Man I’ve let my blog lapse! I haven’t written anything all month! Its not that I haven’t had anything to write about, it’s just I haven’t found the time to do so. I’ve been spending so much time working on the Inaugural Map and preparing the Counter-Inaugural festivities that the Daily Render has been neglected.
So first things first, my trip to Maui, Hawaii.
I had an absolutely wonderful time in Maui. Make that, I had one of the best times in my life in Maui. Being that it was my first business trip, I was actually really scared that I’d somehow screw up in some major way and give my organization an unintended black eye. The complete opposite happened! My work with the Digital Bus, and my help with the Adventures in Geography teacher training workshop turned out to be very positive. I felt that I had a lot to offer and my ideas & help were very well received by my colleagues and the teachers. In the end, I left the island with a feeling of complete success!
I’m going to write down my day by day play by play so that I can use this entry to look back and remember exactly how my trip was… If you want to skip all of my recollections, you can go straight to the pictures or read/look at my colleague Joseph Kerski’s photo summary of the trip.
On January 4th I took the first MARC train out of DC to BWI. While on the train I realized that I had forgotten one important item in my room… the electrical cable to my laptop! This meant I had roughly 4 hours of computer time before my computer was rendered useless. I was going to try and purchase a cable while on the island but I opted not to. It was very nice that the Digital Bus was loaded with iBook G4s :-)
The flight to Dallas went fine, nothing special. The actual airport itself was kind of odd. I really didn’t like the way the trams were setup, especially the American Airlines one. It reminded me of riding one of the kiddy roller coasters at Six Flags because the tram itself was just a sham. It was bus confined to a special lane which drove around the airport. It would have been nice if it were actually a train on a track and it wasn’t burning gas and gyrating all the passengers inside. They really need to redesign it, but hell, its Texas, and I’m told burning gas is cool there.
The flight from Dallas to Maui was okay, simply okay. I didn’t realize that I had to call ahead for a vegetarian meal, so I got stuck with eating an assload of pretzels. I find it kind of sad that Americans & American Airlines are stuck in a culinary paradigm that all meals must revolve around a meat. Cajun Chicken or Beef Stew, or how about 5 bags of lightly salted pretzels, a salad, a cookie, and slice of bread? Yeah… The turbulence was probably the worst I’ve experienced, but I didn’t mind it too much. I’ve always wondered if/when the wings on the plane are going to snap off because it’s so cold at 30,000 feet and the plane is bouncing up & down so much as if it were trying flap its wings. They have yet to snap on me, but I have taken it upon myself to watch the wings and note any variations in the ways the flaps are operating. You’d be amazed at how some planes are maintained…
I arrived at Kahului Airport in the afternoon after flying for some 10 hours or so. I immediately walked outside and was greeted by one of those angelic scenes where you can see a visible beam of light coming out of the clouds. The beam of light created the most beautiful aura around the jagged mountains off in the distance (the same mountains I would later be driving to). The airport itself is pretty much an open-air facility since the weather is the same year round and it never gets cold, so there were random birds flying around the baggage claim area. Thankfully none of them shat on me.
After waiting for almost 30 minutes for my luggage to be spat out from the baggage turbine, I proceeded to make my way to the taxi and get a ride out Kihei (pronounced Key-Hey). 35 minutes and $35 dollars later I arrived at the Maui Vista Resort. I was expecting something more like a Marriot or a Hilton, but it turns out that the place is both a permanent residence for many people and a timeshare facility where people rent out their condos. Thus the main office was closed when I arrived, but thankfully the person who was literally directly in front me taking the letter off the door as I arrived was my colleague Joseph Kerski. It couldn’t have been any better timing, and with such a synchronous moment, I had a lurking suspicion that the trip was going to be stellar.
Immediately he & I hit it off. We able to figure out how to get into his room by opening the special lock and shortly thereafter I was able to figure out how to get into my room. And man I had a nice suite! The only drawback that I wasn’t able to share it with someone special :-( I mean it was one of rooms that most likely has been some couple’s honeymoon love den! Alas, only one person slept in that bed the entire time, and that was lil old me.
Joseph and I proceeded to walk down to the Kihei strip and get some grub. We chatted about a whole range of stuff and it was nice that he & I shared many of the same views- as in I wouldn’t offend him with my “ultra-liberal” ideologies- definite plus! I ended up falling asleep before 10pm that night, many thanks to jetlag.
The next morning I met up with Joseph at the ripe hour 7am and proceeded to meet my other colleague Angela Lee from Environmental Systems Research Insitute (ESRI). She normally works with educating teachers, librarians, and museum employees, and her expertise that she brought to the island was the significant understanding of ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education. Otherwise known as “AEJEE,” which is one of the three products that ESRI makes for both Mac & PC, and it’s free and easy to use, although it has a few bugs in it. If you are eager to learn how to make interesting maps, I highly recommend downloading it (I also HIGHLY recommend downloading the instructions).
The three of us proceeded to drive to Akimeka, a native Hawaiian owned IT company, who’s public outreach department maintains the Digital Bus. When we arrived we met up with Diana Papini and Ellen Monshein who head up the department. They were great hosts and showed us the shear potential of the Digital Bus. It’s loaded with 8 iBook G4’s (with airport cards), a massive flat panel monitor, 3 Garmin Rhinos (I want one of these BAD!), a wireless printer, and a whole slew of field data collection instruments including microscopes and water quality assessment probes. I imagine the Digital Bus being used like a book mobile, arriving at schools once a month to allow students to participate in science experiments they would other be unable to take part in. Since the bus is still rather new, I really hope that they use the bus for something very similar!
All Wednesday morning Joseph, Angie, and myself prepared the computers and the lesson plan for the teacher training. As I wrote before, it was nice sitting in the bus and working, even if the bus was just parked in a parking lot. Before we left to go eat lunch I decided to call an old girlfriend of mine who was from Honolulu, Hawaii to tell her that I was on Maui. I was only able to leave her a message and she never called me back :( I only mention this because she is the reason why I was in Maui, through a VERY VERY convoluted series of events stretching over almost 6 years. I think I am going to make an entry about her in the coming weeks…
The 5 of us went to lunch in Kihei at a place on S. Kihei Rd called Pupu Lounge (I think) and I thought it was interesting that 3 of the 5 meals ordered were veggie burgers. I never found out if Diana was a veggie or not :-
In the afternoon we proceeded to go to the Maui Community College, where the teacher training was to be held. We setup shop in the video editing computer lab and installed AEJEE on all the computers. After checking my E-mail in the lab I found that Matthew Drudge of the Drudge Report had posted on his website (which gets 12 million hits a day) “Michael Moore publishes inaugural parade route on website,” which essentially was a reference to my Inaugural Map!!! I ended up getting over 20,000 hits that day and about 20 angry E-mails from conservatives- “You should be shot for publishing this,” “Kerry lost get over it!” etc etc. It was probably some of the best free PR my website could have received! And it totally made my day!
By the time we were finished it was 5pm and the sun tanning peak already had passed. By the time we returned back to the other side of the island, we made it just in time to watch the sun set over the ocean (see previous post for Joseph’s wonderful sunset picture!). I actually rolled up my pants went into the pacific ocean for one & only time while on Maui, and man was the water colder than I expected!
That night I crashed before 10pm (again!) and woke up bright and early for the second day of preparation. Thursday morning was spent on the Digital Bus parked in the Akimeka parking lot preparing the AEJEE project files. In the afternoon we went back to the Maui Community College and setup the gift bags for the teachers and finalized the software on the computers. After that we did a run through of the field work, which consisted of walking to the harbor, taking a water sample, and a GPS reading, we drove to Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau State Monument and the Iao Valley State Park to do more water samples and GPS readings.
The Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau State Monument is the remains of two important heiau (places of worship) that were rededicated as war temples by Kahekili, Maui’s last ruling chief. They were chosen because of their extraordinary views of the island, and I must say the native islanders knew how to pick spots! It was absolutely gorgeous! I gave my respects to the islanders of yesteryear, and I think they ended up thanking me.
The Iao Valley State Park turned out to be equally as gorgeous! I liked the state park simply because there is only one road which leads down the valley to the Iao Needle. At the road’s terminus there is a parking lot and one trail that leads tourists to a quant lodge with a magnificent view of the valley.
Thursday evening I went out to eat alone with the hopes of possibly finding some cute lady (as mentioned in my previous post). I ate a place called Lulus, which is on the Kihei strip and located on the second floor for a large building. I decided to stop there to eat because I heard live music emanating from the venue. It turned out to be a guy playing meringue with CDs playing his back up. It was pretty fun watch middle-aged vacationers dancing to the music :-) The music definitely made me want to have a dancing partner! A veggie quesadilla, spicey French fries and $25 dollars later I made my way back home and actually went to be at 11pm.
Up early at 6:00am, the three of us met up with Jeri Berc, a soil scientist for the USDA, and drove to the Maui Community College to begin the teacher training. There ended up being about 15 teachers who showed up, which I thought was a good healthy number, but I sincerely wanted to top out at 20! There were high school teachers, one student, a community college teacher, and even some people from “the Big Island” who came. During the introductions Diana gave the 4 of us Hawaiian leas :-) Mine turned out to be one made of braided grass! I saved it too because it was one of the few souvenirs I opted to take back with me.
The morning was spent showing the teachers all the different practical applications that AEJEE could be used for in their classroom lesson plans. We also showed them exactly how they could create their own maps. It was pretty awesome seeing some the teachers get really excited about the possibilities that the software & know-how gave them.
After lunch we got out the GPS devices showed all the teachers how they could incorporate the GPS waypoints into a map. We proceeded to go down to the harbor and do the same readings we did the day before. I think the teachers found the inclusion of water quality, gps, gis and the inherent over-arching issue of sustainability to be very interesting. I, for one, thought the first day of the teacher training went super.
After driving back to the other side of the island and returning to my condo, I watched Democracy Now! for the first time on television. About 3/4’s the way through the show I passed out. When I woke up I realized it Friday and in my head I wanted to party! My boss Patricia made sure to tell me a few times “Nikolas, make sure you have some fun on the trip too,” and so I put on my “hot” party shirt from France (thank you Mariel) and started walking down the street to Kihei strip.
After walking about 5 minutes down the street I walk by two girls who were chatting with some older guy. About 30 seconds later they year over to me, “Hey guy with the cool shirt!” I turn around and stop and they approach me. The asked if I wanted a beer. Slightly confused I said yes. It turns out that the guy who they were talking to was hitting on them and gave them a few beers and they couldn’t poor all of the beer into their soft drink cups, so they wanted to give me one. I asked where they were off to and they said they were going to “Hapas” to see Michael Franti. Not knowing where and who either were, I asked if I could follow along. They said it was cool with them. I mean at least I wasn’t outwardly hitting on them perse.
Their names turned out to be Dilene (Diane + Eileen) and Stephanie and they were from Ventura Beach, California and were on the island vacationing. Apparently they’ve came to the island a few times through jobs, which I assumed they were travel agents. We walked about a mile down the street and shot the shit for a bit and when we arrived at Hapas I found out that not only did they already have tickets to the event, but it was sold out. Not deterred, I realized that I had nothing better to do that night and by synchronicity that had brought me to THE event taking place on the island that night. I sincerely wanted to go to a place where the locals my age were partying, and by their unknown status as a causal agents, they had brought me to exactly where I wanted to be.
So instead of putting my tail between my legs and walking the sad road home alone, I decided to wait in the non-ticket holding line. It was actually a lot of fun because I saw everyone enter the venue, and I must say there are so many eccentric people who live on the island. I absolutely loved that! Middle-aged people dressed funky, young people dress funky, folks smoking a joint in line, and the hopefuls waiting outside with smiles on their anxious faces. I had arrived there with the girls at about 9:45pm and around 10pm the manager told everyone that they were not going to consider selling tickets until 10:30pm. At around 11pm the manager says they are past capacity and we should consider leaving because we’ll probably not get in. Still undeterred I overheard the doorman say to us (the 10 remaining hopefuls) that we should go over to Will-Call and see if we can purchase tickets of people who did not show.
When I arrive at Will-Call I over heard that the cast member of STOMP had arrived and they had tickets at Will-Call. So I quickly mention to one of them that my friend (Ellen of Akimeka) had just got done seeing them at the theatre at the Maui Community College and I asked one of cast members if they were planning on using all of their tickets and it turns out that they had two left over! I introduce myself to the one who gave me the tickets and his name turns out to be Nick. I then introduce myself to the taller long-haired cast member named Louie, who turns out to have a thick British accent. I then proceed to make my way inside of the venue with a smile about as wide as the island of Maui.
Once inside the venue I notice exactly how packed it was! I had never actually heard of Michael Franti before, but once inside I started talking to a girl who explained to me that he is the lead singer of a band called Spearhead, which I still had never heard of. And then she said he also used to be the lead lyrist for a group called Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, and I was like “OH SHIT!” A year and a half ago I lyrically remixed “Television the drug of the nation” for a slam poetry event.
When I thought things couldn’t get any better, I run into one of the teachers I was training earlier in the day! She said to me, “I knew I’d see you here.” All I could do was smile and dance :-)
4 beers later and no dinner in my stomach, the show ended. I really enjoyed the vibe that the event had. I really liked how Michael Franti spoke to the audience, and I also liked how ballsy I felt by yelling back at him. Hell, I am a rock star too! When George Bush was mentioned, I was the first to boo and the rest of the crowd followed in suit! It rocked.
What didn’t rock, which might end up being it’s own blog entry, was being asked if I was gay. I mean I’m asked it all the time, and it was a polite question, followed by “…because you are so beautiful,” and then of course the ultimate mindfuck was spoken by a girl nearby, “he’s Metrosexual…” Agggh! I am seriously getting annoyed at the how much Metrosexual paradigm has pervaded popular culture. I must ask myself, if I am going to look nice, am I a metrosexual? Have I always been metrosexual? I am definitely not gay, but why can’t a man look nice without being labeled something so trendy. I do not spend lots of money on myself, I do not use any hair products, and I don’t spend all day looking in the mirror, I am a man who happens to be attractive and has the ability to dress himself well, so should I automatically be labeled Metrosexual?
Regardless, I was definitely flattered by the fact that so many women were into me. However, I just can’t get my mind around the cat & mouse game of being that guy who is supposed to take that cue and start the moves. I’d rather talk, not booty dance. I’d rather meet on neutral ground rather than be pursued or pursue someone. Eventually, I am going to have get my mind around this because there will be many lonely nights otherwise. Alas, I don’t want to be a disposable hero of sexuality either, and it seems that is what is desired these days.
The night ended by me getting a ride home from a stranger who I thought was the most eccentric woman I saw waiting in line. She had this massive cane with a huge flower on the top of it. She wrote on my business card where Saturday night’s event was taking place. I proceeded to get dropped off and go to my room and eat the sushi I had purchased earlier in the day… but since I had 4 beers in my empty belly, I don’t remember any of that!
I woke up at exactly 6:55am, the time I was to meet my colleagues in front of the resort. Thankfully I was able to make it there at about 6:57am! We drove back to the Community College on the other side of the island and began day two of the teacher training. I was slightly disappointed that the number of teachers had dropped down to 10, but there were a few more additions from the USGS and the Office of Naval Research (the organization that actually funded the entire trip). We proceeded to go back to the Haleki’i-Pihana Heiau State Monument and using the GPS devices we did another water quality experiment with the water from the mouth of the intermittent stream. I took some amazing footage of the area and I made sure that I filmed a bunch of houses that had solar panels on the rooftops (there were so many!).
After discussing the cultural aspect of the holy site we got back in our cars and followed the Digital Bus back up the road to the Iao Needle. Everyone hiked around the paved roads, again we took another GPS reading and did some water quality analysis. After all the “action shots” were finished, I hiked back up to the Iao Needle vista (I might add that I had the DV camera attached to fully extended tripod the entire time). I decided to take a long steady shot of the Iao Needle as the clouds wafted by. I am going to tweak the clip in Final Cut Pro to have the clouds move in fast forward.
Walking back to the bus I realized that what I thought had been completely feral cats, where actually slightly feral cats that were fed by someone. From the start of my stay on Maui I noticed that there were tons of feral cats that were roaming the island. A local told me that they were strays that were “freed” during inclement weather. It makes sense that they survive so well on the island because there are so many birds for them to feast on. The feral cats in the state park were like the unofficial park rangers, just chillin watching the birds fly by.
Next we caravanned down the valley to take last our last water reading at a picnic area that borders the river. When we arrived at the site, there was some reggae bumping at one of the picnic tables. The tune playing happened to be my FAVORITE tune on the Rob Paine mix that I obtained Christmas Eve. I had a smile from ear to ear, it was one of those synchronous moments that told me that I was at the right place at the right time. I immediately went over to the woman at the picnic table and asked her what CD was playing and she said it was Tanya Stevens mix. It turns out that a different tune on that same Rob Paine mix was by her, “It’s a Pity” :-)
During lunch I learned all about the “Night Marchers” on the island. It turns out that there are quite a few ghosts on the island of Maui! The Night Marchers are supposedly members of the native army that died in a battle years before the whites ever came to the island. According to Dan, one of the teachers, there was a time when he and his friends were camping and in the middle of the night he said it sounded like a mob of people walked through their campsite, and a few of his friends had their sleeping bags ruffled. Apparently it scared the shit out him & his friends! Another teacher mentioned how she keeps her window open at night so that the ghosts are welcomed to come in their houses if they want to. She said it was a custom that is practiced all over the island.
I found out that just about everything on the island has to be blessed. The odd looking leas in the Digital Bus are the reminents of the bus’s inaugural blessing. Diana said that they have to be hung in the bus for one year and are not allowed to touch the ground. I was informed by a different teacher that when her high school first opened there were 4 student deaths in the first 6 months. She said that the builders didn’t bless the new section of the school, and when they found that out they immediately had the building blessed, and there were no more student deaths for years. I love local lore!
After lunch we went back to the community college and finished up the conference. This involved me working my ass off to get teacher’s CDs burned. As a final gift to the teachers we had all the AEJEE files burned on to CDs so the teachers had the ability to make maps for the classes. All in all, I think they received a very nice CD that hopefully they’ll use often.
That evening I decided to forgo having dinner with Joseph & Angie and decided to ask Angie if I could borrow her rental car to go to a tsunami relief event on the other side of the island. She didn’t have a problem, so around 10pm I drove to Makawao to an Italian restaurant called Casanova. The music was by a band called Fantuzzi from San Francisco and the average age of the patrons in the bar was 35, so it wasn’t exactly my scene perse. I did meet a couple cool people while there, but it definitely wasn’t the fun I was looking for, that came a little bit later.
I drove back to the other side of the island slightly disappointed with the evening’s musical events so I parked the car at the resort and beelined it to the nearby bar to get last call. After guzzle a beer I went back outside to see if there was anything going on at the other bar around the corner. After standing there for about 3 minutes, I recognized Louie, the cast member from STOMP that I had met the night before. I go up to him and thank him again for the night before. We struck up a conversation and I found out that there was a field party happening on the other side of the island. I told him that I had access to a car and he asked if I cared to check it out, and I said I’d love to. We walked back to the resort and there had just been a head on collision between two cars, and thankfully both the drivers were unharmed. The police car number happened to car #242, and anyone who knows me, knows how I take note of when that number pops up.
Driving back across the island for 40 minutes down the Hana highway to “Lighthouse Road,” we discussed all sorts of business. I found out a good deal about how STOMP operates- there are 4 troupes, 2 in Europe and 2 in America. Of the two troupes on each continent, one is stationary and the other is traveling, and he happened to be one of the lucky ones traveling around the United States. It also turned out that the cast was staying at the same resort I was! I found it pretty damned synchronous that both myself & STOMP were doing our business at the Maui Community College (they performed at the theater) and we were all staying at the same resort, and best yet we met up under random circumstances.
After making a few wrong turns, we finally found Lighthouse Road, which turned out to be a dirt road that crisscrossed a pineapple plantation. When we finally arrived at the party we parked our car and walked in the dark towards the pulsating music.
The field party was without a doubt one of the coolest events I’ve ever attended. The lighthouse was only a light on a pole, but the area around it was gorgeous, even in the near-dark. Someone had their car lights on they pointed out to the ocean which gave me a sense of where we were located- right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean! I went to the edge and looked down to see the waves crashing below. Periodically there would be some heat lightening that would illuminate the entire area, which allowed for some amazing views!
The party organizers had turntables setup with two stacks of speakers and a large rope light that illuminated the dance floor, but what I liked the best was the crew of party kids. They were playing reggae, hip-hop, and there was even one MC spitting lyrics. Eventually they started playing my favorite genre of electronic music, drum & bass, and literally all hell broke loose. Everyone in the crowd, about 50 eccentric people in their 20s, started to dance. I started to dance barefoot, and honestly felt that at that moment the entire fabric of life & time had merged. I had flown out to Maui for work, and work I had. Finally was able to dance and let it all out in the most beautiful location I’ve ever danced.
After about 20 minutes of music the wind started to blow and all of a sudden it started to rain. And I don’t mean misty rain, it began to rain the largest drops of rain I’ve ever felt. Everyone went berserk putting away all the electronic equipment, and Louie & I busted ass to get back to the car. Of course I slipped and fell in some mud! By the time we reached the car, the dirt road known as Lighthouse Road began to turn into a muddy river, and thankfully we were able to get the car off the road without getting it stuck.
Louie found out that the party kids had a house nearby so we drove over there. When we got to the house I washed off the dirt on my sandals and dried off my shirt in the drier. In the meantime a slow progression of people began arriving back at the remotely located bungalow and the party kids began setting up the turntables in the living room. Eventually the party was restarted at the house and I was able to meet and greet with most of the 10 people that lived in the mansion. I danced to some funky breaks for about an hour- it was great! Most of the people there were really digging my DC style :-) All the while a torrential rain pored outside, but the windows were open and the 20 or houseguests danced. At about 5am, Louie’s Stomp crewmate Chris wanted to leave a little early, so I was forced to say my goodbyes and we made our way back to the resort. After seeing the remnants of the car crash I opted to let Chris drive back to the resort, and at around 6am we got back to the resort.
My final day in Maui, the day I was going to get some sun was rainy. I was able to easily explain to Angie why there was so much dirt in the car. She laughed and said she wished she could have came along! I was truly worried that she’d be pissed that I got the car so dirty, but alas she said I probably had the most fun of all of us on the trip. After packing up shop, the three of us went out to lunch and they dropped me off at the airport. The flights went well and the train ride back to DC went smoothly. When I finally got back to my room, I went online and found out that I had literally $6 left in my bank account. I found it truly amazing that I made it home without one hitch!
My trip to Maui was the first of hopefully many more business trips. I had such amazing & life changing time!