Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hawaiian Strolls

One of my pleasures here on Maui this winter has been a morning stroll down the beach. Rain, shine or howling trade winds I spend a happy hour, winding up at a small grocery to purchase my daily fix of the “Wall Street Journal”. I am hardly alone on these jaunts and, over the course of many weeks, have come to some conclusive observations.

1) Women’s swim suits have become considerably smaller since my life guarding days at Hamburg Town Park on Lake Erie in the late ‘50s. On the other hand, men’s suits have become significantly larger. I have been wondering if this is some previously undiscovered “Law of the Conservation of Fabric”? Men’s suits now extend to the knee and often beyond. As an added piece of coverage you often see guys wearing long sleeved tops. How can you swim wearing all that stuff? Women’s suits do not have much further to go… unless they adopt the French approach and forgo the top altogether or reduce to the Brazilian thong. Obviously, as a human ethologist I take no position on the current state of swim wear design or where the future may lead us. (I took a course in ethology in college and pulled some stomach muscles laughing at my professor, a chunky, bespeckled guy, dressed in a twig embedded sports jacket, string tie and moccasins. He was doing his imitation of the mating dance of the male prairie chicken and didn’t seem to notice when I fell out of my chair.)

I have always chosen to swim in a Speedo and although I have three with me, I am reluctant to take them out of the drawer. I did an ocean swim in one when we first arrived and as I trudged back to my towel, I felt conspicuous, as if the spectators were saying, “Funny, he doesn’t look European.” Back in the room I checked my profile and decided that at 68 maybe it was time to make some concessions to fashion and go with the sea anchor suit instead of the Speedo.

2) On my jaunts I encounter an amazing number of SUV-like strollers and people lugging incredibly young babies. Often the Humvee strollers are loaded with baby gear and the tyke slung in a carrier hanging about Mom or Dad’s neck. In mid-morning it can be pretty hot here and I wonder about these tiny persons wrapped in blankets with a cover over the stroller. It’s probably 100 degrees in there and frying the little nipper’s brain. The larger question: why take a vacation with a newborn? Even more curious is the couple vacationing with not only the newborn but also two other kids under the age of four. How much fun can that be in a hotel room? And, what will the kids remember of this trip to a tropical paradise? We would never have considered such an expedition when our kids were small. Of course, at that time we could not really afford the kids, much less a vacation to Hawaii.

3) A great number of my fellow amblers cannot seem to part with their electronic pacifiers. Cell phones, of course, either stuck in their face or holstered at the hip ready for a quick draw. You never know when you need to Google something. I passed a young woman going in the opposite direction yesterday. She was shouting into her phone. (Apparently you need to shout to be heard when talking to someone on the mainland.) Having both reversed course, we passed again 20 minutes later. She was still bleating into the phone like a motivational speaker on speed. “Same call?” I wondered.

Speed walkers and joggers all have iPod buds stuck in their ears and wear glazed, determined expressions. It must be some sort of requirement these days to have music blasting in your ears when you exercise. Perhaps it dulls the pain? Occasionally they toss me a dirty glance as they motor through the exhaust fumes of my cigar. I nod and smile in return. “Aloha.”

(Another reason not to wear an iPod while jogging--read this article. -ed.)

I am quite confident my electronically connected compatriots on the foot paths don’t notice the brilliant and varying hues of the ocean: where the coral meets the white sand or where it turns indigo at the drop off. They surely didn’t notice that the waves plunge here where the gradient is steep or break and roll further on where it’s shallow. Most likely they missed the two whales blowing and splashing just beyond that moored sailboat and I know they missed that the old gentleman pushing his wife in the wheelchair was singly softly to her. I doubt they heard the two male cardinals arguing over disputed territory in the kakui trees just beyond the Marriott. Sad really. They might as well be exercising on their treadmill in the basement.

John Adams, it is said, walked every day. He lived to be 90 years old. He died on July 4th in 1826, the exact same day as his friend/rival, Thomas Jefferson. Apparently Jefferson’s only exercise was pleasuring female slaves. Right there I’ve got a lot to think about on a morning stroll down the beach.

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