Kamehameha III isn't King Street king
LET ME start here by saying that, yes, I know that the statue in front of the old courthouse on King Street is that of King Kamehameha the Great, a k a Kamehameha I. So, why, in my last column did I identify him as Kamehameha III? The short answer is because I'm an idiot. The long answer is because I'm getting old, my brain hurts, my mother drank martinis while I was a mere fetus ... It's a long, long story.
I could say it was merely a typo. That my right middle finger just sort of spazzed out on me when I was typing, like Kamehameha IIIIIIIIIII. See? That's how easy it could happen. But I'd be lying.
I have written about King Kamehameha III before, mainly about how he wasn't the favorite of "Moby Dick" author Herman Melville, who visited Hawaii in the mid-1800s. A character in one of Melville's lesser-known books called Kamehameha III a "fat, lazy ... blockhead and a most inveterate dram drinker." (The "..." indicate a very politically incorrect word that I've deleted. If you want to see that word, you are going to have to go dig up Melville's lesser-known works and paw through them.)
THE TERM "dram drinker" also is not a very nice thing to say about someone, especially a king. Drinking a dram back in Melville's day was what my old man would have called "having a burst" and what today's bar patrons call "doin' shots." A dram was a tot of whisky or some other strong spirit, usually a large tot. So, Melville was basically calling Kamehameha III a drunk. Though not to his face. Melville was a man whose pen was not only mightier than his sword, but taller than its owner. Had he called Kamehameha III a fat, lazy dram drinker to his face, the king would have would have squished him like a, well, little squishy thing.
I don't know what Melville's problem with King Kamehameha III was. KKIII is one of my favorite kings. I would have liked to share a few drams with him, had they had drams of an amusing chardonnay back then. While King Kamehameha I gets the credit for uniting the islands (hence his statue in front of the stately building housing the Hawaii Supreme Court), Kamehameha III (KKI's second son, by the way) came up with the phrase "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness." Talk about being ahead of his time. He composed that ditty about protecting the environment through virtuous stewardship before Al Gore's forefathers had even begun to think about hooking the country on Tennessee-grown tobacco products.
I know of no statue in Hawaii honoring Kamehameha III, but his "life of the land" utterance became the state motto. Chug a dram to that, Melville.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
at any book retailer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org