Chapter One

Call me crazy . . . for even thinking about it. God or no-God? Why

wouldn’t it make a difference? I’m sure His hand was seriously in play

that time Evers and I scored our famous ten-dollar lid at the olden

golden International Marketplace, that masterpiece of 60’s Waikiki

funk, the whole karmic carnival. He made it so easy. Or She, if you


Think slack Kona breezes one winter Saturday sunset on Kalakaua

Avenue, shadows closing on strings of 25-watt incandescence twined

among banyan aerials creating a pre-dusk dusk colored tropical by the

drowning orange sun. Knots of tourist pedestrians and rental vehicles

— pink Mustang convertible anybody? — searching both sides of the

street for the Paradise surely hiding somewhere in plain sight, right

behind that lei stand. Maybe? Heaven on Earth. It’s here somewhere.

The dark, skinny, bushy-haired local kid is slump-standing next to a

puka-shell kiosk, staring blankly out at everything and nothing, an

actual real-life flesh-and-blood cigar-store Polynesian. Who’d think?

I’ve been living on the Leeward Coast for over a year longer than

malahini Evers, and the local kid seems to fasten on me. The raised

eyebrows and quick, upward chin bob, which I return, of course. Darkly

Cosmopolitan representative of all the races in Hawaii, he nods again

and undertones, “Wot chu like?” Not unfriendly.

“Wot chu get?” I reply, trying my limited pidgin. Can I get away with

it? Will he let me?

“Wan fool leed. Ten dollah.”

“Only ten?” I ask. “Good kine?”

“Onney da bes, bla.”

“Where stay?”

“Come. I show you.” He nods over his left shoulder.

We follow mauka through what’s left of Waikiki jungle, through an

alley near the Ala Was. It’s darker here, and quiet. He stops and

pulls a flattened brown paper bag out of his faded jams, opens it, and

shows its dark green contents. “Like smell?”

“No need.” Even from a distance it smells great. He takes my wadded

ten, I take his flat brown bag, and we head in opposite directions.

Easy. Unbelievably easy.

Then I hear the near-silent slap, slap, slap of his rubber slippers

suddenly stop. “Eh!” he says.

Oh-oh, I think.

“You like seeds?”

“What kine seeds?” Question: Does he have friends? What kine friends?

Waiting ones?

“Same kine,” he says. “Good kine.”

“How much?”

“Na, na. I geef’m.”

“You sure?”

“Shua. Come. I geef you.”

Oh-oh, I think again, but we follow him warily, Evers at my heels,

almost to the Ala Wai. Coming to a closely sheared mock-orange hedge,

he reaches inside its tight foliage and pulls out a knotted clear

plastic bag full — really full — of fat, healthy-looking marijuana

seeds, many proud Marys, just begging to sprout.

“You like?” he asks. “Pakalolo. Same kine.”

“What’s the deal?” There’s got to be a catch.

“Na, na, na.” He waves his hand, grins, gives me the bag of seeds,

and fades forever into the darkening night. No worries, bla.

Half-spooked by our colossal good fortune, we find the car and say

very little on the drive back to Waianae in my valiant white Valiant

wagon. Don’t laugh. She’ll pull the Pali, as used-car salesmen used to


There’s no concrete divider between opposing lanes on the still-new

H-1. Six lanes of cars hurtling a combined 120 mph toward each other

with nothing in between. The good old days.

Back in Waianae, we wrap green-dried foliage in yellow Riz-La and

light up. Trust its smell: prime sativa, primo pakalolo. “Really good

shit, man,” Evers says, blows smoke, grins hard, then harder. “Fuck,”

he adds, still grinning, shaking his head in wonder. Paradise found.

We’ve also got that full bag of freckled seeds, plump and shiny

insurance against the future. Just try to get a deal like that these

days. Truth is, you couldn’t get a deal like that ever, even those

days. Which can only make you wonder. Why us?

But aren’t we all part of a three-score-and-ten winnowing and

purification process of qualification to, say, pluck harpstrings and

hand-assemble Teslas throughout eternity? Would that be on Mars? Is

that somewhere near Heaven? Or Hawaii? (Don’t ask.)

For the rest of that spring and early summer we enjoy the fruits of

our good fortune, which include fast motorcycles and faster women,

party dolls and beach blanket bingo, Midnight lobster dives with

waterproof flashlights and three-prong sling spears. Overall, the

finest of fine times uninterrupted by introspection or self-reflection

of any kind, thank you, Lord, thank you, Jesus. Amen for now, and

away we go.

On departing the Islands for the summer, I make sure to leave a

thriving secret garden in the capable hands of responsible

stay-at-home colleagues. Think concupiscent cannabinoid contraband

cordials caringly conceived, cultivated, curated, conserved, and

consumed. Under the influence, you might say. Life is good, and next

year is on its way.

Coda: “You know,” she says, “Without your stories you’d be nothing.”

Well, yes. Of course. She’s a young thing, Minolta in hand, snapping

pictures of me handing her the doobie without asking permission, like

I’m just part of the local color up for tourist grabs. From her point

of view, of course I am.

“Truer words did rosebud lips ne’er lisp, fair damsel. If you haven’t

lived enough to make stories, you haven’t lived enough. You are, as

you correctly aver, nothing.”

“Do you think that’s clever?”

“I don’t know. I think it’s true. What’s your plan for the pictures?

Blackmail? Or proof that you’ve lived enough?”

She inhales inexpertly, with a series of small coughs and the back of

her hand to her mouth. “Will I see you again next fall?” she chokes,

handing me back the still-smoking culpatory cylinder.

“You’re in my plans,” I reply. “Definitely.”

“I’ll take that as a firm ‘maybe’,” she says, sneaking in one last

candid shot, the one I’ve been carefully posing for, then clambering

crab-like over lava rocks and away on her lithe and lightly freckled


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