Day 2: March 24, 2017
Site of Infamy

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A visit to Pearl Harbor and the Arizona Memorial was naturally at the top of my list of things to do in Hawaii. However, by the time I was able to nail down the dates that I would be able to go there, all advance reserved tickets were gone. Several thousand of the free tickets are held back to be available for "walk-ins" so that wasn't especially troubling but it was very much on my mind when I checked in. When I asked about transportation, the clerk pointed me to the concierge. A tour, with guaranteed ticket (Tours are where most of those advance tickets go.) was available but she had just turned off her computer for the day. She would be back at 7:00 AM.

With an internal clock that thinks 7:00 AM is 1:00 PM, being there when she arrived was pretty easy and I was soon signed up for a 9:00 tour. I used the extra time to walk the couple of blocks to the ocean. I shopped for a surfboard (That's a joke, son.), chatted with Uncle Gringo (There's a slighter better view of his sign here.), and admired the banyan trees at the beach and at the nearby Honolulu Zoo.

I never really caught our driver's name though I think it was Jim or something similar. I first thought him on the edge of being rude as he rounded up and checked off passengers but once the herd was in place he became a friendly, funny, and informative guide and an incredible driver. Without being the least bit showy, he always had the big bus exactly where it needed to be without hesitation. At the park he pointed out various buildings then handed out tickets and cut us loose to explore until our assigned time to visit the memorial. For me that exploration included passing through small museums with displays on the lead up to the attack, the attack itself, and some of what has transpired since then.

Our tickets identified a time slot for watching a movie about the attack and the memorial but the projector was on the fritz. Instead a knowledgeable gave a useful presentation and answered some questions. It rained a little on our way to the park and our driver later explained that the projector often acts up under those conditions. If it rains hard enough, launches to the memorial do not operate. He told us that there have been times when the projector has been working but not the launches. A movie without the memorial is a lot worse than the memorial without a movie.

Visiting the memorial and gazing on the names of the 1,102 men entombed in the sunken ship is certainly a sobering experience. Oil, which some call the "tears of the Arizona", continues to leak from the ship. This is reported to be less than a gallon a day and estimated to last another sixty-five years.

I did not visit the nearby USS Missouri which is on an island accessed by a separate shuttle. The ship that hosted the Japanese surrender in 1945 is in the middle of a $3 million restoration of its superstructure.

The driver identified several points of interest as we headed back to our pickup points. Most were just drive-bys but the bus did stop at a couple of points in National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at the Punchbowl. One of these was Earnie Pyle's grave. The pictures of Honolulu backed by Diamond Head and the Chinese cemetery were taken on the drive down from Punchbowl.

We were allowed off the bus for a few minutes at Ali╩╗iolani Hale which is currently the home of the state supreme court. The statue of King Kamehameha standing in front of it may be gesturing toward the Iolani Palace across the street or toward that gorgeous monkey pod tree.

Just days before leaving Cincinnati, I checked out an ebook a friend recommended and read it as I flew out. Sara Vowell's Unfamiliar Fishes tells Hawaiian history in a most interesting way. I'd like to call the book delightful although its subject matter general isn't. I didn't expect it to be a guide book in any sense but when the bus driver pointed out some of Hawaii's oldest buildings my ears perked up because I recognized them from Vowell's writings. The first is Kawaiaha╩╗o Church built between 1836 and 1842 from living (until they chopped it from the reef) coral. The middle building in the next picture is the print shop which turned out lots of bibles and other items. It played a key role in Hawaii going from a land without an alphabet or written language to a place with one of the highest literacy rates in the world in about forty years. Thanks for the advice, Lisa. Someday I'll read that other Sarah Vowell thing whatever it was.

Actually the old missionary buildings weren't the first time the driver had made me think of Vowell's book. Earlier he had pointed out the Rainbow Drive-in as having appeared on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives". I recognized the place from the book's opening scene. After learning the it was less than a mile from my hotel, I decided it would be my choice for dinner. The Pacific Ocean is a couple of block southwest of my hotel. The Ala Wai Canal is a couple of blocks northeast. I followed the canal to Kapalulu Avenue and a left turn toward the Rainbow. I ordered a Mix Plate which consists of BBQ beef, fish, & chicken plus two scoops of rice and your choice of macaroni salad or coleslaw. Unfamiliar Fishes opens with a line about "a glop of macaroni salad" so I know what my choice would be. Sadly, when the time came, I was told they were out of macaroni salad and offered a choice of extra rice or coleslaw. No glop for me.

I spotted this Growler USA on the way to the Rainbow and opted to stop in on my way back. I've since learned that it's a franchise operation with several locations on the mainland.

I just generally lazed around until sunset neared then headed to the beach in anticipation of something glorious. The clouds went way beyond "adding interest" so I eventually gave up and reluctantly turned my gaze back toward Diamond Head.

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