Saturday, December 28, 2013

maui wow

*a lot of this is hearsay i've noted where i heard it and plan on doing some research to see if it's all true*

my phone said it wasn't going to rain today.  it actually says it's not raining right now.  it is raining though.  just a sprinkle now but a few minutes ago, while i walked in from the car, it was raining buckets.  i was literally soaked through.  i guess this kind of rain is rare on Maui.  i wouldn't know this is my first time here.

my little sister and her 5-year-old son moved here in july with her boyfriend, he's a kite boarder on the GI bill and kahalui is a primo spot for the kite boarders.  my parents decided the holidays would be a great time to come visit and brought me and my six-year-old along so they can have some precious quality time with their grandsons.  

coming to Hawaii for the holidays isn't exactly new for us.  50 years ago my estute grandpa invested in what i've been told is the world's first time-share on Kauai.  grandpa was born on Honolulu and always loved Hawaii.  so for 2 weeks a year we have a place to stay on Kauai.  i've been there 5 times through out my 34 years.  

sissy's and my little dudes are 7 months apart.  (side note and for trivia later:  my sister and i are 7 years apart).  they get along like brothers:  so hugging and pushing.  like any loving relationship i guess.  they make each other laugh, they draw pictures of each other and sometimes they save the world.  they've saved the world three times now but they had to stop the 3rd time because they didn't have the boat they needed.  son of the gun, son of the gun (that's how my nephew says it).  they are often pushing each other as well, competing.  who did it faster?  who is stronger?  who is braver?

the park we went to today had THE most perfect tree for climbing.  it was a little banyan tree near a playground facing the ocean and surrounded by palm trees.  they could climb all the way to the top and sit in a basket of branches as a look out.  Two cute sun bleached blondes came to play in the tree and those boys claimed ownership and yelled those little girls out.  i intercepted and told those boys they didn't own the tree that it was the park's tree and they needed to be kind to the girls and share the magic tree.  you could tell they scared the girls and i told them if the boys weren't nice to them to come tell me and i'd take care of them.  this empowered the sweet little things and they began chasing those boys around and kissing them.  the boys ran and screamed, disgusting!  but after 15 minutes of this when the girls decided they wanted a break those silly guys came and asked for more.  

on reflection i shoulda, coulda handled that whole thing so many different ways and i doubt if i do anything right.  god knows i try my dammed best.

so yesterday, we woke up at 5 in the morning to take a snorkeling boat trip around the small island of Lana’i, which is 8 miles west of Maui.  my parents had planned and purchased this little outing before i had arrived.  it was an all day adventure.  i have to tell you a little something about myself, i'm not a huge fan of planned tourist herding.  being stuck with an itinerary that i didn't create, with a bunch of people i don't know, with no control of my own transportation and being at the mercy of the fearless and supposedly more knowledgeable stranger leader doesn't resonate very well with me.  hey, i am game, i can find magic everywhere and this thing can be great.  a nice relaxing boat ride and mom says they serve breakfast and lunch, some cool drinks, warm sun, some snorkeling with sea turtles, maybe see some whales. . . this will be lovely.

well at 6 am we pull up to our destination.  a dark parking lot with 3 full stinky dumpsters and an orange inflatable zodiac boat on the back of a black ford pickup truck.  this is not the ferry or yacht or catamaran or sailboat i was imagining.  just to remind you we are with a 5 and 6 year old who's swimming isn't at all strong and there has been a small boat advisory for around the islands all week.  my sister whispers to me that people get hurt on these kinds of boats, people fall off.   there are no bathrooms, there is no sunning deck, there weren't even seats for everyone.  they literally blew it up in the parking lot.

breakfast was served on a card table next to the truck.  it consisted of 4 oranges, a papaya and 1/2 a pineapple and the same granola bars we bought at Costco the day before.  i had a sinking feeling in my gut, this wasn't a good idea.  i was actually a tad scared, i said to my mom that this seems like a really bad idea, my son can barely swim.  i start feeling horrible for not getting him in lessons before this point. i didn't know what to do, my dad had just paid the man a small fortune and i'd bet any money we could have rented our own much nicer boat with crew for a few hours for that fee but i guess this shit was going down.  other people started trickling in.  mom, dad, 14-year-old son, 15-year-old daughter from Oshkosh Wisconsin.  mom, dad, 19 and 23 year old daughters from Nebraska (go huskers).  the 19 year old was a babe and collegiate cheerleader.  a young couple from the northwest and 2 other dudes that didn't talk much.  the captain and his first mate skipper.

we couldn't bring any of our stuff because there was no place to store it on the small rig.  no food or toys for the boys to play with, no watertight place so i left my phone and cameras in the rental car.  i only had my towel and my family to help me get through this.

they sized us up for flippers and loaded them on the boat and then loaded the boat in the water.  captain assured us he was a pro.  he passed the coast guard's test with ease and rescued someone from the water in 14 seconds breaking the record.  they've never needed to deploy life jackets while throwing in some humor, like this was his first time. . . ha ha, so funny.  this is going to be a fun adventure.  this is a bumpy wet ride and it'll take us an hour and a half to get there, so hold on for dear life.

the Nebraska family and young couple we on first and took 2 of the 3 rows of seats in the middle.  my parents grab the last row and so my sister and i had the boys between us along the starboard side of the boat, near the captain, where you sit on the rubber and hold on to the ropes.  we needed to keep both hands holding the ropes, one in front of you and one in back.  no bull riding rules here, use both your damn hands.

we start off, it's kind of fun the boys are looking at each other smiling then the waves and spray start splashing into the boat.  it's salt water in your face while bull riding.  we're going 35 knots.  you can't see, you can't think, all you can do is hold on and try to breathe.  my nephew got scared and starts to cry 10 minutes in.  grandpa grabs him and puts him between he and grandma in the row seat.  i ask my little Mexican Viking if he wants to go sit by grandma and grandpa but he replies stoically, wet blonde hair tussling in his face, he's fine.  i see the strength in his shoulder and back muscles as he holds onto the rope.  i told him his dad would be really proud of him. 

after some time he does move in with the grandparents but begins to look pallid.  he's seasick.  i say look up, don't look down buddy.  keep your eyes on the island.  his whole body affected by every wave and sway.  he doesn't look good at all and i'm afraid he's going to vomit up those 4 granola bars he mawed down for breakfast.  after some time his color is back.  he has recovered.

my nephew passes out cradled in grandma's arms.  he's curled up in the fetal position, water dripping off his face.  i've passed out in times of great stress too, it's a coping mechanism employed by children and animals.   we ride on.  

humpback whales appear twice as we motored towards Lana'i.  they weren't but 200 meters away.  spouting, tails high and breaching.  it is an amazing sight.  we were filled with renewed joy and energy.  it was exciting, but if your head was turned you could have missed the whole show.

a section of Lana'i is called shipwreck beach.  there are a few ships but the most memorable by far is the huge liberty ship made out of concrete from World War II.  it ran aground and since it was Lana'i, a barely populated island, they left it there to decay.  it's a huge towering behemoth, crumbling in the elements.  a decaying memorial to man's wasteful and warring nature.

a few miles up the coast we stopped again for our first chance to get in the water.  the boat was anchored and captain explained we could swim to shore.  it was a small cove of beautiful sandy beach surrounded by rocky outputs to both sides.  stage left is sacred Hawaiian rock, we are asked not to touch it or walk on it out of respect to the culture.  it really didn't seem very far.  he told us the beach has a special name, and he would tell us when we got back.  we weren't snorkeling just swimming.  my sister and i are strong swimmers and we decided to go.  the 19-year-old babe and the Oshkosh dad, sister and brother were our only cohorts.  first the dad and brother went, then me, my sister, and the daughter followed up by the babe.  

it's relevant you know i have a pretty huge phobia of sharks and when he kept the name of the beach i assumed it was most likely shark attack beach.   the angry sea was churning, there was zero visibility and swells were unrelenting.  i was coughing out mouthfuls of saltwater.  i was swimming for my goddamn life.  we made it to shore, breathlessly.  that was a work out.  we all gratefully made it.  we looked at each other, we looked at the boat, we agreed that wasn't any fun.  we walked around on the beach.  i mushed the sand between my toes over and over again.  it felt so good.  i felt the sun and wind on my face.  i tasted the salt.  we peed with our feet on the land.  i didn't want to linger, i saw the sea was calmer and i wanted to make my way back now that i'd caught my breath. 

i dove into the sea and swam straight to the boat.  it was faster and easier this time around, i knew what to expect.  i pulled myself up on the boat and dried off and hugged my boy.  Oshkosh mother was a wreck, she was nearly worried to death over her kids.  her daughter was struggling, but she had it, i knew she had it.  everyone had it.

so captain explained it is called egg beach, because it was a laying ground for sea turtles, but that's not the important part.  historically the beach had been a women's penal colony when Lahaina, Maui was a whaling town.  women of Maui who were caught doing punishable crimes, i can only think witch hunt sort of shit here, were shipped off and dumped in the water.  if they made it they lived there in seclusion.  supposedly a well was installed but that beach was essentially their unsupervised camp.  men's prison was an island away.  many years after this practice ceased when a proper jail was built in town and they went to pick up any survivors which were few.  i swam that same swim. 

another 40 minutes of bucking bronco riding later we would be at our first snorkel spot.  we arrived and anchored again.  there were some strong trade winds that day and the cove was very choppy.  again there were rocks to either side but no beach, just a cliff wall.  the waves were breaking huge to the northern most outcrop of rocks.  my boy did not want to go so my mom said she would go quick and then give me a turn for the snorkel.  my nephew is more experienced so he was set to go, but as soon as he got in he got really scared and wanted out.  i reached over the boat to pull him up, but he was only in a loose circle float around his waist and i struggled to pull the 55 pounds of soaked, wiggling, crying boy out of the water.  i succeeded but somewhere in the process i slipped and deeply bruised my left shinbone.

it wasn't long until my mom and dad returned and i entered the water with my sister.  sissy is also a tad scared of the mysterious ocean especially when it was murky and rough.  i was warned to avoid murky water if i wanted to keep safe from sharks.  we swam gripping hands, safety in numbers.  the water was about 25 feet deep and there were some very beautiful Technicolor fish but we didn't want to venture too far from the boat.  we made a loop around and got back in our dingy.

the boys began to adjust to our adventure.  they were getting more and more confident and relaxed now.  everyone was.  we were getting the hang of this.  it wasn't comfortable but it was an adventure.  next was some thrilling sight seeing.  our captain would go as fast as the boat would muster, weaving in and out of rocks showing us the cliffs and some of the ancient burial chambers in the lava tubes, which you could see were filled with rocks.  captain told us a person would be chosen to bury the fallen leader and would be dropped down the cliff with him and left to die, but it was a great honor because they would be reborn a king themselves.  

we saw spouts of water and dried up waterfalls.  it's a fairly dry island and really only fills up during flash floods but you can see the erosion caused by rain and how dramatic it is.  this island is melting back into the sea from wince she came.  there were 5 pillars that represented goddesses and they would canoe their women there because the water was supposedly good for fertility.  captain says the average Hawaiian family has 6 or 7 kids, so pretty sure it works, did any splash on us?  dear god i hope not.  i saw a school of flying fish for the first time.  i had the day before just finished reading The Old Man and the Sea for the first time in 20 years.  old Santiago had a lot to say about flying fish.

the waterspout is halfway to our next snorkel where we will have lunch.  we stop to take pictures with the splashing water as the backdrop then we are about to head out and the main engine won't start.  he tries what he knows and it won't start.  a fuse is blown, he replaces it, it trips immediately when he tries to start it.  this is an electrical issue.  is there any mechanic or electrician on the boat?  no. . . . ok, well we're just going to go at a very slow pace with the one small engine to our next desitnation and while we snorkel he'll figure it out, worst case senario we will take the ferry.  captain believes in being honest with us.  we cruise for a bit but it's really slow going.  captain decides to stop and try and fix it.  the sun is shining down on us sitting still and the boat only has a tiny bit of shade over the captain.  we're getting hot.  i jump in and relieve myself, even though my sister warned me that she's heard from several locals that peeing might draw sharks attention.  we start to get to know our new friends.  sports and weather are the safest conversation.  it's small talk.  

there is a yacht near by.  i see the 4 or 5 people on deck.  the scent of skunky dank weed wafts to us floating on our disabled raft.  i want to call to them. . . come take pity on us!  let us aboard.  let us cool off in your shade, splash fresh water on our faces.  have a toke of your herb.  listen to your sweet sweet music.  

the mechanic on the phone can't help.  we must make our way towards the ferry.  skipper lays out the lunch.  sandwiches, soda and pickles.  my boy and i share a sierra mist, oh it tastes like gold.  i didn't have much of an appetite for the meat sandwiches as i'm mostly vegetarian and the tuna made me want to barf.  i ate a bit of lettuce tomato sandwich and got another soda to share.  we all finished and still had a ways to go but civilization was in sight.  There was a huge yacht docked.  i can't remember who's it was but someone you've heard of.  it's a friend of Rupert Murdoch, who owns the island.  Murdoch's yacht has been docked here too recently captain tells us.

the captain's witty humor is featured again when he tells us we'll just go get ice cream up on that white shining beacon of a yacht ahead.  as we continue our arduous journey, i hear my son explain to his cousin that we are on the way to get ice cream on that white boat.  i tell him it was a just a joke.  he couldn't believe it.  ice cream is not a joking matter.  how could someone be so cruel?

a little history about Lana'i.  it used to be the #1 producer of pineapples in the entire world but some years ago the dole corporation sold the island to the Murdoch family.  they shut down the pineapple production and built a few very expensive resorts and golf course.  there is also a small native population that lives in the crater at the top of the island.  

puttering by the beaches of the resort i could see the tiny people enjoying the beach.  it felt a million miles away from where we were.  out of touch.  another time and space.  did they even see us?  what would they think?

on the other side of the rocks was a cove.  here was Rupert Murdoch’s yacht.  it was magnificent and beautiful.  There was also another yacht touring a group of snorkelers (i looked it up and it would have been 1/2 as much to take the yacht snorkel trip and there was booze on there!)   captain told us it was world class snorkeling.  he would work on the boat but worst-case scenario this is where the ferry comes from Maui.

the water was calm and clear.  both boys decided they wanted to come in the water.  my dude had a tough time with the salt water and didn't stay in long, but he tried and then cried.  i took him back to the boat and captain said we were just going to get on the ferry and the ferry was coming and if we didn't get on it we'd have to wait 2 hours.

my dad came back and said he'd stay with the boy so i jumped in.  it was so beautiful and clear and calm.  there were huge fish and a sea turtle.  i caught up with my family and i told them we needed to head back the ferry was coming.  we could have stayed there for at least an hour, it was so beautiful.  

it was surreal.  so beautiful, so rich, so magical and in the shadow of yacht and island of a pretty despicable man.  a Dali painting.  

everyone was really happy to get on dry land.  skipper was coming with us and they were paying for our ferry (since none of us had any of our belongings anyway, we wouldn't have been able to).  they would also arrange for us to have cabs to take us back to our cars and all our stuff that was locked in the truck.  most of the people waiting for the ferry were leaving the resort and a couple of locals.  while most of the resort goers went straight for the outdoor seating we went happily inside the main indoor deck.  we dropped our meager wet things and slumped into the seats.  the boys were asleep before we even left the dock.  

shortly into our journey back the boat veered to the left and the local woman sitting behind us said look! and pointed out the starboard side windows and a humpback jumped out of the water.  it was so close, we nearly had a run in with a whale.  it splashed back into his home.  the beautiful thing spouted a breath and i surrendered to sleep.  i dreamt immediately and spent the remainder of the time in the ether with one favorite people and some goats.  it was a very happy dream.

the ferry docked in Lahaina at Front Street, which we had just visited the night before.  there is a park in the town that holds the largest banyan tree in the United States.  it was planted in 1873 and it's canopy stretches over the entire acre of the park.  it is one tree that is 60 feet high with 16 trunks sprouting off the branches.  it's magical.  in the evening there is a cacophony of birds singing.  it's a joyful and beautiful sound.  

we got in the first cab, all wet and tired cruising through through the touristy town.  passing bubba gump's shrimp company, the hard rock cafe and chris ruth's steak house.  waylan's gallery, billabong store, the abc store and the sunglass hut.  

our adventure ended.  we were wobbly, tired, and sore.  we'd been knocked around since early in the morning and it was good to be heading home.  i ate and slept and grounded.  i started dreaming and wishing and planning what the rest of my trip will be like.  i have a week left here on the island.  

today i had breakfast with my family.  i found a magical little shop and got a few treasures.  i read a book i've wanted to read for years under a palm tree.  i went to a beach i've never been before and swam in the ocean with a boogie board, there weren’t many waves but gently being rocked was glorious.  i went to see anchorman 2 with my little sister and her man and laughed pretty hard and found a sexy new swimsuit that was 75% off.  

my hope to do list:  paint a picture, finish a book or 2, learn some lomi lomi, stand in a waterfall, shoot the rest of my roll of film, have a special adventure with my son, play some cribbage, make a new friend, and try to not set foot in chain stores.  oh and i get to go to Bill Mahr on the first so that's pretty exciting.   i will try and support local community as much as i can, i will try to be the change i want to see in the world.

it's been raining really hard off and on all night as i wrote this. . . now as i finish this, it's falling in buckets again. a really loud air raid siren sounds. there is nothing on the news i suspect it's a flash flood warning.  i wonder if the spirits of this island are trying to tell us something?  if nothing else, the torrential rain reminds me this island and experience are transient.  i must do my best to be conscious of intentions.  i will try and be present and enjoy these precious moments alive.

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