Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Watching "Jeopardy" last night I learned
to my astonishment that "Hawaii"
is correctly spelled with a
diacritical mark over one of the
i's. Which I or what mark I
have not discovered; this will bear
looking into. Meanwhile I recall learning to
pronounce it with a glottal
stop between the
A and the two Is, unlike my
geography teacher who pronounced it
ha-WYE. It wasn't a state yet then, and
was reachable from the mainland only by
ship. It is still my dearest wish (well, one of the
dearest) to travel there afloat upon the
Pacific, which was the way I traveled
to the mainland in my
mother's womb; mainland woman found pregnant
were returned for their delivery because
the islands were not considered civilized or
sanitary, being so foreign and all. There my mother
taught English at night to Japanese and Hawaiian
workers and would come out onto the lanai before
class to instruct the Japanese and Filipino men who
approached at opposite ends, "Put your
guns and knives here in a pile by the steps. You
can pick them up again when
you leave." I grew up far away from all that in
Brooklyn with a photograph on the wall of
torchlight fishing from a boat at night, and my
dad's ukelele tucked away in the closet. Once
in a while my mom would suggest I might want to
learn to play the
ukelele but I didn't - didn't want to and didn't
learn. I was jealous of Hawaii; it knew
my mom before she had me - it knew her
when she was happy.

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