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Passage in Paradise

"It's not too bad in here, Dad," said Russell. "Can we finish all eighteen holes?"

"Please?" added Sam.

Paul didn't tell his son, Sam, and I didn't tell Russ, that the dads had been leaning toward hot chocolate, followed by sun and Mai Tais. Sometimes you're so proud and happy, pneumonia barely enters your mind.

Everybody has his own idea of the most beautiful island paradise on earth. In fact Hollywood has scoured the world in search of fabulous and improbable spots. I still remember scenes from South Pacific and Miss Sadie Thompson, Blue Hawaii and King Kong. With the passing of decades, the images only multiplied: Islands in the Stream; Six Days, Seven Nights; Jurassic Park. Where were all these amazing places with sheer cliffs that met the ocean, and enormous surf exploding on the rocks?And how, in one lifetime, could you even get to a fraction of them?

Then, several years ago, I discovered that all these luscious movies, and dozens more, had been filmed on the same islan--Kauai. After exploring every conceivable location, Hollywood kept coming back to one 554-square-mile island to shoot The Thorn Birds and Body Heat and Mighty Joe Young. Suddenly my fantasy of seeing all those places became a possibility--and for a lifelong golf addict, the notion that the most beautiful island on earth could also have several of the best golf courses anywhere seemed almost too much. In addition to the three great courses on Kauai--Poipu Bay Resort Golf Club; Kiele, at Kauai Lagoons Resort; and the harrowing Prince, at the Princeville Resort--I'd heard there were some kinder, gentler tracks there as well, places with lilting names like Makai, Kiahuna and Wailua.

For years I'd assumed that I might never get to play golf in Hawaii. When you have a child, it's permissible to go to Disney World. But travel seventeen hours so Dad can spend all day playing golf through the jungle, over mountain ravines and along cliffs above the sea?Forget about it.

Then something wonderful happened. My son fell in love with golf. In part, the popularity of Tiger Woods made the game acceptably cool to him. However, Dad gets credit, too. My method was simple. It only took five years. One sawed-off club at a time, my unwitting child was bribed into learning to play. Equipment, that is the modern key. Hook the budding capitalist consumer, then never stop preying on his acquisitive unconscious. Buy the small golf bag first, followed by the larger bag, then the real golf spikes and the glove. Throw in three or four twenty-dollar lessons from the local pro. It's all part of fostering a golf addiction in your child--I mean, of course, nurturing a spiritual passion for the game. Compared to my battle plan, the Crusades looked spontaneous.

Finally, all was in readiness. Only one fear remained. "Be careful what you want. You might get it." That's the cliché, right?Could that apply to Hawaii?The most frightening words sometimes seem to come from that old Peggy Lee song "Is That All There Is?" In this era of "been there, done that," the fear of becoming jaded is particularly powerful. How do we restore our appetites, regain a sense of wonder and remind ourselves that sometimes reality is capable of surpassing even our most extravagant imaginings?

For my family and our friends the Steins, Kauai turned out to be the answer.

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