Who says you can never go home? I'm home and it's just fine:
Having been born and raised in the islands, a large number of us leave home to go kick some big city ass, because we think living here on the rock all our lives, we've somehow missed out on the sexy metropolitan lifestyle in some promise land. Yeah, well, not so much. Someone forgot to send us the memo back in our late teens that we already lived in the promise land.
Obama knows what I am talking about, he's from Hawaii and I can attest he has felt the same thing. And this week, there are certainly a lot of grateful people in the country thrilled he got his ass off the rock.
This place is who we are, but it doesn't change our desire to leave, explore and grow into who we will become. I slid out to Berkeley for college, and then settled in San Francisco, which we can all go ahead and agree, is the Mecca of any other city in the United States. Right? Years later, I made a rather unconscious move to Los Angeles for work. LA might be classified, as the opposite kind of Mecca wouldn't it? Los Angeles is full of sparkle, glitz, glamour and some simply fabulous people watching. The "I want to be a star" seekers seem perfectly content constantly chasing the dream. Good for them, because without them I'd have zero to read come Thursday in the tabloid section at the newsstand.
Sure, I live near the beach in Los Angeles, I have a very peaceful lifestyle, surrounded by friends who over the years have become more than family. But now that I'm back home, I can confirm, there's nothing like island life and there ain't no plate lunch (two scoops of rice, macaroni salad and tasty marinated meat entree) in the City of Angels.
I feel a bit disappointed in myself for having forgotten just how fortunate I am to have been raised in such pure, simple, beauty and soul. And fellow countrymen, this is the kind of vibe that should be headed to the White House now that I think of it. Our overstressed country can use some Aloha (In the Hawaiian language Aloha means affection, love, peace, compassion and mercy) big time.
I'm sitting at our family friends, Auntie Meredith and Uncle Glen's beautiful retreat in Makaha on the West Side of Oahu and I am floured with childhood memories.
Makaha is about an hour from the busy action of my family in Hawaii Kai and Kailua, which actually isn't very busy at all and truthfully speaking, Kailua is Heaven on Earth and steps to one of the most beautiful renowned beaches on Earth. My Auntie Patty and Uncle Mike's place there is a slice of serenity and Kaha Street is the Official Aloha Ambassador Headquarters for all gatherings big or small. You can pull up any Friday night (any Friday) and I promise there will be at least six people there to welcome you with a cold beer, some pu pu's (appetizers) and anything else we got circulating.
My cousins wedding party was this weekend. Pure good times. It's always this way when the 'Ohana (family) and friends gather; Coors Light (the religion of Kailua) flowing, good food, a splash of hula, music, and we're good to go. The hangover is even worth it.
I slid out here to Makaha to get away from all the damn happiness. Okay maybe not from the happiness. Really, I just wanted to soak up some quietude before heading back to the grind of my "real life" and do some "oh my, another birthday is around the corner" deep thinking.
There's not much going on this way, thankfully the strip mall concept has not hit Makaha. The people still cruise local owned shops, markets, and food spots. It's old school Hawaii and it brings up a lot of childhood memories.
Out here in Makaha sitting on the lanai, it's sunset, the sound of waves crashing in the background, birds competitive chirping, and the breeze is blowing, and swishing palms against each other in the background. Perfect temperature too (I know, hate me now). Normal everyday life is taking place in and out of the houses around me. I'm definitely in my element. When the flash of my life in California seeps in, I wonder why and how I ended up in such a polar opposite place. It's very perplexing.
I am gently reminded that it's the culmination of these simple characteristics of the islands that are so much a part of what has made me who I am and what I am about and how I live my life and wherever I take off my slippers (flip flops) is home. I am intoxicated at the flurry of memories spilling over, and touched by how connected my spirit is to them.
The neighborhood here really has no particular "style", single walled homes mixed with some beautiful newer ones. Some homes still have those awesome vintage 50's glass or aluminum louvers, the house colors range from random bright greens, and mint greens, to beige, orange and now more contemporary colors. No one really cares who is doing what with his or her homes style wise, and it's just refreshing. It's about what you see is what you get and forget the rest.
The vibe around here, is just like my Nina's (Godmother's) where I spent 70% of my time growing up, along side eight of her kids running around; John, Rose, Evelyn, Junior, Mary Jane, George, Barbara, Me William, and my sister Nickie (wow I even did that in order of age!) I have no idea what we did all day and night to stay busy, but like the kids zipping around here, our days were packed. We never watched TV, we didn't have a mall, or video games, or MTV, my space, IM, cell phones, texting or email. We really mostly just had each other.
There are about five kids under age seven giggling in the street out front, chasing each other, one is wearing a pink shirt, green shorts she barefoot (which by the way, I was grounded for every other day by my dad growing up), another boy is not wearing a shirt at all, he has these Quiksilver board shorts on that are too big and he's licking a popsicle as it's dripping down his chest, getting set to get his sticky on. A few extra kids sit in the street watching the older boys play basketball with the backdrop of the sun setting. Summer is officially on here in the 50th state.
I see a bare light bulb across the way in a garage and I am reminded of when we didn't have enough light bulbs at my Nina's (godmother's) house. When we wanted to play in a room that had no light, we'd unscrew a bulb from a socket in another room to bring it to the room for light. That was just normal. Today I think of how low her power bill must have been, she was quite the green pioneer. Actually, she just didn't have a lot of money and that was just fine. We had everything we needed.
I recall endless days of playing hide and seek in the front yard. For some reason, I always chose to hide behind this one particular red pepper tree, I would pull back the branches to see if the person who was "it" could see me, five minutes later, I'd rub my eyes and run crying to my Nina that I couldn't see and my eyes were burning from the peppers. She would lay me in her lap in the driveway face up, drop my head back, grab the hose and flush my eyes out with water. We did this ritual over 100 times I'm sure of it, but apparently I just didn't care to learn my lesson because clearly, the joy overshadowed the pain.
Now the sounds of slippers flip-flopping, not at all in unison, are approaching. A crew of girls walk by, none of them wearing designer Juicy, Haviana sandals or True Religion jeans, just some random board shorts, colorful tank tops and none of them carry a handbag. This is so not how the teens in LA roll. These girls are probably going to another friends house to grab her to go walk really nowhere. We used to do this. We'd beg my Nina for 75 cents so we could go and buy pickled papaya at the store down the street or get some sweet and sour plum seeds and popsicles from a neighbor lady who sold them out of her garage for 10 cents each. She only had orange and grape, I always chose grape. Now I hear kids ask parents for $100, jump in their cars and zip to Starbucks or the mall to get God knows what with Lord knows whom. What we wouldn't have done for all the "stuff" and distractions and items. I feel fortunate to have missed having all those options. Things were really just so crazy simple. A lot has changed.
Some guy is practicing the ukulele playing the same song over and over in the house next door, and one lady is talking to another one on the phone about a graduation party and all the food they need to cook. On the other side, there is the sound of a broom sweeping the ground outside, and across the street some urban tunes booming low volume while some guy puts huge crazy stickers on his 4x4 truck. Just another day in paradise.
I suppose because we are so isolated physically growing up out here, when we go away to some other place such as college, we come back, this is our way of identifying ourselves. The island is a place of retreat; there are many constants we can depend on. No matter where you go, the memories will be here waiting to remind and embrace you and you carry the Aloha wherever you go to share it with others. That is the type of people we breed.
You can go home. You probably should go home, and go often. It's in going home where we realize who we are and how far we've come and guides us as to where we're going next.
Obama is going somewhere, but he always comes back here, hangs with his sister, grandmother and his buddies, the same ones year after year. I hear he plays some golf, drinks beer and just touches his feet on the ground that helped shape him and figures out what's ahead.
It looks like the White House has a real shot at getting some Aloha after all. Maybe Obama will bring some simplicity, integrity and laidback-ness to the people, so we can all chill out already for God's sake.
Ironically, the word 'Ohana in Hawaiian means this: Family in an extended sense of the term including blood-related, adoptive or intentional. It emphasizes that family and friends are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another. Wow, imagine merging that concept into politics. Tough sell, I know.
It would be pretty cool to have slippers outside the front door, plate lunches served to foreign leaders and Plumerias sprinkled on the front lawn.
Home is where your slippers are anyway.