonderful meal but, due to the size of the crowd, service was a little slow and Sis came by frequently to apologize. At the end I ordered a piece of Guava pie to go. But after I signed the receipt she came back with a full pie in a box explaining, "Sorry we're so slow tonight. I gave you a little extra for waiting. Mahalo (thank you) and Aloha."
It was a revelation last year when I realize another reason I enjoy the music so much. I was sitting in a small auditorium on the Kauai College Campus listening to Amy Hanaialii Gilliom. She has extraordinary singing skills and, although a young woman, has mastered the old ha'i (falsetto) music style of old Hawaii. She had the 500 person audience in the palm of her hand as she sang songs of old Hawaii and then dedicated one to her "Tutu" (Grandmother).
That's when it hit me. Another reason I like Hawaiian music because it is in contrast to much of contemporary music. Rather than complaining about "Ho's" (the mainland derogatory term) - Hawaiian music glorifies the seemingly small but actually monumentally important aspects of our lives - things like about grandmothers and sunrises and sunsets.
He sang in both English and Hawaiian and may be best known for his haunting medley of "Somewhere under the Rainbow" and "It’s a wonderful life." Not all my friends understand when I tell them I love the music from a 500 pound Hawaiian. But they have all seen the "ER" television episode where Dr. Mark Green, a navy brat who grew up in Hawaii, dies peacefully in his sleep as Bruddah Iz music plays in the background. Most are moved to tears by the tender voice of a giant man.
Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a very big many in every sense of the word. He played a tiny soprano ukulele first with a group "Makaha Sons" and later as a solo artist. He died at the age of 38 some six years ago caused my complications of his massive size. In his short life "Bruddah Iz" became a legend. His last album stayed on the world music charts for an astounding 200 weeks in a row. When he passed away he lay in state in the Hawaii capital, an honor never bestowed on anyone else. Over 18,000 people paid their respects.
What was it they saw in him? Aside from his massive music and voice, Iz promoted the concept of Aloha saying often, "The world will be a better place when its more like Hawaii." He was talking about the spirit of Aloha and Ohana. The acceptance of others and the challenges we face in melding together. Maybe that is why today, six years after his passing, he is still the top selling artist in Hawaii.
When Kealii Reichel came to Portland Oregon where my Mom lives we bought tickets and attended what proved to be a therapeutic concert by this charismatic performer. Already fans, we were not ready for what I have learned happens at the end of many Hawaiian shows. The audience rises and holds hands and sings a song a kind of Hawaiian anthem. It doesn't matter if you don't know the Hawaii words. Because no one could fail to grasp the message of Aloha.
TIEING IT TOGETHER:
Let's hope we can do as good a job as most in Hawaii do.
Mele Kalikimaka & Haouli Makahiki Hou.
(Merry Christmas & Happy New Year)
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