The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

January 23, 2008

Some things about Hawai’i that have little to do with plastic

I jotted these words in my notebook on the plane yesterday flying home from Oahu as Diamond Head receded in the distance, clouds and water took over the view, and a lump started to form in my throat.

My mom and dad lived in Waikiki in the early 60’s, my dad working for the phone company after completing his stint in the navy and my mom having taken a teaching job on the island. Both were recovering from failed first marriages. They met, married, and conceived me. Nine months later, I was born in Maryland, the place to which they moved to raise a family in closer proximity to their parents.

Somehow, although I never actually saw the islands with my own eyes until I was nearly 30 years old, Hawaii is inside of me. Maybe it was the Hawaiian music my parents played in our house while we were growing up or the photos of my mom performing a hula in her beautiful muumuu or their friends from the island who would visit us on the mainland every few years and tell tales of our parents’ courtship on Oahu, my dad making whatever excuses he could to be close to my mom.

Flying home tonight, I find myself in tears as I listen to the canned Hawaiian falsetto music on Aloha Airlines, the airline I continue to choose not because of its environmental policies (I actually have no idea what those might be) but because of the friendliness of their name and the chocolate chip cookies they bake an hour before landing. Hawaiian lyrics express a deep yearning and love for home. Hawaiian singing often sounds to me like crying. Right now, the sound expresses how I feel.

I am conflicted about my parent’s choice to return to this overpopulated, exploited, formerly-wild place, dominated as it is now with fast food restaurants, chain stores, and luxury hotels, bringing with them their love of Costco and Styrofoam dishes. (Styrofoam, by the way, is everywhere on this island, a fact which never ceases to take me by surprise, living as I do in the fairly Styro-free Bay Area.)

That said, I just want to express the deep love and appreciation I have for my parents and for this place, without which I probably wouldn’t exist. Mom and Dad had no idea what ripples they were sending out into the world when they joined together here. I’m just grateful that they did and that they are able to live the dream they had when they left over 40 years ago to return some day.

And as the lights of the San Francisco Bay Area come into view, I find myself missing Michael and our kittens and whatever it is we may be unknowingly creating in the world in this new place that we’ve chosen for our home.


What is home? Perhaps the yearning to return to my source is what pulled me as far as the West Coast from Maryland nearly 20 years ago. Maybe I’m just being silly and sentimental tonight. Still, maybe home isn’t a static place, but something that we are continuously creating as we live and make choices. And if we yearn for a home that is nurturing and caring, then we have to be the nurturing and caring that we seek. (Is that what this business of living without plastic is all about, after all?)

Okay, someone stop me now before I launch into Izzy Kamakawiwoole’s version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. I think I just realized why he recorded that sappy song.

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15 years ago

I was humming Over the Rainbow the whole time!
What a lovely post.
I am reading it as part of the Archive meme. Thank you for bringing this forward.

15 years ago

proposed styrofoam ban

15 years ago

Not only the music is beautiful! You and your thoughts are, too.

15 years ago

Axelle writes,
I wonder if your parents ever fantasized that their baby daughter would grow up to become a positive influence in the lives of total strangers who admired and appreciated her?

The music is beautiful.

Hau'ula girl
15 years ago

Alan speaks the truth. Although steps are being taken to bring us up to speed and perhaps someday move to the forefront, Hawai’i nei is currently far, far behind when it comes to all kine things related to the environment.

The first curbside recycling experiment just began in two O’ahu towns a few months ago. Expansion is months if not years away. There’s a huge uproar going on right now because of a proposal to ban retailers from using plastic bags – yet everywhere I go, people comment on and seem to love the cloth bags I use for shopping.

On the other hand, more and more people and organizations are working every day to change people’s (and the government’s) way of thinking, and they ARE making progress. Organizations like Jack and Kim Johnson’s Kokua Hawai’i Foundation are working with our keiki in the schools, and Jack has been holding a huge annual benefit concert here since 2004 that has helped to shine a very bright light on so many of the issues we face – not just here in Hawai’i nei, but world wide.

It helps enormously to have someone of Jack’s stature not only speaking out, but doing AND living by example. But there are dozens of others throughout our state who are also working hard to kokua, raise awareness, and encourage our kama’aina, businesses, and government to care for the ‘aina and each other. Slowly but surely…

By the way, next time you come visit your folks here on O’ahu, get AWAY from the “over-populated, exploited” (etc.) part of the island known simply to us as “town” (Honolulu, Waikiki, etc.)and head over to the Windward side and up the coast here to da country (North Shore), etc. Town’s the place to be when you want to hear some of our incredible musicians play (all kine good music stuffs happening fo free, and I do go in a few times a week to hear and support), but otherwise we avoid town… aaack!

Malama pono!

15 years ago

How funny! My parents live on the island as well and my husband and I also choose Aloha because of their cookie service. It’s the little things!

15 years ago

I stumbled across your site quite by accident today.

My wife’s story is similar to your. Her parents lived in Hawaii for a while before eventually settling in San Mateo. Eventually though, the siren’s call was too strong and mom came back here for good. We followed along at about the same time and have never looked back.

I agree with you about the omnipresence of styrofoam on Oahu. There are a few vendors making good choices in this regard, but generally there is little awareness or urgency about plastics, recycling or sustainability. Hello?! We live on an island with very limited resources. We should be at the forefront for this kind of thing, but instead lag far, far behind.

I hope you enjoyed your time here in Hawaii.