It’s Never Sunny in Seattle

At least that’s what I’ve heard. So when my plane pulled into the terminal last night amidst a huge torrent of rain, coming down like sheets of liquid bullets shooting sideways, I didn’t think I’d wake up to see this:

Yes…the sun. I hear it rarely makes an appearance up here, but it didn’t even take a day for me to find it. It’s the same sun that shines in LA, that I take for granted all too often, but here it’s peeking through to lend the place some light. It’s like the plants and trees rehearse so that whenever it appears, they are ready to reflect their wondrous colors onto the world:

I’ve only been here less than 24 hours, but I am already in love with this city. The weather, though a bit nippy, is crisp and cool. And the Seattle folks are unlike Angelinos–they are quite nice. They take time to make conversation with you, and in fact, welcome the opportunity to meet strangers. Smiles come on the faces of both the poor and rich, and hello’s are doled out by the dozens. There is a spirited current running through this city…it’s infectious.

Since my buddy Josh had to work, I took the community bus from Lynnwood to Downtown on my own. I went out looking for an adventure, for stories, and I found it not in the buildings or monuments, but in the people. Right as I hopped off the bus, on 5th and Pine, I saw a man on the street holding up a sign that read “help”and “jobless.” Caught in stride, and prompted by the Spirit, I went to strike up a conversation and perhaps offer him some food. I told him I was visiting from LA and asked if perhaps he wouldn’t mind giving me some pointers to the city. He responded sure no problem and told me his name was John. His friend Roger saw us talking and tagged along; we walked down the street for some Subway. We talked about the struggles with the economy and how hard it was to hold down a job. Then we talked about guns and how Roger shot a .45 magnum and how I couldn’t hit a thing with the magnum because the recoil was furious. John told me I needed to steady my wrist with the other hand lest the kickback might snap it. It was a rather enjoyable lunch with my two new friends.

I went on my way to Pike Place, home to the famous Farmers Market, and was able to visit the many vendors there who were selling homemade goods. The people were once again very amicable and probably sold me on some items because of their personalities alone. I could support the faces and names behind them. One woman named Lauri even gave me a map of the city and pointed me to the first original Starbucks down the street:

I got the exclusive gift cards that feature the original Starbucks logo that you cannot find anywhere else. I’m not a big coffee drinker, so it looks like they won’t remain in my hands for long…

Anyways, it’s time to sign off. The rain is about to hit the smooth streets of downtown–the sun was just here on loan–and I’m going to write for a bit before I meet up with another couple at a Thai place for dinner. If you ever get a chance, go visit Seattle–it rocks like Nirvana.

Thanks for reading, and keep warm in body and spirit.

-MY

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HI Trip: Day 1 – ABC’s & Puffies

My first day/night in Oahu. We landed in the Honolulu Airport at about 8:45, and my buddy Dene from ol’ times was there to pick us up. Right as we walked out of the terminal, we were hit with the warm humidity of the city. But it wasn’t too unbearable. In fact, it was probably just right for a wifebeater and shorts kinda guy.

hi1

A-B-C's for all the F-O-B's, and me

Dene drove us to Waikiki to drop off my sister and her friend Karen at one of my cousins’ hotels, the Royal Kuhio. The first thing you notice about Waikiki is how touristy it looks. It is full of hot spots for the several thousand visitors that are there, lining the streets in hopes of getting Ferragamo this or Hermes that on a special “island” discount (4 percent sales tax in HI). The one street we were on, Kuhio, was packed with hotels and chain restaurants and ABC stores. The ABC store is like your basic convenience store, except it’s a super-massive chain that translates into one being on every block—literally. I thought Starbucks was bad, but wow, ABC wins hands down. They don’t even sell different items in these different locations, it’s just all the same stuff. But the funny thing is, each one averages a good number of customers! Just a lot of suckas…like me, who go to every single one hoping for something different.

In Waikiki, they are like 70 percent Japanese. These aren’t your Japanese-American or 3rd generation type Japanese—these are like from-Japan type Japanese. I have never seen more Japanese people in my life. I think there are more Japanese people here in Waikiki than in…Japan. Every tour bus, every trolley, every store unveiled a load of them. It’s like one of those clown cars where you see like 20 people get outta that one little bug—they just spring from every corner! With these people, you can easily tell them apart from the rest. They are much skinnier, paler, and animated-looking than the rest. And one person in their groups always has a wardrobe that consists of something of the sort: trucker hat, capris or cargo shorts, and pink something (t-shirt, socks or shoes).

So it was definitely a little more than nice to get off the “strip” and head towards calmer, quieter waters. Dene has a house right off the coast in a neat patch of hills several miles from the freeways and stores, in the Hawaiian suburbs. The drive down there was indescribable. It was a full moon that night, so the sky was alight with a velvety blue that allowed you to see the clouds glimmer like neon and the ripples from shore that looked like electric eels. It is like the total opposite of an LA driving experience of crowded streets, smog, and pissed-off crazy drivers.

A man could wake up to this every morning

A man could wake up to this every morning

Dene’s house was nice and cozy, a total bachelor’s pad that yet had an “ohana”-like vibe. I had a room all to myself upstairs. From all the snacks, drinks, and extra beds, you can tell he’s used to housing guests and hosting events. His backyard is also something else—just a nice, uphill patch of tall grass and plants that point towards the sky. It’s a house that reminds you to slow down a bit, a place that whispers peace and you can actually hear it because it is, for once, unbelievably quiet and serene.

After we dropped off my stuff, Dene, his buddy Kreig, and I headed towards the coast for some night fishing. Let me say that there was no better way to start off my trip than that. We drove right up, parked our pickup, and walked a short trail to the spot. There were a couple other cars that were driving off as we pulled in—they were probably couples making out. Dene told me he once came across this naked couple at night that was doing their “thang” in one of the shrubs off to the side. We had a nice laugh, but I couldn’t blame them—I’d probably do the same thing, if my wife and I didn’t have to fear people like Dene walking in on us with a huge oil lamp.

The beach was so isolated, yet inviting. You knew this was a place that only the locals knew. Nobody else would come here—not at this time of night, not for this sort of activity. When we got to the rocky shores, the mini-cliffs, we placed our stuff down and began our prep. Dene cut up some frozen squid as bait and Kreig got the poles ready. I, being the expert fisherman that I am, just stood there and watched. I’ve only gone fishing once before this, and that was about 8 years ago, so I figured I’d better serve my purpose by not getting in the way. (Though, of course, later on, I would happen to get my fishing line tangled with Kreig’s and spent half the time trying to recast after untangling…)

After we had cast our poles, we sat back and enjoyed a few beers and cigars. The breeze from the ocean was simply divine—it was very strong and invigorating. It wasn’t too cool either, it was just right. As the winds blew, as we sat there waiting for a pull from the line, sipping from our cans and staring out into the dark neon ocean, I felt like I was in some other world. That whole experience—it made you feel alive. I haven’t felt such a spiritual experience like this in quite some time. As I looked out, I thought of the twelve disciples, how they must have felt to go fishing with Jesus. I can say that I felt something more exhilarating than just the thrill of a catch that night.

The puffer fish didn't go down without a fight

The puffer fish didn't go down without a fight

Dene suddenly felt a tug from his line. After a long, hard-fought battle to reel it in, we saw what had been at the other end of that line—a 2-foot-long puffer fish! I swear it might have been the ugliest living, breathing thing I have ever seen. I know God made all things and declared it “good,” but maybe that puffer fish was like an aftereffect of the fall. Big boba-ball like eyes, and a huge mouth full of sharp, bony teeth. And this was before it blew up. After we got the hook outta its mouth—it was bent outta shape—we were trying to find ways to throw it back into the ocean. (We obviously couldn’t bring it back home to eat—they are poisonous—and we couldn’t just grab and toss it with our hands.)

So we pissed it off. Until it started making this huffing-puffing noise and blew up like a huge spiky ball from hell. Then Dene, with the same pliers used to wrench the hook from its jaws, pulled the fish by one of its spikes and flung it back into the waters. What a catch!

We packed up our things and headed back on the road. Kreig and I sat in the back of the pickup, with the candlelit moon and bright starry sky as our canopy. We shot the breeze a bit as nature’s breeze blew back. As I sat back, I thought to myself, does it get any better than this? It was just so good to get away. I didn’t want it to end.

And I know someday it won’t. This was only a taste of what’s to come…

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More entries to come in the following days. More pictures will be up on Facebook.