Honolulu Lite


Molokai is cruisin’
for a $$$ bruisin’

Say someone wants to come to your house and give you money. Now say it again. Say it as many times as you want, but it's not going to happen.
Unless you happen to live on Molokai. There are literally shiploads of people aching to debark on the Friendly Isle and give money to the friendly islanders. But some of those islanders aren't so friendly when it comes to cruise ships. They don't want the big boats parked outside their reefs, shuttling sunburned travelers to the island to sight-see and buy island-made Molokai mementos. True, the island where the doodads are made actually is Taiwan, but hey, an island is an island. Or is it?

Some islands, like Kauai, Oahu and Maui, beg for tourists. A tourist is the most efficient and advanced currency-conveying organism to evolve on Earth. And it is very easy to get tourists to give you currency. You simply have to give them something of less value in return. Why tourists would be willing to buy a puka shell necklace for $25 when they can buy a bag of the same necklaces at Costco at home in Boise for half the price is one of those happy mysteries that keep tourist industry executives giggling themselves to sleep every night.

Like turtles wading ashore to bury eggs in the sand, tourists come ashore here and leave wads of swag buried in local businesses. Government officials thoughtfully wrench most of that money away from the businesses in the form of taxes, fees, assessments, charges, levies, tariffs and ransom, investing it in things like schools, roads and the election campaigns of their brothers-in-law.

MOST ISLANDERS SEEM happy to relieve tourists of their financial burden. Kauai is like a punch-drunk fighter when it comes to trying to attract tourists: Every time it gets on its feet, it gets knocked down again. (It's an uppercut from the Gulf War! Boom! It's a straight right from Hurricane Iniki! Slam! The champ's tryin' to get to his feet. He's almost up. He's ... wait! There's a roundhouse from 9/11. Blooie!)

But there are two islands that aren't that keen on tourists: Molokai and Kahoolawe. Well, Kahoolawe likes tourists to visit, but it keeps blowing up.

Molokai residents have gotten used to low-key tourist developments, but some don't want the cruise ship trade. Their prayers that the cruise ships not anchor have been eerily answered in recent weeks, once when the wind kept the boat at bay and last week when the ship was called away by the Coast Guard to help in a rescue at sea.

Don't be surprised if the anti-cruise ship faction wins this one. Not because they are right. But because once seagoing tourists find out that neither they nor their moola are wanted on Molokai, they'll find a friendlier isle in the chain on which to unload their dough.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail

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