Wind and Water.
That’s what the masseuse Laura said as she did some Lomi Lomi thing on my back yesterday. Double-triple Aquarians (whoever they are) have a really hard time on these islands, she said. They just kind of float out into space. But you need land. You need to be grounded. And there’s not much of that here.
Laura’s Lomi Lomi, I guess, may be immaculate proof of that.
So two days ago I threw up that post about, what? Bill Graham. Running. A dead body on a path. Switching out of a hotel. I need to be writing about troop movements in WWII, and instead I was punching the keys on all that other stuff.
It really was a string of non-sequiturs, a string of non-sequiturs that had an audience of precisely. . .zero.
So post it I did.
Then some people read it. And one person in particular, Poppy Davis. (Some day ask me for the Poppy story). And Poppy shared the post with some of her friends. And then things kind of blew up. Because one of those friends happened to be Laura who in a former life had worked for Bill Graham Presents. And so the post went to her FB and then to all the former Bill Graham staff and acolytes and that all apparently turned into a conversation. And it turns out that Laura is here on Maui. Not only is she here on Maui, but she’s, like, two blocks away from our new hotel in Wailea.
And not only is she two blocks away, but she just worked a benefit that involved Jackson Browne and Wavy Gravy among other musicians and they had all come to Hawaii and were booked at….you guessed it….the hotel from which we had checked out.
And like us, the talent couldn’t take it. They found the environment strangely strange. One singer left to stay somewhere else. Wavy Gravy was weirded out (and that guy comes pre-weirded. I imagine it might take a lot to further weird him out…) Who knows on what dark and lonely road Jackson Browne set himself trudging.
So that’s how we ended up with Laura the fantastic traveling masseuse from Na Alii Massage in our hotel getting fantastic complimentary massages. Laura wanted to make sure that I got all the dead body ju-ju out of my system. Which she certainly did.
And on the way, I learned where to get good fish tacos. And about Laura’s husband who is way into history. In particular WWII history. And in particular what went down in Eastern Europe and precisely who’s village was slaughtered by whom. And about an elder relative who in her 80’s had nowhere to go until she heard from someone that in New Mexico you could live in University dorms as long as you attended classes. So this ancient woman enrolled in some classes, moved into the dorms, hoarded shit to the ceiling, and all the other freshman students kind of looked after her. It went on for years. And about how one can be trapped (by addiction, by life, by whatever) and the discipline of self that can help one break free.
I also learned about the second-to-last-Jewish-refugee kid to be adopted from the Army barracks in upstate New York. And a little more about why a man who should have been so reviled was in fact so loved. “Bill Graham single-handedly created the system,” Laura said. “He was the one who built the socket that allowed millions of people to plug into the Universe.” The Dead on their own? They couldn’t have done it. They were the channel, but they needed this huge system – a system of Graham’s devising – to make it happen.
In 1988 soon after Anna and I started dating we went to a New Year’s show at the Oakland Coliseum. Anna had confessed that she didn’t really like the Dead. She said that she would have preferred watching the The Tom-Tom Club comprised of the leftover members of the Talking Heads. That night they were playing their own New Year’s show at the Warfield over in San Francisco. But there we were, in the Oakland Coliseum, waiting for something to happen. There was some warm up band that I can’t remember. They left. Then the lights went down. More folks walked on stage and picked up there instruments. It was none other than the Tom-Tom Club. And they began to play.
That was Bill Graham.
So floaty floaty we’ve been the last few days. If you asked me what exactly we did after the massages, I’d be hard pressed to tell you. Give it up to the wind and water.
Except for one more thing. Remember the pig boat to Moloka’i? Well when we didn’t get on it, we had to call Anna’s friend on the other island and tell her we weren’t coming.
No worries, she said. She would just get on a plane and come here. Soon, very soon, the wind and water will carry me (and by extension you) into her story.
Stay tuned. It’s a good one.
We roll in yesterday, 36 hours little sleep trying to forge our way out of Sebastopol. We stop for repast at a shrimp truck and lemonade stand on the side of the road outside of Kahului. And then the slow meander over the saddle and up the coast to Lahaina.
We’re all gling glong. We grab a sixpack of bikini blonde and a stack of raw fish and settle in on the porch of the Lahaina Inn. Nap and up to Ka’apalani to throw ourselves in the ocean at sunset.
What do I love about conversations? They’re all fundamentally false. They’re basically stories that we tell one another. And for the very same reason in the deepest sense they are absolutely true.
Conversation #1. Ten at night at Cheeseburgers. Surf crashing on the sand beneath us. Sitting at the table next to us a guy, Del who grew up in the Fillmore in the sixties. In Maui for the first time. He’s been there for a week with his girlfriend who he flew out from Buffalo. Come to San Francisco, he told her, and I’ll take you somewhere warm. He lived for a long time in North Carolina working as a general contractor building golf course homes and then his ninety year old mom begins to slip away so he went back to San Francisco, back to the Fillmore with his boy, and then he was going to stay and take care of his mom and his wife was going to join them. She shipped her stuff. And three weeks before she was to get on the plane she died. He and his boy never saw her again. Flash forward a year and his boy, seven years old, he sees his dad so sad, and he’s so sad, he goes onto on online dating site (Seniors Dating dot Com) and he makes a profile for his dad and one night he goes up to him and he shows all these pictures of women and he’s weeping and he says “How ’bout that one, dad? Or how bout that one?” And together they set on a few and he calls this woman in Buffalo. She has a couple grandkids of her own. She works the night shift in a tire factory and they talk every morning on the phone. It’s been three years now. She’s come out twice before and now Hawai’i. And we tell her he must like her a whole awful lot and she starts to laugh this big full laugh and she flashes her finger and asks, “Where’s the ring then?” And he starts to laugh and he looks to us and he laughs even harder and I suddenly feel happy for him and I feel happy for the world because without any further information I trust what’s coming.
Conversation #2. 6:30 am dawn breaking over the harbor. I trudge to the coffee shack adjacent. Espresso girl not there yet. But they got drip. Bank card thing not working yet. You staying round here? the owner asks. I nod my head next door. You can pay later, he says.
Conversation #3. Anna and I running south on Front St, to get to the courthouse banyan tree and the beaches, and then up and over the curb plows a dude in a wheelchair, he has a stump of a leg, he’s attired in an immaculate vintage black suit and a pressed t-shirt with South Park style characters. I turn back. “Yo,” I say. “Who’s on your shirt?” Dude does a split quick pivot – his thin face gnarled and smiling and tweaked – “Cheech and Chong,” he says. “Cheech and Chong.” “Where’d you get that shirt?” I asked. “I saw it on a dude,” he said. “And I said, ‘that’s my shirt.’ And he gave me the shirt.” “That’s a good way to get a shirt,” I said. We bumped fists and went our separate ways.
And I thought, this guy was basically a peg leg pirate. Except that he didn’t even have a peg leg. He was blazing through Lahaina in a suit in a wheelchair and was about as empowered a person as I’ve ever seen.
Conversation #4. We run along the breakwater, crowds lining up to board the whale watching excursion boats and we stop at the Hawaiian Ocean Project booth and have a word about Snubaing with Eric.
He struggles to be polite, but then confesses that he’s a free diver and he doesn’t particularly like the Snuba thing. You’re stuck in that 10-20 foot range, he tells us, and even as an experienced diver the breathing is kind of tweaky at that depth. You can’t really breathe until you go deeper. Which of course leads to conversations about where we’re from. He’s from Mill Valley, he says. He use to own a string of car washes. Palo Alto, Marin, Fairfax, but he lost it all in the divorce. All of it? I ask. All of it, he says with a full smile. 962 grand worth. I said she could take it all if I could have custody of my boy. And that’s what I got. Day after the divorce, I went with my baby to the San Francisco Airport and asked when the next plane was leaving for Hawai’i. Lady told me 12 hours. I told her I wanted one one-way ticket and she handed it to me and I never looked back.
His son? Healthy as an ox. He surfs. Grown up in the Caribbean, Virgin Islands, Maui, this island, that island. Sixteen years old, had an amazing life and he’s an amazing kid. Still thinks his dad is as cool as his girlfriend. And in all that time, not once has his mom asked to see him. I got the better end of the deal, Eric says.
Conversation #5. Walking past the boats to the beach and Anna spies a set of baby pigs all crated up. They’re adorable. Picture twelve little Wilburs. Three dudes standing dockside. Where you taking them? Anna asks. Moloka’i, one guy answers and nods to a pint size cat boat half the size of the Minnow. Moloka’i? Anna asks. Could we hop on? We have a friend living there and plane fare is a hundred a piece, but it’s only 45 minutes by boat. Could these guys take us there? The three guys, nice guys, shrug and laugh. It’s up to the captain. It’s his boat, one guy says. Pigs though get priority seating. Nice guys. Would be a fun trip. We go back to the hotel, grab an extra shirt and toothbrush. Girl at the coffee shack says it’s kind of gnarly in Moloka’i. We might have to hitch a boat to Lana’i and then take the ferry boat back from there. Back dockside captain has shown up. Tough dude. As he should be. It’s his boat. The vessel and all manner of life and limb are under his command. A hundred bucks, he says. A fair price. But not fair enough for us, knowing that we were shanghaiing ourselves and might not even make it back. Some things best saved for another day.