There’s a lot of waaaaah to be found in Hawaii. Together with my host Dana, her friend Stefan and two couchsurfers Ben and Chris, I went off to the middle of the island to experience some of it. We breakfasted (they breakfasted, I was cheap and acted as cleanup crew) at a famous Pancake House and then drove over to Maunawili Falls, an ostensibly short and easy hike to a spectacular watering hole. I suppose it would have been much easier and shorter but for two factors – the two other couchsurfers, German, hiked at a snail’s pace and the wet season sort of did in the trail. Four of us wore flip flops and I wore my trademark Sanuks. Not the best muddy trail hiking gear.
Of course it felt much longer than it actually was, what with expecting the end any moment on the way in. After only a few hundred feet we gave up trying with our sandals/sanuks on and decided to barefoot it in. Which was fun but a bit yucky. I tried to concentrate on anything but the possibility of worms underfoot. They requested songs for me to sing a capella and I gladly obliged for the distraction. Stefan and I often had to wait several minutes in wait for the Germans, picking their steps stingily through the deep orange mud. By the time we reached the falls we were rather covered up to our waists in the stuff.
The “waterfall” really was a little spring like depression with cliffs around to jump off from. The water felt wonderfully refreshing – freezing at first, then perfect. Two waterfalls spilled down into the main pool and a smaller, shallower pool higher up opened below a fall split in two, heart shaped, around a little projecting boulder. Each of these sprays served wonderfully as showers. We took turns jumping in from the lower ledge (maybe eight or nine feet up), then the three other guys walked up to the forty five foot ledge for a jump. Chris took just a little time to psych himself up, while Ben took an agonizing ten or so minutes. He managed to kick his legs out and fall on his back, to which all of us watching winced in concert. Stefan, who’d been before, jumped in with no hesitation whatsoever. I demurred.
After a short stint in a free hot tub at Jimmy Buffet’s, I set up for a pitch on Kalakaua. Two amped acts took up the four main blocks of sound space so I was pushed to a spot almost where Kalakaua merges with Kuhio. I chose to play in front of a deserted previously American Apparel storefront for the acoustic benefit, thinking no one would bother me for playing on un-leased private property. For this day, at least, that held true.
Military personnel have shore leave on Thursdays. This completely defined my night. A very strange roller coaster mix of high highs and low lows, both provided by these young short haired men. Most of them, predictably but no less effectively, were assholes. Let me describe just a few of them, so as not to get my own ire up too much. The first fifteen or twenty minutes were filled with comments like this: One guy leaned in for a moment as if listening, then said “You’re not good enough.” with a self satisfied air during the low verse of Falling Slowly. At that point I was unaware we was just being an asshole and told him to wait a second for a chorus but he just laughed and walked on, somehow procuring a tanned barbie girl for his arm. Well, I think I sang that song quite well, but I’m thin skinned. Not long after another man in a group with two other enlisted each with hanging girltrash accessories paused to dangle money and then laugh back at his pals before one of them called out, “You’re no good man. Go home.” I felt angry enough to brain one of them with the guitar, but I knew what the odds of myself versus three perhaps Marines would be. A very red Terrence.
Luckily, after the fourth example of this kind of abuse, two enlisted types came in Aloha shirts came to my defense. They pursued the offenders down the street and asked them to apologize, to recognize that “He’s actually really good.” which only elicited more laughs and a girl’s “We didn’t think he was that good.” By the way, I’m still singing while this loud banter about my worth carried on. My champions rejoined, “Well you obviously didn’t listen, then.” They apologized for those assholes, sympathized for a while, requested I’m Yours and tipped me three dollars with an encouraging smile. I played beside an old Japanese lady advertising for the run range upstairs (whose loud reports carried as drumbeats to the street, but too irregular to play off of). She gave me a cookie through one of these two men. As I began I’m Yours per the request a group of boys sat across on the parapet to listen, though they’d passed before for the same song and grinned at each other for it. But what can you do? I felt alright again.
Just in time for a fresh fifteen minute bout of assholicnesss, interrupted very thankfully by a girl in Hawaii on a graduation present from her grandmother who stopped, tipped and said she wished she had more to give, then requested Chasing Cars as her favorite song in the entire world. She swayed along right beside me with a dreamy expression. Then another stretch of asshole with a Japanese boy’s ninja tip while I looked the other way and only caught in my peripheral to sustain me before a set of three middle aged musicians came by from their gig around the corner. The woman professed, “I think street performing is really cool.” They invited me to jam with them the following week. I might.
Besides the outright assholeness, another wearying behavior particularly prominent in the Japanese passersby was the propensity to gaze into my case, counting the money, for long moments. It’s sort of like – What? Too much? Too little? Why do you give a shit? Some surfers requested all my Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and sang along to them excitedly, proclaiming me an iPod. But still, I would have left downtrodden and miserable without the extraordinary kindness of one navyman, shorter than the assholes, who watched me a while from the parapet working up the nerve to enter the tattoo parlor, loved the music, loved my list and sympathized with me before I uttered a word of complaint, having witnessed much of my hardship. He dropped me my second twenty dollar tip and told me to sing anything my Iron & Wine. I sang him all four songs I knew, and then the Death Cab for Cutie song he liked, too. His friends joined him for the first song and as they came up he said, “This guy is working his ass off out her, singing one of the most beautiful songs in the world and doing it really really well.” He became my ambassador (though unwanted) calling out and following people with these same words for that half hour. My voice was at it’s end but I knew I couldn’t finish, so I kept on singing, kept going until he left with a smile and an “I really appreciate it.” I thanked him profusely in return. Kept me smiling despite my only tip through the rest of the pitch, a leering military type who stopped shoe touching the case and counted out twenty seven cents, one quarter and two pennies, before looking me in the eye and saying, “That’s twenty seven cents. It’s all you’re worth.”
Much of the time he and his friends spent with two hobos with parrots soliciting passersby for photographs, getting photos themselves. This piqued the interest of some darkly muttering Chinese men nearby, who asked them in perfectly good English how much it cost. But in typical arrogant, ignorant American fashion the man they asked spoke loudly and slowly back, “ONLY TIPPY TIPPY KANE KANE.” and when the Chinese man returned this treatment with a confused look, sighed and loudly repeated himself slower. Then he asked “Are you guys Japanese or Chinese?” The man responded, “Chinese.” So, despite their obvious understanding of this question the parroteer called to his partner, “HEY MAN HELP ME OUT WITH THESE GUYS TELL THEM ABOUT THE DONATIONS AND STUFF.” You gotta admire the patience or shake your head at the abuse the Chinese men took. The man in front said, “Yes, how much donation?” before the partner could come by. To which the insolent American obstinately continued his loud speaking-to-foreigner style, “DONATION YES. NO TWO DOLLARS. BIRD WORK HARD VERY HARD.” “Two dollars?” “NO TWO DOLLAR!” And they left.
Ah. The wonder of cultural exchange.
Earnings: $30.47 + 0,60 SGD, 3 hours
Song of the Day: Trapeze Swinger – Iron & Wine