What the Heck?
PHOTO BY JOHN HECKATHORN
Big Island resident Jon Lomberg is America's leading space artist - and he's just crafted a model of the Milky Way Galaxy as a garden.
A galaxy grows on the Big Island
You never know what you are going to find on the Big Island. How about the galaxy as greenery?
Honaunau resident Jon Lomberg is America's leading space artist. His painting of our Milky Way Galaxy hangs in the Smithsonian. He was the artistic partner of the late Carl Sagan, illustrating Sagan's books and his television series, "Cosmos," for which Lomberg won an Emmy.
The Pioneer probe just landed on Mars, carrying a DVD designed to last thousands of years, created by Lomberg, who also designed NASA's legendary Voyager Golden Record. There's an asteroid named after him.
Lomberg is obsessed with making accurate and beautiful images of space - in oils, in computer graphics, and now in plants and flowers.
At the Paleaku Peace Gardens in Captain Cook, on an undulating circle of land that mimics the wobbly disk of the Milky Way, Lomberg has created a garden modeled after the spiral arms of the galaxy. Hybrid hibiscus represent nebulae. The small dots on the gold dust croton leaves - the garden has millions of dots - represent stars.
On one leaf is glued a gold bead - representing our solar system, not to scale. The tiny bead is a million times too large. Major stars like Arcturus and Deneb are on the same leaf - or perhaps one leaf over. That's the extent of the night sky we think of as unimaginably vast.
"You believe we're the only dot that has intelligent life?" asks Lomberg. He's hidden a few small beads at random to represent solar systems that may host life. "You're welcome to try to find one," he says, gesturing at the 100-foot-diameter garden, each foot representing 100,000 light years.
Look for yourself. Paleaku Gardens is open Tuesdays through Thursdays, $5. By arrangement, Lomberg himself gives tours.
PORK CHOPS AND REAL ESTATE
When on the South Kona Coast, always drop by the Manago Hotel for the pork chops - grilled on a square pan ordered in the late 1920s from the now-defunct Hilo Iron Works.
Talked story with the incredibly lively 89-year-old Harold Manago. Harold was studying real estate at UH-Manoa when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Returning home to Kona, he was handed the keys to the hotel by his father, who'd founded it in 1917.
"I didn't want to be in the hotel business, but no use hard head," he says. Harold ran the hotel until he turned it over to his son Dwight in the '80s.
Manago Hotel is one of the last family-owned, non-tourist hotels that used to dot the islands. It's intact because Harold did real estate deals - details of which he can recall decades later - that left the hotel owning the surrounding acreage and buildings.
Harold's son, Dwight, transformed the upper story of one of the side buildings into a pleasant apartment for his father. Harold refused to move into it. "The hotel basement was good enough for me all these years," he says. "It's still good enough."
YOU’RE THE PIANO MAN
Recently, Greg Wood, who manages Pioneer Plaza downtown, got a call from security. Someone was moving a piano into his polished brass and granite open-air lobby. Said he was going to play it there.
"My first instinct was, 'No way,'" says Wood.
The pianist was Stewart Cunningham, who's played everywhere from the late lamented Bistro at Century Center to the Plaza Club. Turns out that through a friend, Cunningham had arranged to play at lunch Fridays at Pioneer Plaza.
Nobody told Wood, so when Cunningham unloaded the upright he'd bought for $150 at Goodwill - "I got a great deal," says the pianist - Wood had to make a judgment call. "Let him play," he said. "I love walking through the lobby and hearing the music, it's such a classy touch."
Cunningham makes the $150 piano sound like a million bucks. You can hear him yourself Friday lunch. Drop a dollar in the tip jar.
LIVING WITH CHANGE
Last Monday, Margie Jacinto, who was the founding editor here of the lifestyle mag Modern Luxury Hawaii, left us for Texas. Hubby Rafael landed a plum job at the Dallas World Aquarium.
Jacinto was young, charming, funny and - despite the upscaliness of her magazine - always down-to-earth. She'll be doing the magazine long-distance until Modern Luxury finds a new editor.
At the Bebe Waikiki opening, I met one of the candidates for the job, flown in from L.A. to see if she might be interested. "Which neighborhood do the hip and with-it people live in here?" she kept asking everyone.
"Don't ask me," said writer Sherry Strasfogel. "I live in Hawaii Kai, which is 'Desperate Housewives' territory."
Finally, the trendy young lady asked me where the hip and with-it live. "L.A.," I suggested.
DRESS FOR DISTRESS
Quite the art opening at the Cupola last Thursday - nude photography by Nick Gariaeff, Chiu Leong and Peter Schaindlin (yes, the COO of the Halekulani Corp., that Peter Schaindlin).
The invitation said to dress "uber-chic." "Oh, that's so declasse," said one quite classy lady.
But much of the mob responded. "I love getting dressed up," said photographer Dana Forsberg, who dazzled the room in a dress that seemed made of precariously tied lace.
"This was tailored for me in Bangkok," said Pacific Business News' Chad Blair of his silk shirt/black jacket combo. "Put me in the column. I insist." Done.
Talked to featured photographer Chiu Leong, who lives in Volcano and takes pictures of nudes covered with wet clay (he's also a potter).
Asked if he'd obeyed the injunction to dress uber-chic. He gestured to his new jeans. "In Volcano, this is chic."