Jay Meehan: Kauai time
December 16, 2014
It’s not just that I haven’t worn shoes or long pants in what’s quickly becoming a month or that the ballcap and slicker I brought along remained stowed until yesterday. What’s really got me puzzled is what has happened to the sense of time since I carefully folded but casually tossed in my carry-on prior to boarding that somewhat-late-November flight west.
Ask anybody, I’m a pretty laid back dude. Some, possibly most, might go as far as to say I’m slow. Time, for me, has most always been Chandler-esque, "creeping by on tiptoes with its fingers to its lips." That’s a paraphrase of a line I stole from Raymond Chandler back around the time Phillip Marlowe first found that Lady in the Lake.
Both Chandler and Marlowe would love Kauai. Life mostly moseys from one papaya moment to another over in these parts. Even if you are embedded with your extended family, as are my son Smokey and I, and find yourself with a looming arrival deadline for a dance recital, there is a confidence that all will work itself out in good time.
As visitors to the "Garden Isle," we seldom find ourselves "busy" or "in a rush." Even when completely restoring a 15′ x 4′, seemingly beyond-repair, relatively ancient table fashioned from a slab off a sacred Hawaiian Koa tree, Smokey’s movements were never "hurried." They were "sure," however. He had that going for him.
Now, of course, our aforementioned family, those whose self-imposed task is to cater to what they consider our every "need," they "scurry" so that we may move at a more methodical pace. There is Brother McGee, of course, who has taken ownership of a "slo-mo scurry" that I believe he perfected back during some slow speed chase I keep hearing about.
Sister Mary Beth is quite a different slice of mango, however. If she’s not keeping a few-dozen plates spinning at all times, she has a vertigo attack. The same goes for her daughters and their families. Constantly challenging solar-system-wide centrifugal forces, the bunch of them are a tribe of "Whirling Dervishes."
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I mean, if they were to slow down, possibly one of our needs might slip through the cracks and, obviously, that would be unacceptable. No doubt, they’ll begin their debriefing period sometime prior to our scheduled abuse of the cocktail cart on our return flight to the mainland. Plotting for our next arrival is an ongoing process.
This is nothing new. Our relationship with their "Aloha Spirit" goes back to our first journey to Kauai at the close of the 1979-80 ski season. On-island highlights from the birth of a daughter to Mary Beth on the day we arrived to a near-disastrous boating mishap to a wonderfully blissful hike down one of the Nā Pali coast "fingers" made that trip most memorable.
If those happenings weren’t enough to firmly affix that three-week period in time, a couple of off-island events would serve to provide permanent milestones. The first would be the eruption of Mount St. Helens a week or so into the trip and the second would be NBA rookie Magic Johnson leading "our" L.A. Lakers to a league title.
All of the above, including everything from the exploding volcano to the NBA fast breaks, appear in memory to have occurred in "Kauai time," however. The Mount St. Helens’ eruption repeats over-and-over in a classic slo-mo "loop" as do the Kareem-less Lakers and their "small ball" Game-Six-drubbing of the Sixers.
The same could also be said for the boating debacle when the 24-foot fishing vessel couldn’t get outside the "sets" at the small "local-side" marina. The entire sequence from when we first flew up and over one wave to crash into the trough before the next to when the constant repetitions caused the outboard motors to quit entirely didn’t take much more than a decade to transpire.
And from when the "Mate" turned to me and asked "you swim good, eh brah?" to when I finally found myself inside the breakwater, off the boat, and kissing dry land, that probably was well short of a geological epoch. Kauai time, you understand. And that hike off the Koke’e highlands down the Awa’awa’puhi trail, well, I’m pretty sure, judging by my inner smile, that that one, now 35 years in, has no end in sight.
Time is relative, of course, and Kauai time is certainly no exception. There is little doubt that the spaces between papaya moments can become even more luxurious, more rapturous, more pleasure filled. At the moment, however, I’m just not quite sure how.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.
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