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Paradise at the Right Price

Saturday
To: wtorkells@hotmail.com
From: etorkells@yahoo.com

Dear Dad,

A quick note from the airport—before the Xanax kicks in—to say I'm sorry you couldn't come with Mom and me. But you did just have that 60th-birthday fishing trip to Montana, and there's only so much money to go around (maybe you shouldn't have retired early after all).

Love, Erik

Monday
To: wtorkells@hotmail.com
From: etorkells@yahoo.com

Dear Dad,

We're having a blast. Mom and I are staying on the north shore in Kilauea at a B&B called Kai Mana. We arrived at night, interrupting the caretakers as they were watching a video—funny how people who live in paradise rent movies just like everyone else.

There are guest rooms in the main house, but we booked the one-bedroom cottage. (I'm sleeping on the floor; no reason to get Oedipal.) It's one of those buildings with so many windows it doesn't matter how the inside looks. It's owned by New Age author Shakti Gawain, and her influence shows: the bookshelf has titles like Choicemaking; Beyond Codependency; and Meditations (one of Shakti's books). She prohibits illegal substances; that got me to asking Mom if you two ever tried marijuana. She says no, but I still think those seventies country-club years were wilder than I'll ever know.

Kai Mana has a tennis court, but it's an embarrassment. There's also a Jacuzzi, which happens to be clothing-optional—as is Secret Beach, 297 steep steps down from the house. A small curve of sand under awesome cliffs, it is a stunner—we reached the bottom to find just a few tracks of footprints.

For breakfast, we've been saving money by having bananas, pineapple, and papaya from our room's fruit basket, and passion-fruit Danish from the Kilauea Bakery, a 1 1/2-mile walk from the B&B. It's not much of a town, but you get the feeling there'll be one soon. Several nifty shops have already opened: Kong Lung for high-class tchotchkes, and Island Soap & Candle Works, where Mom bought plumeria votives for her golf buddies. We loved it when the owner of Island Soap mistook us for locals (but not when he thought we were together).

Other meals have been a little more difficult. We poked into the popular Brennecke's in touristy Poipu. I'm sorry, but I didn't come all this way to have a French dip-what is it with this place and beef?There's prime rib everywhere. En route to Waimea Canyon, we passed the Camp House Grill. Mom snorted at the diners in undershirts and read from the Kauai Underground Guide—remember, the book we used as a bible when we were here in 1984?Basically, it said not to drive right by, snorting at the diners in undershirts. So of course we had to go in, but the best thing about it was the free soda refills.

Mom took a sick pleasure in the fact that there wasn't a cloud in the sky at the Waimea Canyon lookout, because when we drove up here with you it was fogged in. It's hard to believe this small island has room for something so huge. There were rock climbers across the way, but Mom left her binoculars in the room, so we couldn't really see them.

On the way back, we popped into Hanapepe, a one-street town in the southwest that feels like Hawaii in the fifties. We walked across an old swing bridge and stopped at Lappert's for Kauai Pie ice cream—with macadamia nuts, coffee, chocolate, coconut, and vanilla cake bits. I only wish I liked ice cream as much as you do, so I could've appreciated it more. Afterward, we spotted the most amazing rainbow I've ever seen. Both ends were totally visible, and each color was vivid and distinct. We drove to where it appeared to be just 20 yards from our window. Then it was gone.

Well, that's enough for now. We're about to check out, and pick a few star fruit and avocados from the mini-orchard as we go. Then we'll hit the Kilauea Lighthouse.

Love, Erik

Wednesday
To: wtorkells@hotmail.com
From: etorkells@yahoo.com

Dear Dad,

What a crazy few days! We've moved farther along the north shore, to the Hanalei Bay Resort in Princeville. The grounds are beautiful, and as you've always said, how much time do you really spend in your room?

When we arrived at the resort, I was concerned that our car would have a better view than we did, since I'd opted for a mountain-view hotel room ($165 a night) over a garden-view ($185) or ocean-view ($237). But from our little lanai we can see the hotel's smaller, round pool, the majestic mountains, even a slice of the bay. I'm still peeved that I have to pay an extra $1.50 a day to use the room safe—it's the principle, as I've heard you say a million times.

Mom and I headed straight to the Happy Talk Lounge-much of South Pacific was filmed around here, and no one lets you forget it. Everyone else got two free drinks for listening to the concierge's spiel about what to do on the island. Fat chance of us whoring ourselves out like that!

(The lighthouse, by the way, was dull. They had nerve charging $2 to stand at the edge of a cliff and look at birds. You can't even go inside.)

The next morning, Mom decided to whore herself out after all-listening to the concierge for a half-off coupon at a restaurant famous for its prime rib. A woman from another hotel came over and admired her wedding ring. "Are you here with your husband?" she asked. Mom said no. Only if you were with her could she go on the time-share tour—and get $50 cash. Apparently women can't buy real estate on their own. Mom got ticked later while sitting on the beach. After playing tennis with the bay in the background and swimming in the grotto pool, we managed to forget the sexist little policy.

We'd planned to eat breakfasts in our room again, but the guidebook (not the bible, a different one) had made me think we'd have a kitchenette; we did not. You'd have been proud: I called housekeeping for a knife and plates, and we ate the pineapple we'd bought at a farmers' market—a bunch of cars and trucks backed into a circle, with people selling stuff off the backs—and some muffins from the Kilauea Bakery. We hid everything so the maid wouldn't take it away.

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