BY J. ARTHUR RATH III – “Coconut Willie” is back on the beach at Waikiki. Knowing him from boyhood, I’ll be hearing his reflections. He’s the 1940’s character on whom Jack de Mello and Bob Magoon based the song:
Coconut Willie lives in a tree
He’s plenty pupule it’s easy to see
Tourists in Hawaii think he’s a king
They come to Waikiki to see his opu swing
He moved to New York State quite some time ago and watched traffic flow. He said: “When gas prices inflated because of shortages, drivers got smart and began sharing rides to work.”
He contrasted this to miles of cars, trucks, and vans—holding ONLY the driver—that congest Honolulu’s highways during “rush hour” traffic (a solecism).
In his ingenuous manner, Willie suggested:
“If two or more persons sat in cars or trucks would this relieve commuting problems by half or more? What if cops ticketed single-passenger cars and vans during rush hour? Would this help its cash shortage? Vans and trucks are used for traction where there’s lots of snow—if a truck’s not used for work, what’s the local appeal? Off-the-road land and beach destruction? Or is it just conspicuous consumption?” (Willie’s vocabulary expanded while he was stuck on the mainland.)
“Until drivers become sick of crawling and start covering more seats in their vehicles, I’ll just shake my head instead of my opu. Remember the old war-time days when we had gas rationing? That’s when sharing a ride was considered akamai (smart), somewhat patriotic, and good manners.”
…Just some philosophy from a local relic. Coconut Willie was always filled with novel ideas, which are surely needed here.
I remember this one:
Willie gave cooking lessons for free
To a Chinese chef in Kaimuki,
But the chef flipped his lid,
When he saw what Willie did:
He stuffed his fortune cookies full of poi and squid.