Small Talk

Home, Part 2

July 20th, 2009

There’s a saying that there are no accidents. I have to wonder if that applies here. This is a small story about weird and wonderful coincidences.


My grandparents’ Pauoa home was bulldozed in April 2009, after standing there for more than 80 years. Our relatives owned the plot of land, but the sibling trio was getting too old to maintain it any longer. They finally sold it to the next door neighbor, the Honpa Hongwanji Temple of Hawaii, which had been interested for decades.

Temple shares southern border.

Temple shares southern border.

I, of course, took some final photos, before the structure was bulldozed. Imagine my surprise when I learned someone else had captured images of it, too – but this person was a total stranger.

In April, my cousin Janice called me to tell me about a random encounter she had with an acquaintance of hers. She bumped into a guy named Mike Todd at the café in the building where they work, and he showed her his latest drawings. He’s an amateur painter who sketches as a hobby with a group called SketchCrawlers. She recognized one of the sketches as my grandparents’ house!



I said I wanted to see the drawing, so she gave me his e mail. This is what he told me: “You certainly can see the painting! I had no idea I might actually know anyone connected with this house! When I saw how fast the house had been demolished, I was glad I had painted it. I chose it because it looked like an interesting subject and because I didn’t want the image of such a building to be lost after all the history it had been through. I also thought it might be sentimental to someone - and I was right. I believe in synchronicity, meaning things do happen for a reason and there are no coincidences. So this was probably not so random.

I first saw the building on Wednesday, March 18th, some time after the hedge around the house had been cut to the ground. It was drizzling and I wasn’t sure about doing a sketch in bad weather. But I also felt I might not get another chance. I started the preliminary sketch then and luckily got to go back and finish it on the 24th. I was very surprised at how fast it was demolished after that! We went by three days later and saw it was gone!"

We met shortly thereafter and I was impressed with his work. The home he drew looked warm and inviting – not neglected and abandoned as it did in the end. I offered to buy the painting, but he doesn’t sell his art.

Prepping for demolition.

Prepping for demolition.

I thought he was such a nice guy with a neat hobby that I invited him to come talk about Sketchcrawlers on the morning show. Here he is (on the left) with his friend, talking about their sketches.

May 19, 2009

May 19, 2009

Mike did, however, let me make a color copy of the piece, which I framed and gave to my mother as a gift. It was the home she was born and raised in, and it means a lot to her.

At 80th birthday party, On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant

At 80th birthday party, On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant

We looked through her old photo albums and there aren’t any shots of the actual house, so it ended up being a really nice memento to have of the place. Strange, that a stranger would help us connect to a piece of our history in such a sentimental way. Or… maybe not such a coincidence at all?

6 Responses to “Home, Part 2”

  1. Ocean Lover:

    Holy Crap! Please excuse the "French". I saw your earlier post with the Hongwanji temple in the background and thought, "That place is CLOSE to the temple".

    My son's in the Boy Scout troop at the temple and just about 3 weekends ago the troop did an Eagle Scout project in which they planted grass, put in an irrigation system, planted some trees and extended a hedge bordering the property.

    SMALL WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And all this time when that old abandoned house sat there (next to the parking lot) I thought to myself "That's what a haunted house looks like!"



  2. David In Oregon:

    This is the kind of story that makes you sit back and wonder. How could it possibly be that some stranger would unknowingly paint a house that has ties to someone they actually knew? With all of the many houses, apartments, and other structures in Hawai`i, you have to think this is a one in a million shot.

  3. Ocean Lover:

    Where the house USED TO BE there's now grass growing in. I also understand that the Hongwanji plans to renovate/rent out the units in the building where you used to live. We planted a tree right outside your former front door! IF I had known earlier I coulda said "THIS was Diane Ako's apartment" ala "President Obama's" former apartment on Beretania Street. 😉

    Apologize for my word that caused the first post to go into "moderation" yet I was shocked by one of those "SMALL WORLD" experiences!


  4. Diane Ako:

    I know- it totally looked spooky, yeah? 10 years ago when I was living at the apts, my enterprising friend Tammy suggested that she, I , and a few friends pony up free labor and fix it up, and live there. If Unc wasn't making money off it anyway, why not? We tried to get him to let us have a look inside but he said the floors were rotting or something. I believe that. The last time I actually looked inside was in 1993 after the last occupant, my grand aunt (pictured in the previous posting, Home) died. It was pretty to' up at that time. Anyhow, I knew a lot of people were going to recognize this place (and trip out) after I posted the wide shots. I mean, how many thousands of cars drive by every day?

  5. Ocean Lover:

    Howzit wife and I drove by this morning and my wife mentioned "Look! The grass is growing now!" The Boy Scouts had brought in topsoil and used grass seeds Took us about 6 hours and we must've had 50 people working!

    I had read your earlier post and when you mentioned the sounded familiar yet I couldn't place it.

    And like David in Oregon mentioned "How could it possibly be that some stranger would unknowingly paint a house that has ties to someone they actually knew? With all of the many houses, apartments, and other structures in Hawai`i, you have to think this is a one in a million shot."

    I agree. Mahalo for sharing something so close to you.



  6. Rodney:

    I'm one of those who drive by there daily. After the area was cleared, I could remember what was there - until today when I saw the picture of the house.

    "That's right!" That house was there! I thought it was just tall trees that were missing.

    Thanks for the memories, Diane

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