Monday, January 26, 2009



I gave up the chance to upgrade my seat on the plane because I would lose my window. As we circled over Waikiki and a hush came over the cabin, I was so glad to be able to take this picture.

And this one, of the western side of the island.

I am sort of mystified by how warm it is here. And light. We have an extra hour of sunshine. I can't say I really like Waikiki all that much. But I think I am going to be very happy once out on the island and exploring.

It can be difficult to get Gordon on a plane (even on a work-related conference to Hawaii). But there is no one else I would rather travel with. The good thing is that once he is in a new location, he's a wonderful and enthusiastic traveler who buries his nose in the guidebook and begins to plan the day. I have a series of "Gordon and guidebook" photos taken around the world. Later in the day, after hiking around, his face turned quite red. He will not be this pale again for a few weeks.

I've long had an idea for a novel set partly in Hawaii. So it was that we set off for the Pearl Harbor Memorial, which I would encourage anyone to go and see. This shrine/memorial structure is placed over the sunken USS Arizona, where the remains of hundreds of soliders still lie.

A ferry takes out a pre-determined number of guests. Inside, there is information about the Arizona and how it lies on the ocean floor. Fish swim without concern through the water, which is still soaked with oil seeping out of the wreck.

The inside of the shrine lists the names of the dead. In some cases, survivors have asked to be buried along with their crew-mates. Their names are listed as well. Having lived through 9/11, I can see how surviving Pearl Harbor would be a life-changing and life-determining event.

I would imagine that the museum displays have changed over time. While the narration does not leave out who the attackers were (the Japanese), and certainly does not shy away from making clear who the victims were, the exhibits also do a good job, I think, of showing the complexities of war. The Japanese general Isoroku Yamamoto, for example, did not want war with the US because he knew it would cost his country, and that Japan would ultimately lose. What a terrible thing to truly be so caught up in events you cannot control, when your intuition warns you of danger.

In other exhibits, we are shown the distress inflicted on ethnic Japanese stuck in Japan during the war, or those who grew up in Hawaii, but ended up fighting on the Japanese side. Questions like this--identity, loyalty, love and the near madness that descends when someone isn't able to see clearly through all these things--have the makings of great fiction.

Later we hiked up Diamond Head Crater for a spectacular view of the city.

Since I've been here, people have assumed I am from the islands. One man spoke to me in Hawaiian and ended with the word "Hapa" so I smiled and said yes. He then told me a bunch of places to eat. I asked him where we could take my husband to eat good food and hear good slack guitar, and he sent us to Chai's Bistro, which was wonderful. He also told me to take some bus and to sit in the bus until the driver just turns off the engine. "Then you get out with him, and go see where he eats. That will be real Hawaiian food." I think I might try this, vague as his directions were.

Is that a SCUBA mask in your hand?
Actually, I think those are my shoes, though I do hope for snorkeling later in the week.
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