Travel

The Next Adventure

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Key West … a great place to live in your 20s.  

When I was in high school I had a large map of the United States tacked to the wall over my bed.  At that point in my life I’d only been to places on the East Coast (New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, and Florida).  I loved the traveling I’d done with my family, and it surely fueled my desire to want to see more.  I vowed to get to as many cities on that map as possible.

My first chance to Go West occurred in college (Wisconsin & Illinois), and then shortly after graduation I took the trip that truly changed my life.  Colorado was the destination, and an Amtrak Train over the course of three days was my mode of transportation.  I was hoping to live in Breckenridge for a year, but it ended up being (for various reasons) slightly less than two months.  But that experience was the catalyst that drove me to move to Key West after turning 23, and certainly helped me when California became my new home at 28-years-old.

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When I was 22 I took the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago, and then the California Zephyr to Denver.  That trip is worthy of its own blog.   

I’ve made traveling, either vacations or relocations, a top priority of my life.  Hawaii is the 4th state where I’ve held a license to drive, and I’ve also had the opportunity to step foot in many of the cities and countries on my lifelong “to do” list.  On a World Traveler’s Scorecard my adventures might not rate that high, but to me I feel so lucky for every passport stamp or check mark I’ve made on a map.

I love where I live now, and I am very fortunate to be here.  Hawaii is such a special place, not only the sheer beauty of the islands but the people and feeling of the aloha spirit.  The three and a half years I’ve spent here have been amazing.

But I still can’t help myself from looking forward to my next adventure.

I suppose I’ve always been that way.  I cherished the time I spent living in Key West, but I was ready to leave after one year.  I look back on LA as some of the best years of my life, but six of them in Southern California was more than enough.   I was extremely happy in San Francisco, my last city of residence, and I still consider it one of the greatest places to live in the world.  But after eight years I knew I needed a new destination to discover.

Hell, I couldn’t even stay at one college for four years.  I loved Bridgewater State and made so many friends there, but I left after two-years for Boston University.  The prospect of “what’s next” is always very thrilling.

When my company offered me a job in Honolulu in 2012, I knew I had to take it.  I have no plans to leave Hawaii, and I’m beyond happy being here.  Exhibit A: On my walk home tonight through Kapiolani Park just as dusk turned to night, the first twinkling of the stars appeared while I breathed in the soft tropical breeze.  Just minutes earlier I had strolled past Waikiki Beach, and the sky had just a hint of pink visible in the dark purples and grays.  When the traffic waned you could hear the surf lapping against the sand.  If I stay here another three and a half years I would consider myself lucky.

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Dusk in Honolulu

But as my 40s keep on keeping on, I know there are more places not only to explore as a visitor, but to experience as a resident.

I would love to live in Europe for one year.  With the visa requirements I’d have to keep moving and get out of Schengen Area every three months, but that is a work-around that would be fun to do.  My money would go a lot further in Costa Rica or Belize (which I visited in 2012), and those countries are very tempting destinations.  The idea of taking a year off from work to travel and write is one that Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Ellen Page would have no problem incepting in me.

But I’ll put those thoughts on hold for the time being, and enjoy the opportunities for shorter trips.  J’Nell and I just had a wonderful neighbor island visit to Kauai, and in two weeks I’ll be in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for vacation.  The next longer adventure awaits.   It will begin as a dream, then become an obsession, and at some point in the future will become a reality.

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Great quote from “Inception”.
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Sweet Sixteen

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From San Diego to Honolulu

“Veronica and I are trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging, it might be a soft j. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time.”

-Ron Burgundy

 

In my 20s and early 30s, I was a runner (or, more appropriately, a yogger).  Never a fast one, but I put in my miles and did lots of races.  Mainly 10K’s, with some 5K’s sprinkled in, and even one with a 7 mile distance (The Falmouth Road Race).  In 2000 I decided to amp it up and run a marathon, a goal that I’d set for myself when I was a student at Boston University.

I accomplished what I set out to do.  The training and the struggle, and actually reaching the finish line, made it one of the most rewarding things I’d ever done.  But then, for no good reason at all, it took another sixteen years (that is, until today) before I ran another race with the word “marathon” in it.

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In the 1990s my plan was to run the Boston Marathon, the ultimate race to aspire to for anyone who grew up in New England.  However, this 26.2-mile goal was always a vague “someday” one.  Someday when I’m a little older.  Someday when I have time to train.  Someday when I get the rest of my shit together that I can concentrate on such a long race.

Flash forward to the fall of 1999.  I was living in Los Angeles writing scripts during the day, bartending in the evening, and partying until dawn.   Somehow I had still managed to continue running and completing races, but it was mainly to keep myself in reasonable shape.  It was never out the spirit of competition.  There was one 10K in Griffith Park that I did so hung-over that after crossing the finish line I emptied all the contents of my stomach into a port-a-potty (should you ever find yourself in a similar circumstance, you should avoid this at all costs.  A bush, a tree, in front of a supermodel . . . all better locations).

Serious runners (or even yoggers) do not do that.

It was sometime after the Griffith Park race, eight or nine beers deep at the Cat & Fiddle, that I announced to nobody in particular that I was going to run the LA Marathon.  My friends were less than enthused.  Mark S shrugged, Mark W probably didn’t hear me, I think Dave smiled, Bradleigh laughed, and Kristi gave me the most encouragement with a pat on the back and “good luck with that, Mikey”.  Of course I didn’t blame them, as marathon running was as foreign from our world as joining the peace corps or moving to the Inland Empire.

For whatever reason, I was determined.  My daily workouts went from three miles to five, then seven to ten, and soon I was running up that crazy incline of Beachwood Canyon Road.  I was still partying with my friends in true Hollywood Style, but I would do my long runs before the festivities started.  Looking back on it, between the smog and booze, it is almost impossible to believe I actually committed to a training schedule.

But I did, and I was strict about it.  Although as the year wound down and Y2K became a reality, I realized I needed a little more time if I was ever to reach my new time goal.   Just finishing was no longer enough, I wanted to complete it in under five hours.

The LA Marathon in March became the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon in June.

It was a hot day in the city that Ron Burgundy once called the greatest on earth, but I tried to block it out and kept moving forward.  During my training I had never run more than 16 miles (when the program said you should max out at 18), so I wasn’t even sure if I would even get to the finish line.  I remember getting to mile 21, which was in some residential San Diego neighborhood, so exhausted and sweaty but completely sure I could do another five even if I had to crawl.

Luckily it didn’t come to getting on my hands and knees, and I reached the end upright and somehow with a smile on my face.  The extra training did me well, and I finished the race in four hours and fifty-two minutes.  While my time was better than some and super slow compared to others, I remember feeling so overwhelmingly happy.  Not only did I somehow pull off this crazy caper that I dreamed up in college, I completed the race eight minutes quicker than my goal.

The Friday after the marathon, I was riding such a high I said out loud to no one in particular at the Burgundy Room that I would run another one the following year.   My friends bought shots to toast my achievement and wished me well in my new venture.  I did seven miles the next day, and the Saturday after that I ran ten.  I wanted to shave ten to fifteen minutes off my next marathon.

I’m not sure what happened.

The years kept coming, and while I continued to do 5 and 10K races in the early 00s, the thought of running 26.2 miles again never fully materialized in my head.  By the end of the decade the weight I had gained made running a marathon an impossibility.   Whenever I would look at the pictures from June 2000, it almost seemed like it was a dream I’d had.

In 2015 I dropped a bunch of pounds, and by June last year I began to run (yog) again at least three times a week.  As the clock turned to 2016 I had increased my mileage significantly, and my girlfriend J’Nell convinced me to run the Hapalua Half Marathon here in Honolulu (she was doing it with her awesome gym and support group Kaia Fit).  So I dusted off my old training plan from 16 years ago and figured I would give it a go.  I had no interest in doing a full marathon, but 13.1 miles rated high on the Goldilocks Scale.

The week leading up to today’s Hapalua Half Marathon, I had a nasty sinus infection and wasn’t even sure I would be able to attempt it.  But just before sunrise J’Nell and I both walked to the start line at the Duke statue in Waikiki, and we headed west with the thousands of other runners.   I hadn’t exercised in any fashion in over a week, and the time off must have did me good.  My normal foot pain (on long runs) was kept to a minimum, and my stamina (helped along by GU Energy Gel) held up throughout the course.  I wanted to break three hours, and I was happy to reach the finish line at 2 hours and 46 minutes.

As I kept pumping my legs as fast as I could down Diamond Head Road towards the end at Kapiolani Park, I couldn’t help but smile at my sixteen-year journey from San Diego to Honolulu.  Absolutely no negative thoughts went through my head.   I surely could have lamented all the races I had missed, but I was truly just so grateful to finish the one I was doing.

 

The Minimalism Game

Minimalism Game Days 29-31: This is the End, Beautiful Friend

Often life is a series of false starts and half-assed attempts.  We have great plans and great intentions, but then the day-to-day grind gets in the way.   Work, friends, significant others, kids, and all the myriad collection of duties that become our responsibilities.

And then there’s the worst enemy of them all . . . the wane of enthusiasm.

You have so much passion and energy and you just can’t wait to start.  You’re propelled to action by some mysterious force, and you know this is thing you must be doing. If there were a bit, you would be literally champing (or chomping) at it.

And then, just as quickly as you were drawn to it, you lose interest.

With the Minimalism Game, keeping away from alcohol, and this blog, I’m thankful my commitment never wavered.  My daily routines threw down some obstacles, but never enough to stop me.  And while I can’t say my enthusiasm throughout the month was ever as high as Day One, I remained excited to see these projects through to the end.

So did I make it to April Fool’s Day sober and with 496 less possessions?  Let’s find out . . .

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Hodgepodge Day

For March 29th I knew it was going to be hodgepodge, higgledy–piggledy kind of day.   For the final two days of the Minimalism Game I planned an assault on my bookshelves.  So for the third-to-last, or near penultimate one, I had to scour every crevice of my apartment to find things I did not need.

There was my whole array of electronics.  My 10 year-old desktop computer that I wasn’t even using when I lived in San Francisco, but thought it would be a good idea to ship to Hawaii.  My Toshiba Laptop that I accidentally dropped on the floor over 2 years ago and then would not start.  My twelve-year-old coffee maker, which at one time was top-of-the-line, had been replaced a few months back by a French Press (also pictured above), which was then replaced by an even better stainless steel French Press.  The infamous iPod that killed my CDs, which now only plays music through one earphone.  Three old cell phones, including the first one I ever owned (hard to believe, but I actually held-out from joining the cell phone world until summer of 2004).  A remote control.  And then a clunky printer/scanner that came with the apartment but has never worked.

Then there’s the category of stuff that can best be described as “everything else”.  A beat-up REI bag that I once had a strong affection for, gray shoelaces, a blanket from United Airlines, a plastic sword and its accompanying Gladiator costume, a cigar-cutter from the 90s, various semi-used toiletries, an empty inhaler, a water-infuser, an unopened adventure gift-set, a VHS concert of Frank, Dino and Liza Minnelli, a DVD rom (remember those), and a plastic gas can (for the scooter I sold in February).

I could have got rid of more assorted stuff, but I wanted on the final two days find 60 books to donate.

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Two Questions Decide Their Fate

In choosing books, there were two questions I asked: (1) What are the odds I would I read it again and (2) if I hadn’t read it, what are the odds I would?   If the answer was less than 50% for either, I put the book in the pile.  Here’s some notes on ones that are going away:

  • Flimsy Plastic Miracles, was Ron Currie Jr’s follow-up to his outstanding Everything Matters! While I enjoyed Miracles and I’ll be looking forward to Currie’s next book, I just don’t see myself reading it again (where I’m certain I will pick up Everything Matters! a few more times in the future).
  • Last Call is a well-written, engaging story set mostly in Las Vegas and involves gambling, tarot cards, otherworldly elements, and a battle for souls. I highly recommend it and have read the book twice (once a few years back) . . . which is why I’m giving it away.
  • I love Kurt Vonnegut and he’s one of my favorites, but I just could not get into Hocus Pocus.     The other books in here for various reasons I could not get into were The Sportswriter, The Stones of Summer (which as the book that inspired the documentary I referenced earlier in the game The Stone Reader), The Spellman Files, Spade & Archer (a prequel to The Maltese Falcon, one of my favorites), The Heart Aroused (unfortunately not mine), and The Mortdecai Trilogy (the Johnny Depp film did not make me want to revisit this 2010 purchase of mine).  I know all of these are fine books and maybe at another point in my life I could get into them, but I’d rather set them free to find owners who will enjoy them now.
  • Travel books for two places I’ve never been (Tahiti & Greece), that are now outdated.  I still want to get to both of those places, but I’ll get updated versions when that happens.
  • Two hiking books for California (Peninsula Trails and Big Sur). I got my use out of the former, but only got to do a couple of hikes in the latter.  I had a camping trip to Big Sur planned for 2008 that unfortunately had to be canceled after a big forest fire.
  • I really enjoyed Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, but it’s a massive hard cover book that I’m not likely to read again anytime soon.
  • I bought The Chandler Apartments at a cool bookshop in Prague called Shakespeare & Sons, and while it was a good souvenir (it’s even autographed) and a good read, I most likely won’t go cover-to-cover with it again.
  • The Grifters is a book I’ve read at least three times over the last fifteen years and I’ll probably again, but I have another copy of it (my brother bought me a new one a few years back).
  • There are some writing/publishing books in here that I got my use out of and now time to make available to others.
  • I have somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen Phillip K Dick books in my library, but I just never connected with the two I’m giving away: Voices From the Street (published posthumously and non-sci-fi) and Counter-Clock World (a great premise in that time is running backwards).

It wasn’t easy, but I got my sixty.  And while the bookshelves are still full, they are no longer bulging.  The next project will be to reorganize them and do some dusting, but I’ll save that for another day.

So there you have it . . . I successfully completed the Minimalism Game.  I’m happy to say I have no regrets or any “giver’s remorse”.  The resolve to do this started on Leap Day and ended on April Fool’s Day . . . that is rife with symbolism but it’s too late on a Sunday evening for me to do it justice.  I need to get some more distance from the Minimalism Game.

Right now I’m just glad it’s over!

As for drinking, I guess I could say the same.  I made it the full thirty-one days, and then on April 1st stopped the madness with a few beers.  For the record, the first one was an Occidental Bohemian Pilsner (Portland, Oregon) at Real Gastropub, and it was downright delicious.