This is a tale of a movie beach, a lost key and three pods of helpful Washingtonians on a tiny island.
The island is Kauai, home to all of our descendants – two daughters, a son-in-law and two keikis, with another pending. The daughters found the spot that fits them best on the planet and are building happy lives there. That the spot is paradise with harsh edges, and that the daughters like us to visit makes us happier than we have any right to be.
We know we are merely tourists, two digits in the 90,000 who fly onto and off of Kauai in a busy month, renting cars, forgetting sunscreen and dropping money as if we were getting a favorable exchange rate with those Hawaiian dollars.
We imagine ourselves to be more. We imagine ourselves to be ohana, family, because the island feels like home to us.
Washingtonians tend to fall hard for Kauai. We visit, and once we’ve bought every tour on the concierge’s list, we learn to appreciate the realities beyond the resorts. We drift into island rhythms. We aspire to achieve aloha spirit in the course of a week, possibly two.
Last week, on the beach at Hanalei, it worked.
Lumahai Beach, around the bend from Hanalei, is the stretch of sand where Mitzi Gaynor tried, unsuccessfully, to wash that man right out of her hair in “South Pacific.” The covered pier is still there, and people still break the rules by jumping from it.
Hanalei is the town where George Clooney met with his beach bum brother, Beau Bridges, at the Tahiti Nui bar in “The Descendants.” It’s the beach where Clooney and his movie daughters tracked his dying wife’s scheming lover to a house behind a hedge.
The pier and the hedge are about 50 yards apart, with a parking lot tracing a neat triangle. With all that celluloid and a perennial place on top-10 beach lists, Hanalei is always rich with tourists, including a high percentage of Washingtonians. Red on the front, fish-belly pale on the back, we’re pretty obvious.
On the day in question, two CPAs from Bellingham were walking the tax season right out of their brains when they spied something: a key in the sand. Actually, it was a keyless ignition device for a rental Dodge.
They asked around, but could not find the hapless renter.
Spying the tell-tale sunscreen fail of a Northwesterner, they asked if I would find the drivers.
They knew the pain of losing a rental car key. They’d done it, and they’d spent $300 and half a day getting a replacement. But they wanted to keep working on their hot-sand/wet-sand pedicure by walking toward Tunnels, the sharky stretch featured in “Soul Surfer.”
“Sure,” I said, aspiring to aloha.
Paul, a transplanted New Yorker who now lives in a treehouse by the Wailua River, was parked in the lot, weaving palm fronds into the hats and bowls he sells, three for $25. He’d be there all day, he told us, and had the perfect spot to notice someone panicking near a Dodge.
Walking toward Paul, I asked a couple sitting in the shade at the beach entrance if they’d noticed any frantic tourists. Nope, they said, but they’d keep a lookout.
They were practicing, they said, to be snowbirds. They are from Bellevue but had bought a little house on Aliali Road – a block from where my daughter rented.
The parking lot was surprisingly shy on rental Dodges, so I clicked the open-trunk button until I found the right one, two cars from the fish taco truck.
Back at the entrance, the Bellevue postal carrier and her retired husband were watching a guy walking slowly, scanning the sand.
“Lose a key?” we asked when he reached us.
A happy couple saved $300 to spend instead on luaus or ziplines or helicopter tours.
And we Washingtonians, though we know we were merely tourists, were that much closer to achieving aloha.Kathleen Merryman: 253-597-8677