The wayside is so often more profitable than the destination. In the ordinary litter of rain ditch and gutter, the familiar miles of shoulder are hints of life, gleams of death; indeed, miracles and prophecies. Regard, in this instance, the bobbing carcass of a crab borne along by ants, a mongoose glancing back, the remains of a myna bird pressed into the pavement like a fossil. This is the appeal of journals. What are they, after all, but a reflective commentary on the wayside?
Journals generally are composed at night, but not all nights. Not, for example, at a piano bar in Kailua on the island of Hawaii, drinking stingers, fatally colored like the sea, with Patricia and listening to the falsetto songs of a boy sitting on the piano bench playing his guitar. This is the best Hawaiian music. The worst is what seeps into hotel elevators. It has the consistency of soggy sweet rolls. I also heard his compelling music at a luau given by the Robinson plantation workers on the island of Kauai. We sat at long tables under a tent by the faintly fetid shore. Portuguese poachers boasted about goats in remote valleys, and a blind Hawaiian who said he once weighed 459 pounds hoarded bottles of Primo beer before him, caressing the brown glass, only consenting to withdraw a hand to shake and consider another's. In the dark yard children swung resolutely on swings and dogs went about, tails between their legs. After dinner there was singing and a lot of random grinning. Hawaiians are powerful, exorbitant grinners.
At times, when considering the wayward notes of my Hawaiian journey, I feel as though I am leafing through an album containing snapshots and jocular captions in white ink of a stranger's childhood. Among Patricia's photographs is one of herself surfing on a 20-foot wave at Makaha on Oahu. It is out of focus; it was taken from movie film. Moments later she went, as she says, laughing, down the tubes. Swimming to the surface she came, instead, to the bottom. A surfer paddling out found her.
The major destinations of Hawaii's outer or neighbor islands (the entire state, with the exception of Oahu), are scenic, and the tourists, jammed into limousines, are borne, like the crab, pell-mell to classic waterfalls, canyons and craters as though King Korn stamps were being given away at each. They are doing scenery; in Europe they would be doing churches or groping, footsore, through ill-lit museums.
Two of the most noble sights are Waimea Canyon on Kauai and Haleakala Crater on the island of Maui. Looking down at Waimea you can see the bosun birds that nest there, drifting like white moths or the souls of Homeric heroes. At the lookout are slow dragonflies the size of sparrows. Haleakala is brown, the color of cinders, and ultimately quiet save for the motors of movie cameras. At the summit are dandelions and bluebottles gadding about sandwich wrappers. There are African tulip trees on the road to Waimea. You can make water pistols out of the blossoms. The road to Haleakala winds upward through eucalyptus groves, cloud banks and volcanic rubble. Although it is often only wide enough for a single car there is a prudent white line down its center.
One day we drove from Wailuku to Hana on Maui. Maui was a Polynesian demigod who was raised by jellyfish, made the birds visible and died, betrayed by man's laughter, when he was striving to make him immortal. The road follows the coast and has many turnings. Along the way are pools fed by waterfalls. The pools are cold, but if you swim across them—a few strokes—and crouch under the falls, the water is unexpectedly hot. As it falls in thin sheets it is quickly heated by the sun. There usually are rainbows in the waterfalls, too.
I saw the mongoose by the side of the road, trotting the other way. It glanced back with dark, insolent eyes, as nervy as Kafka's jackal. Mongooses, of course, are not native to Hawaii but were imported to kill rats (there are no snakes in the islands) which slipped ashore on hawsers and multiplied. Many plants, animals and birds have been brought in, often, alas, without regard to ecology. I once saw eastern cardinals flying by the beach. It was like seeing pelicans in Jersey City. A signal date in the history of Maui is 1826. Mosquitoes were introduced from Mexico that year. They have thrived formidably, too.
Myna birds are commonly seen by the roadside, particularly in built-up areas. They are chiefly brown with big feet and thick yellow legs like old-fashioned soda straws. A restaurant in Kokee on Kauai had a myna bird from the Philippines that said aloha in 10 different voices and inflections. It didn't know what aloha meant, however. If you asked the bird its name, it would say aloha. If you said aloha, it would tell you its name. It also imitated passing automobiles and whistled cheekily.
Aloha, which means hello or goodby like the Italian ciao, is the most celebrated Hawaiian expression. Its only rival is "hello dere." Tony Kunimura, a Kauai politician, explained how this became part of the language. Many years ago, when Captain Cook's ships first appeared on the horizon—the Hawaiians thought they were white clouds—the natives ran down to the beach and shouted aloha. Captain Cook regarded them through his glass, then, taking up his megaphone, replied, "Hello dere!"
Late at night in certain places big toads, called bufos, regularly cross the road mile after mile in your headlights. I learned this only because Tony and I passed a long evening at a Japanese inn, eating opihis and pipipi, drinking coffee, and talking politics with visitors; it appeared to be the local salon or back room. Opihis are limpets and are eaten raw, sucked in a single, sharp inhalation out of the shell. Pipipi are like winkles. You boil up a whole mess of them and spear them with a straight pin, winkling them out of their twisted houses. There is a little shell door you have to flip off first. Eating pipipi is a compulsive act, like eating salted peanuts, and needs dexterity. (On a rocky point on Maui I have seen hermit crabs in old pipipi shells. The crabs have blue amazed eyes and black-and-white feet. There are several such promontories where waves wash over the disorderly rocks into shallow pools. They are violent when the seas rush in but are filled, nonetheless, with little sublime reef fish.)