When I was 9, my dad, much like Mr. Brady, had to go to Hawaii on business, and he brought the whole family along. (You may remember this from here.) My parents stayed in a 2 floor suite (the "Na P'ali Suite") at the ultra swank Kauai Surf Hotel, while my sisters and I stayed at the Plantation Hale Motel a few miles away. At first I thought that it would be exciting, but my sisters' absolute distaste at being stuck in a motel room with their obnoxious little sister kind of put a damper on the whole experience. And really, could you blame them? They were 19 and 23. In Hawaii. In their own hotel room. And then there was me: "HIIIII! Let's go SWIMMING! Let's watch TV! Let's play CARDS! I'm HUNGRY! I'm SUNBURNED! I didn't MEAN to spill! I miss the dog and all my friends! Nancy Drew saw a hula dancing ghost in Hawaii! This is like the Brady episode where Bobby finds the cursed idol and Greg falls off his surfboard! Whatcha doing? Can I go? I don't want to do my homework! I don't want to leave you alone! I'm gonna tell MOM!" You get the picture. Tropical Paradise it was not. At the Plantation Hale Motel anyway.
But at my parents' swanky hotel, where I actually was most of the time, it really was paradise. I'd get dropped off there every morning so my sisters could go do their thing, and I'd head straight to the pool that had a SWIM UP BAR. You literally swam through a waterfall and there was a bar so you could sit in the water and enjoy your cocktail. How amazing is THAT? And since it was IN THE POOL there was no age limit, so I swam up and ordered Shirley Temples and charged them to my dad's room. (I'm sure all the swingin' adults were just thrilled to have a creepy little kid hanging out and staring at them.) It was also the first time I had ever seen umbrellas in drinks, so every day I went down to the pool and asked everyone with a cocktail if I could have their umbrellas. (Charming. My sisters nearly died when they found out. I came home with about a hundred.)
One night, the hotel put on a real live luau, and I couldn't wait. I knew what a luau was -- the Bradys had gone to one and blew into a conch shell -- and I was excited to wear my new, fancy pink and white gingham dress. Except that day I had gotten a brutal sunburn, and by the time the luau rolled around, I was pretty much in blistering agony. But still, I was a trooper:
note: I am not wearing a tank top under my dress. That is a sunburn. But the flower crown did make it feel better.
There was a pig, and lots of drinks, and Mrs. O'Connor (the woman in the center) made me eat poi which I hated. We all sat on the ground (which was a little rough for the adults, and bad for me with the sunburn) and watched fire dancers and hula girls put on a show. But the most amazing thing was right before sunset a helicopter flew over and dropped hundreds of gardenia petals and orchids onto the party. The flowers floated down from the sky like sweet, fragrant snow, and we all gasped and clapped. And I was thrilled when the helicopter dipped like it was taking a bow, and I remember turning to my mom and shouting, "WOW!" with utter joy. The joy was fairly short-lived, however -- I hurt so much that my mom had to take me upstairs to their room and put me to bed with Solarcaine and aspirin.
I remember that trip with such clarity -- asking for those umbrellas; the moment that I thought I saw a quarter at the bottom of the pool (greedy!) and scraping all the skin from my nose when I dove down to get it and seeing swirling blood (consequences for that greed); a maple donut I ate; the cool stillness of the Fern Grotto and the rainbow ice we got on the way there; sucking on sugarcane; getting sucked down by the undertow and nearly drowning (I was a NIGHTMARE child); the groovy orange and blue metallic wallpaper in my parents' room; the hotel gift shop where I got a music box that played The Hawaiian Wedding song... but the memory that sticks with me most is being covered in flower petals, watching the helicopter take a bow. (Whenever I smell gardenias, that's what I think of.)
I've been back to Hawaii once since then (not as fun as the first time: 13, miserable, and got my period for the second time ever so I spent a lot of the time in the room sulking and reading Danielle Steel novels from the gift shop, but I did eat banana flambe in a fancy restaurant!), but long to go again. Of course I want to go on a time travel trip to Hawaii in the 50's or early 60's because it was so amazing back then, and I could buy more crap for our bar. But I'd like to go as an adult so I can actually drink. Um, I mean really appreciate it.
But, alas, since a trip to Hawaii isn't exactly feasible right now (especially a time travel circa 1962 trip), I did the next best thing: I joined forces once again with my Co-Hostess with the Mostess, Jennye (whom you may remember from such posts as winter wonderland extravaganza or mid-century supper clubbing), and we brought Hawaii -- and 1962 -- to Oakland, CA in 2009 for the hoolaulea of the year.
Sure, since a tiki theme is always a favorite, I've been to lots of luaus. LOTS. And though they are always fun and festive, they are really just an excuse to don loud clothes and drink a lot of rum, so really, they are theme parties, not luaus. (Believe me, I am not complaining. I'd go to a tiki party every day of the week if I could.) But since this one was the grand poobah of the Mid Century Potlucks, and since it's always a good idea to learn a new cultural tradition, we stepped it up a notch and did a little bit of research, thanks to my 1950's "How You Can Give Hawaiian Parties" by Patricia Collier, published by Dole Hawaiian Pineapple Company:
I always knew this would come in handy someday.
It is chock full of Hawaiian tips, and I set about trying to become fluent in party Hawaiian from the section, "Hawaiian Words That Are Fun To Use!" Since I only knew stuff like, aloha and mahalo and mai tai and "The Big Kahuna," I thought I'd pepper my conversation with these useful gems:
Haole: White Person or Foreigner
Hoomalimali: To Flatter
Humuhumunukunuku: A Species of Fish
Lomi: To Rub or Massage
Malolo: Flying Fish
Nui: Big, Great
Okole Maluna!: Bottom's Up
Wai: General Name For Anything Liquid
Wikiwiki: Hurry Up
And I also learned that these were parties for King Kamehameha and his royal bunch, yet they were informal, sitting on the ground and stuff and eating with your fingers and leaves. And according to Mrs. Collier, a luau without Kalua pig is NOT a luau, but a poi supper. And considering I had not so fond memories of poi and we wanted the real deal, we were gonna get a whole damn Kalua PIG.
Initially we were going to get the pig and bury it and roast it, but then Jennye and Aaron, her husband, found whole already roasted pigs in Chinatown for cheaper, so we went with that. And spent weeks planning the backyard Party Of The Year, only to wake up that morning to discover that the ONE TIME is has rained in the state of California in MONTHS was that night and morning. "Hey," Aaron said as we panicked, "It rains EVERY DAY in Hawaii. It's more authentic." So the shindig was still on.
And was it ever. People outdid themselves as usual with amazing food:
And Ono Ono drinks:
And the pieces des resistances -- not one, but TWO pigs!
But I'll admit -- no one sat on the ground because it was muddy and we used plastic forks. The ukulele player had to cancel. No hula, as we are closer in age to Alice than Cindy and could have potentially thrown out some hips. The limbo was completely forgotten, though an impromptu 80's dance party ensued. (I like to think King Kamehameha would have been pleased.) Plus, I put so much wai in my opu that everything I said sounded vaguely Hawaiian, instead of actually the words I'd studied. And we bombed as judges because we really kept sampling the entries of the liquid alcoholic variety and kept getting distracted.
Would you trust these wahines to be judges? Not a maikai idea.
(For more photos, like you haven't had enough already, go here and here.)
Even though there wasn't a helicopter that scattered flower petals all over our guests like the one in Hawaii when I was nine, it was a fabulous luau. (And this time I wasn't sunburned, and could partake and the delicious rum drinks.) And it was a real luau, thanks to the pigs, we can't wait to do it again next year. I highly recommend it -- it's fun and CULTURAL. How's THAT for an Accomplishment?
Aloha and Maholo!
(And if you do throw one, invite a tech genius who can do stuff like THIS.)
Thirty-seven down, 60 to go.