In the dense jungle of the farm, where it rained without warning and was often overcast, an introspective state was not hard to find. For my part, being so jetlagged, stunned and confronted with so many "deep" things to think about, I often found it hard to even form complete sentences on the farm. Preferring to think rather than say.
Getting in our rental car and firing up a CD was an instant I will never forget. As the bassline from "Once In a Lifetime" slammed through the speakers of our Nissan Micro Machine, I felt things get stirred in me that I had willfully denied for a week that felt like a year. Have you ever denied yourself something like music for an entire week? Give it a shot, like a near death experience it sucks at first, but everything just seems that much sweeter on the other side.
So it was Talking Heads, Four Tet, Hendrix, Battles, Atmosphere, and CAN on a mix CD I made for a trip around the Big Island. It was me, Michelle, and "The Boys" from Boston. We were going to cruise around the East side of the island, stop in Waipio Valley on Maha's recommendation, drop The Boys off at their new farm in Waimea, and head on to the Kona side/Tourist Trap side of the island to sleep on a beach.
The East side of the Island is the rainy side. Its unbelievably lush and beautiful but rains constantly. We followed the two lane highway along the coast:
Dropping the boys off in Waimea, which is the midway point between rainy Hilo and sunnny Kona. Waimea was a mix of the two climates, bright sun through a thick sheet of obnoxious mist rain that soaked everything. Their farm contact, a tanned older lady with a youthful face in a beat down farm truck invited us to follow them to a quiet beach a few miles away. Craving sun, we followed. It got drier:
And the change was astonishing. The music got louder as the sun got hotter in the sky, we were whooping and stripping off layers of clothes, exposing goofy farmers tans, spastic rushes of Vitamin D nearly running us off the road. Sigur Ros - "Gobbledigook" was playing, and it was the perfect soundtrack for our idiotic and maniacal rental car sun worship.
Then we hit the beach and lost it. Funny that we went from ass-freezing coldness in Philly to rainy and only occasionally hot weather on the farm. To us, the beach was the Big Rock Candy Mountain.
Non-Ironic Joy Brought to you by the sun, sand and stray dogs.
After a killer beach shower - truly the greatest things known to man...I think I'm going to start a religion around them myself. A huge beach retreat with extra salty water. We'll make you swim for hours, pour sand down your crack, cover you in greasy off-brand suntan lotion, and make you take a 3 hour nap. After a full day of that, we'll allow as much time in a frigid beach shower as you can stand. You will find God there. I promise.
Anyway, after a killer beach shower we parted ways with the boys (they contacted me later as they got high in their new Tree House accommodations) we settled into our new campsite on Spencer Beach. We didn't have tents...just sleeping bags, so we rolled into town bought foam mats and tarps and created the most bootleg campsite ever. It worked out but I don't think I slept more than an hour without waking up.
Also that night, night photography!
In the morning we packed our bags, dropped the car at the airport and hitched a ride (on a renegade rental car shuttle) into Kailua-Kona to check in to our Hostel. Hostels can be shady and full of eager Irish Transvestites (Ogre, you know...you know.) but this one was gorgeous. We got our own room for cheap with a huge deck, a hammock, and no matter where you went in the hostel you could hear awesome Reggae music.
Kailua-Kona is the type of place my parents love to visit. Pretty, small, with a "main drag" full of T-Shirt shops and cutesy souvenir boutiques. Is it age that drives us to these types of places? I used to give my parents immense amounts of shit for not seeing any "culture" (whatever that is) in the places they would visit, for staying safe in their gated resorts, avoiding contact with the real grit of whatever exotic place they were visiting. Then again, maybe when you get old, its nice to throw on a straw hat, oil up, lay back, and get your glisten on while one of the natives brings you overpriced fruity drinks from a swim up bar. That could be awesome too. I'm not going to judge anymore.
Kailua-Kona had some nice beaches and some nice snorkeling, but a strange nightlife. We didn't find our "niche" until we discovered Sam's Hideaway. A dirty country bar with tinted windows where you could smoke. I don't smoke, but I'm comforted now by a bar where its allowed. I think the "awesome" in a shitty bar gets more time to build up and steep if its patrons aren't forced to go outside every 10 minutes. We got in, grabbed a place at the bar, and settled down to 2 dollar beers and cheap rail drinks. Amazing. I felt like it was summer in Wisconsin.
Everyone who sang Karaoke sang country, and everyone was fat as hell. I went over to request the only country song I could ever dream of singing, "Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard. Once I got to the Karaoke booth, I was floored by what I saw. Not only did they have huge, separate, entire tomes of song listings marked "Country", "Pop", "Rock", they had this massive contraption that looked like a cross between one of the first ever computers and "The Mangler". It was the size of a butcher's freezer, covered in huge whirring slots, stacked next to each other. I inspected the machine uninterrupted until a withered sea hag broke free from the figurehead on the bar, belching fire and GPC smoke, and lurched forth clutching a massive steel disc, most surely designed to cut my head off for examining her Doomsday device.
"Excuse me", she growled, pushing past me with the disc. That's when I realized, the Karaoke Machine ran on fucking LASER DISCS. Thousands of them. It was insane. I wondered if she had the Directors Cut of "Who's Harry Crumb?" in there, but then I realized, NO! These were not movies, they were all SONGS, with corresponding, shittily made music videos that only loosely depicted the action of the song. It was the most un-economical system for anything known to man. They actually employed actors and actresses to play out the lyrics to awful country songs that will only ever get seen or heard in a shitty, smoky bar in Hawaii. Amazing. Revelatory.
My massive disc went in, I sang my song, and no one stabbed me. Total success. We were having a good time until a loud cackling erupted to Michelle's left. A pretty blonde girl, chain smoking alone, had decided to make small talk with us. She seemed nice enough at first, but the more she talked we realized that she was an extremely sped up and chatty Lady of the Night. She was friendly and all, but by the fourth time she repeated the question, "So, you like Hawaii?", we were a little weirded out. We ignored her, so she started chatting up a blackout drunk with leather skin and surfer tats. He was about to hit some guy. I think it was his best friend. Finished our drinks and got out without so much as a scratch. Best bar ever.
In the morning, we got a ride to the airport from an old friend of my Father's who lived in the area. Jumped on a plane to Oahu, landed in Honolulu and picked up our extremely cheap rental car. We had a hostel booked on the North Shore and we were looking forward to the drive up.
On our way through Kailua (cities in Hawaii often have the same names as cities on other islands) on the East Side. We stopped at a used CD store and picked up some drivin' music. I bought:
Jeff Buckley - "Grace"
Tom Waits - "Franks Wild Years"
Boards of Canada - "Music Has The Right to Children"
I don't know what I was thinking. I should have just loaded up on awesome funk and soul records. Not that those albums aren't all amazing, but they make poor soundtracks for a drive up the coast of Oahu. The Boards album is great, but weirder than you remember, and more suited to headphones than a car stereo, where the vocal samples of "I. Love. You." just end up all shrill and annoying and repetitive. The Buckley album is something I really need to hear, but its a bit more dense, and needs a night in with the lyrics before I will be comfortable with it. The Waits album is another problem - its bizarre as hell, and with it playing as night fell, it completely freaked us out. It felt like we were always about to be hit by a speeding train full of junkie German Cabaret players lost on their way to die in the Dresden firebombing. "Train Song" is lovely though, but it was too late in the album to save us.
By the time we got near our hostel, we had been driving around lost for an hour and everything felt like that creepy scene in Apocalypse Now where they get to that outpost and everyone there has gone completely mad fighting to save a bridge that has already burned to cinders...fucking Heart of Darkness...it was the Waits, I'm serious. We got into the Hostel, where it reeked of piss, cigarettes, and dried spilled beer. Figures moved in the shadows and responded to our greetings with blank stares or just stoned ramblings in a different language. We had two beds booked, but found that they were in separate rooms. We found the "less filthy" of the two beds and threw our stuff down. A nightstand covered in ashtrays and empty beer bottles. A towel that had been on the bathroom floor for weeks.
We left the hostel and hit up a little coffee shop down the road that had a really bad band covering Neil Young and Tom Petty. Surfers everywhere. The North Shore of Oahu is surfer Mecca. Everyone there either is a surfer or looks like one. Still weirded out, we went back to the hostel, drank some beers on the couch and watched Happy Gilmore with two slightly confrontational (again, was probably just the Waits) guys from Jersey.
After a few hours of terrible sleep, we checked out of the Hostel as early as possible, stole all the beer we could carry, and jumped into our Chevy Micro Machine to check out a crazy waterfall we had read about down the road. The waterfall was pretty great, with 60 degree water that instantly clamps your muscles with cold and fatigue and shock. We still swam it, but I'm out of shape so it was unbelievably difficult but still invigorating.
We found new lodging 10 miles down the road on a secluded beach in a little grass shack. 40 bucks a night (60 at the Hostel) with our own shack and our own private beach. Amazing. We made fires at night, roasted s'mores and did some pretty nice long exposure stuff on the beach.
One of the cabins burnt down while we were there.
The remainder of our time was easy. We would lay on the beach all day, run into the water only to get our asses handed to us by the pro-surfer-caliber waves, lay on the beach some more, shower in the beach showers like vagrants, throw on some clean clothes, deodorant, and drive into a cool little town 5 miles away to get dinner.
As we packed on our last morning and headed to the airport I thought about how our life that week wasn't riddled with significance and introspective discoveries. Such things were present, but not as they were on the farm. This was a good thing. It was like the old trick my cousin and I would pull when we rented movies as kids: Watch the horror movie first, then the comedy. You get yourself freaked out, then you laugh your ass off and relax. That's what we did with our trip...OK the farm wasn't in the slightest bit horrific, but it was as necessary as the second half of our trip and wouldn't seem nearly as great without it, and vice versa.
So that's it. I'm sure there is a TON I'm leaving out but to be honest, I don't feel like writing anymore. After an experience like this, I'd rather just enjoy the positive effects it has had on my life as opposed to yammering about them all day long in a blog post. I learned a lot, and I had a blast. If you've made it this far, thanks for listening.
The only nugget of truth that I want to impart is just for travelers in general. Keep an open mind. Easy to say, but hard to do. OK, done lesson-ing. Have a good'n.