The Goddess Speaks
Uneasy out of her comfort zone
Recently I attended a conference in New York City and stayed in a hotel in Times Square. Every time I looked down to the streets, I was reminded that this is the city that never sleeps -- people were bustling along at all hours, and the restaurants were open nearly around the clock.
Where I live in Ewa Beach, they roll up the sidewalks at 9 in the evening, and if you want food after then, you can order pizza or go to the grocery store. In New York there is a deli on every block, and you can find wonderful hot or cold gourmet food at all hours.
Walking in the city is fun, though without the mauka/ makai thing for reference, I got lost a lot. But for $2 you can buy a hot dog on any street corner, and the directions back to your hotel are free.
The hot-dog guys are friendly, which is more than I can say for the other New Yorkers I met. Everyone is so rushed in this city that they haven't got time to be polite, and if you don't walk at a mile-crunching pace, you get shoved out of the way.
For me it was the visual and auditory onslaught that was the most foreign. Everywhere I went there were flashing lights, billboards, neon signs, people shouting on their cell phones, taxicabs honking, sirens, panhandlers, street vendors, hustlers, police -- it was an environment of such discord and invasive noise, and so opposed to the gentility of a Hawaii sensibility, that I always came back to my sealed hotel room with a sigh of relief.
No wonder you don't see lanais anywhere -- why would you step outside of your nice quiet living room in order to be assaulted by the evidence of too many people in too small a place with too much commercialism driving the machine?
This is not an indictment of New York. I loved the museums, the opera and the whole exciting song and dance of Manhattan. But I missed the leisurely pace of a less frenzied approach to life, and the sweet smell of flowers and the sea.
When I stepped off the plane in Honolulu and heard the usual cheesy greeting welcoming me to paradise, I thought, maybe it isn't so far off the mark. I can't imagine spending my whole life in a place unfriendly to children, and without quiet sunsets on the beach drinking champagne, and without equity. The class and race divisions in New York are as deep as the Hudson River, and a mistaken subway ride can land you within minutes on streets that are as dangerous as those in Baghdad.
I never have to worry in Hawaii about stumbling into a neighborhood where just setting foot on the sidewalk constitutes a risk to life and limb. I can live without the hustle and bustle of Broadway -- I'll choose the soft music of tropical breezes in a place that is warm, friendly and safe.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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