All The Local Happenings In Hilo

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - April 13, 2005
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Hilo is just so darn local.

That’s good. So much of the rest of the islands have become so darn haole.

We toss around the term “host culture” but it seems to me that we’re mostly talking about a ghost culture.

In Hilo, however, the ethnic breakdown is 26 percent full- or part-Hawaiian, 25 percent Caucasian, 22 percent Japanese, 12 percent mixed non-Hawaiian and 10 percent Filipino. That Caucasian figure includes a stiff dose of local Portuguese.

Hilo’s got a unique, notdespoiled feeling to it.

It has men and women aplenty who need two airline seats. Plenty women in too-small tank tops and low-slung jeans showing off plumber’s butt. Men wear aloha shirts outside their belts. People smoke. Restaurants are pau at 9 or 10 p.m. Drivers casually pass on the double solid-yellow lines of the Belt Highway on curves. Most downtown retail stores close Sunday, the day most tourists are shopping.

Plenty of transsexuals, but Hilo’s seem not content to just act like women. They like to vamp. They yell to each other “Hi, mahu!”

And Hilo is pretty tolerant. A Merrie Monarch Festival soloist can dance the mournful Waika as if she just scored a Happy Meal and get enthusiastic applause. A Tribune-Herald reporter can describe a haunting Hawaiian temple number by the Kanakaole halau as “banging on drums” and still be breathing the next day.

Hilo’s the home of wonderful local grinds. The one-pound laulau and kalua pig Caesar salad at Kuhio Grille. The saimin, cold noodles and teri-beef at Beth-An (no second “n”) Fujijima’s popular Nori’s. She’s an Oahu girl with attitude. You can drive to Laupahoehoe in the North Hilo District for the darling Back To The 50s Highway Fountain, run by ex-fireman Larry Ignacio and his Kalihi schoolteacher (St. John the Baptist) son Christopher.

Locals still fight for parking space and wade through the parking lot floods at Ken’s House of Pancakes. I prefer Louie Santiago’s Firehouse for breakfast. It’s just around the corner and across the street from the Hilo tsunami clock. And there’s always the Cafe 100, from the days of our AJA 100th Infantry Battalion of WWII.

It beats me why even great guidebooks such as Andrew Doughty’s Big Island Revealed miss the local-kine eats scene.

Hilo’s Lyman Museum on Haili Street beats the Bishop Museum hands down. No exaggeration. Not boring. Its Earth Heritage exhibit, general displays and the Lyman Missionary House for $5 kamaaina is the best deal in the state. Go!

The Pacific Tsunami Museum keeps getting better. You might get lucky and stumble into a slideshow lecture given when cruise groups are in town.

Other Hiloisms:
• Loads of parking and it’s all free.
• The 10:30 annual through-thedowntown parade starts at 11:23.
• The lead float is built before somebody figures out it’s higher than the utility lines. Mayor Harry Kim climbs on top and holds the lines up with a broom. His hair doesn’t catch fire!
• An animal shelter group hauls leashed, panting, thirsty dogs along a mile of hot asphalt. The desperate dogs lunge for the shade under parked cars. The dog handlers, laughing, fail to see horrible execution of a good PR idea on paper.
• Officer D. Canario tickets and tows my car for being double parked in the county parking lot at the MM Festival! But another cop takes time out to call us a taxi to retrieve our wheels and the Hilo court clerk tells me ticketing for anything but blocking others is “ridiculous.” She sweetly suggests I not rush checking on the fine. Or mailing it in.
• Many people swear they still watch me doing the news on KGMB-TV. I retired more than 10 years ago.

Yep, Hilo is just so darn local. As the writing said on the cap of the youngster sitting in front of me at Edith Kanakaole Stadium:

“This Ain’t The Mainland.”

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