Wikiwiki, wacky, wacky Waikiki
It is widely alleged that I rarely leave my ZIP code. I find the allegation hurtful and resent it with nearly every fiber of my being. (I took a poll of all of the fibers of my being, and they all resented the allegation except for a single cotton fiber wedged under a toenail and a flannel fiber lodged in my belly button.) I don't necessarily disagree, I just resent it.
So, I spent last weekend in Waikiki, which should quiet those critics who think I am geographically challenged.
I was taking part in a fund-raiser for the Hawaii Women's Legal Foundation at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, an enterprise that gave me the opportunity not only to dress up like a gypsy and make a fool of myself onstage, but to go undercover as a tourist for a few days. I don't consider myself a rube, but I have to admit that I was surprised at some of the changes that have occurred since the last time I hung out in Waikiki, which I think was during the Ariyoshi administration.
Here are a few observations from behind the tourist lines:
» Limousines are now officially the longest vehicles on the planet. I saw one white limo that stretched from Fort DeRussy to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. You apparently board the limo in the rear and are transported toward the front of the vehicle by a set of pulleys and a trolley seat. You get out of the front door and find yourself in a completely different area of Waikiki with the limousine itself never leaving the curb. A stretch Humvee limousine offers the same service, but you and your spouse enter the truck wearing matching aloha attire and exit out the front 20 minutes later in battlefield fatigues and Kevlar vests.
» The price of shrimp in Waikiki apparently is tied by a legislative "shrimp cap" to the price of shrimp in selected shrimp-producing regions such as Lawrence, Kan., Irkutsk and Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta). Ordering a single shrimp at an outdoor cafe causes visitors at neighboring tables to stand and applaud, camera flashes to light up the sky and a certificate of appreciation to be delivered to your table by a representative of the Hawaii Tourism and Convention Bureau. A financially well-heeled tourist on my hotel floor apparently ordered an entire shrimp cocktail via room service, which caused the floor to be locked down by a fully armed SWAT team. It was whispered that the gratuity from that order alone could have bankrupted a small country (Burkina Faso).
» Technology has not kept pace with modern exotic drink development. Forget the mai tai. There are now 2,543 different exotic drinks available with names like Sex on a Surfboard While Dropping Into a Gnarly Right-hander, the Miranda Warning, the Super-cala-fraja-listic-expi-Haole-rita and the strangely named Wilbur, a coma-inducing alcoholic concoction poured into a hollowed-out pineapple and set ablaze with a road flare. Despite the advanced mixological nature of these cocktails, they still come adorned with a paper umbrella, vintage 1954. You'd think that by 2005 they'd have a more technologically advanced method of protecting an exotic drink from the harmful rays of the sun than a paper umbrella.
Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org