Honolulu Lite


Sunday, July 28, 2002

'AloHa Friday'
has great feeling,
less taste

I was scouring the news wires, looking for unusual items to use in my AloHa Friday column, when I come across a story about a Moroccan kid who was bitten by a donkey in an extremely private place, and I don't mean the Casbah. I mean the donkey bit him on a part of his body that cannot even be mentioned in family newspapers except in long, boring scientific stories.

The Morocco news dispatch had sort of a double happy ending. The first happy ending was that, although the boy's appendage was severed during the incident, doctors managed to reaffix it in a mere 45 minutes, which I wouldn't be surprised to find out is some sort of surgical record for Northern Africa. I actually lived in Morocco and I can report that any enterprise not directly related to camels - particularly along the medical-breakthrough line - did not make the papers.

The second happy ending was contained in the final sentence of the new item: "Donkeys in Morocco are used for laborious work on farms and garbage collection and are often subject to harsh treatment." That seemed to say that while snapping off body parts may seem brutal, when you consider the way donkeys are treated, it's only fair that the donkeys score a point every once in a while.

The donkey story seemed to have everything I look for in AloHa Friday items: It is lively, entertaining and particularly instructive if you spend any time around donkeys. It's the kind of story you generally don't see in the newspaper, which is one of the guiding principles behind the Friday column. But it crosses the line just a tad on the taste meter. The range of the AloHa Friday taste meter is not from good to bad but from bad to whatever I think we can possibly get away with without litigation or Sudden Employment Cessation.

So I shelved the donkey item to see what else was available. A guy in London attacked another man, bit off his eyebrow and possibly ate it, which struck me as essentially a G-rated version of the donkey tale. In France, 400 sheep plunged to their deaths in a ravine trying to escape an attack by wolves. The news here was that the dead sheep clogged up a river that supplies a nearby village with water and the runoff apparently was beginning to taste very sheep-like.

There was a story about a brothel in Australia that was going to issue public stock. While I like brothel stories, this one seemed more appropriate for the business section. There was a story about 40,000 people in Brazil flocking to see an image of the Virgin Mary in a window of a village house. I like those kind of stories, too. I've run stories about the image of saints showing up in everything from sliced kumquats to misshapen tubers and I've always wondered why God would taunt the faithful with produce. In Brazil, it turned out that the image was simply a smudge on the window and the Virgin disappeared with a few spritzes of window cleaner.

I tell you all this just so you can appreciate the items that do make it into AloHa Friday. I'm tired of people saying, hey, you pick out a few strange stories and, pau, you're done. They've obviously never been faced with deciding between the story of a mass circumcision in Kabul and a riveting tale of Ukrainian cannibals. Then again, the Moroccan donkey story definitely has legs. Not to mention teeth.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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