Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Island Life

It took almost exactly 48 hours to get home - long enough to make it all seem like a dream, something disconnected from this reality. It was 12 hours to Miami, then 12 hours in Miami. I rented a car, had breakfast, went to the beach, got bored with the beach, went to the gym, and then later realized I had forgotten my hat - a genuine peccary leather beret from Uruguay - at the gym. I liked it enough that I think I'll order another one on-line. Then it was a flight to San Francisco, and an over-night on Paulo's couch. When I left Hawai`i he was single; by the time I got to San Francisco he had a new boyfriend who had already moved in. What is it with you California boys and your new boyfriends every three months?

I unpacked right away, which was a first. Usually I leave my bags unpacked for a few weeks, as if I'm in denial that I'm back. This time I intended to dive right in, so when Ulu called with an extra ticket to the Na Leo Christmas Hula Extravaganza I jumped. Never mind that I am broke, or that I need sleep, or that I've invited a hundred people over for Christmas cocktails and the yard needs some ICU-level TLC. I live so intensely on the road, and yet at home I'm always watching my budget or making sure I get enough sleep or staying home to clean. I want to live intensely year round, not just during select seasons. I always pass when Ulu calls me. Tonight I say yes.

We'll see how long this lasts. I forgot that I'm dealing with Honolulu here. I drive and park in Waikiki, and our tourists seem so bland compared to Miami Beach or Ipanema, and I think: who are these people? At the show, I can't get over the sheer falseness of it all; it's all fake bourgeois nostalgia, Hawaiian style. Worse, it's in the old Waikiki Nei theater, where Peter had his show. He strove for authenticity when the producers wanted glitz and flash and flesh. His show was killed. Now we get this: lots of am-radio style ballads, and keiki in cellophane skirts and Carmen Miranda headdresses doing hula to Feliz Navidad, followed by a call to "bring Hawaiian culture back to Waikiki." It was total Donny and Marie. The crowd loved it. I cringed in horror. The one bright spot was Kamakaiwa Lopaka Kane'ole, who had a beautiful and powerful voice and brought a lot of needed mana to the stage.

90 minutes later, they gave us a 20" intermission, and I knew then that I was going to claim jet lag and not return. But first, to the bar of Honolulu's "dance mecca," Level 4. I get a flyer for New Years Eve, but when I ask who the dj will be I get a blank stare. They never thought to advertise that, which is a bad, bad sign. Since I feel like suffering, I order a martini. A regular martini, I stress.

Gin or vodka? the bartender asks. I suppose that's a legitimate question these days, and I give him a pass. Gin.

He pours a double shot of Hendricksfuckingville in the shaker, shakes it, and pours it into a plastic cup. Ulu asks what I ordered. I tell her I ordered a martini, but that I'm not sure what it is that he made.

We have the standard conversation. It's a martini, the fake bartender says. No, I say, it's a shot of gin. Cheap gin, I think. The bartender tells me that he hasn't put vermouth in a martini in six years. I have nothing to say. He tells me that I'm a traditionalist, and he says people used to complain that they couldn't taste the Grey Goose when he added vermouth, and I'm worse than speechless because my mouth is moving but no sound comes out. He gives me a completely made-up and inaccurate history of the martini, and adds some vermouth. I sip the "martini", and it's crap.

Did I tell you that in Buenos Aires the bartenders could make an excellent negroni without asking what goes in it? Here they can't even make a basic cocktail. How can we have fallen so far as a culture?


David said...

Why you think I left "paradise"?

Michael C said...

It's a challenge some days. Good surf mostly makes up for it.