So, Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba has been asked to provide half an hour’s worth of entertainment during a fundraiser for the local chapter of the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawai‘i – Good Samaritans, island style. YFNA reckons that half an hour on solo cornet could get a little … meh. Not that what follows is likely to be any better …
“So, is everybody here tonight kama‘aina, or have we got some folk who are new to the islands? Ah, I thought as much. E komo mai, welcome aboard the wa‘a, friends, and I hope you’re settling in and getting a grip on island style.
“Starting with the dress code, of course. Hat – to keep your head from too much sun. You guys and gals from Oregon and Washington and Alaska, you do remember the sun, huh? I mean, you last saw it in October, it wasn’t that long ago. Lot of folk in the Pacific Northwest are doing the pagan thing these days, I hear. The pagans, you know, were the ones who started the business of throwing parties at the winter solstice, ’cause their priests had managed, once again this year, to stop the sun from turning into a faintly buzzing ice cube and keep it lighting up the sky and heating the swimming pool. So ‘fess up, you Seattleites and Rip City people. You all came to Hawai‘i this January to make sure it really happened, amirite?
“Under the hat, the aloha shirt. Lovingly crafted in Hawai‘i from cloth locally produced in Bangladesh. Which is how come you can still get them at Costco for less than your mortgage payment. Shirt tails out, please – you came here to get warm, I know, but there is such a thing as too much. And, guys, heads up, this will change your life. You’re used to getting dressed, tucking your shirt into your pants, and then loading up your pockets, yeah? Here, ya gotta put your stuff in your pockets before you put your shirt on. Trust me on this. You’re gonna be droppin’ a lot of stuff on the floor until you get it. Picked up a wallet with half a dozen credit cards and $300 off the floor of the produce department at Safeway the other day; ‘uh oh, new guy, hasn’t figured out the shirt tale yet.’
“And under the shirt, your shorts. I tell you right now, you can ignore those crazies who’re running around in 75 degree weather with hoodies and sweats, complainin’ that they’re cold. You just came from 7 point 5 degrees. You know better. And they should be board shorts, ’cause ya gotta be stylin’. Just watch out when you’re shoppin’, that you don’t get stuck wearin’ a pair with an attitude:
Shorts: Oh please, not again!
You: … whut?
Shorts: You heard me! Paddle out to the wave. Ride it back to the beach. Paddle out to the wave. Ride it back to the beach. Over and over and over! I’m bored!
You: Duh … So you want something different? A little excitement?
Shorts: Well yEAh!
You: Right. See those lava pinnacles over there? What say we shoot betw…
Shorts: That’s ok that’s ok! The beach is da kine!
“And on your feet: slippahs. Not ‘slippurs’. Slippahs! Just buy the ‘R’ a plane ticket and send it back to the mainland, you won’t be needing it. Now, of course, if you’re from Bahston, you never brought the ‘R’ with you in the first place. Just pahk the slippah next to the cah in Hahvahd Yahd, and you’ll fit right in. You people from Iowa? Where you ‘worsh’ your clothes in the ‘worshing’ machine? We’re going to have to work on your pronunciation a bit.
“Have you worn slippahs before? No? Looks simple enough, eh? Not! I put on my first pair. Five minutes later? My feet were rolled into little cramped screaming balls. I spent the next few hours walking on my hands ’cause it was easier. Physicians hate these things. Besides you having to hold them on with your toes, they give your feet no support and precious little else. Foot doctor walks in, takes one look at my feet and one look at my slippahs, and she tells me ‘So. You’d rather pay me $200 than go to K-Mart and pick out a decent $40 pair of shoes. My accountant is OK with this. Don’t know about yours.’
“So why do we put up with this?
“In case you don’t know, shoe drill is when you take your shoes off before you go in to someone’s house. Doesn’t happen a lot on the mainland. Here, it’s pretty standard. In Asia? Whoa! There are few sights in the world more fearsome than that of a grandmother in Korea, all 4 foot 9 and 80 pounds of her, prepared to unload on you like a blitzing middle linebacker if you enter her house with your shoes on. And if that doesn’t work, the ninja pop out from behind the Japanese screen in the living room and cut you to ribbons. Wait, that’s not quite right. First they carry you and your offending footwear out of the house. Then they cut you to ribbons.
“Thing about slippahs, they come off quickly and easily. Thank goodness. Which makes them ideal for shoe drill.
“And the thing about shoe drill, it says two things about the house you’re about to walk into in your bare feet. You don’t have to worry too much about dirt, and you don’t have to worry too much about wildlife getting in and biting your toes.
“Now you wander around Hawai‘i, and you see all the greenery and the birds and animals and things, and you think ‘wow, Hawai‘i has got a lot of wildlife!’ Well, actually, it doesn’t. Most of the things you see are things that people have brought in from someplace else. Oranges? China. Mangoes? India. Sugar Cane? West Indies. Pineapple? Central America. Frangipani? Mexico. Even the weeds are mostly from far away. And ants? Hawai‘i has 50 kinds now, and they’re all flown here! And on and on and on.
“‘So is anything native to Hawai‘i, at least anything that I don’t have to go to a museum or botanical garden to see?’ Yeah, there are. Cockroaches. There are four kinds in New York City. Hawai‘i has those same four – and twelve more that are Hawai‘i’s very own.
“And centipedes. A red one and a blue one, both grown here. And they both took one look at the scrawny, inch-long things that pass for centipedes on the mainland, said ‘eh brah, that not fo us’, and started working out. [holds fingers an inch apart] ‘That’s not a centipede, yeah?’ [spreads fingers to 18+ inches] ‘This is a centipede!’ And they bite. Which would be bad enough by itself, but just to make sure they’ve got your attention, they put a venom in the bite – the same one that’s in bee stings. So if you’re the kind of person who blows up like a balloon if you get stung by a bee, you do not want to get bitten by a centipede, ya feel me?
“So here I am, coming home, minding my own business, and I’m taking off my shoes (I hadn’t started wearing slippahs yet) at the door to my house, when I look up and there’s this red centipede crawling across the floor and heading for the kitchen. Where my lady, who’s one of those people who blows up like a balloon when she’s stung by a bee, is working. I had to do something, and I didn’t have a lot of time or a lot of tools. Except …
“Which I promptly put back on, strode brazenly across my sacred floor, and stomped the centipede to mush.
“I didn’t have to deal with Asian grandmothers.
“I didn’t have to dodge any ninja.
“And the centipede wouldn’t be messin’ with nobody no more.
“So after the coast was clear, I peeled my lady off the ceiling fan and took her out to dinner. Wearing my hat, and my aloha shirt, and my shorts, and my centipede stompers.
“Thank you and good night.”
Your lady thanks you for saving her life. I know at the time it may not have seemed like it. If I recall, she was a little miffed because: 1.) She hadn’t heard you open the door and thought she was home alone, 2.) You bellowed a war cry while charging toward her, then 3.) You smeared centipede over 2/3rds of the just mopped kitchen floor.