Just about a year ago our then executive editor, Richard W. Johnston, left the staff for the balmier venue of Honolulu but promised to keep in touch with occasional dispatches from his corner of the world. He added that his primary interest in moving 6,000 miles west was not to expand SI's horizons but to accommodate his own.
Since then Dick Johnston has indeed kept in touch, most recently with his report on sporting San Diego beginning on page 78. From word filtering eastward, he appears to have also found a better way of life. In communiqués his vocabulary is rife with such expressions as "trade winds," "blue skies" and "Mai-Tai." Since it is difficult for most people to comprehend satisfaction with their environments, we asked Johnston for the real lowdown. Was Hawaii all he had hoped? His report follows:
"It must be confessed that there are serpents in paradise, but it is still paradise enow. The trade winds blow, the palms rustle and during a particularly severe winter it is sometimes necessary to slip on a sweater. The surf rolls in, and even for a nonsurfer the sight of 10 or 20 beautifully bronzed athletes skillfully guiding their boards through the curl of a wave is one to make the heart sing, especially since one can watch over a Mai-Tai....
"Honolulu is an exciting and marvelously accessible sports town. Weekly fights are held in the Honolulu International Center, and the action is frenetic. I live only five minutes (and a $3,000 initiation fee) from the Waialae Country Club. Just 20 minutes away is Honolulu Stadium, sometimes called the Termite Temple, where the Hawaii Islanders play. They aren't exactly the Pittsburgh Pirates, but I still think they'd be at least even money in a four-of-seven series with their parent San Diego Padres."
Johnston feels that living in Hawaii helped him keep a skeptical perspective on the San Diego story. "As Neil Morgan says, San Diego is a 'golden place,' but one sees it a little differently when the motive is not flight."
When he lived in Manhattan, Johnston had a well-earned reputation as a connoisseur of New York night life. Was it a comedown, moving to Hawaii? "Honolulu restaurants," he writes, "are excellent, once one breaks the tour guide's iron grip and looks around a bit." He gives high marks to the Oriental cuisine, adding that there is one "really fine" French restaurant and a splendid Mexican one. Avoid the luaus at big hotels, he advises. "People are jammed elbow to elbow for inferior food served with the grace and style of an Army mess hall.
"They have something else out here that is even more surprising to a New Yorker than the breatheable air. There is a quaint old-world name for it: courtesy. If you wind up bumper to bumper with a local resident, he is likely to smile and wave you ahead. Even the 'Coast haoles' (read Jersey drivers) catch on in a week or so. Wonder what happens to them when they resume the battle on the Mainland."
What happens may be what happened to Dick Johnston. They start working on a way to get back.
JOHNSTON, OUR STRANGER IN PARADISE