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Pacific interlude

So we just got back from our secret undisclosed location, where Janet and I delivered papers and Nick and Jamie got some sun.  Nick had taken to counting the number of days during his winter break when the sun did not appear in State College (namely, all of them); he had in fact begun to doubt the heliocentric theory of the solar system (it is only a theory, after all), and by New Year’s Day was seriously entertaining the possibility that the planet rests on the back of a giant turtle and is swathed in cotton. Jamie was up for the trip too, since he always likes to travel to a “new state, never done before,” and Janet and I were wheezing and honking our way around the house with nasty nagging post-holiday/ post-MLA colds and sinus infections.  Hawai’i seemed like a good place to go– assuming, of course, that we could get there through the surprise four-inch snowstorm that arrived in central Pennsylvania the very day we were supposed to drive to Harrisburg for our flight (through Chicago to Honolulu), and assuming that we could load up on enough Nyquil and vitamin C to keep our bodily effluvia from messing with everyone else’s bodies all up and down the passenger cabin.

“We’re going to be the family everyone hates,” Janet suggested, plausibly enough.

“On a nine-hour flight, too,” I said.  “Honestly, I wouldn’t want to sit next to me.”

“I’m going to ask the flight attendant to move me away from me,” Janet replied.

Actually, it was not clear that any of us would be sitting next to any of us on that Chicago-Honolulu flight, since we’d all been assigned disparate single seats, and we thought that in Jamie’s case, at least, this might be a bad idea.  But it all worked out eventually, and after rising at 3:30 AM in Harrisburg and catching our 6 AM flight out of the frozen North American tundra, we touched down in O’ahu at 2:30 the same day, January 12.  And we somehow made it back safely on the 15th and 16th, flying from Lihu’e (in Kaua’i) to O’ahu to Los Angeles to Chicago to Harrisburg and then driving 90 miles to State College, changing our clothes twice along the way (don’t ask how) while leaving all that fine Pacific brine sticking to our weary bodies.

You may feel free to envy us (as Derek Smalls once said, I envy us), because Hawai’i is quite nice this time of year.  Then again, you should also know that I met a chicken quesadilla in Kailua that incapacitated me for 24 hours, making life exceptionally unpleasant in certain respects and reducing me to a diet of small sips of Gatorade on Friday.  By which point Janet had acquired a migraine aura, as she informed me just before she took the boys to lunch during my talk.  “I can contract diphtheria,” offered Nick helpfully, while Jamie reminded us yet again that the aquarium we’d visited on Thursday morning merely contained black-tipped reef sharks whereas the Sea Life Park near Waimanalo had hammerheads, and “maybe we would go there– be good idea.” Jamie never did get to see his hammerheads, but before his parents were laid low by a few of the frailties to which mortal flesh is heir, he had climbed to the summit of Diamond Head, complaining all the way– except at the top, which he decided was “cool.” Also, we hung out for a while with grad-school compatriot Susan Schultz and her family; Susan teaches at the U of Hawai’i-Manoa and is the founder of the Tinfish Press, which you should go check out right now by means of that handy hyperlink.

Fun fact! Many people know that Hawaiian names are based on the twelve-letter (five-vowel, seven-consonant) alphabet devised by nineteenth-century Christian missionaries who transcribed the natives’ spoken language (just before they stamped out hula dancing, wave riding, and smiling), but very few know that the missionaries based their limited choice of consonants on some of the trains of the BMT branch of the New York City subway system: K, L, M, N, and W (they had long since committed the J, Q, and R for missionary use in the Caribbean).  Later, in a spirit of generosity and with an eye to the future, the missionaries threw in H and P for use during rush hours, and decreed that the M would also make local stops on weekends.

Another fun fact! South Pacific was filmed in Hawai’i even though Hawai’i is actually in the North Pacific.  Watch carefully when Mitzi Gaynor sings “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Out of My Hair,” and you can see the water swirling down the drain counterclockwise, which, because of the Coriolanus Effect, only happens north of the equator.  Director Joshua Logan smugly predicted that no one would notice the slip, but history has proven him wrong!

Finally, on the political front, I don’t see what’s the fuss about a little annexation here and there.  This should be a happy time!  Let’s not bicker and argue about who killed who.  Besides, as the Cato Institute points out, Hawai’i’s annexation has been proven to be beneficial to the hotel, golf, and wedding industries.  More importantly, Hawai’i represents the westward leading edge of a realization to which North Americans have been remarkably slow to come: namely, that we’ve occupied the wrong damn land from the start.  Think about it.  As I type these words in the northeastern US at roughly 41 degrees above the planet’s equator, the air temperature outside is 15F, with a wind chill of -2.  In Chicago it is 9F; in Minneapolis, 1F; and in Winnipeg, Manitoba, just under 50 degrees north, it is now an ungodly -17F.  These are simply unacceptable conditions in so-called “temperate” regions.  By contrast, even frozen Helsinki, way up there at 60N, is 45 degrees warmer than Winnipeg today, 13 warmer than State College.

The lesson is clear for those who think globally: U.S. out of North America now.

Posted by on 01/17 at 03:44 PM
  1. Envy me!  Guthrie, OK is a balmy 35!

    Geez, you go to Hawaii and get sick.  Do you have a thing against pleasure?

    Posted by  on  01/17  at  05:55 PM
  2. Ah, Michael, those of us on the US/Canadian border want to thank you for the chance to experience the Hawaiian sun vicariously through you. Tomorrow’s high is going to be -5. Tomorrow night will be -20. At times like this it helps to know the sun is shining warmly somewhere. Welcome home.

    Posted by  on  01/17  at  06:21 PM
  3. We’re moving out already.  With Iraq and Iran we’ll soon have a giant sand trap to which we can send all the people who find it reasonable to live in Phoenix, AZ.

    Posted by Ryan  on  01/17  at  07:08 PM
  4. I think I spot at least one whopper in your post here.  Yep, you’re pulling our leg about some pretty important facts in this entry.

    There is no such thing as Harrisburg.

    Posted by Sherman Dorn  on  01/17  at  08:30 PM
  5. Close, Sherman!  There is such a thing as Harrisburg.  But it has no airport! Other than that, you’ll find that everything in this post checks out.  Thanks for the reports from balmy Guthrie and icy Clarkson, Ms. NT and Chris-- and don’t despair, folks, Ryan is right:  in a few years we can look forward to bidding on a nice timeshare in Mosul or Tabriz.  It’ll be the winter getaway of choice-- at least until downtown Damascus becomes available, late in Jeb Bush’s first term!

    Posted by Michael  on  01/17  at  09:42 PM
  6. Do I have to be the first to point out the gross—and unmistakably illegal—infringement of Monty Python’s intellectual property contained in this blog entry?  Or is everyone else busy notifying the relevant authorities?

    Posted by Gil Rodman  on  01/17  at  09:52 PM
  7. I hope everyone at the conference was wearing touristy, colorful “Hawaiian” shirts, because 1) they represent the diametrical opposite of the MLA dress code, and 2) it is indeed quite possible to wear them ironically, without being aware of the irony.

    BTW You missed Democratic blogger-gate!

    Posted by Amardeep  on  01/17  at  10:22 PM
  8. What a bunch of haoles! Sea Life park! Huh! At least you didn’t go to the Cultural Center—the human zoo.

    Hawai’i represents the westward leading edge of a realization

    I think Guam is technically the Westward edge ... or maybe not. Is it on the other side of the international dateline? Maybe it’s the eastward leading edge? I forget. Doesn’t matter. Except for the food, people, native language, and voting status, it’s just like Hawai’i.

    Posted by Roxanne  on  01/17  at  10:57 PM
  9. But we didn’t go to the Sea Life Park-- too Disney, too 50 First Dates, you know.  Jamie saw the Sea Life hammerheads on the hotel’s tourist-trap channel, and he knows more about sharks than any of us, so he kept up a constant stream of chatter about going there, but we resisted.  Likewise with the Cultural Center (shudder).  We just basically parked next to beaches and let Jamie do his imitation of a sea lion for half an hour at a time.

    As for that leading edge, Guam is indeed on the far side of the dateline, so it is always tomorrow there (even today!).  Otherwise, Roxanne, you’re right to point out that Guamese culture is pretty much identical to Hawai’ian, except that the language of Chamorro, native to the colorful Guamesean peoples, actually moved to Nicaragua in 1990 and was elected President of that country!

    That’s another fun fact about the mysterious Pacific Islands, folks.

    And what’s this “Democratic blogger-gate”?  Has some hapless lefty blogger alluded to a Monty Python bit without proper MLA-style attribution?  If so then we must show no mercy.  We must use every weapon at our disposal, including dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and . . . satire.  I’ve seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than hear satire. 

    Posted by Michael  on  01/18  at  12:08 AM
  10. Hey, I thought it was my job to do the Spanish Inquisition bit. 

    Anyway, I got a two dead parrots with one 16 ton weight proposal for you.  What if we re-flooded the Great Plains to form a great inland sea again?  It shouldn’t take more than some minor tinkering with the St. Lawrence seaway.  And think of the benefits.  One, we get a moderating influence on temperatures in the rest of the country.  Two, many of the red-state crowd would have to move to more liberal environments.  A few coconut cream lattes here, some independent cinema there, mix in a little Paul Krugman, and suddenly, they’re marching for trans-gender adoption rights.

    Posted by corndog  on  01/18  at  12:43 AM
  11. Welcome back, and it’s good that you had a nice time in spite of your ailments.  smile My grandmother lives at Diamond Head and it surely is beautiful.  Unfortunately, her idea of a good time is not climbing (or hammerhead sharks); she loves instead to tour the hotel lobbies in Waikiki.  Yeah ... don’t worry, that’s what I think too.

    Posted by  on  01/18  at  01:19 AM
  12. Gee, I like cold weather.  As part of a balanced, four seasons approach.

    Posted by  on  01/18  at  01:45 AM
  13. snort.

    Remember, there are two modes of travel in America - first class and with children.

    I don’t see how you could possibly have noticed the water going down the drain. I don’t see how anyone could watch that movie and register anything but the evocative color shifts which make it look as if every reel was processed in a different color of muddy water and the way Mitzi Gaynor’s hair shifts position in every shot while being completely immobile on camera.

    Posted by julia  on  01/18  at  02:34 AM
  14. Hey!  They’re out after Burma now.  We could have elephants!!!

    Posted by Ryan  on  01/18  at  12:54 PM
  15. Michael,

    Democratic Blogger-gate

    A tempest in a teapot. Just the thing for a satire, however.

    Posted by Amardeep  on  01/18  at  02:12 PM
  16. You’re wrong about the Coriolanus Effect!  It makes the New York subways swerve clockwise!

    Posted by  on  01/18  at  04:05 PM
  17. Thank-you, Micheal, for these fun reports on your various family holidays; makes us stay at homes feel better about being shut-ins.

    We’re having our own biblical rains here in Southern California. Garrison Keillor admitted this weekend that Minnesota has to pay people to come in January.

    If you want to relive Hawaii, get hold of the DVD of “Lilo & Stitch,” great fun, great wit, and great animation; (mon pere was an animator, so I have an excuse, even at a relatively advanced age, for liking cartoons.)

    Posted by Leah A  on  01/18  at  05:44 PM
  18. Just touching base before going off for a couple of weeks to our condo in Kabul.

    That’s a lie.  Farthest I got today was Austin, a city which used to be funky and liberal but which is now Hummersville, Support Our Troops town. South Austin still has some beards and T-shirts but their owners are looking increasingly haggard and desperate (and elderly). 

    Back here this evening in W. Texas, turns out Jeff Bezos has cashed in his Amazon millions and bought a 165,000 acre blend of three ranches and will build some sort of space probe.  You think I’m kidding?  Read it in today’s NYTimes.

    Posted by PW/Bean  on  01/19  at  12:08 AM
  19. Hey Man,

    It is the Corriolis Effect, not Corriolanus --- which is a play by Shakespeare, I guess. That is
    YOUR slip! The truth may be relative but NOT THAT relative.

    Culture does not mean only knowing your musicals,
    damn it.

    Posted by Joao Leao  on  01/19  at  04:21 PM
  20. Hey Joao,

    Gotcha!  Just click on the link on the word “Effect” (as opposed to “Coriolanus,” which will take you to a page on Coriolanus), and see what there is to see.  Also, there is no drain in the Mitzi Gaynor scene, and even if there were, the Coriolis Effect would not be discernible.  Let’s see, what else?  Oh yes. it’s Guamanian, not Guamese or Guamesean, and of course the Chamorro language bears no relation to Nicaraguan president Violet Chamorro.  And there’s no such thing as Harrisburg-- I was only kidding in comment # 5.

    But the bit about Hawai’ian consonants is completely true.  You can look it up.

    Posted by  on  01/19  at  04:46 PM
  21. By the way-- whilethere is an ‘okina (glottal stop) in hawai’i, there is not in “hawaiian”. Otherwise you would be pronouncing this hawai--ian.

    Posted by  on  01/20  at  12:17 PM
  22. Hey, this I did not know.  Thanks, Lisa, you’ve made it much easier on my glottis.

    Posted by Michael  on  01/20  at  12:22 PM
  23. According to snopes.com, the Coriolis Effect does not affect how a toilet flushes:


    Posted by  on  01/20  at  10:05 PM
  24. Or how a musical ends, either!

    Posted by Michael  on  01/20  at  10:46 PM
  25. I should read you more often, sir.  I could have shown you some sights while you were here, had I known.

    Posted by Linkmeister  on  01/21  at  02:51 AM
  26. Never mind toilets!  What about hockey?

    Posted by  on  01/21  at  03:05 PM





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