November 03, 2004
You're Joking Right?
luxuriant Jungles by the Seas, Keaukaha, south Hilo Hawaii
"You're putting me on... Ohio?...Why?"
"We LEFT there to escape, the snow, the bugs, the cold,...You'll hate it"
"you're giving up Hawaii, paradise, palm trees and hula girls?..."
"they are crazy...Im telling you...They cant know what they are in for"
"You will live to regret it..."
This is the response we get from the few, mostly visitors, that we pick the brains of about Ohio, as we meet them. A man from Washington State but raised in Ohio was more concerned about snow and no jobs. He's a construction guy, in his mid 50's and is working here for a while buying land and getting his dream home built. His wife is fully entrenched in Washington and while she has visited a few times in the nearly a year of his sojourn, I get the feeling she's not impressed with the Big Island.
A Senior lady, active 60ish, from the Oregon Central Coast, but has spent much of her life in So Cal, came into the store and told us her story. She is currently living in East Hawaii to assist a friend in a publishing project and is or was contemplating a move here part time... the lack of Condos and the filth not to mention the constant rain is making her think twice. But when we told her that we were thinking about the Upper Midwest and specifically Ohio she thought that we were...well...she wished us well . " Its cold and grey and why would you go there" After a bit of conversation she understood that our drive to be in a place of acceptance and perhaps nurture is paramount. I see Hilo through her eyes, and I am just as disgusted as she is... The locals either dont care or they dont have the resources to care about the homeless and the drugs. They fling their trash about and whine about "how we haolies are exploiting the 'aina." there is money but no civic will to fix the infrastructure problems that will bring a crisis in lack of water, roads and hospitals...These are as good a reason to move on. She sees it and so do we...
WE just hate to tell bad stuff as we believe that everyone needs to dream. But we see ourselves in these Malahini (newcomers) and we know that they are infected with the dream... I pray that they do well. I remember that when we first came we refused to listen to those that said that we would have these problems, believing that our desire to conform and assimilate would overcome a lot of problems... But the desire bred mistrust on both sides I think. I found that I couldn't live like the locals and only do what was necessary, and fudge the account books, and eat trash...Woody was totally indifferent to the customs that pervade business here, much of it insular and corrupt. That's why he failed at the car lot, he wouldn't play the games and be a good little Haolie and take the crumbs. He complained of the bad treatment and the discrimination and was dumped. WE are not satisfied with subsistence living. I know so many professionals working multiple jobs. I learned from my Dad and from my own experience that life is more than your job... That time to spend on living and quality of life is more important than a fat paycheck... but I still am willing to work for a paycheck and I dont care to live under a blue tarp, eating rice and maybe a bit of spam in it...That makes us "uppity townies bent on destroying the aina..."
I have found myself telling people "Why Ohio?...Its cheap to live there, and minimum wage is minimum wage...It goes a lot further there than here." "the federal government is focused on that state. There is a huge amount of job training and job creation going on there. Woody being a veteran will qualify for a lot of things that he has to stand in line for here. Me, I look like most of the ladies of my age there and perhaps wont have the struggle in finding myself a job."
I can go into the cheap housing and, and the available healthcare... but people dont see those things as reasons to give up my current home and business... One of Woody's friends in California was aghast and said "don't just go there because its cheap, there might be a reason for that. Go there because that is where you want to be..."
I want to be Kama'aina...here...but it is not to be...
What they all do not understand is that when you are being driven out, the place that is the opposite of what is driving you looks mighty attractive...
We are going to be ok. I have strange worries that I think most people dont think about ever.
Moving to Hawaii was the single most impressive thing that I have ever done in my life. I remember the looks on peoples faces when we told them we were in escrow on our home here. The look of envy... The way that Woody's boss pumped his hand congratulating him on fufilling HIS life long dream... Today... Strangers will read my weblog because I live here, people we meet will stand with mouth agape when we say we live here. I feel that I have gained creative credibility from my residence address is one of the most coveted in the world. I thrill people when I tell tales of active lava flows and flowering trees and the culture of an ancient and mystical people... a people that I dont think exist anymore...
Moving to Hawaii made me special after 38 years of struggling to establish identity in the world... Nothing else, but one other thing in my life has done this. Woody knows that I am giving this up... He didnt understand it, but now that it has a term he can use... I call it Cachet... Others admit its true... None of his rich boyhood pals resented or tried to talk him out of moving to Hawaii, they just wanted to know how far he was from the nearest golf course... Now they are like " OH MY GOD, Are you WACKO???" The "cachet" of Hawaii smoothed over a lot of things and made my leaving California and my invalid mother, Woody leaving all of his friends and starting over palatable. Moving to Ohio will leave a sour taste in many mouths, not all but many.
Let's bloody face it, Ohio has no cachet...Except to the politicos that are fighting over it as we speak. The state is too old and has spawned too many of us ordinary people that want to have "cachet"... We each know dozens that escaped the Midwest to other climes and would warn us of being trapped in the cold winters and the boring farmlife...Its poverty stricken cities and ruined industry... Yet...
There is its proximity to some of the nations great cities.
There is its culture of values that mirror my own.
There is the beauty of nature and wild places
There is the rhythm of the dreaded seasons... the wide fields that are white the brown then green then gold then white again...The cycle of life that I miss very much in this land of eternal summer.
There is a chance to start over to re-invent myself once again
There is a vision of hope that God will finally let me come home to a place where I can belong... For if not there..Where?