No Problem, Brah
by Kyle Roth


"Okay, brah. Yeah, no problem," is something you'll hear David

Kaonohi (not his real name) saying quite often. Kaonohi, a

business agent for a worker's union, takes the problems of others

and makes them his problems. He runs his hands through his short,

thick, salt-and-pepper-colored hair as he places the receiver

back in the cradle. This particular caller, like some others,

has reached David after hours at home.

Picking up his crumpled pack of cigarettes, he pulls out the last

one, tosses the empty pack across the kitchen where it banks off the

side of the refrigerator and falls into the trash can. He heads

for the screen door, pushes it open before he lights his

cigarette and remarks, "I never smoke inside. The smoke not good for the

kids."

Fitting his toes into his black slippers, he turns and

walks over to a wooden-backed bench. As he sits, he sighs and

says, "You know, wouldn't be so bad getting that call if that guy

was a member of my unit." Sporadically, members from units

outside of the ones assigned to Kaonohi call him, for they feel

comfortable talking to him because he was once "one of them."

David was an active member of the union before he became a

business agent. He held numerous elected positions including

unit treasurer, unit chairperson, delegate to every convention

(including one to Chicago), representative to state contract

negotiations, as well as being elected to four terms on the state

executive board.

A long puffy-white cloud escapes his mouth as he suddenly

remembers that he's out of cigarettes. "Betta go store."

Jumping into his car, he starts the engine and simultaneously

blows out his last puff and flicks the butt out of the window.

Maneuvering his vehicle into the flow of traffic he comments

about the demands of his job, "Sometimes they stop me in stores

to talk business. Humbug dat kine."

He likes helping people and feels he always has throughout his

life. He recalls taking the time to help out fellow "local boys"

when he was in the Navy. According to Kaonohi, the country that

they were defending treated the minority as if they were

something other than equal citizens of the United States.

Incensed, Kaonohi wrote to Senator Inouye and took the Navy to

court and won. As helpful as he is, Kaonohi admits that being

confronted with work-related problems in the presence of his

family at shopping malls and at sporting events is a bit much.

Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel, Kaonohi starts to sing

a few lines of "Puanani" that's melodiously flowing from the

radio air waves. Unexpectedly, a car switches lanes and pulls

right in front of him without signalling. "Oh, boy, that buggah

lucky this wasn't a few years back." Apparently, a wild car chase

would've ensued. The incident caused David to reflect that when

his daughter was a toddler, things she said made him stop and

think about his actions. What she would say "was a reflection of

me and I didn't like what I heard." The violent inclinations had

to stop. His thoughts jump back to his work and he describes

some of the cases that he's working on. He tells of injustices

on the work sites, the breaking of contract laws, harassment and

intimidation. Quite a few members are afraid to speak up for

themselves.

David slows the car down, turns and parks next to an old blue

pickup truck plastered with stickers depicting organizations,

awareness and pride of the Hawaiian people. As he quickly

scanned the various stickers, he blurts out that when he was

younger, he never identified with being Hawaiian. "I didn't

wanna be Hawaiian because the way society talked Hawaiians being

lazy, being dumb...only drinking beer." He has since studied the

culture, history, and plight of his people and is currently

assessing the issue of sovereignty.

Leaving the little market with his newly-purchased pack of

cigarettes, David runs into someone he knows. They shake hands,

exchange a few words, laugh, and call out in their departure "K-

den. Later, brah." David quickly lights another cigarette as he

opens the door and climbs back into the car. "I used to hang

around with that guy in high school." In his youth, he didn't

think of himself as rebellious but, as he firmly states,

"inquisitive and adventurous. I am the same as I was then. I

stand up for my rights." He takes another long drag from his

cigarette, turns the radio back on, and waves at someone in a

passing