Let’s see, We left on the first, after a day spent at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. It was a Saturday and we left the house in a bit of a snit due to a difference of opinion on whether or not someone should be ready earlier, if one knows that the airport shuttle will arrive earlier than scheduled, possibly encourage this unforgivable behavior of arriving too early. Then we arrived at the airport perfectly on time for a 4 hour delay.
We eventually arrived in Honolulu – a fantastically 60’s affair that is not at all shabby in it’s passé-ivity – and headed to the car rental place. This trip is a celebration of my youth, I suppose, or so Ivo continues to boast, and so we asked if they had any convertibles available for rental. I took the first shift behind the wheel of our white Ford Mustang and my foot has never felt heavier in my life. Suddenly, the speed limit seemed to be mocking me. For the first time in my life, I wanted to watch one of the Fast and the Furious films. I had a scarf wrapped round my hair, the car-rooftop down and a sudden thirst to drive really, truly fast. I’ve always thought that the car-racing arcade games had it all wrong. The out-of-control feeling on curves and the unrealistic resistance of the gas pedal never made sense to me, until I drove our Honolulu rental car.
Please pardon the digression- We spent our first two nights in the Ilikai hotel. Our room was high up and we had a gorgeous ocean view. After a swim in the pool - in the company of many wet children and dry adults – we freshened up and went to the “Top of the I” (this is the rooftop bar behind the main character in the beginning of every episode of the original “Hawaii 5-0”). After a few sips of my non-tropical martini, I began to see lightening. This turned out to be camera flashes, but never mind. We then went downstairs to a burger-joint, tipsy and jet-lagged, and did our best on some burgers. The evening ended with surprising fireworks.
Next day - - let’s see, that’d be Sunday the 2nd - - we had macadamia nut pancakes and papaya with lime juice (a fruit combination that I’d never had and that is out of this world), we set off for a hike on the Diamond head. It was a lovely, comfortable, paved hike that included 207 steps and led us to the edge of a massive crater. The crater is perfectly round, the result of an explosion over 300,000 years ago that blew the top off of a hill. The view is magnificent and one can see a lighthouse, all of Honolulu and the mountain-side of Waikiki.
After our hike we got veggie sushi and spinach wraps at a local place and headed back to the hotel. A dip in the ocean ended our day and we got ready for drinks with acquaintances Scott and Abby.
Ivo met Scott this summer at a wedding and instantly, they spoke happily about the military, Europe, history and Hawaii. Scott met our mutual friend Harris (the groom at said wedding) during his year abroad in Bologna. They were instant friends and have had a close long-distance friendship ever since. Abby and Scott also met in Bologna (just as Harris was leaving) and the two have lived in various cities since. They live in Waikiki and gave us tips on planning our trip before we arrived. They remain a wealth of information and we had a lovely night with sunset cocktails and vegetarian Chinese food in Honolulu’s Chinatown, finished with a driving tour of the city (Scott and Abby endorsed our car rental choice.)
This morning - - aha! It’s Monday the 3rd! - - we jumped in the ocean, checked out of the hotel and headed for a breakfast at a restaurant right on San Souci beach, that included Poi pancakes! We then headed to Pearl Harbor, which turned out to be a bit trying. Part of the difficulty at the monument was my exhaustion due to a night dealing with the results of having eaten something un-friendly, part of it was the simple gravity of the site. We bought tickets for the tour of the USS Arizona and spent the intervening two hours nd before our tour heading to the Punch Bowl Crater Memorial Cemetery.
The military cemetery is predictable in the sad monotony of the white grave stones, but the stones are flat and flush to the ground, unlike other American military cemeteries I’ve seen. Behind a large female statue of victory, alternating murals and script depictions of the “war against Japan” and “America’s entry into World War 2” curve around a marble wall, framing the unusual doors of a memorial chapel. The unusual doors are gates with strange colored glass heads inlaid. The chapel contains a simple cross, a few rows of pews and some palm trees. In the courtyard of the memorial, trees are grown and cut into halos (a fact that was indicated to us by Scott, via text-message). We returned to the Arizona memorial, a bit sun-sleepy and frazzled from parking difficulties and entered a movie theatre, where that actress from Grease and the West Wing told us the story of the lead-up to and results of the surprise-attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the film, navy employees took us past markers for 2 of the sunken battleships, to the bright white memorial that arks over the sunken USS Arizona. The memorial is beautifully constructed but incredibly eerie. After acknowledging how similarly Russians and Americans commemorated their wars during this same era, Ivo found a quote etched in the monument redundant. As is often the case in dungeons and other places of suffering, Ivo suffered a unique unease. Truly, it is horrifying to stand on this bridge, of sorts, over a tomb for some soldiers and an unrequested resting place for others (survivors of the USS Arizona can request, and are often granted, burial within the sunken ship, alongside their fallen comrades).
Upon disembarking the shuttle boat, Ivo texted with Scott and he came in an official vehicle to pick us up and take us over to Fort island across the harbor. The bridge to the island is guarded and only authorized people may enter, but the guard didn’t blink when Scott showed his ID and drove us over to a place we clearly didn’t belong. He pointed out the buildings that still stand as decaying memorials in their own right, from before WWII. He showed us the air field that we’d just seen on-screen, where airplanes stood in rows, completely disengaged, in order to prevent sabotage. He told us about the foiled plan to put solar panels on said air-field, due to the nearly obsessive protection that the whole island has. He pointed out Building 26, where my father had crawled into cement Torpedo tube replicas decades ago, when training for the navy. He drove us past navy housing and dry docks. He showed us the underside of the rusted-out USS Utah, a battleship that remains upturned since it capsize back in December 1941.
After our tour, we headed north, with a snack of Poi bread that I’d bought at a farmer’s market in Waikiki. We stopped at a Jack in the Box for an emergency late burger lunch for Ivo and a small ice cream snack for me. We continued north-northeast until we reached Ke’ike beach, or what heaven might resemble if there is such a place. Our bungalow is fantastic and quiet, joined with other fantastic and quiet bungalows. A kitchen offers the promise that, yes, after a mere trip to the local Food Land, we will surely not stray from our corner of paradise. A 30 second walk leads us to a roaring ocean with insane under-tow and astonishing swathes of unfathomable blue water. Palm trees beyond our “lawn” hold hammocks and neighbors talk in the hushed tones of amazement and relaxation.
We ran in and out of the water, diving over the powerful waves, as fast as we could possible get our swimsuits on. Rain came and drizzled and then intensified as we guffawed at the perfect scenery and our undeserved fortune. We rolled and tumbled in the waves, shaking free the sadness that our Pearl Harbor tour had made, putting it in it’s proper place of reverence as our hearts expanded to admit a whole new version of how beautiful the world can be, despite the horror that comes now and again.
Tomorrow there are plans to see turtles. Before we leave, we’d like to go to the cultural center to see a Hula exhibition. All of these plans seem dangerously tentative when the crashing waves keep calling out an alternative plan and the hammocks sway alluringly.
-Jessica Mijnssen – 3 Oktober 2011
I know the date today because we’re leaving tomorrow, sad but true. We’ve been living the heck out of these past two days, however, and the 5th is not even done yet (there may even be Tarro burgers for dinner).
After a post-waking swim and a lovely breakfast (love that papaya), we went for a walk along the beach. Normally when I walk along the beach I stick to the hard-packed sand at the water’s edge. Here at Ke’iki beach, there is no such thing. Beside that, while breakfasting, a lifeguard drove up in a 4x4 to pick up warning signs and orange flags that then (as now,) dotted the whole of the beach. The signs come in two varieties: Warning Shore Break and Warning No Swimming. The shore break is the bit that keeps us from skirting the hard-packed sand, so we trudged through the deeper stuff until half way to Turtle Bay. Along the way we spotted lovely shells, litter (which we picked up, tongues clucking) and surfers defying the warning signage. When we returned nearer the bungalows, the lifeguard was back and I asked him to clarify what our particular shore break caution meant. He explained that the waves are cresting late and powerfully and that people prone to panic should probably avoid the waves today. Others would do well to keep a cool head and be mindful of the crests when swimming out to the safer, calmer water beyond. I’m prone to panic, but can strangely keep a cool head in the moment (pre-panic is my poison. Freaking out in preparation for a thing is typically my failing). I told him that I thought we could handle it, as I’d been washing machined when trying to ride a wave during our early morning swim. I didn’t injure myself but got a nose full of water and my hair was thick with sand. “There are some rays over there if you want to check them out” the lifeguard said, unimpressed with my tales of daring.
Indeed there were Manta rays of various sizes swimming right in those dangerous waves. It took us a while to see them and suddenly they were there, one atop the other, both waving their fins madly, looking to we dumb humans as if they’d surely wash ashore, yet maintaining position as they….well….you know. We jumped in the water to cool off from our walk once the rays had been dispatched from their duties. We had lunch and lazed a bit and then Ivo began gathering info for snorkeling. The intimate view of the rays had been sufficient motivation for us to tear ourselves away from our corner of heaven, but my preparation panic needed to be satisfied first. I needed questions answered and was thoroughly wrought by all of the theft warnings I’ve been hearing/seeing since we arrived in Oahu. We put together a plan involving taking no valuables save a credit card for the snorkel rental which we could secret into my bag that folds into it’s own pouch and a rental place 7 miles away near Hale’iwa. We hit the road and not ½ a mile away noticed a closer snorkel rental place directly opposite Shark’s Cove, where we’d intended to snorkel. We drove our car back to the bungalows and walked back to the snorkel place and then happily made for the cove with nothing worth thieving in our possession.
I often find snorkeling unnerving. The sudden redundancy of sky and sea give me agoraphobia. In the protected cove the currents were still relatively strong, owing to the same storm that had our local lifeguard posting flags. We followed the snorkel-shop-guys instructions and belly floated as soon as possible, not hassling the rocks or coral with our sensitive feet. The activity and beauty was instantaneous. Not a foot from the safe sand was a whole micro-universe of sea life. Nestled in the clefts of the coral, poked ¾ of purple and white urchins. Cerebral-looking coral puffed up here and there and absolutely everywhere, brightly colored fish of all sizes greedily fed on the living reefs. It was incredible and intimidating. There was too much to see and I felt the agoraphobia coming on, but then Ivo took my hand and for an hour and a half or so, we flew above the secret world beneath the water’s surface. Now and again, Ivo would dive down and I’d wait above, watching his silvery bubbles and the brave fish that stayed-put around him. My favorite fish were the electric blue and yellow ones that matched my sun-cover shirt and an out-of-this world rainbowed fish that looked like a 3 year old’s drawing of what a tropical fish should resemble.
After our snorkeling, we played cards, had a beer/cider respectively and watched the Diamondbacks end the Brewers suffering and then grilled on our little Weber right there within sight of half of the expanse of the Pacific.
An evening discussion of some plan in SF or other took us away from Hawaii for a moment. Luckily, we realized our folly and returned to the present, ready to enjoy what time we have here.
Today, the flags and signs are up on our beach again. The popped up as we were snorkeling around the Ke’iki beach itself. Initially, it appeared that the strong tide in front of our bungalow had left the sea floor empty, but with patience we began to see more of our hungry little buddies, nipping at the reef, deep down below where we’ve been floating and laughing regularly in the early morning and throughout the day. The tides are truly intense and after an hour of kicking forcefully to stay in one place, we removed our fins and safely made our way past the breaking waves. Again (silly) I thought of Finding Nemo while snorkeling. At the edge of the reef, way out, was where we found the most dense schools of beautiful fish. The blue expanse beyond the reef gave me pause, but the fish distracted me helpfully.
We have plans to see an ancient temple and a waterfall this afternoon, but the hammock and close-by beach may prove too alluring. We’re nearly out of groceries, however, so we’ll need to leave the Ke’iki at some point today. Maybe we’ll go to the nearby restaurant where they serve Tarro burgers.