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Okay, I have a confession to make. It is embarrassing but I feel like I need to come clean. A few weeks ago…it’s so hard to talk about…alright, here it is. My family and I stayed in Waikiki for three days. I can tell by the wincing expression on your face that you need a moment.
Welcome back. I realize that to Hawaiians staying in Waikiki is like getting plastic surgery in Los Angeles : many have done it but very few admit it. Waikiki exists for those people visiting the islands who don’t want to give up the buildings, traffic and crime of home. Waikiki, essentially, is like Manhattan without Italians. Hawaiians go there to see a musician or have a dinner and/or maybe a movie, but staying overnight there is like farting in an elevator: not everyone knows you did it, but you do.
There is a reason for our treasonous act. We were going to Oahu for a ten-day trip and planning to stay at my parents’ house. Though my parents welcomed us with open arms, my wife and I realized we were bringing a five-year-old and a two-year-old to a home of two retired empty nesters, which is like bringing a pack of caffeinated hyenas and a marching band. It seemed thoughtful to break up the trip with three days in a hotel. Plus, my parents have all the movie channels and my Dad loves movies with any of the following: cops, guns, explosions, swearing, yelling, swear-filled yelling, and Steven Segal. The idea that there is a kid in the room does not affect Dad, thereby making fun stories at preschool when my daughter gets back to Seattle .
So why Waikiki ? Well, first of all, my wife, quite simply, is Caucasian. It just felt right to her. Second, a hotel there had a great kama `aina rate. For those of you who don’t know what a kama `aina rate is, probably best you didn’t find out. The basic equation is this:
X = A + B + C
X is what the tourist pays. A is what a local pays. B is about $100. C is the amount of the seller’s phone bill.
My Mom made the reservation (I think it was the first time someone ever took the deal) and the reality began to set in for me. I loaded up the van; put on a baseball cap, shades and a fake mustache; then we headed for the place that tourists call Mecca.
Waikiki is a melting pot filled with Caucasian people, Japanese people, and half-Japanese-half-Caucasian people. There are thousands of people walking the streets every day, and there are just as many ABC stores. ABC stores have a simple motto: “For every one Starbucks there are ten of us.” ABC caters to the person who wants to buy candy, booze, souvenirs, sandwiches or coconut bras but doesn’t want to walk more than four steps to accomplish this.
One very popular Hawaiian eatery in Waikiki is called “McDonalds”. It was always packed. People travel thousands of miles to experience the Hawaiian culture by enjoying a Filet O Fish. With the Starbucks, McD’s, and Burger King you might as well have vacationed in Lynnwood.
The style of dress in Waikiki is unique as well. Feel free to take your busiest eight-to-ten-color aloha shirt and wear it with the non-matching shorts. Add to that the ABC store straw hat and sandals highlighted by brown dress socks and you, my friend, are stylin’. And don’t forget to put some white stuff on your nose. This look would get you beaten up a mile away but here in Waik-town, it is all that and a bag o chips! I’ve always admired these people. They really have the guts to live life to its fullest. To grab the bull by the horns. To dress so ridiculously not because you’re blending in with the locals but because you’re nowhere near your home town. I bow to your courage.
Waikiki beach is fun if you like crowded beaches that smell like burnt haupia. There are a few locals surfing or boogie boarding in the water but I question why they’re there. I highly doubt they come to Waikiki to experience the intense rush of conquering a four inch wave. I wanted to talk to them but I realized I had no right to question them since I was a guest in that building right there. So to each his own.
All in all my family enjoyed it. My wife had her Starbucks. The kids had a beach across the street. My parents got a few days peace. And I got to throw on a Hilo Hattie’s clearance shirt and some sandals with dress socks and for the first time in my life feel truly free. If you tell anyone I’ll deny it. I’m burning the ABC store receipts as we speak.
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