What is that … and is it edible?

This was a vital question during my first visit to the tropical island of Hawaii as an over-forty child in a land of enchantment—the world of beautiful mysteries, of sights, of smells and flavors.

In over my head and covered in seawater and sand, I soaked in its salt, listened to its rhythm and feasted exultantly on its intrinsic joy. Life is good in Hawaii. It is an alluring place to discover so much food, flowers and happiness.

On the first island, Oahu, we found the attitude of the locals was that all tourists have overstayed their welcome. Like fish, tourists have been there over three days and we stink. The locals are tired, the island roads are worn out and even the coral and sea life in the bays are exhausted. They are all sick to death of tourists.

The tourist bureau has adopted the Vegas tactic of lipsticking pigs and has cloaked the worn out dancehall girl under the hollow shell of glamour and glitz. The night life has also been Vegasized and the police are seen well in force on the Waikiki strip.

On the second island, Maui, the tourists adapt to the islanders instead of the reverse. Their world has only mildly evolved to suit the interlopers, and we’re encouraged to adopt their lifestyle … which is how we truly want it when we vacate our humdrum lives to discover the culture and mystery of elsewhere.
We didn’t even make it to the third island. It was a choice of one last day at the beach or a plane ride. The beach won and the week wound down while we curiously explored the option of selling here and buying there. John Travolta’s house on the beach in Maui just sold last week. It was the same size as our house and it went for three million … so maybe not.

I’d get there and never be able to afford to leave, or even to live in a house. Yet, the thought of being homeless on the beach in Hawaii is more appealing than living in the states during the dregs of winter.

I’m back home and I’m wondering “What is that? And must I eat it?” Somehow it’s just not the same here.

Reality Bite: Laid-back oblivion is a good thing. Feb 2005

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