Since 1959, the U.S. has consisted of 50 states; in that year, Alaska and Hawai’i became the most recent jurisdictions to gain statehood. Just visiting all 50 of the states in the sprawling nation that I call home is a mammoth undertaking. In the final hours of 2018, I completed my project of karaokeing in all 50 of those states (as well as the national capital city of Washington, DC, which does not itself belong to any state).
For a more detailed background on the quest that I was pursuing, see my prior posts recounting my karaoke appearances throughout the U.S. in 2016, 2017, and the earlier part of 2018. Between July 2016 and July 2018, the number of states in which I’d karaoked increased from 20 to 49. That left only one state to check off: the archipelago of Hawai’i. I felt it was fitting that the 50th state to join the U.S. would become the 50th state on my American Karaoke Tour.
Blue Hawaii: saving the best for last
Geographically, Hawai’i differs greatly from any other state in the U.S. Consisting principally of 8 main islands (7 of which are inhabited), its territory also includes numerous additional islands, islets, atolls, and reefs. Did you know that Hawai’i is actually composed of 137 total islands of various sizes? Those islands, stretching from Hawai’i (often called the “Big Island”) in the southeast to the Kure Atoll in the northwest, extend for roughly 1,500 miles. But you only ever hear about the octet of main islands — such as Oahu, home to the state’s capital city of Honolulu.
That capital city lies over 2,500 miles southwest of Los Angeles. The Hawaiian state is located in the Tropics, the zone between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. In fact, the main Hawaiian island chain forms one of the corners of the Polynesian triangle. (That triangle’s other vertices are Easter Island and New Zealand.) Such an exotic setting seemed the perfect locale for the culmination of my American Karaoke Tour.
My first stop in Hawai’i was the island of Oahu. (During the course of my trip, I would also hit the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Kaua’i, as well as the Pacific Island nations of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. This blog will cover that subsequent island-hopping in due course.)
By day, I took in some of Oahu’s more notable sites – such as Pearl Harbor, the military base where a Japanese sneak attack on December 7, 1941 drew the U.S. into World War II; the Dole Plantation, which grows large quantities of pineapples, bananas, coffee, cacao, and more; and the summit of the Diamond Head crater, a relic of an extinct volcano, from where you can enjoy sweeping views of downtown Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.
Karaoke in Honolulu: everybody Wang Chung tonight!
While there was a lot of cool stuff to see on Oahu as well as on the state’s other islands, the impetus for my first-ever jaunt to Hawai’i was to karaoke there. And on December 31, 2018 – New Year’s Eve – it happened! The venue that I chose for the historic occasion was a bar called Wang Chung’s, in Honolulu’s Waikīkī neighbourhood. Waikīkī, best known for its beaches, is quite touristy; but it’s an action-packed and energetic area, abounding with bars, restaurants, and shopping. As a New Yorker, I felt right at home in Waikīkī.
The song that I chose for my Hawaiian karaoke debut was “Blue Hawaii,” originally recorded by Elvis Presley. It’s the title song from the 1961 movie of the same name in which the King starred.
When I handed the mic over to the next singer, I had officially achieved my goal of karaokeing in all 50 U.S. states! Several hours later, I rang in 2019 and ushered in a year full of new possibilities.
Future goals for my World Karaoke Tour
Now that I’ve knocked off all the states, the question naturally arises: what new goals will I be setting for my World Karaoke Tour (other than my perpetual drive to visit and sing in more countries)? Previously I’ve discussed a couple of possibilities: (i) add the U.S. territories (Puerto Rico; U.S. Virgin Islands; Guam; Northern Marianas Islands; and American Samoa); or (ii) complete my ongoing project of singing in all of Canada’s provinces and territories. (Thus far, I’ve karaoked in 4 Canadian provinces.) But I’ve decided to make a long-term aspiration of mine a higher priority than either of those other options.
When I sang in Casablanca, Morocco in February 2011, Africa became the 6th continent on which I’d karaoked. Since that time, for nearly 8 years, I’ve been stuck on 6 continents. As you can probably guess, Antarctica is the missing 7th continent for me. Oh, sure, I can make excuses for why I still haven’t made it down there: The southern continent is really far away. It’s extraordinarily expensive to get to. The scientific research bases that have bars with karaoke can’t be reached by the cruise ships that are the form of transportation that conveys most leisure travellers to Antarctica. But I refuse to give in to those excuses any longer. I believe that logistical hurdles, no matter how seemingly intractable, always have solutions. So I’ll find a way. And to incentivize myself to find a way, I’m going to put it out there: within 3 years from the date of this blog post, I’ll karaoke in Antarctica!