Story by Kathy Collins
Listen to this column read aloud in pidgin:
I like how Maui No Ka ‘Oi every year put da ‘Aipono Awards in da Bes’ of Maui issue. Good fo’ remind ourselves how lucky us, fo’ have so much stuffs fo’ appreciate ova heah—speshly da food! How come we nevah have da kine Bes’ of Maui lists forty years ago, when I was one kid? Had plenny good stuffs fo’ appreciate back den.
Like da six-cent chocolate Cokes at Iwaishi Store’s soda fountain, where Makawao Steak House stay now. Odda places had chocolate Coke too, but Iwaishi’s put da mos’ syrup inside, so theirs was da bes’. When you pau drink da soda, you get chocolate crush ice fo’ eat. Plus they had one jukebox an’ all kine two-cent candies like Mary Janes, Tootsie Rolls, an’ da wax sticks wit’ juice inside. Dat was our aftah-school special!
An’ I miss da crack seed from Vineyard Candy Store. Da wet li hing mui was da bes’. But even if you already knew what you going get, you still yet take yo’ time an’ walk slow, all around da big glass jars, speshly da ones in da back a da store, ‘cause you trying fo’ sneak one peek at da grown-up magazines, da ones wit’ da brown pepa wrap around ‘em. Gotta time ‘em jus’ right, ‘cause if you go too slow, Auntie look up from her pepa-back romance book and give you scoldings.
Back in da sixties, da bes’ dining an’ entah-tainment value was at Azeka Store. Not Azeka Marketplace. Back then, only had da grocery store with one small kitchen an’ snack shop on da side. An’ da big monkey cage in da back. You buy your shave ice at da snack shop window an’ go sit on da wooden bench an’ watch da monkeys. I t’ink so was spidah monkeys. If you only had shave ice, they jus’ kinda ignore you and play by demselfs. But if you had French fries, den they get all excited ‘cause they know you going share wit’ them.
At Azeka’s, you could get food an’ show fo’ less dan one dollah. But fo’ special occasions . . . or jus’ fo’ celebrate Aloha Friday . . . da bes’ was Jesse Nakooka at da Maui Lu Longhouse. No fire dancers, no fancy light show, just good music an’ plenny aloha. Tourist couples would come, an’ Jesse would sing da Hawaiian Wedding Song or “Lei of Stars” fo’ dem. Some couples come back every year, and Jesse always would remembah their names and what song they like. Was like family reunion. An’ you nevah know who Jesse going call up on da stage from da audience. Sometimes had famous guys like Ledward Ka‘apana, Melveen Leed, Loyal Garner, li’dat. And sometimes was people you nevah heard of but who could sing or dance mo’ betta dan anyone you see in Waikiki.
Jesse, Vineyard Candy Store, Iwaishi’s . . . all gone now. But you know, all da stuffs dat was da Bes’ of Maui back den, all dat went come from jus’ plain, regulah people wit’ plenny aloha. Plenny aloha. Da kine you still yet find all ova da island. Dass why, to me, da Bes’ of Maui—den an’ now an’ always—is da people. And da people make Maui . . . da Bes’!