Strange what happens when one slows down. Although this hardly does the Hawaiian experience justice. The cumulative impact of…whatever it is, and one is never certain…renders the subject immobile, defenseless and more than a little bewildered. There may be humor in the phrase Polynesian Paralysis, but not much. As a descriptor, it will do. In fact, it will have to do, for there isn’t sufficient energy to find another. Everything being paralyzed. That is the point. If one still believes there is a point. Other than, say, Diamond Head. No sense in overthinking this. Better conserve one’s resources.
With life’s throttle gradually being reset from slow to stop, dreams erupt. The less active the life, the more active the psyche. Yes, everything outward yawns and inclines toward sleep. While everything inward awakens and flexes. Everything. Unfortunately, everything. I would like to say that my most prominent dream consisted of Polynesian dancing girls. But alas, no. Although things started quite promising. A sort of tropical glade, the greenest of moss everywhere, palm fronds overhead. I’m stepping through the South Seas lushness on a teak walkway, turn to walk out on a small platform to get a better view of a clear watery pool, a pure bubbling spring. I trip and fall into the water. I drop down and down. I know that no one will pull me out. No one realizes what has happened or will react in time…and I am drowning.
Thus my Hawaiian psyche. Why? Well, the dream signals that I must go deep, go dark, go scary. A reminder that I avoid this experience as much as possible. Yet this is the soul’s direction, so don’t fight it. And since in Hawaii one does not have the strength to fight anything, we go where we go. Some unfinished business. And with reminders of Marlou’s death, and therefore death itself, all around…. I sink into the pool. Terrified, alone. But only for this moment.
Get the shpilkes out of your system and maybe you’ll have dreams with native girls shaking grass-skirted bottoms. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll have to make do with what you have. Even in the drowning-death-in-paradise dream, there are remarkable touches. The green mossy bank contains enormous, lovely mushrooms. A foot or two tall, fantasy-sized fungi. Idyllic. Right next to death. Might have to accept that.
As for Waikiki…why, oh why, indeed. Why do all of these tourists want to congregate on one small beach? Why do they need to be entertained so aggressively? The latter strikes me profoundly in our few days of tourist activities, Joan and Dick and Nathan and me. We try to find wheelchair-accessible things to do together. And it turns out there are several. The buses ferrying tourists from Waikiki hotels to sunset luaus, for example, can take wheelchairs. Same for the whale watching excursion. We sign up for both.
And both have a certain amount in common. Scale, for one thing. Our particular luau features 600 of my closest tourist friends. The whale watching boat has four decks and can probably accommodate 1000. Welcome to Hawaii. The common thread running through both of these tourist operations is that things keep running. Each pre-luau bus ride includes a nonstop narrative from our ‘host.’ The latter stands by the bus driver, microphone in hand, telling jokes of a sort, assuring everyone repeatedly that they will have more than enough to eat and drink. And offering tips. For example, if the three drink coupons allotted to each participant should not suffice, head for the gift shop (and what luau could function without a gift shop?) and purchase a super-size souvenir cup…which holds the equivalent of two mai tais, daiquiris or whatever. Just two kinds of salad dressing, we are advised, French and thousand island. Might want to mix the salmon salad with the green salad for enhanced Hawaiian effect.
The bus is fighting its way through Honolulu’s rushhour, the airport on one side, the naval base about to appear on the other. And any sane person would want a moment or two to reflect upon the moment or two. But we have more jokes. Many center about leis, the flower garlands so popular in Hawaii. We are going to get well leid. Or get leid twice tonight. And so on.
It may be that this narrative is designed to cover up the last few moments of the ride. The buses snake through the outskirts of an oil refinery. The luau site is sandwiched between industrial yards. No apologies necessary, for this is still Hawaii. The beach is the beach. The ocean the ocean. And the evening’s Polynesian show with hula skirts and twirling torches may include a song from Marlon Brando’s 1960s remake of Mutiny on the Bounty, but never mind. A stunning moon has risen above the premises. And the show’s finale is unmistakable. All eight buses in the parking lot start up at the same moment.
As for the whale watching liner, I hadn’t expected ‘lunch included’ to mean an onboard buffet and deck-long dining room. A sandwich would have done nicely. After all, we had come to see the whales. Unfortunately, the latter were hiding from us. Still, I got good offshore views of Honolulu. Plus close-up shots of middle-class Japanese tourists at leisure. Restrained and modest even in antic moments. Beaming faces but only polite applause at announcements from the Japanese tour guide. While trying very hard. One adventurous young woman was wearing a T-shirt clearly purchased in Japan. It bore a slogan that must derive from Japan’s equivalent of ‘laugh until you pee in your pants.’ It’s very hard to find good translators, of course. Her T-shirt proclaimed ‘Laugh Gladly and Wet Oneself.’
And in Honolulu Harbor, boat ride behind us, even if the whales have been absent the fish are present and accounted for. Peer through the oily port waters and you’ll see tropical fish. What look like giant angelfish, yellow and whiskery. Similar ones, but blue with feelers. Right here in the heart of the city. Even here. Hawaii.