My grandson Julian practically embarrassed me into taking a trip to Hawaii or HAVAII as the natives say it.
He said, “Papa, you have never been to Hawaii? I’ve been there three times.”
Being a World War II amateur historian I felt it was my duty to see Pearl Harbor anyway. I actually thought that was all there was to Hawaii. We were fortunate enough to take a cruise to each of the Hawaiian Islands and really get to see the place.
Most people that we met asked us why we bothered to go to Hawaii when we already lived in Miami. After all we have the same weather, palm trees, and other fauna that they do in Hawaii so why bother?
First of all, the scenery on the various islands is absolutely magnificent. I could spend all day just staring at their mountains. They really exceed the beauty of our own “Mount Trashmore,” which was created by piling up garbage for a period of years. I even made an attempt to climb to the top of Diamond Head, but some heavy rain discouraged me part way up.
The mountains in Hawaii all were created by some gigantic volcanic eruptions over thousands of years. Some of the islands are nearly completely covered with solid refuse from the magma that poured out of these volcanoes. We were warned that taking a piece of this magma rock was illegal as well as unlucky. Well I can’t be responsible if one piece should accidentally fall into my pocket, can I? The miles of beaches also were magnificent. I could only visualize them covered with about ten thousand condominiums. Anyone ready to invest?
Of course I hardly noticed any of the beautiful Asian looking women with their long black hair, beautiful eyes with long eyelashes, and finely toned and tanned bodies. I swear that I wasn’t really looking. It was suggested that we take what is known as the road to Hana as this was an exciting drive with 517 hairpin turns in 31 miles — the return road mostly unpaved. I decided against attempting to drive the route myself with a bit of encouragement from my Travel Mate.
It was difficult enough simply being a passenger in a minibus going over all of these bumps and lumps in the road. At one point a huge tree trunk fell across the road in front of us and our driver had to mess up his bus simply to get around it. There was no other way.
My usual attempt at humor seemed to annoy my travel companion even though I use it as a test of alertness in other people. What I did was ask everyone that I met if there were any places around where I could buy a Hawaii T-shirt. Of course there were T’s shirt shops, one on top of the other wherever you went. What was funny is when people actually directed me to one of these thousands of stores.
When an occasional person laughed I felt vindicated but my companion on this trip managed to keep a safe distance between her and me to avoid embarrassment. That’s what it’s like traveling with a famous newspaper columnist.
Visiting Pearl Harbor always had been a dream of mine especially since an uncle — recently deceased — had told me so many stories about the actual attack which took place while he was officer of the day at the Marine barracks in Hawaii. Being aboard the battleship Missouri and seeing where the actual surrender documents were signed was quite a moment for me.
I wrote in a previous article how flattered I was when this lovely old lady on one of our town buses told me that I was too young for her. I received another compliment similar to that when a TSA agent told me that I must take my shoes off before boarding an aircraft because you had to be over 65 to be granted the privilege of not taking off your shoes. Frankly it has been many years since I was required to take off my shoes but I took it as a compliment and thanked him sincerely.
Do you remember some years ago a campaign called Miami Nice? They even had a poster which I have since lost, showing a beautiful woman in a bathing suit telling you how nice the people in Miami are. If only that were true! The truth is that the people on the Hawaiian Islands actually are that way. It is noticeable everywhere you go. Whether in a taxi, a restaurant, a shop or a hotel, people were genuinely friendly. It seems part of their culture. You could actually feel the warmth. Despite the fact that people in Hawaii come from all over the world — China, Japan, Samoa, New Zealand, Portugal and many other places, I had no trouble making myself understood no matter where I went. This is not the case in Miami.
Motorists there for some strange reason stop and allow pedestrians to cross and even allow other vehicles to get in line in front of them without giving them the famous Miami salute or blowing their horns. As a matter of fact during the several weeks that we spent on the Hawaiian Islands we hardly ever heard an automobile horn blow.
The Hawaiians have a friendly salute which they use to greet one another which stems from an accident some years ago where a man lost his 3 middle fingers and still attempted to waive using his thumb and little finger.
I told people that in Miami we have a similar custom because apparently someone lost their thumb, index, little and ring finger leaving only one finger to salute with. There must be an awful lot of very friendly people in Miami because I received this salute often, especially when driving.
Contact Ernie Sochin by email at email@example.com.