It’s nice to be back in New Zealand again. Washington was getting to be a bit inhospitable for my weary bones. I stuck it out through Thanksgiving for the first time in 6 years which was well worth it. My older brother Alex and his new wife Cat put on a hell of a feast followed up on Friday with a Thankspickin celebration with Tate and Betsy making an appearance from Idaho and Ian Leonard coming up from Oregon add to the usual Ballard music making lineup. Follow that up with some great sushi courtesy of my roommate Denny at Shiku and I couldn’t have asked for a much better weekend in town, unless of course that weekend was in late September instead of late November.
My original intentions way back in February when I booked my tickets, was to spend a week on the Big Island of Hawaii with Greg and Bonnie before heading back to Kiwiland. Alas it was not meant to be. Bonnie’s down in the Gulf of Mexico straining the sea for turtles while Greg has been commissioned to build a 38 foot version of Willow for a fellow back in Ohio. So my cheap Hawaiian vacation was thwarted. Still all was not lost. I got my ticket changed to give me a 24 hour layover in Honolulu. So I found a hostel online for $25 a night only 2 blocks from the beach. Unfortunately I rolled in a little before midnight and promptly crashed out on my crinkly vinyl covered mattress, but I awoke early the next morning, drank some coffee on the beach in Waikiki as the sun came up, spent 3 hours wandering around the zoo snapping pics of everything with a pulse, hooting and howling with the gibbons, getting lost in the trance inducing, ancient gaze of Galapagos Tortoises, and almost being cuted to death by a troop of Ring Tailed Lemurs. It was really an interesting zoo with all sorts of critters you just don’t normally see in the zoos back in the mainland. I had thought about climbing to the top of Diamond Head, but there were some rain clouds a-brewin and the zoo seemed like a safer bet.
Next it was time to hit the beach and check out some very different wildlife. Last year when I was in Waikiki with Greg and Bonnie we were on the the East end, which was decidedly more up scale and less crowded than the West end where my hostel was. The beach here was vibrant and overflowing with tourists, but not in a bad way. You expect the beach in Waikiki to be overflowing with people and so instead of seeking tranquility by the water, you go to soak in the sun, watch the people learning to surf, watch the tour catamarans coming and going through the surf zones and to watch the pretty young Germans with there more liberal views on public decency. Oh yeah and you go for $3.50 happy hour Mai Ta’i at the Shorebird bar with a fabulous view overlooking it all.
I tried to hangout out at the Shorebird until it was time to catch my ride out to the airport, but alas I was nowhere near man enough to take on those tropical concoctions and I eventually had to stumble out onto the street to try and walk it off. I hadn’t thought about the time zone difference and soon passed a bar playing Monday Night Football at 4 in the afternoon. Well I thought that would be a great way to pass the rest of the day. I’d noticed a 2nd story bar near my hostel that had looked nice, so I decided to ramble the rest of the way down the strip and see if they had the game on. It turns out that they did had the game on, so I settled into another Mai Ta’i, a plate of fries and started watching the game. It took a good 15 minutes for me to put together the fact that the two very good looking male bartenders were wearing incredibly tight shirts that probably required assistance to don and that there wasn’t a single female form to be seen in the moderately busy bar. So OK, I was watching the Saints – Giants in a gay bar. I was cool with that, but then they kept switching from the game to music videos whenever there was a commercial break. I went back and forth with them a number of times, getting them to turn the game back on and the techno videos off before I decided that New Orleans had it pretty well wrapped up and that it was time for me to take my leave.
The sun was just below the horizon and I headed back down to the beach to snap a few more pics. I’d only got one good shot off the tripod when Johnny Ray called across the pier to introduce himself. Turns out that Johnny lives on the beach, and is as hairless as a newborn. He probably has Alapecia, but depending on where exactly you’re at in Johnny’s stream of consciousness, it’s because he was just getting over a bout of Lukemia, or because he was beaten the other day or because he was beaten by his father when he was a child. Oh yeah, Johnny was an interesting fella. He wanted me to buy him some malt liquor from the ABC store across the street. Alas, they’d stopped selling malt liquor there, a situation that Johnny ascribed to him breaking a bottle over his head while he was in that particular store. Still I picked him up a 22 of Steinlager and bought a Guiness for myself and we went back out to the beach where I learned all about Johnny’s remarkable father, who was a Mormon polygamist, had 12 wives, invented worm holes could see true reality through his third eye and was generally a fantastic person except for the part where he kicked Johnny out of the house at the tender young age of 12.
I could whiled away quite an interesting evening by that pier in Waikiki with Johnny Ray, but it was time to catch my shuttle to the airport. Upon checking into my flight, I learned that I would be delayed by 3 hours due to a medical emergency on the flight from Auckland to Honolulu. Apparently a 25 year old had a heart attack a little over an hour into the flight. They had to hit him with the paddles, they turned the plane around and when back to Auckland. All in all, 3 hours wasn’t too long a delay for that kind of emergency. We finally got on the plane about 12:30am. Air New Zealand was good enough to give us each a $15 voucher for the Kona Brewing Company while we waited, but that last beer on the beach did me in, so I spent my time at Starbucks chatting with a Kiwi couple from Tauranga and a Canadian family from Vancouver who’d been delayed an entire day without explanation.
Currently I’m sitting in the International Food Court in a basement off Queen’s St in downtown Auckland eating Chinese food and waiting on my friend Amber who’s up from Christchurch visiting. I’m not sure what all is planned, but it sounds like I’ve got a bit more hanging out to do before making the 2 hour venture north and finally getting back to Bodhran.