There are many tales of old Puna.
There are many tales of old Puna.
I could tell you how Uncle Luther, the crazy Hawaiian, rode his white horse into Dave Mary’s Pahoa Bar, knocking over tables then galloped away down the street.
I could tell you stories of blazing rivers of lava.
I could even recount the tale of the wild blonde woman who walked eerily down the Red Road, day and night, wearing not a stitch of clothing.
Puna is all they say it is. The Wild West? Yes it was, and more.
But I tell the tale of the geothermal workers who almost rearranged my facial features with their fists one night.
It all started like this.
Puna Geothermal Venture in the ‘90s descended on Puna like the Death Star. A humongous corporation with an outlandish idea to drive a mile-long drill into the sacred heart of the volcano, to bring energy to our backwater world. To every Punatic from Pahoa to Kapoho it was unthinkable.
It brought out every villager in Puna with a torch and a pitchfork. Every hippie worth his granola vowed to fight it to the end. And I was the head rabble-rouser.
I constantly wrote letters to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald condemning geothermal, embarrassing their every move. I was their arch enemy. Every geothermal worker wanted my head on a pike in the town square, or swinging from a palm tree. If my views with others swayed the county council, geothermal could be voted down and they’d be out of a job.
When developers embark on some grandiose project they always hire beefy workers in plaid shirts, Levis and work boots to build said project.
In this case it was a gaggle of Alaska rednecks and they were having a party down the street from my house, a loud affair with a Budweiser in every hand.
Fueled by watching too many James Bond movies, I couldn’t resist sneaking over and secretly mingling with the plaid-wearing crowd, maybe hear stories of myself and my troops opposed to their geo-venture.
Taking my life in my hands, I slipped into the party of drunken blue-collar workers, knowing that if they knew I was the infamous Dennis Gregory I would be tarred and feathered on the spot or stuffed in a lava tube.
Up until then no one knew my face, only my words.
I did hear stories about me, each redneck storyteller vowing to do something terrible to my person. Partying away, I told everyone my name was Dennis. Things were fine until in the kitchen some geo-worker happened to ask my last name. Big problem.
My impish, inebriated nature got the better of me and I replied, “I’m Dennis Gregory.”
A chill rippled through the party. Ten no-neck workers turned toward me, blood in their eyes. They converged in the kitchen ready to punch my lights out.
They had Dennis Gregory in their clutches, one raised his elbow toward my neck and to save my skin I squeaked out, “Are you Americans?” They boomed, “You’re darn right!” I calmly replied, “Then you believe in free speech.” They mumbled a bit, then I said, “So you must respect different opinions like mine.” I had them there.
And before their drunken minds could fully process what I said, I slipped out the back door and was gone.
Luckily, my antics didn’t prevail because geothermal turned out to be a pretty good thing.
Dennis Gregory is an artist, writer and musician who mixes truth and humor in his biweekly column. He can be reached at email@example.com