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2004-11-30 Ka-ulu-Paoa Heiau, Kauai
Ka-ulu-Paoa Heiau, Kauai, November 30, 2004.

Oahu Postcards


The word paradise stencilled on the backs of airport wheelchairs.

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Pudgy white tourist in the omelette line. "How many of those have you made? No, ever. Ever in your lifetime. Ever. How many? How many?"

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Cigarettes, everywhere.

Some cities smell like diesel: this one smells like nicotine. Sickly thin smoke-trails waft from half the fingers on the streets. Butts on the sidewalks, butts in the planters, butts below the benches.

It's not just the Asians. The mainland tourists are unhealthy. They're fat, sallow-looking. They can't walk, they can't carry their own bags, their skin hangs and is yellowy. They eat the cheapest, most fat-filled food, queued on the sidewalks before Dunkin' Donuts and Porky's Smorgy.

Elderly woman, skinny arms and legs stuck into a bloated torso like pins into a pincushion. Bent. Eyes on the sidewalk. She's on vacation in paradise and she looks miserable. On her t-shirt: "Las Vegas."

2004-11-23 Water, Honolulu
Water, Honolulu, November 23, 2004.

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"Talk about a cultural icon, Andrew! Our six-year-old knows who Elvis is!"

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Stocky mom from Stockton. Hair without color brushed back and plastered into permanence with what looks like spray-on epoxy. White accountant's eyeshade, square green sunglasses. Built for strength: she'd be a Soviet Bloc athlete if she were healthy.

Which she's not. Slack-skinned, sallow. Can't walk, can't breathe. Everything about her speaks the word death, as though death were a flashing neon sign written on her forehead. Lights up every few minutes, sharing her demise with her children, taking them with her, as well as all the people eating in the open-air restaurant downwind.

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"The natives build their houses on stilts above the water, so that when big waves come nothing is washed away. It's" - gropes for a word - "bizarre."

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Gray-haired husband, gray-haired wife, floral print shirts over soft middles, cheap airport leis, department store bags in all four hands.

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"Ya got no BAAAAAALLLLS... Ya got no BAAAAAALLLLS..."

Hawaiian boys, teenagers, gorgeous, bronze skin and black curls, shaming their friend into diving into the sea from the roof of a tourist gazebo.

2004-11-28 North Coast, Kauai
North Coast, Kauai, November 28, 2004.

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The custom is to leave the loved one's favorite foods at their gravesite. So that you find whole cemeteries decorated with Big Gulps and Chicken McNuggets.

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"These U.S. people live all their lives in air conditioning. They are not used to the heat."

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"Her uncle was a roadie for the Beatles. He gave her a show bill signed by all four of them. Can you imagine? Each autograph is worth one hundred thousand dollars. And she has all four."

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Heavyset college-age man, straw-colored mohawk, straw-colored hipster goatee, swept-back black shades. Slouched posture, seated in a black airport lounge seat with one hand on each open knee, staring stonily straight ahead.





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