Whenever I happen to meet readers in person—and can’t skirt mumbling my name or how I make a living—I’m met with reactions like, “Wait—are you Anu from MauiTime?! Oh, you’re the ninja girl!” or “Oh, you’re the Kula girl!” (And on one occasion, a baroness of backhanded compliments told me, “Hmm, I wouldn’t have guessed—by the way that you speak—that you write the way you do.” Um, thanks?) Then, I’m often subject to a confused look as they, quite obviously, weren’t expecting that the person behind the pen to be such a freaky-fro’d clunker of a khaki-clad kanaka.
Look, it’s a big honor to know that anyone other than my Nana will hunt down a new issue every Thursday and read my blather—let alone that I’ve earned a laugh or two (or so I’ve been told, but refuse to believe). Still, though said living has in part been made on this back-of-the-book page by publicly airing every way I am an embarrassment to humanity, I can’t help but be evermore embarrassed.
Point is, thanks. Seriously. Also, as these interactions have now become a daily ordeal, I want to clarify a few common questions in (hopefully) one swoop.
First, to address the issue of how I look IRL: sorry! If I could protect you all by wearing a paper bag perforated by only two eye-pukas, I would—but it’s hard to check my blind spot li’ dat. A lot of people think my decidedly sweet-and Asian-looking avatar (fooled you!) is some play on the whole “the pen is mightier than the sword” thing. That was a happy mistake, really. Truth is, I used to do little else with my free time than practice samurai sword fighting under the tutelage of Bob Sensei and Guy Sensei, at the Okinawan Kenjin Kai on Tuesdays and Friday nights (6-9pm).
But for more than two years, free time has become fiction and deadlines have taken precedence over my study of deadly arts (as my Jell-O jiggler arms can attest). Oh, and I don’t wear a bun anymore because chemotherapy makes your hair fall out (hence my head-hair’s ridiculously poofy return).
Second, I haven’t actually lived in Kula since I was a teenager. But, Kula is forever my one and only hometown, so when I had to make a quick call as to what to title this column (and my predecessors having already taken both good names: “Holo Holo Girl” and “Restless Native”), I jumped to “Kula Kid.” A lot people have said they think it’s because it sounds like “cool kid,” which I’m blatantly anything but. Rather, since this space is all about sharing perspective—and for me that perspective is rooted in Hawaii being home—my view, so to speak, is and will always be from Kula.
And if I can wade away from the shallows for a moment, Kula to me illustrates something else. The once-forest now pastureland has been called “the epicenter of extinction in the Hawaiian Islands;” and as I’m fond of saying, over 30 million years of Goldilocks evolution, was once home to the most stunning endemism on Earth. And perhaps for this, with my every breath, I’ve felt an inextricable sense of loss and displacement. From the onset, this is a theme I’ve wanted to explore more of, and as I head into my 60th column and beyond is something I’d finally like to make good on.
Which reminds me: why is homecoming always overdue? My Happy Valley home is, like, little more than half an hour from Upcountry, and still I manage to neglect visiting my folks for months on end! Anywhere—especially on an island—it’s inexcusable.
Besides, heaven to me is my right hand on the wheel, left hand catching air out the window. And so it was on my most recent—and horrifically belated—visit home, that I heard yet another fascinating story on NPR. In a “rare collision of music and environmental regulation,” Craig Havighurst reported that the Gibson Guitar Corporation in Tennessee was recently raided by federal marshals as the U.S. Justice Department prepares “to charge the famous builder of instruments with trafficking in illegally obtained wood [from Madagascar].”
Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz was quoted, saying “Federal marshals were armed, came in, evacuated our factory, shut down production, sent our employees home and confiscated wood.” He added “We have been implicated in wrongdoing and we haven’t been charged with anything. Our business has been injured to millions of dollars.”
Say what?! That’s some Fern Gully shit! But wait a minute—evil doers and great guitar-makers just doesn’t seem to jive. At least, I can’t bear the thought. To boot, in the story, Attorney Ronald Bienstock “warned clients to be wary of traveling abroad with old guitars, because the law says owners can be asked to account for every wooden part of their guitars when re-entering the U.S. The law also covers the trade in vintage instruments.”
To gain a little insight, I hit up guitar hero Tom Conway, who says he “grew up not far from the Gibson Guitar Company’s historic Kalamazoo, MI facility” and “feel[s] this latest round of persecution against them is unjust, to say the least.” Further, “the travel issue is just absurd. Most people can’t identify all the wood varieties in their guitars… will there be ‘wood cops’ at he airports?!”
Too true. Still, the story is unfolding as we speak—and all the facts have yet to be presented. If you want to discuss the issue, I’ll be hanging around our blog—or you we can chat IRL if you give me enough time to prepare a paper bag.
To read more Kula Kid with links and photos and stuff, and to leave comments, visit mauifeed.com/kulakid