I am always on the lookout for the old Hawaii, something that awakens in me the spirit of an easier, happier time. I found it the other morning when we made a Saturday run to First Hawaiian Bank in Kahului. (Nice parking lot, kou trees, a bit tattered, lauae fern.)
While the business was taking place, I wandered off to the beach that rims the harbor. There are three ways to get to the sand. One is along the access road where the homeless guys hang out, laughing and joking. Not an option. Another is by cutting through to the grass in front of the old Chart House restaurant, now Cary and Eddie's Hideaway.
Then I discovered the semi-hidden pathway leading to the rock wall and French doors of the restaurant's private dining room at the far side of the building, a rambling, wooden affair built in the '50s.
Nearby are high old coconut trees, probably left over from the days when they lined the Kahului Railroad right-of-way, which came in from Paia and ringed the bay before heading off in the direction of Lower Main Street. The path is lined with round ocean stones and leaves from a grand old banyan tree that buries the area in blissful shade.
Something in that, the protective old tree, the shade on a hot morning, the beach view from a low-key building, the privacy, the quiet, the lack of manicure, took me back.
It was a gorgeous morning. The wind was calm, the water peaceful, and out in the harbor three guys in kayaks were sailing along like high-flying birds. How I envied them. There was a fine view of 'Iao Valley - marred by the Harbor Lights condominium dead-center in the foreground.
We wandered over to the canoe hale of Na Kai 'Ewalu next door, the columns and furnishings of which are painted purple to distinguish it from the hale of the Hawaiian Canoe Club, painted blue, down the beach. That club is set back farther from the ocean and has a lot more real estate, a nice lawn in front and its original thatched hale still intact.
We counted 27 canoes on the beach and contemplated their fascinating names. Na Kai 'Ewalu has two named for channels surrounding Maui. "Ko Pailolo Mana" speaks to the power of the 7.5-mile wide channel between Maui and Molokai, which an old copy of the U.S. Coast Pilot informed me is "clear of obstructions," save for a 0.75-mile fringing reef south of Molokai and Mokuho'oniki and Kanaha Rock near its easterly end.
"Alenuihaha" is named for the tricky channel that is 26 miles wide at its narrowest part between Kailio Point southwest of Kaupo and Upolu Point in Kohala on the Big Island. It's a rough one during strong trade winds when the current sets westward and ships have been wrecked. "Kindy" Sproat once told me how canoes were built in the great Kohala valley of Polulu, where the current made it easy to invade Maui. During Kona winds it flows the other way.
Some of the canoes at Hawaiian have auspicious names: "Pomaika'i," good fortune, blessedness, good luck; "Keola," life, health, well-being, and "Ka'uhane," soul, spirit.
"Kaheiheimalie" is named for one of the many wives of Kamehameha I, who was the mother of the the reliable, sedate Kina'u who succeeded Ka'ahumanu as kuhina nui of the kingdom in 1833. It was Kina'u who gave birth to kings Kamehameha IV and V, and bestowed the odd name of Lili'u ("smarting") to the future queen in commemoration of the eye infection she, Kina'u, suffered when the child was born.
Back at the main entrance to the Hideaway, a white cat lounged near the entrance, where the screen door has a big puka in it. The place - operated by Caryle "Cary" Munoz, the owner, and Eddie Hernandez Rivera, the chef - is a local favorite, voted on one Best of Maui 2012 list as Best Barbecue Lunch and Dinner. An elderly tourist assured me he had a fine mahimahi lunch in the dining room overlooking the bay.
We plan to go back for what I hear is a sensational Sunday brunch someday, and a deeper investigation of the collection of miniature liquor bottles on display near the bathrooms.
Back at the First Hawaiian Bank parking lot, a young woman with fake boobs and tight jeans strutted back to her expensive car, whose engine she had left running to preserve the air conditioning with the window open. There the spell ended.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at email@example.com.