“You look the same – just a little grayer” my friend and I exclaimed after seeing each other for the first time since college graduation in 1977. She flew in from California and I flew in from Maui for our mini-reunion on Oahu for a couple of days last week during her vacation.
Joni Madolora and I first met in 1973 at freshmen orientation for the University of Pacific sponsored by the Anderson YMCA. I entered the Conservatory of Music on piano performance and wanted to be a music therapist. After changing majors, Joni and I both entered the American Humanics program and graduated with bachelor’s degrees in recreation, youth agency administration. My first job was with the Seattle YMCA, and Joni helped manage her family farm in Salinas, California. We lost touch over the years, and then she found me recently on Facebook.
Where do you begin after 39-years? Good thing we shared a hotel room (we left our men at home) as we had lots to talk about and catch up on. The Modern Honolulu was conveniently located at the edge of Waikiki and we had a great view from our room of Ala Wai Yacht Harbor.
The first night we walked across the street to the Chart House Restaurant for dinner. I was surprised to hear my name called out and turned to see my high school classmate, David Kauahikaua in the lounge. David used to be the music director for Hawaii comedian Frank Delima, and plays keyboards and sings at the Chart House only on Wednesday nights with his friend Tito on guitar and vocals. How lucky for us to be there on a Wednesday! We loved their age appropriate music mix of songs from our high school days and beyond.
The next day, I drove Joni to see my old neighborhood and house where I grew up on the slopes of Diamond Head. The saying “you can never go home” maybe true. She loved seeing the beach where I used to walk from my house, and where the neighbor kids and I played king of the reef and jumped into the water near Doris Dukes. I also explained how I used to gather and eat the limu that would wash ashore after high tide. Plus, my boy cousins taught me to surf at the beach when I was 14 years-old. I have such wonderful memories of running on the beach with arms outstretched letting my beach towel fly in the wind as I played superman.
Next we drove by my old elementary school in Kahala, and then I pointed out Waiokeola Church where my parents were founding charter members. I sang in the church choir as a teenager and used to perform hula with my cousins for church functions. A few years ago on behalf of my mom we donated an outdoor PA system for the church to use at the growing outdoor functions.
We stopped for breakfast at Big City Diner in Kaimuki (part of the old neighborhood), and noticed how the restaurant was sandwiched next to Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and French restaurants all in a row. Hawaii has been and continues to be a mix of cultures which shaped who I am today.
Our big adventure for the day was driving to Waimea Valley on Oahu’s north shore. It had been ages since I had visited the valley. We enjoyed taking a shuttle ride to see the waterfall at the back of the valley, and then we strolled back along the path looking at native and non-native plants. The temperature was much cooler under the shade of the huge monkey pod trees.
On the way back to our hotel, we drove through historic Haleiwa Town to get shaved ice from the famous Matsumoto’s Grocery Store but couldn’t find parking. I have fond memories of eating shaved ice on the bench outside the store as a kid with my friends. Haleiwa has become quite built up since then, similar to Paia Town on Maui that caters to surfers and visitors.
Once back at our hotel, we relaxed poolside, and then took a walk around the manmade lagoon near Kaiser’s Hilton Hawaiian Village. I don’t remember this lagoon, but enjoyed the view along the beach to Diamond Head. When we were hungry, we walked back over to the Chart House for our second night there. The same table was available and so was Tito this time performing solo on guitar and vocals. Joni showed me how to take video with my smartphone, and so I filmed Tito singing while a video of Maui aerials played in the background. Joni even danced with “Papa” a frequent patron from Japan who has been returning for 15-years. What another great evening of music with friends.
Friday, June 24 was Joni and my mom’s birthday. We checked out of the hotel and then I drove Joni to the airport for her flight back to California. After a business meeting, I drove to Arcadia Retirement Residence to see my mom. I took my ‘ukulele and sang a few songs with her friends during our little party for my mom’s 93rd birthday. It was fun!
Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele