By Tom Kando
I just returned from a wonderful Hawaiian vacation (are there any other kinds of Hawaiian vacations?), hence my long silence. While over there, my mind was not entirely on hold - just somewhat.
Even so, the trip produced some musings. I want to share some of these with you today, and also introduce a new rubric, under which I hope to post more essays in the future, no doubt aggravating many of you.
In Hawaii, I spent a lot of time on the beach, at pool side, and hiking in the wilderness. Here are some of the things I noticed, looking at the people around me:
1. The spread of obesity is accelerating. This becomes clear when you are surrounded by nearly naked people. It seems that the epidemic has attacked women more than men, although one sees grotesque corpulence in both sexes.
The obesity epidemic becomes a personal problem on the airplane, when one sits (as I did) next to someone who should have been charged for two seats, not one.
Also, sadly, there are more and more hamburger joints opening up everywhere, each claiming to sell the "best hamburgers on the island."
For America’s obesity problem, I give our country a "D-."
The reason why I don’t give an "F" is that (1) there is at least awareness of the problem, which might be prelude to action, as it was when we became aware of the evils of tobacco, and (2) most of these obese people are such nice people.
2. I experienced an interesting sign of our bad health habits: One day, I went on a 10-mile hike in Kauai’s Alakai Swamp, a vast and magnificent rainforest cris-crossed by valleys, torrents and canyons. On a rare occasion, one crosses paths with another lonely back-packer or two.
But here is the thing: of the, say, 12 people I came across that day, only 2 were Americans. The others were Australian, German, British, and French. What this tells me is that our country’s recreational habits are less wholesome than those of foreigners. We Americans prefer to sip Mai-tai’s at the swim-out bar. My problem with this is not just the health issue, again. My problem is that hiking through the Alakai Swamp is a far superior form of leisure. Communing with that natural magnificence is a transcendental experience. But sadly, most vacationers - especially Americans, it seems, from my unsystematic sample - don’t get to enjoy that experience. Grade: D.
3. Another epidemic which becomes more apparent on the beach than back home are tattoos: I’d say that over half of the people I saw swimming and sunbathing had tattoos, many of them covering huge parts of their bodies, some practically from head to toe.
Now, if you want to tarnish your body with a small, relatively inconspicuous blemish, be my guest. I wont reject you for it (although the best tattoo is no tattoo).
Here is the thing about tattoos: The naked human body and the human skin are beautiful. Tattoos don’t enhance anything. Instead, they are a form of self-mutilation reminding me of the inmates whom I used to teach at the California State Prison. Tattoos are permanent, and they become uglier as you age. They are also unhealthy, increasing your chances of disease and infection.
It is said that tattoos will follow the history of earrings, which were also frowned upon by retrograde people like me at one time. I doubt it. I see tattoos as a form of self-mutilation, largely practiced by young people of limited means, by colonized people such as the Hawaiians... and inexplicably, by the NBA. Maybe tattoos are a refuge, or an expression of resistance, or some identity thing, I don’t know.
But imagine how beautiful Pamela Anderson, LeBron James and even Dennis Rodman would be without their tattoos! Grade: D- leave comment here Read more...