How Many Sunsets Do We Get?

 

How many sunsets do we get in a lifetime?

Better yet, how many sunsets do we see in a lifetime?

You'd think the answer would depend on how accessible sunsets are. I spend a lot of time in San Francisco. I love the city, the weird people, the yuppies—not really, the restaurants, niche neighborhoods, and especially the ocean. I take a lot of walks by The Embarcadero and Fisherman's Wharf. The smell of food mixed with the salty sea air reminds me of my childhood in South America. But the one thing that's a little hard to come by are sunsets. The tall buildings make the sun set around three or four o'clock.

For the past three months, I've been living in Hawaii, and the one thing I do is go see sunsets. It's different every time, it's always beautiful, and it attracts tons of tourists. Since the Waikiki beaches face westward, there's nothing to block our view of the sunsets. I'm always amazed at how much the sky we see here, at least on the beach.

But my roommates don't spend much time on the beach nor do they go see sunsets, despite the fact that we're literally a ten minute walk to the edge of the Pacific Ocean. I'd understand if they were bogged down by family, work, life. But that's not the case. I'm older than they are, so there is a part of me that understands that we only get a certain number of sunsets, sunrises, full moons, laughs, shared moments with loved ones. Instead, they spend their time drinking and partying. And that's cool. I've done my share. But that part of my life quickly waned. For my roomies, it's a slower ebb. 

Now the question becomes will I get tired of sunsets, the beach, swimming in the ocean, and communing with nature. I don't know. But I'm grateful for having seen more sunsets in the past three months than I ever have in my life. And it's apparent by the tourist turn out that they love sunsets too.

Life's a beach.

All In My Head

Ooh. Ah. Oh. Eee. Eye.

Ooh. Ah. Oh. Eee. Eye.

It's been a month and a half since coming back from my month long trip in Hawaii. For me, I needed some time to let the whole trip simmer inside my head.

A lot of people think Hawaii as this exotic place. Don't get me wrong, it can be if you're going there on vacation, and in my opinion, Waikiki is what people think of when it comes to da H.I. That's what it was to me. Although, I've spent time hiking in different places, most of my experience was trapped there. Get it? Cuz it be a tourist trap. Sorry. This time around, I wanted to explore a bit more, the neighborhoods where the locals lived, and even took a cool bus trip up the north shore.

The beach front properties, the massive luxury hotels like The Sheraton, Hilton, Moana Surfrider line the man made beach of Waikiki. Most people don't know that most of the sand people sunbathe on originated from California and Australia. Waikiki stretches about two miles along the south. Even walking a few blocks away from the beach, behind Ala Wai Canal, you'll see that Hawaii isn't just about luxury. Comparable to the streets of San Francisco, the homeless team the sidewalks and beach and grassy parks. I mean, why wouldn't you? As opposed to sleeping on the streets in the city by the bay, Hawaii's weather, even at night, provides more than comfortable temperatures. During this trip, I found the definition of beach bumb was literal and not just figurative.

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Locals hang their clothes to dry, kids play in abandoned parks, buildings, and concrete beds seen usually in war torn countries, and religious groups, usually non-whites, gather for their weekly meetings in out-of-the-way parks; parks where I had to walk a good half hour back away from the pristine shores of Waikiki. Though, I never felt threatened, maybe because after a few days on the beach, swim trunks, and flippity flops I looked like a local.

I thought I had seen some of the worse. Don't know why I thought this, but here we are. Then I ventured down to Chinatown. I've been to the Hawaiian Islands many times and have always drove past Chinatown on the way in from Honolulu airport. It wasn't until this trip I had the time to go to mytown.

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I took The Bus to downtown Honolulu, where Chinktown is, and got off at...how do I say this...a small version of the ghetto, if the ghetto was located next to Hell. Despite my own slanty eyes melding me into the background of the locals, I didn't feel safe. The homeless occupied every corner. Stores felt dirty, icky, and every package I picked up to look at the price left an invisible layer of gunk on my fingers. It got so bad, I had to rush into a bathroom to wash my hands. Garbage carpeted the streets, piled high in some places. Store fronts were dilapidated, and a local who used to live on the mainland told me all the health scores of eateries had failing grades. Fantastic. Needless to say, I never ate there.

Now before you tell me how my blood has thinned cause I live in the burbs, I visit my mom weekly and she used to live in West Oakland. West Oakland is also known as the void cause white people avoid it like the plague, where the white on rice hold on to their brown husk.

In saying all these positives, I actually loved exploring these areas. It gives a neat dimension to any place and provides perspective. So far, I don't have to wonder about where or when my next meal will come, I'm not in the business of curing cancer, and I don't suffer from anything beyond a caffeine high, a brain freeze from drinking an Icee too fast, or the occasional fear of public speaking. Whether my books will be widely received or not, I don't know, given the thousands of hours spent working on them. In the end, I have no right to complain about anything.

And, really, that's what this last trip to Hawaii sunk in for me. All the problems in my life are in my head, and no matter where I go, I bring them with me. But I also have the power to let them go, cause their in my head. Another words, they ain't real. Unless I'm being chased by a great white shark, in which case bye-bye world.

Hostile Hostel

Hawaii Estimated Arrival

Hawaii Estimated Arrival

Most people who go to Hawaii spend a lot of money on two basic things: Airfare and hotel accommodations. You can mitigate the price of airfare by points or planning way ahead of time. Combining them with hotel and car can definitely help. But if you do a little research and maybe talk to people who frequent the H.I., they can help reduce the cost and spend your cheddah (cash for you Ebonics challenged) on other overpriced things like food and tours.

The Bus, Hawaii's bus system, is incredibly convenient and cheap. There's even an app called Da Bus that you can download that will give you real time arrivals and maps. Combine that with Google Maps and you got the islands in the palm of your hand. Why do people say that? Where else is the palm gonna be? Da Srings? For at least Oahu, The Bus takes you pretty much everywhere including the North Shore. It'll take time due to the many stops the bus makes, but for the month that I was there, I saved a lot from not renting a car, which by the way you can get good discounts at discounthawaiicarrental.com.

I sound like a freakin' commercial.

only twenty million a nite

only twenty million a nite

When I go with a girlfriend, I usually stay at hotels. The ladies like the comfort. But when I go alone, I book a stay at hostels. They're cheap, convenient due to their proximity to the beach, and the best part is the communal kitchens/common area. They're highly conducive to meeting people from all over the world. Many think hostels are for young people like us (wink), probably due to their associated name youth hostels. But there's no age limitation, and most have rules like no drugs, alcohol, and quiet times at ten or eleven at night.

Issue with the hostels in Hawaii, specifically Waikiki, is that all of them will let you stay for a limited time, like two weeks. Some even require you to show a plane ticket back where you came from. I've never really understood the logic until I found the one hostel that let people stay indefinitely, which worked for my month stay. When I arrived I mumbled, "What da fuck?"

Where's the toilet paper?

Where's the toilet paper?

To say this was the worst hostel that I've stayed at would only glaze over the real issue that the Hawaiian Islands is facing, the homeless. My first room consisted of three bunk beds, six guys, and one bathroom.

Now, ladies. If you've ever lived with a man, stayed over a man's place, or gone into a man's bathroom, you understand keeping the water closet clean isn't our number one priority. Getting you to his place was (wink). Now, imagine six dudes with little care to a bathroom that don't belong to them, what do you think the condition of that bathroom would look like? And continue that image with blokes that give less care to hygiene cuz they's took a dip in the Pacific Ocean where things there take a piss. And, yes, I'm talking about kids. Talk about B to the O!

The guys in my room were smoking cigarettes, pot, drinking beer, and laughin' an' hollerin', and keeping me awake. I have to wake up at 5 freakin' A to the freakin' M for work. And all these guys have night jobs. With rent being so cheap, many locals live in these places because the only real industry in Hawaii is tourism.

To make things worse, there's no lockers for me to use. Steal my iPhone, my wallet, my iPad, whatever. It'd suck, but they can be replaced. Steal my work laptop, and I'd lose my job. Every single hostel I've ever stayed at had lockers. You know, things to lock yo shit in. If we be livin' all togethers an'all, with strangers, peeps I've never met before, I's gonna need me a locker.

Common!

Dental care...look into it

Dental care...look into it

And what really capped off this wonderful experience was the process of checking in. What I didn't know then, was the front desk was really just a wooden box at the front of their garage, filled with parking spaces for four cars. This woman, who liked to dress like a man, signed me in with their fancy advanced system of erasing my name from the reservation list, a piece of paper written with pencil, then penning me onto another piece of paper, then logging me into their log book, then writing me a receipt, highlighting it so it's highlighted, and telling me I had to give that back to them along with the room key in order to get my $35 cash deposit back. Can't ya just check my name off your log book that's written in pen. Why do you need this flimsy receipt to give me my deposit back? And let's talk about this young woman's enthusiasm. Done.

What I had found out was most of the front desk people were residents of the hostel. They got free rent for working there. Many quit, which is a small indicator of the working conditions presented by this fine establishment.

Fortunately, I moved to another room with a big black dude, who was the literal definition of gentle giant. Easily the nicest guy in the whole hostel, and very considerate. Another fine dude who spent five years in lockup and actually learned his lesson. And a fifty-seven year old dance instructor and street performer doin' what he luvs.

My new roomies were awesome! Much better than those whipper snappers, who didn't realize that closing the screen door didn't prevent smoke or their loud voices from entering the room. And I don't know why they gave me a key, since no one ever bothered to lock the door, which left the issue of my work laptop.

I could carry it around, but having to worry about that thing 24/7 for the next four weeks would have sucked ass. And yes I have, so I know. Actually, sucking ass was better. Again, fortunate for me, the manager of the place was nice enough to lock it in her office, a door like any door in your house, accessed by one key. No dead bolt, no alarm system (yeah, right. Remember the front desk?), no guard dog. Fantastic. And this woman looked like death with bags under her eyes. You know how you get those baggy eyes when you wake up from an unsatisfying nights sleep? Beat up bags, not the luxury kind from Luis Vuitton. The kind where they've seen Hell, spent a long time there, then for some reason Satan said, "All right. I've decided to let you leave," when He's never let anyone else leave before since the beginning of time. Those bags. But I used my manly wiles to get her to lock up my laptop everyday, a slight inconvenience on her part. Then she got that look in her eye, and I stopped using my manly wiles.

This sounds like an article about not using hostels. Nope. It's an article of what to look for in a hostel. Do they have rules about alcohol, drugs, and quiet time? Is there plenty of parking? Free Weefee? Is there a real communal kitchen. This one was located in another guests' room. Serious? Read the damn reviews, which I did and should have gotten the clue when I saw better reviews at the other hostels. Do the dregs of society live at the hostel? Unlikely if there's limited stay, which most should have. And location (the one redeeming factor here). This one was located in Waikiki, which is what I wanted.

Most hostels have semi-private and private rooms, so lockers may not be a concern if you're reserving that. But all hostels should have lockers. Jeez.

Again, hostels are a great way to meet different people, stay close to the sights, and save cash. You can meet people at hotels, but I found they aren't as conducive.

One last thing is make sure the reviews state the rooms are clean. Bed bugs are a real issue. I was bitten no less than a hundred times, sometimes over a dozen a day. I get Hawaii is a tropical place, and mosquitos are supercharged there, but I got bit a lot while working on my bed. Oh, yeah...my office:

I don't make my bed

I don't make my bed

Natural Crowd Sourcing

Having lived in Hawaii for the month of March was an interesting experience on too many levels for a single article. But the center of it all has been a spiritual experience. And not the kind where I’ve found Gawd, and Gawd spoke to me through the gates of Heaven, and I throw all my materialistic wears out and forgo wearing clothes as I become free of any shame, and blah blah the fucking blah. Many people have asked me if living there has inspired my writing.

No.

Others state how lucky I am to vacation there for so long.

Well, I had to wake up at 5 AM Hawaii time, so I can log in at 8 AM PST. I know. Poor me. But that's no vacation.

You’re still lucky to have that freedom, they say.

For sure. No doubt.

Da Lee

Da Lee

Many years ago, I saw an interview with Brandon Lee, Bruce Lee’s son, and he was talking about the movie THE CROW. He stated something to the effect that nothing is meaningless, that even the smallest task like brushing our teeth is important, not in regards to dental health, but just the task itself. How many full moons will we ever see, he stated? Hell. How many moons in any phase will we see?

No one is ever guaranteed tomorrow, and this isn’t a sadistic statement as much as a simple fact. Filming the last scene of the movie, Brandon was shot by accident on set, rushed to the hospital, put on the operation to remove the bullet that had lodged against his spine wasn’t successful, and he passed.

This simple statement wasn’t lost on me as I sat on the beach in Waikiki. Because the rainy season extends into March, I did my best to see every single sunset. To see the Pacific, the grandest of all oceans, for now anyways, to engulf that great ball of fiya, fire for those not in the know, is a rare treat for most mainlanders.

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A sunset by any other name is still damn awesome. And here’s the funny part, sunsets are fake. Or the use of that word is fake.

The people of today consider themselves very smart, technologically advanced, aware beings. Though we throw around terms like sunrise and sunsets like those are real things. Like the Earth is still flat. The sun never sets, nor does it rise. But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. What is it about these moments that amaze us?

I think it’s one of those rare times when we marvel at the beauty of the world and nothing enters our mind. That to me—Peace & Quiet—is the ultimate spiritual experience. Well…sex is one, too, but peace and quiet is not elements of that act. TMI?

Peace. Quiet. When our minds are free from everything and anything possible at that moment is possible. Ideas come from this place. Dreams emanate from this space. Connection comes from this place. True connection anyways.

And the times when I wrought myself out of that connection was when I thought about how many more of these will I ever see? Here, my characters in my book understand forever moments. Moments that stretch into eternity, not through memory, but where time itself just doesn’t matter anymore. Only this moment matters because it’s the only moment where we can have any effect. And the effect is really only us.

Natural crowd sourcing:

The sun: Natural way to crowd source

The sun: Natural way to crowd source

What Bonds Us

Nice hairdo

Nice hairdo

All artists draw from experiences in life. Not that we must have them in order to be good storytellers, but, like dirty nuggets of gold, they help create space in our minds and allow our emotions and creative and insightful thoughts come to us. And sometimes, outside of any artistic endeavor, it reminds me of what's important to me in life.

Someone's walkin' on water

Someone's walkin' on water

Sitting at the Island Vintage Coffee in my third day living in Hawaii, for a month anyway, my first day filled me with events that went beyond my expectation.

Downtown Honolulu has a first Friday art walk, and it was something I wanted to do, loving the Oakland First Fridays Arts Festival. Think massive street party filled with live street bands, performers, galleries, chains of food trucks, and merchandise only found locally. It's like ten blocks of fantastic experience with alleyways intermingled.

Honolulu's paled in comparison--one live band, two blocks of stuff, and a smattering of artists struggling to find their place in their world. I had met up with a group of people to go on this walk, none of them had ever experienced Oakland's, and my failing to explain to them the grandness of it all, despite Oaktown's murderous reputation, didn't do the other city by the bay nuthin'.

I did meet this beautiful woman with depth and sensed a connection. So we walked and talked and people watched. We slowly got to know each other and things seemed to go well. Then I found out she was leaving the H.I. in the morning following the next day. To make things a little worse, her ride wanted to leave and so she had to as well.

He so fast, he blurry

He so fast, he blurry

While sitting alone in a restaurant, I witnessed someone throwing a bottle at another man's face for reasons unbeknown to me, then watched a Capoeira demonstration, which was awesome, saw a homeless woman drop someteen dollars, pointed at her then her money and she raised her hang loose hand and stared at me, and stared at me, and stared at me for a lot longer than I felt comfortable with, then went back to the hostel to find my young roommates hollering' it up, preventing the sandman from calling. That was my first day in the Hawaiian Islands.

Oh, did I mention the hookers stalking the streets? Yeah, I found them while walking off the main strip of Waikiki. Yes, Hawaiian women are naturally beautiful, so...yeah...and no I did not.

Dude, leave me alone, braddah

Dude, leave me alone, braddah

My diet starts tomorrow

My diet starts tomorrow

Next morning, I looked at my phone and that woman from the night before asked if she could tag along with me to the North Shore. We drove the perimeter of Oahu, saw a sleeping sea turtle, and she treated me to a Polynesian Fire God hamburger, which was as spicy as it sounds, tried the famed Fumis Fresh Shrimp truck, then drove about a quarter of a mile to find another famed Fumis Fresh Shrimp truck, only to find another farther down the highway. "Shady" she yelled, and we both laughed.

This was like the fifth shrimp truck

This was like the fifth shrimp truck

We decided to settle down at a beach and catch some Hawaiian sun and entered Waimea Bay. The winds were whisking up the waves to the point where the current was able to swallow unskilled swimmers into the Pacific Ocean, us, and the lifeguard had to announce a warning. He suggested to us that we hit Turtle Bay Resort, which has sort of an alcove, hint: you two don't belong in here's torrential waves. Good thing we did cuz it was exactly what we wanted. For the next few hours, we talked about life, love, kids, passions, what hers were, told her about my soul search that lead me to writing, and then I found out that she was going to stay for a few more days, but had to leave for personal reasons.

Hmm. Puzzle. Let's see if I can gain her trust enough to reveal what that is.

We continued to talk about our experiences with Hawaii, well my love for it, my heartbreaking point of having to cancel my home purchase to stay with my ailing mom (sympathy card, gentlemen), and she blurted out something about a boyfriend.

Sucker punch in the nuts. My nuts. Not hers. Wait. She don't have none. Wait! She doesn't have none--any.

Her trip to Hawaii was a response to his inability to commit. I'll go as far as that.

Doing what I do as a former mentor of children, I told her that she should just end it with this guy, move up to Nor Cal, and date me.

Right. Remember, I have no balls cuz she sucker punched them, flat. Not that I consoled her, but more listened and offered advise when the conversation seemed to point to it. In the end, she left earlier than scheduled to be with him, and that's sweet.

After I dropped her off, there was a feeling of lost connection because I realized something. I wasn't hoping that we would somehow get together, she lives many, many hours away from me, but that I value the connection between a man and a woman. Especially from my point of view, I cherished feeling connected to her, or any woman of depth. Whether she felt that way too, I don't know. Maybe, she was one of those angels, like friends who stay for only a day, to remind me that connection, that being with someone who I want to share life with is important. I mean, isn't that what we all want? Which is a line one of my favorite characters in my book uses.

This connection is probably why I want to write my fantasies so much. For whatever reason, I feel connected to these stories, and I can't help but tell them.

Wherever you are, I hope you find what you're looking for, and I thank you for making my trip here all the better. Ciao Bella.