The beach house at Hanalei is serviceable. It is one street back from the bay and an easy walk to town. The bathroom is smaller than we expected and, because of the positioning of a vanity, I will not be able to get into the shower . Somehow I blame Graham for this. There is thick spongy carpet (his fault too), mats everywhere and bulky furniture. The bed is made up with dark brown sheets. You guessed it. There is no tea. All of which ends up making me sullen and sulky. Luckily there is another shower in the carport- of the outdoor variety – but it’ll do. And I can make it to the toilet.
We walk into the town. There are no footpaths and so we are on the blacktop, but there are few cars. What traffic there is is enormous and clearly very heavy. Squashed flat chicken, squashed green frog – suggesting the road is not safe for smaller less visible beings.
The town is just one main street and touristy, but backed by a mountain laced with waterfalls and covered in dark, luscious forest. The top of the mountain gets lost in the clouds and mist. We have a drink at a bar where a man plays the guitar, while still managing to watch the ice hockey game on the TV screen. Two televisions at either end of the bar; one with the hockey, the other with rodeo, hijack most people’s attention, but he plays on, robotically. Afterall he isn’t even inspiring himself. We go elsewhere for dinner; to the best restaurant in town – Baracuda. It is tapas style and really good. The chef has moved here from San Francisco. We eat pork belly and Greek style donuts for dessert.
The next morning we realise that overnight Osama Bin Laden has been killed in a raid in Pakistan by the Navy Seals, Unit 6. His picture is on the front page of the newspaper and the headline reads DEAD. It could have read “Got ‘im”. Graham plans a picture of Jasper holding the paper in front of his chest in a mellow street in Kauai, where news of Bin Laden’s death couldn’t seem less important.
Graham and Jasper will go off hiking a trail at the end of the road and I will stay in the beach house, reading Joyce Carol Oates’ memoir, “A Widow’s Story.” In it, after the sudden death of her husband from E.Coli pneumonia, she grapples with her loss. It is the kind of writing I like. Unhurried, clear and to the point, but open and honest, not scared of itself. She worries and prods. Over and over. She tells of their close lives; enmeshed, embedded, despite the fact that he never read her work, ever. “but he did not read most of my fiction and in this sense it might be argued that Ray didn’t know me entirely – or even, to a signifigant degree partially… For writing is a solitary occupation, and one of its hazards is loneliness. But an advantage of loneliness is privacy, autonomy, freedom.” I think of Graham and his failure to get around to reading so much of what I write. It heartens me that I am not alone in this and that it is not a marker of a doomed marriage. Afterall it doesn’t bother me – but rather frees me. For concern for readers is a writer’s death.
Intermittently I turn on the TV to see what the news is saying about Bin Laden but there is only so much American patriotism one can watch. Only so many times you can hear a force described as “elite”. Bin Laden’s killing could be the saving of Obama’s presidency as commentators show him with furrowed brow, behind the scenes and praise his cool headedness.
I go into town and over hear a man on his mobile talking to his doctor. An MRI has revealed bulging discs in his spine. He tells his doctor of his excruciating pain whilst bending forward. What a holiday wrecker. If I was Joyce I would insert an exclamation mark here. I order a Mango Madness smoothie for lunch from the organic shop. It is impossibly thick and takes a lifetime to suck through the straw and I hear another Californian having an exasperated work conversation on his mobile, pacing around the grass outside the lunch bar. Chickens peck and rake at the lawn around him like he is phoning from chook yard. Some people just can’t leave their lives behind. And yes, he has reminded me, I must ring home too.
I speak to Mum. She can’t hear me. I am shouting. How’s dad? Because you can’t really shout, Is he dead yet? Yes the Royal wedding was marvellous. Simply marvellous. The best television she ever saw. Dad is just the same. Yes we’re having a wonderful time. I envy the writer overhearing me.
I begin to wonder how long he can go on like this. Could he survive the entire time we are away?
The boys return. Their walk was long and semi strenuous. They swam in pristine water at the end of the trek and made beach scultpures with rocks and pebbles. We go to our local beach for Jasper to try out the surf board. But the attempt to surf is short lived. Jasper’s not really the type to enjoy the surge of instability the lifting wave gives the board. Dumped a couple of times and bedraggled he drags the board back to the shore. Instead he invents a game involving explosions, bombs, shootings, fist fights – but it is all imaginary and the outward effect is of him hauling and flinging himself in the breaking waves, running through the foam breakers and collapsing on the water as if he is throwing himself onto a bed. A man walks the beach with freshly woven green straw hats. He stands in front of women in Brazilian bikinis, while they lie on the sand, doing his best to make a sale.
At night the thunderstorms come, heavy and pounding. There is the crack of thunder and the flash of lightening bursting through our sleep. In the morning we are woken by bird song and see Red Crested Cardinals hopping about the garden. More waterfalls cascade down the mountain and white tailed tropic birds sail high in the curves and crevices of the mountain. The water sodden hill side is like a billowing ballgown, with its green velvet folds and waves. We meet the two couples who are staying in the flat upstairs. I have a conversation, in the car port over the washing machine, with Tom and learn how he works for Campagnolo (explains the cyclist’s calves) in San Diego, how he grew up here with his parents who built this very house hoping to retire here before his dad, who was an eminent cardiologist at UCLA, got early Alzheimer’s and died prematurely.
Back in the town centre we watch a dog nearly get run over and killed on the main street. A group of boys straggle behind trying to catch it, but it keeps its distance. It veers away from them, dangerously close to the road again, tail tucked beneath its belly. We have gone to the shops to buy motion sickness tablets ahead of the planned helicopter flight tomorrow for Jasper’s ninth birthday. Jasper gets a super hero sticker from a vending machine and the dog appears. It won’t come to Graham and tries to follow two girls leaving the shop, but they get into a car and it is alone again in the car-park. We call it to us and it begins to follow us away from the road into the safety of an alley way. It likes small boys. It wants to be close to Jasper and sidles close to him and gives a tentative, small wag of its tail. We talk softly and calmly to it. A black guy approaches and we ask him if it is his dog. No, but he is following it too. He is trying to get hold of it, he says, but it takes off when he gets close. I think it is fearful of men, I say. It likes girls and children. It continues to sit beside Jasper as he strokes its head. The black guy is called Gerard. He kneels and beckons the dog to come to him. But it has glued itself to Jasper. Another man, watching, says “Careful, you’ll get bit.” The dog is stressed; yawning, licking its lips, grinning. We tell Gerard that we’ll keep it here if he goes gets a lead. He lopes off. When he returns with a rope we tie it around the dog’s neck and the mongrel is his. He had a dog once, good one too, but it got lost in the bush and he’s bin looking for a new dog. This’d be a good dog, he reckons. So this is how you get a dog in Kauai – just find one in the street and get a rope on it. We feel good about the rescue from the road, the wet night and pleased for Gerard to have a companion. He says he is going to buy it some food and we ask him what he is going to name it. We suggest Dingo…
to be continued…