Whether Barack Obama knows it yet or not, the best — the only — place for a Hawaii-born President to be on Inauguration Night will be the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington.
That is where the Hui Moku’aina O Hawai’i Ma Wakinekona, Moku’aina O Kolumepia (that is, the Hawaii State Society of Washington, D.C.) will be having its inaugural ball.
Will Mr. Obama show up? Nobody knows. The ball has not been sanctioned by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Official status would put the Hawaii Society on Mr. Obama’s list for sure, but even if the ball stays unofficial, Micah Kohono Mossman, its chairman, is hoping that the new President drops by anyway, being a native son and all.
In Hawaii, the suspense is thick.
Will he show? Will he kick off his shoes, don an orchid lei and dance?
Will he gorge on pupus, grow misty and sway to the strains of “Hawaii Aloha,” and hug all his old Punahou classmates?
Depends on how much of a homesick Hawaiian he is. That point is open to question.
On the one hand, Mr. Obama left Hawaii for good many years ago and, as everyone knows, put down deep Chicago roots. In his memoir, “Dreams From My Father,” he reminisces about being taken as a boy on a night spearfishing trip to Kailua Bay, where he watched a diver haul in “a large fish, iridescent and flopping.” He said it was a humuhumunukunukuapuaa, which is a problem, because as any Hawaiian schoolchild knows, the humuhumunukunukuapuaa is a reef fish that is usually about five or six inches long (roughly the length of its name).
But on the other hand, Mr. Obama bodysurfs at Sandy’s, a notoriously dangerous, necksnapping beach on Oahu. This is perhaps his most underappreciated skill. He also wears rubber slippers and eats shave ice. Those habits mark him as a true local at heart.
Mr. Mossman said there could be a downside to having an officially sanctioned party: the rules you have to follow about food, drinks and entertainment. He said he had been to an official ball before, where the food was nonexistent, the cash bar was expensive and the music was lame. That’s a bad sign, because the main ingredients of a good Hawaii party are food, drinks and music, not necessarily in that order, but in large, loving quantities.
Mr. Obama should go to Hawaii’s bash, if only for the musical lineup, which is flying in from Honolulu and is awesome: Big names like Eddie Kamae and Raiatea Helm, and the Aunty Genoa Ohana Ensemble, musicians who played with the legendary Aunty Genoa Keawe, a national treasure who died in February.
Sounds like it’s going to be the best party in town. Too bad it’s sold out.