Ready for (almost) anything
Vicky and I woke up early on Thursday... far too early. The butt-crack of dawn was still dark as we loaded up the car and headed out onto the freeway. Who would have thunk that the freeway would get so busy but, sure enough, by 6:00am we were surrounded by hordes of commuters, commuting. Didn’t they realize we had places to go? Things to do? Naps to take?
But we reached LAX in plenty of time, dropping off Vicky's car, and shuttled off to the terminal. We sat together - I like sitting with Vicky; it gives me someone to bitch to, who won't take me too seriously. Or so I hope! I popped on my RIO (read: iPod wannabe!) and listened to Wil Wheaton. Vicky popped on her Nano and listened to... porn!
Okay, so I listened to a little, too...
Oddly, on the plane's TV screens, where later we would squint at the in-flight movie, there appeared a map of southern California with an image of our plane superimposed over it. As the plane moved... and then, took off... we watched the picture of our plane slowly, if not gracefully, cross the map... until it was over the water! Then, we waited for Hawaii.
I was wearing a jacket because I had heard it might rain. Of course, we forgot to take an umbrella...
Here we are, on the 34th floor!
Pleasant Holidays picked us up and took us to our hotel, the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. It's a beautiful, BIG hotel; the first three floors are like a small shopping mall with stores and restaurants, waterfalls and plants and pools. When we checked in, they were very nice. They took our bags from the shuttle, checked us in. We went up to our room and -
WOW! Our room was beautiful and overlooked the beach. We knew it would overlook the beach but we didn't realize that we'd have such a great view! Totally unobstructed, which might be obvious considering how high up we were - but we saw all the smaller hotels blocked by ours! Standing on the balcony, we could see all of Diamond Head! The beach! The park! The city! It was gorgeous! We stood out there for a while and took it all in.
What to do first? At the airport, we'd had breakfast at California Pizza Kitchen - breakfast pizzas! Then, on the plane, we'd had another, little breakfast. We decided to start by hitting a restaurant!
We crossed the street and walked to Duke's. We wanted to have a drink at the bar but the bar was so full... the rest of Waikiki was in the bar! So, we sat in the dining area, had a couple of drinks and a couple of appetizers... and relaxed!
Then, we walked down Kalakua Avenue to pick up our trolley passes. The plan was that we'd do most of our traveling via the trolley and, to that end, Vicky had got us a great deal on trolley tickets online. Walking up Kalakua was like walking down one immense shopping center. Vicky kept getting pulled towards the Coach stores! But we made it. We got our tickets and we took the trolley back to the hotel. Thanks to all the rain that fell during our time there - and the fact that the trolley's were exposed to the elements - that was the only trolley trip we took.
Tanaka of Tokyo.
We decided that our first dinner would be Japanese. Tanaka of Tokyo was just behind the hotel, in King's Village. It was a lot like Benihana's. It was here that we noticed that Hawaii should start calling itself "Little Japan" - Vicky's peeps were everywhere! At our table were two girls from Osaka who didn't speak very much English. (You want to talk multi-cultural? Our chef was a big, fat Hawaiian named Jose!) We had a nice, little dinner... and then, we noticed the rain.
It wasn't just raining... someone was dumping the ocean on the island! The people at Tanaka had these ponchos - they were garbage bags with hoods - and we each got one before we headed out... what were we thinking? The ponchos were great - but you could see where they ended because we were drenched! The streets were rivers! The wind was crazy! But we laughed like children as we ran back to the hotel.
Inside, we handed off our ponchos to a family that had five more blocks to go before they got to their hotel. From our balcony, we watched at the island was pounded by the elements. They didn't call it a typhoon... but they might as well have.
There be whales... where?
Friday was our whale-watching day. But first, we walked down to the Pleasant Holidays place for our "Welcome Breakfast". It was in the same place where we'd picked up our trolley tickets. Thankfully, the rain had stopped. We didn't take the trolley - though we should have considering how little use we got out of those tickets! The breakfast was inside a Chinese restaurant - the "most beautiful Chinese restaurant in the world"... if they said so... But we'd already booked all of our excursions and the purpose for the breakfast was to get us to buy excursions, so we left after breakfast. Anyway, we had places to go!
Our whale-watching bus picked us up a little while later. It was prompt and air-conditioned, which was great because the rain didn't relieve the heat and only added to the humidity!
I couldn't wait to get on the boat. I love boats and hardly ever go on one. Vicky and I couldn't wait to get out on the deck - we were given a seat at a table with a couple from Manchester - and spent most of our time out there, looking for whales. But then the lunch buffet opened. It was on the front of the ship - a bad idea. The front rocked the most and Vicky quickly grew ill.
On top of that... there wasn't a whale in sight... dammit.
I didn't care about the whales. I got to spend the day with Vicky and we had a great time on the deck, where Vicky got enough air to make her feel better.
Dinner was at Duke's. I can't remember much about it. I just remember the rain - it had started again! Water was everywhere. Duke's is inside of a hotel and the lobby was drenched and had that dank water smell... not good. On top of that, I had made the terrible mistake, earlier, when we had gone swimming, of slamming my foot into a rock in the water. So, I hobbled along the whole time, grimacing! But Vicky found a beautiful necklace and I bought it for her as an anniversary gift. (6-month anniversary! Yeah!)
Joseph the Explorer
Saturday started well. My foot was feeling better. Vicky, who I think had been suffering a bit of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) - all that rain! - was raring to go. We had a bit of breakfast (eggs benedict with crab!) and found our way to the pick-up spot for our day's excursion.
Saturday was the day for our Eco-excursion around the island. Our guide was Joseph and he drove us all around the island. Better yet, he was an endless font of knowledge about the history of the island and all of its myriad life. The whole tour was one long lesson in everything from biology to history to philosophy to geology - Vicky and I, being geeks, just loved it. The first stop was my favorite, a Buddhist monastery. Being a non-practicing Buddhist, it's nice to walk into a temple, which was open for tourists. Most of the people on our tour just walked the grounds so the temple was quiet and I could take a moment for something more meaningful.
Joseph took us to the Banzai Pipeline to watch the crazy surfers and through rain forests and villages. Vicky and I were left wanting more. The funniest thing about Joseph, though, was that the upper part of his face - all I could see in the rear-view mirror - looked exactly like Paul Reiser! So, I spent the day imagining Paul Reiser being our tour guide!
That night, we splurged and ate at a place called Ciao Mein, an Italian/Chinese fusion restaurant. We ordered a six-course meal (portioned for two!) and couldn't finish it. I especially loved it because I finally tried Maker's Mark whiskey. I had wanted to try it for a while and, for those who love whiskey, Maker's Mark is just fantastic. Now, to buy a bottle! Anyway, Vicky's SAD was back - she just wasn't feeling well - who could with all this horrible weather. Up in our room, we could see the evening's storm drenching everything.
We only had a day left. I kept hoping it would get better.
Sunday. Rain. It was luau day and the rain kept coming.
We woke up VERY EARLY to catch the 6:00am bus to the Pearl Harbor memorial. Vicky had really been looking forward to this - rain or shine, we'd do it. But once we were on the bus, the rocking was worse than that whale-watching boat, and I got sick. I clenched my teeth as it rocked up and down and up and down and back and forth - but I wouldn't let that stop us from getting to the Arizona.
The line to get in was already long when we got there - a half-hour before it opened! And, with no umbrella, we stood in the rain! But, once we were inside, we bought ponchos - more garbage bags - and a snack. I was nauseous but hungry - having skipped breakfast.
A short film provided some context for where we were before we took a ferry out to the Arizona. This place is run by the National Park Service and they had hat in hand, begging for donations to (if you'll pardon the phrase) keep the place afloat. This is what happens when our nations priorities are on making war rather than remembering the lessons of war. And there was no shortage of irony there. One of the displays mentioned Japan's attach tactics as "shock and awe"... really? Sounds familiar.
As we stepped off the ferry, I couldn't help but marvel at the absurdity. Here we were, in a graveyard (which is what the Arizona is) wearing garbage bags in the rain, while everyone around us filmed everything. It seemed that everyone was more interested in capturing the here and now than reflecting on the then that this memorial tried to preserve. Having just been in a temple, my mind was still in a place where I could stand in reverence, saddened by all the forgotten lessons. Maybe some day our nation will remember them anew.
When we got back to our hotel, it was still raining. We went to lunch at a place called Cheeseburger in Paradise - fantastic burgers and chili-cheese fries! And, as we walked back to the hotel, we stopped by a little store... and found it. The "it" in this instance is something I've been trying to find for years. Most statues of Buddha that you see have his hands in his lap but the position Buddha held as he found "enlightenment" was with one hand pointed to the ground. It signifies that the Buddha was sitting in the Axis Mundi, the center of the universe. This center is not a place but a state of mind. It is everywhere. It is all around us. It is also reflected in the phrase "Be Here Now". And Vicky and I saw it, a statue made out of Hibiscus wood (very popular in Hawaii, it was also the wood that Tom Hanks made fire with in "Castaway"). It is beautiful - and Vicky bought it for me. Happy Anniversary!
But, returning to our hotel, we found that the evening's luau had been cancelled, and I felt horrible because I knew how much Vicky was looking forward to it.
But, strangely, TBS was showing the last season of Friends in order. So, Vicky and I settled back and watched and giggled. Vicky wasn't feeling well but she was enjoying the comedy while the weather was all icky outside. I called downstairs and asked where the locals ate and made a reservation at a nearby place called the Hula Grill.
Then, I took off. With all that eating, I wanted to hit the gym and I'd found one nearby. I had found it Saturday morning when I went out for a walk. My sleep was off for the whole vacation and Saturday was a good morning for a walk (again, at 6:00am - I don't know why). I walked down Kalakua Avenue to Kapiolana Park, passing the morning joggers. It was a good morning. My mind was clear - something I have come to appreciate. I could write a great deal about that walk but it comes down to this - I had my moment of relaxation. I stood near the base of Diamond Head, no ghosts followed me, I was at peace.
And I found the gym! (He said, returning to the topic!) I had a great workout, spent about 45 minutes there. Jogging back, I saw a buxom blonde girl light a cigarette in the rain and thought about leaving Vicky for just one drag of that smoke... and then I laughed and went back to the hotel.
Hula Grill was fantastic. Our table looked out at the ocean and the food was really incredible. But I spent most of the meal looking at Vicky, without whom I would have never made it to Hawaii, and here I was, and here she was. Sometimes I think about how much I love her as I look at her - and she looks back at me as if I was a nut... and she's right.
Time to go home... way too early
We woke up early on Monday - can you guess what time? We had 7:00am reservations for breakfast at Duke's. We ate fast and caught our shuttle to get to the airport on time and - our flight was delayed by four hours!!!! Aaagh!
Thankfully, though, we were able to get transferred to another airline and out on time.
But if this vacation was going to end on a good note, it ended at the TSA booth. I noticed a lot of people being pulled aside and getting frisked. Only a few minutes after I mentioned it to Vicky, we were also pulled aside. As I was frisked, the TSA guy whispered, "I'm sorry, man. This is bullshit." The indignity of having my rights violated was only set aside by this comment. I don't know what this means but damn I wish I did.
Now, this might all sound like we had a horrible time.
As for myself, nothing - not my banged-up foot, not the weather, not being frisked in the airport, not the cancelled plans or the missing whales - nothing made this vacation horrible. You know I'm gonna get all sappy, right? Sorry. But having Vicky with me made it wonderful. I was so happy to spend five days with Vicky, with my love... as our shuttle returned us to the airport in Hololulu, we drove past a canal that was being filled with raw sewage, run-off from the storms, and Vicky and I were holding hands, and that made it just fine.
Now, we're back. I'm at work. Vicky's at home with a cold.
I miss Hawaii...