A Walk Down Ke’eaumoku Street

Kam 1
Grandson of Ke’eaumoku

Ke’eaumoku Street defines the western boundary of the “K Streets”, the neighborhood where Max lives. The word ke’eaumoku translates in Hawaiian as “Great Heavenly Island Climber” which seems to have no relation to anything in the area. Ah, but remember that streets in Hawaii, as elsewhere, are often named after famous people. So who was this guy Ke’eaumoku?

Wikipedia tells us that Kalani Kama Keʻeaumoku-nui was a Prince of the Big Island of Hawaii and high chief of the Kona district and part of Kohala district and grandfather of Kamehameha the Great, who conquered the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi in 1810. So, yeah, Ke’eaumoku was a heavy, a big deal, and the street bears a name of great distinction.

K Streets
That’s Ke’eaumoku Street on the far left running top to bottom. Ala Moana Center at the bottom.

By the way, Ke’eaumoku was born to Keaweʻīkekahialiʻiokamoku and his half-sister, Princess Kalanikauleleiaiwi. These names don’t mean anything to me either, I just added them because I hope someday to get one of these names in a Scrabble tournament and earn 19,756 points without even counting the triple letter score. There are only 14 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet but man oh man they sure get used frequently. Hawaiian names wear out my spell checker. But I digress.

Keeauopku Street 2
Ke’eaumoku runs right to left just in front of the very ugly, fortress-like HMSA building. The big flat area in the upper left quadrant is the Walmart/Sam’s parking garage.

Ke’eaumoku Street gets a lot of traffic as it is a thoroughfare between the densest population centers on Oahu and the major shopping center – Ala Moana. Along Ke’eaumoku Street is a Walmart with Sam’s Club above, a McDonalds, a giant Hawaii Medical Service Association headquarters building (imho perhaps the ugliest structure ever conceived), a packed collection of small retail businesses and restaurants and a handful of seedy girlie-bars with exotic dancers whose shifts start at 2:00PM and run in some cases until 4:00AM.

What really defines the Ke’eaumoku Street area is its heavy concentration of Koreans. The old joke is that the street should be named Koreamoku.

Years ago the area had many Japanese residents and businesses but over time the neighborhood evolved as a Korean enclave. Back in the 60s through the 80s Ke’eaumoku Street was the place to go if you wanted to visit “Korean Bars” a uniquely Hawaii twist on the girlie bar meme or trope, I can never remember which is which. Buy-me-a-drink (weak tea) hostesses, strippers, politicians in the booths making nefarious deals, tobacco smoke thick as San Francisco fog banks, loud music and a lot of begging by drunk guys who were always just minutes away from finally convincing Miss Kim to spend the night. None of this is based on personal experience, mind you, I am simply a voracious reader. Yeah.

Over time the area has lost a lot of the bars and substituted Korean restaurants, Korean shave ice joints, Korean cosmetic stores featuring snail and placenta based face creams (no joke) and small Korean owned electronic stores and sundries shops. It is also a popular hangout for homeless people, several of whom have staked out territories and have become regulars who are recognized by Max as he wanders the district.

I try to avoid taking the Malt on walks along Ke’eaumoku Street because the sidewalks are filthy. Aside from the copious chewing gum stains and hillocks there are usually chicken bones, pieces of fast food and other waste that is irresistible to the Malt but devastating to doggie digestive systems. Lots of bicycles and skateboards on the sidewalks and too many cars all add up to a bad choice for walking a tiny dog. So of course it goes without saying that this is Max’s favorite stroll and the stubborn little guy will pull me in that direction every chance he gets.

Several times in years past there have been movements among the Korean business people to establish the Ke’eaumoku Street corridor as an official “Koreatown” and brand the neighborhood as a cultural district to better promote it to visitors to Hawaii. The movements have never gained traction presumably because there is no acknowledged leader in the business community. I know that the Neighborhood Board has had a standing invitation for any reputable organized group to present the Koreatown concept for discussion but so far, no takers.

Keeauopku Street
The 3.5 acre lot where a tower might be built. Ke’eaumoku Street in the background.

I don’t know how to feel about the concept of manufacturing ethnic neighborhoods. When such evolve organically it makes for an interesting area but when created out of thin air…hmmm. In any case, it seems moot at the moment. A more likely development is the building of a large condominium on a 3.5 acre lot (actually collection of small lots) located across from my condo and owned by a Korean company named Cuzco Development USA Inc.

The area is zoned for a 400 foot tower, mixed use, and its construction seems inevitable at some point although the current land owner seems to have banked the property for now. When built the tower will change the feel of the area forever. For better or worse? Who knows?

Max on Coffee Table
The Malt relaxing on the coffee table. The granite top stays cool. Sometimes we have to lift him to find the TV remote.

Max doesn’t much care about these things. He just likes the activity on Ke’eaumoku Street, the smells, the dropped food bits, the Korean ladies who fawn over him, the homeless who recognize him and mumble unintelligible greetings, the noise and the action. Though I try to avoid that walk, Max insists on an occasional walk down this particular street and I indulge him. Then it’s back to our little condo, a good foot washing with antibacterial dog soap and a well-deserved nap on the coffee table before we explore yet another of Honolulu’s K Streets.

Max Before & After

Nanako Biz
The Beauty Salon for Doggies

Today Max got his Christmas haircut from Miss Nanako at the Beauty Salon for Doggies. It could not have come any sooner; he was getting rather shaggy although truth to tell, I kind of like my little guy when he’s furry.

We dropped him off and then went to see “Philomena”, a very well acted, funny and touching film that we both enjoyed mightily. Dame Judi Dench’s portrayal of Philomena was flat out astonishing, but I digress.

The furball on his way to a grooming.

Nanako-san is well known for her Japanese-style grooming of little dogs. She loves to weave feathers into the pups’ ear hair, add color and otherwise take frou-frou dogs to a new height of frou. To date I have always resisted her gentle efforts to convince me that Max will be no less manly if he sports a bright little ribbon in his fur.

This time around, in true Japanese Alpha Female (JAF) style, she didn’t bother to ask about possible pooch enhancements; she just added a couple of bows in Max’s ears.

She must have seen my look as I came to pick him up. She calmly stared me down, turned to my spouse, a fellow JAF and said in their native tongue, “Your husband should be happy. The bows are blue, not pink.”

My wife replied, “He likes them very much.”

I started to add, “I’m standing right here and you know I understand what you both are saying” but many years of painfully gained experience held my wayward tongue at the last minute. So I pulled out the wallet, paid the tab and tipped handsomely, thus marginally justifying my otherwise worthless existence.

Xmas Max
The bows, I just don’t know about the bows.

So here are before and after photos of Maxwell, all dolled up for Christmas.

Which look do you like?

I still can’t quite accept the bows and dread tomorrow morning’s walk around town and the overt abuse (and covert sympathy) I will gather from the other guys walking dogs within the K Streets.

Dog Vocabulary

Ichi…ni…san…shi…go. That’s how you count to five in Japanese. But around our little home you are likely to hear me saying “ichi-ni, ichi-ni, ichi-ni” from time to time and it has nothing to do with counting.

smart dog pic
Communications are tricky.

That is because Max was taught that the phrase “ichi-ni” means that my wife or I, or both, are leaving the house and the Malt is not invited to tag along. It’s a phrase that is guaranteed to extract the world’s saddest look.

(By the way, the derivation of that phrase comes from my daily trips to the local health club. It started when my wife performed a charade of me lifting a barbell up and down above my head, chanting “ichi” on the upstroke and “ni” on the way down. She did this to inform Max that I was leaving alone. It was essentially her version of cadence: one-two, one-two. But I digress.)

Anyway, ichi-ni is one of a handful of phrases that are significant to the pup but which have no real meaning in either English or Japanese. Basically, Max is not only bilingual; he also understands gibberish.

That got me to wondering how many words a dog can recognize. Of course it depends on the dog and if we’re talking Border Collie the response is how many words are in the Merriam-Webster dictionary including the latest update which is “selfie”.

According to Dr. Stanley Coren, an expert in canine intelligence, the average dog can understand about 165 words, possibly more with training. There was a big story about doggie language comprehension in 2001, when Rico, a border collie (natch), appeared on a German TV game show and showed he could recognize 200 different words.

Rico became a big hit at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology when he proved he could use process of elimination to figure out unfamiliar words, and he could remember new words even after a month of not hearing them.

Rico held the vocabulary medal until Chaser, another border collie (natch again), displayed knowledge of a whopping 1,022 words. Chaser’s feats were published in a study in the Behavioural Processes Journal in 2011.

Of course you may be one of those folks eternally nattering on about the finer points of zoosemiotics and debating instinctive animal communication versus learned cognition. Maybe not.

dog cookies
Dog cookies, of course!

I think Max can readily recognize about 50 words. That number is a far cry from Rico or Chaser but covers most of his needs and I can assure you that he is keenly aware of every nuance of meaning associated with the word “cookie”.

Hi-Tech Dog Communications

This morning I read an article about a team of researchers who are figuring out how to get dogs talking to humans. No kidding, these are serious smart people and their aim is to develop and deploy technology that will enable dogs to clearly communicate with all owners.

Dog with wearable communication technology. A border collie, of course. Brainiac.
Photo credit Adil Dellawalla.

The researchers are exploring wearable technology; in other words, the dog wears a vest with sensors that send signals to the owner.

The article points out important potential applications for high level dog-people communications including helping people with disabilities, military and anti-terrorism uses, child care, search and rescue and a host of other great ideas.

Fascinating stuff and the more you read about this, the better it sounds.

So much has been written about dog-human communications and we dog lovers all have stories about at least one amazing moment when we realized our dogs’ thoughts and our own were in perfect synch. Maybe it was that tilted head, the lowered countenance, a spark in the eye or the sound that wasn’t really a growl or really a bark but something else. Every once in awhile it seems the dog is telling us, “I really know exactly what you are up to but I prefer to play dumb.”

Maltese are known as incredibly stubborn little animals. They have a breed history going back thousands of years and during that time they have never held a job. Unlike terriers or hounds or virtually all other breeds, the Maltese’s sole duty has been as a companion animal. Along with a generally pleasing disposition, this lack of meaningful employment has led to a sense of entitlement and unwillingness to compromise.

Max is an excellent communicator. He perfected the art of increasing his weight by a hundred fold when he wants to resist on a leash. At will he can super glue his paws to the floor when instructed to move. The stricken look when told he must stay home while we go out could win Oscars.

Sometimes, though, his communications are more subtle. One such is his antipathy to one component of his kibble. Max is fed a brand that includes dried blueberries along with a mix of other delicacies (I know, I know.) But he hates dried blueberries.

Maltese protest. Always one rejected berry. One. Every day.

So Max protests in typical stubborn, passive-aggressive Maltese way. He leaves behind exactly one – never two, never more – blueberries in his food dish every morning. A clear protest, no further explanation needed.

So on reflection, maybe advanced dog-human communications are a two edged sword. I’m not sure I really want to hear more from the bratty fluffball.

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