Watercolor by Frank Ducote.
Still waters run deep.
Consider the small, quiet town of Hanapepe (hah-nah-PEH-peh), on the island of Kaua’i, which is the northernmost and oldest of Hawai’i’s eight main islands. I had never been there, until I read this poem:
by Geraldine Heng
january does not awaken this town.
this skin of stillness has lain quiet now
for gentle lifetimes.
the houses, like colored wooden make-believe
sit perennially charming in picture frames,
in the metal reflection of a family car.
sunlight, teeming with dusty life
warms the storefronts, yellowly.
in shadowy interiors, proprietors measure
condiments and words, their greeting a secret meeting
shy as deep water, the memories of this town,
dimly glimpsed in the glass jars.
and a modest dance studio waits down the road
now serene, once eager perhaps
with impatient feet quick for the new steps
perhaps the doctor in the clinic danced them.
perhaps once the two old friends
dreaming gently over ice-shop counter
waxed companionable moustaches
in steamy barbershop mirror,
while their wives, tired by children, softly complained.
holiday visitors come this warm afternoon
in bright voices, chasing weekend lives
they leave the sound of feet on bare boards.
in the evening the young gathered at jukebox and pool tables.
the movie house plays a lone feature.
soon, february passes unnoticed by the soda fountains.
– from Island Fire: An Anthology of Literature from Hawai’i, edited by Cheryl A. and James R. Harstad (University of Hawai’i Press, 2002).
It’s fun to wander small, quiet towns and imagine what might have happened there at one time. This sign, proclaiming Hanapepe as “Kauai’s Biggest Little Town,” made me very curious.
I did a little investigating and discovered that Hanapepe (“crushed bay”), back in the day, was quite a place. It was founded by some Chinese rice farmers in the late 19th century, and was the only non-plantation town in the area. It once housed opium dens and was known for its rowdy bars and brawls. There was even a massacre here in 1924, where the police shot and killed 17 Filipino sugar cane workers who were on strike. And do you remember “The Thorn Birds,” with Richard Chamberlain? Some of it was shot here, and scenes from “Jurassic Park” were shot in the surrounding valley. Who knew?
In 1992, Hanapepe was decimated by Hurricane Iniki. But this little town has come back. Its rich past, charm, and quirkiness still lures the curious, and creative souls have found a haven here.
Talk Story is the western-most bookstore in the U.S.
Today, main street houses a few art galleries, gift shops, eateries, and the coolest bookstore/cafe evah — Talk Story, which is a friendly gathering place, and the home of 1500 used, new, rare and collectible titles. Every Friday night, it’s Indian food and live music. You can even buy locally-made gifts and jewelry, Hawaiian records, or take slack key guitar or ukulele lessons there.
Isn’t it cool that despite everything this little town has been through, “the printed word” still thrives? English was first heard in the Hawaiian Islands when Captain Cook stepped ashore on Kaua’i in 1778. I love that if you travel just about as far west as you can in the populated U.S., you’ll find an indie bookstore there!
You know, it is Friday. I was thinking — why don’t we all zip on over to this funky spot, and hang out tonight? They’ve got art, music, books, and food. Who could ask for more?
In case you’re thirsty:
The poetry goddess hosting today is the lovely Karen Edmisten. Cruise on over for the roundup. She’s got coffee!
Master Poetry Friday schedule is at Big A little a.
*Thanks to Ed and Cynthia of Talk Story for permission to post photos of their bookstore!
Edited 1-17-09: A couple of corrections to this post — Talk Story doesn’t have 1500 titles, but over 15,000!! Wow! And while they are no longer a cafe, they still have live music (yay)! They ship worldwide; check out their Amazon storefront here.