TRAVEL JOURNAL: Hawaii, Days Six and Seven

Day 6

Our last day on Hawaii dawned with a wind storm and a light drizzle, almost a fine mist, that fell regardless of whether clouds or sun were directly overhead. Rob had developed a slight cold the previous day, and after treating it with a judicious application of needles, I made him wear his jacket with the hood up, as any acupuncturist worth his moxa can tell you that disease enters the body through the back of the neck in unfavorable climates. After breakfast, while he rested, I went down to the ocean to say goodbye to Pele and the other spirits of the island.

Ben was at the desk when we checked out of Kalani, and upon settling my debts, I gave him my business card in case he ever found himself on the East Coast and needed assistance.

“You never know, I could end up anywhere,” he said.

“I distinctly have that impression,” I told him, picturing him adrift, buffeted hither and yon by the forces of a universe he is convinced has his best interests at heart.

I noticed that, instead of pants, he was wearing an orange skirt.

As we pulled up to Hilo International Airport, I was a little startled at how small it is, since I did not have a good perspective of its size upon our arrival. There were no planes at any of its few gates and only one large airliner parked away from the terminal; any conclusions I may have had about having traveled to a remote backwater were put to rest as soon as I noticed that it happened to be Air Force One, and I wondered if Goblin Foo had pulled some strings to get her daddy a more direct ride home. There could only be one other explanation as far as I was concerned, but I was tragically not offered an ambassadorship on my way to Gate 6.

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The topography of the Honolulu area is more interesting than where we were on the Big Island, although there is far less wild foliage. Our hotel, Aulani, turned out to be in a gated community called Ko Olina, which is lushly and impeccably landscaped to within an inch of its life, and I imagined any disharmonious branches or blades of grass were issued urgent cease-and-desist orders by a security patrol empowered for this very purpose.

We had arrived in Resort Hawaii.

I was disconcerted by the obvious wealth in this territory, in contrast with the casual wilderness around Kalani, but I could only be stunned by the architecture and accoutrement of Aulani, which is owned by Disney and subject to that corporation’s legendary attention to detail. After checking in, Rob and I familiarized ourselves with our one-bedroom suite overlooking the ocean and later strolled the open-air lobby and its surrounding beaches and pools, which majestically evoked Hawaiian palaces and vistas in staggering proportions. I am a sucker for a good design theme, and the interpolation of Disney trademarks into this hallowed iconography was minimal and tasteful, but I did glimpse someone dressed up as Donald Duck across the courtyard, and “It’s a Small World” was piped subtly into the elevator–in the Hawaiian language and accompanied by ukeleles.

I can’t begin to stress how different this is from Kalani, and Rob and I are probably two of the few characters on the face of the earth who might occupy the overlapping sector of a Venn diagram that represented each as a distinct circle. Our fellow travelers here appear to be self-involved and wearing name brands, although the staff greets everyone who passes with cheerful alohas that do not seem enforced by their salaries. And when it comes to Internet access on every square inch of this property, I am in like Flynn, if Flynn were a wifi provider and not an infamous libertine.

I confess, I love it here, too, the comfort and thoughtfulness of it mostly. “Welcome home!” they say when you arrive, and it does feel like that, especially if my home were a responsibility-free zone removed from the realities of the world. But I confess that I wouldn’t mind wandering downstairs and finding the hippies and mystics of the jungle gathered for a simple meal around the infinity pool, awaiting me with open arms.

Day 7

I left for this vacation without doing an iota of research on the destination, but everyone and my mother said that we should visit the Dole Plantation when we got to Oahu, which is what we decided to do today. The Dole Plantation grows pineapples, apparently, a bulbous and prickly fruit I did not personally encounter in that locale except for in the pineapple-flavored ice cream Rob enjoyed on the patio. There was a tour through the property on a miniature train, but we opted instead for the sprawling arrangement of hedges billed as the World’s Largest Maze. I am used to mazes being printed puzzles in which you are given the entrance and must direct your pencil point to the exit. This one, it took me a while to understand, did not disguise the way out but instead contained eight secret stations that you were supposed to navigate to your own or with the aid of the little map provided at the ticket booth. I was quite unclear on the nature of these stations, but we were also given a little card with a blank space to record something from each, so I assumed that this would be stamped in some way at every one. Rob and I split up, and I thought I would try my luck without the guidance of the map, a disastrous decision that left me retracing my steps with increasing disgruntlement. When I arrived at what I thought might be one of the landmarks, all that awaited me was a lone peacock, which eyed me with wary annoyance as it groomed its own feathers. I wondered if this was what I was looking for, so I took its photo. Around another corner there was a chicken pecking around contentedly under one of the hedge walls, and I imagined I had struck a bonanza of live-action poultry. But when the only other unusuality I encountered was a weed that resembled a marijuana plant, I decided to leave the maze and sit under an umbrella to catch up on my emails. Rob, of course, had discovered every station and an ice cream booth besides.

That evening, we drove down to Waikiki, a district of Honolulu by the beach characterized by throngs of tourists from all over the world streaming through an otherworldly bazaar of twirling Hare Krishnas; solemn adherents of the Falun Gong; apocalyptic cultists shouting about the Book of Revelation; mangy Rastafarians; native Hawaiian performers of music and magic; tour guides hawking their products with the gusto of carnival barkers; wild-eyed beggars bearing cardboard signs; and a trained guinea pig that could balance on a ball, drive a toy car, and perform other marvels, while simultaneously modeling a succession of tiny hats–all of this against a backdrop of some of the most opulent shops ever begotten by capitalism, including an Apple Store, of which I availed myself to purchase a dongle to connect my camera to my iPad. Our ostensible goal in this seaside circus was to find a restaurant to eat dinner, but given the advancing hour and my plummeting blood sugar, we settled for tacos from a food court stand, which were fine enough.

Later that evening, back at Aulani, I sat out on the balcony with a glass of wine, listened to the waves against the shore, and thought, refreshingly, about nothing.

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