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Sunday, January 27, 2013


Lunch at the Getty
Must have been hungry when I chose this photo! Looks great to me.
  How's this for a lovely lunch at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


My introduction to Hawaiian tourism:

Hilo Hattie
The biggest shirt ever made by Hilo Hattie

  1. Chances are you will fly into Oahu and Honolulu International Airport before leaving for another island.
  2.  Honolulu is often a stopover for tourists—two or three days before continuing on to another island, and each tourist type can have a great experience.  We stayed on Oahu for a week before moving on because we wanted to see and do it all!
  3. There are basically three types of tourists on Oahu: the shopper, the beach goer, and a less definable kind who wants it all!  Rob and I fall into that third category.  That’s the impossible one.

Before you head to Oahu, know thyself. You have more possibilities on this small island than you have in many other places, and you will have lots of choices to make.   Have a good idea which kind of tourist you are.  Know your choices, and choose wisely.

Let me first address the shopper. As our hotel was two blocks from the beach, we cross Kalakaua Ave.—just one block from the beach—to get there each time.  360° of shopping temptation.  Most likely your hotel will be within a block or two of Kalakaua Ave.  Most are!

Shopper, you have died and gone to heaven.  Kalakaua Avenue, named after King David Kalakaua, is the Worth Ave., the Rodeo Drive, and the Fifth Ave. of Oahu.  Luxury stores including Tiffany, Coach, Gucci, Chanel, and Hugo Boss are a hop, skip, and a jump from the beach and/or your hotel, so load up and drop of the packages with ease.

But that’s not all.  The DFS Gallery (Duty Free) is the place for Godiva, Vera Wang, Prada, and Armani, to name a few. (and conveniently a pick-up spot for many bus tours so you cannot miss going there)

But that’s not all.  The Royal Hawaiian Center in front of the Sheraton and Royal Hawaiian Hotels hosts over 100 shops including Fendi, Bulgari, and Cartier.

But that’s not all.  The International Market is an open air market of artisans, carts, and shops.  You can talk to the craftspeople in a bustling friendly atmosphere.

But that’s not all.  Remember you are in Waikiki.  The Waikiki Beach Walk is eight acres of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues that feature such stores among its 50 shops as Under the Koa Tree, and Hawaiian Quilt.  Entertainment in the plaza includes Hawaiian music and dancing, and the more than 16 dining establishments assure you will not starve. 

I haven’t even mentioned the many shops that are located in all the hotels along the beach!

If you like malls, the Ala Moana Mall is only a short bus/taxi/car ride and contains all the stores + Hawaiian shops that you could possibly wish for.

And there are several other malls as well out beyond Diamond Head.

You might ask how to get to the malls if you choose not to rent a car.  The Bus, Honolulu’s system makes sure that almost every bus it runs finds its way past Ala Moana.

Tour companies run special Shopping busses to make sure you don’t feel left out.  They stop in front of the major hotels and along Kalakaua Ave. as well as each of the malls.  The hotel stops guarantee you won’t have to worry about lugging unwieldy packages.  A shopper will definitely find Honolulu a paradise.

Along Kalakaua Ave., you will see an amazing number of Asian tourists, in particular, with loaded shopping bags from these stores.  Honolulu is an Asian-influenced city and a major destination for Asian visitors.  Japanese companies run shopping junkets to Hawaii.

My favorite store, however, is Hilo Hattie.  She did get me under her spell.

Hilo Hattie
Hilo Hattie was founded by Clarissa Haili (1901-1979), a schoolteacher turned actress turned entrepreneur whose company today is the largest retailer, manufacturer, and wholesaler of Hawaiian fashions and gifts.  Did you ever hear her hit songs, “Hilo Hattie Does the Hula Hop” or “Princess Pupule Has Plenty Papayas”? I giggle at these titles, but this lady used some of her money to give scholarships to the University of Hawaii for students to continue their education in Hawaiian Studies and Music.  Right there she gets my vote and piques my interest.

Hilo Hattie

More than 60,000,000 visitors have come to Hilo Hattie since 1963—and the store runs its OWN FREE BUS throughout Honolulu to bring shoppers!  Hilo Hattie is a destination in itself, and I fell under the Hilo Hattie spell at both the flagship store in Honolulu and then again on The Big Island!

As you enter, you are greeted by a lovely young woman who welcomes you with a shell lei.  Inside there are complimentary tastings, Kona coffee, sarong demonstrations, a snack bar featuring Dole Pineapple Whip (yummy) and Nathan’s franks (haha), historical displays, and customer lounges and chairs (this place is big).  Outside the women’s dressing room, for instance, there are plush chairs for the men—most tapping away on phones, iPads, etc. Hilo Hattie will ship your purchases World Wide at reasonable fees. (certainly cheaper than airline luggage overweight charges)  If you buy even a postcard, you can also buy the stamp.  All the tourist magazines have Hilo Hattie specials and discounts to lure us in.  The flagship store is on the way to the airport, but there are smaller Hilo Hattie stores in the malls and on the other islands as well.

While you can pick up the little inexpensive expected souvenirs, you can pay dearly for some lovely Hawaiian outfits.  The choices are many and for all budgets and for all sizes.  Come with your family, for instance, and everyone from the baby to the grandparent can buy matching outfits and make a heck of a family portrait.  

We bought several beautiful Aloha shirts as well as some other Hawaiian clothing including a dress I later wore for a special night out.  We met helpful staff, looked at the exhibits, picked up some postcards and some gifts for people back home, and we had a grand old time.

Hilo Hattie
In tour guides I’ve read both complimentary and derogatory comments about Hilo Hattie; the plusses were about the selections and fun, and the negatives blasted the incredible marketing, but the truth is I AM A TOURIST.  I want to see and do things I cannot do elsewhere.  If you have access at home to the other shops and malls I’ve mentioned, skip them in Honolulu and enjoy the Hawaiian experience.  I recommend Hilo Hatti above every place but one I’ve mentioned in this article.  On Kalakaua Ave., don’t miss the International Market Place because that, too, is unique.

Friday, January 11, 2013


Peace sign
We may be a bit past the season for the lights, but we are never past the need for Peace. 
I took this is Copperas Cove, Texas not far from Ft. Hood.  It was part of a great, drive-thru light display.
May we find Peace every day of the year.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


There was a hidden jewel among the F. Scott Fitzgerald papers set for auction at Sotheby’s.  His grandchildren, perusing those papers, rescued  a previously unpublished short story, “Thank You for the Light,” a story rejected by The New Yorker in 1936.  Finally published in August of 2012, we become  Fitzgerald's beneficiaries, enjoying a new story published untouched by editors (a significant point) seventy-one years after his death.  It is a gem of a story whose main character is so different from the Jazz Agers usually associated with Fitzgerald’s work that we are forced to think about it a bit differently. 

Mrs. Hanson sells girdles and corsets.  Her life is tired.  Her single passion is her addiction to cigarettes—an addiction often frowned on in women by the people--usually men--she meets professionally, so at the end of a long, hard, smokeless day, she really longs for a cigarette.  She is so desperate one evening that she stops in the vestibule of a Catholic church to sneak a quick smoke.  What happens there is the crux of this one-page story, and I found it simple, touching and, in a way, beautiful. 

In 1936, Fitzgerald was also writing about his own depression and problems, including the alcoholism that had pretty much destroyed his career.  Mrs. Hanson’s common humanity untouched by the overindulgence-caused complexity we see in “The Great Gatsby” and in Fitzgerald’s last completed novel “Tender is the Night,” gives us a glimpse into the desperation of addiction.  He does it with a gentle grace and style and without condemnation.

This is a great, quick read that reminds us of what a truly fine author can accomplish in a few words.  For your Kindle, “Thank You for the Light” is available for $.99, and for the same price you can get it for your Nook at Barnes & Noble.  If you are already a digital subscriber to The New Yorker, you can find it in their Aug. 6, 2012 archives. 

If you recognize Fitzgerald’s greatness, this little diamond is shining brightly for you.  

Friday, January 04, 2013


Desert Rainbow
As we were leaving the Palm Desert, CA area on an overcast day, what did we spy
saying goodbye to us---a desert rainbow, wide and colorful
stretching as far as the eye could see.  Gorgeous.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Honolulu, Hawaii
Hawaii's state flower--the hibiscus

Isn’t it Honolulu and Waikiki Beach that we picture when we dream about Hawaii? This was the picture in my mind, fine tuned by years of music, movies, TV shows, and books.  Fiction.

It is true that from our balcony at the Royal Kuhio, our view of Waikiki is often stunning, but it is not what lived in my imagination.  Putting it in perspective, picture this: Waikiki is a touch less than one square mile in size but contains more than 60,000 hotel rooms!!!  On a given day, 40% of all Hawaiian tourists sleep there.  So if I expected a laid-back beach resort atmosphere….  Actually, friends, that is what I did expect, and I had some major adjusting to do!

Here’s the real deal.  Hawaii is pretty special. There truly exists  “The Spirit of Aloha.”  Hawaiians really work at it.  Simply put, this is a friendly spirit of acceptance.  Google that phrase, and you will learn its more complex meaning. 

The Shaka sign
(courtesy of

The Spirit of Aloha is practically palpable.  People use the “shaka” sign.  People say “Mahalo” (thank you).  People wear Aloha shirts and have a laid-back attitude.  On the busiest, most commercial street, you might pass a person barefoot and carrying a surfboard as easily as you might pass someone all dressed up for business.  People obey traffic lights (as a New Yorker, I am shocked at that), and people are friendly and helpful.  Get right into the program, and the spirit of aloha will make you quite happy, and you will thoroughly enjoy your visit despite your preconceptions.

Look at our view from the 27th floor and a mere two blocks away from the beach! 

Honolulu, HawaiiMauka, Hawaiian meaning “toward the mountain,” (more on this beautiful language in a later post) we’ve the constant reminder that this island is a marvelous and ancient result of volcanic eruption.  There is an almost ever-present and impressive thick blanket of clouds hiding the peaks, and we look to them over a fantastic golf course (Hawaii is a golfing mecca) bordered by the Ala Wai Canal where people scull or walk/jog on the adjoining trail.  You forget you are in the middle of a city.

Honolulu, Hawaii
Mauka--and the Ala Wai Canal and golf course

Makai, meaning “toward the sea,” we look over the high rise buildings toward the pink hotel, The Royal Hawaiian, and the sparkling waters of the Pacific that break on Waikiki Beach.  More on this hotel—our Waikiki hangout—later.
Honolulu, Hawaii
Makai at dusk.  See the "pink hotel"? That's the Royal Hawaiian.

Straight ahead and in the distance past the other high rises looms the ever-present majestic Diamond Head crater keeping watch over Waikiki Beach and reminding us of the past.
Honolulu, Hawaii
That's Diamond Head in the distance

Looking down from our balcony to a lower floor is the Royal Kuhio’s tennis court and sports “field.”  Out of sight is the pool.  (I did not come to Hawaii to use a pool.  That seems like sacrilege to me!  I did not even go to check it out.)

Sunset from our balcony is a splendid show of changing colors of pinks, greys, yellows, oranges and red.  Sunrises are equally magnificent—enough so that I even woke up for ONE.  I’m guessing the others were memorable too.   
Honolulu, Hawaii
This is actually a SUNRISE--a miracle for me to get up for this--but
isn't it gorgeous?!

One day looking down at the street, I spy Cinderella’s coach!
Honolulu, Hawaii
Sorry this is not clear, but I was definitely caught up in this fairytale moment.

My dreams may not have been accurate, but Hawaii is kind of magical!

If you are a bit surprised as I was at Honolulu’s density, take this fact into account.  Honolulu has over 470 high rise buildings and an impressive skyline. Flying in to Honolulu, it is the big skyline and the white buildings that first catch the eye.  Spread out below is the sweet crescent of Waikiki Beach, and then the eye spies Diamond Head.  It’s exciting.

As always, Rob and I arrive ready to hit the ground running, and if Honolulu is not quite as we expected, we quickly shift gears and are ready to discover what Honolulu is today.