What comes to mind?
The swaying palms over white sandy beaches, the smiling locals who greet you at the lobby with perfumed Orchid leis in hand?
Drinking playful rum drinks to the sound of slack key guitars, majestic Diamond Head looming in the distance?
Maybe a romantic romp in the sand, the imagery in your mind always comes back in gorgeous black and white, and you imagine rolling among the warm waves holding a young Deborah Kerr.
The Honolulu that greets us Friday off the 7am flight from LAX (this only after the 160 dollar stay at the airport bar ahem), is a brighter noisier place.
It is a proper metropolis after all, not the collection of Gilligan styled huts and coconut husk condoms that we all wished it would still be.
From the airport we only see glimpses of the blue Pacific between warehouses and shopping malls.
But soon we are dropping our bags off and putting on shorts and ridiculous shoes.
We are, we tell ourselves, on island time.
Here for one show only, Saturday night, so we have the whole goddamned day to make fools of ourselves among the sand and surf.
We’re out now, traipsing down the strand, past the fifteen dollar Ramen joints and ABC Stores, hang a right through the swanky lobby of the Sheraton and then we are there.
Sandals are cast aside as we dig our dogs into the warm sand.
The ocean lay before us, glorious green-blue, deep as any carpet of a Vegas high roller suite.
And that warm breeze, it envelopes you like a hug from a parent gone, delicious.
The hotels loom large above the Waikiki strand, staring down at at our touristy hijinks like disapproving mamas.
We can almost hear their sighs and detect shakes of their stony heads as we roll in the sand, the dogs that we are.
It is such a short trip, we try to cram the Hawaii experience into those few hours, those few meters along the shore.
We gorge ourselves on gravy flooded Moco Loco and fatty cheeseburgers, sip at drinks we can barely prounounce.
I soon catch myself drinking a potent MaiTai out of a Buddha-shaped souvenir glass, and though I am instantly shamed I cannot help myself from sipping Curaçao tinted Rum from a straw stuck in the smiling prophet’s belly!
We stop at every barefoot bar we come across, sneaking into guests-only pools and peeing in the warm blue ocean. Or did I get that backwards?
Because things get messy at this point.
Alf and Ant start to wrestle on the lawn, bartenders run out after us, waving tabs we’d honestly forgotten to pay.
We take selfish selfies to send back to the working crowd back home, and notice again it is not Monty Clift we resemble so much as sweaty slobbering Ernest Borgnines in these unlying portraits.
Have we discovered the true nature of the beast?
The leis about our necks smell not of fragrant Hibiscus, but the common formaldahyde used in Chinese plastics factories.
And it is Van Halen (Hagar era for chrissake!) that blares out at us from the barefoot bars, not the soothing tone of steel string or Prewitt’s mournful bugle.
And that romp is the sand?
Is it Warden and Captain Holmes’ wife all over again?
More like this, brother!
But is soon a merciful sunset, so glorious that we all stop and applaud.
We marvel at the time, a rare treat to gain some hours in our travels.
Alfie and Ant are all bro hugs now, so we contemplate the ultimate tourist treat, dinner at Benihanas!
Surrendered, completely, to the charms of this place.
We only have to turn our backs to the light and noise that pulse from corporate chain hotels and consider the last of that glorious sunset.
It takes only a final sparkle from that jewel of ocean before we allow the cliche to ourselves: paradise.