LAHAINA, Maui - Besides the daily doses of sunshine and the surf that can wake you up in the night if you are lucky enough to be staying in oceanfront lodgings, there are other things that tell visitors that indeed, they have arrived in the Hawaiian islands.
When the pantyhose are off and given a good toss into the to-go- home pile, followed closely by a torso-hugging warm undershirt, you can throw up your hands and yell, “Yes, I have arrived in the land of tropical bliss and casual lifestyle.”
Two days after my return trip to Maui, still thinking it might get chilly, I arrived at a dinner party wearing slacks and a long-sleeved blouse. I also forgot to take my shoes off at the door and walked into Trish Ryan's home with them on. All three are no-nos. You don't wear shoes in the house here.
The other women were in shorts and brief tops and were barefoot. I immediately apologized for my attire and for the shoes because it's a rule here that you take them off at the door. Someone commented that I would soon get with it. Indeed, the next day I was in shorts and a T-shirt, which will be the daily uniform, except in church, of course. Some people do wear shorts to church, but I find that distasteful and pushing the envelope too far.
When you leave the cold, especially this winter's severe weather in Ohio and Michigan, it's hard to believe that you will get off the plane to be caressed by gentle trade winds that bend the palm branches and hibiscus blooms 24 hours a day. It seems that even the rain that falls on West Maui is sweet and gentle, and usually creates a magnificent rainbow as a bonus for camera buffs.
Gatherings like the one at Trish's house are impromptu. Trish is from Oklahoma and decided to invite a group over for a football game and a buffet supper. The aroma from the kitchen was tantalizing. Jan Wells, formerly of Grand Rapids, Ohio, made a pot of red beans and rice, and Trish baked jalapeno cornbread to accompany it, with blackberry shortcake for dessert. So you see, not all the meals served on Maui have a Hawaiian ring to them.
It's always fun to meet someone from back home and chat about the extreme contrasts between the Midwest and here. Fern Larking Kao of Bowling Green was at the football party. She, too, had battled the deep snow and the apprehension of safe and on-time plane travel to get here.
A houseguest of Ms. Wells, a Lahaina resident, Mrs. Kao is in the antique jewelry and accessories business and travels extensively throughout the United States. She is co-director of the annual summer antiques show at Lakeside, Ohio, and runs the fall antiques show, with Ms. Wells assisting, on Mackinaw Island each fall.
So what do I plan to do on what must be at least my 35th trip to this island? Not a whole lot, other than be thankful hourly that I am here and try to sleep late, though it is difficult when you can run to the balcony and see the surf that woke you up. This morning I was up at 5:30 to admire a full moon that shed a wide path of shimmering light on the ocean. Then it suddenly disappeared - just as vacations have a way of doing.
None of my Maui friends have mentioned my new face, but on first meeting they have stared, probably to determine what is different about me. Of course I am keeping it well-protected with sunscreen. The surprise to those of you who have followed this shameless display of vanity, my facelift, is that after three months, black-and-blue spots suddenly appeared on my cheekbones, so now I have yet another layer of cream to apply. It's for pigment control. That's another reason I get up early.
No, I won't have to move this year - at least for six weeks. I rented a two-bedroom unit that was available for that period, and it seems to be a cross between a furniture store and a gift shop. The owner is heavily into oversize knickknacks and artificial trees and flower arrangements, many of which I have tucked away ever so carefully in closets. Would you believe six trees, ceramic parrots, many fish, and a living room furnished with six large chairs plus a couch, all in a matching floral print, plus a large coffee table, 48-inch dining table, two floor lamps, and an entertainment center, all on emerald carpet?
I can keep track of my face progress all night. The headboard on the king size bed in the upstairs bedroom is mirrored, as are the nightstands and chests (although there is none on the ceiling!); certainly a far cry from the furniture at the old farm house at Posey Lake. I have no idea who the owners are, but I imagine that the husband said, “Honey, here's your decorating budget. Go for it,” and the wife spent every penny on things she had always wanted.
The rest of the first week moved at a pleasant, steady pace. I began gym fitness workouts at Maui Muscle with trainer Cy Yamashiro. Friday night there is always a pupu party at sundown at the condos up and down Lower Honoapiilani Highway, about five miles from Lahaina. Everybody takes a pupu, the Hawaiian word for appetizer, and a beverage for the social hour. I will take Kahlua dip and strawberries every Friday because it's usually a whole new group of tenants, and that way I can use up the $13 bottle of liqueur. Just for the record, a half-pint of strawberries was $5.99 here.
Another party invitation was for Sunday afternoon at the beach. The Rev. Robert Montgomery was host for the birthday gathering for his wife, Margaret. A children's party theme featured grilled hot dogs, and on the birthday card, guests were asked to write the name of a book they enjoyed when they were children.
No Mother Goose stuff for this guest. My most memorable book was Gulliver's Travels, the children's version, that is. Could that have been the seed that grew into my wanderlust?
Mary Alice Powell is a former Blade food editor. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.