Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Aloha Spirit ... Left Coast Crime

So it's my first time in Hawaii, the conference is fabulous, and now that my cognitive abilities are reasonably restored (though never reasonable), some of my impressions ...

I arrived Sunday morning, amazed to land on the tarmac (yay for tarmacs!) rather than one of those long airport tubes. It was raining, a mystical, tropical warmth of big drops falling with a gentle touch on the black, rugged land all around the tiny airport.

The airport itself consists of small brown wooden buildings with open air exposure, dark brown, more like what I'd imagine as tasteful amusement park architecture, if that's not an oxymoron.

I bought a lei of plumeria and orchids (amazing fragrance) at the airport ... and yeah, I've heard the joke about sixteen times now, so quit sniggering.

Volcanic mountains rise up in the distance ... to the south, the island is green and lush. To the north, black sharp rocks--a more than century-old lava flow--drape the land, creating a disconcerting contrast to the pre-formed ideas of paradise. But then -- the aloha spirit. On the way to the Waikoloa Marriott -- a mostly new complex of hotel, garden, pool, beach, palm trees and shopping malls called the King Shops and the Queen's Marketplace--you see words spelled out in white shell against the sombre lava-black. Words that pay tribute, words that honor and remember, words that testify to love, whether it's Angie plus Daniel or in memory of someone lost.

No "graffitti". That wouldn't honor the land. That wouldn't honor the people. And that wouldn't, from my limited experience, seem to be Hawaiian.

People are friendly here, aloha and mahalo not just words in a tourist booklet or left on a recording when you're on phone hold. I've learned that Hawaii is a beautiful place with an ugly epidemic: crystal meth, called ice on the island. There's also an older crisis, the disparity of wealth between the land-owners and the poor, a demarkation of inequity that stretches back to the plantation era.

Hawaii is a land of contrast. Like aloha written in shells on the black, sharp rock.

I want to learn more about it ... and will.

And in the meantime, the conference is amazing. Louise Ure and Gillian Roberts and Bill and Toby Gottfried and Janet Rudolph, and all the dedicated volunteers have done an incredible job ... fascinating panels, exploratory side trips, movies, even a Sunday night luau.

Yesterday morning we enjoyed a spectacular debut author's breakfast sponsored by Mystery Scene ... followed by two debut panels. People are talking, sharing, drinking mai tais, admiring the flora and fauna (I saw a mongoose!) ... and relaxing. The rain has stopped.

And underneath it all, the aloha spirit ... a specific and special evocation of the generosity and humanity that always defines the mystery writing community. Hawaii and Left Coast Crime belong together. I'm so glad I'm here.


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