Monday, September 3, 2007

Saturday Night Lights, Wahiawa, Hawaii

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High school football. The fanfare, the pageantry, the excitement, suspense and adolescent intention is a weekly autumnal event that is commonly staged across the green athletic fields of Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Americana plays itself out in common ways in the stands and at the sidelines in New Mexico, Florida and Maine. Quarterbacks, cheerleaders, the waterboy, the pig skin, and the omniprescent stage parent screaming out directives to the coach from the first row of the bleachers.

Watching these archetypes skew themselves in Wahiawa, Hawaii has made my week, maybe even my trip. Natives take for granted that their version of this play is not unique, giving themselves credit for their mimicry but failing to note the stark juxtapositions between the paradigm of American high school football mainland style and the simulacrum of high school football Hawaii style.

Wahiawa, Hawaii is a small rural town of 16,000 people, about halfway between the south shore tourist mecca of Waikiki and the north shore town of Kahuku, a famous surfing destination reknowned for big waves and anti-hale sentiment. The view from the stands is stunningly beautiful, to start with. From where I sit, I see rain forest trees, mountains built from the lava rock of a hot spot volcano, and the threat of mercurial tropical skies overhead. The kids are a dazzling mix of ethnicities. Hawaaian, Japanese, Samoan, African American, Phillippino, and even the occasional Caucasian face thrown in to the mix. But the majority of the students stem from a medley of genetic combinations of all the above and more. The culture of the game and the island is in perfectly aligned to the harmonious mosaic on the field. A true diversity of people, ideas and habits that astounds the senses of someone who was raised in suburban middle class unexotic Northern California.

Food? What would 2 hours of football be without snacks? Hot dogs? Cotton candy? Popcorn? Um, no. There are no hot dogs at the football game. They serve egg rolls, lumpia and fried rice at the food stand. My dad treated us to a snack from his favorite deli in town. Again, a mixing of Hawaiian & Japanese in the form of poki sushi. Anywhere else I might just call it spicy tuna sushi, but this is poki. The nicely textured chunks of square cut ahi tuna, mixed with a generous portion of tobiko and whatever else makes it hot and savory. It comes in two forms of spiciness, "mild" and "creeps up on you and make you breathe fire".

"Creeps up on you" is at the top, and "mild is on the bottom. We ate every morsel and it was delicious. Our team lost, but have you ever seen a cuter receiver?

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