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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, February 12, 2006

So you local or what? You sure you sure?

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

Someone sent around another "you know you local if ... " list and I think I'm not local. I don't know anyone who would score 100 percent.

I wore a pillowcase kikepa for elementary school May Day.

I measure the water for the rice up to the first knuckle of my finger.

My family had a pit bull named Koa.

But some of the other stuff is completely foreign.

Can you still be local and not highlight your hair? What if you don't own a single Hawaiian heirloom bracelet? What if you never said "like beef?" (and meant it) in your whole life and can barely swim, let alone surf?

In truth, "local" isn't an either-you-in-or-you-out club. It's not even a sliding scale or varying degrees. It's a panoply. It's a rainbow. It's a big buffet.

Some people measure how local you are by where you go to buy leis. For others, the idea of buying a lei, not making one from stuff from your backyard, is suspicious. And for some, a plumeria lei from the backyard is unseemly a lei is not a lei unless you had to do some hiking up mauka.

Another yardstick is your relationship to poi. Knowing the delivery days to Safeway Hawai'i Kai is one thing. Spending weekends in your grandfather-them's lo'i is another. Then there are all the gradations in between. You mix with your hand or a spoon? In a bowl or in the bag? Only with fish or pizza and poi, he go?

The variations on local-ness are geographical, regional, generational and ethnic.

Folks who grew up here in the '50s and then moved to the Mainland remember a Hawai'i that younger kama'aina can't relate to. Catch the boat? Hang out at the harbor? What?

Local kids don't say "bumbye" anymore. They don't say "kalakoa" or " 'uku-million" or "broke da mout."

People who grew up in Honolulu talk about King's Bakery sweetbread while those who grew up in Kalaheo talk about their grandmother's sweetbread.

Some folks get their Redondo's pipikaula in the grocer's deli case. Some get their pipikaula in the forests of Moloka'i. Some are looking up from their newspaper right now and trying to think if they've ever had pipikaula.

Not every local person is laid back. How can you be if you have to work three jobs and spend two hours a day in traffic?

Not every local person drives barefoot. Some wahine need the 4-inch rubber slippers to reach the accelerator on their Tacoma trucks.

Not everyone in Hawai'i has had 'ukus. Not everyone likes mango with shoyu and vinegar. Not everyone sighs with rapture over namasu.

If there is anything universal about being local, it is the fierce desire to hold on to that label and to define and refine exactly what that means, to find connection in the small but significant things and to feel a kama'aina knowledge of a place that is very difficult to know.

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