Geoff's Notes

Sat, 27 Mar 2004

I left off with my flight to Maui, where I spent three lovely days, although it was cooler and wetter than it had been at this time of year for the better part of a decade. After many years of drought, this winter has supplied much needed water to recharge depleted aquifers, and still one of the major issues on Maui is water rights. The island is in many ways governed by and for the sugar interests that came in during the nineteenth century and have never let go their grip on local affairs. The main sugar company owns thousands of acres that were created as cane fields on the sandy ground between the two high parts of the island, land which is taxed at a rate of $10 an acre. I could go on for some time relating the comments I heard, but suffice it to say, this corporate welfare creates considerable tension on the island.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, March 17, I did a concert at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei. A small crowd came (partly because two Hawaiian girls, one from Maui were on American Idol! Oh well.) but they were very appreciative, and I had a great time. The next day I made an obligatory pilgrimage to Lahaina. I stopped at an overlook en route that I learned was one of the prime whale spotting places on the island, and indeed I saw perhaps half a dozen whales in fifteen minutes. I then continued on into Lahaina, the town I have spoken of in so many programs of whaling songs, and looked for the history. What a terrible disappointment! The museum that Don Sineti has spoken of is gone, and even the second floor two roon cultural museum in the old Court House was closed. In fact, I could find hardly an remnants of the whaling days. The town is totally given over to the most garish of tourism, and within an hour I was driving back out of town, knowing I had no reason to return. It happened that I drove back out of town behind a white ragtop Mustang, and I had to wonder what the middle aged couple in their aloha shirts were thinking - certainly not thoughts of the significant history that had been played out in that town.
On Friday I flew back to Oahu around noon, in time to relax and prepare for a concert at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu. The show was at 7:30 p.m., with a corned beef and cabbage dinner beforehand. About fifty folks showed up, and I did one of my best performances ever. One of the nice things about being on the road is the chance for undistracted rehearsal, which has been paying good dividends on this trip. This particular night was made all the more pleasant by the warm reception of fellow UU's. I was quickly invited to go on Sunday, and asked to sing this coming Sunday (tomorrow). It was very special to find a community here where I can feel so welcomed and at home.
On Saturday, my hostess drove me on a tour of Honolulu that took us to the Punchbowl, an ancient crater taken over by the military to become the Arlington of the Pacific. I must say it is an impressive place, and probably warrents another visit. From there we took back roads up through the hills and east to get to Diamond Head. That, too, was quite a sight, although with rain coming down we did not hike up to the crest. That's on my agenda for Monday. Meanwhile I settled into the Prince Kuhio Radisson Hotel, and spent the afternoon in the park nearby and going through the Honolulu Zoo. Of course, I loved seeing all the birds, very exotic, including a small aviary one can enter.
The next morning, Sunday, I finally met all the storytellers for the ECHO program. We gathered here at the Bishop Museum, and in about three hours had stitched together a fifty minute piece from the stories of five cultures and their relationship with whales. The premise, as it was last year, is that we are a crew of a whaleship frozen in near Barrow, AK. We include Tom Cummings, a Hawaiian from Maui, Tobias Vanderhoop, Wampanoag from Martha's Vinyard, Mark Lovewell, Yankee from the Vinyard, and me. I start the show with wondering where everyone has gone off to, and then warm my spirits by singing "Coast of Peru." Just as I finish, Mark and Tobias come in with a sea chest, and I inquire where our Kanaka companion might be. Mark suggests we sing "John Kanaka" to conjure him up, and it works as Tom comes in complaining loudly about our mispronounciation of "kanaka." He then sits down to play his nose flute, which conjures a real spirit in the person of Kealoha Kelekolio playing the part of Omumu, the whalerider. Their scene extablishes Tom's homesickness, which opens the door for me to sing three verses of "Rolling Down to Old Maui" in honor of his homeland. Mark then tells of his own homesickness for Martha's Vinyard and he and Tobias trade tales of whaling from the point of view of their own cultures. I follow that with "Talcahauno Girls" in honor of Gay Head, and we're all felling pretty jolly until Jack Dalton, Yupik from southern Alaska, comes in looking for his father, a white whaleman who came to his village seventeen years ago. Jack speaks of the destruction of the caribou herds, and seals and walrus, by the whalers, which leads into similar comments from Jana Harcharek of Barrow, accompanied by Charles Hugo on drum and Greta Stuermer dancing. They end with an honor dance for the gift of the whale, inviting us all to join in.
Putting all those pieces together was quite a trick, but it did fall into place quite nicely, and we've done the performance eight times now, the last being today as a part of a day long storytelling festival here at the Bishop. I'm now going to sing off and prepare for my 4:00 p.m. solo set. Then it's two days off before heading for Anchorage!

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