Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My Hawaiian Odessey (Day 4)

Monday, February 9

Today would be our last full day in Hawaii. Whatever we didn't get done today wasn't going to get done. Thankfully, my foot was feeling much better and I felt I could handle a little walking.

First stop was Da K
ine Bail Bonds. I wanted to make one last shot at meeting Dog Chapman. We went into the gift shop and spent way too much money on Dog the Bounty Hunter stuff. Alas, the Dog and family were still sleeping, the cashier told us. But at least I had plenty of mementos.

Next stop was Pearl City, where Pearl Harbor and the Arizo
na memorial are.

I really hate how 9/11 made us so paranoid. Because the museum and memorial are federally owned and run facilities they wouldn't allow ANY kind of bag to be brought in, not a purse, backpack, camera bag or even a bag from the gift shop from the military museum next door! What a pain in the ass.

Our short boat ride to the memorial itself was preceded by a film we watched in the museum theatre that gives some background on the attack on Pearl Harbor and the aftermath. It was very somber and emotional. One of the sad facts the film gave us was the 23 sets of brothers and a father and son had been killed that Sunday morning. It set the stage for the visiting the memorial which would follow shortly.

The museum and memorial are run by the National Parks Service but the little boat that runs you out to the memorial is actually a Navy operation. There were maybe 3 or 4 Navy servicemen in uniform that go out there with out. I must be getting old because those Navy guys looked like kids. Now THAT is the job I wish my cousin Isabel would have while she's on active duty. She'd still be serving her country. Tourists are important. They represent economic stimulus, don't they?

Standing aboard the memorial is a haunting experience. Over the little headset I rented Ernest Borgnine narrates that about two quarts of oil seep out of the hull of the Arizona every day. They form easily visible pools at the surface. He said they represent the tears of the servicemen that died that day and little oil slicks are left undisturbed out of respect for their memories. Finishing up the tour you get a better sense of the enormity of the event, and I got a comfort in knowing that the site is treated with the respect it deserves.

One of my goals for the trip was to discover some new Hawaiian music. I had a few minutes in the gift shop so I wandered over to where they had one of those racks that held some CDs and had one of those boxes where you touch on an artist's picture and they play a sample of their music. I pressed a few buttons and I figured out that my favorite kind of Hawaiian music is the kind where they kind of yodel and they're accompanied by a steel guitar in the background.

The one that fit the bill perfectly was someone named Raiatea. On the wrapper it said she had been nominated for a Grammy. I also liked an artist named Ke'alii Reichel. No yodeling. More Hawaiian traditional sounding with a very soothing voice. I was satisfied with those two and declared that goal accomplished.

We headed up the Pali Highway to the cemetery where my grandparents are buried. We stopped at a gas station where I picked up a pack of Pall Malls and a pack of violets, two things my grandpa was never without. The only thing missing that the gas station didn't have was a copy of the National Inquirer. I tried to think of something for my grandma but couldn't come up with anything.

It took a few minutes to find the plot but we did find it. I opened up the pack of Pall Malls, lit up one of the cigarettes and laid it on the headstone next to my grandpa's name along with the pack of violets. I saddened me a little that I couldn't find anything to leave on my grandma
's side. I felt like I was somehow neglecting her.

Although my grandpa liked to joke that my grandma didn't work a day in her life nothing was further from the truth. She took her duties as a housewife very seriously. She'd get up before dawn every day, just like Grandpa did before he retired, and would cook, clean, mop, sweep, and do the laundry. My grandparents house stood near the top of a steep hill and the size and shape of the lawn was such that a lawnmower would never work. So Grandma would go outside on her hands and knees and trim the lawn WITH A PAIR OF SCISSORS. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that, outside of my parents, my Grandma Chang is the person most responsible for giving me the work ethic I have today.

The thing most people would tell you about my grandmother is that she was very clean. Such a statement tends to give the impression that a "very clean" person was also a "very uptight" person. And that's the general impression I had of her before I Bryan and I started spending our summers with them in Hawaii. But after spending time with her and getting to know her I found myself liking her as a person. I don't miss her any less than I miss my other grandmother, my dad's mother, Grandma Low. And that's saying a lot, believe me.

During those summers in Hawaii Bryan mostly spent them with Aunty Brenda while I would stay with Grandma and Grandpa, so Bryan doesn't have the memories of Grandma that I do. Finding this out kinda made me sad.

I only wish I could think up something better than a broom to leave on her grave.

With my foot feeling better Karen and I finally got to walk the Waikiki strip together. There were too many high end stores but she found a few bargains and I finally found something that I had been looking for, some Barack Obama t-shirts that tied him to his Hawaiian roots. Finally, I had shirts to bring back to the girls that I knew they'd really like.

Our final activity for the evening was a family dinner at Uncle Wally's house. Uncle Wally is one of my grandpa's brothers. It wasn't something we were really looking forward to because, just like the wedding, we would be surrounded by people who were at the same time, loved ones and strangers.

We got a couple of pleasant surprises though. Our Uncle Tim and our new Uncle Tommy sat down with us (not in tandem, but separately) and we got to know them a little. Tim is my Aunty Sherry's husband. He's not Christy, Tracey, and Jerry's father. That was Uncle Jerry. I really didn't know anything about my Uncle Tim. Until he sat down with us and started talking.

He told us about how much he enjoys cigars. We talked about different kinds, the difficulty of trying to get your hands on a Cuban, so forth and so on. The details aren't terribly important. It was just nice to conversate and socialize with him.

A few minutes later Tommy came over and chatted with us. It's funny, it almost seems as if our Aunties gave them an assignment. But having just met him the day before I didn't know an awful lot about him, but from the short amount if time that I have spent
with him my new uncle seems to be a genuinely nice person. In some ways I'm concerned more for him than I am with her. Aunty Bren treats shopping like Lance Armstrong treats cycling titles.

It had been a pretty long day and I think we were all pretty much exhausted by the time we got back to our hotel rooms, but I was happy to have done some reconnecting.

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