Current Thoughts (Mostly Hawaii)

Our Pop – 1923 – 2019

According to the time clock on the video, the service took 17 minutes and 12 seconds, give or take a second.

With the transport of the ashes to the new columbarium, columbarium 13 the friends and family that came to see my father for the last time was in and out of Punchbowl in one hour flat.

One hour to say goodbye to someone that was born in the greatest generation, and lived through seven more generations while on earth. From the Silent generation to what is now called “Gen Alpha”.

A person who lived through a World War, economic booms, busts, moves, divorces, marriages, fatherhood, home ownership, a high-end executive and an expat who lived overseas.

Stanford Fichtman, April 2011
PC: Fichtman family collection

You cannot encompass a life like that in one hour. Although the people at the service did symbolize the different eras of my father’s life. From family – all of my siblings and I brought our families back to Hawai‘i for the service – to friends, they embraced a memory of a person that touched them to the point where they wanted to come, and say goodbye.

The service was not full of wailing, crying people, but of young, middle aged, older, military people, airline people, Jaycee people. They all came to pay homage to a man who lived through all that life and somehow, as Howard Cosell said about Frank Sinatra in 1974, “never found a gap”.

It was colorful. After all, on the obituary that announced the service, it did say “Attire: anything but black”. In the spirit of Hawai‘i, those attending did come in color – and provided it of what was a somewhat overcast day, with threatening showers that never came.

And at the end, it was a celebration. Even the internment of the ashes into the niche at the columbarium was one where many came to see the event. An event of which my brother Bruce, my sister Rose, and I quietly with a kiss on the urn, put our father in his final resting place.

As he would have wanted it to be, a nice, simple ceremony with some people around, and no fanfare. This for a man who went from the streets of Washington Heights in New York, where his father was a butcher, to being the top of leadership of one of the most prestigious airlines in Hawai‘i – Aloha Airlines.

Stanford Fichtman, World War II, second from right
PC: Fichtman family collection

A man who was a high speed teletype operator, which he told his kids about, and a man who was a master sharpshooter – something he never told his kids about.

A man who came back from war, tried out for the New York Giants as a pitcher, but got waylaid by an injury in his arm.

Undated photo of Stanford Fichtman with a baseball bat
PC: Fichtman family collection

A man who was told by his father to get a real education with that GI Bill that Uncle Sam gave him after his service in World War II. A gift in which he obtained his aircraft and powerplant license – giving him a career that spanned 50 years in commercial aviation.

A father who loved his children above even himself. A father that would scold, but also sympathize, sometimes all in the same breath.

A husband who, through no words of his own, taught both of his sons the value of loving a wife, embracing love and protecting that family at whatever costs. He taught how to love during the healthy times, and showing the pain when he had to say goodbye to his beloved wife – my mother – Joanne.

And finally, a person that loved to drive a Cadillac, but in his older age was content to buying a Ford Taurus. His reasoning? He didn’t want to look pretentious.

That is a man whom my family, his friends and a few others, came to say goodbye to on February 5, 2020. But the goodbye was not the beginning of the end, but truly an end of a beginning. For he was the father of three children, who all are grown up, have jobs, raise their own families and keep their own homes. Our Pop lives in my sister, my brother, and I, along with our families, to continue a legacy of Stanford Fichtman.

Have we run out of ideas?

So a few days ago, on my Facebook page “Politics Hawai‘i with Stan Fichtman”, I posted an article by CNBC, outlining how the order came down to take out Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, by a US drone. It talked about the conversations made to the President, Donald Trump, by advisers who, at Mar-A-Lago, presented options to the President in response to Iranian attacks in the Green Zone in Baghdad.

One of the things that the article said was that, within the list of options presented, one of them was the assassination of this Iranian Major General. It was said in the article that this was the “most extreme” reaction that the President had as an option, among others.

Wait, so there was an option, a viable option, presented to the President of the United States to assassinate a member of the Government of Iran, a sovereign nation? Let that sink in for a second.

For a long time, the United States has differentiated who it went after when it came to targeted individuals. When it came to people like Osama Bin Laden and ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the veneer of them being “state agents” didn’t exist. They were nothing more than violent rebels that the United States targeted, and took their shot without worry.

In this case, here, the President and his advisers decided that a governmental leader of a sovereign state should be downgraded to the same level as the violent rebel, and treated as such. Needless to say, as a scholar of traditional political science, the fact that the Untied States at this current time has taken this step is quite surprising.

The reason I say that is because for many years during the cold war, the United States would be a major player in the “taking out” if you will of sovereign leaders and their people. From President Allende of Chile in 1973 (the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) backed that one) to the 1963 South Vietnamese coup that took out President Ngô Đình Diệm, again with CIA oversight but all linked to the desires of the administration at the time.

The United States has taken out soverign leaders before
(L) Salvador Allende, Chile; (R) Ngô Đình Diệm, South Vietnam
PC: (L) “SalvadorAllende.jpg” by Jorge Barahona is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 
PC (R) “U1093469” by Tommy Truong79 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

After these events, and a few more, scrutiny and criticism of these actions led the United States Congress to tell the President that it didn’t want the country to be in the business of killing off governmental leaders in other sovereign countries. After all, if we went and took out any bad guy we wanted to, even if they ran a legitimately recognized country, we could be seeing the same activity happen on our shores, with international players assassinating our leaders.

So, despite this logical equivalency of “if you take out mine, we can take our yours” as the justification for not killing off governmental leaders in countries we don’t like, has the United States decided, still, to re-engage in this activity?

It is my hope that we have not. Going back to the aides that provided the President the option to kill Soleimani as an option to respond to Iranian action in Baghdad, I cite a quote from the 1979 movie “Time After Time”.  HG Welles, played by Malcolm McDowell, says to Amy Robbins (Mary Steenburgen) says “The first man to raise a fist is the man who’s run out of ideas.”

Did the aides giving this recommendation to the President do this because they have run out of ideas? I really hope not, for the sake of this country.  

The Brutality of the Museum Market

On Saturday the 28th of December, a museum closed its doors for the final time.

And no, we are not talking about the recent reports on the Barbers Point Naval Air Museum, which by the way is going to court.

No, we’re talking about here another World War II-themed museum, the Home of the Brave Museum in Kakaako. A couple of months ago its owner Glen Tomlinson, announced that due to increasing rent in this hot section of Honolulu, that the museum could not afford and would close down at the end of the year.

It looks like there was no leeway on the rent price, and so another museum has closed its doors. They aren’t the only one, by the way, that has made moves to downsize or close up shop.

One of the more prominent museums in Hawaii – the Honolulu Museum of Art – has decided to slim down and shed properties that seemed to take more money to maintain than what was being generated. The Spalding House on Tantalus, which was a second location for the museum, was shut down earlier this December and is being sold. Listing price of the property, $15 million.

So, as these developments occurred, along with what Brad Hayes of the Barbers Point Naval Air Museum told me about how museums make a living in this town, I had to wonder if there is a stated formula to keep these entities open. In other words, what keeps some of these museums open and thriving and some of them to die on the capitalistic vine?

The key I have learned is the tour industry (Roberts, Polynesian Hospitality, Grey Line, etc.) and whether they direct traffic to these entities. Looking into this, I found out that if you’re not on the tour bus routes, where passengers are dropped off on pre-paid tours, your entity is already behind the eight-ball when it comes to people traffic to your location.

Brad told me in my interview with him that one of the reasons why the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum does so well is because it’s “on the routes” of tour buses bringing tourists from Waikiki and other locations to their area to buy admission and look around. Other locations that seem to do well with this includes the Arizona Memorial and Punchbowl.

IMG_6311
Despite other transportation options, many tourists to Hawaii still utilize tour groups, and their buses, to get them to desired attractions.
PC: “IMG_6311” by pdxjeff is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

Even restaurants get into the game on this with my observation of a tour bus dropping off hungry tourists at Lobster King restaurant on King and Keeaumoku Street. Without that link, I am sure that not all the seats at that restaurant would be filled.  

As for what deals are made to make those busses drive up to the entrance way of a museum, or restaurant, or dinner cruise boat, that is something I am sure takes negotiation on both sides. It could be assumed that the deals made benefit both the tour company and the entity itself. After all, how did Crouching Lion, which is a restaurant on the East Coast of Oahu and really out of the way of anything urban, become a go-to place for tourists?

Oahu explored
Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery attracts over 2 million visitors every year, many of them come by tour bus to look around. This is on top of those who come to honour the passing of veterans and loved ones.
PC: “Oahu explored” by NancyFry is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

What it boils down to at the end, unfortunately, is the power of the market and how the market values certain things. In tourism, that value is measured so frequently by those promoting those entities that one day you could be the best attraction for tourists, and the next day you’re not. And for those who are able to adapt, like the Honolulu Museum of Art, you downsize and sell off hoping to right size for the market.

But for others, like the Home of the Brave Museum, you sign off.

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