I like to go against the grain when I travel. But on Oahu, sometimes it’s safer to conform.
I had read many of the parking blogs before arriving in Waikiki and just as the old life-has-rules joke goes–death and taxes–there was a general consensus that parking in Waikiki followed irrefutable laws, too. There would be no overnight free parking in the city. Everyone said so. Meters lasted only a few hours. So if one planned to spend anything more than a few hours on this strip of overcrowded paradise, garage parking was the only answer. This cost, on average, $35 a night.
But I was not about to do that. So I drove down Montserrat, to the outskirts of the city, halfway to Diamond Head and found a spot in the neighborhood one long block from the zoo. I had beat the city, I figured. After all, the walk was an enjoyable 25-minute stroll past the shops and scenes that I would have likely explored regardless.
The next day, I left the car where it was and I headed downtown by bus to meet with a publicist. After lunch, we walked the area and when we reached an intersection with no traffic moving in either direction, she suggested that we wait for the light to change and for the pedestrian sign to give us permission to cross. I found it odd, for in New York you could charge across the street from the middle of the block, as cars barreled down the avenue, bumping your way through police on both sides, and you’d be hard-pressed to earn a jaywalking ticket. But in Honolulu, she warned, people got tickets for walking against the Don’t Walk sign all the time. So we waited.
A few streets later, when we stepped into the intersection, the red hand suddenly started blinking. So we hurried our way to the other side, getting there well before the hand became a constant illuminated red gesture and well before the traffic lights had changed.
“You, you, you, and you,” one of Honolulu’s officers of the law said, calling to the curb me, the publicist, a courier, and a Japanese tourist.
The courier took his ticket, my companion took the blame for my ticket, stating that she was guiding me around the city, and the Japanese man spoke no English. He didn’t understand what was happening. So the officer said “Passport, passport,” slowly and irreverently, as if that pace and impudence made a foreign language more comprehensible. The officer took out his cuffs and the Japanese man, who appeared scared, presented his wrists and looked ready to cry. (The event reminded me of a Japanese surfer who I met in Panama. He got arrested in Panama City because he was not carrying his passport and the only thing he knew how to say in Spanish was food. So while he couldn’t explain the situation to the cops, he did remain well fed in prison, as he kept asking for “Comida” each time they came to his cell.)
Two days after my run in with the police, I took the walk to get my car. My heart dropped when the street stood barren of automobiles and temporary no parking signs were set up down the block. It warned that construction would be commencing. I read the sign more carefully and realized that the construction would begin tomorrow. I ducked down to look past the trees and up the hill and saw my car all alone. I was really pressing my luck in the city.
I had avoided paying for parking, dodged a jaywalking ticket, and narrowly missed having my car towed. In retrospect, my time on Waikiki was as lucky as one can get during the summer. While there were no swells on the North Shore, I was scoring endless waves on the crowded bumps in Waikiki, riding these waters only days before the sewers exploded into paradise. In retrospect, I should have played the lottery.
I think the only time I was unlucky on the island was when Adam Sandler screwed me.
If you’ve ever seen the movie Fifty First Dates, it’s hard to dislike the dynamic between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore and it’s hard not to appreciate his transition from a womanizing tourist-seeker to a committed man. And, oh how I craved Spam with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and hoped to build waffle houses as Barrymore and Sandler do at the Hukilau Cafe.
When I visited Oahu’s Kuloa Ranch and learned that the movie had actually been filmed along their shores, and that the real Hukilau Cafe was up the road, I abandoned all of my other eating plans, which had consisted of visiting the famous shrimp trucks and bakeries. We were doing lunch at the cafe.
While we hadn’t expected the cafe to look like the rustic one in the movie–it looked more like a lunch counter without a counter–we had expected it to serve up some of the same treats. But instead of Spam and peanut butter cups or waffles, it was mediocre burgers and decent fried chicken. The movie poster hung on the wall as if to mock us for missing out on the best eateries on the North Shore.
While most people reaching this point in the story might consider the enforcers of law to be the assholes here, I can confidently say that Adam Sandler ruined more of my experiences on Oahu than the cops.