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Trip 26 -- Oahu Walk

Day 8: Waikiki to Honolulu airport
Friday, May 21, 2021

Yesterday: 18146 steps/14.15 km/8.79 mi/2h 37m
Grand total: 286114 steps/220.15 km/136.79 mi/41h 36m

I walked the beach of Waikiki (which means "spouting water") one more time, passing the statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, once the world's fastest swimmer and a winner of multiple Olympic gold medals. He also brought surfing from Hawaii to the mainland and to Australia and Europe. Leis had been hung on his outstretched bronze arms, which seemed to welcome people to the sea.

I crossed over the Ala Wai Canal and turned left onto Kapiolani Boulevard, which brought me into downtown Honolulu (which means "sheltered harbor"). Asian restaurants were everywhere -- Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, even a Polynesian supermarket -- and the exotic-dancer clubs were signed in neon Japanese, seemingly unchanged for half a century. The massive Ala Moana Center shopping mall had such a large parking ramp that I initially mistook it for a highway entrance.

Kapiolani merged into King Street, a main downtown route but surprisingly quiet for a five-lane road. It was lined with beautiful buildings, starting with houses from the 19th-century missionary period. The oldest, dating from 1821, was a simple two-story wooden frame house that seemed straight out of New England. And that's because it was; the missionaries came from there, the materials for the house had been sent from Boston, and the house's layout was totally incongruous to the Hawaiian climate, with small windows to trap heat and a sloped roof to protect against snow.

Grander buildings followed, including the Ali'iolani Hale, a yellow, brick two-story building with Ionic columns that was formerly the home of the Kingdom of Hawaii's government and now houses the state supreme court. In front was the statue of King Kamehameha I, also with welcoming arms. He unified the Hawaiian islands between 1782 and 1810 and established the Law of the Splintered Paddle: As a chief, he attacked a fishing village and caught his foot in a lava crevice, earning himself a whack by a fisherman, whose paddle splintered as it struck his head. To show his remorse and compassion, Kamehameha introduced the law, still in effect in the state's constitution, which states that innocent people must be able to travel freely and sleep by the roadside without fear of harm.

Across the street was the restored Iolani Palace, similarly two-storied but with Corinthian columns. King Kalakaua built it in 1882, midway through his dyasty's 19 years. His sister, among other things a pianist and composer, ruled for the last two, after which she was imprisoned inside the palace when the royalty was overthrown.

The next parallel street toward the mountains, Hotel Street, brought me to Chinatown. At the back of a market I found Maguro Brothers, renowned for their poke and sashimi. I had them load up a deluxe plate with umeshiso (plum) ahi poke, fatty-tuna sashimi, sea urchin, and scallops, and took in the market scene.

I continued up King and turned left onto Dillingham Boulevard, which took me past the part of the city where they repair and wash cars. I stopped at Foodland, picking up more poke for dinner on my flight, and soon reached Middle Street, currently the easternmost end of the elevated light rail. A few supporting beams existed heading toward downtown, but I agreed with the interviewee I'd heard on National Public Radio: If they're having trouble building the rest, they should at least open what's done.

This was also the location of a massive spaghetti intersection of freeways, but I found the bikeway that abuts them to the north. Someone had spray-painted on the asphalt near its entrance, "This way too the home less," with an arrow pointing in my direction of travel. The bikeway ran parallel to Nimitz Highway for a mile or so, and the fence separating them was pierced with holes every few meters, access points for the people who lived under the noisy traffic. Their furniture stuck out from under the highway, which sloped downward; they crouched to enter. I saw one of the pretty birds with the red crowns, but I didn't attempt to take pictures here.

A somber end to the walk.

On the opposite side of the highway I noticed a line of about 50 people and wondered if I'd missed something. Was there a popular food truck here? A little poke shop? No, it was Dollar and Thrifty car rental. I hoped they had enough cars.

I boarded my flight and brought out my feast: a few pieces of leftover smoked brisket from Tex 808, a little packet of soy sauce -- I must have saved it from somewhere, knowing it would come in handy -- to moisten them, a leftover roll to make a tiny sandwich. And that was just the appetizer. Then came the three kinds of Foodland poke, at which point the person next to me found another seat next to an empty seat, making us both happy. Somewhere in my bag were a malasada and a half. I was going to eat well on this flight.

And I would have slept well but for the plane's thrashing about every time I started to doze off -- perhaps my least favorite English phrase is "Flight attendants, please take your jump seats." I watched a few episodes of "Murphy Brown" and paused the last one when Peter and Corky went skydiving; I couldn't handle their jumping and my plane's lurching at the same time.

As I'd looked out my hotel room at the mountains yesterday, I'd felt melancholy. Those great volcanic slopes, often shrouded in cloud when the coasts were clear, had begun to seem like protective old friends -- very old friends. As the plane took off, the sea seemed greener than ever, a matrix of rocks visible underwater, the waves gently breaking far offshore, like machines. Once more I flew over the cliffs of Molokai, with Lanai in the distance. And then all land was out of sight.