Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcoming 2015

Last year, New Year’s Eve was disappointingly quiet in Waikiki, a result of the newly active restrictions on fireworks use.  Either the City/State has relaxed some of their deep restrictions, or the general population is going back to our beloved Hawaii way of bringing in the New Year. I am sure that the fireworks for New Year’s is a tradition brought with the Asian immigrants, especially the Chinese, who came beginning mid-19th century to work in the sugar and later the pineapple fields.  Immigrant labor.  Hawaii’s variation on the theme of slave labor.    But that is another story. 

This year was a very different story. There were occasional pops and booms all evening, and the flashing blue lights of police cruisers were prominent on Ala Wai Blvd.  I was warned that The Hour was approaching quickly (much to my surprise; I’d become engrossed in a book) when the individual pops transitioned into the steady and unmistakable din of those tiny firecrackers that come in strings of 100 and boxes of 1000. To the west, the Ewa side (towards down town Honolulu and Pearl Harbor) the commercial display at the big, public party at Kaka’ako Park lit the sky.  It was readily visible, but a bit distant.  Much closer to home, but partially obscured by the overly tall hotels and construction cranes now dominating the Waikiki skyline, was the display in the vicinity of the Halekulani, the Outrigger Reef and the Sheraton-Waikiki. Nothing from the Hawaiian Village – they have a brief fireworks display every Friday evening.   There were a few much smaller aerials from the vicinity of the yacht harbor and the Diamond Head end of Ala Moana Park.  Someone in the building next door fired off a lone roman candle from about 15 floors up, aiming it outward so it cascaded over their swimming pool.  The air began to fill with the smell of gunpowder that I always associate (positively) with New Years and lots of fireworks. Much more satisfying than last year’s quiet or Kahala’s relatively new dependence on the show at the Kahala Resort hotel, audible but not visible from the middle of Kealaolu Avenue. Much more satisfying.
I remembered standing, wrapped in a blanket, on my grandparents’ house lot sized lawn in Waipahu, age about 6 or 7 or 8, listening to the noise and watching the sky fill with the offerings of what seemed like hundreds of private celebrations of fireworks around the plantation community. I remembered other years, with my dad shooting off sky rockets and roman candles in our back yard in Kahala, us kids relegated to the “child safe” sparklers – with oft-repeated admonitions to hold only the skinny end, not the hot end! I remembered the smoke, nearly as thick as the spray-fog from the mosquito abatement trucks and much nicer smelling, enveloping the neighborhood. I remembered the year my mother, convinced that my father would forget, went out and bought a dozen or so boxes of those strings of tiny firecrackers to hang in the mango trees.  Then my father came home – with another dozen or so boxes.  We hung all his strings, too, then my father put the old metal garbage cans under the trees.  I don’t know if he was deliberately creating an echo chamber to maximize the sound, or if he really was trying to minimize his work of cleaning up all the red paper.  The back yard was still covered in shredded red paper the next morning, but oh, what fun it was to listen to those firecrackers exploding inside the garbage can!  

I remembered Ray’s amazement in 2005 as, from 23 stories up, a little farther up the Ala Wai and facing the mountains instead of the ocean, we watched the private celebrations on St. Louis Heights, in Palolo Valley, through Kaimuki, Kapahulu and Moili’ili.  He thought it was pretty exciting by 10:00.  At midnight, watching someone setting of strings of firecrackers over the canal from the sidewalk below our lanai, he commented, “This is like being in a war zone!”
To you, dear readers, I wish a blessed 2015 filled with friendships and family, old memories remembered fondly and new ones created. 

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