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David Shapiro

By David Shapiro

Saturday, December 5, 1998

Good things about
the rain in Hilo

I vacationed in Hilo this week and it rained nearly the whole time. For most tourists, that would be cause for major grousing. In fact, the rain is a big reason Hilo isn't among the state's more popular visitor stops. But I relished every misty moment.

If you love Hilo, the rain is part of the deal. And it's not the warm, passing kind of rain we talk about on Oahu. Hilo rains can go on for days and get downright bone-chilling.

Sure the rain can be a pain. At Hilo High, I rode a motorcycle to school and the rain defeated my efforts to get my gold star for perfect attendance. I'd show up soaking wet from the short commute on my bike and the principal would send me home to change.

I'd put on dry clothes and return to school -- soaked again, of course. After a few instant replays with the principal, I'd just stay home and nap in my bed instead of the classroom.

The rain can be an inspiration for creativity. At Hilo College, they couldn't afford to cover a walkway between two classroom buildings, making the professors' dry lectures uncomfortably wet for the poor students shuttling back and forth in the rain.

Instead of whining about a lack of resources like current administrators and faculty at UH-Manoa, they put all that assembled brain power to work and came up with a solution: They put bamboo umbrellas at both ends of the walkway. You'd pick one up for your run to class and the next returning student would bring it back.

The rain can be a source of comfort. There's nothing like sleeping to the sound of rain hitting a Hilo corrugated metal roof -- not to mention what it does for your love life. It took me months after leaving Hilo to learn to sleep soundly without the soothing percussion of raindrops on metal.

Then there are those rainbows that materialize magically when the rain lets up, like the perfect arc that just formed over Coconut Island when I looked up from my hotel lanai.

I really started to understand about Hilo and its rain when I needed some confectionery refreshment Wednesday night and met Carla Takamine, who runs Big Island Delights with her husband Jeff.

The couple is part of a burst of entrepreneurship that is making Hilo the cookie capital of the Pacific -- a fitting successor to the sugar industry. Their retail store on Kanoelehua sells homemade cookies and ice cream created from inventive mixtures of macadam-ia nuts, coffee beans, arare, corn flakes and chocolate chips. They wholesale their cookies all over the island.

While the treats are indeed a delight, the most delightful thing in the store is Carla herself. The tiny woman with the pixie moccasins hovers around customers offering samples, help in assembling gift baskets, assurance that you've made the right choice and savvy wisdom about family values.

CARLA looks the part of a cookie maker just as Santa Claus looks the part of a guy who gives toys to kids. She's a human embodiment of everything a cookie stands for.

She and her husband have been putting in 15-hour days while raising five kids since starting the business two years ago. "We don't expect to have to work from 9 (a.m.) to 12 (midnight) forever," she said. "We have a plan."

It was toward the end of one of those long days when I listened to Carla and my wife Maggie talk happily about kids, parents and grandparents as they put together a package of goodies for our grandson Corwin.

That's when I got it about how Hilo folks put up with so much rain. People like Carla Takamine can make their own sunshine.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at editor@starbulletin.com.

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