Good morning and greetings, Memorial Day fans. In honor of this national holiday, I want to confess to a little secret. No, it’s not that I shook Richard Nixon’s hand back in 1969, or that I once cheated on a prostate exam or that I am of zero help to my children with their math homework. It’s the fact that I fantasize about Hawaii on a daily basis.
As much as I love being Sunrise Santa Cruz boy and blogging from this cold water paradise, I would love to be residing in the islands. But because of my family and certain restrictions regarding the Witness Protection Program, I’m living the central coast experience. But whenever Hawaii is in the news, my mind flashes back to my hula dancing days. Your life is never the same after performing on a breezy day in a loin cloth.
Today’s story comes to us from writer Michael Cooper and the New York Times. Sitting neatly stacked in an industrial park in Kapolei are more than 20,000 tons of shrink-wrapped garbage waiting to be exported to the mainland. The bales have been neatly stacked and trimmed like Tom Selleck’s mustache, and are ready to ship the 2,300 miles across the Pacific.
But much like the growth spurt that was supposed to put me over 6 feet, this “opala’s”,(the Hawaiian name for garbage) passage has been delayed again and again since it first began piling up in the tropical heat last September. Now, when the trade winds blow, it offers a sweet and pungent reminder of how Oahu’s latest plan to dispose of some of its trash has gone awry.
For this 44-mile-long volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the options for getting rid of garbage and overripe pineapple are limited. That is how officials and producers from “Hawaii Five-O” hit upon the idea of shipping some of their garbage to the mainland. But what was supposed to be a quick fix has turned into a long-running problem after the company that was hired to ship the trash failed to get necessary permits from the federal government and the Jack Lord fan club. In the words of Detective Steve McGarrett, “Book em’, Dano.”
Some environmental groups, including the Citizens for Better Teriyaki, were leery of the idea from the start. “It’s not exactly the type of aloha we want to be giving,” says Robert D. Harris, the director of the Hawaii chapter of the Sierra Club. “We’d prefer sending boxes of Kona Coffee glazed macadamia nuts. You know, for a taste of the tropics.”
So here’s the deal. A private company, Hawaiian Waste Systems, said it could ship trash to a landfill in Washington by Kayak and canoe for $99.89 a ton — roughly half of what the other bidders said it would cost. The company was granted the contract, even though it lacked a crucial approval from the United States Department of Agriculture, which must ensure that no pests, jugglers, insects, boogie boarders or plant diseases are exported with the garbage.
Thinking the approval was imminent, the company began collecting garbage and stamps in September and shrink-wrapping it in plastic. For a time they stored the garbage at the docks and with some nurses, drawing complaints about gnats from neighboring businesses and young spellers. This month the State Department of Health fined the company $40,400 for storing the waste for too long and overcooking the kalua pig at their company’s luau.
Hawaiian officials, in an attempt to educate residents, offer the “Tour de Trash,” a popular educational tour to show Hawaiians where their garbage goes. But the tour proved to be unpopular with tourists, who preferred to visit the Sunset Beach, Pearl Harbor and the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory on the Big Island.
The island and natives with a strong sense of smell will hopefully get a solution to its garbage-bale problem soon. But officials say they will always need to use a landfill to dispose of at least some of Oahu’s waste. “What do we do with expired meats, canned goods, milk and chocolate hula pies? What about when a whale or a loan shark turns up on the beach?” asks Tim Steinberger, the director of the Honolulu Department of Environmental Services. “There are just certain things that you can’t turn into energy or recycle, that you can’t ship off island.”
I am in agreement, although I believe it was Gandhi or Steve Martin who once said that one man’s garbage is another man’s gold. This sanitation problem is everywhere, as New York City now ships some of its garbage by rail as far away as Virginia, South Carolina and the old Yankee Stadium. It’s in the NBA, when a game has already been decided and starters are on the bench, we’re talking garbage time. But in this situation regarding garbage in paradise, the final word will come from Horace Greely, who in his reverse doctrine of manifest destiny said, “go east, young rubbish, go east.”
Let’s move to our Memorial Day photo montage. May has been a rather moist month, so one afternoon after the drops stopped falling, I headed up to the Aboretum at UCSC. This wonderland of color features plant life from exotic locations from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand and New Jersey. The space age looking flowers in photos # 3-5 are proteas, also known as sugarbushes, which are as wild-looking as pictures of myself from my long-haired days of the 70′s.
The variety, shape and colors of the proteas are amazing. As you walk the grounds, you see rabbits scurrying into the brush, hummingbirds flapping their wings and lion cubs grazing in the tall grass. For the camera, it is an oasis of nature’s magnificence, a treat for both the young and old, and most importantly, parking is free.
Let’s move on to the late night comedy. “Hey, today is National Tap Dancing Day. Yes, this is the day we honor BP executives trying to explain the gulf oil disaster. One of the big gambling Web sites published odds on what species would be the first to become extinct from the oil spill. Unbelievable. You know the odds-on favorite? Democrat. Sarah Palin has now weighed in on the gulf oil spill. Finally, the voice of reason. Well, folks, it seems that oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, much worse than British Petroleum first reported. You know how bad it is? Yesterday, I checked the oil in my car, had seawater on it.” –Jay Leno
“John McCain is angry with British Petroleum. But in all fairness, he’s had a grudge against the British since the Revolutionary War.” –David Letterman “And because of the ocean currents, experts say oil from the Gulf could easily spread up the East Coast all the way to the Carolinas. In fact, today, people in North Carolina said they hadn’t seen anything this slick and slimy since the John Edwards campaign. And a Montana man has admitted that he killed a bald eagle, but his alibi is he thought it was a porcupine. How blind do you have to be to mistake a bald eagle for a porcupine? Anyway, the guy pleaded guilty so he could get back to his regular job inspecting oil rigs.” –Jay Leno
“Well, Memorial Day weekend is ahead. I know it’s only Wednesday, but you want to get a jump on being stuck at the airport for 24 hours. Memorial Day is the day we honor military heroes with a mattress blowout sale at Sleepy’s.” –David Letterman “And last week, Mexican President Felipe Calderóne spoke at the White House. He called for a ban on assault weapons, and he also wanted to know why do we keep calling Taco Bell Mexican food?” –Jay Leno
So that’s our last post for the month of May. NBC News and I friend of mine named Katrina reported on Thursday that somewhere between 19 and 39 million gallons of oil have been spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. We’re 41 days in and this catastrophe is still growing.
On May 30th, the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will pass $1 trillion. I guess that’s why our libraries are closed on Fridays. But on the plus side, NBA playoff fans got their money’s worth during the western conference finals between the Suns and Lakers. The Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, showed once again why he’s mentioned in the same sentence as Michael Jordan and Jack Bauer. He’s an assassin in sneakers.
So have a relaxing Memorial Day and perhaps take a moment to reflect on what this holiday is all about. Well, either that or just savor the special feeling one gets from the three day weekend experience.
And finally, here’s some good news, as a new remake of “Hawaii Five-O” is coming back to CBS this fall. So although I may not be living the aloha lifestyle, I can proudly proclaim, “Lucky I TiVo Hawaii.”
On that Polynesian note, congratulations to all those people in the cap and gown mode. You and your families have a lot to be proud of. So get ready for the Celtics and the Lakers and we’ll catch you behind the three point line. Aloha, mahalo and later, Steve Nash fans.