Friday, January 24, 2014

"Aloha Memories 2013 - Loose Ends"

I love loose ends

“And she loves me…”

During our trip, after having being the unhappy recipient of several of my insightful observations about people, my daughter Anna accused me of being judgmental.  My somewhat umbraged response to her accusation was that I don’t judge.  I simply notice things.  And then pass on what I notice to others.

Apparently, to some hypercritical family members, passing what I notice is indisputable evidence of judgmentalism.  To me, noticing things and then keeping them to yourself is like… that’s crazy!  You prepare the meal and then don’t serve it to anybody?  What kind of chef would do that? 

“Eet’s eemposseeble!’

I entirely agree.

So here’s a smattering of what I noticed on our recent Hawaiian vacation.  (And some of it’s about me.  Does that make me judgmental about myself?  That’s stupid!  Okay, “That’s stupid” was judgmental.  But not the stuff that’s coming up.  As far as I’m concerned.

Okay, fine.  You decide.
A woman comes up to me on the beach, clearly expecting that I would know who she was.  When my undisguised face-signals revealed that I didn’t, she flamboyantly tears off her big, floppy hat, daring me not to recognize her then.  What I recognized was a woman I didn’t know without a hat.  Finally, she reveals her identity (a woman we had met on a previous visit) and she asks me how I’m doing.

“Okay,” I reply.

Wonderful!  And how is your wife?”

“She’s all right.”

Fantastic!  Are you having a good time?”

“Pretty good.”


The woman’s exclamatory responses got me thinking.  Was she drastically inflating her enthusiasm?  Or was I having a better life than I realized?  (I would lean in my direction in this regard, but I am afraid that that would make me appear judgmental of her hyper-enthusiasm.  To me, it seemed atypically “over the top.”  Simply an observation.)
You go to Hawaii for the ocean and the sun.  Is that being judgmental, or merely being accurate?  If you went there for the skiing and the exploration of ancient cathedrals, you would be seriously disappointed.  I may be dangerously going out on a limb here, but I think Hawaii’s sun and the ocean play a significant part in most people who come there’s vacation-planning decision-making.  

Just saying.  Not judging. 

So when I notice people – as I did with one couple – turning their cabanas around, so as to face away from the sun and the ocean…

I find that – not stupid, or even odd or bizarre, which would all be judgmental – but – come on, cut me some slack here – at least…


There’s an easier way to avoid Hawaii’s sun and the ocean.

Don’t go to Hawaii.

The same way, to avoid the blizzards and the sub-zero temperatures?

I do not spend “Christmas Week” vacationing in Toronto.

Is that judgmental?  I say, “No sir!”  It is just, “Look at that.  They go to Hawaii and then literally turn their backs on what makes going to Hawaii spectacular!  That’s noteworthy, don’t you think?” 

That’s all I’m saying.
Our hotel replaced its formerly unimpressive and overpriced Japanese restaurant with an equally unimpressive and overpriced Italian restaurant.  Walking in, it felt somewhat, let’s say disconcerting, having the restaurant’s identifiably Hawaiian (in physiognomy and attire) host greeting us as we entered with an effusive

“Bon giorno.”  

This cultural cognitive dissonance reminded me of a response one of our dearest friends once delivered when we dined together at an Italian restaurant in Los Angeles. 

The overwhelming majority of “service help” in Los Angeles restaurants are of Hispanic derivation.  The conundrum occurred when one of them finished refilling the woman’s water glass, and, desperate not to offend, she was divided as to whether to respond to his attentiveness in Italian (in deference to the restaurant’s motif) or in Spanish (respecting the nationality of the server.) 

What emerged from this torturous dilemma was a strangled and unwieldy


Nothing critical. 

Just noticing.

Okay, to show I can take it and not just dish it out,

What I Noticed About Myself:

I cannot enter a tiled public bathroom without immediately breaking into song, or whistling.  (It’s the echo.  I sound sensational in bathrooms.)  This leaves my fellow urinators who traditionally have no place to look with now also no place to listen.

Okay, that’s kind of tame, more endearing than a source of condemnatory judgment – Hillary Clinton in her 2008 Primary Debate admitting her biggest flaw was that she worked too hard.  (Or she cared too much – some confessional but tranparently adulatory revelation of that nature that would impel me never vote for her unless she was running against a Republican.)

Hold on, I can do better.

To offset the expense of the recently inflated room rates and restaurant charges, I would regularly eat my breakfast and lunch in our hotel room, partaking of provisions purchased at a nearby supermarket.  I also enjoyed a daily mugfull of our accommodation’s complimentary Starbucks coffee. 

Gleefully, with every homemade meal and unpaid-for imbibement, I internally tabulated an accumulating “Negative Restaurant Tab.”

“Free coffee – saved sixty twenty-five, plus a tip.”

“Teriyaki rice bowl with chicken – saved twenty-one dollars – plus a tip – on the coffee shop hamburger.”

“Cereal and papaya in the room – saved thirty-five dollars – plus a tip – avoiding the Plumeria Beach House’s ‘Breakfast Buffet.’”

It was a rewarding exercise, combatting the hotel’s exorbitant charges.  I could hear myself cackle with every unsquandered dollar.

Judgmental?  “Is that guy cheap!”?  I don’t think so.  It is simply what I did.  And I noticed myself doing it.  (Which is all I do with others.)

Any other revelatory observations?

Oh yeah, this one:

One day, I had a beer at lunch, a “Lave Flow” in the afternoon, and a glass of Macallan’s Scotch on the rocks after dinner.  Were you counting there?  That was three alcoholic beverages in a single day. 

Okay, that’s a little frightening.  Normally, I don’t drink anything.  But I may have toppled over the edge there and gone straight to “I’m Earl, and I’m a alcoholic.”

Or maybe it was just a matter of temporarily vacationally lowered standards.

The foregoing generates today’s question:

Does noticing necessarily imply judgment?  Even for the good stuff?  “I noticed a butterfly.”  Does that imply a critically “oblivious” judgment on the people who didn’t?

I don’t know the answer.  Noticing – judgment.  I am unable to delineate the distinction.

I just know I had a great time with my family in Hawaii, I saved a boatload of money eating in my room, and one day,

I was really, really


Man!  I would kill for a recording of what I sang in the bathroom then.


Danny Kaye L. Emm said...

No opinion, no judgment.

Allie Illwaco said...

It's been my belief that simply recording your observations is also known as reporting. As sort of stated by the previous commenter, until you/someone editorializes, there is no judgment. Pretty clear line between observing and passing judgment - at least there is in my mind.

My brother and his wife went to one of the islands last summer and did a similar thing with the food: they went to a nearby Safeway deli and stocked up in order to save a few $ on the food bill for the 10 days they were there.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I feel that it's possible that you, as an unreliable narrator, may have glossed over the *tone* in which you reported these events.

We need audio.

As for singing in echos, I commend to you a trip to Ithaca, NY (where one does not go for the weather!), where you will find an antechamber in Annabel Taylor Hall that is universally known as the "echo chamber". The echo is *fantastic*. We used to do folk sings there sometimes, just because.