Hawaiian Hoax Hawaii isn't the tropical paradise the media pretends it is. I may have visited only three of the islands­and one of these was just for a few hours in an airport bar­but they couldn't pull the lei over my eyes. I know better now. Hell, anyone can fall for it. The picture to the left wasn't even taken in Hawaii -it's Oregon- but who can tell?

Below are my observations of our 49th state, so that any intrepid traveler will be prepared to face the truth behind this Pacific "Wonderland".

MYTH: You'll have Gaugan-inspired syphilitic romps with every Polynesian girl you meet.
REALITY: The only available women I saw were retirees, hippies or pubescent girls on vacation with their parents. I skipped the retirees--too old--and the hippies--too unwashed--so that left only spoiled little girls. Usually, 15 year-old girls never want anything to do with a nerdy 26 year-old like myself, but this is nothing new, since they didn't want anything to do with me when I was 15 either. "Gennifer" was different.

hutdance.gif In reality, I have no idea what her name was, but that hardly matters. Together we shared a moment of adolescent bliss I had no right to experience since I haven't been an adolescent in almost a decade. I was playing a game I invented called, "Dead Man in the Water" when she came to me. The surf that day was pathetic, and in a vain attempt at thrills I let myself drift to shore on my boogie board. No sooner would the surf deposit me on the beach, another would come, cover me in sand, and drag me a bit toward the water. The object of "Dead Man in the Water" was to see how long it took to be cast out to sea without moving at all. I looked like an idiot.

After an hour of thrill-seeking, I noticed "Gennifer" 10 yards away mimicking my game. I slyly maneuvered myself a bit closer. There we rode 4-5 inch swells together for about 15 minutes before I decided to break the ice. "The surf sucks today." (I am hip with the lingo of today's kids). "Yeah," she mumbled. She must be in love. We floated in awkward silence for another minute, my simulated corpse growing warmer. "That wave went right up my nose," I added. "I think the surf is better over there." She got up, walked about 25 yards down the beach and plopped herself into the pathetic waves. The ladies can't get enough of me.

underwat.jpg MYTH: Hawaii's beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world.
REALITY: Hawaii's beaches are some of the rockiest, most injury prone places I've ever swam in. The Hawaiian islands were formed millions of years ago by some hyperactive volcanoes which, to this day, are still spewing lava into the ocean. Being boiled alive like a lobster isn't the problem. All the big surfing beaches I visited were lined with huge walls of black lava rock, making a casual boogie boarder like myself think twice before risking premature brain-splatter. You can't even go swimming normally without a sharp chunk o' hot rock piercing your foot. And due to poor surf conditions, I dragged a boogie board 3000 miles to stare at waves that made the Jersey shore look exciting.

MYTH: Native Hawaiian culture is mysterious.
REALITY: The most mysterious thing about Hawaiian culture is how to pronounce the names of the towns and streets. The Hawaiian language has an alphabet of only 12 letters, so what words lack in consonants, they make up for in syllables. How do you ask where K'ululupu'poo Street or Hanaleia'lululu Ave. is without sounding like a stuttering moron? You'd think after 400 years of cultural isolation the Hawaiians would have developed a few more letters so I wouldn't get so confused every time I had to go anywhere.

MYTH: Tourists wear Hawaiian shirts wherever they go.
REALITY: Besides myself and one old man, the only Hawaiian shirts I saw were on service personnel like waiters, security men, and lawn care specialists. More than once people stopped me and asked for directions, for assistance, or to clear away their food all because of my shirt. Although I didn't try it, a good Hawaiian shirt might be the ticket to get into places without paying.

throwreath.gif MYTH: Hawaii is a tourist trap.
REALITY: It is, but it's not the miniature golf, waterslide mecca that I wished it would be. A "tasteful" 80's resort aesthetic overpowers what little cheese is to be found. It took a lot of searching to come up with the high quality crap I expect at a vacation destination.

Tucked away on the island of Kauai lies a lovely little restaurant. It's owned by Charo, the large-breasted perpetual "Love Boat" guest star. This secluded spot serves up seafood with a song and a gyrating coochie-coochie. Although Charo wasn't there when I was, her presence oozed from the surroundings. The gift shop blared her "World Renowned" flamenco guitar music while I perused a collection of Charo memorabilia that could scare away an Elvis fan. But unlike Graceland, no one was there. Very creepy.

MYTH: A tropical luau is an authentic way to end a long Polynesian day.
REALITY: The Smith's Tropical Paradise luau show on Kaui would only be called "authentic" if an archeologist discovered some ancient smoke machines, colored lights, and fake volcanoes under a rock somewhere. Every hotel on the island has its own little festival, but Smith's is a cut above the rest. Before you eat the fire-roasted boar, a tram drives you around the 10 acre facility. Highlights include fighting peacocks, an "authentic" Phillipino village, a giant fake Tiki head, odd flora and fauna, and a tour guide who specializes in audience call and response antics.

austrailian2.jpg "Aloooooooooo-Ha!" he'd say into his five dollar PA system. Like some religious services I've attended, most people knew the proper response to his greeting and would aloha back in the same drawn out way. The odd mantra-like moaning of the two old Australian women behind me almost caused me to convulse out of the tram chugging along at a dangerous 5 mph.

After the tour, husky Hawaiian men lifted a giant pig from a pit and the feast began. Live Hawaiian guitar music and unlimited watered-down Mai-Tai's accompanied our delicious cafeteria-style food. Soon afterward, gas burning tiki torches lit up, leading us to the dancin' arena.

geo.jpg Like a South American soccer stadium, a large moat separated the audience from the performers. They must have had too many problems with drunken, lusty tourists leaping on to the stage in the middle of a fan-dance or something. The show opened with a simulated explosion of a giant fake volcano which Pele (the goddess of fire, not the soccer player) rose from the fiery crater and blessed the assembled spectators across the water. Peppy cheerleaders of many ethnicities began a long series of different dances in assorted costumes assembled from the entire Pacific Rim. The hodgepodge of cultures presented that night was nothing less than surreal. Highlights included a martial arts display by "our Chinese cousins" and a demonstration from "our Philippino cousins" on how to put a chicken to sleep by rubbing its belly. This luau wasn't just entertaining, it was educational.

So, if you're planning a visit to the Hawaiian islands, be forewarned that they're not the Don Ho/Five-0/Magnum P.I. place you might expect. Even though the islands have giant mounds of dangerous lava, annoying feral cats, and are populated by people who play way too much golf, it's still a pretty nifty place to drop your hard earned vacation dollars. I had fun, anyway.

Note: Hawaiian names are probably spelled wrong since even Illustrator doesn't ship with a Hawaiian spell checker.


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