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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 3, 2002

Experience of mango season varies widely in city, country

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

Driving in the wind and rain on H-1 past University just before Punahou, my eyes turn to that mango tree. You know the one. It's covered with blossoms right now, and I found myself saying a silent prayer that the wind wouldn't knock too many of them off.

And then I realize, wow, I really think like a city person now.

See, it's like that kids' movie "City Mouse, Country Mouse," except it's "City Mango, Country Mango."

In the country, mango season can be as much a curse as a blessing. The first couple of weeks are great, but after you've gone past that initial hanging-over-the-sink-so-you-can-eat-every-last-piece phase; after you've made mango bread, mango pie, mango jam, jelly, chutney and salsa; after you've frozen, dried, freeze-dried, pickled, pureed and li hing-ed; after you've given bags to all the neighbors and all the neighbors have given you bags back; after you've forced-fed mangoes to the chickens, the duck, the pigs and the dog; mango season starts to lose its charm.

One woman, who shall remain nameless (because my mom is threatening to cut me off if I tell any more stories about her), would threaten to put all the dozens of excess mangoes in a box, wrap it like a birthday present and leave it on the front seat of the car (window down, door unlocked) in a shopping center parking lot in the hopes that someone would steal it. She never did, though, because she was too worried the thief would retaliate.

In the city, it's a whole different mango scene. That distinctively lumpy package left by the porch is greeted by shouts of "Right on!" instead of "Damn it. The freezer full already! I going kill your Aunty Dottie!" People in mango-scarce neighborhoods start chatting up the one family that didn't cut down their tree to built a studio rental. Sometimes we'll even BUY mangoes (I can almost hear people in Kaumakani gasping as they read this. Buy? Not! For real?!)

And sometimes, desperate people resort to thievery. Not the one-mango-hanging-over-the-fence-small-kid-time action. I'm talking about the truck-pulled-on-the-side-of-the-freeway, guy-with-a-long-pole action. Bad stuff.

Years ago, I did a story about a rash of lychee thefts reported to the Kaua'i Police Department. I asked then-chief Cal Fujita if people ever called the cops for the theft of other fruit, like maybe mangoes. His answer was classic. "No. Not mangoes. Only valuable stuff. Like lychee. Everybody has mangoes."

But as to that much-coveted common mango tree off H-1 before Punahou, the one that has tantalized many eyes and inspired several nefarious schemes, let's just hope when mango season comes around, us mango-

deprived folks resist the urge to slow down and scoop a smashed one off the freeway and simply wish that city tree the bounty of a country tree as we begrudgingly drive to Safeway's produce department.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.