By Rachelle D. Lawrence
Stepping off Alaskan Airlines flight 820 and breathing in Maui—the ultimate Hawaiian sup’pa man, says IZ—I can’t get Holden Caulfield out of my head. Tourist. My boss ok’d a week’s vacation.
It’s a family vacation, but I feel too old to call it that, too pre-middle-aged. I’ve been out of the family game too long to really be a part of the band. We all have, little brah Jesse and twin sistah Courtney. Brah? Sisters? You goddamn tourist. Holden loves italics, it’s what gives him voice.
Ok, fine. Separate from the parents (meal ticket) and pick up the rental Jeep Wrangler, white, and let’s go shopping. That’s what tourists do. That and read on the beach to burn the white meat while sipping something fruity. Queen Ka’ahumanu Center has a bookstore.
MFOL. Maui Friends of the Library.
Used books. Volunteer staff. Three locations. Proceeds go to the children. Cut the crap and get a tourist some books!
We browse slowly, grazing, eating up first sentences, paragraphs. Two old men are sitting in the middle readery on fluffed armchairs. One, the skinny wrinkled one who talks too loud, is telling the other about how he’s ninety-three and the wife’s dead and girlfriends are hard to come by on the island and should he move to the Big One? I snagged some signed Lois-Ann Yamanaka’s and Oliver Gold short stories. A U of H’s master’s thesis on Japanese-Hawaiians. All under $20.
We leave fat and happy. Jumping into the Jeep, Jesse hits his head and it hits me how tall he is, taller than me, an adult like me. When did that happen? We need to stay awake. Jet lag can creep up on a body, and it’s get ya.
“Let’s keep it going.” Courtney gets behind the wheel and I don’t argue because I want to stare out the window at nature until my soul expands to harmony with the palm trees and banyan. Jesse plugs in “Welcome to Nightvale”. Next stop.
Lahaina Wharf Cinema Center, MFOL.
The shelves have been picked over. West Maui gets the most foot traffic, hotel pool-side reading tourists. The jealous white-haired lady behind the counter tells Jesse that he’s got “beautiful hair.” He runs a freckled hand through his ginger mane. “Thanks, I guess.”
I’m tempted to get a stack of 1950’s pulp SciFi, 20 novels high, but don’t. There is the return trip to think about, the logistics of suitcases and the traveler’s dream of only carry on items. I settle for a Middle Eastern novella about elephants and a Japanese picture book. It’s been six years since I lived in Sendai and my Japanese is shot. Maybe ultimate Hawaiian sup’pa man Maui can help me get it back. A tourist always thinks that a vacation can change her. Lose weight, wake up early for sunrises, finish that TBR pile, learn Japanese, again.
Stuck in traffic going south we turn the music up loud. We sing off tune to Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and watch the driver in front of us throw a plastic cup of pistachios shells out the window. A car wreck up ahead stops the one-lane, double yellow line, dead, so I get out and pick up the Tesoro half gallon cup. Empty shells crack under my feet like pop-its as I get back in the Jeep. It starts raining.
Pu’unene Bookstore, East Camp 5 Road, MFOL.
Directions: Turn onto Hansen Rd, then left onto Old Pu’unene Ave, drive past the abandoned Sugar Mill, and follow this sign (BOOKS, with an arrow pointing left).
The BOOK signs circled us around the Pu’unene School to the back buildings. The clouds had retreated back into the mountains. The rain has stopped and the dirt road is pot-hole mud. We race through the Sugar Mill, mud splattering the white Jeep until it’s dripping brown. Queen Ka’ahumanu and Lahaina books had only wetted our appetites. We are ravenous.
Inside the shack of a library, the bookshelves are full to bursting. Less tourists and more locals. Books taken out invariably came back in, a snake eating itself. We ravage the shelves.
After hunting through the Hawaiiana, Poetry, and Eastern Meditation sections, I have to leave a pile of books at the counter. I need my arms free for more heavy lifting. The woman—were all the volunteers female?—took out a paintbrush and started dusting the stack.
Classics, general fiction, hardbacks, fantasy, magazines all flew by in a book haze.
“Are you all done?” The woman started dusting my new pile. I nodded but my eyes are darting around, scanning spines, making certain I hadn’t missed anything good, anything I needed, anything I’d hate myself for missing.
I grab two novelizations of the original 1970’s “Planet of the Apes” movies, “Battle for the Planet of the Apes and “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes,” originally 95¢ each.
“All done.” I wipe my hands off on my jeans.
“Wish we had more customers like you.” She separated the books into two piles. “The martial arts books are going to be forty dollars, and let’s just say the rest is $5.”
Jesse helps to stack the books into my arms and Courtney opens the Jeep door for me. Stuff Holden, I thought. I’m no tourist, I’m on pilgrimage, and I’ve worshipped at the trinity of MFOL alters. No matter where in the world, bookstores feel like a goddam home.
“Ouch.” Courtney had pinched me. “What’d I do?”
“You’re not wearing green,” she smiles.
What books had my twin and Jesse gotten? I’d have to remember to take a look when we got to the hotel room and before going out for expensive fish and chips with the parents. Book people are my people.
“At least it means that I’m not dreaming,” I said, and hug my books close.
Walking into the house on the beach my parents were renting for the week, with bamboo and turtle décor, my mom oohs and ahs over our books before taking me into the kitchen. “Look at this,” she says and opens a cabinet door. A beach-read novel and a North Korean memoir fall out. Inside, the shelves are stocked full of books.
March 17th, 2017
St. Patrick’s Day