Christmas weekend with a close friend prompted the first trip off the island in years. For decades, going to Honolulu was simple. Go to Kahului, park for free, walk into the terminal, dodge mynah-bird bombs and buy a cheap ticket at one of two counters. In a half-hour or less, you were on a plane. Another half-hour dropped you into Honolulu.
A week ago: Tuck the truck into a stall that would cost $10 a day. Ticket was purchased a week earlier on a website with a credit card. A lobby computer is designed to print out a boarding pass. Get lost in a series of website pages. Head for the counter. Plead ignorance. Nice lady produces a pass.
Off to security. Worry a little about the bag's contents, needles and a small electronic blood sugar monitor. Wearing nothing that is metal, not even a belt. No knives. No cigarette lighters. Keys, wallet, glasses and slippers go into a grey tub for a conveyor belt ride through an X-ray box. People are framed.
The metal detector goes off. Can't do anything about the left ankle's mass of metal surgically installed during the last trip to Oahu. One of the TSA uniforms calls out "random check." Another uniform pulls out two paper circles designed to detect explosive residue. She strokes both hands with the circles. Nothing. She looks bored. The whole security check, including standing in line, takes about five minutes.
Long walk through OGG. Amazed at the size of so-called carry-on luggage. Most are on wheels. At the other end of the flight, a long walk through the aroma of coffee being brewed for sale. The city's terminal is clean but very worn. By contrast, Maui's getaway point is sparkling new. Friend waits at the curb.
"Want to drive?"
Dimly remember getting on and off the freeway. "No way. You know where you're going." Chuckle at official roadside signs saying the freeway is an interstate highway. Not much traffic. It's after 9 p.m.
Off the freeway onto a twist of narrow streets, one as steep as Pulehuiki in Kula. House is 900 feet above the university side of Manoa Valley. There are tree-framed views of modest houses and a horizon-hiding march of sky-punching hotels and condos along the coast. It's been a very long time since the valley was the home of small farms. The next day arrives with gusty winds driving a mist of rains.
"Anything you want to do?" Can't think of anything in particular. "How about visiting the Bishop Museum?" she suggests. Sounds good.
Down narrow streets shaded by old trees. Out on a bare freeway. Remember a 1968 reporting assignment on crazy freeway drivers. And, a near-death experience in the University Avenue interchange. A Chicago-taught attempt to blend with traffic screeched to a halt behind a car parked at the end of the acceleration lane.
The next day, an urge to visit Waikiki. Last home before Maui in 1973 was a shabby apartment a block from the Ala Wai Canal. Walk along the ocean side of Kalakaua. Don't recognize much. A Japanese couple dressed for a wedding approaches. The groom makes eye contact and smiles. Most strangers on Oahu avoid eye contact.
The sight of the Moana Surfrider is comforting. The Moana was the first hotel in Waikiki. The Royal Hawaiian, aka "The Pink Lady," was the second. Now it's buried behind a shopping mall.
"There's nothing here that says Hawaiian," kamaaina friend observes. The makai side of the street could be a section of Rodeo Drive in L.A. The mauka-side stores remind her of the tacky enterprises in Venice, Calif.
The day after Christmas: "Let's go look at Hotel Street." Once notorious for bars and strip clubs, Hotel borders banks at one end and at the other end runs through Chinatown, a welter of farmers markets and herbal pharmacies.
Everywhere there are trees. The city's small parks, green grass and ranks of trees - even downtown - make Maui's developed areas appear sterile. I guess our home hasn't had enough water, planting or planning.
A plan for the evolution of Maui is supposed to be finished in 2012. Don't hold your breath. The County Council has already given itself two deadline extensions. Hey, council member, take a walk around Honolulu and Waikiki. You just might come away with an appreciation for what Maui is, what it could be and what it should be.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.