Saturday, May 21, 2011

They Paved Paradise (& Put Up A Parking Lot)

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.

Nancy explores the WWII submarine Bowfin.


Kay Dennison said...

Awesome!!! I am happy that you've mended well and had an excellent trip to paradise

DJan said...

If I ever get to Hawaii I will make sure I don't miss that memorial. And yes, I can imagine the sheer numbers of people in the big cities. I wonder why the beach was deserted, that is pretty amazing.

alwaysinthebackrow said...

I've never been to Hawaii. My mom and I were just talking about her trip there. She also was awed by the Arizona memorial. Glad that you enjoyed your vacation. Can't wait to hear more.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Kay It was great and I had a fantastic time with my grand kids.

DJan If you go to Oahu, go to the north side of the island. There is a great DZ there at Dillingham field. I can only imagine what the view is like from 10K there!

As for the empty beaches, we were traveling in the off season when kids were in school, but I also believe the recession is keeping tourists from visiting, though the flights to and from were completely full. But that may be because the airlings are dropping and therefore combining flights. But the recession has bypassed Oahu, they are building there like crazy! A new Disney Time Share hotel has opened and there are houses and shopping centers springing up all over SW Oahu.

BackRow If you can go, do the BIG ISLAND, not Honolulu or Maui. The Big Island is what Hawaii used to be like, no freeways, lots of open space and wonderful uncrowded beaches. We've been there 5 times now only because we bought a "Vacation Plan" (similar to a time share) or we would never have been able to afford it. We spent a week with two families in a two bedroom condo with full kitchen right on the golf course. Our bill at checkout was $54 room tax and three cocktails we billed to our room.

Antares Cryptos said...

Good to hear you had a great time. Can she snorkel now?

Robert the Skeptic said...

Cryptos I gave her lessons in the resort pool. Then we got out to Kahaluu Beach Park; OMG, once she saw the fish it was all I could do to keep up with her!!

Cognitive Dissenter said...

I visited Oahu many years ago and for some reason the standout memory is the bearded and barefoot "prophet" with the oversized Bible who stood on the sidewalk in front of the busy stores, preaching and warning all about the end of the world. That, and the prostitute who tried to offer my father-in-law a great deal.

The Big Island was much more my style. Can't wait to read about Paradise Found.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Dissenter Doubtless the sidewalk preacher in front of the store was availing himself of the free air conditioning.

You probably already know that there is a huge Mormon presence in Hawaii and Oahu in particular, including a branch campus of BYU and they run the Polynesian Cultural Center as well. Makes me wonder how one would wear the holy underwear under a grass skirt?

Jayne said...

What an apt description of war "[...] disrupts the lives of those most often least able to avoid it." I've never been out to HI, but I've experienced some pretty strong emotions at the Vietnam Wall in D.C., and even, in Gettysburg. (I wasn't personally connected to anyone who served in either wars, but a good friend lost her uncle in Vietnam.) War, what is it good for...
So glad you are enjoying the moment on the big island. Happy snorkeling! ;)

billy pilgrim said...

maybe the fight against high parking fees can unite humanity. or maybe not.

Entre Nous said...

Trying to expend nervous energy Thanking my favorite people for helping to keep me sane during this odd period in my life THANK YOU, I may not always have time to comment but I am LURKING!!!


Robert the Skeptic said...

Jayne These memorials are indeed moving; for me the "Arizona" in particular because the bodies of those lost servicemen are right there beneath us. But yes - Nancy lost a brother-in-law in Vietnam.

Billy I think the commercial interests in Oahu have the parking fees, and all the other fees, pretty much screwed tightly into the economy there.

EntreNous Lurkers are always welcome.

Antares Cryptos said...

Another water baby is born.:)
I gave my parents a lot of OMG! moments while in the water. I probably still do;)
There are still a number of reefs on my "list" as a result of watching fish early in life.

adrielleroyale said...

That is definitely a place on my "to-do" list :) Both Hawaii and the memorial. History is such a good teacher.

secret agent woman said...

I spent a summer on Oahu as a teenager and a week of that on the Big Island. Wonderful place.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Cryptos If you ever get the chance to snorkel in Belize, it was absolutely the BEST experience we have ever had snorkeling.

Adrielle In my opinion, the war memorial is the only redeeming reason to visit Oahu (Honolulu). If you spend the bucks to go to Hawaii, go the the Big Island!!

SecretAgent I'll bet Oahu would have been awesome experienced as a teenager. I've spoken to two friends who were young and in the military (Vietnam era) who were stationed there, they complain they were bored to death.

My father was stationed at Pearl Harbor during WWII, he would NEVER talk about it or any of his war experience. My mother always wanted to visit Hawaii but my dad would have none of it. Unfortunately my father died before I could find out why.