Forbidden

Sign on the Grounds of Iolani Palace

In the southeast corner of the grounds at Iolani Palace is a low mound that bears the Hawaiian language warning “Kapu.” Because the Hawaiian language doesn’t have the sounds of the consonants “t” and “b,” it would not make any sense if the sign red “Tabu.” Yet that is what it means.

Similarly, foods made from the pounded taro root are everywhere. Yet in Hawaiian, the word is written “kalo.” (There is no “r” in the language.)

The forbidden mound contains the remains of many old Hawaiian chieftains, or ali’i. Before the Iolani Palace was built in the late 19th century, there was an earlier, less European-looking palace that housed the great of O’ahu and the outlying islands. The earlier kings of the Kamehameha dynasty were buried there before a mausoleum was built to house their remains a mile or so to the west.

After the bones of the kings were removed, the Hawaiians had trouble identifying the other remains; so they fenced in the mound and made access to it Tabu.

Lili’uokalani

Queen Lili’uokalani, the Last Sovereign Monarch of Hawai’i

Liliʻu Loloku Walania Kamakaʻeha was born in 1838 to a family of ali’i, or chieftains, in Honolulu. She was informally adopted by an even more noble couple and raised with their daughter, Bernice Pauahi Bishop, after whom the Bishop Museum is named. Her brother David Kalakaua was crowned King of Hawaii in 1874. When he died in 1891, Lili’uokalani, as she was now called, became Hawaii’s only regnant queen, at the age of 52.

Unfortunately, her reign was to last less than two years. Under Kalakaua, the American and European businessmen forced on the monarchy in 1887 what became referred to as the Bayonet Constitution, which, among other things, deprived native Hawaiians of the right to vote. In attempting to replace the Bayonet Constitution with one that recognized the rights of Native Hawaiians, Lili’uokalani ran afoul of the same bunch of avaricious businessmen who were responsible for the bayoneting of Hawaiian civil and voting rights.

The rest is history: Lili’uokalani was forced to abdicate. Then she was imprisoned in a room on the second floor of the Iolani Palace for treason committed against the “Provisional Government,” or PG, sometimes spelled PiG by Hawaiians. It took several years for the United States to annex Hawaii, which Grover Cleveland refused to do. But once the USS Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor, the land grab was on under President McKinley.

Although she reigned for only a short time, Lili’uokalani was a capable ruler, though not always able to decipher the deviousness of the Occidental mind. She was a talented musician who composed numerous songs still sung today, including “Aloha ’Oe.”

The Vacant Throne

The Throne Room at Iolani Palace, with King Kalakaua’s Ceremonial Uniform

On our first full day in Honolulu, Martine and I visited the Iolani Palace, which was the seat of the Hawaiian monarchy that was dethroned in 1893 by a cabal of crooked American businessmen, diplomats, and naval officers. Even after they succeeded, it was only the sinking of the Maine in Havana harbor in 1898 that led to Hawaii becoming a U.S. territory.

The story of the annexation of Hawaii is told in Stephen Dando-Collins’s Taking Hawaii: How Thirteen Honolulu Businessmen Overthrew the Queen of Hawaii in 1893, With a Bluff. The “founding fathers” of the annexation make Donald Trump look like a Boy Scout, what with their lies, braggadocio, and even cowardice. When the moment came to move, several of the members of the so-called Committee of Public Safety conveniently came down sick.

The Hawaiians of today revere their monarchy, especially Queen Lili’uokalani, who was an able ruler who failed only because she could not appease a cabal of American and European businessmen who did not even feel that Hawaiian natives should have the right to vote.

The Iolani Palace

The Palace was built by the penultimate ruler of the monarchy, King Kalakaua, in 1882. It is tastefully designed, with verandas on all sides permitting the cool ocean breezes to circulate through the building. Nowadays, all the windows are closed so that the paintings on the wall don’t fade prematurely.

Tiny Bubbles

Martine and I returned late last night from Hawaii. I decided to begin my vacation posts with a tribute to a Hawaiian singer much loved by Martine. I am referring to Donald Tai Loy Ho, better known as Don Ho (1930-2007). His most famous songs are“Tiny Bubbles” and “Pearly Shells.”

In the weeks before our flight to Honolulu, Martine spent hours on YouTube playing some of Don Ho’s songs. So I made a point of taking pictures of the street sign for Do Ho Street, which runs between Lewers St, and Royal Hawaiian Ave. for one block just south of the main drag at Kalakaua Avenue.

At the International Marketplace Shopping Center, there is a statue of Don Ho next to one of the escalators. Below is a picture of Martine in her aloha shirt standing next to the statue:

For those of you who are interested, here are the lyrics for Don Ho’s most iconic song, “Tiny Bubbles.” As many times as I heard Martine play the song, I never really got tired of hearing it:

Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
In the wine (in the wine)
Make me happy (make me happy)
Make me feel fine (make me feel fine).

Tiny bubbles (tiny bubbles)
Make me warm all over
With a feeling that I‘m gonna
Love you till the end of time'

So here‘s to the golden moon
And here‘s to the silver sea
And mostly here‘s a toast
To you and me.

So here’s to the ginger lei
I give to you today
And here’s a kiss
That will not fade away.

Sushi

Assorted Sushi and Sushi Rolls

One of the best things about living in Southern California is the availability of good sushi. It’s something you have to be careful of, because sushi made with seafood that is not fresh can not only be disgusting, but can make you ill. So I always insist on going places that have a trained Japanese itamae, or sushi chef.

Also, I will only eat sushi in places where really fresh seafood is available. I have always joked about starting a rock band named Inland Sushi.

When we go to Honolulu next week, I hope to go some places where I can have sushi and Martine, who wouldn’t touch the stuff, could get something she likes close by. That is possible only in shopping malls like the Ala Moana Center and the International Marketplace and Royal Hawaiian Center. There used to be a couple of Japanese food malls near Waikiki, but they were shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Writing on Water

How Many Literary Classics Are About Surfing?

Paul Theroux’s novel Under the Wave at Waimea (2021) looks at life through the eyes of an aging champion surfer whose life takes a turn for the worse after he runs over a drunk, homeless cyclist near his home on the North Shore of O’ahu.

Theroux describes his hero, Joe Sharkey:

Sharkey surfed every day, and every day tried something new—a turn, a cutback, swiveling on the face of a wave as though carving his signature on it, writing on water. It was not practice or preparation; it was a way of spending the day, easing the passage of time; a way of living his life, because he made the moves his own.

With the help of his girlfriend, Olivia, Joe seeks to change his luck by trying to find out more about his victim, whose body is still identified at the morgue in Honolulu. The result is a spiritual journey to understand his life and the life of the people affected by the accident.

I have always thought of surfing as a lightweight activity. In his book, Theroux manages to interweave Joe Sharkey’s life on the waves with an almost metaphysical understanding of what it all means:

Nothing was certain. Every wave had a hidden contour and something like a mystical muscle in it that could trip you: every succeeding wave had the capacity to hold you down and suffocate you to death. The world was a wave, a wave was pitiless.

With Under the Wave at Waimea, Paul Theroux has attained a level of mastery in the art of fiction that I long suspected he had the potential for, but have not hitherto seen in print—though he came close on occasion.

I am happy to give my highest recommendation to his Under the Wave at Waimea, certainly the best current American novel I have read since 2000.

Day of Infamy

On our first full day in Hawaii, Martine and I plan to visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial in Honolulu. We had been there before, in 1996, but I am more interested this time in reading up on Hawaii history before I go. The last time, I frankly thought I wouldn’t care for O’ahu, because it was so touristy. Now I begin to realize that it is touristy for good reason.

There are many stories about how the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 came to be. Some have even speculated that Franklin Roosevelt knew in advance about the attack, since we had already cracked the Japanese Navy secret code. According to this theory, FDR wanted the U.S. in the war, and he was tired of the Congress lollygagging about what to do about Germany and Japan. It is interesting that none of the aircraft carriers were in the harbor during the time of the attack; and the battleships there were pretty long in the tooth.

That’s not to take away from Japan’s accomplishment. We lost a lot of good men—but probably no more than we would have lost of Congress had delayed for another six months to a year.

I remember that the whole Pearl Harbor National Memorial was pretty impressive back then. I am sure that it is even more impressive now.

This afternoon, I did a bit of research on how to use the Honolulu bus system to travel between Waikiki and the Memorial. I suppose we could pay big bucks and take a shuttle, but we could get off by paying four dollars for the both of us, round trip. I used the website TheBus.Org to obtain route maps and schedules.

It Is Done

Waikiki, the Ala Wai Canal, and Diamond Head

Today I made the final payment on our September vacation in Honolulu. We got a good price on a package deal including the flight, transfer to and from the airport, and the hotel. All that remains are meals, admission fees, shopping, and public transportation.

Notice, I do not include an automobile. When Martine and I stayed at the Pacific Beach Hotel in 1996, a rental car was included, with no parking fees at the hotel. Today, car rental fees have gone through the roof, and hotels charge anywhere from $35 to $45 a night just for parking on their grounds.

How much will Martine and I pay for public transportation on Honolulu’s bus system? For both of us, the total will come to a mere $12.00 total. Right after we check in at our hotel, we head to the nearby Ala Moana shopping center and pick up a HOLO card for seniors, free of charge, at the office of the Satellite City Hall there. Thereafter, once we have dished out $12.00 in fares (three round rips for two people at $2 each), the bus is free.

Americans hate taking public transportation. Neither Martine nor I mind it. In 1996, we drove all around the island; consequently, we don’t feel we have to repeat it.

In future posts, I will describe the places we plan to visit.

Fun in the Sun?

Family On Summer Beach Vacation Run Out Of Sea Towards Camera

Ah yes, Paradise on Earth. As a people, we have traditionally viewed summer beach vacations as the closest one could get to Heaven while alive. When I first came out to California in the late 1960s, I thought so, too. While working part-time at System Development Corporation in Santa Monica, I spent many afternoons lying on a towel and reading steamy fiction like Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.

The water was fun to a certain extent, but I was never a board or body surfer, though I went in often enough to be savaged by the occasional rough wave. Also, I tended to burn—especially as I had no one to slather my back with sun tan lotion.

While I live only two miles from the beach at Santa Monica, I don’t spend time there any more, unless I take a walk on the boardwalk connecting Santa Monica to Venice. Part of the reason is that the water is more polluted than ever, especially because we are only 20-30 miles (32-48 km) from the nation’s largest port, where freighters and tankers regularly foul the waters with petrochemical waste.

So when Martine and I go to Hawaii in a couple months, are we planning for any beach time? Not really. Although the waters at Waikiki are less polluted, the sun is stronger; and we both have fair skin. We are more interested in visiting Honolulu as a destination rather than trying to live in a pharmaceutical commercial.

I suppose if we lived east of the Mississippi, we would yearn for sunshine; but, living in Southern California, we have sunshine on most days of the year. In fact, September tends to be one of the hottest months of the year in Los Angeles. So we are likely escaping even hotter (albeit drier) weather at home.