What the Heck?
Guy Sibilla snapped this self-portrait in a Turkish bath in Damascus. He will be showing more exotic travel photos Dec. 5 at the Honolulu Design Center.
Photographer Sibilla survives Syria
"Everyone told me if I went to the Middle East, I'd end up staring down the barrel of an AK-47," said adventure photographer Guy Sibilla - just back from a two-month jaunt through Syria and Jordan.
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he said. "I've never been anywhere more warm and welcoming. I felt as safe there as I do in Japan."
Sibilla got caught in a sandstorm on Wadi Rum, Syria's Red Desert. "We just headed to the nearest Bedouin camp and they took us in, fed us, gave us beds."
He snapped thousands of photos. Should you enjoy great travel photography, he will be presenting "Ancient Cities: Syria and Jordan" on Dec. 5 at the Honolulu Design Center. Free, but reservations suggested: 237-5462.
Theroux On The Rails Again
Also back in town after considerable journeying is the literary lion of Pupukea, Paul Theroux.
Theroux's current collection of novellas, "The Elephanta Suite," is a New York Times "Editor's Choice." He's putting the finishing touches on "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star," a book that required 25,000 miles of rail travel.
Theroux retraced the rail journey from England to Japan and back again that he turned into "The Great Railway Bazaar," the 1975 travelogue that made him world famous.
People often re-create literary journeys; Theroux thought he might as well do it before somebody else did. The countries he visited have changed much in the 33 years since the first book, he said. "But not as much as I have."
Dela Cruz Paddles Away Pounds
Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, known for his guidebooks to local food, has shed 40 pounds.
At Hawaii Literacy silent auction, he spotted a stand-up paddle surfboard "The volunteer was so enthusiastic about hers, I immediately bid for it," he says.
You can see him paddling the nearly 12-foot board at Lanikai, Haleiwa and Ala Moana Beach. "I never surfed, never skateboarded," he said. "If I can do this, anyone can."
Moore Sevey Next Week
If you missed Part One of Leslie Wilcox's interview with legendary news anchor Bob Sevey, the transcript is on the PBS Hawaii Web site. (PBS really should get video on demand.)
Even Wilcox never knew that Sevey's "retirement" was a white lie. He quit with five years to run on his contract, sick of being hassled.
In 20 years at KGMB, Sevey nurtured much of the town's TV talent, including Wilcox, whom he hired away when she was a young Star-Bulletin reporter.
Sevey mentored Joe Moore, who went on to surpass him at KHON. Next Tuesday in Part Two of the interview, Sevey talks about how he was "destroyed, but pleased" when that happened, and talks about how Moore has it even tougher than he did, dealing with corporate interference.
Bald from chemotherapy, Sevey looks remarkably cheerful for a guy who was given a year to live - 13 months ago.
The Meat of the Matter
Honolulu Magazine presented its Hale 'Aina restaurant awards at a dressy affair last Sunday in the Royal Hawaiian's equally dressy Monarch Room. All night long, I heard complaints that the historic Monarch Room is doomed: "How can Sheraton possibly think of turning this into a steakhouse?"
Emcee Guy Hagi caused the biggest stir of the evening, announcing that Restaurant of the Year winner Alan Wong had turned vegan.
"No, I'm not vegan," scoffed Wong. "I couldn't run a restaurant kitchen."
Wong's only vegan before noon. His life partner, Alice Inoue, feeds him miso soup and stir-fried bitter melon for breakfast. "Helps keep the weight down," she said.
Too Shy For Prime Time
Wong is a perennial Hale 'Aina winner, but the most significant award last Sunday went to another Alan - Alan Takasaki of Le Bistro. His small Niu French eatery walked off with the Top Oahu Restaurant. Shortly after winning, Takasaki himself walked out of the awards, and headed back for his kitchen.
"I told people I had tables to take of," he says. "That wasn't the truth. I was just kind of embarrassed."
He broke the good news to his kitchen crew, telling them they were tops. "Then I told them, we're not. Let's keep working."
Need Not Be Present to Win
The new Hawaii Hospitality Hall of Fame honored its first inductees Tuesday. The first person I ran into at the dinner was former UH TIM school dean Chuck Gee.
"People keep me asking me if I made the list," said Gee. "I tell them it's not an honor I'd seek." Because this year all 25 inductees were dead.
"We had to narrow the list somehow," said former hotel exec and now state legislator Bob Herkes. "So this year we decided to honor only those who were deceased. Of course, once we decided that, we had to make sure they were."
The award videos were a history lesson, the story of early hoteliers, airline and travel execs, who literally changed the landscape of Hawaii. Of course, someone else had to accept the handcrafted koa poi pounder for the honorees.
Accepting the award for developer Chris Hemmeter was elegant widow Patsy, back in Hawaii for the first time in four years. "It's nice to see old friends, but I get weepy," she said, wiping a tear. "So many memories."
Raymond Bickson flew in from Monte Carlo to pick up the award for his father: Irwin Bickson, co-founder of Budget Rent-a-Car. No stranger to awards himself, the younger Bickson last week was named "Global Hotelier of the Year."
The "sunny son of Hawaii," as Fortune Magazine once called him, now heads Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces. Under Bickson, the Indian luxury hotel chain is doubling in size, and now owns the Pierre in New York and Compton Place in San Francisco.