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Mystery, Hawaii

During most of my adolescence, my family lived in Saudi Arabia. This was back when the Saudis were paying the U.S. large sums of money to help them build the odd airbase here and there (they're still doing it, I believe, but now they're significantly less grateful), and a Westerner wasn't taking their life into their own hands just by being in country. My father worked for the U.S. government and we were considered civilian military. We lived in Jeddah, a port city on the Red Sea, possibly the hottest, dirtiest place on the face of the planet. On the weekends (Thursday and Friday in that part of the world) we would journey hither and thither to various beaches. There are not enough superlative adjectives to describe the beaches of the Red Sea. Aquamarine water, teeming coral reefs, pristine sand and virtually no other people around. Beachgoing not a big pasttime with the doubt because they had better sense than to be out in the damned desert sun all frickin' day.

I remember one particular very long drive that brought us to a strange convergence of lagoons and beaches. There was no vegetation, on the beach or in the water, just tidepools of white, sugar-like sand. My mother sat on the beach under a large umbrella, reading some trashy novel and listening to Engelbert Humperdinck. My father ranged far and wide, looking for reefs and seashells. My little brother and I splashed about in the tidepools, turning over this, digging for that. We came upon some little plastic animals. Brightly colored, flat molded plastic animals. The kind you might find in the quarter machines in the front of super-sized discount stores, next to the cracked pink carousel horse that never works and the stuffed animal claw-grabby game that eats your money and never, ever yields a Buzz Lightyear. But I digress. We found hundreds of these plastic animals. Thousands, even. More washed ashore as we picked them up. I remember spinning a wild tale in my head, imagining the vessel that transported these cheap trinkets, tossed about in a sudden storm, the Captain giving orders to dump the cargo lest the ship founder. It occupied my ten year old brain quite nicely for an afternoon and apparently was significant enough to file away into the Permanent Memory bin. No, I do not still have any of those animals.

Thousands of plastic tubes are washing up onto Hawaii's beaches. Won't someone please tell me what they are? I don't think I can survive another such mystery.

Posted 12/05/01 in Miscellany
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