This morning we opened the jar of Hawaiian Sun guava jam that I bought in a spasm of last-minute desperation shopping in Kona, the day before we left. There’s something so sad about eating it here, when the temperature outside is hovering just below 50ºF and the sun (though, at least, today there is sun) is reduced to a strip about a yard wide and perhaps three yards long.
Eating our guava jam, I couldn’t help but think of those drives back and forth to Hilo, where yellow patches of fallen guavas littered the shoulders of the highway, or even our last two days in a B&B on the mid-slope of Hualalai above Kona, where the climate changed entirely and guavas and other fruit and plants grew that you wouldn’t find a thousand feet closer to the ocean.
“I wonder how guava jam would go with cheese,” asks Dolce Metà, thinking, no doubt, of the lemon-pear preserves and the green tomato and horseradish sauce I made last summer, both of which, in fact, are pretty phenomenal with cheese. (Not American cheese, intendiamoci.) Way Far West Meets A Lot Further East West, sort of.
I’d never even though of eating marmalade with cheese until I met him; now I love it. The guava jam idea isn’t so outrageous, once you wrap your mind around it. Something to think about for when we open our Big Island ItaloHawai‘ian fusion restaurant, E Come Mai. (It’s a bilingual pun.)
Our last night in Kona we went to watch the sunset at a tourist trap overlooking the bay. You have your “tropical” drinks (woefully–and, in fact, illegally–weak and underpoured: Hello, Mr. Liquor Inspector??!!) at tables located in a sand pit. Once you get seated, you are, for all intents and purposes, planted, and your chair slowly and inexorably sinks. You can neither shift position nor rise without the help of a crane. I felt sorry for the waiters, who had to spend their shifts trudging through sand. On the other hand, it’s a hideous place that deserves to be bombed. (For the record, it’s called Huggo’s on the Rocks. Never go there.)
At some point, the live “Hawai‘ian” music started. For an hour, though, not one Hawai‘ian lyric, unless you count (and I don’t) “E komo mai no kaua ika hale welakahao,” which is a line from the 1933 hapa-haole classic, “My Little Grass Shack.”
You’ve probably heard it:
I wanna go back to my little grass shack in Kealakekua, Hawai‘i,
I wanna be with all the kanes and wahines
That I used to know, so long ago….
I can hear the old guitars playing
On the beach at Ho‘onaunau
I can hear the old Hawai‘ians saying,
“E komo mai no kaua ika hale welakahao.”
Trouble is, I’m fairly sure no old Hawai‘ian ever said anything of the kind. The phrase is sort of pidgin’ Hawai‘ian, and it doesn’t mean much. Or, more accurately, they’re real Hawai ‘ian words; it’s just not much of a real Hawai‘ian sentence. Anyway, what they’re getting at is something like “You’re welcome to come over to my house and we’ll heat the place up together.”
Big fun, in 1933, to slip something like that into a tame, silly song for mainlanders longing to be anywhere that wasn’t America.
At Huggo’s, the “Hawai‘ian” singers sort of mumble over the one line in Hawai‘ian when they get to it. They don’t seem to know the words. Or maybe they do, and they’re just embarrassed to sing them to a bunch of haole tourists with lobster-red skin and Hobie sunglasses. I know I would be.
Meanwhile, the sun sets directly behind an enormous cruise ship docked in the middle of the bay. For more than an hour we watch little drone ferries zip back and forth from the port, returning passengers to the ship. I continue to nurture hope that the ship might take off before the sun is good and gone, but no luck. It’s dark before the ship finally leaves—headed either for Hilo or for Maui. A lovely sunset cruise for them; a $60 bar tab and hapa-haole agità for me.
And that’s as good a place as any to start the Trip to Hawai‘i stories. All the major themes are present.
Auwe auwe, make na kanaka mäoli i Hawai’i, ko aloha lä ‘ea, ko aloha lä ‘ea.