Investigating the Promise of the Promised Land



I’ve stayed in touch with a few of the people I’ve met during my stay in Honolulu — at least until they requested an end to the interview process.

I called Leilani back to thank her for her time, and she asked me if I knew someone named David Endler. I recounted my interview with David, and she said he had spoken of me. I asked her how they met, and she said that Honolulu is a small world, almost incestuously small. She said that she was going to go back to New York with him to aid him with his sustainability model, to develop strategies for creating hybrid, symbiotic relationships between native cultures and modern development projects. I didn’t call David. He, and especially Blake, were as reclusive subjects as I’d ever had.

A day later, in the evening while I was packing for my return to New York, I received a call from Saburo on my cell. He sounded quite serious, like he needed a real heart-to-heart. He wanted to meet because he needed to tell me something only I might understand. He said we spoke the same language, the language of the writer. It was because of the way we both encountered life and translated it onto the written page which allowed me to understand him, what he had done. And he hoped that because I would understand, whatever I wrote about what he was going to confess to me would allow others to understand.

We met in a quiet venue in Chinatown. I approached him, and as I sat down to join him, I noticed the bill sitting on the table and his nearly empty glass. He’d already had quite a bit to drink. He watched the dancer on the stage, musing, and turned to me. He didn’t tell me what happened, but I could tell it was something terrible, he was preoccupied with something pulling him apart from deep inside his mind. He only told me that he’d been given the choice to do something about it. He’d cut a deal with the local Yakuza, offering up the advance for his next novel as collateral. Whatever the reason was, it wasn’t just for him, but it was for Miyabi, his wife. He looked at me, waiting for some kind of approval. “Do you understand?” he asked me, in heavily accented English, the only time he ever spoke to me in English. I leaned back into my chair and nodded slowly, instinctively maintaining just enough eye contact to acknowledge, to understand. He returned his attention to the dancer, and continued sipping on his drink. I left the table, and noticed Miyabi walking over to join him. There was something new between them.


I finally had a chance to hear David’s story, including some interesting details on the sustainability model he’s working on, although he wouldn’t elaborate fully on other aspects of his life. All I could sense was that he’s in a difficult time, still wrestling with tragedy, which as far as I was able to discern from once when we spoke on the phone, happened while he was overseas working at a consulate for the State Department. See the interview here.


It means “heavenly flower.” Not something one would expect to see in a city.

Leilani is a woman I just got off the phone with, she worked as an attorney for a legal defense fund helping native Hawaiians. In one case, one of her clients was issued a parking ticket. Upon seeing the HPD officer at his car, the driver in turn issued the officer a ticket, under the authority of the Sovereign Nation of Hawai’i.

A digression, but a necessary one:

This past case of Leilani’s reminds me of an artist considered dangerous by the US Secret Service named JSG Boggs, who started issuing his own bills, valued at an exchange level agreed upon by his patrons. Maintaining that currency was nothing more than art (portraits, landscapes, abstract geometrics) on paper, Boggs paid for meals, hotel rooms, automobiles… He wanted to use his artwork and its use as a way to get us thinking about how we assigned value to something, to think about things around us in more ways than simple text and numbers. In Australia, he was arrested on a counterfeiting charge and then released by a judge, who ironically awarded him damages in cash (state) currency. In the U.K., he was again accosted by Scotland Yard on a similar charge, who confiscated seven drawings. The United States Secret Service, however, ordered the drawings returned, and the charges dissolved. Upon his return to the US, however, Boggs’ studio was raided by the Secret Service, who not only confiscated the same seven drawings, but also over a hundred other items, including a pair of boxer shorts.

“You know, the fact that they’re not gonna give me back my boxer shorts,” Boggs complained in an interview, “just shows you how crazy these people are… And, you know, sooner or later, and it may be later, they will have to show what they consider to be illegal.”

D.W. Wright, consultant for history archives at J.P. Morgan & Co., commented in reference to Boggs: “Yes, what exactly is the threat? But again, you can only infer what the threat is. I mean we don’t know without them telling us. But one can guess that his interest in duplicating the dollar bill or any currency implies to them in their minds that he’s threatening the very basis on which the society is founded. Which would explain the extremity of the measures to which they went, that he was coming dangerously close to undermining something which was a basic building block of the society’s values, that is, the face value of the currency, or the way currency is used or perceived. So, if people start to question the basis on which the basic currency of the culture is empowered, then that really is a societal threat, and that would, I think that would explain some of the extreme reaction to what he did.”

Leilani’s battle is no different. Unfortunately, the reaction to her work was perceived as such a societal threat that she found herself face to face with Lee Sanderson, one of Hawaii’s most powerful attorneys. Sanderson worked against Leilani first representing a geothermal energy company which was at odds with a combination of activists from the Big Island Rainforest Action Group and a local native Hawaiian rights group. Years later, Sanderson was kept on a conditional retainer by the military to avoid a lawsuit stemming from the release of radioactive material into the ocean following a nuclear submarine accident, which was revealed only by a whistleblower long after the event had passed. Sanderson, working with a heavyweight public relations firm, had handled the crisis so effectively that it never saw the light of day.

Leilani, who I met while filming Saburo and his wife Miyabi, reluctantly agreed to an interview, which you can see here. It has been several years since she’s been involved in the native Hawaiian rights movement.


Saburo is a novelist whose novel has been quite successful in Japan. I was getting a coffee at Ala Moana Center, behind Nordstrom’s, and we shared a table. I just asked him what he was doing in Hawaii, and he was pretty open. In fact, he had some interesting ideas about paradise which he didn’t want me to mention, but they are going into his new book which he’s currently writing, called (roughly translated) “Honolulu In Winter.” He understood English but preferred to speak Japanese. See translation below, and the interview here.


My novel? It’s called “In Time for the Cicada Monsoon”.

It’s about a boy who spends his youth in the countryside. And he leaves for the city.
He loses himself in the life of the city. Only when he returns to the country, does he
find himself again. This is the story.

When I was a young boy, I grew up in the countryside and drew a lot of imagery and
this story from that.

“So you’re here on a honeymoon, or what?”

Yes. On the tenth of last month, I just got married. And this is our honeymoon.

“So how long are you here for?”

Umm. 10 days, I think.

“Are you working on another novel or…?”

Yes. I am working on a new novel. It’s called “Honolulu in Winter.”


Politicians, religions, advertisements all promise fulfillment. “Stick with me,” they tell us, “and I’ll get you there.” Yet “there” is ever elusive, ever-changing, always greener on “the other side” — there, wherever it is.

Upon leaving New York for Honolulu, I realized some interesting common aspects between the two places. Honolulu and Manhattan are both islands. People the world over look to Manhattan for “utopia” or at least the latest advancements towards the Manhattan-based UN version. Albeit a different utopia on the opposite, more nature-centric end of the spectrum, Hawaii promises vacationers an edenic paradise. Both places were also shaken by world-changing attacks, 60 years apart.

On the plane I met someone interesting who agreed to a series of interviews (click here to view the only interview I actually managed to get), although he remains cryptic as to his line of work. We caught up at Bogart’s near Diamond Head a couple of days after we landed.

Echo in Rapa Nui

(click on image for story)

Latin American Legacy

“This seeking to create a paradise on earth… how easily it offends. Your Holiness is offended because it may distract from that paradise which comes hereafter. The Spanish and Portuguese kings are offended because a paradise of the poor is seldom pleasing to those who rule. And the settlers here are offended for the same reason.”

– “The Mission,” Directed by Roland Joffé

“They’re the last free people on the planet.”

The Front Lines

On September 22 in Los Angeles I attended a conference on sustainability models, and met another attendee named David Endler. David’s a well-spoken resource who mentioned he plans to be in Hawaii for vacation in a couple of months, and he’s just called me back and agreed to an interview. I wasn’t able to get much from him other than that he works at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

David Endler, Los Angeles, September 2010

Additional thought

Politics and advanced weapons technology controlled by certain countries don’t keep the world from falling into chaos. We are all still human beings and subject to the chaos in our own lives. Hence there’s no escaping chaos — unless, we choose to take the fight to the real front line: our own heart.