Hawai’i Is Another State Of Mind

Hawai’i Is Another State Of Mind


Leonard Zwelling

If you are fortunate in your life, you may get the chance to visit many places and live in some of them and call them home. I have been blessed in this manner.

There are four places I consider my home.

I was raised outside of New York City on the south shore of Long Island. I visit Long Island rarely as I have no one there to visit. Manhattan on the other hand is a frequent destination now as it was when I started to take the Long Island Railroad there by myself when I was fourteen. Despite there being many great areas of Manhattan, I fell in love with midtown. That’s where Broadway is and shopping, museums, and great restaurants. Over the years I return again and again. I can’t get enough except I can take only about five days so I guess I can get enough. A New York state of mind may have been romanticized by Billy Joel, but it’s noisy, busy and as they say, it never sleeps. After five days, I have had enough of that state of mind. That home is best in small doses.

My next home was Durham, North Carolina and Duke University where I spent nine years as an undergraduate, medical student and Duke house officer. For me the Durham state of mind will always be attached to my running through Duke Forest on the cross-country trail and to medicine. I owe my life to Duke. Thanks for those rejections Yale and Cornell. I met the love of my life there in the Duke Medical School library and my love for science and medicine was born at Duke. My state of mind in Durham always is that of the young me, the athlete, the medical student, the upstart Yankee who learned to love the South. The Durham state of mind of my youth is aided by the fact that Durham hardly changes. Oh, it’s become more modern, but I never get lost there after having been gone 47 years. I can always find my way home there.

My next nine years were spent in the suburbs of Washington, DC and though my scientific and oncology careers were born there, it never felt like home. When I went back for a year as a Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in 2008-2009, I remembered why it never felt like home. It is a town of transients and not welcoming at all. I never acquired the DC state of mind which is all about power. Washington is a small town masquerading as a significant one.

Fortunately, even though I wasn’t born in Texas, I got here as fast as I could. Houston is home now and probably for the rest of my life. It is the most serious of cities for everyone came here to work and yet it is also the Great State of Texas without the awful politics of the rest of this Red state. The Houston state of mind is the idea that everything is possible. It is the most creative and dynamic of places and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My fourth home is one in which I have never lived, but am always glad to know is there if I need it. That would be Jerusalem, Israel. The moment I got to Jerusalem in 1998, I knew I was home. It is obviously the most historic of places where the state of mind is of the sacred and of the conflicted. History is everywhere and three major religions see it as essential to their existence. For me it hums with excitement and awe. Whether I am praying at the Western Wall, standing in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher after walking the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, or touching the rock in the Dome of the Rock, it is as close to feeling the faith of the billions as you can get. And just in case the United States ever decides Jews don’t belong there (yes, it could happen—see The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth), I now have a place to go—a new home.

Those are my homes and their effects on my state of mind. But when I want to forget all about everything, I go to Hawai’i.


Of course, it is beautiful from the lushness of Kawai, to the flowers of Lanai, to the lava of the Big Island to the tranquility and quaintness of Maui. There is ocean and beaches and some of the best golf in the world. But the Hawai’i state of mind is perpetual aloha and the perfect place to forget all your other states of mind for a week or two.

All of my homes have different states of mind, but Hawai’i actually is a state of mind that you acquire when you go. It may take a few trips, but once you have those under your belt, you always know the Hawai’i state of mind is just a long plane ride away.

4 thoughts on “Hawai’i Is Another State Of Mind”

    1. Leonard Zwelling

      Just back last week. It was great. Big Island this time for a friend’s 75th birthday. Lots of golf and fish. LZ

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *