When my cell phone rings, the theme music from the TV show "Hawaii 5-0" might play, which means that our youngest son is calling.
Hawaii Boy, as we have dubbed him, is doing a semester of college at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. As with many college experiences, his education has reached far beyond that which is taught in the classroom.
For instance, he has discovered what it's like to be in a minority. In Hawaii, Caucasians are just another subgroup; tall blonde males are somewhat of a rarity. On the upside, he was offered a job at Abercrombie and Fitch minutes after walking into their store.
Hawaii Boy has also found that wildlife abounds in paradise -- some of it unexpected. He once complained to us that a pair of mongooses (mongeese?) had spent the night fighting beneath his window. Mongooses were brought to Oahu over 100 years ago to control rats in the sugar cane fields and are now as much of a pest as the rats.
Oahu is home to a number of wild chickens and feral pigs, a small bit of comfort for a kid who grew up on a farm. Some of the hogs aren't all that wild and have been seen strolling along Waikiki Beach wearing much-too-small Speedos.
Hawaii is the only state that's completely surrounded by the ocean, so aquatic wildlife is a large part of the scene.
One day Hawaii Boy called, sounding distressed. Asked what was up, he explained that he had been trying to learn how to surf and emerged from the ocean with some purplish matter wrapped around his arm.
The slimy gunk stung like sin, so he quickly removed it. The purplish goo turned out to be the stinging tentacles of a Portuguese Man O' War.
As parents we tried to warn him about every possible hazard he might face, but never thought to tell him to watch out for venomous, other-worldly, slime-based marine life forms.
Another time Hawaii Boy reported that he and his cousin Adam were snorkeling near a reef when a sinister-looking something poked its head out of an underwater hole. Adam was about to kick his leg in that direction, so Hawaii Boy grabbed said leg and arrested its progress.
Asked what the deal was, Hawaii Boy pointed down at the menacing monster. It was a moray eel, a foul-tempered, sea serpent-like beast who uses his razor teeth to punish any and all trespassers.
Other ocean encounters have been much more benign. Hawaii Boy was out swimming one day when a green, big-as-a-cantaloupe head appeared before him. He and the creature looked at each other for a second before the enormous sea turtle turned and glided silently away.
The humpback whales will return in November. It's been said that during the peak of the breeding season, one can almost walk from island to island on the backs of humpback whales. That's one way to save on interisland shuttle fares, I guess.
My wife and I have selflessly decided that it would be cruel to make Hawaii Boy spend Christmas without us, and have bought tickets that will wing us to Honolulu. The cost? Let's just say that my credit card emitted a warm nuclear glow for several days after the purchase.