I went to Inglewood today to talk about a youth media program that I am developing with the Tongan Community Service Center http://tonganla.net/ I was taking the Blue Line Metro back to LA when a middle aged man with a bright green longboard got on at the 103rd Street stop in Watts. He had a Maui sticker on the back of his black helmet, so I slid across the aisle to take a picture of the back of his head. Then I noticed that written in broad black permanent marker was “Maoli Nō!” ( which translates to Hawaiian Indeed!) It was hard to see against the black background of his helmet.
It took a couple of seconds to work up the courage to tap him on the shoulder and ask if he was indeed Hawaiian. He said yes and told me his name was Kapi`i. I told him my Hawaiian name. He told me just about everything about himself. He had been living in the Watts area for about five years. He told me that he missed fishing in his boat in Hilo and showed me a picture he had of himself holding up two large Ono.
He also showed me the large scar he had across his elbow, which he said he got for being “too kolohe (crazy) and hanging out with the wrong kind of people”. He said that he was staying in a shelter somewhere in Watts and kinda laughed. Looking with sincere directness at me he said “Well, you know how it is for us in Hawai`i we just all stay on the beach. Being on the street isn’t so bad, here though it’s good to stay in the shelter.” He went on “But you know there is always a way off the street.”
He was on his way to go to a business class near USC so he got off just one stop before mine, he is studying so that when his father passes away he will be able to go back to Hilo and continue on his family’s fishing business.