Thursday, February 14, 2013

Oahu: Day 1

Since our brains were still on PST, we woke freakishly early (well, freakishly early for me) and listened to the far-off sound of roosters trying to bring up the sun.  We ate breakfast with the family, prepped for the day, then headed toward Pearl Harbor to visit the U.S.S. Arizona memorial.

If you go, some things you should know:
1) Admission is free, though you do need to secure tickets for a spot on the boat over to the memorial.  These tickets are first-come, first-served, so it behooves you to get there earlier than we did, before the hordes of tourists descend.
2) For security reasons, no purses, backpacks or other large carry-in items are allowed into the memorial.  Leave your purse at home or in a safe place, as the memorial's parking lot is what is known as a theft-rich location.  If you plan on spending any money in the gift shops, bring in something like a wallet.  Or do as Miss V did, and bug your uncle.

Speaking of which, Miss V was not overly pleased to be stuck waiting for a boat ride at a national monument.  We had some time to kill before 11:15 and she didn't see enough opportunities to go shopping.  So we let her go off to Target with the fam while we took a look around.

Captain Midnight is the bomb.  That green thing behind him is the torpedo.  Know Your Ordnance.

Having grown up an Air Force brat, CM proceeded to make himself right at home.  Pew pew!

We checked out the cross-section of a conning tower...

...did our best not to taunt Happy Fun Nuke Torpedo...

...and discovered the world's biggest soda bottle.

Well, as Monty Python says, "enough of this gay banter."  None of this was really the reason we were there.

This -- out on the other side of the harbor, near Ford Island -- was the reason.  The white memorial building seems to hover in the harbor, suspended on blocks just above the water.  It looks graceful, its mid-century futurist architectural style reminiscent of Seattle's Space Needle, but it floats forever above a tomb.  Beneath it are the submerged remnants of the U.S.S. Arizona, still sheltering the bodies of her dead.

Miss V rejoined us around 11:00, still a bit sulky as she waited around for the boat.  She wasn't the least bit interested at first.  But before you ride over to the memorial, you watch a short documentary film about what happened at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  There is archival footage of the attack, including what it looked like when the Arizona was bombed.  70+ years later, the footage still has the power to send a shock wave of horror through the audience.

After the film, V had plenty of questions.

We talked about them quietly on the boat, and when we reached the memorial.

She was most alarmed by the thought that there are still human remains inside the ship.

In fact, there are more every year.  Since the 1980s, those who survived the bombing of the Arizona may choose to have their remains cremated and returned to the ship to be sealed inside; some of the names of those who have done so are shown here.

The full list of those who died aboard the Arizona on December 7.  It took just 9 minutes for the ship, the size of a small floating city, to blaze up and sink after it was bombed. There are over a thousand names on the wall.

While we were here, a Japanese lady and her small son stood beside this plaque. She read the words in English, then painstakingly translated them into Japanese, so her son would understand what they meant.

Droplets of oil still rise from the hull of the Arizona and break on the surface of the water, dispersing into rainbow ripples.  These are known as the "tears of the Arizona," and they have been leaking into the harbor for the past 70 years.  I saw some of these, though I wasn't able to get them on camera. Legend has it that these tears will stop rising when the last Pearl Harbor survivor passes away.

It is solemn and sad and beautiful, and it was worth seeing.

On the boat ride back, I snapped a quick (and blurry) picture of Tripler Army Hospital, the big pink building where my friend Fen was born.

Everybody was hungry at that point, so we went to two long-running local institutions: Rainbow Drive-In for plate lunches...

...followed by Leonard's for some fresh-made malasadas (Portuguese-style donuts).  The malasada in particular did terrible things to my blood sugar, but oohhhhh so tasty.  Sometimes you just gotta live a little.  (Can you blame me?  Come on, look at that display case and tell me you'd have the willpower to resist!)

After that we went to the Punchbowl.  No, it is not a drinking establishment.

It's actually a military cemetery, located inside the bowl-like caldera of an extinct volcano (thus the name).

Lest you think we were being excessively morbid on Valentine's Day...

...the Punchbowl happens to have some spectacular views of downtown Honolulu (that's Diamond Head off in the distance).

Plus, it really is a lovely cemetery.

Inside, tucked behind the fountain shown above, there's a multi-denominational chapel.

The stained glass windows are interesting, in that the only true "windows" are the stained glass panels. The rest is just open filigree work.  Each panel has a high-relief profile of Lady Liberty or a character who looks to be Christopher Columbus.

Once we'd had enough of the Punchbowl, we headed back for the North Shore, stopping to take in the Pali Lookout.

Not only is the view here spectacular (as shall be seen), but the wind is so strong you can practically lean into it.

There's a great view of the Ko'olau mountain range...

...and the bedroom community of Kane'ohe.

This place gets the Miss V seal of approval.

Oh yeah, another thing: behold the bird of paradise.  Yes, the chicken.  There are bands of wild chickens all over Oahu.  They roam unrestrained across the beaches, through the streets, and pretty much anywhere else they choose to go, crowing and clucking.  No doubt this would warm the cockles of Colonel Sanders' heart.

Later in the evening, Captain Midnight and I did some sweetheart-y stuff at the Polynesian Cultural Center, which was having a big Valentine's Day feast that reminded me of nothing so much as the first 10 minutes of Spirited Away.

Enter here for the Island Feast!  OMNOMNOM.  It was quite delicious.

After we ate our fill, CM and I sauntered out to take a boat ride around the park.  The usual ride had been transformed with paper lanterns and tiny lights and other Valentinesque detritus, with lots of lurve ballads playing.  This made us a little silly, so that as we headed back to the dock and another boat approached ours, the woman sitting beside us couldn't help but shout, "RAMMING SPEED!" and we began to pantomime beating drums to spur on our gondolier to commit mayhem.  Fun!

Much satisfied with our first full day on Oahu, we went home and fell into bed.

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