The First Family, Fires, and Fish
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It's been a particularly frenetic week in exotic Honolulu. Adding to the normal Christmas-shopping frenzy, island favorite son President Barack Obama and family are ensconced in a beachfront mansion for their annual holiday visit -- with the associated international media and nervous black-garbed security folk lurking all about. It's all very festive! The President is golfing between downpours and the entire family has been seen out on the beach, bowling, at church on the Marine Base, and enjoying shave ice. Ho! Ho! Ho!
Ala Moana Shopping Center, Hawaii's largest (and the world's most profitable per square foot) lost power during the last three daze of "the season" with our hapless electric utility blaming the slow-moving Winter cloudbursts. The expected downpours also produced the perennial sewage spills and what we call here, "brown water conditions" at virtually all of the beaches. Our "Visitors" (as we residents are urged to call the tourists) are advised to avoid the beaches and the ocean for awhile. In the meantime, if they can keep the lights on at Ala Moana, our visitors might find some diversions there. The power outage did produce a spectacular electrical demonstration at the nearby substation and the colorful explosion, fire and likely-carcinogenic smoke plume wafting high into the air brought out an actual Hawaiian Electric Company VP to make the expected non-incriminating alibis while Ala Moana management declined to say anything. That high-pitched whine you hear no-doubt comes from large lawsuits being filed. I will say this, the entire episode seemed to create a new sense of what Christmas is really all about! I personally witnessed several blacked-out merchants on their knees in tears, invoking their deity of choice. Ho! Ho! Ho!
In addition to the heavy annual rains, this holiday season again brings yet another traditional surprise to we island residents -- in the form of the annual Young Brothers inter-island freight rate increases which greatly impacts our already struggling neighbor island residents. This year, Young Brothers is asking for average rate increases of 24% -- "the highest increase in at least 30 years." The once-local company has been owned by SaltChuk Resources, Inc. of Seattle, Washington since 1999 and management blames a recent loss of volume due to the recession and the impact of a new shipper in the market for the increase. Added to the 13.5% increase they were gifted in 2009 and Matson Navigation's 10% freight increase on all goods shipped from the West Coast beginning on January 2nd, Santa was particularly good to at least some. Ho! Ho! Ho!
There is good news on the local fish front! Sashimi (AKA "Ahi" AKA "Yellowfin Tuna") is a local New Years Day tradition in our islands. Unable to export the usual obscene tonnage of our very best this season, Guy Tamashiro, manager of Kalihi's Tamashiro Market said, "It's bad weather over there, so we can't ship fish to the East Coast," "The price is always determined on availability, and if there's less demand there, that helps lower prices here." So dear island readers, expect to only pay $35 to $38 a pound for the medium-grade ahi and only $40 a pound for premium grade! "Lucky we live Hawai`i!" as somebody keeps saying. Hau'oli Makahiki Hou (Happy New Year) from Honolulu!