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Young Man Went West #42: Just One More State

As we made our way from the snack stand to the fake river’s edge to watch the “Rainbow of Paradise” canoe pageant, a thought crept into my head: “I’ve done this before.”

This exactly? No. I had never been to the Polynesian Cultural Center before. I had never filled up on a meal of chili rice and mac nut ice cream. I had never squeezed in among tourists to watch a river parade.

But I have done “this.” I’ve explored the most touristy attraction of a region with equal parts admiration and cynicism and my good friend Ian by my side. Sure, our summer roadtrip had ended eight months prior, but apparently he and I had one more state to explore: Hawaii.

Ian came to stay with me during the second week of May. He had been talking about visiting since I moved here almost three years ago, but it wasn’t until news of my impending move reached him did he make plans to come. That, and his savings account had to recuperate after our cross-country adventure. I was excited to have him come. Ian and I went to the same middle school, high school and college. We have a lot of the same friends, interests, and opinions. We spent three months together in a Honda Civic. It was weird to think that something as familiar to me as Hawaii was something he hadn’t truly experienced before. I couldn’t wait to fix that.

I had played tour guide to a number of friends before Ian, so I knew what I was doing. Jenn and I picked him up from the airport ready with a couple containers of poke. In the span of six days, he also tried traditional Hawaiian food, shave ice, Spam musubi from 7-Eleven, Storto’s sandwiches, Kahuku shrimp, and a Zip Pac from Zippy’s. We did the requisite trips up to North Shore, around Waikiki, and into Chinatown. And even though I couldn’t go because of work, he got to visit Pearl Harbor, too. I’ve not only eaten, seen, and done all of these things countless times before, but I’ve also made a point of introducing them all to my friends.

But this time, it was different.

I realized that these mini trips and food experiences were as much for my sake as they were for his; he was exploring these places for the first time, and I was exploring them for possibly the last. At least, the last time as a resident. A transplant local. Universities say you need to be living in state for a year before you can claim residency; on my one-year mark I got a tattoo in honor of my first “kama’ainiversary.” Since then, I’ve transitioned from wide-eyed newcomer to indifferent local. I don’t go to the beach anymore. I no longer walk around Waikiki for the hell of it. I barely leave my neighborhood except to go to work. I decided to use Ian’s visit as motivation to rediscover my island.

On Ian’s first full day here, I swallowed my pride and participated in a full day at the Polynesian Cultural Center. For the past three years, I’ve been told to avoid this tourist trap, but before our day at PCC  was even half over, I was legitimately enjoying the entire experience! Unlike Germaine’s Luau and Paradise Cove, PCC isn’t just a luau–which by today’s terms means a low-quality Hawaiian food buffet with a cheesy dancing and an even cheesier host–it’s a theme park as well as a stage show with high production value. I mean, it does have that aforementioned type of luau, but it’s sandwiched between two much better experiences.

Even though the layout of the 42-acre collection of “villages” looks as fake as Disneyland, it’s more of a living museum than a theme park. There are demonstrations at each of the six main villages every half hour. Each village represents a different major Polynesian culture (Samoa, Aotearoa a.k.a. New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, and Hawai’i), and each is run by natives from those places who are dressed in traditional garb, demonstrate dances and instruments, and drop some first-hand knowledge of their respective cultures. I learned a lot from the demonstrations, and not just about the characteristics of those six cultures, but also about the distinctions between them. This came in handy for the evening show, which was an awe-inspiring spectacle that told a legendary tale while exploring the six major cultures through song and dance.  Ian and I were equally impressed with our time at the PCC, especially since this was supposed to be our ironically touristy day in Hawaii.

While Ian’s first full day at the PCC was an experience most locals don’t partake in, his last full day was something we almost all do: spend a day on the North Shore. It was his first legitimate Hawaiian beach day. We jumped off the rock at Waimea, got shave ice in Haleiwa, and ate shrimp in Kahuku. To top it off, we spent that Friday night barhopping in Chinatown and Waikiki with Jenn and her friends. It was typical and it was perfect at the same time. I’d never seen Ian lament over leaving a place as he did the next morning. He did just enough of everything in six days to realize that six days wasn’t enough. While I think nearly three years was plenty of time for me, I can expect that my last day here, much like Ian’s, will still be filled with a similar sweet sorrow.

The week Ian came to explore one last state with me was not only a good epilogue to our summer road trip, but also a good ending to my time in Hawaii.

My hat: the past. My shirt: the future.

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YMWW #3: Adventures with Avery

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

(Originally posted on Facebook)

First and foremost, I want to apologize to all of the readers who desperately refreshed their browsers all night long last night, awaiting the publication of the entry that should have been up then. Should you exist, I implore you to find something better to read. I hear books are fun.

Secondly, I want to apologize to my (first) cousin (once removed) Avery, who knew that she’d be the focal point of this entry and has been waiting to read about herself.

THURSDAY

On Thursday, Ave and I spent all day on foot, which is a wonderful way to learn street names and their locations. We walked through Chinatown to Downtown. She was looking for Ward Center (shops, restaurants, and a pseudo-mall), but we never quite hit it. We found out later we were nearly there, but neither of us knew that. . . though she should have. Avery is, what we shall call, “directionally challenged.” I warned her that if she got us lost, her punishment would be walking around with my Frommer’s Guidebook of O’ahu in her outstretched arms (I, of course, would keep at least five steps away from her). Luckily for her, we were never completely lost. Even better, we wound up eating chicken katsu curry at Aloha Tower. Chicken katsu curry makes everything alright!

CHICKEN KATSU CURRY out of its element, i.e. a Styrofoam to-go box.

We eventually ventured out again and found Ward Center. It’s a nice area. Apparently, the self-serve frozen yogurt trend is not confined to California, much to my pleasure.

FRIDAY

Friday was even more productive, as Avery and I had full use of a car. My impeccable sense of direction was countered by my misguided trust in her as a knowledgeable local. Example dialogue:

  • Me: Do I turn here? Isn’t this Kapahulu?
  • Avery: No, keep going.
  • We keep going.

  • Avery: Oh, we’re on Harding now.
  • Me: So I should have turned there?
  • Avery: Yeah.

Good thing we had an O’ahu street map book on hand. Though she is still adamant about not picking up the Frommer’s, Avery will gladly use the street map book, and I’m glad that she’ll gladly use it.

Our goal for that day was to visit the two places I found on Craigslist that were hiring. We found Gulick’s Deli (offers full and part time, plus medical benefits) but they were out of applications so I’ll have to return. Our next stop was Karaoke Hut (part time only, but pay includes tips. . . and it’s karaoke!), but they had just hired three people. We had to drop something off at a hotel in Waikiki, so I decided to continue my search there. . .

But not before some shave ice, of course! Frommer’s describes shave ice as the Hawai’ian version of a snow cone, but it ain’t the same thing! It ain’t even the same ball park! I guess you could make that argument if you believed fish sticks and fillet mignon were in the same ball park. For shame, Frommer’s. For shame!

SHAVE ICE does not equal a crunchy ice ball that holds flavored syrup like a fork.

We ditched the main road and hotels of Waikiki and found the janky backroads. I was in my element. There, behind the washed windows and even pavement of the beachfront buildings were the small, overlooked hotels and hostels I loved. I filled out an application for one place and was told to return to two others. The future looks bright. . . at least figuratively. Those streets are constantly cloaked in shadows.

Our final goal was to meet up with a guy who advertised needing a roommate to share his one-bedroom apartment. While the place was definitely small, the guy, Ka’imi, was really awesome and friendly. He said no one else called him back, so the place is mine if I want it. I have until around the first week of October to decide if I want it. Though it would be a tight squeeze, it is definitely not a bad last resort.

My cousin Norlynn’s idea of what my last housing resort might be.

SATURDAY

Just like every good Saturday in the Fall, this one started off (early) with college football. I woke up around 6 AM to watch my No. 8 Golden Bears claim a road victory over Minnesota! They are now sitting pretty at No. 6. I then flipped back and forth between Oregon’s mediocre upset over No. 18 Utah and Washington’s historical upset over No. 3 U$C! I was so torn between the joy of watching U$C lose and the disappointment in the fact it wasn’t us who beat them. Oh well, beating U$C in any capacity will be a great thing to see (knock on wood).

After college football, it was time for more exploring. I had the car once again on Saturday, but I was without Avery. Despite her endangering lack of a sense of direction, she is a bright and funny person. And she buys me frozen treats. With no refreshing snack to cool my body, I ventured forth a Dynamic Uno.

My first stop was the Pearlridge Shopping Center just down the street from my Auntie and Uncle’s place (where I’ve been living since I got here). It is a small mall, but they do have a Suncoast and a great bookstore with cheap, used books and DVDs. I foresee it becoming a black hole for my money. Surprisingly, though, the only thing I bought was a black UH hat from Champs Sports.

After Pearlridge, I just drove up and down and on and off of H1 (the main freeway), getting lost half-intentionally. My goal was not a location, but a lesson. I am quite familiar with all the exits now and can drive on my own to all of my family’s houses.

Saturday night ended with front row seats to the UH Rainbow Wahine Women’s Volleyball match versus the Pepperdine Waves. Clean sweep, 3-0. Go Bows! I’ve compared my fan-dom of Cal and UH to relationships: Cal is my true love, my soul mate for all eternity. UH, on the other hand, is my mistress. We have a fun time together, but it’s nothing serious. Don’t worry though, Cal and I have an understanding, open relationship.

So, as Saturday night ended with long legs and spandex shorts, so will this note. Cheers!

Ben, I’d apologize for substituting the Roxy model for these volleyball players, but I didn’t think you’d mind.

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