Play ball! Sunset in Waipau, Oahu
8 a,m, (local) Nov. 14—-
HONOLULU, HAWAII—When I have been on a good trip I buy local artwork to bookmark my memories. There was something spiritual about the primitive Ellen Byrne folk art painting I purchased during my recent visit to the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Md. I thought the faux-Frieda Kahlo in a jungle with a monkey around her arm would be a perfect accent to my home Tiki bar. Byrne made the acrylic painting on a lightweight tray she picked up in a craft store.
The painting turned out to be more than that,
I was also planning my first trip to Hawaii. I would watch Winter League baseball, maybe learn how to surf and see rainbows. A real vacation. During a spare moment last week I did some research on Byrne.
Turns out she grew up in the Manoa Valley section of Honolulu between 1956 and 1961………
As an adult Byrne settled in Frederick, Md., but returned to Honolulu in 2002. Byrne, 58, realized that her family had lived in a rain forest. A waterfall was at one end of their narrow street. Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Little Grass House” was at the other end of the street. Flowers bloomed at night and children danced during the day. Rainbows appeared on a daily basis in the valley.
The windward side of O’ahu is to the east. Tradewinds move in and clouds form at the top of the mountains. Rain descends on the jungle-like valley. Rainbows appeared almost on a daily basis.
Ellen Byrne, 1958 chasing rainbows.
“If you were thirsty you could reach up and grab a guava off a tree,” Byrne recalled. “We had a Filipino family on one side of us in Manoa Valley. I had a pet rabbit named Bugs I gave to my girl friend when we moved. She told me the rabbit got away and the Filipino family ate it. There was a Japanese family across the street named Matsuka. Millton Matsuka hit me with a bamboo pole and I had to get stitches across my lip. Instead of the ice cream man we had the sushi man who would come in his truck. He would bring dried squid, dried seaweed and little fish balls.
“It was just a fabulous life.”
President-elect Barack Obama lived with his grandparents in Makiki at the mouth of the same valley. The middle class neighborhood abuts the University of Hawaii, As I head home tonight there will be a public memorial service for Obama’s grandmother, who died two days before he was elected president, (Local press says Obama will return in December for a private memorial).
I saw my first rainbow this morning before I wrote this.
I’ll post a slide show when I return. But once again my journeys of the last few weeks underscores the fact that travel is so much about making connections.
Travel is about making connections.