It was John's fault. He was the one who suggested that since, I had a late flight back to the mainland, that we could meet for dinner and a drink at a local watering hole in Waikiki. I would just walk from my ,hotel down at the beach to the corner and he'd be there, or so he said.
I'd been in Hawaii for a week. That week was full of the give and take that I'd gotten used to: meetings that decided there was high time for another meeting, those hurried site visit trips to remote parts of Oahu, a side trip to Bellows Beach for a day of R and R, and so on. I was looking forward to flying back to SFO, even if it was a midnight departure.
John was not there when I reached the corner. As I stood waiting a JAL-PAC bus lurched to a stop and I was surrounded by Japanese shutterbugs. I smiled weakly, but the scurrying and picture taking lasted only a few minutes when a smaller woman suddenly appeared holding a flag, and raised that flag. Obediently every last photographer reboarded the bus, and they departed.
I stood out in my white shirt and tie, lost among the tourists wearing their colorful shirts, many carrying an assortment of still and video cameras. I should confess that Japanese tourists seem to flock to me—the chance to have me appear in their photos must have proved irresistible, and it is certain that all over Japan albums contain my image in various poses with various facial expressions.
John walked slowly up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. Since he was taller than me and not holding a camera, I laughed as I turned around. We did the "what's new?" conversation for a minute and he said, "Let's eat."
"Where to?" I asked dreading a long and involved dinner at some beachfront place—I'd suffered through enough of them this week already.
"Place I've been meaning to try, actually," he said, smiling. John was a fitness fanatic and his taste in food leaned toward healthy as opposed to Luau.
"Lead on," I said, falling in line just behind him, trying to keep up. We reached a small place on the beach just off Kalakaua, the Tree Lanai, I think it was called. One of those places that could only be in Hawaii, since there were no walls and only a huge Tree in the middle of the place, right on the sand.
We entered. The Maitre' D recognized John by name. We walked to an ocean front table, fairly remote from the other diners. Things were moving quickly, and John had already ordered a bottle of wine. He liked wine, or rather as he often said; he liked an occasional bite of food with his wine. We'd been members of a group called WINO, but that's another story.
I noticed that the table tops were covered with heavy white Kraft paper. Nestled in the center of each was a glass full of sharpened Crayola crayons, in fact at least a dozen of them in all the right colors. Absentmindedly, I picked up the light green one—they all had alliterative names, like Looney lime--and started to sketch on the bare canvas before me. Before my drawing included a wine bottle and several glasses filled to half.
The waiter, who had been watching, timidly approached with an actual, real bottle of red wine and two long-stemmed glasses. John looked over the selection and nodded approvingly. The waiter seemed transfixed on in-process drawing, giving me an approving nod, no doubt thinking about his tip.
John never noticed. He was busy making the most of the tasting and smelling ritual for the real wine. The waiter was happy to wait for the inevitable approval, but knew that oenophiles are a cranky lot—and that they can't be rushed.
The waiter called over a few of his comrades as I added color and dimension to my wine grouping. I saw that a glass on its side would make the drawing more interesting. John was reading the menu, sipping heavily from his glass, and then refilling it. I sipped at my wine.
John ordered another bottle of wine. As the waiter left with the order, the owner of the place came over and put his hand on my shoulder. "Beautiful," he said simply as he looked at my drawing on his tabletop. "May I have it?"
"Why not?" I replied, beginning to feel the effects of the second glass or maybe the third glass of red.
"Dinner is on me, then," the owner said with a smile, starting to pull on the paper table top.
The wine flowed freely that night, there may have been food served, John loved it all, I made my plane, but managed to lose my ticket somewhere along the way, and had to pay a 50 dollar fine for a replacement one. All in the name of art.