Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Monday, May 11, 1998

Here in laid-back
paradise, we don’t sweat
the small or the big stuff

I wrote a little piece for a mainland newspaper about Hawaii and how the Miss Universe pageant comes at a time when our ravaged economy can use all the help it can get.

Part of the story attempted to explain the quirky nature of life here in the islands, like why an internationally televised event like Miss U. was being held in a university basketball arena instead of the spanking new $350 million convention center. It came as a surprise to absolutely no one in Hawaii that the convention center could not be used for such an event because whoever designed it made the ceilings are too low for a large televised production. We have perfected the art of hanging loose, brah.

I pointed out that the state was bamboozled into building a 50-000 seat sports stadium that rusted on purpose. In the end, the idea that you could build a steel stadium in the salt-saturated air of a Pacific island that would form just a "patina of rust" before stopping proved just as preposterous as it sounded. The rust went from patina to Godzilla in nothing flat and was well on its way to gobbling down the entire structure until costly intervention ensued. Of course, the price of the rust removal was more than the original construction. Not a local eyebrow was raised. Shaka, brah.

I didn't have room in the story to talk about our most recent entry into the Hawaii Zany Construction Projects Hall of Fame: the construction of million bucks worth of bleachers for a run-of-the-mill university softball field. The bleachers were constructed so that spectators could not see fairly important parts of the field, like, for instance, home plate. I'm not sure readers of the Boston Globe would understand that we now have to haul in dirt and raise the entire softball field several feet, a fairly daunting construction project in its own right, something like the creation of Magic Island. God knows what kind of horror show the raising-of-the-field enterprise will create. Perhaps they will inadvertantly haul in radioactive dirt from some abandoned military lot. That would be great for night games but probably would result in the softball field becoming a federal superfund cleanup site, at the cost of untold millions. And if it did, local residents would be only vaguely amused. What? Me worry?

I tried to depict Hawaii the way I see it, a little state with a big heart, full of good intentions but pathologically unable to focus on the most important issues of the day. I also didn't have room to mention in the Globe story that at a time when the state was struggling with its worst economic crisis, a state representative introduced a bill to force dog owners to provide a solid roof over their dog's head if the creature is kept outdoors. We should treat dogs like humans, we were told, although it seems we have not yet managed to treat our humans like humans, at least those homeless souls who forced to tough it out on the streets. Chance 'em, brah.

But I had confidence that by tomorrow's Miss Universe pageant broadcast live to the world, Hawaii would never look better. Viewers will not see bickering politicians and strange softball fields. They won't see rusting stadiums and homeless people begging legislators to at least treat them like dogs.

What they'll see will be breath-taking sunsets, gorgeous beaches and dramatic green mountains. Hawaii may be a bit eccentric, but we always clean up well for a party. They will see a state that is putting a lot of its financial hopes and dreams in the high heels of 81 statuesque ladies parading around in skimpy bathing suits.

At last bit of irony with this Miss Universe thing is Hawaii will be one of the few places in the world that will not be able to see Hawaii live on TV tomorrow. It will be "close-your-eyes" here and on the West Coast until the pageant is broadcast tape-delayed by the local CBS affiliates. The fact that the biggest international event to take place in Hawaii in ages will be blacked out comes as absolutely no shock to anyone here. Ain't no big t'ing, bruddah. We catch 'em later.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

or send E-mail to charley@nomayo.com or

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