Our vacation started on Oahu, the most populous of the eight main islands. The opulent Royal Hawaiian Hotel is at the north end of Waikiki Beach, with great views of the Diamond Head crater. Since I'm still in shoulder surgery recovery mode, the doctor told me NO surfing, not even body surfing, unless I was using someone else's body. Even channel surfing was to be done carefully, and no pay-per-view channels.
After relaxing on the beach it was time to take our bus to the luau at picturesque Paradise Cove. There were plenty of activities for the kids, tattooing, spear-throwing and rock-bowling. If your kids don't care much for you, this is not the place to be, as they will be armed much of the time. All this was presided over by cute girls wearing coconut shells and grass skirts. If I had a weed-whacker in that place there is no telling what I would do.
When are we going to eat around here? When pigs fly, I said to myself, and no sooner did those words not come out of my mouth than did a pig emerge from the ground instead, dug up by two dudes wearing native tattoos, although one looked like it had the Lakers logo. How long the pig had been there, and how they knew where it was I have no idea.
We ate like King Kamehameha as the hula dancers bobbed and swayed to the lilting music of an excellent band, followed by the Polynesian fire dancers. One of the fire dancers also ate fire. I don't know how many calories fire has per serving, but this was a pretty big kahuna.
We went north in a tour bus the next day. Beautiful Sea Life Park near Makapuu Beach is a great way to see marine animals in their natural habitat: giant metal tanks. I scheduled a little dolphin surprise for my wife, and a "dolphin touch" for myself. Once in the water, I wanted to instead touch the dolphin with my words and my music. As I sang an original song it appeared quite moved. In fact, it moved so fast I couldn't catch up to it to do the second verse. Then it was time to tickle the dolphin. I was told that the dolphin's blow hole is sensitive, and to avoid touching it. I was told this by the dolphin. I assured him that the same thing goes for me. The trainer warned that the last dolphin was tickled to death, so go easy. I tickled it pretty good, but instead of laughing it splashed the crap out of me with its fins AND its tail.
My wife swam with the dolphin. For approximately 3 seconds. This activity is not too cost effective if you figured out the dollars per second, but it's a bargain when I found out what they were charging the dolphin. Dolphins are not as smart as they think they are.
We travelled west the following day. The USS Arizona Memorial sits astride the 97-foot beam of the battleship sunk there by a Japanese fighter plane 73 years ago. The Arizona remains today as it was then, settled on the floor of Pearl Harbor. Oil from the hull still seeps noticeably to the water's surface, an eerie reminder of the 1,777 men buried inside, plus the remains of many survivors whom Navy divers interred there upon their deaths, per their wishes. Moored a couple hundred feet away, the USS Missouri represents the end of the Pacific Theater of World War II, as the Arizona marks its beginning. Here, on the "Surrender Deck," Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the articles of surrender in Tokyo Bay in the presence of American and European military and dignitaries. Touring these two sites was as moving as it was interesting. Most of these battleships are named after a state of the Union, and thank goodness they didn't choose a crap state like Rhode Island for these important exhibits.
Next day it was on to the big island of Hawaii, to visit our gracious hosts Jenn and Jeff and their furry friends in their beautiful home that he built himself. Not so impressive when you consider that I built SEVERAL out of Lego, back in the day. In the morning we toured the farmers market, where I bought three used farmers at an attractive price. I also picked up a Hawaiian shirt. I needed something loud enough to drown out possible crying babies on the flight back to San Diego (THREE plane rides).
In the afternoon we relaxed and snorkeled near the tidepools of Kapoho Bay. The wildlife scenery underwater was breathtaking. It literally was since I didn't have the snorkel attached properly.
At night we hung out in the lanai, drinking, talking and playing songs on the guitar and ukelele. If you have never heard a rock song played on a ukelele you are probably missing something, but you'll get over it. Their dog has a habit of coming up to you from behind, with that pointy nose- I thought it was that damned dolphin again.
The next day we hopped in the rent-a-car and drove north along the coast and around the top of the island, drinking in the spectacular views along the way. At home in Westchester, driving in the car, the scenery is so lackluster that I usually just watch it on the GPS screen, where I can at least change the color, instead of looking out the windshield. But in Hawaii each mile brings a new seascape. We turned on the radio- If you were expecting the gentle steel guitars and ukeleles of hula music, think again, because the music of Hawaii is modern reggae. It fills the airwaves all day and all night, and seems totally appropriate.
We stopped at a scenic overlook that we almost overlooked, then we did. Do not get lost travelling in Hawaii. Getting directions goes something like this:
"Do you know how to get to Kalaeloakalanianaole Highway?"
"Simple: You take Moanaluamokapupali Freeway until you get to Wilikinawaialae Drive, then make a left onto Kahuapaanikahekilihalawa until you get to Main Street, then it's not near that."
"Got it! Thanks!"
Back for dinner in Pahoa with Jenn & Jeff, we were told that the mahi mahi would be upgraded, possibly to a mahi mahi mahi. The town of Pahoa is filled with colorful and eccentric characters, which is a nice way of saying that they all look like they are there hiding from the government, their parents or their children, or were kicked out of a circus.
Next day Jeff took us on a tour of what used to be Kalapana, a small town buried by a volcanic lava flow in 1986. What ash-hole would do such a thing? We found out when we toured the Kilauea volcano, or as Dan Quayle would say, volcanoe. When you look around the site, smoke rising everywhere around you and the awesome fact of the smoldering crater right in front of you, you can't help feeling that the gods must be angry. Was it something I did? I threw a kleenex out the car window but I figured it was biodegradable? Just to be on the safe side I impulsively pushed a teenage girl into the volcano as a sacrifice. I hope she was a virgin, but come to think of it she looked like kind of a slut. But it's the thought that counts.
Then it was time to say goodbye to the Hawaii, and our hosts Jenn and Jeff, who were so much fun and so generous with their time and with their island. Words could not describe how we felt, so I made one up. A combination of "aloha" ("hello/goodbye") and "mahalo" ("thank you"), "maloha," I decided, means "Thanks! Gotta run!"
Incidentally, the largest mountain in Hawaii is Mauna Kea, at 13,796 feet. However, if followed to its base at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, it stands at about 33,500 feet, taller than Mount Everest, and the only mountain where you need to switch from snow skis to water skis halfway down the slope.