Wonderfully Weird Pillboxes

by Austin Weihmiller /
Austin Weihmiller's picture
Apr 22, 2012 / 0 comments

The homeless man that had the brilliant idea of turning the pillbox into a public urinal clearly has a good taste in vistas, but horrible locating skills. I mean, who hikes up a steep slippery slope, and along a rough ridge, to pee? The world is a strange place...

The Lanikai Pillboxes are perched atop of Lanikai Ridge, on the windward side of Oahu. The two were built right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to prevent another devastating attack. As history shows, they were not needed. Instead, they were abandoned; today, it has become a simple, fun quarter of a mile hike; the pillboxes themselves have become canvases to spray painters, and apparently, public urinals. The hike is the best at sunrise. If you’re blessed with a nice morning, meaning minimal clouds and no rain, the views can be out of this worldly. The downside? I had to get up at 4:30. I stood inside the pillbox at that moment. Urine and ocean breeze mingled together to make an interesting party of smells for my nose. I couldn’t help but smile. This is what I called home.

It was that calm instant before the sun burst from behind the clouds. It can only be described as an eerie, yet beautiful moment. The wind burbled in my ear. I shivered. That morning, at 4:30, my brain told my zombiefied body that I was too macho to take a jacket along, that it wouldn’t be cold. While gaping at the beauty, I continued to shiver, promising myself that next time I would bring a jacket and to never listen to my brain at 4:30 in the morning. That wasn’t the first time I had made that vow, and probably would not be the last.

The breeze continued to blow. It came right off the ocean, bringing with it the salt. Even though I was high up and far back from the beach, I could feel the grimy salt caking on my arms. It felt rough to the touch, almost uncomfortable. As the breeze blew, I could just taste it: a sourish sweetish tang. It crept into the back of my throat, even though my mouth was closed. Down below at the beach, the distant sound of waves crashing could be heard. I cocked my head. Far, far out, I could make out the silhouette of a kayak. Coming in with the breeze, my ears picked up the faint sound of words. '... No! Turn left!..' the boat suddenly turned left. '... Honu! To the right! No! Other right!...' It was as though I was a spy, but one that didn't have to do all the hard reconnaissance work of spying on early morning kayakers.

A flock of birds suddenly glided by. It was picturesque, and only added to the rhapsody of the morning. The wind burbled in my ear again. It seemed to be wanted to whisper a secret to me, though it couldn’t make up its mind. Outside the pillbox, the grass that clung to the rocky ridge was whipped around. I could hear it rustling in the breeze. A dog barked somewhere.

Wanting to see the sunrise and all of its glory, I walked over to the opposite side of the pillbox. Five rusted out rings created a ladder. As I began the climb, I could feel the rust coming off in my hands. It was mixed with dried smears of paint and caked on salt. Little chunks of rusted metal fell to the ground around me. In a way, it felt as though I was ripping scabs off the rings. I was only a ring or two up, and my hands were painted orange. The second ring from the top was totally broken, leaning to the left at almost a 90° angle. Putting my hands on either side of the top of the pillbox, I hoisted myself up. Just as I did that, the sun broke through the clouds.

It was breathtaking. Spine tingling. Beautiful. Gorgeous. The massive glowing orb burst through the clouds the way a supermodel enters a high school. Everybody just stops and stares. Just for a second, even the wind and chirping birds and distant crashing waves went silent. And just for a second, everything seemed perfect.

Lanikai Pillboxes

The second passed, and it was almost a sensory overload - sight, sound, sense, smell, and taste. The golden light of the sun interweaved with the blues and pinks and yellows painted on the clouds and sea. The sea itself was alive. I wouldn't have been shocked if a whale breached right then. The wind blew again, but harder than before. I felt the warmth of the sun, despite the ever blowing wind. It was like immersing yourself in happiness. I could hear the wind blowing hard, the grass rustling, the chirping birds, the arguing kayakers in the distance. The smell of urine was still present. It was really the only thing ruining the whole magical experience. Like I said, I'm going to have to work with that man on locating bathroom skills. My mind began to drift towards breakfast. I could taste the sweet Acai Bowl I'd have later...the wonderful blend of Acai with mixed berries, granola, and coconut.

I looked around and smiled again. This was home. Urine smells and all. The sun continued to climb. I began the trek down the ridge. It was going to be a good day.





Austin Weihmiller is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Membership Program

All photos courtesy and copyright Austin Weihmiller