Revisiting Waikiki

12 01 2013

Two Christmases ago, not last month but a year earlier, my brother-in-law Paul thoughtfully gave us a gift card to the Cheesecake Factory. Mmmm, dessert! Thanks again, Paul! I’m embarrassed to say the card stayed hidden among all the other cards until recently. The restaurant is in Waikiki, and we locals hardly ever go to Waikiki—the famous tourist playland in the shadow of the iconic Diamond Head landmark. We oldsters are nostalgic and like to remember what it was like in our youth. It’s our loss, really, not going there today.

Waikiki © 2013 Rebekah Luke

Waikiki Beach in front of the Moana hotel. January 2013. Can you find Diamond Head?

When I think of Waikiki now, or more accurately going to Waikiki, I think of bad traffic, high-rise hotels, expensive stores, and crowded crosswalks in the Disneyland-ish manufactured environment that is Kalakaua avenue. All true. A lot of local residents work in the visitor industry, of course, and that’s a major part of the island economy. The streets and the buildings are refurbished regularly, with every mayor making an urban improvement and the hotels undergoing major renovations, too. I go to Waikiki so infrequently that it looks a little different each time. DH would get lost if I wasn’t navigating.

I decided on my birthday last week to have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, so over the mountain we went to spend Paul’s gift card and play tourist. In the distance between the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center (where the restaurant is) parking garage and Kuhio Beach toward Diamond Head, I made many photos, but tossed out most of them, preferring to keep just of few pretty images of my old haunts.

Moana Hotel © 2013 Rebekah Luke

Street entrance of the Moana hotel bustles with guests, taxis, and onlookers.

The Moana hotel, a favorite. My parents’ wedding reception and anniversaries were here at the romantic banyan court by the sea. In my teens, my girl friends and I went to the beach in front of the Moana every weekend, right there as shown in the top photo. It is still the best beach. Once I performed on stage with a group, singing and dancing—seems like a lifetime ago. That was even before my time as a daily news reporter when the Honolulu Press Club was located there.

IntlMktPlace © 2013 Rebekah Luke

The International Market Place, halfway between the Moana and Royal Hawaiian hotels on the other side of the street.

At the start of my art career, I took my paintings to the Honolulu Zoo Fence to sell. Kapiolani Park across Monsarrat avenue from the Zoo remains a breath of fresh air and green space. From the Fence I went to the Arts of Paradise gallery at the International Market Place. Once, in my early 20s, I spent New Year’s Eve with my date in and outside a restaurant to the left of the crosswalk in the photo. It was wild!

Come to think of it, I used to live in Waikiki, but I never thought of it that way because to me those areas were on the edges. First at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor on a yawl, then in a highrise condo unit near the Ala Wai Canal. I denied it was Waikiki until a friend I invited to dinner declared, after finally finding his way to my place, “My dear, you are in Waikiki!”

Royal Hawaiian © 2013 Rebekah Luke

Majestic garden entry to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. January 2013.

Beautiful as ever is the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the “pink lady.” I entertained there, too. I scouted it for Sunset, on special occasions dined at the Surf Room, my favorite restaurant, and drank maitais on the beach with my mother-in-law. We always appreciated the gracious service and royal treatment extended us kamaaina residents. But, no, you can’t see it from Kalakaua avenue anymore.

Copyright 2013 Rebekah Luke
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