Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Retelling, Part 2

Day 2

              What “awaited” me, turned out to be more ‘not sleep’. How’s that for an anticlimax? Anyway, it was”too early for life” when I was rather rudely awakened by a voice. I don’t remember the details very well, but I think the exchange went a little something like this:
“Why isn’t John up yet?!?”
“Seriously, it’s time to get up, the flight leaves at 7:35.”
“I’ll bring in the leftover chicken wings from yesterday. Get up.”
“. . .Garlic?”
            They weren’t garlic. Neither the “spicy”, nor the “parmesan” variety. Those had been devoured first, as is all too often the case. There were, however, some of the Caribbean Jerk flavor, which ended up being an ample surrogate. I’m gushing, because I think I’m a little upset about how easy it is to buy my cooperation. No matter what the means, the end was that I was up, and, in a flash of what can be described as Stockholm Syndrome-esque irony, was ready to go long before any of my female compatriots from down the hall were. It’s hard to be mad at someone who’s just bribed you out of bed with chicken wings, though. Even I don’t quite understand the implications of that last sentence.
            Except for getting lost like the bunch of small-city hicks we tried to appear distant from, the trip to the airport was relatively uneventful. I say lost, though, really, what we did was drive in circles for half an hour, looking for a place that would fulfill our commitment to return the rental car we had been using. So, I guess it wasn’t that uneventful after all. My apologies, I’ll try to get these things straight before writing them from now on. On second thought, I shouldn’t make promises I don’t even intend to keep.
            We arrived at the airport just in time to wait for a few hours. Our flight, which was supposed to leave at 7:35, ended up being delayed until 8:40, if my memory serves me. It was more than an hour at any rate. We ate a ”real” breakfast in the terminal while waiting. It was forgettable with a single exception. One, out of the rather impressive selection of restaurants, sold something called a “pork bun”. It wasn’t forgettable solely by virtue of its name. In application, it was disappointing, though supremely self-descriptive. If you hadn’t picked this up yet, this account is going to be about food at least 50% of the time.
            Disappointing was also a word which could be used to describe the flight, once were finally permitted to board. It was, without a doubt, one of the most uncomfortable 5.5 hours my life. Not for the obvious reason, necessarily, such as poor seating, but rather the smell. You see, I believe that someone in our vicinity had apparently eaten several tubs of kidney beans, about 2 pounds of broccoli, and an entire turkey to round out the pre-flight meal. That is the only explanation for the sheer amount of methane gas he or she was excreting. My nose begged for mercy and my eyes watered incessantly. I was also astounded by the amount of traffic down the center aisle of that moderate-sized aircraft. I suspect there was some sort of party in the back of the plane that I had not been invited to. Having been deposited in the aisle seat, I was constantly obliged to move out of these passers by’s way.
            Sweet relief finally came when we touched down at Lihue International Airport, Kauai. The cold weather had been left behind, as had the pungent odors of the airplane’s cabin. Replacing them, were, sunny warm air, and the smells of exotic flowers. Accompanying them, to my complete surprise, came an armada of chickens. This is not hyperbole, and I’m not exaggerating in any way. There are chickens everywhere.
            As soon as we got moving along, baggage stowed, rental car…rented, we made a trip to Costco. The chickens were there too, it wasn’t a fluke. We sat and ate hotdogs in the outdoor food court, and watched the males of the species chase the obligatory pigeons around the parking lot. It was like witnessing a primitive avian race war. At that point, my entire Hawaiian experience had been rather surreal. I would have been happy if the trip to Costco had been the entire extent of the trip. Of course, this was before I knew of the joys Hawaii could bring. We were staying in a condo, the classification of what made it so still elude me, so groceries were needed. As always, the shopping trip took too long, but we did score some liquor and coffee. Woohoo!
            The drive to the condo, which was literally on the other side of the island, took a little over an hour. The day already seemed like an eternity, since gaining 3 hours on the trip. After settling in, and getting some air flowing through place, (it felt like a sauna (okay, I actually don’t know what a sauna feels like)) we took a walk down to the beach about a quarter mile away. After a walk down a treacherous, muddy hill, through terrain that looked like it belonged in a Jurassic Park movie, we emerged suddenly, wide-eyed, on a white, sandy beach, like a family of bewildered mole-people looking at a sunrise for the first time. In all seriousness, it was a unique experience, and one I am glad I had. Though, I could have lived without seeing what appeared to be some variety of shirtless, beach-dwelling hobo, sitting in a tide pool, playing his out-of-tune ukulele. His lifestyle was…oddly enviable though, because you could easily imagine that the activities we viewed him engaging in, were the ones which he engaged in primarily. We left the beach, regrettably not to return throughout the duration of our stay, and labored up the hill until we finally stood atop it, breathless but absurdly victorious, like a group of out-of-shape Stay Puft marshmallow men, with skin-tone to match.
            When we got back to the condo, I made a distressing discovery: the power supply for my laptop was nowhere to be found. I surmised that it must have been left in the Best Western back in Oakland. With no hope of obtaining another until the trip was over, most of the family huddled around it, witnessing its dying moments, like bums gathered around a fire in a trash-can. Its resilient battery put up an inspiring struggle, but it eventually succumbed to the inevitable. Time of death: 8:05 P.M.
            I was sharing a room with Lead Quail’s fiancé. It had…interesting décor, and a pair of children’s beds. Both of them would have likely been big enough for one of us, but at this point, after having been awake for at least 17 hours, I went right to sleep to the melodious sound of night insects and wind blowing through the palm trees.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Retelling, Part 1

As some of you know, (and most of you don’t) my family and I recently took a trip to Hawaii's  Little Island of Kauai. Herein, I shall detail for you, (in detail) the trip from my perspective. Having described this point of view to others on the trip, it has become clear that through my own doing, I took a radically different trip than the rest of my family did, despite the unquestionable fact that I was present with at least one of them for approaching 100% of the time. We’re going to take this day by day. These are the highlights and lowlifes according to me. “You had to be there,” is no longer adequate. “You had to be there, and be me” is now necessary, and since none of you are, you’ll have to settle for living vicariously through my oddly-tilted recount.
Day 1
           Our flight left from Oakland the next day. That meant that on this day, we had to drive there. Concerns over what had been packed had not abated in the two or so hours we had been in the car. This was pointless, though. The rented mini-van would have likely thrown a fit and refused to move had one more ounce been placed inside its surprisingly spacious cabin. The rear hatch had been “secured”, of course, but that meant little when paranoia and tensions were running as high as they were.
John, where did you put your bag?” someone higher along the vehicles food chain had asked.
My bag? What bag?” I answered with mock anxiety. Obviously, if you don’t respond with some measure of sarcasm to everything that is said to or about you, you lose.
It’s in the back, you know, where all of the other ones are?"
"Whatever, did you make sure you packed your swim trunks?"
"I needed swim trunks?"
Let’s just say I’ll be wearing alternative swimwear for the rest of the week…”
This, that is, alternative swimwear, was one of the many themes for the trip. If I had a nickel for every time it was brought up both in and out of context, I’d probably invest it all in a cheap sandwich. Substitute at least one person involved, and the topic, and you have approximately 85% of the conversation which involved me while on that car trip. How’s that for purposely vague?
As you might guess, and as is the case with all good road trips in my opinion, this trip was punctuated, offset by commas, if you will, by a trip to Buffalo Wild Wings. This was, without a doubt, the first real highlight of the whole trip. As soon as the sign was spotted, the car, heedless of the driver’s intent brought us to a careening halt several rows back from the entrance. It was fate. The driver, my sister, (henceforth to be referred to as “Lead Quail”, or just “LQ”) claimed she was aiming for the Red Robin next door. I wasn’t sure what was meant by that, but I let it slide, and everyone, after a short, albeit obligatory moment of contention between the restaurants, entered the Glass Gates to Chicken Paradise. I remember very little of that meal, other than the sensation that my taste buds, and stomach lining were being overwhelmed. I think, in my fowl hubris, I must have devoured an entire barnyard’s worth of boneless chicken wings. I regret nothing.
After having my primal chicken-flesh lust was sated, the rest of the car trip went by in a relative haze. That may have also been a direct result of the tryptophan (yes, it’s in chicken too). I’ve never heard of an over-dose, but based on this experience, I think it’s possible. We arrived in Oakland at…a time. The sun had set, the rains had come, and I’m starting to sound like a 70’s pop ballad.
The Best Western we were staying at had “nothing but the best”. The best 8-foot concrete walls, the best razor-wire hedges, and definitely the best sharpened metal stakes protruding at odd angles from the top of said wall. It was certainly a scene which inspired the utmost confidence in one’s personal safety. One wrong turn, and you could end up somewhere else, and that, judging from impression the fortifications gave, was not something you’d want.
I went to sleep in a rather stuffy, improbably over-crowded room, considering I was only sharing it with two other people, my dad, who had also shared the back seat of the van with me all the way over the hill, and the Lead Quail’s fiancé. He didn’t have a nickname. I’m playing fast and loose with the word “sleep”, here. In fact, I did very little of it. Mostly, I sat awake wondering if I would ever be able to breathe normally again. If I had only known what had awaited me…