Volcano Gardens - A Tale of 3 Generations of Artists
Dr. Rodney Chang *
May 9, 2013
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"Andrea's Volcano Gardens" is
a tale of 3 generations of artists, a story about family that can uplift the
spirit and provide an example for other families on how to work together and
assist aging parents to keep active.
"How so?," you may be asking. This story starts in the Philippines.
Andrea Cabico, 77, decades ago, like so many other immigrants to America,
decided to give up what she had in her native land, in order to secure better
opportunity for her young children. She sold her acres of rice and tobacco
fields in Ilocos Sur province. There she had the most beautiful residential
garden, unlike her neighboring farmers' parcels. She was disappointed that
her neighbors could not comprehend why she wasted time and resources, just to
make her land “pretty.” "They
were all blind to beauty."
moved with her husband Pio, now 74, and their 4 young daughters and son
from the spacious farmland and into a cramped apartment rental on McNeil Street
in Honolulu’s inner city neighborhood of Kalihi. They had to make due
with what Pio made working at the local gas company and herself working in a chicken
butchery and packing warehouse on Dillingham Blvd. She was downtrodden but
thankful to be in Hawaii and "America.” Eventually the family saved
enough to make the down-payment for a modest house in Waipahu. It didn't
take long before the property's front yard was the most beautiful on the street.
Andrea now had about 500 feet of frontage to create her first Hawaii flower
garden. She loved her days off from
the poultry slaughterhouse, finding solace from the daily massacre at work - by
nurturing planted seeds to sprout, grow, then blossom into a rainbow of colors.
Generously, she and Pio sold their residence to move to Las Vegas in order to
assist with a daughter's startup family. Back then, Vegas was the boomtown
for jobs. Long story short, like for so many island families that gambled on Las
Vegas for better employment than could be had on Oahu, the economy sunk and boom
turned into personal bust for the Cabico's family in Nevada. Circumstances
led to her daughter's family move back to Hawaii as renters, with only enough
space for the immediate family. Andrea
and her husband, now retired, were in need of a place to stay.
leads to my own story. You may know of me if you are a Baby Boomer.
I'm the dentist that you saw on national television, the “disco dentist” who
remodeled his Kalihi bland waiting room with discotheque
décor. Judging from the times folks viewed me dancing in commercials,
I was one of the most popular eccentrics featured on the then most popular TV
program entitled Real People. During those days there were only 3
"stations." No seemingly infinite choices of cable channels like
today. NBC's Real People presentation of nutty people was rated as the
most viewed program of the 3 networks in 1979-1980. In the 1980 reruns, I
again anchored the nationally televised commercials, dancing away in my dental
clinic. I must have been, back then during the disco mania era,
America's most famous dentist. That's history, my true story, my "15
minutes of fame," as described by the late Andy Warhol.
Now how does
this relate to "Andrea's Gardens?" OK, time to get more to the
Turning 6-0, I
did my last public dance performance. I reserved the Rumors dance
club in Waikiki for my 60th birthday party bash. Celebrity disco diva,
Yvonne Elliman, famous for the dance hit "If I Can't Have You,"
highlighted the disco birthday dance party with her presence.
My own birthday dance with my wife is still viewable on Youtube.
Since I no
longer would be dancing (I already felt like the last disco dancer in
clubs in 2005), I realized I'd better find some other way to exercise regularly,
entering my senior years. So I got the idea to run multiple 26-mile
marathons through my 60's, to prepare for my 70's, when I expected to become
more sedentary. I had run only 13 Honolulu Marathons from age 30 to age 59
- for dance conditioning, so figured I'd better step it up moving forward in
age, and running now for longevity instead of for Saturday nights’ disco
I'm now 67 and next month's Kona marathon will challenge me to cross my
47th Finish Line, God willing. I'm
trying to complete 50
marathons before I hang up my running shoes, just like I did my dance shoes.
The heart is still willing, but now the knees and hips are threatening to go on
strike. Including training runs, that's only about 1,200 miles to
go! I think, over a life time, these knees and hips have endured 150,000+
miles of pounding concrete and asphalt (plus 45 years of twisting, spinning,
jumping, in disco dancing), so deserve their retirement. If my body was an
old car, the "trade in" might be $25 - cost to get if off my hands.
Including training runs, that's only about 1,200 miles to go! I think, over a life time, these knees and hips have endured 150,000+ miles of pounding concrete and asphalt (plus 45 years of twisting, spinning, jumping, in disco dancing), so deserve their retirement. If my body was an old car, the "trade in" might be $25 - cost to get if off my hands.
the marathons I participated in was the Volcano Marathon. And that's how I
discovered, as a sheltered Honolulu city boy, the magnificent beauty of the
giant fern trees that add enchantment to the rain forests at that elevation of
the Volcano National Park, with its fuming Kilauea crater. It was magical
running within the national park, struggling over the 26.2 miles of barren lava
fields of the now defunct Volcano
Marathon. Thicken vog, injuries, and liability, I guess, put an end to
that annual run, then promoted as "the toughest marathon to complete in the
world." I believe I was the
oldest, at 62, of the 220 runners that took on the challenging course in 2007.
Most were in their 20s and 30s; most appeared to be in the military.
Tough Marines, and the “Army strong.”
is how I discovered the property on which Andrea's Gardens are now taking
root. I got title to 3 acres of rain forest with an existing cottage. A
large room was modeled into a dance room. A neon sign, blazing
"Volcano Disco," glows at dance
parties in the rain forest. Like in a time capsule, Disco Doc
still boogies to all the golden dance hits of the 70s and 80s. Donna
Summers, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston seem to resurrect, performing once
again on the large video screen above the dance floor. Every party starts
with Whitney’s "The Greatest
Love of All." It’s a tear-jerker every time I watch the video and
hear Whitney sing that song. Her poster, as well as one of Michael and another
of Donna, hang on a wall of the dance floor, like a private hall of fame.
I'm still in love
with Whitney (as well as Donna).
My wife, Erlinda, the eldest daughter of Andrea, lets it
pass. In fact, she knows she looked like a Filipina
version of Whitney when she was younger, and that's what attracted me when I
found her in the dental chair, resulting in our marriage.
union brought Rochelle into the world, Andrea's granddaughter. When
Rochelle was just 3, she out-discoed her father, the Disco Doc. I then
knew she was a chip off the old block, that dance was in her blood. I
realized then that dance performance would continue into the next generation.
Long story short, Rochelle, today 21, just graduated from the most prestigious
college program for classical ballet, The
Jacobs School of Music at Big Ten Indiana University. After coming
home to visit, she's off to Colorado for a summer gig, and then will display her
talent in New York City.
To the disappointment of her grandmother, Andrea!
and Pio, in need of a place after the Vegas debacle, were offered lodging at my
Volcano "spiritual retreat" in the rain forest. They would take
care of the property; I would support them as a loving son-in-law. Just
minimal housekeeping and providing security would suffice. But then Andrea
eyed all that land. She heard that the private disco was only temporary,
that it eventually would be converted into her talented granddaughter’s
ballet studio. There's a Charter school in Volcano Village where kids
don't have any access to ballet lessons. So Andrea, already possessed with
her need to express her creativity through gardening, informed me,
"I will create my lifetime ‘garden masterpiece’ so that when
Rochelle's future students come for class, they will walk through beautiful
flower gardens, inspiring their dancing."
So that's the story of Andrea's Volcano Gardens. Grandma labors with
passion 7 days-a-week, rain or shine - usually rain, in preparation of her
granddaughter's eventual coming. Meanwhile, her son-in-law can keep on
disco dancing when he vacations from Honolulu with his wife, who eagerly comes
to visit her parents (more than to disco anymore). Being that I am a
lifelong artist (MA, painting, Chicago; Ph.D., Aesthetic Psychology,
Cincinnati), the gardens inspire my digital
art. And for you fellow Boomers who have a novel in your head that you
never get around to write, try long distance running. Thousands of miles
of jogging with the mind in idle, and inspiration to use Andrea's fantasy
gardens as the story's setting, led to the materialization of mine - Voggy
Visions. Meanwhile, Andrea pursues her goal to do her life's garden
masterpiece with 3 acres of rain forest as raw canvas. And Rochelle,
budding ballet starlet off to the East Coast, will eventually come to roost and
share her talent with Volcano and other Puna neighborhood children who welcome
the opportunity to learn classical ballet.
There you have it, Andrea Volcano Gardens, volcanic gardens and forest
that serve 3 generations of artists in Hawaii. Here's a peek at the
gardens on its 1st
anniversary in December, 2013.
Some may be asking, “What ever happen to
the Disco Dentist? Disco Doc
transformed himself to Pygoya, Web artist and co-founder of Webism,
an art movement of global artists, now hundreds strong, dedicated to making
digital art FOR the Internet instead of physical galleries. Pygoya is also
founder and director of a virtual art museum at LastPlace.com.
Search Google with “internet art museum” and Truly Virtual Web Art
Museum is listed lst among over 185 million link results.
A big victory for a Hawaii-based Web site! The brick n’ mortar New York
City museums, like MOMA and the Whitney, are listed below Py’s virtual