THE TRIP IN:
4 AM was the plan. With an 8 am flight to Phoenix I decide to get out the door extra early for the beginning of my trip to Hawaii. I had not slept too well for the last week in anticipation. The night before was spent at the fundraiser for McFarlane Park at the Atlanta Country Club. I was treated so well, the organizers bent over backward to help me get set up the day before plus they wanted to keep my display up and staffed my booth Friday instead of having to take everything down the night before my flight. I had about 50 paintings at the show including six that I did at the park. The evening ended up being a big success, selling thee paintings for $1400 plus the thought that they might sell a few more the next day. I drove home confident, a bit crazy, and tired with success and excitement. I, unfortunately, overestimated my wife’s reaction. My fault and probably a good reminder that this whole situation might be the source of stress for her as well as myself. So without much sleep, I awoke at three AM, got ready, and left at just about 4 AM. The drive was uneventful, too early for even Atlanta traffic. I dropped off my car at the car park and caught the bus to the terminal. I have an affection for window seats and because I booked my flight so early I was able to select one for each of the flights. After almost an hour delay the flight to Phoenix got off the ground and I was on my way. Losing two hours as we travel west along with the wait in takeoff put me on edge, more so that my vital bags with equipment might not make it than myself. I was enticed by the glorious landscape as we flew west. The mountains and rivers seamed supersized—huge plateaus with rising bluffs and long rivers. It was just a preview of the wonders of volcanic action. I found myself committing to get a closer look at them someday. Phoenix looked clean and spread out. The downtown is a bit smaller and less vertical than Atlanta, but with quite a few mountains or at least big hills right downtown it looked like what one would think of. Off the plane, in a bit of a rush, I ran to catch the next many concourses away. Of course, nothing comes close to Hartsfield/Jackson as far as size but I must have walked close to a mile to get to the gate only to find it had been moved to another on another concourse. Loaded down with a pack and my wide-brimmed painter’s hat plus a pair of new work boots laced up to my ankles—What a picture. I was still running on adrenalin —how do people do this every day? I spend most of my time in my basement studio.
I was not looking forward to the next flight from Phoenix to Kona—more than five hours in the air in a coach-class seat. We boarded up and I was delighted to sit next to a guy just a bit younger than I who was a joy the whole way over. His name was Giles and he was a blues guitar player—not a big star but I could tell he was more than competent. We swapped stories for five hours. He was from Corsica originally but has been in the states since he was fifteen. A wild guy with a great sense of humor and interesting life. I liked him immediately. He was something of a gourmet too and had brought sandwiches made with fresh goat chess and salmon. I bought the beers, he split the sandwiches and we dined and talked while the ocean passed below. He had a gig at some bar in Kona (Humpies) for two weeks and we traded cards with a promise to meet up one night for some music and fun. Coming into Kona we crossed over a lush Maui and a smaller island but as we came in for a landing I was a bit taken aback by the bleakness of the landscape. Black, volcanic rock everywhere almost as if an explosion had flattened everything except the low slung airport buildings. We exited off the plane directly onto the tarmac. The airport was a mix of smaller buildings with outdoor courtyards —the first indicator of the mild climate. I was soon being greeted by my older brother Scott. This was the first time we had seen each other since my daughter’s wedding in 2005—so eight years. He looked thinner and a bit older. I have less hair than him, but not much. He’s taller too—other than that were twins. Dressed in white linen pants and a Hawaiian shirt he was living up to my memory of him always being well dressed. From boyhood, I was snitching his clothes and trying them on but I never quite had the style to pull off the look. We waited a bit for my luggage then hiked out to his CR-V and loaded it up. Scott had it shipped over from California when he moved over and he kept it well serviced—it’s all-wheel-drive made it the perfect adventure wagon. On the way to his house in Wiamea almost 40 minutes away, we stopped at the first beach of many during the trip. Just the day before I was in the basement of my Atlanta home working on car ads now I was on a glorious beach half a world away. And what a beach, it was a place we visited several times because it was so inviting. Called 69 because of the mile marker it’s located off on the highway, the volcanic blast furnace soil gave way to sand and a beautiful languid ocean. The trees grow in close to the shore, lanky and low with rubbery magnolia like leaves. I just stood and stared, about ten yards out there was a small island of black lava rock with people bobbing up and down as they snorkeled around looking at what I imagined were brightly colored fish. The sea beyond quickly turned from phtalo green to purple-blue out to the horizon. Beautiful, clear, and a bit deadly looking —it was undoubtedly the Pacific.