Ten days in Hawaii – Two months ago I wasn’t sure I would live long enough to leave the hospital any way other than feet-first. Following my successful heart surgery, I had still pretty much written-off the Hawaiian vacation we had planned months before. But a whole lot of medical professionals pulled some strings (not to mention some wires and tubes) to see to it that I could keep that date with “Paradise on Earth”.
When I had originally planned this trip I had one goal in mind; to teach my granddaughter to snorkel. We booked our timeshare months before, Nancy and I planning to spend three nights in Oahu then meet up with our daughter, her husband and the grand kids for a week on the Big Island. I found Honolulu to be like any major American city: busy and expensive. Though oddly, we found the beach at Waikiki was practically deserted.
The highlight of Oahu was our visit to Pearl Harbor; the Arizona Memorial in particular. We were warned that the tour was popular and to arrive early to avoid long lines. But taking the 7:00 AM shuttle from the hotel to the memorial we strolled in with no waiting. The National Park Service efficiently controls access to the Arizona memorial. Well organized they issue a fixed number of tickets to park visitors, who after seeing a tastefully done film about how we were drawn into war with Japan, ferry us by launch out to the memorial.
Constructed straddling the hull of the Arizona where she had sunk entombing over 400 sailors, the simple yet reverent memorial structure stirred very deep emotions. The rusting hulk appeared almost ethereal lying just under the surface of the bay, disappearing into the darkness of deeper water. A thin sheen of oil seeping from the rusting hull made rainbow patters around the leis people had tossed into the water. Most were silent or spoke in hushed voices out of almost reverence - feelings clearly shared by "believer" and "non-believer" alike. As I gazed into the rusting hull of the Arizona, I must confess I felt an upwelling of pride that Seal Team 6 had recently put a bullet in the brain of that SOB behind our country's most recent sneak attack on September 11th.
The film we had watched back at the dock before boarding the launch taking us across the bay to the Arizona described how war disrupts the lives of those most often least able to avoid it. That the decisions of a powerful few can affect the lives of millions of people who hope for nothing more than to live lives quietly and comfortably surrounded by those by whom they are loved. It serves to remind us that so much of what happens to us is beyond our control yet can have the most devastating of consequences.
But soon the launch just as abruptly returned us back into modern 2011 Honolulu… where parking costs $24 a day, where all the stores blast air conditioning full bore out wide-open doors into the humid Hawaiian weather and where cars crawl slowly bumper-to-bumper in four lanes of freeway traffic burning up gasoline at $4.45 per gallon.
Next: Paradise Found: The Big Island.