Thursday, April 2, 2009

Musings: Nothing Personal

When Koko and I went out walking last night the clouds were playing tag with the stars and a half-moon, which I’d last seen high and white in the late afternoon sky while watching two dark-colored helicopters, one very small, flying low and headed north along the coast. I’ve noticed this duo a number of times lately, always together and traveling routes that the tour choppers don’t take, which set me to wondering who they belong to and what they’re doing.

Was talking to a tourist the other day, a Baptist minister recovering from an overdose of Jesus, and I asked him how he was liking the island. Well, he said, he’d stopped into Tahiti Nui one night and sat at the bar for half an hour as the bartender served everyone who walked in the door, except him, until he finally got it: this place is for locals only.

It’s nothing personal, I said, it’s just that a lot of folks on the North Shore are really over the whole tourist thing because they’ve been so badly overrun.

I understand, he said, then proceeded to tell me how he’d paddled out to the surf break near the Waiohai in Poipu and smiled at a local guy and exclaimed over the sunshine and the waves only to have the guy scowl and reply, what, you think I don’t have eyes for see?

It’s nothing personal, I said, it’s just that he viewed you as one more Barney in the line-up.

Even though tourism continues to slide — an AP article on reports visitor arrivals on Kauai were down 19.8 percent over the previous February — it doesn’t seem like folks are any more inclined to suck up to the ones who do come.

Interviewed attorney Joe Moss, who specializes in bankruptcies, among other things, for a story yesterday. He noted that filings are up 70 percent statewide over a year ago, and increased 19 percent in March from the previous month. Locally, that translated into 25 bankruptcy hearings yesterday, compared to the 10 to 15 per month that Kauai had been averaging.

“Hawaii is now starting to feel what’s been happening on the mainland for a while,” Joe said, noting that he’s starting to see folks who bought at the wrong time and are now upside down on their houses.

One thing he hasn’t seen, however, is any indication that local banks and credit unions were involved in risky lending. The questionable mortgages were all issued by mainland banks, prompting him to think there had been a bit of predatory lending going on.

“I think that as a generalization that Kauai people are very trusting and sometimes naïve and they can fall prey to some lenders and companies that really take advantage of them,” Joe said.

His message to his clients, and others, is stop shopping.

“We don’t have to be in this thing that I call the consumer society,” Joe said. “We’re inundated with advertising and they’re very good at it, but you end up buying things you don’t need. It is hard for people to make it here. You really can’t fall into the mainland thing of buying stuff.”

That got me thinking about an article I read in The Week that posed the question: is America’s love affair with the mall over? It included a great quote that confirmed what I’d observed the last time I cruised through Ala Moana:

”The most important fact about our shopping malls,” says social scientist Henry Fairlie, “is that we do not need most of what they sell.”

The article goes on to report:

“One of the biggest consequences of mall closings is the loss of a sense of community,” says David Birnbrey of The Shopping Center Group, “a place where people gather and socialize.” And exercise. Retirees Dick and Anne Saplata work out by walking around the largely empty halls of the Metcalf South Mall in Leawood, Kan. It’s likely to close soon, and there’s talk that a developer will raze the place. If the mall goes under, Dick Saplata asks, “where are we going to walk?”

Wow. Maybe it’s just me, but that speaks volumes about the devolution of American society.

While we’re on that subject, as you may recall I discussed America’s failed “war on drugs” and its impact on Tijuana in a previous post, in which I mentioned that a journalist friend who lives there was working on a story about the situation.

Well, that story is out now and can be read in the on line edition of the San Diego Reader.

He wrote in an email to me:

Already getting some negative feedback in comments of the "kill the messenger" variety, but I know what I wrote is a true and accurate reflection of what my fellow Tijuaneses are going through.

It's nothing personal, I told him, it's just that folks love to attack those who say the stuff they don’t want to hear.

As the line in one of my favorite Sudden Rush songs goes: “I only speak the truth got no reason to be lying.”


Ed Coll said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ed Coll said...

My Favorite SR line is:
Can't run from the past, can't hide from the truth, and I still ain't wearing no army boots!

A Barney sounds a lot like a Gomer.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday that same helicopter landed at Waipa. There was a permaculture class going on there. About 30 mainlanders who paid for the course, taught by a national expert and a bunch of local people learning various techniques for growing food. When the fully suited DLNR guy (or KPD vice-cop - whatever) got out of the heli, he asked one of the students what they were doing there, (as if they had no right to be there). The innocent student began telling the officer about the studies "we're learning permaculture and growing techniques, etc." The cop, disgusted, muttered that they were probably growing pot, and sternly promised that he was going to find it. Can you say buzz-kill?

Anonymous said...

it was my understanding large parts of the north shore used to be pretty lawless...a good amount of physical violence, etc...and that has since largely changed. seems like a good development to me