Weather patterns continue to be bizarre. A scientist says that the magnetic center of the earth is shifting, the first time in centuries, and this is probably the best explanation for it. Two weeks ago, my wife and I tried to fly from Syracuse to Chicago, and were prevented from doing so by the storms battering the Midwest.
The next day we finally flew out. On this try we went to Atlanta. From there we went to L.A., and after one of the longest days of my life we landed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The airport was made out of ugly concrete, and Waikiki is built on concrete slabs. But Waikiki is redeemed by its energy. And by the breeze that keeps its heat from being oppressive.
I wasn’t feeling so energetic, of course, when we checked into our hotel in downtown Waikiki. From there we went to a Thai restaurant, where I was expecting the usual distortion of Italian food. But the food was excellent, which always puts me in a good mood. Birds also liked the food there, for as soon as customers would leave, they would fly in through the open doors to see what was left on the plates.
My wife has an intense love of Hawaii. I went there for its water sports. The day after we landed, we snorkeled in Hanauma Bay, a quiet place where, under water, you are surrounded by bright-colored fish. The next day I surfed at Waikiki, where, I am proud to say, I stood up on my surfboard.
With this, our Hawaiian vacation was more successful than our Alaskan journey of a few years ago. We went up to Alaska so that I could fish for salmon. But after our long journey, the fish weren’t biting. I got no more than one nibble from the salmon. The Hawaiian surfing proved much more satisfactory.
On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, we went to the USS Arizona museum at Pearl Harbor. Standing in the glass-bottomed museum, you can look down, through seaweed and rust, into the ship that sank close to seventy years ago. Oil still floats over the ship. The sailors who perished there on December 7, 1941, remain within the ship. And they are joined in the deep by many of their surviving shipmates, who, years after the attack, have requested for their earthly remains to be returned there.
The USS Arizona museum showed a film that was, in my opinion, too conciliatory toward the Japanese government. The film said, in effect, that in response to Roosevelt’s sanctions, the Japanese had no clear option other than to attack the American fleet. Actually, Japan’s appropriate option, in response to the sanctions, would have been to treat the Chinese decently.
It was necessary for me, after the sad experience of the Arizona, to walk the giant deck of the battleship USS Missouri. For here was a ship that survived the war, attacked though it was by a kamikaze plane. And on the deck of this ship, the Japanese, at the War’s conclusion, surrendered to the Allied forces.
We went to two luaus in Hawaii. The first was at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Oahu. The first luau was modestly done, although the dancing and chanting at the Cultural Center is fascinating.
The second was in Maui. Here, too, the displays of Tahitian and Hula dancing provided compelling looks into the ancient life of the islands. And at the second luau, the food and hospitality were a bit more lavish.
We stayed in Maui in the old whaling town of Lahaina. Lahaina seems quite rustic after the big-city energy of Honolulu, but it has a thriving art scene. The streets by the water are filled with art galleries.
There is much to see on Maui. The Iao Park is filled with tall mountains. Our third day in Maui, we took the road to Hana, which has the most turns I’ve ever come across. The following day we went up 10,000 feet to the Haleakala crater, filled with black earth and strange vistas of clouds below the volcano’s peak.
Something should be said about the sweets on Maui. For in Hawaii, as everywhere else, I look for them. We found a good place to buy banana bread off the road to Hana. And one of my great finds on the trip was The Bakery in Lahaina, where, close to Route 30, we bought some of the loveliest pastries I’ve ever tasted.
But above all else, Hawaii, surrounded by the Pacific, is a place for aquatic sports. On our last full day there, we snorkeled by Molokini Crater, looking down at underwater mountains of coral. We also spotted two hump-back whales and a large number of dolphins, who seemed intent on entertaining us.
It was a good way for us to say goodbye to the islands. Mark Twain long ago fell in love with Hawaii, and after going there, I could see why. No place on earth is more perfect in its weather.