Beyond the Reef

a few weeks ago i went to a luau.
the host, pia, pretty much went nuts with it.
thatch huts, pig roasting in a pit, tiki bar, parrots, palm trees,
smoke coming out of a gigantic faux stone carved god,
leis and limbo.
the works.
the tropics, smack dab in the middle of this steely town.
i almost had to shake the sand from my hair.
she took a vacation from reality (and her sanity)
and so generously tried to take as many as she could with her.

while nursing a rum induced hang-over the next morning, i remembered
the only other luau i had ever attended some twenty years ago.
--there, with all the necessary accoutrements as required by the governing luau police, was also entertainment in the form of professional
(as in paid) polynesian dancers.

it all seemed like a very benign party. food and drink. flower in the hair. floor sitting. blah blah blah until the dancers showed up.
now this is the part that i cringe about even now as i am writing this...
the dancers started performing a tahitian number.
the guests, people i socialized with, seemingly decent human beings some of which i had grown up with, all started heckling the performers for no apparent reason. it was moblike. i was surrounded by people jeering, taunting and mocking the hawaiian performance.
there may even have been food tossed, i don't know.

there is both clarity and vagueness to my memory.
i am clear about what i felt at that exact moment, yet vague because i was ashamed.
clear about remembering the confused expressions on the performers faces, yet vague because i was frozen.
clear about realizing that i did not like the people i was with, yet vague because i said nothing.

it took me many years before i went back to that memory (i like to set things aside) and ruminated on the harsh truth about human nature.
some people are simply uncomfortable in the absence of a delineator.
we were all dressed alike.
guests and entertainment in tropical costume.
i guess when it became difficult to tell the difference between the
hired help and the elite, it became threatening.
the line became quite clear between the hecklers and the heckled.
and me.