Browsing articles in "Hawaii"
Jan 28, 2014

Why is Hawai`i so expensive?

This isn’t about why Hawai`i is so expensive, but as it happens it is the first word that comes up on google search when you put in the question “Why is Hawaii so…”

Thanks to the Huffington post which says “thanks to the Twitter account @Amazing_Maps, we now have an idea of how the Internet stereotypes all 50 U.S. states. When a search phrase like “Why is Illinois so…” is typed into Google, the search engine autocompletes the sentence with the word that people most commonly write in the search bar next. In this way, Google autocomplete may reveal the deeply held assumptions the public holds about a state.”

So Hawaii is grouped with Alaska, California and New York as “expensive”.  The subsequent words that come up for Hawai`i are “hot” (I googled that and 160,000,000 results came up in six-tenths of a second.  All of them were about weather, not whether Hawaii was hot as in cool). After hot, there is popular, beautiful and warm.  According to google searches, Louisiana is racist, Iowa is important, Oregon is good and Massachusetts is smart.  Oddly enough, at least to me, Connecticut is haunted.  I completely do not get that.

Just for fun I googled “why is Google so…” and I got, in order, slow,  stupid, and awesome.  Twitter and Facebook share many of the same descriptors, including valuable, addictive and successful.

I think this Internet search thing is an indicator of the dumbing down of our society.  After all the news about the reddening of North Carolina, the state comes up first as “cheap”.  That being said, further down the line (and not very far) is the question “Why is North Carolina so backward?”  Now that is something I would like to know, especially because it happened so fast and before our very eyes.  I googled it.  The first thing that came up in a search with over 5 million results was which “chronicles North Carolina’s inexorable march backward.”

I googled “Why is Washington D.C. so” and the word democratic was the first to pop up, followed by dangerous and liberal.  Given the current climate, I thought it might join Illinois as “corrupt.”

When I was working in the advertising business, our parent company DDBNeedham had a brilliant research guy who essentially invented psychological research testing for the ad industry.  His name was Bill Wells.  He once told me that you could tell what the dominant characteristic of a city was by sitting in restaurants and listening to what people were talking about.  This was thirty years ago, before Google, and pretty much before internet searches had a chance to catch up with national prejudice.   Have I mentioned this before?  Oh well.  It is always interesting to me.  Chicago, where he worked, is about “work.”  New York is about “money.”  Los Angeles is about “the deal” and Washington is about “power”.

Recently, I asked my friend Dennis Gillespie what one word, in the Bill Wells tradition, described Hawai’i.  He didn’t say “expensive.”  He said “generous.”

Sep 13, 2013

Ted Cruz: Cuckoo Calling?

Today Ted Cruz is on the stump championing racism by quoting John Wayne’s comment to overt racist Jesse Helms:  ”Aren’t you the crazy one?  We need 100 more like you.”

Then, Cruz implies that it takes guts to be crazy like Jesse Helms, and that not many people have the guts to be crazy which he himself clearly has.  Cruz is crazy like a fox.  Harvard educated, McCathy look and act alike, Cruz ignores the fact that today we have more than 100 crazy people like him, every last one of them nuts in their own right and playing to a crowd (and taking advantage of them) that is feeling left out of the American dream.

On the other side of the coin there is Elizabeth Warren, the straight talking inventor of the Consumer Protection Agency, who acknowledges at an AFL-CIO conference that “the people know that the system is rigged against them.”

Here’s the irony:  Elizabeth Warren is the little guy’s real champion, someone who is willing to go to bat for the huge percentage of our populous which has not benefited from our weak recovery.  Recently released statistics show that 95% of the gains from the “recovery” have gone to the 1%.

Ted Cruz has no intention of doing anything for anyone but Ted Cruz.  He is playing to a crowd of comparatively uneducated folks who are not part of the big game that Cruz himself is playing as a Senator.  He rightly tells “the people” that only they can kill Obamacare when he flat out knows this to be a lie.

But that takes the burden off him, doesn’t it?  He and his ilk can go around the planet risk free, speaking irresponsibly and insulting his audience — who he clearly thinks is stupid.

And now comes Republican strategist Steve Schmidt who gave us Sarah the gift that keeps on giving Palin, saying that Cruz has positioned himself to be a leader for the GOP in the 2016 Presidential race.  That’s great.  Cruz and Rand Paul — according to Schmidt, Rubio has counted himself out by his honest position on immigration — will be big contenders.

If Chris Christie isn’t able to skate to the nomination and Cruz and the crazies are actually taken seriously, the 98% (or at least a substantial share of them) will have meaningless revenge on the ones who rigged the game.

We don’t need 100 crazies like Ted Cruz.  We need 100 crazies like Elizabeth Warren — who respect their audience and tell the truth as they see it.  Ted Cruz looks like a lounge singer, but his song is far more dangerous than we are giving him credit for.

Once again I am reminded of Yeats’ poem The Second Coming.  Ted Cruz  could very well be the rough beast whose hour has come round at last, slouching his way towards Bethlehem to be born.

Sep 11, 2013

On Owning A Business in Kailua

Yesterday I posted an ironic blog about the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s resolution  to ask the HTA not to promote Kailua as a visitor destination alternative to the more “lively Waikiki” (from HTA’s website.)  My friend Malia Zimmerman picked up the blog piece, with my permission, and posted it on Hawai`i Reporter.

Predictably, one of the posted comments accuses me of owning a visitor business (I don’t; but visitors like the business that I am part owner of) and of not reading the resolution (I did).

There is, I guess, a small problem in owning a business in Kailua and also enjoying the practice of writing the odd opinion piece.  One does not, in my opinion, preclude the other.

The real irony here is that the business which I am part owner of was in fact started to serve local people.  There were very few visitors in Kailua when we opened the store, and we opened it in order to be part of the redevelopment of Kailua, as opposed to standing on the outside and criticizing it.  Having skin in the game.  Our thought was to help make sure that Kailua had a preponderance of local businesses, versus nationals, and that it would evolve to serve the local populous without mimicking so many “gentrified” small towns on the mainland.

Our business is a local business.  We make our products here in Hawai`i.  We employ people from Hawai’i.  We help kids with their college educations.  We pay well, and we pay for health insurance for  people who do not have insurance already.  Banks would not lend us money; the debt, which we still have eight years later, is our own.

We live in Kailua, we volunteer in Kailua, we support Kailua schools and Kailua charities (like the Boys and Girls Club).  My business partner almost single-handedly (for three years running)made sure that thousands of Kailuans (and out of towners) could enjoy the 4th of July fireworks — a 65 year tradition that had been abandoned by the Kailua Chamber of Commerce.

If I sound defensive, I am.  No one likes to be misunderstood.  To the people who think we see only $$ signs, I would say that I would be glad to see more $$ signs so we could pay off our debt.

We love owning a store in Kailua.  We see our friends.  We don’t have to drive to town.  We shop locally, supporting our fellow merchants pretty much exclusively.

The health and well being of Kailua’s small businesses has benefited enormously from the visitors who come here.  They are important to keeping stores like ours open, and also stores like Bookends, Lanikai Juice, Kailua Nails, Mary Z’s and even Whole Foods.  There are a whole slew of restaurants that wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the visitors PLUS locals mix that is Kailua today.

Before Kaneohe Ranch began to redevelop their (lion’s) share of Kailua, most of the small businesses here today could not survive.  One example:  My business partner and I helped Lanikai Juice (for instance), which was struggling— in return for juice coupons.  We brought them 20+ years of branding expertise and helped them build the Fresh.Pure.Hawaiian. image they have today.  We helped make it possible for them to stave off the newly arrived competition from the mainland, Jamba Juice.

The local Kailua businesses pay rent to a landlord which supports Kailua, its schools, its Boys and Girls club, its halaus and its sports teams through a foundation like no other small town in Hawai`i has.  The benefit of having a single commercial landlord is that the town was redeveloped with a big picture in mind ( like it or not).  This big picture view gave us new cross streets, more stores and more restaurants.  The money, unlike so many other places, stays in Kailua — at least the greater part of it does– and much of it goes back into the community.

The same people who think that any small business that benefits from the visitor industry was created for the visitor industry aver that the price of housing in Kailua is high because of the visitors.  This is simply not true.  The cost of housing in Kailua is high because it is a desirable place to live, and because all housing in Hawai`i is expensive.  And because it is (for the very most part) built out.  There is a fixed pie.

For those who say they are worried that our cultural institutions are hurt by visitors?  We now have many occasions on which local halau perform — occasions that weren’t there before.  We who live here are interested in the preservation of the marsh, the endangered species, the heiau.  The tourists who visit are respectful of them.

It ain’t perfect by a long shot but then nothing is.  Hawai`i –for better, I think — is a visitor destination.  That means people come to see and enjoy its beauty and many here profess a desire to share our Aloha.  That means we have to take care of the land (we should do better than we do) and the sea and air around us.  That means that our local cultures can be celebrated, seen and understood.

Some have said that tourism is a healing business.  Hawai`i is a place where people come to recover themselves, to relax and to heal. And that is a noble purpose.  We share our aloha with others and they take it home — small gestures of peace from human to human contact, carried back to places faraway.

We are lucky Hawai`i is a visitor destination.  We must share our roads and beaches, stores and restaurants with strangers.  But then we get to live and work here.  How lucky we are.




Sep 10, 2013

Forget About Kailua

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has announced that it will take steps to permanently erase all references to Kailua in its visitor information, including all print, broadcast and social media.

The HTA’s effort is in response to the Kailua Neighborhood Board’s resolution requesting that the State’s leading promotional organization abandon its efforts to tell people about Kailua.

The Kailua Neighborhood Board has been working towards this goal ever since the First Tourist showed up by accident in the small town on the windward side of O`ahu.  At the time, Kailua was a broken down little town which offered its residents no real place to shop, forcing them to go over the mountain to the “other side,” to procure anything but groceries.

Although the Kailua Neighborhood Board thinks of Kailua as an independent entity, the town is actually a throwback to plantation days, with most of the commercial space owned by a single landlord since time began.  That landlord, the Castle Family and its avatar Kaneohe Ranch, has developed the town into a successful, bustling place since the First Tourist’s accidental arrival at the intersection of Kailua Road and Kailua Road.

“After years of resident complaints about the pathetic retail and restaurant offerings in Kailua,” said a Castle family spokesperson, ” We got sick of it and decided to show them what their whining would mean.”

As part of its effort to drive Kailua from the collective visitor memory, the Kailua Neighborhood Board will demand that small businesses which serve the visitor trade close their doors.  This will allow Kailua to revert to the bleak little burg discovered by the First Tourist.  Additionally, the Kailua Neighborhood Board will ask The President and his family not to take their usual Christmas vacation in Kailua.  Talk is afoot about taking advantage of the disappearing shoreline to eliminate Kailu’s popular beach altogether.  ”After all,” said one Board member, “Residents don’t go there because there are too many visitors.”  The Neighborhood Board, it turns out, is responsible for the bumper stickers which say “I Liked Kailua Before You Came.”

Other solutions to this most egregious situation are being explored by the Kailua Neighborhood Board, which is actually powerless to do anything:  its members were baffled that the Hawaii Tourism Authority agreed to their request to stop promoting Kailua.

This move by the Kailua Neighborhood Board and the Hawai`i Tourism Authority is receiving broad press coverage here in Hawai`i, across the nation and throughout the world.  Word has it that Foder’s will feature Kailua as Hawai`i’s best kept secret in its 2014 Guide to Hawai`i.


Apr 5, 2013

I Find Myself Standing with Fox News

For the first time ever, I find myself standing with Fox News.  Surfing the channels, I saw that the talking heads at Fox agreed with me that President Obama’s comments about Kamala Harris were no big deal  — they acknowledged that she was pretty good looking and lamented that many in the country are still so incredibly PC.

Personally, I would like to be as good looking at Kamala Harris, and also as “brilliant, dedicated and tough, making sure everybody gets a fair shake”  — the things Obama said before he commented on her beauty, and before he noted that they had been good friends for a long time.  The world didn’t know they had been good friends for a long time, but since he told us that it seems like we should believe him.   Good friends say this kind of thing about each other.

It seems to me, based on my simple observation of Kamala Harris, that she cares about how she looks and takes care in presenting herself to the world.  So, while I doubt that Obama would say of someone who wasn’t all that attractive that they were “the worst looking AG in the country,” I imagine that Kamala Harris was not thinking, “dammit, he dismissed all of the good things he said about me by commenting on my looks.”  For sure, he didn’t say “but she is the best looking AG …”

While I am no longer of the opinion that Barack Obama is my new bicycle, I do believe he is human and that is one of the thing that makes him attractive to us.  I surfed the web to see what the rest of the media world was saying. While found myself agreeing with comments that Obama’s comment seemed “wolfish” and “flirtatious,” I realize the most of my liberal and feminist cohort do not agree.

I grew up in the 60s and Gloria Steinem spoke at my graduation from Smith College in 1971.  (btw, she used the word “vagina” and caused my father and my husband-to-be to walk out of the ceremony).   I definitely believe that woman are the equals of men and should be treated as such.

I also think that had Obama not made that comment, the world would not have been abuzz with the news of her brilliance, dedication and toughness.  Kamala Harris couldn’t pay for this kind of public relations.  Instant fame:  who knows the name of their state’s attorney general, let alone the AG of any other state?

Frankly, if I were Obama I would be worried about that comment when I got home.



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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