The Man in the Sculpture Garden April 25, 2013Posted by Kelly in : Entertainment, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
The Man in the Sculpture Garden
In 1969, Henry Bianchini and his family were sailing their trimaran from San Diego to a new life Hawaii. From far out at sea, they saw Kilauea erupt at Mauna Ulu. It wasn’t obvious, at that moment, but the Bianchinis would stay and make their home here, and Henry – Hank to his friends – would become one of the Big Island’s most respected and successful artists.
He works in many media. As a painter, he does oil portraits and abstracts on canvas. As a sculptor, he works in ceramics, wood, stone and cast concrete, not only carving individual pieces but joining them in assemblages and collages. And as a metal-worker in bronze and steel, he employs heavy machinery and wields a welding torch to make both sculptures for display and artistic but utilitarian pieces such as driveway gates. His studio is almost as big as his house, and behind them both is a half-acre backyard sculpture garden that is also his largest gallery.
Some of his works are whimsical and abstract, like “Enlightening the Spirit,” installed at Ha’aheo Elementary School, near Hilo; or “Rain Woman,” which is in a private collection. Others, like his statue of Hawaii’s King Kalakaua, installed in downtown Hilo’s eponymous Kalakaua Park, are life-size and naturalistic.
“Rain Woman” stands in a private collection, overlooking Hilo.
Still others mix the figurative with the imaginative, as he showed last month when he unveiled his latest grand-scale work. It was commissioned by a longtime patron in Los Angeles who wanted a sculpture, in his late wife’s memory, to be installed at his synagogue. Called “A Plea for Peace,” it incorporates symbolic Hebrew letters into the figures whose arms are raised to plea.
“A Plea for Peace” has been installed in a Los Angeles synogogue.
Making it, took Bianchini back to 1941, when he was six, on St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. His father was an Italian-American from New Jersey, serving in the U.S. Navy, and married to a Moroccan Jew from what was then called Palestine. When Nazi submarines started prowling the Caribbean, his and other service families were evacuated; so he has long had empathy for families who were lost elsewhere, in the war, and how important it is, still, to remember.
Sculptor Henry Bianchini with his new work, “A Plea for Peace.”
It wasn’t his family’s first or last move: before Hawaii, he’d lived in New Jersey, San Diego, even the Canadian province of Newfoundland. “Maybe it’s because we moved around a lot when I was a kid,” he said, “but in my art, I tend to skip the details and go straight to the essence. I look at everything, at the big picture, which is why my sculptures are typically simple. I have to describe myself as an ‘artist,’ but that word is inadequate. I’m multi-layered and adaptable.”
If you ask him about the key influences on his art, he’ll respond: “Picasso and Matisse – but that doesn’t say it all. I could get into specifics about the periods in those artists’ creative lives that inspired me – the years when they were the bridges between Post-Impressionism and Modernism. But that doesn’t say enough, either. Maybe it’s better to say my art is a kind of jazz.” (In his youth he did, in fact, try playing jazz saxophone, but quickly realized that his real talents were in the visual arts.) “I say jazz, meaning improvising on a theme,” he explained. “Where it starts – the inspiration – and where it ends – the finished work – is what I see in its entirety.”
There’s more about Henry Bianchini, and photos of his works, at www.henrybianchiniart.com.
“New” Bus Terminal and More at Mo’oheau Park February 26, 2013Posted by Kelly in : Big Island Hawaii, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
“New” Bus Terminal and More at Mo’oheau Park
When the Hawaii County Bandstand got some minor improvements a few months ago, it merely set the stage for a larger project next door. Now the bus terminal has been thoroughly renovated, and there’s more work in the offing to improve Mo’oheau Park on the Hilo bayfront, across from the Farmers’ Market.
The bus terminal had been showing its age for years, but steadily increasing patronage was overtaxing it. Besides serving many of the County’s Hele On bus routes, it’s a drop-off/pickup point for tour vehicles. The Hilo Information Center is in the middle of the terminal; that’s where the Downtown Improvement Association (DIA) provides bus schedules and informative maps and pamphlets about the Big Island. The terminal also has the only public restrooms in the vicinity, and they were certainly showing their age, too! So improvements were made to the curbs and sidewalks, the roof, the restrooms, the seating areas and the Information Center. The $664,000 upgrade also included mobility enhancements, so the entire facility is now in ADA compliance.
The DIA just produced its annual Chinese New Year festival close by, in the park – a festival that had traditionally been held in Kalakaua Park, a few blocks away. But it was moved to Mo’oheau Park this year because, as DIA Executive Director Alice Moon said: “We have more space here! We could accommodate only 21 vendors in Kalakaua Park. This year we had had 35 vendors, and we still have room for more. We also have a DIA office here. And of course, the bus terminal is here, and it has new bathrooms.
“But there’s another reason for the move,” she added. “Just as we did in Kalakaua Park, we brought a ‘positive’ activity to what had been a run-down park that attracted ‘problem people’ with bad behavior – a place where you just didn’t want to go. Now you want to go there! I have to say that these free community events cost the DIA money – and we’re still accepting donations (at www.downtownhilo.com) to help cover the Chinese New Year festival. But events like that are proven to make our parks better places, for the benefit of everyone in Hilo.”
Next up for Mo’oheau Park is another much-needed improvement. If you have ever driven around and around the parking lot there, searching for an empty slot, especially on a Wednesday or Saturday – the biggest Farmers’ Market days – you will appreciate this change. Between now and the start of Merrie Monarch Week, on March 31, the grassy medians in the lot between the bus terminal and Haili St. will be altered or removed – their trees will be replanted at the Panaewa Zoo – and the lines will be repainted, yielding 40 more stalls. (The lot between Haili and Kalakaua St. will get a similar treatment, starting in April.)
There is open space in Mo’oheau Park, notably the big fields used for soccer and football practice, where a few small fairs are also set up during the course of the year. But Hilo has no shortage of green parkland: the whole bayfront between Ponahawai and Manono Streets, all the way up mauka to the County and State Buildings, was turned into open space after the devastation wrought by the 20th century’s two giant tsunamis. So Mo’oheau Park is not needed as (nor is it intended to be) a green oasis. Rather, it serves as a reminder that some city parks can also be much-needed urban amenities: in this case, a utilitarian bus terminal, a clean fairground, a vintage bandstand and, yes, a big parking lot.
She Paddles Her Own Canoe February 13, 2013Posted by Kelly in : HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
SHE PADDLES HER OWN CANOE
“It didn’t start out as a business,” Kealla Zoll insists. “I was just looking for uniforms for my canoe-paddling team, and couldn’t find them.” But that’s how things turn out, sometimes, when a hobby morphs into an opportunity: in her case, to open a shop called Hilo Bay Paddler.
If you haven’t seen them, outrigger canoe races are a marvelous spectacle on Hilo Bay. Looking old-fashioned, but built with modern materials, they’re launched from a park near the Wailoa River bridge, and race along the bayfront, parallel to Hilo’s huge black sand beach. The short races – called regattas – start in April; long-distance races start in August. Those typically have teams of twelve, with six paddlers in the boat at all times; three paddlers get “refreshed” every 20 minutes: the new ones jump into the water from a support-boat, and swim to their canoe, climbing in just as the paddlers they’re replacing jump out.
Keala is a local girl (“I’m a St. Joseph’s High School Cardinal”) who – like many others – went to college on the mainland; her degree in Physical Therapy helped her to care for her dying mother-in-law at home. After that, Keala took a much-needed vacation in Tahiti, to join some Kawaihae friends in a canoe race; but she has done far more racing back home on the Big Island. For the past 20 years, she has paddled with the Puna Canoe Club, working her way up to the key position of “steersman.” Like the coxswain in a rowing match, the steersman not only maneuvers the boat but serves as de facto captain, calling out encouragements and keeping the paddlers in rhythm.
In that capacity, she went looking for uniforms, but couldn’t find what she wanted in the only shops in Hilo – for surfers or divers – that might have carried them. She contacted a sales-and-marketing man in California for the Patagonia brand of outdoor gear, obtained some at a discount, and started selling uniforms and other paddling accessories, mainly those designed for women, like sports-bras, shorts and tops. Especially important, here in the tropics, are shirts whose fabrics are sun-blockers, filtering out 98 percent of ultraviolet rays. Her “shop,” however, was the trunk of her car.
In early 2004, though, came an incentive to have a retail store: the World Sprints paddling competition would be held in Hilo that August. By then, she was selling sportswear and (of course) canoe paddles; so she had much more merchandise than her trunk could hold. Wanting to be close to the bayfront, she went looking all over downtown Hilo, and found that a bike shop was moving out of a storefront on tiny Furneaux Lane, just off Kam Avenue, one block from the Farmers’ Market. She rented the space, repainted the walls, put in a new floor, and built racks for her merchandise; a local artist made a logo for her signage.
Hilo Bay Paddlers opened shortly before the World Sprints, with gear not only by Patagonia but the Xcel brand too. “Customers lined up outside, and I sold almost everything I had in two weeks.” Business grew, over the years, as canoe-racing became more and more popular, and expanded again as the craze for stand-up paddling came along, although Keala notes: “I still don’t sell surfboards.”
Feeling restless, she started working part-time at the Hilo Veterans’ Home on Waianuenue Ave., drawing upon her physical-therapy skills much as she had done for her late mother-in-law. She’d intended only to volunteer there, but they hired her; and when a full-time job opened up last year, and she took it. “I knew many of the vets already, through family connections. I loved their stories of Hilo in the old days, and I felt it was important to give something back to them.”
So although she has some regrets about leaving Hilo Bay Paddlers, she’s ready to sell the business – I’m representing her in the sale. But she still paddles every chance she gets. “It’s a great sport,” she says, “and anyone of any age can do it.”
What’s So Funny About Nuns? February 7, 2013Posted by Kelly in : Entertainment, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND, Upcoming Events , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
What’s So Funny About Nuns?
Everybody knows that “Broadway” means big theatrical extravaganzas, but in New York, “off-Broadway” shows are smaller productions in smaller theaters or even cabarets. Now, one of the most famous and popular of off-Broadway shows is coming to the Big Island. It’s the outrageous, hilarious (and slightly irreverent) musical “Nunsense.” Performances start February 8th at the Kilauea Theater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through February 23rd.
As you might expect, “Nunsense” is about Catholic nuns, five of them, and they are in a pickle. Nearly all of the sisters in their convent have perished accidentally, and the survivors decide to stage a variety show to raise money so they can bury them. To put the best face on their predicament, they tap into their inner divas, singing, dancing, and – not always intentionally – clowning around.
Producer-Director Suzi Bond is a bundle of energy who regularly presents two musicals a year at the Kilauea Theater. One is typically for and with children, such as “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast” (which is coming up this summer); the other offers more grownup fare, such as “The Fantasticks” and the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Three of the five “nuns” are well-loved veterans of Suzi’s shows: in last year’s “Cinderella,” Stephanie Becher, Erin Gallagher and Christina Hussey were (respectively) the stepmother and the two ugly stepsisters. Kathy Frankovic has sung in two musicals at Hilo’s Palace Theater, including “The Music Man” in which Corey Yester was Marian the Librarian.
To say “Nunsense” is a theater classic is an understatement. The original New York production ran for nine years – it’s the third-longest-running off-Broadway show ever. It spawned a couple of spinoffs, and is widely performed all over the world in twenty different languages. The reasons for its success go beyond its hilarity: there’s sympathy for the sisters’ lifestyle as well as their predicament, and there is quite a lot of interaction with the audience, in both expected and unexpected ways.
Kathy plays the Mother Superior and says – with a hint of what her character will do in the name of show-business – “It’s falling-down funny!”
Tickets are $15; students and seniors pay $12; children $10. Advance sales are available at the Kilauea General Store in Volcano, Kea’au Natural Foods in the Kea’au Shopping Center, and at Paradise Plants and The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo. For reservations and more information, phone 982-7344.
Warming the Big Island for 30 Years October 29, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Big Island Hawaii, Featured Listings, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND, Updates , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Warming the Big Island for 30 Years
“You’ve got a fireplace? In Hawaii?” People might be incredulous, but think about it. Very few houses here have insulation in their walls; none, certainly, have a boiler or any source of heat beyond sunlight through the windows – and those are generally single-pane windows, not the heat-retaining double-glazed kind. But even here, where there is no snow and ice, there is great joy to be found in just sitting around a fire . . . it strikes a chord deep in the human psyche.
Fireplaces here in Hawaii have been Jeffrey Mermel’s business since 1979, when he bought two wood stoves, put one in his house, and sold the other. His shop is called the Fireplace & Home Center; but for Jeffrey, the word “fireplace” is a relative term. It means not only a built-in or freestanding stove, but a “fire feature” for the home, that burns LP gas or (the newest thing) bio-ethanol, which needs neither a gas line nor a chimney. There are even electric fireplaces! “Well . . .” he admits, “an electric fireplace is really a piece of furniture that displays an image of a fire.”
His shop also offers grills, both gas and charcoal, from small portable units to big outdoor-kitchen size. He has pizza ovens that come as a kit, with firebricks placed on a Styrofoam mold. (One customer in Kohala mounted the oven on a trailer, as a snack wagon, to make pizzas along the roadside.) Jeffrey’s wood stoves are popular all over the island, but especially in the higher elevations, like Waimea and Volcano, where winter temperatures can fall into the 40s or even the 30s. (No insulation, remember?) And he also represents a line of saunas, from Finland, that use infrared heat, for “all of the health benefits of a traditional sauna, but at lower temperatures.”
Jeffrey came to Hilo in 1976 from San Francisco, where he had been a photographer. Here he met and married Sally, who owned a gift shop on Keawe St. “I married a retailer,” he says, “and became one myself.” (By the way, Sally also liked fresh-brewed coffee, but couldn’t find a decent cup near her store; so she started Bear’s, which is still in the coffee business there on Keawe St.) But Sally didn’t give up working when she married Jeffrey. They moved both of their enterprises together, twenty years ago, into the split halves of a single storefront on Kamehameha Ave. in downtown Hilo.
Sally’s half is called The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo. And what is so “irresistible” about it? A variety of merchandise that can realistically claim to offer something for everyone: jewelry, toys, books, shirts, decorative art, hats, souvenirs, lamps, Christmas gifts, tea and saki sets, kitchenware, pareus (sarongs), tee shirts, scarves, postcards, purses, spices, sauces, candies, and locally-made soaps. “She’s got ‘the eye’ for things!” Jeffrey says proudly.
Jeffrey sells his “fire features” statewide. So, you may be wondering (as I did): How many fireplaces are there, here in Hawaii? “Enough,” says Jeffrey with a smile, “to put our two kids through college!”
[Me (on the right) with my friends Jeffrey and Sally Mermel, in front of their store on Kam Avenue in Hilo.]
… and these two businesses are now for sale! Both adjacent businesses are being sold together. This is a rare opportunity to step into a business venture with a long and positive track record. Jeffrey and Sally have done the hard work building a solid positive reputation for both businesses, and they are also willing to train Buyers during the transition period.
To see all the details and virtual tour, click here:
Southbound (Part 2 of 2) October 24, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Big Island Hawaii, Hawaii Travel, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND, Scenic Drives , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
[Part 2 of 2 – Click here for Part 1]
No place in Ka’u is more compelling than Ka Lae: literally “the point,” but popularly (and on road signs) called South Point. This is probably where the first voyaging Polynesians made landfall in the Hawaiian Islands. You might not think its barren lava, rocky bays, wind-blown sand dunes and incessant currents would make for an inviting anchorage, but after months at sea in a double-hulled canoe, it must have seemed sheltering indeed.
[Graffiti artists made this “signboard” at Ka Lae.]
Those famously brisk winds are why two wind-turbine “farms” have been built along the road to South Point. The first, erected in the 1970s, was later dismantled – you’ll see the segments of its towers piled up like giant abstract sculptures. The newest wind turbines, though, are fully up and twirling, and contributing their share to the island’s electrical grid.
[Cliff-jumpers and lookers-on gather at Ka Lae. Wind turbines in the distance contribute to the Big Island’s electricity grid.]
At the end of the road, you’ll want to see two sights: Ka Lae itself, the southernmost point in Hawaii, and the bizarre “green sand” beach.
[At the end of the trail , the first glimpse of the green sand beach in Ka’u, with its eroded cliff of layered lava and sand.]
[Looking down on the green sand beach from the clifftop above it.]
A panorama, seen from the green sand beach: its rocky shoreline and the beach itself ….
A panorama, seen from *above* the green sand beach ….
At Ka Lae, and especially on weekends, a few vendors will be opening fresh coconuts for drinking, or selling other snacks; and there’ll be a pair of porta-potties as well. But what you’ll remember best is the sight of youngsters jumping off the high cliffs into the sea, and climbing back up ladders and ropes so they can plunge in again and again. The guidebooks are right: don’t try this if nobody else is doing it, and even then, be very careful.
[A video of how it’s done at Ka Lae: you stand on the wooden platform on the cliff top, then step off ... ]
[Young women jump off the cliff at Ka Lae ...]
Four miles away, however, is Hawaii’s most unusual beach. To get there, drive one mile east from Ka Lae, park where other cars are parked (lock yours, too), and be prepared to hike three miles over lava and sand. Lather on the sunblock; there are no trees and no shade. Wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots; there isn’t much groundcover vegetation to cushion your feet. And pack in whatever you’ll want to eat and drink – there are no vendors, no services, no water and no toilets.
Don’t try to drive the trail yourself, even if you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The dunes have been deeply rutted, over the years, by off-road vehicles and motorcycles. So only folks who live nearby are likely to be experienced enough to know which tracks can be followed without getting stuck in sand or hung up on rocks. (Some local guys do offer rides, which you may well want to accept, one way or both; but tip the driver if you take him up on it.)
Why put yourself through the heat and exertion of trekking along this windiest, dustiest edge of the Ka’u coastline? Because at the end of the trail is a small bay whose steep beach is like no other. The “sand” there is mostly bits of olivine – a green, glassy mineral that exploded into billions of tiny fragments when the molten lava that carried it reached the cold sea. Mixed with black sand, which formed from regular lava in the same way and at the same time, olivine crystals give the beach a greenish tint that’s easy to see, but the color is surprisingly hard to capture accurately in a photograph.
Don’t even think about keeping a handful of olivine; taking any amount is against the law, and you could be fined much more than the price of a legal sample that you can buy in many souvenir shops. This isn’t a beach for sunbathing or even swimming: even more than on other Ka’u beaches, you should be cautious about going in the water if the weather is anything but pleasant, if the winds are more than slightly brisk, and especially if no one else is swimming.
Stand on the cliff top and look out beyond the beach to the sea: there’s nothing but ocean all the way to Tahiti. Turn around, and look up at Mauna Loa, and imagine how such a huge mountain must have looked to the first voyagers, and how far from anything familiar they must have felt. In Ka’u, you are more-or-less equidistant from urban Hilo and suburban Kailua-Kona – not only in distance but in feeling.
Southbound [part 1 of 2] October 11, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Big Island Hawaii, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND, Scenic Drives , add a comment
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Southbound [part 1 of 2]
Ka’u is the biggest district on this, the biggest Hawaiian island, and you get there by driving south from Hilo, Puna or Kona. The spaces are mostly wide-open, so getting from place-of-interest to place-of-interest takes a bit of time. But spending a couple of days in Ka’u will give you new insights into why people love this most remote segment of the Big Island.
From Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hwy 11 takes you south through a dry landscape, the makai side of which is appropriately called “the Ka’u desert.” On the mauka side, Mauna Loa’s steep palis stay green the year-round in a dry-land forest microclimate where rainfall is minimal, but capturing the moisture of clouds and fog enables trees both native and man-planted to grow tall.
A Tibetan Buddhist temple nestles there too, in Wood Valley, mauka of the town of Pahala. The Dalai Lama has been there twice, and a room for him is always kept available, should he ever arrive unexpectedly.
[The Tibetan Buddhist temple in Wood Valley, mauka of the town of Pahala.]
Visitors are welcome, but leave a donation if you enter the temple. And overnight accommodations are available for folks who wish to stay for a day or two of meditation and chanting.
[Tibetan Buddhists in Ka’u are committed to world peace, and have twice hosted the Dalai Lama in their temple.]
Casual visitors to Ka’u, however, or those who are intrigued by a glimpse of an earlier era, may want to stay in one of the nearby sugar-era homes now operated as vacation rentals by Pahala Plantation Cottages. And you can take a coffee break on the way back to Pahala from Wood Valley, with a stop at the Ka’u Coffee Mill.
[After an preliminary drying on the concrete floor (right) of the Ka’u Coffee Mill, in Pahala, coffee beans undergo a secondary drying in wooden trays.]
Continuing south, the county’s Punalu’u Beach Park has a palm-fringed black sand beach that’s the widest and most picturesque on the island.
[The black sand beach at Punalu’u; looking south toward the main pavilion, on a calm day.]
When sugar production ended, in the early 1990s, the plantation owner built a resort behind the beach, but only a few of its condos survive.
[An old wooden bridge over the pond at Punalu’u Beach Park is one of the few remnants of what its builders once hoped would be a resort.]
Local folks tend to camp and cluster on the north side of the park, near a cool, brackish pond, where the trees are tallest but the beach is steepest.
[A brackish pond behind the beach and the palms at Punalu’u Beach Park most likely was first built or improved by pre-contact Hawaiians as a fishpond.]
The beach on the sunnier south side has a gentler slope, restrooms, a big (rentable) pavilion and a paved parking lot. Sea turtles (honu) are an endangered species; if you see one waddle out of the sea to bask on the warm sand, look, but don’t touch.
[Look – but don’t touch – the wild sea-turtles (honu) that sun themselves on the beach at Punalu’u.]
The beach at Whittington Beach Park, a few miles farther south, is rockier and not as easily swimmable as the one at Punalu’u, but it boasts a bigger, more photogenic pond. And fewer people go there. In the 19th century it was Ka’u’s seaport, then called Honuapo, where interisland steamships anchored in the bay.
[The “beach” at Whittington Beach Park is not as easily swimmable as at Punalu’u, but fewer people go there, and the scenery is spectacular.]
Looking mauka from the water’s edge, you see Mauna Loa edge-on; yet even in that narrow profile, the immensity of the volcano will astonish you.
The town of Na’alehu, with close-by Waiohinu, is the largest population center in Ka’u. It has a supermarket, a bank, and most famously the Punalu’u Bakery – a must-stop for pastry lovers – from where you’ll also want to take home their justly famous “sweet bread” that makes a terrific French toast.
There’s more to see in Ka’u, but that should be enough for one day. I suggest you go even further south the next day, and what you’ll see there will be the subject of my next blog.
See Us at the Movies September 5, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Entertainment, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , 2comments
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
See Us at the Movies
Most people know that South Pacific and From Here to Eternity were filmed on Kauai and Oahu, respectively. But while the Big Island isn’t widely famous as a backdrop for movies, quite a few have been shot – or have had scenes shot – here.
The first were silent pictures, like The Hidden Pearls (1918) and The White Flower (1923), with backdrops of Kilauea Volcano. When talkies came in, Four Frightened People (1934) was shot in Hilo; Hawaiian Buckaroo (1938) on the Parker Ranch in Waimea; and Song of the Islands (1942) in Puna – though, sadly, its Kapoho and Kalapana locations have since been covered by lava.
Those films are obscure today, and hard to find, even on Turner Classic Movies. Later films with Big Island scenes are better-known. Kona Coast (1968) a melodrama starring Richard Boone, was shot almost entirely (you guessed it) in and around Kailua-Kona. Black Widow (1985), a mystery-thriller, followed stars Debra Winger and Theresa Russell to Kona, to Volcano, and to the office blocks of downtown Hilo.
More often, though, the Big Island stands in for imaginary or faraway places. Waterworld (1994), a science-fiction epic set in a future where the oceans had risen and swamped the continents, was shot looking seaward from the harbor at Kawaihae. The longest car-chase in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), ostensibly taking place in South America, was actually filmed in Puna, along a private road near Kea’au. And a gender-bent version of The Tempest (2010), starring Helen Mirren, used bleak West Hawaii lava fields and lush East Hawaii parks for the surreal landscapes of Shakespeare’s magical isle.
Only a small part of The Descendants (2011) was shot on the Big Island: a drive along the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, and a visit to the Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea. (The rest was filmed on Oahu and Kauai.) But the movie is widely acknowledged, here in the Islands, to be the most realistic depiction of everyday life in Hawaii — at least, among prosperous kama’aina haoles — that Hollywood has ever produced.
Japanese tourism is big business here, so it should not be surprising that Japanese studios make movies here, too. The historical drama Picture Bride (1993) was set in 1918, and filmed on the Hamakua Coast; and Honoka’a Boy (2008), filmed in and around (yes) Honoka’a, went on to win four Japanese cinema awards.
Some television programs have been made here too, including a segment of the 2001 season of The Amazing Race that brought globetrotting contestants to Kona, and a week’s worth of the game show Wheel of Fortune in 2008, taped at a South Kohala resort. The only TV series ever entirely shot and set here on the Big Island was Roseanne’s Nuts (2011), a “reality” show about comedienne Roseanne Barr on her macadamia farm near Honoka’a.
Are you interested in making cinema or video here? Contact John L. Mason, commissioner of the Big Island Film Office, headquartered in Kailua-Kona. Besides keeping a list of locally-shot films, his office has a photo archive of prospective locations, maintains a database of local resources for equipment, crew and support services, and helps producers expedite the permit process.
“Lost” Dog September 4, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Big Island Hawaii, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND , add a comment
Here on the Big Island
By Kelly Moran
One day last November, friends of mine were driving up the road to their house, when a brown dog with floppy ears approached their car. He wasn’t trying to chase it; he sniffed it, and stared in at them. When my friends slowed down and stopped, they saw him do the same to every car that passed, in either direction, as if he were asking: “Are you the people who left me here?”
For dogs on the Big Island, it’s a sad fact of life that not all of them are loved, and that not all of those who are unwanted get treated humanely, or brought to a shelter. Quite a few are simply taken somewhere, and left to fend for themselves.
This dog was on a paved County road, halfway between one cluster of houses and the next; if he had simply wandered away from either place, he’d have been able to follow his nose home. My friends waved down a few cars, but no one recognized the dog. So they drove him up to their house (which took some effort – he was reluctant to climb into their car) and proceeded to search for his owners.
A month earlier, they had come home to find a lost dog on their doorstep – a mature female with a pleasant disposition, but no collar. My friends alerted their neighbors, then took her to the Humane Society, where a microchip revealed her name and ownership. She turned out to belong to a friend of a neighbor who had taken her pig-hunting that day. She’d gotten lost in the woods, found her way out, and taken shelter at the first house she encountered.
The experience made my friends think seriously about adopting a dog. They’d always had cats (there are two in their house), but neither of them had ever had a dog for a pet. They didn’t act on the idea, and had almost forgotten the incident . . . until they saw this lonely dog on the road. So they took the dog to their cats’ veterinarian to see if he had a chip (he didn’t), and give him a medical checkup. The vet found that, except for being undernourished, he was quite healthy, about a year-and-a-half old, and probably a mix of Lab, pit bull, and heeler.
Again, they phoned and emailed neighbors, and posted his picture on Craigslist, even noting that he had a V-shaped bite-mark in his right ear. But after a full week, nobody claimed him. My friends took this as proof that he was not lost, but deliberately abandoned. They speculate that he’d been raised for pig-hunting, but had either failed to hold his own with the other dogs in his pack, or that he was too affectionate by nature to tackle a pig without getting hurt. Yet, instead of giving him away as a pet, or taking him to a shelter, whoever raised him had simply dumped him.
So he’s my friends’ dog now. “Romeo” is still a puppy at heart: he wants to play with the cats (the feeling is not mutual!); and he loves to run fast (my friends joke that they could paint him gray and enter him in a dog-track). But he’s loyal: he keeps to the trails when they hike through the woods; he always comes when called; and though he’s never chained up, and spends most days outdoors, he doesn’t go roaming. But he is still very, very reluctant to ride in a car.
For more information about lost, abandoned and neglected pets – and especially if you’re interested in adopting one – the Hawaii Island Humane Society has full-service facilities in Kailua-Kona, in Waimea, and in Kea’au, near Hilo.
Kohala For a Day August 21, 2012Posted by Kelly in : Big Island Hawaii, Hawaii Travel, HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND, Scenic Drives , 1 comment so far
HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND
By Kelly Moran
Kohala For a Day
An old song says: “It’s the far northland that’s a-calling me away . . . .“ And you might hear the call too, if you visit Kohala, the northernmost part of the Big Island. There’s a South Kohala disctrict, famous for beaches and resorts, but say simply “Kohala” to local folks, and you’ll be understood to mean North Kohala.
Getting there is twenty-mile drive from upscale Waimea, yet in some ways, Kohala is an island unto itself. The Kohala “mountains” are green, verdant cinder cones – all that’s left of the geologically oldest of this island’s volcanoes. At their feet, the landscape is reminiscent of Maui’s oldest (Hana) district, with deeper, more fertile soils and thicker vegetation than anywhere else on the Big Island.
Kohala is also a cape. Small-craft warnings are regularly posted for the Alenuihaha Channel that separates Hawaii from Maui. The seas are always rough, with only one place to safely swim: the lovely little Keokea Beach (County) Park, which has a man-made breakwater to create a sheltered swimmable bay.
And there’s always a breeze: our electric utility (HELCO) purchases extra power from a “farm” of turbines that whirl in the near-continuous winds.
People have lived in Kohala since the very first voyagers came here from Samoa in the 800′s and 900′s AD. Their heiau still stands near Upolu Point, though it was later expanded by the people we think of today as “Hawaiians” – the descendents of those who emigrated from Tahiti. It was at that heiau, too, that the birth of Kamehameha the Great was celebrated. By the twentieth century, agricultural workers from Japan, the Philippines and the Azores (Portugal), came here to work in the sugar fields and mills. At the foot of Old Coast Guard Road, there’s a monument to Puerto Rican immigrants from 1901.
Kohala’s towns, Hawi and Kapa’au, developed and grew in the sugar plantation era. Today, Kapa’au remains the governmental center of the district, and retains most of its day-to-day businesses, like hardware and grocery stores, along with some innovative galleries and restaurants. Kenji’s House, for example, is the former home of a local beachcomber/diver whose seashell-and-stone sculptures are “folk art” at its unpretentious best. Just below it stands Pico’s Bistro, offering gourmet and vegetarian pizzas and salads.
Hawi is more self-consciously a visitor destination, featuring a wider variety of artistic offerings and eateries. Especially intriguing, on my latest visit, were the ukuleles and guitars, both old and new, at Hawi Gallery Art & Ukuleles; and the vintage and collectible clothes next door at Chi Chi La Fong. There’s an amazing choice of sushi, both traditional and modern, across the street at Sushi Rock, where they give a Kama’aina discount at lunch and for the first hour at dinnertime.
Even if living full time in the “far northland” isn’t on your bucket-list, spend a day or two in Kohala, and enjoy both the natural and artistic offerings, and the echoes of a quiet and rural lifestyle that once characterized the entire island.