A Farewell to Walmarts

Trip Start Sep 02, 2013
Trip End Dec 05, 2013

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Flag of United States  , Hawaii
Friday, December 6, 2013

The Mr Henry Institute has been inspecting the island of O'Ahu (pronounce: oh-ah-ooh, but quickly) in the state of Hawaii. As donors know, Honolulu is situated on this island. Nominally the United States, Hawaii has only adopted a few of the features that beset its 'mainland’, specifically deficient espresso making and homelessness. They’re quite nice to their homeless here, though, who live in tents and humpies right on the most gorgeous beaches the world can lay on. San Francisco remains the home of homelessness, of course, but Hawaii would assume that status if only it wasn’t a five hour flight away.

Obesity was always here, although it means something else than it does on the mainland, where being obese means you’re a guts and a type 2 diabetic, whereas in Hawaii it means you’re healthy and prosperous.

Other than that, Hawaii seems a different country, as it was until American business interests sidelined the monarchy and the Jesus merchants moved in to save souls in the nineteenth century.

Hawaiians are not doglovers, like mainland citizens, who seemed to have turned dogs into holy animals, like the cows of India. Mainland hotels and motels proudly advertise their "pet-friendly policy". When an Ahhr-Vee lands at a camp ground and its door opens, out pour the poodles, the chihuahuas and other undersized vessels of vehemence, which bark at anything that moves or which they think moves. I don’t know if traditional Hawaiian cookery includes the preparation of dog meat, but if it does (and it wouldn’t surprise me if it does), the Institute endorses it with great whoops of joy.

But three days in Hawaii is too short to say anything about Hawaii itself. It left a very positive impression on Mrs Henry, who was able to watch an episode of The Voice, a show I would like if you could vote for participants on the basis of whom you hated most. Mrs Henry wants to come back here for the beaches. No concerns about the middle of nowhere, although Hawaii really is in the middle of an ocean, five hours flying from out of nowhere.

Hawaii has a Walmart and, even though we didn’t visit this particular outlet, at the end of the Institute’s field trip it is only fair to say a few kind words about this great institution. Mrs Henry and myself bought everything we needed there during our trip in The Egg, including groceries, over-the-counter medicines, a camping stove and camping chairs. Much criticised in America for the low wages they pay their employees (something Walmart denies, although one outlet set up a basket for customers to put “food items” in for Walmart employees in need during the “festive season” – presumably employees in need chew their boots at other times), it allows people to park their cars and caravans in the parking lot and stay overnight. Some homeless people live in Walmart’s parking lots. Maybe they are employees, maybe not. Walmart does make the welfare of their employees a priority right after the interests of their shareholders. Walmart is where I was able to have a look at the Remington automatic rifle. Walmart epitomises America. Visit Walmart and you have seen America.

Mrs Henry and myself are at Honolulu International Airport, where it’s now time for something called “pre-boarding”, a mysterious activity in relation to flight HA 451. Let’s hope the CIA is not involved, an agency that gave new meaning to an activity I had always associated with building construction. Yes, Hawaiian Airlines is ready to transport the Institute back to Sydney. Due to a shortfall in US cash, we have been unable to stock up on Snickers bars or other “food items”, but we have not come barefoot.

Finally, still no sign of life from Old Mr Henry. We spotted an Elvis Bar in Honolulu, but did not go in, afraid about what we might find.

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