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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Manaola Yap

 

Kohala native Manaola Yap grew up processing dyes from native roots and plants, while helping his mother, kumu hula Nani Lim Yap, create elaborate hula costumes for performances. These early experiences now inform his brand of Hawaiian luxury clothing, Manaola Hawai‘i, which made its New York Fashion Week debut in September 2017.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Jan. 20, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Manaola Yap Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

At a MAMo show, I wanted to make underwear, and I actually started with men’s underwear. And that’s a touchy subject. I mean, even at that time when we had first started moving into that space, I did get a lot of backlash. [CHUCKLE]

 

Why is that a touchy subject? I don’t get it.

 

Because it’s kind of promiscuous, and it’s sexy, and a lot of—

 

It’s too personal.

 

It’s too personal. And not only that; they’re like: Oh, you know, it’s exposed, and this and that. And I was like: Okay, well, let’s look at our kupuna. I mean, they were topless. You know, the body was celebrated, all these things. A lot of the mindset that comes from ignorance, and the ignorance of being schooled in the traditional concepts of the missionary mindset.

 

He’s a fast-rising star in the international fashion scene, while he remains firmly rooted in Native Hawaiian culture. The phenomenon known as Manaola Yap, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawaii’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Top New York fashion houses learned a new name in 2017: Manaola Yap. The name belongs to a young Hawaiian from Kohala, who dazzled with his first runway collection at the prestigious New York Fashion Week. He wowed the audience with bold and modern designs inspired by his knowledge of Native Hawaiian culture. Manaola Yap was born on Hawaii Island to Edward Yap and Nani Lim Yap, who are both Hawaiian music teachers and entertainers deeply immersed in their cultural heritage. In addition, mother Nani, from the renowned Lim musical ohana in Kohala, is a much respected kumu hula. These parents gave their son a powerful and eclectic name, Manaola, which mean life force. It’s just part of his name.

 

First of all, there’s your name.

 

Yes.

 

And I’m not talking about Manaola. [CHUCKLE]

 

Okay. So—

 

How did you get your name? And what is your name?

 

My full name. Okay; so my full name is Carrington—

 

Carrington?

 

Yes; Carrington first.

 

Where did that come from?

 

So, Carrington actually came from Dynasty.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

The soap opera. So, my mother and her friend loved Dynasty, and they loved Blake Carrington. And at that time, I think all women did at that time. [CHUCKLE] So, when they were in the hospital, they were watching … or during just that whole time through their pregnancy, they were watching Dynasty, the show. And they and they had a bet that whoever would give birth first would be Blake, and the second would be Carrington. So, her son is Blake, and I’m Carrington.

 

And has anyone ever called you Carrington, really?

 

Yeah. It’s kind of funny, because I feel like my name changed throughout my lifetime thus far. So, I have people that still call me Carrington from, you know, certain events and circles of my mom’s social circles that she has. And then, some call me Manaola, some call me Mana, some call me Bubba. A lot of people call me Bubba.

 

Why Bubba?

 

My sister used to call me Bubba when she was small. And a lot of people in our hula halau, and that’s close to the family. In my family too, they call me Bubba. So, it’s definitely changed. So, Carrington is my first, Edward is my middle name. Well, one of my middle names; that’s from my dad, got that from my dad. So, Carrington Edward, and then Manaolahoowaiwaiikaleikaumakalani. [CHUCKLE] It’s a long one.

 

Now, if Manaola means life force, what does the rest mean?

 

The whole idea, because the name can be read in many different ways. Manaolahoowaiwaiikaleikaumakalani is heaven’s power of life enriching the beloved child. And my aunt, who named me, she’s a late kumu hula, her name was Joan Lindsey, she’s ohana on my mom’s dad’s side. And when she named me, she named me with the intention that everyone that will look upon Manaola in his lifetime will be looked upon with love, with eyes of kindness and love only.

 

Do you think names shape you?

 

Definitely; I’m totally a firm believer in the belief of a name and the energy that a name has once it’s borne into the air. Totally.

 

I know your mom is part of the Lim family, which is legendary. Would you tell us about her family, and then your dad’s family?

 

Yeah.

 

The Yap family.

 

My mom’s family is the Lim ohana. They used to live up on Puu Hoi Ranch. My grandfather was the foreman for Parker Ranch; he’s one of the original cowboys. They grew up in a very, very country style traditional home. My grandpa on my mom’s side was also very Chinese, as well.

 

And there are members of the family all over the Kohala side, generally performing, generally music.

 

Yeah; lots of music and dance, too. My cousin Namakana, she’s actually a Miss Aloha Hula. She’s a really, really beautiful dancer, as well. And aside from our main family, my mom’s also graduated a bunch of kumu that have passed on her legacy of dance. And not even just dancing alone; my mom has also shaped them into beautiful women.

 

And is your father on the creative side, as well?

 

My dad’s super-creative. So, Edward Yap; he’s from Honolulu. My dad and his whole family; very, very loving as well.

 

Your father is Chinese, or Chinese Hawaiian?

 

Chinese Hawaiian; yeah. So, my dad’s Chinese Hawaiian side, he grew up doing a lot of kung fu, martial arts, and all of that, and then, passed that on to me, as well.

 

From a young age, Manaola Yap gravitated toward performing arts and design. By age thirteen, he already started one of several businesses that would help him express his passion for the arts, and put money in his pocket.

 

I always also had a fascination in Asian art and artifacts. Actually, all kinds of ancient artifacts from all over the world. I was also known in my community in Waikoloa. Still yet, they still kinda know me, the old-timers; they know me as the boy that did the garage sale. So, I used to have this big garage sale in our garage, and in our whole lot, actually, full of muumuu, old costumes, fabric, kitchenware, old furniture. All kinds of stuff.

 

And did people negotiate with you?

 

Oh, all the time.

 

And did you like that part?

 

I loved it.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

But in the midst of all of this, ‘cause I know how collectors work, I would put one artifact. Like, I’d put a bunch of, you know, junky things, tchotchkes and all that, and then in the middle of that, I’d put like a Ming Dynasty sculpture in the middle, and just see. Because you can tell if a collector has an eye. And they’ll kinda like pick it right out of the bunch, and they’ll just walk by and be like: Oh, my god, like, they probably don’t even know what it is. [CHUCKLE] And the first piece I sold was a wooden Kwan Yin statue. And I think I sold it for like, six hundred bucks. Should have been sixteen hundred, at least. Sold it for six hundred bucks. And my dad’s like: What are you doing? He’s like, You’re not gonna sell that here. You know, he was like: I don’t think people are gonna buy that kinda stuff. And this guy came out; he was like: How much is that? I’m like: Six hundred bucks. And he pulled out cash, and my dad was like, whoa.

 

And how old were you at this point?

 

At that point, I was like thirteen; twelve or thirteen. Yeah. And a lot of people would come in. And at that time, you know, purchases with designers that were coming in were already spending around seven to eight thousand dollars at a time, in my house.

 

On the Kohala Coast of Hawaii Island, Manaola Yap’s mother, Nani Lim Yap, creates hula shows based on Hawaiian mythology. As a keiki, Manaola would assist in the creative costuming, which would set him on the path to fashion desing.

 

Being in the entertainment business in the Kohala Coast, it was important for us to figure out a way to engage the audience, because they didn’t understand much of what we were doing, or dancing about. So, what Mom started to do, a lot of different people started to do is, create little hula dramas, even in her productions. So, hula dramas where we would explain, you know, the storyline. We’d read a story, tell you what the story is about, and then dance the dance, so that you could make the reference of: Oh, she’s pulling something or, Oh, a volcanic explosion happened. Those kinds of things, so that they could see us becoming the dance, and really make that connection and help them be engaged in the story. So, when that happened, that lent for creative costume. It gave us the creative freedom to be able to step outside of the box, and really start to be expressive in our costume. ‘Cause we were able to look at mythology and say: Oh, she wore a skirt of flames, or Oh, she wore a skirt made of lightning bolts.

 

As the person who’s gonna come up with this costume, how do you do that? What comes to mind?

 

That was the most exciting part of my childhood, the fact that every day, like, my mom was putting together a show, she’d be like: Okay, we have to make a headpiece for Namakaokahai. Okay, she’s the sister of Pele, she’s the sea goddess. Okay, so we’d go to the ocean and we’d find things and be creative.

 

How fun.

 

Yeah.

 

And deep.

 

And deep; definitely. Or we’d go to the forest and be like, okay, Hiiaka, she had pau palai, which is a skirt made of palai ferns.

 

M-hm.

 

So, we’d go and, you know, gather those kinds of things, or look at, Okay, how can we imitate this fern through this fabric, how can we texture this, how can we, you know, add a train that looks like a lava flow. That whole thing really was a start of me getting into costuming and fashion. And what would happen is, after the show was done, even with our myth show, we had girls that were like: Oh, my god, could I borrow this top to go out after? Like, I’m just gonna put jeans with it. And you know, they would go out, and they’d use it. Or they’d be like: Oh, you know, I have a red carpet event, or I’m going to this fancy dinner, can I wear this outfit? And that whole thing started a conversation with other artists or other friends, dancers that would be like: Oh, you know, I’m going to the Hokus, can you make me this outfit; this should be at the Hokus, you know, not just in a show. So, I was like, okay. So, I would create different looks for them, but everything was always done by hand; you know, the concept. I’d draw the concept, we’d cut the patterns, me and Mom would cut the patterns. And Iwa; Iwalani too, she was a really, really important part of my journey, Iwalani. She has her own line, Iwa Wai. But she also was a very close friend that helped me with my construction in summer.

 

You had crossed that divide. You had decided, I’m now gonna charge for costuming, for clothes.

 

Not even yet.

 

You’re doing this for free?

 

I was still doing that for free, even for the Hokus. I didn’t know how. You know. I think the first person I charged … even that was really hard for me.

 

Well, they were your friends, too.

 

They were my friend, too; right? And the way that we create is, I want to know them first. I want to know what is something that they’re missing, or are they a very aggressive person, what can I do in this design to soften that, or help to balance them. That’s what our job is.

 

Well, that sounds a little spiritual, right there.

 

Yeah; totally. So, that’s actually what the brand is based off of, that concept of balance for lifestyle.

 

And somehow, you worked through your feeling like: I can’t charge for this, this is spiritual, this is mana.

 

Definitely. Because what I was able to do is, I was able to see that this piece created … one thing for sure, it’s definitely a different time. Yeah? So, one thing is the times have changed, and there’s that adaptation to time. And also, that the piece itself has been able to change someone, and create more money to create more products, to change more people, and to move our mission forward to help to sustain indigenous culture.

 

Manaola Yap began creating fashion pieces for the Maoli Arts Movement, or MAMo, a festival that celebrates Native Hawaiian art. In 2014, he decided to make a bold statement at MAMo with his very first clothing line.

 

When we did the underwear, that was the scary one for me. Because I was like: Mom, I’m gonna make an underwear. My theme was Kumulipo, we did all the first wa, which is all the animals and the sea creatures. And there was this boy, and he really was an aspiring underwear model, so I was like: Okay, you’re perfect, we’ll do him. He had a great body and all this. And my mom sewed the underwear. So, we cut the underwear, we printed it, we sewed it. And I just remember, you know, we’re in the back, and … it was a big move for us, you know, to even put him out there. We were just like: Oh, my gosh. First of all, even the whole collection itself was artistically very beautiful. Some things were a little sexy. And you know, we had gone to the rehearsal, we had seen the regular muumuu, the traditional beautiful arts, tattoo, and all these different things. And … I literally went in the back, and I was like, freaking out. I was like: Mom, they’re gonna think we’re crazy. I was like: I can’t do this, we gotta pull out of this, we can’t even present. And she’s like: Oh, absolutely not. [CHUCKLE] She’s like: We just came all the way over here.

 

She’s a rock, isn’t she?

 

Yeah, yeah. She’s like: No, no. She’s like: What is your intention? You know, I had listed my intention, this is what I want to do. And then, even with the underwear, I was like: Should we take it out, should we not do it? She’s like: What’s your intention? I was like: Okay; well, I’m trying to think like a smart Hawaiian here. Okay; a smart Hawaiian businessman, we’re looking at underwear. Okay; first of all, Hawaiian underwear is sexy. Right? And that’s what drives this marketplace, whether you like it or not. And any marketing advertising is gonna tell you that is the main attraction, human attraction to sales. It’s a sexy thing. Two, I’ve always wanted to see a Hawaiian man underwear model ad, big. We’re still working on it.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

I also looked at the underwear being something we need every day. You know, that’s something we use every day, and it makes you feel good. I love a good pair of underwear; they’re always under my basketball shorts and my tank top. But, that is something that we always want to use. So, she’s like: Well, if that’s your intention … there’s your intention. And we’re like, freaking out in the back. Of course, now things have changed, ever since we’ve opened that gap. But if you look at it before, we’re just like: Oh, my god, like … you know, should we like, do a reveal, or should we like, have him just be like, boom, he’s in his underwear. You know, like, what do we do?

 

What happens is, you feel naked.

 

Yeah, yeah; exactly.

 

And you’re exposed.

 

Exactly; we’re exposed. So, we’re like: No, you know what, do all your traditional protocol, do your oli like you normally do, and then on the end, we’ll put him out. So, he had a tie on, he had like a wrap on. And you know, he’s just walking out, and everybody’s just like, watching. And all of a sudden, he just drops his wrap. And all the forks and everything, you could just hear go, clank.

 

Clatter. [CHUCKLE]

 

And just dead silence, and everybody was just like … looking at him. And then, I was like: Oh, my god, they’re gonna kill us. And it was so funny, because I had a lot of traditionalists that were in the audience, too. We had, you know, a lot of kupuna, too. But the funny part was, when I was outside, you know, like taking pictures with my gang, so many people too, that were … I won’t mention their names, but very, very influential people in the Hawaiian community, they came up to me and they were like … Oh, my god, brother, don’t tell anybody, but that was awesome. I can’t believe you did that; that was the most amazing thing that ever happened.

 

So, private approval.

 

Yeah; private approval, you know. And then, later on, you know, I even had some artists too that later on did buy my underwear. And they’re like: [GASP] I have your underwear on right now, they’re so cool. But don’t tell anybody. You know, that kinda thing.

 

But I mean, you want to create something that will be useful.

 

Exactly; useful, for sure, and comfortable and fun. And that’s why with that underwear, I feel like you could feel as that whole wrap dropped, that the whole history of Hawaii changed that day.

 

Manaola Yap learned traditional Hawaiian clothing techniques through his kupuna, and he picked up modern design through experimentation with his mother’s creative hula costuming. He knew early on that college and fashion school were not for him.

 

My background in design, and everything that I do, comes from hula, from dance. You know, I do not name myself to be a designer that went to school and did all of that. I never really pursued going to fashion school. And it wasn’t really necessarily because I know it all, and I knew it all, and all that. It was more so because I also didn’t want to tamper with the organic nature of my mind and my creative mind, and how it was nurtured in that space, especially being on the Big Island. I didn’t want anything to interfere with it, so that I could keep it as authentic as possible. Because that is something in the industry that … corporations at large have the hardest time to develop, especially when selling to a consumer or to even make that exchange, you know, in business. So, that was my choice; from a long time, I was already thinking ahead.

 

Pewa, for me, was created … it’s a very traditional design, and this sample can actually be found, the original sample can actually be found in the Bishop Museum, where a lot of the native artifacts are kept. I chose pewa because for me, it spoke to me on a different level. Pewa are the fishtail repairs that are used in woodwork, in traditional woodwork. And I bent the patterns back and forth because in today’s time, we’re open to a lot more new ideas.

 

Just three years after launching his Native Hawaiian inspired clothing label, Manaola Yap was able to establish a retail store called Hula Lehua at Ala Moana Shopping Center. Then came the national spotlight; he received a coveted invitation to showcase his collection at the prestigious New York Fashion Week 2017.

 

They actually came upon us by reviewing Honolulu Fashion Week, which is a production that’s done by Lynne O’Neill and Honolulu Magazine. But they went online, and they watched that whole, you know, Honolulu Fashion Week, and watched all the designs. And then, they had sent us the invitation. So, out of the eight thousand, there’s about twenty-four designers that show throughout four countries, which is London, Paris, Milan, and New York. And out of those twenty-four designers, only ten designers get exclusive shows. We were very honored to have been able to show a full collection, which is super-crazy, especially for our first time in New York.

 

How much time did you have to get ready for this?

 

We had about three weeks.

 

Three weeks?

 

M-hm.

 

What did you have to do, to get ready?

 

Everything from … we textiled everything from scratch, we had to print all the fabrics from scratch, cut and sew. We had to fit, we had to silhouette all the pieces. And I’m a crazy, so we actually had more than the amount of pieces that we put in. We finished at about forty pieces; we did forty looks in that collection. It was actually the largest collection Oxford had ever shown in all four countries. Period. Which was kind of crazy. [CHUCKLE] But that’s always how I’ve been. I just love creating things, so yeah; it was definitely a crazy journey. We also broke some of the rules, because we really, really wanted to share some of the local talent, especially with the models. ‘Cause we had been working with these models that have supported us all these few years.

 

Normally, you would use the models up there.

 

It’s usually only industry models.

 

Oh; so how did you get the local girls in?

 

So, when they looked at us, they loved the fact that we’re based in indigenous culture, and that we’re a cultural label, which is something that they had only really seen a lot in African designers at the time, Indian designers, Chinese, Japanese, those kind of things. But nothing in the context of looking on the Polynesian side, for couture especially. So, when they seen that, they thought that that was super-interesting. But I was like: Okay, if that’s the thing, then you have to have some Hawaiians then, because that’s the uniqueness of the brand, and that’s what makes us who we are; it’s the people. We also had some that were native-speaking, which was very, you know, important to us, as well.

 

And I understand you had a Go Fund Me campaign.

 

We had a Go Fund Me campaign.

 

You didn’t have a bunch of money lying around to go to New York with all these people.

 

Oh, no; not at all. Yeah; we did not have the the means to go. ‘Cause even when we first did it, I was like: There’s no way we’re gonna go to New York. You know. ‘Cause our company is based on organic growth, completely.

 

Were you behind stage, or next to the runway? Where were you?

 

Oh; I stood on the side of the runway so that I could watch. It was an intense moment. Even the people in the audience, I think, a lot of them were pretty blown away, because especially how we started the show. We started with protocol. That’s usually how we always start. I always start with a hula. And for me, that’s creating the ceremony for us as a label for this time as a brand is, I always set hula first. Because like I said, hula is where I come from. That is my world, that is what I know. You know. And that’s where my source of inspiration, and everything is borne from that place. So, I use that ceremony and that dance to start um, our runway shows.

 

Does an individual garment tell a story?

 

So, it depends. Some pieces have different inspiration. So, some things are basic silhouettes that are, you know, flattering, comfortable, especially to what the market is bearing at the time. I have one top that is very special to me; it’s called the Hihimanu top. The Hihimanu top is inspired by the Hihimanu, its namesake, which is the big stingray, manta rays. You know how they have those big wings, and their tail. Then, some of them, I get really, really intense with. And then, that was the last piece that was on the runway, one of our finale dresses. That piece was dedicated to Liliu, Liliuokalani, our last reigning monarch. So, creating the mourning garment to mourn the loss of the lahui, of the Kingdom, in remembrance of Liliu, and in remembrance of the Kingdom, but also to show the forward movement in that garment. So, the garment is actually all black, and it’s the only piece that was all black in the whole collection.

 

Did you get a good crowd for your appearance?

 

Yes. Our show was actually over sold out. But yeah, I think it was great. And it was really good for us to go up there, especially for Hawaii.

 

[DRAMATIC MUSIC]

 

Anything that we do outside, our heart’s always here first. And you know, whether it be New York or London, Paris, wherever we may go next, it’s always making sure that we have that sense of pride at home, because that’s our home base.

 

Because of his selection for New York Fashion Week, Manaola Yap gained the opportunity to showcase his work at the other fashion weeks in London, Paris, and Milan. In 2016, Hawaii Business Magazine celebrated Yap as one of its 20 for the Next 20, and Honolulu Magazine named him Islander of the Year in Fashion. It’s quick and high ascent for Manaola. At the time of our conversation in Fall of 2017, he was just thirty years old. Mahalo to Kohala native Manaola Yap, now living in Honolulu, for sharing your story with us. And thank you, for joining us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I used hula as a … example. I looked at hula, and I looked at … ‘cause I always go back to the dance. Any time I’m stuck, any time I need an answer, I always go back to the dance. And sometimes, I even just dance, myself, because it gives me that clearance and that space for me to think.

 

[END]

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Nani Lim Yap

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Nani Lim Yap

 

Musician, singer and dancer Nani Lim Yap tells how her Lim family’s music grew from an entertaining pastime to a career that takes them around the world to perform. She also reminisces about her upbringing in Kohala, Hawai‘i Island, and the way she keeps the traditions and stories of her ancestors alive as a kumu hula.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Jan. 27, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

Preview

 

 

 

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
The Swamp

AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: The Swamp

 

Explore the story of Florida’s Everglades, America’s greatest wetland. A tale of greed, hubris and destruction, the film chronicles the repeated efforts to conquer what was once seen as a useless wasteland and the passionate efforts to preserve it.

 

Preview

 

 

 

BBC World News

BBC World News

 

The latest global news from the world’s largest news broadcaster. The newscasts contain all the most up-to-date news, interviews, analysis, business reports and world sports news.

 

 

 

HIKI NŌ
#1006 – The 2018 HIKI NŌ Fall Challenge – High School Division

 

This special edition features stories from the High School Division of the 2018 HIKI NŌ Fall Challenge. On October 19, 2018, ten participating high school teams and twelve participating middle school teams were given four days to complete a HIKI NŌ story based on the theme “the story behind the food”. Teachers could not provide hands-on help. The students had to conceptualize, research, arrange, shoot, write and edit their stories on their own. The completed stories were scored by members of the HIKI NŌ editorial board based on the following criteria:

 

  1. How well did the story capture the essence of the assigned theme?
  2. How well did the entry fulfill the HIKI NŌ  Story Criteria (the criteria used throughout the school year to determine which stories are approved to air on HIKI NŌ)?
  3. How much did production values (the quality of the cinematography, editing and sound) contribute to the overall effectiveness of the story?

 

Based on the cumulative scores, first place, second place, third place, and honorable mention awards were given in both the high school and middle school divisions. The winning high school stories featured in this episode are as follows:

 

–Tied for First Place: Kaua‘i High School in Lihue profiled the late Barbara Funamura, the originator of the spam musubi.

 

–Tied for First Place: Kamehameha Schools Maui High School in Pukalani profiled Maui chef Jonathan Mizukami.

 

–Second Place: H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui featured the family story behind Aunty Lia’s Baked Goods.

 

–Third Place: Kapa‘a High School on Kaua‘i spotlighted Pono Market in Kapa‘a.

 

–Honorable Mention: Farrington High School on O‘ahu revealed how much members of Hawai‘i’s world championship little league team missed Hawai‘i food when they were on the road.

 

Also featured:

 

–Waiākea High School on Hawai‘i Island highlighted iconic Hilo eatery Kandi’s Drive-Inn.

 

–Moanalua High School on O‘ahu told the story of a young man who is carrying on his late father’s legacy through his family’s Chamorro Grindz food truck.

 

–Wa‘ianae High School on O‘ahu showed how a stay-at-home mom brought together her entire family through her Padicakes mochi business.

 

First place winners will receive $500 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program. Second place winners will receive $300 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program. Third place winners will receive $200 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program. Honorable mention winners will receive $100 worth of production equipment for their school’s media program.

 

 

 

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE
Part 3 of 3

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE: Part 3 of 3

 

The surviving guests of Soldier Island are in danger of losing their minds. With the likelihood of survival rapidly diminishing, they must turn to one another for comfort and protection.

 

Preview

 

 

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Eran Ganot

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX: Eran Ganot

 

Eran Ganot’s voice carries a tone of gratitude when he speaks of growing up in a blue-collar New Jersey community with his twin brother, two sisters, immigrant parents and the influence of grandparents who survived the Holocaust. Ganot would draw upon some of those childhood values when he accepted what he refers to as his “dream job” as a head coach – at a time in the spring of 2015 when the University of Hawai‘i Men’s Basketball program was mired in controversy and uncertainty.

 

Program

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Sunday, Jan. 13, at 4:00 pm and 11:30 pm.

 

More from Eran Ganot:

 

Gregg Popovich, Maya Angelou and Life Beyond Basketball

 

Leadership

 

What’s a Guy from Jersey Doing Coaching in Hawai‘i?

 

Eran Ganot Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

When the University of Hawaii named Eran Ganot as the new head coach for the men’s basketball team, many onlookers were surprised. The selection committee picked a thirty-four-year-old first-time head coach to lead the program through troubled times.  Eran Ganot, next, on Long Story Short.

 

One-on-one engaging conversations with some of Hawaii’s most intriguing people: Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox.

 

Aloha mai kākou. I’m Leslie Wilcox.  When you sit down and talk with Eran Ganot, you don’t think investment banker.  But Ganot studied economics at one of the most highly-regarded liberal arts colleges in the country, and had offers he seriously considered.  But while he likes business and economics, when he talks about basketball and coaching, he uses words like passion, work ethic, perspective, and balance—values he stresses with his players, whom he refers to as his extended family, values he learned from his own strong family unit growing up in a blue collar northern New Jersey community.

 

Where did you grow up?  Where did your earliest formative experiences take place?

 

Well, I mean, when you’re really young.  I was born in Philly, grew up in Jersey.  So, Philly, really too young to remember a lot of the experience there. But moved to Bergenfield, I remember, and then to Tenafly, I think when I was six.  And basically, so those were my formative years growing up.

 

And what’s Tenafly like as a town to live in?

 

It’s a suburb about fifteen, twenty minutes from New York City.  Really kind of a low-key community, really good people. You know, one of those communities where everybody kinda knows each other and have been there for a long time. So, it was a great place to grow up. You know, an older sister, a younger sister, a twin brother, great family.  Friends I got to grow up with from elementary school, to junior high, to high school.  I kinda like that, and I think you can see that even in my coaching career, not really bouncing around too much.  So, it was a place with a really loving atmosphere, a blue collar town, with people who really cared about each other.

 

Both of your parents were immigrants; one from Romania, one from Israel.

 

So, my dad actually was born in Romania, and grew up in Brooklyn.  And my mom was born and raised in Israel.

 

And I believe I’ve heard that three of your grandparents were holocaust survivors.

 

Yeah. We were born in 1981, and one of my grandfathers on my mom’s side, her father, passed that year.  So, I never had much interaction with him, obviously. And then, our other three grandparents were alive—not now, but for most of our upbringing, and when we were in Tenafly. And just to hear some of those stories when you’re growing up, you remember those.

 

Any idea about why these three people in your family survived?

 

The grit and toughness you had to have to go through that, one, to survive, and two, you know, the constant fear of what was going on, seeing things happen to your friends and family.  I can’t imagine; it’s unfathomable, and the atrocities that were going on at that time. But you know, whether you’re hearing it from three family members, or reading about it, or studying it, it’s pretty powerful.

 

You’re growing up in this suburb.  But it’s not a placid place for you and your brother, because you are tough competitors, and you’re always doing sports.

 

Well, you hear stories all the time about siblings battling each other.  And think about what it’s like for twins. So, same year, same teams.  You know, we played every sport, and it added to the competitive spirit and handling, you know, you’re gonna win or lose every other day in every other sport.  And I think our parents did a great job.  And you know, when you’re going through just growing up and you’re competing in everything.  I talk about that with our team; achievers, you know, on the court, off the court, in the classroom.  You know.

 

You would lose to your brother, you would win over your brother.  But the relationship; was that paramount, or was it the competition?

 

Oh, no; when you’re younger it’s about the competition.

 

Winning or losing. 

 

Yeah. As you get older, the relationship becomes more important.  I mean, I think we pushed each other, obviously.  But we competed in everything; not just sports.  And our parents were really good about … you know, we were, I’d like to say coachable, but we wanted to play sports, and we couldn’t do that unless our grades were good.  So, guess what?  If you hear that and you want to go play sports, your grades are gonna be pretty good, and you’re gonna get your homework done.

 

You mean, you didn’t whine and try to get out of it?

 

Oh, early.

 

And have excuses?

 

But we weren’t gonna win that battle.

 

Your parents were not buying any of that.

 

No; and they were good on that.  And it created the habits of managing your time, having good priorities.  To be honest, I mean, smart wins.  Our parents were really good about understanding the big picture.

 

What sports did you and your twin brother play?

 

Everything; and then everything changed when we got to high school.  And we actually went to from—shoot, I’m thinking for five years, maybe between ages ten and fifteen, or nine and fourteen, we went every summer to a sports academy sleepaway camp.  So, we were sent packing, basically, and you play every sport there.  So, we played everything.  And then, you know, the good thing about growing up on the East Coast, you have the seasons.

 

It snows in New Jersey.  What did you do then?

 

Well, we played tackle basketball and tackle football in the snow.  And we shoveled a lot of snow, driveways to make some extra money.  Let’s see, now.  In the winter it was basketball, in the spring it was baseball, in the fall it was soccer.  But then when we got to high school, we started to, you know, target.  And I encourage that, by the way.  I think every kid should play every sport.  It tackles different parts of your body, it’s a different kinda team chemistry.  And then you gotta find what you gravitate towards.  And eventually it became clear when we got to high school, it was basketball.

 

What about your sisters?  Did they play, too?

 

They did.  And it’s funny; we have a pretty big gap.  I mean, my sister was born in 1974, we were born in ’81, and my younger sister was 1990.  So, there was some separation.  When we left the house for college at seventeen, my younger sister was just kinda jumping into sports.  So, they weren’t as sports-motivated.  They were just as competitive in different ways.

 

It sounds like it would be hard to be as motivated as you two were in sports.  But they were competitive in what ways?

 

Well, I just think people sometimes think if you play sports, you’re competitive. But I think if you’re aggressive in the classroom.  You know, those guys, they did a great job.  One went to Boston University and one went to American University, and now you know, one’s still on the East Coast, New York; Danielle.  My younger sister Betty is, you know, doing a great job raising her family of three kids in Calabasas.  So, I just think competitiveness is just the way they attack life.  It’s not just about basketball and baseball.

 

But you can overdo competitiveness, too; right? Or do you think you can?

 

No; I think you can.  That’s why I was talking about the balance.  I mean, you have to … you know, I said this about can you find the balance between—I do this a lot with our team—between working your tail off and and enjoying the journey.  Does that make sense?  And every year, you know, the great things we talk with our staff and people I’m close with, it’s you’re always working on your philosophy, and you can’t have one without the other.  Life’s too short.  You can’t be good at anything if you’re not happy, and you’re not gonna be happy if you’re not doing with you love, where you love, with people you love.

 

And finding what one loves is often a very difficult thing.  Lot of people don’t find it for many, many years.

 

Yeah; and you could see there’s stress involved with that.  You know, we have guys who come to us at, you know, eighteen to twenty-two, and then they leave for, you know, whatever it is next.  You know, our job is to prepare them for the next step.  But I think people rush into things.  Look, I was fortunate, I feel like, I knew what I wanted to do.  And you hear stories about people trying to find that similar passion.  But it’s gotta be natural, it’s gotta be genuine.  Like, my brother is in a different line of work than me.  He’s in fashion design; he’s got his own clothing company.  And he didn’t really find that ‘til maybe five or eight years, whatever, after I found I wanted to coach.

 

So, he went from being a jock to a fashion designer.

 

Yes. We’re on different spectrums. We’re a little different personalities. Equally competitive, and obviously, similar values.

 

And he says he’s better than you at sports; right?

 

Yeah. Well, he always says, too, you gotta respect the older brother.  He’s nine minutes older than me.

 

Right? That’s a little out of hand.

 

Even that’s competitive.

 

No question.  But I just think, you know, people shouldn’t rush into finding that passion.  Like, explore.  Like, if you have it, great; chase it, go through with it.  If you don’t, find it, and take your time.  But I think when people rush into doing something, that creates that unhappiness.  And you’re just not gonna be good anything if you don’t find a passion.  So, if I tell people anything, find your passion and attack it.

 

Eran Ganot played high school basketball for four years, and was recruited by Swarthmore, a college outside of Philadelphia. A nagging back injury suffered during his high school career continued to bother him in college.  Today, he speaks from experience when he warns players about playing through the pain.

 

I remember walking into the training room, and my college coach and our trainer were sitting there and going: We think something’s going on.  And that was the first time I failed a physical ‘cause of the back.  And he had told me that when we met after. and that was a hard time for me.  It was actually the only time I missed a practice, I think, coaching or playing, because it I couldn’t practice and it was too hard for me to go and practice.  I couldn’t practice.

 

Emotionally or physically?

 

Emotionally, I just didn’t know.  You know, I was kinda lost for a stretch there, because it was something you’re so passionate taken.

 

And you worked so hard, too.  And you loved it so much.

 

I loved it.  Not just the game; being around the team.  I mean, I can talk a lot about why I play the game and why I coach the game. But when it happened, it was a difficult time for me, but something that helped me grow as a person.  I remember sitting in his office, and he was talking to me as a junior.  As much as I love what I do now, but my coach was great, telling me: Hey, maybe we should think about a coaching career.  I’m like: Wait a minute, I got one more year.  So, I spent the whole off season just getting myself healthy enough to play in my senior year.  And to be honest, I’m sure our guys will tell you, I have not played basketball since the last game of my senior year.  I had to wear a back brace.  I’d wear it under, so no one could see that I had to wear a back brace.  Think about running around with a back brace.  And in my senior year, the last game, I threw that in the trash, and that’s been it for me.

 

And yet, when you went to college, you chose to major in economics.

 

Yep.

 

At Swarthmore.  That doesn’t sound like you’re planning on playing or coaching.

 

Yeah. No; I had a background in economics. I really like business, and I think you can see some of that as I approached running our program.  When Swarthmore had recruited me, and I had known a little bit about it, it wasn’t far from home, and it was a really good academic school, I thought in the one percent chance I chose not to chase a path in coaching, I thought I’d be set up in that field.  And there were some opportunities, you know, after I graduated and I always gravitated towards kind of an investment banking background.

 

And you got a job offer in investment banking.

 

Yeah; I had some opportunities after that.  But it didn’t register or resonate with me as much as what ended up being a volunteer position at St. Mary’s.  So, people thought I was crazy.

 

Yeah; I would imagine, because it wasn’t just quick stint of volunteering.  You volunteered for three years.

 

Three years.

 

You didn’t get paid, but did you get other perks, like meals or housing, a car?

 

Oh, I joke with people.  I was able to work camps every summer.  And I had saved money in the event I was gonna get an opportunity, it might be something where I’d have to really toughen up for a couple years to make it work. But really worked hard during that stretch, I made some money in camps.  Eventually, one year, I was able to teach a basketball class on the side. And the cafeteria folks who maybe they felt bad for me when we’d come in for some meals, just make it through.  Remember, back then, I didn’t have a family.  I was just, you know, very pleased and appreciative of the opportunity, I was gonna do everything I can to hang in, hang in, hang in.  And it became tougher each year, especially my third year, but some of the coaches there helped me kinda hang in there, and then eventually got a couple breaks.

Were you hoping every year they’d offer you a paying job?

 

You know, some places, you might have an opportunity there, some places you need some movement.  You know, there was a very fixed amount of opportunities or jobs.

 

And was that the case with St. Mary’s?

 

St. Mary’s.  So, it’s funny now, looking back.  ‘Cause after I left, eventually there was some movement.  But in the meantime, I looked at it as a great apprenticeship for me, learning from a great coach.  We worked with some great coaches.  I mean, couple of the coaches I worked with then are now Division 1 head coaches.  And those guys started off as volunteers, as well.  So, I don’t know if they did it for three years, but it’s just the way it played out.

 

And you were self-financing, too.  I mean, that’s gotta be hard.  Working extra so that you could work for free.

 

Yes. And as weird as it sound, looking back, I loved every bit of it.  You know, the amount I was learning, and what was going on with our program.  You know, I just think at the end of the day, it satisfies the passion.  One of my other passions is learning and growing, and I was doing that.  So, the Bay Area was great, and just looking forward to the next break, and then I got my next one with Hawai‘i.

 

How did it change?

 

Well, I got an opportunity with Riley Wallace.  And so, that was my first part-time paying job.  At the time, that position, which is now fulltime, was a casual hire.  I think it was maybe fifteen or twenty thousand.

 

So now, you’re living in expensive Hawaii.

 

Yeah.

 

And you’re getting paid, but not much.

 

No; but compared to what it was, I thought I was a millionaire.  So, I mean, I go from New Jersey, and Randy Bennett hires me over the phone.

 

St. Mary’s.

 

At St. Mary’s; so I just fly over to the Bay, he picks me up.  And what’s funny is, then three years later, I fly over to have a conversation with Coach Wallace, and he picks me up from the airport. So, that was 2006.  I didn’t know it would lead to what it would, but I was excited about the opportunity to work for Coach Wallace, who I had a lot of respect for from afar.  I knew there was potential for it to be his last year, and the guy was a huge mentor for me in my life.  It’s all about timing, but if it was a year later, it might not have happened with Hawai‘i, and certainly not with Coach Wallace.  So, I’m very appreciative.  I think people should make their decisions, you know, like I told you earlier about passion, which it was satisfying my passion, but also about people.  So, I got spoiled.  You could get a higher paying job in a better situation maybe, with the wrong people.  That’s why I said, you gotta do what you love, where you love, with people you love. I got all three.  Maybe it didn’t satisfy things from a financial standpoint, and I was just trying to hang in there with some rough days, but I couldn’t have asked for a better start, and the people I got to meet and know, and learn from.  It was awesome.

 

Eran Ganot spent four years on Hawaii’s staff under head coaches Riley Wallace and Bob Nash.  Then, he got the call from his mentor at St. Mary’s, Randy Bennett. Ganot would return to the Bay Area and spend the next four years as an assistant coach, before moving up to associate head coach for the St. Mary’s Gaels.  Twelve years of hard work, absorbing all he could learn about coaching Division 1 college basketball.  But was Eran Ganot ready to take on a challenge even the most experienced would avoid?  Was he willing to head up a troubled college basketball program that didn’t even know yet how much trouble it was in?

 

But even when you got a great opportunity, which was you were offered the head coaching job of the UH basketball team, I mean, it came with a lot of darkness around it.

 

Yeah.

 

The NCAA violations, you were the third head coach in two years.

 

Right.

 

And there were looming sanctions.  And I may be wrong about this, but I thought many of the players really liked the interim coach, because he’d been with them through a lot.

 

I called it like the perfect storm.  First, you want to get a crack at getting into coaching, and then seeing, can I do this.  And then, it became clear, and as I got better and better that, yeah.  And then it became clear that, you know, you’re in this to run your own program.  And people always ask me, and I said this at the press conference, your dream job. And I just said I’m not throwing out—and it goes back to the investment in the sense of family and relationships. I’m not gonna throw out random schools. Like, I think your dream job, to me, was a place I coached or played before.  And it became more clear that Hawai‘i resonated the most with me in my heart.  So, when it was going through a lot of stuff, that’s why I called it the perfect storm.  There was on-court, off-court, NCA, everything you could say, and there was a looming cloud of uncertainty.  And yeah, I’m in, because there was more of a pull for me because of what I was going through.  So, a place I have so much respect for and so much love for, let’s get us one, stabilize our program and get us through this and set us up for sustained success, Hawaii deserves better.  And so, I was really excited to get that opportunity.

 

And you built relationships with the team members.

 

I mean, the first thing I did, which goes back to relationships, was there’s so much work to do when you get a job, but we made sure we met with the players, traveled to meet with their families, their relationships, didn’t skip steps, and went from there.

 

Fans were thrilled that Ganot, his staff, and that 2015-16 team took the State of Hawaii on an unprecedented ride.  A Big West Conference championship earned the ‘Bows an appearance in the post-season tournament of the National Collegiate Athletic Association or NCAA.  And this fiercely determined group beat a talented Cal Berkeley squad, giving Hawaii men’s basketball the first March Madness victory in the history of the program, and the country’s president at the time a risky bracket win in the first round.  Eran Ganot was the third-youngest head coach among the sixty-eight head coaches at the tournament.  At the end of the season, he was acknowledged with three awards: Big West Conference Coach of the Year, the Red Auerbach College Coach of the Year, and the CollegeInsider.com Joe B. Hall Award for top first-year coach.

 

And then, year two comes around, and that’s a hard year because then, the sanctions take effect.  And didn’t you lose eight players because one of the sanctions was, no post-season?

 

Yeah. You that could be a movie.  I mean, I think going through it and looking back at it, I’m so appreciative of where we’re at now.  We could easily not be where we’re at now if we skipped some steps earlier, which we didn’t do.  And I’m proud of the players, the staff, the administration; everybody who was involved in this.  But you know, usually, I’m a guy who likes to read and study, and meet with people. And maybe there’s experience I have, or they have.  So, what we went through is very unique.  Usually, when someone gets a ban or NCA situation, it’s for that year.  Because of the timing of the decision, it was mid-December, it was for the following year.  So, who am I gonna talk to on that?  No one; no one’s been through it.  So, it became uh, a great challenge, an opportunity to see how our team sticks together.  But that second year, we returned one point per game, so you see a cloud of uncertainty which is tough to deal with. But the next couple years, we dealt with the reality of the situation.  So, I think a lot of people talk about that first year’s group.  I can’t say enough or sing enough praises for the people who’ve spent the last two years getting us to where we’re at today.

 

Well, that second year, you did lose people. How did you manage?

 

Either you hang your head and pout, or you look at it as an opportunity to talk about what you have or what you don’t, what you can do or what you can’t.  And that’s kind of been a great lesson for all of us.  Going through that experience reinforced some things, we learned some new things, but we chipped away.  We talked about stabilize; that became the big deal for our program.  When you get hired, I know I say this a lot, is you want to build, build, build.  When you get the information of what’s going on with our program, it became we gotta stabilize and build.  We can’t build if our program isn’t stable, and our program wasn’t, so it became chip away. Every year, make sure we’re improving, make sure by 2018, 19, no off-court issues, no NCA issues, academics in great shape, no NCA issues.  So, I’m really proud of the way those guys hung in there together to put us where we’re at now.  And so, how did we do it?  It’s all about people.

 

And on your side, you say that it was actually, you know, a pull, a plus.

 

Yeah.

 

There were problems here, and you wanted to get to them.  It didn’t faze you, and in fact, it actually drew you near.

 

Yeah. No; it was something that I wanted to see us through, and beyond.  And I hate to use the word I, because this was a team effort, starting with the administrators.  It’s always about the leadership in place, from the president to the athletic director, the staff we brought in, the people we brought in, you know, our support staff.  It was very much a team effort to get us where we’re at today.  But there was definitely a pull.  Like at the end of the day, let’s say basketball specifically, and team, and competing, but challenges.  You gotta love a challenge.  And I think a lot of people would look at that, and probably did and say, I don’t want to be part of this.  And we were the other way.

 

Well, does a team ever really get stable?  I mean, you know, you never know who you’re gonna have, for sure.  I mean, maybe there is no time when a college basketball team is really stable.

 

That’s what you’re trying to compete with, or trying to establish; a culture. I would say the culture can get established every year, and I think ours is firmly established.  Our program is in a rock-solid position now.  But there are certain things that happen; you’re dealing with human beings, the obstacles in our business.

 

You’re always managing around it, and navigating around it.

 

Well, we’re working off a rock-solid foundation now.

 

You know, I know you met your future wife at the UH.  And I heard her quoted as saying: You know what, he never even dated; he was just too busy, he was always busy.  How did that tradition break?

 

I mean, I think first of all, when we talked, I should have said this earlier. I have a great family.  Obviously with my immediate family where I grew up, my parents and my siblings.  But my wife and daughter are awesome.  And the support system there, and hopefully vice versa; I got it pretty good there. Barbea likes to tell the story about she just put it on the calendar.  Like, I usually follow a calendar, and she just said: Date with Barbea.

 

But we connected, and she’s got a huge heart, and we share the similar affinity for Hawaii.  We got a special young daughter in Zeza.  You know, what’s cool is that she gets to grow up in a place that we love, and people are watching her grow up right in front of their eyes.  And I just think everything’s about family, and I got a great one.

 

Zeza is an especially interesting story, because she didn’t grow up as either your wife’s daughter, or your daughter.

 

Yeah. It was a unique, obviously sad situation in September 2012.  You know, you remember things vividly.  I remember about to walk into a meeting with the team at St. Mary’s before workouts, and then I got a call from Barbea’s father, who shared the news with me about her daughter Chelsea, who was off-the-charts-awesome, who was killed in a car accident.  She was pushed into the other side of the road by someone with road rage.  And so, he shared that with me, and obviously, that’s devastating news.  But he also shared it with me so I can go home and see Barbea, and be there when she heard the news.  And Chelsea’s daughter, who was eighteen months at the time, was Zeza.

 

Eighteen months.

 

Yeah. And so, the only fortunate thing in such a tough situation, a really sad situation, is that Zeza wasn’t in the car. And so, we’ve raised her since.

 

Did you have to stop and think about that?

 

No. I mean, you know, Chelsea would visit here and there, and Zeza was in, you know, the baby carriage, and she obviously was not as active when you’re that young.  But you don’t expect certain things like that to happen.  First it was, let’s make sure Barbea and the family are okay, and what can we do.  And I remember Barbea bringing that up in that conversation, and it was: Hey, let’s go. And Zeza is very much our daughter. And you know, one of the unique things, looking back, is how whether at St. Mary’s or here, that people in the community stepped up.  She gained obviously, Barbea and myself, but you know, usually you got fifteen or sixteen players, she gained fifteen brothers, older brothers.  And if you come to watch our program now, or at a game or at a function, or whatever, and this is from my daughter, this is for our coaches’ kids, from our assistants, they’re immersed with the program.  So, we have intelligent young men on our team that are highly caring and very much understand the family aspect.  ‘Cause the Hawai‘i experience is very unique.  And this is the credit to how special Hawaii is.  If you can feel like you’re at home five thousand miles from where you grew up, it’s pretty special.  And when I come in here—you know, I think I the first time I came here in ’06, I was a twenty-four-year-old, lost and confused, and just trying to find his way.  What the great people in Hawaii usually do?  They lend a hand.  And so, it started from there, and that’s why I’m so happy to be here now.  That’s why I’m so happy to have our players here, and to have my daughter grow up here.  It’s special.

 

When we sat down for this conversation, it was the fall of 2018, and Eran Ganot was looking forward to his fourth season as head coach of UH men’s basketball.  After three seasons, his team posted fifty-nine wins and thirty-five losses, with two out of three winning seasons.  UH extended his contract through the 2023 season.  And that troubled program mired in controversy stabilized under the leadership if the young first-time head coach who told us one of the reasons he took the job was because the program was in trouble.  We thank Eran Ganot for his time.  You’ll find more of this conversation in our Long Story Short archives at PBSHawaii.org.  Mahalo nui for joining us.  I’m Leslie Wilcox for Long Story Short and PBS Hawaii. Aloha nui.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org.  To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

I was fortunate enough to be involved with Positive Coaches Alliance.  We spoke to the parents one day, and they ask me for advice, and I say this to the parents.  I’ll tell the player, with the parents there: Hey … we coach you, we don’t coach your parents.  There’s great communication with us and our parents, but not in terms of the playing time and things like that.  For the parents, I advised the group I was speaking to: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the game; we have enough coaches.  You know, and I think there’s a balance there, because I think they’re awesome parents, they want their kids to do so well. We do, too.  But what’s happening is, it’s a little bit more pressure on the kids, and we gotta remind them that we’re playing for the love of the game. And that’s a critical age, where let them struggle through some things, let them be accountable, let them fight through moments, fight through adversity, let them have fun.  And that doesn’t change, whether you’re at that age or for us, ‘cause that’s something you gotta remind yourself of.  You’ve gotta, like I said, work your tail off and enjoy the journey; have fun.  And I think we’ve gotta have that and better balance.

 

 

 

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