Down to the wire in paradise.

Today is my last full day on Molokai. Yesterday was spent in the sun, on the beach, the wind whipping the dunes up around me so, with the help of my thick protective layer of sunscreen, I looked more like fried chicken than a haole girl. Drove all over the place on the west end, really the first time I took the moped out in that direction. It's different over there, it gives the impression of being flatter even though it's really quite a serious of big hills and small mountains slithering down the coast and one hell of a golf course, so I'm told. It doesn't have the trees the east end has, it's far drier out there. Lots of scrub, lots of wind. There's something almost Tuscan about it sometimes, with the tall wind breaks planted up around hill-top homes and the brown hills sloping down around them. Driving up towards Maunoloa, I can almost feel like I'm out on the tundra with the small scrub trees stretching off to either side and the foothills looming ahead. Of course, all that's lacking is the temperatures and the actual presence of a mountain range. I checked out, I believe, nearly every public beach I could find on the northwest corner of Molokai. Popahoku, reknowned as being the longest (3 miles, I think) white sand beach in Hawaii, is actually far too much sand. The wind whips it up before you and as the line between beach and sea blurs, so does the hill behind you and your footsteps are erased as quickly as they're made. It takes forever to get to the water and the stretch of empty on all around you, so much sand and nobody on it, is disconcerting. It's emptyness and the largest beach in Hawaii is just simply nothing to rave about, as far as I'm concerned. So I left and went in search of something quieter. Found some tidal pools lined with volcanic rock, giant boulders piled up all around with a spattering of red sand dunes at the top of what was practically a cliff. There was a cave yawning into the hill side, but I couldn't get to it so I sat for a while and marinated in the absence of the scouring sand, with my toes in the water and Lhasa in my ears. I guess I drove around more than I thought looking at the other beaches before I decided to head for home. The gas light came on as I got back on the main road from Kaluakoi and I knew I was probably pushing it. 15 miles on my little moped with the gas light on, but it was all down hill and I rolled into the station at Kaunakakai just as she began to sputter. Today, uneventful. So many things I could do with a last day in paradise. So many things and here I am, on the computer, undecided. I woke up at 3:00a.m. The wind was howling and blowing and I thought about going for a walk, but decided against it in favor of lying there and listening. Still awake at 5:00. Thought about about driving out to Halawa and watching the sun come up, or even just going down to the wharf for sunrise. Decided against it. 9:00a.m. I finally get up and brush my teeth, put my contacts in, peel more skin off of my stomach, my legs. Brennan leaves and I turn the TV on, wondering what I should do. I make some potatos, but don't eat them. I talk on the phone to Matt, making plans to see him Wednesday. Do some lunges, sit ups. Drink some water. And here we are. Taking the big camera from Darrell to take advantage of the zoom lense. I have my bathing suit on under the sun dress and the skin on my shins look diseased, flaking off in twisted little popcorn kernel shapes and big sheets. The skin underneath is something different alltogether, shiney and red. Disgusting. I leave Molokai tomorrow night at 6:00p.m. Island Air takes me to Honolulu, then to Maui. At which point Hawaiian Air will carry me through the night to LAX where I hang out with Matt for a while and board an Air Tran jet for Atlanta. Quick layover there, lots of reading gets done. Then, finally, back to Memphis. I'll arrive at 6:00 ish p.m. CST. And it's all almost over.



Frankly, with the new design of the Flyer Web site finally taking over where I left off with an up-to-date source of information in the way of an events calendar, I feel a lot more flexibility coming up in this blog. For so long I was focused on the noble ambition of trying to keep up with things and tell people what's what in Memphis. I sort of got overwhelmed and lost sight of the fact that I started this because I call myself a writer, and I wanted to write. It languished for a while, and perhaps still, because I never went out and therefore had nothing relevant to report. But why should I limit myself to such a narrow concept of relevancies? I'm a Memphis girl, born and bred, and therefore anything I have to say is relevant. Even when I'm still telling you what you should do. That being said, I declare this show to be my return to the "Memphis Scene" aka "Welcome home, Rachel" party. See you there.

Who's writing books about Memphis?

Is Craig Brewer flooding the entertainment market with Memphis (and Tennessee in general?) The Flyer reports on another Brewer film set in Tennessee. Granted, this sounds like a Nashville kind of story, but his prolific career is undeniably drawing a lot of attention to the area, and through the likes of his soundtracks, the music as well. I can't say this is a bad thing, God knows Memphis needs some limelight sometimes, but it has me wondering about something. Who's writing about Memphis? Some of the most amazing American authors in history have been firmly rooted in the south, flourishing with a cast of characters as unique and amazing as the history of the region itself. But where are the contemporary books about Memphis? Where is that next great American novel, and why isn't it springing up out of our city? I know there are writers in Memphis, and I know they are talented. I know they are surrounded by the inspiration that makes for a great read. I know our city has the rich background and the wealth of character required to build the intricacies of a masterpiece, so why isn't anyone doing good fiction revolving around the place? Do Memphis writers suffer the same fate, (something almost like self-indulgences, akin to purity in the art but a little more arrogant,) of many of Memphis' finest musicians? Are they too noble to shop themselves to publishers and publicists, or is the writing just not happening? There's another possibility, of course. Perhaps I've just had my head under a rock and haven't found the good stuff. If that's the case, I trust you'll educate me.


Turbulance is my middle name.

With the homebound dates rapidly approaching, tickets booked and family and friends already forewarned of my pending arrival, I find myself second guessing. I find myself questioning whether or not my visit should so quickly be approaching expiration and whether or not Mark Twain would be satisfied with what I've seen. This place, like so many I've been before, holds boundless possibility. Turtle season is only now nearly upon us and I have yet to witness the Monk Seals said to populate Kaulapapa. I have not gone fishing, camping, hiking or taken my beginner hula lesson and I'm still wearing my first real sunburn like a scarlet letter. (Except mine, metaphorically, would be an 'H' for Haole.) I'm growing comfortable with the lingo, though. I say "Auntie" and "Uncle", and "Aloha" rolls off my tongue naturally instead of the stilted, awkward pace it knew at first. I still can't bring myself to acknowledge that in Hawaii, all shoes become "slippahs" though I only occasionally catch myself mispronouncing vowels and pronouncing W's as W's instead of as V's. I am also adapting to the food situation. Produce is not as plentiful here on Moloka`i as one might expect. In fact, it is ungodly expensive in the few small supermarkets Ala Malama, the main drag through Kaunakakai. Tomatoes grow poorly here, they say the aphids are an army poised to devour any tomato plant brought on island. Consequently, I bought pale excuses from the shelves and set them on the window seal, hoping some of the sun will sink in before they rot. The grapefruit tree in the backyard proved to be a disappointment. The fruits are oddly shaped and pithy, mostly rind and seed and horribly dry. But they smell good decaying in the grass outside my window and I'm coming to appreciate them for that if nothing else. I have found papaya and bananas growing in places I didn't feel shy about picking them, but obviously these places are well known and every time I check the trees are clean. About the only things there truly seems to be an abundance of are mangos and coconuts and though I love them both, I'm sure I'll quickly tire of them as there's little to do with either unless you eat them raw or use them to accent other dishes which require expensive ingredients. Fish, fortunately, is fairly cheap and I eat plenty of it if I have a dime in my pocket. The market on Saturday mornings also affords fresher and slightly cheaper produce that some of the locals grow in small quantities. It's a refreshing change from the pale and blighted stuff in the stores. Favorite Hawaiian phrase of the day:
E ku'u kumu e, mai hopohopo, ua kapa 'ia ko'u inoa waena, 'o ia 'o Severe Turbulance which means Baby, Severe Turbulance is my middle name. [from Slightly Bent Hawaiian Phrases]
I have to hurry now, soon I have a lecture with Kumu John Kaimikaua. Rumor has it he made up the place Ka Hula Piko is held, completely fabricating the fact that Ka'ana as the site where the hula began. It's been suggested that it is my job to obtain a confession!


Death Cab for Cutie helps St. Jude

So, during my standard mid-afternoon perusal of the MySpace, an add caught my eye. You know the sort, it was one of the 50 billion promo ads covering your Space. This add happens to be pushing a new T-shirt designed by Paul Frank for Death Cab for Cutie. All procedes from the sale of this T-shirt go to support St. Jude, which is of course located right in my hometown of Memphis, TN. So, good shirt, good band, good cause but just one thing... According to the profile for this thing, you can't actually buy them in Memphis--the Paul Frank/Death Cab For Cutie limited edition "Directions" T-shirt is available at domestic Paul Frank stores, only. The T-shirt retails at $17 for women, and $20 for men. Go figure.


Haole on a Moped and other misadventures of the road.

Let this kid keep you company until I can harness some coherence. I've been too busy with all sorts of stories and off on my own little adventures to keep my head on straight, which is a good thing. Takes my mind off all the other crap. I have a tour of the coffee plantation scheduled for next week, I believe. I'm setting up a kayaking trip for next Wednesday provided it doesn't interfere with any stories, and I have plans to go back to Halawa to actually hike up to the falls. Things are going well here, my friend. Explanations of the title due soon.


Aloha and good night.

Drinking my last Sparks and talking on the phone to Chris this evening, I realized I had let myself get a little depressed and homesick. I think the biggest problem was just feeling helpless and disconnected over the last few days, being unable to get in touch with the proposed subletor or Chris. Talking about it made me feel better though, and after getting off the phone with him, I switched off the TV (Smoky and the Bandit) and took the moped down to the warf to catch the sun set. Edited some little league pictures and finally put some posts up on the Beale Street Music Fest Blog. I feel accomplished. In the morning I have to be back at the office early to go to a May Day celebration. May Day is sort of a big deal here. I went to the high school version of celebrations Tuesday morning with Brennan, the editor. It was fascinating enough and I enjoyed watching the hulas, it inspired me to take lessons to give me an inside slant on the big Molokai Ka Hula Piko 2006 on the 20th of this month. Also on the agenda, finish up an interesting story involving Sonobuoys dropped into the fishing waters surrounding Molokai during anti-submarine drills. Also have to track down some guy about the formation of the Molokai Volunteer Fire Department. God knows they need something, every time I try to call the Fire department it either rings indefinitely or I get a busy signal. Oh well. 9:45 is late for me these days and my eyelids feel heavy. It might have something to do with the sunburn I managed to get int he 20 minutes I stood outside photographing those kids today.


Keiki is Hawaiian for kids, or something like that.

So I was on my way home for a break, pissed off that the person supposed to sublet my apartment has been a no-show and now I've lost the other prospects I had and may have to end up shelling out the rent from a rather depressed bank account. Two doors down from the office I hear dance music from the tennis courts at the elementary school and see literally hundreds of kids jumping rope in the sunshine. Too good a photo opp to pass up. This kid made my day: Yes, he has a mullet and yes, he was jumping to Cotton Eyed Joe. In a lot of ways, this picture pretty much sums up Molokai. More here.


Of tsunami and wahine.

The women are thick here. Curvy, soft and brown with shining black hair. Some of them have a quick brush of mustache stubble grown in over their top lip. Some of them were men. I was promised a trip to Kalaupapa last night from a Belgian tour guide drinking with his elderly patrons, so I rose early this morning. The Belgians, it turns out, love Moloka`i and this man makes a living running tours catering to them specifically. Father Damien, a young priest who first cared for the lepers on Kalaupapa peninsula, was Belgian. When the world shunned them, imprisoned them and then dumped them like trash into the treacherous waters off Molokai on an inaccessible peninsula, he came and cared for them. He built them houses to shelter them from the sometimes harsh elements, he cooked for them, tended their wounds and prayed for their souls. He became their family where their own had forsaken them and, eventually, he succumbed to their disease himself. Of course the Belgians love Father Damien. What else do they have, waffles and beer? And then I'm stood up, after dragging myself out of bed and starting my period and deciding to make the insane hike anyway, I get left in Kaunakakai. I should have known not to honor plans made over beer. There was a tsunami warning this morning. A 7.8 earthquake hit the Pacific island nation of Tonga, somewhere near New Zealand I hear. The U.S. Pacific Tsunami Warning Center predicted no serious threat and cancelled the advisory, but not before honorary "mayor" and my new patron, James Keli'ipio Kahea Mawae, could pull his boat out of the water. He remembered the tsunami of 1946.


Day 1: The Trip & Waikiki

I got to Moloka`i from Memphis on $149.00. True, I had an Air Tran inconvenience voucher which got me from Memphis to LA, and my internship paid the $40.00 air fair from Honolulu to Moloka`i, but still. $149.00 for a pretty solid 5 hour leg of the gruelling 13 or so hour trip is not bad at all. I'd definitely recommend Hawaiian Airlines and ear plugs--there seems to be an abundance of screaming kids on these flights. Camped out in LAX, tried to buy cigarettes at the Duty Free store but they wouldn't let me because my destination was still in the states. This sort of sucked because though I don't smoke much, I did want a cigarette when I landed in Hawaii and they were something like $5 or $6 a pack there. A little better on Moloka`i, but bring your own cigarettes if you smoke because it's rediculous here. I also blanked out and left my bag at the terminal while I wandered around. Caught my first flight at 6:00am after 2 hours sleep, what do you expect? Awesome. I remember the thing when I'm in the bathroom and I have to run back to the terminal, only to find a police officer securing the area. "That's my bag," I tell him and a barrage of questions and reprimands insue. I'm tired, I plant a grim and serious look on my face and nod alot. I tell him I'm sorry and say "I understand," on numerous occassions, then I take a nap in the floor. I was disappointed to find no one greeting me with leis as I got off the plane in Honolulu. I guess my expectations were raised by those Brady Bunch movies. I really needed a cigarette after a $40.00 cab ride to Waikiki, luckily the cab driver gave me one. The room was small but nice and high enough up that I got glimpses of sea and hills through the other high rises on the strip. I don't like Honolulu or Waikiki. Car horns and hookers, too many tourists. The whole place makes me feel dirty. The next day I wake up at 5:45am HST. Try to sleep for another hour then I go ahead and get up and shower. Ate lunch on the beach after wandering around trying to find the damn thing for an hour or more. Tuna and crab rolls from the drug store: $3.99. That's pretty cool. Talked to a bum with a shopping cart on the canal which drains the marshy swamp and makes Waikiki possible. He says he's from Missouri, been there for three years or more--ever since he got kicked off the Norwegian cruise ship he was working on. He tried to sell me his friend's bike while the guy slept nearby, he tried to sell me a camera he didn't even have in his posession. Waikiki seems like a cool place to be homeless, lots of people there taking advantage of the good weather and the wealthy tourists. I think maybe I'll learn to surf while I'm here. Or at least give it a try. There's a lot of white pigeons, fat speedos and old men in whitie tighties in Waikiki. Surely this must be heaven. Drink a Sparks while I pack, out of principal, mostly. They cost about the same here as in Memphis, so does the rest of the booze. I did buy a bottle of Stoli just to have, couldn't imagine it being cheaper in Moloka`i. Later I will be disappointed to discover there are no Sparks on Moloka`i, and thankful I brought an extra with me.