January 27, 2009

Hawaii 2009, Day 6

We got up early to get to Kaneohe. I had hoped to combine a few activities there and then get to Kailua to shop at Hungry Ear. It all pretty much went to plan.

At 10 the four of us were given a tour of the Kanile'a ukulele factory. We had had the opportunity to try Kanile'a ukuleles last year at the first annual Wine Country Ukulele Festival. Kanile'as have a rich sound and beautiful sustain. When we checked out the Kanile'a website recently, we saw that they give a tour and knew we had to go.
The tour was deluxe, and we were the only four on it. Kristen Souza, one of the owners, introduced us to each step of their ukulele craft, and to each person involved in the process. Among the many things that we learned was that Kanile'a's unique sound is partially due to their custom bracing system and finishes.

It's the little things that tell you about a place, and Kanile'a has that Hawaiian sensibility about relationship to the land and responsibility to people that comes through in what they do. They're early adopters of non-gassing UV polyester finishes. They won't buy koa that's been cut, only koa that has fallen. On a rare occasion they'll make a custom uke for someone out of a piece of furniture (like granny's koa rocking chair)...they're cool people, and they seem to truly enjoy what they do. Kanile'a founder Joe Souza, Kristen's husband, is also a fire fighter.

At the end of the tour, we spent some time chatting with luthier Bill Griffin, who places the bridge and does the final setup of the instrument. Joe shared the story of the song Kaneohe, which celebrates the installation of electricity at Kaneohe, and he and Bill played it for us. Another song for our electricity and technology set!

All that ukulele knowledge made us hungry. A few doors down from Kanile'a was Koa Pancake House. That hit the spot.

After lunch we had an amazing two hour tour of Senator Fong's Garden. The backstory is that Senator Fong acquired 700 acres backing on the Ko'olau Mountains, and cultivated a variety of plants. He planted things he liked, plants that were gifts, and cash crops that helped pay for upkeep on the place. His daughter-in-law Patsy gave the tour which was, in the words of Mr Finn, "multisensory". At each stop along the way she picked things for us to see and taste and smell, and shared their fragrances, flavors and stories.

As one small example of what we saw, here is achiote in its fresh state:

Occasionally Patsy would describe a recipe in the form of a story. I can't wait to try roasted oysters with ginger, shoyu, daikon and Tahitian lime. This garden is lovely, and the way that Patsy Fong shares it with visitors is very special.

Laden with pomelos, limes, star fruit and tangerines, we headed out. Mr Finn found us a place called Sumo Ramen. They know *jack dooky* about sumo, but they make a fine cold noodle dish. Tako yaki? Not so much.

Because I hadn't been there yet and it was on our way, we stopped at the Byodo-in Temple. The decay on the sound of the temple gong alone makes it worth it. But the temple itself makes for a beautiful and peaceful stop.

If you've ever looked at koi and thought about how much some of them look like calico cats, here's your chance to compare:

A final word about Kaneohe: there is penny smasher at Byodo-in Temple.

Quick! We had twenty minutes and it was suddenly dark and raining, but we made it to Hungry Ear in Kailua with 8 minutes to shop. I found the second Myrtle K. Hilo record (she's the singing cab driver). And another record by the Alice Fredlund Serenaders.

We got back to the shack by 7 or so, but the day's ambitious itinerary did me in. We got some snacks at the ABC store and crawled into bed.

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