Browsing articles in "All in the Family"
Feb 21, 2013

The Centerpiece Ran Away

A close approximation

Today I am picking up my granddaughter at La Pietra and driving her to Punahou, where she will meet up with Mark to do her homework.  We are planning to do this frequently, so her parents don’t have to get involved with homework issues.

Driving to Punahou (or the thought of it) always brings back memories of picking up Ian and his friends lo those many long years ago.  Today I am remembering when Ian was in 8th grade and part of the curriculum involved cooking.  Among the activities was a tour to the Hanohano Room, where they met the maitre d’ and ate Strawberries Sabayon.

The final “test” was to put together a “dinner” and invite a guest  – most people invited one or both of their parents.  Not Ian and his friends.  They invited the maitre d’ of the Hanohano Room, who was happy to attend.  I have no idea what they served him, but a key part of their centerpiece was Ian’s Jackson Chameleon.  Ian’s idea, I am sure.

Needless to say, it escaped during the meal.

Feb 2, 2013

Why are those people having breakfast?

Honolulu is an early-to-rise town and there are always breakfast meetings, typically at The Pacific Club and The Plaza Club, the big banks’ executive dining rooms and Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch and Crab.  It is always interesting to see who is having breakfast with whom and speculate as to what they are talking about.  News on the coconut wireless can give you a hint — but you can never know for sure.

Kokan is the name of a group that has been having breakfast together for thirty years.  No kidding.  Maybe even more.  At the outset, it was formed as a small business tip club — like Rotary on a smaller scale and with a motto which might have been “self above service.”  It was intended to meet weekly, and each member was to bring business tips/referrals for other members in the group.

Over time, we lost the interest in the tips, but not in each other, and we started to have breakfast once a month, usually at the Pacific Club, sometimes at The Plaza Club and now, more often than not, at Sam Choy’s.  The group is comprised of a lawyer, an entrepreneur, a retailer, a stock broker, a Democratic party operative and multi-tasker, a banker, a head hunter, a customs/immigration officer, a real estate developer, an accountant, a retired marine and an information specialist.   The banker has decamped to California, so he is Emeritus, and one of our original members, the insurance man Big “D” Don Dawson passed away a few years ago.

We have seen each other through changes in jobs (me and others), changes in husbands (me).  We have added new members, but since about the mid-eighties never lost one, except Big “D” and that wasn’t because he wanted to leave or because we wanted him to.   One of the original members, real estate developer Phil Russell, gave the group the name Kokan, a Japanese term for which I forget the meaning.  I even googled it but gave up when I couldn’t find it easily, because it is not the point.

Now, we have breakfast once a month to see each other, to enjoy each other’s company, to talk about the weather, the business and the politics of Honolulu/Hawai`i, to share books and movies and generally shoot the you know what.  It is amazing to me that we are still doing this.  Phil Russell is the grown up who takes responsibility for making sure that we know how to reach one another and who is responsible to pick up the tab for a given month’s breakfast.

Politically, we are lefties and righties, and we know who is who and mostly don’t take each other seriously.  Only one of us could be considered to be still in his youth — the rest of us are older:  my goodness, we have been breaking bread together for 30 years!

These people are my very good friends, even though I don’t see them very often.  Our relationship is not based on professional connections or who-can-do-what-for-whom, but on genuine, heartfelt affection for one another.    You might think we could stop meeting for breakfast, but we couldn’t because Kokan is a part of the rhythm of our lives.  It is now part of each of our back stories.  Together, we have lived through five governors, only one of them Republican, five Mayors (one of them a woman, one of them an independent, otherwise all Democrats), several University Presidents, several athletic directors, and lots of interesting scandals (none of them our own).

We have watched big banks come and go, smaller banks spring up, advertising agencies grow and die.  As a group, we have outlasted Hawai`i’s very long serving Senators  — thank you Dan and Dan.  We have seen a revival of the Hawaiian language and the growth of charter schools.  We have watched Waikiki reborn, Ko Olina built up, and the Neighbor Islands become truly viable visitor destinations.  We have watched the visitor industry grow from just about 1 million visitors a year to more than 7 million.

We’ve seen a lot, we know a lot, but mostly we enjoy each other’s company.  We don’t text, we don’t email.  We see each other in person.  Once a month for 30 years.

Feb 2, 2013

Moo Goo Gai Pan & Scorpions at Trader Vic’s

Make me a scorpion, and don’t forget the gardenia!

In the mid-1960s, when I was young and very much in love, my boyfriend and I would board the train in Greenwich and head to New York, disembark at Grand Central and walk the many blocks to the Plaza Hotel.  There, at the home of Eloise, was Trader Vic’s, tucked away, dark and pretty romantic.  Total Polynesia — at least in my mind at the time.  Bamboo and grass, special booths with puffer fish lighting.

We always had the same thing:  moo goo gai pan, white rice, euphrates crackers and a couple of scorpions with gardenia floating in them.  It was heaven.  I lived for those euphrates crackers and the take-you-away-from-here atmosphere at Trader Vic’s.  The meal was around $30 in 1966.  New York’s drinking age was 18, and I had a fake ID card.

My mother was horrified that we did this — at least she claimed to be, because $30 was so much for a single meal in 1966.  An online calculator says 1966′s $30 would be $169.00 today.  For lunch, mind you.  That is pretty expensive for a couple of teenagers who were pretty ignorant about the world around them.   So I guess my mother wasn’t pretending to be horrified.

I couldn’t believe it when I heard Trader Vic’s at the Plaza was closed.  I went to the Waikiki Trader Vic’s up-in-a-tree at the International Marketplace.  It was no Trader Vic’s at the Plaza.  Years later, I asked my brother to make a reservation at Trader Vic’s in San Francisco.

Really?  Completely different menu?  Brightly lit and minimum polynesia?  Dinner with my brother, his kids, my best friend, my wonderful husband, and my brother’s in-laws.  No, it was not Trader Vic’s.  It was something masquerading as Trader Vic’s.  I should remember to listen to Tom Wolfe.

Feb 2, 2013

Ravens, Car Washes, Chicken Soup & Mariposa Restaurant

Readers of this blog know that part of my growing up time was spent in Towson Maryland, where I happily watched the Orioles and the Colts, went to Gino Marchettis for french fries and Alan Ameche’s for fried chicken, and drank chicken soup at the car wash in the winter with my Dad.

As the Baltimore Ravens prepare to take on the San Francisco 49′ers, the Ravens are my home team.  I have family in SFO, I visit there quite often, and usually, they are my home team.  But not this time.  Besides the fact that I learned to love sports in Baltimore, there is Michael Oher (I discovered him before you did, I bet) and Ray Lewis.  I am a sucker for the old guys in their last game.

The car wash thing is connected to football because Dad and I always had a cup of chicken soup (dried soup and hot water, 25 cents from a machine) at the car wash and headed over to Alan Ameche’s or Gino Marchetti’s with our freshly cleaned car.

I have discovered chicken soup here in Hawai`i that takes me back to Baltimore and the car wash and my Dad.    Never mind that it is at the fancy restaurant in Nieman Marcus — Mariposa — it is thick and soothing and just about the same size…although served in a tiny ceramic cup and saucer at the outset of the meal.  A pre-bite.  pre-sip.  It is wonderful.  Mariposa is one place I am willing to drive across the mountain for — to have lunch with a friend, with the secret agenda of tasting that soup — and being back in Baltimore with Daddy.  Weather cold.  Wrapped up warm.  And delicious chicken soup. In a paper cup.  From a vending machine.

Go Ravens!

Jan 27, 2013

Dinner with Aung San Suu Kyi

Through the efforts of Dr. Nancy Pace and many Rotarians from Hawai`i and elsewhere, Aung San Suu Kyi stepped on U.S. soil (here in Hawai`i) for only the second time since she has been released from house arrest.  At the Rotary International Hawai’i Global Peace Forum, Aung spoke about Burma for about 45 minutes.

The country she describes, once the Paris of the Far East, recalls Sarajevo after the Olympics.  A place with abundant natural resources and a culturally diverse population now decimated by war and a dictatorship of a military that was for themselves and not it’s people.

She never once called the country Myanmar, the pre-British rule name of the country which was reinstated after the military coup d’etat in 1962.  Although still contested, many, including the Nobel laureate have returned to calling the country Burma, in part because they refuse to recognize the military’s power in the government.   Aung thinks of Burma as Burma..  Her “Letters From Burma” is a  collection of all things Burmese —  from this amazing woman who was educated in Rangoon, Delhi and at Oxford University.

Her spoken English is beautiful, and her voice is deep and rich.  Clearly, having suffered bravely through many years of house arrest and earlier imprisonment, she is a strong woman.  Her spine is stiff, yet she is tiny and delicate, her hair done with an array of  tiny flowers on one side and a saffron colored rose secured on the other.  She was draped in a beautiful saffron dress.

Rotary had asked her to speak on any topic she liked.  She presented her vision of “peace and prosperity” for Burma, seeking the help of Rotarians and others across the world to help address problems of health, water, education, democracy and the law.

One theme of her speech was bribery:  now you must bribe almost anyone to get anything.  The allegedly free healthcare system has devolved into one where the clinic and hospital staffs are state-provided but materials including surgical instruments must be provided by the patients.  Should one want to insure a positive result, it is necessary to bribe everyone from the orderlies to the doctors and nurses.  The wealthy have turned to private hospitals (and private education for their children) leaving the poor to fend for themselves.  Her plea for this part of her vision:  restore Rangoon Hospital and assist the return of a truly free system of health care.

Burma is a sovereign state in S.E. Asia bordered by Thailand, China, India, Laos and Bangladesh.  It has a population of more than 60 million.  It is a country rich in resources, including water, abundant agricultural land, natural gas and gemstones.  

And it is Aung San Suu Kyi’s home.  She is broken Burma’s compelling ambassador to the world community, asking for kindness, compassion and tenderness — and help to rebuild her home and restore it to its position on the world stage.

Peace and prosperity is what we all want, she says, and it is what this damaged world needs to survive.

As for Rotary International, it is already involved in a water project in Burma, and surely will do more after hearing Aung San Suu Kyi speak with such passion about her country.  Rotary gives 50 International Peace Scholarships every year and its motto Service Above Self is one we could all adopt to help create the world that Aung is fighting for.  Thank you, Dr. Pace, and Rotary International for affording me and my family the opportunity of a lifetime to spend an evening with one of the planet’s most precious resources.

 

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Gloria. Circa 1955.



Gloria. Circa 2012.




Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.

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