Leo Fioravanti, Hawaii. Photo: Timo

Surf consistency: 9   Wave variety: 10  

Climate: 10   Radness: 9  Budget: 2

There is a giant forearm around my neck. It is smooth. Not bodybuilder smooth, not shaved, but hairless and hot and pressing heavy on my trachea. It smells like yesterday’s beer turned into today’s sweat and Spam. It smells like the North Shore of Oahu. Like Hawaii.

And what is the image of Hawaii that flickers across the tourist mind when sitting in Cleveland, Ohio or Muncie, Indiana or even a good place like San Diego, California? It is of paradise. It is of perfection. It is of a dreamy island where the normal struggles of life, like cable bills are washed away in a golden hued sunset and Mai Tai buzz. It is of coconut scent and relaxation.

Getting off the plane in a garish floral shirt while a diminutive brown woman says, “Aloha" accompanied by ukulele covers of Elvis Presley’s “Loving You." The temperature is a perfect 80 degrees, even, with just the right touch of humidity. Chaise lounge today. Snorkeling tomorrow. Maybe a luau. Maybe a hula. Maybe mele kalikimaka is the thing to say. A vacation that never ever ever ends. Greens, blues, splashes of tropical flower red, splashes of pina colada white. No one imagines getting killed. No one imagines Spam.

Another giant forearm has both my arms wrapped behind my back and the meaty paw at its end is squeezing my bicep. Really digging into it. I am in what ultimate fighters call an arm bar. And no matter my preference, I’ll be going where I’m taken. I look around, awkwardly due to my physical predicament, and revelers are giving me drunken stares and I might detect sympathy in one or two of them but I also definitely detect condescension. “Asshole’s been asking for it all along" condescension. Fuckers. They all enjoyed the spectacle while it was happening. They’ve been enjoying my particular spectacle for three years.

I hear his voice too close to my ear, the voice of North Shore authority filled with Hawaiian slang. “Ho brah. You lucky you no git one false crack but you gonna learn some respeck outside." His voice is high. I’m always surprised by how so many North Shore Hawaiians are huge and scary but have voices like young girls. “You gonna git respeck, brah." I keep hopping until we hit the back door.It opens, revealing a rickety staircase leading down to a small walkway fronted by a plumeria hedge. The air outside feels different compared to the air inside. It is cooler and a breeze is pushing off of the Pacific but it also feels more sinister. The voice keeps on now that we are outside but gets louder and is not directed at me but at unseen forces floating somewhere nearby. “Hooooooo! Come boys! Come braddahs!" It is calling, for reinforcements.

We both stumble down the steps and fall against the hedge and a few white flowers fall innocently to the ground and his voice has grown still louder and higher. He is a mountain of a man. He is hot. Everything is hot. Everything is wrong. I don’t see the reinforcements yet but I do see a wooden fence in front of me. I assume they are outside. Waiting. Big. As big as the one grabbing me right now or bigger. Mokes. A “moke" is any Hawaiian who fits a particular stereotype. Usually fat, always angry, speaks pidgin, drives a giant pick-up truck. Sometimes it is a term of endearment. Mostly it is a call to arms. If I was to shout, “Let go of my neck, you fucking moke..." it would be a call to arms. My head would get popped off. I can hear the pound of surf so near it almost drowns out the hooting in my ear. “HOOOOOOEeee!" but my focus is on the hooting.

The choke is getting tighter.

(Excerpt from ‘Welcome to Paradise - Now Go To Hell’ by Chas Smith)