Oahu. Paradise. That’s what they call it. The brochures. The television documentaries.
I say that if you are not too careful, Oahu can be a living Hell.
January 13-14, 2014
The neighborhood of Waikiki that I’ve managed to superimpose my adventurous self upon at the Monday night kick over into Tuesday morning is far less than respectable and does little to soothe my precarious mental state.
If this place has a Red Light District, I’m sure that I have aimlessly wandered into it.
“Hey there handsome,” declares a young woman as she walks past.
I walk past and laugh at the absurdity. I can count on this little stretch of pavement a total of seven girls, all pacing their corners like wild cats of the Savannah stalking their prey before a kill.
Sure, honey. Yes, you do have a rather large pair of tits. But I am saving myself for someone special.
With the added incentive of the three uniformed Honolulu police cars parked just down the street, outside the Waikiki Trade Center, I’m sure that any wayward traveler stupid enough to accept your offer of “a good time,” isn’t going to be spending the night where they thought they would.
And so. I find myself at 2am on the East side of K¯uhi¯o Avenue in the only reputable all-night establishment for miles in any direction: McDonald’s. Scarfing down a bacon cheeseburger.
If Oahu is supposed to be Paradise, I wonder if this is what paradise looks like at 2am every night. The only discernible difference between this place and Pioneer Square back home – aside from the climate – is that back home the ho-hos are all wearing fur jackets and drinking hot cocoa right now.
A uniformed security guard stands outside Playbar, a late night bar. He does not wear a name tag.
“I’ve only been working here for two weeks,” says the security guard who gives the name of John. He patrols the section of K¯uhi¯o Avenue which includes Playbar nightclub. John’s voice has an aura of fear built into it during our entire conversation. He won’t give me his last name, because he does not want to loose his job.
“Sometimes, I see girls grab men by the hands, speak to them for a while, and take them into the apartments there.” He points to the stack of apartments next to the club.
“My job is to make sure that these seven buildings are secure. I might have my doubts about those girls, but if they have a key than I am to treat them as a resident. I am finding it harder and harder to tell the difference between normal girls and sex workers.”
Certainly, girls in Hawaii are allowed to dress provocatively. Once or twice while I’ve been here, I’ve also been accused of showing a little skin, and unfastening one more button than usual. It’s hot out.
But when a girl twirls her purse and walks around in a circle on the street corner, one can assume that she is looking to make some fresh dough.
“They just stand out,” says a young (woman?) named Persia who came up to me to accost my recently shaved chest and my hairy legs before she realized what I was really doing there. She laughed when I told her that I was going to try to sell an article to Vice.
“When a girl’s looking for something – if you know what I mean – she just sticks out.”
Outside Playbar, a crew of about five men dressed in all-black clothing now guards the entrance. The Asian security guard I spoke to earlier is still there, but I wonder how much of a job he actually performs, other than to look pretty for the tourists and inquisitive minds that happen to wander down this street this late at night.
A fairly large Hawaiian man wearing a black button-up shirt and black pants, with a jet-black beard and an interesting style of hair that matches the hue of his beard, speaks in a voice that demands attention.
He asks not to be named. The whole damned crew asks not to be named. I tell them that it really cramps my style if I have a bunch of quotes from a guy who doesn’t exist. Editors don’t really dig it when you come up with mostly fluff.
“This side is stronger. No one fucks with us on this side of the street,” he replies, stern but jovial in that classic Aloha gangster fashion that I have come to appreciate, or at least pretend to.
This side of the street. This guy must be a gangster. A large group of men wearing red nike products exits the nightclub behind the guard. A few of them shake hands with the black-shirted men as they prepare to leave. I can’t help but shaking the feeling that this looks oddly similar to Blood gang territory. A man in a black Cadilac Escalade with a red baseball cap drives past, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand somewhere unseen.
Two men come walking down the street. Their extremely muscular arms are all tatted up, they walk the same way that I do – fists clenched, chests thrown out, shoulders broad and wide. These guys are off-duty soldiers here for the pickings just like everyone else in this sluthole. They enter the club and disappear into its murky depths.
Persia and those gangbangers told me that the majority of customers are US service members of some capacity. Even though it is against the UCMJ for service members to participate in activities involving prostitutes – they are the biggest offenders.
I can’t do this story anymore. Someone told me when I started out, that I wouldn’t like what I found when I started digging into this story.
I don’t want to be one of the perpetrators. If I had any balls at all, I would tail those two bald fucks back to their barracks and inform their superior officers that they are involved in nasty businesses.
Instead, I’m going to tail the Escalade. I find it’s much safer to deal with gangsters than it is to deal with JAG. After all, these gangsters are small-frys compared to the biggest gang in the world: the US Army.
The Escalade takes its time strolling around the city.
Turns out there are little pockets of prostitution and narcotics traffic all over the city, and the piece of action I saw in Waikiki wasn’t even the biggest slice of the pie. Whoever this guy is, he must be involved in something huge. He’s certainly recognized by everyone who sees him.
Drug dealers, gagsters, bouncers, hookers, cops – they are all a part of some crazy giant picture that just gets more confusing as time goes on.
The Escalade – finally – pulls into a parking space in a very rich part of town on the way out to Diamond Head. This is where the millionaires live.
I get out to take a peek at the vehicle. Shiny. Sparkly. With US Government plates.
What. The. Fuck.?
This whole situation has just gone from bizarre to fucked-up in a heartbeat. This is it. I’m done with this story – I don’t want to wind up cannibal meat for some crazy all-seeing Hawaiian gang.
After all, I’m on vacation.