Big City Fix

Last night at writers group we talked about southern California in the 60’s – huaraches, surfboards, sunshine, the Beach Boys. It seemed it was always summer in southern California back then.

It’s summer on Oahu now, hot and humid, with crowded beaches, warm water, and shave ice. Surfers, with surfboards under arms, run across streets to catch ocean waves. Sometimes they carry their boards while riding bicycles, a talent I will never achieve.  Tourists walk the streets with red, blistered skin. Air-conditioned stores fill with patrons seeking refuge from the hot, muggy afternoons. The summer solstice sun last night glared into our eyes as we drove into Kaimuki for our writers group.

I sit here at a small coffee shop in Honolulu in a tank top and shorts, continually scooting  my chair out of the sun, and I’m missing The City. THE City. San Francisco. Summer in San Francisco was a wool coat with hat and scarf; bitter cold wind, eye-level fog, foghorns and coffee. I think of the heater in my old 1930’s-built apartment coming on at all hours and of time spent in bookstores. I would go to a coffee shop for something to eat and take a coffee to walk around with, mostly because I’m a coffee addict, but also because it kept my hand warm.

I miss the literary scene. There’s City Lights in North Beach and independent bookstores in every neighborhood. I miss Book Passage in Marin County with their endless calendar of classes, conferences, readings, etc. I miss how I’d meet a writer at any coffee shop or bookstore.

My friend Eric Sasson is reading from his book next month at Why There Are Words in Sausalito. I used to attend regularly when I lived there, usually with a writer friend or two. I can’t find anything like Why There Are Words on Oahu.

I’m also thinking of Washington D.C.  A recent transplant told me it’s a foody scene in D.C. now. I remember when the Borders bookstore in Arlington, Virginia opened. It had a coffee shop and evening music, a novel idea at the time. People flocked to it. Now D.C. has new restaurants along with bookstores. (Please tell me great bookstores are still there.)

And why do I have thoughts of New York? Never have I yearned for New York. Last time I was there was before Rudy Giuliani was mayor.

I need a city fix.

I don’t know if this qualifies as Island Fever, I’m not craving miles and miles of open land. I’m just missing big city vitality.

Mark and I are planning a trip later this year to Seattle. Neither of us has ever been. We’re open to ideas of what to see or do. I like the artsy/literary/coffee shop scene. Mark likes historical places. We’ll walk neighborhoods and waterfronts.

But Seattle is months and months away. Anyone have a suggestion of how to get a big city fix in summertime Hawaii? Should I rent Sex And The City videos or do I get on a plane and go somewhere? Anyone have a city in mind I should check out?


We Accept Yen

Seen at a convenience store in Honolulu

Shops in Honolulu take Yen. Sales people speak Japanese. Signs and menus are in English and Japanese. The Japanese influence on this town is everywhere. A good example is Marukai market. It’s a club store, sort of like Costco. Members can stock up on Hawaiian-made snacks, Japanese home décor, and necessities like fans, altars, bamboo plants and Hello Kitty items. Never will you run out of rice if you live near Marukai. Fresh sushi and every kind of shoyu/soy sauce is also available.

Rice at Marukai

On a recent visit to my hair stylist, he placed a new product in my hair to give it sheen. I loved it and purchased a bottle. “Put a little in the palm of your hand and run it through your hair before you blow dry,” he said.

“About how much?” I asked. “The size of a dime?”

“Too much” he said.

“So, maybe pea-sized?” I asked. “Too little,” he answered.  He then nodded his head, and said, “Edamame size.”

Edamame size? Only in Hawaii have I heard people refer to something as edamame-sized. I really am out of the U.S.

But where exactly am I?

In Honolulu, the Japanese influence is strong, but what about the rest of the island?  In the less populated areas of Oahu, there’s another world, one before the Japanese culture landed on this island… it’s that of the native Hawaiian. Here’s a photo that illustrates their thoughts:

I make no political statement. I endorse no group. I am an American living in a land that is removed from mainstream American culture. Life has an ebb and flow here based upon the weather, the geography, and the mix of people. Hawaii has no majority ethnic group.  English, Japanese, Hawaiian and Pidgin (among others) are spoken here.  Baptist churches reside next to Shinto Temples. The Episcopal cathedral tower can be seen while standing in front of a Chinese temple. The Mormon temple and rural Protestant church live harmoniously in the country, while evangelical churches dot most neighborhoods.

What is important now? Appreciating the beauty of the land here. Even in the rain and clouds, the mountains are spectacular. They tell me a story every time I look at them. When they look angry, I wonder why. Is it my emotion being projected onto them or are the mountains trying to tell me something?

When the alternating blue and cloudy sky reflects upon the ocean creating flowing shades of turquoise, aqua and sea-foam green, I stop to admire the constant change in color as each wave laps upon the shore, then disappears. In those moments, I’m reminded of the constant change of life. Nothing stays the same. Each moment is unique and fleeting. Mother Nature reminds me to appreciate the moments life gives me. And that goes for the people. I’ve written before about the nature of human beings. Seventy years ago Japan was our enemy, now they are our friends. I’ve encountered native Hawaiians who have judged me by my skin color and others who have accepted me as another human, blind to the difference of skin color between us.

A friend asked me what my thoughts are of having lived in Hawaii for just over a year.  Mostly, I’ve changed my priorities. I don’t need the latest clothes by some designer or the latest upscale linens. I don’t need to rush. Nothing has to be done so quickly that my rushing it negatively affects another person’s serenity. I’ve learned I can’t assume the way a person is by their skin color or cultural background. I let the land dictate the way my day goes.

Sometimes the ocean calls me and I just have to stop at the beach to feel the water wash over my feet. As the last of each wave swirls around my ankles, I watch the clouds float by reminding me to live in the moment, to be a good person, and to accept all inhabiting this multi-cultural island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The Coffee Five-0 Connection

Life on Oahu was busy in May, mostly from visitors. When you move to Hawaii, everyone comes to stay with you.

Anyway, the visitors are gone and I am left with my daily routine. I drop Mark off at work, then head to my secret location to write. It’s quiet first thing in the morning, but gets busier after a few hours. I don’t mind though, by that point I’m in the writing zone and don’t even notice the people around me…..

Until a day a couple of weeks ago, when the flash of a camera shook me from my computer screen full of words.

Alex O’Loughlin was sitting in a chair directly in front of me. If you watch the new Hawaii Five-0 series on CBS, you know Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett.

Go ahead, Google him…….

…..yes, he’s just as handsome in person. After the couple snapped a photo with him, they left. No one else bothered him. He sat, talked on his phone and waited for his order, just like a regular person.

Last year I blogged about a stop at a coffee shop which led us to the Hawaii Five-0 crew filming a scene. We watched Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan take down a bad guy on the beach. The blog title was, “Coffee Gets Us Five-0”.  Once again it seems coffee led me to Hawaii Five-0. If there’s something I’m supposed to glean from this, I’ll assume it’s to keep my coffee addiction.

My secret writing place has great organic Hawaiian coffee. It doesn’t have free Wi-Fi, which is good; otherwise, I’d be online instead of writing.  It has good food, clean bathrooms, comfortable chairs and handsome TV stars. What more could a writer want? (Besides a big time NY agent)

Oh, right, it’s in Hawaii.