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Ewa Beach Style
When I was a kid in Ewa Beach I would spend the afternoons playing with other neighborhood kids, mainly because we lived near each other and we were too young to drive and go find other friends. It was a simple existence. Come home, grab a snack, and head out to play. We would play touch football on the street, or tag in someone’s yard, or find a weapon in the bushes behind the cul-de-sac. Sometimes it was a combination of all three, which usually ended with a bloody knee and the other boys running home and pretending nothing happened.
Well, one day the serene balance of our block was thrown in a blender with the arrival of (pause for effect) a Caucasian family! I wasn’t aware of this until I joined the group for an afternoon of tag-shieve-football and they were all standing together looking angry. Our part of the neighborhood didn’t have many haole families. It’s for the same reason that you don’t put slow, fat fish in the piranha tank.
Two boys with the blondest hair I had ever seen were hanging out in the yard. They weren’t quite playing. It was more like when gazelles graze but at the same time have one eye open to see what the cheetahs were up to. One of them had the gall to kind of wave at us. Mistake. The cheetahs started planning their next move. I knew mine.
Boyhood friendships are based on two things: annoying each other and beating each other up. That’s it. So in trying to annoy my friends I told them I was going to go over there and say Hi. I wasn’t sure what my exact plan was but I knew it would make my friends crazy. When I got to their yard, I did say Hi. Then I had no idea what to do. It’s like when you tell your friends you’re going to eat something gross and the closer you get it to your mouth they cringe and you enjoy it, then realize you actually have to eat the bug to avoid being called a sissy. Who really is the winner there?
I was 10 feet from the boys and had no idea what to do. Should I yell at them? Should I throw something? Should I do a Samoan slap dance right there on the sidewalk? The thing I did: I asked them where they were from. That’s all I could come up with last minute. The older brother said Kansas. Wow. Pretty cool. That’s where Dorothy and Toto are from. Everything is black and white but tornadoes help transport you to colorful places with dancing midgets and lollipops. With every word my buddies got more and more angry. And that pleased me. Mission accomplished and no bugs eaten.
I would go over to the haole house occasionally just to make my friends absolutely lose it but in a weird way I kind of liked them. They were polite and funny and spoke of great mysterious things like winter and soccer. One day their mother came out and said hello and thanked me for talking to the boys. Little did she know I was doing it to infuriate the bloody-kneed kids near my house. Then she asked if I wanted to come over for dinner. Food is the quickest way to friendship with a Hawaiian.
You never go to dinner at someone’s house empty handed so my Mom opened the cupboard, stared, and took out a loaf of sweet bread (past the expiration date) and a package of li hing mui. I was a bit worried giving this to haoles because essentially I was saying “Hey, here’s some stale bread that shares the name of a cow gland and something that bears a visual resemblance to poop. Can I come in?”
Their house was different. The pictures, the furniture, the smell. Everything. They were so soft spoken, which was odd. Ewa parents would communicate with each other from their respective windows. Why use the phone when you can just yell from the kitchen. They had blonde hair, blue eyes, soft voices, collared shirts, and dinner rolls. It was like I had gone to a different planet. But as we sat to eat, one thing changed my life. They had something they referred to as “Mac-n-cheese.” As I took my first bite of this joyous food I couldn’t believe its wonder and simplicity. This was truly one of the greatest food concepts ever dreamed up and as I plowed through extra helpings of this culinary magic I wondered how I could be unaware of this taste sensation. Hawaiians made mac salad but nobody had ever thought of adding “n-cheese.”
I realized there was so much I didn’t know about in this world. What other magical things from Kansas did they bring with them? I went home that night and raved endlessly about this “Mac-n-cheese.” Mom didn’t share my level of excitement. She will, I thought. She will.
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