Friday, November 26, 2010

James V. Brown

Why is it, that it seems that our most creative ideas seem to spring forth, Athenian fashion, moments before sitting down to something "productive"? I  think today the tonic of inspiration was contrived from equal parts of household freedom, a solid exercise session, and cold air hitting me in the face while drinking a warm cup of coffee.

I knew I would be visited by the spirit of creativity when I pulled up in front of the James V. Brown library still sipping my coffee. I began to notice the details of the former 'Millionaire's City'. A city that around the turn of last century had more coal Barron's than you could make a Los Angeles subdivision out of. Each one besting the other with beautiful ornate houses. These were monstrous, stain glass, three-story, main street houses with natural rock foundations, round rooms, gold trim, turret windows, spires, domes, trellis work, wrought iron, stain glass and on and on. Houses with large front decks meant for drinking summertime mint juleps in picket fence white adirondack chairs, and laughing through green teeth at the smell of sausage sized cigars.

The engine off, looking again, tendrils of steam massaging my face inside a 21st century Honda steel and glass bubble, I'm looking at the still-life show of civil architecture. They aren't grand homesteads anymore, they are a patchwork of houses that have became parcelled up into the fractions of themselves. The main streets of Williamsport Pennsylvania use the residence of the long deceased Lords of Suet to host colonies of shops, bars, apartments, coffee houses, thrift stores, barbers shops, and all merchants of goods and services for the warm-hearted cold people of the modern city. Each tenant in the house trying so hard to set itself aside from all the other partitions of the house that the house itself falls into schizophrenia. Porches laugh now only to dispel their mania.


I'm headed into the library of my wife's home town, initially inspired by some code I wanted to write for work. No hurry really, it's not a work day, and we'll be heading South to Maryland soon enough. I suppose I'll get around to it after I purge these prose from my hands.

It's the day after Thanksgiving. For me,  there is a lot to think about. It's quite a different thing to have Thanksgiving in a place where you wouldn't expect you'd want to be, versus one, say, like a tropical island.

In the tropics, the heat hitting your face, sand on the floor boards of your car, shuffling your family to the neighborhood Turkey dinner, it requires almost no deep introspection to be thankful. Anyone living in Hawaii, even those that are broke beyond health-care will tell you they are "living the dream". This year, at Thanksgiving, I'm not living it. I'm feeling it.

Mom and dad hosted a feast yesterday. My young in-laws, and an aunt and uncle were there as well. There was turkey, ham, oysters cooked two different ways, creamed corn, stuffing, lima beans, enough mashed potatoes to sculpt. Pies, cakes, rolls, bars and coffee. Was I grateful for the food? Maybe, though it certainly was delicious. I was grateful for the smile Sue had, home again for Thanksgiving for the first time in 5 years. I was grateful for the way the other cousins played with my kids. I was grateful for the love, support and forgiveness of the family I married into, especially because of the way I play cards!

This year, Thanksgiving was more than beer, sun on my face, and a full belly. This year Thanksgiving was about people and laughing, and caring enough about the people talking to me that I didn't really care what we were talking about.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Immediately after the five of us re-entered the atmosphere on the East coast, the twenty-second of October, we hajjed the kids up to Williamsport Pennsylvania to stay with Sue's generous parents until we could establish some order at our new Maryland outpost. Until now, the kids have been there while I've worked, and Sue has researched schools and living arrangements. We missed Halloween as a family, but I'm sure that the kids enjoyed a long stay at Grammy and Grandpas.

After two weeks on our own Sue and I drove up to collect our three treasures. Nearly five hours North, Williamsport, is in an area famous mostly for the hillside stadium hosting the end of the little league baseball season. It's a fascinating coincidence that Hawaii tykes have been to the championship twice since we lived on Oahu, in fact winning in 2008. Six time zones away from paradise, it's hard to imagine that such a distant microcosm could be a happenstance Hawaiian hub.

With us all together, this weekend, it was great to be a family again. After all the driving to pick the kids up, we had a lazy Sunday morning. We spent it mostly in pajamas working on a jigsaw puzzle. At lunch time we went for a picnic walk in the woods by the bay. Sue made us roast duck for dinner.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


Following our time at the Back Creek Inn† bed and breakfast on Solomons, Susan and I have spent the last 4 nights in a run down Days Inn motel closer to the Patuxant River Naval Air Station around the Great Mills area of Maryland*.

The last few days we've been trying to figure out the best area to settle in. Schools are a major factor for us, our middle child has some special needs. So choosing where to live is largely the result of finding the school that can best support his IEP.

We are looking to be in the area long term, so it makes sense to buy a house, especially in this this low interest buyers market. In the near term though, we need a place to rent for a few months while we pull together the equity for a down payment, and research the area.

Yesterday was a busy day, we think we've narrowed in on the school, Dowell Elementary in Southern Calvert. Other good options are Patuxant and Appeal Elementary schools. These schools all have staff historically familiar with the ISLE (Intensive Structured Learning Environment), and as such are familiar with special needs children.

Yesterday we also found a short term rental condominium‡ which feeds into Dowell. This is fortuitous, as it would be excellent to start renting in the same area we plan to buy in. We started with Dan Cannon, the real estate agent helping us with the contract details, and we are hoping to be able to start moving out of the Days Inn (!!!) and into the condo sometime this weekend.

The kids are staying up at my in-laws until we get this detail ironed out. What a treat it would be to get this together in time to run North and Trick or Treat with them tomorrow, and also have them in a new home they can start school from on Monday.

Thanks for your prayers, and happy meditations on this one.

* (not on map)
† (3,P on map above)
‡ (4,N on map above)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Training Day

Sue and I visited my in-laws in Northern Pennsylvania over the weekend. The GPs graciously offered to watch the kids, while we came back down South to get started, and figure out how to get settled. Last night, and tonight we have stayed at a quaint Bed & Breakfast, The Back Creek Inn, near Solomans Island just ten minutes from my new employer.

My first day was today. The company is a small but capable group of about twenty people, about half on site at the Maryland office where I will work. There was a company meeting today, and I was excited to see that my name was already in the project schedule as a resource for existing projects. It's a good feeling to hit the ground running with management that knows just where to apply your talents.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Thursday turned ended up as more of a Thriday. It's the artifact of bridging together one super busy day with the next, via a 6 hour timezone transfer.

I think Sue and I were better off not knowing what lay ahead of us when we woke that morning. It wasn't much of a good night's sleep to begin with. Sleeping on a deconstructed cardboard box, packing foam and coats from a forgotten closet, we woke sore and boney. I think the only reason we slept at all was that Wednesday we had spent the entire day getting the 16' PODS trailer loaded, closed, and adieu'd.

Thursday was all about leaving the island, getting the van to leave the island too, and coping with the realization that our house really needed a 20' trailer and so we still had about a thousand pounds of miscellaneous possessions lying around the house to deal with before we left.

Sue and I had our routines down. I was the burly box loader, junk transporter, and Sue was the game-master organizer, packer. We divided our remaining possessions in the ex-home into 3 piles: junk, parcel-post, and give-to-friends.

I spent the better part of the morning turning the family van into a Sanford and Son extra. All the passenger interior seats folded in, I stuffed the vehicle to capacity. Wooden tennis rackets, unmatched athletic equipment, broken tiki torches, gloves without mates, video equipment from the pre-wireless era, world in a blender. Then, all my half cut lumber, particle board, a desk and two sawhorses twined to the roof rack on top, I finally headed off to the dump.

Sweaty, and red dirt glazed, I returned from the Kapolei dump to gather the twenty or so boxes that Susan had labored to assemble for posting. Cumbersome, I leaned into four handcart loads to get the parcels from the van to the counter.

By the time I got back to the house, it was already three o'clock. The timeline had crumbled. Things got messy, and I ended up going straight from the house in my junk clothes to get the van delivered to the pier where it was shipped minutes before they closed. Friends from work shuttled me from the Sand Island Pier back to the airport area.

While that was going on, our friend Ceci Adams chanced by the house, and saw that Sue badly needed help wrapping up and getting to me at the airport. She quickly canceled all her other plans for the evening and made it happen.

Fortunately, it was an evening flight. We had time to rendezvous at the airport and get dinner together before we left. Fifteen hours, two connections, and some cat-naps later we arrived in Baltimore.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bye Bye Bye

Well, it happened kind of suddenly, but it happened. We are leaving Hawaii at the end of the month and moving to the Patuxant River area of Maryland. I've accepted a position with a company that services and upgrades flight simulators (among other things). I'm looking forward to the change in the job, Sue is excited about returning to the mid-Atlantic, and the kids are stoked that they have a dead-lock on Christmas at Grammies house.

Saturday, September 4, 2010


Jen Schumacher, quite the open water swimmer, keeps a tidy blog. She and I were both part of the Kaulakahi gang. Here's some of her links from the channel. Keep an eye on her. She's planning to do the Catalina channel soon. Good Luck Jen!

Jen's Kaulakahi Links:
The Epilogue

Other related links:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Welcoming Committee

It's been a strange week. I called Jeff and remarked to him on the phone today, "I think I know what the astronauts felt like the week after they got back from the moon".

In their case, they were hand picked by our government, trained and prepared for years. One day in the midst of all that hard work, they walked in a place so sacred, so remote that only the meta-physical hearts of philosophers and astrologers had preceded them. They bounded like kangaroos in near weightlessness while looking through a gold visor.

The next week, gravity is back. Your bones are sore. Tripping over door thresholds half an inch high., Driving terrestrial vehicles to work. Without a doubt, they had to know, that the greatest moment in their life, and maybe in the lives of any man in history, was over. How do you go to a store, buy a gallon of milk, fill up your car, and mow the lawn with that bitter gem rolling around in your brain pan?

I didn't go to the moon. But I did journey with a very special team of people. We ended up swimming twenty miles in open ocean. I saw (perhaps evaded?) deep water sharks, I don't know, four times? I body surfed into a forbidden island over lava rock, walked the sand, and then was chased off at rifle point. I drank deep from it. I lived a lot. I don't think I will ever swim a channel like that again. I don't think I would even wish it on myself if I could. Anyway, regardless it's over.

Once again, I'm a computer programmer. A guy at a desk. My most important job is to be a husband and father. Don't misunderstand, that IS a real treasure, warmer than brandy in egg-nog. But, my point is, the excitement, the FIGHT, the achievement, the goal and the reward. It's over; the glory days were last week.

Often times, when I'm making sense of what I'm feeling, art helps. Sometimes it's also utilitarian. Unlike a camera, your mind is always with you. If you are lucky enough to be able to draw what you have in your mind, it really helps alleviate the personal scale 'cosmic whimper'.

I got sick of fighting with compilers and computers this evening, and switched to paper and pencils. I thought very hard about what I remembered from my Ni`ihau welcoming committee (you can read about the incident in the post below). When you draw something like this, it is very important that you remember the details before pencil goes to paper. Images, and especially video have a way of replacing memories. If you draw a lie, soon it will be the truth in your mind. When you reflect the truth onto paper, it's a wonderful feeling. Like memories as water running down your shoulders and off your finger tips.

Good therapy for the welcome home blues.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blue Road to Ni`ihau

August 28

Tonight I am staying as a guest at the Pacific Missile Range Facility beach cottages. Two of the four people making the crossing with me are in the Air Force, making our stay possible.

It’s a good thing too; there isn’t much on the West side of Kauaʻi. It’s basically the sandy dry forgotten spot of the otherwise lush “Garden Isle”. The state road even peters out here before it can make a complete circumnavigation back to the North.

Tomorrow morning we are going to make an incredible trek to an even more desolate spot. Niʻihau. Captain Don will meet us at a quarter of dawn. We will swim out and past his boat waiting for us off-shore. He will guide and accompany us from a distance as we swim the Kaulakahi Channel, the seventeen mile wide body of water separating Kauaʻi from Niʻihau. Our slow moving flotilla will consist of four swimmers, a kayaker, a paddleboarder, and a 34’ long fishing boat with a crew of four.

Everyone else has just shuffled off to rest up. It’s ten on Saturday night. We will wake at five, and be on the beach in front of the cottage half an hour later.

August 29

It’s unusual before such a big event, but I slept like a baby. The cottage had two rooms and three beds between them, with a hide-a-bed for a fourth person (me) in the living area couch. The area has a sliding glass, screen patio door which opens up to the ocean. I opened the glass door but left the screen shut. The sweet lullaby of Hawaiian surf hitting the sand was my dream machine.

On the edge of sleep I started to hear creatures outside. There was one which barked a noise which sounded like “pull! pull!”. The other two or three voices just sounded like angry moaning. The little bit of rational conscious I had left summarized that it was a probably just a bunch of animals in heat. Something big and dog-like. Maybe some monk seals. I was happy to have an answer for myself and slipped off to sleep.

My first dreams turned the noise into the legend of Barking Sands Beach. The legend explains how Barking Sands got its name. The sand there is so fine in some places it feels more like talc than sand. Some people say that when you walk over it, the unique qualities of the sand make it bark as a strider’s heals break out of the wet mixture.

According to legend, however, there was once a fisherman with nine dogs. One particularly stormy day before he set out, he staked his companions’ tethers to the ground before he left. After a while his pets missed him and began to bark and whine. Around and around the stakes they ran, calling for him, until they sucked themselves into the ground. Now when you walk on the beach you can hear them barking from below, calling for their master still.

In my dreams, “pull! pull! pull! GROAN…” (let us up please). Then blackness.

My alarm was set to wake us up at 5, half an hour before the boat arrived. The morning was on rails, everything was laid out. I didn’t really want a ton of extra time to think about what I was doing. Just execute. I woke up fifteen minutes earlier than planned. My veteran channel swimming friend, Bill, started a pot of coffee. The smell of coffee in the morning warms me all over. I crawled out of my hide-a-bed to put my feet on the cold tile floor. The coffee was warm and good. Some days, when you know that you are going to be cold all day, you can use your mind as a trap to hold onto the warmth of a cup. When you are naked, chilled to the bone in the ocean, you can go back to that mug. Hold it under your nose. Let the steam dance over your eyes and cup your hands around it, as if in prayer. Capturing and keeping mental Polaroids like those are sanity survival tools, I would imagine, for any endurance athlete. Visualize what you like, visualize what you want, visualize what completes you, makes you comfortable, what you are, and what you want to be.

The boat was late; Captain Don didn’t think so though. He was just a half a mile further down the beach thinking we were the late ones. The modern cell phone in many cases has replaced citizen’s band radio. Bill called Don and straightened it out. A phone call and a series of flashlight signals later we were lining up with the boat.

We had met Don and his powerful, immense boat-hand Calvin the night before to review the plan at Hanapepe Harbor. We gave them most of our supplies and nutrition (food in bottles) that evening. Even still, I had one thing yet to get to him on the boat. Susan set up a RunKeeper account on my iPhone to help track the swim. The plan was to keep that plugged into a cigarette lighter on the boat. It would draw a nice Indiana Jones line of our travels, which would be updated live on the net. This would keep our families happy, since they would know where we were throughout the day.

The support crew, Jen’s parents, and Jeff swam out to the boat while the swimmers waited on the beach. The surf was 5 foot on the face, the boat about 40 yards out. I decided that I would take my own phone out to the boat instead of asking Steve (Jen’s dad) to do it. I had the phone inside of three Ziploc bags, and a plastic grocery store bag as I hopped over the surf and swam out. The bag was in my teeth. Swimming something between breast stroke and doggy paddle out to the boat.

The application had a female voice announcing my progress. We just watched the old Clash of the Titans a couple weeks ago. I felt like I was paddling out with Medusa’s head in a sack. It was about the same size with all the bags. “Distance travelled, ..Zero, point, Zero miles, … average pace …”. Nothing like starting a trek like this with a voice in a sack droning.. “zero”. Ah well, progress increases infinitely once you actually start something.

Jeff paddled over. I must have looked comical as he retrieved the talking sack. I went back to the beach to join the other three Argonauts, for the “official” start. It was 6:05 AM HST. I started the bright orange stopwatch, a gift from Sue. We all did something like shake hands and back slap. The surf came at us like a wall that morning. It wasn’t like we dove in, or walked out and ducked under. It was like the beginning of twenty miles of ocean started with a greenish brown force field that held the water in a vertical, concave wall. All we did was pick a spot and dive through it.

Brian and I were chomping at the bit at first, and Bill stayed back with Jen. The boat was trying to launch an ocean kayak about the size of a Lil’Tykes yard toy. It was ridiculous, but it was all the Capt. Don could provide for Barbara today. Jeff was somewhere between us all. Arbitrating the kayak launch, the swimmers in the rear and the trajectory of the swimmers in the front, Jeff was in the zone. He some how accomplished this feat without any one of us missing him when we needed his input or guidance.

Jen is from LA. She came out with her parents, Barbara and Steve, for a family holiday with her sisters, and to bag a channel while she was there. In her home waters, there are some pretty ferocious creatures. Great Whites. Understandably, when Jen goes out, or when she swims the channel to Catalina Island (23 miles), she’s loaded for bear, or in this wilderness, shark. The ocean kayak Barbara paddled was outfitted with a “Shark Shield”. I will call it the shield. It's an electrical device which dangles in the water and is supposed to prevent unwanted guests. I talk around that word, I don’t like to use it. I won’t use it again the rest of this story, although I will see them a total of four times before the end of the day. Keep reading.

We had discussions about the kayak the night before. It looked like a kayak sawed in two and then squared off in the back so that no water could get in. It was a toy; Jeff’s paddle board, at 12 foot, dwarfed it. The three of us from Oahu made a dead pool time line for kayak. My bet was 4:20.

Bill and I were used to breaks on the hour, Jen every thirty minutes. Though he is an awesome swimmer, Brian considers himself a triathlete, so he could fuel up at any interval. The compromise we agreed on was that we would “feed” every forty-five minutes.

The first hour, we learned about each others’ paces. Jen was still warming up. Her speed would set the pace. At the first break, in the four minutes it took to eat, we discussed pace. Jeff also told us where we would aim, and how we should paddle. Our goal was to stay in a pocket between Jeff and the boat.

The boat, at 34 feet, was almost too big to be a fishing boat. Captain Don is a skilled navigator, and even still the boat would skitter around sluggishly trying to compromise between the current and the thrust of the prop. Jeff could hold a smooth direct line. That far out, the “rum line” (the shortest line to destination) is easy to plot if you have some geography to look at. Jeff’s head, 20” higher than ours, could see the shadow of the mountains of Niʻihau, and the little off-shore crater to the right of it. Our course was pretty much right between them. Jeff’s line was steady and true. His course was the derivative of the boat’s. I would keep the boat in my left eye’s peripheral vision, but stay on Jeff’s course, following his board’s underwater fin, visible on my right.

By the second break, the sun was up enough for us to look back and see a vanishing Kauaʻi. Still green and very curious about what were up to. What’s the matter? Didn’t you enjoy the cool breezes and the song of the surf? Wouldn’t you like to lay on my beaches today? What are you doing in that water, the bunch of you? Swimming away from me to my grumpy cousin. He won’t greet you, you know. All he has for you there is sand and rock. Come back. I’ll forgive you.

Don was briefing us while we ate. He interrupted himself mid-sentence to say loudly and clearly. YOU ALL NEED TO COME CLOSER TO THE BOAT… NOW! We knew what it meant; we tried to do exactly what Don said, to listen to his words, not his perception. We huddled near the wall of the boat. I think I heard someone shriek in spite of themselves. I think I heard Bill say to Barbara with “the Shield”, “Is that thing on?” Don didn’t tell us until it was over that he saw something just under Brian’s foot. A fast brown shape.

We resumed our swim. Half an hour later, though my brand new goggles, I saw a muscular shape in the water about twenty feet below. It was long like a dolphin, but its tail moved side to side, not up and down. There were more fins than a dolphin, and the shapes were very angular. We were being circled. I stopped and made eye contact with Don, announced what it was and pointed down. Don asked if it was brown or if the nose just looked wrong. I said “no”, I said the head looks flat and more bill shaped from the top. The head was kind of mineral green. “Galapagos”, he said. It’s probably fine, he’s just checking you out.

Our Galapagan escort circled us and faded in and out from the deep at least three more times over the next three miles. It was like he was either curious, or couldn’t make up his mind about something. Finally Bill and Jeff saw him. Jeff the paddler, also had a rig on his board to hold onto his camera. He tried to get a picture, but, trying to get a picture of a sh__k from the surface while piloting a twelve foot beach rescue board is about as easy as photographing a cheetah on the Serengeti after surveying him through a soda straw. Jeff missed.

The last time I saw “the man in gray”, he was about 30 feet below me. I could see him if I looked down in a line to my toes. It’s amazing how they seem rather cat-like, the tail flicking back and forth, swimming as easy as thought. He was ascending slowly, closer. Finally I poked my head up and yelled to Captain Don, “He’s still following me! What should I do?” Don said, “I would go down and go after him, yell at him”. Whatever, I thought, it’s better than being followed. I ducked down to try and surprise the gray menace but I think he knew he’d been had. The last I saw of him, he took a clockwise (yes Jeff, clockwise) turn down and faded out of view under the boat.

I should tell you that to fade from view in open ocean Hawaiian waters, is saying something. You can see to about 110 feet in the clear blue here. Maybe more. My favorite thing about channel swimming is getting to visit ‘the blue sun’. you can think of it as like an inverse sun flare that you see looking straight down to infinity in a clear ocean. I think that it’s probably made from your own shadow and the shafts of light that converge underneath it. I may have realized this because when I swim close to Jeff with his beach rescue board, the blue sun is longer, like a cat’s eye. It is beautiful and so mesmerizing that if you don’t keep your eyes on the rum line cues, you will swim forever and always feel pleasantly on course, and never be done. It wouldn’t matter; you would crawl inside your own mind and follow the siren, happy and lost.

The blue sun was beautiful. It was, however, very occluded on this trip. There were thousands of miniature asteroid-shaped, clay colored particles in the water. They were about the size and color of half an eraser head from a classic #2 pencil. Usually when I see these, it means that I am swimming through thousands of tiny jellyfish. Bill likes to call them “no-see-ums”. Every one of them that hits your skin leaves a mark, a mark which in two days time turns into a welt the size of an M&M candy. Today, this was often the case, but sometimes, there was no stinging, a nice surprise.

We reached the middle of the channel in about four hours. What was odd was that, in the middle of the channel, you don’t expect to see life, you expect to see blue, above and below, but no life. Not the Kaulakahi. There were flocks of birds screaming so low to the ocean, I nearly batted one out of the sky on a feeding break. What they were probably there for were the fish below. The fish were in schools of about a hundred, each were composed of blue silver fish about three inches long. I agreed with the birds, they looked like herring, or something, good enough to eat.

Another trend started to occur. Jen was ON now, moving. Brian, our triathlete and first-time channel swimmer, was starting to feel it. I know Brian; I’ve done several four mile swims with him. Like many athletes, Brian has a sort of a ‘tell’ when he gets tired. His mind shuts down. He stops answering questions, he stops making eye contact.

Two weeks ago I got suckered into a sprint triathlon with Brian. He took second place in the whole thing, in a field of hundreds. I was first out of the water, but still came in about 100th overall. Brian is an amazing athlete. I consider swimming to be easy, you just ..move your arms and stuff. I was starting to feel guilty. Did I pressure Brian into this thing? Just because we did 6 or so four milers together for training with mean splits, did that mean he was ready for a twenty mile channel?

For the next six hours, I felt my own pain, but I also felt Brian’s. Two hours from the finish we were only a mile away. Brian needed to see the bottom, he was focused on the bottom, finding it, but his stroke was all off, his direction had gone haywire, and his left arm looked limp. What had I gotten him into?

Jeff, also an Ala Moana beach City & County lifeguard, urged me to stay with the boat. Jeff stayed back with Brian and I moved ahead to rejoin the fray. We were going to finish this thing. We could see the soft white beaches on the low plain of Niʻihau. I could see the shiny wet sand and distinguish it from the dull white high water sand. We were almost in the boat. I was almost sipping a beer, I was basically putting my teeth into a six topping bacon cheeseburger, I was walking on the sands of Niʻihau, the warm sand. Ha ha, maybe the people of the last true Hawaiian island were preparing a lu`au just for our band of triumphant swimmers. Reality: it’s another hour of being cold, and very very smart. Swim Quinn, … just keep swimming.

My RunKeeper app failed about halfway across the channel. We’d gone beyond the range of a cell phone tower to relay the data. Back home, anybody watching us on the map could’ve been convinced that we were swallowed by an Old Testament whale on our way to Ninevah under the face of an untrackable sea. Fortunately, completely unbeknownst to me, Jen also had her own GPS tracker in the 4:20 dingy still faithfully trailing (via tow line) behind the boat where it had been parked since mid channel. If you look at her GPS plot. You will notice that it stops just short of Niʻihau. The surf had gotten completely rough and rotten. The dingy never went in, and neither did Jeff’s paddle board; it was that bad.

Jen, Bill and I waited outside the overhead surf pounders that were walloping the Eastern shore of the little island. We were waiting for Brian. The idea was to all go in together. Our landing could potentially be interpreted as hostile. Niʻihau is a privately owned island. Anything above the high water line is trespassing, but according to story, any incursion at all was kapu (taboo, or off-limits). If we were going to breach the island, we were going to do it together.

We waited for Brian. At first we couldn’t even see him. I remarked to Bill that I was pretty sure he was in the boat by now, and if he wasn’t, he should be. I felt bad, and I wanted it to be over for him. I wished a hot towel around his head. I wished that he was home with his wife, Akiko, and his baby girl. I wished that we’d shot the Au`au together instead of this tumbling, shark-infested, potentially criminal escapade.

I went to the bottom to pass the time. I wish I had a picture for you. The bottom there pops up quickly, only a quarter mile from the island. It isn’t colorful; I only saw one pencil coral. It’s gray, and the lava rock at the bottom seemed to split into odd shaped dinner plate size tiles or weird odd shaped polygons, like nonagons and septagons edge on edge. Imagine cracks in clay soil that was recently watered on and then left to dry for a day. Crazy splits, but gray, and hard, and unforgiving. Often in the very middle of a polygon was a carnation size cauliflower coral polyp. No color, just white and gray. Maybe the island itself knew, no one was welcome. No splashes of color, no welcoming flare. Go away.

In places, clumps of polygons were pulled free. They made a bowl where the real color of the offshore reef... the fish... could hide and play. I saw many colorful fish in these shelters from the surf.

When I was done visiting the fish I popped back up to the surface. Bill was surveying our most promising-looking approach. The surf was making things very hard. Overhead waves crashing on lava rock after ten hours of not using your legs. Bad things. Bill looked concerned. I checked the horizon. Where is Brian?

Jen shrieked. Something else was in the surf with us, what was it? The cries continued, I looked under the surf, nothing on her. That is good. I did notice a huge number of the eraser-like items floating in the water. Could it be these? Maybe she has a bigger reaction to them than I do. I popped back up, “Get it off me! they are everywhere”. Jen charged the boat. What makes a channel swimmer head to the boat five minutes from the end of her trek? I was confused. panicked. It sounded like they were eating her alive. What is it? What’s in the water with us? It must be jellyfish. I thought, Calm, breathe, count your breaths. She’s going to make it to the boat. She’ll be okay. They have some salves there, it’s probably jellyfish.

A couple minutes later she came back, she shrieked again. I felt something. It felt like a hot wire across the back of my neck. Bill and I both yelped. What? Oh. Man o’ War. I pulled what felt like a ramen noodle off my neck. Bill had them on his forearm. Jen was back, where’d she come from. She was yelling too. Bill saw one, a Man o’ War stuck on the back of her neck. Bill calmed her, asked her to hold still, she did. Bill adeptly pulled the beastie off of her. Everyone calmed.

Waves were breaking overhead, with us bobbing in only four feet of water. We ducked each one and waited it out. Bill scouted ahead while we waited for Brian, and on his first return he came back without his goggles. The surf was merciless, and pounding on the same kind of lava rock I had seen below. It was a white sand beach alright, but with black teeth all the way to the water’s edge. We might have swum ten hours to look at a beach from a football’s throw away.

Jeff came in from behind a dynamic horizon. There was Brian’s red swim cap bobbing in the surf. His left arm looked like it had been frog-punched, his stroke was down to a sloppy slap. He made it! They made it! We were all going to finish together.

The finish wasn’t as we expected. Everyone completed the channel in their own way in the end. I will tell you how it happened for me. I pretended like I was at Ehukai Beach (Pipeline) in Oahu, home of overhead pounders. I watched the waves. Timed them. How many waves in a set, okay 3, no wow, 4. Where do they break? Where do they collapse? Foam? Backwash?

The answer was: hug the coral where the overhead wave breaks, KICK! Dig in if you have to, but WAIT till the set ends. After the set, move back about eight feet. The next wave in the set will foam after the crash, drag you in three inches of water over the coral. With the foam though, it would be about five, maybe six inches. Think puffy thoughts. Ride the foam.

It worked. I barely got scratched on the way in. No rips in the suit. I came to a kind of furious tide pool of black rock and sea urchin. Don’t step on those either. Especially the black ones. I looked for some white sand in the middle of a rock pool pukas (holes). Ah.

My right foot was first. I had to pull it around with my arm. My body was so used to the ocean’s surface that the world was still moving with a beat, a rhythm. I tried to stand. Fail. Caught my fall with my right arm. Okay, find another puka. Where will my left foot go? Finding a spot, I fell on my right knee... a little scrape. Jagged rocks in front, legs waking up, world shifting, I panic, I have turned my back to the waves for what? Half a set cycle! Quick, look, wait. Okay, I’m okay, my estimates were good. I’m okay. No waves coming. For about the next half a minute, the cycle repeats. Look for a safe foot spot. Check for urchins, straddle, wade, lift, crawl.


When I reach the sand at the end of a channel I usually like to stand, then flop on the beach, let the sun bake me for a minute and laugh. Laugh! The absurdity of it. The resources expended! For what? It’s stupid, vain, and utterly pointless. A man swims from one island to another. The sea begrudgingly grants him passage so that he can learn something about himself. When he gets there he laughs. He has learned nothing except that the trip which has brought him here has served only as a lens to inspect everything he already knew about himself before he got in the water. The finish as an experience, it’s a moment in time so small that it is over before it began. In the end, I am an idiot trespasser on an island that isn’t mine. As if any man can own God’s creation. Laugh! Laugh until it hurts at the big blue sky.

Today my favorite funny-bone moment was not to be. Captain Don sports an enormous Hubble telescope-sized pair of binoculars. He spotted three people on the horizon two hours before my abominable transurftitude. Don told us at our next to last feeding, “I see three of them, they are waiting there for us.”

I’ve heard three stories of how people are greeted at Niʻihau. I’ll summarize them now.

Story one...

The Captain of the Island Dream, a large pink-sailed catamaran which hosted an outing for the Waikiki Swim Club in 2008, told me that as a boy he and a friend floated on a piece of wreckage (I’ll omit the beginning of the story, because I suspect he was elaborating somewhat) to within site of Niʻihau. At that point, they abandoned the Winslet & DiCapriesque piece of boat dander and flopped themselves on the warm gorgeous shores of Niʻihau. While supine, two large Polynesians jumped him and his friend, jumped them, gave them both black eyes and nose bleeds (I think a broken rib too) and told them to leave the island. They crawled back in the water and swam back to Kauaʻi. Ahem! yeah. k.

Story two...

From the guidebook, Kauaʻi Revealed... “If you land on a beach on Niʻihau, you will be asked to leave. If you refuse, a truly gargantuan Hawaiian gentleman will be summoned, and he will ask you a bit more firmly. This request is usually sufficient to persuade all but the most determined individuals to leave.” Probable.

Story three...

From Captain Don himself. A pair of gentlemen experience some kind of failure in their boat, and wash up on Niʻihau. Stranded, they traverse the beach for a while. Two large Polynesian men confront them and draw a line in the sand. They tell them not to cross it. The next day they are confined to the waters and the boat and told “You cannot walk on our land”. I’m not sure how the story ends, if the boat gets fixed or they get a tow. Call Captain Don, schedule a fishing cruise, and I’m sure he’ll tell you all about it. You bring the beer.

So, here’s my story. I get to the sand... wait, wait. Let me tell you this first. Bear in mind I’m a little delirious. I’m starting to break down a little and notice that when I blink I see about 30 tiny green spots in my vision. They are peppered with red. I know that this is okay until my peripheral vision goes, then it’s night night time. The point... consider this story as if it’s a waking dream, maybe fiction. It’s what I know.

Okay, instead of flopping and laughing, I’m on edge. I see something like three totems. Stacked rocks or coconuts on the right. I ignore them. Just walking now is an experience. I fight the urge and stay upright. I promised my friend Ceci I would bring her back a small piece of driftwood like I have before. I walk the beach line to the south looking for something small, geometric, bone white and dry. I pick up a few pieces, and after about what seems like 5 minutes I choose one. I tuck it under the left thigh of my swim suit. I keep walking.

Suddenly I realize I am in a world of junk! This isn’t the pristine virgin beach I had imagined. It’s awash with everything. All bleached. Glow-sticks whose lights had gone out long before I decided to do this, whiffle balls, beach balls, bottles, cans, eight and a half feet of a nine foot surfboard, and on and on. What a shame. What a lesson. We are choking the beaches of places where people barely even live. Why? To teach our kids how to play baseball? To have potions to make our jeans clean? To drink processed sugar? To shoot a bigger barrel? Here it all is, all our wants materialized and washed up on this relentless beach.

Focus on the good. What do I see? ‘Opihi shells. I see one, I see another. I realize that I will have to get out in the same surf that stripped Bill of his goggles. I can’t pick up this whole beach. Don’t be greedy, don’t be like the ghosts that live in all those people’s empty bottles. Look, feel. It comes to me. Pick ‘opihi shells that nest. Bring home five, for your family of five. Tell them. They will listen. I find five shells; the biggest is almost the size of an Eisenhower dollar. I nest them, sweet Susan, Benjamin, Nathan, and little Naomi, about as big around as a dime. I package the family together and tuck them under the right thigh of my suit.

I am done here.

I look toward the ocean. Leave now? Wait, what an experience. A state lawyer friend of mine advised me on this adventure. Technically, the federal government owns (and shares to the public) everything up to the high water mark. Arguably, that is everything up to the first growing vegetation. A line of vegetation.

I look. The berm of sand slopes sharply at about 20 degrees. From the lava teeth to the vegetation, it’s about two men high over a fifteen yard run. At the top of the slope are alfalfa-like grass tufts. If I could just get a little closer look at how this plane meets that crazy mountain on the left. Step. It looks almost like Diamond Head. Step. See how the lines run sideways across it, instead of up and down? Step. How does a mountain that massive merge into a plane like this!? Step. I am 6 feet from the grass.

Two of the totems I saw spring up. The third never does, but runs to the side, very, very fast. The one on the left is a beautiful young woman in a blue and white flannel shirt with jeans or slacks. She is back-lit; I can’t tell. She looks like bronze version of how I remember my wife the year we were married. Tall, flowing long hair, half-curly and long. Before I can see her face, a camera with a telephoto lens comes to her eye.

The second totem which sprang up at the same time as the female was wearing what could have been a blue or drab Dickies work jacket. A ball cap, and some kind of pants to match. He had a very old rifle. At the end of the muzzle was either a silencer or a plug. It was in his left arm, the butt on his hip. The muzzle pointed at a forty-five degree angle away and over my head.

I didn’t look for the third. The second had a gun. That was all I needed to know.

The surf was pounding when the second said either, “You, come here!”, or “You are trespassing!” I know. I’m not sure how you could mistake the two, but they were far off, and as they say, I was “All buss”.

I have a talent. It’s one I’ve always had. It’s an advantage I have over most people that I’m not afraid to give you the in scoop on. When I smile, people know that I mean it. Maybe it’s why I resonate so comfortably here. There is aloha. We all have it. Let it in. Let it out. Show it when you smile. Don’t cheat me, give me the real confection. Show me your smile so I can see you.

I smiled, I extended my right hand in a still wave. I kept my smile over my shoulder as my body turned. When my body had turned, I walked back to the water. I could feel the rifle relax.

Getting out had all the same challenges of getting in. Maybe more. In my haste I had put a three inch gash in the bottom of my foot. Not a good place to be bleeding. Also, the sets had changed; instead of three or four in a set, it was five or six. I skulled in four inches of water and grabbed rock eight feet in front of where the overhead waves crashed. After the first set, I made a mad sprint for the outside. Instead of a minute, it was more like twenty seconds until the next set. I jammed up and scraped a finger looking for something to hold when the surprise set rolled in.

The set passed, I made another mad dash.


Crash, not yet, dive again. Crash, sprint. I was sprinting so hard in the surf avoiding the lava below I could smell my own blood somehow in my nose. Rifle behind me, waves in front, I eventually got into deeper water.

As I’m coming out, I see the boat moving away. What? Is this a joke? Like when you tell your friend to get in a car and move away? I can feel my foot bleeding out. This isn’t good, lots of fish here. How about predators? What’s happening? What if they can’t see me? What if everyone else has returned to the boat, they saw the rifle and wanted to get out of range?

Keep swimming?

Horizon is still interrupted by overhead waves. Where is the boat? There it is...

Keep swimming!

The boat, I think it’s stopping.

Keep swimming.

Captain Don lowers the ladder a hundred yards outside of Niʻihau and mutters something - I still don’t know what. We have to go now. Now! Get in the boat.

I hit the boat cushions, so spent I think I’m going to pop. The boat speeds off.

August 30

Tonight, I’m home with my wife and kids. Tucking the kids in at prayer time, I shared with them a child’s version of my adventure. How I swam to the end of the island chain. How I saw friendly sharks and beautiful coral. How I went to an island where you can only look at the beach. Then I pulled my five ‘opihi shells out. They were safe and dry all tucked inside each other. I gave the smallest one to Naomi, the next one to Nate, the middle one to Ben, then Susan’s and then I took mine.

We talked about what it means to be family and all together surrounded by each other. Then Naomi placed her shell inside Nate’s. Nate understood and put his inside Ben’s. Ben inside his mother’s, and my shell was the binder.

We said prayers and thanked the Lord for all that we had learned, and my safe passage, and then we all hugged, and the kids tucked their shells under their pillows.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kaulakahi Channel Crossing

This Sunday, August 29, I'll be swimming the channel from Kauaʻi to Niʻihau. I've set up a separate page that Sue will be updating when she can, in case you want to check in and see how I'm doing.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chrome Dome

I'm still working on the MisterGoat project, but I was getting feedback that the skull was a little bit too, well, 'skully'. Besides, it's quite a contrast between the skull and all the rusted items also in the collage.

Once upon a time I made couple of Fantasy Football trophies. The trick there was to have a heavy bronze head piece for lustworthy ooglage. So, applying that knowledge forward, I bronzed the goat skull.

Well, maybe it isn't bronze, but I don't think you'll every know if you don't touch it. Anway it looks pretty good in juxtaposition to the other items in the frame. So, I think it was a good call.

So there it is, the new improve mister goat skull, basking in the sun. Hmm, wonder what I'll bronze next?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Personal Best

It's been two days since I did my first (sprint) triathlon and I'm aching so badly that when I have to go downstairs, I walk backwards.

I crushed the swim, ate it on the bike, and earned the finish on the run. In the words of one of my triathlete friends, "old buddy, I have never seen anyone come 1st in the swim and 170th in the bike.". So, why would a 38 year old channel swimmer suddenly decide that he is a triathlete? It's kind of a funny story.

At Kate Costello's wedding on big island, I drank too many Mai Tais. A contrary fellow named Mike Schmidt also probably did too. Mike enjoys triathlons, and I enjoy channel swimming. We vigorously critiqued the merits of both. Mike challenged me that if I would do just one eensy weensy sprint triathlon, he would swim all four races in the North Shore Swim Series next summer. After another Mai Tai the answer became yes.

The next morning, rubbing my temples, Sue (teh Suz) reminded me of my commitment. Within a couple weeks time, she also signed me up. Half km swim, 11.1 mile bike, and a 4 mile run. Who comes up with these numbers? So unfair to swimmers. Seriously!

All in all, I guess I'm glad I did it. I sort of have a frame work for understanding tri-geek talk now. Everyone seems to want to know when I'm doing my next one. My answer: don't hold your breath. Besides for now anyway, I've got a few more channels to swim. One thing for sure IF I ever do this again, I'll borrow a real bike.

Thanks to Sue and the kids for coming up. Team orange really got me fired up.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


I did a vector render of one of my favorite pieces of graffiti in Honolulu. At some point I want to make a T-Shirt out of it*. It's on the H1 King Street on ramp (West bound). The post has two signs on it. A bright yellow "Click-It or Ticket".. and then a defaced black & white sign: "Buckle Up, It's the APE".

Maybe it's my visual imagination, but I think the sign is hilarious. Picture a brutish Hanna Barbara looking gorilla stalking the berm waiting for an unsuspecting negligent driver to go by unbuckled. The beast bounds over and rips the driver out of his car through an open passenger window. Hey, Buddy.. you'd better buckle up!

I don't usually take the King Street on ramp unless I'm surfing Diamond Head, or swimming the Double Rough-Water buoy course before work. This morning, it was the latter.

A reporter from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser (Nancy Arcayna) called yesterday and asked me if she could interview me about my upcoming channel swim from Kauai to Ni`ihau. Certainly. She also wanted to send a photographer out to get some shots of me doing open water training. I told her that he could meet me on the beach after my typical Wednesday Double Rough Water swim.

I think eight out of the last ten or so weeks, I've been swimming the Double Rough on Wednesdays. I usually go with my friend Brian. He and two others will be crossing the Kaulakahi with me, so it's good training for us to swim distances together. He had to get to work early today though, so it was just me. The solstice is over, the sun is coming up later. I had to start the swim about 30 minutes before sunrise. It was a little creepy being out there then but in the end it turned out to be a great swim. I broke my own record, probably due to some unusual currents. 54 minutes out, 40 minutes back.

The photographer snapped several pictures of me when I returned to the beach at the end of my swim. Nancy said she would interview me later on. She commented that the story probably won't run until closer to Labor Day.

*: If I make a T-Shirt with the APE graphic, it will be available to you through "Quinnzshoppe" the link to the shop is in the margin on the left. Thanks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Rain Date

Our friend Kate, let us know that Foster Botanical Gardens is hosting a series of musical concerts on the lawn Thursdays this month.

Sue and the kids picked me up after work and we headed down Vineyard avenue to catch tonights concert featuring the Manoa Strings. By the time we got there we were about a half an hour late and it was raining. Rather than shiver on the lawn, we took a detour.

It's been a while since we've been to our favorite island burger spot, so we headed into town for drinks and massive drippy avocado and bacon covered burger action.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Watch Me


The van was still at the railway society where we had left it last night. After church today, Sue and I put the littles in bed for a nap and left our oldest son up to baby sit while we ran back to pick up the van together. Sue has really advanced as a runner, after a year of training, she and I are pretty much the same speed.

We went together on foot back to where the adventure started. She ran with her new wedding ring on, and I was also wearing my anniversary present. A bright orange stopwatch/diver's watch Sue gave me during train ride. It also makes a fine couples jogging watch. Our run time is in the picture on the left (26:36.70)

Before we headed back we took a moment to stop in and talk with Tom from the Hawaiian Railway Society. Tom set the whole thing up for us. He also gave us our last anniversary gift. He snapped a bunch of pictures with his Cannon SLR and presented them to us on CD. Thanks Tom!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Not Just Married

abstract: Seventeen years ago, Sue and I were married in a hot church in North-Central Pennsylvania. Today we celebrated the event and renewed our vows in a grassy field on the Ko Olina grounds of West Oahu. (pics)

It was a busy day. I got up two hours before sunrise to shoot some North Shore waves at Pipeline with a friend, David McDaniel. After the surf, I met up with Sue and the kids they cheered me on at the Cholo's Waimea Bay Swim. The hugs and shakas must have helped out because I miraculously came in 17th* and third in my division.

After the awards ceremony we headed back to Ewa for a long nappy afternoon. We needed the naps; I had gotten up early and competed, and Sue was pooped from shuttling the kids to the Bay. Besides, we were going to need our strength. I had put together some very special surprise anniversary arrangements for the evening.

I chartered one of the old sugar cane trains from the Hawaiian Railway Society five miles from our house. The train ride on the old tracks goes through a lot of the undeveloped Ewa side, and then shoots through Ko Olina. Tracks from there go all the way to "tracks beach" on the West Side. For our sortee though, Sue and I stopped in small grassy field not too far from Roy's Ko Olina restaurant.

Our pastor, Rev. Bob Miyake-Stoner of Trinity United Methodist Church, met us by the tracks at the end of our locomotive trek. We disembarked. There in the field, Susan, the pastor and I recited our parts verbatim from the ceremony seventeen years ago. The charge, the pledge, and the exchanging of rings.

Susan has on of those rings where the engagement ring Jengas together with a second band from the ceremony. After the ceremony the band and the engagement rings are soldered together into one piece. When I bought Sue the ring, at the age of 21! I got her what I could afford. I sold off a coin collection I had been building from all the yards I'd mowed as a kid. The ring has years of sentimental value, but it was time to change the center stone to something less miniscule. I presented Susan with her reworked ring during the exchanging of rings portion of the ceremony. This pleased Susan :)

After the ceremony Sue and I proceeded in for a 6:30 dinner reservation at Roy's. If you've never been, I really recommend it. It is fine dining in fusion style. For apps Susan and I shared an ornate sushi/tempura butterfish maki roll, drizzled with sauce goodness. I had a sampler plate with dinner: ribs, salmon, prawn. She had a three part meal featuring mac nut mahi mahi.

It was a stroke of luck that Daniel Dae Kim (Lost: Jin, '10 Hawaii-5-O: Chin-Ho Kelly) was also at the restaurant dining with friends that night, and I swear I saw Grace Park (BSG: Athena/Boomer). Maybe not. Regardless, a friend sighted her at Ala Moana mall on Friday night, so, she is on-island.

After dinner the restaurant treated us to a complimentary anniversary desert. We sat back and thought about all that had happened in this last year, and all the blessings we've enjoyed together since 1993. We enjoyed reliving the memories and making new ones.

(*: When I came out of the water I was 17th place. I told everyone I planned it that way because it was our 17th anniversary, and my honey had come to watch me swim. In the end though, someone in the top 17 was ousted after the race, so technically I came in 16th. This maybe the only time in my swim career that I was SAD to move up a spot. Ah well, go with me here, I was 17th!)

Monday, July 5, 2010

West Side Story

I met up with Bill and Brian for a training swim in the North this morning, We went from Waimea Bay to Lani's in about an hour or so; I forgot to check the time.

I got back South before lunch and Sue and I decided to take the whole family for a trip to our favorite uncrowded West Side beach, "Tracks".

From Tracks, Sue snorkeled out to the hot water snorkel site off shore from Electric Beach. It's about a half mile out, usually easy to find because the vent is surrounded by Japanese tourists' snorkeling boats, and the churning in the surface of the water caused by the heat below. A snorkeler's booty is what's on the roll. Sue brought back a pretty good batch this time including an interesting one of a broom tailed file fish laying flat. It was blending into the bottom like a flounder might. She's never seen anything like that before. After reading this article you should head over to Sue's blog and post a message. Encourage her to get her new pics up online. Tell her Quinn sent you ;)

(Picture was a 'happy accident'. Water on the lens enhances the happy glow of the afternoon)

Tracks has a pretty steep break. It's sandy and the waves snap up suddenly at the water's edge. It makes for some large, loud, but pretty harmless kid's sized shore break. It also gives the beach a pronounced sandy ledge at the high water mark. The kids helped us carve out some pukas that made for excellent beach chairs. We sat straight upright in okole molded holes, compete with sand made arm-rests and a cocktail table.

Cocktail table? Yes. Any afternoon long trip to the beach is best enhanced with a "Sport Quart" of your favorite rum cocktail, and a big sack of dollar menu food melange. After Sue's snorkel we enjoyed some gritty burgers and the world's most appropriate Mai Tai right in our luxury sand traps. Toes in water, kids laughing. Good Times!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mister Goat's Wild Ride

I'm working on a new assemblage piece. The theme is our weekend on Big Island. The objective with the theme is to use only things that we found or brought back from the trip last weekend.

Sue and I pretty much drove the entire length of the West side of Big Island. We put almost 300 miles on the rental driving from the North tip of Kawi all the way to South Point.

We brought back a few things found on dry country roads: a young goat's skull, very, very old (40's) car parts, planks from a bee-keeper's hive box that fell off a truck. We brought back some bottles of sand. We brought back clippings of paper from the trip, coffee beans from Kona Joe's tour. Also we brought back some items very integral to Kate and Graham's weeding. The bulletin for the wedding was printed on old school hand waved fans. Each panel had a different part of the service.

Now that we are home again, I'm turning sections of wood from the bee box into a frame, the skull will pretty much be the centerpiece. I've already fashioned some shades for the skull from rusted car parts, and a pair of sunglasses that I broke on the trip.

I think I'll take my time with this one. Their are no deadlines. I'm not necessarily making it to sell. The trick will be to make something that is both personal to Sue and me, and still generic enough for the average person to be intrigued. Once I started with a general layout, Sue dubbed the piece "Mister Goat's Wild Ride" (a la: the Disney World ride named for Toad in Wind in the Willows). It makes sense, The dashboard of the old ?Model-T? is directly under the Goat Skull, he is wearing shades, and the wind is blowing back the tea-leaves in his 'hair'. I'm sure the work will only get wackier from there as I add in more elements from the trip.

Above are a few pics to show you where I'm at so far. A very rough outline sketch, a close up of Mister Goat with his custom (and bitch'n) shades, then a flop on the garage floor showcasing a POTENTIAL layout. Keep in mind, probably less than half of the potential pieces are shown in that pic. It will change.

Hope you get a laugh.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

South Point

Well I found the OSFA* computer in the hotel lobby. Sue and I just got back from a dip in the pool, and I thought I'd write a little bit about South Point, while we wait for lunch to heat up.

We got a tip from Kate that it's a good time to make the drive down to South Point and take a plunge off the jumping rocks. So we went. The point itself is the Southern most point in the United States. When you get there, you feel like you are at the end of the world though. Most of South Point is a sheer cliff ten meters above the vast super blue ocean. The water hits the walls so hard that it has actually carved out some amazing caves in the side of the precipice.

I took a running dive off the end. I had this feeling midway down that maybe, just maybe, I had really made a bad decision. Too late. I hit the water pretty hard, but gratefully did not over rotate and end up flopping. What a rush too look around and see Sue peering over the edge way up there, me bobbing down below as if on glass, and then look into the huge gaping caves under the ledge. I swam into a cave about 20 yards from my crash-down. I was intrigued because the back of the cave was lit. It turns out, the water had blasted a hole in the ceiling in the back. Maybe a hundred thousand years ago it was a spout, who knows. From the end of the cave I could look straight up and see blue sky. After I had my fun, I climbed up the enormous rod iron rusty ladder tethered to the side of the cliff. I really felt like I was in the middle of a Lost episode or something.

About two hundred yards further down South Point it finally edges off into the water. Sue and I took a walk down there where frozen giant lava rocks butt heads with huge turqoiuse blue double overhead waves. The picture above is one of Sue, from the minds eye it seemed like she was almost in front of a Posieden Adventure blue screen of a gynourmous wave. It was seriously crazy though how a man devouring, rock pounding break turned into a gentle tidle pool, in less than sixty yards. The lava rock sentinels really do their job well.

On the way there and back we stopped at several places. Basically turning a two and a half hour drive into a four hour marathon Oregon Trail. We stopped at Kona Joe's coffee, and also had a roadside break next to this awesome sixty year old lava field junk yard. Maybe you have to be a guy to get this; but seriously. Rusted up Model T's by a dilapidated mill, in lava bed? It was a total Mad Max moment. Oh, and I'm not saying I did, but I might have taken back some old rusty gears, an odometer and a goat skull to commemorate the event. I wonder what baggage check will think of that.

I'd better wrap this up, but I'll tell you a little about Kona Joe's first. In a phrase, excellent coffee, impressive estate, HORRIBLE service. I had my first experience eating a coffee cherry. There were some trees right there in the parking lot. The gift shop was classic. All wood interiors, 25% marked up tourist stuff, and two (dos) free shots of coffee, accompanied by a pair of chocoloates, a white chocolate covered bean, and standard chocolate covered bean. Noms! The patio/coffee-bar/tour-starting-place/outdoor-pavilion/bella-vista spot was gorgeous. Coffee roasting machines all around. A view of the Kona coast over trellised coffee trees. Super wow. But, but, just TRY and get a cup of coffee from the barista. At five bucks a cup, this is NO factory outlet discount. It was served in a foam (foam? plastic?) cup, there was NO cream available, and no sugar in the raw. So what? the worlds best coffee served from a pump jug, brewed i-dunno-when with Splenda and 2% milk. FAIL!

Okay, okay, so I'm over reacting, the coffee was good. I mean good. Not like that funny tingle you get in your crotch when you are going down-hill on a roller-coaster good, but it was pretty darn good. Smooth to be sure.

(*) OSFA: One Size Fits All

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I've been working on my "assemblage" art collage again. Usually when an assemblage artist frames something in a box it's referred to as the "shrine" form factor. I'm not a big fan of that word. It sounds so dedicated like a tattoo. I don't want any tattoo forever, and I don't want to make a shrine. Doesn't that sound permanent? Not to mention queerly LA California goth.

So, I figured, if I stick a clock in the middle of my "assemblage" art box it makes it a clock, which... satisfies my creative intentions in two ways. First of all, it's not G__ D___ shrine. Second, it's a clock, so it's actually useful. I mean, a clock, who DOESN'T need another clock? This isn't a piece of art junk, it's a functional useful tool which will let the owner know precisely WHEN they are (assuming it's set correctly.. and mumble mumble mox nix)

Mind you this is no ordinary assemblage clocksterpiece. It is made entirely of things I've found laying around beach parks in Hawaii. Well, so, to be honest, the Hula girl was whittled from wood WHICH I found on the beach. Also the cloth liner on the interior of the box was made from an Aloha shirt which I accidentally ripped on the beach (trying to hastily put it on after a swim w/o unbuttoning it first). Other than that.. this is genuine saline encrusted 100% aloha hakuna mutata beach relic. Wow!

I'm far from done with this thing, I thought I'd shoot a few pieces of it for you so you could see it, and then put a sketch in (below) so you can get an idea where I'm going. It's more of guidelines really, not a roadmap per se.

Furthermore (or is it in conclusion).. or perhaps as an epilogue note. I used to be an embedded hardware developer. My garage is full of old failing electronic parts. I may not be able to resist the urge to put in some actuators or lights etcetera to make the lass jiggle on the hour or something. Hopefully, I'll just be smart about it, keep it an art project and jam the clock in. ... Hopefully.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dewars Vs. Diamond Head

Ian an Mary are on the boomerang leg of their Hawaiian isles vacation trip. They are staying with us this weekend, and then off for some QT at Turtle Bay before they head home to San Jose. Today we took a little trip to Diamond Head. Afterward we visited the Kona Brewing Company restaurant in Hawaii Kai. They have some crazy pizzas there. Fully ono.

Oh, btw, if you watch the there is no bar at the top of Diamond Head, I was just being a jackass. kgr8thx.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dead Locke

My high school bud Ian and his wife Mary are in town to visit this weekend and next. Ian and Mary live in San Jose, where he works for Specialized bicycles. His job involves setting up promotions and events for Specialized nationally and internationally. Typically I'll see Ian at least once a year as he passes through town on the way to represent at the Kona Iron Man. It's an added bonus when we get to hang with Mary too.

They are celebrating their half-versary honeymoon here in Hawaii. They will be here this weekend, then off to Kauai for the week, then back again next weekend. The guest bedroom is back in business while they are on our island.

This afternooon, we took in some surf at "Baby Haleiwas" on the North Shore. It's the break where a lot of groups rent boards out to newcomers. It's off to the right of Haleiwa Park. You might have seen it if you watch Lost. I'm pretty sure it's the beach they use for the scene where the guardians tote dead-Locke up in a cargo container on the beach, ark-of-the-covenant style. Lapidus gets a rifle butt to the head.

It would be funny if some of these surf breaks started taking on new bad-ass "Lost" names. Like: "Dead Locke", or "Lapidus Butt". I've often wondered what's in a break name. There are some crazy ones for sure: Gas Chambers, Green Lanterns, Paradise, Swabby Land. Anyway, I'm digressing...

Later this evening after we all came back sunburned and had a siesta, Ian, Mary, Sue (who is awesome) and I all went out to La Mariana. It's the Tiki bar near Sand Island. That place is so classic, leaky roof, bamboo walls, and lanterns made out of puffer-fish. It looks like a potential neighborhood bar for Gilligan's Island. Ya know, a swell place to hang out and speak-easy after a day of helping professor and the Harlem Globe Trotters build a submarine out of coconuts.

Ian an Mary are off to Kauai tomorrow. We'll have more adventures with them when they get back.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fund Raiser

I'm having a little trouble getting my Kiawi channel swim put together. Originally I was planning to swim from Molokai to Oahu a week before Father's Day in June. The major issue as always is money.

To compensate a Kiawi channel fisherman for the escort, and pay for about thirteen hours of fuel it costs about a thousand dollars total. That doesn't really factor in the cost of other supplies, and covering for incidental costs of volunteers.

A typical crew will have a captain, a spotter and a paddler. Often swells separating the line of sight between the boat and the swimmer are mitigated with a proficient paddler. The paddler will also run food, water and ibuprofin from the boat spotter to the swimmer. The spotter keeps his eye on the swimmer at all times, and gets nourishment ready at preset intervals. The captain? Well, the captain drives the boat, and understandably, makes his living doing it.

For the Kiawi, I'm trying something different. Rather than absorbing all the costs myself, I'm asking for your help. I'm sorry if this is a bit awkward, but I'll try to make it up to you with some value added. I'm throwing in this illustration and my thanks in exchange for support. If you want to give me a hand with this, just go to the cafepress site, and purchase any of the "Red Buoy" products there. So far I have a couple of different sized posters with the illustration. My mark-up is about 60% of the cost of the poster. I will put that toward the channel.

I'm totally blown back by the events in the Gulf of Mexico right now. That coastline will never be the same. Ever. I've never really been an environmentalist, but this issue really tugs at me. Seriously, it's time to start using some of our energy alternatives. Anyway, I digress, anything raised in excess of my fund raising target ($1k) will be donated to a worthy Gulf clean-up related fund. Please post me your comments if you have any suggestions.

About the art. If you scroll down a couple entries you can read about the day I did the hand made illustration. It was inspired by a training swim I did with Brian. We started at sunrise from Kaimana beach hotel, and swam the length of Waikiki, then looped around the red Ala Wai buoy. From there we went in to the Sheraton. Last weekend, I brought a scan of that art into Adobe Illustrator, vectorized it, and brought those paths into Photoshop. I did the painting affects with a Wacom tablet on an iMac. The sketch took about 2 hours, the computer rendering about 5. I hope you enjoy it, and more importantly, I hope it inspires you to reach your own goals as well.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


After the ten thirty service at Trinity United Methodist, the five of us all scrambled into the van, and grabbed lunch before our Sunday adventure. First stop, Hank's Haute Dogs on Coral Street in Honolulu.

If the cost of living on this island isn't high enough for you, stop in to eat at Hank's for an elite hand shipped carnivorous casing comestible. The dogs are flown in from Chicago, and elsewhere. It depends on whether you go with the classic Hot Dog, the Portuguese Sausage, Bratwurst, Chorizo... should I stop? Okay.

My only gripe is, when you are talking seven dollar dogs, size really IS everything. I was expecting an aspiration hazard, what I got was little more than a fist-full. Oh yeah, and they laughed at my wife when she mispronounced "Chorizo". That's a little too Soup-Nazi. Oh well, when you are haute you're haute. Hank's definitely is.

After our fine dining experience, the Sunday afternoon adventure led us to the Honolulu Academy of the Arts for the Family Sunday event. The beautiful structure housing the academy is almost more like its own campus than a building. Inside the massive exterior stone walls are several class rooms, exhibit halls and grass courtyards big enough for performance art.

There, we met up with Paul (a friend of Sue's from work), and his family. Their little girl is about the same age as our Naomi. All the kids enjoyed sitting on the grass in the courtyards watching a magic show by "The Amazing Mr. O", and then trapeze and aerial silk performances. After the A.D.D. set in, there was another courtyard set up for kid crafts.

The professional performances by the acrobats were both rehearsed and improvised. It was a beautiful fusion of gymnastics, theatre and dance. Students performed following the opening act (pictured). There was a tense moment when a young lady attempted to execute an elaborate spin while she was ten feet off the ground. When she failed, she hit the mat with a hard thump. Her weight tugged the silk so hard that the bamboo frame supporting the rig cracked and broke. Everything went quiet, and it was a huge relief when the student managed to collect herself off the floor, nothing broken.

As a lifetime swimmer, the cost of under-performing is just coming in last. Maybe throwing up in the pool gutter, and feeling humiliated. For these young ladies and other gymnasts, failures like the one we saw first-hand can result in broken necks and disfigured bodies. It takes a lot of courage to do that kind of sport. Even more to perform again later in the day after failing. I suppose I wish I had the courage to stay and watch her perform again later. I hope her mother did.

Friday, May 14, 2010


THe Chocolate Moat Cake won an honorable mention for originality. The company bake sale went well, maybe a little too well. If someone even says chocolate one more time today.. I might throw up.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chocolate Moat Cake

The company was asked employees to enter in a Bake Sale and competition in order to raise money for the events committee. The theme of the bake sale is chocolate chips. Yes I know I misspelled "moat" in the video. As soon as iMovie stops crashing I'll make the edit and reupload the video. Yawn.. for now, I'm going to bed.

Red Buoy

As of the Popoia Race, the local swimming community is officially into the outdoor season. The Outrigger Canoe Club hosts a race in a couple weeks, and the North Shore Swim Series starts after that. Then there is the Waikiki Rough Water, and for the hardcore, the Double Roughwater.

Brian, a friend of mine from the University of Hawaii Masters group, and I have started training outside instead of doing the usual pool swim. We did our second swim together today.

We started at the Kaimana Hotel near the foot of Diamond Head at about six in the morning. The plan was to swim the length of Waikiki, around the Ala Wai buoy marker and then about a third of the way back to the Shorebird. That was the plan.

Brian and I swim at different speeds, so we staggered the start. The first time I see Brian is forty-five minutes later when we are rounding the red buoy. He starts tapping my feet. When you are half a mile off the coast in pitch-blue water rounding a buoy bigger than a Volkswagen Beetle and something yanks at your feet, you notice it. It was Brian, so we stopped for a little chat. The subject: his car key.

The key for the car Brian parked at the finish, was still in my car, which was parked back at the start. The swim just got a little longer. We decided to swim about halfway back, to the Sheraton, get out and then run from there back to the start.

It's pretty shallow coral there so it took a while, (swim, scull, float, swim) to make it to the beach. We walked for a few minutes and then broke out into a run. Both of us, barefoot, and in racing suits. I wore a 'drag' suit over my racer, but still.

Anyway, we made it back to my car by twenty of eight. I got to work a little late, but it was worth the good times.

epilogue ..from a Facebook thread later today:

Brian Spotted you this morning in nothing but a speedo jogging down Kalakaua Ave!

At least I was in drag.