I have lived in Makiki, in the same tiny one bedroom, one parking apartment, since I moved to Hawaii; so that makes it over ten years. I remember when I moved here; my ex and I had purchased a package that included round trip airfare and five days four nights in Waikiki. That was the length of time we had to find a place to live, with no jobs and no references. I don’t think that it would be possible to do that today but it was a possible then. I remember we had some marginal leads about where we should look for a place to live; names of neighborhoods with no meaning to me at the time-Manoa & Makiki. My ex was going to attend classes through the East West Center at UH and we needed a place cheap and close to the University and on the bus line; a must for the carless.
I remember we looked at this awful three story apartment building over an alarm shop down on Beretania and one that all I remember about was that it was really cute but had an ant problem. The apartment we settled on was shown to us by a young Mormon girl. It was in a small apartment complex with the main house in the front. There were six units in the building: two were occupied by little old ladies (one with a dog), an older couple in one, a single guy in one, our empty unit and a younger couple. Of all of these folks, there are two units still occupied with the same folks that were here the day I came to see the place. Dale and Edna who live in the front two bedroom apartment and our next door neighbor (Keanu calls him Wes but that might be a made up name) who we affectionately refer to as the serial killer. Mostly because we hardly ever see him or hear him. He is like one of those guys convicted of sawing people up who, once he is caught, all the neighbors say, “he was always so quiet.” “We never would have suspected.”
I know that Mrs. Lee died in the front two bedroom apartment. Dale had a serious medical condition from which he has never fully recovered. Once Keanu crawled through Florence’s window, the old lady with the dog, because she had locked herself out. We suffered through Jimmy’s karaoke singing and enjoyed Nathan’s ukulele practice. The owners who live in the front house give my son Christmas presents. Dale and Edna came to my son’s preschool graduation. These are some of the reasons I have never moved from our small Makiki enclave; for that sense of community.
Today I walked up to the Korean place at the corner. On the way, the Marshallese ladies sitting out front of the building next door warned me because someone was in the process of hanging a bed frame over the balcony in order to throw it out. I chatted with the guy in front of me at Peppa’s about his “ono and pono” shirt which I had seen at Downtown.
These are some of the reasons why, the other day when my Zappos shoe delivery went missing, I was sad, angry and disappointed and why I was so happy to learn that the community had actually come through. My box was safe and sound and had been cared for by the folks in the front house. They also brought it to my door in the early evening. I feel like Makiki has a bad rap; that people rush to judgment about the area and the people who live there. I am grateful that they are wrong. I am grateful for the man who lives next door to us and brings us bananas because sometimes the leaves are hanging over our stairs; and for Dale & Edna who take in our mail and water our plants; and just to know that we are all looking out for each other because we are all in it together; to know that we have a community, one that I am glad to be a part of.