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Talking Story with Marco Engquist

Marco Engquist is a paramedic. He came to Kauai over four decades ago, and spent his first year on the island naked in a cave. He tells the story like this:

Ambulance calls are nothing. See, there’s different categories in my life. There was a year in Kalalau. A year. I had a two bedroom cave in Kalalau, with five thousand dollars.

I was working for an airline in Chicago, loading planes — like a baggage smasher. And one of the mechanics says, hey Marco, let’s go to Maui. So we went to Maui the next week on United. Fifty bucks, roundtrip.

And then I fell in love with Hawaii, right then and there, and came back. But I threw a dart at a map, and it hit right Wai’ale’ale. And I had never been to Kauai, but it hit that. Nobody had ever heard of Kauai that long ago. So I went to the library and looked it up, and it said Kauai was the dreamiest island. And that word caught my attention.

So I went and got some topographical maps of Kauai from the Edina Library — Edina, Minnesota. And it had these — you know how topographical maps are, they got these lines — and it’s like sea level, and then right next to it is 4,000 feet. I know there’s a huge cliff there.

So I thought, God! It’s gotta be insane. So then I flew in here, and, it was insane.

Marco was 22 years old. He had $5,400 in cash because he sold everything he owned back home, bought a one way plane ticket from Los Angeles to Lihue, and took off in an old Ford Fairlane station wagon that “leaked oil all the way to the West Coast — one steady line of oil all the way across country.”

I arrived on February 2nd, 1977. Okay? First year, was in Kalalau. I was a hippie — completely naked. I had a cave with two pockets to it, you know. I had a roll of hundred dollar bills — Fifty-four hundred dollars — with a rubber band around it.

Yeah, February 2nd, ‘77. I was with Joe Freeman. We rented a car and took off, and when you get up to where Kentucky Fried Chicken is right now, you either made a right or a left. There was no bypass then. You know what I’m sayin’? You know how you just turn right, right out of the airport? That wasn’t there then. You had to go into town and either take a right or a left. So I took a left. And that’s why I’ve been living on the West Side ever since. If I’d have taken a right, I’d be living in Hanalei right now.

You know, but I took a left. So I wound up in Waimea. And on the way out to Waimea, we picked up this hitchhiker. And so we stopped at Hanapepe lookout, and its beautiful! So I’m going like, wow! So we both get out of the car.

Malcom — I still remember the guy’s name, the hitchhiker’s name — he lived in Kekaha. He wanted to get to Kekaha. This was my very first hours in Kauai, and I’ve already been ripped off.

So look, here’s what happened. The guy, Malcom, he steals $500 worth of travelers checks out the glove compartment.

We get to Kekaha, and I drop him off at his house. And then Joe goes, “You know, I noticed something bulging in his pocket. You wanna check the glove compartment?” So I checked — Yeah, empty. No travelers checks.

So I was like very, very, uh, on fire. So I walk up to the front door. I can see there’s a bunch of adults — you know, like his parents or something — people having a brunch there. And I knock on the door and said, “Malcom! I wanna see you right now. Get out here.

He said, “Yeah? Uh, what?”

“I want the five-hundred dollars travelers checks. I know I can get the money back from the bank, but I don’t wanna go through the hassle. I want those five hundred dollars in travelers checks. And I want ‘em now! You got ten seconds, and this whole neighborhood’s gonna know that you’re a f***in’ thief, including those people that look like they’re really respectable. This is a nice sunny day. You better face up. Ten, nine, eight, seven…”

And all of a sudden he runs, comes back with a newspaper, and the checks are in there. So I take it and said, “Don’t do that again, would ya?”

So then the day gets better after that. We go up to Kokee — very top. Full moon, hangin’ out. You can check history.

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the moon was only 98 percent full on the night of Feb. 2, 1977. It wouldn’t be completely full until 5:58 p.m. the following day.

We camped right on the lookout of Kalalau Valley, and it was just beautiful. Then we came down, and that guy, Malcom, had given me the address of a dressmaker. As bad as he was for doing that, he did turn me on to the address of this dressmaker, Mrs. Yamane.

So I went to Mrs. Yamane’s place, and I left a note for her — “I need a place to rent.” And I got a place, due to Malcom! I just went back the next day, and she says, “Yeah. I got a place for you. I got a little shack up in the canyon.” Twenty five dollars a month!

And there was two old Filipinos there. Guys that sit there and make fishnets. Now, I’ve got pictures for all of this. So I meet Martin and Calistro. Martin was 70, and Calistro was 88, or something like that — or 85.

They had a ‘57 Chevy, and they were nice to me, you know. My first day there, they gave me some pakalolo — they gave me some marijuana, you know. So I just smoked it and hung out.

Below is an obituary from the Oct. 7, 1997 edition of the Honolulu Star Bulletin:

“Florence Haru Yamane, 89, of Waimea, Kauai, a seamstress, died Tuesday Jul 8, 1997 in Kauai Veterans Hospital. Born in Makaweli, Hawaii, she is survived by sons…daughters…24 grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Services: 3 p.m. Saturday at Assembly of God Church, Kekaha. Casual attire.”

Marco was there when Mrs. Yamane died. He got the ambulance call.

My shack was secured. So I put all my stuff in there. And then, I just had a backpack, and a lotta dough, and I went — hitchhiked around the island — turned the car in. Hitchhiked around the island, went to Kalalau, and went straight into Kalalau.

And I stayed there…for a year.

And everybody’s naked, and you gotta walk eleven miles to get to it. And that’s from the Ke‘e Beach. You start at Ke‘e Beach, you walk eleven miles in the

So every week I would give some girl or some guy a hundred dollar bill, and say, “Run innda Hanalei and get some more food.”

You know, we’re not exactly living off the land here. Everybody thinks you can live off the land in Kalalau…aaand…there was a couple guys that really were. But they are very good at living off the land, you know. Like, they had guns, and irrigation and everything in their houses, and stuff, you know.

But these hippies from LA… They didn’t know what to do. We had cherry tomatoes and guavas and oranges and a lotta good stuff — lilikois — but that’s not enough to keep you f***in’ sustained. I had to buy rice and lentils and beans and all kinds of stuff that they would bring in to keep us alive, ya know……and chunks of cheese.

And then we would catch fish. Fishing poles, and we’d always catch fish. That was — mainstay is fish. And then opihi on the rocks — we did that. And you flip ‘em upside down and put ‘em on the grill, you know, and put a little soy sauce, and they pop right off the shell, and…pshew!

So that was a great life there for a year. And naked girls around me, at all times. Completely naked. And beautiful girls too. Not hairy — eh, some of ‘em had hair — but they were just stone cold foxes.

But, you know, one night. One night! It was Christmas Eve. And there was no girls in there that night. It was cold. It was winter.

It was Christmas Eve. This is getting on about a year I been in there now. Runnin’ outta money and everything, ya know. Anyway…

The kids from LA came, and they had a bow and arrow, you know. And they were trying to test it out, and they f***in’ shot a goat, believe it or not. And then, they didn’t know how to clean it.

But then we just happened to have a chef from Quebec. A French chef. He cl— dressed the thing out, and then we put it on this stick, and we hand-rotisser’d it for hours and hours and hours… In this cave, out of the rain — and it was raining…

This is, like, one of the non-fun times of Kalalau.

We were just sittin’ there, you know, and everybody’d pass the joint around — crippler — and we couldn’t even f***in’ talk. We were just — just speechless. And we would take turns, turning the crank. And the goat’s going arouuund and arouund.

And then this guy……in a white robe…

The guy has a beard — looks like Moses. He walks out of the darkness. Out of the rain. And he walks up to us, and he’s just looking at the ten of us. Nobody says nuthin’.

He just looks at the goat, and he’s just dripping wet, and he’s looking at the goat going arouund and arouuuuund, and he was staring at it.

Like a minute goes by, and nobody says anything. And then all a sudden he goes:


Source: The Garden Island

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