Na’alehu, the volcanic ashes. 1000 people living as far south in the 50 states as possible.
The old theater sits abandoned, a relic of the roaring age of Hawaii Hollywood. The lonely sign, once alight with glamor, drips slivers of tired paint down onto crumbling concrete and worn out construction netting. It’s heyday is forever yesterday as the names fade slowly from the marquis.
Movie posters line the hallways in between graffiti and carved “Tom and Cecelia 4-Eva,” and their edges curl and crunch in the thick air, the artists’ renditions of smiling movie stars crumpled and forgotten.
It bubbles and seeps and flows and gurgles and tiptoes to the edge of the crater before dodging away flirtatiously into the depths of the caldera.
At Halemaʻumaʻu crater, inside the Kilauea Caldera, every day provides the thrill of insecurity.
You never know if today it will overflow or sink or explode or just continue to rumble below the surface, waiting.
At night, the crater glows bright in oranges and crimsons and fiery yellows, hinting at the restlessness of Pele below.
During the day, the smoke and tears and noxious gasses close half the roads in the park and warn against joy rides in the convertible. Trails to the craters edge are enticingly empty, and it’s all I can do not to defy the danger signs and sneak in close for an intimate peek into the mouth of a swelling volcano.
Back on the Big Island, we try to wander off the beaten path.
We go down one side…
…and up the other.
A path that takes us straight, straight down into a valley nearly abandoned during years of flooding and tsunamis intertwined with years of severe drought.
The few who still live there are intensely private, preferring to be left along among the palm trees and taro fields of the narrow tropical valley.
The beach is nearly empty in all directions…
…with Maui peaking out coyly from the plains of sweeping blue waves.
We sit and scrinch our toes through the course black sand, an adolescent beach growing up and out.
And we enjoy the time alone before hitching a ride back up the 70-degree incline that serves as the driveway into Waipi’o Valley.
It’s a story of renewal and rediscovery.
Like many 20-somethings hailing from Cincinnati, I hadn’t been to Findlay Market since I was a kid, taking trips there as part of my “cultural education” in a public elementary school. It had odd hours, was in the middle of Over-the-Rhine, an historic, crumbling neighborhood we were supposed to always avoid. Fresh produce and butcher shops sat side-by-side with a police presence meant to limit the numbers of shootings and drug transactions and succeeded in making everyone feel more than a little out of their element.
But then my parents became part of an urban revitalization movement, and they picked up and bought a condo in OTR. A lot of people thought they were crazy. I figured they were just more hip than everyone else. And I wondered what ever happened to Findlay Market.
Turns out nothing happened to it. The state’s oldest continuously-operated public market — open for business since 1855 — has always been there, providing fresh fruit and crispy vegetables, prime cut meats and warm bread, beans, pastas, spices, flour, rice, soap, flowers — all to both neighborhood dwellers and suburbanites alike. Now, it’s finding a new niche for the growing population of proud and diverse residents of ORT who are beginning to defy the stereotypes of this once-shunned center of artistic innovation and architectural splendor.
This modern souk that rivals, in grit and color and the smells of urban life, any within the walled medinas of Morocco, has grown to include not only bakeries, butcher shops, spice stores, produce stands, fish stores and a seasonal farmer’s market, but now also serves coffee, gelato, gourmet dog treats, arts and crafts booths, waffles and crepes, a Vietnamese restaurant, and even a beer garden on weekends.
What always starts out as a quiet morning sipping coffee, nibbling on a pastry and reading the latest Street Vibes, inevitably awakens into a cacophonous afternoon of street vendors and shoppers and children looking for ice cream after school and business people catching up after work and street performers with drums and trumpets and sometimes coal and canvas and a whole slew of people just taking it all in.
Some people come, list in hand, ready to find those odd ingredients for a dinner party.
Others are just looking for inspiration.
Everyone seems to know each other, as if you’ve stepped into a neighborhood bar, and they greet one another as friends or colleagues or simply as fellow urbanites, secrets shared by those who have escaped the ordinary.
Findlay Market is open Tuesday through Sunday all year round. Saturday is the biggest day, best for people watching while having a beer or attending a wine tasting at Market Wines.
There is ample parking within a couple of blocks, but for everyone who lives downtown, it’s a surprisingly nice walk through some parts of OTR you’ve probably never seen before. You can see buildings, including those surrounding the currently-under-renovation Washington Park, in all stages of reinvention and revitalization, and you can really get a feel for what this area used to be and what it will become again.
After spending a lazy morning sipping coffee on a black sand beach and watching the ocean slowly usher the morning sun to the shore, we saw something – or several somethings – flitting in and out of the bay’s calm waters.
Dolphins, taking advantage of the swells and incoming tides, played just off shore.
Campers at Ho’okena Beach Park, a small, peaceful beach park run by a local non-profit, snapped up fins and masks and snorkels and waded into the clear waters of the Pacific to spend some time living like the dolphins.
While we snapped our photos with our underwater cameras, it became obvious that our sea-faring friends weren’t the entertainment, WE were. The dolphins poked fun of us as they swam in between and around and over, coming close to flirt with danger before skipping away in a flood of delphine giggles.
The Place of Refuge
Lying in the shadows of unseen mountains
A place to find forgiveness
Peace and contemplation and isolation
A palace at the edge of the world
Where old worlds collide with new on the ancient roads of the gods.
On top of a mountain.
It’s easy to do in Hawai’i, if you aren’t seduced by the thought of sitting on the beach drinking mai tais for days at a time. People don’t usually head to the islands to mountain climb, but they could if they wanted to.
Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawai’i are both well over 13,000 feet, and the tips of Mauna Kea flirt with the same elevation as the tallest mountain in Wyoming, and that height doesn’t even begin to count the 35,000 feet of it that are under water.
While the summit of Mauna Loa is reserved for hikers and climbers, Mauna Kea plays host to a dozen or so international organizations that study space in some of the clearest air in the world with some of the most retro-space-aged equipment I’ve ever seen outside of Mystery Science Theater.
Some of them you can drive right up to, other you can even tour if you call ahead.
NASA’s infrared telescope is up there, as is a CalTech machine, a Gemini Telescope that jointly owned by several countries, a site that belongs to the National Observatory of Japan and the UK’s infrared telescope, and absolutely NO invasive species (unless you count the telescopes).
It’s a regular Alpine United Nations up there, and it looks like a scene from a creepy 60s science fiction movie that would be riffed by the MST3K guys…
An in accordance with Hawaiian law, the Hawaiian people are allowed to continue traditional practices and ceremonies at the top of Hawaii’s largest mountain.
I had never thought of a place like Wyoming as having anything remotely in common with the Island of Hawai’i. But as we drove the belt of the Big Island, through fields and pastures, around mountains and into neighborhoods of extreme wealth juxtaposed with shanty towns, I could have been near Lander had I ignored the ocean off the port bow.
Both states have a long history of cattle ranching and cowboy culture. Cows were brought to Hawai’i in the early 1800s, and until very recently, the largest cattle ranch in the United States, Parker Ranch, was on the Big Island. Cows and cowboys dot endless waves of honeyed grasslands that tumble over lava flows into the saltwater world beyond. Ranching companies own entire towns, and fancy events are dressed for in a clean pair of boots and your best cowboy hat.
In between cattle herds are fields of windmills, perpetually on double duty in the tropical winds. Alternative energies are all the rage in Hawaii, as companies vie for green fuels futures in Wyoming. Cowboys have to share bar stools with hippies and surfers, who morph into hippies and climbers as the elevations goes up and the ocean fades away. Both cultures also have to mingle peaceably with historic indigenous populations who are making a stand for their heritage and history.
Even the architecture is the same, those flat, wooden, Old West facades lining wide streets full of old general stores and boardwalk pathways, only with palm trees instead of cacti or vise versa.
The communities feel the same, too, odd in their diversity and standoffish, but not entirely unfriendly. Beer is the drink of choice, and people spend their nights hanging out around bonfires in the summer and seeking out the perfect powder for snowboarding in the winter.
The mountains in Hawaii rise up as starkly as they do in Wyoming, suddenly appearing in the surrounding plains through a clearing of fog, craggy and moonlike. Alpine lakes melt into high deserts into thick forests into shimmering saffron plains.
Though admittedly, Hawaii is the only place in the world where you can snowboard in the morning and surf in the afternoon.
So a whole series of unplugged travel adventures and now a trip to Cincinnati to house sit for my wayward parents while they run away to Italy without me (ahem) has caused a brilliant backlog of lost thoughts and memories and photographs. We promise that we will return shortly once we have reexamined our lives and organized our brains!
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