Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Effect of a Few Wrong Turns: North Shore Soap Factory, Oahu, Hawaii

For the Podcast, click here.
I was looking for a restaurant where I could eat locally caught fish, listen to the soothing plinkings of a distant ukulele, feel the juice of a ripe pineapple dribble down my chin, and watch the surf crash onto rocks and sandy beaches.

That was easier said than done as I roamed around toward the North Shore and highway after highway was snarled with construction. I gave up and decided to simply go where the open roads took me.

And, they took me to an old sugar factory that had a couple of tour buses parked in front, and a few Japanese tourists taking photos of each other as they returned. I looked at the sign, but instead of being a sugar mill, it was a soap factory. I thought of the Lush chain and the wonderful, intoxicating aromas of spice, flower, herbs and musky perfumes, and I thought I would try it.

I entered and immediately made a mistake, entering the off-limits factory itself instead of the gift store, where tourists could observe the fabrication of soap through thick safety glass.

The colors and scents were delightful, and it was a super-saturated rainbow of color. I considered purchasing a number of bars, but then realized I still had blocks of hand-made soap from a trip I made to Hawaii several years ago, and so I did not really need more souvenirs or potential gift items.

I wondered how much they sold to Japanese tourists.  Soap is practical and a great gift and household item, but it is heavy and bulky. I would imagine the best market would be the upscale boutique hotels that might enjoy having tiny bars of soaps and tiny little bottles of bath soap, shampoo, and more. It surprised me that they did not have more miniature sets for sale. They would be great gift sets.

But, I’m not much of a marketer of soaps or artisan items, although I love the small factories and gift stores that one finds tucked away in unexpected places.

Next door, in the gift store, there were all kinds of coffee beans for sale and other food items. Again, I thought they were rather bulky, and it might make more sense to have a little coffee bar. But, if we’re talking about busloads of Japanese tourists, perhaps not. Perhaps the best would be to have a number of places for wonderful photos, and then keepsake experiences. I do not know.

It is interesting how we combine shopping and retail experiences with the memories we create for the future, and thus shape our concept of ourselves and the world. We order our knowledge of the world by means of the images we create, and even as we create them, we know that they are less than authentic, but more designed to capture the quirkiest products, the most dramatic slice of nature, the most super-saturated colors, and the most emblematic semiotics.

So, as I think of a photo of myself to create a memory of what I just experienced – the effect of a few wrong turns – I will take photos of what is most unique. It will be, for me, a representation of discovery, and more specifically, the rewards of discovery.

The photo, with its rainbow array of soaps, tiny colored bath ducks, plumeria, pineapples, Kona coffee, macadamia, and more, will be a visual reminder of how rewarding it can be to go off the beaten path and to open your mind for new things, for discovery. Of course, I could just as easily frame this as a cautionary tale of menace and danger, but thankfully, that does not occur to me, unless I’ve been binge-watching past seasons of Forensic Files.

Life is much richer as a series of joyous explorations and discoveries.

No comments: