It’s been over a year now.
After inflicting devastation to the people, landscape and nuclear stability of eastern Japan, the Tohoku Tsunami of March 2011 rolled westward, wreaking havoc as far away as Santa Cruz, California, and points between, including Kona, Hawaii.
While the more robustly structured Four Seasons resort survived next door, the rustic beachside Kona Village Resort (KVR) was devastated by gigantic, pounding waves. Some 20 of the family huts, or hales (pronounced “hollies”) were destroyed, and the dining compound was damaged.
In a macabre twist, the tsunami also destroyed all evidence of a grisly crime I had committed some eight years previous, during a family vacation at KVR. The victim happened to be the best-selling saxophonist of all time, and I’m not sure he ever knew.
KVR is slated for reopening sometime in 2013. I hope they restore its original charm-when the beach was sprinkled with nearly identical open-air hales featuring modern amenities like furniture and plumbing, but no TV, phone or air conditioning. (Kinda like Thurston and Lovey Howell’s luxury hut on Gilligan’s Island, except for the plumbing part.)
One particular day in the dining compound, during a feast of fresh fish and tropical fruit, I looked up and announced to my wife and young sons, “Look, there’s the world famous Kenny G and his family of more normal-haired people finishing up lunch!” (It really was a quality celebrity pull, since, without a shirt on, he looked like Jesus or a poorly groomed Sarah Jessica Parker from the back.)
After dinner, my family and I escaped to the souvenir shop. While we were shopping, it became painfully obvious that a tsunami of roughage and seafood was building up a certain momentum inside of me.
Hopping in place as I concluded our purchases, I mumbled something and scurried away towards our hale. It was six minutes away by footpath-I figured double-timing would not only avert disaster, but also buy me three minutes before my family caught up.
Drenched in sweat, I finally made it to the hale. Once inside, I jettisoned the camera, fanny pack and souvenirs, then flung my shirt into the hamper.
And then? Let’s just say there was busload of exceptionally rowdy summer campers that really, really needed to be dropped off at Lake Cuyamaca.
I finished expertly and fastidiously. I even toweled off my torso, since no human can resist a lush resort towel.
Feeling much, much better, I began wondering where my family was. I hadn’t raced that far ahead, had I?
I threw open the closet for a clean shirt, and to my dismay: those weren’t my clothes! I don’t wear loose-fitting muslin slacks with drawstrings at the waist!
And what in the world is that saxophone case doing on the closet shelf?!
Uh-oh. Did I mention these huts are nearly identical?
I grabbed my fanny pack, camera and souvenirs, retrieved my shirt out of the hamper and made my way out of there, Michael Corleone-style-you know, after you shoot the guy, walk out fast, but not too fast. Don’t look anybody directly in the eye, but don’t look away, either.
I took the beach route instead of the main path to avoid any fatal bump-ins, and soon felt safe enough to look around. To my second greatest relief of the day, I discovered the coast was clear, although, through the mango trees, I could see Kenny G and his family blissfully sauntering toward their hale. I figured they’d arrive at ground zero in about 20 seconds, or about 75 seconds after initial impact.
I soon arrived at my actual hale, where my bewildered family wondered where I’d been. After quipping something about a real-life Gilligan moment, all was right in the world again, nobody the wiser.
Except for me. I soon felt a very different kind of inner turmoil, one that still haunts me whenever I accidentally tune into a smooth jazz radio station: What happened back there? Did the ocean breezes bail me out, or did the waves drown out the screams?
Kenny G hasn’t had a hit record since. Am I responsible for that? Should I say, “I’m sorry,” or, “You’re welcome?”
Now I know how Sophie felt, or Hawkeye in the last episode of M*A*S*H (“It was a baby!”).