Hawaii at Last

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Best because we were FINALLY going to go see Daddy. Worst because we had to leave behind the oldest kid (only for a couple of weeks, so she can finish school while staying with the grandparents) and Los Gatos, who had at least become used to us and are now ensconced at the next-door neighbors’ house.  And because I had to fly across the Pacific alone.

I had seat 23C, the same seat as Jack in LOST. I figured this meant I would survive a plane crash and a trip back in time. Or whatever; I’ve only seen a few episodes of LOST because I tuned in far too late.  But this seat is the middle by the bathrooms and where the airline stewards prepare food, meaning that you are either jammed in by a huge cart or have someone’s butt in your face.

The kids were pretty good, save for the seat-kicking Kaiya, whose legs are too small to bend so she can’t put her feet on the seat. And lady, if you hadn’t reclined fully for the entire flight, she wouldn’t have kicked your seat; she was fidgeting more than kicking.  And the woman in front of Ethan took exception to him leaning over the front whenever he stood up, no matter how many times I told him to cut it out. I brought plenty of supplies: snacks, activity books (each of which Ethan did for 5 minutes) and 3 brand-new Barbies (out of the wrappers). We even sprang $15 for the Digi player, which played movies the kids weren’t interested in.  Also, if you fly Hawaiian, be forewarned that they provide a meal, but it’s a deal with the devil. It’s a Breakfast Burrito, consisting of Eggbeaters, garbanzo beans, a couple of black beans, a few sprigs of anemic cilantro, all covered in a quasi-enchilada sauce and cheese. A bit spicy, a lot rubbery. The other options were salads for $10, one of which was sold out by the time they arrived. Since Kaiya’s allergic to eggs and wouldn’t eat Greek salad, I picked off the cheese and fed it to her, and that, along with turkey jerky and drinks, kept her alive.

The kids, of course, asked every 10 minutes if we were here.  I replied, “If we were there, we’d be on the ground,” and no matter how many times my son heard this, he couldn’t stop asking. Sigh.  He was loath to play the new Indiana Jones game I got him for his DS, fearing it would send the plane into the Pacific, even as I pointed out we were using the DigiPlayers.

We arrived at the gate furthest away from baggage claim and waited for 20 minutes for our stroller, then had to walk over to the shuttle.  The stroller imploded as I rushed to re-fold it, sending drink holders all over the pavement; the driver rescued me and put it onboard. At the stop I asked Ethan to help Kaiya down the steps as I hefted the 40 lb stroller off the bus; he did not and she stumbled, so  I threw all our stuff unceremoniously into the lobby and ran to help her, glaring at the two airport employee ladies who sat and watched with interest and uselessness.xe

To get to baggage claim, we got in the elevator and pressed G for the ground floor. Nothing.  I retreated and asked the ladies where to go. “Oh, G won’t work. You have to go to 1, then go through security to another wing, then go to another elevator and press G,” she said.


At last, we arrived at baggage claim, where my husband had a SmartCarte and was already loading our 6 50-lb boxes. Thankfully, none had imploded.  He hugged Ethan and touched Kaiya’s head as she sat in the stroller.  She covered her face with her hands, weeping a bit, overwhelmed after missing Daddy for 4 weeks. Then he kissed me and got the last piece of luggage.

I waited curbside for him to retrieve the car from its far-off parking space– the minivan had been shipped the week before– and was approached by a portly porter/traffic guy.  “You been here long time. Sure somebody’s coming?” he asked in a soft voice.

“My husband is getting the car.”

“You can go sit down, I’ll watch your stuff,” he offered.

I declined, as I’d been sitting for six hours.

“I shouldn’t have bothered you, I shouldn’t have said anything, you’re tired,” he said. I shrugged, not understanding why he was apologizing.

He asked if we were moving there and I said yes. Then he asked, “Military?” as everyone does; I said no, husband got a job in Honolulu; he asked which industry and I told him.

Then Cadillac pulled up and the porter backed away.  I thought perhaps he would offer to help him load the boxes, which were 18X18X24. Nope. He stood back, two other traffic men came to join him, and they watched silently as my husband arranged, rearranged, and arranged some more the back of the minivan to accommodate the large load, probably betting he wouldn’t be able to.  I felt proud, oddly, when I heard his triumphant, “Ha! Done!” and the back of the car close.

We went on search of food, starving and thirsty.  “We’ll go by my work, it’s the only place I know,” Cadillac decided. But Memorial Day meant that downtown was closed, as least as far as businesses; so he took us to the mall by Waikiki.  It was a fancy mall, replete with Neiman-Marcus and other designer stores, as well as a huge Sears; bursting with Japanese tourists loaded with shopping bags, unaffected by the economy.  Aimlessly we wandered through, searching for the food court, when we saw a sign for Islands and went there for our first Hawaii meal.  Prices were about the same, which pleased me; plus sales tax is lower.  I guess it’s not really a sales tax but an excise tax or somesuch.  In San Diego, it’s about 9% now; in Hawaii, it’s under 5%.

At last, nourished and refreshed, Cadillac took us on the highway to Kailua.  Through green mountains, past museums, near spooky banyan trees the highway went.

On the highway to Kailua, name not yet memorized
On the highway to Kailua, name not yet memorized

We went through two tunnels, emerging above a valley of green and driving down a hill into Kailua.  On the right, signs advertising Kailua High’s reunions were posted on a fence; on the left I spotted the Windward YMCA.

The main road was spotted with stores: a Coldstone Creamery, Pier One, Macy’s, and other new-looking chain stores on the right; on the left were independent stores, like a small bookstore called BookEnds that I immediately vowed to patronize.

A quarter mile down, we came to a vacant lot, surrounded by wire fence and green privacy fabric.  “Here’s the street,” my husband announced, turning right. Across from this vacant lot was another vacant lot; behind this is our complex.

“Oh,” I said.

My husband noted this and said nothing.

We pulled into the complex parking.  It is built on stilts; first there is parking lot; then single story units; then 2-story units. We’re in one of the two-story ones. We took the elevator up and walked on a covered bridge among identical-looking shingled units, me following hopeless and blind, wondering if I could find my way back out if left alone.

Then we went into the unit.  The carpet looked clean, thanks to the tradition of taking off shoes; but the tile floors were very dirty though my husband had just moved in.  I went upstairs, noting the sloping floors, the decrepit peeling doors, the missing panes of glass.  I went into the room that was to be for our daughters and was hit with a dank smell– like mildew, but worse, because I immediately had an asthma attack.  The smell was familiar, because we’d had the same problem two houses ago– mold.  I looked for leak, a tell-tale black spot, and found nothing.  “I think there’s mold in here,” I called.

After some discussion and some more discussion, and the next day having another asthma attack (and I had not used my inhaler in 6 months, my doctor had just taken me off asthma medication except for the rescue inhaler) and experiencing no symptoms outside of the kids’ room, we talked to the property manager. I would not allow my daughter to sleep in this room, so we bunked her with my son.

The property management company promptly sent over the building manager, whom the contract specifically states is unqualified to make any assessments.  He made one, though.  I explained the asthma and he agreed. “You need to get out,” he said.

THEN, oh, and this is rich….then he said that the EXTERIOR SHINGLED WALLS HAVE DRYWALL UNDERNEATH, instead of plywood; and that in the 30 years since it was installed that most likely there was a leak; and that the leak would seep into the drywall and carry into the inside and create a luscious mold environment in the walls.  “And in that case, the owner has to talk to the condo association about ripping out all the wallboard– and you couldn’t live here anyway,” he finished.  “We’re going to replace the exterior shingles but we’re not getting to that for a long time, so that won’t help you.”


This tells me:

1) The building was constructed ILLEGALLY, against housing code; for no housing code allows drywall exteriors
2) The condo owner knows, because the association has plans in the works, surely reported to the owners
3) That mold probably does exist.

The management company told us that the owner wants to send over a mold remediator, who is supposed to be independent.  They said we can leave now and be responsible for the rent until it’s re-rented; or wait for the mold tests.

Therefore, we are tracking down the county building inspector, because there is no way for us to know that they are using an independent mold remediation specialist; nor is there a way for us to know what they told the owner.  The building property managers have a vested interest in keeping this place rented.

The actual place is sort of functional, except that there’s a hole above the master bedroom patio screen between the frame and wall, allowing bugs inside; the shower door doesn’t work; there is no water pressure in the kitchen sink; and there are the missing windowpanes here and there in the louvered windows.

But at least there’s a great beach nearby,which we’ve visited everyday, sometimes twice; we found the shave ice place; and everyone is super-friendly.

kaiya at beach park
kaiya at beach park

2009 05 25 015

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

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