Valuable lessons on my reserved nature.
It takes a category 5 heat wave named Haiti (I wanted to use hurricane verbiage for intensity purposes) where I live to provide me with the ideal morning temperatures I enjoyed in Hawaii. However 80 degrees at 6am in Fresno means 110 degrees by 3pm.
Hawaii temps don’t fluctuate much between morning and night. Nor does it fluctuate much from winter to summer. It’s all the time hot, humid hot. I love humidity. Most desert people brag about their summertime dry heat. And it was those dry heat lovers I was thinking of when we arrived at our duplex to find it had no air conditioner. I was shocked. To me that was as necessary as a toilet, which our host demonstrated wasn’t altogether a necessity for him—think bushes.
As soon as I discovered our rental had no AC, I immediately panicked, became claustrophobic, and felt even hotter (80 degrees in humidity feels like a steam bath at 100). All this coming from someone who loves humidity. I thought of my fair-weathered mother and pictured her stomping out and driving to Waikiki for a hotel. And the most expensive one to compensate for the near miss heat stroke.
“Keep all the windows and doors open at night for a breeze,” said our host/landlord/surfer dude, who lives upstairs. (Notice he didn’t say “cool” breeze.) Perhaps it was my expression he read because then he added, “We have no crime here.”
He’s lying, was my first thought. He fools his guests into trusting him and Bam! he and his posse rob us blind while we are away. NO! While we are there. They’ll roust us out of bed at gunpoint, tie us up, shots will be fired. At home we prevent menacing home invasions by locking the windows and doors and setting the alarm and running the AC.
I left my husband, Dave, to deal with him while I slipped away to the surfing-themed bedroom and collapsed on the bed and took in the odor of stale beer and urine while more scary thoughts ran through my head. Thoughts that were interrupted by the jumping lizard that apparently was startled awake from its rest on the pillow—my pillow. I was vertical immediately.
When our host left, I came out of hiding and shuffled to the living room, drained from my day of L.A. traffic and airlines and all the problems that go with flying like flight delays, connection planes, almost missing the connection, running to catch it and skidding to base and six hours later waiting in the hot sun for an hour for our rental car to A) get returned from another renter or B) get built in Detroit and shipped on a slow boat. I assumed the latter.
Some people drink under the slightest bit of stress. I remove my bra, which I did in the tiny surf-themed party-pad-turned-rental-for-families living room. I did the ole unhook and slide under my tank top arm hole—
“Make yourself at home,” said our host walking in on me. I threw the bra on the sofa, which was positioned the other way and which made for a good hiding place. “Just want you to know we’re like family here.” He was still there fifteen minutes later convincing me he was indeed just like some of my family members.
We inched our way out the door to catch our first sunset at Sunset Beach that our host said we should not miss as he explained again everything he explained two times already. We got as far as the corner when we realized we had forgotten the camera. Dave was sweating and not all of it heat related. He said, “You get it.” I said, “No. He saw my bra.” “Yeah, well, I saw him pee,” said he. We had no coin to flip so it was just a matter of battle of the wills, which I always win.
“Might as well sit down,” I said to my daughter, “he’ll be a while.”
Dave was walking backwards and talking to our host when we saw him again. Camryn and I stood, ready to bolt like a getaway car waiting for its passenger (Dave) to catch up. The sun had dropped dangerously low, so we picked up the pace, reaching the beach just as the sun winked at us and disappeared. Goodbye.
We returned about an hour later to find our host had been in our apartment making himself at home and being family. He left the TV on. The TV that wasn’t on prior to our leaving. The apartment is tiny, room for only one small sofa. That means he’d been bonding with my bra all that time. There two hours and I was already counting down the days I’d get to go home.
In the high humidity, I never felt I’d dried off after showers and the beach, but by day two I adapted and soon forgot I ever wanted to. I hadn’t sneezed since the plane landed and wouldn’t again until it landed in L.A., which I would spend ten minutes sneezing in the airport bathroom. My hair and skin were softer and, slowly, coming in last place, my attitude.
The place we stayed was far from luxury. From where I’m from, the two-story duplex would be considered low end and priced well below its one million value. But it wouldn’t be in Hawaii so that’s why. And while lizards were a problem, I never once saw a spider, anywhere. I want a lizard.
I still needed to overcome my issues with our overly intense in-your-personal-bubble host. When we were at the house, he was always there pestering us like Spongebob does Squidward. And when I stepped out of the outdoor shower (which is primarily used for washing off the sand before going inside), to his friendly face, absent of apology, something clicked inside my head.
The problem wasn’t him, it was me. He knew nothing about boundaries. He sees someone he wants to approach, he doesn’t hesitate. He’s a free man, not encumbered by etiquette rules and social restraint. There was something fresh about his childlike behavior. It was like he was unprogrammed, unbrainwashed, uncorrupted, and if he felt one of us needed kissing or hugged, there would be nothing wired in his brain to stop him from doing so. This trait wasn’t unique to just him. I felt it with most of the islanders. They are friendly “open” people whose warmth began to melt the Ice Queen being me.
So when the screen door banged, announcing his entrance, and when he opened our fridge and grabbed a beer and pulled up a chair, I didn’t cringe. No longer threatened by or suspicious of genuinely happy people, I welcomed him, and soon he was bringing down his photo albums that I would never think of doing to my friends at home for fear I’d bore them. This man held no such fears.
By day three I relaxed, actually sleeping through the sultry night without checking to see if an intruder opened the screen door and took my child. The roosters I woke to every morning were the sweetest sound—and chickens rooming the beaches, the weirdest sight. See, where I’m from we have things called CC&Rs. It’s rules for your neighborhood. Rules like what kind of animals you’re allowed to keep and how many. Looking around the whole island, I could assume no such CC&R exists for anyone.
Other restrictions were non-existent. Helmets and leashes were not only absent, but their suggested use might even be an insult. I saw one cop for the whole trip. She was placing an order at the bakery we frequented. Housing codes? Not. It appeared most people could do anything they pleased with their property or structure. If they decided a tree should grow in the center of their house (I saw it), no code enforcer would stop them. Some of the houses looked like they were built with odds and ends: canvas, car doors, textiles, corrugated tin roofing, wheelbarrows, half of an old rusty trailer home, and maybe a metal sheeting or two. One such house was assembled by so much trash I could only describe it by picture. But alas, a woman was sitting on stacked tires on the front stoop smoking a cigarette and looking curious at the looky loos. Her pit bulls were threatening to rip the tires (probably why she has so many) off our rental car, so we moved on where I snapped a picture of a house on a lot with the most beautiful views I have ever witnessed. You can’t see what I saw, view wise, because of clouds and rain, but this person has a 360 degree view of the coast line in back, and mountains and tropical jungle in front.
Just up the street, I snapped a picture of this property with multiple, huge banyan trees (he has the same view).
Among the views and Avatar-like trees, lies this little house and its outdoor potty.
I wasn’t missing the government controlled mainland with its crime, graffiti and traffic. (Don’t get me wrong, Californians need rules and laws. I just wish we weren’t so reliant on them.) I wasn’t missing my house that I spent so much time decorating to offset the ugly outside world. I wasn’t missing my neighbors whom I don’t know and who rush out with a rake every time one of my trees drops a leaf on their immaculate lawns. I wasn’t missing my materialistic throwaway society, whose strip malls and convenient centers make it cheap, easy, and tempting to renew, replace, or upgrade what never lasted long enough to collect dust.
I’ll miss our laid back host and what he represents: fellowship, trust, and sincerity. But I took home a different me, one that won’t wait until my house is clean to invite people over, one that will worry less about emotional expression, one that will work on her fears of rejection. And if people reject me (or my writing) then it means I put myself out there. What you should notice already is I risked boring you folks with a long blog post about my recent trip.