Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Finding Home: Three Months on the North Shore

When my older brother showed up in Santa Cruz, climbed to the top of the tall fir that caressed the side of my tiny cottage, and offered me a plane ticket to Hawaii, how could I refuse? We both knew there was nothing holding me to Santa Cruz. My brother and his girlfriend needed a nanny/house sitter and I'd never been to Hawaii. It was a win-win though frankly I can't imagine anyone leaving their kids and home in my care. I could hardly care for myself.

The house stood on a lush hillside overlooking Waimea Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. The view from the wide lanai took my breath away, literally. I felt as though I were on the top of the world. And that was before I was handed the keys to the bird shell blue convertible Karmann Ghia and the bridle to a beautiful bay gelding. I'm not sure which I fell in love with first.

Despite my wanderings, I was still a country girl. The beach scene wasn't for me. The sun gave me skin rash, the salt made me itch, and I was easily bored. I didn't have the balance for surfing, was too claustrophobic to try scuba, and knew nothing of the joys of snorkeling. Besides, this was long before prescription mask lenses had been developed for my dreadful eyesight.

The kids were school age. I dropped them off and picked them up daily. The rest of the day was mine. Alone. I rode the mountains and beaches most days, and filled the rest of my hours mastering backgammon at a local hangout with men twice my age. One day my favorite backgammon buddy handed me a clipping from the local newspaper.

"See this, girlie?" he asked.

"What?" I asked without looking up from the board.

"This you, no? You and that big horse you on?"
Unbelievable. All along I thought I was invisible, floating on the periphery of island culture and the international surf scene. Best of '78? I didn't feel like the best of anything. Yet it was true, on Mahele's back with the sea breeze in my face, the roar of surf in my ears, the warm water splashing my bare legs, I felt strong and free. Capable of anything. 

I remember the heavy pungent fragrance of the pineapple fields, the rush of humid warm wind, as I sped across the island, top down, Jimmy Buffet crooning. I remember the temptations of the North Shore. I remember the lines of cocaine and the rows of tent camps that seemed to mushroom when the surf was up. Once again I was a stranger in a land and culture as foreign to me as Caracas and Santa Cruz had been. The lifestyle was addictive, my brain felt like mush, and the drug scene was an easy escape.

I decided I needed a job and landed one at the Army PX demonstrating Parker pens. Within a week I decided the surf scene was more real than the army base and returned to my horseback rides and backgammon games. I learned to pronounce the local names and began to pick up some Pidgin. I tried to fit in, but felt I belonged nowhere.

When my brother returned, I had a decision to make: go or stay. My gut told me there was no home for me in Hawaii. As in Santa Cruz, I was neither a local nor a tourist. I didn't belong. A college friend studying in Mexico City had written encouraging me to join her, so when my brother asked what I wanted to do, I accepted the plane ticket he offered and left the islands with my backpack and a couple hundred dollars in my pocket.

Don't want to miss a single post? Get them delivered by entering your email in the box in the lower right column.

To read the prior posts in this mini-memoir series, go to the posts listing in the left side bar. If no longer visible, just click on "March" and "April" to select.

No comments: