Gerry began his Waster-size campaign in
By LAUREL MURPHY
LAHAINA -- Every morning at 7 Gerry Rasmus collects a plastic bag and his dog and sets off across the streets of old Lahaina town, picking up trash along the way.
He arrives at the Sunset Cafe, drinks a cup of coffee, and then heads for the rocky, little adjacent beach where he wades out into the tide and picks up swizzle sticks
Dozens of swizzle sticks. About 150 a day, in fact, which have washed ashore from cruise ships and Front St. restaurants. So many swizzle sticks that he perforates the entire cup of coffee with them, dates it, and sets it out on a table in his backyard as a symbol of Maui's intransigent problem with litter.
Rasmus, age 54, has become a one-man "pollution solution"
Waist to waste, as it were. As Rasmus looks at it, if he can persuade one more person a day to "pitch in" before he dies ---that's 10,000 people he figures---the problem of Hawaii's beaches being twice as littered as the national average would be a thing of the past.
Besides, he says, " it ends up being good exercise. You're not only cleaning up the neighborhood, you're getting rid of your opu.
Rasmus is the kind of guy who sells bananas and papayas in his front yard to tourists---on the honor system of course---and uses the proceeds to pay for the 750 pounds of birdseed he buys each month to feed the Java sparrows and battalions of doves on his roof happy.
He's the kind of guy who answers the phone by saying, "Have a wonderful now," gives out copies of Leo Buscaglia's book "Love is Letting of Fear" to friends ("Not because you need it; because you deserve it"), and rides his bicycle down Honoapiilani Highway wearing an anti-pollution mask.
He often stops litterers with a charming smile and the words, "Excuse me, I think you dropped this." Or, "Are you aware that every shoreline mile in Hawaii has 940,000 cigarette filters?" ( A gallon bottle with such filters is in his backyard collection, representing two hours of work on the lawn in front of the Lahaina Public Library one day.)
Rasmus bubbles over daily with ways to gain support for his crusade.
What about the first Annual Maui Litter Art Festival? Maybe it could be held Labor Day weekend. The entrance fee would be a 30-gallon bag of trash. If contestants couldn't afford a trash bag, he will supply it.
People could bring their creations made of litter and win prizes like, say, a helicoptor ride for two to a remote area where they could pick up trash.
Rasmus wasn't always this public-spirited a citizen. In fact, as he admits, he was once part of the problem, "a waste of skin taking up space."
He moved to Maui from California in 1976 to avoid prosecution for drunken driving. In four months he squandered the $80,000 profit he had made from selling his used car business in San Jose. He ended up living on the beach and taking shower at beach parks.
"You know, many of us who come to the island are runaways," he said.
By 1980, however, Rasmus had seen the light. "I stopped drinking and became a part of the solution."
He started leasing houses, and renting clean rooms to people living on a shoestring like he used to do. He opened (and closed) two stores in Lahaina, Crystal Palace and Song by the Sea. He sold kukui nut leis at the Swap Meet, and became known as Lahaina's unofficial greeter.
In January, it hit him. His true purpose for being.
"Most of my life I have been wondering what I am here for, what I am supposed to do," he said. "Why not start cleaning the place up so when I do figure it out, I'm in a decent setting?"