Monday, February 02, 2009


Final Days in Paradise (This Trip)

Who am I to say no to an upgrade involving a red convertible? We were able to tan much faster than usual with the top down. And, frankly, it's much easier and safer to drive an open convertible. Too many blind spots otherwise.

We drove to Hanauma Bay, home of superb snorkeling. It is as they say: the fish will swim right up to you, unperturbed and expecting food, though you aren't supposed to feed them.

Later, we drove around the north shore to Giovanni's shrimp shack, home of the most incredible smoothie I have ever had. I want very much to bring Isao and Nono to this place. For those in the know, yes, I ordered one plate of the non-refundable spicy shrimp and ate them all. I would go back to Oahu just to eat more of these shrimp.

I love the way that people "go native" so quickly. Gordon kept asking locals if they too wear Hawaiian shirts, and apparently they do. They also apparently are happy to catch the bus just to go buy a pineapple.

I practically turned into a pineapple.

Doumyouji likes Hawaii too.

Everyone loves Obama. A bus driver took a detour for us just so we could see Obama's high school. He said: "No one has started an Obama tour yet, but it's just a matter of time." It's extraordinary to think of this man growing up in this mellow, mellow place, and ending up in cold Washington. No wonder he complains about the cold all the time.

I asked a few people if the farmers on Hawaii are politically conservative since farmers tend to be conservative on the mainland. The answer was always a very tight: "No." I get the sense that conservatism is a dirty word here.

The rainbow is everywhere in Hawaii--the license plate, for example. "I think," said Gordon, "that the rainbow doesn't mean here what it means everywhere else." Given that we saw rainbows almost every day, I suspect that this is true, and that the rainbow is simply another decorative element in a place that isn't interested in hard, cold, East Coast cynicism.

This woman was knitting a dish-scrubber. She informed me that the best scouring pads are made of acrylic. I can clean anything with a crocheted or knitted scouring pad. I can even clean Teflon coated pans. I think I'll give her advice a try.

I mentioned that a bus driver told me I should take a certain bus, wait until the driver turns off the ignition, and then get out of the bus. "That's where you'll find real Hawaiian food." I was skeptical, but curious (I mean, he was giving me instructions on where to eat, and that kind of information is sacred and precious). So off we went.

And it was as he said it would be. The number 13 bus stopped and the driver hopped out. And so did we.

Not too far away, we found Ono's Hawaiian food, a sort of mellow but stern place, where we were instructed to wait outside until seated.

I'm not completely sure what all of this is, but I think it was dried beef, pork, salmon and tomato and chicken. It was delicious. High class Hawaiian cuisine is a relatively new concept--much in the same way that California cuisine is a new thing. It took a while, but eventually chefs realized that good meals could be prepared using local ingredients; meat didn't need to be flown in from France. I like it when people realize that they have every reason to be proud of their own environment and their own culture. Food like Ono's--traditional Hawaiian food--is the base from which this "new Hawaiian cuisine" springs and it's nice to see people feeling pride in what is authentically theirs.

Tourist shops routinely sell Tiki art, most of which, I'm afraid, is made in China. I was very attracted to the idea of buyig a nice Tiki piece, but of course wanted something authentic.

Late one night, after we inadvertently followed some hookers down a street, we came across a little stall up in a corner, with a Tiki artist at work. He was from Tonga, though he now lives in Hawaii. Later I realized that Tonga is part of Polynesia, a chain of islands which share a culture and of which Hawaii is a part.

I picked a couple pieces that I liked, then went back to the hotel to sleep on it. In the morning, I decided I would need to go back to take home two pieces with me. And so, sunburned from a day at the beach and with the top of the convertible down, we went back to see Mr. Tiki artist, and made our purchases.

OK, you MUST fully write up and publish the 'accidentally followed hookers and found Tongan tiki stand' incident in a story or essay. That material is just to fine to let go.
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