Monday, June 27, 2005

Hana: Good Things in Small Packages

Time for another family adventure: my mother came out for a short jaunt to Hana and I joined her. I really enjoy traveling with my family and I consider us to be pretty close. That all changed when I saw this at the Honolulu Airport and realized that some families are WAY closer than we'll ever be:
Family bathroom!
Yep, that's a bathroom. It's located right between the men's and the ladies'. Even the sign looks crowded and sort of akward.

So, to get to the airline that takes all four daily passengers to Hana, you have to walk waaaaay past the international and domestic terminals to the end of the dinky inter-island terminal to the beensy little airline. When we walked up to the counter they handwrote our tickets and then handed us each a bottle of water- I figured that was to soften the blow of the next step of check in: they ask you point-blank what your bodyweight is. Yeah, the airplane is that small.

They didn't actually announce our weight to the other passengers, but you got the picture when they got us all out on the tarmac and then called us each by name and told us where we'd be sitting. This would be a good place for Jenny Craig to recruit. They should just have a booth right there on the landing strip.

When we got on the cute little plane our pilot was Mr. Comedian. I think pilots must have a fun life soaring through the clouds all day, cracking jokes on the loudspeaker, and watching life below become really small. It sort of puts things in perspective. We zipped over a couple of rainclouds and that was really nice. That said, I just sort of had to trust that he knew what he was doing, because we had a sort of disconcerting sight in the middle of the flight. Maybe this happens in big planes, too, but you just don't see it and therefore think that your pilot has their attention on nothing but your safety at all moments:
In-flight reading

The view from the plane was amazing. Maui has lots of remote waterfalls that spill off of cliffs:
Waterfall on Maui

There was a small moment of panic when we landed in Hana, because the runway ends in the ocean:
I hope the brakes work...

Luckily, the brakes worked fine, and we deplaned and made our way over to the airport, which was about the size of a quarter:
Hana Airport

Inside, we talked to the airport employee (yes, there's just one) and got a rental car figured out. She'd just gotten back from her lunch break, during which time the airport is just sort of sitting there doing its own thing with no employees. I did also see another airport worker performing a necessary service, but he didn't work inside:
Weedwhacking the tarmac
Yes, that really is a man weed-whacking the runway we'd just landed on.

We drove to our cottage and saw this cute baby pineapple:
Tiny pineapple

Across the street there were lots of little fruit stands selling the kinds of things that fall off of trees here.
Self serve fruit standThe fruitstands are even less populated than the airport (read: zero employees) so they each have a little cash box and use the honor system:
Honor system!
For the record: I am just showing what I saw and I personally find Canadian coinage to be just as honorable as coins from the good old USA.

We went out to one of the two restaurants in town to grab a bite to eat and saw this sign in the outdoor seating area:
Don't feed the animals
I was confused by it until we sat down and a motley assortment of birds appeared out of nowhere to beg for an onion ring. This included a street gang of hard-living roosters who strutted and tried to boss my mother into giving them a piece of her lunch. That struck me as funny until I put it together that she was eating teriyaki chicken, which is just really gross for them to want to eat:

Along with the two restaurants Hana boasts a post office, two tiny grocery stores, and the smallest bank I've ever seen:
Smallest bank ever
That sign in the window lets you know that the town's ATM is located at the store across the street, just in case you missed the convenient one and a half hour time slot that the bank is open each day.

That afternoon, we visited a home outside of Hana. This is really random, but they had Richard Pryor's old bathtub in their yard:
Richard Pryor's bathtub
It's a long story, but apparently he used to have a home in Hana and when it was torn down somebody's somebody was friends with the plumber or something, and these folks got the tub to eventually use as a huge flowerpot. The point of all of this is that Richard Pryor's bathtub has THIS view from where it sits:
bathtub's view
Which just proves to me that celebrities are on such a higher plane of existence that even their bathtubs get to retire in luxury. It seems a little unfair.

We stopped by a beach on our way home, and saw this elaborate sandcastle:
Someone took the seed pods from a nearby tree and drew eyes on them to create this "Aliens-landing-on-medieval-castle" tableau. I think it works well.

As if Hana itself were not cute enough, they had to also have this car for sale.
Teensy car
I mean, an MG Midget with "Toy Car" on the plates? I almost went into cuteness convulsions, but managed pulled out of it in time to make it to the next beach:
Black beach
The black sand is a really striking effect, but made my skin look even more greenish and pale than usual:

The black sand beach had these awesome warning signs, you get to see the guy who fell off the volcano cliff in our last episode meet a variety of other kinds of certain doom:
Even worse:
This looks bad too:
Double ow

Here you can see that the best defense against jellyfish is an akward disco dance move:
Look out!
The same maneuver works on Man-o-wars:

With all of this danger down at the beach, you can see why in ancient times, before warning signs, they'd have a lot of casualties and just have to bury them right on the spot. This sign is nestled between all the warning signs:
Ancient burial ground

Here we have a sign that does not have any warnings, but seems like maybe it should:
Ancient burial airport
I mean, a picnic area in a cave under a restroom? Maybe not the best idea. And "Ancient Burial Airport?" seems less than lucky to me. Not to mention the lava tube.

Despite all of this DANGER, my mother mustered up a sweet story to tell me about some of the flowers on the beach. She had just read a Hawaiian legend about the flowers:
half flowers
These flowers grow just like this, and represent people, as we are only half a flower:
two halves
Until we meet our perfect match:
whole flower
When we become a whole flower.

We stayed at our cottage that night, and in the morning we went back to town. We went to the same lunch spot, saw the same roosters, saw the same people, saw the exact same guy ride by on his bike at the same time time the other guy with the loud stereo drove by to go to work. It was like Groundhog Day. I guess that's life in such a small small town.

Consoled by the fact that we wouldn't be missing anything, we headed back to the airport. When we arrived, we discovered two tourists who had been stranded on the road in a broken-down car using the Airport's phone. The employee came back from lunch just then, and gave them a piece of her mind about using official airport equipment. I think walking down the jungle road hunting for a pay phone when there was a completely empty one-room airport for the using seemed counterintuitive to the stranded couple.

I was a little concerned when I looked around the airport (didn't take long) and noticed that there were no metal detectors anywhere. I wondered how exactly they'd check if we were safe to fly. Luckily (I guess) there just wasn't any search. We got lined up in a row again, and one of the pilots just guessed our weight by yelling it out and pointing, like a carnival worker. He was pretty accurate, and at least we got to share the humiliation as a group.

On our flight back, we got an enormous 8-seater plane and TWO pilots. That was a good thing, because the main pilot had a big cast on. I was momentarily worried about that, but my mother pointed out that only one hand is really needed to properly read a newspaper. What a relief.
Pilot with cast

The trip to Hana made Honolulu look like a big city to me for the first time. When we landed at the airport, I tried to walk back in toward the terminal where we came in, but the pilots waved me away and ushered us toward the back door, a gate in a chain-link fence. It seemed kind of unceremonius, but apparently the point of that was for us to pass through "security" on our way out, which was a tiny shed off in the distance. Our screening consisted of the security worker standing up and looking at us from inside the shed.
Security booth
I guess they all feel comfortable that the biggest danger in Hana is not going to be found on the planes, it's all safely stowed away at the black sand beach.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Signs, signs, everywhere signs

This past weekend I took a little side trip to the Big Island of Hawai'i to see the live volcano. As usual I didn't really get any shots of lava or anything, but I saw some other stuff on my way there.

We started out in Kona, home of the famous coffee. Of course, I didn't drink any Kona coffee there. But I did try to get some lunch, and found this place, which sounds like a nice place to meet and start a relationship with a really supportive person:
Huggo's- a friendly place

Huggo's turned out to be closed, so we headed next door to it's casual-dining-and-seaside-bar counterpart, which looks like a good place to head when that original supportive relationship turns sour:
Huggo's on the rocks

Huggo's on the Rocks is an interesting little spot, they seem to have stolen their decor from the Gilligan's Island set when the show went off the air. Even the bathroom looks like the professor could pop his head out at any moment and show you the cell phone he fashioned out of palm fronds and cowrie shells.
Huggo's restroom is straight out of Gilligan's Island

Then I saw this sign as we walked around. It's obvious why they don't need to post the time and location, but I wonder why they'd need a sign at all. If you were the kind of person who was going to attend, wouldn't you just already know?
Psychic Fair

I saw this great kiosk where you can get a hot piece of glass:
Your one stop shop for a hot piece of glass

If I owned a company that made chocolate-covered espresso beans, I'd give it a really appetizing name, too:
um. yeah.

This guy is apparently going to boss you into having a relaxing good time:

This kind of thing you really only see in Hawaii. It's like saying "Chipper McHappyton's house of love shirts." I never saw a sign like that in Oakland.
Only in Hawaii

Here you can see Bosco, the amazing one-man band. He was actually not too bad, he had a soft voice and cracked really bad jokes between songs. It's just that you don't see one-man bands take themselves quite so seriously most of the time.
One man band!

Later that night, back in my hotel room, I took a shower. Right below the shower head, I spied this warning sign. Apparently there's something really important that only people who can read Japanese are supposed to look out for.
Clearly I'm supposed to not do *something*...

The next morning, we hit the road for the town of Volcano, which, interestingly enough, has an active volcano in it. On the way we saw some interesting wildlife on the side of the road:
Zebra and Horse
Okay so, a zebra? Fine, whatever. But what about the poor horse kept in the same pen? It's kind of a shaggy looking horse anyway, and I think it might have a complex about it's looks. Every day, everyone comparing horse to zebra, horse to zebra. You can see that it's stopped brushing its hair, I guess it gave up trying.

Here's a gift shop that encourages burro-riders to pull on over for a look-see.

And here, (finally found it) the holy grail of road trips: the home of good food. It's nice that they let you know on the sign, no guesswork involved. And they've already had their sommolier pair your meal with two lovely beverage selections. I'd always wondered where good food came from.
Home of good food, obviously.

Here's an interesting proposition: pay for two items and receive two items. I was so tired of paying for four things and only getting one, it's a relief to see an honest company.

Drumroll, please: The most southern bar in the US!
The real south.

We finally reached Volcano. No, really, that's what it's called.
No, seriously, the town's called Volcano.

It's really odd looking there, some places are just a field of black rock. It was beautiful.
Lava field

We stopped for lunch at the most obvious place.
Right, of course.

Once you drive into the park, you can see the volcano smoking off in the distance. People come from all over the world to see it.
Smoking, smoking, all day long. Well, two can play at that game. You've got nothing on me, volcano, NOTHING!

A note of caution:
What could they possiblly mean?
Obviously, that sign doesn't apply to us.

I chatted with the park rangers, and they explained the story of the volcanic rocks. Apparently the goddess of the volcano, Pele, feels pretty disrespected if you take rocks home with you in your bag.Pele
I'd heard stories before our trip of people who had brought them home and then suffered car accidents, illness, and general bad luck. What to do? Well, you mail them back, of course, and then the bad luck stops. The rangers said they get a few boxes every day and just open them up at the end of the week and put them in a pile somewhere. I wanted to see the pile. They thought I was creepy for asking to see it, told me no and said, "the pile of rocks is in an undisclosed location." Maybe I look like the kind of person who's going to try to put a hex on a pile of rocks or something. The funniest part was that they said some of the things that get sent back aren't even volcanic rocks, they are either cursed rocks from some other place or green sand from some other angry beach, or really any cursed rock, stick, or plant from any insulted national park god. You can bet I checked my shoes multiple times to make sure there were no pebbles accidentally stuck in them.

The rangers said that people spend exorbitant sums overnighting the rocks back from various locations. Maybe that's how I'll make my first million: rock redelivery services. Write me an email if you'd like to invest in my startup. We can call it "Rock Return Hexpress" or something.

As we progressed on foot down the road towards the lava, the place became thick with warning signs:
It's real nice but you might die. Bye!

This is probably just good warning in general, anywhere you go:
Just general good advice.

And here's some good advice applicable to many life situations:
Good advice for lots of situations.

Here's where the whole "lava walk" thing starts to seem less fun:
This is sounding more appealing by the minute.

Or even a little terrifying. Here you can see that guy who stars in all the "Pedestrian Xing" signs meet his maker:

This one here has to be my favorite. I am not sure what this "D" is that they're referring to, maybe Vitamin D? It's pretty sunny there but I didn't think you could overdose on Vitamin D. Whatever the D is, it's extreme.
Extreme D!
I am sure they'd tell us with some kind of sign if there was a danger of flying molten lava burning a hole through metal or something.

We hit the road again. Apparently, so did the lava.
Why did the lava cross the road?

One last sign before we started our walk:
These people are really serious about the water. No fooling.
Water bottles at Volcano Park
The wind is so extremely dry that even my eyes got thirsty. You drink a liter of water and then reach for some more. It's maybe not the most pleasant hike across broken glass-containing-rocks, but you know, it was cool. Very cool.
Arch in the volcanic rock

It was like walking through a black field. Some of the rock looked like a curled sheet on an unmade bed:

We settled in on some rocks and watched the sunset. The wind is so dry, and there's no humidity, so the air is kind of cool but the rocks below you are warm. It was amazing.
me with rocks

Once the sun set, we could see little red glimmers of lava in the distance, moving down the hill. There was an aroma of printer-in-campfire. Don't ask me how I know that. But the scent was in our hair until we washed it out.

At breakfast, this little Madagascar Gecko ate some of my papaya:
Madagascar Gecko
We were waxing on and on about how cute they are and how much we wanted some in our yard until the waiter explained to us that they eat the sweet little brown transparent ones that live in our yard and eat all our flies. Jerks. They weren't as cute anymore after we heard that.

We wandered around the town of Hilo for a bit before our flight home. There's not much going on around there besides the airport and the volcano:
The only two things you really need.

But we did see the best-ever name for an ice factory:
Whatever. I pretty cool myself.

Which also happened to have a very good warning sign on its ice-chipper:
The caution is more effective with an indication of result.
I'd always wondered what the result of sticking my hand in an ice chipper was, and now I know: pain.

This sort of strikes me as overly-cautious, but I suppose if you've posted a sign on a palm tree in such a way that folks need to stand right underneath it to read the sign, you'd better let people know what might happen to them at any moment:
This is some good advice.

I've always wished there was a one-stop-shop where I could get a couch, a filing cabinet, and a thousand fake grass skirts:
Industrial and Luau supply.

When we got to the airport, we stopped in for a cold beer while we waited for our flight. They carded me, but apparently they card everyone, and I do mean everyone:
I'd card my own mother.

We finally made it home. Right before you leave the security zone in Honolulu airport, there is this box:
But they don't tell you what it's for. Maybe it's all purpose. It made me wish I'd brought all the overdue library books I've ever held onto, the parking tickets, some broken promises, and a sin or two. I'd just jam it all in there. Maybe next time.