Lisa's Maui Stories

A Maui Kitchen: Confessions of a Non-Cook

Two people may share the same childhood experience but react in completely different ways. Our Mothers - Mark's and mine - were not inspiring in the kitchen. In my case, part of Mom's lack of enthusiasm may have been a very fussy husband. There is an expression in Japanese, tabezu kirai, which loosely translated means "dislike without eating". That would describe Dad very well. Unfortunately, it describes his youngest child very well, too.

Mark, on the other hand, will eat anything. But let's not go into more detail. Suffice to say that the sushi chefs at Morimoto at the Andaz in Wailea were very happy when they realized that the American guy sitting at the sushi bar in front of them REALLY knew what he was ordering and eating. When we went to Morimoto for my birthday, we both ordered sayori, a beautiful, delicate white fish. I ordered sayori sushi, Mark ordered sayori sashimi. The chief sushi chef quietly broiled some sayori skin on a skewer and handed it to Mark as a special treat. But only Mark, not me.

Mark has at least 50 cookbooks. The titles are intriguing: French Laundry, How to Roast a Lamb? (I hate lamb), Louisiana: Real and Rustic, The Little Paris Kitchen, The Slanted Door: Modern Vietnamese Food, Balaboosta: Bold Mediterranean Recipes, Terra: Cooking from the Heart of Napa Valley. It's scary to see him perusing his library and finally pick out a cookbook. Oh, no, tonight is going to be Moroccan night. Sigh, how about just some plain poke (please, no oyster sauce ahi with avocado, roe, and wasabi), hot rice, and miso soup made with my tennis pal Satoko's delicious organic miso.

I was a 4H'er in my youth on Maui. We learned about cooking and sewing but photography was a lot more interesting. My brother even built a dark room for me. In any case, I found a recipe for soup that I decided to try out on Dad. Dad was initially very good natured at the prospects of my culinary debut. Unfortunately, he took one sip of my creative soup and put his spoon down. He could not eat anymore. I don't remember if I was hurt or amused. I mean, don't you think combining one can of Campbell's vegetable alphabet soup with one can of Campbell's chicken noodle would be tasty?

When we were at Stanford as poor graduate students (the undergrads are the ones with the fancy cars), we would invite our friends over for special occasions. It was Thanksgiving Day many years ago. I had found a recipe (easy, safe Betty Crocker?) for turkey and looked through the list of ingredients. The recipe called for, among the usual suspects, a light-colored jelly. Okay, piece of cake. I somehow managed to get everything prepped. It was time to brush the turkey with the jelly. Except that I did not have any light-colored jelly and was not about to go out and get some. Aha, there was some jelly after all. Grape jelly! I happily brushed the turkey with the grape jelly and put the turkey in the oven. A couple of hours later, the turkey emerged not with a golden brown sheen but a lurid purple. Ah, well, it tasted okay.

More recently, I thought I would surprise Mark by making macaroni and cheese. Remember, I love starch. I boiled the macaroni, drained it, and then ran cold water over it - just like the instructions say. I then sliced up some cheese and threw it on the pasta. The cheese did not melt. ????? Just then, Mark came home. He walked into the kitchen, peered at my macaroni and cheese, and smiled as he good naturedly ate my piece de resistance. Such a gentleman. But, darn, I forgot the Spam!

Maui Twins: Sean Connery and Yoko Ono?

While each of us is unique, we can be mistaken for other people. As the years pass, our twins evolve with us.

When we were living in Tokyo, some people thought that Mark, the Ph.D. candidate, looked like Ernest Hemingway. That was probably okay for somebody who reads as much as Mark and who was in his academic mode then. When James Bond appeared on the scene, people began to say that Mark looked like Sean Connery. That wasn't too bad, either. When we returned to Maui, it was time for Mark to have a local twin. Mark was walking down the steps to the Wailea Tennis Club to watch me keep my eye on the ball, when Coach Neil saw him. Except that Neil was wondering what the Governor - Neil Abercrombie - was doing at the tennis club.

I have my twins but also seem to have the kind of face or physique that reminds people of a particular profession, usually a teacher or a doctor, or wait until you get to the end of this story.

I was on a Swiss Air flight from Tokyo to Zurich when I was with UBS, then called Union Bank of Switzerland. A male flight attendant walked past me, stopped, then came back. "I've seen you on television." "No, I don't think so." "Yes, you were in that suspense movie where everybody gets murdered in the bell tower." "No, I'm not an actress." "Yes, you are, you're Kishi Keiko." While flattering, there really is no resemblance to this internationally acclaimed Japanese actress who lives in Paris.

One of my funnier attempts to gain stardom on Maui happened at the Hyatt Regency in Kaanapali. After a nice lunch there, Mark had gone to get our rental car. I waited outside at the entrance. People started to murmur. I looked behind me. There was nobody there. Then I heard someone say, "It's Yoko Ono." I looked to my right. I looked to my left. Nope, I was still the only one there. As far as I could tell, the only possible resemblance was that I had long black hair down to my waist, was wearing a white cotton jacket and white jeans, and huge round sunglasses.

The hair is much shorter now, and white. A deep tan has replaced the pale skin. Our Maui team who played at USTA Nationals in Palm Springs in October arrived at San Diego Airport for the flight home. The gate agent noticed that all of us had tennis rackets. "You tennis players?" she asked. Renee, our team captain who is a powerhouse 5'4" or so, was in front of me. I said, proudly, "Yes, Renee is our captain." Renee moved into the waiting lounge with ease. But not me. The agent asked that I take off my black USTA cap and Maui Jim sunglasses, which I had forgotten to remove and which must have made me look suspicious. She studied my ID for a long minute, looked at me very carefully from head to toe, and finally asked, "You the coach?" That made the 5'8" Jolly Green Giant's day! I grinned all the way back to OGG.

Maui Sisters: Unshared Talents - Needle and Thread

I've been told that people start lining up at 6:00 a.m. to sign up for my sister's sewing classes at Kaunoa Senior Center on the North Shore. She must be quite well-known to have this kind of drawing power. When a sibling is famous for something, the assumption is that that talent runs in the family. This is sort of true and sort of not.

My maternal grandfather was a bit of a vagabond, dabbling in different professions. His love for adventure led him, as a sailor, to get shipwrecked on an island in the Pacific somewhere. The rescue ship that they were so happy to see was headed for Hawaii, not Japan. O-jiji made the right choice. He got on the ship. Landing on Maui, he quickly determined that he was not cut out to be a sugar cane field hand. After trying this and that, he opened Kawakami Tailor Shop on Vineyard Street in Wailuku. He had gifted hands. We still have a suit that he hand tailored. The stitches are perfect.

My sister inherited this gift and can transform fabric into any kind of clothing (including lingerie - wow), hand bags, wallets, whatever she wants to make. She made my graduation dress for Iao School. She made my wedding dress. In fact, she made her own wedding dress and the dresses for her bridesmaids. She made her daughter's prom dresses. Nothing is impossible. She has so many awards - including 4H purple ribbons, which is how it all started under Mrs. Takitani's guidance -- that there's no room to display them.

The natural assumption is that I, too, must be good at sewing. Not so. Here are some examples of ungifted hands.

Women were required to take home economics when I was a student at Baldwin; and men, shop. I struggled with sewing. Our project was to sew a dress with sleeves. Somehow I managed to sew everything together and wearily lifted up the finished product to see how it looked. One sleeve was done right; the other I had managed to sew upside down! My sister literally fell on the floor, howling. I felt like never touching a sewing machine after that.

But giving up is not character building, so I took on another project. Remember kaftans? I lay the bright red fabric, which had a flowing heliconia pattern, on the floor, and pinned the pattern on. Just before I started to cut, Dad - the inventor from Happy Valley -- said, "Are you sure the pattern is set right?" "Of course it is! I know what I'm doing!" He quietly retreated to his ham radio shack in the back where, as KH6ATZ, he chatted with friends around the world. I merrily finished the kaftan. Once again, I lifted it up to see how well I had done. Oh, no! One panel had the beautiful red helicionia running up; the other panel had the heliconia running down! That's what Dad had been trying to tell me.

Mark, not knowing the level of my sewing prowess, asked me to mend his pants one day. I didn't want to, but had no choice. So I sat there in gloomy silence and started to hem. After a few minutes of deep concentration, I said, "Uh-oh." Mark looked over and said, "What?" I showed him his pants. I had sewn one side of the pant leg to the other. He never asked me to mend anything again! Heh, heh.

Wait until you hear my story about the Thanksgiving turkey. :)

Maui Obituaries: Farewell with a Hug

My friend Alan and I get together for moaning sessions where we moan about everything. On one occasion, we moaned about funerals. We both felt that we'd like to have funerals for ourselves so that we could see who came. We weren't being morbid. We were being curious and maybe vindictive?

Some people believe that a funeral is too late to pay one's respects. I don't agree. People's feelings towards others don't change, but over time, we don't visit or stay in touch as much as we would like with those who are special to us. When they pass, we are sad. Funerals and celebrations of life are a way to give us a chance to say our final farewell. Perhaps belated, but genuine, nonetheless.

Recently, I've gone to two funerals for people I grew up with in Happy Valley. The first was for a landlord who rented multiple properties off Mokuhau Road for far less than market for years and years. She became a young WWII widow soon after she married the love of her life. In spite of her loss, she had a big heart. The number of people who came to her funeral to pay their respects is a testament to that.

The funeral in Wailuku was solemn but what was so neat was that I saw people who I hadn't seen since my childhood days. The M brothers were there. We started to chat. They didn't remember me so I mentioned my Dad. "Do you remember Oyama who lived across the street from Takamiya Market?" The two M brothers took a moment and then said, "Oyama? The inventor?" That meant so much to me because that is the way that Dad would have wanted to be remembered. Dad was the friendly, but solitary, guy who was always tinkering with ideas. Big ideas, like a far superior thresher for the sugar cane harvest than is still being used today. He drew sketches of harnessing energy from wave action, in such natural abundance here on Maui. He was another great example of the Nisei generation who did not have a chance to get beyond high school but whose intelligence and resourcefulness makes us, their children, pale in comparison.

The other funeral in Kahului was for Mr. S. The turnout was huge. As I told the family, Mr. S. was always a manly figure to the skinny kid from Happy Valley. A lasting memory is when we were all at Wailuku Jodo Mission for a celebration. Suddenly, a fire broke out in a home next to the church. Mr. S. bolted, jumped through a window, and saved the house. He was like that. At the funeral was his brother, who owned the only hardware store around. Also there was Mrs. K., a scary figure when I played with her 6 children, but now a warm person who gave me a huge hug. There is so much hugging at a service. That is how we reconnect in honor of the person who we are remembering.

When Mom passed, it was still the custom to have a public funeral. The service was painful, but gratifying. At least 100 people came. Little Emi asked, "Who is going to make sponge drops now?" The funeral photo showed Mom with her enigmatic smile. One day, our reserved and talented Mom, as she was walking home, actually slipped on a banana peel in front of Molina's Bar. Nobody slips on a banana peel! I gave her a hard time. She gave me that enigmatic smile. I think that she was painting a picture in her artistic head and didn't see the banana peel. When Dad passed an eerily coincidental seven years later (think Buddhist karma here), we had a private service. How I wish that we could have given our friends an opportunity to say thank you and farewell to Oyama, the inventor from Happy Valley.

Maui Bean Pole - Life in the Tall Lane

Somewhere along the way I grew to 5'8", quite a feat for my ethnic group. Our family is tall. Obaban and Mom were tall for their peer groups; my sister and I, for ours. Dad was a tall, handsome guy. So is my older brother. Many still envy my height and my weight. I suppose that I should be grateful, but here are some stories where I felt that I should have been born in another part of the world.

At Iao (Intermediate) School in Wailuku, social dancing was a dreaded required activity. We'd all traipse to the old Iao Gym in the hot sun and line up on two sides - men on one side, women on the other. The men had to find a partner. The women had to wait to be asked. Inevitably, there would be two women and two men left to pair off. L, the Bean Pole - guess who? D, the not so thin one. G, the least tall guy. And D, the class comedian. One day, after another interminable wait, watching everybody else get asked, G came over and asked me to be his partner. I inquired, "G, why didn't you ask D?" He shrugged and said, "I can't get my arms around her."

My sister got engaged. I, of course, was in the bridal party. The Wailuku Hongan-ji (remember Maui Obon and Pineapples?) wedding photo is lovely and looks normal except for one person who sticks out. People see a family resemblance but where on earth did the giant String Bean come from? Ho-ho-ho, Green Giant?

As I was preparing to leave for college in California, my wise sister told me not to worry about anything. "Everybody over there is tall." Wonderful, California here I come! It was a long flight over, but I didn't care. It was freezing (really) in September, but I didn't care. I arrived on the Scripps campus. Two of my Dorsey Hall dorm mates, Sarah and Marty, were waiting to greet the fresh(wo)man from Hawaii. Wait a minute - I was taller than both of them. Hmmm……After a week of examining the other women in the dorm, I realized that I was the third tallest! Should I have gone to the East Coast instead?

Life in the tall lane continued in Tokyo. My tea ceremony teacher, dear Saruyama-sensei, was always anxious to see her young ladies married off properly. There we were in Asagaya, sipping our matcha tea out of delicate Hagi tea bowls and daintily partaking of Usagi-ya's morsels (not my favorite because they were huge, dry little cakes that stuck in your throat), when Sensei suddenly said, "Lisa-san, you should marry a basketball player." Everyone nodded in polite agreement, wondering, though, how Sensei was going to find a baseketball player. Umm…..thank you, Sensei. Yoroshiku onegai itashimasu.

There was also the time when I was waiting at a bus stop in Gokoku-ji after finishing work as a book editor at Kodansha International Publishers. I loved the busses because they gave you a down to earth perspective on ordinary life in Tokyo. A tapping noise came closer and closer. It was a young man with a white cane, looking for the bus schedule. He came right up to the utility pole, otherwise known as Lisa, and peered at the schedule, except that there was no schedule, just my face. We both jumped back; one startled, one embarrassed.

But back to Maui. My high metabolism (see Maui Starch Diet) is possibly responsible for my short, white, thick hair, which needs to be trimmed every 14 days, or I start to look like Lassie. The other week, one of the stylists looked at me and asked if I had been a model, since I was SO tall and SO thin. I smiled and said, "Yes, retired." Did she see the Bean Pole wink?

The Maui Starch Diet: Confessions of a Starch Aficianado

I was a chubby baby. After I was born, on the night of the great Happy Valley flood, my brother reportedly said, “Lisa has apples in her cheeks!” Mrs. Hotta, the owner of Gilbert’s on Market Street which is now another nostalgic chapter in Wailuku’s history, took a look at my feet and said that I would be tall. The apples eventually disappeared and I am tall – almost 5’8” – but do not have big feet. Size 6-1/2, please.

People always ask how I stay thin. It has to be metabolism. Mark thinks that I have the metabolism of a parakeet. Having never lived with a parakeet, I don’t know what that means, but maybe it has something to do with eating like a bird, even though they actually eat a lot?

I love starch – rice, bread, rice, noodles, rice, potatoes, rice, and more rice. Remember, my middle initial is “S” for starch. My favorite breakfast is going to Sheik’s in Kahului and ordering rice, scrambled eggs, spam, hash browns, and pancakes. Jocelyn, who works there, doesn’t even blink. My friend and relative by marriage Howard who hangs out with his friends at Sheik’s actually stood up on one day and came over to chat. He asked if I was waiting for somebody. Huh? Because there had to be enough food for another person. That was embarrassing. I replied with something like, “I take half of it home for lunch.” Liar.

Lunch is all about starch, too. Sheik’s has great saimin. Add a deluxe hamburger and French fries for the perfect meal. I’ve seen people at Tasty Crust order saimin and pancakes. It is tempting, I have to admit. Sam Sato has delicious dry noodles. I feel like a groupie because I have been to three Sam Sato locations – the original in Puunene, the second in Happy Valley, and the current one near the Wailuku Post Office. The staff at Ramen-ya at the Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center don’t know my name but say, “Your usual?”, when I walk in. The usual is their excellent mabo-tofu ramen with gyoza. Archie’s has wonderful tempura udon noodles or, for something that will wake up your taste buds, try the curry udon. Wow! The Kahili Golf Course Restaurant has a yummy stir-fry noodle dish with kalua pig and pickled red ginger on the side. The huge bi-coastal view provides fine starch dining with appreciation for living on the Best Island in the World. Sorry, I am a realtor.

And dinner? There are world-class restaurants and lovely little family places on Maui that serve outstanding pasta or polenta or gratin or risotto. An enduring gastronomic memory is the time that Lori, a Canadian friend, treated me to dinner at Ruth’s Chris in Wailea. The steak was superb but the culinary highlight of that evening was the fully-loaded one pound baked potato, with heaps of sour cream, chives, bacon bits, and heaps of bad for you butter.

Mark, the chef in residence, after all of these years, still asks if I want potatoes or rice, or pasta or rice, for dinner. I always answer, “Both”. He always rolls his eyes. He does not understand parakeets.

Exotic Maui Names: Ms. Bothersome

Kids these days have exotic names or exotic spellings. Was life easier before? Not really. Waiting for my birth in Happy Valley, Maui, my parents had already decided on “Lisa”. Mom later said that she had to choose between “Lisa” and “Lissa” but felt that one “s” was simpler than one -- thank goodness. There was only one Lisa in the world around me at that time, so it was a pretty exotic name. In fact, I did not have to compete with another Lisa until high school but that was a classmate whose name was Mona Lisa, so I still felt special.

Many parents give their children a middle name to honor their ethnicity. This custom does not seem as common now as it used to be in Hawaii. What a shame – these middle names may sound challenging but are beautiful in the original script and beautiful in translation. My sister’s Japanese middle name is “A Thousand Spring Times”. My brother’s is something like “Man of Benevolence”. Mine is okay: “Garden by the Sea”. But as I share in “Just Two Bananas Please”, my middle initial “S” really stands for starch.

Much to my chagrin, the number of Lisa’s in the world is now huge. The name is also almost passe. But I still jump when a parents shouts out to their kid, “Lisa, don’t touch that!” in the supermarket. I still jump at the pharmacy when the staff calls out, “Lisa?”

We all forget names. In my case, I’m usually mis-called Lynne or Laura. The worst was one of Mark’s diving buddies -- when Mark was a dive master and exploring Molokini, Five Graves, and Turtle Town on Maui -- who said, “Hey, Luana, how’s it going?” I’m thinking – how can you get Luana from Lisa? But I was nice. I’d actually forgotten his name and acknowledged him with, “Hey, Tiger, great to see you!” Such diplomacy.

Names can also get innocently mauled. The “y” in Oyama really throws people off, or maybe it’s all those consonants. One of our nicest clients, who I met at the Wailea Fantasy Tennis Camp (see “Hitting with the Stars”), grows the biggest, most delicious, picked-when- they-are-perfectly-ripe cherries in the Hood River Valley. Her staff sent us a box of Bing cherries. The address label said “Lisa Oyamama”.

The danger lurking behind a name is that it can mean something entirely different in another language. When Mark and I were poor graduate students at Stanford and living in East Palo Alto, the neighbor across the way had a beautiful black dog. His name was Baka, which, in Japanese, means idiot or fool or worse (use your imagination). She would let him out every day and call out to him when it was time for him to come home. “Baka? Baka! Baaa----ka!” Fortunately, she and Baka did not stay long and moved out.

Just as dangerous is if you misspell or mispronounce a name. It takes deep humility and an ocean of humor to maintain one’s composure when somebody introduces you at a formal reception as Lisa Ojama. “Jama” in Japanese means bother, nuisance, or worse (use your imagination again). Understand the honorific “O” and it’s hilarious. When I am feeling mischievous, I say, “So nice to meet you. Actually my name is O’yama. I’m part Irish.”

Maui Marital Bliss: Is There a Secret Formula?

My two siblings and I have been married to our respective spouses for a long, long, long time. Ken, a new friend who I met last week at a Divorce Mediation Training session, asked what the secret formula was. To be honest, I don’t know.

Things happen along the journey. These things support or subvert a relationship. Haven’t we all been through them? One of the inevitable, challenging things is when a spouse has a major medical event. Mark had such an event in March in San Jose, upon arriving at the airport on his way to a Rotary conference. He survived, against all odds. Was it fate or sheer determination? We don’t know.

After two weeks in the hospital at Santa Clara Valley Medical, we returned home to Maui. The outlook was not clear, but it was so good to be home. It was day two or day three after our return. Mark and I were sitting in the family room. The gentle Maui sun was streaming through the French doors. Mark sat there, reading one of his many tomes. I don’t remember which one. It had to be European pre-war history, the economics of poverty, or politics on the sub-Asian continent. He is a voracious reader. I sat there, chuckling over another brilliant editorial in the Maui News. Being together was wonderful, serene.

Mark suddenly said, “Hey, turn to your right.” Oh, my goodness, was there something on my face? Peanut butter from the peanut butter and chocolate mochi from Maui Specialty Chocolates? Then he said, “Turn to your left.” I knew it. It was going to be a reaffirmation – finally, after all these years -- of his devotion to me. He was looking at me. My classic Asian nose. My large but perfectly shaped ears. My long, svelte neck. My moth-like eyebrows. My photogenic teeth. My slender fingers. My slender toes. My gentle doe-like eyes. My still pretty good skin tone.

“You see that brown book over there? Pull out the blue book underneath it and give it to me.”

Thud, crash, thump – reality check. I felt like throwing the darn book – The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World on Fire -- at him but did not want to accidentally hit his new pacemaker/defibrillator. Take a deep breath. This is what happens when you’ve been married for an eternity. Maybe this is the secret formula? I then looked for the Tale of Genji, hoping that the Shining Prince would one day, maybe, seek the Lady Murasaki – or be once again relegated to the Royal Dog House.

Tennis on Maui: Hitting with the Stars

There is no scarcity of famous people on Maui. Just look at the weekly Thursday insert of the Maui News to see who's been seen at Mala's or Migrant or Sarento's or Capische or Gannon's or Sansei or Rock and Brews.

Famous people also play tennis. How do I know this? When Mark and I were still working in Tokyo, we would try to make it home to Maui three times a year to see my parents. Once our itinerary was set, I would call Cathy, the pro at Wailea Tennis Club, to set up daily lessons at 8:00 a.m. Although I am not a morning creature, 8:00 on Maui was a lot more civilized than the daily grind of sales-research meetings (confrontations might be more accurate) at 7:00 a.m. in Ohtemachi, the heart of the securities world.

The general rule is that lessons are not interrupted, unless there is a compelling reason. Cathy and I were in the middle of another one of her c'mon! drills when Michelle came out of the pro shop and called out to her. Cathy said, "What?" and strode off the court. The two had a short huddle and Cathy resumed her bashing of the skinny, older student (remember "Keep Your Eye on the Ball"?). After we were done, who should appear but Dustin Hoffman. He had been watching my/our lesson and wanted to hit with Cathy. I stayed in the pro shop, nose against the door to watch. The long baseline to baseline rallies were great. Then he was done and I guess went back to his yacht. The funny thing is that gossip is a wonderful phenomenon. Mark and I were staying in our condo at Kihei Surfside and I mentioned to Wayne, another owner, that I had watched Dustin Hoffman at the Club. Well, gossip blossomed and swirled around and morphed. By that very evening, Bob the resident manager, came up to me and said, "Hey, Lisa, heard you played with Dustin Hoffman today." As much as I protested, nobody wanted to accept the truth because it was more fun not to.

Mark and I are sponsors (small) of the annual Wailea Fantasy Camp. It is just amazing being on the same court with the immortals. There's Tom Gullikson barking at everyone while hitting every ball effortlessly. Tracy Austin takes the time to look at everyone's serve and gives helpful advice in a totally down to earth manner. Lindsay Davenport talks about groundstrokes and is kind enough not to wipe you off the court. Last year Michael Chang made his first appearance. He is a bit shy at the welcome reception at the Four Seasons with his wife and young children. On the court he is truly a champion: sharp, anticipatory (is that a word?), graceful, mesmerizing. We did volleys with him and Gullikson. Gullikson barks, "Lisa, hold your racket up higher!" Gulp. Yes, sir. "Don't hit so hard. Soft hands, soft hands." Yes, sir, again. It was a powerful lesson. We took a break and I started to walk back to the pro shop, when Michael quietly came up to me and said, to my utter amazement, "Lisa, go ahead and hit hard." I said, "Really? They tell me not to." He had the gentlest of smiles and said, "Tell them that I said you can." That was a clarifying moment. I was instantly mesmerized. Thank you, Michael. I will hit harder!

Tennis on Maui:Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Besides all of the other wonderful activities available on Maui, there is tennis to enjoy. I never played sports at Iao School or Baldwin High or Scripps College. In fact, I did not pick up my first racket until I was in my late 30s. My first lesson on Maui was at the Wailea Tennis Club. It was bad enough being on my own on the tennis court with Cathy, the fierce club pro, on the other side. But I wasn't really alone. Mark was there and so was my Dad. I don't know who was the most horrified - the student, the student's husband, or the student's father. Why would anyone want to hit a little ball over and over again in the hot sun? The balls continued to elude me and the net was my best friend for the occasional connection. Dad - probably embarrassed that the student doing so poorly was related to him - said in an unusually audible voice, "Lisa, keep your eye on the ball". Now, did I really need to be told that? Mark, deferring to his father-in-law, remained silent and anxious, like a parent watching his child floundering in the water.

The beauty of tennis on Maui is that you can play singles or doubles to test your inner game all year round. Play with the snow birds who come for the winter or play with the locals who have rackets and balls in their cars, ever ready for a match. You can make it into a family affair and take lessons focusing on different strokes or court strategy together. All ages can play. There are County clinics for young children, an active juniors program, and 18+, 40+, and 55+ divisions. Don't forget senior tennis with crafty players well into their 80s who can and will run you around. Rumor goes that there was once a men's team called the Wailea Stallions. They played year after year after year and later changed their name to the Wailea Senior Stallions. Now, that is dedication!

Public tennis courts can be found in Wailuku at Wells Park at the corner of Wells and Market Street; at War Memorial at Baldwin High School; in Kahului at the Kahului Community Center a few minutes away from Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center; in Kula at the Kula Community Center near Holy Ghost Church; in Kihei at Kalama Park across from Foodland; and in Lahaina on Front Street and at the Civic Center. The hotels, such as the Royal Lahaina, have tennis courts, as do many of the condo complexes in south and west Maui. Wailea, Makena, and Maui Country Club offer short-term and long-term tennis club memberships. There are many tournaments throughout the year: USTA League and Challenger, round robin fundraisers for teams going to nationals, and special local tournaments. Makena has its Pot of Gold tournament with great prizes. The Kapalua Open will celebrate its 33rd annual event in late August, while the annual Wailea Open just celebrated its 30th year in May. The 8th Annual Wailea Fantasy Camp in November will welcome back Tom Gullikson, Lindsay Davenport, and Michael Chang.

But back to the older, skinny new student perishing on the hot courts at Wailea under the watchful eye of family. I finally found the courage a few years later to join a wonderful women's group which played 3x a week at 8:00 a.m in the morning! Soon after that, I signed up for USTA league. Our Wailea Chicks team won the Maui championship, which enabled us to go to State sectionals in Kona. We lost the State championship by one game! Practice may make perfect, however, and this October our Wailuku-based D'Renegades team will represent Hawaii at National championships in Palm Springs. So, see Dad, I am better now at keeping my eye on the ball.

Obon on Maui and Pineapples

Late summer is Obon season in Hawaii. It is a time to remember family and friends who are no longer with us. The Buddhist chanting is serene and solemn. Tears are shed for those remembered, especially when it is their first Obon. The launching of the lanterns into the ocean is poignant. But it is almost like a carnival, too, with bright lights, lively music, wonderful dancing, and great local food.

What does this have to do with pineapples on Maui? Before tourism caught on, the only summer work for high school students was either in the sugar cane fields or at the pineapple canneries. We were pretty conscientious most of the time, resisting the temptation to call in sick when the waves were good. The first weekend in August was different, though. The biggest Obon festival, when Maui was still a sleepy place, was at Wailuku Honganji. This grand festival in its heyday was held three nights – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday - during the first week of August. The management at Maui Pine (short for Maui Pineapple) dreaded this time of the year. Why?

Obon came at the peak of the pineapple harvest. The cannery in Kahului operated for 24 hours: the 6:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. shift, and the 6:00 p.m- 6:00 a.m. shift. At 5:59 a.m. and at 5:59 p.m., the new shift would stand immediately behind the trimmers or the packers and take over when the whistle blew. This is how many of us earned minimum wage to help our parents send us to college --- the American dream of the second generation across the ethnicity board to give their children a college education. We worked hard and came home reeking of pineapple. Calling in sick was frowned upon. But…Obon was the exception. The high school students would start calling in sick early Friday morning and continue throughout the afternoon. There was nothing that management could do about it. Our Moms dressed us in our colorful yukata and oppressive obi. Like fillies, we joined the three huge circles of dancers around the yagura blaring out folk music from Kagoshima to Hokkaido, as the local elite – Dr. Izumi and Dr. Kashiwa at the time – beat the taiko drums with vigor. It was almost like prom time, young women vying to see how many heads they could turn. Shimmering kanzashi ornaments in their hair, cantering in their wooden geta, and laughing shyly (or not) as they passed by the local guys. The young men from the Japanese maritime training ships were really cute, too! Obon was a major social event back then.

A few years ago, my Baldwin classmate Tony, who lived on the mainland, wanted to buy a home on Maui for his retirement. Paia, Makawao, Waiehu, and Kahului were the target areas. We found a nice house in Kahului, but Tony demurred because it was too close to the cannery and its odors. “Tony,” I said, “The cannery is gone. They shut it down years ago.” There was a moment of silence, as we recalled those high school summers.

Maui Pine may be gone. But the tradition of Obon at Wailuku Honganji continues, with the folk dancing, the taiko, and surely the best chow fun on the island. You don’t need a yukata. Just come and dance and soak up the atmosphere!

Fourth of July 2014: Celebrating Diversity


It’s almost the Fourth of July – Independence Day! Time for hoisting Old Glory, hot dogs, baseball, time off, time with the family and friends. And time to think about this great country of ours.

The USA = diversity. We’d like to share our thoughts about diversity from our personal stance, with a touch of humor. After all, how else could a skinny Japanese-American from Maui have met up in California with a scruffy Welsh-American from the Mid-West? That was the easy part. Imagine how our parents, when meeting for the first time on Maui, wondered what on earth they would talk about. The weather ??? Dinner was quite funny (to us, not them). There we all were at the old Banyan Restaurant (now gone) on Front Street: the quintessential soft-spoken Japanese-American parents of the bride and the soft-spoken parents with a Southern accent of the groom. Somehow we all survived!

Like any other business, we have had the pleasure of working in real estate with so many wonderful and fascinating individuals: from Maui, from the neighbor islands (is it okay to call Oahu a neighbor island if you live on Maui?), from the mainland West Coast, Mid-West, and East Coast, from Canada, from England, from Japan, from the Caribbean, from South America, from Africa. The backgrounds have been equally broad: a retired bankruptcy attorney of Cherokee heritage with a gift for language, a patent-winning software researcher from Tokyo, men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces, high school and college classmates, friends who share our interest in community advocacy programs, such as Rotary, the Food Bank, the Master Gardener program, and mediation to resolve conflict before going to court. There is diversity in age, as well. Our youngest buyer was a very sharp woman of 24 on Maui with a very clear life map. At the other end is Lisa’s first-grade teacher at Wailuku Elementary, still thriving beautifully at 96! There are others -- at first strangers but now such special friends -- who went to our website, or picked up our Homes and Land advertising, and saw the still skinny thing born and raised on Maui and her big-hearted better half from the mainland.

We are always happy to provide real estate information. We so appreciate referrals. And, by the way, Lisa believes that her parents – now both gone – did approve of the scruffy guy with the beard. Mark may well have been their favorite in-law!

Happy Fourth of July, 2014! Let us celebrate our diversity!

Father's Day 2014: Awesome parents

Father’s Day 2014


As we approach Father’s Day, we would like to send our best wishes to all of the Dads who we know. We do not have kids but feel that being a parent is an awesome responsibility. It might even be harder now to raise a family than when we were growing up. Parents today have to deal with an amazing world of technology. Lisa remembers a recent occasion when she was talking with a busy Dad whose son called him at work in Kahului. The two had a short but warm chat on their cell phones about what had happened that day. “So how was your visit with Auntie Kim? Oh, yeah, good. I’m working late. I’ll be home around 6:30.” There was a time in the not so distant past when there weren’t cell phones. Kids went to school in the morning, played with their friends after the last class, and then got home in the late afternoon, with really no way to communicate with their parents or siblings. Things have changed, haven’t they?

What hasn’t changed is how parents feel toward their children. It is an unconditional emotion that perhaps only someone who is a parent can truly understand. We wish you a wonderful Father’s Day with family and friends, with fun and relaxation, and the knowledge that you are an awesome person!

H*A*P*P*Y F*A*T*H*E*R*’S D*A*Y ! ! !

Farmers' Market: Just two bananas, please

I’m thin. I know that I’m thin. I always have been and always will be. Maybe it’s the Oyama genes? Being thin has its advantages. People feel sorry for me. They want to feed me. I get extra big helpings for take out – a little more macaroni salad with the plate lunch, a little more gravy on my loco moco, a little more poke added to encourage me to eat.

Do you like bananas? I like them but prefer the dainty apple bananas instead of the regular ones, which are just too filling.

There is a nice farmer’s market at the Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Center in Kahului. I was there the other week and decided to buy some bok choy for my ramen. [My middle initial is “S”, for starch. I love any kind of starch; well, just about.] While waiting to pay for them, I saw some apple bananas so I asked if I could buy two bananas. Just two. 50 cents. Hey, deal! The little old lady cheerfully put my bok choy and two bananas in a bag and in a fit of generosity – or was it because she was ready to go home? – threw in four more bananas for free. I was grateful but not ecstatic. How was I going to eat 6 bananas all by myself? Solution: take them to tennis and share with my hitting partners.

Yesterday, I went back to the farmer’s market and tried another vendor, not wanting to be the ungrateful victim of more largesse. I asked, stupidly, “How much?” She said, graciously, “Depends on how many.” Duh. So I thought I’d play it safe and bought 4 apple bananas. She gave me a big, toothy smile, and an extra six bananas for free! Not again. This time I didn’t even wait until my next tennis game. I walked into a batik boutique (nice ring to it, huh?) owned by a friend at the shopping center and said, “Here. Take these.” She laughed. I explained the reason for the gift. She laughed even harder.

This is why I will not go to Italy. “Under a Tuscan Sun” was hilarious, especially the episode where the author basically gets force fed by the owner of a little family restaurant. Can you imagine what they would try to do to ME there?

Mark and Lisa

Mark A Harbison

(808) 283-3785

Coldwell Banker Island Properties
Shops at Wailea, Suite B-35
3750 Wailea Alanui * Kihei, HI 96753
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