Monday, December 24, 2018

A Little Maui Zowie on Oahu, Hawaii

We had quite a hoot in Long Beach but it was just a snack on our way to Hawaii. Our Uber driver for the trip to the airport didn't speak English so I had a fun time using my crap Spanish to explain to him that I wanted to stop at a random street corner on the way there.

One of my favorite classic rap songs has some LBC shoutouts in it.

One verse is:

So I hooks a left on the 21 to Lewis
Some brothas shootin dice so I said "let's do this"
I jumped out the ride, and said"what's up?"
Some brothas pulled some gats so I said "I'm stuck"

It was pretty early in the morning so there were no dice games or gats involved.

I got to enjoy Long Beach Airport some more on the way out of town. It's super close to LAX so I think it's sort of a quaint airport that even local people don't usually use.

I was still impressed by how much of it was open air. This was the walk from the ticket counter to our gate.

I started to get excited when I caught my first glimpse of our Hawaiian Airlines plane. Things were going to be real Hawaiian from here on out.

We got to work on the complimentary refreshments soon after sitting down. I think we were technically in business class but there was no first class so... we were pretty much in charge here. It was nice to have a cold mai tai in hand while I watched the sullen proletariat shuffle past to the back of the plane. I yelled some encouraging words at them like "pull yourself up by your bootstraps!" and "Reaganomics should help you any day now!" They should really have them row oars or something back there to give their idle hands something productive to do.

I had some executive dining decisions to make so I took a break from stink-eyeing the poors for a bit.

Even the little people on the bathroom occupied sign had little flower print shirts on.

I find the big American airlines’ inflight magazines to be overly polished and boring. I really enjoyed the this one though. It was a cool quick intro to some Hawaiian words and some other cultural stuff. We got a little welcome snack to start us off: some Hawaiian macadamia nuts. The cool kids in Hawaii call them "mac nuts".

Honestly the food was sort of meh. I want something cool and Hawaiian not a friggin croissant with melon slices. The drink selection was fun though. They had a lot of fruit juices, cocktails, and a couple Hawaiian beers.

I tried every last one of them.

The kale strata was like a savory bread pudding. It was pretty yuck.

I think our flight attendant could tell I was really happy to be there because we were pretty much best friends by the time the flight ended. He asked which bag in the overhead was mine and was above me fiddling with it doing who knows what.

"Unfortunately the state requires you to fill out these forms but they do not provide pens so please show some aloha spirit and share with your neighbor. Mahalo."

Going to Hawaii was in a lot of ways like midpoint between an international and a domestic trip. Tangible evidence of this limbo situation was the customs form the state government required us to fill out. Evidence that Hawaii is real laid back arrived when… no one ever collected the forms from us when we landed.

Lydia did not refer me as her sweet Maui onion even once on this trip but it would have been nice to be appreciated.

It was about time for some Honolulu, Hawaii!!! Hawaiian geography is doubly difficult because not only do you have to remember the city's name, many of which sound similar to me, but you also often have to refer to the individual island's name. Honolulu is situated on the island of Oahu. Obama was born in Honolulu and the family is known to spend Christmas on Oahu. I assumed we would bump into them at some point.

Upon touchdown we hopped into an Uber and headed to the exquisitely swanky Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach. Some hotel branded credit cards make the mistake of giving you a "night" instead of a pile of points to spend on nights. I like the "night" magical token because then I do research to find the most expensive place I can use it on. Remember that time we got a free stay in a $5k room at the DoubleTree in Times Square on New Years Eve, or put on the Ritz in Santiago, Chile? I friggin do!

The Uber driver was funny. When we told him we were from St. Louis during our obligatory cab conversation, he was like "oh yeah Kolten Wong plays for the Cardinals! He's from Hawaii!"

So first things first, the Ritz iced our necks with some quality leis. Boom.

We had to sign a little waiver thing about the rules, no smoking, blah blah. The fun part was:

"I understand the deep soaking bathtubs do not automatically turn off when filling with water, and I am responsible for turning the bathtub faucet off when filling to avoid the bathtub overflowing and causing damage to the residence."

Like what sort of top hat wearing, bubble bath loving individual has a tub that turns itself off, and furthermore has lived a life so gilded that they assume ALL bathtubs turn themselves off with such a high degree of confidence that they would just let the water run? Well it turned out that this hotel has a large Japanese clientele, and I can only assume from their magic electronic toilets that they have some cool bathtubs as well.

You know what's classy as hell? A pyramid of 50 friggin golden pinwheels. That's what.

Well we finished checking in, dumped our bags next to our boring, non-robotic bathtub, and went right back out the door. We were on a tight schedule.

Lydia got a nice flower lei and I got a friggin nut necklace. Not fair. It was made of waxy kukui nuts. Also known as the candlenut due to their oil's use as a light source, their tree is the official state tree of Hawaii. I guess that's pretty cool.

Despite still being in the United States, it was clear that I had arrived in a strange new land.

Our haste was due to the fact that today was the only day that we could visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, and we barely made it there in time. Our entire trip to Hawaii was put into peril because so many of the really cool sites in the state are national parks. Well unfortunately the corrupt sack of human excrement that occupies the oval office had forced a government shutdown, which closed a lot of the national park system. My understanding was that volunteers had stepped in to man Pearl Harbor and keep it open. That was pretty cool. You know what isn't cool? Voting for a man who won't release his tax returns.

The guidebook had this to say about Hawaii in World War II: "On December 7, 1941, when Japanese warplanes appeared above the Pearl Harbor area, most residents thought they were mock aircraft being used in practice maneuvers. Of course, it was the real thing, and by day's end hundreds of ships and airplanes had been destroyed, more than 1000 Americans had been killed and the war in the Pacific had begun.

The impact on Hawaii was dramatic. The army took control of the islands, martial law was declared and civil rights were suspended. Unlike on the mainland, Japanese Americans in Hawaii were not sent to internment camps because they made up most of the labor force in the cane fields in Hawaii's sugar-dependent economy. Thousands of Japanese Americans, many from Hawaii, eventually fought for the United States. Many were decorated for their bravery.

The War Department stationed the 4th Marine Division on Maui, where thousands of marines conducted training exercises for combat in the Pacific theater."

We had reserved a tour but were like 5 minutes late and they punished us by making us wait on standby. Luckily they eventually let us join the tour group.

I got kind of a strange vibe from Pearl Harbor. It was such a beautiful place, on such a beautiful day and yet we were there to remember the complete carnage that took place here not that long ago.

After the visitor center stuff we got to the good stuff. I was excited to have a nice little boat ride. The watercraft was manned by legit active duty US sailors, which I thought was pretty cool.

The USS Arizona Memorial straddles the sunken remains of the ship that was destroyed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Normally we would dock at the memorial and get to roam around on it, but it is currently in a state of disrepair and dangerous for visitors.

The USS Missouri, also awesomely known as "Mighty Mo" or "Big Mo", participated in battles against the Japanese, and the Signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender took place on her deck.

So Hawaii has a rainbow on its license plates, and one of its unofficial nicknames is the "Rainbow State". I figured that this was all just touchy feely, feel-good tourism marketing. Nope. We legit saw multiple rainbows a day in Hawaii.

Amazingly 1-2 gallons of oil a day still leak from the remains of Arizona. I could see its shiny streaks on the water's surface.

Mmm, nuclear torpedo.

They were collecting donations to fix the memorial's inaccessible dock.

Hawaii's Chinatown was eye opening. There were a lot of drug addict-looking homeless people around, especially in the parks. By the time I left the neighborhood I was completely disabused of any preconceptions I had of Hawaii as a perfect paradise. It turned out that this was just a different version of real life.

"The ʻIolani Palace was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii beginning with Kamehameha III under the Kamehameha Dynasty and ending with Queen Liliʻuokalani under the Kalākaua Dynasty, founded by her brother, King David Kalākaua." So sayeth Wikipedia. Fun fact about the ʻIolani Palace is that it is the only royal palace on US soil.

Queen Liliʻuokalani was the last sovereign monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai'i. My limited explanation of why the US wanted to annex Hawaii was that Americans controlled a lot of sugar production on the islands but there was a tariff on foreign sugar created by threatened sugar producers on the continental US. So the Hawaiian sugar producers figured if they just made Hawaii US territory then the tariff would go away.

Between Queen Lili here and lilikoi being the Hawaiian word for passionfruit, there was a lot of Lyly meet lili puns in store for her.

I have a well documented love for state capitols, being from the best state capital myself. So far I think Hawaii's takes the cake for being the most unique.

The building is open aired in the center! Crazy.

You can kind of see in this picture that the two legislative chambers are cone-shaped, symbolizing volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian Islands.

Father Damien was made a saint for his work caring for the lepers of Hawaii.

We hadn't seen a rainbow in about an hour so it was really time.

Lydia was excited to get back to the Ritz and hang out. She really likes fancy hotels. I am chemically incapable of feeling excitement so seeing her excited is like my window into the emotion.

The view of Waikiki was enough to elicit excitement in the average human, I think.

I had time to go through my bag and see what my flight attendant buddy had put in there: drinks! Hurray drinks! I liked the little shampoo bottle-looking containers they came in.

So I know like two Hawaiians total. One lives in Japan. So I facebooked my other Hawaiian friend and was like: "aloha broseph". Hunter and I go back to my Japan days. A highlight of our fun Japanese times together was when we both pretty much starred in the critically acclaimed film Kanikosen together. In an even stranger twist of fate another bud of mine, Katherine, from those days was visiting him from Australia. The Tochigi-ken English teacher stars were truly aligned. Hunter was working at his family's Round Table Pizza franchise on the other side of Oahu in Kailua. Did we want to stop by for a visit? Yes, yes we did. Katherine popped over to the Ritz and we had a nice long Uber ride of time to catch up. Lydia and she are both teachers, and teachers love to talk to teachers about teaching.

I am on the correct side of the pineapple on pizza debate, that it is an abomination unto the old gods and the new. It turns out though that Hawaiian style pizza is an actual thing in Hawaii. Hunter called this Maui Zowie the "educated man's Hawaiian pizza".

While hunter was closing up shop his lovely mother drove us around town a little for some Christmas Eve shopping. 

Target had an entire refrigerated case full of flower necklaces. I guess people give them to each other on special occasions.

I was on the hunt for a little dashboard hula girl, and I secured a nice one. Merry Christmas to meee!

I made a startling discovery at the store. I collected POGs in my youth like I collected just about everything else: like a total sociopath. I had a binder full of plastic pages that I would keep them in. Anyway "POG" is the acronym for passion/orange/guava juice that the Meadow Gold company sells. The original cardboard circles were the caps of Meadow's glass milk bottles. Hawaiians came up with a game to play with the little circles, so the company continued making them even after discontinuing the glass bottles. 

I felt guilty that we didn't stay out later with my buds but we had just had the longest day of our lives. I was destroyed and desperately needed to go to bed or I was going to fall asleep on my surfboard in the morning. Aloha friends!

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