My reasons for being in New York aren't any different from the other immigrants'. We all come for the excitement, the culture, the jobs, and--if you're in a certain demographic--the opportunity to live on Sesame Street.
|Sunday in the Slope.|
(Actually, I read in the Hawaiian Airlines magazine that Hawaii does in fact have a tiny little snake, the Brahminy blind snake, that lives underground, is very shy, and is frequently mistaken for an earthworm. All Brahminy blind snakes in Hawaii are female clones of each other, as they reproduce entirely through parthenogenesis.)
I think people are surprised that I would leave Hawaii because Hawaii is seen as an end unto itself. Why would I go backward through life, choosing to toil in a sinful world, when an accident of birth had already achieved the ultimate goal for me?
|Somehow, this is also Sunday in the Slope.|
Our weekend was full of fodder for discussion. On Saturday evening, we attended a runway show at Hawaii's first ever Fashion Month, and on Sunday we attended the closing film of the 34th Annual Hawaii International Film Festival.
The runway shows were sponsored by Hawaiian Airlines and featured designers from the MAMo organization (Maoli Arts Month). We didn't reserve any seats, but we showed up to the Convention Center a little early to cruise the floor and try on clothing at the exhibits, and this being Hawaii, there were plenty of empty seats and gift bags left for us latecomers. We saw a couple lines of wearable fashion.
|Here I am wearing some of it, a Wahine Toa dress.|
|"This is my professional headband."|
Mum said afterwards that the Maoli tattoos just "felt different" from the tattoos you see on any Brooklyn street corner. "They have mana. You can tell."
Of course, we all agreed that no fashion show would be complete without a viewing of the ridiculously un-wearable. Fortunately, Marques Marzan had us covered. His line looked like costumes for a dystopian sci-fi movie where the remnants of humanity struggle for survival and love on the high seas.
|I think I just described the plot of "Waterworld."|
Sunday gave us even more to think about. We met up with a newcomer to the islands, someone who had been there only a couple of months and didn't know anything about Hawaii before he moved there except the television show "Hawaii 5.0." We took him to dinner at our favorite Honolulu Chinatown restaurant, the Golden Palace, for authentic Chinese food, and then to the closing film of the Hawaii International Film Festival, for authentic Hawaiian cinema.
The film we saw was a documentary called "Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson." Again, we'd bought our tickets kind of late, but when we showed up there were empty seats waiting for us in the reserved section. None of us knew anything about Pinky Thompson, or the director Ty Sanga, who admitted to finishing it on Hawaiian time, just two nights prior. In fact, the only reason we'd picked that film over say, the short animation showcase, was because it was being screened in the historic Hawaii Theater. Hawaii Theater is a movie palace from 1922 that completed a massive restoration project in 2004. I was fortunate enough to see the first HIFF movie screened there after the completion ("Brokeback Mountain," if you're wondering), though in Hawaii fashion, the sound system still needed a lot of work.
I'm pleased to say the sound system is working great now, and it's still as beautiful inside as ever. There's even a lovely sculpture for my sister and me to giggle at in an immature fashion.
|In our defense, C'MON!|
I'd never heard of Pinky Thompson before this, though I'm familiar with his son, Nainoa Thompson, through his work with the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Nor was I aware of the events and upheavals in the Hawaiian community between the annexation of the nation of Hawaii to the United States in 1898 and the launch of the Hokule'a voyaging canoe in 1976.
|"What an oddly specific date range." - Herb Kane, artist|
I don't know what our newcomer guest got from "Visions in the Dark." There were very few landscapes in it, after all, and unless you read your Hawaiian Airlines magazine on the way over, you probably wouldn't understand any of the references to the Hokule'a, the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, or Kamehameha Schools. As a local, I think this is a perfect film for newcomers, as it exposes viewers to the rich, nuanced lives of their new community members.
However, it's a sad fact that many people who fulfill their dreams of moving to Hawaii actually hate it there. They struggle with the same problems immigrants in Hawaii have always struggled with: high cost of living, low employment opportunities, loneliness and a sense of great physical distance from the familiar. All of these problems can be managed, but only if they can engage with the existing community, which many refuse to do.
Trained as they are to think of Hawaii only as paradisiacal landscapes, they have no framework for dealing with the actual people, most of whom are not smiling resort employees. Instead of making an effort to assimilate and appreciate Hawaii for the wonderful, complex place that it is, they struggle harder and harder to make Hawaii into the place they think it should be. You can tell who these people are, because they end up at town hall meetings complaining about the lack of sidewalks in a town that's built on a goddamn hillside with literally no room for sidewalks.
|Shall we fill in the cliff on the left, or chip away at the cliff to the right?|
Geez, why did I come here again?