Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Things I would like to do (including George)

Faugh, frick and frack, and other bad words: I just finished writing a tasty little commentary to go with this WONDERFUL essay (or shussshhhh-ay, or whatever sound the Hawaiian surf makes) which Shelley Fralic wrote, all about returning to Hawaii after 40 years. Somehow as I sought to attach the piece, my commentary appeared in a little box that scrolled down, but would only display about a paragraph at a time. Not exactly deleted, but completely inaccessible. It was hiding behind something, and it would not come out. 


So I gave up, and (as I have had to do so many times in my life) started over.

Husband and I have been slugging it out over Where we're Going to Go This Year, that is, if we "go" at all, if we even have sufficient bucks scraped up. But haven't we been to Hawaii six times already? Five, only five! But we've seen everything already, haven't we? Besides, what IS there to see? How many mangos can you eat in a week?

Oh, but Hawaii stirs you so much more deeply than that. Along with the jolly jiggling passionate Polynesian papaya and the matrons letting it all hang out in two-piece bathing suits because after all, THIS IS HAWAII AND IT'S ALL RIGHT, there is that whispering low of nearly-extinct tradition. The remnant is in the music, the crazy guys with the ukeleles singing the songs with all those syllables. The less-jolly ones are full of mourning and a loss we can't ever know about. And there was that movie, that gorgeous movie with George Clooney in it - what was it called? 

As if George Clooney weren't breathtaking enough, we had Hawaii towering and crashing in the background, and music which was simply hypnotic.  It's a spooky place: once on my first trip, which was not 40 but closer to 30 years ago, I glimpsed a young Polynesian woman with long, flower-garlanded blue-black hair and forever Island eyes, and thought to myself: that's the most beautiful human being I will ever see.

I don't know. I ramble, I digress. I've been all over the place lately, writing shittily or not at all because I was preoccupied with health concerns that, as usual, have turned out to be groundless, footless, bootless, artless and pennyless. (I told you I was writing shit.) In other words, like everyone else in my family it looks as if I'm going to live to be 90. I am mostly OK with that, though I do wish I had more control over the circumstances.

So NOW can I go to Hawaii? Now can I flip-flap along the beach, eat hot batter-dipped mahimahi with my fingers (standing up, wearing my beach coverup for a dress, my beach coverup that is all covered with lemon juice and grease and I don't care), now can I listen to that severely soft ssssssssssssss-ssssssssssss of wind combing through brittle palm fronds, now can I - I wonder, if all this tastiness and sensual beauty is peeled back, if there isn't something else here, some sense of an Eden we lost, but can magically return to. If we have the $15,000.00

Shelley Fralic: Coming home to memories of paradise

A holiday romance with Hawaii lingers long after the scent of hibiscus is gone

Shelley Fralic: Coming home to memories of paradise

Vancouver Sun columnist Shelley Fralic in Maui.

Photograph by: Shelley Fralic , PNG

It has been 40 years, and you don’t remember much, except the wide swath of pineapple plantations clinging to the rich red earth sweeping up to the edges of the Jurassic-like volcanic ravines as you drove a rickety rental to the Pioneer Inn in Lahaina because, back then, it was pretty much the only place to stay on the west coast of Maui when you were barely 20 and hadn’t thought to make reservations.

You remember, too, the naked hippies camping to the south on Makena Beach, a motley crew that caused much controversy with the locals but have since grown up to return decades later to same spot as moneyed tourists, clad in the capitalist regalia of polo shirts and spiked Nikes to play 18 holes where they once smoked grass instead of riding on it in shaded golf carts.

And, despite the time away, you have never forgotten the smell of the air, the heat and humidity that warms your face the minute you step off the plane, the dense fragrance of lush decay and the flowery heaviness of plumeria, hibiscus and jasmine floating on the trade winds.

You are surprised that so little has changed on the island. Oh, there’s a Costco now, and a clutch of strip malls and fast food joints near the airport, and the wild west coastline that was once so bare of settlement is now often obscured by the hotels and condo developments lining the gold-sand beaches.

But there are still aren’t many dogs, or traffic jams, or people for that matter, and much of the island is still open-faced land. Out in the sea, the magnificent humpbacks still beguile on their age-old migration, breaching and slapping their flukes as if they know they are the greatest show on earth. The reefs remain natural snorkelling aquariums, and the berry-brown locals still stick their boards in the strong surf in the mid-day sun, mindful of the sharks below and the big sea turtles above.

It isn’t long before you find yourself truly on vacation, reading by the pool, bobbing in the waves, tucking into macadamia nut pancakes topped with fresh-picked bananas for breakfast, pineapple upside cake served with warm ripe papaya for lunch and anything fresh-grilled for dinner. Early in the evening, you sit on the beach-front lanai, the ocean breezes cooling the heat as you work on a bag of chewy sugar cane.

You know you are truly on vacation because the cockroaches, which are the size of the average spinster’s brooch and roam freely about your seaside complex, are less a bother than the discovery that the coconut vodka you stashed in the freezer is just about gone.

You know you are truly on vacation because you are virtually unplugged, your hand-helds mostly gathering dust on their chargers, manual dexterity required only for the zoom function on your camera and the slippery neck of a cold bottle of Corona spiked with a slice of lime.

You know you are truly on vacation because the modest amount of poundage you had purposely shed to avoid looking both pasty and pudgy in public, like a beluga stuffed in a bathing suit, returns to your backside within hours of discovering a gourmet coffee shop that makes fresh coconut macaroons the size of baseballs. Dipped in chocolate.

You know you are truly on vacation because you don’t care about much of anything, except whether or not your grandchildren need a bigger boogie board or more sunscreen on their cheeks, or if you’ll ever get the sand out of their ears.

And even though you are really, truly relaxing for the first time in a long time, there comes the moment when the invigorating feel of warm sand under your feet and this most charming of vacations give way to yearning for your own house and your own bed, and so you gladly head back to the land of the cold.

And you know you have truly been on vacation because when you return, the pile of newspapers that awaits reveals that, as you suspected, nothing much has really happened. There’s a local dust up over whale bone porn and a stolen meat shop sign, and the world is feting a humble new pope (aren’t they all humble?). Tiger Woods is seeking redemption with a reinvigorated swing and a new blond. One famous Justin has shorn his thatch of luscious locks in a quest for crowning, another is reclaiming his throne atop the pop music charts and yet another, the youngest of the triad, is dog-paddling through the quicksand of the celebrity meltdowns. The hockey team still sucks, and social media is still irksome, and it’s still getting easier/harder to buy a house in Vancouver.

As for you, your nose is still peeling and the soothing sound of Hawaii’s rhythmic crashing waves still echoes in your ears, all of it a lovely reminder that no matter the enticements of a far-off paradise, there really is no place like home.

P. S. The movie is called The Descendents and I must see it again. On a big screen, if possible, the bigger the better. Raging, rushing, sighing Hawaii, that crazy music you can't get enough of, and. . . George Clooney.

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