Arrived in Kona. Felt strange walking off the plane by myself with nobody to
meet me. Rental car is a silver dodge neon, 4-door. Kona is sweltering hot, as
is the ride up the dry side. I stop in at Hapuna to cool off. Not many people
there – parking lot is mostly empty. I see the little restaurant now has a name
– “Three frog café” and still rents boogie boards. The trail next to it, leading
down, is surrounded by a tangle of vegetation, but still passable. Several
little birds, yellow with orange tinted heads, land next to me and walk by. I
wonder if they’re Hawaiian or not. Down on the beach, there are 2
lifeguards in the tower. Didn’t have those when I was young! The sea is pretty much flat, little tiny waves. I float around and bodysurf on a few of the little waves. In the water, two large local-looking women are looking the direction of Maui. “Is that another island? What is it?”
I tell them it’s Maui.
“How far away is it?”
“From here to there, or the closest point between the two islands?”
“Around 40 miles.”
“Is there a ferry?”
I tell them no, the plane is cheap and fast, only barges go between the island, carrying things like cows.
I’m realizing they are not local.
“You’re not from Hawai`i, are you?”
“No, we’re from California.”
Oh now that’s specific.
“You know we have the biggest privately-owned cattle ranch in the USA, right up there?”
“Oh yeah! I heard of that.”
One hapless guy is out in the water with a boogie board, too far out. I wave at him, and we both catch a little tiny wave. He takes it all the way up onto the sand. I manage to get plenty of sand and saltwater in my nose. Thank goodness the fresh-water showers at Hapuna still work. The water tastes strongly sweet splashing on my face after the saltiness of the ocean. I stop in Kawaihae, at Café Pesto. Ira isn’t working there, and an older fellow is my waiter. I order the salad with catch-of-the-day, which is Mahi Mahi. There is a table next to me with a family seated at it. It seems that the family asks the old waiter what became of a local gallery, which had gone out of business and become a real estate office. At first, the waiter talks amiably about galleries vs. restaurants, the difficulty in keeping your business alive in Hawai`i. “What a shame”, they say, “It was a nice gallery.” Gradually the waiter becomes more and more agitated. “We wanted it to be a surf shop. That would have been good for us. Anything would have been better than a real estate office. We don’t need those people – and their attitude!” He works up into a full tirade, and I start to feel sorry for the family. “And you know what? It’s not even the kind of real estate office that you or I might use some day. It’s just multi-million dollar deals.” The bitter class resentment is clear, and his voice sounds wounded.
After he walks away, the family is talking among themselves, and one of them tells a story about a television ad that apparently runs only in Oregon or Washington State. The ad goes like this: A cop pulls someone over for driving
just a little too fast. Cop asks “Where are from?” “Southern California.” “What do you do there?” “Oh, I’m in real estate.” (pause) Cop, shouting: “Up against the car! Hands where I can see them! Now!!”
We all laugh.
The waiter tells me that Ira still works there, but works evenings. “Come back any day after 5 or 6.”
Driving home, I stop in Waimea, at the bank – who knows where the next ATM might be. Right next to the bank, there is a enormous construction site, right where the center of town used to be! Peering through the construction fencing, I see
that the old Sure Save Shopping center – once the largest building in town, if not the whole island – is gone, a vast region of rubble, surveyors, and partly-constructed new buildings. The Kahilu theatre isn’t even visible, hidden behind new construction.
Leaving town, I remember that Stbon and Kristin moved into the old Pelfrey house. Guessing that my driving hands might remember where it is, I make a series of turns and sure enough, I find it. Stbon is there and we have a great visit. While we talk, the youngest one (5 months?) crawls around vigorously, knocks stuff over, and demands his bottle. The house is full of memories for me. Keoki (Kirk) Pelfrey was my best friend during high school, and my teen years are full of memories of gatherings at this house, usually consisting of drinking games in which I did not participate. Now, the house is full to bursting with kid stuff – toys, stuffed animals, books, a music keyboard, pokemon gear, empty yogurt containers, and so on – especially beanie babies, which are sprinkled liberally both upstairs and down. They have some great Gordon Motta pottery, including a giant bowl that Stbon uses to make a big batch of popcorn – with olive oil and nutritional yeast, just like in my childhood. The older kid (Kulan) plays noisily with a friend on a videogame in the next room. Stbon explains about how they are now only 5 minutes from Waimea, and tells fascinating stories about the Honey business. He also says that a bridge on the back road to Ahualoa is being rebuilt over the next 6 months, so I can’t drive that way! I try the GPS unit from his balcony. It quickly locks onto 4 satellites and reports 26ft estimated accuracy – not bad. At one point, Stbon and I get to talking about hiking trails nearby. I tell him that the back-of-Waipi`o trail that starts at the end of White Road
leads amazingly close to the back of another valley, but I had never been able to get there because I had no GPS. In order to explain what I mean, I pop open my laptop and take him over Virtual Hawai`i, with the trails turned on. Second time today! First time was showing it to the guy sitting next to me on the plane, right before we arrived. Looking up from the virtual Kohala on my screen, I opened the window and there was the real Kohala, right under us.
I drive down the highway to Tex Drive Inn. There are two large tour buses in the parking lot, and the place is crawling with tourists. They’ve made some big changes around there – the interior is now bigger, cleaner, neater, with a giant new menu, a bigger gift shop, and whole new area with big glass windows where you can look in and watch them making malasadas. Two signs above the windows announce in fancy embossed lettering: “Malasadas”. The workers behind the food counter (curious non-local-looking, with European accents) are neatly dressed in Tex-Drive-Inn outfits, and the to-go boxes all have the logo on them. The place is totally transformed. I order an Ahi burger and a malasada. Thank goodness – it still tastes exactly the same. Across the parking lot there is a new attraction, labeled “Self-curing Garden.” It is a nice area with a large number of common Hawaiian plants, each with a sign – “Papaya” “Coconut Palm” “Hapu”[sic] “Bromeliad” and so on – like a humble, free botanical garden. I really enjoy walking through it, especially the blossoming Traveler’s palm and a
strange vine with a exotic blue-white flower unlike any I’ve ever seen (unlabeled). I linger until I realize the mosquitoes are have a field day on my legs. I remember why living in Ahualoa has advantages over Honoka`a..
Driving up, there is a giant field of pulp eucalyptus, right along the road. It is amazingly tall – wasn’t even there a couple years ago. All the ginger is blooming – both the yellow and the white, everywhere I look. The scent of their blossoms is in the air. Pulling into my driveway, it looks much the same, only more wild and overgrown. The grass is tall, the trees have grown enormous, my mother’s various “projects” involving Hapu`u, Bromeliads, and assorted ornamentals have taken on lives of their own and are spreading in all directions. Strange clumps of vegetation are creeping toward the house, the
stepping-stones almost lost in the lawn. Two strange cats immediately target me and start yowling to be fed. Inside, the house is still full of stuff – piles of belongings and debris lying around in heaps. Rugs, boxes, baby furniture, computer parts, plastic backs, unidentifiable things abound. There are two beds – one has a mattress, neither has a sheet or blanket. That’s OK though, the house has the day’s thermal heat trapped inside, and Theresa said she would have stuff like bedding. A quick hop over to Theresa’s house, but she’s not there. Trying to make a place to set down the computer, there is only one movable chair, the desk is covered with grit and detritus, the light bulb is burnt out and, when replaced, doesn’t put off enough light to make the room usable at night. So, I sit in the reclining chair in the living room and type what you’re reading now, with the laptop in my lap. Not sure what I’ll do about sleeping tonight. Hmm, plenty of warm clothes in my suitcase, I should be fine.