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June 06, 2008

Over Red Coffee Cans and Cigarettes

Patrick O'Hannigan remembers:

As a teenager in Hawaii, I spent memorable weekends sitting across a kitchen counter from an old woman who exhaled plumes of smoke over my head. She was Helen to her friends and Tutu to her grandchildren. She would open a louvered window for the sake of our lungs, but could not abide the idea that standing next to it was the only socially acceptable way to enjoy a cigarette.

When Tutu tired of crossword puzzles, or wanted to postpone a four-block walk to the Ala Moana Shopping Center for another can of Folger’s Coffee and the latest paperback mystery by Harry Kemelman, she would kvetch about politics, or fix me with a blue-eyed look, run a hand through blonde hair going gray, and tell stories.

Her ethnic background was Swedish and Celtic, which in disreputable circles might pigeonhole her as a typical white person. She left the Bronx for life in the tropics at the invitation of her eldest son when he became a rookie with the Honolulu Police Department.

Like other people in her old neighborhood, she had marinated in the Italian and Jewish cultures that mingled with her own. Tutu had the family recipe for all-day pasta sauce, knew a good matzo ball when she tasted one, and sometimes lamented the lack of delicatessens in Hawaii. Her side of the family was proof positive that the working-class boroughs of New York blended influences almost as seamlessly as the Honolulu suburbs where I grew up. The way she told it, you could drink New York tap water too, although you were unlikely to smell Plumeria blossoms on the breezes there.

Tutu died four years ago, but knowing about those Hawaiian weekends, you may not be surprised to learn that it was she who sprang to mind when one paragraph from a speech of almost 2,500 words made news earlier this month because President Bush denounced the appeasement of tyrants while he was in Israel addressing the Knesset.

As they say, read the whole thing. I loved this post.

Posted by Cassandra at June 6, 2008 07:41 AM

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Comments

The smell of plumeria and pikake flowers drifting through louvered windows came to mind when I read the post. I also remember J Akuhead Pupule who would make a better politician than most of the candidates running on the democratic ticket.

George Bush pushed one of Barack's more sensitive buttons apparently. Note to BHO, if the shoe fits, wear it.

Back to Hono and J Akuhead, I remember the following ditty;

So you have to get up in the morning,
and the sun's sneaking up on the sky.
While you're snug in the hay
Foremost milk's on the way
From the farmer to the dairy to you,
Fastidiously fresher!
From the farmer to the dairy to you!

Mahalo from one da kine kamaaina haole to another and Don "Tiny bubbles" Ho.

Posted by: vet66 at June 6, 2008 11:33 AM

So, Tutu was from a big city and moved to Hawaii, eh?

Sounds like someone I could definitely relate to...

Posted by: camojack at June 9, 2008 01:35 AM

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