Here as elsewhere, our hearts have turned to the holidays. Thanksgiving in Hawaii is much as it was growing up in Ohio — except for the beach, of course. Yes, we will be going there, as we do every day. And also as we do every day, we will marvel at our good fortune and give thanks. There was no Diamond Head on the horizon in Hudson, nor surfers and rainbows, and I couldn’t stand in the Pacific up to my chin in November and look around at kids of many colors laughing in harmony.
I have been here more than 45 years, and each day is more precious than the last. It’s not that every day is Thanksgiving — turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes with gravy 365 a year? I don’t think so — it’s that every day is special, and I know it.
Friends of ours are leaving Hawaii, returning to upstate New York. Now they live in Kualoa, right across the shallow bay from Mokoli‘i, more often called Chinaman’s Hat. The two children attended school with our daughter this year, and we grew close riding the rollercoaster that seven-year-olds cling to. Moving happens. Moving from Hawaii happens often. People say they’ll visit, but only seldom do they, and you just need to feel grateful for what you had. I am.
In the House of No. 1
When I was 15, someone’s father took me and that someone to a college football game between then No. 1 and No. 2 Notre Dame and Michigan State. The game ended in a tie and enduring controversy. Until last weekend, it was the first and only time I had watched in person No. 1 play No. 2 in any sport.
When the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors played Long Beach State on Saturday, Easter Eve, the Stan Sheriff Center was loud, louder than any sporting place or time I have known in Hawaii, especially during the final game of five. The Bows won games one and two. Long Beach State took the next two. The tiebreaker was played in a bath of sound that drenched all who sat and stood and shouted and, in the case of my seven-year-old daughter, screamed. It was a thumping, a pounding of air from the collective heart of an island. It boomed, the pep band goading it along like a rider to Heaven’s gates, closing.
The score in game five was 15-8. The reaction was astonishment and relief as much as joy and pride. It was Louisa’s baptism to fandom, as if she had visited the river a few times and decided to finally take the plunge during a 100-year flood. What a dip!
Where I live …
Recently we moved from one valley in back of Waikiki to another, Palolo to Manoa. Palolo is mangoes and avocados and plumeria, plus wild pigs way back in the steep hills. So far Manoa is winds whooshing down the canyon to the sea, rain driven sideways … and rainbows. It is softer, smaller, quieter, more of a neighborhood. It lets me sing with even greater vigor and proximity to its inspiration a song penned by a friend of mine, Hector Venegas, “Hawaiian Lullaby.” It opens with what has become my anthem, my touchstone as I infrequently ponder moving, my battle cry: “Where I live, there are rainbows.” Amen, and mahalo, Manoa.
Just One Thing …
I’ve been convinced for a long time that doing just one new thing on a trip to Hawaii can change your life forever. It doesn’t need to be a big thing. If you wake up an hour before dawn someday, for example, and are at the Makapuu Lookout when the sun rises, you’ll never forget it. I promise. If you walk the length of Waikiki Beach one morning and end up at the Barefoot Beach Cafe for breakfast, same thing. Guaranteed. If you watch the sunset from Kaimana Beach and don’t blink as the sun dips beneath the horizon, you’ll see the green flash. And you’ll never see another sunset without that lime-green wink somewhere special in your memory bank. Just one thing …
Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
Hopefully you will be joining us in 2019, savoring the natural beauty and cultural richness of our island while having the time of your life in the surf and sun. Aloha is very real, and you’ll be doubly blessed when you share it. Find a favorite place or song or flower or spot to sit and relax and share it with a friend. Seek out keiki (children) hula and witness how our traditions flow into the future. Walk the beach at dawn and sunset and see the green flash. Whatever you’ll be doing, we’ll be happy that you’re here. Aloha!
Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day! If you are here right now reading this, maybe I’ll see you on Kaimana Beach this afternoon. If you are only wishing that you could be here, I am wishing with you, and I hope to see you soon!
I don’t mean to alarm you, but Christmas is right around the corner.
I mention this for one simple reason: I will be going for a swim at Kaimana Beach on Christmas. Hopefully you will able to join me, but you probably won’t. If you are here now as you read this, I strongly urge you to get in the water every single day until you go home. On Christmas, you won’t be swimming. But you will have given yourself a gift to last years, maybe a lifetime.
If you are looking forward to a trip to Oahu, plan to do here what you can’t do there. Put that swim at the top of your list. Savor every moment in our beloved island home. If by coincidence you are here on Christmas, and you see someone with a big smile and a curly-haired daughter on Kaimana Beach, wave to us, please.
Mele Kalikimaka … and aloha!
If it’s avocados that I’m tripping over on the ground in my backyard, it must be August. I remember hearing 40 years ago about avocados falling to the ground and people just letting the wild pigs eat them. All I could think of was how my mom would delight in drizzling a vinaigrette into a half-avocado and delicately spoon out mouthfuls of what must have been heaven’s nectar, the way she reveled in one of Ohio’s quintessential summer experiences. And you say pigs eat them here?
Now I get it. Our tree has hundreds. They have just begun to drop, two to four every day, but soon it will be 10. Already I’m giving them away, but I won’t be able to keep up when there are 70+ in a week. I guess if you have to have problems, this is one to have. When I’m in the water at Kaimana Beach over the weekend, I’ll put my mind to solving it.
Mangoes, mangoes, mangoes. We have mangoes. Overnight a half dozen will fall, all bruising and most sampled by birds or rats or something by the time I get to them. Then in the daylight, the sweet rain continues. We pick, too, our next door neighbor and I, and yesterday six year-old Louisa participated, a keen-eyed spotter whose talent will come in handy for a couple more weeks at least. Some of the fruit is even at eye-level this year, branches so generously adorned that they bow to Marie the parrot in her cage at the base of the tree. Literally dozens are within arm’s reach. Hundreds more hang above.
Oahu, the Gathering Place
As wave after wave of immigrants landed on the shores of our tiny island, we welcomed them like the Hawaiians of 1820 welcomed New England missionaries. Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos and more: Virtually all came seeking work and better lives for their families. Most recently, fleeing terrifying environmental conditions produced by American nuclear tests, Micronesians have been arriving in large numbers. All are equal in our eyes. All of worthy of second chances.
Now is a time to look around and appreciate how these many ethnicities have enriched our island, known as the Gathering Place. Now is a time to look around and appreciate how strangers from other lands have always enriched America as well.
Now is time to say “mahalo,” thank you, for the blessings that our circumstances have bestowed upon us … and to share them.
What We Hope to Be
“This island represents all that we are and all that we hope to be,” declared President John F. Kennedy upon his arrival on Oahu in 1963. As you look around, all that we are is obvious: Everyone and nearly everything is from somewhere else. Even the original Hawaiians came from islands far to the south, while waves of immigrants and refugees included disapproving missionaries, bloodthirsty whalers, sugarcane workers from China, Japan, the Philippines, Portugal and beyond, mainland escapees and more. Most recently, Micronesians whose islands were poisoned by American nuclear tests decades ago have added to our population. They came … they come … they will keep coming.
What we hope to be — what we pledge to be — is a place where everyone is welcome. Even as the nation debates in unprecedented ways who is worthy of crossing the threshhold into America, we want to give, we want to share. It is who we are. It is aloha.
Missing: a Thousand Words
I go swimming every day, nearly, and typically nearby. The closest beach to our home in Palolo is in Kahala, where houses and their prices don’t know when to stop growing. Last week I saw something amazing, although I can’t prove it: the picture worth a thousand words is missing.
As I was getting out of the water, a young fisherman beached his one-man kayak. Long and sleek, it featured a hollow interior where you could put a fish if you caught one. (I never do; for me it would hold snacks.) The fisherman reached inside and pulled out a 30-lb ono … then a 50-lb ono … then a 20-lb ahi. I was flabbergasted. In all my years here, I have never seen such a thing.
It was around noon, and the man had been fishing since early morning, miles off the coast. He was taking the fish to auction, where I suspect he swapped them for $500 or so.
“Is this a typical catch for you?” I asked.
“Pretty much,” he replied.
“How often do you go?”
“Whenever my wife lets me.”
“Say, don’t you catch ono and ahi by trolling?” I persisted. “How the heck do you do that?”
“Paddle as fast as you can.”
I only wish I had a picture. …
Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
It’s brand-new year. A fresh playing field sprawls in front of us, though some might claim that 2016 has pinned the home team inside its own five yard line, the game nearly over. Ain’t so!
In Hawaii we celebrate how just and joyful life can be. The aloha spirit is very real, a gift we cherish with the intention of sharing. It is the act of living consciously, sustainably, aware of inequalities of circumstance and committed to making things better for all. In that, it is quintessentially American and Hawaiian alike.
Please accept this gift. Take it home with your tan, your purchases and your memories that likely will last a lifetime. With aloha, 2017 can be our very best year ever.
Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
‘Tis the Season
Some would claim that we have no seasons, but we do, and this is one of them. Christmastime in Hawaii is wonderful. If it’s cold back home, it’s not here. If time drags back home, it won’t here. If you wake up at home, look out the window and say, “Hmmm … another day of this?”, don’t worry: Here you’ll say, “Wow … another day in Hawaii!”
We’d like to recommend one special thing among many — Honolulu City Lights. Every year the City & County of Honolulu sponsors this marvelous celebration down at Honolulu Hale, our city hall. A giant Christmas tree shares top billing with Santa and Mrs. Claus (above). The lovely building and surroundings are ablaze with Christmas lights. Decorated Christmas trees aplenty are inside, while outdoor Christmas displays, kiddie rides and imaginative vendors can’t be missed.
Every year we take a ride on the Waikiki Trolley to see the lights. Just ask your hotel concierge about this or head to waikikitrolley.com. Tonight’s our night for 2016 … hope to see you there!
Go and Do
In the dark this morning, before I left for golf on the far side of the island, it was raining. I got dressed and hopped into my car anyway, piloting the old Saab onto H1, through Honolulu and toward Ewa, where I had a 7 a.m. tee time. It rained nearly all the way — past Aloha Stadium and Pearl City, even in Kunia, where I turned off and headed makai. Five minutes later I was at the Hawaii Prince Golf Course. It stopped raining.
After golf (don’t ask about my score), I went for a swim and shower in Kahala, baking under the midday sun. In the distance, a rain squall crouched in Hanauma Bay, then sped toward us. Ten minutes later it arrived, and nearly everyone left the beach. Ten minutes after that, it was gone. Beautiful blue skies — and plenty of parking.
If you want to go somewhere and do something on Oahu, go and do. Seldom does rain in one spot dictate what will be happening there in a few minutes, much less what is what is happening elsewhere, now or later.
No one has done more to enhance this website than my best friend in Hawaii, marvelous photographer Terry O’Halloran. His shots of Oahu are the best we have and the ones we are proudest to display. To see many more of them, head to photohalloran.com.
In a few short weeks, Terry and his beautiful wife, Ann, will leave Hawaii to travel the world. Maybe they will return, but it’s only a maybe. They are an adaptable couple, ready and able to see the best in every place, and they’ll have no trouble savoring the sweetness of wherever they end up.
Terry and I have been friends for decades. For many years now, every Tuesday morning at dawn has been Terry time. We are golf partners, with emphasis upon the second word. Our membership in the WTNG club (We’re not that good) has been earned the hard way, which comes easy to duffers like us. He is the better golfer, but I don’t let that stop me from thinking otherwise.
At my age, friends leave, one way or another. Of course, they never really do. But the “hello” hugs and the “see you next week” hugs and the hugs in between take more imagination when they’re gone. I’m not yet comfortable with the thought of Terry-hugless Tuesday, and there’s a good chance I’ll never be.
Aloha means many things. With Terry, it could only mean love.
Last summer was our first with mango and avocado trees in the backyard. “Oh, how lucky we are,” we said as lavish flowers became dainty ball bearings, then dime-sized fruit, then golf balls and tennis balls in the dozens and dozens. Then the tennis balls ballooned and the trees silently groaned. They are mothers, those trees, with keiki growing so fast that you could never get to Goodwill often enough to keep them in sneakers.
The mango tree in the yard adjoining ours shelters a small shed with a tin roof. One day we heard what sounded like a gunshot. Nobody shoots anybody anymore in Palolo, so we were puzzled rather than scared. Later in our backyard we heard it again, 20 feet away. BAM! A mango dive-bombed the tin roof. This went on for weeks, day and night. It will go on for weeks this summer, too. BAM! BAM! BAM!
If you need mangoes and avocados this summer, call me. I’ll trade you for earplugs.
If it’s Kamehameha Day, it’s summer. Nearly all the kids are out of school. Plumeria crowd tree limbs like eager young men sporting boutonnieres at the senior prom, minus the eager young men. Mangoes are MMA-fist-sized, threatening to rain. The southern swell sees more surfers than waves at Ala Moana Bowls.
Some think it’s summer here all the time, but it’s not. Summer is hotter, and hotter every year. Summer is languid, days and nights to take a deep breath and start something new. If you like to be in the water at dawn, you get up earlier. If you like a sunset cocktail, you toast a little later.
In early summer we look back at early summers past, season-shaping days from childhood. Well-oiled baseball gloves ready to stretch. Tan lines still invisible, but not for long. Lawn mowers rumbling on the school yard during finals. Summer songs and summer loves.
Next summer, your memories will be of this summer, these days in Hawaii. Make them the best they can be!
Spring has sprung.
In our backyard, avocados the size of marbles cluster in little patches on a tree strewn with them. On one of our two mango trees, baby mangoes beam temptingly from lower branches, though harsh valley winds have thrown some to the ground already. Our plumeria tree seems to have exploded overnight, gearing up for May Day. Birds of paradise strut, almost unapproachable in their regal emerald perches.
It’s been dry, but still these signs of Hawaiian spring are posted like politicians’ pleas before elections. Already we are making plans for mangoes on the grill, mango chutney, frozen mango slices lifted from the frig when no one is looking. Chilled avocado soup is on our To Do list this year, too, but it’s been there since 2008. Hmmm …
“Do you have seasons in Hawaii?” mainland friends ask. While you’re here, enjoy some answers. Spring has sprung.