I finished high school in Hawaii and lived there a dozen years. Oahu made such a big, sunny impression on me at 16, I will forever call it home. I try to get back every year or so. Here are some of my favorite images from last visit.
Rocky beach Haleiwa side as a kamaaina would say. You won’t find any garbage cans on the beaches on Oahu. A few in the parks, yes, up on the concrete pathways. Rooted in the sand, every so many feet, like the beach in Santa Monica? No. Before the days of iPods and headsets, sunning on a California beach meant you were going to be subjected to someone else’s radio station. Not on Oahu. iPod or not, if you know where to go, your neighbor’s towel is not going to be within earshot.
Times Market, Kahala. When was the last time a grocery store inspired you to lift your camera to shoot? Walking in a local grocery on Oahu is a perpetual holiday into an exotic plant nursery: torch ginger in red and pink, the hynotic perfume of tuberose blossoms crowded and bursting on a stem. These live gems that go for $5-$6 in the city, stand in water waiting to be taken home for a buck or less. Local-grown papaya, mango, sweet pineapples, guava, passion fruit, and baby bananas. The best fresh fish you can conjure, octopus salad, and ahi poki. Seaweed salad, lau lau, and lomi salmon. Ahhh, broke da mouth!
In one modest building, you have the best fresh food and floral staples of Japantown, Chinatown, Filipino town, Portuguese town, and every other culture that has set foot in the islands to sit down with Hawaiians and call the islands home. Born and raised in the south, I understand food as the centerpiece of life, love, and hospitality. In Hawaii I found a second home. One of the many reasons is because, like the south, the cultural place occupied by food—with its inherent hospitality—is smack dab in the middle of everything, summed up in the Hawaiian language in one word: aloha.
I grew up on the rainy side of Oahu in Kaneohe, so I never think twice about a cloudy sky. The weather stays warm when it rains and half the time the sun beams down simultaneously with the rain. The rainfalls are generally short and sweet and the percussive symphony of rain drops pelleting banana leaves as the birds sing, well, this music always ends a bit too soon.
How’s this highway scenery? No matter which way you’re headed, the view’s pretty good on the Kalanianaole Highway. I lived in Hawaii Kai for a year and commuted to work at the Coast Guard Station tucked up against the crater in Kaneohe. I had to drive the opposite direction of every one else along the stretch of this highway that goes through Waimanalo. At 7:30 in the morning, the sun shines in silver peaks on the water, the sandy beaches are uninhabited except for an occasional lingering fisherman, and the silence of the early morning empty road sways to the faint rustle of the ocean’s breeze.
I went to high school with serious surfers. They got up early to go surfing in the dark before school. It was the 70s, surfers wore braids that touched their waists. On a typical Saturday morning, I slipped into my bikini, hoped into my Mom’s 1967 Mustang and, towel in tow, I hit the coast road for North Shore. Ten o’clock in the morning and the radio is blasting my favorite song by Canned Heat: Goin’ up to country, got to get away . . .