Monday, March 23, 2009

MTM, Honolulu Living History

Moonlight Hawaii, Vintage Postcard

"Nothing had prepared me for Honolulu ... It is a typical western city ... It is the meeting place of East and West, the very new rubs shoulders with the immeasurably old. And if you have not found the romance you expected, you have come upon something singularly intriguing. All these strange people live close to each other, with different languages and different thoughts; they believe in different god and they have different values; two passions alone they share, love and hunger. And somehow as you watch them, you have an impression of extraordinary vitality" Somerset Maugham in 1921

Honolulu Harbor, T.H. (Territory of Hawaii)
Post Card
"The further I traveled through the town the better I liked it. Every step revealed a new contrast - disclosed something I was unaccustomed to. ... I saw cottages surrounded by ample yards, ... I saw luxurious banks and thickets of flowers, fresh as a meadow after a rain, and glowing with the richest dyes ...I saw huge-bodied, wide-spreading forest streets ... I saw cats - Tom cats, Mary Ann cats, long-tailed cats, bobtail cats. . .individual cats, groups of cats, platoons of cats, companies of cats, regiments of cats, armies of cats, multitudes. . . and all of them sleek, fat, lazy, and sound asleep ... I breathed the balmy fragrance of jessamine, oleander, and the Pride of India ... I moved in the midst of a summer calms as tranquil as dawn in the Garden of Eden ..."
Mark Twain on Honolulu

Today, a modern city surrounds Diamond Head

"Honolulu - it's got everything. Sand for the children, sun for the wife, sharks for the wife's mother." Ken Dodd

Reading a historical novel that bears the name of one's Home Town is an unusual experience. Well, Brennert's Honolulu is as good as I could have hoped for. This is what they call a "page turner," except that I'm enjoying it too much to hurry! There are wonderful sentences to linger over, and savory bits of Honolulu history that illuminate my hometown ever more deeply and richly.
This author also animates the thoughts and emotions of women characters so well that it is irresistible for me to identify with Jin, the heroine. Frankly, I see many parallels between her immigrant story and mine. The story of Honolulu is the story of those who came here from far away - beginning with the voyaging Hawaiians themselves.
Hawaii continues to lure many. Some she expels outright. She seems especially to test those who wash up here determined to stay sight unseen, especially those of us like Jin and myself with no "back" to go "back" to.

Life here is very hard, until one day you wake up and realize how much this place has become a part of you (and vice versa); how much you love Honolulu Town and her people, and that you could never live anywhere else for the rest of your life. You passed the purification, been humbled, been hanai-ed (adopted) become "local."

It was very difficult to pull myself away from the story this morning, but as my day would take me into the Historic core of my town, I was (in a real sense) still in it's setting. Walking today on streets named in the novel, I saw and knew not just what was so pungent before my eyes, but my own taxi memories of nights long ago, things vanished, and landmarks that remain. Now, thanks to Brennert, the people and places of even older times are all around me too.

There's no other place exactly like this place, my hometown: Honolulu!
A L O H A! Cloudia