Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hawaii: A Brief, Hearing-impaired History

First of all, the Old Lahaina Luau was fabulous.  We would recommend it to anyone.

The guys came out and dug up a few pigs for us to eat.

And the rest of the food was awesome. 

The band was pretty good too.

And the Hula presentation was terrific, I think.
The problem, as my long-suffering family never hesitates to point out, is that decades of playing loud rock and roll, with my left ear facing an amp that goes to eleven, has left me unable to accurately keep track of any conversation or important information happening on that side of my face.
As luck would have it, that was the ear that was facing the main speaker, as the Old Lahaina dancers gamely attempted to educate this old, deaf guy on the history and culture of Hawaii, as told through the ancient art of the Hula.

Let the reader understand, the performers were exceptional.  Any misinterpretation of what they were depicting rests entirely on me.
Here then, is my Hearing-impaired history of Hawaii, to the best of my ability to decipher:

It all started, I think, when a Volcano-type Goddess made a whole lotta rumbling.  A lot of this involved coconut shells and grass covering the swimsuit areas.
Later, another Volcano Goddess would fall in love with a human, Polynesian prince.  Her younger sister, however was not too happy about this, and tossed the prince into a volcano.  Major shenanigans ensued.
But then the two sisters made up, so everything is all right now, except that the prince is a briquette.
Later, the Missionaries would come.  Not much changed, except the Hula was outlawed, and everyone wore a lot more clothing.
In 1874, King David Kalakaua would bring back the Hula, so everyone was pretty happy.
In the 1920’s the tourist trade really began to pick up, and everyone switched to evening gowns.
Now, we book the Luau online, eat a lot, applaud loudly, and must not forget to tip our hardworking servers. (Seriously, our guy, J.P. was fantastic.  He even found my sunglasses after I left them there.  Saved me $12.95 at the ABC store the next day.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"If Everybody had an Ocean..."

“Hey!”  The Colonel woke the Blond at 4:30 am.  “This has been a super-relaxing vacation so far, right?”

She looked at him with the same suspicion she usually reserves for phone solicitors and kiosk-based skin care products salesmen.
“Yeah…” she said, warily.
“Well, what do you say we start the day doing something incredibly strenuous in the hot, humid air, and then end the afternoon doing something completely dangerous, stupid, and non-age-appropriate?”
“Yes to the first,” She responded.  “As far as the second, you’re on your own.”
“Cool!” I said, undeterred.  “Let’s go hike to the top of Diamondhead!”

A quick bus ride later and we were plodding up the long, sloping approach path to state park’s entrance.  We paid our two dollars, ignored all warning signs (NOT for people with Heart Problems!  This is HARD!  Seriously, you WILL DIE!) and started up the concrete path.
“Man, what a beautiful day!” I enthused, trying not to notice the walking, gasping corpses passing us on their way back down.  “A nice gradual path, sun shining, we’ve got water, strong legs, and a can-do attitude.  Let’s do this thing!”
Gradually, the path became steeper, and steeper, and steeper. He weather got hotter, and more and more humid.  The concrete path gave way to uneven dirt, which soon gave way to steep, barren rock.  Beginning to sweat, we leaned, just for a moment, on a rail to catch our breath.

“Don’t worry,” groaned a descending victim.  “It gets worse.”
It did.  Much worse.
Soon we began to feel very much like Sam and Frodo at Cirith Ungol.  Our inner Gollum led up further. Switchback after switchback disappeared beneath us until we turned a corner and  beheld, before us, taunting us, a steep staircase, about 5,280 steps in all.

“Up, up, up the stairs…” Gollum chanted.

“And then…into…the tunnel.” He breathed.
Now carrying one of my lungs in my cargo pants pocket, I hoped the worst was over.  The blond wasn’t doing much better.  Near the end of the tunnel, She turned the corner ahead of me.
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!”
There it was, another staircase, twice as steep, and trice as long as the previous.  I didn’t have the strength left to snap a picture.
Younger, better conditioned hikers were assisting, pressing on our buttocks, pushing upward, ever upward from behind.  I distinctly heard one mutter, “Geez, eat a salad once in while, man.”
One final, spiral staircase (Yes, there was actually one more) and we were at the top.  The view was probably worth it, I think.  I couldn’t really tell through the sweat in my eyes.  Also, I think my heart had stopped.

Staggering back down the crater path, we encountered a slightly winded looking couple, leaning on the rail at the half-way point.
“Don’t worry,” we said.  “It gets worse.”

That should have done it for the day.  Any sane person would have gone back to the beach and simply crashed there until local enforcement was compelled to scoop them up like so much leftover trash.  That is, in fact, pretty much what the Blond did.
But not the Moron.
Still catching his breath from the morning climb, he managed to find enough wind to put together the following words. “I think I’m going to rent a surfboard.”
The Blond looked at him over the top of her sunglasses. “Yeah, you go ahead and do that,” she said.  “Enjoy the afterlife.”
Easing over to the Rental Tent, I nudged in between all the young, buff, tanned bodies to speak with the proprietor.

“Fifteen dollars for the first hour.” He regarded me warily.  “We also offer lessons. Forty dollars for a semi-private lesson, and $100 for the advanced class if you really want to go deeper.”
“Look at me,” I replied. “Do I look like a guy who wants to go deeper?”
“Fifteen bucks,” he said. “Hey, Duke! Get this guy a long board.”
Here’s what you need to know.  “Long board” is code.  While the youngsters next to me had these sleek, narrow, hot-rod boards, I was given a 15-foot long, 3 foot wide Styrofoam monstrosity.  I could have built a house on it.  The bright red, stenciled “Beginner” painted across it could be seen from outer space.

After an intense safety orientation, (“Here’s your surfboard.”) I tucked it under my arm and headed out.

Except, it was so wide that I literally could not get it tucked under my arm, making me appear quite awkward as I dragged it into the surf, fighting the wind, and banging annoyed sunbathers on the head.
Then the fun began.  And by fun, of course, I mean torture.
If I had been live-tweeting the experience, it would have gone something like this:

“Oh.  Here comes a wave.  I’m supposed to paddle through it.”
“Arrgh.  Next time, close your mouth, idiot.  I wonder if it’s healthy to swallow that much salt water?”
“Here comes another wave.”

“No!  The mouth!  Close your stupid mouth!  You are not Michael Jordan.”
“OK, keep paddling.  Paddle, paddle, paddle.  You can do this.”
“Why is everyone else getting out there so much faster than me?”
“My surfboard hates me.”

This is true.  It was so wide, my arms were rubbing on the sides as I tried to paddle.  Painful.  Very painful.
“OK, I’m finally out here.  Now I’m supposed to turn around, and apparently “Catch a wave.”  Thanks, YouTube.”
“Here one comes.  They looked much smaller from shore.”
“Am I supposed to be upside down?  This can’t be right.”
“I’m sure my surfboard hates me.”
“How can I be this close to shore already?  I haven’t done anything, yet.  Now, I have to paddle out again. I despise paddling out.”
Brian Wilson is a liar.  He lied to all of us.”
“This sucks.”

(Hours later…)

“OK, here comes another wave.  Get in the white stuff.  Paddle hard.”
“Hey I’m moving!  Now I’m supposed to leap to my feet.  Man, I hate doing burpies.”
“Wow!  I’m up!  Hey!  Where did the wave go?”
“These rocks are sharp.”

After returning the devil-board, (Rental Dude: “How was it?” Me: “Gurgle…gasp…grunt.”) I flopped down next to the Blond.  I rolled on to my back and she tossed a hat over my eyes.
Beginning to lose consciousness, I asked her one final question.
“Is the ocean still there?”
“Yeah,” she said.  “Why?”
“I thought I drank it.”

Up next: A brief history of Hawaii, as heard by a slightly deaf guy at a Luau.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Yesterday, the not-actually-a-colonel fullfilled a lifelong dream.

He and the Blond visited Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial.

The USS Stennis, a Nimitz-class supercarrier, was also in port, directly across from the memorial. I cannot begin to describe how awesome one of those vessels is when viewed up close.

But the ship itself was secondary to what we witnessed from her crew this sunny, Sunday morning.

As we ferried across the bay, we looked up at the deck of this incredible, imposing warship.

Every available space around the rail was occupied by a sailor, standing at attention, paying respect to the fallen heroes who had gone before them.

We will never forget the sight, or the feelings that it stirred within us.

As we entered the memorial, we noticed a man, still gazing across the bay at the carrier, perhaps looking even more moved than the rest of us. He looked at me.

"I didn't expect them to be in port today," he said, "They weren't due in until tomorrow."

Then he explained. "My son is on that ship."

"Really! What's his name? What does he do?"

"Travis Lang. Ops Specialist. He's in the tower right now."

The man explained how special it was that the day he visited the memorial, his son, of whom he was so proud, was right there as well."

After thanking the man for his family's service, shooting a quick pic, and exchanging a few more pleasantries, we felt it was time to move on in the memorial.

"Have a good day," we said.

"It already has been." The soft tears in his eyes said it all.

Later, we had the privilege of meeting Everett Hyland, US Navy ret. Mr. Hyland was a radioman, 3rd class, stationed on the USS Pennsylvania, on December 7, 1941. He was on the deck of the drydocked ship, working on an antenna when the bombing commenced. He was severely wounded, and spent nine months in the hospital. (He has since had dinner with the Japanese pilot who dropped the bomb that wounded him. Everett's hat has a small pin depicting the American and Japanese flags intertwined. "He was just a young man doing his job," Hyland says.)

From the beautiful Sunday weather, not so unlike that fateful Sunday morning over 71 years ago, through the spectacular sight of a Hornet-laden supercarrier with 6000 service men and women paying their respects, to the opportunity to simply reflect on the enormity of sacrifice, and the actual, non-sanitized horrors of war, it was a humbling, transformative, and completely inspiring day.  As the Audio tour concluded, and Taps played solemnly through the headphones, the Colonel-in-pen-name-only stood, looking one final time across the blue-green waters of Pearl Harbor.  Uncharacteristically, he had nothing to say.  He shed a tear, kept quiet, and paid his respects.

No jokes today, friends. Just solemn contemplation, remembrance, and heartfelt appreciation.

Next Post: The Colonel attempts to SURF!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Agriculture! Who’d a thunk it?

Lesson #1 about Hawaii:

As a state, they don’t take too highly to the introduction of non-indigenes plant or animal life.
We found this out on the plane, when the stewardess (Flight Attendant?)  happily  announced, “And now it’s time to fill out your Agricultural Releases!  Just remember," She gushed,  "If you bring any Animals, Fruits, or Vegetables into Hawaii, it’s a $25,000 fine!” (This is true.)

“Uh-oh,” the blond said, gazing forlornly at the bucket of Raspberries and Blueberries we had brought on the plane, in a vain attempt to pretend we were eating “Healthy” on this trip.
“What should we do?”  The Colonel wondered.  “Should we try to eat them all before the plane lands?”
Big mistake.
“I know!” I effused.  “I can take them to the Lav facility and flush them!  If urban myths are true, the heathy snacks will end up spewed across the Pacific, rather than incriminating us in a scandal that would forever be known as ‘Berrygate.”
It ended up being nothing quite so dramatic.  The Stewardess came around with a trash bag.
“Hey. Can I throw these away?” I asked.
“Sure.” She said.
Another minor crisis averted.