Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hawaii 2008 - Final Thoughts

Kahlua Pig here.

As the Mrs. and I finally settle into the groove of our lives here on the East Coast, a perspective on our recent Hawaii vacation slowly emerged and presented itself. Much like the winds and waves that build and swell to epic proportions in that part of the world, our perspective only revealed itself when enough time had passed - revealing itself with sudden clarity and refreshing insight.

A few years ago, my Auntie Luz once joked that the Mrs. and I had an uncanny way of travelling outside of NYC, whenever disaster seemed to strike the Big Apple. When we realized that we were out of Manhattan during 9/11 and the New York Blackout, her remark turned out to be pretty on point. With the recent turmoil in the financial markets, my Auntie Luz's words hearken to me yet again: "REMIND ME TO CALL MY TRAVEL AGENT NEXT TIME YOU'RE OUT OF TOWN!"

The collapse of financial giants Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG within TWO WEEKS of each other is as unfathomable as they come. As of this writing, Morgan Stanley is in merger talks with Wachovia, and WaMu is said to be next on the list of giants to fall. Many questions, few answers, much confusion, little clarity. An interesting experience for two New Yorkers who just spent time in an island paradise that is as far away from all of this as the North Pole is from the South Pole.

Today, while on break from my job as a personal trainer at Equinox, I found myself yearning for food I had enjoyed in Hawaii. With a time-crunch, hunger, and anxiety all swirling within me and around me, I found myself inside a McDonald's, eating a double-quarter pounder with medium fries. A McDonald's staple for most. The food wasn't bad; I just wish it came with a breeze and a view of the ocean.

And that's when it came to me - why we miss Hawaii so. The quarter-pounder and fries that I was eating as a late lunch was a brand standard PRODUCT that could be found in ANY McDonald's, in ANY location worldwide. The people behind the counter didn't even MAKE that food! Even if they tried, they couldn't put one of those things together from scratch.

The meals we had in Hawaii, from the deep-fried malasadas, the unforgettable poi, the fresh spring rolls, the butter-garlic shrimp at Kahuku's...were made and cooked by people who still understood that food is a basic human need that requires care and attention. They understood that the process of making food needed a HUMAN touch in order for it to have sustenance for the body and the soul. We didn't just "ingest" - we really ate and really experienced. We weren't just "sold" a product - we were really fed and nurtured. How many "mom and pop" stores did the Mrs. and I eat from, whose owners probably don't even have 401k's in these once majestic financial institutions, whose only real investment is in the basic human experience of making food that people are actually nourished by?

We are people living with other people. When people forget to consider others, they forget the process that feeds and nourishes our very humanity. Had the wealthy leaders of these financial institutions, the manufacturers of this financial debacle, only remembered that they were dealing with families (not borrowers), homes (not securitized loans), and personal accountability (not risk management) happy-meal experience at McDonald's would have been as undisturbed as the ones I had with my wife while in Hawaii, as we sat by the beach eating fresh Vietnamese sandwiches, watching the volatile waves roll on the shores of Sandy Beach.

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