A hukilau is a centuries-old Hawaiian method of fishing. When the time to catch the fish is right, a large number of people, sometimes the entire village or community, gather at the beach to participate in the event. They would work together to cast a large net from shore, and the resultant catch provided food for everyone. Hukilau Beach is in La’ie, on the northeastern shore of Oahu, and is so named because of the hukilaus that took place there until around 1970. The Hukilau Song was written by Jack Owens in 1948 after he attended a hukilau at La’ie, and has since been covered by many Hawaiian and non-Hawaiian musicians. And the first hula I learnt was the Hukilau, played and sung by Uncle Sam and taught by Auntie Malihini on Maui.
Luckily I’m not the type of person who can’t function without my phone close to hand at all times, but when you’re in rural areas and out of range for hours or even days at a time, you realise how useful those pesky devices are, and how much you use them for instant access to, well, almost everything. This notice is posted on a tree in the parking area of a property on the outskirts of Bermagui in NSW. Certainly not the sticks, but remote enough that reception is patchy! I didn’t want or need to make use of the phone coverage here, but the sign was hard to ignore, especially with its pleasing background of spotted gum bark and accompanying cobwebs.
It’s views like this that make me love the city so much. I have passed this building hundreds—perhaps thousands—of times since I have lived in Sydney, but on this day I was walking towards it from a particular direction at a particular time of day with particular light conditions, and I saw, for the first time, the sideways neon sign in the window and the reflection of the M. It’s not just the pool room sign on the reflection of antennas that I love, but the shape of the windows, the rich colours, and the beauty of the architecture despite the fact that the building has seen better days.
Hard to imagine really—the water looks so benign. But this is a huge mass of water, the closest land probably being San Francisco at a mere 3700 or so kilometres across the ocean. The sign, on Coconut Beach, Kauai, looks like it’s been warning swimmers for quite a few years, but I was too busy looking out for whales and watching the tropical fish in the shallows to be tempted to wade in more than ankle deep.
I can spend hours in Hawaiian grocery stores, walking along the aisles, checking out the huge array of goods—not for purchase, but for the visual feast on offer. You’ll find not just one flavour of something on the shelf, but a dozen, or two dozen, variations on a theme, the pattern of repeated colour-coded labels making a design impact. Even the fresh food looks good. Trays of ahi poke in the seafood section (ok, so now I’m getting hungry), and in the bakery, rows of cakes with icing in colours that are surely not real. I particularly like the myriad bottle shapes in the liquor section, although in this store it was the sign that drew me in, the letters indicating that perhaps it had sampled too much of its own kind. Hic.
We were looking for something we had read about: an unlikely shop with a massive collection of fine writing instruments and quality paper supplies. We knew where it was supposed to be (a hop skip and jump from the Iao Theater) but we couldn’t find it. Then we crossed the road and went into a tea shop to see if they could point us in the right direction. And this amazing tea shop turned out to be the pen shop! A couple of hours later we left with our new pens and other bits and pieces in hand, richer from the experience of spending time there, talking with the owner, listening to his music, taking in the aroma of spiced tea, and trying out an array of fountain pens. This crossing sign has nothing to do with that extraordinary shop other than the link in my mind of time and place, and the fact that we had to push the button to cross the road to get there. But I guess that in itself speaks of the impact of signage and typography and how it affects us on a subliminal as well as conscious level.
My friend emailed me because she thought I would be interested in the frozen brushes at the supermarket. Indeed I was, and went to see for myself! Everyone seems to be feeling the cold this week. This is Australia, so it isn’t cold cold, but everything’s relative, and even if the temperature doesn’t drop to single digits, when you’re sitting at your desk and your feet feel like iceblocks, then your feet feel like iceblocks. This supermarket is always freezing, even during summer, but obviously even the brushes are feeling the onset of winter.
While I am not a patron of this fast food joint, I am not oblivious to its presence. In Sydney, McDonalds occupies some of the finest converted sandstone buildings, and although I would prefer to see less of these red and yellow ‘restaurants’, at least they are occupying the beautiful old buildings rather than knocking them down. In Hawaii, I was amused to see the location’s influence on the signage. The buildings I saw were nothing special, but the aloha spirit is ubiquitous! The shape of the h and lower case a indicate that the typeface is probably Helvetica Heavy.
It seems that fewer people smoke these days, and there is much less evidence of cigarettes being sold. In Australia the displays of distinctive colourful packaging have long gone, and apart from those gruesome health warnings I can’t even recall what a pack looks like now. This is the window of a general store on the Kula Highway in upcountry Maui, and I don’t know if they still sell cigarettes or not, but I’m pleased this old sign has not been removed.