October 12 & 13, Honolulu- In five hours’ time, I found myself having left behind the measured bustle and polyglot ambiance of San Diego for- the measured relaxation and polyglot ambiance of Honolulu. Seated beside me on the flight was a quiet, demure and mildly cordial Native Hawaiian woman, headed home. This brought to mind the warnings I had gotten from some in Arizona, that “Locals in Oahu don’t like haoles (Caucasians).” I didn’t get the vibes from her, or any other person in Honolulu, that I was particularly disliked; then again, I rarely have gotten those vibes from any person of colour- save the occasional drunk. I take each person as I would have him or her take me. It works, by and large. Hawai’i ought to be seen, first and foremost, as the sacred land of a deeply cultured and spiritual people- just like anywhere in the Americas.
I met my son, Aram, at Honolulu International Airport. We took a Honolulu city bus to my hotel in Waikiki, sharing stories with a Brazilian man who was in the midst of a round-the-world journey. He had much to say about Korea, India, Turkey and the Iberian Peninsula, in particular, the last being an exercise in “whose Portuguese is the true language?” I checked into Hokele Suites, two blocks north of the beach and an equal distance south of Ala Wai Channel. The medium high rise has all the amenities needed by a modest sojourner like myself, and is near enough to the beach that I could don a swimsuit and a pair of reef runners- and get my fill of sand and surf. Watching out for me was this composed wahine.
Aram and I headed out to Kimukatsu, a restaurant specializing in Japanese-style cutlet, usually pork. The Japanese tend to regard veal as a waste of a good animal that is better used to provide mature beef. So, the hog is a useful substitute. Katsu (cutlets) establishments abound in Japan, and in Korea, Guam, Hawai’i and anywhere else with large Japanese communities. Kimu offered gourmet toppings, such as those shown in the second photo below.
We then walked about the Ala Wai area, along the south bank of the channel, taking in Honolulu’s encroaching dusk.
Waikiki is inundated with high rises, both condominium and hotel, but the spirit of the place still reflects the spouting waters for which it is named. Ala Wai is not the stinking mess I was told it had been in the ’80’s and 90’s. It reminds me more of Riverwalk in San Antonio, or the paths along the Seine. True, those places face the challenges of being treasured by the masses, and I probably wouldn’t swim in Ala Wai, even if it were legal to do so. There is, however, a growing civic sense that this is an area that is as much for year-round residents as it is for those who come and go.
The next morning, I saw the channel at sunrise.
After joining a fair number of locals in an IHOP, for a breakfast of Belgian waffles and coffee, I headed for Pauahi Garden, near the Sheraton Waikiki. (Sushi, the alternative, somehow escapes me as a breakfast item, though it is common enough fare for the Asian communities here.) Bernice Pauhi Bishop was of the royalty of Maui and Moloka’i. She was highly educated and was an astute businesswoman, eventually owning 9 % of the island of O’ahu. She died at age 52, of breast cancer, and left no heirs. The small gardens in the hotel district of Waikiki Beach,though, were established in her honour.
The hearts I invariably encounter on my journeys were in abundance here, in the form of leaves.
No visit to Honolulu is complete without time in the sand, and at least a nod to Diamond Head.
Helumoa, the midst of Waikiki (“Spouting Waters”, in Hawaiian), was the favoured relaxation site of Kamehameha I and his successors. When American businessmen took control of Hawai’i in 1898, they, too, saw the salubrious nature of the spot. Being entrepreneurs, they set in motion the process which gave us the Waikiki shorefront of today. Hawaiians revered the shark, yet somehow I don’t think they were quite prepared for the human sharks who descended on them in the lattter third of the 19th Century. Waikiki today is in the process of balancing itself, to be more in tune with the natural beauty it once had in abundance.
We have reached the stage in Honolulu’s legacy where the first hotel in Waikiki, the Surfrider, is a genuine historic site.
Later in the afternoon, before I headed to Pearl Harbor, and my son’s ship, another walk along the strand was in order. The Wizard Stones, near Waikiki Police Substation, are held to have healing powers. At the very least, they are reminders of nature’s power, having been sent here in a volcanic outburst, ages ago. Lava also is used in the various breakwaters that line children’s pools and the boundaries of hotel properties along the strand.
Sand, though, is the prime real estate. Below, King David Kalakaua, who succeeded the Kamehameha line in an election, of all things, continued the royal promotion of education for all Hawaiian children.
Those who promote Hawaiian culture to the world are also honoured. Don Ho is remembered for pop and lounge renditions of Hawaiian songs, and is revered by many here on O’ahu.,
With limited time in Honolulu, I chose to focus much of the rest of my day on the true legacy of the Native Hawaiian people, and one of its treasure troves: Iolani Palace.