Mailbox madness


POSTED: Saturday, October 11, 2008

If you like to walk and are into mailboxes, then you should take what I call the Lanikai Wonderful and Weird Mailbox Walking Tour.

I have no scientific evidence, but I believe the 2.5-mile loop through the lovely, upscale, beachfront community of Lanikai on Oahu's Windward side contains more unusual mailboxes than anywhere else on the island.

Where most people are happy to just buy a plastic or metal mailbox, attach it to a pole and pound it into the ground with a croquet mallet, the citizens of Lanikai see mailboxes as blank canvases, aching to become objets d'art. All art is relative, and, having walked the Lanikai loop many times, I can report that there are some relatively strange mailboxes to be found there.

I don't understand the psychology that drives one to paint stuff on a mailbox or stick pieces of coral to it with a hot-glue gun, but there apparently is something in the water of Lanikai that compels inmates of the colony to do so. In the water, sitting just off shore, are the Mokulua islands, small haystack-shaped affairs that apparently look easier to paint than they are. The “;Mokes,”; as the islets are called locally, are painted (mostly badly) on several perfectly good mailboxes.

But perhaps I'm being too harsh. You should take the walking tour and decide for yourself. To get there, go past Buzz's restaurant and Kailua Beach Park on Mokulua Drive. You'll know you are entering Lanikai when you pass the large cement obelisk with the word “;Lanikai”; on it. The loop begins on Aalapapa Drive to your right. It is a one-way loop of asphalt with a nice, wide bike/walking lane marked off on the right side. Aalapapa goes along the flanks of the hills for about 1.2 miles before running into Mokulua, which brings you back by way of beachfront houses. There are many places to park along the road and many beach access points, so it's bad form park in someone's driveway and climb over their wall to get to the beach.

At regular walking speed, the loop takes less than an hour, but you really want to take your time to check out the houses, yards and, of course, the mailboxes.

  As you begin, you will discover that flowers are the favorite decoration of mailbox painters. That is followed by mailboxes with alleged representations of the Mokuluas. Then you'll find a scattering of fish, turtle and porpoise mailboxes.

There also are mailboxes covered with wood shingles or made up like little beach cottages. You never know what you'll find. I found one mailbox curiously decorated as a cow.

I also found Chris Kozlowski, a 39-year-old Hawaiian Tel employee, walking the loop.

“;I just started again two weeks ago,”; he said. “;I walked it a lot last year. People are nice, the traffic only goes one way and it's quiet.”;

For Chris the walk is about getting in shape, not mailboxes.

I also found Lanikai denizen Paula Osawa, who has been walking or running the loop for five years, though not continuously.

“;It's just long enough to make you feel you've accomplished something, but short enough so that you'll do it every day,”; she said.

She also wasn't into the mailboxes, but was nice enough to take a photo of me standing in front of what I think is the coolest mailbox in Lanikai.

It's a large, stylish wood mailbox in front of hair-care tycoon Paul Mitchell's 1.3-acre Polynesian waterfront estate. The mailbox looks like it cost more than some houses in Hawaii. If you like the mailbox, you can rent the entire vacation estate for $4,800 to $7,500 per day.

I suggest you keep walking.