Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shrimp Shrack et al.

There’s a fine, pretty rain falling. Or, there was. For about half an hour the sky gradually became more and more obscured by gray, until we couldn’t even see the mountains that usually fill our windows. I thought to myself, “Now’s a good time to start a blog.” I turned on my computer. I looked up. The skies were mysteriously clear blue all around except against the mountain, where billowing white clouds seemed to be rising from the ground a few blocks away and floating up toward its heights. Now all the white has disappeared over their tops and the pure sun is making them brilliantly green.

A few days ago I realized I’d been holing myself up at home for far too long trying to finish some rewriting. I suggested a hike to Deanna, who readily agreed—she’s so spunky, always up for an adventure. After some searching around on a hiking site we settled on the Hauula Loop, which would take us on a 2.5 mile journey through pine forests and along a mountain ridge, all the while keeping us within hearing distance of the surf far below.

“Wait! Stop!” you say. Yes, pine forests. There are several different sorts here. Odd, I know, to think of Hawaii riddled with pines. At least South Carolina prepared me for it, somewhat, with its incongruous mixture of pines and humidity.

Sadly, we forgot Deanna’s digital in the car, so we have no proof of the following:

Spongy-Paper Trees. Layer upon layer of paper-thin rings, each soft and spongy in itself, form a tree which squishes in when pressed. It reminded me of my sister’s memory-foam mattress. Not only would the layers be heaven to sleep on, they were already perfect for writing on (though our pen nibs tore the “parchment” if we pressed to hard). We scrounged for scraps on the forest floor and gleefully wrote away. (Yes, I’m one of those dorky writers who always happen to have several pens on them, even on long hikes.) My piece of bark ended up proclaiming “God made me!” for the benefit of the next curious hiker. This tree also had bottle scrubbers for flowers and little washer-shaped fruit pod thingys (to borrow a word from Annie). Some research has just turned up the fact that it’s a Melaleuca tree, already famous in my family for the anti-viral properties of its oil!
  • Pine Forests straight out of the Pacific Northwest. I’m serious, I could have been marching up Mount Rainier. These guys were tall and majestic, standing in ramrod, perfectly-spaced order, offering springy evergreenish bushes to brush us clean along the path. It was a veritable cathedral of the woods, including the hushed, breathable quality of the air such places birth.
  • Dead Boars. That’s what I said. Three Hawaiian men, sitting happily on the back of their pickup on either side of a dead boar. When we began hunting, we passed the same boys, sans boar, sitting in said same pickup. When we returned, we discovered an addition among them. Namely, a very dead boar, lying with its legs splayed out and snout hanging off the edge of the truck. Deanna claims she saw a bullet hole in the middle of its forehead. I could only smell, smell, smell…and to avoid looking at the boar, instead made friendly comments to the hunters as we passed, without ever once meeting their eyes. Do you ever have that feeling that you’ve behaved as if you’re a wanted criminal? It happens accidentally when you don’t want to look at people because they scare you. Scooting by, head ducked, eyes averted, not wanting to see their faces watching you pass… This is how I passed by that truck, all the while calling in a friendly way, “J’you just get that?” And it didn’t take long to wonder why they asked in return which side of the mountain we’d been hiking on. Luckily, Deanna had been wearing her Dole Plantation tourist shirt, which is neon yellow. We had to pass them again on our way out, as their pickup had moved and was blocking the road. They scooted over so we could get through (luckily for them I’m from Chicago and used to navigating with only 3 inches clearance on either side). As we did, the driver blew out his last puff of cigarette smoke and called out something familiar-sounding. I think it was an invitation to help them eat it, but I kept my stony eyes on the road and roared full steam ahead. No thanks. Out of pity for you, I have included here a stock shot of a boar. When they’re dead they’re much sleeker, greasier, and smellier. In general, not-so-cute.

  • We survived the hike, although barely. It wasn't so much the physical exertion as the mental anguish of parking in what looked like a junkyard, following the directions of unknown and unsavory-seeming fellow hikers, being convinced by Deanna that I had all the privacy in the world only to finally finish answering nature and discover that two other hikers had been bearing down on us on the path all along (I believe the bend in the trail worked in my favor, though once again I did not meet their eyes as we passed, for I don't really want to know), and returning to the welcome of long stares from four sets of eyes - three alive, one dead.

    In celebration of this survival we headed to the beach to wash off the sweat, only to find it was the worst garbage-filled place I've seen in all of Hawaii. The "Garbage Beach" we call it. No bathing suits were donned and the celebration immediately turned to ideas of lunch. Plate lunch, specifically.

    The plate lunch is a unique Hawaiian phenomenon. Little booths or tents or wagons are set up near the highway offering a variety of plate lunches, which usually consist of some sort of meat and two scoops of a side (like rice). Huli-huli chicken is what I wanted, but Deanna was in the mood for the Shrimp Shack, which we had tried to eat at before but found closed. To the Shrimp Shack we headed (pronounced by all of us now, "Shrimp ShRack" in honor of the fact that I seem to find it impossible to twist my tongue around those two words in order). I was sure I could not twist my tongue around any shrimp either, and was planning to wait for a chicken shack, but then we spied one non-seafood item: Fried Coconut. Fried coconut?? I had to try it, so we ordered one to split and happily sat down.

    I suppose we should have assumed it, should have figured it, based on the rest of the day ...
    "Fried Coconut", which still sounds like a very yummy thing, turned out to be simply a description of what sort of SHRIMP we would be getting. "Fried Coconut Shrimp," it should have read. I steeled myself and dug in, helped along by the coconut, which was fresh and fried and well battered onto the shrimp, masking much of its taste. Here is a photo of my sweaty, steeled self, half-crazed already from the day's adventures. (I haven't even told you about the lisping, singing shop-owner, as you'd have to hear a recording to believe me.)

    Anyway, it all ended well. Deanna even kissed the shrimp painted on our road-side table.

    1 comment:

    deannacs said...

    haha...oh my, what a good description of our day! I must say the sponge tree was quite the reward for our sketchy boar laden hike, and the fried coconut SHRIMP was the perfect ending. well done. when's our next adventure?! :)