The clerk shows up at the plastic window with a piece of green paper covered in a fountain pen scrawl with blots and crossings out. I take it, almost not daring to read.
I. Disease or condition directly leading to death: Congestive heart failure. Antecedent causes: Fixed nodal tachycardia, aneurysm... She was in the hospital five weeks before she died, aged 51. The certificate lists the Father and Mother as "Unknown." Name of husband or wife--blank. She really was alone, at least to the state. Her address was listed as Waikiki Tavern. This was becoming an even sadder story than I had imagined.
I dashed across the wide lawn to the State Library, to the librarian who had kindly helped me before. "Have you heard of the Waikiki Tavern," I asked Mary Lou, a bit breathless. She was happy I'd found the certificate, but hadn't. We started searching. It turns out, it wasn't merely a saloon. It was an Inn, and the only place to buy a meal on Waikiki outside of the swank hotels. The Waikiki Tavern was a curiously designed hotel, restaurant, and lounge with 105 "rooms over" a drugstore, beauty salon, laundry, barbershop and Thayer Piano (advertising ukeleles for sale). The remodel of the Waikiki Inn in 1928 was in the "old Norman" style--I suppose a tip of the hat to the British protectorate some islanders may have still been nostalgic for. It turns out you could see Queen Kapiolani's sacred coconut grove from the lanai.
A bit of further research, aided by my brother, revealed that in the 30s and 40s the Waikiki Tavern was a mecca for California transplants, particularly of the surfing variety. In the surfing annals, it is cited as an exciting, lively place to live. Where surfers came to share stories and dreams. I hope it was like that for her. The WT was torn down in the 50s to open up the beachfront. We go to the site at the end of Kuhio Street. A lei-draped bronze of Duke Kahanamoku stands there with his board, framed by the descendants of the Queen's coconut grove. Behind his back, it looks almost exactly like the view from Florence's lanai.