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Life out here, A viewpoint by Bret Kofford: Hanging loose in Hawaii

July 11, 2001

KAANAPALI BEACH, MAUI, HAWAII — The lady at the airport, who had to be 75 and had to rise from a wheelchair to do her work at her little stand, told us to "hang loose" for 10 minutes while we waited for the shuttle van to our hotel.

That I can do. When it comes to hanging loose, hanging out, chillin', chillin' like a villain, chillin' like Bob Dylan, doing a whole lot of nothing, I am a world champ.

So in Hawaii, where the state phrase is "hang loose" and the state hand signal is the thumb and pinkie up and the hand rotating, I am at home.

Still, I feel a bit guilty being here. I have traveled before, but it often was work-related. I won work-related fellowships to Europe and Japan — trips a middle-class guy would never be able to afford — through a combination of writing ability, wit and false charm honed while growing up in the home of an award-winning car salesman. "Free Trips," or "Cheepabruddseedaglobeuli" in Hawaiian, became my nickname.


This time we are paying, although at drastically reduced rates through the son and the husband hitching onto the wife's educational conference discount. I also feel guilty because Europe was often gray and its people cold, Japan was often gray but its people warm, but Hawaii is green and lush and its people warm.

So, I am hanging loose. Part of the reason may be vowel exhaustion. There are more vowels here per location than any spot in the world. Some people on the trolley the other day were discussing whether it was kosher to not pronounce the second "a" in the first syllable, more or less, in Kaanapali. While I didn't get involved in the conversation, watching the vowel movements of others wore me out.

Even while hanging loose there is much to do in Maui. Shortly after we got here we found a little tiki doll. The locals told us it was bad luck and to rid ourselves of the tiki man, but I put it around my neck anyway and went surfing. I got dumped into the waves and Mike came in to save me. Later, a scorpion came into the bed in our hotel room and nearly … oh, sorry, that was Greg Brady when he was in Hawaii, not me.

Actually, what I have been doing, along with hanging loose, is swelling up. Coming from a place where little other than crazy humans live in the summer, to a place that could best be described as bountiful, I have either been bitten or brushed against things that have earned me the Hawaiian "Haoleboyolikalungfishuli."

Still, good times can be had here every minute of the day, even for a red swollen man. The ocean is clear and warm, the land green and lush, the people every color of the rainbow and all "bruddas."

There was a story in the local newspaper today about a state mental hospital being plagued by murderers and other violent criminals escaping into a nearby community, including a minor college. The people of the community were concerned, but not overly. State officials were considering examining the security setup at the hospital, but not quite yet.

Until then, everyone is just hanging loose … me included.

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