Where'd I leave off now... Ah, here: May 19...
In Hawaii, people are very courteous drivers. The laid-back island lifestyle makes it so people aren't so worried about rushing anywhere. On the other hand, politeness often makes the roads clogged.
After a long and busy week, we took Saturday easier. Without air conditioning, the best way to spend the afternoon is either squeezing in a nap or doing pleasure reading. Around high school, formal education left a foul taste in my mouth toward reading as well as soaking up so much time that I just didn't do it. Suddenly freed by the Hawaiian aloha spirit, I fell to reading not for knowledge or because I must or even because I am bored, but because it is good and fun. I had forgotten how enjoyable it is simply to lie around on the couch and read. Thusly on the couch, I spent the day finishing Good Omens a book by Terry Prachett (the Discworld guy) and Neil Gaiman (the Sandman comic book guy) about the end of the world seen through a whole host of characters, such as the main two of the demon who talked Eve into eating The Apple and the angel who was supposed to be guarding the Garden of Eden, but got reassigned after losing the flaming sword. It was pretty hilarious, quite dry in its British humour, and a nice entry back into reading.
In addition to returning to my lost love of the written word, Cate and I watched a bunch of Disney movies, films I haven't seen since my own childhood. We watched Peter Pan, and I watched with a gaping mouth as I saw just how psychologically tormented Captain Cook is. And this punk kid Peter Pan won't stop mocking him. It's really kind of sad.
Nowhere near as sad as the classic Dumbo. Oh, man, there's a tear-jerker. And the pink elephants drunken bit is really pretty creepy. I can't believe the expect kids to watch this. But, it is very good. By the way, did you know that Dumbo's real name was "Jumbo Jr."? I didn't.
In Hawaii, many of the highway patrol-type police use their own vehicles rather than the official Honolulu County Police Cars. Thus, it's not uncommon to see all kinds of Mustangs or SUVs with flashing lights attached.
Sunday morning Laurie was exercising her hobby as a photographer by doing a photoshoot of some friends and their kids at a nearby Buddhist Temple, and I tagged along. Fittingly, the temple was in the Valley of the Temples, a nearby memorial park dedicated to churches and graveyards.
There were lots of Asian-style gravestones there. That is, very large, typically fancy and made of marble, with lots of writing. While the practice of ancestor-worship may not be as blatant as ancient times, there is certainly a culture of remembrance.
Our destination was the Byodo-in Temple, which translates basically as "Temple of Equality."
It's a scale replica of the Uji Byodo-in Temple in Japan. Across the very cool bridge, the temple stands amid gardens (such as this with half-wild pineapples growing)...
...and loads of fish ponds.
Nearby is the Bell House, with a 5-foot brass bell cast in Osaka and identical to a 900-year-old one said to have come from India. Both are long ways to haul 5-ton bells.
Inside the temple is an 18-foot Buddha. That's a big Buddha. Oh, and you have to take off your shoes to go inside. Even outside of religious practice, there's a lot of barefootness in Hawaii, which is fine by me.
Co-habitating with the fish are a lot of different kinds of ducks, such as the infamous "chuck", a hybrid of chickens and ducks.
Actually, that's not true, just my brother-in-law teasing. It's a Muskovy duck, which does indeed have chicken-like features, which makes the story almost believable. It's cruel to spread rumors like that.
After feeding the fish and getting munched on by mosquitos, it was time to go. Good timing, too, as the mists were starting to roll over the mountians.
Don't see that in Oklahoma.
I spent the afternoon walking down the beach all the way to the public park, which is probably a good couple of miles there and back. As one moves away from the beach that is practically back yards and to the park, there's a definite economic and racial shift, which is disappointing, but realistic.
But, white, native, Asian, islander (lots of Phillipino immigrants), or black (actually very few blacks in Hawaii), everybody was having a good time on the beach. Lots of sandcastle-building, lying around getting tans, swimming, surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing (now that looks fun), walking dogs, throwing a ball, and general relaxing. Just watching it all is amusing. As cliched as it is, I realized genuinely do like long walks on the beach.
In Hawaii, people sometimes spend their weekends picnicking with loved ones in graveyards next to passed loved ones. Eerie, yet strangely comforting in their acceptance of death.
Monday brought the long-awaited trip to the North Shore. It felt like a long drive, but that was just by island-standards. Apparently there's a mental frustration known as Island Sickness where people feel stressed and trapped on the small amount of land with never-ending sea around them. Having rarely seen the sea over my life, that didn't bother me.
We stopped for lunch at the best pizza place on Oahu, Pizza Bob's. It was indeed good pizza, started some years ago by an ex-surfer. The North Shore is known for its gigantic waves, but I was there in the off season, so the shoreline was smooth and calm fields of blue. Not too shabby.
For dessert, we stopped at Matsumoto's General Store for shave ice, which is the Hawaiian sort of sno cone.
The ice is literally shaved into fine sheets (rather than crushed like most sno cones) and thus thicker and smoother. If you see some place offering "shaved ice", just keep walking. They don't know what they're doing any more than someone trying to serve gelato with a scoop rather than a flat server, heh. In addition, the key to the treat is that ice cream and Japanese sweet beans are added in the bottom. While I personally didn't care for the beans (beans ain't supposed to taste like that!), the ice cream was phenomenal. I'd never have thought of it, but placing the ice cream below creates a cold-buffer that also picks up the excess flavoring, which is simply amazing. Mm, good stuff. I had root beer and cotton candy (they go together surprisingly well).
We spent the afternoon at the Polynesian Cultural Center, one of the tourist hotspots of the island. Run by the Mormons with cheap labor from the nearby Hawaii Campus of BYU, it's a sort of Epcot-style exploration of the island groups around the Pacific. While I was wary at first, the Samoans won me over.
The landscaping is very carefully crafted to look like idyllic islands, especially with loads of waterfalls.
Other sculpting is just for kicks, like the honu in the pavement.
There were tons of native-style architecture and relics, but a strange amount of tikis and other representations of gods and spirits. That's treading a little close to breaking Commadment #2 of 10, but I guess it's just for show. My favorites were the ones that stick their tongues out.
The entrance holds a very quick museum with little items from the islands, scale models of ships, and a ceremonial sword presented to one of the prophets. Very Klingon-esque.
Here's a quick series of descriptions for the islands: In the middle is an unmanned display of Rapa Nui, aka Easter Island (home of arguably the greatest ecological disaster ever brought upon themselves by a civilization). They have lots of neat Moai.
There's Hawaii, which was the biggest with lots of games and hula demonstrations. During the Hawaiian program, I was taught that the root of "aloha" is "ha", meaning "breath of life." The original Hawaiian greeting was to press your foreheads together and exhale then inhale through the nose, breathing each other's breath and thus sharing life. When they met Europeans who wanted to shake hands, they thought they were nuts!
Among games such as Hawaiian checkers and top-spinning, there was also Hawaiian bowling.
And Aotearoa (the native name for New Zealand--too many vowels!), where we played with poi balls and tititorea, which was a stick-tossing game to chanting. The best part were the blue-eyed natives with their New Zealander accents. Ah, everybody loves kiwis.
Samoan are kind of the Chris Farleys of the Pacific: stocky, humorous, and perhaps a little crazy. There was a very amusing presentation about harvesting coconuts and fire knife dancing. How cool is that: juggling knives that are on fire! I played with the pretend ones, which was dangerous enough.
They like to leave their machetes lying around, too.
Tahiti was very cool. It's so weird (yet strangely attractive) to hear obviously Pacific people with French accents. Tahitian dancers are the ones with the incredibly fast hip movements like a sped-up version of the hula. They're very... watchable, so to speak. No wonder Gauguin wanted to move there.
At the Tahitian fishing stand, I went fishing with a paperclip hook and a bit of coconut bread dough.
The key was to get past the surface-dwelling tiny fish that would just eat the bait off the "hook" and go for something deeper. Wow, I almost sound like I know something about fishing.
How studly is that?! But, I had no use for a fish, so I set it back in the water and let it go. I've finally got a story about "the one that got away."
Fiji was one of the last island groups to give up canibalism. They just like killin' people. Speaking of which, the holy hut of the villages were the tallest structures and enterable by only three people a year: the chief, the priest, and the human sacrifice. Speaking of death, the punishment for using the wrong door on the chief's hut was death by beating. They seemd to take any excuse to exercise the death penalty.
Tongans are vivacious with lots of drumming and playing of lafo (Tongan shuffleboard played on long, tightly woven mats).
I also practiced with the Tongan spear-toss. They're heavily weighted to fall from above, like lawn darts. Come to think of it, those probably would've done well against legionaires.
Tonga also had the arts'n'crafts bit of making fish out of coconut palm leaves. We made a ton of these things.
Finally, there's the Marquesas, which seemed to be dedicated to the honeymooners. The program was a staged pig hunt (just a guy, not a real pig) with lots of spears and grunting and running and so forth. They took guys from the audience and had them say very romantic things to their wives, for whom they would be hunting pig. Aww.
Catie's favorite part of the PCC (other than throwing the Aotearoan sticks at Uncle Jeffy's shins to see how loud he'll scream) was getting ink temporary tatoos. I got in on the action quite a bit, too, with an awesome forearm gecko.
It'd look cool if I had massive baseball-player forearms, anyway.
In all, a very entertaining place, but also very exhausting. The Japanese tourists thought so, too.
That night we had a luau followed by music and, later, a dance program with stunts from all the islanders.
The luau's food was strange, but very tasty. They had purple rolls (and I mean, purple) made from taro root which were very tasty with butter (though a slight aftertaste like purple sweettarts). Other than that, it was lots of fruits and lots of pork. I had built up an appetite over the day and the buffet line paid for it. Still full even after the show, it was time to go to bed and try to recharge.
In Hawaii, even the trash bins are Hawaiian.
Tuesday was something of a bust. After the very late night Monday, it was a good question whether I or Catie was grumpier. We went to the Polynesian Cultural Center again and had a good enough time, but we were all glad to go back home. I was so exhausted I spent the evening vegging out on television and not even thinking for the first time in a long, long while. Fortunately the mood was temporary, and I would feel better after a night's rest.
In Hawaii, people really do wear Hawaiian shirts, 'cept they're called "Aloha shirts."
Cate and I spent the morning watching some children's television (well, I pretended to be reading, but it was an interesting investigation). Shows these days seem to be fairly interative with lots of problem-solving and aggravatingly catchy songs. In my day, Cookie Monster just ate cookies all the time, and that was good enough for me. But this is all right as well, especially since the special guest on the Mickey Mouse Club was Dr. von Drake, who is hilarious. I'm not so sure about the racial stereotypes represented by Handy Manny, but I'll let it slide. I won't, however, let the show Charlie & Lola slide with its creepy slow British speaking and surreal playing. It is so terrifying! Those kids will haunt my nightmares. Reminds me of Salad Fingers.
Anyway, we had had more than our fill of television and set off for Honolulu for the afternoon. My destination was Pearl Harbor National Park with the USS Arizona Memorial.
The museum complex was open-air and looked none-too-shabby (although it was gradually sinking and breaking away from its foundation). Still, pretty for now.
It's a very popular destination (lots of Japanese tourists, and I'm still not sure what to think of that). Visitors are given timed tickets for viewing a seriously heart-wrenching film about the Pearl Harbor attack followed by a ferry staffed by Navy guys across the harbor.
You get a nice view of the shipyards just down the way.
Then you come to the white, bridge-like memorial, resting above the waters where the Arizona still sits with nearly one thousands sailors buried inside.
Parts of the ship are visible.
The rest can be seen as ghostly images under the waves.
In addition, you can see little spots of oil still leaking up from the tanks. There was a bit in the museum about it, and they're looking into any potential ecological harm. Really it's only a tiny bit, and there're speed boats that leak more. But, the tanks below were full, and, at the constant rate, they're going to be leaking for hundreds of years to come.
Once back from the memorial, I went through the museum, which has artifacts of men stationed in Hawaii during the war as well as collections of stories from guys who had been in the battle and even trapped in the wrecked destroyers. One told of a guy who stood in water for days and had to fight his crewmates to keep them from drowning themselves just to put an end to it. They heard the knocking of the searchers and were finally cut out. Wow.
Other portions of the museum show the Japanese side. The commander Fuchida was in charge of the attack.
They also had pictures of the Japanese-style carrier. The whole roof is a flight deck, rather than the American design of much flatter with things poking up. Weirded out.
I was much agog over that, and then I discovered the scale model later on. So very weirded out.
After finishing the museum, I still had some time till Laurie and Catie came from dance class to pick me up, so I wandered the nearby museum grounds. The Bowfin submarine offered tours, but they were closed.
There were lots of missiles and memorabilia around, such as this very early rocket.
And a big ole 40mm anti-aircraft gun.
To the back, there was a view of sprawling Honolulu.
There was even time for some amusement, which I found at the moped-only parking. Not motorcycle, moped.
And, according to the sign on the parking lot, I was to go right to get to the Internet. Ha, an entertaining end to a day's touring.
In Hawaii, architecture is open with high ceilings and big windows to catch the breeze since no one air conditions. The beams are fun for cats to climb.
We headed back to the North Shore for one final day hanging around the Polynesian Cultural Center. First we stopped at one of Hawaii's greatest tourist-traps, the Dole Pineapple Plantation.
It was pretty interesting, really, as long as you didn't get too caught up in the fact that they stuck Dole labels on anything that didn't move fast enough. While there, we had a pineapple smoothie, mm. We also fed the koi, who were so eager to get at the food that they were crawling up out of the water and smacking their gills in the air. Now that's terrifying.
They had a big garden of different varieties of pineapples, from tiny ones to big ones to red ones to extra-spikey ones. There was a spatially accurate sign taking into account the spherical nature of the Earth. I thought that was awesome, and I don't care how nerdy that makes me seem.
The main point of the trip was to ride the Pineapple Express, which drives around the plantation and gave us a bit of history to Dole and his pineapple empire. There were lots of wooden cut-outs of grinning day-laborers working in the fields. I tried not to be too cynical.
While cruising the plantations, I was struck by how very Oklahoma it looked. In this point of the island, there are few mountains visible and no hint of ocean. Instead, you have big blue skies, red dirt, very flat landscape, and you'd just about expect a bison to walk by. Eerily close to home.
We stopped for lunch on the North Shore at a Thai place called Haleiwa Eats. Since I had never had Pad Thai before, I gave it a try, and it was absolutely amazing. Laurie tasted it and said it was probably the best, so, sadly, I have nowhere to go from there in Pad Thai tasting but down. Hm.
On our way to the PCC, we stopped to see the honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), but they weren't on shore yet. Instead, we drove up a little further and checked out the Audobon bird sanctuary and saw some very photogenic peacocks.
We didn't stay very long, so that's on my To-See list for next Hawaiian trip. Arg, depressing to think that there's always something else to see. Then again, there'll never be nothing new to see... For example, we drove past a brush fire and pulled over to watch the fire helicopters dump seawater on it. Very unexpected and cool.
The rest of the afternoon was spent at the PCC filling in the gaps of the things we had missed. It rained pretty heavily while we were there, which was all right since we went inside the IMAX to watch a movie about coral reefs. About two minutes into the strangely familiar film, I realized that it was one I had seen while subbing science class just a couple of weeks earlier. I had already seen the first half about four times. It was good to finally see the end, especially in big-screen IMAX form.
So it seems that even when I do run across something I've seen before, there's more to see in it.
In Hawaii, the cockroaches are gigantic. You also have to watch out for the geckos, which don't run, just freeze underfoot. If you suddenly step barefoot onto something oddly squishy, that's probably what it is.
For days the laidback island spirit had seized me, but I finally sat down in the morning and typed up the instruction manuals for my card games. It went together surprisingly easily, despite the tropical distractions. Maybe if I were to get used to Hawaii, I could be not distracted enough to live there and get something done.
Over lunch, I watched the MST3K version of The Crawling Hand (with the Skipper as the ubiquitous town sheriff). Once I had digested enough to swim, I headed for the beach and another island experience: bodyboarding. After a quick check of the Internet on instructions (how nerdy is that?) and noting that the term "boogieboarding" is seen as offensive among bodyboarding circles (weirded out), I headed to the beach to try my luck.
Bodyboarding is actually fairly simple physics. It's a perpetuated fall into a slide as the center of mass is kept far enough over the crest of the wave to dip, but still be carried by the upthrust of the water. The key is getting enough speed at the proper time, then throwing your weight forward while still keeping balance. Being a newbie and about as coordinated as a stringless puppet, it was tricky, but I managed to catch a few good waves. Then I'd fly toward the beach, letting out a cry of "Ha ha!" that would make any '30s adventurer/archeologist/big-chinned professional Nazi fighter proud. Someday I'd have to go one step further and try to surf.
In Hawaii, they don't suffer from as much political correctness as we do on the Mainland. If somebody's fat, you say they're fat. Doing otherwise will just confuse people.
While Laurie and Catie went to a Princess/Pirate party or something 4-year-olds would do, I tagged along to Honolulu and climbed Diamond Head State Monument. It's an extinct (or at least happily dormant) volcano overlooking Waikiki with a huge interior crater. In the early 1900s it was turned into an artillery range with a series of bunkers for spotters. There was a mule trail leading up to the edge of the crater, but now the trail is hiked mainly by sweaty tourists.
It starts off easily, but gets pretty steep at points, especially with the enormous concrete staircase and the steel spiral stairs. There was a girl in heels literally running up them, surrounded by panting hikers who gaped and muttered, "How's she doing that?"
Once at the top, you can turn back and look at the crater behind you. Being an Oklahoma boy used to the wide open spaces, it was strangely claustrophobic being surrounded on all sides by walls of rock. It made me uneasy, which was strange since the crater is a spacious 350 acres. Still, when I turned my head and kept seeing rock on all sides, panic and vertigo swept over me. The key was to look up at the bright blue sky above. From the top looking down, it doesn't seem so bad.
On the outside of the crater ridge, you can see the sea beyond, looking green and blue and unbelievably gorgeous. The sailboats were out that day.
Here's a picture of me and Waikiki.
I like how that rhymes.
Anyway, I hiked back down dodging packs of Japanese tourists and annoying teen camp girls complaining how hard hiking is between having water fights. We went back for some lunch, then hit the beach for the afternoon. Catie and I made some sandcastles and a volcano with realistic lava flow, but our best was the "Snowman at the Beach" with driftwood sticks for arms and a discarded orange peel grin. I regret forgetting my camera.
When we got back, I saw in the mirror that I had caught some sun and looked a little red on my face. I scoffed and said it was nothing; I'm tough enough to handle a little burn. (Remember that for the next few entries.)
That night there was a get-together at some friends of Nate and Laurie's. I tagged along and got a close-up look at having loads of little kids running around. Whew, I was exhausted just looking at them as they jumped from dress-up games to Candy Land (never playing more than about two rounds before losing interest) to begging for juice boxes and back again. While I do look forward to having kids some day, I'm content with that fact that the day is years away, heh.
In Hawaii, kids want to grow up and go to the Mainland. On the Mainland, kids want to grow up and retire to Hawaii.
Sunday morning we went for brunch at the Officer's Club at the Marine base near Kailua. They had everything from waffles to eggs benedict to sushi to a chocolate fountain. Mm, everybody needs chocolate for breakfast. I ate so much I seriously thought I was going to throw up. Fortunately, there was no spewing, just a lot of full-stomached sleeping in the car as we drove to the North Shore for a polo match at Mokuleia.
Hawaiians were big into polo when it was introduced in the 1880s. Maybe it was the novelty of the game since there weren't any native horses. Whatever it is, Hawaii is one of the few havens left for the regal sport of running horses up and down a field, chasing a ball with hammers.
The games were divided into four seven-minute "chukkers" (the real name is "chakkas", but slang's good, too). There are lots of rules, most of which are for the safety of the horses. It seems that in polo, killing somebody is one thing, but accidentally bumping somebody's horse is something completely different. Of course, while watching the enormous, majestic beasts, it's hard not to share an affinity for them.
The grounds were very Hawaiian. The field is right next to the beach, and lots of kids went swimming while their parents hung around watching the game. The announcer (with some sort of Hispanic accent) was constantly cracking jokes and yelling at the players. A gang of guys were "polo hooligans", painting themselves in yellow and red and sometimes racing up and down the field in the back of a beat-up jeep.
It was a good afternoon to sit back and watch.
After a busy day, we relaxed the evening away by watching Garfield 2, a sort of Prince-and-Pauper premise set in England. It was tolerable overall, but I indulged on my anglophilia in the scenes set in London. It's fun to watch movies filmed in places you've been. Soon I'd have to start watching movies filmed in Hawaii with the same excited gasping.
In Hawaii, there's a definite Have/Have-not line separating skyrise hotels and shacks on the beach. Still, if you're at the beach, you're going to be outside enough not to worry about having a shack.
It was Memorial Day, so Nate was off work, and he took me out kayaking in the morning. The hardest part was definitely lugging the kayak down the path to the beach (actually, it was lugging it back after our arms were worn out from paddling), but things went very smoothly as we launched, paddled over the waves, and made for the calm beyond the beach.
We paddled out to a flat island that is labeled as a bird sanctuary (no dogs or camping). After beaching the kayak, we stretched our legs and rested our arms. There were lots of other people there, out on their own holiday excursions. Good choice of destination: bright skies, warm water, and plenty of exercise.
Looking back toward O'ahu, we could see Lanikai with its built-up million-dollar housing.
The flat island (Popoia, I think) itself was interesting. It was an old reef formation with lots of sediment and rocks. Only a little grass could grow there.
All the rocks and such were very porous, so you could stand above the ocean and watch the water splash up underneath you.
There were also a good deal of tidepools with various critters running around like crabs, though you had to look carefully. For being a bird sanctuary, I only saw about two birds on the island.
After walking all the way around the little island on an exceedingly sharp rock path (my slippers were just about sliced to ribbons on the bottom, which would've been my feet otherwise), we hopped back into the kayak and made for the Mokulua Islands a bit further on.
Once there, we beached the kayak again and went snorkeling. A good snorkeler can take a deep breath, dive down, and then swim up, blow the water out of said snorkel, and take a breath without ever coming up. I was not a good snorkeler. Every time I tried that, I got a good throat full of saltwater.
I did get very good at floating just below the surface and breathing steadily through the snorkel. Back in grade school, we read this whiny essay about how it's hard to really say people "must do" something or other to really live lives, but scuba diving is definitely a must, and it's haunted me for over a decade now with its poor logic and hypocrisy. That aside, snorkeling and scuba diving are great experiences that show the mysterious realm just beyond the water's edge. It's one thing to watch it on the Discovery Channel, but it's another to swim there yourself, hearing nothing but the whistling howls of your own breath and seeing all the rocks and water creatures mere inches from your fingertips.
Or less, since Nate liked to pick up squishy gross sea cucumbers (though the sea urchins didn't like him much and let him know it).
On our trips to the North Shore, we had tried to see the honu, but I had missed every opportunity. While I was swimming, I saw two, face-to-face with the dream-eyed green creatures. They're awkward, but slow moving and patient, and they can cut away when they want. Their fins are surprisingly skillful, letting them dive and hold in place to nibble at some sea greens on the rocky seabed. It'd be easy to spend a whole afternoon just swimming alongside and watching them.
I didn't see any humuhumunukunukuapua'a, but I did see some other kinds of triggerfish. There were lots of striped fish, the kind you only see in tanks on the mainland. We also saw an eel (now there's an ugly critter) swimming from hiding place to hiding place.
Eventually we tired out of swimming and decided to paddle back before our deadline of 5 o'clock came and Laurie called for the Coast Guard to find us. We went back on the hypotenuse of a triangle, making it the longest and most tiring leg of the journey. The whole circuit was probably a few miles, and my arms were feeling it. Not aching, just plain tired.
We had gone the whole voyage without capsizing till the last few feet next to the beach. The waves pushed us sideways and flipped us with about a foot of water beneath us. It was pretty hilarious, actually.
After some Memorial Day hamburgers (if it's not a law that you have to eat burgers on Memorial Day, it should be), we whiled away the afternoon sidewalk chalking and watching Fantasia 2000 (even better than I remembered). While chalking, I showed Catie how to do some simple calculus with the graph, derivative, and integral of x squared. Her four-year-old response was to use the mathematical equations as a hopscotch board. You know, that's the proper response.
When we had come back, I noticed that my upper arms were a litle red, but thought nothing of it. As the day wore on, the red deepened and spread, setting my skin on fire. By nightfall, even cold compresses couldn't stop the burning. I had put on the same sunscreen Nate had at the same time, but it didn't seem to affect me. Over the next week, this would be the worst sunburn of my life. Dun-dun-dunnn!
In Hawaii, locals' birthday parties are enormous affairs with distant friends and relations happily invited.
It was Laurie's birthday, so we would spend the evening going out, but the day was more low-key. That was fine by me as I was still worn out by the paddling, not to mention the stabbing pain from my shoulders to my elbows. The redness of the burn changed hue, and blisters began forming like yellow bubbles. It got so I couldn't wear a shirt around the house, which is acceptable by Hawaiian standards, so it worked.
I spent the afternoon reading and napping, swapping back and forth between the two. The pleasure reading of the day was The Tale of Despereaux, a very dark kid's book about a mouse whose ears are too big, but let him enjoy music, which in turn gets him cast into the dungeon by the Mouse Council to be torn apart and eaten by rats. It gets darker from there. Great story with many interesting facets and good exploration of motive, but it worries me that it's meant for impressionable children.
That night we headed into Honolulu for Cirque Hawaii, which turned out to be a Cirque du Soleil copy with lots of music that may or may not have been properly paid for copyright use. There was some comedy, plenty of impressive stunts, lots of rope tricks (though I think the Canadian acrobat lady at the Med Fair was more impressive), and a very creepy conclusion act with a girl contortionist. Ugh, makes me shudder to see people bend like that. The best part was the magic where the magician's assistant's dress kept changing colors. I had the tricks figured till halfway through, then they lost me. I'm still trying to decide whether it's better to enjoy a magic trick simply as magic or to find out how they did it. Maybe one, then the other.
We had Laurie's birthday dinner at the Hawaii Grill, overlooking the beach. The waves grumbled below like distant thunder. Since it was dark, you couldn't see the water itself, just the white foam along the edge of the waves. The eats were good, too. Once we had eaten our fill, we walked back through Waikiki's amusing street night life with bellydancers, bands and singers, and all kinds of street performers (such as The Amazing Blaze, some guy dressed as a robot wearing a lot of Christmas lights). Waikiki is very different from the rest of Hawaii, and it was good to get away from the wild tourist town for a quiet night.
In Hawaii, or Oahu at least, almost all of the beaches are public. Whenever somebody tries to make a beach private, people go up in arms.
During lunch, we noticed that my arms were beginning to swell up, starting from the burn and working its way down to my fingers. While I didn't notice most of the time, it was strange to have such a stiff, pudgy elbow. Who knew sunburns could make you swell?
I spent Wednesday touring the Honlulu Academy of Arts, which hosts the preservation of the Doris Duke pleasure home in Waikiki.
The home tour is by bus, so I spent the rest of the day looking through the museum's collections, which were really quite good. They had a compact, yet nifty collection of Western art ranging from Roman glass to Medieval religious art up through the Regency and Americana. Toss in some Egyptian corn mummies (seriously, they had 'em) and loads of Asian art, and it was a good time. Their collections of Pacific art were reasonably large, and I think my favorite was the tautau, a funerary statue of the deceased from the South Pacific.
Man, that thing's creepy.
Then there was this little guy as a pot-holder. I'm still not sure what he is. Some kind of elephant, dog, ugly moustache hybrid.
That was in the Chinese Garden. The museum itself was very pretty with lots of atriums (or "atria" for those of us still reading Latin) and greenery.
The Mediterranean Court across the way had fewer plants, but neat waterworks. I like waterworks.
Eventually it was time to board the bus and slip off to Shangri La, as Doris Duke's house was nicknamed by its star-studded visitors. As the heir to the Duke fortune (tobacco and development) minus Duke University, Doris had enough money to live out her life in grand style and with lots of cool 1930s and '40s people. She really liked Islamic art and designed her house to hold and present her some of her collections. There were lots of geometric patterns, colored glass, and comfy, low couches everywhere. (It was only recently that the West caught up with their couch technology.) She even had couches on the lawn outside the sunporch.
The house also came with technological innovations, such as a glass wall that lowered into the basement at the push of a '30s-style button so that guests could go outside to the gardens with ease. How cool is that? The gardens, too, were nice.
She had a nice view of the opposite side of Diamond Head.
And there are remnants of old breakers made for a little harbor when they used to have yachts here.
Of course it's beach-front, even if she didn't own the beach, just the cliff above it. There were a bunch of teens out hanging around below.
In the driveway, there is one very nice Banyan tree. And, yes, that's a Rolls parked on the other side. I don't know whose it was, but he was fancy-shmancy enough to drive directly to the house (neighbors frown on that). He was on the tour with me and had a vaguely European look about him, though he didn't say enough for me to catch his accent. I'll just have to assume he was some multi-billionaire.
We went back to the museum, and I looked around till the docents kicked me out to close up. There were a few more minutes till Laurie came to pick me up, so I walked down the street to take some pictures of nifty buildings, such as the Honolulu Academy Arts Center.
Both it and the museum look onto Thomas Square, which is a park notorious for its homeless inhabitants. It does have a really cool circular pool in the center surrounded by enormous and sprawling Banyan trees.
Just after taking this picture, I saw Laurie pull up across the street, so I headed over to the crosswalk. As I reached the middle of the street, I heard someone call, "Hey! Hey, you!" It was in a tone that, even if it were meant for me, I wouldn't want to turn around. I finished crossing and traffic resumed behind me, but I still heard the shouting.
Walking down the opposite side of the street, I saw a hobo guy motioning to me. When he caught my eye, he yelled, "Did you take a picture of me?!" I had only taken pictures of buildings and trees, so I shook my head innocently as I could and walked on. He followed and started crossing the street toward me as traffic lightened. My heart began racing, but I tried to walk as calmly as I could.
As soon as I reached Laurie's car, I leaped inside, and she began driving away. The guy continued to follow. We would have escaped, but the light turned red and the car in front of us stopped. The guy walked up to my window and asked again, "Did you take a picture of me?" I told him I hadn't, but he did not seem convinced. He just stared at me.
Then I realized he wasn't staring at me. He was staring, but his eyes were slightly out of focus, and it became obvious just how unbalanced he was. The light changed and we pulled away, me giving him a broken-hearted wave goodbye. It was the most terrified I've been in a long while, and Laurie and I discussed the problem of insanity among homelessness.
When we got back, I checked my pictures, just to make sure he wasn't in a corner or something. If he were, I would've just felt awful.
In Hawaii, the native language is very flexible, making it easy to pronounce strings of vowels in names such as Ka'a'awa.
Sunburn update: The swelling went down, which was good, but the blsiters began breaking, which was bad. There was all this yellow goopy stuff spilling out of my flesh and staining my sleeves. How gross is that?!
Having almost recovered from my hobo-scare the day before (I felt certain he was actually an ex-spy hiding out among the homeless and desperate enough to make sure his picture wasn't taken that he'd hunt me down), we went for touring on the side of the island opposite Honolulu. The destination was the Kualoa Ranch.
The ranch land was purchased by Dr. Judd (one of the first doctors here) when it first became legal to sell land to foreigners in 1850. He originally wanted to grow sugar, but gave it up after crops didn't do so well (the natives told him so, but white men never listen) and one of his sons died in an accident falling into one of the sugar-boiling vats (not a good way to go). The old sugar mill, burned out and barely standing, is still there.
They started beef ranching, which has done pretty well.
In the '40s, part of the ranch was taken by the government to be used as bunkers for defense. They're still there, looking very utilitarian and '40s.
As the sign denotes, the bunker was used in the film Pearl Harbor. While it does tons of tourism, the ranch seems to be best known for its ability to sell out as a set for anything that comes even remotely close to Hawaii. Such as, here's the hill from Wind-talkers.
And Godzilla came here one time.
And you know the part in Jurassic Park where Dr. Grant and the kids are running from the stampeding herd of Gallimimus, then hide behind a tree? That's there, too! I saw the tree!
All those movies were filmed in the same valley, along with Fifty First Dates. The dirt trail is the road that Adam Sandler stops Drew Barrymore time and again in order to hit on her.
There was a set for something currently shooting, but our guide didn't know what. All we could see was some sort of village with a post-apocalyptic sort of setup and a sacrifice of stuffed animals rigged up.
Lost is apparently also filmed there, and rumor has it you can catch sights of the famous island Chinaman's Hat in the background. It's called that because it looks like a Chinaman's Hat. Legend states that a Chinaman immigrant laborer was there, took of his hat, and it became the island. I'm guessing he was sort of a Paul Bunyan kind of guy.
All that was on the film set tour. We signed up for another tour that was about fishponds, which I figured would be, you know, tolerable. Actually, it was fantastic. It started off with a cruise of a stone fishpond spanning hundreds of yards built over 400 years ago without cement, just fitting rocks together. Myth says it was built in one night by menehune (Hawaiian leprechauns). I didn't see any menehune to ask, unfortunately.
It was also a gardens tour, and we saw lots of cool botanical things such as the Bird of Paradise. The flower looks just like the bird!
We also saw some chickens roaming free. They were scrawnier than their farm brethern, but they could taste the bitter flavor of freedom.
With our morning tours done, we sat down for lunch at the ranch buffet, which served beef from the ranch's produce. It really does taste better when you can see where it was walking around shortly before. It was very American West with red checkered tablecloths and lots of barbeque (though the Hawaiianness came through with all the fruits piled up). The Texans sitting at the table next to us said it was the first decent meal they'd had since coming to Hawaii. I was shocked and had to swallow my laughter at them. Boy, I was eatin' good, and they was missin' out!
For the afternoon, we went to Hilton in Waikiki to ride the Atlantis submarine around artificial reefs. Artifical in that they had been newly grown out on dragged-in wrecks while most of the coral around was dying off. For some reason, coral and the fish around them really like living in wrecked ships and airplanes.
First we walked through the Hilton, seeing their weird, pseudo-pacific art.
They also have penguins living in one area near their pool. I didn't know there were such things as warm-weather penguins, the closest I could remember were the ones that migrated to South America. These ones came from South Africa, and they seemed to like the heat.
We walked out on a dock to meet a ferry that would take us out to meet the sub.
The ferry took us out across the fairly rough harbor, where we could see the super-tankers and freighters carrying load after load of Japanese cars for Americans to buy.
On the other side, you could see Waikiki's hotels, including the notoriously pink Royal Hawaiian. It was really famous back in the '20s and '30s.
After we waited for a while, the sub bubbled up from below, expunging its former passengers and letting us climb inside the narrow walls with thick windows.
The voyage was certainly something else. We saw lots of triggerfish, a honu, some sharks, and tons of Japanese tourists. They liked to take pictures of Catie, as if they didn't often see coral-eyed blonde little girls.
In Hawaii, people wear their bathing suits doing all kinds of normal stuff: shopping, eating, and, of course, hanging around near the beach.
Despite my sleeves still being stained by bursting blisters, I went out for some more touring. My suddenly sensitive skin could feel the sunlight through my sleeves, so I did my best to stay out of the sun while still seeing all I could.
Since it was Friday, our first stop was a picnic on the grounds of 'Iolani Palace while listening to the Royal Hawaiian Band with their cool sashes.
Laurie and Cate left for dance class, and I headed to the barracks to pick up tickets for the tour of the palace itself.
As far as nineteenth century mansions go, this one was just about right. Not too big, certainly not small, spacious rooms, and the most advanced technology of the time. Iolani Palace had flushing toilets, telephones, and electric lights all before the White House or Buckingham Palace did. Kamehameha V was a bit of a technophile (and first royal to circumnavigate the world), so he decked the house out as best he could. Unlike the regular 1800s mansions, they had a throne room where most would've had a simple ballroom. Arguably the best part was the woodworking with lots of local trees sacrificed for awesome panels, stairs, and floors. They made you put on little booties over your shoes before you go in.
In the basement, they have a little museum containing elements of the kitchens and, oh, you know, the Hawaiian Crown Jewels (!). They had row after row of royal standards made of feathers, feathered cloaks, conquered war drums, and then a room filled with gold crowns, a sword, and a staff that was fitting of any European house. Further on, they have all the orders (little medals) given to the visiting royals wherever they went. They had medals from English princes, Russian tsars, a necklace from the Thai king, and on and on. These guys knew everybody. Leave up to the yokel Americans to conquer 'em.
When I finished with the palace, I still had a while before Laurie was to come pick me up, so I went for some more exploring and picture-taking. I was careful not to run afoul of any hobos this time. Instead I got pictures of cool buildings like the Hawaiian Electric Company.
And the Honolulu Hale (which is Hawaiian for "house"), the city hall. They're very proud of it.
Nearby was Kaiawaiho Church, the first on the island. It's built of cut coral (which seems like it'd be too much work to be worth it).
It was built on the grounds of an ancient holy spot surrounding a spring meant only for royals. It's amazing the commoners in Hawaii got to do anything.
And the spacious graveyard behind the church holds the mausoleum of King Lunalilo, a public favorite who chose to be buried away from the rest of the royals.
I would've stopped in the State Library, but I was running short on time. I like hanging around foreign libraries. It's even better when they're in English.
I really liked the brickwork on the nearby Honolulu Brew & Malt Co. Fitting of a brewery.
I also got a picture of one of the R2-D2 mailboxes outside the post office. Now that's cool.
Circling back onto the palace grounds, I stumbled upon an ancient burial ground (also known as a "kupuna"). Fortunately, it was well labeled for me.
Over by the archives building, there was a monument to Captain Cook. While England has all kinds of Captain Cook stuff, Hawaii has surprisingly little. I guess it's hard for them to see it as a "discovery" when they were here to meet him.
Behind the palace, there were some more very cool banyan trees. I gotta get some of those. (Luckily, no hobos.)
I killed a few minutes waiting by taking a long look at the royal coat of arms. It's a complex blend of Hawaiian and English, which seemed to go with the whole of the royal family. They were quite the anglophiles themselves.
That evening after Thai food (but, sadly, no Thai dancers), we went to the Hilton to watch the weekly fireworks display.
We walked by Fort DeRussy, which is a military recreational base right smack in the middle of Waikiki. The land must be worth multi-millions, but it's just a nice park. Huzzah for eminent domain.
While waiting for the sunset, we sneaked a peek at the Hilton show. They blocked off the pool and did a performance with a king, a bunch of guys dressed as royal soldiers (in very British uniforms), and lots of hula dancers.
Then we hung around on the beach. I played with the sand, digging out bits of shell and coral to spell out my name, as is my custom on many beaches where I've been bored.
The fireworks lit up the sky, we were thrilled, and then it was time for bed. It'd been a busy day.
In Hawaii, there are lots of wild chickens roaming along the roadsides. Dat's good eating.
On Saturday, my sunburn began peeling. That's a step in the right direction, I think. (Wanna hear something really gross? I think it's fun to peel off the dead skin as it bubbles up. It feels so weird and slimy. Mm, good times.)
After busy touring, it was nice to take a day much slower. If being in direct sunlight didn't cause me hissing pain, I would've gone to the beach. Instead, I hung around the house, having it mostly to myself as people were off doing riding lessons or a farewell party for one of Nate's coworkers. I did do a little touring in the morning going to the Daiae, which is an Asian version of Wal-mart. It has the same sprawl store feeling, but with lots of Asian food and rubber masks with Buddha. Weirded out.
In my laziness, I read through The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which made Despereaux seem like a light, chipper little tale. It was really heart-wrenching, and every time something seems to start going right, people die. Oh, man.
I also watched movies, such as Curious George, which was much better than I expected. You don't have to think too much, but the animation's neat, the antics of the little monkey are amusing, and it's got a smooth Jack Johnson soundtrack. I also watched 2010, the sequel to 2001, which was interesting in its international intrigue and surreal super-humanness. And HAL comes back! He means well. I spent the evening marking off a movie that's been much too-long on my To Watch list: School of Rock. Actually, I'm glad I waited as the premise is him posing as a substitute teacher. The subbing parts made me laugh. A lot. Other than that, it had good music and a nice touch about following your dreams, even if they aren't exactly what you thought they were, though the movie was regrettably crude.
In Hawaii, there are still tons of gun implacements and pillboxes visible all over the coast. After Pearl Harbor, they turned the island into a fortress.
The touring continued Sunday morning with a trip to the Swap Meet in the parking lot around Aloha Stadium.
It was pretty much like any other swap meet, just with a little island flair. Lots of t-shirts, leis, hats, and a few Jamaican stands (not sure on that last one). It was hot, but the only stands were for "Shaved Ice", so we wisely just kept going. Laurie thought that Catie was getting big enough to learn to walk herself, but she could always talk Uncle Jeffy into carrying her. I have fond memories of being carried. In fact, if I could find somebody big enough, I'd still like to be carried.
Anyway, we left the swap meet and went for lunch at the largest Navy Exchange in the world in Pearl Harbor. It's bigger than most malls, spanning for floor after floor of all kinds of shops and restaurants and offering just about anything from golfing to washers and dryers.
Then we spent the afternoon riding the Ewa Train. The best part was getting to pull the rope and blow the horn at the end, but riding was peaceful and a better way to relax.
The train was built to haul sugar cane and help improve the island. It runs up the leeward side of the island, away from the rains, which is practically desert. Didn't expect that in lush green Hawaii.
Fortunately for the resort-builders, there is plenty of water in the mountains to run their golf-courses.
It was off-season for the dolphins, but the ride was nice enough anyway. We went back for dinner, and dessert was Cold Stone ice cream. I was hesitant, having it once been recommended against to me. Laurie suggested "cake batter" flavor, which instantly won me over. It really tastes like cake batter, but with ice cream texture! Plus, the guy serving's nametag read "Captain", and he had written the week's suggested mixture, signed "Captain". He's so cool.
In Hawaii, they really do the "hang loose" surfer sign of extending the thumb and pinkie finger, actually called the "shaka". According to the Hawaiian tourism board, it dates back to this guy Kalili Hamana who worked as a machinist in a sugar mill till he lost the middle three fingers of his hand. He got a job as a spotter on the train, where he'd wave the all-clear with his thumb and pinkie extended. It caught on. So for over a century now, people have been doing the "hang loose" sign in contempt of handicap.
In the morning (before it got obscenely hot), we went for a hike up to the Makapu'u Lighthouse. It's pretty rough terrain.
One trail led up the mountain, while another went down to the beach. Judging from the waves crashing into the sharp-looking rocks, I was surprised that so many people went toward the beach.
We scaled the mountain with me pushing Catie in her stroller. Lugging a four-year-old around is great exercise. They're also good in practicing patience, since they like to read No Roses for Harry four times in one sitting. I mean, once a day is all right, but how can someone with such a tiny attention span do the same thing over and over and over again?
There is a surprising amount of cactus in Hawaii. I mean, once you get leeward, it's almost everywhere. Weirded out.
When we got to the top, we realized that the trail that was closed due to falling rocks led to the lighthouse itself. That was all right, though, since we could look down on it.
Looking to the side, we could see Sea Life Park, where Adam Sandler's character worked in 50 First Dates. It's also a major marine biology installation, but that has little to do with movies.
Once back to the car and very hot and tired, we headed home to get out of the heat. I spent most of the afternoon watching Blues Brothers yet again, then went for a walk on the beach. The rain was beginning to come in, and I walked along, watching the gray mist engulf first one mountain, then the next, then head for the beach itself. My walk turned into something of a run, and I was well soaked by the time I got back. Still worth it to have watched the gray nothing swallow up the beach. Especially since a quiet evening of dry clothes and Maui tacos followed.
In Hawaii, land values cause a big homeless problem, and thus it is not uncommon to see a shanty-town of tents on the beach next to the "No Camping" signs.
By my last day in Hawaii, I had realized that my To See list had grown since I arrived, and decided rather than to kill myself trying to squeeze in everything now, I'd just have to come back. Yeah, that's a good enough excuse.
In the morning, we did go for a tour of the Mission Houses, the buildings still standing from where the Congregationalist missionaries began building. Things were tough trying to rebuild civilization as they saw fit, but they made do. Once the royals were converted, things really took off for them.
After the houses, we toured the Kaiawaiho Church, which, inside, struck me as very New England with white-washed walls and plenty of wood. The portraits of the Hawaiian royals circling the balcony were different, though. We also paused for a look at the other half of the cemetery.
And this was the tomb of the first native pastor and missionary to other islands. Christianity really took off here.
Later, looking for a place to eat, we drove through Chinatown (very cool with its street signs in Chinese as well as English), then decided to eat at the Aloha Marketplace.
It sprawls around the Aloha Tower, which as built in the '20s as a welcome for the big steamer ships that would come in full of tourists. Back in this Jazz Age heyday, Hawaiians were so crazy about visitors that they would swim out to the ships to greet them. There were constantly parties in the harbor with boat races and lots of ticker tape. Even without the history, the tower itself is cool.
We rode the elevator to the top (it still had an analog floor-counter, awesome) and looked out over the harbor.
On the other side, I got another look at my favorite, balloon-looking buildings. They're so weird!
As we left the tower, we passed a statue of a hula girl dancing the Aloha O'e, fitting as I would soon be bidding aloha myself.
I once again crashed through the heat of the afternoon, this time watching Cat in the Hat. Not the cartoon, which is pretty neat, but the live-action, which was... eh. I mean, it was just there. No reason to turn it off, and no reason to turn it on again. I guess the pastel costuming and Seuss-style/'50s sets were neat, but... eh.
Finally it came time to catch my flights. We stopped to pick up some food at Ninja Sushi (it's a sushi take-out place with this cartoon ninja mascot, which was probably the reason I went) and some more cake batter ice cream. I was hoping the Captain was working, but he wasn't. In the midst of my disappointment, he showed up off-duty with a buddy and got in line next to me. I was so excited I flubbed my order.
Anyway, next thing I knew, I was in the open-air halls of the airport and waiting for boarding. I strolled around some of the local gates (quick flights from island to island are very popular, but it was late, so they were empty... empty airports are even creepier than riding on an empty bus) before settling in to reading.
I only got about 3 hours' sleep for the night, waking up as we came into LA. Because I had separate airline tickets (saved me $5), I ended up having to completely leave LAX and come back around through security with the next tickets. Fortunately, I was as hazy as the city's air, so I didn't know any difference. I did get to watch the sun rise over the mountains, which was cool.
We flew into Phoenix next, which was creepy. It seemed like every house on every street in every housing addition was exactly the same. And tons of them had swimming pools. It was a quick stop, and then I was on the last leg of my journey. Flying in, Oklahoma looked pretty green and yellow, with lots of crops ready for harvest. I myself was ready for sleep.
Chad picked me up at the airport. I had worn an aloha shirt to seem cool ("Guess where I've been. Yeah, that's right!"), but there was a whole flock of Oklahomans also on their way back from Hawaii and wearing Hawaiian garb. That'll teach me to try to look cool.
The Mainland seemed to have survived without me for a few weeks. It was quite a trip, and I'm thinking the mainland may soon have to survive without me again, 'cause I hear the laidback island lifestyle calling. Sounds like the rhythmic crashing of waves.
Back to Jeff's Weblog