APEC Traffic Fears

APEC’s in town. (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation)

Streets are closed for security reasons. High-level delegates from 21 countries are here. Traffic warnings are posted everywhere. Beaches are shut down. Residents of Waikiki enter their own residences only with proper I.D.

Mark and I went to dinner in Waikiki on Saturday night, figuring it would be our last chance to visit for at least a week. We were shocked to find how empty the streets, hotels and restaurants were. Even Waikiki Beach was empty. Did everyone stay away, fearing massive traffic and hassle from APEC? The opening ceremony for APEC was on Sunday, yet Saturday was empty in Waikiki.

Maybe this is how we end traffic in Honolulu after all-just create traffic fears so bad that no one wants to enter the city.

I am heeding advice to stay away. Today I am home, hunkered down in our apartment. The streets may be empty, but I wouldn’t know. I’m writing. And reading other people’s writing. And that’s a good thing.

Mainland Culture Shock

I’ve been on the mainland for a week now. LAX was the first stop and, boy, did I have a shock. I’ve been living island-style and Los Angeles rudeness was appalling. I exited the plane and headed straight for the restroom, where the woman behind me was right up on my back. Personal space means nothing here. Women pushed in line, also something that never happens in Hawaii.

The hallway floor of LAX was covered in grime, gum, dust and litter. After more rushing and pushing at baggage claim, Mark and I rushed out to the shuttle to take us to our hotel. Where were the soothing tropical tones at the LAX Sheraton? Nowhere. “So, L.A.” I remarked at check-in. The Sheraton is decorated in shades of gray, accented with black and bold geometric shapes. Trendy and hip, yes. Soothing and serene, no.

Our friend, picked us up and drove us to Barney’s Beanery in Santa Monica to watch the USC-Cal football game. Good friends and food helped our shock, but, seriously, does everyone in Santa Monica drive a BMW?

Back to the Sheraton, where I couldn’t wait for the next leg of the journey, to Georgia and the hospitable south.

Our flight to Atlanta didn’t start well. Delta charged us a huge amount of money for our baggage fees. When we had boarded, Mark and I tried to tell the flight attendant how the baggage fees were over the top at Delta. She argued with us. The passenger next to us, who travels all the time, confirmed what we were saying. She argued with him. The man in the seat across the aisle also told of his baggage experience with extra fees and the flight attendant continued to argue with all of us! We all agreed, we never fly Delta unless we have no choice, and Atlanta airport is pretty much only Delta.

Atlanta airport is huge and crazy with lots of people, but it’s clean and organized. People are aware of personal space and many offered to help me with my bag. Mark and I said our goodbyes for the rest of the week. I was staying in Georgia, while Mark was continuing on to another destination.

Off to the hotel for me at the Gateway Center, where I took a clean, efficient tram to my hotel directly off the airport terminal.

The following day was a drive to southern Georgia to watch my Godson play college football. I wanted to be full of rest and energy, so I went to bed at 9:30 PM Atlanta time. Uh, that made it 3:30 PM Hawaii time. I didn’t fall asleep for a long while. The clock on the nightstand read 3:30 AM last I saw before I finally fell asleep.

Shopping on Base

Oahu has a huge military presence. Each section of the island has some kind of military base/post/camp on it. When heading to the North Shore, we pass Schofield Barracks and Dillingham airfield. I’ve never been to Pearl Harbor for the tour. I need to do that soon. I have been on Hickam/Pearl Harbor and recently, the Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

A friend of mine is a Marine wife. I went with her to MCBH to help her with her baby and do some shopping at the Base Exchange. Not having much experience with the military, I noticed everything. With ID, we entered the base through the sentry gate. No one sped. No one was in a hurry, or they didn’t show it at least. Single family homes on nicely paved subdivisions sat to the right of us in the car. Plenty of space on the roads for the number of cars and plenty of parking in the lot. We pulled into the lot and parked. When I got out of the car, I saw this sign… pregnant women get preferred parking! Look at the sign, it’s in Marine Colors. Of course, as a Trojan, I thought of USC’s Cardinal and Gold colors. I’m pretty sure there’s no parking designated for pregnant women on USC’s campus, though.

Inside the Base Exchange I was mesmerized by everything in one building. TV’s on one side, Hallmark cards next to me, holiday decor in front of me, home items to the right and clothes for men, women and children/babies in the back. We wandered through the bath/home section. I love “one-stop” shopping and this building had it all. I could see every section from any other section. Shelves were clean and orderly. Leave it to the Marines to be organized and to make parking easier for pregnant women. Walmart on Keeaumoku Street, are you listening?

Musical Surprises

Mark had to work today, so I took the car and ran errands all over the island. First stop was Blaisdell Center where I thought I’d buy concert tickets to Earth, Wind and Fire. Turns out the concert is already almost sold out; only a few tickets left and in not so good seats. We decided to put the money into an island hopping trip.

On my way back to the parking lot, I spotted Elvis. Yes, Elvis lives on the Blaisdell Center grounds. I stood in front of his flower-bedecked statue and remembered watching Elvis’ Hawaii concert on TV when I was a kid. I was sitting on the floor of our family room in the Bay Area, with the boxy Zenith TV set upon the carpet. Elvis was sparkly and sweaty. I remember my father yelling to my mom who was washing dishes in the kitchen, “Come look how fat Elvis is.” With dishtowel in hand, Mom entered the family room. “Must be drugs,” was her answer. She shook her head and went back to the dishes.

I left the Elvis statue and continued on to other errands. Office Depot was very uneventful. The bank, however, is a story for another time.

Later that afternoon, while sitting in the car, I listened to KKOL 107.9, which plays mostly rock hits from the 60’s,70’s and 80’s. I was on a two lane road, during a bright gorgeous Hawaii afternoon, the kind where the sky is really blue, the green trees and plants and hills are almost emerald in color and the flowers that grow on the tips of trees pop with orange, yellow and red. The DJ announced he was playing a set of songs from the only musical family to have a grandfather, son and grandson as superstars.

Surprisingly, the next minute I was singing out loud to Hank Williams Jr.’s, “Family Tradition.” Country music guided me all through high school and college, especially Hank Williams Jr. I could feel better instantly singing one of his songs while driving to the then unspoiled ranch lands in Orange County. There was also a night in college spent at my sorority sister’s cattle ranch, listening and dancing to country music under the oak trees and stars. Although it seemed weird to drive through a tropical landscape and hear a song from days I spent in California grasslands with farms and ranches nearby, I felt happy belting out the lyrics today. Thanks KKOL.

Music of all kinds can be found here. Earth, Wind and Fire, Elvis and Hank Jr. all in one day. Nice.

Where’s Minnie Mouse in a Grass Skirt?

I love Disneyland, but the thought of Disney opening a resort in Hawaii left me cringing. I thought it would be cheesy and a tacky rendition of the Tiki Room. (Yes, the Tiki Room is tacky, but it’s make-believe and I thoroughly enjoy it.)

Disney Aulani Resort’s Grand Opening is this week. We didn’t know that as we drove up to their entrance in Ko’Olina. Apparently, media is already on site and the hotel is prepping in a big way. Colored search lights lit up the sky once it was dark. The beach has a stage set up with big lights; the type found on a film set. We stood above on the hotel grounds as hula dancers rehearsed under the watch of Disney choreographers. We were told Good Morning America is showcasing the grand opening later this week.

The property is nice, not cheesy at all. Disney really did their research. We ate dinner at Ama Ama restaurant, where Liane, our waitress, told us how Disney had a difficult time creating Aulani. This wasn’t a made up Disney, Cinderella-type story. Disney had to exemplify a real story, the Hawaiian story. Other than Chip and Dale playing games with the kids and the rock formation around the pool, not much that looks like Disney is visible. Hawaiian images of kapa cloth patterns, Pele on a building, torches designed to look like kukui nuts were visible. I missed the small details at first and I wondered who would drive all the way out here for a Disney escape. Halfway through dinner, I told Mark, “I feel like we’re on vacation.” Disney had done it. They had transported me to vacation mode while only a few miles from home.

A side note, our dinner at Ama Ama was excellent. Great flavors blended together in everything we tried. I had a delicious Burrata and tomato salad with sweet white corn dressing and tender smooth beef filet.

Okay, enough from me. I’ll be quiet now and let you enjoy the photos.

Aloha Festival

After watching the USC football game at Jimmy Buffett’s in Waikiki, we wandered onto Kalakaua Avenue for the start of Hoolaulea, part of Aloha Festival. Tented booths lined the mauka (mountain) side of Kalakaua Ave. Cars were blocked from the street and only walkers and strollers wandered down the avenue. It was so quiet without the cars, we could hear birds in the banyan tree near the Duke Kahanamoku statue. The first stand I saw was selling poi mochi. I swear, there’s a way to put poi in everything.

The man at the lei stand started talking to me about the dancer with a sign asking for money for “Chronics of Narnia”. (Whatever that is.) The lei man and I laughed about his drug induced dancing ability.

We watched tourists line Waikiki beach waiting for sunset.

Our return walk held the interesting discovery. Just before the Honolulu Police Department’s Waikiki sub-station is a fenced off area with four large rocks. These rocks were placed in honor of four Tahitian healers who wandered the island with miraculous healing abilities during the 1500’s. When it was time to return to their island of Raiatea, they asked that four large stones be placed near their residence. They gave their spirit power to the stones before their departure.

I’ve walked Waikiki along the beach many times and this is the first time I’ve seen this healing space. It’s also the first time I’ve walked Kalakaua Ave without cars. The tradewinds were blowing slightly, just enough to keep the festival goers cool. Bandstand areas were preparing for tonight’s music. The Brothers Cazimero were playing at a later time. It looked to be a perfect evening to enjoy a concert, good food and artist wares.

There’s Silver in Them Thar Hills

It was a dark and stormy….okay, I’m not Snoopy sitting on my doghouse with a typewriter trying to write the great American novel, but it was gloomy and gray today.

Low clouds hung over town as I watched the fuzzy bands of rain move across the windows of our apartment. I moped about the weather at first, thinking of the San Francisco days of fog for weeks on end and how the gloom could bring me down. Then I thought about the past few days and how great the weather has been, after all, we went to the beach late afternoon yesterday and watched the dogs sprint across the waves, happy to be on their evening walks. A couple, visiting from somewhere, took photos of themselves on the beach with the sea-blue ocean behind them. Then they kissed and hugged, obviously happy and in love.

Every time Mark and I go to the beach, I’m instantly in a better mood, and yesterday was no exception. The water temperature was 82 degrees. It was like stepping into a saltwater bathtub, but with kids, surfers and dogs sharing the big tub with me.

So this morning, I realized it can’t be perfect weather all the time and I resigned myself to today being a gloomy day, which will remind me to appreciate the nice days.
But I forgot, I’m in Hawaii…..(nature always has a surprise)

I had to drive around the island for a few meetings today. With windshield wipers on, I first gazed out at the cloudy grayness in front of my car. Then I looked up the mountains. The rain had created ribbons of silver, rustling streams of water, falling between the lush greenness of the mountain peaks. Waterfalls were everywhere!

(Sorry, no photo, since I was driving.)

After appreciating the scenic drive, I had to stop at Queen’s Hospital for a test. It’s like driving up to a hotel. Queen’s is the main hospital in Honolulu, yet it doesn’t seem very big. I guess I’m comparing it to San Francisco Hospitals and Stanford Hospital. The landscaping is kept up with native Hawaiian plants. The parking lot was full, so I had to go to valet parking at the entrance. People were crowded around the drop-off area and not one person honked or yelled. Everyone quietly sat and waited and appreciated the moment, even in a stressful place like a hospital.

I asked for directions and only one person knew where I needed to go. I asked for a certain wing, but apparently no one uses its name. There’s very little signage in Hawaii. Street signs are tough to find and addresses are almost non-existent. Once I told them what department I needed, everyone told me, “Go down the hall to the elevators and get off on the third floor.”

As I wandered the hospital hallways, I was struck by how clean it was. There was no run down furniture, no gum on the floor or cigarette butt smashed into the pavement outside, maybe that’s because outside is not pavement. Nope, it’s stone.

A beautiful hospital, surrounded by tropical vegetation, with clean surroundings and calm, smiling people; is this why people live so long in Hawaii?

Even in Hawaii, We Won’t Forget

Sunday morning I opened the blinds to find a nice Hawaiian day greeting me. Then I saw the American flag flying off my neighbor’s lanai across the street and I remembered. 9/11. Ten years later.

I was asleep in my San Francisco apartment that day, when my sister called me at 6AM. “A plane flew into the World Trade Center.” In my sleepy head, I pictured a small plane with a student pilot who made a horrible error.

When I turned on the TV and saw the images, I couldn’t imagine it was really American soil where this was happening. But it was. Being on the West Coast, I felt so very far away from the people of New York and Washington.

Here, in Hawaii, ten years later, I feel even more removed from the East Coast. I watched the TV coverage sporadically throughout the day. At 2:00 I saw the two shining beams coming from Ground Zero and for a moment I thought they were showing coverage from last year. Why? Because it was dark in the images the TV was broadcasting and it was the middle of the day here. I never really comprehended how far away Hawaii is from the whole Mainland.

When Mark and I watch the end of the 11:00 news, we see CNN starting their morning shows. The anchors have their morning cup of coffee, and Ali Velshi talks about the stock market for the day. The upcoming day. The one they are just starting while we head off to sleep.

At least the woman across the street reminds me first thing in the morning that I am an American. And in case anyone on Oahu missed her flag, the Fire Stations won’t let Hawaiians forget. The sign is still hanging in front of the Fire Station, complete with dried lei from last Sunday.

Football, Five-0, and a North Shore Sunset

Last Saturday Mark and I watched the USC game with the USC Alumni Club of Hawaii at Jimmy Buffett’s in Waikiki. I thought the plates were fun. Look at the shaker of salt! It was a crazy ending for a football game, with the NCAA, two hours after the game ended, granting USC a touchdown the refs had said didn’t count. Oh, and I won the halftime raffle! I never won before because I was always the one hosting the raffle in the Bay Area Alumni group. I’ll be writing soon with my new USC pen.

After the game, we had a few errands to do so we didn’t try to view the Hawaii Five-0 premiere on the beach. We’ll wait until September 19th for the season opener on CBS. Last year we had a party and invited everyone over for dinner and viewings of the original show, before watching the series opening. This year, it will be just us. Our friends are back in the Bay Area.

Remember that friend of mine who grew up here? Well, her sister is an extra in this year’s season. She’s in the opening scene for the Governor’s funeral held at Punchbowl. I guess it was a long day for the extras on that shoot.

We also visited the North Shore last week. Mark had asked a few people where to go and we found ourselves on a beautiful, open beach with only two people on it for miles and miles. We left the locals on their beach area and headed to Waialua and the old sugar mill to check out the local artisans and see their wares. It wasn’t much to see. Unless you are a surfer and want a specialty surfboard, most items can be found on other parts of the island. Don’t let the video on Hawaiian Airlines fool you. It looks larger in the video than in reality.

After Waialua, we headed to Haleiwa for dinner. Check out the sunset that night! We hoped to find Hawaiian turtles (honu) on our day trip. We didn’t see any. But standing on the beach, we saw the sunset in front of us, a rainbow behind us, and a group of little girls to grown women practicing the hula to a drum to our right.

We walked to our car saying, “We get to live here.”