Sunday, February 17, 2008

ALOHA! Honolulu 1969 . . . (Chapter One)

This isn't ME!

It was a grey soggy March day when I went for a drive with five new friends. The radio in the car was blaring surfing music and songs about SUNSHINE. We were experiencing severe Winter Quarter burn-out from our classes at the University of Utah. Finals were approaching and our thoughts were not of exams, but of sunny, white beaches in far away Hawaii.

We listened to Donovan's "Sunshine Superman"; the Beatles "Good Day Sunshine" and "Here Comes the Sun"; the Beach Boys "Warmth of the Sun"; the Sunrays "I Live for the Sun"; The Kinks "Sunny Afternoon" -- I know there were others. I think the radio DJ had a bad case of the winter doldrums, too.

It was on that drive my new friends enticed me to go with them to Hawaii, where some of their friends were already living, working and partying. We would find jobs before the summer flood of co-eds. We'd get an inexpensive apartment (off season prices) and share the rent. But most importantly, we'd be away from the grey skies and slushy snow of home. We'd play on the beach, get great tans, learn to surf and basically enjoy being young. We were soooo naïve.

It would be my first huge adventure away from home--if you don't count a week long trip to San Francisco with friends after high school graduation or the fact that I worked that same summer at Flaming Gorge Lodge (but that's another story altogether).

Most of our dreams came true in Hawaii. However, we'd been sort of unaware of the War. In Hawaii, it was impossible to ignore. Young men were coming and going constantly to a far off place called Viet Nam, for reasons that most of us couldn't fathom. They went away as young and innocent as we were --- but came back to Hawaii on R. & R. jaded, wounded spiritually, if not physically---hollow shells, damaged goods.

It was something I hadn't planned on--gaining a political conscience at the age of nineteen. I was seeing the world from a new set of eyes (no longer hidden or protected by the Wasatch Mountains). Don't get me wrong. I did my share of partying, but certain images and ideas began to haunt me in ways I'll never forget.

Instead of being a blissful time of escape, the spring and summer of 1969 became a rude wakening, a slap on my sunburned face. The time was a dichotomy. The contrast of being young and carefree . . . and feeling like a responsible adult who cared and felt guilty for enjoying myself. I learned to hate the war and what it was doing to My country and to a tiny Foreign country where we didn't belong.

It didn't seem fair. All I wanted was to swim in the ocean, get a tan and occasionally go on a date.

The guys I dated had all been in Viet Nam or were going there. Life, to them, was fragile and possibly short. They wanted serious relationships or just casual sex--I wanted neither.

1969 was a time of sex and drugs and rock 'n roll. To six girls from provincial Utah---it was all a culture shock. Besides being overrun with military personnel, Oahu was also being invaded with hippies (the counter-culture).

Our Utah group bought tickets to see the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Waikiki Shell. We sat for hours on the grass, waiting and waiting, inhaling second-hand pot and watching the outrageous, drugged out audience. No one seemed to care that Jimi did not appear! A full moon rose over the mountains and a lanky Rasputin looking man in a black cape jumped up on the stage. He led the audience in a wild cheer for the Moon.

Finally, Jimi came unto the stage--played three cords, then left the stage. Someone came back to announce that there were technical difficulties and the show was cancelled. Most of the audience knew Jimi was too high to perform but they were too high to care. Rain checks were given as everyone filed out, but we did not return on Sunday evening for Jimi's performance. We talked to some Marines at the concert (who thought we were very weird, being Mormons and not partaking in the drug-fest). They offered us a ride to the North Shore where we were promised surfing lessons the next day. . . .driving over the mountain highway with drugged-out Marines. . . how crazy and reckless could six young women get?!

The next morning I sat alone on Waimea Beach waiting for sun rise (and my surf lesson that never came). Suddenly, a large black lab ran past me, followed by his wild-haired, wild-eyed master. "Sorry if Rowdy's in your way," the young man in cut-offs, no shirt or shoes said. Then he added a profound and prophetic statement that has stuck for nearly forty years. He said, "The orbits of our diverse universes have just crossed. For this brief moment, we co-exist on a parellel plain. We'll never meet again, but you'll never forget me or this moment in time!" Wow, a hippie philosopher.

Hawaii 1969, definitely was a brief moment in time . . . never to be relived. . .only remembered.
. . .to be continued.

1 comment:

Marty said...

This is an awesome post!!! It is a great snapshot into that time in history through your eyes.