Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Big Hawaii Post...

It seems as though it was forever ago that I last posted. And in terms of how fast things move online and in the cyber universe... for all intensive purposes, it might as well have been an eternity ago. But here I am... finally updating my travels.

While I was away, I had the pleasure of attending the Soft Flex Company Hawaii Show in Honolulu. This event happens twice a year and is one of my absolute favorites to attend. Sure, obviously it's in paradise, but there are so many reasons why this is so close to my heart. The biggest reasons are the customers and the other vendors. They really and truly are some of the nicest, most generous, and all around delightful people ever. They make me feel so at home and as though I'm surrounded by friends. (I could spend an entire post going on and on about the wonderful customers, but I'll limit it to a quick shout out to Donna, Elizabeth, Kat, the folks of Bead Gallery, Bead It!, and DACS among many, many, many more! You guys know who you are and hopefully I'll see you in the fall for my birthday!)

Speaking of great people who come by the show, Cora Yee, a local artist attended. I am a great admirer of her whimsical work, seeped in the local mythos and imbued with a cosmology unique to her island home. CLICK HERE to check out more of her fantastic work.

I first became aware of Cora's work through another of my Hawaiian friends and award-winning artists, Candice Wakumoto. CLICK HERE to visit my shop and see components made by Candice Wakumoto. Candice sent me post cards with Cora's work on them and I would pin them to my "Hawaii corner" in my studio. I would sit in that tiny room in Brooklyn and feel thousands of miles away, basking in the beauty of paradise.

After the show closed the first day, Candice and her husband Paul took us out to eat at a great Vietnamese restaurant called, "Bac Nam". It was absolutely delicious. They ordered ahead and made sure that some specialty dishes were prepared just for us!

These were some of the best spring rolls I've ever had. There was a whole ritual of eating them, from tearing the large veins from the lettuce leaves, to stuffing them with smaller "egg rolls", noodles and mint and then dunking them in a sweet, sour, spicy dipping sauce.

The garlic butter fried chicken was not to missed either! I'm from the South and I can appreciate good fried chicken... the addition of the garlic and the butter were an interesting take on one of my favorite staples. It's hard to imagine that fried chicken could be made more rich and flavorful, but they've managed to accomplish just that.

This is one of the specialty dishes that they had to request in advance. It's "seafood noodles" and I'm not really sure what all is in it, but it was dang tasty!

Another of the specialty dishes that they requested in advance was "poached" ginger chicken with an anchovy dipping sauce. I don't think I've ever had moister or more tender chicken. I'm told that a giant pot of water is brought to a boil, the chicken is thrown in, the pot is covered and then the heat is turned off. Two hours later, the heat from the water and the trapped steam cook this mouthwatering chicken. It's served cold and is drizzled with an amazing sauce that I couldn't stop eating. We tried to reverse engineer it. It had anchovies, chillies, fish sauce, vinegar of some sort, and other mystery ingredients.

One of the much loved dishes of this restaurant are the grilled ribs. They've got a nice char on them that imparts a smokiness and crunch. I'm not a huge ribs person, but these were fantastic and absolutely crave-worthy. I enjoyed my meal with the Vietnamese Ice Coffee which is SUPER strong and done with a mini-drip press and sweetened condensed milk. The sweetness and richness of the condensed milk cut down the acidity and bite of the dark espresso shots.

For dessert, the owners brought out homemade icy tapioca. There were two kinds, both colorful. One was served with sweet red beans and the other with coconut milk and agar agar. These were cool treats to end the evening and cleanse the palette. What an awesome meal!

At the show, there was no shortage of talent. My neighbors were Calvin Orr and Rene Yoshida of the "Aiea Glass Shack". Both of them are local and make some really unique work and are both extremely generous – generous with both local tasty treats and their bead-making techniques.

Another local artisan with a huge following is Kim of JuJu Beadz. She makes the cutest cartoon-style beads. CLICK HERE to check out her whimsical characters in lampwork glass.

For instance, how dang cute is this little puppy flying a plane? Isn't it absolutely adorable? I just love the fun that Kim has with her pieces and isn't afraid of being silly and zany.

I know that my niece, Azalea, would be going crazy for this Scooby toggle. She's a Mystery Machine addict and will watch the same Scooby Doo episode over and over. Not only is an interesting design and really inventive, but it really does appeal to the inner child in us all begging to play.

This little baby bird is another example of just how cute Kim's work is. I remember sitting in on a lecture by the art critic Jerry Saltz. He was talking about the "Vermeer Effect" and how everyone loves Vermeer and how works of art have a power to suck the negativity out of the room. His supreme example was Jeff Koons' 1992 topiary sculpture, "Puppy". He stated that if Osama bin Laden were standing next to the "Puppy", the infamous terrorist would be sucked dry of negativity and all that would be left would be a pile of "glitter and sparkles". When I think of Kim's work, that lecture springs to mind and a smile spreads across my face.

Continuing down my row at the show, there was Sara Sally LeGrand of Pretty Babies. I saw her this past February in Tucson at the Best Bead Show. I had forgotten her last name and was trying to add a caption to a photo, but couldn't remember. What ensued was a Googling frenzy, typing in every combination of details I could remember from our conversation, like "former ISGB President" and "Missouri Lampwork Artist" – all to no avail. So it was good to see her and her work again and reconnect. (I also grabbed a card this time just in case the synapses containing her last name wouldn't fire again.)

What I love about Sara's work is that it has such a lush, organic and sculptural feel. Her finished pieces are often constructed in web-like buttresses and do a marvelous job of spotlighting the fluid lines and biomorphic shapes she's created out of glass. The colors remind me of a marriage between flowers and sea-life, like the patterning of an orchid collided with the chatoyant camouflage of an octopus or some other cephalopod mollusk.

Katherine Natalia Wadsworth of Natalia Designs was set up next to Sara. I've really enjoyed getting to know Katherine from our visits to Hawaii. Even though we are only rows apart at other shows during the year, it seems like the only time I see her and actually get to talk to her is during the Hawaii show. One of the things that I've learned about her through our talks is that she's also a technical editor for science journals. This precision and eye for detail is apparent in her intricate beads with very natural motifs and themes.

Here's a panorama of some of Katherine's beads. Aren't they beautiful? My fingers itch to work with one of her beads. Several of the tree beads remind me of the woods that surround the property here in Bolivar. I'll often times spend hours examining the shapes of the lattice of branches and spread of roots at various times of day, and these beads remind me of those happy moments, communing with nature.

Of all the beads that caught my eye at Katherine's table, this was the one. This autumn tree glows with an inner fire. I love the warm, rich, amber tones and the lacy lines of melted glass cleverly creating the tree. It's as though she captured a sunset in early autumn, a tree ablaze. One day it shall be mine!

When the show was over, we had a couple of days to explore the island. I always look forward to this. We started the festivities with a trip to Jack's Restaurant for breakfast and indulged in their special biscuits. McDonald's was across the street, so we got some iced coffee and "island pies". In Hawaii they have different flavored fried pies besides the apple, like taro root, coconut pudding, and banana. Banana was the flavor this time. (And yes, the pies are fried, unlike some McDonald's where they are baked.) With full bellies, we began our adventure around the island. Even though it's something that we do every time we come, I find new things or see things from a different perspective. For instance, this time we hiked down near The Witch's Cauldron near Hanauma Bay. The waters are treacherous here, so we didn't go in, but it was breathtaking to see the swirl and pull of the sea and the intense blue that I've seen no where else.

Not far from there, are a grouping of tide-pools. I feel most at home here. Perhaps it's because this is the quintessential "in between" place. Magic can be found here. Life springs up in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Here pieces of jagged glass wash up smooth, etched pebbles. Fish swim. Crabs climb. Each tidal crater is a vessel of life, filled with treasures both alive and inanimate.

On the island, I'm referred to as "hapa". It's a term that means, "half". I'm half Filipino and half Caucasian, but in a way I'm divided down the middle in many ways. Part of me longs for the ocean and the other the fields of farms and the heights of mountains. I've never belonged to one or the other; I've always straddled the fence. The "in between" places, like the tide-pools, neither wholly sea nor land, resonate with me.

This is a view while hiking up Makapu'u. In the distance you can see a Pele stone. This stone is dedicated to the goddesss Pele, matron of fire, volcanoes, and dance. In essence she's force of destruction and creation. Most people think of Hawaii as a lush rainforest, but the islands are home to many ecosystems, including the desert. The trek out to the Pele stone is a dry, dusty one through brittle, brown and yellow grasses, pokey cacti and drought-tolerant succulents.

An example of the cacti found on Makapu'u are the prickly pear. Tourists and those wishing to capture and preserve the moment often times carve and scribble their names into the leaves. The scar tissue glows a worn tan against the bright green, some going back days... others years.

This is the view from the top of Makapu'u. When the waters are less choppy and the wind less pushy, it's said that you can whale watch and look for dolphins. At the top of the hike, the winds were blowing furiously. Even with the sun baking down, I was still chilled to the bone.

After the hike up the mountainside, it was time for a little bit of relaxation at the beach. One of the most untouched and as a result, most beautiful beaches is Lanikai. Unlike some of the other lovely beaches, this one doesn't have a public park and access is restricted to these alley-like walkways down to the beach in between private properties. Most of these properties are topped with multi-million dollar homes and it's easy to see why.

The brunt of the waves are kept back with a system of coral reef. The water is warm and clear and the sand on the beach is like wet sugar. The experience of walking on it is unique. It's soft and loose, and you have to take your time. Step by step, you're able to soak in the majesty that is Lanikai. Since there is limited access, there are fewer crowds and this private meditation stretches on for miles of quiet relaxation.

Look what I spotted washed ashore on the sands! It was a baby flying fish. Once I snapped the picture, I put it back in the water. Hopefully this little guy survived. When I saw it, I thought of Anne Choi. The last time I visited her house, she showed me her collection of flying fish prints.

This creatures also resonates with me – a creature caught between sea and sky.

After our beach adventures, we drove back to the hotel via H3. The ride glides through the verdant green of rainforests, hugging the base of and tunneling through epic, jutting mountains.

The next day, Calvin and Rene had a bunch of us over from the show for lunch. Rene prepared a feast of delicious food. We brought cupcakes from Satura Cakes. They were pricy, but there was a special promotion going and we figured that we'd splurge. We so rarely get to see these friends. In the above picture, Calvin demonstrates one of his techniques to Katherine and William. Calvin taught William how to make his first glass beads. William picked it up easily and had three finished by the end of the visit.

After lunch, we headed to the North Shore. This is outside of Haleiwa. The last time I was here, sea turtles were basking on the sandy shore. This time they were all in the water and swimming around. It was magical to watch them dipping in and out of the surf, getting momentary glimpses of these beautiful creatures.

On the drive back down, we stopped at the Royal Birthing Stones. Above is dew-covered offering of a hibiscus blossom left on one of the stones. I highly recommend for anyone planning to visit this site to bring plastic bags to put over your shoes. The red clay earth, especially when wet will easily cake the bottoms of your shoes and dye your skin a rusty orange.

In between tour buses, this is a powerful spot. The land is cleared, surrounded by tall fields and flanked by standing stones and an array of volcanic rocks that at one time meant something to someone. It's said that royalty were brought there to be born. Being there, in the stand of trees and boulders draped in leis and scattered flowers, breathing in the misty air... it meant something to me too.

The night before we were scheduled to take off, Candice and Paul met up with us for one last dinner together. We joked that in combination with the time we spent together in Tucson that this was the most we've seen each other consecutively in all the years we've known each other and that our quota was filled for the next few years. They took us to a sort of out of the way place called, Au's Garden Restaurant for authentic Chinese food.

I think this was my favorite dish from the evening. It was shrimp with honey walnuts. It was a perfect balance of sweet and savory and had a delightful crunch to it. Dipped in a mix of Chinese mustard and soy sauce, these were just fantastic!

The above dish was black mushrooms with "abalone-like". Apparently real abalone is hard to come by or really expensive and thusly they have to make the distinction between "real" and "like". The mushroom flavor was strong and earthy, and the "abalone-like" gave a nice richness and buttery aspect to the dish.

A little bit spicy, but all the way good, this eggplant dish was supremely tasty. I wish I could remember more about the dish, but I was too busy stuffing my face.

This was one of the more unique dishes. Proudly the waitress said, "This is REAL Chinese food." I believe it's pork (or chicken) with greens that's been tossed in fermented shrimp paste. Before I tasted it and after I heard the description, I really didn't know how I would react. I've found that all things "fermented" create a polarized love/hate response. I found the dish strangely familiar and a memory of a glass jar with a foreign language scrolled all over the label in my mom's refrigerator came to mind. Was fermented shrimp paste one of her secret ingredients in some of her top secret dishes? Seems highly possible.

The crowning dish of the meal was the fish. Candice said it was saltier than it should have been, but I thought it was another hit. I liked all the textures and how the different it was from the "Chinese food" that I'm used to. I felt very fortunate to have Candice and Paul show us around and take us to such delicious places that we probably wouldn't have found otherwise.

Note: I thought about breaking this rather large post up into smaller posts. It certainly would have been more manageable and perhaps I would have been able to write this sooner, but for me, the events of Hawaii were squeezed into such a short amount of time and I feel like having it all in one post captures that essence. I hope if you've made it this far, you feel as though you voyaged with me and experienced it a little as well... for I know that I carried many of you with me in my heart and you were right there along side me.


ClickNCamera said...

We plan to return to the islands again...always a joy! But could our visit be more heavenly during a bead event? ...only for a bead junkie like me! Thanks for sharing. Gorgeous photos!

Michelle said...

Thanks for the great post Andrew! It made me miss Hawaii a lot! I lived there for 5 years...I miss the people and the food (I had to mop up drool from my desk from all the great food pics LOL) and all the different types of beautiful landscapes. I hope, one day, to enjoy a return visit.
Bead Happy!

nina said...

prince andrew - prince of the mist that rises between mountains and sea.
thank you so much, my sweet friend, for taking the time to share your journey with us - the people, the beauty, the food, the art - all of it wonderful, very wonderful. i hope you are settled back home and getting some well deserved rest! love, nina

Joan Tucker said...

Andrew, thanks for bringing Oahu alive; I miss being there. JT

Kathy Van Kleeck said...

Delicious in all its connotations and applications - thank you!

I share your challenge of living 'in between', it is a large challenge and I wonder if I'll ever feel settled.

Glad you're safely home ... hope you get some well deserved down time; it's been such a long haul for you.

blessings - kvk

Lynn said...

Ahh...I so missed your posts that it is difficult to believe it was only 6 days between them. I have become a definite addict!

Sharon said...

Your writing has taken me to Oahu, with all its sights, smells, and atmosphere. What I want to know is--how do you stay so darn thin while eating such luscious food?

Elizabeth said...

Hawaii is so magical and you captured the spirits very well.

Unknown said...

Andrew you do live a charmed life!! One of which many cannot do for working or are so Blessed! Such a rich blog here....ox

Gina said...

What an amazing post! I definitely want to check out all of the spots you blogged about. It was nice meeting you at the show and I can't wait to create with all of my new Green Girl goodies :)

Jamar said...

Thanks for sharing. Your descriptions really bring things to life. I enjoyed seeing the artists from Hawaii as well.

Nancy said...

Andrew, I love reading your posts on your trips. Almost feels like I went along. Someday I am hoping to be part of the traveling bead life and teach classes but till then I am going to enjoy yours!!

Susan Marling said...

What a fantastic post - loved all your descriptions and pictures. I've never been there but could feel it all through your decriptions. I also think I put on 5 lbs reading about all the wonderful food!!! Missed your posts.

Unknown said...

Looks like you had another lovely visit. :)

Lisa Crone said...

Oh wow, thank you so much for all the great photos and stories, I truly enjoyed sharing this with you. Thanks so much! I needed a mini-vacation right about now! Take care! Lisa C.

reiko said...

So glad you got to spend time here outside of the Show. I think that foreign jar you were thinking of was either bagoong, bagoong aramang or patis. LOVE that stuff. Thought you were Filipino but, wasn't sure. Next time your down here you should get some Kare Kare or Adobo, yummy! Gotta go, getting hungry...

Brandi Hussey said...

Oh man, you've made me homesick! I'm originally from Hawaii, and you captured some of my favorite spots. I have to say I'm partial to Waimanalo Beach over Lanikai - the teri cheeseburgers over at Keneke's right next door are perfect for lunch!

Anyway, thanks for sharing a little bit of home!

Jewelry Making Tools said...

Wow, great stories and photos. I'm glad you got to enjoy that all food, nature, and see those fantastic beads.