Monday, August 31, 2009

The Many Faces of Willie K.

I first discovered Willie Kahaiali`i (a.k.a. Willie K. or Uncle Willie K.) about 11 years ago playing live music in a place called "Hapas Night Club" on Maui. I was immediately taken by his eclectic style of music which seemed to draw from many artists including Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Stevie Wonder, and Jimi Hendrix to name a few. He was playing regularly on Monday nights and I made it a point to arrange my travel schedule so that I could catch him as often as possible.

In a single performance, you could easily see the many facets of Willie K., and understand how his versatility appeals to so many people with different tastes in music. I once watched Uncle Willie start a music set with a Ukulele and when he was finished, it occurred to me that he had sampled U-2, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Willie Nelson. And those are just the artists I could remember. The audience was standing and screaming for more and so was I.

He's truly a charismatic entertainer with a special flavor and I'll always cherish those special memories of seeing him live.

As I attempt to make my transition back from Hawaiian vacation life to Mainland living, I thought I'd share with you a piece of the Uncle Willie K. that I knew and loved.

Here are a few of the many faces of Willie K. Can you guess which one is my favorite?

Traditional Hawaiian

Willie K. The Tourist Bureau Representative

The Fourth Tenor - Plácido Domingo, José Carreras , Luciano Pavarotti and Uncle Willie K.

Blended Folk/Bob Marley/Sting

Uncle Willie K. - As the World - Imitating the artists of "We are the World"

Uncle Willie K. - The Ink spot

Uncle Willie K. The Ukulele player and Opera Singer

Uncle Willie K. singing and playing the Blues

Willie K. has played with and/or opened for such musical giants as B.B. King, Santana, Al DiMeola, Willie Nelson, Prince, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Elvin Bishop, Bonnie Rait, Jackson Browne, Mick Fleetwood, George Benson and Jimmy Buffett. That's quite a resume. For an entertainer who started when he was 10 years old, it's fascinating that his style continues to evolve even today.

Check him out in - The Barefoot Natives,

and stay up to date with Willie K. by following his Calendar - Willie K's Events

Let me know which Willie K. you like best in the comment box.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cloudy in Los Angeles - But No Sign of Rain

Positively the Los Angeles Fires of 2009!

It's always been tough for me to come home from paradise and vacation. Some years are harder than others. It's a big shock to my system to leave a sleepy casual island like Kauai and enter the big hustle and bustle of a metropolis like Los Angeles. I keep yearning for the year when I go away on "Holiday" as the Europeans say, and learn that I've entered the land of perpetual vacation and unlimited free Mai Tais.

It's even tougher when I come home and I'm faced with a cloudy skyline and the clouds aren't preceding the warm tropical sprinkles I grew so fond of in Hawaii. On the contrary, the ominous clouds in the distance don't promise a cooling seductive tropical dampening but represent acres of forestry, brush, hopes, and dreams billowing into the atmosphere.

Quite a sight to see from the ground.

And from the air!

The Fires are proving to be equally agonizing, tormenting, and heartbreaking at night!

Dare I say - It's good to be Home?

Monday, August 24, 2009

I'm almost out of money!

August on the Garden Island!


It's been about a year since I last visited the "Garden Island." You all know this is one of my favorite spots to hang loose. The locals here tell me that the recession really hasn't hit Kauai very hard. My reply:

"It's hit me like a Mike Tyson blow."

Although I'm exaggerating a tad bit,
(as I wince and shake off the pain in my ribs from the Tyson punch)
it's still a different sort of a vacation when the global economy is in a funk. And I think they get it here. Never less, things are still pretty chilled on the island. Slow and easy in paradise. The steady flow of tourist money still finds its' way to the local economy. And even when times are difficult, the locals seem to find a way to divorce themselves from the issues and just enjoy life. That's what I've been trying to do.....

What's happening on Kauai

I've noticed more foreigners here this year. In addition to the typical Americans and Asians, I've noticed quite a few Europeans and Canadians. The weakness of the U.S. dollar realative to their currencies and cheaper airfares no doubt, has made this a more affordable vacation for them.

I've also noticed that the sales tax here is approximately 4%. Granted there are many other resort and luxury taxes on goods and services here in the islands. In comparison to the sky-rocketing Los Angeles sales tax, I find the 4% number a welcome relief.

I hope you all are enjoying the final weeks of summer.

I'll be back to posting and visiting your blogs in a few days......

Til then,


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Central Park Zoo - New York City

Central Park -

The park is a big mystery to some people. Central Park covers 843 acres, which is 6% of Manhattan. Its' hours of operation are from 6:00 am until 1:00 am.
The Park stretches from Central Park South (59th St.) to 110th St. at the northern end and from 5th Ave. on the East Side to Central Park West (8th Ave.) on the West Side.

It's a great place to stroll, walk, run, picnic, hike, or just chill and relax. It's also the home of the Central Park Zoo.

Of course I had to stick my head in to see what was up! There are 130 different species ranging from giant Polar Bears to the tiny Leaf Cutter ants. A walk around the Zoo’s five plus acres will take you through a variety of habitats, all carefully designed to recreate the natural environment of the animals they house. I enjoyed the penguins and the Snow Leopards! One of the polar bears, and one leopard decided to put on a show which I captured on video. See below!

I must admit, I found the Penguins a bit interesting as well. Anyone watch "The Penguins of Madagascar?"

Here's a summary from

To most people, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private are just four cute penguins living in the Central Park Zoo. And that’s exactly what they want people to think. Why? Because these placid-looking penguins are actually an elite strike force with unmatched commando skills and a secret headquarters. Their mission? To maintain order in the zoo. Their nemesis? Their obnoxious new neighbor, King Julien. This party animal and self proclaimed "King of the Lemurs" is new to the zoo...and he's looking to shake things up

Well, I checked on the Penguins just to see if they'd demonstrate some of their commando techniques for me because you never know when you might need some of those skills! But instead of mean and blood thirsty killers, I found innocent and solemn love birds.

I also found that as it is in most of the animal kingdom, including humans, the Ladies make all of the rules and hold all of the cards in the penguin's "love game" as well!

Let's see, hmnnn ... Does that mean males try to attract attention by yelling?

Is that like.....

"WILMA?" or "LUCY?"

Or is it more like -

"Honey - Where's my Super Hero Costume?" "Where's the Remote?" "Where's My Dinner?"

Well Maybe not.

But anyway, here's some light entertainment from the Central Park Zoo.

Love was in the air!


I know, I could have gone in many different directions with this video.

Polar Bear with fleas!

Polar Bear with jock itch!

Polar Bear with......

Please be kind with your comments!

Monday, August 10, 2009

New York City! "The Naked Cowboy"

Yep! It's true! There is a naked cowboy wondering (ooops Wandering) the streets of New York City with little more than a guitar, cowboy hat, and boots. And he's quite the attraction. I just wonder - where does he keep his car keys, wallet, and cell phone?

I snapped these photos of the naked cowboy while strolling through NYC.

On an educational note...

I learned a new word as a result of seeing this guy.
The word is: Busk
It's chiefly a British term and it means -

to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.

Our infamous cowboy is actually named - Robert John Burck. He was born December 23, 1970 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is known as an American busker and prevails primarily around New York City's Times Square. He wears only cowboy boots, a hat, and briefs, with a guitar strategically placed to give the illusion of nudity.

(Wow! I learned a new word!) Fascinating!

According to Wikipedia:

Burck began busking in 1998 and first appeared on Venice Beach, Los Angeles. He immediately became a big hit after a friend suggested to him that he dress only in his underwear in order to generate higher earnings. Burck earned a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science at the University of Cincinnati. Burck is also a regular in the streets of the French Quarter during the New Orleans Mardi Gras season. He also makes appearances in his hometown of Cincinnati, at the Memorial Day weekend Taste of Cincinnati festival and the Riverfest Labor Day Festival. He has also made an appearance in Austin, Texas, during the South by Southwest Music Conference, and on January 25, 2009 he performed at a Leinster Rugby game in Donnybrook, Dublin, Ireland, singing his theme song "I'm the Naked Cowboy" before 18,000 spectators.
(Where does he keep his Passport?)
In a 2005 online interview, Burck cited Nancy Reagan and Garth Brooks as two of his leading inspirations. During the 2008 American presidential election Burck was a staunch supporter of John McCain, remarking that the Republican candidate was "older and wiser" than his opponent Barack Obama.[citation needed]
(I never said Burck was a smart guy)
Additionally, on November 22, 2008, he became an ordained minister, and on December 10, 2008 he was officially registered as a marriage officiant by the City of New York.

So in reality, he's not just another naked guy playing the guitar on the corner for chump change.
Play on Cowboy!
There's still a glimmer of hope for the rest of us!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

New York City! I think It Said "Don't Walk"

Remember the movie Rain Man starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise?

Remember the scene where "Raymond" is crossing the street and the sign changed to "Don't Walk?"

Here's a reminder:

Well this happened to me in New York City the other day. I was walking across the street and the "walk sign" started blinking. I hustled, cautiously looking for cars, anticipating the change, and expecting to see the big "Red Hand." A universally recognized sign indicating "Don't Walk."

Instead I saw this:

Further Inspection:

Closer Inspection:

Boy, someone really has a sense of humor! I guess next time I'll only cross the street when it says walk!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

New York City, Central Park, The Dakota, and John Lennon

So the plane trip to New York was nice and uneventful. This time of year it's possible to catch many of the afternoon thunderstorms building in the mid-west. Fortunately, the early departure out of LAX meant we missed the turbulent air. Shortly after my arrival into JFK, I was reminded of a comment made by a friend about a year ago. He joked about his 4 day stay in New York City. "Believe it or not" he snickered "I spent more in ground transportation fees in those 4 days than I spent on my plane ticket from Los Angeles to New York."

I thought about his comment every time I reached into my pocket to pay cab fare. $50 seems to be about the flat rate from Kennedy airport to anywhere in Manhattan. And every other time I jumped in a cab (think dinner, shopping, touring) it was roughly 7-8 bucks. I did manage to take the subway system twice. That ran about 2 dollars each way but who's counting? The economy needs stimulating right? And maybe some of that stimulus money will end up back in my pocket.

Anyway, I parked at the New York Hilton (vice the W where I stayed last October) for my stay this time just to take in a different part of the city. It's just a few short blocks away from Central Park and is noted for many things. A friend pointed out to me that it's where Malcolm X spent the night before he was assassinated. Yikes! I said. Remembering that Ronald Reagan was shot just outside the Washington Hilton and Towers. (Now I'm thinking about my Hilton Honors Card and how many times I've used the Hilton brand). I'll be looking over my shoulder each time I walk out of the hotel from now on.

Oh well, seems I need to do more blogging and less thinking. This thinking stuff can be stressful. The Hilton was fine. But given the option and all costs being equal, I'll pick the "W" over the Hilton for my place to stay in New York. The rooms at the "W" were just a bit more luxurious and I liked the boutique feeling. On second thought, there is a Doubletree in Time Square. You know how I feel about their cookies!

So anyway,

My first day in town I walked up to Central Park West and strolled by The Dakota. I know, I'm headed down this morbid assassination/killing trail but bear with me, it will be short and I'll be moving on to something more lively in my next post.

The Dakota, constructed from October 25, 1880 to October 27, 1884, is an apartment building located on the northwest corner of 72ND Street and Central Park West in New York City. The architectural firm of Henry Janeway Hardenbergh was commissioned to do the design for Edward Clark, head of the Singer Sewing Machine Company. The firm also designed the Plaza Hotel. (Home of - YOU Guessed it - The wonderful and dearest Eloise!)

"According to popular legend, the Dakota was so named because at the time it was built, the Upper West Side of Manhattan was sparsely inhabited and considered as remote as the Dakota Territory." It is more likely that the building was named "The Dakota" because of Clark's fondness for the names of the new western states and territories. High above the 72ND Street entrance, the figure of a Dakota Indian keeps watch. The Dakota was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976."

The Dakota Circa 1890

Some of you will remember the building is probably best known as the home of former Beatle John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, starting in 1973, and was also the location of Lennon's murder by Mark David Chapman on December 8, 1980. As of 2009, Ono still has an apartment in the building. Some other famous residents of the building:

Lauren Bacall - actress, Leonard Bernstein - composer/conductor, Roberta Flack - singer, Judy Garland - actress , John Madden - football player, coach and announcer, Neil Sedaka - singer, and Boris Karloff - actor.

Just across the street and a very short walk away is Central Park and the location of the Strawberry Fields memorial.

Every year, Ono marks the anniversary of Lennon's death with a now-public pilgrimage to the memorial.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for more........

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I Love the Clouds

It's amazing what you can do with a little bit of zoom and a camera.

I must admit that Mike over at Bowie Living kinda inspired me to pen this post. (See his post -Day in Pics Rainbow, Clouds, Moon and Bat )

I've always loved the clouds!

You could say my head is in the clouds and I wouldn't care.

Because even the darkest most threatening ones seem to have something positive to share

The solitary clouds seem to seek out a mate in a very obvious way.

Yet when they finally get together, they have so little to say!

I keep my head in the clouds it's true.

But it's not because I have nothing better to do.

It's relaxing, peaceful, and thought-provoking.

It's majestic, nostalgic, and cerebral

I'm not Joking!

I just love the clouds!

Think About It!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Isn't it funny how some titles of movies go on to become household phrases? Think about it.....

Diamonds are Forever, Some Like it Hot, Back to the Future, Mission Impossible, Top Gun, The Dirty Dozen, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles are just a few examples.

Some day I'd like to complete the "Mission Impossible" go "Back to the Future" or be a "Top Gun" but for now, at least I can say I have done the "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" thing.

That's right. I did it...

Not in the way that John Candy and Steve Martin did it :

My trip wasn't that funny or stressful. And I didn't end up sleeping with a strange guy and wake up with my hand wedged between two uh -umm.... pillows. But I did the trip all the same.


I'm sure my journey was a little less glamorous!
I flew from Los Angeles to New York City and spent a few days running around the Big Apple.

Steam Engine

I then took the train from Union Station through New Jersey, and down to Philadelphia. After a few days in the historic city of "Brotherly Love" I rented a car and drove out to scenic Gettysburg.

Model T

I followed that up with a few nights in Chocolate City.....

(And I don't mean Washington D.C.)

try Hershey, PA.

All in all, it was a great trip. I'll be blogging about my adventures in the days ahead.

Thanks to all of you who stopped by to visit while I was away!