Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On-On: Lucky #13

I'd like to say that I'm just a little superstitious about the number 13, but I have to be honest. I think the real reason why it's taken me an extra week to do this post is that I just didn't want to admit that my trip was really over. You know what they say: "de Nile ain't just a river in Egypt." But here I am, and I'm happy to be home. Before I get into all that, I do want to share a few things about my last week on Guam.

On Saturday I had my "going away party" at The Venue. Of all the good spots on the island to
check out live music or just grab a drink during Happy Hour, this was my first and last favorite. Vicky's mom hooked up the catering (much love!), and a lot of good peoples came out to say peace and just enjoy the night. It was an added bonus to be having my party upstairs in the The Loft while my favorite local band was playing downstairs. If you've been following this blog since December, you know I have love for the live music scene on Guam. But if you know me beyond this blog, you know that I'm not the one to blow smoke for the sake of another musician's ego. That being said, Rebel Lion is legit. There were legit when I first checked them at the Guam Music Festival, and they're legit every week at The Venue. So when we packed up the party in The Loft around 1am, I was happy to relax and enjoy one last show with the folks for a few more hours downstairs.

I think I was halfway through my last Stella when my friend Toby talked me into joining him for a little adventure the next day. Maybe I should have been skeptical, based on his vague answers when I asked what exactly the adventure would entail. But I trust Toby, and we hadn't really spent quality time since I met him on our trip to Fiji in January. All I knew was that it would involve running, and that I should bring water and a long-sleeved shirt. I figured I would go out with a bang on my last weekend on-island, so I agreed to meet him at the rendezvous point the next day.

Damn, I'm glad I did. I have now been initiated into the wild and beautiful world of "hashing." For those who aren't familiar (I wasn't until two weekends ago), this kind of hashing has nothing do to with corned beef or Indian herbs. In a nutshell, a "hash" is like Survivor, meets an Easter egg hunt, meets summer camp, meets a college keg party. I gave a lot of thought to how I would describe this experience on my blog, but part of me always knew I would never even try. So at this point, all I will say is, you had to be there. It's definitely not for everyone, but for me, it was magic. Thank you Toby.

My last Sunday on Guam was set aside officially for family time. That's what brought me to Guam, so that's how I wanted to go out. Vicky's parents prepared the feast—do you see a trend here? Crab... steak... and other stuff that can't remember because of the crab and steak. Once "the itis"* set in, I succumbed to a short food coma on the couch.

Monday, March 8th, was officially the longest day of my life. At 2:00 am we headed to the airport. At 4:00 am I boarded my flight for the first leg of my journey back home. Four hours later I landed in Tokyo, but due to the time change, it wasn't 8:00 am, it was only 7:00 am. After a 9-hour layover in Narita Airport (God Bless Expedia.com) I boarded a 4:00 pm plane for California. Here's the kicker... after 9-hour flight I landed in Los Angeles at 9:00 am... ON MONDAY!!! My two hour layover in LAX turned into a four-hour layover, "due to bad weather in San Francisco," which could only mean that American Airlines just fucked something up. But at that point, I didn't really know what day it was (even though it was still Monday), so a few more hours was no big deal.

At the beginning of this post I mentioned that I was in denial about my trip ending, but that I'm happy to be home, so now let me explain a little more. I still haven't accepted that I won't be going to the beach this week (at least not without a wetsuit). And I haven't accepted that I'll have to make my own damn finadine for the foreseeable future. And after a lifetime of being fortunate to travel a lot, this is the first time that I've returned to the Bay Area without having that visceral, video game-like "power-up" feeling. No, I'm not exactly doing cartwheels right now.

But, what I can really appreciate is that my "home" is not a place. It's not the apartment I moved out of before my trip. It's not the house or houses where I grew up. For me, my home is only one thing... the people that I call family. In that sense, this trip has only made my home bigger and more beautiful. I felt that every time someone welcomed me at their dinner table or offered me their couch. I felt that when I met The Notorious D.A.D. at baggage claim at SFO on Monday. On that note, I'll wrap up this thirteenth post by saying the only appropriate thing I can think of. Thank you all!!!

PS: This is not the end of "Live From Tomorrow." Next stop, Johannesburg, South Africa... so, in the tradition of The Hash... "On-On!"

*"The Itis" is a chronic, debilitating condition, prevalent in Oakland, California, but also found in humans throughout the world. Symptoms include temporary lack of motivation, the need to take a power-nap, and a willingness to de-prioritize any previously-important obligations. Different cultures have dealt with this age-old condition in different ways. While Puritans often attributed the itis to original sin, many Latin American societies have adopted the siesta as a way to deal with this mysterious force of nature.

Bibliography of My Trip (updated on 3/13/10)
> Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human - by Richard Wrangham (2009)
> Angels & Demons - by Dan Brown (2000)
> Last Words: A Memoir - by George Carlin (2009)
> Say You're One of Them - by Uwem Akpan (2008)
> Long Walk to Freedom - by Nelson Mandela (1994)
> The Da Vinci Code - by Dan Brown (2003)
> Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - by Jared Diamond (1997)
> Foundation & Earth - by Isaac Asimov (1986)
> Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle - by Moritz Thomsen (1969)
> The Alchemist - by Paulo Coelho (1988)
> Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America - by Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
> Don Quixóte - by Miguel de Cervantes (1605/1615)
> Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy - by Carlos Eire (2003)
> The Bluest Eye - by Toni Morrison (1970)
> Before Night Falls - by Reinaldo Arenas (1992)
> Moby Dick - by Herman Melville (1851)
> Angela's Ashes - by Frank McCourt (1996)
> Cross Country - James Patterson (2008)

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Word on Water

This week was pretty basic in my personal life, but a few things going on made me want to write about the ocean.

I didn't include "The Beach" in last week's list of "5 Things I Missed About Guam," only because I'd been in New Zealand, which has its fair share of beautiful bluffs and shores. All the same, I did miss Guam's beaches, and I was lucky to visit two new ones this week. It started on Monday with a trip to Tanguisson Beach. After a month in the not-so-tropical waters on New Zealand, it was nice to enjoy the warm water without having to piss myself.

On Saturday I visited Rotidian, which is now officially my favorite beach on Guam. Unfortunately, I forgot my book, so I was forced to just lounge, drink Coronas, go for a run, and enjoy the surf. Short of being in New Orleans circa August 2005, there is no better way to appreciate the power of water than to step into the ocean. This is especially true when there's a strong undertow or current, like there was at Rotidian that day. If I picked the right spot, I could actually swim in place, using the current as an aquatic treadmill. But that was a little much after a beer and a run, so I went retro and decided to play one of my all-time favorite games from childhood... Jell-O.

Many of you have played this game as kid on a long car trip—it's simple. You just let your body go limp, and "accidentally" smash the brother/sister/cousin sitting next to you every time the car takes a turn. Well, when we were little, my brothers and I used to play a beach version of this game in the summer. Basically, you lie down on the edge of the ocean, where there's almost enough water to cover your body, then you go limp and let nature do its thing. It's not as violent as the road-trip version of the game, but there is something sublime about just "going with the flow." You may end up a hundred yards down the beach; or, you may end up getting sucked in and body-slammed into a mass of coral.

That brings me to the not-so-fun side of water. My prayers go out to the people of Western Europe that got slammed this week in the storms and flooding. My thoughts are also with the people of Chile as they try to put their lives and country back together. I was in Hawaii in 2004 when the Indian Ocean Tsunami wrecked Indonesia. This time, I found myself in the middle of a Pacific region-wide tsunami warning, resulting from the 8.8 earthquake in South America. I fell asleep on Saturday night to the sounds of CNN predicting that a wave would probably hit Guam around 1pm the next day. The scariest part was the wait, and not knowing what the next day would bring. I had not had that exact feeling since I fell asleep on Sunday October 20, 1991. Thankfully, the tsunami warning was cancelled, and the only fallout for me was a nixed boat trip to go check out the local dolphins.

A big part of the reason why my mind has been on the ocean is that I'm thirty pages shy of finishing Moby Dick. I felt a sad irony when I read about Tilikum, the orca, making the third human kill of his career in captivity. There's been a strong outcry from the animal rights community, and a lot of defensive responses from Sea World and the rest of the animal entertainment industry. Ultimately, reading Herman Melville's classic makes me appreciate how ridiculous it is to argue that it makes sense to capture a 12,000 pound whale and keep him in a pool. All that being said, rest in peace to Dawn Brancheau.

So those are my thoughts on water, the power of the ocean, and how untamable it really is. Signing off until next week.

Pura Vida,