I Just Don’t Get Hawaii

We live in the little storybook village of Los Angeles, where obligation meets desire and no one’s the better for it. It creates petty flashpoints, false virtue, and heart-stringy tensions. You see those Oscars?  

Yet, what a place LA is. Gentle winds. Amber afternoons. Wide minds and narrow lawns.

You might get that quip, you might not. When I speak to high school English classes, all my literary references sound a little musty, even to me – Tom Wolfe, John Irving. Ray Bradbury.

Who knew the ‘70s and ‘80s were a renaissance of movies, stand-up comedy and literary wit. Who knew then that “Saturday Night Live” would peak in its first year and then linger – like a sinus infection — forever?

Who knew then that the Oscars would one day be almost dead?

Note to the Academy: If Chris Rock and Will Smith don’t walk out hand in hand to open next year’s show, with Rock then offering a red rose and a miniature Oscar to Jada in the front row, and she doesn’t rise and hug him ferociously, then I forfeit all that I hold dear and decent in the world. And your company line about artistic integrity and basic human decency is a total Hollywood sham.

Look, I’m not holding my breath. As history shows, people always screw up. What’s different now is the lack of forgiveness and civility. That’s the divine stuff.

Maybe we all need a little more church. Or some similar spiritual weekly retreat (for me, it’s poker).

Instead, Oscar producers are huddling right now at a little café on Beverly, wondering in hushed tones: “Can we have an assault every year? Seriously, everyone is talking about it. What about a full-on bar fight?”

At least “CODA” won. Let’s move on.

As we all know, children are the candy within the candy, the little burst of chocolate inside another chocolate that you weren’t expecting and there it is – bonus chocolate.

I can’t say enough good things about kids. I see them as our only real hope.

I mean, my own kids are a pain in the butt, sure. I raised them wrong. I should’ve raised them tougher, but I didn’t want to raise them scared, as kids were often raised in the past.

As a generation, we probably befriended our kids too much, and now we can’t seem to get them off our car insurance. There’s a co-dependence. Yet, isn’t that what family is all about? Co-dependence? Or is it co-existence? I say co-dependence, but that’s probably just me.

Hey, I’m no shrink. I’m barely a writer. All my best friends are misfits. My dog’s a gypsy grifter. I can’t even get my cell phone to ring.

That’s the magic of modern life. To me, that’s what makes this era so exciting. Nothing works! Not pop culture, not my TV, not this digital back scratcher I got for Christmas. Or is that some sort of orbital sander? A sex toy? A swizzle stick?

Pont is: Nothing works.

Join me in laughing, because that’s all we really have left. Laughter and children.

Speaking of which, I am waiting right now at the curb at LAX for the lovely and patient older daughter to emerge with her entourage – Finn and their baby girl – after their week in Hawaii.

To be honest, I don’t really get Hawaii. The ocean’s much too warm, the drinks much too cold. I really see no future in it. To me, Hawaii is just a fad. Like the internet. Stay tuned for more on that. But if you never hear of Hawaii again, now you’ll understand why.

Fortunately, Smartacus is with me at the airport. I brought him as muscle. His sister will emerge from the terminal like Carol Channing, with a toothy smile and way too much luggage.

“Hi Dad,” my daughter finally says.

“Did they feed you on the plane?”

“Yeah,” she says. “We were in First Class.”

Cool. I wonder the looks on the other First Class passengers when Carol Channing comes onboard with this baby for the six-hour flight. Did something inside them die a little? Did they immediately request a refund?

From all reports, Catty Cakes was a superb passenger. They even let her drive.

To be honest, I’ve never seen my grandbaby cry. I don’t think she has tear ducts. Similarly, she rarely spits up. In fact, I spit up more than she does.

We’re like before-and-after photos of life. I have some sun damage. My grandchild looks like a bowl of cream. She’s a new set of tires; I have no tread. She has the wide eyes of a fawn emerging from the forest, spotting her first butterfly. I have the wide eyes of someone being jumped at an ATM.

So we’re similar in a lot of important ways.

When we leave LAX, it feels like I’ve just won something. It feels like I’m driving Santa’s sleigh. Most of what I hold dear and decent is in this crowded car, smelling of cocoa butter and fancy hotels.

“Right lane, Dad! Right lane!”


Dads. We go through life like we’re running for mayor.

“No problem,” I say.

And I mean that.

Tips from the Hawaii crew: Make your restaurant reservations before you go. They had major problems scoring a table while they were there. Officially, the days of just showing up at stuff have now ended. Nothing works. Not even restaurants. Laugh, OK? We live in very exciting times. Meanwhile, proud to now appear in eight local newspapers across Los Angeles, from Miracle Mile to Burbank  to San Marino. Props to the publishers, Michael and Karen Villalpando and Charlie Plowman for taking a chance on a young unemployed writer like me. Hugs.

24 thoughts on “I Just Don’t Get Hawaii

  1. Nothing works…except your writing! Love this one. For me, the high point of this year’s Oscars was Amy Schumer’s deadpan quip, “Did I miss anything?” Female comedians proved once again that they are funnier, kinder and sharper than the men, and at one third the price!

    1. They did fine. Think Amy alone would’ve been better. Not a big fan of Wanda and had never even heard of Regina Hall. Can’t help but think of the fun Kimmel or Gervais would’ve had with the Will Smith stuff. Not because they’re men. They’re just a little edgier. Whoopie would’ve knocked it out of the park too.

      1. Chris, Your emails are not coming through but yet your Facebook posts are.The last email to come through was on 3/23. Please fix soon my sister despices Facebook but loves your email post. Michael Ward

      2. Hi Michael. We’re working on it. My IT department just got back from Hawaii and is a little lagged. But I think we’re closing in on the glitch. Thanks for flagging it and thanks for your patience.

      3. I agree Amy was the #1! Kimmel would have been an awesome, wry observer/ quipster. I personally think Ricky Gervais is the essence of mean bullying comedy. Will would have punched him, I’m sure. (Not that I condone any violence.)

  2. Thank you Chris: as the owner of a preschool and a gramma I could not agree with you more, children are our hope for the future: on another note,
    please teach a writing class!!!

  3. Great one today, Chris. I’ve always loved your column. I just don’t always say so. I’ve not been to Hawaii in awhile, but friends have told me the same about restaurants: make your reservations before you even fly there.

    As a retired elementary teacher, and a Grammy, I totally agree that kiddos are the best. Their fresh perspective and enthusiasm are inspiring and reassuring in this world and these times. We need to care for them if we want our society to survive. The pandemic has taken its toll on their emotions, and our educators need to take that into consideration as we move forward. Schools need to redesign their strategies to accommodate children’s’ needs! I’ll step off my soapbox now.

  4. I don’t recall a better piece than this one. That first paragraph glows in the reflected light of my envy. No one feels and literally (no pun) exudes the zeitgeist of L.A. with such perpetual semantic ease as you do. You ARE The Don Of Domestica, and this morning you rule the hood from amidst the mercilous frenzy of L.A.’s drowning pool of an airport—a feat of creative attention that defies understanding. All this in a blog, no less. Congrats on your local syndication. You deserve to be in all of them, across the land (that are still left). No one else I know is writing of and what you write. Spritz on, babe. Boy, does Hollywood need you now…

  5. Commish – I swear that you really need to be a licensed psychologist – ever since your 9/11 piece, which made me cry during the entire thing, you have just found the wording for some subjects that no one, and I mean no one, could ever cajole together – the description of the Academy and their issues with what Wil did to Chris, the explanation of what kids are in life, and the very outline of life’s little screwups that we all do. We’re a bunch of “carbon particles” swirling through this space called the atmosphere, colliding with each other to create problem after problem, with some nice encounters mixed in. Keep it up – makes my day/week/month/year!!!! BB

  6. Always enjoy your writing-funny, perceptive and self-effacing but only one sentence in this present article I kind of thought might be better, in my humble opinion, of course. I know you wrote in jest of a possible Chris and Will exchange at 2023 Oscars. Here’s my scenario-Smith and Rock coming out hand in hand-all good-but Smith should give Rock an Oscar for Chris’ show of restraint in his reaction to the slap. Chris giving Jada a rose, again good. Appreciate you allowing your readers to comment.

  7. What do you mean, you don’t get Hawaii? Everyone gets Hawaii! The waves softly breaking, the fragrant foliage, the friendly folks… oh yeah, and those Mai Tais with a hunk of pineapple pinioned on a little colorful parasol. We go every year. Sometimes twice a year. If you don’t like snorkeling or zip lining, there’s always attempting to find the best Mai Tai. See, there’s activities for everyone. There’s scores of dudes both young and old draped over lounge chairs staring at the tan babes in itty bitty bikinis. Then, there’s all those gorgeous sunsets to contend with. It gets so boring with all that beauty that the nondescript ones are a topic of conversation.

    You don’t get Hawaii? Great! More Mai Tais for all us sensible folks! Aloha!

  8. and I cannot help but thinking ~ what a world war 3 we would have had if one of those men were a white guy ~ ~ as it stands ~ it was just 2 brothers working it out on their own ~ ~ ~

  9. Another fine column, highlighted by that absolutely golden paragraph comparing you and Catty Cakes. Wonderful. Two quibbles: I didn’t get Hawaii when I, another Midwestern boy, first moved here. Why would anyone fly six hours from LA to get to a smaller LA with the same weather and more pork. I was wrong. Hawaii is tropical. LA is desert with an occasional shower. And it’s only going to get more desert-y in the upcoming climate apocalypse. But I’m not going to dwell on that misery, I’m going to end on better news. Saturday Night Live isn’t dead yet. There’s been an influx of new writers this year, including three very funny young guys who actually get camera time, and they’ve had a much higher percentage of good skits than I can remember in years. You can stay cranky about it if you want, but if you watched a couple you’d admit – even if just deep down and non-vocally, that I’m right. Because I am.

  10. And congrats on the local syndication. You’re continuing to prove Fitzgerald wrong when he doubted the possibility of second acts in American life. This is like your third. For all we know, you may not even be done having kids!

    1. Thx, Steve-O. Big admirer of Fitzgerald, but never bought into that “no second acts” stuff. America is all about second acts. People come here for their second acts. Me, I just do the same thing over and over again. It’s all I know! Plus it’s pretty fun.

  11. As a volunteer scuba diver at the Aquarium of the Pacific for nearly 20 years, I had the opportunity to speak with thousands of kids of all ages and all kinds. They are indeed the hope of the future. All they want is fresh air, clean water, the oceans, the animals, their sports…and they NEVER say “…but that will cost jobs!” Some are older now and still retain those feelings and desires. I have a lot of faith in the kids…the adults are a lost cause. I love reading about your kids, what they’re up to, and Caty Cakes; I think everyone does.

  12. Nothing better than laughter and children. Add a faithful old dog and there’s your perfect trifecta. Congratulations on the writing gigs. Your post is like reading the cereal box in the morning when we were kids. Great way to start a day.

  13. Wow. You’re the first to mention FORGIVENESS. Brilliant idea. The Oscars were mostly sad to watch this year. There’s always a moment though, like CODA, or do you recall Haing S. Noor, winning Best Supporting Actor for The Killing Fields, or that funny Italian walking over the tops of chairs. Do you have a favorite moment like that? Someone to root for each year? At least we have you to count on each week!

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