Da Untold Story of Hawaiian Santa, a Pidgin Story by Lee A. Tonouchi
A never-before published work of fiction from the renowned Pidgin Guerilla.
This excerpt was originally published in November 2014.
Original illustrations by Solomon Enos
Audio sample excerpt
I admit. I losing it. Any moment now I might jus buckaloose! Maybe it’s cuz dis gotta be da stupidest tourist question eva posed to me during my 15 years driving dis trolley bus. Maybe it’s cuz of dat crazy onreal magazine article I jus read about da future of Hawai‘i nei. Maybe it’s cuz dat article finally made me realize dat da American Dream I been chasing, while trying for maintain my unsteady and junk-paying job, must not apply to Hawai‘i people. I guess up till now I nevah notice da fine print where da ting says “American Dream only applicable in the continental United States. Offer not valid in Hawai‘i.” For some reason, us, we always no count, brah. Like how if get one fast-food commercial on TV, half da time da Hawai‘i price not going be what dey say, cuz dey flash da disclaimer, “Prices may be slightly higher in Hawai‘i.” Or like when we mail order stuff and dey charge us “international” shipping. Like what is dat? And even when I call ’em up for correck dem for let ’em know dat da battle’s not yet won and Native Hawaiians still fighting for sovereignty, dey jus respond with one “Excuse me?” Like dey no catch on to da joke das not one joke.
It’s probably one combination of all of these tings perculating, so when my passenger Omaha, Nebraska, ask-es me “Do you folks have Christmas in Hawhyah?” I no can handle. I know it’s almost Christmas, but I got no Christmas spirit in me. I used to da stupid questions like if we live in grass shacks. If we use American money. If we have electricity. If we surf. If we surf to work?!
I admit, das da kine images those picture postcards perpetuate. So maybe it’s not entirely da fault of da stupid tourist that they’re misinformed. But c’mon. Christmas? I tinking brah, get Christmas all ova da world, you tink Hawai‘i is dat exotic and far away dat Christmas no can reach ova hea? I almost crash my trolley bus cuz I too busy rolling my eyes cuz da question sooooo mento. Das when I get one idea.
Hearing dis tourist’s question brings me back to da time my good friend Braddah Mike wen mail me dat lettah from when he went Big Island for do his research projeck for get his Ph.D. Dat wuz nice of him for correspond I remembah tinking. Cuz usually if Braddah Mike goes someplace I no find out about ’em till way aftah he comes back. I opened da envelope and Scotch-tape to his lettah wuz what appeared for be one little piece of gravel. In his lettah he explained how he wuz mailing me one souvenir, one small rock he got from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, da home of Pele, da Hawaiian Goddess of da Volcano.
Ho, I wen let-a-go da lettah so fast. Sucking Mike. Why wuz he cursing me I wondered. Da superstition goes, you not supposed to steal Pele’s rocks. Everybody know dat. Fourth grade Big Island field trip, brah. When you go dey always telling how each year people disregard da warnings and decide for snake some. But eventually dey all get sent back. On display wuz some of da actual lettahs from both Locals and tourists explaining how dey took rocks and brought ’em home and dey wound up with all kine bad luck so das how come dey mailed ’em back. Some people loss all their money. Some got all kine mysterious illnesses. Some loss their jobs, their homes and/or their loved ones. Some died, so their relatives wuz da ones who sent ’em back, cuz dey nevah like come ma-ke die dead too.
So what da heck wuz Braddah Mike doing I wondered. What I eva did to him? I called ’em up for broke his ear ova da phone. Das when he explained to me what he found out in his research. He said da story of Pele’s Curse nevah have no basis in Hawaiian mythologies. In 1946 one park ranger wuz tired of people desecrating da landscape so he wen go invent da story of Pele’s Curse. Yet, even though he made ’em all up, word spread and eventually ukuplanny people fo’ real kine believed. And not jus tourists. Locals too. Even Locals who wuz Hawaiian. So da whole ting’s fo’ fake, but Braddah Mike said das da powah of superstition and belief.
Wit dat theory in mind, I figgah I go take dat park ranger’s story and do ’em one bettah. Instead of getting tourists for stop taking itsy bitsy rocks, I decide my myth-o-ma-logical tale going get tourists and speculators for stop snaking whole chunks of land and driving up real estate prices so everyday Local folks like myself no can afford. When tinking about how I going respond to Omaha, I make da decision dat I going forego all sense of job security, cuz not like get such one ting nowdays anyways. Wit one sly kolohe kine grin I tell da guy, “Of course we get Christmas in Hawai‘i.”
As we head along da coast up to Hanauma Bay we pass by all da Diamond Head homes and Kāhala side mansions dat I nevah going afford. Das when I get on da mic and I ask my passengers, “Since Omaha wen ask, who like know da story of Hawaiian Santa?” Palm Beach, Lake Forest, Oak Brook, Tokyo, Westport and Malibu all chime in “Yes, do tell.”
But before I can even start dey already bombarding me wit questions. I dunno why tourist people always gotta interrupt. “Where does your Hawaiian Santa live?” “Does he ride a sleigh?” “Do you have reindeer here?” And of course, “So are all your toys made of koa wood?” I feel like telling da guy, yeah brah, alllll Local people shop at Martin & MacArthur. In fact, I even planning on selling my giant flat-screen HD TV and my entire home entertainment system ... so I can buy one niiiice koa papahclip.
All my life I been catering to da tourists. In high school I took Japanese as my second language instead of Hawaiian. Imagine dat. And I not even Japanese. But counselors told me Japanese mo’ bettah cuz I can use ’em for get one job later on. So I took ’em, even though wuzn’t interesting. Japanese tourists probably not too impressed by my remedial mastery of common Japanese phrases like “Onamae wa nan desu ka?” and “Genki desu ka?” What’s your name? and How are you? I also know “Gorufu o shimashoo ka?” Would you like to play golf? But I nevah really had da chance for use dat one cuz like I can afford for take up golfing. Da only Japanese phrase I use on one consistent basis is “Nihongo ga wakarimasen,” which means I don’t understand Japanese, which I suppose is little bit ironicals cuz I telling dat to dem ... in Japanese. Maybe das why dey always look at me funny kine.
Since small-kid time everybody wuz always telling me how we gotta do everyting for show da hospitalities to da tourists. Even da hotels I go, dey all fully kowtow to all da visitors.
First I heard dat I wuz puzzle. I wuz like how can you ban one dead guy? Das when my friend wen go explain how wuz Braddah Iz’s music dat wuz ban. At da hotel my friend Koza work at, he said it’s cuz “Hawai‘i ’78” wuz playing in da lobby so one tourist lady wen go complain about how da song made her feel unwelcome so management wen go reack. Or maybe I should say dey wen overreack cuz dey wen go ban all songs made by Hawaiian song legend Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole. I could maybe see how da song “Living in a Sovereign Land” might upset some tourists, cuz it alludes to da overthrow of da Hawaiian nation and wanting sovereignty for da Hawaiian peoples. But to me ah, “Hawai‘i ’78” is more about what we going do about rampant overdevelopment. My friend says da part da tourist lady probably nevah like wuz da part dat goes “All the fighting that the King had done. To conquer all these Islands, now there’s condominiums.” He said it probably made her feel guilty for staying at da hotel. I couldn’t understand how stopping da song from being played wuz going soothe her guilt. Wouldn’t it make her feel even more guilty cuz she wuz helping for hide da truth? I no can understand tourists.
From small-kid time, our kūpuna always emphasized how we need da tourists. Our elders, our teachers, all told of how tourists is good for us. Kinda like vegetables, bland, but full of richness. And how we need tourists for keep coming back, cuz dey keep our economy going. But what dey nevah fully understand is so what we do when da tourists return, but nevah go back?
In oddah words planny Hawai‘i people going be force for move away. I know some of these newcomers going be immigrants cuz Hawai‘i get one history of immigrant labor from way back in da plantation days. But da article said most of da new residents is going be rich Mainland transplant peoples. Cuz seems like getting for be das da only people who can afford for live ova hea.
“No werry,” I begin. “All your questions going be answered during da course of my myth-o-ma-logical tale.” I scan my rearview mirror. I see all eyes stay transfixed on top me. Well, on top da back of my bolo head, anyway.
“You know how da Haole Santa lives in da North Pole? You tink das extreme? Das nahting. Hawaiian Santa, brah, he live in ... da volcano. I know Malibu ova dea looking at me like he no believe. Well, he can go check ’em out den. See, cuz before time, back in da ol’ hanabatta dayz, one good Hawaiian man named um, Kalikimaka, yeah, Kalikimaka. He wuz weary. He wuz tired of big multinational corporations bullying him off his house on da beach so dey could make all their fancy hotels. So for get dem for stop hassling him, he wen decide for hele on.
“Den later when Kalikimaka wen go move up da mountain, rich real estate developers wen go muscle him out again so dey could build all their luxury homes wit da scenic views. Kalikimaka wuz tired fighting so he wen decide for move again. Dis time to where nobody would boddah him. Straight into da volcano.
“When people saw da guy who wen jump in da volcano dey assumed he wen commit suicide. Da story wuz even in da papah and had his obituary too. It said Kalikimaka wuz one good-natured man. Always laughing and smiling. Das why all his friends called him uh, ‘Mele’ Kalikimaka, cuz he wuz always so happy.
“But aftah awhile Kalikimaka came not so merry. Living in one volcano can do dat to you. Picture living ‘Ewa side, no more air condition, and get all kine fumes coming from Wai‘anae landfill. Smelling da pilau air every day, Kalikimaka started for come bitter and resentful. You know how Haole Santa get elfs. Well, Hawaiian Santa get menehune. Menehune is da opposite of elfs. Same height but opposite. While elfs is benevolent and dey make tings for give away, menehune is mischievious and dey like for steal. At first Kalikimaka did kolohe rascal kine stuff for get back at people. Like he would enlist da help of da menehune and have dem steal tings for fun. Like cameras and purses from tourists when dey parked at Pali Lookout and left their stuffs in plain view on top da front seat wit da window down. But while wuz fun for see da angry look on da tourists’ faces when their stuff wuz gone, Kalikimaka still wuzn’t satisfied.
“Cuz still had rich people buying Hawai‘i up. So Kalikimaka decided for do what da government couldn’t do. Back in da ’70s Gov. George Ariyoshi wen go enact da law where public jobs could only go to Local residents. Da tinking wuz das going deter outsiders from moving ova hea. Cuz how dey can come one resident if dey no more one job? And how dey can get one job if dey not one resident? And for long time da law wen fly. And wuzn’t until recently dat couple Florida guys wen sue and so da ACLU wen complain cuz dey said das illegal discriminations and da Hawai‘i law wuz actually unconstitutional. Da ACLU legal director revealed how ‘It sends the message that nonresidents are not welcome.’ I thought wuz obvious from da beginning, brah, when dey made dat law, but actually took da lawyers 27 years for figgah dat out. Go figgah.
“Instead of using da legal system, Kalikimaka wen decide for resort to his own methods and use fear tactics. He imagined he could scare off newcomers if he spread da rumor dat da island wuz going sink if had too many people. And naturally da areas dat would be first for go would be all da rich beach houses and luxury condos dat transplants love best. But to his chagrin, dat still nevah scare people away. I guess cuz da rich people tink different from regular people. Most everyday people, dey see da water stay rising dey go, ‘Flood, flood, run away, flee for your lives.’ But rich guys is like, ‘My goodness, I do believe the the tide is unusually high. I suppose we’ll just have to finish our martinis on our luxury yacht.’
“And so, wuz back to da drawing board for Kalikimaka. So you know how Haole Santa get his sleigh with his reindeer, Hawaiian Santa get his outrigger canoe pulled by his nine wild pua‘a. But look Palm Beach ova dea. She saying but pigs no can walk on water. Das right. And what? Reindeer can fly in da air? See, same smell. So what Kalikimaka wen use his magic canoe for do? He wen go far out to sea, den taking his magic lasso. Cuz Kalikimaka’s uncle wuz one paniolo so he had da kine cowboy background, ah, li’dat, ah. But using his magic lasso he wen go lasso ... da sun. I know Westport ova dea saying, but wouldn’t da sun burn da rope? Das true, true. But what Westport dunno is Kalikimaka wen go catch da sun ... nighttime. Plus his rope wuz magic, so leave it alone. So anyway, what’s da point in dat? Da point wuz he wen do dat for talk stories with da sun for convince da sun for turn up da heat on da tourists. Das why, you no notice, Japanee tourists, Haole tourists, Chinese tourists, dey always getting really bad sun burn. Most people tink ah, stupid tourist, why dey jus nevah use sunscreen.
Das cuz in actuality tourists is getting ‘15.2 degrees of extra’ sun. I kid you not.
“Still yet, skin all burn, everyting, people continued for move hea. Luckily, Kalikimaka had one more trick left. So you know how lately been having lotta vog coming out from da volcano? Das cuz of Kalikimaka. Scientists say might get health risks cuz all da kine chemical elements coming out in da fumes. What da scientists dunno, but people believe, is dat in those fumes is one gas dat affecks all recent transplant people. It gives dem one sense of feeling unwelcome. You hear all da time, right, about people who move here and dey jus no fit in. Dey like da scenery, but dey hate da people, dey hate da food and dey hate da culture. An’ den dey put all da blame on da Local people for making dem feel excluded, while at da same time dey stay making da gates on top their gated communities more extra high. Yeah, wassup wit dat? Some transplants can be weird like dat. But da gas only has one lasting affeck on da bad apples of da newcomer lot. Eventually cool transplants who down with Local culture going forget dey evah felt anyting. Lotta times da newcomers who do da most complaining, dey usually da first for go. For proof you could ask dem. But dey gone already. Nevah to be heard from again.
“And so dat concludes da legend of Hawaiian Santa.” Nobody says anyting as I pull into Hanauma Bay. I dunno if it’s cuz dey distracted by da view as we drive down around da bend or if it’s cuz dey retinking “Oh, whereever shall we buy our retirement homes now?”
Part of me wondahs if Braddah Mike going be upset at me or what for making up stories and misrepresenting da Hawaiian culture. Cuz I no tink he wuz mad at da park ranger who made up da story about da rocks. Da guy had good intentions. I figgah I actually helping Braddah Mike out. Cuz if my story catches on den das going be one whole noddah dissertation topic he can write about one day and he can get one noddah Ph.D.
I park my trolley bus and make some quick-kine announcements. “No forget for bring your valuables. Cuz we not liable. You nevah know when going get menehune. Remembah now, no walk too close togeddah. Make sure you spread out da weight.” I smile little bit to myself when I notice Omaha and Malibu, stepping gingerly off my trolley bus. I give dem all one shaka for tell ’em goodbye and I give ’em one friendly reminder, “Meet back in two hours. Have fun. Relax. Take deeeeeeep breaths. Let it all in. And no forget, Mele Kalikimaka!”
about the author
Lee A. Tonouchi is known as “Da Pidgin Guerrilla.” His latest book, Significant Moments in da Life of Oriental Faddah and Son, from Bess Press, won da Association for Asian-American Studies book award. His last play, Three Year Swim Club, wuz one Los Angeles Times Critic’s Choice Selection and his next play, Echoes of dat Red Guitar, stay coming from Kumu Kahua Theatre in May 2015. In 2004, he won da grand prize of da 21st annual HONOLULU Magazine fiction contest for da story “Seven Deadly Local Sins.” An’ den hana hou, brah, in 2006, he won da Fiction Contest grand prize again for da story “Legend of da River Street Gambler.”