I got an e-mail from Alisha in mid-November, “Hey Jake, we want to come and spend a few days with you and Elizabeth in Hawaii on December tenth. Can you find us a hotel close by your place suitable for your siblings, Gary and me, Ziggy, and Ethan. Monica and Tom are in Arizona and won’t be with us. It has to be on the beach, and we want three separate rooms.”
I told her, “There are no hotels on the Windward Side, but you could rent a home and/or an Ohana,” (An Ohana is a mother-in-law apartment on the house property. It’s illegal, but never-the-less, tolerated, and very common.)
She wrote, “Find us one. Okay? Ethan wants his own space on the beach and close to town where he can walk the streets, explore, talk to the local folks, and have a beer somewhere nice in the afternoon.”
I hunted around for a day or two and came up with a few options of close by properties in the range of $3,500 to $5,000 for 4 nights within walking distance of my seaside village. I was excited and appreciative that she wanted to be nearby to hang out with us, and I was determined to please her with the perfect beachside retreat.
I sent the rental information to her. After waiting way too long for a response, I re-read her e-mails, and it occurred to me that Alisha and I weren’t on the same page.
The accommodations she was seeking wasn’t going to happen in my little town. Having hosted lots of visitors over the last twenty years, we learned that the most successful visits occurred when our guests stayed in a hotel on Waikiki beach close to all the tourist attractions, restaurants, world-class shopping, and night-life. The mornings and nights were theirs. Mid-day and evenings were for all of us to be together touring the island, it’s many attractions and ending the day with drinks, puupuus, and dinner at our home.
I quickly sent Alisha links to three of the Waikiki hotels, which we sometimes spent a weekend at, with a suggestion that this may be a better housing solution. I was delighted when an hour later she confirmed she had booked three oceanfront rooms at the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
The next day, Alisha sent me a bucket list of things they wanted to do, included hiking Diamond Head, driving around the Island, spending time at the iconic Pipeline and Sunset Beaches, visiting Pearl Harbor, the Arizona Memorial and of course hanging out with Elizabeth and myself.
They flew in Monday afternoon and ubered to the Hilton. Alisha called about four and said, “We’re watching the first half of Seahawk game in the sports bar and were about to get a Uber over to your place.”
I magnanimously said, “No. I’ll pick you up at four-thirty” Although that was the hospitable thing to do, it turned out to be a dumb decision. Unbeknown to me, the town-bound Pali Highway was under construction and jammed. I arrived at the hotel forty-five minutes late. Gary, who was nervously waiting for me on the street, directed me to the proper hotel tower lobby within the Hawaiian Hilton Village’s massive complex, where the rest of them were huddled out of the rain anxious to be picked up. I thought, This is a hell of a way to start the visit.
Back at our condo, Elizabeth brought out the puupuus; crab dip, cheese, and fruit. I served drinks and put on the game. Elizabeth prepared Fr. Ethan’s favorite dinner; spaghetti, French bread, salad, and wine. We enjoyed a delicious, high-spirited meal and moved into the living room for coffee and conversation. We talked and laughed until nearly eleven, when Alisha texted for a Uber to take them back to their hotel thinking it would be thirty minutes before one got there.
When the Uber responded, “I’ll be there in four minutes,” Alisha didn’t know what to do. We had neither finished our coffee nor wrapped up our conversations. She tossed me a quizzical look. I said, “You’re fortunate to find a Uber close by this late at night, grab it.” There was a mad scramble to hug and say goodbye. I led them down the elevator and out into the street where the Uber was waiting.
I returned, sipped a beer and chatted with Elizabeth about the evening as she did the dishes and tidied up. I told her, “Everybody loved the spaghetti. Ethan had seconds, and Ziggy mentioned the mushrooms made it special, just like Moms.
Tuesday morning, Alisha, Gary, and Ziggy hiked the popular Diamond Head trail up to where the WW II bunkers were. Fr. Ethan disappeared into the bowels of Waikiki. Alisha called about one and asked, “Is it too late to drive around the island? The weather is pretty crappy, we’re tired and sore from the hike, and a drive sounds like a perfect way to spend the afternoon.”
“We can do that, I’ll pick you up in an hour.”
I told Elizabeth, “Let’s go get them and do the island tour. It’ll be a blast.”
“Hang on, Jake. We can’t get all six of us into your SUV, and taking two cars isn’t as much fun. I know you want to show them a good time, so, leave me behind. I’ll take a much-needed nap and catch up with you guys later.”
When I picked them up about two-thirty, I learned that Alisha had been looking all over the complex for Ethan, who had apparently disappeared somewhere into Waikiki without notice. Since he doesn’t carry a cell phone, she left him a message on his room phone, and we were off.
I headed for the North Shore, planning to cross the Ko`olau Range at Kaneohe, but when I realized that Elizabeth could take Ethan’s spot in the back seat, I turned around and took the Pali back into Kailua instead which would get me there as well. I called Elizabeth and told her, “Ethan’s not coming, we’re picking you up in fifteen minutes. I joked, can you put together some snacks and drinks? These guys are hungry, and I don’t want to stop.”
She was waiting for us on the curb with a much-appreciated cooler containing snacks, left over crab dip, crackers, and a six-pack of cold Bud Light.
Our next stop was the Nut Shop, a long-standing tourist trap that sucked you in with free Macadamia nuts and local coffee samples which are meant to intimidate you into buying their overpriced products. Understanding their shtick, we loaded up on the samples, looked around and bought a bag of nuts for the road. It was a good choice.
We headed north past Chinaman’s Hat and Koaloa Ranch where Jurassic Park was filmed. We zipped through Hauula. and cruised up and down the half-mile regal stone and palm tree-lined grand entrance road to the Mormon Temple which I constructed several years ago. We left La`ie and were half-way to Turtle Bay when Alisha asked, “Can you show us a blowhole? I would love to actually see one. Oh, by the way, a rainbow is also on my bucket list. Can you produce one for me? She giggled and said, “A little one will do.”
I thought, I know a place close by. If that’s important to her, let’s go. Without responding, I slammed on the breaks, did a squealing one-eighty degree wheelie, crossed the highway barrier, and pulled into the traffic just ahead of an eighteen wheeler who impolitely laid on his horn.
Alisha screamed, “Yikes!”
Ziggy spilled his beer and screamed, “What are you doing, Bro? We’re gonna die!”
Somebody insisted that Gary drive, but he politely declined saying he didn’t want to move because he may have soiled himself.
“You said you wanted to see a blowhole, right? I’m going to show you one that very few people know about except for Harry Jay Follman, me, and the locals.” We backtracked into the heart of La`ie Village, which is less than a block long, pulled off the road and climbed a narrow, windy road cut into the volcanic rock. When we reached the top, we followed Naupaka St through a middle-class Mormon neighborhood to the end of the road at La`ie Point.
As often as I go up there, it never looks the same and always takes my breath away. Somebody in the back seat exclaimed, “WOW,” and the car emptied out before I came to a full stop. The three of them enjoyed exploring the point and watching the waves crashing onto the rocks. Alisha worried that the kid out at the tip of the point could be washed away by the pounding surf.
An awesome rainbow suddenly appeared and filled the sky. It got larger, then smaller, it disappeared, then reemerged wider and brighter than before. It could have been a double rainbow. Watching this extraordinary display of nature, I realized how fortunate we were to be together sharing this moment with family. Leaving this unique and beautiful place in the sun was always difficult.
Alisha’s Rainbow at La`ie Point
I wanted to stop at Turtle Bay Resort to watch the surfers from the comfort of the familiar beachside bar, but it was nearly four, and Elizabeth was concerned it would be dark before we got all our sightseeing in. She pointed out that Pipeline and Sunset beach were Ziggy’s number one priority. I reluctantly agreed, and we headed for Sunset Beach where we lucked out and scored a parking space.
Ziggy was excited to be there and walked west down the beach with Alisha and Gary towards the rainbow, where I told him Pipeline was. When he returned, he seemed confused and said, “That doesn’t look like pipeline. Are you sure, Jake?” Elizabeth stopped a passing surfer and asked, “Where is Pipeline?” He grinned, pointed east and said in an Australian accent, “It’s just around the point, Mate.” I was right about it being around the point but in the opposite direction.
Pipeline is arguably one of the most sought out winter surfing beaches in the world, and currently the home of the Billie Bong Pipeline Masters Surf Contest. The parking lot was full. I dropped them off and drove the narrow, pot-holed, partially flooded, beach-front road, lined with expensive ocean front homes, and nose-to-nose dilapidated cars and pickups. I drove past the bellicose, bad boy surfer’s beach house, where Sonny Garcia lived, before I could get back on the highway and find a parking spot off the main road.
Ziggy went nuts. It was a huge deal for him. He dropped onto the beach and watched intently as dozens of the surfers waited for just the right series of waves. There were competitors from all over the world here, The famous veterans, and the not so renown. Both young and old surfers, including elderly Clyde who is Eddie Aikau’s brother. Eddie, who is famous for the saying, “Eddie would go,” was lost at sea swimming for help when a winter storm in the Maui channel capsized the outrigger canoe, Hokule`a.
A very happy Ziggy and Alisha at Pipeline.
I told Ziggy, “My personal preference is to pop on the third wave in a set.” When he didn’t respond, I noticed a far-away expression on his face. I knew Ziggy had been here years ago and wondered, What memories were provoking that big smile and happy face? And so, we stepped back and left him with his memories.
Elizabeth was right. If we had stopped at Turtle Bay, we would have missed this personal moment which was so important to my brother. A cloud burst sent us scurrying down the muddy path to the car and on to our next adventure, Haleiwa town. I wanted him to buy a raucous surfing shirt from the garish surf shop next to the Haleiwa Bridge, but Elizabeth, a seasoned shopper, had other ideas. After visiting several shops, They found what he was after.
I dropped everybody off at Cholo’s Mexican Bar and Grill about five. I parked and joined my guests who were milling about outside the bar and asked Gary, “Did you get a table?”
“No, they are full.”
I said, “Give me a minute, I’ll get us a table.” I politely asked the Greeter at the door for a table, and he asked, “Are you here for dinner, Sir?”
I motioned to my party, and said, “No, we’re just here for a drink or two.”
“Well, it’s like this, Mister. I told your friend you can’t come in here. The bar is full, and this area is the dining room. It’s reserved for diners only from five to nine. If you take a seat on the patio behind you, I’ll send a waiter out to take your drink order.”
“It’s raining out there, Dude. We’re not doing that. Let’s talk.”
We engaged in a confrontation at the door that was reminiscent of the Godfather saga. I’m not going there, but when it was over, The Greeter said, “Please come in, sit anywhere you want Sir. The chips and salsa are on the house, and Kimo will be your waiter.” He motioned to a waiter dressed in black and hollered, “Get over here on the double, Kimo. Take these good folk’s drink order.” He then left the building, disappeared, and we never saw him, or Kimo again.
I had assured Gary we would get a Margareta at this popular watering hole, and I was determined to do so. When Gary asked, “How did you manage that?” I realized I needed to be humble, so I just smiled and chuckled as we choose a table. I apologized about the lack of waiter, and told him he would have to order at the bar.
We finished our margaritas and drove around the point and stopped at the Waimea Falls. Ziggy wanted to see it for old-time sake. I was getting dark, and it was a pretty good hike back to the falls, so we just wandered around the grounds, and bought a photograph of the falls.
The Falls. A heaieu, or ancient temple
I was having trouble seeing in the dark, driving rain, and blinding oncoming headlights on the narrow North Shore roads on the way back into town. I did the best I could with Ziggy’s help reading the traffic signs for me. We arrived in Honolulu about seven all in one piece. I exited the freeway just south of the airport, dropped down on the Nimitz Highway, took the Sand Island turnoff, and made my way down to the dark, menacing waterfront industrial area.
La Mariana’s Sailing Club.
I swung onto the waterfront access road, and skidded to a stop in front of a dilapidated looking building and ordered my passengers out of the car. Alisha protested, “No, I’m not getting out of the car here, I’m afraid. What kind of place is this, Jake?”
“This is La Mariana’s Sailing Club. Just get out, and follow Elizabeth. Ziggy will keep you safe. I have to find a parking place. You’ll love it once you get inside.”
We stood in line to get a table, and the greeter asked, “Your name please?”
“Dr. Jake Winston here, and I have a reservation for a table for five in the bar at seven o’clock.”
Of course, I didn’t, but the place was jumping, and she didn’t bother to check. She pleasantly responded, “Let me clear a table. It will just be just a minute or two, Doctor.”
When we sat down, the receipt and a cash tip from the table’s previous occupants were still there. Gary slipped five bucks off the receipt tray and jokingly offered it to me to pay for Ziggy’s share of the gas. That got a good laugh. We settled in and ordered margaritas, poke, onion rings, jalapeno poppers, and sautéed mushrooms
. Apparently, our visitors loved La Mariana’s. Ziggy even manned up and tried to pay the bill with a Huling Brothers Buick American Express credit card. That got more laughs, he hadn’t worked there in twenty years. It occurred to me that I hadn’t spent a nickel since they blew into town. I felt a little guilty, but only for a second.
We went out the back way and stopped for a moment to look at the boats tied up in the marina in front of the bar. On the way back to their hotel, there was a lot of happy chatter about what a unique and fun place La Mariana’s was. Ziggy said, “It’s a great dive bar. I gotta go back.”
We dropped them off at the Hilton and got home about eleven. It was another great time.
Wednesday they hung out on the beach at the lagoon in front of the Hilton and rested up from the previous day’s adventure. About two o’clock they ubered over to the Arizona Memorial and took the Navy launch out to the sunken battleship, Arizona. Although the memorial structure was undergoing a long overdue renovation, the launch lingered at the site, and they didn’t miss much.
Arizona deck gun turret.
When you look down at the sunken vessel, you can make out some of the deck a few feet below the clear water. Contemplating the last moments of the 1,100 sailors entombed beneath the waves will move you to tears. I always wondered what went through the minds of the millions of Japanese visitors who were drawn to the memorial.
When Elizabeth left for dinner and a play with friends, I drove into town to join the gang at their hotel room for drinks and a late dinner. I called CJ’s New York Deli which was on the hotel grounds to get a reservation. I explained to the local girl who answered, “My sister, who is staying at the Hilton, told me that it costs forty-six-dollars to park there. I can’t afford that. Do you have any suggestions where I can park for free?”
She chuckled and said in pidgin, “You local boy, Yah? Park next to shrimp truck in marina parking lot, and walk in from the beach side. That’s what we do. We’re located in the middle of the complex.”
I knew the shrimp truck. That’s where we parked and boarded the canoes when we practiced paddling for the Dragon Boat races. I was proud of myself for scoring an almost impossible free parking space in Waikiki. I justified my cheapness by rationalizing that although I used to be a big spender, now I’m just a retired businessman, living on a pension, and I have to watch every nickel.
After a fifteen minute walk to the hotel, followed by a frustrating thirty minutes of wandering around the Hilton Hawaiian Village without finding either CJ’s or their Kalia Tower, I sat down on a bench and muttered, “I should have paid the forty bucks and parked in the Kalia Tower. Just then my cell rang, it was Alisha. She reminded me I was nearly an hour late, and asked, “Are you okay, and where are you?”
“I’m in the village complex, but I don’t know where. There is a Japanese steakhouse next to me.”
“Stay where you are, don’t move, I’m sending Gary out to find you.”
Gary escorted me to their room for happy hour. We drank a beer or two, passed around chips and talked story. Although I never did learn where Ethan disappeared to the day before, tonight he was kicked back and relaxed. He chuckled to himself as he teased Ziggy about the possibility of losing his leg to leptospirosis after his dip in the ocean earlier that day. After a heavy rain, the runoff into the ocean can contain some dangerous bacteria. Ziggy took him seriously, jumped up and carefully scrubbed a wound on his leg with hot soapy water.
We had a pretty good dinner for twenty bucks a pop at CJ’s New York Deli. Geovanni’s shrimp, French dip, a pastrami sandwich, spaghetti, and casa dias for the lady. We continued to reminisce and had an interesting discussion about humility, one that never got resolved. Tomorrow would be their last day in Paradise, and they planned to hang out on the beach until three-thirty, then uber over to our place to watch the rest of the Ram’s football game and enjoy a farewell dinner. We closed up CJ’s at ten, said goodnight, and Gary pointed me in the direction of the beach.
I was nearly out to the main road when I realized I was walking in the wrong direction through this fifty-acre complex of hotel towers, restaurants, and shops. When I turned around and finally made it down to the beach, I sat on a bench for several minutes, catching my breath, and enjoyed the sights of Waikiki.
Arriving back at my car, I noticed there were several groups of locals scattered around the beach and parking lot, playing ukulele, talking story and drinking beer. I thought, Oh shit, is my car still in one piece. I examined it for vandalism and made sure all four tires were still in place. Seeing that everything was in order, I felt ashamed of myself, and sheepishly waved to a nearby happy gathering of locals and went home.
Thursday morning, I was up at six. I had a procedure scheduled for seven at Queens Hospital to keep my long-running cancer in check This has been ongoing since 2012 and was just another day at the office for me, but terrifying for some. Queens Hospital
Thursday afternoon Elizabeth prepared and seasoned the prime rib for the rotisserie as I watched the Ram’s game. Our guests arrived about four, took their places in the living room, chatted, and watched the game with me, as Elizabeth put out the puupuus and I made drinks. Ethan emptied a pocket full of soggy, beat-up peanuts into an empty dish and said, “I’m through with these, please enjoy.” I thought, Are you kidding, Ethan? A few minutes later, Ethan chuckled and cautioned us that the black cat had sat on the peanuts.
I put the roast on the rotisserie at four-thirty. Before long, the Trade Winds swept the succulent smells of roasting prime rib, fresh garlic and herbs across the room, whetting our appetites. Although the game was on, I don’t believe anybody was actually paying attention to it. There was the usual multiple conversations and joking going on, punctuated by laughing and groaning. If someone happened to notice the good guys score a touchdown, there was some hooting, hollering, and high-flying.
I was a little paranoid about my rotisserie skills since the last prime rib roasting went terribly wrong. I swallowed my pride and reluctantly asked Gary, a great chef, for help. We checked the beast a couple of times together and agreed to pull it at 130 degrees. He cautioned, “You don’t want it too rare for French dip sandwiches. It needs to be about medium, or 135 degrees, after resting.”
It was important to get it right for two reasons. The Winston’s knew their French dips and were looking forward to this. I would be horribly embarrassed if it were not done to perfection. Also, I was fighting my way back from last year’s failure which ended up in the microwave before being tossed out.
When we produced a perfect, juicy, pink in the center prime rib, I couldn’t restrain myself and hollered, “Success, success at last!”
That exclamation brought Alisha into the kitchen, she looked over my shoulder as the carving continued. I wondered, Why is she so interested? I finally realized it looked so good, she just wanted a taste. Elizabeth toasted and buttered the buns, put the salad on the table, and make the au jus, as Athena assembled the sandwiches.
When all was ready, she announced, “Dinner was served,”
We all gathered around the table. Before he said grace, Fr. Ethan couldn’t help himself and laid a lame joke on us. Elizabeth countered with a couple of pretty funny jokes of her own which got big laughs. Ethan got serious and said grace, ending with, “Lord, be with Jake, Ziggy, and their surgeons during their upcoming medical procedures.”
I was more than appreciative for that invocation ending, and I’m sure Ziggy was as well.
The French dip was superb. Most everybody had seconds, including Father who is a light eater. Ziggy said, “It was the best!” Gary said, “Congratulations, you nailed it, Jake.”
Elizabeth served coffee and her specialty, chocolate mousse which they loved, followed by Baily’s Irish Cream. After dinner, we sat in the living room rehashing the week’s adventures. Alisha, Garry, and Ziggy were laughing about something that happened on the beach that morning involving Ziggy and a couple of chicks. I didn’t get it.
With Father present, we took the opportunity to pepper him with serious questions about life, death, Heaven, hell, and purgatory. We asked if a priest’s parents got a get in free pass to Heaven, and are the plenary indulgences a ticket into Heaven. Ethan calmly answered our question and put us at ease. Alisha called the Uber who arrived about eleven and whisked them back to Waikiki.
Friday morning, they checked out, ubered to the Honolulu airport and boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight back to Seattle. It felt a little empty after they left, but we have many happy memories of their visit.
Four days before Christmas I got this card from Ziggy. It was a picture taken on the beach in front of his hotel on Thursday, their last full day in Paradise. I immediately realized this was what they were laughing about Thursday night that I missed. I chuckled, “The little dickens, We can’t leave him alone for a minute.”
Ziggy chilling out on the beach.
*** THE END ***