Kapano Gecko, the fictional character who lives in Lahaina Public Library, is ending the year on a sour note. Gecko is now afraid of being cited for criminal trespassing.
Making his annual inspection tour of the West Side — he likes to hitch rides on cars with “Practice Aloha” bumper stickers — the gecko took pause at a big blue sign posted prominently on the Kaanapali Beach Walk.
Gecko is a joyful creature who loves the aloha he finds here and revels in the new and old the island has to offer. He loves the new monthly concerts at the Baldwin Home. He likes to soak up Hawaiian culture at Old Lahaina Luau.
And he is especially glad that his library home will get a facelift with the $8,000 and counting raised by the Rotary Club of Lahaina.
Gecko is troubled, however, by the Mainland mentality of business people and other newcomers who don’t have a clue about our cultural values and how to be welcoming to visitors, who are the lifeblood of our economy.
Since one of the roles of a good newspaper is to expose actions that harm the community, Gecko took his case to Lahaina News.
Sign of changing times number one blatantly presents a “Code of Conduct” to visitors approaching a well-known shopping center. The code lists 17 different rules.
The clincher is one of the bottom lines: “Guests who do not act responsibly will be asked to leave. If they refuse to leave the property, they may be arrested and prosecuted for criminal trespass.” Say again?
Even on the Mainland, such harsh language would be insulting at best. Here, in the land of aloha, it shows no respect for a culture that prides itself on being pono, doing the right thing.
On a trip to ogle bikini-clad geckos in the lush foliage up north, Gecko stopped by to get a trim from his favorite barber. This sage of the barber chair said it best: “Why would you go into a shopping center with that sign? What it is saying is there is a lot of trouble in here, so proceed at your own risk.”
A second sign of changing times is posted in many spots on North Beach. “This walk is reserved for pedestrians only — No bikes, no dogs.”
North Beach operators may be fine folks (see last week’s editorial), but there is no aloha on a wonderful new wooded beach path either.
Gecko recently saw a man who looked remarkably like this columnist stopped for riding a bike along one of the most pleasant, uncongested places to cruise along the ocean.
The security guard who halted the rider said he was just doing his job, noting, however, that he personally did not see anything wrong with careful biking in that place.
On another occasion, the rider had been stopped by a burly man who said bike riding on the path would ruin the wood “that I paid for.”
How did he know that? He said he was an engineer.
He failed to take into account that as a 225-pound man, he exerted more pressure walking on the wood — which isn’t wood but some form of plastic — than a fairly slim bike rider whose weight was spread over two moving wheels. This was a man with an attitude — strictly not aloha.
Also banned on the walkway are dogs, even when leashed. Before the ban, locals could be found mingling with tourists — something visitors like to do.
The cute little dog Kea Aloha — who tourists often smile at and love to pet because they miss their own dogs — is no longer welcome.
The book “Voices of Maui” has a section called “Paradox in Paradise” that asks: “Who will step up to keep Paradise, Paradise?” It mostly refers to slowing unfettered development but relates just as well to everything else.
Enforcing Mainland values on Maui and its residents and visitors, and ignoring the aloha spirit — one of the reasons people come here — is counterproductive to maintaining this as one of the world's favorite tourist destinations.
Maybe some association could run a course for Mainland companies who do business or send managers here. Maybe even read Mark Ellman’s fine book, “Practice Aloha,” to learn how it is done.
Gecko’s final words: “Embrace aloha, mainlanders.”