When I was four and asked what I wanted to be when I grew up –– a common question asked of kids in the early sixties because I was asked it a LOT –– I always yelled out: FAMOUS! My fame balloon deflated however, once I entered first grade in the Hawaii School System, when it became apparent that fame would not bedazzle those who were awkward and shy. And I was both. So eventually I just worked on being smart, which doesn’t have the panache sound of ‘famous.’ Smart is just smart and got me in trouble when I frequently ventured into smart-ass territory.
In the spring of 1978 I got to touch the little finger of Fame however. Back on Maui after a term at Lewis and Clark College and determined not to live with my parents in Kihei, I roomed with two restaurant workers in a one-bedroom apartment clear on the other side of the island in Napili. I got myself a baking job in the very cool town of Lahaina, where there were frequent sightings of rockers in the clubs on Front Street. Many nights there were impromptu performances by Jackson Browne, Jesse Colin Young or Elton John at the Blue Maxx, while I was underage-drinking right down the street at the Water Works. (I wasn’t known as being at the right place at the right time back then.)
My new job was in a cool place called Longhi’s on Front Street, down from the Blue Maxx and I, at a very uncool and (still) awkward seventeen, had so much cool around me, I felt almost cool. We were all beach-clad hippies in that giant kitchen, where the food was our scepter, local weed our inspiration and rock-an- roll blasting through giant hanging speakers our muse. I baked in a little alley at the rear, by the walk-in cooler, across from the tiny bathroom and near the unhinged screen door exiting onto Papalaua Street. Mango pie, fruit parfaits, grasshopper pie, peanut butter cheesecake, zucchini cake were big and yummy and during my 12-8 shift, I finished up the daily baking of breads and desserts while woman-ing the giant dessert tray for the waitresses and waiters. I also maintained the apple pipe in the bathroom since I was closest. (And how cool is that?)
There I was, very liberated in a kitchen full of men, save for Jan the head baker and Marina, the aging hippie artist pasta lady who lived on a sailboat anchored a rowboat’s ride from Front Street and the restaurant.
Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors had been out about a year but it was new to us on Maui, since most things back then arrived by boat. All the members of Fleetwood Mac were hanging out in Lahaina that year and their place of frequency was Longhis Restaurant! They regularly sat at a corner booth, known as the Fleetwood Mac booth, and soon we all stopped gawking, they were there so often.
One day when I came to work, the prep list left for me by Jan said to bake a carrot sheet cake, to be sold whole to the Fleetwood Mac table for Stevie Nicks’ birthday. Her note said “make it good” or something to that effect. “Wow,” I remember thinking, “that’s cool.” So I baked the carrot cake, topped it with our luscious cream cheese frosting and lovingly grated little flecks of orange peel over it.
Dinner rush came, the cake went out and all was well. I was scrubbing down the maple table when it happened. Led Zeppelin blasting from the big black speakers crashed into silence. I turned toward the main prep kitchen behind me and there she was, a blurry apparition of skirts and shawls, floating through our food-world . . . towards me! I turned away from her, afraid to look (I know, still awkward) and resumed scrubbing my table. Then I heard the bathroom door close behind me.
Was it clean in there? Why was she in our bathroom? Were the other ones broken? WERE there other bathrooms? (I don’t remember). Was the apple pipe stocked with hash? Did she like the cake? All I could do was ponder these important questions as she peed behind that door then left. I turned back toward the kitchen only in time to see the beautiful edge of her skirt disappear like a butterfly wing around the corner of the kitchen into the dining room. If she remembers that birthday of hers at Longhis on Maui, she’ll probably recall that snotty baker who ignored her. No, not snotty, just shy as hell.
Anyway, so that’s my fame: “I baked a birthday cake for Stevie Nicks.” And I think that’s as good as it’s going to get. But when I hear my grown daughter tell her friends as she cues up vintage Fleetwood Mac in her car, “My mom baked a birthday cake for Stevie Nicks,” well, I feel sorta famous! Who knew?