I was teenager the last time that I left the State of Hawai`i. My family and I went to Disneyland in California, which–as numerous people told me–is not actually the Mainland. That was 15 years ago.
When I got a chance to fly to San Francisco for a newspaper conference, I snatched it up. Then I spent the next few months cursing myself. In my mind, there were just too many things that could go wrong in someplace so big.
Now I’m back. While nothing obviously life-threatening occurred (a slight let down, actually), I did have a few interesting experiences involving drunken limo drivers, Viking hats, copious amounts of wine, stripper poles, crazy people and, of course, Holoholo Girl.
8:35 a.m. Riding shotgun on my way to Kahului Airport, I try to clean up my mascara induced “raccoon eyes” that have resulted from my third teary meltdown of the morning. My husband–whom I suspect can’t wait to drop me off–says I’ll survive.
9:15 One of my best friends is an Agricultural Inspection officer, so I hang out in her office while I wait for my plane. We chat with her co-worker, who asks if I’m really just as crazy as I sound in my column.
2:55 p.m. I’m flying on Hawaiian Airlines, and even though I’m actively trying not to have a full-blown panic attack, I’ll admit the plane is big and comfy. Big meaning two-three-two seating. Music by John Cruz plays as people take their seats, so I shut my eyes and re-walk the path he and I took when we hung out in Makawao Town a few months ago. I’m relaxed in no time.
4:30 I had no idea that Hali‘imaile General Store’s Chef Bev Gannon is involved with the food on Hawaiian Airlines. I chose chicken in some type of lemongrass sauce with wild rice and veggies. It’s quite scrumptious.
6 Okay, I’m over it. Flying sucks donkey balls.
9:45 (All times PST now) I leave baggage claim at SFO and stand on the curb. It’s really cold. I relish in it for a while, trying to feel “mainland” air. Enough of that. Where’s my damn coat?
7 a.m. I scoot out of bed and try to forget that it’s 5 a.m. back home. My bosses Jen and Tommy Russo–whom I’m shacked up with at Hotel Kabuki in Japan Town–are getting ready for their web conference. My reporting conference doesn’t start until 2 p.m., leaving the morning for sightseeing. I’m nervous about catching the bus—the last time I did so was in the 90’s on Oahu.
7:15 Concerned that coffee does not seem to be a popular beverage in Japan Town.
8:45 Somehow I succeed in catching a bus that will (hopefully) get me to Golden Gate Park. We pass a ton of cool old buildings, but I find it strange and a little unnerving that on one block you can be in a pretty mellow looking area and the next is rundown and grubby.
9 Waiting for the next bus, I talk with a non-psychotic looking redhead who looks about my age. She tells me San Francisco is actually really small. I disagree, saying it’s positively ginormous. I can’t believe it when she says that one of her best friends went to Seabury Hall. She can’t believe it when I tell her that this is my first “grown-up” mainland trip. When I fail to properly request a stop, she bullies the driver for me.
9:15 Golden Gate Park is not a park, but a town like Kahului. It’s a lot greener and prettier, but why did no one tell me this?
9:45 Because my mother told me to “stay off secluded walking trails unless you want to die,” I stick to the main park walkway. Parents are running with baby joggers as people walk their dogs. There are huge flower gardens, statues and gently rolling hills. Just like in the movies.
10:15 I walk to Haight Street. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it’s a little scary. I whisper, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto” to the imaginary Foo Dogs that I envision are protecting me from street people, buskers, bad guys, cracked out hippies and aggravated poets. Not that I’m sure that these are really the type of people that I’m currently observing on the dirty, shop lined streets, but it’s how I immediately label them in my mind. Even though I’ve made a point to keep my map tucked into my jeans, I’m pretty sure they all identify me as a clueless tourist.
10:30 I dive into the Peace Café in the Red Victorian B&B. The Red Vic was built in 1904 and looks it. According to a brochure, The Summer of Love happened here in 1967. I envision a lot of VD. I order some coffee (organic) and a peanut butter, banana and Nutella crepe. All of the tables have cards on them that say things like, “Sit here if you like to talk about world peace” or some other zany bullshit. I look for one that says, “Sit here if you don’t want to talk” but don’t find any. I give in and sit next to a girl working on her laptop. After scraping most of the good stuff out of my huge crepe, I head to the restroom. It’s covered in graffiti. I write “Mauitime.com Rocks!” next to the tag from some person from India and walk out feeling very guilty.
11 Laptop chick asks if she can finish my crepe because she doesn’t like to see food go to waste.
5 p.m. Conference time. One female reporter praises my outfit (coat, jeans, boots). I tell her that I’m from Maui. “Oh my God!” she says. “I worked with Tony [Pignataro] at OC Weekly. Rebecca Schoenkopf. Are you Sam [Campos]?!”
5:01 I slump.
5:02 I tell Rebecca that I took Sam’s place when she moved to California and that I have my own column called “Restless Native.” But, I add, Sam is here at the conference.
5:03 After some small talk, she excuses herself.
5:04 I start drinking wine.
6:30 After three glasses, I’m hammered. What can I say? I’m a non-drinker. Anyway, I attempt to mingle. I end up talking to Advice Goddess Amy Alkon. She tells me blowjobs are critical to a happy relationship. Like I didn’t already know that.
6:45 I find Sam in the courtyard of the Unitarian Church that’s hosting the conference. We briefly chat with a couple men about proper urinal etiquette, then excuse ourselves. I tell her that her fans are hostile. She tells me that it’s actually good to see me. We laugh and get teary. I remember how beautiful she is and wonder how she always keeps her lipstick on. Bitch.
7:30 Sam and I are so deep in conversation that we don’t realize that the place has completely cleared out. Someone tells us politely that we need to leave. Immediately.
10:30 Jen, Tommy, Sam and I go to the bar Lucky 13. I stopped drinking three hours ago, but Jen–looking mighty fine and rather dangerous in a Viking hat with horns–and Sam are both going strong.
10:45 Dear Lord! Is that a stripper pole on top of the bar? The group twists my arm so I scramble up onto the bar, do a couple spins and then get upside down. The crowd goes wild, even though I didn’t knock any poor guy’s teeth out.
7:25 a.m. The alarm goes off and I tentatively crack an eyelid open. No hangover!
9:05 Jen and I arrive at the Unitarian church for our conferences. I have never walked this much, or been this cold, in my life.
1 p.m. Jen, Sam and I catch a bus to Union Square, which turns out to look like how I imagined New York. Macy’s is 10 stories tall and half as wide as the Ka‘ahumanu Center. We don’t have time to shop, so we eat our boxed lunches in the rain.
1:10 Jen feeds some birds while Sam and I cringe. Even the pigeons are giants here!
6 p.m. Exhausted, I ask if I can skip the closing ceremonies cocktail party at a club called The Element. It’s near Polk Street, which according to Sam is a great place to pick up hookers and crack. Tommy says going to the party is “mandatory.”
7 I’m glad Tommy made me go. If I played hookey I would have missed the Burlesque show. As I watch these tatted, normal-bodied women dance and strip, I realize that I may have missed my true calling.
8:30 Tommy tries and fails to hail a cab to take Jen and I to, as he put it, “see the strip clubs” (not “go to”—just “see”). Moments later a beautiful black stretch limo pulls up, and he grins and tells us to get in. This is apparently how we roll at Maui Time.
8:31 Become convinced that our driver, an Italian named Luigi, is a homicidal maniac. He questions our sexual orientation, pervs out on Asian chicks, then starts exclaiming, “Oh my God, I’m so drunk.” I become seriously afraid that the divider window will suddenly roll up and noxious gases will start pumping into the backseat. We pass the strip clubs, but I’m too concerned about Luigi to pay much attention. If something goes down, I decide to bludgeon him with one of Jen’s stiletto heels.
9:15 Through the grace of God—or my Foo Dogs—Luigi lets us live and returns us to the hotel. Our flight home leaves first thing in the morning. When I get in bed, I close my eyes and try to visualize the millions of square miles of land and hundreds of millions of people that surround me. Right before I fall asleep, I realize that isolation isn’t about living on a tiny island surrounded by the ocean, but being just another small individual wedged in a large sea of people. MTW