On the way we stopped at a roadside stand for shaved ice, which is for sale everywhere. It obviously has a great profit margin, since it's just colorful sugar water selling for $5.25 or so. There was a girl at the stand with part-Polynesian features; she would have been absolutely beautiful if she weighed 40 pounds less. (Polynesians can be beautiful when young, but have a tendency to put on weight quickly.)
We stopped at the same stand on the way back to use the vending machine. The stand was closed, but the girl was still there, riding a mowing tractor on the lawn of the house behind the stand.
The few houses out there are mostly quite isolated; you have to wonder what people do with their days. You can't just admire scenery all the time. You don't get the sense that these are people who are freaking out over their children's SAT's. They mostly just make do, and watch the world go by -- without paying too close attention.
The girl's future seemed to be to spend the rest of her life in this incredibly lush setting, getting even fatter.
At one point I saw a bunch of local boys jumping off a pier into the ocean, yelling at each other and having fun. It seemed idyllic from a distance, but when I got closer and listened to the stupid things they were saying, I realized they were essentially the same crowd you'd find on skateboards in any town on the mainland.
But as a rule, you just don't see as many people of Polynesian descent in Maui you would have thirty years ago. You see a lot of American tourists (all well dressed, middle-aged, white). A lot of Japanese tourists (unmistakeable by their dress and mannerisms). And fair number of local Asian-Americans. This was originally an island populated only by Polynesians, but they seem to be getting replaced. It's not dissimilar to the way the bigger, stronger Neanderthals got replaced by the wilier Cro Magnons about thirty thousand years ago.
You get the impression that a lot of the local whites came here because they were unhappy with their lives on the mainland. They tend to cluster in funky little towns like Pukalani and Paia, which have somewhat rundown-looking gift shops and art shops and restaurants. Many have leathery skin from too much sun. Most of these refugees from the mainland seem to be childless (if they were concerned about schools and the like they wouldn't have moved to Maui). Manhattan has been called an ovary graveyard; Maui seems to be one as well.
There's something sad about this island, and I've been trying to figure out exactly what for the past couple days. Maybe it's that the native Hawaiians seem to be dying out. (They really should be declared an endangered species, much like the Hawaiian monk seal we saw on the beach yesterday.) Maybe it's that the local whites all seem so burned out.
Maybe it's that my own Hawaiian dream is dying. When I was a young man I used to dream of living here; but it seems clearer now that I'd get "island fever" (the desire to escape) if I did. This state has always loomed large in my imagination, but it seems to have shrunk somehow since I was last here. Or maybe it's just my own future which has shrunk.
Of course, it's much easier to feel sad about a place so heartbreakingly beautiful. I've never had, for instance, a Newark dream. And if I was told I could never live there, or if its indigenous people were gradually being supplanted, I must admit, it probably wouldn't bother me.