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.


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