I haven’t missed home as much as I did on election night. We tried to find a copy of the NY Times but Foodland only had the Star Bulletin. And while the Times is going for $100 on ebay, the Honolulu Star Bulletin is going for about $5.05. The thing that made me most homesick was this video:
We went hiking to celebrate the day. Until yesterday the book OAHU REVEALED has been a handy guide for us, never steering us wrong. There are entries in the book that encourage visitors to disregard ‘no trespassing’ signs or wiggle through gate openings in an effort to experience secret beaches or hidden trailheads. I’ve pointedly avoided those attractions when looking for things to do. But yesterday we decided to try a hike with an obstructed trailhead to Waihe’e Falls. I liked it because it said it was moderately easy and that the pay off was a ‘refreshing shower under the cascading waters’
There was an ominous feeling emanating from the quiet person-less street leading to the trail. Modest houses all with high fences–most with a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign (on one garage a ‘BAD DOG’ sign). We parked down the street and had to walk past three unleashed dogs loose on their front yards. Of the three dogs one was a rottweiller and the other was a pitbull.
I love dogs. I mean I really love dogs and will go up to most and say hello. But everything in this neighborhood felt geared towards making strangers feel on guard. The rottie and pitbull stopped playing long enough to coolly check us out from afar. I kept reminding myself to take deep breaths and relax. I tried to remember what Ceaser Millan said you should do if confronted by an aggressive dog…I couldn’t remember. As we entered the trail and escaped the clean cut Stepford-on-steroids neighborhood, we noticed big piles of dog poop on the trial. My mind started racing, picturing a giant frothing rottie step out from the the thick woods onto the trail in front of us. There was a mile and a half more to go.
The trail for the first mile or so is almost downright ugly. Lots of gravel and strange abandoned concrete structures. The book says that on this trail is one of the only dike tunnels in Hawaii. K said it was like being in New Otherton (referencing the town that the Others lived in on Lost). I have to agree. I found the odd relics on the trail menacing. I told Ken that I kept expecting to be shot by a resident who would later claim he thought we were bears. That’s what a handful of KEEP OUT, NO TRESPASSING signs will do to you.
There were definitely some pretty things. Like coffee plants and wild orchids along the way. But I mostly remember my own fear and the place smelling kind of bad. I tried to occupy my mind with happy thoughts as we ascended: Barack Obama is our president and the big bowl of ginataan at home in the fridge.
We didn’t make it to the end. I got really winded. And it felt like it was going on forever with no sense of the supposed pay-off at the end. At one point we stopped to put mosquito repellent on and as I put my hand to my leg I killed 2 mosquitoes with my palm that were already perched on my shin. Blech.
K and I went to Mokes for breakfast. I like to revisit places with K after I discover them because it’s always better with him. We had a really delicious breakfast and were able to park right acorss the street. We got there right before they stopped serving breakfast but they had run out pancake batter so I had waffles and corned beef hash.
We went to Kailua Library next and I got a whole stack of books.
We read there for awhile. It’s an awesome place–quiet and smells great. I tried to get a picture of my favorite thing there (pens that have big fabric flowers and leaves taped to the tops) but all of them are by the security guard and I just didn’t feel like asking permission.
I’ve been on break from blogging because my parents arrived about a week ago and today is our first day without them here. It wasn’t easy showing people around Hawaii when I still don’t really know my way around. I think we did alright but it was stressful. It rained 75% of the time they were here so my fallback plan (the beach) was totally down the toilet. We had a couple of days at Kailua and Lanikai Beach which they loved but other than that we improvised moment to moment.
We didn’t end up going to a luau but in my search for the perfect one (apparently Lahaina on Maui) I found an interesting non-luau luau called Feast at Lele. Most notably you’re served courses rather than buffet style and I read one review on Yelp that said the dancers were a bit more engaged and professional. I also found an interesting user generated travel site call Go Planit.
We took them to Chinatown and had lunch at Mabuhay Cafe. I’m not a fan of this place. The atmosphere is comfortable and cozy but the food gave me a stomach ache. The crispy pata was pretty gross. And they don’t serve Lechon. In Chinatown we picked up some glutinous rice flour and my mom and I made ginataan with sago (glutinous rice and tapioca balls with coconut milk). It was delicious.
In Chinatown I wandered into Cindy’s Lei Shop which I found so endearing and interesting. It’s so easy to take something like a lei for granted but the tradition of wearing and sharing them is something I love about Hawaiians. The woman at Cindy’s was very nice to me and showed me different leis even though she knew I wasn’t there to buy one. I particularly loved the dense Christina Leis made of orchid petals. It’s amazing that they range around $20. If we were in NY they would be at least $75.
We introduced them to all the standard treats: shaved ice at Waiolas and malasadas. Strangely the mochi balls at Waiolas were so awful. K didn’t even finish his. They tasted like feet. I’m hoping it was an anomaly because Waiolas is one of my favorite sometimes-treats.
We love Leonard’s malasadas but it’s a production to buy them. There’s always a huge line–a tour bus seems to be unloading everytime we go there. Also the last time we were there we felt so pressured by the lady behind the counter to clarify our order (when we thought we WERE being clear) that we decided to try a less stressful place. It’s like ordering from the malasada-nazi. We picked up some plain malasadas from Agnes Portuguese Bakeshop instead here in Kailua. The place serves breakfast and lunch and seems like a a nice place to meet up or work off of your laptop. I think they have wi-fi. The malasadas were very very yummy but ultimately we prefer the gooey haupia, custard and chocolate fillings from Leonards. So did my parents.
My parents are catholic so I had to find a church for them to attend on Sunday. We attended St Anthony of Padua last Sunday and found it quite nice. They asked us if we were visitors and gave us seashell leis. When the mass started we had to stand up and say where we were from.
We only had two days of big touristy style events. One was visiting the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor which was illuminating. We probably should have visited the USS Missouri as well but my mom and I were kind of over it. The most interesting part of the trip for me was the film before the short boat ride to the memorial. The memorial itself is a touching piece of architecture but K had told me that it was a glass bottom structure so that you can see the wreckage of the Arizona. In retrospect it makes sense that it’s not but I was pacing around the memorial trying to find a glass bottom to no avail.
Afterwards we drove into Waikiki to eat the sandwiches that I made us for lunch. We parked ourselves in Kapiolani Park to enjoy a break.
My parents were impressed with Waikiki but my mom has a bad knee so we couldn’t walk around very much. My mom wanted to go home right after the sandwiches but we dragged her around a little bit more — strolling around one of the hotels on the strip. There were little tchotchke shops and a breakfast buffet with a giant aquarium backdrop that we hoped to return to but never did. It looked nice, but that’s probably because I’m a sucker for buffets and aquariums.
On another day we took my parents to the Atlantis submarine adventure at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. It was pretty cool but definitely the priciest thing we did. Sarah asked me today if it was a real submarine and it in fact was. You take a boat out to the submarine site and part of the excitement is watching the sub come up from the previous trip. Everything is designed to be very smooth for the 40+ passengers. There’s nothing really jarring or raw about the transition from dock, to boat, to sub. The only thing was that we seemed to be sitting on the wrong side of the sub (starboard). Port side got to see everything first and more abundantly. The guide joked about discount seats but I didn’t really think that was funny. The Atlantis Company has basically created an underwater Disney-style ride. The things you see are almost entirely created by the company–man made reefs, a sunken plane, and a sunken ship. All these were purchased and placed by Atlantis. The fish life surrounding all these objects is plentiful but not anymore spectacular than fish life you would see snorkeling even though the submersible goes down over 100 ft. There was a shark but it was teeny tiny (and K wasn’t convinced that it wasn’t plastic). And there was a sea turtle which I’m fairly certain was real. The tour guide said that the Atlantis ‘structures’ had created 3000 times more fish life in the area–that sounds good, but is it? Either way it was an experience and I’m glad we did it.
I loved Hawaiian Village. I think it’s the Long Islander in me. It’s very mall-like but peaceful and pretty. After the ride we had dinner at the Hilton Benihana. It was yummy and fun for all of us but I did get a stomach ache afterwards.
For dessert we headed over to Bubbie’s for ice cream. It was really hard to find Bubbie’s on University Road. We had to park and wander around and eventually ask someone to direct us. We got 2 pints of ice cream and chocolate covered mochi ice creams. Oh it was really delicious. Much better than the packages of Bubbie’s in the grocery store.
There was one rainy day that we were driving around Honolulu. We passed a convention center that advertised a crafts and Hawaiiana fair. I suggested we stop in and I have to say it was such a bust. Parking and admission was like $25 for all of us. I know everyone was being polite because they knew I was excited about it. But frankly it was a bunch of stuff that mostly looked worthless. I’m sure there were plenty of secret treasures to be found but I’m less than a novice at vintage shopping. There was one table that had interesting toys and knick-knacks like a beautiful head model of a Hawaiian-ish woman but it was over $100. My main complaint about it is that they charge people to come in. Maybe that’s standard but it was pretty misleading.
All in all it was a week of hits and misses. K says from my blog it sounds like a week of misses and misses 😀
On the last day we took them to Boots and Kimos for breakfast; took a dip at Lanikai; and then had lunch at Nico’s. All of this was a huge hit with them. I think that it might have been their favorite day. As we drove them to the airport the most gigantic rainbow appeared and followed us all the way to the departure terminal.
K and I just got back from watching one of the last screening of HIFF 08: Noho Hewa. I was deeply moved by this film and feel that any American that has the opportunity to see this should. I first heard about the Hawaiian ‘sovereignty’ ‘movement’ from my friend over dinner when I first arrived. He was explaining to me the politics of the island because I had said that I didn’t understand why Asian American issues had no traction here. I was surprised to hear that such an issue exists. I was apt to believe Hawaii was just a happy place with lots of tan relaxed happy people. The loose strands of politics and culture that I’ve picked up since arriving make more sense after seeing the film. For example the stalled plans for a badly needed public transportation solution: rail or no rail ? The incongruous heavy military presence in stunningly lush sacred land. Or the perception that Hawaiians don’t like change.
I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to see this film. I feel rather complicit living in an area that is dominantly haole and that we’re paying rent that most local people wouldn’t be able to afford. I feel this film has given me the tools to live here more respectfully. It does what most very good films do: they leave you feeling like a better person for having seen it. Visit the website: nohohewa.com.
We also saw Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story yesterday. I think everyone should see this film too! It was so illuminating. The similarities between this 2008 election and the Bush/Dukakis race in 1988 are astounding. It’s amazing how easily and quickly we forget our mistakes. See the movie: boogiemanfilm.com
Afterwards we went into Chinatown in search of sang chau sauce which K uses in almost every cantonese dish he makes. We were under the impression that it would be very hard to find but there it was in the first grocery we walked into:
For lunch we decided to pay a visit to Pho One, one of our favorite regular places to eat in Ala Moana. Good pho and an added bonus they serve soybean milk drinks. Yuuuuum. Reminds me of home.
Unfortunately at the mall afterwards in the parking lot we scratched our car on a a concrete beam. It’s really bad. It sounded awful. Like the car was being crunched. blech.
I had lunch at Aloha Salad with my good friend Seth today. It’s been a nice twist of fate to end on the same island as him given that we met over ten years ago in New York and had lost touch for a few years. He’s become a lawyer in the time that we’ve been out of contact. It’s really good to to see him here.
Over our lunch he was telling me about the US Attorney he worked for when he first got here and how he overhauled the probationary system to be a more rehabilitative process and that it was inspired by a text called Fixing Broken Windows. I found it very interesting.
Let me say a couple of things I hate about Kailua:
portuguese man o war
rats that climb trees
and finally living in a place that is bookended by screaming children.
The final item has been particularly irritating the past couple of days. On the one side it’s unavoidable: a family with young kids one of which is a baby and it can’t help screaming. On the other side is a schoolyard which sometimes makes me want to tear my hair out. I love kids. I mean I even want kids but until you’ve heard kids playing together and screaming like individuals on the verge of a nervous breakdown, I don’t hink you’ve really heard kids. I mean we think they’re so sweet and innocent and spontaneous and we should strive to be as uninhibited as they. But the way kids scream in a schoolyard, you know I think it’s not a good thing. I think they’re in existential pain. Anyhow, I would take the noise of a troop of drunk adults coming down an East Village street over a group of 9 year olds running amok in a school yard.
My intention was to write about how lovely today is (see picture above). We are, in fact. having our first guest over for dinner. I’m excited. The house is clean; all the food is prepped; and the wine is chilling in the fridge.
Too bad there’s an army of rabid boys playing basketball in painful earshot.
K and I learned from the lady posted in front of Foodland that Hawaii needs blood! So we signed up to donate blood. It seems that they have a monthly blood drive at the Bloodmobile at Don Quijote Kailua. You can call 808-845-9966 to make an appointment.
Here are other people parked out in front of Foodland:
When I got my hair cut at The Fix there were fliers for a yoga place in the same complex. I’m trying to find a good yoga school and as far as I’ve assessed Koa Yoga is as good as any of them. What it seems to have above the other schools is Sunrise Yoga with breakfast on Lanikai Beach.
KAILUA SHOPPING CENTER & GIFTS
Under the Hula Moon at Kailua Shopping Center in Kailua Rd. is a great place to find odd little gifts like hula mouse pads, turtle drawer pulls, handmade Kailua cards, and starfish.
Today we also bought a birthday present for my mom at Lanikai Bath and Body. I haven’t personally tried their products or even heard about them but they seem to be all natural products made in Hawaii. I particularly liked the Pikake lotion we got for my mom which is a combination of kukui, noni, and macadamia. As we were leaving a curious shopper came in to check the place out. I asked her to pose for a picture:
Finally we went to Lanikai Juice in the same strip of stores. Matthew Fox took Oprah and Gayle there as one of his favorite places in town which naturally gave the place a higher profile. It was fine. I’m not crazy about complicated juices. I like plain pineapple and kalamansi juice or sweet soy bean milk. I got the Ginger Snap which was perfectly fine. Maybe I’ll try the popular Monkey next time. K got Coco Champ and he said it was good enough for him to finish the whole thing.
At Lanikai Juice we ran into some Aloha overload:
Afterwards we went to Kailua Public Library. It was quite nice. Though I don’t know many libraries that aren’t.
I haven’t posted in what feels like a long time. But it must only have a been a couple of days. We tried the restaurant Baci the other day before we headed to a work party for K. Baci was alright though oddly filled with Haoles: the staff and the patrons. I ate veal which was weird. I never eat veal. I only ordered it because it was the waiter’s recommendation. Everything was perfectly nice but seems to exist in Kailua more like a novelty. I’m not opposed to going back again.
The party was in Waikiki in a lovely two story house. It was a moving party for one of K’s coworkers. It was fine. The most notable thing being how pretty the house was.
Today was a Kailua-rich day. I finally got my haircut–thank goodness. The head of the hair dept where K works recommended this woman Dana at a Kailua hair salon called The Fix. I spent hours online trying to do my normal sleuthing separating the best from the rest to no avail. There’s very little editorial coverage of Hawaii services and talent that isn’t tourism based. It’s like looking for a good piece of Wagyu in a town that only advertises Outback Steakhouse. The ‘Wagyu’ exists but it’s not being written about online. As opposed to New York you’ve got people in Idaho writing blogs about a clothing store on a remote corner of Billyburg Brooklyn.
What I’ve come to understand is that this is a word of mouth town. You have to talk to people to navigate your way past the layer of generated for tourist services. I had had an appointment at Salon Blanc in Honolulu on the recommendation of Sarah from HIFF. She didn’t have personal experience with them but she had heard good things. Unfortunately she didn’t have a stylists name to recommend so I had an appointment with ‘Sam’. I felt wary of that so I asked Ken to ask his colleague and that’s how I found Dana. The Fix is a tiny salon in Kailua Square. It’s spacious, quiet and pretty busy for a small town salon. Caddy corner to it is the Kailua Paul Brown Salon, arguably the most distinguished hairstylist in Hawaii, though pretty franchised.
Dana was great. She’s technically skilled and a good listener. She took my comments seriously, made an assessment and basically delivered what I pictured. My hair looks 75% better and based on one visit I would go back to Dana again. But if I get another haircut in Hawaii I’ll try someone new for comparison. Dana’s very likeable and definitely skilled, but her style is a little 1st generation Asian for me- less curl more straight with a bit of flip, assymetrical bangs. I like hair stylists that are technically on point but more loose and poetic with their approach: shaggier, messier, imperfect. With all of that said my hair does look dorothy hamill-ish just as I wished for yesterday.
After the hair cut we FINALLY went for breakfast at Boots and Kimo’s. The macadamia nut pancakes are about the most pospular thing in Kailua second only to the beach. If you look it up it’s catgorically popular–people even claiming to drive from the leeward side of the island just for the pancakes. Well, they’re freakin’ right. Those pancakes are GOOD. K took a bite and said ‘is that ice cream?’ 😀 Sweet but not too sweet. rich buttery macadamia nut sauce over thick fluffy pancakes. We also had a portuguese sausage omelette which was delicious.