Our trip to Hawaii was glorious. Sun, surf, and sand in every crack. I had blissful naps on the beach, consumed fresh cooked shrimp from roadside venders, went to an authentic Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center – (owned and operated by Mormons), and watched my husband’s skin turn from gleaming white to boiled lobster red in under a week. It was great!
We did the tour of every navel vessel in Pearl Harbor (or so it seemed). Along with the Arizona Memorial we went down into the USS Bowfin submarine and went aboard the Battleship Missouri. After seeing the tiny little bunks those guys slept in I no longer believe normal sized men can be in the navy. They would have to be dwarfs or always sleep curled up like an unborn baby in its mother’s womb.
We visited the Dole Plantation for a taste of pineapple ice cream and took a stroll through some of the most beautiful gardens on earth. Every tree, bush, and plant is adorned with vibrantly colored flowers. The excitement didn’t stop there though. We even got to ride a little Choo choo train around the plantation and then navigate a maze—that seen from the air would look like a giant pineapple. Leon insisted we find every clue in the maze before we could escape. I was ready to sneak through a hole in the shrubbery about halfway through just to be done with it, but you know men…getting to the end equals success and success equals “I won!” (At least to him. I just felt tired and dizzy from going in circles).
We rode the waves in an Outrigger Canoe with two laid-back Hawaiians who seemed totally bored with the whole process. We relaxed aboard a Catamaran on an afternoon sail along the coast of Waikiki where we spotted giant turtles and a school of fish. I think it may have been a Catholic school. They were all in black. We took an early morning climb up the trail to the volcanic crater, Diamond Head. I didn’t fall in and it didn’t erupt. We watched three Chinese men getting a surfing lesson. (I wish I’d gotten a video of that. It was very funny).
One morning we decided to go down to the beach and watch the sun rise over Diamond Head. We were there when “thong man” strutted across the sand at 5:30 in the morning, and plunged into the ocean for his early morning workout. Fifteen minutes later, he slithered out of the water and strode naked and dripping back the way he came, his deeply tanned cheeks gleaming in the sunlight. It was quite a sight. Much more mesmerizing than the rising sun. Not unlike finding myself dreaming that I’m Jane in a Tarzan movie.
I learned that the food at a Mormon Luau is really gross. I should have listened closer when they explained what we were going to eat. A bright-colored fruit salad turned out to be chunks of some kind of raw fish mixed with other unknown elements. After taking an unsuspecting bite of that, I nearly hurled. Then I tried a piece of actual cooked fish…not so good either. Big drink of water before going on to the next item. Deep breath. Purple thing on my plate—supposedly similar to potato. NOT! Okay, the bread can’t be that bad. It looks like a bun, except for the lavender color. Strange taste but edible, thank God. The rest has been mercifully burned from my memory. Definitely should have gone to the Hilton’s Luau where they had lobster and crab. That I would at least have recognized.
I learned that Hawaiians really love Spam. Not the junk mail kind, but the canned meat kind. Weird, huh? We make it in Minnesota, have a little Spam museum to commemorate it, and no one can stand the stuff. But in Hawaii they sell Spam and rice on the McDonalds menu for breakfast. They have Spam-flavored Macadamia nuts in every store. Spam is a delicacy. A young Chinese salesman told us he loves Spam. It is one of his favorite things and he thinks it is very tasty. He didn’t understand our disgust of the strange, jelled, meatloaf, but he’d heard the same sentiments from other mainlanders. Apparently, we don’t know what we’re missing. I’m positive it couldn’t be worse than a Mormon Luau fruit salad.
Hawaiians also love dogs. No—they don’t eat them. I mean they love their pet dogs. They take them to the mall to shop. In the stores. They have them along everywhere. I was in a store and saw a man with his dog in a stroller. Another guy carried his on his chest in an infant sling. Others just brought theirs the normal way—on leashes. Up the escalator. In the stores. In the food court. Didn’t see any cats in strollers though. Dogs reign in Hawaii.
Thanks so much to all my friends who encouraged me to “wear a two-piece bathing suit” cause with all the heavier sunbathers out there (in their imagination) I would feel as thin as Twiggy—right? Guess what? I’ve never seen so many in shape people. They ran, they walked, they biked, they surfed. I felt like Bette Midler in The First Wives Club. The only heavier woman than myself was a German in a one-piece sharing the hot tub with me at the hotel. In hindsight, I’m still not sure if she was a man or a woman. She had a thick mustache, a unibrow, and arms like wooden posts. Another first for me was wearing thongs. They weren’t nearly as uncomfortable as I recall from childhood. But after viewing “thong man” in the glow of the rising sun, I now call them Flip Flops.
Honolulu is a city of contrasts. The very, very wealthy live there in mansions. A few blocks away cheap, tiny apartments house folks who hang their laundry from the window. One block sports stores like Tiffany’s, Louis Vuittun, Versace, and Ferrari and the next is peppered with homeless people. There are a lot of homeless in Honolulu. We saw them everywhere. In parks. Along the beach in the morning. Crouched on sidewalks. People sitting with shopping carts full of junk or piles of belongings beside them. As if they’re waiting for a bus. I think it would be very easy to become homeless in Hawaii. Someone goes there on vacation and has so much fun catching the waves he doesn’t want to go home. He runs out of money and can’t get a job. He can no longer afford to buy a plane ticket. He starts sleeping on the beach. He learns to survive. Like the man I saw digging through garbage cans in the underground garage of the mall, looking for scraps of food rich tourists threw away. Or maybe those old guys in the park and on the beach are just retired Surfers. Who knows.
In all of this sight seeing, I began to wonder: What did the natives of Oahu do for fun? Besides sell trinkets to wide-eyed tourists and put on fire shows at night? I got my answer when we drove up the coast one day. Families of Hawaiians put up their tents in parks along the beach and spend the day sitting in lounge chairs talking, cooking over open fires, and watching their children play around them. So, maybe they aren’t so different from us—besides liking Spam, taking their dogs to the mall, having the ocean right outside their doors, perfect temperatures every day, and plenty of pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coconuts in their pantry. They probably sit around and imagine what it’s like to live in Minnesota and dream of vacationing here someday. But they never have a good enough reason to make the flight. The seductive pull of the islands keeps them close to home. They have sun, surf, sand, and as much Spam as they can eat. What more could they ask for? Snow?
P.s. The dogs survived the separation from us for the week. My fears were apparently unfounded. They learned to use the doggy door with no mishaps. It was a pleasant homecoming to walk in the door and not find little surprises awaiting us. They’re smarter than I thought☺