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Driving Lessons on the Big Island: My Hawaii

Can a song played at rush hour over the Islands of Hawaii cause car crashes?
Can a song make you suddenly sob and shake and weep and completely lose control of
your automobile while you are driving from Honoka’a to Kona on the Big Island of
Hawaii? Can a song be banned from the radio on the mainland because it is too powerful,
too moving, too compelling? Perhaps. I’m not sure. I’m still trying to find out the facts.

Let me begin at Sam’s Hideway in Kona. It’s a little karaoke place where working
people go after their day’s over. My friend Charles Colman took me there on a Friday
night. It’s in the Kona Marketplace just off 75 – 5725 Ali’I Drive, down the block from
Uncle Billy’s Kona Inn. Charles said we had to go on Friday night, when Kimberly
sings. I’ll give you the number, so you can check the next time you’re in Kona.
It’s 808 326 7267.

Sam is Sam Kekaula. He’s Hawaiian. Robert Kekaula, his son, does sports on
Honolulu TV. Kimberly is his daughter. On Fridays, you’ll see her pouring drinks at the
bar while people line up for the free hot dogs. It was the third time I saw her sing, when
things began to happen. Two of her cousins were there. Both Hawaiian. Kimberly
sings in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Hawaiian. That night, pouring drinks, people
coming and going, she sang one of her Hawaiian standards.

She’s a very beautiful woman
in the way that only Hawaiian women can be. Two kids have only made her more
beautiful. As she got into her song, which was more of a prayer than music, tears
came to my eyes. Like most Haole’s (whites), I am only partially aware of what Hawaii really
is and what it really was. The longer you stay, the more you feel it. I was there for
six months.

Kona, like Hilo, has many Hawaiian-speaking Hawaiians. Many at Sam’s Hideaway.
The room grew quiet as Kimberly came to the end of her song. There was great applause.
There was a wonderful mixture of races and cultures present. Kimberly’s cousins were
sitting next to me. I may have sobbed just a bit. Kimberly went on pouring and singing.
Sam’s Hideaway filled up the way it does on a Friday night. Full of Aloha.

“Wow,” I said to one of Kimberly’s cousins, “that’s an amazing song.”

They told me they were both Hawaiian. They loved the way Kimberly sang
their songs. I was just learning. I was just getting my feet on the ground. I had leased a
condo on Kuikini Highway with the help of C. J. Kimberly Realty in Kona . Best
little realty office in Hawaii!

“So that song was about?”

They smiled. “Just a pretty song about the beauty of the Islands.”

“Hawaii Nei.” I’d gotten that expression the year before from Uncle Billy himself.

Uncle Billy Kimi is the ONLY Hawaiian owner of hotels in the Hawaiian Islands.
“Actually in the world,” he told me. I’d met him a year before when I ‘d stayed at his
Kona Inn a week He was in his eighties and rode around in a little cart, while his son-
in-law worked on new plants and flowers. “All indigenous. Like me,” he said.

“I’m here Monday and Tuesday and sometimes Wednesday,” he told me. “The
rest of the week I’m at my hotel on Banyan Drive in Hilo. You should visit us there.”

story | by Dr. Radut