Hawaiian dinner parties are almost always out of doors, almost always a buffet of curry, sukiyaki or Chinese dishes. Minimum and silk lounging pajamas were the dress for ladies, and aloha shirts for men. There was a detachment from world affairs in the dinner party conversations, which revolved about the ruination of the island by the tourist interests and the problems of having a swimmingpool. Men in Hawaii talk about pools the way women in suburbia talk about their children. "I'm using half chlorine and half ammonium sulphate in my pool now," is a good after-coffee opening gambit along Black Point Road. "You only have to put it in once a week. With plain chlorine I was dumping the stuff in every day. Chlorine is just synthesized by sunlight."
Getting your own maid may be difficult in Hawaii but entertaining is what they used to call in college a pipe. The Japanese run the catering services, and they will produce waitresses and cooks no matter what kind of food you serve. Japanese help will willingly dish out Chinese dim sum, which is a half-moon-shaped rice noodle stuffed with pork and water chestnut, or char siu bow, which is red pork stuffed in big doughy rolls. Or they can whip up a poi supper of chicken lau laus wrapped in taro leaf and cooked in coconut milk; lomi-lomi salmon; pineapple; haupia; and maybe coconut cake, just like Liliuokalani used to make. Inexperienced visitors subjected to a barrage of Honolulu entertaining might come away with the notion that every home is equipped with its own built-in Japanese butler. Basically, however, there are only two free-lance butlers working the Kahala homes, and they are named Ernest and Yoni. They arrive on call, immaculate and white-coated, and if they have seen you before you'll get your favorite prescription at the bar without asking.
There were days when we all packed into a rented car and went rolling around the road that hugs the shore line, down past Kaiwi Channel, where the surf leaps up the rock face and falls back like white poodle puppies jumping in a pet shop window. We kept a bulletin board in the little grass shack in Kahala, and on it we posted the daily events guide put out by the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. We never took the Bird Walk to Manoa Falls or the Mauka Hike with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, and for that matter we passed over the Oahu Prison Tour offered each Wednesday at 9, but we did drive up old Nuuanu Avenue one night, far off the tourist beat, to see the incredible Bon (festival) dances staged by the Japanese community. There in the temple yards teams in bright kimonos dipped and shuffled in the traditional, 1,300-year-old postures while flutes shrilled in the late August night and the booming of the giant drum rocked the deep summer stillness. In tabi socks and broad straw skimmers topped with a pink dusting of fake cherry blossoms they came to take the little mincing steps under the swaying lanterns while other teams, waiting their turn, queued up at the refreshment stand and drank soda pop. My son Andy found them, as he said, "disorganized," but I was transported to an ancient inland village of old Japan, at least until I heard a Japanese father call to his 3-year-old son, dressed as he was in a tiny kimono and a baseball cap, and discovered that these honorable descendants of the Sun Goddess and the Emperor Jimmu had named the lad Morris.
We were with the Chinese Buddhists the day they celebrated Dragon Boat Day in Ala Moana Park within view of the Tahitian Lanai, a restaurant which serves hot pastrami on pumpernickel with potato salad garni. Under a tent oil lamps flickered, candles flamed and heavy incense sweetened the air while a priest in a red kimono and a black mortarboard sang singsong prayers from an accordion-pleated prayer book. Joss sticks were burned on a table laden with fruits and flowers, rice cakes and grapes and a whole glazed duck, all offered to ancestors living in the hereafter. Whole wardrobes of brilliantly colored ceremonial robes imported from Hong Kong hung on racks to clothe the departed. Food for the souls was sprinkled with tea and with whisky. Gongs rang. And, finally, two beautiful paper boats, one a dragon, the other a phoenix painstakingly pasted with colored paper, were brought to the water's edge and set afire. Paper money was burned to give the souls currency to travel on, and paper cups with burning candles were set afloat and pushed out from shore to light the way of the departed ones in the world beyond. It was a moving sight and I raised my camera. The Buddhist I saw through the view-finder sending a candle to the hereafter proved to be my own. Andy had joined the Chinese children whose special job it was to send the lighted cups out to sea.
The last day came finally and the last sunset. We were spending the final few nights in the Halekulani Hotel so our landlord and his family could move back in their house. The room was piled high with shorts and shirts and damp bathing suits, all to be stuffed into the suitcases.
We heard the guitars out on the Hau Terrace, at the Pacific's edge, and we left the packing and went to tell Hawaii goodby. I asked the hostess for a table for three, but she looked at me and shook her head and said, "I'm sorry, sir, but we wear shoes here for the cocktail hour." I had gotten quite out of the habit. By the same time next day we were in Hollywood, having landed like the compleat tourist in a welter of coconut hats, flowers and ukuleles. Andy was standing there in the hotel lobby looking up the marble cliff to the top of the registration desk. "Excuse me, sir," he said to the room clerk. "Do you give ukulele lessons here?"