Would you rather play the Prophet or the Missionary?

In 1965 a Swedish actor named Max Von Sydow made his debut to English speaking audiences as Jesus Christ. Von Sydow had previously been working with director Ingmar Bergman on movies few people had seen because they dealt with the meaning of life and its constant companion, death. The producers figured the audience would accept an unknown as Jesus more than they would say Cary Grant.  Good thinking. However, ironically they had no problem casting other well-known Hollywood stars in key roles. It was really quite bizarre casting. One critic wrote: “the most distracting nonsense is the pop-up of familiar faces in so called cameo roles.” He was so right.

The movie – The Greatest Story Ever Told – was on television the other day and because I am a huge fan of Von Sydow I had to watch until at least his entrance. Ugh. It was torture.  I’ll never understand how Charlton Heston’s portrayal of John the Baptist as a lunatic in a caveman wig didn’t ruin his career forever.  

The Duke himself, John Wayne, even pops up just as Jesus is being crucified to affirm they got the right guy. “He’s the one!”   What? Did Wayne find out he was the only Hollywood A lister not given a role in the story of Christ and throw a tizzy fit?

In order to rid my mind of that stinker of a movie, I downloaded Hawaii, a Max Von Sydow flick which was released the year after The Greatest Story. It’s always been a favorite of mine only this time I watched it with the knowledge that the year before Von Sydow had played Jesus Christ.

Amen. If you’ve never seen the movie, Reverend Hale (von Sydow) believes passionately he is following the word of God through Jesus however, over the centuries the words love, compassion, and forgiveness have come to apply only to the true believers. Everyone else is a sinner and unworthy of God’s love in his eyes.

Can you spot Bette Midler in this clip?

The plot of Hawaii is based on the third chapter of James Michener’s massive history of the Hawaiian Islands: After the discovery of the islands, word has spread that sugar grows abundantly in volcanic soil and businessmen rush in to grab land from the laidback islanders.  They convince church leaders that the “heathens” on the islands are need of “salvation” which really means “colonization.” Some of the missionaries sent over fall in love with the islands and realize the people are not heathen savages … but not Reverend Hale.  He’s about as hard core Old Testament as you can imagine, inflexible, stubborn and often cruel but Von Sydow plays him as a laughable idiot with a bit of genuine kindness that tries to escape his loveless childhood but cannot.

When he realizes that he cannot convert the Hawaiians through fear and intimidation, Rev. Hale calls upon God to send earthquakes and plagues to teach them a lesson. I won’t say anymore in case you’ve never seen the movie but I’ve seen it many times and always wondered at how completely he captured the character. Knowing that it followed a bloated Hollywood block-buster depiction of the life of Christ makes it that much more interesting. At least to me.

#ThursdayDoors: Hidden

This semi-hidden door actually leads to St. Augustines, a Catholic church which sits behind a wrought iron fence just off Waikiki’s main drag.  Its history dates back to 1850s when it was just a shack made from palm fronds and driftwood.  You can read more about the history here.

View from the street of St. Augustine’s statue.

The top of the church as visible from the fourth floor of the condo building next door.

As to why the church is behind a locked wrought iron fence, across the street is a beachside park that is home to many homeless people. They oddly co-mingle with tourists from around the world, primarily Japanese, taking selfies in the sunset. Some look as though they’ve spend the night in the piss-filled gutters of San Francisco even though there are public showers and restrooms along the beach. I guess it’s hard to panhandle if you look clean and neat and well-fed.

Just to the right and in front the church is a very common sight in Waikiki, an ABC Store.

It is not an exaggeration to say you can find one of these shops on every block.  You can find one of these shops on every block even though they all sell almost exactly the same stuff, which is basically everything but mostly cheap touristy trinkets.

Window of another trinket-filled store. The Hawaiian flag is similar to the Union Jack because many royals favored the Brits over the US.

You expect to see wonderful things when you travel but for me, the unexpected is what makes a trip special. This time it was a YWCA in the middle of Honolulu’s business and government district.

The Y is across the street from the Iolani Palace. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, however once past the reception area is an atrium with one of the most beautiful swimming pools I’ve ever seen.  I wanted to leap right in with this fellow.

The architect of this building was Julia Morgan, the very same Julia Morgan who designed Hearst Castle. But that wasn’t the best part of the surprise.  Inside of the atrium is the best restaurant we found in Honolulu.  It’s modestly called Cafe Julia.

One of unique things about this place, beside its menu, is the owner’s collection of whimsical liquor bottles. There were thousands but because they were behind glass, it was hard to get a picture of them. Here are a few:

So if you’re ever in Honolulu, check out the Laniakae YWCA and Cafe Julia.  Make sure to save room for the chocolate mousse! Check out other doors and unexpected delights over at Norm Frampton’s #ThursdayDoors event.

The People’s Prince

Prince Kuhio, 1871-1922

Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole was Hawaii’s last royal prince. Although he never sat on a throne, his birthday, March 26th, is cause for celebration in the islands.

Without Prince Kuhio, Hawaiians would have most likely suffered the same fate as Native Americans, forced assimilation into a culture with little respect for the earth; their traditions and language in jeopardy of disappearing forever. Or worse, watching as cherished rituals were reduced to comic stereotypes.

Kuhio was the nephew of Queen Lili’oukalani.  After she was overthrown, he was briefly arrested for treason and then fled to South Africa where he joined the British Army and fought the Boers. When he finally returned to the islands he did so with a mission: to promote and preserve the Hawaiian culture. Eight times he was elected to the US Congress where he helped secure rights for native Hawaiians.  Rights like, being able to homestead on the lands of your ancestors.

Music is very important to Hawaiians and so for the week leading up to the Prince Kuhio festival, local television stations broadcast events held at schools and cultural centers throughout the islands. Not the kind of music you hear in Tiki bars and shopping centers but traditional songs sung in ancient Hawaiian. 

The parade, which kicked off the final day of celebration, began with the traditional blowing of Pu shells to the north, south, east and west. Then came the members of the Royal Order of Kamehameha (descendants of Hawaiian royalty) either walking on foot or driven in convertibles (all Mustangs for some strange reason).  I noticed that many of them had red hair and fair skin.  Hummm.

A great, great, great grand nephew of King Kamehameha?

Many schools marched in the parade, some singing and some dancing. There were hula dancers, both young and old, drummers, horseback riders and even one dragon.

These kids got to ride on a trolley!

After the parade, people gathered in Kapiolani Park near Diamond Head for a celebration that included song and dance and food from a flotilla of food trucks.  All in all, a perfect day and a joyful celebration for a great man.  Happy Prince Kuhio Day!

#ThursdayDoors: Aloha

I’ve just returned from almost a month in Hawaii.  I didn’t intend to stay that long but my grandson was (as they say) on “Hawaiian time.” Finally on March 21st his chubby little cheeks emerged, followed by an equally chubby little body and thank goodness, he was healthy. So I waited until my grandmotherly advice caused my son-in-law’s face to twitch uncontrollably and then left on the next available red-eye.

In Hawaii many of the hotels, government buildings, and even hospitals have open air reception areas and atriums. They have no front doors.  Evidently the craze currently circling the planet thanks to Norm Frampton and the #ThursdayDoors peep-and-tellers hasn’t yet reached the Hawaiian Islands!

Above is the entry to the Hawaiian state capitol.  If you walk through these columns the legislative chambers are to the right and the government offices to the left.  If you look up through the sky light in the atrium, this is what you’ll see:

In front of the capitol is a statue of Father Damien, the patron saint of the Hawaiian Islands.

Religion has played a controversial role in paradise.  Before the missionaries arrived, the islands were ruled by warrior kings who often had several wives (some of them sisters) and maintained order via ancient superstitions and myths. The missionaries brought changes that benefitted the poor but they also brought sickness and doors.

Behind the state capitol is Iolani Palace.This palace was built around 1882 under the direction of King Kalakaua who felt he needed digs worthy of his lofty position.  At that time, many of Hawaiian’s royals were anxious to be accepted by their European counterparts thus Kalakaua’s palace could easily be at home in London or Paris.  Except for the banyan and palm trees on the front lawn, of course.

Ironically Iolani Palace would serve as a prison for the last member of the royal family to have any political power, Queen Lili’oukalani. She was no match for power hungry American businessmen who had the implicit support of the US government.

The doors to Iolani Palace were almost impossible to photograph from the bottom of the staircase on a hot day, but they seem like sad doors to me.

Happily we were also in Honolulu during the festival of Prince Kuhio, the last royal member of Congress and the founder of many civic organizations dedicated to preserving Hawaiian Culture.

More pictures to come. Aloha!

#ThursdayDoors: Best Poke Bowl


Today we return to Hawaii to find doors (last time I promise).  These doors lead to the Kahuku Superette in the small town of Kahuku on the east shore of Oahu. They might not look like much but on the other side you can experience the  Best Poke Bowl in Hawaii (according to them).  We had no idea what Poke Bowl was and took turns guessing.  My guess, it was a bowling alley where they used coconuts as the balls and pineapple as the pins.


If you’ve clicked the link above you know how far off base I was. It’s Hawaiian fast food.  A Poke Bowl has a base of either white or brown rice, chips and/or salad.  Followed by the condiments: white onions, sweet corn, carrots, seaweed, cucumbers, avocado and/or mango and the poke (raw fish): salmon, tuna, albacore, spicy tuna, shrimp, crab, scallop, hamachi, and unagi. Then you have your choice of sauces: original (mild/spicy), spicy mayo, unagi, Japanese Kimchi, honey avocado and/or miso. Last but not least,  Poke Bowl is topped with any or all of these garnishes: masago, sesame seeds, ginger, wasabi, and green onions.

Is your head spinning yet?

Poke Bowls are served differently, depending on what part of the island you’re on.PokeBowl2We’d stopped at the superette to pick up water and pretzels for the nearby beach (which was rumored to have calmer waves than the North Shore). Squeamishly we passed on their world famous Poke Bowl.

One more pic of the wild waves and then Aloha Hawaii!


By the way, if you find yourself craving a Poke Bowl, I’ve read that they might become the next rage in the culinary world!

Check out other doors at Norm Frampton’s #ThursdayDoors challenge here. 

The Hukilau

Ever since we left Hawaii I’ve had this song stuck in my head:

And so I thought I’d share the joy! Now you can spend all day singing “Are you going to the Hukilau, the huki, huki, huki, lau?”  Even my cat has gone somewhere to hide.

Hawaii is one of the many places I’ve been to that I really didn’t want to leave. However, at times the angry sea didn’t seem to want us to stay.


Thirty to forty-five foot waves which during high tide on a full moon night literally came knocking at our back door!

We stayed on the North Shore of Oahu, a laid back haven for surfers from all over the planet. Aside from the Turtle Bay resort, this area has strongly resisted over-development and prides itself on retaining some of the old Hawaii feel. geyser


Sometimes the monster waves would collide far off shore and spout into the air like a geyser.  A surge this large hasn’t happened for decades and so you can imagine the excitement it caused, particularly as the timing coincided with one of the North Shore’s most beloved events: The Eddie Aikau Quiksilver Invitational.

From the Eddie Aikau Website

From the Eddie Aikau Foundation web site

“Eddie” was one of the first lifeguards at arguably the most beautiful surf spot in Hawaii, Waimea Bay.  He gained fame not only for rescuing people from the deadly surf but also for his skill on the long board. However it was his final, selfless act that gained him the most fame.

In 1978 Eddie joined the Polynesian Voyaging Society on a second migration attempt from the Hawaiian to Tahitian Islands in a traditional voyaging canoe.  Twelve miles south of the island of Molokai the canoe capsized and it was Eddie with his long board who volunteered to paddle ashore for help.  He was never seen again.  Today it’s quite common to see people with teeshirts and bumper stickers reading “Eddie would go” on the North Shore – a testament to this amazing and charismatic guy.


Waimea Bay when the waves are gentle (well, relatively).


Waimea Bay during the storm surge – it looked like a washing machine with too many suds!


Debris washed ashore. Who knows what it was!

So many people decided to take the trek out to the North Shore to witness the monster waves that they had to close Kamehameha Highway.  If the two lane road wasn’t flooded, it was jammed with slow driving lookie-loos!


Since we couldn’t go out in the waves, we built a sand castle.