Like One Fish Out of Water

hawaiian days

IMG_4106I once heard a kumu hula say that he never left Hawai‘i because everywhere he stepped he was taking aloha with him. It’s something I’ve tried to keep in mind, particularly when the endless snow and ice outside my window starts to grind on me.

I’m not alone in wanting to beat the winter blues; it’s about this time every year that several local businesses sponsor Hawaiian Days celebrations with plastic leis from Taiwan and samba music from Brazil. When all the paper floral decorations, blow up coconut trees, and neon green cellophane grass skirts come out, so do the comments. People who know I’m from Hawai‘i say things like, “Bet you’re glad you have real seasons now; you can’t have Christmas without snow!” and “Try this Hawaiian taco—it has pineapple!”

People who really know me simply give me chocolate and space. With proper barefoot weather my sense of humor returns.

More than 25 years ago as a blushing bride I went to waaaay rural Montana to meet my new husband’s extended relatives, neighbors, and family friends. I was perched on the edge of a couch trying to keep all the names straight when one older guy, probably a WWII vet, said in all seriousness, “Hawaii? Huh. So, tell me, how do you like being in civilization?”

“I’ll let you know when I get back,” I snapped without missing a beat.

Granted, probably not the most endearing or tactful thing I could’ve said, but honest. I grew up in a suburb of Honolulu City, not a grass shack. Unlike him I’d lived with more people, tv channels, restaurants, and shopping malls around than cows.

One lone Montana cowboy’s misconceptions about Hawai‘i isn’t really noteworthy. But Hollywood’s version of Hawai‘i crops up even in places you’d think should know better.

Once when I was a musician in high school, a bunch of us were touring the US performing in places as diverse as Carnegie Hall and Disneyland. We were in a big New York City department store when one of my friends decided to purchase something.

The cashier was New York chic: stilettos, pencil skirt, lots of black eyeliner and red, red lips. To us she oozed sophistication.

“So where’re youse guys from?” she asked. Apparently, we didn’t blend.

“Hawai‘i,” my friend said.

“Cool. Don Ho, right? But just so you know, we don’t take your kind of money.”IMG_4133

“You mean Traveler’s cheques?”

“No foreign currency. American dollars only. It’s store policy.”

My friend blinked, took a $1 bill out of her wallet, ripped it in half, and tossed it on the counter. “Damn,” she said. “Our money’s no good here. Let’s go!” and stormed out.

It was awesome.

But not really aloha. I try to remember that when some clueless but well-intentioned babooze asks if I had movie theaters or in-door plumbing growing up.

After all, I don’t get big cowboy belt buckles, either.

Click here to go to
the Niuhi Shark Website.
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