by H. W. Moss
My cousin’s son married his first wife for the second time on Oahu in Hawai’i. They invited me to the wedding and I accepted.
The reason for this second wedding after eight years of being happily married was that Miyuki’s parents had not been able to attend the first. They live in Nagoya, Japan, and, besides, the first was merely in front of a justice of the peace. This time, I was the only member of Patrick’s extended Irish Catholic family who went. Although the bride’s family was pleased to meet me, I had to be introduced as Patrick’s uncle because in Japan my status as first cousin once removed is so far removed it doesn’t count.
For reasons of their own, the happy couple chose to get married again on October 30 which essentially means I spent Hallowe’en in Honolulu.
The wedding was held on a floating pontoon chapel near the airport. After the ceremony came the cake cutting, sparkling apple juice and toasts. I was called upon and spur of the moment raised my glass and said, “To the enchanted couple. May you have years and years of wedded bliss. Especially compared to the rest of us.”
I thought that rather succinct and somewhat alliterative.
Next door to the chapel — I’m sorry, separated by a party wall from the chapel — is the office of Island Seaplane Service run by Pat Magie. The windows were wide open so I took a picture of the back room office in all its chaotic array. I entered the front office and caught Pat behind his desk with a deck of really worn playing cards in front of him. He had just started to push the two packets together in that angled move casino dealers use as part of the table shuffle. He looked up and I said hello and how’s business?
Pat is a curmudgeon of the first order. I quickly learned there are only three seaplanes in the state and his are the only two licensed commercial, a de Havilland Beaver and a Cessna 206. Pat said he’s owned 388 planes and the Beaver three times. He’s had seven engine failures in 39,000 hours of flying time which, if you work it out, is equal to 4.45 years in the air. He had nothing nice to say about small plane parachutes, “Guy died the other day when the chute malfunctioned and deployed while his plane was running,” and said it was a long hard struggle to get his business sanctioned for seaplanes. He had no truck with helicopters which he could not understand why they were so popular among the tourists. He is originally from Minnesota, spent a number of years in Alaska before arriving in Hawai’i looking for something different. I got out of there before I learned anything more and took a few shots of the de Havilland which was perched on the sloping pier in front of the office.
Waikiki reminded me of Vegas without gambling and only one theme. Ambassadors walk the main street, Kalakaua Avenue, in fluorescent green shirts and blue shorts advertising their willingness to talk or answer questions.
Street performers make balloon hats, strum Hawai’ian guitar or offer to draw your portrait in charcoal. There were five competing silver or bronze statue men and one Japanese mime dressed in nothing but folded newspaper sitting
on a bench that appeared to be made of nothing but folded newspaper. Beneath huge spreading banyan trees or tall palms Hawai’ian dancers from the Polynesian Cultural Center wove patterns with their hands while a ukulele strummed. There is a large Mormon influence on Oahu including the Brigham Young University — Hawai’i campus. I have it on good authority all the native dancers are Mormon.
Among the many oddities on the street are the guys wearing orange safety officer vests hawking gun shooting. I have taken the NRA course twice in my life and I own two rifles which sit in my bedroom closet gathering dust because, frankly, my fascination for fire arms ended when I was a teenager. But the Japanese are not allowed to own a gun. Thus, in Hawai’i, it’s a big deal for them to spend $200 to empty a clip from an AK-47 or plug targets with a hand gun in the second floor shooting range on Kalakaua.
Accidents. You have to sign a lot of exculpatory paperwork and waivers are required saying the company is not responsible for any accidents. I asked what kind of accident and the Ambassador I spoke with informed me there have been a number of suicides. A fitting end to your vacation, wouldn’t you say?
Waikiki’s primary visual image is high rise hotels. I was on the 42nd floor. Except for the window side, your hotel room is inside a cube. Flush the toilet at my house and it goes whoosh. Flush a toilet in a high rise hotel and it’s this giant sucking sound, much like Ross Perot’s description of jobs being sent below the border. Throughout the night and day you hear your neighbors finish their business.
Actually, I was in Waikiki at the far end on Kuhio Avenue. Since it’s only about ten blocks long, I trekked it several times and got hit on by at least five hookers in one night. No joke. A single male walking alone and they come at you in pairs. Although I did not think they were particularly good looking, some were stunning. One tall beauty with short blond hair walked along beside me and said I looked familiar. I told this to the Ambassador who said she was probably part of a police sting.
Turns out I could be cited and hauled off to jail and have to go to court if I am caught in pursuit of such pleasure. Foreign visitors enjoy a sort of immunity. They may be cited and hauled off to jail, but they do not have to go to court and never serve a sentence.
I am told it takes two hours to drive around Oahu. The following day we did drive around the island, but we followed the leader who stopped at every factory discount fashion mall. It took us eight or nine hours.
The father of the bride had five male friends come over from Nagoya. They did not speak much English. I speak no Japanese. I had only my cousin to talk with most of the time although his wife is fluent in English. Unfortunately, she had to spend time with her family in the back of the van. She never did interpret what they said except they were having a great time going to the malls.
It was hours after noon and my stomach was grumbling. I asked about eating and was told there was a famous shrimp restaurant they had in mind. Everyone in Japan knew the place. We drove along the north shore and occasionally the car in front pulled over and the five guys inside climbed out and crossed the road to light cigarettes and look at these sites:
The famous North Shore surf shop everyone in Japan knows. Surf n Sea is on the Kamehameha Highway. I’d never heard of it, but these guys flocked to it. They stood out front and had their pictures taken, then began rattling around inside where about the only things they could buy would be tee shirts and surfing DVDs. I mean, they had no intention of actually going in the water; they just wanted to visit a place where everyone else was outfitted to go in the water.
Sean had shoulder length black hair beneath a black baseball cap. He was outside on the front porch wearing a hand lettered name tag and just generally hanging around. I struck up a conversation, asked about the boards leaning against the wall, their prices, and pointed to a wide, long one with a three inch by half inch slit in the center and thick spongy material covering much of its surface. Usually surf boards are merely waxed.
Sean explained it was a paddle board and you stood on it and swung an oar. This particular model could also hold a sail, so it was a sail board paddle board surf board.
A sales person came out and consulted him explaining the purchaser inside had offered to buy a wetsuit, but not at the price they were asking, could she deal and how much and Sean told her. Turned out he was the manager.
At one point Sean took his hair off. He removed his hat to scratch his head and the hair came with it; it was glued to the cap. He really had short, less than inch long, brown hair. I had forgotten it was Hallowe’en weekend.
The next stop was on a beach where Hono, the green sea turtle, breeds and eats. Swimmers were warned not to feed, follow, fondle or annoy Hono. There were no turtles to be seen, but the guys had a great time lighting cigarettes, having their picture taken next to the sign and pretending they saw some turtles.
At last, they pulled over at a food stand. The famous shrimp place was a goddamn truck. The truck was parked beside a pond no bigger than a quarter of a football field. The pond was a dirty brown and there was a portable toilet next to it.
Yep. That’s the pond where they farmed the shrimp.
After we ate, I went up to the girl who takes the orders and the money, then shouts out your number to come pick up your paper plate and plastic fork with the food, and asked how many customers they got in a day. While we were there, a steady stream of highway clients pulled over, ordered, sat down to gustatory delight on a park bench, washing up after a messy meal at the plastic tub with a single cold water faucet and a bottle of sanitary solution. After wiping my hands dry on my pant legs, I noticed the paper towel dispenser.
The girl said only 50 or 60 so far, but during the season, 300 customers a day. Let’s see. There is only one price for each of perhaps a dozen different shrimp or sea food plates. Sixty customers a day at $12 is $720 times seven is $5,000 a week times four is $20,000 a month times 12 is $240 K a year. Not bad for a portable cook shack. Let’s see, 300 customers a day? That’s $25,000 a week, more than $100,000 — Let me say that again: One Hundred Thousand Dollars a month! — and we’re talking over a million — a million two annual gross income — if you get 300 customers a day. Not bad for a portable cook shack.
There was a dead car next to the outhouse. It was obviously dead because it had a thick crust of dust all over its windshield and body and a right rear flat tire. It was a Lexus. Not bad when your beater is a Lexus.
We made it to Hanauma Bay an hour before closing which was good because they didn’t charge us. This saved us a dollar per vehicle and $7.50 per person to enter which would have been more than $80. But there was still one more price to pay. Before you can go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, you are required to sit through an eight minute video showing the dos and don’ts of underwater etiquette. For the most part, it’s instructional and an easy watch. One suggestion is that you pick up trash on the ocean floor when you come upon it.
The next day I went snorkeling at Sans Souci beach which is at the far end of Waikiki. While investigating a reef there, I remembered the video admonition about trash. I don’t know if that includes the cinder block I found, but as for the large white Band-Aid, I wasn’t going to pick up a sanitary napkin no matter how waterlogged it might be.
I washed off the sea and sand from the beach under the outdoor showers. In order to keep from collecting more sand on my clean feet, I careful swung my legs over the short wall while under the watchful eyes of a couple seated on a nearby bench. My efforts failed and my trunks were re-covered so I muttered something like, “That didn’t work. Got more sand on me.”
The guy said, “Sand? How’d you get sand on you?”
I crossed the park to Monsarrat Avenue where at least six buses were lined up resting, waiting to begin their runs. The driver of the nearest one to where I exited the park had dark shoulder length hair under a baseball cap. I asked which bus to take and he pointed to the one up ahead of him. “Wait at that bus stop for a 19, 20.”
I said, “Or an 8?”
He said, “Or an 8.” His bus was an 8.
I asked if my transfer would be any good since I’d purchased it around noon. He said, “Let me see that.” Scrutinizing the angle of the torn paper, he said, “Three forty-five. It’s almost four. He might let you slide.” He handed the transfer back to me.
I went up to the bus waiting at the stop and asked if it went down Kuhio. Nope. I sat on a roofed-over bench until another bus arrived. The driver said no, didn’t go down Kuhio. The third was a number eight which I knew did. I was the only passenger boarding and the driver — who looked familiar, hadn’t I just got directions from him? — said let me see that transfer. He took it, scrutinized it and said, “Yah. I’ll let you slide.”