Mooo! Milk on Kauai

Mooo! Milk on Kauai

Last April, the New York Times had me document a controversial issue on Kauai.  eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s proposal to create a small dairy farm near Poipu, Kauai has made many sour in the nearby community.  I traveled to area to photograph the area, meet supporters and photographing opponents. I also got to fly in a helicopter over the land where the proposed dairy would sit.

Kauai has a history of fighting development fearing their already shrinking tropical paradise will disappear.  While many locals welcome jobs and the opportunities development brings, many newer arrivals to the Island fight tooth and nail to protect their newly purchased slice of heaven.

The controversy over the dairy stems from opponents fearing environmental damage from pollution and the environmental impact on tourist in the region.  Along with many other resorts and hotels, the Grand Hyatt sits not far from the farm area in Poipu and they fear smells and other issues will affect their high paying guests.

The Ulupono Initiative, Omidyar’s local investment firm, strives to create a more self-reliant Hawaii and a local dairy farm would likely bring Kauai’s infamously high milk prices down.  However, opponents argue the gains do not outweigh the losses.

Past industrial farming has wreaked havoc on Hawaii as plantations once diverted streams to their sugar cane and pineapple fields and waste has polluted once fertile land.  While many initiatives and technologies has improved farming overall, fears still exist over new farming projects.  A recent dairy farm on the Big Island was accused of illegally discharging animal waste polluting local water sources and this didn’t help Ulupono’s case for a new farm on Kauai.

While Ulupono are making great technological strides to protect the land and limit pollution, its not enough for some residents and lawsuits have been filed to stop the dairy from getting started.

While I was there, I met with a few of opponents who took me to Maha’ulepu Beach claiming the dairy’s waste would damage the pristine area.  Its the same beach I photographed from the helicopter that ran big on the front page of the business section.

front page of the business section August 14, 2017
front page of the business section August 14, 2017

At the mouth of the stream that feeds into the ocean, I clearly could smell something foul in the run off.  They said it was raw sewage flowing down from the above farm areas and little was being done to control the pollution.  Warning signs were posted around the stream stating to keep out of the water.

While the bad smells at the stream startled me, Hawaii’s future must create more sustainability.  We must be more independent and depend less on the monopolies that control the shipping of goods to and from the Islands.  The dairy farm is taking great strides to protect the environment and to keep the land in farming hands means it has less chance to be turned into homes by developers.

I believe Hawaii’s future is to be self reliant but at what costs?  If we allow a few to control the future of Hawaii because they fear bad smells, we will continue to be at the mercy of outsiders.  But we must ensure a new farm won’t pollute the environment.  While fresh milk won’t lower the cost of gasoline or other goods, it is a good start for a brighter future.  But we can’t allow sustainability to turn into sour milk.

The NYT article can be found here.

Obama’s Final Hawaii Holiday Vacation

Barack Obama
US President Barack Obama waves at he exits Air Force One In Honolulu.

Friday marked the start and the end of US President Barack Obama’s annual Hawaii vacation.  After eight years of his headlining holiday visits, Hawaii’s favorite son will no longer return to his million-dollar rental home on the east shores of Oahu, at least not as President of the United States.  The ending of his two terms in office also brings an end to this unique time of Hawaii history, where the D.C. limelight merged with the Island’s aloha culture.

Obama vacations brought international attention to many of the islands attractions and restaurants.  He famously body surfed at Sandy’s, dined in some of the City’s hottest restaurants, and walked along the best beaches Hawaii has to offer.  But along with the President came the intense circus of security that surrounds one of the most powerful men in the world. While those who lived near President’s rental home might feel differently, his footprint was relatively small and many locals never realized a world leader was just a few blocks away.  There were unfortunate incidents where his caravan caused gridlock or beach goers were kept away from certain areas, but most locals took his visits with ease as it wasn’t everyday Hawaii had a president sitting on her beaches.

The unique circumstances of Hawaii producing a U.S. President and having his family vacation here every year is likely never to happen again so I’m fortunate to have been a working photographer during this time. From stalking him on the beach to covering his multiple arrivals and departures, I played a role in reporting on his holiday whereabouts. On top of that, I was given the chance to work as a reporter within the secure bubble of the Secret Service and reported on the whereabouts of one of the most important men on the globe.  Although it might seem trivial to witness Obama eating shave ice or making a long putt on the 18th green, his actions made headlines around the globe.

Compared to some colleagues who lost a good part of their lives sitting inside that cramped media bus for the entire holiday season, my role was relatively minor.  Yet I was still was part of the media pack that kept tabs on the president and recorded this unique time in Hawaii history.  My images will be part of a collection that will define Obama’s visual history and I stand proud with my local brothers Hugh, Jamm, Tanner, and Kent.  None of us are full time staffers yet we all sacrificed our holidays for a decade minus a year to record history, as trivial as it may seem, to photograph and report on one of the most popular presidents in modern history.  I grow jealous of my named colleagues who captured more; yet, I salute you, you bastards.

Although many will not miss Obama or his annual visits, his last days on Oahu as President will bring a bittersweet end to nine years can never be repeated.  The Hawaii history books are closing, but I’m glad, along with my colleagues, that someone will be looking at our images for a long, damn, time.

White House Press Passes
White House issued press passes collected during the many Obama visits to Hawaii.



16,000 likes via the New York Times

A surfer falls of the lip of a huge wave at Peahi, Maui. 16,000+ Likes on the New York Times Instagram page!
A surfer falls of the lip of a huge wave at Peahi, Maui. 16,000+ Likes on the New York Times Instagram page!

Its been a great week for work this week as I’ve had two big travel stories on the Big Island and Maui run in the New York Times and the Associated Press released my writing and pictures on a trip to Kalaupapa on Molokai.

But if anyone takes likes as a measure of fulfillment, the shot of the surfer flying off his board at Jaws on Maui got over 16,000 likes on the @nytimestravel instagram page.  Impressive!

But more impressive for myself is my new career of writing.  In college I wanted to be a writer and took a few classes  but didn’t take myself seriously to follow through with any of it.  I doodled in diaries and mailed long love letters during my travels in Latin America and Asia.  But its only been in the last few years that I’ve gotten acknowledged as a writer and published.  Taking pictures has become second nature for me but writing is still the great frontier.

The Molokai story is linked here.

Anyone recognize this hiker?

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 10.51.37 AM

Here are the New York Times tears from the last few weeks.

nyt layouts

The Big Island story is here and Maui is here.

A Native American, a Texan, and a cougar walk into a bar in Molokai

Yeah, kind of a funny start to a joke but its real. We sat three, rather four as there were two Native Americans, no actually three Native Americans…their son and his hot girlfriend…me, the Texan (yeah yeah who lived a long time in New York–more of a New Yorker than a damn Texan these days), and the cougar, all at at the bar in Hotel Molokai last week. The cougar is/was Dr. Psychoanalysis who was a bit scary cause you never know how they view you but really its how you present yourself to them once you know who and what they do. She did give me a good lecture on myself as I did encounter some problems on Molokai that truly perturbed me. More on that later.

The Native Americans proved to be the nicer people you could ever come across in any point in time of life. The father, an ER doc in California, crawled from the depths of a trailer park reservation to make it big time. The wife, of course, caring like anything, and their son, roughly my age but better looking and the gringa girlfriend. She also proved to be a sweet person and emailed me a great picture of the view over Kauai from a hang glider.

You can’t make shots like this…good going girl! They just have to happen. You rocked that shot. Beautiful world.

What I found fascinating about their relationship to the surrounding was the fact that no one from this group seem to be taking anything…sure sure that silly notion of the indigenous connection to land, blah blah blah but in many ways it seems to hold true. The doctor could have been a plastic surgeon or some shallow money making bastard from SoCal in a 500SL, hairplugs and liposuction, but he spent his time working on the city’s poor and needy. Gunshots, stabbings, scaldings, ruptures and whatnot. Real life, giving back to what or where he might recognize.

He also stated the obvious that we do need a national health care system. Funny words coming out of a well to do doctors mouth as he, in all aspects, might cut off his salary but in his views, its best for all than just a select few. I agree and thank you for your presence. I walked away with more than I gave. Wonderful wonderful people.

And to note–their tribe has a casino. The money flows in and flows back to the tribe. Good things for people who suffered so…maybe the state of Hawaii should consider such things but alas, corruption, moral and social conditions might not ever allow such a proposal. I say give them Molokai, put a casino and see life improve. Hell–every Asian who can walk would be in Hawaii gambling! Imagine the tax revenue and the ultimate flithy corruption our corrupt politicos already have….

Four days/three nights might be a more appropriate title for this blog; however, viewers of the new SHUTTERBUGGERY, will see where I am going with my thoughts.

Frommers sent me to Molokai to capture the natural beauty and essence of the island which is known as the most “Hawaiian” of all the Hawaiian islands. There is no major working resort, no slow chugging tour bus, snap happy Japanese, or for that matter, much of anything on Molokai. A friend Jordan, who is whiter than white is 50% (is that right?) Hawaiian–yeah, brah!…told me life on Molokai dances to a different drum. Native Hawaiians who choose to live on Molokai homestead and prefer to live off the land and practice aloha aina…or love of the land.

Molokai is one of those places where you can easily get back to your native roots and forget about the western world and their problems. Sitting on an isolated beach or on top of a Molokai mountain ridge, you can easily forget about the election follies, bailouts, and receding economic the West created and pushed the world into.

Its more than obvious how some people wish and want to live. They’d prefer not to have tourism like what Waikiki developed and to me, Maui is one of the worst as mainland developers cordoned off bits of the coast line making it impossible to visit the beach without going through resort property or paying big bucks to park. Many have said that some of those gorgeous Maui beaches around Wailea never had proper beach access as it remained undeveloped so some might argue it was good to tame and change the environment as it opened up access to many who might not have enjoyed the golden sands of Wailea.

Overall I can see both sides, developers creating and granting (limiting, though) access to the beach while locals stating they can no longer get to the beach cause of development. Funny, lots of local beaches where no tourist are around (or allowed for that matter) are shanty towns of homeless, drug addicts, or the scum of society. A former friend once took me to a former military beach. The base closed and gave the beach back to state control. The garbage bins overflowed, crushed beer cans and glass littered the grass and parking lot, plastic bags floated over the once pristine landscape along with clam shelled take-out boxes, and the oddly enough, the smell of spent diapers filled my nostrils. I’ve been around to many tourist sites in Honolulu and its very easy to find green glass shards of Heineken bottles scattered around. I can guarantee tourist are not tossing their empties on the street, beach, or where ever.

So does development keep the locals from destroying their environment? Does development which brings high paying tourists to the islands keep the locals from tearing up the place?

What tourist wants to go home with a nasty cut on their foot from a broken beer bottle?

So much to argue as most of the people who argue against development are people who were not born on Hawaii. At the hotel bar, I had some rude, caustic woman scream “NO MORE F*CKING PICTURES OF MOLOKAI!” once she found out what I was doing on the island. She claimed us guide books ruined Kauai and gave away all the secret beaches and coves only “locals” knew about. My pictures would do the same for Molokai. I felt honored in a way that I held so much power over her destiny.

Needless to say, this New York woman with the heavy Jewish Long Island accent, worked as a midwife, probably wasn’t married, and would curse you if you didn’t agree with her views or politics…a real liberal democrat if you know what I mean. Sometimes these types are the most intolerant of all. I spoke with another super liberal gallery owner a few weeks back who told me the best merits of Obama was that he was black. I bit my tongue as I though if that’s the best you can muster then you obviously don’t deserve to vote let alone breath this brand of foolishness to others.

The New Yorker bitched an moaned that her secret places were written about and discovered. She claimed perverts were not arriving at these secret places and performing lewd acts in public. Liberals, I should say, or maybe libertines rather.

I don’t know why (I can guess) but Hawaii is filled with hippie liberal super intolerant types who believe they know what is best. New agers who drifted over from West Coast cause they already sullied their past communities. Its as if many of these people floated over from the West/East coast to live some post-Hippie life of isolation, yoga, natural, foods, arts, and this odd embrace of local culture sans the expressos and lattes from Starbucks, the very essence of commercial liberalism. If I were native to Hawaii, I would truly wonder what the hell is wrong with many of these people. Don’t get me wrong, America is vast and wide and if you are an American you should be able to move and live where ever you see fit.

But these intolerant types just fill Hawaii and they seem to be the most vocal when it comes to economic development around the islands. Not to dwell into the specifics of the Superferry, I will say the most vocal and more or less violent protesters on Kauai were white transplants! I scanned the tv screen hoping to see more than just a token local/Hawaiian but they were far and few between when the protest started. These white jackasses hijacked the entire economic agenda of having a inter island ferry which would have helped more (in my opinion) than damaged so many of these subjects they complained about.

I truly wonder what the natives think of these loud mouthed assh*les from the mainland. I know what I think.

Lanai friends who I mentioned in a past posting mentioned there are also others of above class living their protesting and screaming at any positive development which could and will bring jobs/prosperity to a shrinking tourism economy. The island wants to build wind turbines to generate electricity but this small vocal protest group condemned the project just because they could…and throw out excuses like damaging bird migration, noise, etc…all because they don’t want scenic perfect views of paradise destroyed by the demands of the public for cheap energy, jobs, and prosperity for all.

The most damning of them all was a scum low life bastard who had the nerve to confront me and demand I not take pictures of his surf break cause tourist might start showing up and surfing on his/their spot. THIS JACKASS IS A WHITE DUDE FROM THE MAINLAND. AT LEAST THE LOCAL GUYS WHO BEEFED WITH ME TOLERATED MY PRESENCE BUT THIS TRANSPLANT, THIS MALIHINI REFUSED. WHAT A JERK.

Funny I was waiting for Gary Busey to rescue me from the dregs of society.


As I sauntered back to the bar every evening after a long day of hunting for images and dodging angry transplants and leery locals, I found solace at the bar with my extended family: Mom, Dad, little brother, and sister in law. Oh I can’t forget the cougar. She was the one that made the night entertaining, at least to watch.


gulp gulp gulp gulp……………………