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Caspar 30 March 2013

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Home as Destination

For inveterate travelers like us, it's never long before the next trip starts hatching itself. Often, even before the last trip has ended! Planning for this trip began at least eight years ago, when the foundations of our world were altered (for the better) by three nights at the Merrie Monarch Festival in Hilo, Hawaii. After the first night, and despite a cold dark ride almost to Volcano afterwards, we couldn't stop talking about coming back ... and staying closer!

The challenge with the Merrie Monarch is that Hilo is Hawaii's second city, but it's also not a common tourist destination, and so finding a place to stay for the 50th celebration of the Merrie Monarch is chancy at best.

<p>relative distances</p>

relative distances

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<p>2013 Merrie Monarch poster</p>

2013 Merrie Monarch poster

With diligent attention, we found a place to stay in Hilo a full 16 months before the event -- everywhere was sold out, but then someone cancelled and I found their spot and grabbed it. 

Then there's the tickets to the event. There are only so many, and the event has been selling out for a decade. To get a ticket, one must postmark on or after December 26th, include a money order, a legal sized return envelope, and the form. Then , if you're lucky, the aunties who volunteer to do ticket fulfillment grant your request ...or not. You might find out by the end of February.

It's worth the anxiety. And it's fair, too. The history of real Hula (as distinct from the version as practiced in Waikiki) is as tangled and fraught, and we did it to them. Hula is an ancient dance form that marries most of the social forms of the vigorous Hawaiian culture that existed before the white guys took over. Most mainlanders think of grass skirts and coconut covered breasts, but that's the Kodak Hula Show. Hula includes men and the warrior tradition of Polynesians right alongside the nurturing and erotic dances of the women -- scared the daylights out of the missionaries, who outlawed the true hula as soon as they took over. 

It survived, and re-emerged with Hawaii statehood. It's long-time advocate, David Kalākaua (1874–1891) lived on in the hearts of true Hawaiians ... and reigns, as the Merrie Monarch, over the Festival.

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the Plan

Of course, if one's flying for five hours, one -- at least this one -- can't settle too long in one spot. WAY too many lovely and well-loved places to visit, like the Hana highway, my ohana in Kipahulu, my dolphin friends in Napo'opo'o, shave ice in Hawi, my old friend Imani and his wife Tara and new baby Irie in Makawao... And you have no idea how much is being left out!

As you can see, in California terms, the islands are not large. The longest day driving will be Hilo to Napo'opo'o, a beautiful trip up and around the volcano, over to Ke'Alea, and up through the plantations and jungle of South Kona. In two places we'll be sleeping in the same beds as the last time we made this trip, in 2005. There are favorite restaurants to revisit, and new ones, as well -- the level of cuisine on the Islands started out amazing and has elevated itself, we're told, with a natural islanders' enthusiasm for locavorism. 

For us, the trip really began about a week ago, with a mystical shift from "home as home" to "home as the first of our destinations." Seeing our home in the context of far-off reveals its singular beauty, and at the same time, its comforting sameness. I know that 17 days from now I'll be jonesing for my beddie and pet pillow, the reassuring routine of friends and home ... and begin the plan for the next big trip. Wisconsin and the northern tier?

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