Slept in today and it’s already light out!  I don’t plan to make it a habit because the pre-dawn is my favorite perfect special time.  Not to be a dick, but it’s another perfect day in a perfect place.  The ocean is still pastel navy and the sky powder blue; closer to me, the pool is still azure turquoise, shaded at the moment; the deck is foxy reddish brown, the railings are white, and rumpled white Buffy is perched on her rumpled white vest on the lanai.  Her fur is growing out a little more every day, so she’s looking a little more like a fancy dog and a little less like a chihuahua.

After all my pre-move bombasticating about the Hawaii Dept. of Ag dog quarantine alternative, called Direct Airport Release and comprised of spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours attempting to organize documents in a timeline (each phase can’t appear too early or too late), I realized I haven’t stopped, blog-wise, to simply give thanks.  I can’t ever express how grateful I am to have Buffy and Milo here, with us, and not quarantined in some government holding facility.  The guys at the AA meeting yesterday noticed our dogs, as we were chit-chatting after, and casually mentioned that it’s amazing we got them here; back in the day, at least, something like 50% of the dogs people tried to bring over would die in quarantine (anecdotal, have not confirmed).

I have no doubt that’s true, based on the response and accountability and accuracy of those we remotely interfaced with in the Dept. of Ag.  There’s no way on earth they’d remember to feed a dog.  They’d probably remember to, like, bring food to the cage, but not open the door and put the food inside, or something.

So I really can’t overstate my level of gratitude and amazement to have moved to Hawaii on such a short timeline WITH the little dogs in tow, and for everything to have gone okay with that.  When we landed, they eventually had Nick pulled aside for some extra COVID shakedown, so I was the one who met the vet lady on this side for our, you know, Final Boss moment.

The funniest part about having little dogs is that nothing on earth can be serious or have any true gravity whatsoever.  I mean, in the context, this final encounter was a big deal and would determine whether they quarantined our dogs for four months (essentially a death sentence) or released us on our way.  Anyway, of course the reality of it was, like, this new person walking into the little office, and then boom: little dog antics.  Milo skittering and rolling his little-dog r’s in a self-satisfied way; Buffy toddling past him, actually sideswiping him with her surprisingly heavy ass in  blasé fashion on her way to get petted, determinedly; Milo’s skittering cranking up to 11 as the excitement of watching someone, but not himself, get petted, surging through the only vessel it could, his nervous system.  Milo is always one breath away from max excitement.  You can just stamp your foot and he’s like OH SHIT.

Anyway, the entire very serious thing resolved just like things with them always resolve — in a little dog ho-down, and invitations for us to bring them by to visit next time we’re in the area.  Having little dogs is such a flex!

Speaking of which, we encountered a nice Hawaiian grandma with her very Irish (?) looking little granddaughter yesterday, mostly because Buffy and the granddaughter gravitated towards one another, and grandma told us the most disturbing thing.  She said child sex trafficking out of Hawaii is really bad, because of the two big ports on this island at least, and you have to keep a very close watch.  “They’ll follow you, if they see you with your kids, or they’ll take them out of your car when you run in to buy something.  Even ones this young.  You have to watch them all the time.”

Nick and I have obviously been following the monumental scourge of human trafficking, the many arrests made under the Trump administration, the MSM’s silence on the topic if not outright complicity, the hush that’s fallen over Hollywood in the wake of Qanon-driven exposures, and the sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop relative to the whole damn thing.  And we noticed, driving into our new neighborhood, a big sign posted: NO taking our kids!!  We were like, what the hell?  Who’s taking people’s kids?

We told my brother about the encounter, when we got home, and he was able to find some corroborating headlines in the local news, going years back.

It was a very sobering exchange, I’ll tell you that.  The agony of a parent who finds themselves in this situation is impossible to imagine.  I’m so, so glad to have woken up from the tempting, sneering ennui of the unilateral smear campaign, in order to direct my gratitude and support to this Presidential force of nature.  Once you see the human trafficking component and what it’s connected to, you can’t unsee it.

On election day, Jill Biden tweeted: “Decency is on the ballot.”

Someone commented, “Just watched your son take selfies of his butthole while a hooker walked around nude in the background.”

There you have it.

Ok, another thing I have to talk about is how continuously surprising this land is.  I’m a truck driver, for garsh sakes, I’ve been driving all around the country, off and on, for the last 20 years.  Nick and I have been going in to Waimea every day at 8am for the AA meeting, and the 15 mile drive consists of extremely distinct sections, visually.  There’s one stretch that, even having traveled as much as I have, I can’t place relative to a part of the US it looks like.  I asked Nick, “If you didn’t know we’re in Hawaii, right here, where would you think we are?”

He gazed out thoughtfully for a moment and then said, “Switzerland,” decisively.  When we got home, I Googled images of the Swiss countryside.  That’s it, exactly.  But only for like 10 miles, bordered by inland North Carolina-ness on the east and, jesus, I don’t even know on the west.  Like, California hills?  But all green and with pine trees and huge deciduous trees growing happily together in enormous stands?  But it kind of feels like we’re in the Texas of Hawaii, spatially and culturally.

Yesterday we drove the other way, to Hilo, to pick up our barbell and 400 more pounds of weight plates we ordered before we left.  Our old barbell is still in storage in AZ, like an aging superhero, ready to come out of retirement in a pinch.  We bought it amid the early lockdown, second-hand, and boy is it a shitty barbell.  Extra thick diameter, makes every lift difficult, bearings destroyed, and thank god we had it.  The gym where we picked up our new barbell was characteristic of the Hawaiian style: located in a shitty old warehouse, really old school everything, zero fancy, all iron, big bay doors open, happy people moving big weight, perfect day, perfect weather, no TV’s anywhere.

I want to talk about the drive to Hilo, not gyms, but I do have to at least mention how much I hate the modern gym aesthetic.  They have done an amazing job of creating an environment where you can feel really good about the stupid shit you’re doing.  Kind of like a sleek corporate office where you’re like, wow: it’s almost as if my cubicle job has some extra meaning, here.  I’ve always been averse to environments with a lot of TVs, or similarly casinos with their deliberately manufactured ambiance of garbage-brain.  You have to really reach for your own humanity with both hands and a crowbar, in these places.  I’m excited to go and have a lift, at that warehouse gym in Hilo, next time we’re in town, but meanwhile we’re finally all set up, here at the house.  We have a Lamborghini barbell now to go with our Ford Pinto squat rack, and bumper plates all in kilograms — that’s all that was available — so we’ll have to really do some math about our lifts.

The main thing for me is to just get at it, again.  I haven’t lifted, at all, since Nick drove away from the California fire a month ago, with the little dogs and all the weights, and I went on to hold down the shower fort with Gene, and ultimately be redirected up to Wyoming, etc etc.  Oh, by the way — when I was on the California fire (Creek incident), it was only the fourth largest CA fire or thereabouts, but it’s since climbed the charts to have become the largest California wildfire in history.  A story I’ll tell my granddogs.  Not really.  I just sanitized stalls and delivered water in my Beverly Hillbillies potable Peterbilt.

Anyway, I don’t know where my lifts are at and I don’t care, I’m just happy to have gotten here and ready to re-engage.  I got a compliment on my muscles last week, which shocked me.  I miss the nearly stoned feeling I get after barbell workouts, and the coma-like sleep they promote.  I miss feeling like I’ve earned my appetite.  I miss waking up and moving like a geriatric.  I miss being my best self, on that dimension.  I don’t miss it enough to stop blogging and start lifting right this second, but at least all the conditions are right, again.

Anyway, the drive to Hilo: Nick said, “My dad is going to shit himself when he sees this.”

I said, “Whenever anyone visits us, we have to take them on this drive.”

The craziest part is that you do feel, I suppose, that you’re in another country, but the two lane road is in perfect repair, the mile markers and all the signage look the same as they do anywhere, you’re not driving on the left side of the road, all the vehicles are familiar and most are Toyotas.  In fact the road condition is so good, I said to Nick: “Ah!  Not freezing and thawing all the time.  That must be it.”

So I don’t really know how to describe it.  There are sections where the road becomes a bridge over dramatic jungle ravines, tilting down towards the omnipresent ocean on the left, and you can see ribbons of silver road down there.  There are other sections where someone will have a nice grassy yard, by the road, and the grass just wraps the contours of the land like wrapping paper, growing on the horizontal plane but also vertical planes, diagonal planes, whatever plane.  That’s odd.

The pitch of the land is very dramatic, in places, with honest to god mountains approaching and receding from the road, as you go along.  I didn’t see any sick trees, in all that varied greenery.  No bark beetle scars or bare limbs, parasites, anything like that.  I mean it’s got to be competition, nature always is, but there seems plenty to go around.  And for what it’s worth, I remember my dad having really good luck in his garden, over the years, by using lava sand, with its high mineral content.  This whole island is nothing but lava sand, so the impression of all the plants being happier and brighter than you’ve ever seen is very prominent.  There are some monster shade trees that look straight from a J.R.R. Tolkien-scape.

Almost all the houses are some iteration of working class, and as varied in their architecture as the trees are varied in their appearance.  We saw some vehicles pulled over on a grassy shoulder and a man casually scooped up his compliant chicken while maintaining conversation with his friend, the same way I would casually scoop up Buffy after a pee break.

Anyway, the hour-ish long drive was wow after wow, scene after scene, but it all had this rambling, comfortable, well-lived in feel.  Hilo was much larger than I realized.  It felt all the way urban, in fact, and very much thriving, sort of messy, like a popular diner during the breakfast rush.  We had several errands there, including the securement of jackfruit nachos at a vegan restaurant, and maybe best of all, we espied a specifically wicker and rattan furniture retail warehouse.  We’ll be needing some furniture here at some point, but I tell you what: after dealing with that end of the move, I’m feeling nearly allergic to almost everything, especially heavy things.  No more heavy things.  And I’ve just adored wicker furniture, ever since I was a kid.  It’s impossible to find!  But they have a whole warehouse, probably affordable too.

Excited to go back there when the time is right.  Meanwhile: Nick is giving Abe his first barbell lesson, down by the pool, and I’m missing out.  I’m going to wrap this up and have a lift!