This is the prologue to our relocation from Seoul to North Carolina. It deals not with our arrival in that great state but with our journey there. And, try as I might to hide behind pure observation, my hand will occasionally cover the lens.
I read somewhere that we don’t see things the way they are; we see things the way we are.
Matthew is the only person I know that suffers, not from motion sickness, but from stopping sickness. He makes the flight from Seoul to Tokyo to Hawaii just fine. But as soon as we glide to a halt on the tarmac of Honolulu International Airport, stomach contents threaten to appear, and he carries his protective bag with him until we have our luggage in hand. He has always been this way and now proceeds about his inner business in singular silence — patiently waiting for the Earth to reclaim him.
Hawaii reclaims me the minute I step out into the sunny trade winds. We emerge into the light like moles after a 12-year dig, overly large eyes blinking in photonic revolt. No place can match the weather of Hawaii, and, after the Oxygen Wars of Seoul, I can feel the pollutoids falling away like shards. The scales covering my eyes will have to wait for further enlightenment.
We spend a lazy afternoon at the Honolulu Zoo. While lounging on a park bench, a pigeon (actually Fred, the God of Irony) insists on reminding me of my place in the vast pecking order of things by targeting my shoulder with an indelible organic marker dropped from a great height. I glance up to see which Fred (Oh fowl saboteur!) to accuse, but all I see are the usual suspects innocently whistling and rolling their eyes.
Things that used to be free in Hawaii (truth be told the best things) are gradually being converted to revenue generators. Hanauma Bay and Diamond Head have joined the ranks of fiscally responsible natural formations. The State of Hawaii needs the money, and the beauty is there for the picking, but I worry about this journey down a very slippery slope.
We visited our home in Lanikai. This is a little old house on a large (for Hawaii) parcel of land near a great beach. Matthew and Stephanie found a sea cucumber being rolled around in the tiny Lanikai shore break. Matthew dragged it up into a small pool he created in the sand. Sea cucumbers basically survive by (1) appearing to be a chunk of mammalian solid waste, and/or (2) having a high yucky coefficient. Matthew walked around the rest of the day wiping his hands on his pants like some character from a watery MacBeth (MacBath?) “Out, damn cucumber slime!”
We went for a swim and basically acted like the tourists we were, imagining all the while what our lives would have been like if we had stayed in Hawaii instead of Asia for the last 12 years. One of the many roads not taken …
It took a squadron of airport security personnel to pry my fingers off the jetway at the Honolulu Airport, but they managed to get me on the plane to California without further incident.
The first sign that we were not in Kansas anymore was the girl at the Safeway checkout counter in San Mateo. I asked her where the Howard Johnson’s was, and she responded with a series of high-pitched clicks and whistles, like some superannuated dolphin on mescaline. To me there’s nothing more scary than a Safeway counter clerk on drugs. I mean, they could do anything and it might involve cheese. Then you are in the Unsafeway.
The second NotKansas indicator was an actual blinking sign outside our room at the Howard Johnson that read:
Ladies Night Mo
A ir Hockey
This, even with the missing bulbs, spawned images of large, poorly dressed women blasting metal disks at one another. And that’s just on Monday. One can only imagine what horrors await later in the week.
We visited Santa Cruz, which I am given to understand was the birthplace of surfing. Either there or Vladivostok. Anyway, we saw a few tired-looking surfers riding the swells in water so thick with seaweed that it looked like they were sitting on somebody’s lawn.
At one ocean lookout in town, small stones had been piled up in arrays of teetering rock piles. The notion here is to add a stone to the top of a pile, thereby making your presence known in an anonymous sort of way. But suppose instead that these seemingly innocuous towers hold the keys to the universe? Suppose changing say, THAT one, changes Planck’s Constant? Then what? Something to think about on a rainy day in the ol’ asylum.
While driving through Santa Clara on Highway 101, Young asks me where Silicon Valley is. We’re here, I say.
This Valley is a state of mind, a state preoccupied with IPO, shares, equity, and ruled by the cruel God, NASDAQ. In a test of faith, NASDAQ has been smiting infidels right and left lately. But optimism is high even as the cultural coefficient tends to zero.
Stephanie asks me if I waited too long to have her. She thinks I did since she will only be 17 when I’m 60. This kid is some kind of psychological terrorist.
We swing into Golden Gate Park one afternoon to walk through their great Science Museum. No IPOs here.
As the sun begins to set, we see that there’s an ongoing concert in the park in celebration of Black Music month. The band plays some great old hits from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and I notice that those dancing are the very young (5-10) and the very old (60+). I am handed a flyer requesting donations in memory of a young man killed in a drive-by shooting. He looks out of the picture as if remembering better times. One of the booth managers asks if I want to a six-pack of Coke for a dollar. I say, no, we’re traveling, we’re moving, we’re on our way, feeling the need to apologize for turning down such a deal.
As darkness falls we leave the Park, but in the gloom we see the young and old still dancing, here in America.