Cityfella In Honolulu Hawaii

Its been while since I’ve visited the  Island of  Oahu.    Oahu is 597 square miles of beauty.  (Sacramento County is 994 square miles)

One side of the Island is lush and green  and the other side is dry, like driving through the valley in summer from California to Reno.     One can drive the entire island in less than an hour.   I’m always amused when I read the sign Interstate H1. Perhaps there is this secret  underwater freeway that connects Hawaii with the mainland .


Many  things  have changed since my last visit.  There are a lot more high-rise buildings, according to Wikipedia, Honolulu ranks 4th in the number of high rise buildings, after  New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.     As a result the traffic is stifling, were talking Manhattan traffic in paradise, with jammed freeways.

A couple of years ago, voters approved an elevated  rail system .   Unlike Bart and other urban systems the trains will be light  weight.      There is a lot of opposition to the system, much like  California’s voter approved  High Speed rail with the propaganda machine in hyperdrive  and  politicians taking sides. I’ve read this system will disturb burial grounds and will cause the city to sink, and some believe this system will for ever change the quality of life on the island.

Honolulu has great transit (THE BUS).   Its fast and efficient , for $2.50 you can take the bus anywhere on the Island.   Unlike Sacramento’s Regional Transit, it goes where people wants to go .  The Airport, the port, Aloha Stadium, it seems to be a hub and spoke systems with  many transit centers and short waits.  The Islands transit system has  the 4th highest per capita use in the country.    I took the #20 from the Airport to Waikiki in 30 minutes.   As efficient is “The Bus” there are only so many roads…

Being a city person, I prefer public transit over an isolated taxi or rental car.


The biggest attraction for me are the locals.     One of the terms often associated with Hawaii is “Laid Back”  the locals seem kind and gentle.  One my of my friends recently relocated to Hawaii from Sacramento.    Here,you turn on your turn signal and people slow down and actually wave you in, its odd.    In Sacramento, I was always tense, you turn on any news report in  and  the opening story on the news and there is always some kinda of murder.     On television  here , it opens with flower shows, or car accidents” its much,much calmer here.    After four months she readily admits having Island Fever, but she isn’t ready to return to California just yet  and its understandable.  Despite the dense population and traffic,  Honolulu overall quality of  life  consistently ranks at or near the top of any city in the country.

The community seems very close knit and family oriented. Everyone seem to know each other.   Something I learned first hand.   Through the years I have lost touch with my friends on Island.  A  Facebook (a tool of the devil) friend learned that I was visiting , we had one friend in common and through .some cosmic network (drums and storm clouds) she  reconnected me with 7 people , some I haven’t seen in more than 20 years.   A last minute impromptu gathering  at a restaurant bar(owned by an uncle) led to a night of merriment  that lasted until dawn.   I now have 25 new friends with  promises of hospitality on future visits (no more hotels).

Black people represent 2.5 persent of the population” say’s Taxi Driver”Big L ”  he said he moved to Hawaii 25 ago from somewhere in the south (I dont remember which state).  When you go into the barber shop tell them “Big L” brought you and say hi.

When those people said they wanted you to stay with them, they meant it, said one of the barbers at Da Wig Shopp,  one of two black barber shops on Oahu.   That’s how the people are here.


Blacks and Hispanics are prepared for race based issues…  It’s not something one obsess about,or assumes , it’s just one of the realities of living in  America.

Trace Mcvely moved there with his brother in “91”  he didn’t what to expect, he was just happy to escape the Wisconsin winter.    From the first day, my brother took to living here.  I had just turned 18 , I missed hanging out with my friends, so after  8 months I went back home.  But in those 8 months I changed.    I guess I had gotten used to the people in Hawaii, so I moved back here.  The people are different here, its hard to explain.  I have never lived in a place where  most of the people are like, the same color .  Most of the people here are brown skinned like me.  Some are darker with hair close to mine.  There is some racism here, there’s racism everywhere but nothing like Milwaukee where you can get beat up for just being on the wrong street.     My brother got married  in 2000 and  he and his family lives  in Kapolei.   I rent a room in a large house in Pearl.  My mother and sister come out here every year, my father doesn’t like to fly so we visit him.  When I go home I go with an empty bag and buy clothes in Milwaukee or Chicago, its much cheaper there.    I get homesick sometime but I’m not going back .

Another man from the east coast  who has lived here  six years says, the people there are very nice. Shortly after arriving  a  Samoan family adopted him and Honolulu is a place he feels safe.  He has had one very minor race based event.     The only group he has a problem with are the indigenous people who he says feel entitled.  He plans to return to the mainland, San Diego.

“If you move here, you will love it”  Neaniss Grey, from  Fort Worth, Texas. , but I tell anybody , not to move here alone. its like you fell off the world.    No one will ever visit you, its too far and too expensive. When I first got here I fell in love with the place.  But the people are clickish.  They weren’t mean, in fact they look out for you but your on the outside.   After a while I missed everything about home,  I missed my  family so much, I couldn’t afford to leave, so I drank.  I lost my job, and slept on the street for almost  year until I got a job as a busboy at a hotel.   He now works at a store selling cell phones.   Distance is the reason many black people leave the Island.   As for race it isn’t much of an issue here unless your white.


Whites are reportedly the fastest growing minority and represent 23% of the population.

Jon Matsuoka ,former dean at the University of Hawaii  said the  resentment some Native hawaiians feels toward whites today  can be chalked up in part to ‘ancestral memory’  “That trauma is qualitatively different from other ethnic groups in America .It’s more akin to American Indians  because Hawaiians  had their homeland invaded,  we’re exposed to diseases for which they had no immunity, and has an alien culture force upon them.  Stories about the theft of their lands and culture have been passed down from one generation to the next.   You don’t necessarily trust outsiders  because outsiders historically come and have taken what you have.

Few people outside of  Hawaii know Hawaii  has a race issue and the tourism dependent state hopes to keep it that way.  Most states in the US began collecting hare crime data  in 1993.  Hawaii started ten years later.   In the  first six years that state reported only 12 hate crimes and half of those were in 2006. (based on its population the state would be expected to have more that 800 hate crimes annually)  there was anti-white bias in eight of those reported incidents.

From: Hawaii Suffering from Racial Prejudice-By:Larry Keller

It’s Downtown For Me

There are few large hotels downtown.  In many respects Downtown Honolulu is similar to Sacramento they are both State Capitals and underrated by locals   Downtown’s by design, are not  sanitized for your visits. (perhaps that’s why I like them)   Downtown Honolulu is populated by locals, students, homeless and people who remember when it was the place to be.   Comparing the two cities Sacramento has considerably more options .

As in many other American cities, the malls has destroyed what was once a thriving shopping area. Honolulu has a large homeless population. The homeless are swept back from Waikiki and other popular tourist centers.    While there are areas of downtown that looked a bit seedy, I felt safe there.  At night, the homeless owns downtown and Chinatown. The streets are empty.

There are many are many landmarks and interesting sights downtown that few tourist ever see. From the Iolani Palace (the only royal Palace in America) to the Bishop Museum. There  are outdoor shopping areas with local vendors and many historic buildings downtown.

One  building , The Hawaii Theater, was called “The Pride of the Pacific” and was considered equal in opulence to any theatre in San Francisco or beyond.  Built  in 1921 , the theater was home to both Vaudeville entertainment and movies through the 1920s. Following the introduction of  sound films , it operated as a deluxe movie theatre through the 1960s, gradually declining in the 1970s and falling into disrepair in the 1980s.  The theater was restored and now called the Hawaii Theater Center. In 2005 the League of Historic America Theatres named it the “Outstanding Historic Theatre in America.

ALA MOANA CENTER- The Big Center that could.

The Economic Crises is being felt in the 50th State.  While there are tourist, they are not spending a lot  in the souvenir stores. Even the Japanese tourist are looking for bargains.   With most with  shopping  malls looking for tenants, Honolulu’s  Ala  Moana shopping center continues to grow.

Opened in 1959 ,the 300 store shopping center with  a billion dollars in annual sales.  56 million people visit the mall every year. In a June 26, 2009 report from U.S. News & World Report, Ala Moana was ranked as the second most profitable mall in America based on sales per square footage, and also had one of the highest occupancy rates. (sales per square foot: $1,125).

In the humongous food court, I dined on prime rib, pulled pork, mac and cheese, salad and a drink for ten bucks.   Not bad for a mall that has stores like Neiman Marcus,Tiffany,Bulgari and Dior.

Who turns on AC?

I do, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, when ever its above  75 the AC goes on.   I noticed on this trip, none of my friends turn on the AC at home.  Many of the stores seemed warm, its not the ice cold welcome  I’m used to here  in Sacramento.     With a year round average of 77, everyone is used to the weather.    When I told an old friend it gets over a hundred in Sacramento, they said, they didn’t think they would move here.  We turn on the AC when we have company, but usually people just open a window. According to records, the last time it was 100 in the state was 1931.

Starbucks on Ward Ave

Most of the people, I spoke to at the Starbucks were people who have moved to Hawaii from other US states.    None regretted the move, all have at one time had Island Fever.  The biggest change for most was the absence of seasons.

One transplant say’s after nine years she still cry’s every winter, while she doesn’t miss shoveling snow. she misses the feeling of fall and winter.   There are traditions here, but nothing like home in Delaware.   After the first year, she said she would spend the holidays with family and friends.  But after a while going home didn’t help.  “And who can relate to someone complaining about endless sunshine’  This is my home now, I’m  married to a wonderful man who has lived in Hawaii all his life, we have  a two year old daughter.  I like my job at the University.   My life is stressful here, but its a different kind of stress. the cost of living is high, but I don’t have the same issues as my family at home, my life is more organic here.   I have a very close network of friends, who genuinely care for us and we for them that the beauty of living here, I am not going back.

Cityfella In Honolulu

I was there for a family wedding.  Curious by nature, I wanted to find out or learn something new,  I spent a lot of time asking questions about race relations in the state. I hope in my experience, I didn’t  present  a negative view on the state.  That was never the intent here.  The friends I made and what I’ve learned only makes we want to return.   Not only return but to explore the other islands and get their impressions.

Visit Hawaii 

This July visit was very expensive,  I’ve notice significant drop in air fare prices beginning in September and October.    And should you visit, experience the real Hawaii and its people, outside Waikiki and your basic tourist areas..  I think you’re in for a pleasant surprise



Published by CityFella

Moved to the Big Tomata in the nineties from San Francisco. No Suburbs for me with its single colored houses and lawns and the excitement of pulling out my trash can once a week. I'm a CityFella , a part time New Yorker. I'm happiest in the Center City where people the streets and people are alive. I'm still waiting to buy a 34th floor condo somewhere downtown/Midtown with a nightclub. "Hurry I'm old" My politics are somewhere in the middle with a needle that constantly moves. I'm too liberal to be a Republican and too conservative to be a Democrat. Everything interests me . I've come to love Sacratomato, Its a nice town in cheap sensible shoes .

One thought on “Cityfella In Honolulu Hawaii

  1. i finally decided to write a comment on your blog about Hawaii. i just wanted to say good job. i really enjoy reading your posts. thumb up


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