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Travels With An Airhead

Happy New Year

— by Notch Miyake

I just heard that a lot of people are suffering from "compassion fatigue" caused by the barrage of really bad stuff we have been suffering from: like terrorism, layoffs, war, the stock market, corporate corruption, airport security, tourists and no parking spaces within a mile of Ala Moana Mall. It's enough to severely constrain the old holiday spirit.

If you are feeling tired and unable to get excited about anything, you may have compassion fatigue. We used to call this the blahs because they were not like the blues, where you feel so bad you break out in song. With the blahs, you don't need songs, and another chorus of Jingle Bells might be just enough to reduce you to a whimpering slob, content to play online computer games until the war with Iraq starts and you switch to CNN.

I had a bad case of the blahs after a few days in Honolulu, where I went to attend the wedding of my calabash niece. (A calabash relative is someone who has eaten from the same large bowl, or calabash. We become ohana, or family. My high school classmates are ohana. This club is ohana.)

The wedding was great and I got to see many of the old folks as well as friends from my childhood. But the traffic was terrible and it was clear that my twenty-year boycott of fast food restaurants has had no effect. The tourists were lined up at McDonald's in Waikiki.

I had to get out, so I went to Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hilo is not a popular tourist destination because it rains every afternoon and there are no sandy beaches or Salvatore Ferragamo boutiques. I don't think there are any fast food restaurants either, because the locals think plate lunch is better.

I'm writing this sitting in a bar perched out over Hilo Bay, sipping a beer and slowly absorbing the old-time Aloha spirit. Colorful large koi are swimming in a pond below the window. Beyond the wall that separates the pond from the ocean, some kids are chasing tiny shrimp with hand nets, just like I used to when I was a kid.

On the way in, I stopped to admire the fish. A Hawaiian man stood next to me and, after a few minutes, said in pidgin, "How come no can eat da kine fish?"

"Eh, can eat, but no taste good," I replied, falling back into the rhythm of the language I grew up with. "They tell you dat so you no steal em."

We both considered the complex ethical issues posed by this deception for a while then he said, "Tricky buggahs, eh?"


"Well," he said, moving on, "A hui hou." See you again.

I sincerely hope in this New Year you take refuge in your ohana, and visit your own Hilo where someone will say to you, "A hui hou." See you again.

— Copyright © 2003 by Notch Miyake.

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