Saturday, January 17, 2009

Feelin' Olu'Olu'

"We left LA for this?" Big Dog exclaimed incredulously as we arrived in Honolulu in tandem with a storm system. We had the Christmas freeze-out, but this week, it was perfect beach weather in LA. Now, in Honolulu, our clothes felt skimpy.

Dark clouds cascaded down the steep ridges of Oahu and dumped on us sporadically all day Friday. It was also so gusty that corridors between buildings would have made great wind turbines. But I was happy to be in Aloha-land again.

There is something about these islands that makes me feel...olu'olu'. I've never really felt I belonged in California, although I grew up there (even stranger, I feel more at home in Mexico!) but each time I come to Hawaii, it feels like I am coming home. And while I'd prefer to chill out in a little shack on the North Shore, I even like Waikiki.

I didn't care about the weather. I felt comfortable here in a way that perfect-climed California could ever make me feel. Sure, it's the blend of East and West, but it's also the way "funky" and "tacky" have slipped through the cracks and into the sleek, shiny and modern. It appeals greatly to the saboteur in me.

Newer resort areas around the world have been more successful in eliminating authentic and/or native funk. Travelers bemoan it, but the tourists seem to love and expect Disneyfication. This week's edition of the town's alt paper, Honolulu Weekly, featured an interview with a Bay Area travel writer who questioned why the tourism industry here would allow tourists to see the "gauntlet of ugliness" on the way to Waikiki from the airport. She suggested walls with murals. Yeah, let's hide "real" from the tourists! I wanted to tell her it was the row of grimy warehouses and little corrugated tin shacks housing diners and bars and mechanics that made me happy to be here. For me, that's Old Honolulu and it comforts me to see that they haven't been bulldozed to make way for another boring, homogenous, gentrified landscape of shops and restaurants you can find in Palm Springs or Scottsdale get the picture.

The pace here felt much faster after months in our little Mexican village where Big Dog can spend the entire day in his underwear. Back in our workaholic Tokyo days, we came here to chill out! Now I am enjoying the hustle and bustle of a real city. And yet, it is gentle in a way the mainland can never be. It's olu'olu', brah.

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