My New Year's Resolution for 2013 is to post more frequently on my blog. I confess, I've been waylaid by another of my passions, Turkish language and culture.
But there's no reason why I can't continue to learn the Hawaiian language as I study Turkish, or to play the 'ukulele while I learn about the saz, a traditional stringed instrument played in Turkey.
But today my message is not a Turkish/Hawaiian mix, rather an Oregonian/Hawaiian mix. Pictured here are the Christmas shortbread cookies that I baked, frosted -- and ate. Yum!
As you can see, I had two themes in mind. There's the Christmas tree, looking very much like a Douglas fir. And there's an Oregon state map, complete with a heart. My daughter bought me this cookie cutter last summer at the gift shop in Oregon's Capitol in Salem.
But when I was last in Hawaii, in early October, I visited the Christmas shop at the Outrigger Reef in Waikiki. I bought four Hawaiian-themed cookie cutters: a honu, a mano, a palm tree and a pineapple. I chose just to use the two animals for my cookies. It's one way to bring 'aumakua, spirit animals, to life.
Anyone who has ever strolled along the beach at Waikiki has probably noticed that they shared the sand with a flock or two of pigeons. Meander down Kalakaua Avenue and you'll see many other flocks, some roosting in the nooks and crannies of the banyan trees, such as the tree near the Duke Kahanamoku statue.
I had noticed the pigeon population on earlier trips to Honolulu, but when I was staying last week at the Outrigger Waikiki I saw a photo which made me wonder who brought pigeons to O'ahu in the first place. The photo was of the Outrigger hotel chain's founder, the late Roy Kelley. His arms were full of white pigeons, the kind that are most prevalent in Waikiki. The caption noted that these were his "beloved pigeons."
Was Kelley the pigeon lover who introduced the now ubiquitous birds to Waikiki?
Not even close. I learned that pigeons first started strutting along Hawaii's beaches in the late 1700's, when Kamehameha was first rising to prominence on the island of Hawai'i.
White Kings roosting in a banyan tree
According to the Bishop Museum's Hawaii Biological Survey, which I found online, gray-colored rock pigeons are thought to have been introduced to Hawai'i in 1788, when a ship from China brought its cargo of wild turkeys and pigeons. Shipping records show that pigeons came from the other direction, from Europe, when a ship brought them to Hawai'i in 1796. Those were thought to be gray, as well. Rock pigeons, also known as rock doves (Columba livia) are native to the Mediterranean.
That accounts for the gray ones, but what about the white ones? They're everywhere. Known as White Kings, they're prized by pigeon fanciers. They are also prized for their meat and raised as squab.
Menus from 'Iolani Palace when Kalakaua was king (1874-1891) show that a popular tidbit at state dinners was pigeon on toast. Kalakaua was a man of prodigious appetites, but he also was a lover of beauty and nature. He loved birds and had his own exotic bird collection, located where the Honolulu Zoo is now.
In a 2004 article in the Honolulu Advertiser, a columnist tackled the subject of Waikiki's pigeons. He unearthed the fact that someone named S.Y. Chun brought four pairs of White Kings from Canada in 1876 for the dedication of the Kapi'olani Bird Park, which originated as Kalakaua's personal bird collection.
I found other articles about how the city of Honolulu has over the years tried to control the pigeon population, even by feeding the birds birth control grain. The fact is, plenty of other people feed them and accept them as part of the landscape. Whether you regard pigeons as flying rats or as doves of peace and beauty, they're in Waikiki to stay.
Due to popular demand (well, one person), I'm breathing new life into my blog after months of neglect.
I'm embarrassed that I even failed to remark on the death of the subject of my last post, Herb Kane. He died March 8, 2011, about eight months after my interview. So alas, I never got to collect on his kind offer of an adult beverage served on his lanai. But I was lucky to have a long phone conversation with the legendary artist, whose paintings grace so many rooms throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
Today, on the first day of the new year, I decided to start things out in a mellow manner by reporting on my visit to Portland's first and only kava bar, Bula Kava House. This was not my first experience with the tranquility-inducing drink, made from the powdered root of the kava, or 'awa, plant. I wrote a blog post about imbibing kava from a coconut shell at Portland State University's lu'au in May 2009. After sampling kava, I didn't mind a bit that the dancing part of the program kept getting delayed. I had all the time in the world.
At Bula, I was served by Jamie Campa, the bartender, or shell tender. I had my choice of two varieties of kava: borogu, which is spicy and energizing ($3.50 per shell); and fu'u, which is more potent and would leave me feeling really mellow ($3.75). I chose fu'u and Jamie ladled the brown liquid from a large glass container into a half coconut shell.
Jamie didn't want me to have to drink alone. After all, kava is a social libation. So she poured a shell for herself and led me through the proper ritual.
Before drinking, we each clapped once. That action would invite positive energy and even friendly ancestors to witness our imbibing. We lifted the shells to our lips and drank without stopping, until the shells were empty. Then we each clapped our hands twice, dispelling any bad energy that managed to sneak in. Finally, we each ate a chunk of fresh pineapple to refresh our palates.
I felt the effects of the kava almost immediately. My lips began to tingle. Warmth spread down my limbs and through my body. I felt -- yeah, real mellow. And I still do.
Jamie told me that although kava's physiological effects are obvious, we were certainly not intoxicated. "There's no foggy thinking, no poor judgment," she informed me. She said I'd feel relaxed, perhaps a tad euphoric. As for her, she said kava makes her feel meditative.
In fact, she said kava is an effective hangover cure. She was surprised there weren't more customers on New Year's Day.
Bula is a multi-purpose word like aloha. In Fijian it means cheers, hello and goodbye. Bula Kava House fits in snugly with some of the hip new eateries on Division Street, including Wafu and Sunshine Tavern. Jamie says the place is hopping every Thursday night, when there's live music, and the first Friday of each month, which is open mic night.
It's an attractive space, with Polynesian masks and local art on the walls. There's even a small library of books about the featured beverage. Titles include "Kava: Nature's Relaxant," "The Pacific Elixir" and "Hawaiian 'Awa: Views of an Ethnobotanical Treasure."
I studied hula for three years in Aloha, Oregon, and along the way developed a passion for all things Hawaiian. I also studied 'ukulele and the Hawaiian language.
When I'm not hula'ing, 'uking or practicing 'olelo Hawai'i, I am a professional writer with years of experience writing for local, regional and national publications. Most notably, I was a regular for The Wall Street Journal for 17 years.
Someday I hope to write a book about my obsession with Hawaiian culture.