It always drove my wife and our kids crazy whenever we travelled somewhere.
I would gaze up at the craggy visage of Mount Rushmore or gawk at the lunar landscape of the Badlands and ask, "How can they grow corn here? Or even wheat?"
The kids would roll their eyes with exasperation and exclaim, "Da-ad! They don't grow that stuff here!"
During our upcoming family foray, it will be pretty much a moot point to ask how they can grow corn or wheat. Pretty much anything will grow in Hawaii, methinks.
My wife has been wanting to visit the Hawaiian Islands since forever. It has been her dream for as long as she can remember, a fantasy that has been stoked over the decades by such things as Elvis's "Aloha From Hawaii" concert and the intro of the TV show "Hawaii 5-0."
During the past several weeks I would receive phone calls from my wife at random times of the day. "You know what?" she would squeak, her voice rising by an octave or so, "We're going to Hawaii!" She would then recite the exact number of days and hours until this blessed event.
As the time drew nearer the pitch of her voice became higher and higher, eventually reaching the point where only dogs could hear her. Talk about excited!
And talk she did. "This is the best thing that has ever happened to me, aside from giving birth to Paul and Chris!"
"And meeting and marrying me," I added.
"Huh? Oh, yeah. Whatever."
My wife and I each have specific goals regarding what we want to see in Hawaii. One of my main objectives is to stand on the rim of an active volcano, look down at that pool of molten rock and "hawk" a fat one into the caldera.
My wife's goal also involves heat, specifically, fire twirling. This is an activity wherein extremely muscular Polynesian guys, dressed in nothing but flimsy grass skirts, spin flaming batons.
I was concerned about her fixation with this flammable flauntery. "What if there's an accident?" I asked. "What if the poor guy's grass skirt catches fire?"
My wife stared off into the distance. "Yeah..." she murmured.
"Think of it! The fire! The smoke! Oh, the humanity!"
"Yeah," she replied, still staring, "The humanity..."
After I ribbed her about this fascination one time too many, she replied, "Oh, be quiet! You'll be busy looking at all the hula girls, so there!"
This caused an nearly-forgotten memory to emerge. When I was a little kid, a bevy of hula girls appeared on some TV show, perhaps Ed Sullivan. Dad, who had been to Hawaii as a young sailor, told us, "You're just supposed to watch their hands. The hands tell the story."
I related this to my wife, who said, "Do you promise that you will just watch the hula girls' hands?"
"Um, yeah. Sure. I can do that."
"Good! Then I promise to just keep my eye on the twirling batons."
Even though we will be officially On Vacation, my Midwest work ethic won't allow me to be a total oaf during our Hawaiian odyssey. I have arranged to meet with and interview Ed Botello, a dairyman who lives on the Big Island.