Hawaii (cold mountain home)

When I was in exile. Self-staged in the far suburbs of Marietta, divorced and living alone without much to do other than eat local fruit and lettuce, longboard skate or recite poetry to a wall I’d painted red to bring fame, between bouts of writing my book manuscript in my home office and my popular MySpace sports blog down the street in my step-dude’s home office where there was an internet connection, I combed through my folks’ bookshelves pretty hard and eventually read anything that even remotely interested me.

Amongst the hundreds of books I heartily avoided in the chick-lit genre and the stacks of Hippie 1960’s and Me Generation 1970’s self-help froth, I found a memoir by a Hawaiian San Francisco poet who had moved back to the Volcano Village to run this family-owned general country store on the edge of the National Park. Mom had recommended it to me a year prior I recalled, not as a great read but as a story of a poet who moved back “home” to write. It was otherworldly and eerily familiar.

Can we ever really go home again and if we did would it still be home to us? We aren’t what we were and can only remember in part who we were at the time. I’m a Texan with only vague notions of the place reformed from stories told and adult visits to the Republic. An Atlantan, I’m a big city boy who somehow suddenly has only fuzzy half-recollections of the suburb I lived in most of my life.

Seems many moons ago I read that book as I enter what has to be the same store – it’s the only one anywhere near here – with the lady who I already know will someday be my second wife. We buy some exotic Hawaiian sweet snacks and other basic travel supplies.

We are staying in the mountains again, this time in a full on lodge. I’m reminded of the happy summer I spent living way up in the Tennessee mountains as a boy with my Nanny and Mom and siblings, after my folks had finally split for good, which was a long painful time coming. Mom would like it up here.

I so miss my Texas-y Nanny and Daddy. I miss my sweetheart sons. I miss whatever it is that we call home.

The air is getting so crisp and cool up here as the sun threatens to set, I want to pull on a sweater. I find myself hollow, sad on the inside on a cold mountain in Hawaii contemplating home. I even miss my old travel companion some, but I’m ashamed when I have to admit this to myself, because my new travel companion is perfectly great.

And then I see my future-wife see into the near edge of the oceanic depths of me and she asks, “What’s wrong?”

Mt Lodge

Hawaii (black sand beach)

Here’s a “vu-ja-de”, something I have never done before. My shock white feet had not touched black sand.

black sand beach

Roughly abrasive and warm to the touch from soaking up the sun more than reflecting it. Reflections: the whitest sands I’ve seen are close to home, only a state away in Florida, the Panhandle’s fresh powder. And this is as otherworld as I have been. Hawaii just isn’t like anything else.

Hawaii (down)

We bid a fond farewell to our Holualoa friends, as sad as I’ve ever been to leave a vacation spot with more travel still awaiting. Then we find ourselves out on the road in a big blue America unseen by most. Little two lane highway dropping down and around the Big Island. Like much of America, once you are outside any city it gets country quick.

We stop for a Kona Brewery beer and some fruity, savory snacks at a roadside bar. The local service is sweet, too.

Down, down. Singing Elvis aloud to myself when I see the blue, blue oceanic view opening up to us. We stop for a photo op with the giant Pacific Ocean behind us, and I get some great shots of my special lady friend.

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Down, down. We have black sand beaches ahead of us and are approaching the southernmost point in the United States. Our home. Deeply in love and traveling in an exotic land, naturally intoxicating when at its best, this life.

Hawaii (holualoalocal)

Making up poetic words about this hidden village in the most western of American states because this ain’t no professional journalism. This is American culture reporting, and the village of Holualoa has some of the most per-capita culture of any in the Americas. Postage stamp tiny. Teensy. Tee-ninecy and with roughly the number of active art galleries as the capital of the South, where I live. Without the art, it’d only be the coffee. The great Kona region stretching below us and visible from our perfectly perched mountain suite.

Kona coffee

We stroll to town almost daily to have a nosh and engage with the locals. Many we see aren’t locals in the pure sense of the term, they are instead what I might guess the me-called Hawaiian “Nationals” call Howlies and the Mexicans call Gringos. Whites selecting to be in the service industry here or born into this paradise. Born into this. It’s as paradisiacal as popsicles made of Guava. Mango madness. Pineapple passion punch.

We hear they – the “real” locals – pick fights with the tourist whites in the watering holes here at night, but that’s way down the slope in the city of Kona where we had dinner last night, near the port. Tourism and real estate supports much of the economy here, and there is an obviously artisanal, by hand, ruggedness to the local residents, in many ways, regardless of the heritage of those individuals.

An acquaintance I met in a local bar back home lived in Hawaii briefly and said of it, ” The best thing to do with Hawaii, is leave it the Fuck alone.” He had a point, and I understand the level of privilege I’m receiving to be able to spend some time here. I intend no poaching.

Before dinner it was the quaintest little village. I needed a haircut and went to the local barber shop. The lady there gave me a slightly crooked cut but no more crooked than this slanted space we call Earth. Up in these volcanic mountains everything has a lean to it. She had eleven brothers and was as local as the coffee. They grew it. She exported it and ensured it was of the highest quality.

Before that I was once turned upside down, in my mind, altered, disoriented amongst the rough lava rocks.

They talk story. The locals.

Me too…me talk real pretty.

Hawaii (from the rhetta)

This has happened to me before: I have been in a relatively distant land and met someone from back home, and they have answered “Atlanta.” When I’ve asked what part it has been, “Marietta, actually.” When I’ve asked what part it has been, “East Cobb, actually.”

The eldest of the guests at Holualoa Inn run out of steam earlier in the day than the other couples, and they find my lovely lover and I in a state of lazy postcoital bliss, perched atop the resort, staring at the green coffee and pineapple growing, the mellow old cows, the preening peacocks and perfectly round avocados. Glancing upon the port far below.

They are from Shallowford Road. The road my folks live off. The road where I went to high school. This Big Island is huge. This country a true giant, especially when you add in Hawaii and Alaska, which are United States. Texas alone, where I was born, is a country. California, where I set my full-length book, could be a big nation. The largest state east of the Mississippi River, my Georgia could be a fairly good sized country. The United States is unfathomably mammoth.

And it’s a small world.

Jasper Johns flag

Hawaii (luau)

We couldn’t tell them “nothing much” again, the older folks at the communal table breakfast at the B&B who were sharing stories of repelling and hang gliding all over the Big Island. But we really weren’t up for big adventure yet. We knew a traditional Hawaiian luau was on the docket at some point, and we decided we were up for a party, as usual.

holulaloa han

We descended from the verdant mountains into that same black scorched earth, past the little airport to the big resort area, where an enormous pig was cooking in the ground and the fruity drinks and pretty flowers set the mood. A fire dance show and exotic food and the prettiest bird of paradise sat next to me. My wife had lived in Hawaii as a military daughter, so this was less foreign to her. This America.

Hawaii (on the cruise)

Big Island is big adventure more than relaxation, we see from the rest of the guests at the B&B. But not for us. Not yet. We plan to drive all the way around the island, to hike the volcano, to see black sand beaches, to stay in three divergent areas.

Every morning as we enjoy our farm-to-table breakfast and Kona coffee at a communal table full of folks much older than us, we hear of their adventures: repelling, hiking, exploring, and then the spotlight shines on us, and we say not much. “We had a massage: an hour-and-a-half massage…outside.”

on the cruise

We hang out with the staff and they attend solely to us, while the other guests depart for more adventure. We say, “Maybe a swim in the pool after our morning nap. I like to read and stare at the pineapple and listen to the birds sing. We are just enjoying the property and our suite together…and the little town. We may walk out for lunch, again. Maybe a late lunch.”

Our favorite staff member tells us, “You are on the cruise. Go relax by the pool and I’ll bring you some scones and delicious iced tea in a half hour. We baked extra scones this morning because you like them so much. It’s good to be on the cruise.”

Hawaii (we ascended)

Sweet dream songbirds sing me awake, as the sheer joy of realization dawns. We are here, perched in the suite of an open window resort atop the Kona coffee region of Big Island Hawaii. The busy tourist port of Kailua Kona visible to me as I stand, yet so far from our reality.

suite

Only yesterday, my true love and I landed in the tiny Kona Airport, invigorated but exhausted from our far journey from the World’s Busiest Airport in Atlanta. We’d had an early dinner in the Jetson’s-like Encounter restaurant at LAX, where the fresh Cali cuisine was only a tease for the bounty which awaited us many miles across the Pacific. Plane two seemed to soar forever.

The rental car ride revealed a bleak black frontier of lava burnt earth. After stopping in Kona for a quick glance at the ocean and an adult refreshment, we ascended.

Hawaii (a different world)

Welcome to Hawaii:

The mountain roads to Holualoa winding upward through lush vegetation and small rural housing, it had me reminiscing about the time I toured inland Puerto Rico with my father and one of my brothers. We reached Holualoa and were immediately astounded by the number of art galleries in such a small town, at most, really just a little village. Holualoa exists around two of my passions: art and coffee.

Off of Main Street, a tropical tree-lined gorgeous bed-and-breakfast, Holualoa Inn. The lack of a wall separating the living room from the lush green lawn and outside grounds first struck me. This was a different world.

Hawaii fruit

Up On Ponce (C) 2013 HV:

Up On Ponce:

Mammas Are Chocolate Milk

Cheap American Swill

Is The High Life

And Thomas Cheshire

Will Always Be A Hero

Races, Classes, Demographics

Whites, Blacks, Hispanics

Neon-Lit Classics

Against An Old Marquis

And Just Me, See

Boozers, Cruisers And Stone Cold Losers

Atlanta, Georgia ~ Deep South

Plus, That Damn 2 Bus

Where They Ripped The Pioneer Heart

Out Of Our Fair City

Divided We Ain’t, Y’all

Summer-Winter-Spring-Fall

We All Do, Hear-I

Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

And A Revolution

Watch Wheels Spin Round

I Skyscrape Devotion

Center Of Town