Sunday, July 30, 2006

Neon Aloha: Decomposition


The onshore breeze is some corrosive bath of sea salt and polyethylene derivatives. A block east, the city street is cracked like dried river bed, seaweed laced storm drains burbling periodic water, and just beyond that, a jet black beach of asphalt ground by a trillion chisel taps of polluted breakers.

He cranes his neck, squinting between colossal square pyramids of cement as though approximating the direction of Waikiki. The iconic postcard paradise image of Daimond Head surrounded by the pristine azure of the Pacific is un-capturable now; engulfed and blotted out by endless urban sprawl, and atmosphere of a texture closer to that of Los Angeles. That version of Hawaii only exists in old memories and computer programs, and can only now be experienced in virtual tours. Gibson strolls past the shells of rusting archaic gas-powered cars, long since abandoned. The very former Hawaii Capitol Building and McDonald's alike melting into the massive cement canvas of the city's grafiti, it's deepest and most inane collective thoughts. Heading for the beach.

The glistening tar-ey sand crunches and sibilates beneath industrial soles. The black sand is decorated in garbage; soda cans, car parts, assorted faded fabrics. A jumble of artificial detritus Gibson estimates you could dowser as a form of cultural carbon-dating. A barnacled Wolverine action figure recalls a flash of childhood -- collecting X-Men- chains to watching Dark City, Sin City, Ghost in the Shell with Dad- chains to wanting to be a detective- chains to disillusionment -- the thought stream disintegrates under the nudge of peripheral movement. A group of several vaguely Polynesian children wander about, clothes torn and hair caked as though showers were something irrelevant, apparently sifting for things of relative value. They notice him, freezing, little peeled eyes analyzing like startled cats, with a visceral hyper-aware tension found in jungles that atrophies in quiet homes and offices but is re-forged, here. After a second, they turn and flock away.

A street sign, whose intended message was long ago deleted by the eternal sandpaper of oxidization, has its nubby surface re-utilized in spray-painted hues of neon chrome, burnt orange, and that truly not natural green used for action movie magic tricks. The sign now reads "Mercury Pheonix" in a stylish font that seems an urban refraction of medieval. Behind these words is what could be an HR Giger rendition of a sterling bird soaring towards a radioactive green ball, which remarkably resembles satellite images of the sun. The bird's wings appear to be either molting or melting, the form seems purposely ambivalent. In the latter case, it reminds him of the Terminator 2000's liquid metal death into runny amorphousness. The heel of the bird's talon is bleeding, stabbed with a either a razor blade or a hypodermic needle, the handle of which appears to be held by one of the sun's solar flares.

Gibson tries to estimate what the sign once read, probably "North Beretania Street." As the kids disappear behind a dumpster, he stares out at the Canopy.

The tops of ancient buildings scrape the burning fractal sunset sky, their ankles submerged in the risen sea level; a human-accelerated phenomenon occurring in a time frame well beyond the attention span of quarterly profit driven corporate organisms that birthed the viral matrixed monoliths of concrete, glass, and alloy. The fax machines and expresso makers that once occupied the air conditioned rooms are gone, windows are shattered, several of the buildings are tilted or collapsed, resembling the rat-childrens' mouths. The slow-motion Atlantis is far from dead, however, or perhaps undead is more appropriate. The buildings were re-inhabited by the lower classes of society, largely furs and ethnic minorities, like fungal colonies in decaying logs. They have gradually grown, in certain areas, into a sort of loosely organized no-man's land, and complete festering crime-sewers in others. Solar panels pop out everywhere like mushrooms, and between the buildings are bridges made primarily of a nearly translucent material, stringing the whole thing together like a massive multi-layered spiderweb or tree-house, which is where the "Canopy" gets its name.

Gibson weaves through the flowing currents of drab humanity at the main entrance to the Canopy which is the cleared out bottom floor of what used to be a Wal-Mart. The homeless and insane sleeping in the aisles and crying incoherent "Death and Destruction! Armageddon is near!" like scratched repeating CDs, fighting over canned goods. That smell of plastic intensifies as Gibson shoulders his way across the bridge, which is constructed of something strong and flexible, some species of fiberglass, the railings are cables of nylon like they use on docks.

As Gibson nears the First Hawaiian Bank building, he can feel the rhythmic thunder and wall of synthetic, vaguely tribal music coming from the club. Club Aloha is the biggest place in 'town' and takes up basically the bottom two floors of what was once First Hawaiian Bank, like a fungal colony in the rotting log of a dead tree. It is only around 7 PM, but the whores are out decorating the streets, working pretty much all day; trying to flare up the carnal with generous amounts of skin, vacuum tight PVC and too much make up. Above the entrance, "CLUB ALOHA" blares in neon rainbow letters with a flickering, fluorescent coconut tree. Around it,several individuals are vomiting and others are shooting up "tsu" which is the latest evolution of the drug once known as ice or crystal meth. "Tsu" or "tsunami" or "wipeout" has essentially the same mind-altering effects as ice but amplified and also has the peculiar quirk of causing the user to feel as though they are drowning, initially.
The bouncer is a Polynesian behemoth, standing at least a head over most everyone and with arms like telephone poles bursting out of a sleeveless leather jacket. The majority of visible caramel skin including his face is covered in brawl scars and tattoos of some Native Hawaiian design who's true meaning is probably lost by now. Gibson at last makes it to the entrance, the instantly recognizable yet un-siftable amalgamation of smoked hallucinogens surges into his lungs.
"Good to see you cuz." The bouncer bellows. Gibson takes the huge hand in a man's handshake/hug before stepping past the flashing, polychromatic, sun-powered lights. As he wades through the ocean of humans and visceral sensory overload, past the writhing female bodies in imitation haku leis naked and nubile, past the broken glass and puddles of excretions and blood, Ke'ali'i begins to wonder, again, about that word, "aloha".
He had heard from his grandpa, before he died, that "aloha" meant something different, something more, once. Something like "love" but bigger. He had said it was difficult to explain the word to people who had never experienced it. "Like trying fo' tell one fish how it is to walk on land!" He said. Grandpa talked about a time when Hawaii water tasted the best in the world and yet it was free, until the natural underground wells dried up from over-use. A time when Oahu was still spoken of as a "paradise", a time when people always smiled and gave freely of themselves. "And den," he said, "U.S. first and den Korea, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, India, all da new corporations wanted one piece of da 'aina, fo' sell to tourists of course." But for Gibson, "aloha" had become merely an icon, a slogan, an advertising hook. A ghost word from Hawaii, a ghost place with a ghost culture that was harvested, watered down, refined, artificially sweetened, commodified and sold for 49.99 plus tax next to "Experience Ancient Kyoto!" on


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