06/08/2015 04:05 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

HULA MOON Vol. XV: Tax The Aloha; Sam's Serenade; My Mynah Squawks On The Vintage Cave

Tax The Aloha

Recently, Hollywood coughed up a hairball of a romantic comedy. It is set on the Hawai'i islands and it is titled "Aloha." The film has created several controversies with casting and racial accusations. In the media, the generally agreed upon charge is that the film is usurping Hawai'i culture. On HuffPost, an article by the AP's Jennifer Sinco Kelleher details the damage.

Walter Ritte is a Native Hawaiian activist on the island of Molokai. In the article, he says, "They're taking our sacred word (Aloha)... and they're going to make a lot of money off of it."

Here is a proposal to get onto that money train. Following below, I have made a proposed list of uses of the word Aloha and their equivalent charge or fee. All proceeds will benefit a non-profit of some sort.

- For the use of the word as a verbal greeting or goodbye to less than 3 people: Free
- For the use of the word as a verbal expression to a group of over 3 people: $.25
- For the use of the word as a verbal expression to a group of over 30 people: $250 plus 5% of the convention budget.
- For the use of the word in a commercial advertisement: $500 plus 5% of the ad buy budget

Naturally, there are wisenheimers that believe Aloha is free and just want to give it all away. "If you look at what aloha means, how can it be bad no matter how it's used?" said TV and radio personality Kimo Kahoano, "I think Hawaii is the best place in the world. And the reason is aloha." Amen.


Sam's Serenade

I have only one compelling reason to recommend a visit to the Walmart and Sam's Club in Honolulu near Ala Moana. On most every Friday, a brilliant band evolves. It is a special group of musicians, exceptional because it epitomizes the true definition of 'ohana or family. The music may be awesome but the camaraderie is sublime. 2015-06-08-1433724266-105799-art16.jpg

From the loose hours of 3 in the afternoon to 9 at night, they meet. Their stage is a very public place, along Keeaumoku. The cement floor is hard. The street is loud. The human traffic is unrelenting, a surge of shoppers and tourists, rich and poor, local and foreign.

The ambassador of the group is Fai, a Samoan with long grey hair and twinkling eyes. He never misses a jam session. Fai is retired and widowed. He spends every morning at the cemetery and reads the Star-Advertiser. He doesn't play the guitar much anymore, as his hearing has faded, but he always brings the instrument in case someone wants to play. Everyone can.

Manny leads the band. No one plays until he arrives. The guitarist sets the schedule; his grandkids come first. Everyone is retired, but Manny averages twenty years younger than the rest. He sings; he is a clear crooner. Several hours after my last visit, a song he wrote for his deceased mother is still in my head; the chorus sings, "You are the harvest of rainbows, the reflection of the sun." It's beautiful.

The song list is eclectic. Pop standards are juggled between old Hawai'ian, Tahitian, Samoan and reggae songs. The music turns to jazz only when Jazz John arrives with his guitar. Requests are always welcome.

There is no playlist. Songs appear organically. A few loose notes and a spontaneous riff inspire the next selection.

In this democracy, Kawika might be considered the vice-president. He sings and plays the ukulele. Often times, his son Danny chimes in on the guitar. Harry and John are regulars who play the uke. Charlene sings harmony in a clear sweet voice and Paula brings her big bag of percussion instruments.

Bassist Richard keeps the beat on a pakini, his marine version of the washtub base. He uses a military gas can and a boat tiller to range his one deep string. He is aided by Kenji who, still in high school, is the youngest by several decades. Kenji plays a well-worn standup double base that he borrows from the band room at President McKinley. The long neck has been rubbed to raw wood, an affect of millions of musical notes.

The band members are constantly revolving. Everyone is welcome to sit down and play. If you feel like dancing, someone is ready to join you in a hula.

The location isn't glamorous; no Walmart is. All proof positive of the transcendent nature of music. A slight squint of the eye and one is transported to a Honolulu of long ago.

The concept of 'ohana is often trivialized on an ad or a brochure, but here, at Sam's Club, you can feel it. After all, this is Hawai'i.


My Mynah Squawks On The Vintage Cave

My little mynah bird told me that the Vintage Cave at Ala Moana Mall is making over. Every business has a lifecycle, every concept an evolution. Takeshi Sekiguchi is a shogun for taking the risk and sharing his vision for a European brick cellar, filled with fine art, fine wine and the best food conceivable. Like art, food is negotiable, as chef changes at the Vintage Cave have made many headlines.

Not that most regular people would ever know. The Value Meal at the Vintage Cave contains no toys and still costs three-mid figures.

My mynah said, "The new concept is restyling the kitchen into a sushi omakase." Let the chef decide! "Popular in Tokyo, sushi omakase delivers a tasting menu that will take off at $300." The skill is in the flavor and the presentation. Japanese chefs will fly in with the sublime and the beautiful.

A project, like the Vintage Cave, is always a work in progress, an expression that must embrace the vagaries of history, economy and art. Today, even the 1% are fretting; everyone is making do with less and local business cannot support the luxury of the Vintage Cave. The new chapter offers a nod to the luxury-seeking Japanese tourists that want the best and don't care what it costs. Shogun Sekiguchi is wisely targeting those who are spending dough.

Will it be enough? In order to make the Vintage Cave into the must-be-seen spot for the lux life, the grotto might have to boost its relevancy. What would you do? #WishIWasSekiguchi

And that's what my little mynah told me.

Aloha says Hello and Goodbye.

Gordy Grundy is an O'ahu based artist, arts writer and libertine. His visual and literary works can be found at

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