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.