It's a cool, gray, blustery day, the kind that doesn't exist if you believe the always blue skies, everything is groovy myth of Hawaii tourism promotions. And unfortunately, so many travel writers do. It's always dismaying for me to see how falsely the Islands are portrayed.
Most recently, the Los Angeles Times ran a piece on how agtourism has taken off in Hawaii, most notably Kauai, which is kind of true. The tourism part is slowly growing. It's just the agriculture part that remains stalled. Now that all the “secret spots” have been discovered, novelty-hungry tourists are moving on to the next big thing: sunshine markets and farm-sourced menu items in the fancy restaurants. But we're not any closer to actually feeding ourselves.
And I had to giggle at another LA Times piece that offered this explanation for all the festivals in the Islands:
Hawaii loves to celebrate.
In truth, most of the festivals are funded by the Hawaii Tourism Association to entertain visitors. Remember when Maryanne Kusaka decided Kauai would become the festival island? It wasn't driven by some spontaneous grassroots desire to celebrate, but an intentional effort to boost the economy after Iniki.
Then there was the horrible piece in the Chicago Tribune by a guy who hadn't been here in a decade. Yet he found nothing changed, even though he was staying in Poipu, where it's pretty hard to miss the massive Kukuiula project. But what can you expect from someone who reports that Hanalei and Haena were plantation towns — cuz ya know, wasn't nothing here before the white folks arrived — or takes a boat trip past Polihale, where the Navy has seized five miles of public beach, and says, “Not a hint of trouble in paradise.”
Most recently, there's been a spate of coverage prompted by that really sucky movie “The Descendants,” which supposedly “reveals the island through the eyes of the people who live there,” as if the people who live here are all self-absorbed, wealthy, haole urbanites who never pump $5-per-gallon gas or take shitty jobs in the pesticide drenched GMO seed fields. So now poor Hanalei, site of numerous scenes, is getting heavily promoted, with the Chicago Tribune proclaiming: “Hanalei Bay is surprisingly unspoiled, at least in the offseason.” Mmmm, might want to ask a few locals mourning the loss of their beach about that.
Meanwhile, despite the movie's implausible ending, which has the missionary descendant heroically choosing preservation over development, we're watching a very different drama go down. This one, the real one, has the Wilcox descendants selling out to AOL tycoon Steve Case, a guy with a net worth of $1.5 billion who is evicting families from their lifelong homes at Koloa Camp so his Grove Farm Co. can wrest some small profit out of a 50-unit modular housing project.
But in paradise, like Hollywood, truth is a liability. It's all about crafting an illusion.