Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Arriving in Paradise on the Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Some of us are searching for bright light in the midst of a frigid almost-winter.  I say 'almost' as the solstice that officially starts the dark months is yet two weeks away, though the La Nina conditions that enveloped Seattle haven't gotten the memo.  Yesterday morning was 31 degrees.  Today, however, Day 1 in Honolulu (aka paradise) it's about the same time of morning and about 80 balmy, luscious, sunny degrees.

We're on a nice, long working vacay, one where we're apparently being stalked by President Obama in a few days, though he has yet to call for a tete-a-tete.

There are many things to recommend the Aloha State, but sometimes you've got to wonder if the aloha attitude is one of them.  We flew in at midnight, eager to jump in our rental car and settle in.  Thrilled to see there was no line at the car counter, we presented our reservation...and the easy-going clerk began his fulminations that for some reason lasted a half-hour, while he laboriously completed forms by hand.  This after our arranging it all online.

That slow, methodical, take-it-easy happy lumbering shows up a lot, sometimes for the good.  We arrived famished and so went to the ubiquitous ABC Store near our accommodations in Waikiki.  In case you have yet to enjoy a Hawaiian vacation, anyone who's cruised Waikiki knows this chain is better called the "every 50 feet store" because that's how far between them.  They're pretty much identical, with the same excellent selection of tourist souvenirs, travel necessities, and foods.  Waikiki may be sunny but it's definitely not a "food desert," as every ABC store stocks fruits and veggies and peanut butter and bread along with fifty kinds of suntan lotion.

So we grabbed a few high-priced comestibles and milk, and as we're checking out, the clerk, dressed in a muu muu and looking the stereotype of the Hawaiian auntie, plumeria jauntily poked behind one ear, takes a look at my husband and then me: "She your girlfrien'?" Yeah..."Can I call you Mikey?"  Yeah...funny, friendly, silly...aloha.

Casual, informal, assuming, sometimes slightly nervy...can't wait to spend some time exploring the concept.  I have a friend here in Honolulu who says locals can get pretty uppity if you're not one of them. She grew up here and has to start talking pidgin to get respect sometimes.  It's not polite to discuss, but she reports a strange kind of suspicion for "haoles," Caucasians, even for the kanamina, the ones who grew up here.

A different culture, here in paradise, and yet, it's the good old USA, and today, the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, is cause for reflection and remembrance, including a grand parade down the main drag of Waikiki, with marching bands from across the nation. Special celebrations at the memorial through tomorrow, and I hope we'll be able to go.  It's all part of this very separate feeling, thousands of miles isolated in the middle of the Pacific, vulnerable yet completely connected.  A separate culture, and yet, on the plane here I sat next to a young soldier, on his way to his newly assigned base on Oahu, all the way from the center of North America.  This juxtaposition between American identity and multi-national, Polynesian exotica makes this a fabulous place to watch and learn...and remember the sacrifices seventy years ago that were a result of its very location in the middle of the sea.

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