DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jack Laufer carries his one-man canoe into the waters off Kailua Beach. Laufer has lived in Kailua for 10 years and paddles with the Lanikai Canoe Club. CLICK FOR LARGE
Paddlers go for glory
A Prairie Home Competition
IT'S BEEN A QUIET WEEK in Kailua, my home town, out on the windward side of Oahu. It's been still this week, so still you almost forget that you're living on the Windward side and you pray for the tradewinds to come back. Kona conditions, that's what they call it when the winds become light and variable and the air becomes moist and damp. It's so humid that after five minutes of yard work your T-shirt sticks to your chest. The ocean's been flat, and the Kawainui Marsh just doesn't smell so fresh. You keep the fans in the house running so the mold won't grow in the closets.
Jack Laufer, 56, a controller for Matson, is the winner of the Star-Bulletin's essay contest, held in anticipation of this weekend's performances of Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion." The challenge was to report on the news from an island hometown, in the style of Keillor's "News from Lake Wobegon."|
Laufer says he's been listening to "Prairie Home" for 20 years, but doesn't consider himself a writer. "In our annual Christmas letter I try to get creative, a little bit."
His prize was $100 cash and two tickets to Saturday's performance.
The mold especially attacks leather and you really should check on those dress-up leather shoes that you only wear on special occasions when slippers just won't do. If you don't keep the air flowing, the leather shoes become covered with a layer of mold and look like a black Chia-Pet.
Last spring the outrigger canoe racing association announced that the Oahu championship regatta this year would include an age category for paddlers 60 years and older. They call them the Platinum Masters, but unofficially they're called the Titanium Masters, since so many of them have body parts made from that metal. This announcement got all of the older paddlers who had recently retired to come back out for another try.
Over at Kailani Canoe Club, Keaka Lemmings, legendary surfer and surf promoter from the 1960s, came out of retirement to steer again. The Waikiki Sand Crabs and Club Huli Huli both called up legendary paddlers from 30 years ago. The Kalama triplets, winners of state championship races from 1972 to 1976, all went in for pacemaker replacements so they could get back in the boat and relive their glory days.
It was a sight to see, guys in their 60s and 70s coming back out to see if they still had what it takes. For the most part all of the paddlers did fine sitting in the canoe and paddling, their problem was they couldn't get in and out gracefully. Bad knees, feet and hips were slowing them down on land. The Kailani Canoe Club guys were even considering a small shore crane to lift paddlers into the canoes. In many cases the canoe clubs found that guys they thought of as legends turned out to be nothing more than rumors.
As it turned out, Kailani did win the Oahu championship race, but not without some controversy. Their oldest paddler, Bill Moana at 76, competed without his prosthetic leg, which weighed about 30 pounds. The other clubs protested that Kailani had an unfair weight advantage and that all body parts must accompany the paddler in the race.
Even after winning, there was controversy within the club. Hawaiian Henry had been the steersman before Keaka Lemmings came out of retirement. Henry, also known as "Cranky Hank," thought that he should have been the one to steer the big race, so he decided to take the canoe that he owned and start his own club. It's often said in paddling circles that all you need to start your own club is a single canoe and a lot of resentment.
Several celebrities have discovered Kailua in the past few years and have been building or buying homes near the beach. They only occupy them for short periods in the winter, and don't really mix with the locals. People in Kailua know the celebrities are there, but try not to call attention to them as it would be considered rude. We talk about them amongst ourselves, but never in public.
ONE nationally known country-western couple, Jim McPaw and his wife, Charity Mountain, aka the "Country Kitten," recently had a home built down at the Coconut Grove end of Kailua Beach. The custom with new houses in Hawaii is to invite a kahu, a minister, to hold a blessing ceremony. This usually involves untying a maile lei at the entry way, saying prayers and having a small reception with pupus for the guests.
Somehow Hawaiian Henry found out about the ceremony and decided that he had to get an invitation. In his younger days Henry played steel guitar in Waikiki lounges, but he also toured for a time with a country band on the mainland. Charity Mountain was his current favorite and through the contractor he convinced the singers that besides cutting the maile lei, it was an ancient Hawaiian tradition to have the house key delivered from the ocean. Henry now had his own canoe and canoe club, so of course he could do the honors.
Wanting to be culturally sensitive in their new neighborhood, the couple was completely taken in with the idea of this tradition, which Henry had just made up. Nobody bothered to think that on ancient Hawaiian homes, grass shacks really, there were no doors of substance, let alone locks and keys.
So Hawaiian Henry gathered some guys together and paddled a couple miles from the boat ramp to the beach in front of the couple's new home to deliver the house key. To fit in with the "ancient" part of this new tradition they wore malos, Hawaiian loincloths. The house was beautiful, with the "Country Kitten" monogram custom carved into just about every piece of furnishing, including the six-burner, pickup-truck-sized, stainless steel, gas-fired grill on the lanai.
HENRY and the boys were having a wonderful time going through the house and drinking with the guests until the caterer came through with a tray of drinks. Stepping aside, Henry backed up against the gas grill and the hot "Country Kitten" logo set in the front panel.
Now, I don't know how many of you folks have ever worn a malo, but it gives no protection to the butt cheeks. Henry paddled home that night sitting on a permanent reminder of his favorite country singer.
That's the news from Kailua, where all the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the children are above average.
LAST CHANCE FOR TICKETS
Tickets to Hawaii Public Radio's presentation of "A Prairie Home Companion" have been sold out for weeks, but one final chance remains to score seats -- and they're good ones. Rush tickets will be sold beginning at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Blaisdell box office for the first two orchestra rows -- 50 seats per show. Cost is $25. Limit is two tickets per person; no phone orders. The shows are at 12:45 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
THIS JUST IN
The local artists to appear on the show have been announced: slack-key guitarist Danny Carvalho, Na Pali (Carlos Andrade, Pat Cockett and Fred Lunt) and slack-key/steel guitarist Owana Salazar.