Not Just More

Standing in front of Puck’s Alley, at the inclined nook between Curry House and Nijiya Market, we are waiting for the bus. The six—which will take my friend and I out of McCully and through Manoa Valley. She’s only here for the day and it’s cheaper than a trolley.

“What’s Manoa?” She asked me on the phone that morning.

“A neighborhood in a valley,” I said, not sure how to sum it up in a sentence.

“Is it a big touristy spot?”

“No, not really.”

She paused. “Then why are you taking me there?”

“Because it’s not a big touristy spot?”

Two hours later, the two of us are here, under the shade of the low-slung roof, staring down the University Intersection, towards the new Long’s Drugs, watching for the bus. She’s talking at me (as she tends to) about herself, her college, and her friends at college, and my mind wanders. Elsewhere, to a conversation had with a different friend who had just gotten out of his school the previous summer.

“I feel lost,” he told me, the two of us driving to a friend’s house in Kahala to deliver presents on Christmas Eve.

“We’ll find it,” I said.

“No, I meant with myself. My life.”

“That’s okay,” I reasoned. “Economy’s crap, nobody expects you to emerge from school with a career rearing to go.”

He frowned.

“Yeah, but I meant about everything. I went into college knowing that if I didn’t make the most of my time, I was gonna regret it.”


“Okay, so I made the most of it.”

“Of school?”

“Of everything. I studied hard, partied hard. Had a girlfriend, and joined all these clubs. Acted in plays. I had the full college experience, it was a blast, and I did good stuff, not just more stuff.” He stares ahead, leaning on his left side, right hand extended out to the wheel.

“So?” I asked.

“So I regretted it anyway.” He says suddenly, as if getting it off his chest. “It happened no matter what, you know?”

“Yeah, but you did all you could do.”

“But it didn’t matter.” He paused, in thought. “Okay, imagine waiting for a bus. You see it coming and you know that in five minutes, it’ll be in right in front of you. And five minutes after that, it’ll have passed you. But now—right now—it has yet to arrive. It’s still coming and you know what will happen, but it’s not like you can do anything about it.”

I thought about this. The metaphor seemed deliberately chosen.

“But you enjoyed it while it lasted, didn’t you?” I ask.

He sighed, a loud quick huff like he knew I was right but it didn’t necessarily make him feel any better.

“It’s just that now it’s all over. And I’m all that’s left.”

I didn’t have anything more to add just then and a few minutes later, we found my friend’s house and the conversation shifted again.

Back at Puck’s Alley, the number six appears opposite the intersection and makes the left turn, pulling up in front of us. We get on and pay the two-fifty. I direct my friend to the back row, in the center seat where she can see down the entire length of the bus and through the windows evenly.

As the bus ascends up the street and around the University, she stops talking about her problems at school and asks me about where we’re going and everything on the street that catches her eye. I know little about the factual, technical details of the valley but I’ve lived around Manoa enough to point out places and explain who owned what, and what they used to be. How Yogurtland is the former Volcano Joe’s, is the former Mamo’s Pizza, is the former Burger King. How the big house at the top of the hill used to be owned by my friend’s grandfather—long since cannibalized by new owners to indefinite construction, the walls knocked down and lawn torn up.

At Manoa Marketplace, I tell her my own experiences passing through Manoa Valley Theatre’s graveyard and noticing most of those buried are children. How the building across the street from the marketplace is green because of a small chocolate shop that used to be a tenant there—and not for the Starbucks that hangs large at the corner.

The bus moves past the shopping center and goes into the hills, twisting and navigating all the corners expertly, turning on a dime to get through the neighborhood—a process best experienced by the seat in the middle of the back row, where the entire valley can come into view, passing as the bus drives on. And suddenly, we’re back on the road out of the valley, up and back out on the sloping street towards McCully.

Thankfully, she loved the ride and agreed it meant more than just seeing generic attractions.

“Well, I’ll admit that the trolley would’ve been able to drop us off at a more engaging destination—the mall or Waikiki or someplace,” I comment, turning back around at Puck’s Alley where we’ve gotten off. “I’m sorry, I completely forgot the six would’ve taken us to Ala Moana. We got off too soon.”

“It’s cool,” she says, glancing around the neighborhood. “If the point was the experience, then I had fun. I doubt the bus or Manoa is any better for us having visited. Half an hour later, the only thing that’s really changed is us.”

She asks me if there’s a bathroom around here anywhere. I say the ramen shop, Ezogiku, probably has one she can use. She says she’ll be right back and jogs over to it, leaving me to wait on the sidewalk in front of what used to be the Bank of Hawaii, in the alcove at the corner. Next to it, the soon-to-vanish Rainbow Books. I look around, spying the former Blimpie’s, Blazin’ Steaks. Across the street, what used to be Cheapo Books, Jelly’s. What used to be Magoo’s Pizza and Eastside Grill near the corner. As time goes by, the changes have come a little easier. Thing come and go and I know this—but it does not mean the loss of a place, person, or way of life is any less difficult to face as it passes.

Not all is lost though: up the street, Kokua Market is here. And Uyeda Shoe Store. And all the other places that make up a community. Around the corner, Bubbies Ice Cream is still around. So am I.

Talk story

  1. appleblossum says:

    Loved, loved this… Manoa is a very special place.

    "At Manoa Marketplace, I tell her my own experiences passing through Manoa Valley Theatre’s graveyard and noticing most of those buried are children. How the building across the street from the marketplace is green because of a small chocolate shop that used to be a tenant there—and not for the Starbucks that hangs large at the corner. "

  2. JCharisma says:

    Thank you! I really wanted to do something having to do with Rainbow Books after they closed this week. This was the closest I could come. For now.

  3. kristel says:

    Manoa is a very special place for me as well. I went to UH lab and spent a lot of time at the area. Sometimes during lunch, we'd sneak off-campus to the lunch wagon near Burger King (which eventually became Mos Burger, I think before I graduated) and I spent so much time at Manoa Marketplace it felt like a second home to me! Thank you for sharing.

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