Editor’s note: The following was originally read at Salonathon: I Get Around on March 17, 2014.
“I have never heard a Hawaiian word, including and perhaps most particularly aloha, which accurately expressed anything I had to say.”
Joan Didion wrote that about Hawaii, and I am reading that in Hawaii, and I realize that Joan and I have in common, besides a profession, a nervous ipseity, an infatuation with large sunglasses and cigarettes as masks, and a waistline, a profound distaste for the more prosaic trappings of Paradise; do you know how many rainbows one must see per day before they stop approaching any kind of magical, cease innervating even the most juvenile kind of awe? It varies from person to person, but for me it was two; two rainbows, every day, tracing wet prismatic arcs across the sky, and never mind the literally hundreds—thousands, once you’ve been here as long as I have—fucking frowning at you from storefronts and facades, clothes and accessories and license plates, a ceaseless iridal horsewhipping; do you have any idea how cruel it is, to reduce what was once a spectacle to a commonality? Mahalo, motherfucker.
It has been 13 days since I winged to the Big Island in a fuchsia tin can festooned with hibiscus the size of a bifurcated man, fighting the nerves—such a small plane for such a large ocean—with an airplane bottle of Canadian Club and a Xanax bar, landing in Hilo as innumerable tsunamis had before me; I stood at what surely must be the end of the world, on black sand before the black Pacific, and traversed the frozen boil of a Cimmerian moonscape, incandescent ribbons perched high upon the caldera threatening to devour and birth as is Pele’s want.
It has been 10 days since I dove a sunken Hell Diver off the coast of Maui for the magazine in 70 feet of water so clear it could be ethanol, and a week since the story was filed, the credit line rescinded, and my ride ceased to be paid for, which hardly seems to matter since room service keeps sending up the yellow fin ahi steaks I cut with my six inch Wenoka dive knife and six packs of Kona Longboard Lager; it has been seven days since I bought some cocaine off of the pretty director’s assistant from the set of Hawaii 5-0 that tied up the elevator bank all day—which can be a real bad jolt in Shangri-La—and six days and one night since I insufflated said cocaine off her stomach, licked off the residue, then inadvertently demonstrated the drug’s veiled administration routes.
In the listless days since I have been wandering Kalakaua Avenue and the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village in a University of Hawaii football jersey, black Sperry Top-Siders, and a non-prescription pair of Wayfarers, looking at the depth indicators next to the pools and silently despairing, drinking Blue Hawaiis bought on a non-existent credit card, and watching alien kingfishers hunt the water features while an edenic malaise set in. Sometimes the birds would exhibit their sovereignty, snatching one of the little ornamental fish; then they would rear back to swallow, and their great ebon bills, fresh water dewed upon them, would resemble how Diamond Head looks right now from the 28th floor balcony, an immense selachian shadow to better juxtapose the lights of Waikiki; Slouching Towards Bethlehem spreads wide and bat like and augers down to O’ahu, the ecru curtains billow like Kamehameha’s sails, and I taste hibiscus on the wind while the rainbows whisper jump.
-B. David Zarley