Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Haiku Stairs step
into controversy

I had climbed about 2,000 of the 3,922 steps that comprise the legendary Haiku Stairs -- "a k a Stairway to Heaven" -- when I turned to gaze at the entire Windward coast magnificently spread out before me. Sure, my legs were a little sore, especially those big muscles south of the hips and north of the kneecaps; the technical physiological designation escapes me at the moment. And I was suffering from a slight case of vertigo, which caused the entire Windward coast magnificently spread out before me to sort of careen side to side in a sickening manner. But, boy, what a view! I turned and began ...

Wait. I'm sorry. I can't do this. I've never actually climbed the Haiku Stairs. I don't know why anyone would want to. KHON anchor Leslie Wilcox once interviewed some guy who'd run the Honolulu Marathon and said how good he felt after running 26 miles. Wilcox said the only way she could imagine feeling good after going 26 miles was to travel by car. That's the way I feel about the Haiku Stairs, except for the car part. Not only can I not imagine climbing 3,922 steps, I can't imagine climbing 3,922 anythings. Forget the "Stairway to Heaven." I don't even like climbing the "Stairway to My House." And my house has a pretty good view of the Windward side, too.

Thousands of people seem to love to climb the Haiku Stairs and are doing so even though the stairs are closed to the public. The problem is that there is no place to park at the bottom of the stairs (or the top, either, for that matter). The state had tried to strike a deal with Hope Chapel Kaneohe to open its parking lot to hikers, but the church said no.

You'd think a church would jump at the chance to be the base camp for hikers climbing a "Stairway to Heaven." Just think of all the religious knickknacks and gewgaws parishioners would be able to sell to hikers. I envision bumper stickers like "Hope Helped Me Climb to Heaven!" and "God, My Legs Hurt."

But the stairs remain closed while the state tries to finagle a land swap with Hawaiian Home Lands so hikers can park at the old Coast Guard Omega station.

THIS SEEMS kind of silly. Instead of swapping land, why not just move the bloody stairs somewhere else? There are plenty of scary mountains and cliffs that could use a set of stairs. If people are dumb enough to want to climb stairs, build them some up to the Pali Lookout ("Stairway to Gawking Tourists") or up the side of Punchbowl Crater ("Stairway to Dead People").

I think the Haiku Stairs are dangerously misnamed. Because a haiku is a poem that contains only three lines, the Haiku Stairs should have only three steps. But no, it has 3,922 of them! It's the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow of stairways. The only way I'm ever going to gaze at the entire Windward coast magnificently spread out before me is by airplane or when they build the Haiku Escalator.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail


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