My name is Rob, and some folks called me "Robbos." I lived on Kinau in
Makiki, in a junk apartment on McCully, way out on Ho'oli Place in Pearl
City, and even in a tiny studio condo in Waikiki, 'cause that's where
the action was. Or so I thought. I'm a writer now, but back then I
worked for DHL, the delivery company on Koapaka Street. I was the guy in
the office who helped people find lost packages, so took some angry
calls. Most of the angry ones were from tourists who were expecting
things to arrive for their weddings that were stuck in customs. Other
angry calls came from the mainland, people who didn't understand why we
couldn't jump in a van and rush to deliver a box to Lihue or Kona in an

I also had a second job as a DJ with KDEO, way back when they played
country tunes. I didn't know anything about paniolo music, but it was
fun working there. Their studio was a portable trailer out in Waipahu,
and it felt like it took forever to get there on the bus.

That was the 1990s, and even back then stuff was expensive enough that
people had more than one job. I figured that if I ever wanted to have
any money I had to move to the mainland. Stuff was soooo cheap there.
Coworkers had moved to the mainland and sent back pictures of their new
boats, and houses with huge yards. Then DHL, the company I worked for,
opened a big new national office in Arizona. That was my big chance to
move and have a job waiting for me. Then I could buy a house in Arizona,
just like all the investors had done in Hawaii!

And I did. It was a really nice house, a Kahala or Hawaii Kai type of
place that I could never have afforded before. Being Arizona it had lots
of sun and sand. But you know what? It wasn't home. Not even close.

At least Phoenix was close to Las Vegas, right? But Arizona wasn't home.
There are some nice people but hooboy, the place is all kinds of messed
up. So I moved again, and bought a house again, this time in Portland,
Oregon. No sand here, and not as much sun. More Asian markets though. I
can get Hawaiian Sun mango orange to drink, Aloha shoyu to pour on
everything, rice in the monster bag, and even Lion coffee sometimes. I
make my own musubi and manapua, maybe a little too often. Eating them
takes me right back, even if my friends here don't really understand
what they are or why I like them so much.

I appreciate that the Star-Advertiser has some free articles on its app,
and that the Hawaii News Now app allows me to stream their news
broadcast. I can "screen mirror" my phone onto the TV and watch the news
stream on the big screen, just like when I was back on Kinau Street
(although back then I always watched Joe Moore on channel 2). I can't
just sit on the couch for long though, so most of the day I stream
either Hawaiian Music Live or Hawaiian Rainbow on the phone. Those guys
help keep my head and heart in the right place.

My dream has always been to move back to Honolulu when I had enough
money saved up, but the amount I need to save keeps going up too. Places
cost more and more to buy or rent, food costs more, electric costs more,
water costs more, everything does. So I keep saving, and to make moving
day come sooner I play the lottery sometimes too. A couple of million
sounds like a lot to folks here, only because they haven't seen what
houses cost on Oahu.

Sure paradise has a price, but it's really down to what you value in
life. You don't need to be rich to enjoy family, friends, food, music,
ocean, and aina. You got those, you're rich already. I just want to be
sure I can leave the doors and windows open without bill collectors
coming in. I got enough cockroaches.

The application asks "what do you love about Hawaii?" but that's such a
long list. We have five senses, and every single day Hawaii generously
offers us an endless variety of things to excite, soothe, and nourish
our eyes, ears, noses, tongues, and skin. People like me enjoy these
things for years but take them for granted, get distracted, and move
away. Then we regret leaving it all behind. Sure we can afford a house
on the mainland, but a house is just walls and windows. Is a house on
the mainland worth leaving behind dawn patrol on the North Shore? Worth
leaving behind trying to figure out which slippahs are yours when
heading out for some more beer? Worth leaving behind everyone rolling
fatties while the news tries to cover legalization debates with a
straight face? Worth leaving behind being shocked to find that someone
you never expected plays uke and sings pretty good? Worth leaving behind
sunsets around the tailgate of a friend's truck? Worth leaving behind
Auntie's laulau, Uncle's guitar licks, and trips with them to Zippy's?
Worth leaving behind all those times you're a mile from home and
suddenly realize you forgot shoes? Worth leaving behind all the lessons
to be learned from the plants, the soil, the ocean, the animals, the
ancestors? Worth leaving behind Leonard's malasadas? Worth leaving
behind sitting on the H1 forever and ever (well, maybe)? Worth leaving
behind being able to see some of the biggest stars in Hawaiian music
play in crazy little venues like restaurants, shopping centers, and
street parties, little places where you can walk up and talk story with
them? Worth leaving behind the stink eye from that vendor or server or
dude on the corner who thinks you're on the wrong side of the island?
Worth leaving behind the scent of plumeria and the taste of haupia?
Worth leaving behind all the tourists' horrible mispronunciations while
they ask questions? Worth leaving behind all the sand in your suit and
on the floor of the car? Worth leaving behind seeing kids eat their
favorite shave ice? Worth leaving behind seeing Asian kupuna squatting
on the sidewalks in Chinatown, and wondering why your younger knees
don't do that so easy? Worth leaving behind bon dances? Worth leaving
behind Bumpy Kanahele and finding out what will happen? Worth leaving
behind Pow Wow Hawaii and seeing Kakaako get a fresh face - just in time
for ocean level rise to overtake it? Worth leaving behind seeing if HART
ever gets the light rail built, maybe out to Pearlridge? Worth leaving
behind living in a place that people save up all their lives to spend
just one week in? Worth leaving behind knowing the difference between an
'okina and an apostrophe? Worth leaving behind macaroni salad served
with an ice cream scoop? Worth leaving behind being cold because it's
winter, even if winter means it's 65 degrees?

Pick any of those things. Then feel the sun on your shoulder, a light
wind on your skin, and smell the salty ocean in the air. Which ball cap
today? Yeah, that one. And those glasses. Oh - and don't forget the
slippahs this time. Went to Rainbows last time - how about Likelike this
time? K, laters.