Date of Trip: May 2014
This was my fourth trip to Hawaii in 34 years. I live in Miami Beach, FL. Like the others, it took place under rather unusual circumstances. The first trip, in 1980, I made alone after winning a United Airlines sweepstakes entitling me to each of any 3 United destinations – first class! At that time, Hawaii was the farthest away they flew, so I chose Miami-Seattle (via Chicago), Seattle-Hilo (via LA), Honolulu-Boston (via Chicago)and back home to Miami. (I paid for own tickets Hilo-Maui-Honolulu). I checked out the volcano on the Big Island, got soused with a small friendly group in Lahaina’s (Maui)Pioneer Bar, located next to the world’s biggest banyan tree, and, when no one was looking touched the only Van Gogh in Honolulu’s art museum. I was stunned by the beautiful scenery everywhere I went. I violated the rule of the volcano goddess, Mama Pele, at Mauna Kea, and took home a sizeable haul of lava rocks and sand. I will spare you an account of the many medical and financial misfortunes that ensued during the following six months. My advice: You can pick this stuff up, then put it back down. You can photograph it. Do NOT take any with you, and do not accept, either by gift or purchase, any of it from someone else who took it.
In 1988, I traveled to General Santos City, southern Mindanao, Philippines, to view a total solar eclipse. Again, I was alone. The ticket included San Francisco, Honolulu, Manila, Cebu and Hong Kong. My Honolulu stopover was brief – I flew on my own to the Big Island, stayed in a small B&B on the slopes of Mauna Loa, and set out again for the volcano, Mauna Kea. It had recently had a huge eruption and buried a road and three villages. I approached from the south. The road was blocked by a high solidified lava flow and a sign with the names of the villages taped over. I parked, climbed onto the lava bed, still hot from underneath, and walked two sweaty miles to the lava Oceanside cliffs. There, I saw streams of red lava pouring from holes in the Cliffside into the ocean, and sending up plumes of steam that I’d seen from miles away.
In 1991, there was another total solar eclipse. This one had the entire Big Island in its path. This time, I took the two youngest of my three daughters, aged 17 and 21 at the time. We used mileage on Pan Am. We spent some time in Honolulu, took in the night show at the Polynesian Cultural Center, visited the unforgettable Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, where we met a survivor of the attack, then headed for the Big Island. The best weather forecasts for this early morning eclipse were for Kailua-Kona, which we flew into, but every room was booked, so we drove 60 miles to Hilo and stayed there for five days, taking in the volcano and its lava tunnels and nearby waterfalls, and exploring the town. The night before the eclipse, we drove all night, stopping near Waikiloa Village, a popular resort area where several very expensive specialized tour groups had set up with several thousand people. After some time there, I decided I didn’t like the look of the still-dark skies and we drove to the Kona coast. The sky was criss crossed by narrow strips of clouds, and just as totality began, on of them obscured the sun. We jumped in the car, drove a few hundred yards down the road, and saw the rest of it. The poor folks at Waikiloa were clouded out and saw nothing. Ironically, if we had stayed in Hilo, listed as the rainiest city in the USA, we’d have had clear skies. Leaving Honolulu Airport, volunteers were solicited for giving up their seats and flying out the following evening. Each volunteer would be compensated with a voucher to any Pan Am destination in the world. We left the following night, bumped up to first class, came home, and I won’t say how much I sold those vouchers for. Let’s just say we ended up making money on the trip.
In 2013, my middle daughter’s son, who had just turned 13 and been Mar Mitzvahed in Miami. took off to spend a year in Hawaii with his dad and stepmom. I wanted to visit and see how he was doing there. I also wanted to show him the sights – so far. Oahu had just been another place to live and go to school and an occasional beach visit. So, in May, 2014, I left for Honolulu. This meant a flight to Chicago and then a nine hour nonstop to Honolulu. I’d taken that same nonstop before – in 1980, going the other way. But I’d been younger and stronger then. Somehow, I managed three short naps en route. My grandson’s dad met me and we went to the rented second floor of a house in nearby Kailua, a Honolulu suburb, where they lived and where I stayed. There were mountain views from the porch, and choruses of birds waking me each morning with the sun. They were good hosts. I had five days to show my grandson what Oahu was all about. We went to old Hawaiian ruins, the north shore, the Arizona Memorial – where we met another survivor – the Bishop Museum, the Iolani Palace, and spent a full day at the wonderful Polynesian Cultural Center. We learned about the sad history of Hawaii in the late 1800s. After a decade with David Kalakaua, the “Merrie Monarch,” and a few years with his sister and successor, Queen Liliokalani, the local planters and CEOs simply called in the marines in 1893 and stole Hawaii from the Hawaiians. The first “president” was named Sanford P. Dole. Hint: Dole Pineapple. The Queen was arrested, locked in her own palace, and the place was looted and had finally been restored. Until her passing in 1917, she never stopped trying to reclaim Hawaii for the Hawaiians.
Here are a few tips for visitors. Obey parking signs. We parked at a meter outside the Iolani Palace and filled the meter, but missed the sign that said permitted parking ended at 3:30 PM. We arrived at the car at exactly 3:37 and found it already being hooked up to a tow truck with a police officer in charge. We begged and pleaded and got it down to a $50 ticket and no towing.
Advance reservation tickets for the Arizona Memorial are usually available only months in advance, but same-day tickets are always available – you just will have to wait a bit. We got there about 9:00 and our tickets were for 11:45. The Navy launch ride to the memorial is free, but first you will see a 20 minute video of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack. You will see a Japanese bomb hit the huge ammunition magazine of the ship, and then you will see the ship explode as if an atomic bomb had hit it. It brought back to me the horrific image of the 2nd tower collapsing in New York and I realized I was seeing almost the same thing – the sudden, unprovoked murder of over one thousand people. Be prepared for this. The ship itself is still leaking a lot of oil, and parts of it still protrude from the water. If you have a chance, also visit the “Punchbowl” military cemetery up in the hills. God bless them and their families and all our brave fighting men and women.
Oh, and for all the “birther” air heads like Donald Trump, et.al. I have news for you. If you can prove that President Obama is at least 122 years old, then you finally have what you’ve longed for – evidence that he was born in a different country – the Monarchy of Hawaii – our “loot” from 1893.
As they say in Hawaii – MAHALO – thank you – for reading my story.