Girl-on-World: Aloha Spirit Fingers In The Hawaiian Sky

Sunday – Eating and Beaching

Brunch is another thing in Waikiki that you should probably get reservations for. We didn’t, obviously, but my TripAdvisor App (seriously they should pay me to promote this thing) said The Cream Pot, a short walk from our hotel, was pretty good. Of all the overpriced things in Waikiki though, The Cream Pot (444 Niu Street // Honolulu, HI 96815) takes the cream!

Hawaii5

We spent the afternoon lying on the beach. Behind us, a dead ringer for Buddy Garrety in an Aloha shirt hawked booze cruises to passers by, alternating his sales pitch for each market and telling everybody the four o’clock was already sold out.

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beach bag / beach view

Later we’d go back into Honolulu along the boardwalk, hit up happy hour for cheap margaritas on the roof of a hotel, see the big Duke statue and jostle busy tourists with shiny shopping bags dangling off their arms like water wings. Just existing was nice.

Hawaii7

Then we’d go back to our room and drink whiskey and watch The Oscars in a bed so much bigger than our bed at home that it was like we had moved to separate continents at night, far-flung. Then we’d drift in and out of sleep until I woke up at 6:30 AM and rolled over, startled to see Marni was awake too. Neither of us slept very well there, but we remained well-rested.


Monday – A Day of Learning

Found in the Museum

Marni had to go to work Monday morning to perform the job she’d been sent to Hawaii to do. First I returned the car. It should’ve been a quick journey but wasn’t, because of traffic and getting lost in a part of the city that looked more like everywhere else than any other part of the island I’d seen — lots filled with machinery, boxy buildings with no windows, a few fast food restaurants, a despondent K-Mart. From there a cab took me to The Bishop Museum (1525 Bernice Street // Honolulu, HI 96817).

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It’s so easy for me to get lost in museums, I mean I could spend my whole life in museums. Princess Bernice Pauahi, the last descendent of the Kamehameha family, married a white man from New York named Charles Reed Bishop, who started this museum in her honor when she died to house her royal family heirlooms and collection of Hawaiian artifacts. I didn’t know or remember the details of Hawai‘i’s history, all I knew is what I’d always assumed, which’s that white people did something really fucked up and now Hawai‘i is part of America. I knew the whole story might get whitewashed or otherwise maligned by this museum but as far as I could tell, they did okay. (I’m definitely not an expert though, so feel free to let me know otherwise!)

Firstly, Hawai‘i had so many female monarchs and I loved reading about them. I started writing everybody’s name down so I could read about them later, like Ruth Keelikolani and Emma Rooke. All of these strong women and all of these weak men, is the story. Is always the story.

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One story in particular seemed especially fucked up and I kinda wish I’d known it from Day One so as to properly acknowledge our role in this universe. Let me tell you!


History Break #2: John L. Stevens is a Douchebag

So, in January, 1893, U.S. Minister John L. Stevens led a military coup against Queen Lili’uokalani, storming the Iolani palace with a group of white settlers known as the “Committee of Safety,” backed by a white militia group as well as a group of U.S. Marines from the U.S.S Boston warship. Along with other white settlers on the islands, Stevens feared that upcoming adjustments to the Hawaii’n constitution — namely, its intent to take power away from the wealthy-property-owner’s legislature and return it to the Monarch and the “common people” of Hawai‘i — weren’t going to assist them in their endeavors to exploit the nation and its people.

like a boss (via ushistoryscene)

like a boss (via ushistoryscene)

Hoping to avoid “any collision of armed forces” or “the loss of life,” the Queen surrendered, yielding to “superior force of the United States of America” and “solemnly protest[ing] against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this kingdom.” She also stated that she hoped the U.S. government, when hearing of the coup, would “undo the action of its representatives.”

dicknails arrive to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy

dicknails arrive to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy

Indeed, President Grover Cleveland wasn’t impressed when he heard about this unauthorized military action. He rejected the all-white provisional government, demanded Hawai‘i  be returned to the kingdom, and sent a congressman to Hawaii to investigate the situation. The congressman returned with a 1342-page report which clearly stated that the coup had been an ‘act of war’ against a “friendly and independent nation.” The Cleveland Administration began planning and attempting actions to remove the white guys from power but never quite succeeded, so when William McKinley took the office in 1897, hope was basically lost. Because McKinley didn’t really care.

This is only one of numerous stories about how the West ravaged and colonized this independent land but it’s one that really stuck with me because of how fucking incidental it all was, like one big goof that ended up on the permanent record. I mean the U.S. government is pretty openly shitty most of the time and this is completely in character, but how crazy is it that Stevens wasn’t even authorized by this U.S government that he claimed to represent to take over Hawaii? The president wasn’t okay with it, but then his term ended, and the new president didn’t care, so that was the end of it. That’s how these things can happen, and that’s appalling.

these are the guys they put in charge after the coup (via)

these are the guys they put in charge after the coup (via)

It’s also worth noting that it wouldn’t have been possible to pull off the coup in the first place if the strength of the Hawaiian people hadn’t already been depleted by disease brought by Westerners — between 1778 and 1900, the Hawaiian population decreased from 300,000 – 500,000 to only 30,000.


After four hours in the museum, including a great exhibit on waves of immigration from other countries and a weird exhibit about Aloha shirts, I took the bus back to our hotel. I figured lightning wouldn’t strike twice. It was crowded but I eventually got a seat close enough to the window to see the things I’d hoped to see along the way, like the Queen Emma Gardens, Chinatown, and some of the Capital District.

Iolani Palace (via shutterstock

Iolani Palace (via shutterstock)

Then Marni came home after her big day of work and a masseuse recommended by a colleague of Marni’s came to our room to give us massages for only $50/hour! I was nervous because I still had limited mobility and pain, but I’m obsessed with massages so I decided to model through it. Incidentally, he somehow managed to make Marni’s back hurt more and mine hurt less? So we were in bang-up shape as a couple at this point, is what I’m saying.


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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2877 articles for us.

34 Comments

  1. I just got back from Hawaii 2 weeks ago so I thoroughly enjoyed this article. Although we were there for 2 weeks and I cried when we had to leave, so kudos to you for successfully handling such a short trip (emotionally that is).

  2. This article doesn’t help my desire to go to Hawaii ASAP. Ya’ll look so cute/relaxed/adorable. I appreciated the historical details because it’s really important to note the history of imperialism with Hawaii & how it has enabled a tourism culture that got you there in the first place! Whenever I think of how Hawaii became a US state, I get so angry.

    Also I think it’s worth noting how fucking expensive Hawaii is. The only place I’ve been to that’s more expensive than Waikiki is London & I’m pretty sure that’s because of the whole $ to £ thing.

  3. I literally Lol’d at the “Low low price of your left arm and first born child” line. I would eventually like to travel to Hawaii, but it’s definitely important to note that doing so would be a pricey vacation. Thanks for the insider tips and the history. It sounds like you and Marni had fun.

  4. As someone who was born and raised in Hawai‘i, I thoroughly enjoyed this! You seemed to capture the tourist Hawai‘i while still being conscious of the fucked up happenings that made Hawai‘i the way it is.

    I also fucking loved your conclusion and have so many words that I want to say about occupied Hawai‘i but will leave it at that.

    Glad you enjoyed your vacation!

  5. great article, really enjoyed reading about hawaii! just a sidenote – i think it was captain james cook, not john cook who showed up in 1778 and began fucking shit up (just cause i’m from new zealand and he did the same here).

  6. I have a lot of Hawai’i feelings. My wife and I were married on the North Shore! Also my wife was born in Honolulu in the same hospital as Barack Obama, true story.

    I would highly recommend staying on the North Shore of O’ahu if you can. It’s not as developed and is really laid back. There aren’t any big resorts up there, so you’ll have to stay at a youth hostel or somewhere off of a site like airbnb or VRBO, but that’s pretty much how we roll most of the time anyway.

  7. I went to Hawai’i a couple years ago and as someone who is not a beach or sun person, the main high points were getting really drunk with my cousin and seeing where Captain Cook died.

    But if you want to know more about the overthrow and what lead up to it, I would totally recommend Sarah Vowell’s “Unfamiliar Fishes.”

  8. As a Native Hawaiian, you did right by me, Riese. When I saw this article title, I thought pleasepleaseplease don’t be another colonial take on my homeland. I don’t think I could handle that kind of heartache from my beloved AS.

    The reality of our continued occupation by the U.S. is so deeply hurtful, it’s often reinjuring to have to constantly educate people about our history. The version you shared here is authentically represented, and I hope anyone who’s interested will take the time to learn more and raise awareness by sharing with others.

    Me ka mahalo nui.

  9. This article was very educational for me both to refresh/ learn the history of the islands and to see a visitor’s experience. Thank you!

    I have to ask though, because I became much more aware of this when I went to the mainland for college, when you say your boot felt like a slipper do you mean a rubber slipper (aka flip-flop) or fuzzy slippers?

  10. This hits so many right notes for me; my travel mates have come to terms with how my feet will simply keep detouring into museums or book stores.

    On a side note, I do recommend Sarah Vowel’s Unfamiliar Fishes for a read about Hawaiian history- her writing blends a great mix of dark humour and information~

  11. This article was amazing! I have never been to Hawaii, but i love traveling to new places and discovering their history. I don’t know anything about Hawaiian history and you have inspired me to spend the next hour on wiki learning about it:-)

  12. Thoroughly enjoyed this article after recently returning from a trip to Hawaii. Funny that everyone thinks it is so expensive … being Australian we were floored by how cheap everything was. We could not believe that a cinema ticket was $1.75! Australians are flocking to Hawaii as an affordable holiday destination, hard to believe that it’s so pricey for some.

  13. Apologies, Riese. The gay scene here is very small and disjointed, for whatever reason. Legislation is attempting to create bits of sovereign Hawaii but there’s also 18 billion Hawaiian groups all claiming to be/have the rightful ruler of Hawaii and filled with their own share of not-so-great people that it might take a long time for everything to be sorted out.

    Full agreement about the bus award being for the rainbow on the side. It’s my least favorite version of transport.

  14. Born and raised in Hawaii, glad you enjoyed yourself!! Living here, I tend to lose sight of everything that makes Hawaii awesome sometimes. Seeing a vacationers perspective makes remembering a little easier. Also, kudos on taking time to learn Hawaiian history.

    Next time you come out tell somebody! Discounts, discounts everywhere… This is why we shake the lesbian phone tree.

  15. Hey, thanks for this. Planning to do a whole australia/NZ adventure next year and this makes me really want to add in a stop in Hawaii too!

    I’m also a big fan of learning the history of the places I visit and this article definitely made me want to know more. For anyone else that’s interested I went looking after I read this and found this documentary on youtube called Hawaii’s Last Queen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuKLYVLJya4 .

  16. I’m travelling to Hawaii in May 2014 ..and have no idea where to stay and what to do…I’m not a really highrise on beaches kind of person. But I know a lot of other parts of Hawaii are awesome…need some help figuring those places out.

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