hawaii is weird

jenn and i recently spent 2 weeks on the island of kauai. this was our third time going there together, and it was as much fun as ever. we always do lots of hiking, exploring, meeting nice folks, snorkeling, laying on sunny beaches, all the usual shit you do in tropical places.

but this time, i was acutely aware of a few things that i found intriguing. first, i was amazed at how universally magical that place is. i mean, i don’t even like the tropics (i hate heat and intense sunlight) but even i was moved countless times by classic hawaiian tropes. like one night on a drive home from the north shore, we stopped at a beach. the sun was going down just then, painting the sky all kinds of lovely colours. a bunch of locals were still in the water surfing. the moon was already out and particularly bright white that night. it reflected nicely on the giant rolling waves. the air was warm. it felt like i was living in a scene from a hawaiian postcard, or one of elvis’ hawaii movies. it was a moving, touching time, and i was grateful to witness it. it struck me that if even a sun-loathing cynic like myself could be so touched by what i saw then, it’s no wonder everyone else flocks there. and there were lots of moments like that. i wonder if there’s something in our DNA that makes people love the tropics so much, or if it’s just the result of marketing and propaganda. probably a bit of both. anyway, that evening on the beach reminded me of this great pornos for pyros song.

the next thing i thought was neat was the culture of the locals. people there (not the tourists, of course) are so fucking laid back. for instance, people in rush hour traffic in kauai don’t tailgate or flip birds or yell at each other. they slow down and allow other people to merge lanes, giving lots of friendly waves. it’s an amazing thing to witness, so different from here. the small local shops are loose about the hours they keep, and relaxed in their approach to customers. there is no high pressure salespeople hovering around you. usually the staff is more like a friendly stoner who is just hanging out there in case you need a hand with anything. families spend lots of time BBQ-ing and hanging out together at beaches. i find it all really inspiring. it’s nice to see people live slower, simpler, happier.

something i noticed that i didn’t like was how, despite the magic and slow pace of kauai, you could still tell the place was very much american soil. it feels like the US is only too happy to have a wild, tropical paradise in their possession that is convenient for every fat, old, white american to visit, where they can still feel safe. you just know that none of those gross whales would ever go to cuba or brazil. it’s almost like hawaii is a zoo where old white people think they can see how primitive savages live and even get a taste for it, but without ever being put in a scary situation where they might have to deal with terrifying non-americans. i wonder how the locals feel about the hordes of such mainlanders coming over and feeling at home just because they’re technically on american soil, even though it’s clear that at its heart, this place is very, very different from anywhere else in the US. i bet the locals hate it. i know i would.

hawaii isn’t a place i can spend a lot of time — it’s too hot and sunny, too many tourists, and too many people in general — but it’s a god damned fascinating place that inspires a lot of mixed feelings in me.


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