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Mo Stuffs

Monday, October 16, 2000


By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Caught on and cool: braided ti leaf attached to a bumper.

Hot on the tale of the
mysterious ‘bumper lei’

Maybe some things are just meant to be a mystery. Like this week's skull-scratcher, the practice of tying maile or ti leaves to car bumpers.

Wat Dat? You've seen 'em. They drag on the ground like a horse's tail. There's nothing obvious to explain the practice. But walk through any parking lot and you'll spot a bedraggled bumper lei.

To explore the maile connection, we called up Maile herself, Maile Meyer of Native Books, who's connected into all sorts of Hawaiian cultural coolness.

Her response: "Gosh! I don't know! The canoe paddlers do the same thing on their canoes, so maybe it's a wind thing. It's a male thing, that's for sure. You see it mostly on pick-up trucks. Muy macho for the guys who won't hang a flower lei from the rear-view.

"Maile leis go to winners. It's good luck, at least. Your car is an extension of yourself, right? Maybe tying a maile strand on your bumper makes you a winner of some sort. For goodness sake! Why don't you ask me something I know?"

Here's our theory: Someone once accidentally put their graduation lei on the truck bumper and left it hanging. Others saw it, thought it looked cool. So they did the same. Now everyone does it. Which also explains why Mariah Carey is popular.

Got a better theory? Tell us via the addresses below.

Burl Burlingame, Star-Bulletin

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