HONOLULU, Hawaii - Headed back from dinner Thursday night at a tourist-packed but fun place on Waikiki Beach called Duke's - tiki torches, palm trees and all that - and came up to the third floor of the Waikiki Marriott. There was a terrific Hawaiian band playing, with a slide guitar player around 40, a woman in her 30's (I'm guessing) playing a terrific ukelele, a middle-aged man with a fine baritone playing bass and a woman who turned out to be 81 sitting and playing electric guitar.
Turns out they're the Keawe Ohana and Friends family (ohana means family in Hawaiian) and it's about their last gig in these parts before they jet to Washington for the inauguration of Honolulu's own Barack Obama.
"We're pretty excited," said manager Eric Keawe.
I guess they would be. They're an outstanding band that plays mostly Hawaiian-language tunes but will sprinkle a bit of Don Ho into their act on occasion. Very nice, very fun. At the end of the show, Eric invited me up to the front of the stage to hold hands with some aging American tourists for the final song. A tad embarrassing, but what the heck.
Just a few minutes earlier, I had stopped at one of the numerous t-shirt shops on Kalakaua Avenue - the main strip along Waikiki Beach - and bought a t-shirt that reads, "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness - President Obama 2009." Accompanying the words is a silhouette of the president-elect (not president yet, folks) bodysurfing at nearby Sandy Beach. Pretty cool.
BREEZY WEATHER -WORSE THAN I THOUGHT
No complaints from the Canadian visitors, but the folks out here are a little frosty from some severe winds that are blowing through Hawaii the last couple days. The leader of the Keawe Ohana and Family band was jokingly (I think) asking for hot chocolate at the end of their outdoor show on the third floor of the Marriott. The usually quiet Waikiki Beach is blowing up big, choppy waves as we speak, or as I write, and they've already cancelled classes on the island of Maui due to the heavy winds expected to blow over the isle today.
Actually, now that I've gone outside and read the morning papers, it turns out almost the entire state has shut down due to 60 mph winds. Most government offices have been closed, and it's probably wreaking havoc at the airports. Not good for the golfers at the nearby Sony Open, the second PGA Tour event of the season. It'll be like Scotland, but with palm trees and hibiscus flowers. Neither Mike Weir or Stephen Ames is at the tourney. Chad Campbell of the U.S. was here but stupidly forgot to register on Friday before leaving Texas for Hawaii. He got to the tourney, only to find out he hadn't actually signed up, so he had to go home. Dumb with a capital D.
UNITED VERSUS AIR CANADA
Took an Air Canada flight to SF to get here, then hopped on a United flight to Honolulu. After flying AC almost exclusively and getting used to the personal TV's with dozens of movies and such, it was a shock to look up in the aisle of the United plane and see a giant television/movie screen. Complain all you like about AC, and I sometimes do, but you gotta love the entertainment options.
On top of that, the seats on this flight were particularly close together. Scrunch city, and I'm only 5-9 on a good day.
They charge about the same for a meal as Air Canada but had only turkey wraps on this flight. On the other hand, the blankets and pillows were free and the staff was pretty friendly. On their Hawaii flights they even do a contest to guess the exact time the plane will be halfway between the mainland U.S. and Honolulu. They give you the time you took off, the airspeed in nautical miles, the distance in nautical miles and the headwinds, and you get to try to figure it out to win a bottle of wine or some macadamia nuts. I didn't try any heavy duty calculations, in my defence, and I missed by about 10 minutes.
Off to breakfast. Gonna look for some Spam Musubi at some point, but not until after a cup of coffee and something a little more familiar. For those unaccustomed to Hawaiian cuisine, one of the most popular items all over the islands is a slice of fried Spam (they got used to it during World War II and still love it) on top of sushi rice, wrapped in a small sliver of seaweed. It's got a bit of a soy (shoyu they call it here) sauce glaze and it's not entirely inedible. Or so I recall. But I'll let ya know later; maybe next week.