Friday, April 29, 2016

Hawai'i Too

Here's an addition to the memories of Hawai'i that I began writing about a few posts back. When I put an end to that post I was sitting on the patio of a small hotel in the middle of Waikiki while enjoying breakfast.

It was time to go back to work. I went to the basement where it was parked. A hotel with parking is a rare luxury in Waikiki. Then I joined the stream of commuters on Ala Moana Blvd on their way to work. With all the slow moving traffic around me I could be in the middle of a Los Angeles freeway. I found my way back to the office and met the estimator and superintendent of the company we were thinking of acquiring. The plan was for me to accompany the superintendent to all the jobs in progress and we would start with a hotel remodel on the island of Kaua'i. I don't remember his name now so I will call him 'John'. John went to the files and pulled out a book of plane tickets. For inter-island flights, the airline sell books of tickets to frequent flyers. Quite a few Hawaiians treat the airlines as if they were a bus line. They may live on one island and work on another.

It was a 15 minute flight and we landed at Lihue and rented a car. The hotel was quite close by. We parked and we took the construction elevator up to the top. The crews were remodeling the hotel rooms to become condo's. The hotel had been hit hard by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Insurance settlements were tied up in court and all that time (5 years) the hotel had been closed up. Mold was growing everywhere, like black moss on all  the walls. All the hardware, like door knobs and hinges were corroded so badly that opening them was difficult.

I made my assessment of the work to be done and we found ourselves with 3 hours to spend before the next flight back to Honolulu. John, who was a native of Kaua'i offered to drive me around and show me some of beautiful sights on this small island. One of the first things of note were the blue tarps on the roof of quite a few houses. John said that the insurance money to replace the roofs was often spent on other things. Then we drove up the mountain to Waimea Canyon. It was an amazing place to visit; the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific". It didn't seem to take very long and it was time to get back to the airport. I knew that I wanted to come back sometime in the near future.

Another memory: John spoke with a Hawaiian accent and he spoke 'pidgin' as well. Oddly enough, I welcomed it. In 1978 I was fresh from L.A and looking for a job in Reno NV. A new MGM Grand Hotel and Casino was being built in Reno. Odd again, I knew the superintendent that was hiring. I had hired him about 10 years previous when I was in Reno to build a department store. Small world. Once we did all the handshaking and reminiscing, he hired me to be a foreman on the job. Also odd' we were working for a Hawaiian construction company, Oahu Interiors. I was going to be doing layout work on the hotel and the crew I would be working with were all from Hawai'i. And they all spoke pidgin. Within a few weeks I was speaking it as well. I tried speaking it at home but was quickly overruled by my wife. Also, it turned out that John and I knew a lot of the people I knew in Reno. Small world once again.

The next day I went out with John and we went to the Hawai'i State Capitol building. It was being remodeled from top to bottom and John had a crew working on it. It was a very impressive building and we toured it from top to bottom. I was struck by the use of Koa wood throughout. Every office had every desk and chair and table and cabinet and door made from the beautiful wood from the Acacia Koa tree. There must have been a million dollars worth of Koa in the building.

We left the building and stood in the inner courtyard of the building. The architecture was amazing! And then I noticed how hot it was becoming. I was sweating! John explained that since the walls of the building cut us off from the prevailing Trade Winds, we had lost the natural air conditioning that they brought with them. That is why the lanai was a vital part of the architecture here.  Then I remembered the airport at Kauai and the fact that none of the outer walls came up to the roof level. Air was free to come over the top of the walls and cool the airport. I imagine that they have blocked that air movement since 9/11.

We went back to the office just in time for lunch and I was introduced to Manapua, a steamed pork or  chicken bun. That's just a rough description. Truth is, they were heavenly! I ate Manapua every day for the 2 weeks that I was there. Someone in the office would volunteer to go to the box lunch place up the road and bring back our orders every day. I went a few times and was surprised to see that it just a joint in a strip mall. It may have been a joint but they sure could cook.

After lunch and until dark, I was stuck in my temporary office, calculating the projected costs versus the contract amounts for the projects I had reviewed. From my desk, if I leaned forward and turned my head to the right, I could see a small section of blue sky and the occasional cloud. My view of Paradise!

I should mention that on my second or third day in Hawai'i I left the office just before it was dark and drove up to the Pali. I had read about it and just had to see it. I pulled into the parking area and I was the only one there. I walked up the path to the overlook and was amazed at the view. I could see lights beginning to turn on in far off Kaneohe. What sun was left was being filtered through dark clouds on the horizon. The cliffs of the Pali had an other worldly look to them and I could easily imagine the slaughter that took place there, so many years ago. I stayed there until it was dark; enjoying every minute of my solitude.


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