Ahhh, Hawaii. The sweet unpolluted air, the azure ocean, the dramatic volcanic mountains. What’s not to love about the string of Islands in the Pacific that combines unspoiled natural beauty, five-star resorts and American hospitals — just in case? As the last vestiges of the harsh Los Angeles winter bears down upon us, it is the knowledge that we will soon be in Hawaii that keeps my family going, especially my husband, AO. The ukuleles start playing in his head right after the New Year and get progressively louder until his need for macadamia-covered chocolates and Kona coffee has been sated.
As a boy growing up in the dreary suburbs of Toronto he fantasized about being Magnum, P.I. When the detective dream didn’t pan out, he headed to the next best place with sunshine, palm trees and red Ferraris: Hollywood. That was twenty years ago and, as people who live in Florida know, when you live there, it isn’t always a vacation. It could be the constant drone of LA.P.D. choppers hovering overhead, in search of some dangerous criminal, or the traffic that causes such severe road rage that people periodically shoot each other over being cut off on the freeway. Those things tend to make a place less vacation-like.
In spite of all this, or perhaps because of it, my husband still feels entitled to good weather. When it rains in LA, he is personally offended. Accepting the fact that it isn’t 75 degrees and sunny every single day has been tough for him. The sight of people walking around Santa Monica in lightweight down jackets and boots just doesn’t gel with the Baywatch in his mind. Several years ago he made a pledge: if our holidays were to be spent with my relatives in frigid Chicago and his in snowy Canada, then, dammit, one week a year we deserve a warm, sunny beachfront vacation.
First came Mexico. Cheap, hot and just south of the border, it seemed like the perfect destination. We had some magical moments in Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo. And then in Cabo San Lucas, we accidentally locked our toddler son in a rental car. He was fine, even before the ambulance arrived. Although he was a little freaked out by the throng of townspeople, local news media, and, finally, the locksmith (“cerrajero” en Espanol, in case you ever need one) surrounding the vehicle. The incident wasn’t Mexico’s fault. But the article in the paper the next day about the “Gringos” who carelessly left their child in the car while they went shopping left a bad taste in my mouth. How dare they be allowed to publish such lies? I could not return to a place that practiced yellow journalism, no matter how good the margaritas are.
Enter Hawaii. At first our attitude was, how different from Mexico could it be?, which is kind of like comparing blush wine from a box to Schramsberg Brut Rose’. Hawaii is simply spectacular. And, unlike Mexico with its police force corrupted by South American drug lords, it’s relatively safe. Part of what makes Hawaii great is the landscape but there’s also an intangible X-factor– the “Aloha” spirit that is as intrinsic to the islands as The Beach Boys are to Southern California. No wonder Oprah chose Maui to build her vacation compound. Full disclosure, it does rain in Hawaii, especially on the Island of Kauai. We’re partial to the tiny slice of beachfront known as “the desert of Maui”. There’s a similar sliver of year-round sun on the Big Island. When you have one week per year, you don’t want to spend it inside at the aquarium, no matter how cool the jellyfish exhibit is.
I always know when it’s time for our yearly pilgrimage because my husband begins talking about it incessantly. Anything can trigger a Hawaii reference. When the puking stage of my little boy’s flu had passed and he moved on to the hacking cough and raw sore throat phase, my husband whispered, “At least he got it over with before Hawaii”. Then he tried to cheer the little guy up by painting a picture of the beach, the ocean and the big mountain near our hotel. He may have carried it a bit far; the next night we were all awoken with screams from a nightmare about a volcano that erupted and covered Mommy in hot molten lava.
I think I’m safe. Part of what makes it a vacation is not venturing too far from our lounge chairs. Even though I don’t talk about it as much as my husband, I’m looking forward to our return to paradise. We’ve added a bonus stop in Oahu this year – with a visit to Pearl Harbor for me and a tour of the Magnum, P.I. locations for my hubby (www.Magnum-Mania if you must know the exact location of Robin’s Nest). Our flight leaves early, and he has already warned us that we must be packed a week ahead of time to avoid any last-minute delays. The night before we leave, we’ll watch Aloha, Scooby Doo to get everyone “in the mood”. The fantasy will be complete with a luau at the hotel where they film Hawaii Five-O. We’re already playing the theme song.