Thursday, January 29, 2009


Food, Oddities and Birthdays

I have very little experience with resorts.

What am I saying? I don't think I've ever stayed in a resort before, having always had a knee-jerk bias against them. And now I know why. A resort is pretty much designed to make you feel as though you haven't left home, except that the weather is better. And anyway, this version of home isn't one that I would choose for myself to begin with.

Note, for example, the photo above which came with my check at breakfast and informed all guests, regardless of country and language spoken, of the importance of leaving a tip.

This was then followed by a receipt which included the tip calculated for me at different percent levels since I, an imbecile, might not know to leave a tip or figure it out myself. I'll let you guess how much money I left. I won't eat there again.

I went to visit my father's old friend, Eddie Jose, who runs the conservation studio for the Honolulu Academy of Arts. I'd been in a funk all day, and seeing my father's friend and all the art pieces and the effort that was going into preserving paintings and screens on their last legs pretty much had me near tears the entire time. Some day maybe I'll figure out the right way to write about grief other than on a blog which is embarrassingly revealing. But, anyway, it was one of those days where I perpetually felt sick.

Eddie never did pose for a photo. He's sly and careful and charmingly subversive in that way I recognize a certain kind of non-white person to be. I enjoyed his company.

Despite my useless emotional state, I did manage to focus enough to see what Eddie and his team were doing--part of my novel concerns art restoration after all. Here, someone demonstrated a stencil pattern which would be used to decorate a piece of paper that will ultimately back a screen.

Here's the back of the screen. It was a nice rimpa style piece, but I got so involved in looking at the colors and textures, I forgot to take a photo. Ditto with the Sung dynasty painting hanging in the back. I kept forgetting to take pictures of all the things that I actually liked.

There was a period of my father's life where we were all absorbed by the question of how to find the perfect gold paper to repair the torn gold sections of standing screens. Dad tried unsuccessfully to blend gold paints together. I learned from visiting Eddie that the best way is to buy old gold screens--this one is a couple hundred years old--and just rip them up. Gold squares are taken off and reused as patchwork. No one, he said, can paint anything to rival pilfered old material.

My father also wondered how to fade too-bright silks once a painting has been remounted. Eddie said that he often dyes silks by using vegetable dyes. He even let me eat some of his ingredients--a clove, which I had to spit out while he giggled at me and passed me the trash can.

I asked Eddie where I could go to find good sushi. I was skeptical of all the recommendations I'd received so far; one restaurant was known for "attracting celebrities," which is not exactly criteria I would follow for food. Eddie said that Honolulu doesn't have a great many sushi joints, except for Mitch's. He warned me; Mitch's is a hole in the wall, but the fish would be good. So it was that in the evening we piled into a cab and found ourselves under an expressway and wedged in between car dealerships to enter a small room blasting Japanese pop tunes. Two Japanese sushi chefs were behind the counter, and Japanese tourists already gnawing on raw lobster.

It was really, really good. A top sushi experience. I may go again tomorrow.

I visited the Iolani Palace, where the last Hawaiian Kings and Queens lived. We had to cover our feet with these little booties. I couldn't touch anything or take any photos, so sadly I have little to share. Except. I think it is interesting to visit places that still mourn sovereignty. My generation is so far removed from kings and queens and it is hard to imagine living in such a world where royalty was common. But I wonder if the founding fathers would look at certain dynastic families in politics with skepticism; they more than anyone would have understood the dangers of dynasties. I mean, I am finding it wonderful and fascinating to read about the early days of Obama and all that has happened and the enthusiasm so many of us have for him must be something like the thrill of watching a new king in action. We still desire to have these figures in our lives. And some people are naturally kingly.

I went off to Chinatown ostensibly to find Maui onions. They kept showing up on the menu--fresh Maui onions! with Maui onions! sweet Maui onions! I asked a bus driver about the onions and he said that they are special because of the soil in Maui. Food, he said, changes once it comes to the islands. The macadamia nut originally had prickles, but no more--in paradise, prickles aeren't needed. The Maui onion, originally from Brazil, has evolved due to the volcanic soil. My hunt for Maui onions was on. But, said the bus driver, don't go to Safeway. They just carry food from the island--a shame when so much of what is grown on the islands is superior to the imports.

This mystery fruit fascinated me.

Later I cracked it open and ate it--it was like a lychee. (Gordon thought the pit was the nut and ate that too).

I found lots of wholesale florists hawking cheap leis. I didn't buy the cheapest one because I couldn't pass up the chance to wear one with tuberose. I think that tuberose might be my favorite fragrance as these things go.

At last! Maui onions!

I love the fruit stands. Here Honolulu reminded me of a tropical Berkeley--slightly disheveled, colorful and quirky.

My favorite friend followed me around.

For Gordon's birthday dinner, we went to a fancy place called Elua, which cooks Italian and French food, but using local ingredients--an important thing, if we want to support local farmers. He was happy with his card and his necklace and his present waiting back home--an out of print copy of Vogue French Cookery which I found via AbeBooks.

I like the banyan trees.

Edited to add: It occurs to me that I'm being disingenuous when I say I have little experience with resorts. I have lots of experience. I worked in them. Summer after summer I earned money to use while in college by taking cocktail orders and filling in for the bartender when his cocaine habit beckoned. I grew up in a resort town. I know what it is to wait on people . . . like me! I was befriended by the Mexican and Phillipino workers who came to my part of the California expressly to work in a resort, and to send their kids to decent schools. That's probably part of why the whole resort-in-Hawaii thing freaked me out. It's weird to be on the other side of the table or bar or hotel counter.

All that wonderful papaya...sigh.

Maybe or maybe not off topic, but I thought of you last night when I finally received and enjoyed my copy of Wabi Sabi (it was a long day, wine and a quality children's book were good choices). Have you seen it? I think you'd like it very much - beautiful collage art and the story, partially in haiku, of little Kyoto cat Wabi Sabi who wants to understand her name. Really lovely.
oh man. it's cruel and unusual of you to post these.
happy birthday! Gordon!

Have a great stay in a resort island.
Marla--I've seen that book and really should look at it closely. Thanks for reminding me. Just for the record, I ate two papayas today.

Moonrat--I know. I'm mean. But I also wanted to share.

Nono--I am happy to see your comment on this blog. I hope that in May we can go to a resort in Okinawa together.
nono desu,

We really wanted to go to Hawaiian resort, but finally dicided to go to Europe.

Hope to see you in Okinawa, lovely isalands resort in Japan!
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