My Kind of Town

Don Chapman

Friday, November 5, 2004

The King is calling

» The Tube

When Kaneloa, a young chief of lowly status, told his father that he and his friend Puka wanted to go to the Big Island and contend for the right to marry Princess Tuberosa La'a, his father's eyes went wide.

Which is saying something for a Tuber.

One of the most obvious physical adaptations that occurred when people of Native Hawaiian stock took their religion, culture and language underground was that their eyes got bigger. You might have expected them to mimic the spiders, one of the critters with whom they shared the vast lattice of lava tubes beneath the Hawaiian Islands -- they lost their eyes. Blind spiders, entomologists call them.

Instead, the people of the Tube developed large eyes, and the ability to see in the dark. This became a problem when they had to go topside, such as those tasked with carrying a fresh crop of tuberose flowers -- where did you think they came from, or got their name? -- for an exchange of goods with cousins who lived on the 'aina, not in it. Not only were the large eyes a dead giveaway, Tuber eyes were extremely sensitive to light. You see anybody in large, really dark, wrap-around shades, chances are they're a Tuber come topside on business.

It was not unusual for young men of the Tube to journey between islands, hoping to find a wife and keep the gene pool moving. But traveling from Oahu to the Big island was almost unheard of -- except for the royal runners, such as those who had just brought news of the princess' desire to find a husband.

"It has been many generations since our family has visited the home of Pele and worshipped the bones of the Great King," Kaneloa said. "Honestly, Father, I do not have high hopes of the high sacred princess falling in love with a low chief of excrement haulers. But perhaps along the way ... Above all, though, it's almost as if I feel the Great King beckoning."

The Great King, of course, was Kamehameha the Great.

What father who walked with the gods could decline such a request? Kaneloa's father could not. Nor could Puka's.

And soon they were on their way, first crossing Oahu in the portion of The Tube that ran from the Palace to Kualoa Ranch, then the connecting tube that ran to Bellows, the part the Air Force and Marines keep private, and then to Molokai and beyond.

They carried bags made of dried, woven seaweed over their shoulders, bearing sacred gifts for those they would meet, knowing that the bounty of The Tube and the generosity of Tubers would sustain them all the way.

"The Great King is calling," Kaneloa said.

"Yes," Puka said. "He's saying you're a total doofus if you think the princess will choose either of us."

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Don Chapman is editor of MidWeek. His serialized novel runs daily in the Star-Bulletin. He can be e-mailed at dchapman@midweek.com



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