Moving is Hard Work….

Just in case I forgot to mention it – moving is really hard work.Mentally and physically it is extremely challenging and the past month, I’ve been working in a state of hyper-overdrive. The amount of stuff that has been accomplished seems insurmountable when I look back on it…this is just the major list…there were countless … Continue reading “Moving is Hard Work….”

Just in case I forgot to mention it – moving is really hard work.Mentally and physically it is extremely challenging and the past month, I’ve been working in a state of hyper-overdrive. The amount of stuff that has been accomplished seems insurmountable when I look back on it…this is just the major list…there were countless smaller tasks and heavy objects…

1) Selling our antique store
2) Selling our little community paper
3) Training the new owners and taking care of details
4) Finding a job in Hawaii before moving here
5) Finding an apartment in Hawaii before moving here
6) Coming to Hawaii on a brief trip to secure said job and apartment
7) Packing our lives up into a 10×6 trailer
8) Delivering the trailer to Oakland and then driving back (1000 mile trip)
9) Liquidating our entire household (except what we shipped in the trailer)
10) Selling our vehicles and other cargo trailers
11) Storing my Vanagon
12) Flying across the ocean with my wife and five year old
13) Buying a car
14) Renting a storage unit
15) Furnishing our apartment
16) Starting a new career
17) Selling the trailer
18) Selling at the Hawaii All Collectors Show
19) Unpacking
20) Registering my daughter for school
21) Changing my phone anddrivers license over to Hawaii
And the list goes on and on …. technically, to be fair, this process started at the very end of May, so it’s been about 40 days … I’m exhausted and my body and mind feel like they’ve been through a serious beating…thank god it’s time to get to work. My vacation is now almost over.

Fire At Marco Polo High Rise in Honolulu

I was driving on Kapiolani Blvd yesterday about 3pm when I noticed a lot of police and fire – I looked up and there was smoke coming from high up the building in front of me. It’s a building I used to have a friend that lived in – the smoke grew and then flames stared coming. The quality of my video is bad because I was just holding the phone up as I drove…absolutely awful. Three people died, a dozen injured, and probably at least a dozen apartments destroyed. When I got home to the much smaller building we live in, the first thing I did was a fire drill with Sophia. We went over where the stairs are, what to do if she can’t find us, and where to wait for us if she evacuates and can’t find us.

Much to my surprise, I like living in an apartment building. This is a reminder of one of the many dangers of it.

Hawai’i Problems and My Not So Simple Solutions

There are some big issues in Hawai’i. They were issues when I left in 2008 and they have gotten worse. In some cases much worse. Don’t get me wrong – I am plenty happy to have the bathwater with the baby – but as a logical person, I can’t help looking beyond band-aids and seeing some not very simple solutions.

1) Hawai’i has a car problem. There are so many cars on Oahu that the other day when I had my trailer in my assigned parking space it took me an hour and a half to find a parking space within a half mile of my apartment. This problem comes from many different sectors – and nearly every problem I will mention below has contributed and is connected to it. Housing is not affordable so you have three and four generations stacked in a single family home plus an ohana shack in the back yard – every adult has a car and the garage has been converted into an apartment so you have 3-10 cars on a property that was designed for one in the garage and one in the driveway. Add to that problem #2 – Hawai’i has a homeless problem – the worst in the nation and many of the homeless live in their cars – or try to. Then you have apartment buildings like ours – a l4 story builing where each apartment has 1-2 spaces and many of those have been sold or rented to earn the money necessary to live on. Then you have the military – problem #3. Every soldier, sailor, Marine, or airman has a car that they’ve had shipped over by the military – and their spouses have cars. Then you have tourism – car rental is a big business and tourists like to drive – huge lots of cars sitting and waiting to be rented and then looking for parking. As I remember, public transportation was pretty good in Hawai’i – but I can’t say for sure now because my job REQUIRED me to have a car – it was a condition of employment. The city and county are building a light rail system – which actually should help when it is someday completed- but they are going to have to take more drastic measures because car addiction is not easily solved. I don’t like these solutions any better than anyone would – but they have worked in other places. Creating car-free areas in urban congested zones to encourage commuting and using public transportation. Waikiki – car free. Downtown Honolulu – car free. University of Hawai’i – car free. Next are the less popular ideas – somehow banning the military import of personal vehicles and raising the price of car rentals – even less popular is the idea of raising the registration fee and taxes on vehicles – and offering buybacks on older and larger models. Nobody wants to have these things done – but the problem is far worse than it was and from what I can tell – this is the only way to make it better.

2) Hawai’i has a homeless problem. On this one, there is really only one solution – the humanistic solution. Every person should have the right to a safe, secure place to call home. Our greedy capitalist focused society has somehow made it ‘okay’ for there to be huge camps of people who have been left behind socially and economically. We pay huge amounts of money to house prisoners, we allow the ultra rich to buy huge properties and leave them vacant (in some cases entire apartment buildings). All of that needs to be said but ultimately – the homeless problem here and elsewhere is systemic and needs to be addressed at the root – housing is unaffordable here. Desirable real estate has gone so high that undesirable real estate has gone sky high and the rates that hotels and vacation rentals can bring have driven rents even higher. We have allowed the formation of a complex caste system to take place in our society where the higher castes can own unlimited amounts while the lower castes starve – this is considered ‘okay’. It’s not. Land that could be used for housing is gated and closed by the military, by golf courses, by country clubs, and by the ultra-wealthy.

3) Hawai’i has a military problem. There are nearly 100K military personnel here – and their dependents – wives, children, dogs, vehicles. The military long ago took all of the best lands on Oahu for itself. Pearl Harbor, Hickam Air Force Base, Bellows Field, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, and more. These lands and beaches should be given back. Pearl Harbor and Hickam are a city that could house a huge population. I am not saying that the military should leave Hawai’i completely – but the amount of land and number of troops should be reduced greatly. This would reduce traffic, homelessness, rent and property values, and other problems.

4) Hawai’i has a golfing problem. I’m not a golfer. I admit it. Golf courses shut down huge areas of land to any other use thus cutting the non-wealthy off from using that land, the amount of water they use is obscene, and, frankly, they are elitist symbols of our caste system. Seriously, there are dozens of courses on Oahu. A large number of them are on military bases. Ban golf on Oahu or limit the number of courses to five and make them all public – or, if you are crying in your elitist cup of cat poop coffee right now – allow one private course but make them pay full retail for the water.

5) Hawai’i has a tourism problem. Tourism here is a mess. It’s expensive to come here and the lines are out of control. I know a lot of mainland people have never come here because (and I’m quoting) when they price compare, they get a better deal, less crowds, and cheaper flights when they go to Mexico. Air BnB and uber and Lyft are giving people a chance to earn with their cars and properties but driving the cost of housing up and the profits of tourism down. None of that is what I am referring to though. The tourism problem is that huge amounts of money get spent here and are promptly deposited in mainland and international banks by companies and corporations that are not based here. That is the tourism problem I am referring to.

So, in a nutshell – here is what I propose (if anyone that could make it happen is reading this):
1) Reduce non-essential troop levels and base sizes, require the military to provide transportation for troops stationed here, no personally owned vehicles (POVs)
2) Eliminate most golf courses and require full payment for water and land from those that stay, no sweet elitist deals
3) Ban POVs from congested urban areas and raise taxes and registration fees on urban POVs
4) Create a vacancy tax to drive hotel/housing rates lower – owners must pay a tax on unoccupied property or rooms – if they are using AirBnB or similar or are a hotel resort, the tax is nightly – for residential it would be monthly
5) House the homeless in vacant military housing, provide low skill employment to those capable of working
6) Require resorts and tourist business to be based in Hawai’i and to bank in Hawai’i.

Would these solve the problems? Of course not. Would new challenges arise? Of course. Would these be a good start? Absolutely.

Back in Paradise – Some Thoughts

I am grateful and happy to be back on Oahu, back in Hawai’i, and back in paradise. I have a few observations that I’d like to share…

First of all -n the value of a good credit rating. I could not have done this if I hadn’t of made a concentrated effort to improve my credit rating and learn how to rock my credit score. I take that back…I could have done it, but the credit makes it much easier.

Second – I still love Kalama Beach Park – but Kailua seems to have had its soul ripped out. I am grateful that we landed in Salt Lake. It’s a whole different world. Kailua really seems to have become a sort of cartoon reality. It makes me sad. It’s a strange Haole sub-culture of money and privelige – yes, it has some very definite charms of its own, but it’s not what I’m looking for – at least not right now.

Third – Lines of tourism. Our first night here – my wife and daughter’s first night in Hawai’i – I wanted them to experience being a tourist – so we stayed at the most touristic hotel of them all – Hilton Hawaiian Village. It was cool. We had a top floor room with a complete ocean view and thanks to my creidt card points/rewards strategy we didn’t have to wait in the 1-hour-long or more check in lines. Yes – money and privelige – if they think you have money, you get the privelige. Joining the awards programs gave us free internet, a free checked bag on Hawaiian Air, and for some reason got us a free upgrade on our room. But, back to lines – our first meal in Hawai’i as a family was another touristic thing I’d never done – The Cheesecake Factory in Waikiki – huge lines, decent food, ridiculous prices, and bad service. The girls loved it – I was not impressed except that the cheesecake was actually the best cheesecake I’ve ever had…which definitely counts for something. We couldn’t get around that line and I noticed something – parties of two got seated almost immediately and the staff tended to seat parties of five or more with preference – as a party of three we were in a sort of limbo until I complained that larger and smaller parties that came in after us were being seated – and then we were seated immediately – 3 and 4 parties are the lowest price point at bigger tables. And, when we were seated – our table was still dirty. A lame line experience. Yesterday, on the 4th of July, I took the girls on my old circle island tour in our new car (not brand new, but thanks to credit strategy just two years old, no money down, no payments for 90 days and financed for 60 months) – in the old days, I did this tour hundreds, maybe even thousands of times – so I have a perspective on the change – the lines at the Kuhuku Shrimp Trucks are complete insanity…people at Romy’s and Giovanni’s are waiting up to two-and-a-half hours to eat garlic or spicy shrimp. We skipped that line when we realized we hadn’t brought cash – Hanane was amazed that anywhere in the US could be cash only – we went to an ATM and then stopped at the Korean shrimp truck – which used to be pretty good but which yesterday gave us big shrimp drowned in melted butter/oil/fat. The line was short for a reason. It was the fourth so there were lines of cars going to the North Shore, massive lines for Dole whip at the Dole plantation, and then when we went to Kailua for the fireworks – lines of cars looking for parking everywhere – we ended up going to a little known beach access in Aikahi and enjoying poke and rice on the beach with a small crowd and a perfect view of the fireworks. A quick drive on the H-3 and we were back home in time to watch the fireworks from the mighty Missouri from the catwalk of our apartment. Ah, I just thought of another couple of crazy lines – Costco. On the 3rd we went to Costco to get a few housewares and dinner…I’ve never seen anything like it. A constant sea of carts four wide and never stopping flowing from the registers to the parking lot and then lines 20-30 deep for food and drinks. Insanity.

Finally – fourth. In Reedsport we furnished our home almost entirely from garage and estate sales. So I haven’t bought things like shower curtains, silverware, dishes, blankets and the like since 2005 or so…as such, and as an antique dealer and estate buyer – I was out of touch with the prices of such things. Now, I’m amazed that anyone ever bought any of the household shit we sold at our sales…yesterday at Ross we bought a set of dishes for $18 – new. We bought a set of silverware for $15 – again new. We not only paid more for used stuff at garage sales and estate sales but we sold this same kind of stuff for more at the sales we ran – used. Beds on the other hand – holy cow. You can pay as much for a bed as you pay for a car – Hanane stepped up and bought our bed or else I was going to find a used one. As it was, we managed to buy a floor model that had been discontinued with a new frame for about 1/3 of the retail cost. Which still was $600 more than I paid for my old jeep cherokee and $400 more than I sold it for.

Our apartment is empty at the moment. Except for our suitcases and the few essentials we have bought. I’m glad I’m not in the retail business any longer. If I were, I would probably focus on beds and furniture – new or ‘certified’ used.

Today – We Are Moving to Hawai’i

It’s been a long road….I don’t mean the nearly ten years going around the world since I left Hawai’i. I mean the last two weeks…yikes…flying back from Oahu, getting our entire household packed in suitcases, arranged for an estate sale, priced, and advertised (though not very effectively) and then dealing with three days of cheap strangers (or strange people we already knew) offering us rock bottom prices for cherished possessions – because they all knew we were leaving – and then the trauma of giving the things we refused to sell to cheapskate dealers to charity or to our neighbor who helped with the process. We sold my wife’s car, my little trailer, our basketball hoop, the washer and dryer, and a few more things – but mostly at the rock bottom prices you get at the end of the month in a town where the majority of garage salers are waiting for a social security or disability check – and frankly, the sale was a financial failure – but we got rid of all the stuff, cleaned the house, and left a day earlier than planned. After four years in Reedsport – as my wife went to lunch with her friends from work – I realized that I hadn’t really made any friends there – there was no one I really felt the need to say goodbye to. Lots of acquaintances and customers – but that was it. We drove away and made a daytrip up through Eugene stopping to swim in a lake and then touring through Brownsville, having dinner with my mom, aunt, uncle, and cousin in Corvalis, and then drove to Salem where we stayed in a decent hotel. In the morning we looked at the capital, rode the carousel at the Riverfront park, and then drove to Portland stopping to play in the splashpark in Wilsonville and then playing at the Portland Children’s Museum before checking into our hotel next to the airport. The next day, we dropped off Sophia’s Siamese fighting fish with one of my best friends, ate Ethiopian food together and then I parked my VW Vanagon in his backyard before getting dropped off at the hotel. Now it is early morning – we are getting ready to check out of our hotel room and check in for our flight to Hawai’i where our new apartment, new life, and many adventures await us. Here we go!

Changes on Oahu – Is this still my home island?

It feels incredible to be back on Oahu. I love it, I love this island. It has changed though. I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that. In Kailua, I was virtually the only person who was stopping to let people cross the street…in Lanikai I stopped so a mom with a stroller could cross and the lady behind me gave me a loud mainland kind of honk! Another mom with three little keiki whom she was trying to herd gave me a grateful look when I stopped and motioned for her to go safely…the look felt like she was surprised. I’m sure that the aloha spirit still exists here, but it has a much tougher environment to live in than it did even ten years ago. The apartments I looked at yesterday were all incredibly cramped without much in the way of amenities. One had no air conditioning (and a $100 fine for drips from the window), another had no windows in the living room, another had no yard or outdoor space – and each of them were more than the salary I’ve been offered will cover. The landlords were asking for three times the rent as a minimum income…I can’t show that. I will be able to earn it, but I can’t demonstrate it because much of my income will and does come from writing, book sales, and more. A move here means a move to a very serious rat race and not much chance to improve my family’s finances in the near future. I want the job, but I’m not sure that Oahu is where we are meant to be. A woman across from the hotel is screaming like bloody murder at 6 am. Lots of people looking, but not sure if anyone is helping. I will go down and see. Police arrived…so no need for me to go down now. I hope she is alright.

I took an early morning walk through Waikiki. The homeless and the wretched. They are truly hard to ignore and ultimately, really, should not be ignored – but it’s impossible to enjoy this expensive paradise without ignoring them. So, last night, the crazy man yelling “Fuck you. All of you just go away. Just get the fuck out of here.” I felt compassion for him. The drunk young man passed out against a wall outside a bar at 6 am this morning. The haunted looking homeless old lady staring at the rich passers by who do not notice her. The old Chinese man pushing a stolen shopping cart loaded with cardboard. The tents and homeless camps in every available spot on this island. And the cost to live here, the way it drives those who do not have fantastic income and the sense of entitlement it gives to those who do. All of this is reality. This is the reality of Oahu.

I was unable to determine what happened this morning. My guess is someone died or domestic violence, but either way it was horrid. I checked out and the charges were less than I expected, I didn’t get charged extra for my rental car, and airport security was such a breeze that I’m again 3 hours early for a flight I could have come 2 hours later for…and yet, I feel we have a chance right now…a chance to have a better life. I know that. I know that somehow, we have an opportunity to do something wonderful. I don’t want to miss that.

The changes here…Trump Tower is awful. I miss the old International Marketplace and the Honolulu Academy of the Arts which is now called the Honolulu Art Museum – that’s a bad name change for me and the International Marketplace took something authentic and wonderful and turned it into a big expensive mall. I’ll be honest, I hate it. I miss the old Daiea markets in Kailua and near Ward. I miss Island Air, Aloha Airlines, Go Airlines, and the old interisland terminal. Kailua isn’t affordable – actually, nowhere on this island is affordable. People don’t smile as much. I heard few “Howzit”s and not very many “Mahalos” or “Alohas”. No one under 50 wears an aloha shirt unless they are a tourist or at work. The prices are much more insane than I remembered – except for milk and gas. I’m glad I was here when I was here but I’m not sure at all that this is the place I’ve dreamed of. This morning, I was ready to leave Waikiki. I swam in Kailua once, swam in Waikiki twice, took long walks through Waikiki, chanted at the SGI culture center twice, drank a Kailua Monkey from Lanikai juice, ate a Shogun Dunburi from Ninja Sushi, looked at three rental units, drove quite a few miles and frankly, that was probably enough tourism for me.

A group of Tibetan Monks just walked by. One of them looks a lot like the Dalai Lama. A slightly chubby Dalai Lama. Any way about it – that is a very cool thing. That doesn’t happen in Reedsport. Meditating on compassion and the similarity of all living things. The miracle of the idea that each of us is a miracle. We are all miraculous beings made from star material. I wasn’t crazy about my hotel in Waikiki, but the Buddhism book in the drawer was a comfort and a better companion than the TV and the Bible which one usually finds (it was there too). The monks (I think) are going to Maui. I never felt a huge connection to Maui the island. In my mind, it was always the rich people’s island. Maybe I never gave it the chance it deserves.

There was a strange spectacle walking to the gate. A busty woman sitting in a massage chair – lots of jiggling going on. She was one of those middle aged, ruined skin from the sun, white ladies who look like she could be a biker’s lady. Ever so disturbing and almost impossible not to look at.

The Buddhism book in the hotel, had the passage where the Buddha became the Buddha marked and next to it was Dec 8, 2001 in Waikiki. I was in Waikiki then. I was having dreams of sand castles on the beach Christmas muppet specials and trying to find a way forward in my life. And just think, while I was doing that – someone blocks away at the Ambassador hotel was marking that passage. How very strange.

When I was checking in for this flight, there was some confusion, it said there was another Damitio on the flight. That’s odd. I didn’t find out who it was. That’s never happened before unless it was a Damitio I was traveling with.

So I came to the Big Island of Hawai’i to check out a property and potentially buy it. The property was gorgeous and remote but the house – my wife would never forgive me if I moved her into a house that far out and in that state of a mess. So I can’t do it. Big Island is beautiful, but it seems that Oahu is not done with me. I’ve lived in Kailua, Punalu’u, Waikiki, Lanikai, Punchbowl, and Manoa. Now I get to see what Salt Lake is all about. I’m pretty stoked actually. I’m an archaeologist and moving my family to Oahu. Cool. I am filled with gratitude. I am excited about this life, this new adventure that begins now.

When I moved to Oahu the first time, I managed the Polynesian Beach Club Hostel. After taking care of it while my boss was away, she bought me a trip to the Big Island. Hilo was the first place I went in Hawai’i that wasn’t Oahu. This is more balance because here I am again.