“That’s not very aloha”

Dry desert heat is a constant for workers at McCarran International Airport. The stair car delicately approaches the Bombardier CRJ700 out of Los Angeles. An irritable young traveler stumbles on the tarmac after rushing down the stairs in an attempt to create a breeze to shake off the jet lag. The inside of the terminal is not much of an improvement other than the faux-fresh casino air that must have been imported from another part of town to welcome visitors to the largest amusement park in the world. Once the young traveler is beyond the slot machines adjacent to the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, he hurries on down to the shuttle and waits for the sliding doors to open. Standing there in the dismal morning, he wonders how much of it was true dissatisfaction or if it was simply exhaustion due to a red eye across the eastern Pacific from Hawai’i. The Kona International Airport is the most unlikely place for any traveler to find their inner anger and bitterness, yet just a week earlier, the young traveler remembered the wild housewife scene.

They must have been on the same flight, but who could remember or care after landing, he thought to himself as he stared at this middle aged woman who was yelling expletives at her husband while a teenager with iPod headphones on attempted to look indifferent. “He just told us to walk over here,” she yapped. “Now, he’s picking people up over there!” The shuttle driver from a car rental agency had apparently suggested the family move from one pick-up area down fifty or so yards to another one for reasons beyond over-thinking. This was way too much for her to handle. “I’m calling them. This is ridiculous!” The young traveler distracted by the disgruntled family failed to notice the mountain rising above the clouds a couple miles inland. The Big Island, as it is called because of confusion that it’s name is actually Hawai’i, is much more rural than the other islands of Hawai’i, has large active volcanoes, and a green beauty to rival many similar places in the world. After getting away from the negative energy some people subconsciously bring wherever they go, the young traveler drove his rental car to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park to visit with his friend.

The dirt road off Queen Kaahumanu Highway is riddled with potholes and volcanic rock. Approaching the gravel parking lot, the young traveler finally gets a view of a beach and the light blue water of the Pacific Ocean. A dozen or so vehicles lined a no mortar wall that stretched from one end of the lot to the other, which was about the size of a basketball court. His friend, a park ranger, stood behind a pickup truck next to a local Hawai’ian woman and her black retriever. “You’re walking into some drama,” the friend said to the young traveler. Curious and confused, the traveler waited to hear more. “Yea, I took the day off,” said the Hawai’ian. His friend and the woman discussed domestic issues of having to give an eviction notice to another Hawai’ian who was now threatening to bring her brothers and cousins over for a show of force. “She says I’m not Hawai’ian enough,” said the woman in a saddened tone. “I don’t want to provoke anything, but when you threaten me, well, that’s when I’ve got to stand my ground.” The intensity was unexpected, but thrilled the young traveler who kept looking around to the ocean and then back to the mountain through the canopy of coconut trees that lined the opposite side of the parking lot.

The shuttle doors opened up and knocked out the flashback. People filed in without notice of each other and the tram took off from one part of the Las Vegas airport to the passenger and luggage pickup area an unknown distance away. It was probably the exhaustion, the young traveler thought as he watched the blur of concrete and steel before the tram came to a stop. Every place has the same sort of conflict. The only difference is how people choose to deal with them with density playing a significant role. Vegas, Spanish for meadows or fertile plains, used to have a naturally supported ecosystem before its wild history attracted gamblers, gangsters, and the Hoover dam’s illusion of sustainability. Hawai’i is not much different in that a once sustainable island was modernized to the point of living paycheck to paycheck. The entire state runs on diesel generators and even though the Big Island used to be home to one of the largest cattle ranches in the world, milk now runs eight dollars a gallon.

Vegas on the other hand is cheap. Everything is inexpensive, especially the collapsed housing market. These neighborhoods are walled off to prevent dust from settling under the doors and window frames, but it gives the appearance of feudal capitalism while the lights of the casinos blot out any stars in the sky. Dismal looking individuals, mostly Mexican immigrants, flick little cards as you pass them on the boiling sidewalks. The young traveler is amused by the prostitution advertising on the cards, but comes back to reality after seeing them litter the streets and into the sewers that little children walk over. In retaliation for the decadence and aqua-ignorance, he sneaks into Caesar’s Palace’s large swimming pool. Complete with white Romanesque pillars and a waterfall covered bar, the entire area screams end of days. Visitors are out of shape wage slaves who found some time in their preoccupied lives to stay in the middle of the desert. It’s near impossible not to be overcome by the indoor canals of the Venetian, the magnificent fountains of the Bellagio, the Eiffel tower, New York skyline, and dozens of other faux-decors.

Shuffling back to Hawai’i, the young traveler remembers what made it superior. Forget the beaches and spectacular weather. Forget the taste of fresh Pacific cuisine. Many of the beaches are imported sand from China and the fish is, well fish. The people, oh the people. Even visitors to Hawai’i can be bitter, but locals know how to stay Aloha, which means many things beyond hello. Compassion, the breathe of life, love, all these things and more build the foundation of Hawai’ian philosophy. Many natives still believe in the non-ownership of land. “We belong to the world. The world does not belong to us.” Many new faces come in year after year in attempt to build new resorts that skirt the law and bring in new species of plant because they look pretty, but inadvertently spread flora disease. For all the problems, the people stay positive and upbeat ready to enjoy each day despite the vog, a new volcanic fog that has descended upon the Big Island from a volcanic explosion a few years back. Better to get it all out, preferably in moderation, than let it build to the point of eruption. Still, nobody, no machine, nothing can predict what the planet will do next. In the long run, living in the moment with perspective is superior to gambling for a richer future. As Ten Bears often said in Dances with Wolves, let’s talk a little more about this and enjoy the fire we share.

 

Jumping from the moon

Returned to Ohio after 8,700 road miles and 5,000 air miles.

Part One

The rental car’s tires melted outside of Houston. Bats swarmed under a bridge and over treelines in Austin. A Texan prison guard warned of imminent danger in New Orleans. Hundreds of new border patrol vehicles sit collecting dust in parking lots along the highway while 1991 Chevys rush across interstate ten with hunched over Mexicans in the back thinking of good days to come. The nearly 1,000 mile drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Austin, Texas was a pleasant struggle against ophthalmological exhaustion. Tiny deer and the occasional coyote scamper along the 80 mph highway.

Every place is the same, as are the people and things that fill the void between landmarks. You bring you wherever you go. The mystic quality of travel is that you will be able to learn more or understand yourself better. The “what do you want” will be answered. Anyone who’s been there and back knows that concept is rubbish. It does not take a thousand miles of wandering to find yourself. Those who disagree know themselves enough to believe that whatever they are doing is right and true. And there is nothing wrong with that. But to believe you must go somewhere or experience something or simply travel aimlessly to find that ultimate answer is recipe for disappointment and confusion. Still, there is the rare instance in which you may return from your wandering and realize how fortunate you are in the grand scheme of 7 billion people on Earth. Create one of those gratitude lists and smile.

People have made their way to just about every place in this world and beyond only to discover that salvation lies elsewhere. It is amazing how open travelers are with strangers, yet these same talkers find it nearly impossible to share the same sentiment with their neighbors back home. The world is a big place and we all have a right to experience it as we wish. Then there’s that next place…”We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” The other things are often forgotten, but it all goes hand in hand. How do we learn? What’s next?

After nearly 9,000 miles of road travel around the mighty USA, the one constant is that there is something here worth fighting for. There is something everywhere worth fighting for and depending on who you are, there is significant differences in opinion as to which place is worth most. Just like people, at least in theory, “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” places hold the same truth. Home can be on a volcanic island, an abandoned town cut off by mountains and distance, an urban condo, a shotgun house in New Orleans, or the road itself. America must remember itself. American people can choose to go places and do other things for the mere challenge. Home is America. America is home. The greatness always comes from the people and is the responsibility of every caring citizen.

Circumambulate

Dry heat in the wet season of New Mexico shakes up dust and sends it our way. Day 17 of the Wild Harmony on the road book tour. Meddle plays Echoes from the radio while we drive by $3.12 a gallon. Hospitality and friendship have been the saving concepts behind this entire adventure. A shout out to those who helped make this trip happen: the kickstarter backers, the families who welcomed us before and along the way, as well as all other supporters.

Manhattan, Kansas provided warmth and stories of today’s mechanized fighting force at Fort Riley. Steamboat Springs, Colorado was a festival of welcoming bookstores and transient workers who guided river during the day and ventured the hot springs at night. San Francisco, California saved us from exhaustion after sleeping in the car outside of Yosemite and the good people there directed us to all the important sites in the city along the Beat Museum where visitors from all over the world may stumble upon Wild Harmony. Japanese visitors on a fishing boat around Alcatraz bought the book and are taking the first copies to the land of the rising sun. After a quick walkabout (circumambulate) of the Golden Gate, the book tour divided in two. One drove south on the One to Los Angeles beyond Big Sur and into Joshua tree. The other flew to Hawaii and found some bookstores along with connections for further adventure.

The professional Pokemon player on the airplane made little sense, although his parents from East Africa must have found the tournament of champions in Kona to be amusing. They were from western Canada and the young player wants to be a firefighter later in life. On the big island, there was no sign of the card players. Tourists milled about on beaches with sand imported from China. Milk is $8 a gallon and gas around $4.20, although California was $4.35 per gallon. The people of Hawai’i have a culture beyond all seen in Hollywood. The Buddhist temple in the red zone sits unscathed surrounded by burnt out land cover by hardened black lava. After the volcano, the book tour reunited in Las Vegas for a sneak-in swim at Caesar’s palace before retiring to Yaki Point in the Grand Canyon.

On through Flagstaff, Sedona, Phoenix, and Tucson, Arizona is experiencing their wet season. The river washes are sun baked and few people know where their water comes from when asked in the 100 degree heat. The neighborhoods are walled up to prevent dust from penetrating the doors and clouding up family rooms. Air conditioning is coal powered. And then there’s the cacti…to be continued