August 2005 Archives



Before I could finish my multi-part Hawaii travelogue, Meli and I galavanted over to Colorado Springs, Colorado last weekend, whence we just returned. (Photos here, with much love for Eloise). I just now realized that I don't really know where Colorado is. But I know it borders Kansas, because the Pike's Peak train conductor pointed at something from the train and called it Kansas. Upon returning home and picking up the mail I discovered that Sean, being the fount of awesomeness that he is, had sent me the coveted Single Moms T-shirt from T-Shirt Hell as a post-Bar congratulatory gift. Thanks Sean!

The Colorado Springs trip, while thoroughly enjoyable, merits less ink than the Hawaii trip since it involved less adventure and more loafing. Here's basically what we did, in no particular order:

(1) I played two nine-hole rounds of golf with Meli's mother and brother. They were my first actual golf games, and I played extremely poorly. But it was a lot of fun and I can't wait to play again. If there isn't already a movie with a golf cart chase in it, there should be.

(2) Meli and I went down a waterslide, hot-tubbed, and swam, all in the rain. Also a lot of fun. It rains in Colorado Springs every day at 3:00 p.m. but it doesn't get cold.

(3) Meli, Meli's mom, Meli's brother, and I went to the top of Pike's Peak on a cog train, asthma and acrophobia be damned. Apparently Pike himself never made it to the summit of Pike's Peak. But we did! While at the top I discovered that you can make yourself look like Jamie from Mythbusters with the aid of a simple giant pretzel.

(4) Meli and I watched Deep Rising on cable, for no reason at all.

(5) I had a dream in which Gene and Kristen stole my car.

(6) Different ones of us went to Seven Falls, which is really One Fall with Seven Kinks. I felt cheated. I was wearing my Legal Aid hat, which prompted a woman from Little Rock to accuse me of being a Democrat and then tell me all about how she works at the Eighth Circuit. I'm discovering that when you meet strangers on vacation and they find out you're a lawyer they feel compelled to share whatever connection they have to the law with you. Like that woman on our snorkeling boat in Hawaii who told me about her brother-in-law who's an attorney for the City of Sacramento. I guess I should get used to this.

On the way back from Seven Falls we saw wacky sculptures and an adorable deer family. Or at least we thought they were adorable until the fawns decided to moon us.

(7) Meli went horseback riding with the other Elliott women. She saw buffalo, elk, a bear with a beer, and a great deal of horse ass. Also, Meli's sister killed a dog with her bare hands.

So there you go. Five days in Colorado Springs and I came back feeling like a marathon runner. Back to Hawaii re-caps as soon as I gather the energy.

Lagging Pottermania


In Hawaii I read the first two Harry Potter books, and now I'm barreling into the third, finally tossing aside my long-standing opposition to getting involved in this particular cultural phenomenon. I'm enjoying the books. I'm not loving them. I don't think they're the greatest thing to happen to the world since chocolate donuts. I don't think they're revolutionizing the literary universe forever. There's much in the books, from what I've seen so far, that is derivative and/or formulaic. I still like Chuck Palahniuk better. I do, however, hope that J.K. Rowling ends up richer than Oprah. We had dinner with some friends last night (I ate sushi!) and I think one of them put it best: "I like Harry Potter books. They make me feel smart."


But the real point of this post isn't to come out as a nascent Harry Potter fan. The real point is this shirt, a relatively recent offering from perhaps my favorite online merchant that I've never actually purchased anything from. When I first saw that the shirt was for sale I thought it was a dumb idea, since anyone who would really be upset about learning that information from a t-shirt probably read the whole book the day it came out anyway. But the T-Shirt Hell newsletter still contains vicious and distraught e-mails from people whose lives have been ruined by visiting the site, and that's comedy.

A similar phenomenon unfolded at Something Awful, where the mercurial title of the FYAD forum was changed to "FYADumbledore Dies Because Snape Kills Him" the day the book came out. Very quickly the forum began to fill with threats of murder and suicide.

These are the little bits if inconsequential assholery that make my bellybutton tingle.

Apparently Not

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Oh, the endless entertainment of

We Bought a Picnic Table!


It came with a car attached to it!

Big day yesterday. Molly and I purchased our first major piece of community property: a 2005 Honda CRV. Thanks to a great deal of tireless and fabulous research and hardballing, Molly found us the best deal in the Bay Area. So long, Corrolla, hello CRV. We're now a certifiable Honda Family (my Civic, which we'll be keeping for a while, is being nuzzled by its new cousin in that picture). We figured the new car was appropriate since Molly will be commuting from Palo Alto to Oakland five days a week for the next year. Which brings us to Big Item From Yesterday #2:

We found an apartment in Palo Alto! It's not as fancy as it might be, since I may be clerking next year and we therefore need to save money in anticipation of a year of federal employee salary. But it's slightly larger than our current place, and has a pool and a fitness center, and a common rec room for our inevitable housewarming party. It's right across the street from a park. Not that we're having kids anytime soon, but hey. A park!

These are exciting times.

Hawaii Trip: The Beaches


I used to think snorkeling was stupid. This was because I had never been snorkeling before. It only took a few minutes of snorkeling (after much tripping and toe-stubbing on Hawaii's characteristically rocky shorelines) for me to change my mind. It turns out there's a lot of cool shit just a few feet under the water. And one can see it via snorkeling. The best $20 Meli and I spent in Hawaii was on our one-week snorkel set rentals from Snorkel Bob's. We snorkeled a lot, and here's what we thought of the beaches we visited.

1. Mauna Lani

We stayed at the Mauna Lani Terraces in the greater Mauna Lani resort complex. The Terrace beach was our default beach, within walking distance, visible from our balcony, and nice for general-purpose beachgoing. On the hotel side, the shore is sculpted, so you don't have to deal with the rough rocks getting into the water. All in all, a decent beach, as long as you're not there on a day when hellish clouds of brushfire smoke are darkening the skies as ash rains down on you with unholy fury. Lots of turtles.

Photos: 26-32; 37-43.

2. Kailua-Kona

This was actually the first beach where we snorkeled, and was the situs of the urchin sting, homeopathic advice, and public self-urination. It was also the place where I realized how cool snorkeling is. We saw our first turtle here and were very excited. We'd see a lot more turtles throughout the rest of the trip, the excitement never fully waning since the turtles always found new ways to entertain us (whether it was pairing up for dual-turtle action, poking their heads out of the water for air, or simply lounging in the shade several yards from the water). Given the unfortunate conclusion of this particular beach visit I can't say that I harbor (ha! get it?) terribly fond memories of it, especially when there are so many other, better beaches to choose from. Which brings us to...

3. Mauna Kea

The beach at Mauna Kea is awesome beyond description. It's a wide, beautiful, sculpted shore, with elaborate coral reefs on the north and south ends. The snorkeling here was bested only by our Keleakekua Bay trip, which cost a lot more (the Mauna Kea beach, as with all beaches in Hawaii it would seem, is free to visit and to park at -- Keleakekua Bay generally requires an expensive boat tour). We visited Mauna Kea three times. On the first visit we hit the south reef, which was really, really, cool. On the second visit we hit the north reef, which was even cooler, mainly because we spotted a man-sized manta ray exploring the ocean floor. Meli spent most of the snorkeling portion of our second trip following the manta ray around, hovering above it as it conducted its manta ray business, and cursing the fact that we had decided not to bring the underwater camera. The third trip, admittedly, we less pleasant. It was our second to last day on the island and Meli's mask was suddenly letting water in. Also, the water was a bit rougher than usual so we swallowed a lot of saltwater. Given the idyllic nature of our previous two trips, the fact that our third trip was somewhat tainted should have alterted us to the fact that there was a foul wind in the air, and perhaps prepared us for the hairy visitor we would endure that night along with the four-hour airport delay the following night. But none of that changes the fact that Mauna Kea is probably the best beach I've ever visited (you hear that, Hermosa?)

There are some minor downsides to Mauna Kea. First, it's very breezy, so sitting on the sand and reading a book can be a tad trying, and returning to land after snorkeling usually involves a few minutes of de-sanding all of your personal belongings on the shore. In addition, the beach is extremely popular and also located at the foot of a hotel. This doesn't necessarily mean it's crowded, but if you stick around into the afternoon you'll start to encounter the usual obnoxious tourist children, with their loud and stupid water games. Not to mention the young children who are too young to swim or to express their displeasure via anything other than screaming, and who can therefore be found standing impotently at the water's edge, screaming at their older siblings and cousins who are obliviously cavorting in the water. But this is all minor stuff. Crowd- and children-wise, Mauna Kea isn't nearly as bad as any beach I've ever visited in California on a summer day.

Photos: 44-49.

4. Kuki'o Bay

We hit this beach after our failed attempt to find Kiholo Bay. Meli was extremely disappointed at having to settle for a consolation prize, but it ended up being a nice experience. We were literally the only people there for quite some time, and there were never more than three or four groups on the beach at any given time. The snorkeling was decent, though there were more urchins lurking in the rocks than I saw at any other beach we visited. This was also the beach where Meli found her two turtle friends, on whom she spent a great deal of time and a significant portion of our camera's memory card.

Photos: 98-148.

5. Kiholo Bay

Kiholo Bay is a cruel and seductive beast. It makes for great travel guide pictures: a small island just off the shore, separated from the beach only by a few yards of crystal clear water. You see a picture of this and you think to yourself, "How can I leave the island without visiting Kiholo Bay, for God's sake?" After our own Kiholo Bay experience I've come to believe that it was created by the angry gods to ruin entire days of vacation for interloping tourists. Kind of like the volcano.

There are, in theory, two ways to reach Kiholo Bay. There's a small parking area off of Highway 19, from which one can supposedly find a foot-path directly to the bay. We know this because the book told us so, the Internet also told us so, and we saw cars parked there just about every time we drove past. So one morning we parked our Neon and decided to find the damn trail. We found a trail, which looped us directly back to the highway. We doubled back a bit and decided that maybe that pile of jagged lava rocks was a trail, so we tried to traverse it. I fell down twice, nearly re-spraining my ankle, before Meli admitted that she had no idea where we were or how to get to the bay. Since Meli's the one with the directional sense and I'm the klutz who could get lost in a phonebooth, we decided to head back to the car and seek a beach with easier ingress.

Meli was very disappointed, not only because she had been looking forward to Kiholo Bay, but also because she knew that other people had found the trail, so we must be doing something wrong. This was a personal failure that did not sit well with my wife. I don't like feeling stupid any more than she does (though I certainly have a lot more opportunities), but all the same I was content to find an easier beach, one that didn't involve a twenty-minute walk over ruinous crystallized lava and the danger of finding ourselves in tropical version of The Blair Witch Project. We settled on Kuki'o Bay and had a very pleasant morning.

That afternoon we decided to try the second way to get to Kiholo Bay: A gravel road that leads almost to the shore, followed by about a 300-yard walk along the shore to the bay itself. The book assured us that a 2WD car could make the gravel trip, so we packed up the Neon and gave it a shot. The road itself is not marked - at all - so you really have to be looking for it along the highway. It's also only wide enough for one car, so if we met a car coming the other direction we'd have trouble. Fortunately, we didn't, at least on the way down.

We reached the end of the gravel road, got our backpack, blanket, and snorkel gear out of the trunk, and began the hike to the bay. Much like the Washington Monument when I visited D.C., Kiholo Bay remains visible in the distance without ever seeming to get closer. We trudged through the sand and black rocks, in the hot humid air, for about a thousand years, before finally reaching what we could actually call the bay itself. The shore wasn't just rocky - it was rocks. Hot, black rocks. We found some creative ways to get our shoes off and reach the water without melting our feet to the bone, and once we were in the amazingly uncomfortable rocky water we managed to snorkel up and head for the island. We hadn't walked far enough to be as close to the island and all that, but it looked like a doable swim.

A few yards into the swim to the island Meli suddenly stopped and faced me. Meli has a fear of deep water, and we discovered that we wouldn't be able to reach the island without a long, threatening swim over water so deep that we couldn't see the bottom. So we headed back to the searing shore, de-snorkeled, and sat on the blanket for a short while, drinking water and enjoying the view while we prepared for the hike back to the car. We were too tired and irritated to walk the extra god-knows-how-long to the area closer to the island, so after a brief recharge we grumpily marched back to the car.

Photos: 97-97 (failed trip on foot); 149-157 (somewhat more successful trip by car).

6. Kealakekua Bay/Honaunau Bay

Kealakekua Bay is a big famous bay in Hawaii, mainly because it's where Captain Cook landed and was later killed. It's also a peerless spot for snorkeling on the Big Island. The most touristy thing that Meli and I did during our vacation was the Sea Quest snorkeling tour to Kealakekua Bay. We tried to get on one of the large boats, but since the trips are so popular we could only get on one of the twelve-seater military raft-boats. This actually ended up being an advantage, since the smaller boats are faster and more manueverable, so our wise-cracking captain was able not only to take us into sea caves, but also to thrill us by hot-dogging around (narrowly avoiding crashing into rocks and cliffs, taking extremely sharp turns that appear to nearly capsize the boat, etc.).

In addition to Meli, myself, the wise-cracking captain and his quiet, beleagured, and very handsome first mate, there were three other groups with us on the boat: A trio of older people, a software engineer from Ohio, his wife, their two teenaged sons, an extremely nerdy pharmacist from Wisconsin, and his two teenaged daughters. During the trip down the coast, in between showing us cool shit along the shore (like lava tubes, demon faces in the rocks, and what-not), regaling us with trivia about the things we were seeing, and pretending to almost kill us, our captain went around the boat and asked where everyone was from and what everyone did for a living. When he got to me, I said "I'm a lawyer, and Meli's a psychologist." It was the first time I had ever said "I'm a lawyer" to anyone, and it was pretty cool.

Before snorkeling at Kealakekua Bay itself, we stopped further south at Honaunau Bay. Honaunau Bay has an old tribal sanctuary hut, which gave our wise-cracking captain an opportunity to tell us about the old Hawaiian legal system. According to him, if anyone broke any of the king's laws (such as stepping on the king's shadow or eating a banana if you're a woman), they were instantly put to death. The only way to seek acquittal was to out-run the king's guards long enough to reach a sanctuary hut. If you stayed in the hut long enough your crime was forgiven and you could go on your way. I imagine that early Hawaiian lawyers were nothing more than cross-country trainers.

The snorkeling at Honaunau Bay was a lot of fun, mainly because we were further out and therefore the water was deeper, yet still clear so we could see a great deal. The coral formations were much more elaborate than they were closer to the shore, and there were a lot more (and different kinds of) fish to bother. When it was time to get back in the boat, the beleagured first mate had set out a dazzling array of chips, cookies, and juices for us. We were all ready to go when we saw that the software engineer's wife was standing on a shallow coral formation out in the middle of the water. The captain called for her to come in and she cried out that she was stuck. After some chuckles, the captain sent the first mate out to help her. Her husband followed as well. After a few minutes she returned to the boat in a heavily agitated state, minus one flipper.

Further delay was caused by the fact that a passenger in another Sea Quest tour boat nearby had managed to lose his wedding ring while snorkeling, and a search party was diligently attempting to locate it among the countless cracks and crevasses of the coral reef. The captain sent the first mate over to help look, and the pharmacist, eager to impress his teenaged daughters, meekly offered his own assistance. The captain more or less ignored him and the pharmacist remained with us. After maybe ten minutes the first mate returned. The wedding ring, of course, was hopelessly lost, and we headed back north to Kealakekua Bay.

Kealakekua Bay was more exciting than Honaunau, mainly because of its topography. An elaborate, shallow coral reef hugged the shoreline for a rather wide stretch before plunging abruptly to a depth of about 300 feet. It was fun to swim along the drop-off, feeling the sharp temperature change in the water and really getting the sensation that I was flying. We saw an eel.

When it was time to leave, the nerdy pharmacist took a final opportunity to make a fool out of himself by trying to prove his manliness to his daughters. Although everyone else had used the ladder to return to the boat, the pharmacist decided to climb over the side, awkwardly flailing himself over the large inflatable tube that ran along the perimiter of the boat. The captain, upon seeing the opening stages of this, politely suggested that the ladder might be easier. "No, that's okay," the pharmacist insisted. "I'll just climb aboard." At this point his daughters, who had until now been remarkably tolerant of their hopelessly embarrassing father, began to complain. "Da-ad! Just use the ladder! You're getting water everywhere! You're getting everyone's shoes wet! Come o-on!" But the pharmacist, no doubt seeing a need to re-establish his virility after being denied the chance to heroically find the lost wedding ring, insisted on doing things the hard way.

That was Sunday, two days before we were supposed to leave the island. I was glad we had saved this excursion for the end of our vacation, since the following day's disappointing trip to Mauna Kea was no doubt affected by the fact that the snorkeling couldn't possibly be as good as Kealakekua Bay.

Photos: The last 26 or so underwater shots, I believe, are from our boat tour. The rest of them are from various other beachs, but I can't really tell which ones are from which. Maybe Meli can help me out here.

Up next: The Food!

Hawaii Trip: The Disaster Reel


[Hello. If you found this page by searching for information on a hideous, giant brown spider that you've encountered in Hawaii, you're probably dealing with a cane spider. The extent of my knowledge of cane spiders is: (1) they are enormous, hairy, brown, and altogether terrifying, (2) they can be aggressive but are not poisonous, (3) they hang out in sugar cane fields (hence the name), and (4) native Hawaiians apparently don't think they're that big of a deal. Below is a story about my encounter with a cane spider during a vacation to the Big Island in summer 2005. In the comments section you'll find links to pictures of cane spiders, and stories from other people about their experiences with cane spiders. Happy hunting.]

Dr M and I just got back from a ten-day trip to the Big Island of Hawaii (otherwise known as the Island of Hawaii). Several dicksload of photos are available here (the automatic slideshow function doesn't seem to work because the Internet is terrible), and I'll be cross-referencing them throughout my numerous blog entries. The last 54 pictures were taken with underwater disposable cameras and are mostly awesome.

In my characteristic manner I've decided to begin the blog series with all the crappy things that happened to us while we were out in the middle of the freakin' ocean. The trip was wonderful overall, definitely one of my best vacations, but there were a few stinkers along the way. And here they are.

1. The Brush Fire

Our first afternoon in Hawaii, while lounging on the balcony of our fabulous timeshare condo, we found ourselves smelling fire in the air and being rained on by ash. The ash rain grew in intensity, as did the Santa Ana brushfire smell, and we wondered if it was The Volcano. It turns out it was a brushfire after all. We decided to go through with our fancy outdoor sunset dinner, ash be damned, and we kept our drinks covered with napkins between sips to avoid drinking ash. The brushfires would continue with varying intensity throughout the trip. See pictures 27, 28, and 32 for some fun smoke.

2. The Urchin

Dr M and I rented two snorkel sets on our second day on island (Snorkel Bob's -- $9 a week for a mask, snorkel, fins, and de-fogger solution, no hard sell to get you to rent the fancier stuff, free hat!), and immediately after obtaining the snorkels we drove off in search of a suitable snorkeling beach. We arrived at what we thought was a particular beach that appeared on our map, but turned out to be a random beach. But no matter. We went snorkeling!

The first thing I noticed about this beach (and most of the beaches we went to) was that there were freaking rocks everywhere. This made it hard to get into the damn water, especially for an uncoordinated oaf like myself. I managed to pick and trip my way into the water where Dr M was waiting impatiently. We swam around and saw fish and our first turtle and it was a lot of fun.

After swimming around for a while we decided to get out. Having never snorkeled before, I didn't know I was supposed to take my fins off before I got out of the water. And so, I clumsily tripped my way over the rocks to the shore, using my hands more than my feet. The whole experience was pretty painful and uncomfortable, mainly because all the rocks were rough at best and jagged at worst (mostly jagged, as it turned out). However, at one point my hand groped onto a spot where the pain was distinctly more severe than the usual rock formation -- it felt like sticking my hand into a pile of broken glass, and sent a painful tingle up my arm.

I finally got out and look at my finger where the pain had localized. In addition to the bleeding I saw four or five streaks of blue dye underneath my skin, and each streak had a corresponding blue splinter-like object dug deep into the skin. I had been stung! By something!

I showed my finger to Dr M and we decided that we may as well go to the urgent care clinic we had seen a few miles up the road. As we turned toward the car we heard a voice calling to us from a nearby house.

"Sea urchin! You got stung by a sea urchin!" It was an old native Hawaiian, excitedly yelling at us with helpful information and advice. "Vinegar! Soak it in vinegar! Or urinate!"

He walked toward us and we met him near his lawn. I showed him my finger. "Yeah, sea urchin," he said. "Soak it in vinegar, or urinate on it if you don't have any."

"Thanks," I said, still in a great deal of pain. "How do I get the spines out?"

"You don't get them out," he said. "The vinegar dissolves." Fabulous. I gathered my snorkeling crap together while Dr M made small talk with the old man. He told us about how when he was a kid, before he and his friends had cars, they would get stung by urchins all the time and just pee on it. He asked Dr M where we were from and she told him we were from San Francisco. He didn't know where San Francisco is. The man knows how to treat an urchin sting, but not so much on the geography.

It was a few miles to Safeway so as Dr M loaded the car I crouched down behind a rock formation and whizzed on my finger. Like magic, the pain subsided instantaneously. My hand smelled like piss, but at least it didn't hurt. We picked up a bottle of vinegar and I soaked my pee-y finger in it all the way home, and for a while that afternoon. I soaked the damn thing for so long that even after repeated hand-washings my finger still smelled like vinegar. I had pickled my finger.

Fortunately the vinegar soak did in fact dissolve most of the smaller bits of spine, but there was still a large piece that was dug in quite deep and didn't seem to go away. The blue dye was absorbed rather quickly. Some impromptu surgery with a needle freed most of the spine fragments, and at this point scar tissue has formed around the remaining bits. I'm predicting that the spines will be absorbed into my bloodstream and I'll get super urchin powers. Photos 24 and 25 sort of show my injured finger en route to Safeway.

3. The Volcano

I'm really glad we went to the Volcano. Even though we were miserable most of the time, and spent much of the day wishing we were on a hot beach instead of being pelted with freezing rain on a Monument to Nature's Fury, it's the kind of thing that I would have been sad to have left Hawaii without even trying.

The Volcano trip is a story best told in pictures (and captions), so I invite you to enjoy pictures 50-90 and their associated captions, which were written with the aid of much bitterness and also vodka.

4. The Spider

On (what we thought would be) our last night in Hawaii, Dr M and I were about to get ready to go to sleep when I noticed some movement near the ceiling outside our bedroom door. I told Dr M I was going to go get some water and brush my teeth, and went out and investigated the movement.

An aside here. I'm not really afraid of spiders. I certainly don't consider myself a full-on arachnophobe, meaning I'm not afraid of spiders in the way that I'm afraid of heights, lions, or success. But once a spider reaches a certain size, it afraids me. My rule of thumb is, if a spider looks like it's big enough to kill a mammal -- any mammal -- I'm afraid of it. So when I looked up and saw, lurking above the bedroom door, a spider that looked like it could kill a horse (not with venom, but by strangling it), my balls retreated forcefully into my abdomen and my heart decided that maybe I didn't really need it to beat for the next few minutes or so.

I went back into the bedroom, went up to Dr M, who was still in bed, and told her there was a really big spider outside the bedroom door.

"How big?" she asked, the Fear beginning to spread across her face (Dr M is afraid of spiders in all shapes and sizes).

"Big," I said.

"How big?"

"Like, tropical big." I resisted the urge to demonstrate the beast's size with my hands, but she got the idea. My first instinct was to just get dressed and leave. I know that doesn't make much sense, but even now I feel like if I saw one of these things in my own house I would just burn the house down and steamroll the ashes. This was a very large spider.

Somehow overcoming my crippling fear, I decided to try and kill it, and grabbed a nearby large book. I headed back toward the door and saw that the spider had decided for itself to come in and join the party, and was now making its way over the door frame. It then disappeared through the slats into an adjacent closet. I kept Dr M up to date on all this and she, who had managed to avoid seeing the monster, decided to leave the room and ask the Internet what kind of spider we were dealing with. She left me to draw the thing out of the closet.

I went to open the closet door, fully expecting to be met with a crawling lair of millions of giant spiders. But I never got the chance -- the spider had cleverly retreated into the locked utility closet that resort guests couldn't open. I told Dr M the latest and she decided to call the management company and get someone to come and open the closet. She explained our situation to the person on the phone, who told her that they couldn't send someone until the morning and maybe we could just sleep in another bedroom. Great! Here was a spider as big as a housecat, that for all we knew was fatally venomous, and could jump or fly or maybe do long division, and the management's advice was, "So yeah, just go ahead and go to sleep about twenty feet away from where you last saw it. I'm sure it won't bother you."

Dr M then called the concierge of the nearby hotel to see if she could at least figure out what we were dealing with (the World Wide Web proved to be an unhelpful resource on the spiders of Hawaii). The concierge told Dr M what I had feared all along -- we were very probably dealing with a Brown Recluse Spider, one bite from which is enough to land you a guest spot on Animal Planet's next episode of "Fucking Scary Fucking Animals That Will Totally Kill You." This fear was bolstered by the fact that, judging by the Web's coverage of spiders, the Brown Recluse is basically the only spider in the world.

Honestly, I didn't care what kind of spider it was. It was enough that the spider was (1) huge, (2) hairy, (3) enormous, (4) quite unreasonably big, and (5) in the house. I didn't care if its bite did nothing but simulate an orgasm. I didn't want it in the house, and that opinion wasn't going to be affected by finding out its name. As Dr M and I fretted over the appropriate course of action I noticed that a few flexible tree branches were showing up over the bedroom door, and surmised that the spider had finished whatever business it had in the utility closet and was coming back out to see where the party had gone. I shooed Dr M into another room and, arming myself with a broom and a phonebook, decided to take on the beast once and for all.

I tracked the bastard as he skittered along the ceiling toward the sliding balcony doors. I knew that I couldn't let him get to the doors. As much as I would have liked to just let him go outside and live the rest of his life as a giant spider, I knew that there was no guarantee he wouldn't come back once the heat died down. But I was also scared shitless of getting close enough to do anything. I couldn't reach him with the phonebook, and I couldn't nail him with the broom unless I was sure he would fall onto a spot where I could finish him off (as opposed to behind the couch). Then, I saw my opportunity.

He was going for the balcony, and he climbed past one of the big wooden sliding doors. Seizing my chance, I threw the other sliding door down the track and crashed it into the door the spider had just crawled begind, hoping to crush the spider between the two doors. No good. Just as the doors collided the spider slipped back into the room, onto the wall, and tensed up. It stood there, glued to the wall, and didn't move.

"I think I wounded it!" I called to Dr M. "Stay in there."

I crashed the doors together again, and the spider took a few steps and then seized up again. Another exploratory crash, another few steps, another standstill. I may not have taken out any of its legs, but I may have stunned it, and at least it knew that it was now in hostile territory.

There was nothing left for me to do but the obvious. The spider was over an area of open carpet, so I grabbed the broom, mustered every ounce of courage, and thrust the end of the broom directly into its massive body. I kept the bristles pressed against the beast for a while, pumping my arms a few times, before pulling the broom away and jumping back. The spider tumbled to the ground, landing on its back with its legs in the familiar death tangle above its smashed body. One or two legs were twitching feebly.

It was clearly done for but I had to be sure. I gave it a few fierce whacks with the broom. Now in a decidedly more flattened state, it wasn't moving at all. But, given my scorched earth approach to pest control, I wasn't done.

I threw the broom aside and grabbed the phonebook. Thankfully, it was hardcover. I imagine that Hawaiians find themselves using phonebooks as weapons quite often, so the phone company decided to give them a little more firepower. I dropped the book onto the spider's carcass, stepped on it, and ground it into the floor (miraculously, the spider had landed on a small non-carpeted area of the floor that covered a floor outlet, so I don't think I did much damage to the carpet). I left the book. I was satisfied that I had killed the spider and there was no way I was looking at that thing again.

"It's dead!" I called. Dr M came out. I pointed to the phonebook and suggested she stay away from it.

The rest of the night kind of sucked. We kept a bunch of lights on and slept under a sheet. Dr M, who through all that never laid eyes on the monster, fell asleep rather quickly and stayed asleep for most of the night. I lay awake, under the hot sheet, distracted by the dull lights, and re-living that terrible first full sighting over and over again for a few hours before falling into a restless sleep for about four hours. When I would get up to go to the bathroom (which was often, since I had generated quite a bit of adrenaline throughout the experience) I couldn't take my eyes off the ceiling. Every unseen place was a threat. I was sure there would be a giant spider under the turlet seat, seeking vengeance for his fallen comrade. I was seriously fucking freaked out.

Dr M and I got up at about 6:30 the following morning. We didn't have our usual balcony breakfast, no pleasant quiet last morning in the Hawaii condo. We just packed up the rest of our things, constantly looking over our shoulders at the ceilings, checking our shoes, etc. We didn't bother packing up or throwing away the food we had bought. I didn't even take out the trash. I never moved the phonebook. We headed to the management office at around 7:30.

We planned to tell the woman at the management office what had happened, and complain a bit about the response we had gotten when Dr M called the night before. All the same, I anticipated a level of disdain that can be expected from those who choose to live their lives around giant arthropods when visitors get scared of said arthropods. Kind of like Californians and earthquakes. Sure enough, when we told her we thought that we had battled what appeared to be a giant Brown Recluse Spider the night before, her response was, "A what?"

"Brown Recluse," I said, holding my hands (that's right, hands -- plural) out to demonstrate size. "It's a large brown spider with extremely deadly venom."

"Oh, the big brown spiders?" she said, grinning. "Those are our cane spiders. They're completely harmless. We have them all over." She then explained all about how cane spiders like sugar cane, and they're basically kittens with eight legs, and when she was a kid and they burned the sugar cane the cane spiders would come swarming out and throw big parties for everybody, with lots of confetti and cake and rum. Especially the rum.

"Well anyway, I killed it," I said. "It's under a phonebook on the carpet. Whoever goes in there next to clean or whatever should know that there's a giant dead spider under the phonebook." She told us that she would go in and take care of it. Like I said, disdain. But given the fact that I don't live in the tropics, the only giant spiders I had ever seen were either in cages or on TV, and up until the night before the largest household spiders I had ever encountered were the size of a quarter, I don't think it was unreasonable for me to be freaked out by finding a spider as big as George Washington's actual head.

(There are no pictures with this story. I'm finishing this in the midst of Disaster #5.)

5. The Delay

After the spider imbroglio Dr M and I had about 14 hours to kill before our flight home. We spent the morning reading at Starbucks, then had lunch, then drove over a mountain and back along the north coast of the Big Island, then more reading at Starbucks, then dinner, then we returned the rental car at the airport and checked in, and found out that our flight had been delayed four hours.

Four hour delay, whatever, it happens, it's annoying. There's nothing particularly unique about this delay, so I'm going to write about another delay I experienced a few years ago, my freshman year in college in fact. When I would go down to visit my family on break, I would fly Southwest out of Ontario to Oakland. The plane into Ontario came from Phoenix, and once my flight was delayed for three hours because of an air show in Phoenix. Now, you're probably thinking what I was thinking, and what I still think to this day: Isn't an air show the kind of thing the airlines should be able to plan around? An airshow isn't like a thunderstorm. It doesn't just appear out of nowhere. At the time I imagined the bewildered air traffic controllers in the tower at Phoenix:

"Okay, let's get that Southwest flight off the grou- Holy shit! What's that on the horizon? Gus, do you see that?"

"Aw, hell, Kurt! It's an air show! Comin' right at us! We need to ground all our flights until this thing blows over."

Tonight's delay is apparently due to mechanical problems in Los Angeles. Which is good, because, you know, I wasn't freaked out enough already flying over the vast nothingness of the Pacific Ocean for five hours in pitch blackness. Now I get to do it in a plane that's recovering from mechanical problems! Hooray! Mechanical problems!

Pictures 229-231 do some small amount of justice to our exhausted frustration during our last few hours in Hawaii.

Up next: The Beaches!

TIE Fighter


Meli and I are back from Hawaii. I'll be posting photos and stories over the next week or so, but in the meantime here's a picture of me wearing the tie that Lydia got me for finishing the bar.

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