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.

Van is Dying – Uh-oh (Flashback to 2004)

In 2004, I was living in a minivan I bought for $175. I should have stuck to VWs. I called this one Pig and usually had hands black from working on it’s horrid engine. As I re-edit and prepare to launch Rough Living 2013 and Smooth Living: Beyond the Life of a Vagabond, I can tell you…I don’t miss the Rough Life…

An abandoned sugar mill on Maui that worked just about as well as my van, Pig.
An abandoned sugar mill on Maui that worked just about as well as my van, Pig.

Uh oh…..van is dying rapidly…..

Uh oh, the van is dying rapidly. I’ve got work lined up, but it requires that I have transportation. Scary thing with the van is that when I look at how much money the people I bought it from put into it, it makes me worry….can you say money pit?

So now, it just loses all power and the throttle goes dead. It always restarts and after stalling and starting for an hour or so, it begins to run perfectly.

Yesterday, I woke up with one of those hangovers that says “I’m going to give up drinking once and for all” OUCH! I bailed from Waikiki where I was parking next to the zoo and drove around the south shore. Past Hanauma Bay, the van stopped stalling. Words can’t emphasize how shitty I felt. If you’ve been there, you know.

So anyway, I just wanted to find a quiet and uncrowded beach park to make coffee in, set up my hammock, have a swim, and sleep it off. Sundays are crowded. Even at usually uncrowded spots like Wamimanalo and Bellows Beach. So I continued driving up the beach to my old haunt of Punaluu. I picked up a hitchhiker who smoked a bowl with me and then parked and made coffee near Chinamans Hat on the windward side.

Long walk around the perimeter of Oahu

I went to Laie, the mormon enclave of Oahu to buy a steak, but everything is closed on Sunday there. Finally found a steak and drove back to Kahana Bay where I napped and then barbecues a steak and some potatos with garlic. Yum. I was starting to feel a bit better.

Night before last I made Hobo Packets….here’s the recipe…

1 pound ground pork
2 medium potatoes skinned and sliced
1 sweet potato, skinned and sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
salt and pepper to taste
lots of garlic, peeled and sliced
lemon juice
soy sauce

Form ground beef into patties and place each on a square of aluminum foil. Divide potatoes, garlic, and onions equally and arrange on top of patties. Add salt and pepper to taste. Place lemon and soy on top of vegetables. Seal foil tightly and place on grill or directly on coals for about 45 minutes to an hour. Can also be cooked in the oven at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes. Delicious and easy

That made enough to feed my friend Steve and myself. Plus there was a third packet in case someone came along. I had it for breakfast yesterday.

So anyway, back to Kahana Bay where it began to get dark and I lit a fire. I was just chillin by myself and a Hawaiian guy came along. I invited him to sit. He offered to smoke a joint. Why not. Then he offered me some ice (it’s like crack but made form crystal meth instead of coke) I declined so he smoked some himself. Then he offered me cigarettes (I also declined…almost two months smoke free), candy, and we talked about life. When I told him I was worried about money, he insisted on giving me five bucks. I told him I was okay and he refused to take it back. Crackheads can be really nice people. He was.

None the less, I didn’t feel comfortable sleeping there (ice does strange things to people) so I drove back down to Chinamans Hat and slept until this AM. STill feeling slightly wretched. Now I’m here in the library working on my novel (Slackville Road) and doing a little promotion for Rough Living.


Critical Mass Honolulu – Making the Streets Safe for Bicyclists.

16-12-08_1633This article first appeared in Ka Leo, the University of Hawaii student newspaper in 2008, but there were a few things in it that were cut that I thought were important.

For those who don’t know, Critical Mass is an event typically held on the last Friday of every month in cities around the world where bicyclists and, less frequently, unicyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters, roller skaters and other self-propelled commuters take to the streets en masse.

While the ride was originally founded with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to bicyclists, the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets.

Critical Mass: Making the Streets Safe for Bicyclists
By Vago Damitio

If you’ve ever ridden a bicycle in Honolulu, you know that it can be a death defying adventure. Far too often drivers don’t see bicycles when they pull out, change lanes, or turn into driveways. Bicyclists also seem to be invisible to the City and County of Honolulu if one uses the criteria of bicycle lanes, signage, and maintenance of the few bike lanes that do exist on Oahu. For those who ride commuter bikes, a bike path filed with gravel, glass, or trash is almost worse than not having a lane. As a result of all of this, nearly every bicyclist on Oahu has at least one story of near death, honking and yelling motorists who think bicycles don’t have the right to use lanes, angry pedestrians who rightly don’t think bicyclists should be on the sidewalks, or flat tires caused by badly maintained bike lanes.

Much of this frustration boiled over on Friday, February 29th when hundreds of bicycle riders took to the streets in a flash mob style critical mass ride through rush hour traffic on some on Oahu’s busiest (and most dangerous to bike riders) streets. The ride was spread from person to person using word of mouth, text messaging, craigslist, and cellphones. Since it is against the law to have an unregistered parade, organizers didn’t really organize anything. There was no set route, no official rally cry, and no agenda. In fact, there weren’t really even any organizers- simply a bunch of people who are tired of being treated like they don’t deserve to be able to use Oahu’s busy roads.

Among those who rode were visitors from mainland cities who saw the notice on craigslist and decided to rent bikes and participate. “We ride in critical mass rides in Chicago,” a visitor said. “It’s crazy there. Thousands of riders blocking traffic for hours on end. It’s really paved the way to make Chicago a more bike friendly city.”

Her husband pointed out that Chicago officials have tried to make the Critical Mass rides illegal but they continue to happen on the last Friday of every month. “It’s like trying to put protestors in a protest zone,” he said. “It goes against the main point.”

And the main point of Critical Mass is that if enough bike riders band together, they can turn the tables on who rules the road. Motorists on Oahu got a taste of what it’s like to play second fiddle with Friday’s ride. Riders gathered at the state capital starting at 4:30 pm and then rode through busy downtown streets, Chinatown then on to King Street all the way to Kalakaua and a slow ride through Waikiki. Riders occupied all lanes and made the larger, usually dangerous vehicles wait. Some motorists became irate and began to lay on their horns, aggressively bump the rear tires of the bicycles in the rear, or yell foul epithets from their air conditioned interiors.

Riders generally responded with the much used call and response “Who’s streets?” “Our streets.” Several riders were ticketed by police in Chinatown though most chose not to stop when the police turned on their siren. One bystander on Nu’uanu asked “Is the point of this that you can break the law?” a rider responded by saying that the point was that bicyclists are treated as second class citizens on Oahu. The overwhelming response of pedestrians was to cheer as the bikes went by. Numerous bicyclists who were heading the other direction turned around and joined the fun ride and this caused cheers from spectators and riders alike.

Noticeably absent were the colorful faux-Lemond bike jerseys and expensive bicycle shorts, though at least one such rider sprinted through the mass and cussed about how it was slowing him down. Friday’s riders were mostly un-helmeted, casually dressed, every day people who like to use their bikes to get from place to place. Some riders wore political messages on their shirts such as “One less car on the road” or “Bikes are zero-emission”. Slogans seemed to be the exception rather than the rule though and overpriced bikes and gear were not observed amongst the crowd- except for the one angry Lemonde wannabe.

The critical mass was a huge success with the ride finishing where it began around 7 pm.
One sad personal note, after the Critical Mass I joined friends at the Ward Entertainment Complex. While I was eating spaghetti, someone snipped my bike cable and made off with my ride. Security was nowhere to be found. Don’t worry though, I have another bike. If you’d like to become involved in bicycle politics or just meet for a casual weekly ride, you can join us at Manoa Gardens on Thursdays at 4:30 pm. We plan on riding for an hour, then drinking beers and talking story. See you there. </blockquote>


Flashback 2004 – Living Rough Again On Oahu

Living Rough Again on Oahu
by Vago Damitio

(I wrote this on a blospot blog back on June 25, 2004 I’m glad this isn’t my life any longer.)

mural  on OahuAlright…I can’t resist. I’m living in a van again. This time on the island of Oahu. I got the van for $175. It’s a plymouth voyager and it seems to have fuel injection problems. It gets me where I need to go though, so far. I’m having a hard time sleeping at night. maybe because it’s an island, it’s a littel different than my old VW days. The main annoyances….there are no parking signs everywhere mostly 10PM to 7AM, Hawaiians love to play loud music and have impromptu parties in Marinas and parks without no parking signs. I tend to avoid drunken gatherings of big Samoans, Hawaiians, Tongans, and Filipinos. People in neighborhoods are so f#*(ing healthy, they wake up at 5AM and start raking leaves, running, watering plants, etc) which makes it hard to sleep.People actually know each other in neighborhoods here, I stand out…people look and say “who is that guy in the van?” not like the mainland where no one knows anyone else.

Despite all of that, I’m figuring it out. I generally sleep in two stages, moving at least once during the night. In the day, I make coffee in the van, swim, shower at the beach, go for a sunrise run (yeah, I’m healthy too!), read for a while, then go to the library where I work on my novel. One very cool thing is wifi…I can use peoples internet from my van with my laptop. Very cool. I usually buy what I want to eat and then cook it. Why have extra. All in all. Life is pretty good. Hopefully, I can get my van fixed soon, the fuel injectors seem to be going out…crapola.