Note: I can't speak too much in detail about this year because I know another intern a few years ago got some heat for keeping an online journal of her experiences at this institution.
One thing I can say, and this will be the same for Interns from ages before me, and Interns generations after me, is that it can be an aggravatingly chaotic experience. Part of the learning experience, by nature, is information overload--and then on top of that, someone starts bleeding, or having a chest pain.
Ironically, the 80-hour work week rules make it harder to both learn and do your job. It's very hard to follow-up on something when you must sign out by a certain time. This also means you leave a pile of unfinished work for the next intern--something I truly despise doing.
My "in-house" diet for the last week has been 1 liter of orange juice and perhaps a banana or two; one day a nurse clinician was nice enough to give me her sandwich. My pants are already fitting more loosely. Our workroom is also very hot and I'm chronically dehydrated
The learning curve in internship is vertical, there's no way around that; the human body is such a complexity of fluids, molecules, bone, and electricity that the only way to learn it is hands on. And the responsibility inherent in being a doctor can only be learned by being responsible for patients. Senior medical students get to play at this, but internship is an immersion treatment in responsbility (which also means learning when to defer responsibility up the chain of command).
A busy week. After ATLS, we spent the week getting our certifications in Basic Life Support (essentially CPR), and Advanced Cardiac Life Support. This latter course prepares us to be a member of a "Code Team"--what you see so dramatically on medical TV shows when they slap the paddles to a flatlining patient...except you don't really put paddles on a person with a flatline. Almost everything you see during a code on a show like ER is wrong: from the rubbing defibrillator paddles together, to shocking an asystolic patient to life, to the big adrenaline syringe to the heart.
Anyway, it's been a long week. Not because the material is that challenging; the American Heart Association has been very good about making the decision-making in cardiac life support fit a logical framework, but because you spend long days shoehorning in facts in order to pass written and practical exams at the end of the day where you normally might do this over a leisurely week in another setting. And you also want to avoid sheepishly sitting back down in the examining room because you didn't pass the written the first time around.
Today was tiring just because it was boring. This was our orientation to the surgical services which meant sitting in the Endosurgery suite having various people jaw at us for 8 hours.
And then the slow enlacing knot in the middle when you start realizing that, in a couple of days, you are the guy on the line. You are the support system that allows Seniors, Chiefs, and Attendings to do what they're supposed to do--operate. You are the first person the nurses call. You keep the Floor buffed and polished so the Chief doesn't return to chaos at the end of a tiring day in the OR. And you're facing the steepest learning curve in professional life: the Intern year on a surgical service.
Sunday I went over to Dave and Pearl's parent's place for Nathan's 100-day celebration. Great food and much ga-ga-goo-goo over the little man who seemed a little overwhelmed by all the action at times. He's very photogenic.
The 2nd day of ATLS was generally more of the same. The lecturers tamping what we needed to know into our braincases, practical sessions and then the written exam and practical exam. We had an interlude that is famous in Duke lore: Dr. Georgiade's "Shark Talk", where he narrates us through a famous old text I think originally compiled for Mediterranean sponge divers about how to swim with sharks.
Basically, we have to think of the hospital as being like a shark tank in which residents are little fish. Most of the time, assuming we swim quietly, we won't get bitten, but in our years of training it's inevitable that we will be bitten, or fishes near us will be bitten. Dr. Georgiade's talk gives us pearls of wisdom on how to respond to these circumstances, e.g. when other fish are being bitten, get out of the water; don't try to help and get bitten in the process, perhaps inciting a feeding frenzy. Of course, Dr. Sabiston was known as the "Great White".
Back to ATLS, As I sat next to one of the course administrators checking my exam, things were looking good. First 20 questions, none wrong, next 10, one wrong, on to the last 10, four wrong in a row...I start getting worried...8 wrong max to pass...it's a sprint to the finish...but I pass. The practical? I kill two patients before I pass.
Then in the evening, Dr. Jacobs's dinner reception for all the new interns. He and his gracious wife have moved into a pleasant new house in Hope Valley. I actually had almost gone to the wrong reception, his road forks, and I took the wrong one and ended up at the Pediatric chairman's party. I knew something was wrong when I got out, saw a resident I didn't recognize (from ATLS) introduced myself, asking him if he was Ortho, and having him respond that he was Peds.
Anyhow, the reception was a pleasant affair. I got to meet our new Program Director. He seems personable, and I know he was one of the resident choices, so I'm sure we'll get along for the next 5+ years. The catering was quite good; grilled summer squashes, stuffed pork loins and some quite passable dessert squares. I had a jolly time at a table with a couple of the other General Surgery interns and an OHNS intern. Apparently none of us is married (where every single Ortho guy is married or engaged); and some joking ensued when the chairman told one of my compatriots that they'd increased the number of incoming PA residents to 17, and that most of them were women. His face visibly brightened at the prospect and I couldn't help calling him on it.
Dr. Jacobs said he refuses to function as a matchmaker.
Interesting aside, Dr. Jacobs told us that he has commissioned a Time-Motion study of surgical residents at work because he wants hard data to take to the hospital administrators to deal with the hospital inefficiencies that are surely to come to fore with the new work-hour rules. I think this is a really smart thing to do. I'm glad he thought of it. He said, having gone through surgical training, he obviously knows the data first hand, but he needs to have the numbers to show to the people upstairs (who clearly haven't been surgical house staff).
He's looking out for us.
Today was the first day of ATLS, the course that certifies each of us to be member of a trauma resuscitation team--obviously a necessity for all surgical specialties (especially when you consider scheduled elective cases are in reality controlled trauma). As I topped the steps to the 3rd floor of the hospital, I found myself walking behind a quartet of big, strapping guys, all in polo shirts, khakis, and dress shoes, all around 6'2".
They really couldn't be anything else.
And when it comes down to it, of the interns, the largest fraction at Duke are Ortho. I think there are half as many General Surgery categorical interns as Ortho. I wish I was interested in fixing bones because I think Ortho is a fantastic specialty, but alas, I'm stuck with the "general misery" of peritonitis, running the bowel, stabilizing trauma, &c.
Honestly though, today I realized that my choice, though not the most rational (because I could have gone the accelerated-track Internal Medicine clinical research route that would have me subspecialty boarded within 5 years), is probably right for my disposition. We had a practical pig lab where we performed procedures on a hapless (but anesthetized and intubated) swine. I felt at home with instruments in hand, cutting tissues, tying sutures. I have tremendous amounts to learn, but the action, the ratchet of clamps or the feel of a needle driver in tissue, and the focus on the patient's entire well being--not just their ears, nose, throat, or brain, or bones, or pee-pee apparati--is the "fun" of General Surgery.
I'm going to goof many times down the road, and will surely bemoan my lot, but I think this is right.
I hope this is right.
Incidentally, I'm writing this from a new computer. It's time I retired my 1st Generation Titanium Powerbook, the poor fellow has been routinely thrashed to the limits of his capabilities. And titanium and all, he's a little worse for wear. His screen isn't quite so bright and cheery in the mornings, and he tends to be cantankerous when he boots up. He did serve me well in Hawaii.
I've taken to calling his replacement, a 17-inch Powerbook, "Essex" because this is one big machine, more like a flight deck than a laptop. Now aluminum, it's surprisingly light and thin, and it's much more responsive (having twice the microprocessor its predecessor had). I also take migrating to a new computer as a chance to clean the slate, and reorganize my directories, my email rules, blow out the cobwebs.
For a mildly anal person, this is quite pleasing.
As you can expect, being in Durham is rather anticlimactic. No tradewinds to mitigate the heat, our foothills versus the cliffs of Na Pali.
And tomorrow, it begins. Two days of Advanced Trauma Life Support, then next week, Basic and Advanced Cardiac Life Support. I also attended a meeting yesterday between IBM and members of the breast cancer group to hopefully start to develop an integrated clinical and research computer system that will bridge research and patient care, and if it's done right, ultimately lead the way to actually making "personalized medicine" tangible. This weekend I have to start putting together a formal proposal for piggybacking the CODEx Project on to one of the American College of Surgeons Oncology Group (ACOSOG) breast tumor studies.
Then my first official day on the payroll as a House Officer is the 20th when the formal orientation begins, and analogous to the green police rookie, I'm handed my badge and pager. Yesterday the graduate medical education office gave me my medical license, my DEA number (for prescribing narcotics), a slip for my parking card, and another for my six pairs of polyblend white pants and five white coats.
I don't know whether my holding any sort of medical credential is a good thing.
Tonight I must cram for ATLS tomorrow. They expect us to have read the 300+ page text and to have taken a pretest.
20.23 Hawaii-Aleutian Time, 8 June 2003
I don't like last days. My theory is that we evolved with twin impulses: to explore, but also to settle down in that village near a clean water source, good yak hunting/betel nut gathering/breadfruit growing, and the smiling girl you got for a dowry of a long-haired yak. Modern travel is capable of such rapid and complete dislocations, the prehistoric villager in me often finds it hard to adjust. Since there isn't much in the nature of exploration going home, no tension there.
The fact that I was actually leaving did not even register until after I'd seen the express checkout under my door. Habitually, I'd awoken thinking about what I might do with the day--I'd entirely forgotten that I would once more willfully embark on a pressurized steel tube and find myself 2500 miles away in 24 hours.
Now that my departure was made tangible in crisp hotel stationery, my mood darkened. Rationally, eight days traveling on my own is about as many as I can go before wearying of my own company, but that old inertial reel in my brain was happy for me to remain. Naturally, it's more than inertia, the weather's great, the natives are friendly (and aren't eyeing your iliopsoas muscle for steaks), the landscape is stunning.
The last day is a useless day because you can't be too adventurous if you have a plane to catch. No road to Hana or upcountry exploration for me with the 23.40 Maui-SF redeye in my future.
First I called the rental agency to extend my rental into the evening. The thought of otherwise spending nine hours in the airport was too monstrous to contemplate. Of course they charge me another $41 for the privilege
Once packed, I regretfully filled out the information for the express check-out form, made a last inspection of my room.
My plan was to find coffee and/or lunch in Kaanapali and then explore Lahaina. For lack of reliable choices, I found myself back at Whaler's Village. The guidebooks suggested that the Hula Grill would make a passable choice for their Tahitian Ceviche, so there I went.
Driving through Kahana/Kaanapali reinforced it's bland condominium atmosphere. Dozens of indistinct complexes whose only claim to personality lay in the design of their signs with names like "Kaanapali Sands", or "Kahana Whaler"--replace those names with "Palmetto", and you have Hilton Head, or Seabrook Island, "Sea Oats", and you a have Duck or Corolla.
The Hula Grill is right on Kaanapali beach, under woven umbrellas. Swarming before you is the America's upper middle class: good looking children, shepherded by attractive mothers, dragging their boogie boards behind them, younger folk, tattooed and attired self-consciously, using all of their disposable income. "Wassaaabe, Dude!" In the strait separating Maui from Lanai and Molokai are parasailers. The waitstaff are all Mainlanders, inevitably working here for the privilege of living in paradise.
It's a generic, but serviceable experience, and I later find a cup of coffee in the Waldenbooks.
Once I bore of this, I set off for Lahaina, hoping that it will provide me a few hours of diversion. Five minutes down 30, I pull off into the Lahaina Cannery Mall. Knowing that parking is an impossibility in the center of town, I leave my Town & Country there and walk across the concrete flood control ditch that used to be the Paupau river.
The outskirts of Lahaina, are humble residences among bougainvillea with rooms inevitably rented out to surfers and driveways filled with their beat up pickup trucks. I wander across the Japanese Shingon Mission (built in 1902) and the town's sand dune cemetery. The first picture is the north end of Front Street in Lahaina, just after crossing the Paupau flood control ditch. Following are two shots from a little evangelical church on Front--odd reassurance since I thought I was in paradise already! The fourth shot is Front Street coming into the center of town and Lahaina Harbor. I couldn't bring myself to take pictures of mobs of tourists, so no pictures of the town itself. But here is a picture of some bricks--I know there is a story here, I just don't know what it is. Finally, some flowers as I'm leaving town.
I follow Front Street into the town center. By location alone, Lahaina is an idyllic spot. A stone sea wall separates it from its harbor in which sailboats and charters bob in the tradewind. Front is lined with palms as you come to the falsefront shops that look so picturesque from a distance. The first establishment you encounter is, disconcertingly, a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, then there's a Hard Rock Cafe, and finally the onslaught of what I call T & T stores (T-shirts and Tchotchkes). The streets are mobbed. A bus disgorges a Korean tour group. Sweat-soaked, I leapfrog from air-conditioned store to air-conditioned store. There are two Haagen-Dazs and two Ritz Cameras.
I begin longing for the cool comfort of my Town & Country.
In less time than I expect, I find the turn north off of 30 onto 380 towards Kalahui. The ride across Maui's flat ismuth takes no more than 15 minutes, I spend much of it behind a blonde with two surfboards strapped to her Volvo.
With 9 hours left to kill, in the least interesting town on Maui, I'm left with one choice: A shopping center. I end up at Queen Ka'ahumanu Shopping Mall. There's not much worth mentioning about this place. It's a open air mall, it's got a Gap, a food court, and a movie theater. After wandering about for an hour, I decide that I may as well watch a movie which will keep me occupied and cool for two hours. The Italian Job serves this purpose.
I can look at Charlize Theron forever.
Exiting the mall, the fortresses of clouds obscuring the West Maui Mountains are limned in indigo and crimson. After watching Mini Coopers speeding about LA, I peel out of the mall parking lot in the Town & Country, fill it up, and return it (happily) to Dollar. And 3.5 hours later. I'm on my way back to the Mainland.
Missing details and photos later (since I'm home now and must unpack and do laundry).
One demerit against the Hidden Maui guidebook. I just returned from a profoundly mediocre meal at China Boat in Kahana. It was a typical bad Chinese restaurant with a chaotic ambience contributed by the proprietor's children zooming throughout the dining area. Inexplicably, they were also running repeatedly in and out of the restroom.
Indifferent food, indifferent service (which really isn't a criticism because a Chinese restaurant wouldn't be Chinese if it had good service). And why do people describe dishes as being in a "brown sauce"? How unappealing is that? Can you imagine a French chef describing something that way?
Walking in, and knowing Chinese restaurants, my internal culinary alarm presented me with two options (1) flee, or (2) stay for the evanescent possibility that they might wow me with an innovative use of some Hawaiian species of fish, or that the imprimatur of a guidebook mention might mean there was something special about the place. I chose (2). Like the character in the Indiana Jones movie, I chose poorly.
Should have gone with first instincts, and now I've wasted a meal in paradise (something many people must be doing in Maui considering there's an Outback Steakhouse 3 miles down the road).
I had considered dining at the hotel which would have been unoriginal, but a far safer bet.
Perhaps I should have crashed the luau they're throwing down by the beach. I think GM must be sponsoring an incentive junket for middle management. They've been swarming the hotel with their plastic name badges.
They don't have the sleekness of executives--perhaps they're sales. Note to one that I've seen the last couple evenings: blue blazer + shorts = fashion faux pas. I don't care if you had the best sales numbers in New England.
Your wife should know better than to let you do that.
Perhaps I'm a little ornery about the demise of my camera, and the bad meal.
For penitence, I will go out on my lanai and soak in aloha spirit.
I woke up relatively late, 7.00; goofed-off, wrote the last entry, and finally got around to breakfast after walking down to the beach. The hotel, unusually, doesn't go right up to the water. After they had acquired the property, they found that the area abutting the beach was a Hawaiian burial ground. This led to some controversy for the resort, but they did the right thing and deeded the sacred ground to the state while setting the hotel back behind it.
During breakfast I worked on the draft of the commentary Joe and I are writing for Cell Cycle. I received pitying looks from other guests probably wondering why this guy can't relax.
A couple next to me: He is off at the buffet, the waiter asks her if she'd like coffee; yes she would, and "my husband likes it with cream and sugar." She seems both surprised and delighted with the novelty of saying that word.
My activation energy was low, but I dragged myself out to my Soccer Mom conveyance and decided to drive north on 30. I think car rental agencies pretty much discourage people from exploring the northwest corner of Maui because the road is winding and treacherous. It's called the Kahekili Highway (Edit: In fact the rental agencies specifically prohibit driving rental cars here--though 90% of the cars I saw were rentals), but highway is an exceedingly generous word for it.
Driving it is supposed to give a flavor of what Maui might have been like before tourism. The precarious road climbs cliff sides and plunges into little valleys. At first it is two lanes, then a wide one lane with a dotted yellow stripe, then macadam barely the width of my Town & Country (what a preposterous name for a minivan). At this point, after negotiating a sphincter-tightening stretch, I chicken out and turn around at the first opportunity. I just haven't the faith (or the insurance coverage) to risk Soccer Mom Mobile. Pictures below. The photo with the sideview mirror is where I turned around right above what I believe is the Waihe'e Valley (echoing with rooster cries):
All of these photos were taken with the Canon G3, a very capable, and quite feature-laden camera. I still am getting used to not bringing the camera up to my eye to take a photo. Framing a shot from the LCD is an adjustment, but it does have the advantage that I can angle the screen and take shots that I couldn't make through a viewfinder. Technology-wise, it's a better camera than my Fujifilm RIP, the flow is just different.
After getting home, I took a late lunch by the beach: A "Lahaina Sunset", Maui onion rings, and ginger beef handrolls. I spilled my drink brushing away a fly, but the server was kind enough to give me another without charging me. I met Felix, the local cat.
Walking up the hill back to my room, all of a sudden I felt bone-sappingly tired.
07.57 Hawaii-Aleutian Time
Here's my hotel room. Click on the thumbnail to get a full size version:
After a period of recrimination accompanied by self-flagellation with one of the fresh orchid stems in my room. I decided to go buy a new camera. The concierge told me that there's a Ritz Camera at Whaler's Village in Ka'anapali, so I made the short drive south down 30 to where it all began for Maui (and even Hawaii) as a posh tourist destination. This used to be sugar country, but American Factors (now Am Fac) decided in 1963 to convert a sleepy railroad stop and plantation wharf into what is now 4000 rooms worth of development.
It has the looks of an upscale community circa the 60's and 70's with that era's high-rise mentality. I can see in my mind's eye sideburned tennis instructors in short shorts driving shiny Pontiac GTOs and bored tourist wives from the Mainland baking by the pool...I'd better stop before this turns into a boom-chaka-wow-wow movie plot.
It is pleasant, but bland and condominiumized like hundreds of places in Florida or Southern California. Whaler's Village sounds like it could be a quaint street of false storefronts where whalers used to come and say "Yar!" (whatever that means), but is basically Copley Plaza in Hawaii: there's Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Coach. I like these things, but was ambivalent about whether I really needed to find myself in such a place.
Ritz Camera didn't have any digital SLRs in stock, but had a Canon G3, which short of the semi-professional cameras, has stellar reviews from the digital photography crowd, so I went ahead and purchased it. Unfortunately the cash register computers were having issues, and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, as nice as they were, were having trouble getting things going again.
I finally escaped Ritz Camera, and tarried no longer than it took to actually see what a Tommy Bahama store looks like. It was dark and 20.30 when I got back to my room, so I ordered room service. Goat cheese and marinated pear salad with toasted walnuts and pancetta and Kona crab wontons and a pineapple charlotte with coffee. The meal was not bad, but so exquisitely arranged that it was hard to unify goat cheese, pear, walnuts, and pancetta into one experience. Fried wontons are straightforward. Pineapple charlotte was appropriately decadent.
16.57 Hawaii-Aleutian Time
All right guys. You can make fun of me as much as you want; but remember, I'm in Hawaii.
Your damn Skippy I am.
That aside, So far today has been a travel day. I woke up before 6.00 to pack (was too tired last night to do it then--imaginary wives and children wear a guy out). And spent an hour doing that. Composed a thank you note to Dustin and Jackie; gassed up the Stratus; returned Chava's surfboard to his spot below the tree next to the parking lot; and checked out. I left Kauai with some regret, but figured, like MacArthur, that I would return one day (perhaps I'll try the striding through the surf too).
I left the Sheraton at about 8.30 and stopped at Don's Camera to pick up the battery charger he was so good to procure for me. He's a middle-aged, I would guess Japanese-Hawaiian who's friendly, but no-nonsense. He directed me to the shortest route to Lihue Airport. I returned the Stratus and checked in. A luck would have it, the Aloha flight to Maui before mine had standby space, so I caught that flight. My only mild concern was whether my baggage would end up on this new flight or my original flight.
After a stopover in Honolulu, where I had a good aerial view of its port with laden container vessels, and a Coast Guard cutter, the little 737, now stuffed to the gills with Mainlanders in a festival of colors (people really get into their Hawaii schtick coming here), labored with a gravelly rumble southeast to Maui.
Bad premonition: I've always thought that the thrust reversers on 737's are sort of cool so tried to take a picture of the engine as we flew into Honolulu. The camera turned on, but none of the buttons worked. I wrote this off as its low battery state.
Luckily, my bag did materialize on the conveyor for the new flight, so I was off to the car rental agency...where there was a line practically around the block. It seemed that every person off the plane was using Dollar while the Avis, Hertz, Alamo, Budget, &c. counters looked abandoned. I managed to get on the second shuttle bus after beating up 3 sets of senior citizens--all right, it was just one elderly couple I took out with an atomic scissor kick. Well maybe I just waited politely in line, even as a honeymoon couple broke into the queue ahead of me.
At least Dollar seemed prepared for the onslaught. They were processing people through quite efficiently.
I had reserved a compact, but the attendant told me that I'd have to wait for one to get cleaned. She could give me a minivan if I didn't want to wait. A man waits for no Dodge Neon, so I took the Dodge Town & Country minivan. Perhaps she noticed my invisible wife and kids. I didn't quite retain the attendant's directions out of Kalahui so navigated by seat-of-the-pants method. Invisible partners are poor navigators (but than corporeal ones are often poor as well). I felt like I was going south and did end up on 380 that exits the town and intersects with Maui's circumferential highway, Highway 30. Driving though Kalahui, it's clear that Maui is an altogether different sort of place than Kauai. The first establishment I passed was a Lexus dealership, and I soon passed a Home Depot, and the requisite collection of fast food joints. Driving my infinitely suave Town & Country to Kapalua, the impression I got from what I could see from the road is that Maui is much more built up, with high rises (where nothing in Kauai was taller than 4 stories), and the generically pleasant upscale strip malls you see in places like Hilton Head. Within 40 minutes I turned into Kapalua.
This place is meticulously mowed and gardened. My hotel is perched on a grass bluff next to the golf course (they hold the PGA Mercedes Championship here), with the beach down below. It's designed to be reminiscent of tropical plantation house with the hotel line's signature pineapple motif reflected throughout. It's quite a bit more luxurious than the hotel on Kauai. People also remember your name.
Since my room wasn't quite ready, I wandered down to the poolside restaurant because I hadn't eaten at all today. There were only two other groups there (it being 14.00), a couple with the man glued to his cellphone to which he responded in monosyllabic eruptions and his wife withstanding his crippled level of sociability with aplomb. The other group were big, floridly beefy golfers with pastel-colored polo shirts, big class rings, and loud Southern accents.
I ordered a raspberry-mint lemonade (didn't realize that it was a hard lemonade), and a grilled eggplant, ahi tuna with aioli sandwich on flat Turkish bread. It was very good. I managed to finish the Wall Street Journal when the Front Desk informed me that my room was ready.
I've been upgraded to a suite. I have two bathrooms (one with shower, the other with bath and shower, a sitting room, a walk-in closet, a lanai that spans more than 20 feet and overlooks two holes of the back nine--I can't quite see which.
If any of you can get out to Maui today, you're free to stay. I'll make the invisible quintuplets sleep outside.
For broadband access I have to rent a 3G cellular modem. I've never seen one of these things. It's $13/day, and after some snafus with the first modem, and then the wrong cable with the second, I've gotten this second one up and running. I didn't mind the trips to the Front Desk though because the girls are pretty.
After charging a battery in my nifty new battery-charger, I powered up my camera for some pictures...None of the buttons work. I didn't mention that on my Na Pali kayak trip that the "dry bag" that the outfitters had supplied me hardly deserved the name. One of the seams was busted. Now I had laid the camera bag as the topmost item in the "dry" bag, and had noticed that my camera bag was damp at our lunch stop, but I wasn't too concerned because the camera wasn't soaked like my stuff in the bottom, and I successfully snapped a couple pictures--which I posted below--after lunch. Now, I think the little bit of salt water, or even the humid environment inside the "dry" bag must have corroded the camera's circuitry. It will turn on, but I can't do anything with it.
There's a particularly useful word in the lexicon for this situation: B-U-M-M-E-R. All caps, full-stop.
20.00 Hawaii-Aleutian Time
This morning I scheduled a private surfing lesson with Chava Greenlee. A huge (but not fat) 6'2" Hawaiian who, along with his father, constitutes Aloha Surf. Apparently the method he teaches for standing on the board is differs from other instructors. Instead of hopping up, he advocates doing a push up, the planting the rear foot in the middle of the board, and then bringing the front foot forward and planting it. The board itself is about the size of the USS Nimitz, or perhaps an Essex class carrier and with a board that huge, it was easy to get up on the first try. I see why surf instructors guarantee a person standing up their first lesson. It really isn't that hard.
For beginners, instructors wait for a small wave, tell you when to start paddling and actually push the tail of your board toward the beach. This last little kick is what I think makes it easy for beginners to stand. Not to say that I didn't boof a dozen other times. I think the hardest part is judging waves and just all the paddling. After towing Jim around for 6 hours, I was pooped. At the end of the lesson, Chava left me alone to work on it myself, except another surf school arrived and my relative lack of skill, and the thought of taking the head off a 11 year-old sent me to shore for a cheeseburger at the poolside grill. My second hamburger, since I'd ordered one from room service when I got home late last night (and it really wasn't that bad--it was genuinely medium rare, the fries were crisp, and the entire dinner was hot. Of course it cost something like $200).
So today wasn't a particularly epic day, but was fun. I've gotten too much sun over the last couple of days and the cold that I've been fighting (and seemed to have disappeared this morning), is manifest as a mucus-heaviness behind the face, and nasal drip out of the left nostril, if you care to know.
One annoying thing: whenever I eat at the hotel (I have a $100 credit that one of the employees was good enough to remind me to use), they assume that it's for two. Two days in a row I've had to scratch out the second $20s for my invisible wife's breakfast. Perhaps Hawaiians can see things I can't remark in corporeal form. They might as well charge me for my 5 children too.
To use up my voucher, I ate at the Japanese restaurant here. When my table was ready, the person that seated me asked the hostess where the second party was, and the hostess just told her that my wife was coming later.
They even know my extacorporeal wife's schedule! Perhaps she should have said that my wife is still having her pedicure and that because she changed her mind mid-way between Hyacinth Pink nail polish and Coral Red, she's late.
Just now a woman started berating another woman for having shut-down one of the public computers. I can't see the reason for such rudeness. The first woman started getting dramatic about how she couldn't use the computer now. "I don't know what to do?" her voice rising.
"Here, let me help you", I snapped my laptop shut, walked over, and turned on the computer.
"I thought that grille was locked. You know she shouldn't have shut-down the computer"
"It was probably habit. It should work now." She fidgets as it boots. Just as she's about to raise another crap storm, it transitions from the boot screen to the desktop. I'd guess that she has a sub-clinical DSM-IV Borderline Personality diagnosis. Her husband looks as if he's been pecked to within an inch of his life.
I have no time for rudeness.
I actually rose at 3.00 but managed to fall asleep again until the phone rang with my wake-up call. By 4.30 I was moving briskly towards Hanalei in light traffic. The one-lane bridge was presumably supposed to close between 24.00 and 6.00 for repair work, but when I reached it at a little before 5, it looked open, so I drove across. I presume since I didn't end up with the Dodge Stratus in the Hanalei River means they finished.
Since I was early at Kayak Kauai, I killed time by calling Eugenie. The owner and two guides soon showed up and I got squared up for the trip. During the ride over I had been slamming water, and before going to bed the previous night I drank a Sprite (both carbs and fluid). The kayaks we were to use are Ocean Kayak Cabo's. They're roto-molded plastic sit-on-top kayaks. An unfortunate byproduct of being safe for inexperienced tourist kayakers. Fiberglass decked kayaks are probably too difficult to manage in dangerous conditions (i.e. you can sink one, and you have to train people to do wet exits and recoveries). Rather than being called sea kayaks, these should be called sea slugs. And roto-molded plastic is way heavier than fiberglass.
Among our group were 4 MDs: An ER doc, Gary from Santa Cruz, with his two college-aged sons, Nick and Gabe; Tom's wife (I forget her name) a pediatric attending; a pediatric resident, Brian, with his very good-natured wife, Cabby; and myself. So if someone broke a limb, the Gary could set the fracture while I did the genomic analysis, and the PD docs could give us the mg per kg dosing of medicines we didn't have. There was also Jim and Carol, Jim is a forester with the BLM in Portland, OR. I don't know what his wife/SO does. Then there was...dammit, forgot his name...a Harvard Law School graduate from Sullivan & Cromwell's Hong Kong office, and his girlfriend a Chinese-American chick, Katherine.
Our guides were Josh and David. David is in his late 40's early 50's and had been guiding kayak tours for many years until he met a woman who insisted if he wanted a relationship, he'd have to move to Kauai. I bet that was a hard decision. Josh was a fit young guy with longish hair and full beard, the type you find working for outfitters all around the world. Loose jointed, surfer-drawl, hang loose attitude.
We were fitted with PFDs, hopped in a van with kayaks in town and assembled on one of the beaches that precedes Ke'e at the end of the road. Because Gary and I were odd men out, we were paired with the guides. We received a short lesson paddling that omitted what I consider to be one of the more important lessons, the "power-box" and body rotation. I guess as long as they got the job done.
We finally put in at some time after 7.00. From behind David remarked that I paddle like a decked kayak paddler (i.e. I hold the paddle higher to clear an invisible deck), which I guess is true. While Josh and Gary took point, David and I had the onerous duty of being the sweeper for the group. I think I've gotten used to good podding behavior, but soon we were stretched out in a long file with Carol and Jim bringing up the rear. There is a certain pace that my body mechanics like for distance paddling, and Jim and Carol forced me out of my cadence. Often they were many hundred feet between them and the next to last kayak. David and I often had to stop paddling until they caught up. They're nice people, but seemed blithely uninterested in keeping up.
As we turned the corner and arrived off the Na Pali coast we were greeted with the other side of what I saw at Awa'awapuhi: spectacular stratified, razor edge cliffs. David pointed out fauna like Noddy Sparrows (I thought he was calling them Naughty Sparrows) that have a unique nodding head motion. We went into several caves in the cliffs. One had small waterfall draining over its mouth. The easiest way to see the Na Pali Coast is by watercraft of some sort. There are hikes, but the most time-efficient way to seem them is by boat. We passed several catamarans with tourists crowding their decks. It aways seemed that the cats traveled under power rather than by sail. But then it was a light day.
This otherworldly geography is populated with Ironwood trees originally from Australia. We also often found ourselves among sea turtles (even close to 10 in one spot). Unfortunately there were no Spinner Dolphins.
Paddling with Dave was a pleasure. Two experienced paddlers can move a double quickly and painlessly. Unfortunately, Jim and Carol's albatross-like ways forced me to move into Jim's front seat, and Carol into Dave's.
Jim is a laconic, rangy, bearded guy. You'd think that a 6'2" person who spends much of his life in the woods would be a good paddler, but where paddling with Dave was like gliding over the water, paddling with Jim was like paddling with an anchor in tow. I could see him putting his blades in the water, but his strokes hardly seemed efficacious. I'm the type who can't stand to bring up the rear (unless I'm supposed to), so I was paddling like mad just to keep us in the middle of the pack. Everything feels heavier, the paddle, the paddle stroke. I was getting tired, even suspecting that he was deliberately holding back because I'm one those goal-driven people that laid-back foresters probably would like to teach a lesson. After about 6 hours paddling, we finally reached our lunch stop, a beach that used to be a WW2 airstrip. After wolfing down my lunch, I found a tree and promptly fell asleep.
As I post this, another honeymooner couple is in the computer carrel next to me: she seated emailing her bridesmaids, he standing next to her looking over her shoulder with a proprietary hand on her shoulder. "How do you spell Harley-Davison?" she asks. All honeymooners in the news library look like this.
Kayaking the Na Pali Coast, continued
We repacked on set off at about 14.30. My secret wish that they might rearrange the kayak seating arrangements was not granted, and I dragged Jim, the inert paddler, for another two hours. We pulled out at a beach just beyond the Naval Missile Range on the west side of the island. It was a surf landing without the instructions about back-paddling off wave crests. No capsizes though, I guess again here's where having a conventional kayak would be more dangerous. Capsizing a sit-on-top is a good story but likely harmless.
The van took us through 0.5 hours of rutted track until we finally reached the highway with fish farms on our right. It would be 2 more hours before we reached Hanalei. As we passed Poipu, I pressed my face against the window longingly. Would that I did not have to recover my rental car in Hanalei, and backtrack 1.25 hours back to Poipu.
In Hanalei, after making the requisite goodbyes to the group, I set off, intensely fatigued. I was so tired that, though my eyes were open, I was hallucinating. I safely arrived in Poipu and went straight to bed.
I only got a couple photos because of the saline environment.
A little more detail about my sojourn to the North Shore. Since I was going to have drive out to Hanalei for my sea kayaking trip, I decided to drive out. I also called Dustin to see if he wouldn't mind my dropping in. After leaving a message, his mother Jackie called me back and told me I was welcome anytime when I was on their side of the island.
So at about 13.00 I saddled up the Dodge Stratus, hit 50 east and was on my way. Here are a couple photos taken precariously through the windshield:
Contrary to appearances, I was not about to drive off the road.
In driving towards the North Shore you pass through Lihue, the town I flew into. From the highway side, there's nothing particularly distinguishing about this town. Midway through town, the traffic clotted into a single lane because of road construction.
After passing over the Wailua River, the next major town is Kapaa, which driving through, feels like Anytown, USA. Even if Hawaii is the most isolated concentration of human population in the world (I believe about 2500 miles from the Continental US, and 4000 from major population centers in the East), seeing McDonalds and Taco Bell, and even an ABC store could place you just Durham. The difference, of course, is that along the way looking to your east, you can catch glimpses of several beaches that line the eastern shore.
Eventually the highway turns more inland. By Kapaa, the road feels different. The iron-rich red dirt is less ubiquitous. A sign to the right indicates the road to the Kilauea Lighthouse. Kilauea town is the northermost community in Kauai and marks the beginning of what they call the North Shore. Past that town, is Princeville, which is the main posh tourist area on the North Shore. You can see several meticulously manicured holes of the Princeville Golf Club along the highway.
The real treat is past Princeville, a few miles later, the road begins to tilt downward under a leafy canopy of huge monkeypod trees (at least I think they are monkeypod). Dappled sun leaves a mosaic of light on the asphalt. It's the kind of road for an automobile ad. At that moment, I thought to myself "well, the South Shore is nice and word 'paradise' can be applied easily, but the North Shore really is paradise." There's a road in the Gran Turismo 3 videogame that looks exactly like it, so I've had the virtual pleasure of driving this stretch at 150 mph. No surprise that Jurassic Park, South Pacific, Fantasy Island, among others have shot film on this side. The descent continues on to the Hanalei River which is crossed via a rickety one-laned bridge. Until 1912, the crossing had to be made on a raft. The flood plain for the Hanalei is considered one the largest wetlands in the state. Japanese and Chinese immigrants used to have rice paddies here, but it has recently been converted back to the native Hawaiian cultivation of taro root.
Less than a mile past is the small town of Hanalei. Aside from agriculture, it's main business is outfitting tours of the Na Pali coast and snagging the tourist traffic on the way or back from the end of the road Ke'e Beach. It's a pleasant town, it's apparent that there's more money in the area (probably from Princeville's wealthy clintele), and its cheesiness factor is low. I pulled into the Kayak Kuaui shop to get a weather trip for the next day's sea kayaking tour, and spoke with Mika, the owner about the trip and his previous paddles in Alaska.
The photos are of the the Wai'oli Hui'ia Church, circa 1912. If it weren't green it could easily stand in for a clapboard church in New England (which is where many of the missionaries so influential in Hawaii's history originated).
I then drove on to take the road to its bitter end, a winding ride down amidst the shade of trees. Though I'm sure there is plenty of tourism, it doesn't feel so as you motor down this paradisiacal path. Residences are nestled among the trees on both sides, and you start seeing more 4x4's with surfboard racks parked on the margins--the North Shore has the best breaks on the island. You cross a total of six more one-lane bridges and finally reach the terminus under a roof of Banyan trees. The Kualau 11-mile trail starts here, and then there's the popular Ke'e Beach. The banyan trees make a natural shelter for cars and people. Everyone is smiling--it seems that they've come to realize that they are in paradise. The water was populated with part-human snorklefish. At first, when you look out onto the beach, you think, just another pretty beach in Hawaii, yet when you walk out and turn around, you're presented with a stunning backdrop of mountains and cliffs. Pictures below:
I again risked my camera by crouching in the surf.
After about 20 minutes, I set back southeast to visit with Dustin and Jackie. One trippy fact is that my sister is acquainted with Dustin's fiancée. And this is a fellow I sat next to on SF-Lihue. One of her former roomates is a friend of Eugenie's, even lived with Eugenie for a couple months when she was between restaurants.
Jackie's house is near the Kilauea Lighthouse in a orderly community of horse farms that would almost recall a tropical Conneticut. Her place is on 14 acres on the top of a ridge that faces northwesterly over the ocean across some fields. They left the gate open for me, and I drove into a neatly manicured complex including a main house with a guest house, barn, and other sundry buildings and gazebos. It's quite apparent from the moment you drive in that this woman knows how to live. As I pulled in, Dustin was just finishing with a 1.5 hour massage (like I said, these people know how to live).
Though the entire complex is always being improved upon, the main house has only recently been finished. Inside is a massive, airy loftspace filled with ceiling fans, artwork, Japanese-inspired decorative motifs. There are cats and dogs all over the place. The bottom level is almost entirely huge sliding doors and screens with a veranda facing west with a large dining table and another smaller, more intimate dining table. Her upstairs is open, with a large screen Sony with surround sound system, a work area, and her bed. There is a new swimming pool (of course) and scattered throughout the complex are miniature lilyponds in large planters. There is also a massive climate-controlled wine closet, and men driving around tractors doing landscape stuff.
After finishing a joint, Dustin borrows his mother's truck and drives me down a rough track to a spot within the Kilauea wildlife refuge. Along the way, we find the dessicated remains of a frog squashed flat by a 4x4 most likely. Dustin wants it because he's been experimenting with resin for art and wants to impregnate this unfortunate amphibian with resin and include it in a new artwork. In flip flops we hop across rocks to a tidal hole flushing with the lives like a giant toilet. Within are 3 sea turtles swimming happily about. We then round a rocky point, seeing Kilauea Lighthouse in the distance (it apparently has the largest clamshell lens in the world--whatever that is), and a beautiful beach across that is inaccesible from the land behind it.
We get back and Jackie has a friend (I've forgotten her name). Pretty in a mousy way, rather New Agey. It's evident that she is Jackie's new lover--they're still in the acute hyperaffectionate stage. Dustin and I tour the neighborhood in a golf cart. At the end of its cul-de-sac is a piece of property for sale: $20M. asking price. When we get back Jackie asks if I would like to stay for dinner. I accept. She's making pasta with either meatballs or tofu balls (evidently the tofu is for Ms. Mousey-New Age). Jackie asks if I'd like to choose the wine. Not wanting to make her crack open a Grande Cuvée Bordeaux, I'm happy with her suggestion of an Italian red (now that I can't recall which).
As the sun stains the western sky, I finish grating parmesan, and we get ready to sit down on the veranda for dinner. Jackie is an earthy, evidently successful woman with close-cropped brass-colored hair and blue eyes. Dustin has a strong resemblance. She's carved out a life that is renumerative, gives her and the freedom to do what she likes (like smooching in front of guests--not that I really mind, I like the idea of women making out). You would suspect a woman like Jackie is a no BS sort, and she does strike me that way. Dustin tells me that before she lived in Kauai she lived in Aspen, and before that, Telluride. She has a genuine talent for living well.
She asks me at dinner why I wouldn't want to come out and practice on Kauai. God, it's tempting, but I have the quixotic notion that I can help more patients doing what I'm doing than working in paradise.
After dinner, Dustin rolls another one and we talk about the nearby sound of "frogs fucking"--as Jackie puts it. Soon it's evident that Jackie and her companion need some alone time, so I bid adieu with a standing offer to come have steak with them.
I speed home to Poipu because I'll need to come back to the North Shore to be at Kayak Kauai in time for the 6 am start. I still have a bit of a sore throat.
Once back, I call the switchboard to give me a wake-up call at 4.00 and set my alarm clock for the same (I've realized that 4/10 times the wake-up call either doesn't come or is a half hour late).
22.29 Hawaii-Aleutian Time
This will be brief because I have to wake up at 4 am to get to Hanalei by 6 am for the Na Pali sea kayaking.
I went out to the literal end of the road where 50 terminates because the Na Pali cliffs are too precipitous to join its other end. I also visited Dustin and his mother Jackie at her exquisite home--she knows how to live. Stayed for dinner. More details later.
Since the kayak trip should take the whole day tomorrow, I probably won't be able to post until the day after.
Now I'd better go carbo-load and go to sleep. Hopefully got some good pictures today, but haven't had chance to look.
12.39 Hawaii-Aleutian Time
I can't say I've done anything exciting so far today. I spent much of the time on the phone trying to track down a charger. I talked a couple times with Fujifilm's office in Oahu, and then Don of Don's Camera here on Kauai, and yes, I'm going to be able to get a charger which will be sent here by tomorrow. Unfortunately, I have the whole day kayaking from 6.00 to 19.30, so won't be able to get it until Wednesday.
In preparation for kayaking the Na Pali coast with Kayak Kauai's guided group, I had Dave phone in a Scopolamine script for me (thanks, Dave). The people said at the shop that sea-sickness is common and non-refundable. So I figured I'd better get my money's worth even though Scop patches make me feel a little loopy.
The rest of this morning, believe it or not, I was working on a piece for a new journal called Cell Cyle. The editor invited Joe to write a free-form commentary on our recent Nature Genetics paper. And before I left Joe asked about it so I figured it would be better if I hopped to it and sent him something. I feel somewhat torn because at once, since I'm here I feel obligated to go out and explore, on the other, I have, besides the commentary, to read the Advanced Trauma Life Support textbook and take the ATLS pre-test, scan the Advanced Cardiac Life Support book, review EKGs, and start outlining the roadmap Pearl and I are going to write up to integrate CODEx principles into projects at Duke, and ACOSOG.
One compensation was being able to take this laptop out onto the lanai (that's Hawaiian for balcony) and scope bikini-clad bathing beauties on the beach with the tradewinds swirling through the palms as two hula-skirted ladies fanned me with koa fronds...or, not.
A couple more photos (I'm sure my battery is going to expire any moment):
The first is a picture of the main street in Koloa town as it exits northwest. The storefront now houses the Southshore Pharmacy that filled my Scopolamine prescription but used to be the storefront for the local sugar plantation's company store. I had a pretty good "Kauai Pie" ice cream at Lappert's down the street--a concoction of coffee, coconut, fudge, and nuts. The second photo is more palm trees off my lanai looking out southwest.
I'm debating whether to drive to Hanalei on the North Shore later today.
I have a sore throat.
I'm sure it was the Japanese sporting a goatee sitting next to me on RDU-Chicago, he was coughing much of the way while I tried to subtly hold my breath and press myself against the opposite side of the plane begging the powers on high that I wouldn't get sick on my last vacation. Circle circle dot to dot...
18.46 Hawaii-Aleutian Time
After breakfast I decided to check out Waimea Canyon, a deep fissure on the west side of the island, and Kokee State Park that encompasses the alpine hinterland south of the Na Pali Coast. You take 50, which is the main highway that curves around the coastal margin of the Kauai like a belt that's a little too small and that the island can't quite cinch closed (the Northwest region is too rugged to finish the circle). So taking a left out of Poipu, you proceed west through valleys of sugar cane and rust-red dirt and small towns such as Lawai (no more than a crossroads), Kalaheo (a Portugese community), Eleele, dilapidated Hanepepe, and finally Waimea, the scene of Hawaii's first contact with the West. In 1778, Captain James Cook, Britain's renowned explorer, looking for the Northwest Passage in the Resolution and Discovery (Britons are good at naming ships aren't they?), sighted first Oahu and then Kauai. The next day, off of Kauai, Captain Cooke met the natives for the first time as two canoes came alongside and recognized that they were of Polynesian origin, calling them children of Tahiti. When he came ashore a few days later at the mouth of the Waimea river, the entire village prostrated themselves before him. The rest is history (including Cook's return to Hawaii the next year, this time the Big Island, where in a scuffle over a ships boat, the most illustrious mariner in history met his ignoble demise).
After Waimea, I turned north on 552 (mile marker 26), a road that winds precipitously up a spine parallel to Waimea Canyon (supposedly christened by Mark Twain as the "Grand Canyon of Hawaii"). There are several lookouts along this road pictured below:
I continued on, and turned left at the trailhead for Awa'awapuhi Trail (mile marker 17). A Hawaiian family, 3 generations-worth, was pickniking in the back of a pickup truck (pickups are ubiquitous here with the Nissan Frontier and Dodge Ram appearing to be the most popular choices). I smiled at them, but they didn't seem to inclined to converse, so I packed my backpack, set my camera around my neck and headed into the forest.
Like the tropical forests I've seen in Belize and Guatemala or even St. John, the air is redolent of a fecund odor almost like shitake mushrooms. In other ways this trail was reminiscent of the places I just mentioned, a dense canopy, moist air, squadrons of gnats whirling like dervishes. The vegetation looks familiar, though one distinguishing feature is a fern that climbs up trees and leaves strata of previous generations, now grey, dessicated skeletons, on which the younger green ferns grow.
Awa'awapuhi trail descends about five stair-stepped ridges what I would guess to be 2000 feet. Easy going on the way out. Unfortunately, the sky was mostly overcast with an occasional shaft of sunlight illuminating the trail:
Hiking down, I thought about how I have a hard time with nature photographs. Having just reviewed some pictures of San Antonio, I think I feel more comfortable with shooting man-made things, especially architecture. With nature, I'm usually at a loss for a creative angle on a shot. Then today, the light was particularly uncooperative--flat, flat, flat. Besides, I have only a third of my rechargeable left!
An hour later, after being surprised by two red-combed cocks rasping at me territorially, I emerged to the vista below. This is the Awa'awapuhi Valley of the Na Pali Coast with Banyan root-like formations of stratified volcanic rock plunging 2500 feet to the Awa'awapuhi River. According to Hawaiian legend, the valley was formed by an eel slithering its way to the sea. Addendum 2 June 2003: I should consider myself fortunate because several tourists have killed themselves shooting this spot by leaning a bit too far over the precipice. I wonder if there are any full batteries for a Finepix 4900 down there.
While coming out on the trail was painless, going back and climbing up those couple thousand feet in 3.25 miles was a gluteus-thrashing experience. I now understood why the outdoorsy couple I passed near the trailhead had that look of flushed determination. The way back isn't benign for anyone.
With a mile behind me, a mist descended on the trail, pricking my skin with its cool droplets. By mile 2.5 back, it was a fine drizzle. And by the time I was back in my car, carving turns back to 50, it was a downpour.
Such a geographically precipitous place has more weather going on at one time than the entire East Coast. By the time I actually hit 50, it was dry as a bone. In Waimea, I decided to stop at a grocery store to stock up on snacks (shrimp chips, Hawaiian potato chips, Gatorade, and water) and picked up lunch at the Waimea Bakery. Alas, they had just run out of sweet Hawaiian bread for their shredded pork, lettuce and tomato sandwich, so I had to settle for a tortilla wrapping.
Sipping on a can of guava nectar, I wheeled my way back to Poipu in my Dodge Sebring, where I am now, knackered. I'm not sure I'm good for anything else today.
I did schedule a 14 mile sea kayak trip on the Na Pali Coast for Tuesday. And surfing Wednesday. But I have to think of something for tomorrow.
6.01 Hawaii-Aleutian Time
At 5.20 (11.20 Eastern) I pop into consciousness like a cork. After I brush my teeth I do the yawn-stretch-look-out-on-the-horizon-because-I've-got-a-balcony-thing people do. Jeez, the light is coming in fast. I'd better run out and get a shot. After throwing my laptop in my pack and looping myself in a tangle of camera straps I run outside. I turn on my camera: "No Card Read" in stentorian red. I'd left the SM card upstairs in the card reader. No worries. I have an extra card in my camera bag...Except it is filled with some pretty good photos from San Antonio. Mercilessly editing I scroll through the exposures and delete a couple of the less compelling.
The pink in the sky's going. I'd better get this shot. I rush down to the beach. It faces south, so I can't get a frame of sunrise, but I hope to catch some palms against the Southeastern pinkening sky. The better angle is from within the surf. I wade in. Waves kinetically slap my hips. I think about the life being bled from my battery. I wish I could get lower. I consider ducking down in the water to get a shot between waves. Think twice about that one.
Crank the F-stop wide open and the shutter to 1/50. I'm going to have to hold this camera real still while the waves smack me. Those exposures later. Here are a few from yesterday's travels, and then off to breakfast:
20.15 Hawaii-Aleutian Time
I spent a good few hours packing last night. The complication was packing hiking equipment alongside scuba mask/fins/booties. In its first iteration all of this ended up in two pieces of checked luggage. For a single person traveling to Hawaii more than one bag is unacceptable. So I unpacked and repacked until I could fit it all in one wheeled duffle. I had to sacrifice my hiking boots.
I awoke the next morning at 5 am to the familiar sound of Alistair Cooke giving his BBC "Letter from America". This was my usual waking company in October during my Thoracic sub-Internship...except I was hearing it's 3:30 am broadcast then.
It's almost worth waking up just to drive an unclotted I-40 with the grapefruit pink mist of early summer morning in North Carolina.
Addendum 2 June 2003: A brunette in a vaguely safari-ish broad-brimmed hat in front of me in the security line turned to me asking if I thought she'd make her flight in half-an-hour. For an early Saturday morning, the line was surprisingly long. In spite of this, TSA at RDU seems to be working pretty efficiently. "Do we have to take anything out except our computers? Cell phones?" I usually just put my phone in my carry-on and run it through the machine. Supporting her weighty backpack like a papoose, she told me that it was five pounds heavier because her checked bag was overweight. I asked her what the limit was. Seventy pounds. That's a heavy bag. I'm going for six months you see, and the fee was $100. And she finally rushed through the magnetometer threshold to the world while I was held back by the magnetic money clip in my wallet.
United has a lone gate at RDU next to America West. I'm not sure I buy America West's schtick with casual polo-shirted and khaki'd airline personnel sauntering about, substituting informality for professionalism. While boarding a flight, the gate attendant, upset that no "Group 4" passengers were materializing to board the flight began bombarding the gate area with calls for her recalcitrant passengers "Come on, I know there are more Group 4 passengers than that, will you please proceed to the jetway?" Later she berated the entire terminal with calls for the last couple slow-moving passengers, threatening to "release" their seats. One turned out to be a blue-haired little 'ole lady hobbling as best as she could to the finish line.
Apparently a different company is managing United Express flights out of RDU because we weren't subjected to an Embraer Regional Sardine Can but were privileged to fly in the reasonable comfort of a British Aerospace 146. Unlike most passenger jets it has a high-mounted wing and four small, jewel-like jets. It's relatively quiet too. We descended into thick, low-lying cloud cover over Chicago as impenetrable as stirred concrete and emerged a couple of thousand feet over the railroad stockyards next to O'Hare.
To San Francisco we flew on an Airbus 320. I ate too much for lunch. I don't know why.
Looking down on Yosemite as we flew across the California state line and having just read a New Yorker profile of a young woman physicist, I wondered at how a set of rules laid down at the beginning of time (or before) could have wrought such pleasing snow-peaked mountains, citadel clouds, the undulant curves of river beds.
My layover in SF was only about 20 minutes (I had a moment of tension when the flight out of Chicago was 30 minutes late, but the pilot was given a more direct route and put the pedal to the metal). My seatmate on the flight to Lihue was an amiable fellow named Dustin, an artist living in Tribeca who was going to Kauai to make preparations for his wedding in July. Tousle-haired, wearing worn corduroys, he apparently dated one of the stars of Dawson's Creek. His mother runs a nationwide network of convalescent homes and telecommutes, so to speak, from the North Shore of Kauai. He invited me to visit when I drive over to the North side of the island, and I may very well take him up on that offer. He showed me some booklets of his work: very nice stuff involving found art, some biomorphic/primitivist-looking ink/marker work--he'd probably gag at my descriptions of his art. It's hard to do without offending the artist.
We arrived in Lihue graced by a light breeze and midafternoon sun. I bade Dustin goodbye and collected my luggage and rental car (and I just realize that I left two books in the seatback pocket. I'll have to call United tomorrow to see about recovering them).
Like Taiwan, Kauai is a verdant volcanic island, the shoreline plain is set against steep, young mountains with a dramatic patchwork of sunlight and and gunmetal squall lines. Driving on 50 West towards Poipu I was at a loss to describe the incredibly diverse vegetation, only able to recognize Banyan trees and the palisade of Eucalyptus that lines the beginning of 520 as it works south into Poipu proper. I've read now that Hawaii is a natural ecology experiment with plant and animal species from everywhere in the Pacific.
Without a navigator, I made a couple minor wrong turns, but finally found my way without undue difficulty (as you can imagine, there are few roads to confuse) to the Sheraton Kauaui. I've yet to explore extensively, but Poipu is a small town on the southern shore of Kauai known for its accessible sandy beaches. As can be expected, I'm surrounded by honeymooners and second honeymooners (or sixth honeymooners from the looks of it, and Japanese tourists).
My room is a 3rd floor balcony that looks directly out on the beach.
Idiot mistake two: Besides having left those books in the seatback, I realize that I've forgotten the charger for my digital camera. Part of the inspiration for this trip is to go nuts with photography. Having crammed on digital photographic techniques the last couple weeks, it would be extremely disappointing if I'm restricted to one battery's-worth of photographs. I've called Don of "Don's Photography" on Kauai--he tells me that he will see if he can find me a charger on Oahu Monday. Next camera: one that takes rechargeable AA's.
For dinner, I ventured to the Poipu Shopping Plaza and ate at Pattaya Asian Cuisine (the guidebook attested to its reliability and eating in the hotel seemed a cop-out). On the recommendation of the waitress (a spidery-worn, formerly pretty Caucasian woman) passable dish consisting of chicken and pineapple in a spicy coconut-milk sauce on a bed of cellophane noodles. It would have been outstanding if they allowed the sauce to reduce a bit (assuming coconut-milk reduces) and used more noodles. I did finish it though.
And here I am in the hotel News Library. Before dinner I asked if it was possible to hook a laptop to their library network and they were good enough to call in their computer person to find an extra hidden Ethernet port for me to use. As I've typed this entry I've seen newlyweds basking in the glow of couplehood, bending into one another's space, checking their email for wedding photos.
Plan for tomorrow: start scheduling a kayak trip, possibly a helicopter tour that includes a snorkeling excursion to the "Forbidden Island" (a private island owned by the Scottish/Kiwi Robinson family since the 1860s and almost wholly restricted to natives), and planning a 11-mile hike.