Hanapepe, Kauai’s biggest little western town
Imagine, if you will, the western town as they show in Hollywood movies. Imagine the moment, when the infamous outlaw rides into the town’s Main Street. It’s a dusty street with taverns and bordellos and banks on either side, and from what you see, its all of one block long. It’s the middle of the day, the sun is high, but not a soul stirs. As you watch, the wind rises suddenly, blowing dust across the street. The dust devil slowly dances along, getting weaker, and finally disappears. Suddenly there is a noise at the distance near the bank, and our outlaw is immediately alert, his hand moves lightning fast, seeks his gun. There is perceptible tension in the air, as we get to see the weather-beaten face of the outlaw in closeup. He is alert and calm at the same time, waiting for trouble that will be dealt with quickly and with certainty. But no, its just a dog that comes limping out from behind the bank, and trots away with an ungainly tread. The outlaw relaxes, a hint of a smile caresses the corner of his mouth, and he pulls the reign of the horse to take a step forward. Just then …
I think I am getting a little carried away. :-)
I am in Hanapepe, they call it the big little town in Kauai. Its the middle of the day, the Main street, flanked on either side by western-looking store fronts, is empty. Not a soul stirs. No outlaws, no cowboys in sight. No dust devils. Not even a dog. Someone forgot to pull down the set after they made the movie, I wonder. I take a look around the store fronts. A sign tells me to come back on Friday night for the “Hanapepe Art Walk”. There will be gypsies and magicians, high-wire acts, fortune tellers, fire worshippers, and may be a few snake charmers too. And, oh yes, there will be art, music, and food from the world over.
I did. I came back that Friday night to Hanapepe, and I could barely recognize the big little western town. It had transformed itself magically with lights, outdoor food stalls, roadside vendors selling art and craft. There was a sprinkling of locals and tourists walking through the one block of Main Street, and there was that feeling of peace and happiness that a balmy sea breeze can bring inland. No snake charmers, unfortunately, but there was at least one Hawaiian man selling coconuts from his pickup truck and playing Ukulele. Great slide guitar riffs floating around in the evening air; a couple of schoolkids making an attempt to make music; Thai Green Curry by the plate; undersea photographer selling magical pictures of Honu; a painter in hat re-interpreting Van Gogh; a California transplant selling hand-painted tops; and Jacqueline of Kauai, all animated and with a tall glass of wine in hand, regaling those who would listen with stories of Hawaiian shirts that she sews by herself.
This, to me, then, is the essence of Hanapepe. On Friday night, the ghosts come out to play. On Saturday morning, I know for certain that the desert will reclaim the place.
- Jan 6, 2012