When you are unemployed, you start to develop certain routines. Not wearing pants, for instance. And your sleeping habits change. When I was working, on weekday mornings I was up at the crack of dawn. Even on my kid-free weeks, that meant a few minutes after 6:00. Although I’ve only been jobless for seven full days now, already that seems absurdly early to me. I shudder at the mere thought of getting out of bed anytime before 8:00. On the flip side, I’m staying up late – often until midnight now. I didn’t want to develop this habit, but if I’m not tired and I have no need to get up early, why fight it? I’ll simply heed my own internal body clock. Listen to my personal circadian rhythms. Or, you know, stay up watching Hawaii Five-O.
Funny thing about that show, by the way. It has gone and done the impossible: made me nostalgic for Hawaii.
Trust me, I never thought this would happen. I was born in Honolulu, and lived there for 9 of my first 14 years, thanks to my dad’s three separate tours of duty there. Maybe he had some deep, dark Air Force secret that he lorded over his superior’s heads, because seriously, who gets assigned to Hawaii three different times? (Speaking of deep, dark Air Force secrets, one of the few times we weren’t stationed at Hickam AFB on Oahu, we lived at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio. According to folklore, when the UFO crash-landed in Roswell in 1947, the alien remains were shipped to a hangar on Wright-Patt. I asked my dad once if this was true. He denied any knowledge, of course, but the conspiracy theorist in me could swear that a fleeting look of – guilt, maybe? – crossed his face as he laughed off the very notion. Hmm…could a threat to blow the lid off a decades-long alien conspiracy result in three separate plum assignments to Hawaii? Food for thought, Mark). Anyway, Hawaii wasn’t the paradise everybody assumes it is. I mean, it was, if you call palm trees and trade winds and sandy beaches and 80-degree temperatures year-round paradise. Me? I call it monotony. Don’t get me wrong, it was fine and dandy when I was younger, but as soon as I hit junior high (middle school as it’s called now), I was bussed to a school off base where a lot of local Hawaiians also went, and that was the first time I’d ever heard the term “haole.” Let’s just say it wasn’t the most pleasant couple of years of my life, and when we left for good in 1983, I breathed a sigh of relief.
But now, whenever I watch Hawaii Five-O (which is every week, because seriously, it’s a great show), and they show familiar scenery – Waikiki, the North Shore, the Hilton Hawaiian Village – I feel these weird pangs of nostalgia. I have no idea where they are coming from, or why they are happening. Last night’s episode was a triple whammy. First off, the action started out on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor. We used to take a ferry over there with our bikes, and bicycle around the island. Then, there was a shot of Tripler Army Hospital, which stands out like a sore thumb because it is a pink building perched on the side of a hill. And also, where I happened to be born. Not that I have very many memories of that particular day, but the flamingo-colored building was an ever-present landmark there, kind of like the way the Eiffel Tower always looms over Paris. You know, if the Eiffel Tower were pink, that is. Finally, there was a scene where the characters were enjoying shave ice. Oh man, that brought back fond memories of Matsumoto’s heavenly shave ice; all the flavors were wonderful, and everybody who was “in the know” (haole, my ass!) ordered the optional scoop of vanilla ice cream on the bottom. As the ice cream melted and you sucked it through your straw so it blended with the tropical flavors of the shave ice…well, let’s just say, that’s a treat you’ll never forget. So, all these scenes on the hit CBS television show are opening up the memory floodgates for me, and making me think that…hmm…maybe things weren’t so bad there, after all. I do have some fond recollections of the place. Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, for instance. Hiking through bamboo forests. Gathering passionfruit that had fallen to the ground and bringing them home, where my mom would make these unique (and delicious) freshly-baked passionfruit cookies. Pulling the rope to ring the giant bronze bell at the Byodo-In Temple. Talking to the parrot that lived in a cage at the top of the stairs outside Trader Vic’s in the International Market Place. Ordering steaming hot bowls of saimin everywhere (even McDonald’s). One time, we were watching them film an episode of Magnum P.I., and Tom Selleck asked my brother, who had been admiring the infamous sleek, red Ferrari, to kindly refrain from touching his car. Ha. Good times, good times.
By the way, I am convinced that my brother and I are celebrities in Japan. Hawaii is teeming with Japanese tourists, you see, and these camera-toting strangers were forever asking my parents if they could take our picture. Because we were just so gosh-darned cute, I suppose! And also, we had blonde hair, which is definitely not common in Japan. Plus, my parents had this annoying habit of dressing us alike, so people were always thinking we were twins. Even though there was a two-year age difference. Oh, those wacky Japanese. We were a novelty to them, and to this day we joke about the fact that, in photo albums all over Japan, there are pictures of these identically-dressed blonde boys from Hawaii. If I’m ever in Tokyo and some stranger points me out in a crowd and says he knows me, well, I guess I’ll have a pretty good inkling why.
I am at the point now where I can actually – gasp – see myself going back there on vacation someday.
Come to think of it, I also wouldn’t mind taking a trip back to Dayton. ‘Cause I’m telling you, I think dear ol’ dad is hiding something…