A Beach called Sunset: O'ahu Diary (Days 16-19)


It was boiling today in Halifax.  On the radio I heard a caller say, "32 degrees in the shade.  It's hotter than a two-dollar pistol." I dug my flip-flops out of the suitcase (still haven't unpacked, nearly a week home) and prepared to walk for an hour, swinging back and forth between various chores.  Sand still clung to them.  Putting them on, I ground Hawai'i into my soles for a moment, thinking.

It looks like I am a good month behind in my O'ahu diary.  And don't even get me started on my London journal, which would be really useful for my research if I could just transcribe it from a series of emphatic, illegible scribbles made in darkened theatres into something shaped more like a narrative.  But unlike my London diary, my O'ahu diary exists mostly in the form of pictures, without any accompanying text, so I have to hurry to get it down before it all slips away from me.

I mentioned in my last O'ahu diary that I was sick this week, so I didn't venture out much while D was at work, apart from a few Baroque sunset wanders.

But this was also the week that O'ahu began to prove what a very damp island it could be.  It rained with fair frequency for the last half of my five weeks on the island.  Never very hard, and never in weather cold enough to keep you from drying off in a matter of minutes.

And rarely did it rain without the sun blazing down at the same time.  It's hard to be upset about rain showers in Hawai'i, you see.  They always seem to be followed, like Iris dogging Zeus' steps, by rainbows.  Rainbows, single and double, faint and so vivid that you can make out every variation of color between orange and yellow, or indigo and violet.

This was the first of the rainbows we saw - D called me on the phone to tell me to look for it off our balcony, if I remember correctly.  Below it you can see the performance space where I was treated to my own microscopic luau several nights a week.

 When the weekend came, we headed back up the island to the point where the eastern shore becomes the North Shore.  The beach was called Sunset.  It dropped off suddenly from a windswept sand bluff into some fairly fierce waves.  About a hundred yards down from us, boys were riding their boards down the side of the bluff; they were already whirring with speed when they hit the tug of the wave.  The wind was harsh - when I came back from this beach, it took days to get the sand out of my ears and scalp.  I hadn't been in the water, and this never happened anywhere else.  I was just at the centre of my own private cyclone.

We wandered around the North Shore - it is traffic-clogged and beachy in the way I imagine Venice was when it was just on the edge of being "reclaimed" by hipster artists and television stars, but was still a land of skaters and surf shacks.  

And of course, it has what is reputed to be the finest shave ice - that quintessential dessert of O'ahu - on the island.  The line stretched out the door and around the corner, even in the rain. I recalled my mother's resolution never to wait in line for pizza (broken for the wonder that is New Haven-style pie), and wondered whether it would be worth the long damp wait.  I like my desserts a bit ... richer, I said to D afterward.  I'm not a hummingbird: there is only so much water and sugar I can consume by its lonesome. But when in Rome.  Shave ice, so I hear, is all about the texture. The finer the better, not at all grainy or harsh.  You get it in multiple flavors, carefully combined, with a trove of sweet red beans or vanilla soft-serve hidden at the bottom, mingling with the icy syrups.  I got honeydew, green apple, lilikoi.  D's choices, though more tropical, have not withstood the test of memory....

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