The Walker Headline

HONOLULU’s contributing editor takes us on a first-person journey to happiness around Diamond Head.

Don Wallace

→ By Don Wallace


Until we moved back to Honolulu from Manhattan, we were gym people by necessity, although my wife, Mindy, and I both had run outdoors, sometimes even in winter. But who needs a gym in Honolulu? Well, if you work in an office, you might. I grew addicted to 24 Hour Fitness because—and here we see exercise’s Achilles’ heel—I wanted to hit the StairMaster and zone out and watch TV. For me, that was the ultimate guilty pleasure.


As anyone knows, the worst part about gyms is TV. All gyms seem to keep theirs tuned to Fox News and shows about serial killers. It’s a diet that will keep you depressed, for sure; CNN is no better with its mind-numbing repetitiveness. As the country’s rancor grew, I switched to listening to music only, but still could be ambushed by waves of anger and despair just from glimpsing other people’s TV screens.

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Photos: Aaron K. Yoshino

Less than three years later, I have more than a dozen new friends.

By the time the pandemic hit I was ready to drop my membership. I began to walk a circle around Diamond Head, like so many others. As the lockdown wore on, more and more people came out to walk the hill or fuss with their lawns at the sunset hour. At first I just kept wearing my headphones, nodding at faces that were growing familiar. Then, one day, a person made the “take those off” gesture. We talked. I started taking off the headphones whenever a familiar face hove into view.


Less than three years later, I have more than a dozen new friends. We have lots of non-work-related conversation, a barter system (my mangoes for your chocolate-covered peanuts). Sometimes JD pops out of his carport to hand me a bottle of water; John’s offered me his power saw; Piet’s tracked me down to hand off a football-sized loaf of brown bread. Paul, who lives in his elegant truck, talks surf and life with me. I’ve gotten cheers when an article was published, helped kūpuna load their SUVs, started one on email, consoled several on the loss of their dogs. I’ve fed a generation or two of ducklings and built my biceps up with the constant waving. All for free, while breathing in Honolulu’s clear air.

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