Bittersweet was the experience in being driven from bed the following morning. Something was cooking, and I’d say that unless you are in a country where the people have no plumbing, but a healthy fear of rhinoceros, around…85% of the time, that is a good sign. The bitter was that I was…being driven from bed. Luckily, for myself, and for everyone else, breakfast lived up to expectations. Crisis averted! It took approximately 3 clothes changes for all of the occupants of our increasingly sitcomesque condo to decide what we were going to do. I was told I would not be allowed to wear a sundress in any event. Nazis.
We were in Hawaii, so you wouldn’t think that any given change of clothes would differ fundamentally from any other, but I proved that theory dead wrong. In any case, swimming trunks (which I had not forgotten) firmly ensconced upon my pasty white keester, I was ready for the beach proper. Hanalei Bay was a figurative stone’s throw away. However, we discovered that just getting there was only half the journey. The other half involved partially serious threats of personal violence against the other people in the parking lot. Had it been anywhere other than Kauai, there would have been a blood bath. All things considered, everyone was all too willing to forgive the imagined slights. We eventually found a parking spot, and when we finally emerged from the confines of the vehicle, harrowed, and unaccustomed to the steadiness of dry land, we were confronted with a rather drab and unappealing sight.
From the parking lot, it looked just like any other beach. Muddy dirt parking lot, ugly outbuildings, and a partially enclosed pavilion, filled with ukulele-playing, dope-smoking vagrants. Vagrant may not be the right word. They looked to goodness as though they had taken up permanent residence. Perhaps they were even recognized as homeowners at this stage. It was only once my eyes were torn away from that spectacle, that I was able to see the true grandeur of the ocean. Perhaps it can be chalked up to the fact that I hail from the desert, but that view was particularly spectacular. Floods had recently ravaged the island, and as a result the beach was strewn with drift wood; some of the beach’s denizens had even built a surprisingly imposing hut out of the flotsam.
True to form, the beach was a veritable rogue’s gallery. People of nearly every conceivable walk of life were represented. Of course, there was a disproportionate sample of people who’s vocabulary was limited to variations on the word “dude!”, but that was certainly to be expected. Even if I still don’t fully understand them, I have a new sense of appreciation for these grown-up children. Playing in the waves appealed, in some rather distressing ways, to my base nature. I didn’t want to leave, and I had to repress the constant urge to say things like dude, righteous, and, it’s cool, bra. You know those stereotypes about people who basically live at the beach? They’re all true. One fellow specifically comes to mind.
Feet spread wide apart, knees bent, poised next to a prostrate surfboard in the sand, his shock of curly, bleach-blond hair rippling over his shoulders. Whoa...sorry. Creeped myself out there...At any rate, think: literally everything I had ever heard about, or seen at a beach, distilled into a single figure. I call him Brodie, zen-master of the beach and its waves. He wanders the sands in search of those ripe for his instruction in the ways of the surf. I listened from afar, but alas, my mind was not receptive to his lessons. Either that, or I’m about as coordinated as your average tourist. You know what? I’m going with the latter. I attempted to body surf, both A Capella, and on a body board, but I ended up looking and feeling like a beached whale who had just had far more than his fill of tiny crustaceans. That description is sadly not far from the truth. It was fun in spite of itself, though.
As you might expect from someone who looked like a snowman who’s made out of skin, the sun promptly inflicted upon me a reminder that I was where I did not belong. This impelled me to, as soon as we had left the beach, advocate a stop at the “local” Wal-Mart, to shop for a surf shirt. It took some doing, but the combined efforts of our entire troupe paid off. Shortly after this success, we were unceremoniously ushered out of Wal-Mart by Lead Quail, who, it would seem, did not wish to be seen in such a place. I can’t say I blame her; the selection of laptop power supplies was dismal. We went shopping somewhere far more touristy instead.
The strip-mall I found myself blinking at almost audibly screamed “Hey! Tourists! We have stuff the people you left behind would love!” It could also be accurately described as “catnip for wayfarers.” As such, my Dad and I had a rather ungracious good time, watching people scramble after things they thought they desperately needed. Many of these people looked, and smelled as though they had been preparing for a month in the African bush. You could almost taste the sunscreen. Adjacent to this trap, was one of the oddest restaurants I had ever seen.
The entire building was an optical illusion. We had chosen this particular eatery, based simply on the fact that it advertised something called hula pie, which we had heard about on the radio. Delusions to the contrary aside, our collective willpower was negligible. We entered through the front door, expecting to be inside, but instead found ourselves back outside. The initial shock was largely absorbed by the smell of savory fish-flesh, searing on a hot slab of metal somewhere nearby. I think something to that effect was what I wound up ordering. I wasn’t unhappy I did. The Hula Pie ended up being little more than ice cream cake. Delicious, delicious ice cream cake. We spent the remainder of the evening swapping vaguely remembered stories about each other that we, for the most part, already knew. And no, no one had had anything to drink yet, as far as I know. I have inconclusive memories of stumbling out to the car after dinner, then stumbling out of the car, and into the house about an hour later. I hope nothing important happened...