Folks have been living in the Cayucos area since about 11,000 BC which is approximately the last time the AJF admitted I was right during any argument.
The early inhabitants were Chumash Indians. They were there for the fish, abalone and other critters in the lush kelp beds just offshore.
The Spanish explorers visited Cayucos in the mid-1700s and it became part of a Spanish land grant in the following century.
But it was a New England sailing captain who put the town on modern maps when he sailed around the Horn and landed there in 1867.
Captain James Cass quickly noted that Cayucos (the name comes from the Chumash language meaning kayak or canoe) was well-suited for growing fruit, dairying, berries, farming, alfalfa and beans and the topology of the area made it a good shipping port for cheese, hides, beef and fresh water.
But that’s not why the Malt was interested in visiting Cayucos. Nope, there was a more important reason. You see, among its many other delightful attributes Cayucos also boasts of being the most dog friendly town on the California coast.
It starts with a beach that is not only dog accessible but which is leash-free its entire length.
Then there are the many dog friendly motels, most of which have retained a throwback ambiance that resonates of the Old West or at least the 1960s.
Restaurants that allow dogs?
No…In Cayucos, the restaurants welcome dogs and compete for their trade with canine menus.
The businesses up and down the short main drag set out water bowls on the sidewalks and allow pups to come in and browse.
Maybe that’s why that great travel tome Budget Travel dubbed Cayucos, “the coolest small town in America.”
As you might expect, there are lots of dogs in Cayucos.
His Furriness visited Cayucos last month while we were driving the coast route north, ultimately to visit family in Sacramento. We planned the overnighter at Cayucos to break up the long drive and personally sample the dog friendly atmosphere.
Our lodgings were at the Cayucos Motel, a seven room facility straight out of a Gidget movie. Quick poll: who was the better Gidget? Sandra Dee or Sally Fields?
The color scheme at the Cayucos Motel is turquoise and lots of it.
The owner adores dogs and her tiny office is festooned with dog posters, dog knick-knacks, and signs detailing the many reasons why dogs are better motel guests than humans.
(#3 They don’t smoke in bed.”)
When making reservations, which are mandatory as the place is always full, the desk asks your dog’s name and then uses that info to make a personalized water bowl chock full of toys and treats.
No check-in at the Cayucos Motel is complete without a lot of fussing over the four-legger, which Max absolutely loved.
Max’s digs were about 25 steps away from a wide sandy beach that stretched a mile or two in either direction.
The beach had a fair amount of flotsam and/or jetsam washed ashore including body parts of various sea creatures which were irresistible to the Malt.
The kelp floats, dead crabs and mystery sea corpses were enticing too and demanded an energetic roll-over and wallow. We knew we were in trouble when we first spotted an odoriferous, unidentifiable carcass in the distance.
Command: “Max, stay away from that!”
Warning: “Max, you better not get near that!”
Entreaty: “Come on, Max, don’t you dare roll in that!”
Discovery: “Oh jeezumcrow that stinks. What the hell is that thing?”
Acceptance: “Now what do we do with him?”
Bargaining: “He’s your dog, AJF. No, he’s not.”
Resolution: “Fine, I’ll take care of him.”
Suffice to say the Malt was disgusting. Fortunately, the motel had an outside pet shower and bath. I could swear he had a huge Maltese smile on his repellent little face the whole time we were scrubbing and scrubbing.
After that long beach walk and the horror of the Malt’s beach roll, we sat on the motel’s lawn, sipped a couple of canned adult beverages and watched the sunset whilst the newly clean Fuzzbutt explored the landscaping and greeted other motel guests.
Then, it was off to dinner for all three of us.
California law restricts pets to outside eating areas but most of the restaurants in town have large patios, some with ocean views.
When we arrived, Max was given a bowl of water and a pad to sit on under the table. With an infrared propane heater nearby, the outside seating was very comfy. Fish dinner for three!
Later we strolled around the little town, stopped by the cookie store, and then retired expecting to hear barking since all seven motel rooms had at least one dog but we were surprised that the night was silent. Perhaps all the Furballs were exhausted from their beach romps.
The next morning we were up early and departed Cayucos wishing we could have had more time there and promising a return.
Max agreed wholeheartedly. Especially the part about rolling around in the sand and fish guts.
That’s just a name the AJF (Alpha Japanese Female) made up. Max’s new home is really a town called Rancho Cucamonga which, come to think of it, is equally silly sounding.
“Rancho,” as it is called colloquially, is in Southern California, about 60 miles east of the Los Angeles Airport. No ocean views until the next big earthquake. It sits at the base of Mount San Antonio which everybody calls Mount Baldy. At 10,064 feet, Baldy is the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains, and the highest point in Los Angeles County, California.
Of late, some folks have taken to calling me Mount Baldy but without the Mount part, but I digress.
If you are of a certain age (and I know which ones of you are) you’ll remember Jack Benny who, from January 1945, had a running gag on his radio program in which Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, pretended to be a station agent who announced repeatedly, “Train now leaving on track five for Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga,”drawing out the name of Cuc…amonga longer and longer each time. That schtick is largely the reason there is a Jack Benny Street in Rancho Cucamonga and a bronze statute of the old time comedian is at the local playhouse.
The 1948 cartoon classic Daffy Duck Slept Here also had the wise- cracking, slobberin’ poultry saying the famous Jack Benny lines. Part of the joke, for the Los Angeles audience, was that no such train route existed, although all three cities do exist.
If you were a 60s freak (and I know which ones of you are) you’ll be pleased to hear that Frank Zappa did some of his best stuff here in Rancho Cucamonga. But there is no Zappa Street as far as I know.
And who, besides all of you, could forget Jan and Dean’s immortal 1964 paean to senior ladies and their muscle cars, “The Anaheim, Azusa and Cucamonga Sewing Circle, Book Review and Timing Association.” Well, here ya go…and don’t miss the final tender lyrics: “Go granny, go granny, go granny go!”
Anyway, that’s enough Cucamonga lore for now. Rancho Cucamonga is indeed a funny sounding name for a town but Max calls it “home.” Let me catch you up a bit on the Malt…
Our move from Hawaii in late November last year went rather smoothly, a result of superb planning and execution on my part sheer dumb luck. We were able to spend the holidays with family which was a delight for all. Initially, we rented a condo so we would have time to explore our new environs and decide where to settle. We expected it would take a while.
However, we quickly found a little house that met our requirements, made an offer and were new home owners by December 29th.
Max had no problems with the transition from his beloved islands. He flew from Honolulu on Aloha Air Cargo and was delivered to us at midnight on our arrival date, his little cage having been carried across the airline warehouse on the 6-foot prongs of a huge forklift. Later, he received so many surreptitious treats from everyone on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and New Years that we considered renting that forklift to move His Furriness around.
Max settled into his new abode immediately. It’s a modest place but it’s almost 3x the size of our Hawaii condo and…drum roll…it has a fenced backyard and lawn which, to our knowledge, is virgin territory with respect to canine poop. It’s the kind of place a Malt can roll on his back and return covered with green stains and smelling only of grass.
Very close by our home is Central Park which is a lovely spot where we brazenly flaunt the local dog ordinances and let Max run free for as long as he likes which is usually about three minutes.
Of course, yours truly got himself a big old BBQ right off the bat and we built a patio and cover so we can enjoy the maximum time outside which is a carry over from our Hawaii days. We have a hot tub, too, that enables us to fully immerse (snorf, snorf) ourselves in the sybaritic California lifestyle, sans Speedo, and thereby assault our new neighbors’ eyeballs.
The Furface found a new veterinarian who was successful in prescribing a new medicine that has made a huge improvement in mitigating the itchies/scratchies which have afflicted the pup since birth. Happy, happy, dog, dog.
Max’s big challenge at the moment is to lose weight. Throughout the moves and new experiences he has been eating a little too well. He has always been a master at extracting treats from everyone and has added a “poor transplanted me” look to enhance his productivity when begging.
The AJF has taken to using a tape measure to check the distance between Fuzzbutt’s belly and the floor and she records the dimension weekly.
Max’s adventures so far have taken him up the California coast to a town that proclaims itself the most dog-friendly place in the State, to visit family in Sacramento, up to Lake Tahoe and along the eastern slope of the Sierra plus many shorter day trips. As in the islands, Max is always on the move, discovering new places to sniff and pee. I hope to report on these and other adventures in future posts.
In closing this post, I need to apologize to all of you for not staying better in touch over these past months. No excuses, and I hope to catch up on what’s happening with each of you. In the meantime, if you are of a mind to follow a gentle little white dog’s exploration of a new home, you know that you are most welcome on the journey.
Max has been face first in the food dish a bit too much of late.
We’ve started calling him the Dumpling Dog, or “Dumpling” for short.
Occasionally we mix it up and call him Gyoza or Bao, sometimes Empanada or Kreplach and sometimes Maultaschen after the large Schwabian dumplings that absolutely no one recognizes by name.
Anyway, Max the Endomorph needed some attention, a little PX-90 for Maltese, so we took him kicking and screaming for exercise by walking around Diamond Head Crater in the hope it would help generate a canine version of those Brazilian Buns of Steel that we see on late night infomercials.
As you know, Diamond Head is the most iconic of Oahu images, familiar to most everyone around the world. The volcanic tuff cone is only 767 feet high but occupies a commanding position on the eastern end of Waikiki Beach.
To Hawaiians the promontory is known as Lēʻahi, which loosely translates to Mount Tunafish Fin. It was a sacred venue and its surrounding areas were the sites for several heiau, or temples. Papa’ena’ena, one of the most significant, was the site of the sacrifices of both kings and criminals. It was perhaps erected by King Kahekili to celebrate his conquering of O’ahu in 1783.
In 1884, Diamond Head went from private, royal ownership to government property.
Under King Kalakaua, the Diamond Head crater and part of the surrounding lands were transferred from the estate of King Lunalilo to the Hawaiian government.
Diamond Head got its English name from 19th century British sailors who mistook worthless olivine (calcite) crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds thereby proving that poxy scurvy-ridden sailors should not be your first choice as gemologists.
People who know about these things (often called “smart people”) estimate that Diamond Head is about 200,000 years old. It’s been inactive for 150,000 years suggesting that it is part Maltese. Geologists do not expect the volcano to erupt again which is good news for those of us living nearby.
In 1904 the US Government paid $3,300 for Diamond Head Crater which today would represent about $100,000. This area was developed into Fort Ruger, which was considered to be the eastern end of the defenses of Honolulu and the military bases in the area.
From 1904 until 1950, Diamond Head was closed to the public at large. During this period of exclusive occupation, significant construction occurred within the crater. Bunkers, communication rooms, storage tunnels and coastal artillery fortifications were built.
Battery Harlow on the north slope of the crater and Battery Birkhimer inside the crater were designed to fire to the south over the crater at ships at sea and some of the guns at Diamond Head had a 360 degree field of fire and the range to fire over the Koolau Mountains to the windward side of the island.
In addition to providing protection from sea based attacks, Fort Ruger was to defend Honolulu from ground based assaults from the eastern end of the island which explains the many bunkers and pillboxes along its length.
Some of the old bunkers and defense sites are accessible to visitors although 75% remain off limits due to safety and other concerns.
Today, Diamond Head is a United States Monument. While an FAA air traffic control center was in operation from 1963 to 2001, nowadays there is only a National Guard facility and Hawaii State Civil Defense in the crater.
Entry to the park inside Diamond Head is through one of several tunnels that pierce the wall of the crater rim.
The most popular attraction is the three-quarter mile hike that leads to the edge of the crater’s rim overlooking Honolulu. It’s an easy hike although those who have spent their vacation exercising under a drink with a small umbrella might find some portions to be a puffer.
The toughest slog is up the 99 steps through a tunnel followed by a climb on a narrow spiral staircase. The tunnel is now well lit – until a few years ago you had to bring your own flashlight. Access to the trail to the top is until about 4:30 daily. Sadly, night hikes are not allowed.
My favorite crater memories are from early Seventies when there transpired the Diamond Head Crater Festival, better known as the Sunshine Festivals.
The first was held on Jan. 1, 1970, with an attendance of about 12,000.
It was a celebration of peace, love, Hippiedom, dope, music, more dope and did I mention the dope?
Big Brother and the Holding Company, along with local act Cecilio and Kapono headlined the show which started at sunrise. The morning air had a purple haze if you know what I mean and I think you do. But I digress.
In later years, Carlos Santana jammed at the Crater, Buddy Miles got his blues on and others like Mackey Feary, War and The Little River Band all showed up to party. Man, do I feel old.
Each year the crowd grew and eventually reached about 75,000 as the event grew more commercial, and in 1979 a state-appointed citizen’s task force asked the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to ban the festivals. Bummer, man. Bunch of fussy old farts that couldn’t even boogaloo.
Less recognized was the 1975 TV program “The Diamond Head Game”. As you will no doubt not remember, the game was set at Diamond Head and the host was Bob Eubanks, star of Dating Game and other socially important programs.
Final contestants were given the great, good opportunity of stepping into a “Money Volcano” to try their hand at catching flying bills of real money in different denominations. Enough to make you want to Bogart that joint.
It was fun to visit Diamond Head although Max did not much care about the history and good times at the Crater. His goal was to stay in the shade and avoid exertion. He seems quite comfortable with the idea of being a Pierogi.
The Malt was frankly suspicious when informed that today’s jaunt would take him to the end of the road.
For a dog who soaks up luxury and leisure pursuits, that sounded a bit too challenging to Max.
But after a few rounds of hold-the-cookie-on-your-nose, the wee Furbeast was ready for some exploration of his island home.
Today’s end of the road destination was Mokulēʻia.
Mokulēʻia means “isle of abundance.” It’s a small, rural town located on the western side of Oahu.
There are probably 2,500 people living there; it’s about as remote as one gets on Oahu. It’s where the road ends, literally, as one tries to circumnavigate Oahu counter-clockwise.
There was once a railroad around this far western point of Oahu and the dirt road used to go all around this part of the island, too.
I drove it in a beat up 1949 Chevy as recently as the late 1960s (OK, that’s not very recent) but erosion caused the path to slide into the ocean.
One can still ride bikes or hike around the coast but no vehicles are allowed.
Due to its remote tropical setting, that rather strange television series “LOST” filmed several scenes on the beaches of Mokulēʻia.
Fans will recall scenes of the beached fuselage from the fictional Oceanic Airlines flight 815.
The prop airplane drew a lot of attention as it sat on the beach for months because the crash appeared so authentic.
The television series Hawaii Five-0 also uses this area in various episodes where a wild coast is required.
The Mokulēʻia beaches are still a bit of an Oahu local secret.
The folks who come out here are self-contained. They don’t seek or want food stands or souvenir stores.
They bring tents and wind shelters, giant coolers and barbecues ranging from little hibachi to full scale Weber gas grills that they carry off the back of their pick up trucks.
It’s a mix of local folk and military folk with a smattering of tourists and all intermingle, generally with great success and mellow moods.
Mokulēʻia is also known as home of the Dillingham Airfield, formerly Air Force Base, which is a joint military/civilian airport currently used for glider riders and skydiving. Its military use is as a training location for night vision devices.
The airfield’s history goes back to the 1920s when a communications station called Camp Kawaihapai was established. At that time there was a railroad along the southern and western ends of Oahu and it was used to transport mobile coast artillery to the site.
By 1941, the Army leased additional land and established Mokulēʻia Airstrip with Curtiss P-40 fighters deployed there when the attack on Pearl Harbor took place.
After the Pearl Harbor attack, the runway was paved and extended to 9,000 feet long. By the end of World War II, Mokulēʻia Airfield could handle B-29 Superfortress bombers and was the longest air strip on the island.
In 1948, the airfield was inactivated and renamed Dillingham Air Force Base. Nike missiles were installed in the 1950s, one of four sites located on the island.
The Nike-Hercules guided missile was a nuclear-capable weapon but was obsolete by 1970.
In 1962, the State of Hawaii leased Dillingham for general aviation use. In the 1970s the base was transferred from the Air Force back to the Army.
The state signed new leases with the Army in 1974 and 1983. In the 1980s, hangars, a control tower, and a fire station were built.
The Reserve is home to the Mokulēʻia Trail, a 10 mile trail that offers scenic views and is rated as difficult.
The trail is primarily used for hiking, mountain biking and road biking and is accessible year-round.
Dogs are also able to use this trail although certain porky Maltese dogs have been known to faint at the idea of a long outdoor hike.
One mile beyond the airfield is the entrance to Kaʻena Point, the westernmost tip of land on the island of Oahu. Spelling and pronunciation count with this name.
Kaʻena with the ‘okina (the little backward apostrophe) can mean “the heat” or “the hottest part of the flame” and refers to those things that are glowing, raging, enraged.
On the other hand, kaena without the ‘okina means to brag or boast, to be conceited or proud. If you have hiked Kaʻena you will appreciate the little backwards apostrophe – Kaʻena can indeed be hot as the gates of Hades and you will not be doing much boasting.
Though long uninhabited, Kaʻena was once an important community for fishing, feather-collecting and salt-making.
Nowadays, Kaʻena is a State Park and a nature preserve and a very significant cultural location.
It represents to Hawaiians the place where the souls of the dead leap off to join their ancestors in the next realm of their existence.
There are several such leaping off spots on the Hawaiian Islands and each is a special place full of stories and legends and, frankly, creepy as hell as night.
Kaʻena is also a living example of native Hawaiian ecology.
The area is abundant with native coastal plants and a total of 11 plants found at Kaʻena are on the Federal endangered species lists.
The reserve is a haven for the rare Hawaiian monk seal, and honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles) can often be found resting along the coastline.
In the deep waters, just off the point, spinner dolphins play and hunt for food. During winter and spring months, humpback whales are a familiar sight offshore.
Kaʻena is also home to birds such as the Laysan albatross and wedge-tailer shearwater and of course there is an abundance of fish of indescribable color and variety. For those seeking a little turf with their surf, there are plenty of mongooses and feral chickens darting across the roads, too.
After wandering around the road’s end, we watched the gliders for awhile but alas there were no parachute jumpers to be seen. So after some beach exploration the AJF announced she would like to stop at Kualoa Ranch for a bite, so we bundled into the car and headed 50 miles east where we enjoyed a pleasant lunch which, of course, included feeding Max his fair share of grass-fed local burger.
Max the Furbeast decided he wanted to stop by the Pagoda Hotel and see if a fish food treat might be cadged from Uncle Fish.
Along the way we passed our favorite Korean video shop and paused to see what new releases were available.
The Discovery of Love looked promising. Clearly these young people were enthralled with the notion of romance. It shows in their beatific expressions. Ah, young love, so sweet and yet so hard on the ears.
Blade Man, on the other hand, looked as if he needed more instructions in the careful use of his blades. Perhaps Bandage Man would have been a better title.
No worries. Uncle Fish was finally located and some tasty fish protein was scored by the little white dog.
It was a perfect day for a visit to a place of human sacrifice.
There were ominous clouds obscuring the mountain tops.
A lowering sky, brooding with dark, heavy clouds portended an approaching storm.
Today’s destination was the Pu’u o Mahukuheiau.
Visitors to Hawaii learn that the Hawaiian word heiau means an ancient Hawaiian temple or religious site.
Most do not realize that a heiau need not be a grand construction. They came in all sizes from tiny, family altars and personal shines to massive stone platforms. The general rule is: the bigger the heiau, the more powerful the ruler and priest – kahuna – in charge.
There were heiau for all purposes.
There were heiau built by folks who wanted more rain or wanted to catch more pigs.
There were heiau to entreat the gods for better health or more vigorous taro crops.
There were even heiau built on underwater ledges in the hope of attracting fish.
But then there were luakini heiau. These were unique. They were sacrificial temples, often dedicated to the Hawaii god of war, Kū. Luakini heiau were places of blood sacrifice of humans and animals.
Pu’u o Mahuka was a luakini heiau.
The temple, which literally translates as “Hill of Escape,” was also a place of refuge for those fleeing persecution and an astronomical observatory for ancient Hawaiians.
The rising of the Pleiades constellation as viewed from the heiau signaled the start of the annual makahiki season, a four-month time of peace and celebration.
Pu’u o Mahuka is the largest heiau on Oahu but it is not a well known visitor attraction. On this gloomy day we were the only people (and Malt) at the heiau, which is now a Hawaii State Monument.
The stone temple is 800 feet above sea level and overlooks the renowned North Shore big surf beach of Waimea Bay. Signal fires from this heiau were used to provide visual communications with another heiau at Wailua on the island of Kauai, nearly 100 miles away.
The site dates at least to the 1600’s and during the mid-1700s was very active during a period of tremendous internal struggles among Hawaii ali’i (rulers).
Pu’u O Mahuka had three distinct “sections” defined by rock walls ranging from three to six feet in height. Within the walls of the heiau existed wood and thatched structures, and the ground was paved with stone.
One of the gruesome aspects of a luakini heiau is that a human being, usually a freshly killed criminal, was placed at the bottom of the hole supporting each of the structural pillars.
Human sacrifices were done for many reasons.
Kauwa, the outcast or slave class, were often used as human sacrifices at the luakini heiau.
They are believed to have been war captives, or the descendants of war captives. They were not the only sacrifices; law-breakers of all castes or defeated political opponents were also acceptable as victims. Later this practice became known as “Washington-style politics” but I digress.
Times were obviously different and human sacrifice was a religious rite and cultural practice, not an act of barbarism.
As we walked around Pu’u o Mahuka, the AJF and I talked about what life was like back then and decided we liked modern days much better although she kept giving me the eye and mumbling how I might be a suitable offering to the shoe god, Nordstrom.
The actual sacrificial killings were done outside the heiau which was considered sacred. The victim was typically tied to a rock, bludgeoned and then stripped of flesh with his bones made into fish hooks.
So, how are those Cheerios tasting this morning?
If you want to know more details about this gory topic, first talk with a mental health professional because you may be scary crazy. If she says it’s OK, check out “Luakini, The Art of Sacrifice” by Stewart Waterhouse. It’s a very tough slog of a book but offers a very detailed discussion of techniques, practices, religious rites and what not.
The Pu’u o Mahuka heiau continued to play an active role in the religious, political and social life of Hawaiians through 1819 when King Kamehameha II abolished the traditional religion. Missionaries arrived in 1820, and most of the aliʻi converted to Christianity.
Over the following decade or so all heiau were officially abandoned; most were destroyed over the years.
Pu’u o Mahuka gradually fell apart and the area was converted to ranch and farm uses and later, Russians and Alaskan Aleuts based fishing and whaling activities out of the adjacent Waimea Valley.
Tourists are often told that it is traditional, when visiting a heiau, to make a small offering (called a ho’okupu) which might consist of a lei, flower, food item or a small rock wrapped on a ti leaf.
It’s a nice story but it’s pretty much baloney, or bologna if you are a traditionalist.
Why a Presbyterian from Indiana thinks it appropriate to offer a rock to an ancient Hawaiian god of war confuses me but, hey, we need the revenue so knock yourself out, and the stone walls around Pu’u o Mahuka are littered, quite literally, with misguided ho’okupu.
Max left his own version of a ho’okupu but fortunately we were the only ones there to witness his shameful, scrunched-over gifting.
The profane little animal would have been made into an entrée had that happened in 1795.
We wandered nearby trails for the better part of an hour.
We tried to clean the infamous North Shore red dirt off the white dog knowing that this was a hopeless task and that he would need a thorough bathing at home.
On the way home the clock chimed “beer time!” so we made a stop and partook, not of the “long pork” of Captain Cook’s time but rather a couple of burgers that we shared with Max.
Full disclosure: no Malts were sacrificed in the writing of this blog post.
Well, recently we got the great, good news that Kiku, whose name means “Chrysanthemum” in Japanese, has officially become a champion. As Kiku’s proud Mom informs me:
To become a champion, a dog must win 15 points, which must include two “majors”. A major requires defeating a minimum of three other bitches at one show to prove that she prevailed against worthwhile competition.
I’m told that this is exactly the same way that Beyonce rose to fame. But I digress.
Thing is, little Kiku didn’t just squeak by en route to the precious “CH” designation before her name; she punished the competition, crushing her sister Yorkies who are also prime contenders for championships themselves.
Really threw her weight around.
All several ounces of it.
Max was thrilled to learn of Kiku’s success. However, when informed of the strict dietary rules that must be followed to climb the heights in the world of competitive dog showing, he gasped, “the horror, the horror” and ran under the bed.
Congratulations, Miss K. Well done.
EDIT and UPDATE: As you may have noticed, Kiku’s proud Mom posted in the “comments” an update on the pup’s next career moves and added some photos of her clothing collection.
Thanks for the info, Daisy, and here are some pics from inside the doggie closet of a “CH” fluff.
Honolulu’s Chinatown is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the United States and it has an interesting history.
The AJF and Malt thought a ramble through Tánxiāngshān (the area’s Chinese name meaning “Sandalwood Mountain”) would be interesting, so off we went.
In ancient times, before there was a town called Honolulu, there was village built on mud flats and raised coral called Kou. Nearby was Nuuanu Stream which provided the settlement of Kou with fresh water and created an estuary with rich soils and nourished a fishpond archaeologists have dated to 890 AD. Adjacent was Pukaka Heiau, an Hawaiian temple of healing dedicated to the god Lono.
Kou wasn’t a hugely popular area. In fact, Oahu’s ali`i (royalty) much preferred Waikiki.
Kou offered limited canoe landings while Waikiki enjoyed many channels through the reef for easy beaching of canoes, better surf and closer access to deep sea fishing.
Plus Waikiki was chock-a-block with maitais and semi-naked dancing girls.
Nah, just kidding about that last part.
Except for Hawaiians, Kou never caught on as a name for the area. For a spell, the harbor area was known among foreigners as “Fair Haven.” In turn, Fair Haven fell out of use by the 1820s. Honolulu became the official name of the growing town in 1825 or so, years after the arrival of foreigners began to swell the population. The name Honolulu means “sheltered bay’.
OK, now that we’ve established how Honolulu got its start, here’s where the Chinese come in…
Historians trace the arrival of the first Chinese in Hawaii to 1789 but they were not a significant social force in the islands until the 1850s.
Up to the mid- 1800s the whaling ships that arrived in Honolulu every Spring and Fall dominated Honolulu harbors’ economy.
But as whaling began to decline, sugar plantations became the main industry in the islands. Needing a source of low-cost, controllable and hard working laborers the plantations started recruiting Chinese laborers in large numbers and signing them to 5-year contracts.
When their indenture expired, many of the Chinese immigrants relocated from the plantations to Honolulu’s Chinatown to work for existing businesses or open their own. The name “Chinatown” was first used around 1870 to describe the community of primarily family-run shops.
Chinese immigration to the island kingdom climbed steadily until the political coup in 1893 that unseated Hawaii’s Queen Liliuokalani.
By the mid-1890s, 20% of Hawaii residents were of Chinese descent. Ever industrious. they started families, established schools, newspapers, businesses, cemeteries, temples and ancestral societies. Unlike other groups of immigrants, however, the Chinese did not assimilate well into Hawaiian culture, preferring instead to retain a separate society.
Chinatown in the late 1800s was not pretty. Just the opposite: it was filthy, devoid of sanitary constraints, a ramshackle boomtown of narrow streets, and primitive wood-framed construction. About 7,000 people of diverse ethnicities lived in jammed quarters. There were especially large numbers of Japanese who had succeeded the Chinese as imported plantation workers.
Chinatown had become the hub of organized crime, especially prostitution, a niche business that provided economic entre for new immigrants. At a time when a plantation worker made about $18 a month, Japanese prostitutes were making hundreds of dollars. Surprisingly, in 1900, over 80 percent of Honolulu prostitutes were Japanese; all of the pimps were Japanese. When I pointed this out to the AJF she feigned deafness.
Chinatown was squalor on an epic scale. It was disdained by polite society but while everyone tut-tutted about the horrible conditions, everyone also knew that Chinatown was an economic engine, pumping huge sums into the pockets of the upper classes. Disaster came in the form of the Great Chinatown Fire of 1900 which was a result of an outbreak of bubonic plague.
The plague reportedly started at the Wing Wo Tai grocery on Nuuanu Avenue when a 22-year old bookkeeper You Chong scratched idly at a flea bite allowing the contagion known as the Black Death to enter his bloodstream.
Untreated, black plague is fatal from 75 – 100 percent of the time depending on the version.
Spread by fleas on rats, the bacillus found perfect conditions to spread in Chinatown.
The bubonic plague had the potential to kill everyone in the islands; there was nowhere to run.
It has been said that next to the Pearl Harbor attack, the outbreak of plague was the greatest public-safety disaster in Hawaiian history. The government was determined to do anything to save the city — even burn it to the ground.
Within hours of doctors diagnosing You Chong, four more cases of bubonic plague were discovered in Chinatown.
The government took action: ships’ passengers were quarantined, schools were closed and disinfected, guards were posted to prevent movement in and out of Chinatown, and monies were appropriated to battle the disease.
A Portuguese band marched up and down the street playing funeral songs to a frightened populace. This was Armageddon level trouble.
After 13 people died, the Board of Health ordered structures suspected of being infected to be burned.
Residents were quickly evacuated, and a few buildings were successfully destroyed while the Honolulu Fire Department stood by. However, the fire got out of control after winds shifted, and destroyed most of the neighborhood instead.
The runaway fire burned for seventeen days and scorched 38 acres of Honolulu.
The fire campaign continued for another 31 controlled burns after the incident. The 7,000 homeless residents were housed in detention camps to maintain the quarantine until April 30. A total of 40 people died of the plague. By June, Honolulu was declared plague-free.
By the 1920s, Chinatown was back on its feet economically speaking but the Chinese population had been shrinking. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 slowed immigration from China, sugar plantations turned instead to Japanese immigrants and then later Filipinos and Portuguese sources of labor.
By the late 1930s, Chinatown had begun to decline as many of the Chinese residents moved to other areas of Honolulu to live while still keeping their businesses in the district.
During World War II, however, Chinatown enjoyed a new vitality as the “red light district” with cheek-to-cheek nightclubs, restaurants and brothels along Hotel Street with gambling parlors targeted at the military population.
After the booming war years, Chinatown fell into a long slow decline, becoming known as a hotspot for illegal activities.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the number of people living in Chinatown continued to drop and businesses began to suffer.
Shopping centers displaced the Chinatown markets, tourism displaced the plantation economy and, with the arrival of Statehood and jet air access, Waikiki grew as the center of Honolulu’ visitor trade.
In 1973, Honolulu’s Chinatown was listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district.
As a result, the area began to revitalize and the city started to invest in Chinatown and its unique history.
Today, Chinatown Historic District is the largest area in Honolulu that reflects an architectural and historic character with a distinctive sense of time and place. While virtually everything pre-1900 was destroyed by the fire, there are secret spots where you can see a glimpse of the past.
The sidewalks, for example, are embedded with some rough looking stones which were originally ballast for clipper ships that arrived in Hawaii, left behind when the hulls were loaded up with the islands’ precious native woods of koa, sandalwood and ohia.
Rather than throw them overboard, the ballast stones were re-purposed as sidewalk pavers.
A Bank of Hawaii branch on King St. looks unassuming from the outside, but inside are teller cages framed in polished wood and a historic drawing of the Honolulu waterfront hanging on the wall.
Look carefully and you’ll see the signs of the Chinese zodiac are represented by medallions embedded into the upper perimeter of the Chinatown Gateway Plaza building and if you know where to look you can spot the Lucky Lions, marble sculptures that guard the eastern gateway to Chinatown on Hotel and Bethel streets.
By day, today’s Honolulu Chinatown is bi-polar. On the one hand the traditional open markets remain popular, especially with Asian immigrants. But it is also all about trendy start-up restaurants of all flavors. By night Chinatown is all about the clubbing scene with bars ranging from dive to swank. It’s about art gallerys and lofts.
It’s still more than bit dirty. It’s more than a little seedy. There are still plenty of rats both bipedal and quadrupedal. Interestingly, there are more Vietnamese than Chinese living in the neighborhood, a sign of the progression of immigrants through Honolulu.
But Chinatown, schizophrenic as it may be, is a unique part of urban Honolulu and a place where the Malt’s sensitive nose works overtime.
Our favorite Malt has been complaining of late that he does not receive the respect to which he believes he is entitled by the accident of his birth. The problem is that he has been condemned to a short stint in the Cone of Shame due to excessive ear scratching which led to a small infection. He will be fine but hates being the center of comic attention as he walks around bumping into everything in the condo.
But what about this issue of Malts deserving respect? Perhaps we should look back into Malt history.
It was none other than Charles “Chuck” Darwin, who said that Maltese originated about 600 BC thus qualifying the fluff-butts as one of earth’ s oldest holders of Canidea status. But even Chuck could never settle on just one name for the beast.
At one time or another, the Maltese has been called the Maltese Terrier, the Lion Dog of Malta, Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta, Melitaire Dog, the Roman Ladies’ Dog, the Spanish Gentle. The Shock Dog and The Comforter.
All these names hint at the breed’s long history traipsing around the ancient trade routes of the Mediterranean. The names “Maltese” and “Melitaire” suggest that the pup hails from the island of Malta. Aristotle said that the breed was living there during his time (384-322BC).
But Ari could have been wrong. There is good evidence that the Maltese is not really an islander at all but rather a dog of the mountains that started out in Switzerland. Other evidence points to Egyptian origins or perhaps Phoenician.
Maltese dogs appear in art and literature as early as the fourth century B.C. They were treasured by both Greeks and Romans of old and kept at the courts of Turkey and China. A Maltese appears as a symbol of fidelity in one of the renowned fifteenth-century Lady and the Unicorn tapestries.
In Elizabethan times, the Malts were called “Comforters” in the belief that they could relieve pain and cure illness simply by snuggling under the bedclothes next to the sufferer.
And if the dogs didn’t really have a medicinal effect, there’s no doubt that having a fluffy and sympathetic bedmate to warm your toes or provide a consoling lick on the hand when you’re not feeling well can’t hurt.
The “Shock Dog” appellation does not relate to the reaction of owners when presented with the grooming bill, but for their “shock” of long hair. Buying a Malt in the early 1600s would also be a shock – they sold for a five-figure equivalent price.
Rival queens Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, both owned representatives of this breed, and it was one of her Maltese that accompanied Mary to the axeman’s block, hiding under her skirts until after she was beheaded. The faithful pet, its white coat now drenched in its mistress’s blood, was finally rescued by one of the executioners.
Happily, it was spared the Queen’s gruesome fate and (after a bath) lived out its life with a French princess where no doubt it enjoyed a tastier diet and then pooped on the sidewalk like every other French dog in existence. But I digress.
In the 19th century small Maltese were all the rage and bred to be the size of a squirrel. The tiny doglets spent much of their time burrowed in the billowy sleeves and ample, heaving bosoms of their mistresses’ clothes.
The breed continued to draw admirers near and far, especially among the glitterati of the time. Queen Victoria (of cruise liner fame) wrote a letter of condolence to the Duchess of Kent upon the passing of the duchess’s Maltese, Lambkin, indicating the high esteem with which this dog was regarded by its royal acquaintances.
In 1877 the Maltese made its debutante appearance at the Westminster Dog Show. Its popularity as a “trophy dog” in the 19th century helped promote similar breeds such as the Bichon Frise.
Maltese are still celebrity dogs whose owners include folks as diverse as Lindsey Lohan whose dog is named Chloe and Britney Spears who calls her fuzzbutt “Malt Liquor.” Oh wait, there’s no diversity there at all and Brit’s dog is not really named Malt Liquor either, but her fuzzbutt is.
Eva Longoria has a famous Maltese named Jinxie. Elizabeth Taylor had a Maltese named Sugar. Heather Locklear has a Malt named Harley and Halle Berry has 2 Malts: Straw Berry and Blue Berry. Nope, lieing again, their names really are Willy and Polly but I like my version better.
Other well known owners of the little white dog are/were Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Lee Remick, Kristin Chenoweth, Mia Farrow and Star Jones.
Leona Helmsley’s (The Queen of Mean) Maltese dog named Trouble, was left a $12 million dollar trust fund. Her will declared that the dog was to be buried alongside her and her late husband in a mausoleum. Leona also left $3 million for the continuous care of that mausoleum. A judge later overturned this, and the dog was given only $2 million dollars. They say late at night at the mausoleum you can hear her dead husband still crying over Leona’s financial decisions.
We don’t pay much attention to our favorite Malt’s noble lineage. He’s only as good as his latest tricks. Speaking of which, here is a short video of Max doing a few tricks. The (cough) “film” was produced and directed by the AJF who is normally computer-averse. She is inordinately proud of this epic and I’m smart enough to keep my trap shut.