Waikiki was getting to me a little, the one time I went there. There wasn’t anywhere to go to get away. Wherever you went commerce kept crowding you, and the beaches were where you went not to relax, but to really get your Hawaii on, Mai-Tais and a pack of Marlboros. That was fine, at first, but the next day I thought I’d stroll the high street instead. That was much worse. The street was charming, like a mall with a view. The restaurants were chains: you couldn’t find pho if your life depended on it. The third day, determined to find some vestige of cool urbanity in the city, I chose to walk from Waikiki into Honolulu proper. Online, I’d found the address to the only vinyl store the city seemed to offer. It was like an hour’s walk, which I did at mid-day, and, by the time I got there, the tourist spectacle was very far away. The record shop was on the third story of a cinder-block mall. Upstairs, it was a small shop, staffed only by the owner. I was the sole customer, and I was drenched in sweat.
I picked out a few records: all of them were Hawaiian. I was convinced I had outsmarted the world once again, by getting only the purest Hawaiian music, picked directly from the source. As I checked out at the front register, the owner asked me where I was from.
I said, “Vancouver.”
The owner nodded and said, “So you’re staying at Waikiki?”
I nodded back.
“You walked here all the way from Waikiki?” This time he snorted, a distinct snort, and shook his head. “Who comes all the way to Waikiki and then doesn’t go to the beach?”
I said nothing and looked towards the exit. The owner handed me my records, and my debit receipt. “I was just in Vancouver,” he said, “I got all those records there in Vancouver. Always good Hawaiian music there.”
Yes, so it was a sort of homecoming for Larry Rivera, the best of the records I picked up that day. Larry Rivera hung out with Elvis Presley during the shooting of Blue Hawaii (1961). Rivera was the Elvis of the Islands, a star in his own right, only Larry mostly wrote all his own songs. Rivera, presently aged 88, still performs. The video below is of Rivera in 2018 performing “Coconuts” from the record I purchased that day, “Return to Hawaii” with The Songs of Larry Rivera (Coco Palms Record, n.d.). I love this record. It was probably just about worth the trip, even the return part of it, during which I cursed my own stupidity the whole way: how hard is it just to lie down on a beach and like it?
Who's that cool guy who burnt his face off hiking two hours into downtown Honolulu and back, while wearing long pants and no sunscreen, to buy a record he could have got back in Vancouver for a third of the price and none of the humiliation? A real sleuth genius detective, that's who.