Learn your island colors today (or else)
IT'S MAY DAY, which in Hawaii means Lei Day, which means all the little kiddies in elementary schools will attend Lei Day ceremonies and learn that each island has an official flower or item with which to make leis, and the color of each lei component is the official color for that island.
The official color for this columnist is red with shame because I didn't know this when I wrote about the official island colors recently. In my defense, I didn't attend elementary school here, just high school, where the colors I remember most were black and blue (it's a haole thing).
Several Internet sites list both Hawaii's official island colors and flowers, but they don't say that the two are related. And in some cases they aren't. The "flower" for Kahoolawe is hinahina, which is a silvery plant, yet the official island color is gray. I still suspect that gray was chosen to ironically reflect the presence of gray exploded ordnance "blossoms" that used to cover the "bombing isle." And many sites refer to pupu, or shells, as Niihau's "flower."
I RECEIVED a lot of e-mail helping me to sort this whole flower-color-island thing out. My favorite came loaded with aloha from one reader who wrote, "The island colors are directly related to the flower associated with that island. ... New immigrants should take a crash course in island culture before being allowed to insult the indigenous population. We prefer our colors to be dignified and traditional. If you want Banana Mania, move back to L.A."
I suppose that since I've only lived in Hawaii for 30 years, I am a "new immigrant" but, please, I NEVER lived in L.A. (Unless he's referring to Lower Aiea.) And I don't think any indigenous population should be insulted by anyone, even those who take crash courses in culture. Nevertheless, I apologize for daring to discuss the official colors of the various islands.
I didn't want to write about island colors anyway. I wanted to write about the new official Honolulu bird, the white tern, as designated by Mayor Mufi Hannemann a few weeks ago. I wanted to start a conversation about why states and cities have to name official birds, flowers and fish. But then I stumbled on the whole island colors thing and got sidetracked. (Hey, I am soooo done with the island colors. Everyone chill.)
Why is there a Hawaii state bird (the nene) and a city bird (see above) yet there is no city or state bug? (The giant flying cockroach could be both the state bug and bird.)
We have a state fish (the humuhumunukunukuapuaa) but not an official state reptile, like the gecko. Why is there no state condiment, microbe or rock? In coming weeks I propose to rectify this oversight by presenting various categories of state "things," and we will let the readers decide. I believe, for instance, there should be a state pothole. I know exactly where it is, and this recent immigrant has the puka tires to prove it.
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