Last night, we had dinner at Merriman's, one of Maui's premier restaurants. Located in the resort of Napili, Merriman's unassuming exterior belies both its menu and the splendid view of the Pacific from its bar and dining room. As I ate warm crusted surfing goat cheese (Kula strawberries, Maui onions, strawberry and garden mint vinaigrette), Kahua Ranch naturally raised lamb, and white chocolate-filled malasadas (with Maui Oma coffee caramel cream dipping sauce), I glanced around the room at the hundred or so exclusively white patrons.
Have dinner in a place like this, I thought, and you can see who has the money in this country.
This proves nothing, some will object. Maybe Maui isn't a preferred vacation destination for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans.
Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but there are plenty of native Hawaiians living on Maui: The closest any of them get to Merriman's is as a parking valet. We have a servant class in this country, something that is rarely more evident than when one goes on vacation, where it is always the predominant local ethnic minority that parks car, cleans rooms, launders linen, washes dishes, and carries bags for the white guests.
They're conspicuously absent, though, when it comes to waiting tables in expensive restaurants. When the service job pays well, suddenly the most obvious members of the servant class are nowhere to be found. Perhaps there's something intimate about relationship between the server and the patron about to order an expensive meal that subtly directs high-end restaurants to populate that part of the servant class with smiling, familiar white faces.
And I, I partake in this feast, this American dream meant for the likes of me but not for others. Am I simply enjoying life as should we all, or am I inevitably bowing to the demons of race and class?...
Today, we drove the winding roads along the mountains of West Maui, which is surely one of the most breathtaking and -- with its plethora of dips, sudden rises, and hairpin turns on cliff's edge -- hair raising roads in the country. We stopped often to watch pods of whales that had maneuvered themselves in close to shore, the babies breaching, adults fluking, and everyone spouting, the abrupt boom of an adult fin slapping the water carrying across the surface and on up to us.
In Hotel Honolulu, Paul Theroux describes Hawaii thus:
Hawaii is hot and cold volcanoes, clear skies, and open ocean. Like most Pacific islands it is all edge, no centre, very shallow, very narrow, a set of green bowls, turned upside down in the sea, the lips of the coastline surrounding the bulges of porous mountains. This crockery is draped in a thickness of green so folded it is hidden and softened. Above the blazing beaches were the gorgeous green pleats of the mountains.Couldn't have said it better myself.