Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Hawaiian Holiday...with Obama, Limbaugh and The Governor

Just back from Hawaii; plane took off just as New Year's Eve fireworks erupted  over Oahu. A barge off Waikiki launched red air-hibiscus, and the wedge-shaped neighborhoods carved into the Pali foothills came alive with bursting colors. We circled over the island and I ooh'd in delight at our unexpected celebration.

Though we came for business as well as pleasure, we happened to be in Hawaii at a fortuitous time.  President Obama was vacationing in Kailua, and after a luscious afternoon at Lanikai beach, we drove to the home of friends who happened to live on a street just a block away from him. Strolling onto the sand, I saw paparazzi with long lenses and a small tent in front of the Obama's Bed and Breakfast, but no sign of presidential sunbathers.  This was shortly after the radio had blared that an ambulance had been summoned to the compound, apparently for an injured friend of the family.  In a small canal adjacent to the Obama's accommodations was an omnious-looking gray-painted boat, with scads of antennas. The Kailua street was blocked off.

Our "local" friends said there's a big push by hotel owners to ban B-and-Bs (hoteliers already got an ordinance forbidding rental of condos and homes for less than a month). And yet, the president wasn't criticized for staying in one.

Last year, another business-with-pleasure Hawaii visit coincided with the Obamas'. Then, as our Chanuka menorah illuminated our hotel room, a lightning storm outside hit a transformer, and the island went dark. When our candles extinguished, emergency lights in the corridor were the only illumination; from our balcony we looked down on a Kalakaua Blvd, the main drag of Waikiki, eerily blank without its neon lights.  Our power was off for 8 hours; the Obamas carried on as generators immediately kicked in.

Also during our stay this year, Rush Limbaugh suffered an apparent heart attack at the Kahala Hotel that turned out to be not a heart attack, as he reported in a press conference describing an angiogram he had at Queens Hospital in Honolulu.  My husband gave a TV comment about it.

Then there was the evening with Gov. Linda Lingle and Leut. Gov. Duke Aiona...got to chat with both, and my son sang and played ukulele for the crowd.  In this very Democratic state, Gov. Lingle, a two-term Republican who is term-limited out of another run, is the sane balance that insures the budget fits, even when it's unpopular.  I was especially impressed by her ability to cogently describe positive changes during her tenure, particularly in education and reducing corruption.  Hawaii is deceptively laid-back, and has its own racial hierarchy and culture, a layer of island life tourists only occasionally glimpse. 

Our friends who live there know how to navigate based on local hi-signs and even speaking pidgin.  Being "haole," (white) is a disadvantage, and being wealthy is disdainful among certain groups.  Much as I prefer Hawaiian climate, and adore our good friends there, this peculiar cultural difference keeps me an outsider. I suppose that might be true for many parts of America to an extent--but nowhere else was so recently a monarchy and is so physically separated from the mainstream--and the mainland.

Well, both Pres. Obama and my family are back home.  But I can smile at the nifty bobbling souvenir in the back of my car, rhythmically moving with the windshield wipers in the morning darkness as I schlep my son to school.

1 comment:

  1. One of my good friends was a school teacher on the even more remote island --Molakai--and told me about the natives' views of white folks.

    Glad you're back safely. Your man sounds more himself when he's in the Pac-Northwest.