New Year's Day

Briefly stranded in Kailua, our writer realizes what makes the town so special.

Photo: Alex Viarnes

It’s the second flat tire of the day, enough to try anyone’s patience. Same wheel, new leak. In the car are three tired kids—hungry, whiny and dusted head to toe in the baby-powder-fine sand of Lanikai. It is New Year’s Day, and there’s a crowd, half-tourist and half-Kailuan, eating burgers on the green benches at Kalapawai.

The lug nuts on the car must have been secured by Andre the Giant, because even standing on the wrench won’t budge them. The gas stations are all closed. On the bright side, there are pita chips and homemade hummus from the market, and fresh coffee even at 3 p.m. A lanky, mustachioed man comes out, lies down on the asphalt and looks up under the car, wondering aloud if he might help. He confirms what we’ve been thinking—that wheel is not coming off.

“The leak seems slow,” he says, “stay here.”

Without much choice, we settle onto the benches and watch him pedal off down Kalaheo Avenue on his old cruiser. It has a basket.

My kindergartener befriends a dog, as she tends to do, and talks its owners into a coma. My sons wrestle on the sidewalk, because that’s what they do, regardless of location. I sit far enough away to deny any connection, should the need arise, but the tourists are too happy to be appalled, and the local folks just step over my riff-raff.

Stranded in Kailua, you spot a beautiful television castaway reading a book undisturbed in the corner. The owner of a pimped-up, gold-and-white, fixed-gear bike lets you ride it in circles around the parking lot, and then leaves it unlocked and leaning against a pole while he heads into the market.

Stranded in Kailua, you see a steady stream of kayaks on wheels being dragged down Kailua Road by people in skirted swimsuits. You hypothesize about their hometowns and quietly give them odds of making it around Flat Island.

The bike lane is nearly as busy as the road, with packs of beach-bound teenagers, athletes in Spandex dodging the teenagers, and pedaling parents towing their toddlers and half the contents of their garages.

Behind us, at the beach park, kite surfers whiz around the bay in the lee of the Marine Corps base’s turtle-shaped point. A small group of women are doing push-ups in bikinis, part of a boot camp class that caters to military wives.

Down the road, near Aikahi, kayakers loiter on the canal behind the President Barack Obama’s rental home, pretending to look at tilapia when everyone knows they’re really hoping for a glimpse of him.

Last night, in Maunawili, a young family declared 10 p.m. the new midnight, invited half of their high school class and all of their offspring over, and ran around in the streets throwing poppers at one another. Olomana glowed in the haze of illegal fireworks, looking a little like Bora Bora.

In Kailua, the owner of the most popular stop in town rides his bike home and back in the middle of a busy holiday afternoon to get his air compressor, and fixes our tire.

Rachel Ross is a local freelancer who will neither confirm nor deny that she was floating on a kayak behind the Obama rental last winter.



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