I was thinking about my next writing project and my days at the University of Hawaii seemed like a nice story, especially considering the time of year we’re heading into. First, a little bit about how I ended up there. Most of my 4 years at Central High and my first year at ACC (now known as CCC) were pretty much just the usual cycle of classes, homework, drinking, sex and working (with most of the emphasis on drinking and a lot of wishing for sex) that most teenagers of that era were engaged in. There are some interesting stories, to do with that period in my life, that could be explored, but I’ll leave that for another time.
Sometime during my first semester in college (in Auburn) my friend, Joe Kulakowski, told me he was planning to go to the University of Hawaii next year, and, although I didn’t give it much thought initially, I started thinking about how cool it would be to go there and I started looking into the possibility. Amazingly, tuition for out-of-state students was only $65 a semester (I think in-state tuition was free) and flights from Syracuse on student stand-by was something like $75! I don’t recall what the turning point was, but the next thing I knew, we had our tickets (Frank, Joe’s brother, decided to go, too) our bikes were packed (we each had motorcycles) and all the paperwork was submitted and accepted, including my student loan (I think it was $2000\yr ) and all necessary arrangements had been completed. Miraculously, we were on the way!
Getting There and Settling In
The flight over was fairly uneventful… the only thing I remember worth mentioning was that on the last leg from LA, the plane was almost empty and we had a great party, getting drunk with the stewardesses…. something that would NEVER happen, today. We were really smashed when we deplaned (back then, you got off on the runway and had to walk to gate) and were overwhelmed by the tropical smells mixed with the ocean breezes… plus, we were met by a group of beautiful Hawaiian “receptionists” who heaped leis on each of us and we were surrounded by a line of fluffy-cloud shrouded mountains. Yes, indeed, we were in paradise!
We stayed in a hotel in Honolulu that night and did a little sight-seeing on the nearby streets and along Waikiki beach. The next day we contacted an old friend of my Uncle Harry, who was a local lawyer, and he let us borrow one of his cars ( a chevy convertible, no less) and we started looking for housing. That’s when we stated to learn about the REAL expense of going to school there. Everything within walking distance of the University was way beyond our means and we found that the only inexpensive rooms were quite a distance away and located in a, shall we say, unsavory part of the island.
We ended up renting a room (with three beds and a shared kitchen) in a boarding house in Kalihi Valley, many miles west of the school. The neighborhood was ethnically diverse (as in slums) and the other renters in our place were quite “interesting”: Jerry. who was totally insane, although in a mostly harmless way, was fat with red hair and a goatee, smoked ciggies and walked around in just his underwear and made a “hup-hup-hup” sound all day (Frank K decided to see where his breaking point was and continually taunted him until he flipped and walked out, never to return); Qintin, a Filipino who had just recently come out of the jungle, drank a tremendous amount of whiskey, worked high-steel construction and raised fighting cocks; Jim (not sure of his real name) was a surfer dude from California and drove a small red MGB convertible. I’ll have more on these last two later….
Our motorcycles came in by boat and we got a ride to the docks, took them out of the crates and drove off, leaving the containers strewn all over. We soon found out that, although Hawaii has a mostly sunny and warm climate, sudden isolated downpours were not unusual (you could be standing in the sun, looking at 3-5 rainbows up in the valleys, where it was pouring). Since we would have to commute every day, to and from school, regardless of the weather, we decided to get some rain gear. We went to the nearest ARMY surplus store and I came up with the bright idea to buy a poncho\shelter-half. I couldn’t wait until the first rain came so I could don my new “invention”. Maybe you’ve already figured out what happened next, but in case you haven’t, I’ll explain: the first time I wore it on a main freeway in heavy rain, the sides became “wings” and I looked like a bat, swerving all over the highway… the wind just about lifted me off the bike! Needles to say, that got returned and I resorted to a normal rain suit. Later I bought an old car for $250 and that took care of the problem entirely , although it created some new ones: I spent a lot of time chauffeuring people around and it cost me a small fortune in gas. (I was able to sell it for the same as I paid for it when I left, so it worked out OK).
Let me be very clear: I was an immature 19 yr old who had led a sheltered life and was totally unprepared for life this far from home, not to mention I lacked the discipline and organizational skills needed to attend a large university. I was brought up in a tightly knit extended family in a small town where everyone knew everyone else. Even the community college I attended was just like going to high school: the classes were small, the professors took attendance and they collected your homework. Imagine my surprise when I walked into my first calculus class (with about 60 other students) and the professor has his back to us and is holding a microphone. As the clock struck the hour for the class to begin, he points to his name on the board and says “that’s my name… I’m your professor for this course… you paid to be here and I don’t care if you come or not… don’t interrupt me while class is in session… in fact, you should never have to bother me for anything… if you are having any problems understanding the material or any other questions, here is a list of student assistants who will handle all that. Here is a list of your homework assignments and your grades will be based on a midterm and a final exam. Let us begin….” He continued lecturing and writing on the blackboard, never once turning toward the class… when the period was over, he turned off his mic, put down the chalk and walked out. Now, keep in mind that this classroom was single story building and had no glass on the windows… all there was between me and the outdoors was a set of shutters. And, right outside the window were palm trees swaying in the wind and a bevy of the most beautiful women in the world (you know, the Japanese\Hawaiian mix with the slim, well proportioned figure, soft olive-colored skin and silky long hair). I knew my days were numbered! Hell, my Geography class was held in a movie theater about 3 blocks off campus! Why should I bother to go?
In spite of my most sincere efforts, my attention started to dwindle and my resolve weakened… I started taking more and more time off from class and began making regular detours to Waikiki Beach. Needless to say, my grades suffered and by the end of the semester, I was forced to withdraw and return home and try to kick-start my college career. But, hey, I had a bitchin’ tan!
This is not the end of this story… far from it…. in Part 2, I’ll be covering bike crash, cock fights, rooster stew, surfing and the whole druggie thing, plus anything else that pops into my decrepit old brain. Come on back, ya’ hear!!??
Note: I’ll be covering my return to Auburn saga in another story…..