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Posts Tagged ‘Honolulu’

How do we explain the startling statistic that a substantial percentage of Americans polled believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya or some other foreign country?

This despite these facts:

  • A birth certificate for Barack dated 1961 is on file with the registrar of the State of Hawaii.
  • Obama’s birth was reported in the newspapers in Honolulu.
  • A link to images of both of these documents is here.
  • Linda Lingle, the Governor of the State of Hawaii and a conservative Republican, instructed the State  Health Director to personally view Obama’s official birth certificate. Based on the Director’s inspection, Lingle appeared on television and reported that Obama was in fact born in Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States has consistently refused to hear appeals of cases questioning the President’s citizenship.

In light of the above, one wonders, would any element or combination of evidentiary elements constitute acceptable proof for the doubters. The answer seems to be “No. Nothing would be acceptable.” Every document released by the Obama Administration and the conservative governor of Hawaii has been rejected by the Birthers.

Some have suggested that the birth frenzy is a perfect example of Hitler’s observation: “Tell a lie often enough and people will eventually believe it.” These aren’t Hitler’s exact words but they certainly summarize an often used propaganda tactic.

But more, the success of the Birthers in making their nonexistent case against Obama proves another, more dangerous point.  Americans possess little if any ability to recognize and separate fact from fiction.

Or, perhaps Americans choose to ignore facts. Driven by high emotion and a powerful aversion to Obama, they simply refuse to accept as valid any and all evidence counter to their twisted outlook.

This is not a pretty picture of our society, and it presages tougher times ahead. Hold onto your hats. We’re going to have a bumpy ride.

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I had just spent four days and nights in the Grand Sierra resort hotel in Reno, interspersing gambling and eating with day trips to exciting outposts like Tahoe, Lovelock, Winnemucca, and Paradise Valley. I’d been away since Mother’s Day and now it was time to return home. I planned to leave Reno around 6:30 p.m., arrive in Oakland about 45 minutes later, spend the night at the Oakland Airport Holiday Inn, and get up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the final leg of my journey via Hawaiian Airlines. My plan was perfect. Its execution left much to be desired. The best laid plans of mice and men…

The first warning sign appeared on arrival at Oakland when I attempted to contact Holiday Inn via the terminal courtesy phones. I tried each of the three phones several times but received only busy signals. I finally decided to take a chance that the shuttle would eventually make its scheduled rounds and pick me up at the shuttle and taxi waiting areas outside of the terminal. Instead of catching a shuttle, I caught a case of the shivers. Others around me were wearing appropriate outerwear whereas, fresh from temperate Reno, I wore paper-thin pants and shirt. I stood in the cold until I could take it no longer before I decided to hop a cab. The driver was a nice guy, but he must have pegged me as a sucker. He rolled right by Holiday Inn Express, hardly slowing until I said in an authoritative voice, “There’s Holiday Inn,” to which the driver lied, “Sorry, I couldn’t change lanes in time.”

He circled around while the meter ticked merrily along, finally dropping me at the entryway where he preemptively lied through his teeth again, “I don’t have any change.”  I’ve encountered drivers like this in Washington, D.C. An ordinary passenger may well take a complete tour of the District before reaching his or her hotel a short distance from Reagan National. Apparently, these guys can distinguish a rube from a Senator by smell or something.  Equally apparent, taxi drivers must have a nationwide network because my Oakland guy was a carbon copy of my D.C. guy, polite but shifty. I finally tossed the guy a $$ bill and said something like, “Burn in hell, Ratso,” quickly hopping out of the cab and running toward the Inn’s doors with two bags in hand. I am uncertain about this, but I would swear a polite voice wafted after me, a voice roughly translatable as “Screw you, Jack.”

Inside the hotel, I announced my reservation to everyone in earshot only to be told that Holiday Inn had no record of said reservation. But, the clerk announced, “I can make one for you.” Panicky now, I agreed to the “best available rate,” which, needless to say, was higher than the rate quoted when I made my reservation on line several days ago. Later, I learned that there are two Holiday Inns at the Oakland Airport, Holiday Inn Express and Holiday Inn and Suites. The Oakland International Airport is no longer a sleepy little dirt runway across the bay, the one with customer-assisted rubber band windup airplanes. Today, it’s the Oakland International Airport, replete with nearby accommodations and fast taxis as well as a FedEx hub. At any rate, I finally reached my room, set my clock for a four a.m. wake-up, and hit the sheets.

The following morning, I woke, completed the obligatory civilized toilet and left the hotel on the shuttle at fifteen minutes before 5 a.m. The trip was short, a couple of minutes at most. And little ole Oakland International was already packed to the gills with crowds of people heading God knows where. I suddenly realized the significance of the herds. It was Get Away Friday. Threading my way through the lines of checker inners, I noted that the Hawaiian Airlines check-in counter wasn’t where I expected it to be, on the main floor with all of the other airlines. Instead, Hawaiian was, to quote a TSA guy walking by me, “Past all of the counters. Turn right. Go up a ramp. Hawaiian is at the top of the ramp.”

Well, he got it right for the most part. At the Oakland Airport, Hawaii apparently hasn’t yet achieved statehood. So much for Hawaii 50. Hawaiian Airlines was in the International Flights section, a turn to the left at the top of the ramp and a sort of slight angled curve to the left beside the security check point. I noticed a single agent and walked over to her. She reminded me of the taxi driver when she preemptively said, “We don’t open until 6 a.m.” Okay, so here I am at five minutes after five thinking I’ll be the first in line only to learn that, sure, I can be Number One if I want to stand in the same spot for 55 minutes. I opted for a seat nearby and bided my time reminiscing.

We had driven 2,000 miles from Port Arthur, Texas, to Reno, with overnight stops in Amarillo and Las Vegas. We also stopped along the way to stretch our legs and empty our bladders and put away some victuals. By far the best meal we had was in a casino restaurant in Indian Springs, Nevada. This is open range country where cows wander among the sagebrush until gathered, branded, and sent to feed lots. We didn’t see a single cow the entire length of Nevada, but several cowboys were having an early Sunday morning breakfast in Indian Springs. These cowboys weren’t the Wrangler-butted, slim-waisted, broad-shouldered stereotypes in romance novels. Cowboys like these may exist but the ones we spotted were rather paunchy and leathery looking. Despite their ordinariness, a couple of them had good looking girls hanging on to them. Go figure.

But in the Grand Sierra Resort Hotel where we stayed in Reno, we actually saw many cowboys suitable for the cover of romance novels. The Reno rodeo was underway when we arrived. This is one of the top rodeos in the nation, with cowboys from all over the country and many from Canada, Mexico, and South America. There were no paunches among these lanky examples of Western horsemanship. They were, without exception, tall, slim, and muscled. They were the bull riders, the bareback riders, the calf ropers, and the bulldoggers. And they walked through the casino and the hotel dining spots with beautiful women on their arms. And I don’t mean just good looking. These were beautiful women, tall and perfectly proportioned. Where did these hunks and hunkettes come from? Go figure.

We also took a couple of day trips. The first was a drive South through Carson City and Minden and up a sheer cliff called the Kingsbury Grade to Tahoe. From there, we drove U.S. 50 back to Carson City where we turned North on U.S. 395 to Reno. A couple of things impressed me on this trip. The scenery is spectacular. The snow-capped Sierras served as a backdrop to the Carson Valley, Western Nevada’s premier farming and ranching area. Minden, a beautiful town of about 3,000 people and the county seat of Douglas County, has become a preferred retirement location for Californians, sometimes derisively referred to as “Calis” among Nevadans because their numbers have driven up the price of real estate.

Tahoe was at one and the same time a beautiful location that evoked a mixture of awe and disappointment. The area has been over developed, bringing with its condos and homes and crappy looking malls, traffic woes second to no other scenic visiting spot. Oddly, or not as you choose to look at the situation, most of the license plates on cars speeding like bats out of hell when an opportunity presented itself were from California. My nephew, a one-time house electrician for one of the big casinos, once told me that he moved to Tahoe to get away from the traffic, pollution, and crime of the Bay Area only to find them almost as bad around Tahoe. Besides, he said, the temptations were great. There were enough ready, willing, and able good looking girls hanging around the casinos on any given night to tempt John the Baptist.

Our second daytrip was a straight run East across the Nevada desert to Lovelock and Winnemucca. From Winnemucca, we took a short drive North on U.S. 95 until we reached Nevada 290, which led us to Paradise Valley, a small ranching community often described as a “ghost town.” We had our reasons for visiting each of these. My mother lived in Lovelock when she was young and I just wanted to see the town. From what I could tell, it probably hadn’t changed much since she lived in it, with the exception of a gas station, a MacDonald’s, and a convenience store at the off ramp to I-40. Before we left for Winnemucca, we drove out of town on a dirt road where we saw about four cows and a lizard sunning itself on a fence post.

My curiosity satisfied, we headed for Winnemucca. I had two reasons for checking out this town. My mother often talked about it, probably because she frequently passed through on her way to and from the Bay Area and Salt Lake City, a garden spot she also lived in briefly. But closer to my heart, I once slept in the back seat of a car parked on a side street across from a casino and restaurant in Winnemucca. It happened this way. Three of us decided to drive from San Rafael to Boise, Idaho, for an Air Force Reserve summer camp. Our route took us through Tahoe and Reno. In Reno, we decided to try our luck at Harold’s Club. Mine was bad, and I soon dropped my whole bankroll at a blackjack table. By then, it was late and we decided to move on. Winnemucca was about four hours away but we eventually made it and decided to nap and have breakfast before continuing to Boise. U.S. 95 North would take us through Southeastern Oregon and into Idaho. As we drove into Winnemucca, I could tell that the town hadn’t changed much with the exception of a plethora of fast food outlets that didn’t exist when we first drove through.

As for Paradise Valley, I had no particular reason for visiting it except to say that I’d read about it, and at one time, it was on my short list of retirement spots. But I crossed it off because I wasn’t equipped for its distance from the accouterments of civilization, things like McDonald’s and such. Nevertheless, I impulsively decided to take a look at it. The drive was a short 20 miles off of U.S. 95 on Nevada 290 through a surprisingly green landscape. The town itself was a beautifully bucolic setting surrounded by ranches and fields of alfalfa that virtually touched the cottonwood shaded streets. In the short time we were in town, we spotted only a couple of people and several obviously aged abandoned buildings, leftovers from the town’s booming mining heyday. Our short sojourn off the beaten path was well worthwhile.

Segueing back to the present, the Hawaiian Air terminal finally opened for business. Checking in was quick and easy, and before I knew what was happening, I was winging across the Pacific under the watchful eyes of some of the most accommodating cabin crew members you could imagine. The flight to Honolulu was smooth, the skies were blue, and the in-flight movies were first class. Still, I missed traveling on the Mainland and before we landed, I had begun to plot out my next trip.

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We had dinner at Luby’s in Port Arthur this evening. Luby’s has been a Texas institution since its founding in 1947 in San Antonio. Today, the Houston-based company has 103 cafeteria-style diners scattered across Texas, including one in Arkansas and two in Oklahoma.

Beyond Texas, Luby’s is largely unknown or unremembered. Luby’s achieved world-wide exposure in 1991 when George Hennard walked into a Luby’s in Killeen, Texas, and gunned down 24 people. The episode is referred to as Luby’s massacre in some sources. However, Luby’s rebounded and grew, although the site of the murders in Killeen was closed permanently in 2000.

Today’s menu of Luby’s family-oriented chain is classic Texas-Southern. After a diner selects a tray and eating utensils at the beginning of the line, he or she has a wide choice of salads, vegetables, entrees as varied as Cuban-style Tilapia, and desserts. The Tilapia surprised me because it’s a game fish native to Africa that is often regarded as an invasive species in locations such as Hawaii, where it gained a foothold in the lakes and streams on Oahu, largely pushing aside Bass and pan fish. I’ve eaten Tilapia but it wasn’t to my taste. However, to each his own.

At any rate, I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy meal, so I selected a vegetable platter of spicy pinto beans, corn, and fried okra. Along with my Spartan selection, I opted for a slice of custard pie and a glass of milk. If that doesn’t holler Texas Cajun, I don’t know what does.

The Port Arthur Luby’s is a relatively new diner but it has already become a gathering spot for local notables. My dinner companion seemed to know them all.  The moment we sat down, he bobbed up about five times in quick succession to greet someone. Of course, I had to stand also for introductions, and at one point I wondered if the moon would rise and set before we completed our meal.

But then the Mayor of Port Arthur, Deloris “Bobby” Prince, stopped by our table and chatted for a few minutes. She had recently won a bruising re-election battle and was in good spirits. She has a sterling reputation for honesty and is noted for her efforts on behalf of Port Arthur’s poor and disadvantaged.

The most common adjectives I heard applied to her were “honest” and “kind.”  I immediately thought that American politics could profit from a healthy dose of honesty and kindness among its Lying Class. It’s difficult to put aside thoughts of lying scoundrels, even in a nice, pleasant atmosphere.

After we finished our meal, my dinner companion piled me into a Toyota Tacoma and gave me a grand tour of the latest mall. The town of Port Arthur is growing by leaps and bounds, fueled by the refineries churning out their petroleum-based products twenty-four seven. An influx of workers and oil industry consultants has resulted in the new construction of malls, standalone stores, motels, and restaurants.  Yet, it seems most people head for Wal-Mart as a first stop.

Although the central part of Port Arthur is a severely decaying slum, life in other parts of the city is about like life in Little Rock, Sacramento, Portland, and Honolulu. The moon rises and sets over all of them. Folks work, shop, eat, and play. Only the wardrobes and accents differ.

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After a rocky start in Honolulu and a missed flight in San Francisco, we arrived at Dulles International Airport about 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, Mothers Day.

This was my first experience with the Dulles airport. I was quite surprised at the size of it. From our terminal, we caught a huge, wheeled tram that looked like something out of a sci movie. Here’s a picture of one that I located on Flickr.

Although I ran across a number of uncomplimentary comments about Dulles and its trams on the internet, I personally found the tram quite comfortable, mainly because it was almost empty. I have a hunch the airport would have been bursting at the seams on any weekday and travelers would have been packed into the trams like kipper snacks.

To a Dulles novice like me, finding the baggage claim area from the point where our tram docked at the main terminal  would have been like finding my way through one of those mysterious mazes that appear overnight in corn fields. Alone, I could easily have wandered endlessly through the maze that is Dulles.

But fortunately, my traveling companion knew the airport inside out.  With me trailing, we walked briskly to the baggage claim area where we collected our bags and then caught a car rental bus to an off-airport location. Once we were on the road, I relaxed, knowing we would arrive at our final destination in about an hour and a half.

Our route took us North of Washington D.C. on a section of the Beltway that eventually intersected U.S. 50 East. This is one of the oldest federal highways in the nation. Its Eastern terminus is in Ocean City, Maryland while the Western end of the route is in Sacramento CA where the old stretch between Sacramento and San Francisco has been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. At one time U.S. 50 was a part of the Lincoln Highway which terminated at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park San Francisco.

Back in the day, I traveled U.S. 50 from Kansas City to Oakland and back via car or a Greyhound Bus. But today, we were headed East on 50’s modern, four-lane divided highway to Annapolis for a short rest and a Mother’s Day dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant on Annapolis’s main street. I had the good fortune to sit facing a large window with a good view of the never ending stream of pedestrians. They were a diverse lot, probably tourists like me for the most part.

That’s it for the time being. I’ll have one more report about this trip in which I’ll recount my observations of some of the people we encountered.

Until then, see ya.

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According to several reports, Rush Limbaugh has been rushed to a hospitlal in Honolulu after complaining about heart problems or something.

The name of the hospital hasn’t been included in most of the newspapers, but one reported that it was the Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu.

That sounds right because Queen’s is the flagship hospital in the State of Hawai, if not in the Pacific region, and it has some of the best heart specialists in the nation on its staff. In that respect, Rush is fortunate.

On the otherhand, he may feel a wee mite uneasy. Queen’s staff consists primarily of Asians or Hawaii residents of Asian and Pacific Islands ancestry. There are a few staff who look like Rush, but not many. And I wonder, considering Rush’s well-known antipathy to anything non-white, how he is managing his daily interpersonal relationships.

The people of Hawaii are quite nice and pleasant and they tend to say nice things to others because the nature of the culture of Hawaii is, for the most part, non-confrontational.

On the other hand, they do not like what they refer to as “loud mouthed Haoles.” The word Haole in its original definition means simply “foreigner” or someone from a different place, although somewhere in my memory banks, I have this feeling that it may have referred to a white flower.

Be that as it may, Haole has become, in one sense, a derogatory term, as in, for example, “that damned Haole” or “that freakin’ Haole,” usually with a variation of the spelling of the word freakin’.

Rush Limbaugh’s radio personality is a perfect model of the Hawaii concept of a loud-mouthed Haole–verbal volume on extra high, opinionated,  critical of local ways and customs, superior in all respects, and condescending.

One would hope that Rush wouldn’t invoke his entertainer’s persona while a doctor or nurse from, for example, the Phillipines was busily engaged in ministering to his medical needs. These professionals would continue their treatment, but eventually, somehow, the word would get around. Lips flap even in professional circles.

Given Rush’s monetary situation, he may have called in his personal physician in an advisory role or he may have asked for a referral from his doctor.

Another possibility is that Rush in real life may be a decent human being and, consequenty, he may treat the local folks with the respect they deerve.

Sadly, I am in Texas at the moment and have no access to the ever-floating gossip that goes around below the radar in Hawaii. One of these days, though, the story of Rush’s stay in a Honolulu hospital will get around.

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Okay, so GQ Magazine has selected Justin Timberlake to head its list of the Top 10 Most Stylish Men in America. GQ’s on-line version has a shot of Justy looking suitably sexy, if you can call ducking your chin and gazing up at the camera with a sort of a moonie-eyed look calculated to make women swoon and men admire his savoir faire, sexy. His image is enhanced by a black suit jacket, white dress shirt and pale blue polka-dotted tie. Oh, and a little accent, a hint of a folded handkerchief tucked neatly into the right-side pocket of his jacket. He appears to have his hands casually stuck in his pants pockets, but that is unknown because the photo is cropped at the waist. He could be wearing a one-piece jock strap below the jacked as far as we know.

The problem with Justin’s entire image is that no one ever wears the kind of clothes depicted in GQ and on the other side in Ellle and Vogue. I have never in my entire life ever seen a man or a woman dressed in the manner of a fop or its feminine equivalent. Most of the people on Earth are generics, people like me who may rate a 5 on that well-known scale. And they dress generic, too.

Take my life-long wardrobe, for example.

Since the third grade, my preferred dress—my only dress—has been a tee shirt and jeans in temperate weather and a sweatshirt and jeans when the chill sets in. The tee shirt is usually white sans logo, tucked under my beltless jeans, but recently, I have begun to collect shirts with messages on them, like “U.S, Naval Academy,” and “Lewis and Clark College.” These have no meaning other than to display my maleness in the case of the Academy shirt and my feminine side with L&C. And I’ve also begun to vary the colors. Now, I switch between robin’s egg-blue, light tan, gray, and black.

With the fall weather, I defer to a sweatshirt, usually gray but occasionally black. No whites. White is not a sweatshirt color. Only one of my shirts has a logo, one that someone gave me, with a neat Reebok stitched over the left breast. This is my only concession to identifying marks.

Except once, before constant wear caused it to rot, I wore a Texas tee-shirt, a beautiful, light, off-brown color with a small saddle and the words “Texas Lone Star State” over the left breast and a larger version of the same logo on the back. Whenever I flew from places like Honolulu to Dallas, I’d wear the shirt and everyone wanted to talk to me. One young girl stood in front of me and in apparent amazement said, “You look just like my Uncle Bob.”

And in a mall in Annapolis, some guy spotted me in a bookstore and seemed enthralled. He worked his way to my aisle and stood beside me, sneaking glances in my direction and even moving outside when I left. The funny thing is, he never said a word, just looked at me and my tee-shirt.

But the oddest reception my Texas tee-shirt received was in Arkansas. I put it on one morning before my cousin and I left for shopping in WaMart but the minute she saw it, she said, “Boy, you don’t want to wear that around here. These people hate Texans. They don’t even like any kind of shirt with anything on it, nothing, nada, no Nike, no nothing. They’ll think you’re a stuck up snob.” She was kind of breathless at the end, but I decided to wear it anyway. No one said anything, but they looked at me in a strange sort of way and I’m sorry I embarrassed my cousin.

Yes, I’ve occasionally worn a suit and tie but that was on the infrequent occasions when I was actively engaged in socially acceptable work attire. But I was distinctly uncomfortable and shucked everything in favor of my regular wardrobe the minute I returned home.

The third item in my lifelong wardrobe is a pair of jeans. In my birth country, we called them blue jeans and rolled them up a couple of turns at the cuff. The jeans were loose-legged and lighter in weight and color than Levis. The latter became my jeans of choice in California and remain so today. Only in California, we never washed our Levis. We permitted them to become saturated with accumulated layers of grease and oil until they could stand alone. I fully expected them to go up in flames caused by spontaneous combustion.

My only capitulation to style was an aviator-style leather jacket with the collar turned up. But even that didn’t last long when the weather turned cold. I usually wore a generic brown jacket that I bought at a Sears in Hollywood. Later, when I needed an even heavier jacket, I picked up an earth-gray waist length jacket filled with down or something that kept me reasonably comfortable.

Which brings me back to Justin. He looks distinctly uncomfortable in his GQ duds. I have a hunch he doesn’t command a lot of attention when he walks down the street. That is the death knell for a Hollywood star of his stature. I have a suggestion. Buy a Texas tee-shirt. But avoid Arkansas.

Short Addendum. I’ve always worn shoes, but to tell the truth, I never actually looked at them.

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…but the fire ain’t so delightful…

Honolulu, HI, December 5, 2007- 2 p.m. Electricity has just returned after having been off since 2 a.m. yesterday. Internet connections aren’t up and running yet. Telephone lines clogged. Even the battery on my cell died a lingering death, although I was able to reach my daughter just as it crackled its last crackle. I work with a laptop, so a lack of electricity doesn’t usually prevent me from working offline, except that the battery on my laptop died as well. Cold as helll but there aren’t too many fireplaces around here. Life is tough without the amenities.

The cause of the havoc? A massive storm hit most of the islands last night. Oahu was buffeted and rattled particularly hard. Power and telephone poles down all over the island, trees down, roads flooded, traffic at a standstill. Here’s the schedule from my personal perspective:

Schedule from hell

3 a.m. Woke to the sound of a fleet of 747’s passing overhead. Turned out to be rain and wind. Looked around, dazed. No lights. Black like the inside of a coal pit. Stumbled out of bed and groped toward a window. Looked outside to see sheets of wind-driven rain in fast-moving waves. Wind shaking trees and rattling sliding glass doors. What the hell? Went back to bed.

7 a.m. Woke to weak daylight. Still no amenities. Finally located a battery-powered radio I keep handy. Airwaves filled with reports of damages, closed schools, but no word about when power might be restored.

8 a.m. Getting antsy. Wanted my coffee. Hopped in a rental buggy and headed for a nearby McDonalds. Open but only cold stuff available. Screw milk. I need coffee! Drove around looking for an open restaurant. None. Oddly, sporadic stoplights were working. At intersections without working lights, drivers were mysteriously courteous (Deep thought: Maybe we can restore civility by eliminating stop lights).

9 a.m. Still looking for MY COFFEE! Hands shaking, shallow breathing.

10 a.m. Pulled up to a guy waiting for a bus. He reached for his hip pocket but relaxed when I explained my mission and named a restaurant about a mile straight down the road.

10:30 a.m. Finally found the named restaurant on a side street. Jam packed. No place to sit. Ordered two takeouts. Hands shook as I took my first sip of the day. Coffee lousy, but who gives a s..t. When you gotta have coffee, you gotta have coffee.

10:45 a.m. 2 p.m. Laid on bed. Worked crossword puzzle. Read a book on something forgettable. Checked watch. Tried to nap. Began to think.

What was civilization like a hundred years ago? What if we couldn’t get a caffeine fix? Is there a Starbuck’s Rehab Center somewhere? Does anyone manufacture a battery body pack with a built-in laptop, 50,000 watt clear-channel radio transmitter-receiver, and an automatic coffee percolator?

Hawaii is Paradise. But not today.

Postscript. 4 p.m.—Internet connection finally restored.

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