Welcome to Honolulu

Linda Burton posting from Honolulu, Hawaii – “I see the ocean!” Granddaughter Kayla began the day with this revelation; yes, there was ocean-blue a few blocks away, we could see it between the high-rise hotels that now define Waikiki Beach. Directly below our balcony was an oasis of green; that has to be the International Market, we surmised, looking over a tourist map. “Let’s get unpacked,” I said. “Let’s get outside!” Kayla said. All the weariness from yesterday disappeared during the night; we unzipped our bags and dumped out shirts and shorts and underwear; divvied up the dresser drawers. “Look at this,” I said, finding both the Holy Bible and the Teaching of Buddha in the nightstand drawer. I propped the two between my traveling talismans, an angel-on-watch, the fearless lion, and the cat, a depression-era hobo code-sign meaning a “kind lady” lived there. “That should do it,” I smiled. “I’m ready for Honolulu.” No breakfast offerings at this hotel; we agreed to walk the neighborhood until we found a place we liked. “Even if it’s lunch?” Kayla asked. It turned out to be brunch, and our first Honolulu sticker shock. A glass of chocolate milk, $4.95. “We have to import milk,” our server explained. “It’s a small island.”

We were in the Rock Island Café, at the corner of the King’s Village. It was cute, a fifties look, old Chevy fins and Elvis bobble-head dolls the décor; our server dressed in pink with ruffled apron. Nothing Hawaiian here, we laughed. But, oh yes, Elvis filmed Blue Hawaii on Oahu, maybe that explains? The Kings Village had a “Changing of the Guard” ceremony every evening at 6, we noted. British? More to learn about Hawaii, King Kamehameha and King George were friendly; wow, even the left-hand corner of the Hawaiian state flag is the Union Jack.

After our thirty-dollar brunch of grilled cheese-sandwiches and chocolate milk (drink every drop!) we ambled on to a park where “Princess of the Peacocks” held center stage, surrounded by a hundred pigeons pecking at crumbs, and yellow hibiscus blooming beside every bench. History, symbols, and the daily bird, all tucked between the highrises, preserving a tiny triangle of the Princesses’ once vast estate. “We need to find out about this Princess Victoria,” I said, as Kayla stalked pigeons with the Nikon. “I don’t know about her, but I do know the yellow hibiscus is the state flower.” Kayla stopped to read the bronze plaque and pose with the Princess, intrigued.

Hubbub best describes our walk; hubbub and hype. Signs touted Best Vacation Specials, Luau at Jimmy Buffet’s place, Huladogs, Italian Hawaiian Gelato, Da Big Kahuna (where you can order Pupus for starters and there is a Keiki menu for under 12). Fist-waving drivers honked at everything; fast-walking people bumped our elbows; a woman coming from the beach hitched pants up over bikini as she crossed the street. “Don’t run ahead,” I cautioned, afraid I’d lose a granddaughter on the very first day. Ah, there’s the International Market Place, let’s check it out. Vendors hovered over every possibility; the sales spiel set off by the slightest glance at their merchandise. Kayla chose a many-flowered dress, her clothes were mostly northwest gray and mine were mostly black. Pink and purple, yellow and lime-green green, that’s what we need. Lighten up! Oh, there’s the Stupid Factory, where Spooning Leads to Forking, said the sign. Stop for a picture by the banyan tree; a tangled dangle of roots.

Stretch out on the bed and take a nap. Look out from the balcony again; yep, that’s the Market Place below, just as we thought; next we’ve got to find the beach, it looks so close. The walk, the crowd again, the pigeons too. There it is, the ocean blue; the sand is purest white and soft; we step into the swirling waters, my shoes fill up with sand. Mistake. Take off the shoes, you ocean plebe. The view of Diamond Head is free, but all else is blocked; rent a chair, umbrella, surfboard, boat. “Let’s get prepared and come back tomorrow,” I propose; “we’ll get a big beach towel, and I’ll wear sandals; isn’t that a good idea?”

I start some blisters walking back in squishy shoes, Kayla shakes her head at my silly hobble walk. “This is an awesome place, GMom,” she bubbles as she skips ahead of me. “It’s so different!” Now, that’s the truth. We stop at Da Big Kahuna; it’s right by our hotel; I can’t walk another step. Savannah is our server, “Welcome to Honolulu!” she says, giving us a genuine New Jersey smile. “You’re going to love it here. Would you like some Pupus for a start?”