They say a thing of beauty is a joy forever, but a beautiful thing never lasts very long. People want to be a part of beauty, they grab at it and it disappears in their hand.
People are always trying to improve on nature. They spot a bit of natural beauty and start putting in sidewalks, bathrooms and benches. Afterward, they stand back so proud of putting nature in jail.
Beaches are a good example, so serene, with white sand, cool breezes and whispering waves, ripe for the ruining.
A nice beach will stay nice forever until someone driving by gets a glimpse of it. He pulls over in his convertible, his wife and five kids pile out with coolers, umbrellas, and a pop-up tents. They are covered with sun tan lotion, and running all over the sand.
The beach fills up with sun-burnt bodies, wild kids, and lifeguards ripping up the sand in their dune buggies. It’s the beach that needs rescuing, not the tourists.
This happened in Waikiki, and beaches from Malibu to Timbuktu.
Whole towns are like this. I once knew a place where a group of artists had a quaint art colony by the sea. How nice it was. But it wasn’t long till the big city people in their Beamers and Mercedes discovered it and glommed onto its magic. The crazed capitalists started grabbing up the artists and got them on board with the new art scene.
Soon it was packed with people. The original artists were shoved to the side to make way for sterile art galleries. Their charming art shacks were turned into condos.
It also happened in Pahoa.
In the 1980s and ‘90s Pahoa, really was the “Wild West” so filled with soul and magic you could see it in the air. There were wooden sidewalks, iron rings to tie up your horse, old buildings with 1915 painted in the original lettering. The town was Dodge City, that’s what it was called. Local folks and hippies ambling down the main street.
Aloha ruled the town and kept the peace.
As with many good places in Hawaii, the money men stepped in and sterilized the place. Now there’s a Long’s Drugs, slick new buildings, and fast food joints. Only a few wooden boards of Pahoa are left.
The colorful past is gone, only the everyday present remains.
Speaking of stealing a town’s soul, our own downtown market is gone with the wind of progress.
For years it was an interesting attraction with sagging tents and local color. You could wander through the market in a dark little maze. It had that subtle hint of magic about it.
Visitors could experience real Hawaii with dirt under its nails, and shop in a real tropical market place, watch islanders chop coconuts with a machete, buy flowers with mist in the air.
It was why they came to Hawaii, to see something exotic. It could not last. The old tents were torn down. Now it’s perfectly nice, white nylon tents all in a row, just like every other market on the mainland. Too bad.
We love to have visitors come visit, they are what keep us alive. We just want to have enough Hawaii left for them to enjoy.
So let it be, let it be.
Dennis Gregory writes a bi-monthly column for West Hawaii Today and welcomes your comments at email@example.com.