Not merely a breathtaking view, the Pali Lookout (or Nuʻuanu Pali) is an important historical site. Kamehameha I, later known as Kamehameha the Great, conquered the island of Oahu at this site in the late 1700s in one of the bloodiest battles in Hawaiian history. Referred to as the Battle of Nu’uanu, it also came to be known as Kaleleka’anae, or the leaping of the ‘anae fish, in reference to the nearly 400 warriors who were forced off the cliff during the conflict to their deaths, 1,000 feet below. Kamehameha I later went on to unite all of the Hawaiian islands under his rule in 1810, becoming the first king of Hawai’i.
It’s also home to winds so strong it blew someone’s underwear straight off.
Quint: What are you? Some kind of half-assed astronaut? Jesus H Christ, when I was a boy, every little squirt wanted to be a harpooner or a sword fisherman. What d’ya have there – a portable shower or a monkey cage?
Hooper: Anti-shark cage.
Quint: Anti-shark cage. You go inside the cage? Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark’s in the water. Our shark. …Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain. For we’ve received orders for to sail back to Boston. And so nevermore shall we see you again.
It was all well and good to say that I was going to go diving with sharks, add it to my list, find a place that does it, and make a reservation. The entire time leading up to the shark dive, I was nothing but excited. Then, about 24 hours out, I began to have second thoughts. Maybe it was the fact that they had to cancel and reschedule earlier in the week due to very rough water. Maybe it’s that I expected my snorkel to just give out at a critical juncture. Maybe it’s that I heard that there was a great white shark spotted in the area earlier. It’s one thing to know that sharks are not interested in eating humans on an intellectual level, but that knowledge didn’t do much to calm down the anxious monkey brain that kept insisting that going out of my element into a predator’s element was wrongwrongwrong. I spent most of the night before quietly panicking instead of sleeping. Whatever it was, my imagination began working overtime, envisioning all of the various ways I could Mr. Magoo myself over the side of the boat and into a shark’s mouth. Or maybe a shark jumping straight out of the water and into the boat, because my fears aren’t limited to things that could actually happen. The most ludicrous scenario seems possible at 3am.
The next morning, we checked in to North Shore Shark Adventures, and my stomach was still tied in knots. The three mile ride into the almost unbelievably blue international waters (where sharks are no longer bound by man’s laws) didn’t do much to quell my nerves. The boat lurched on the waves, and I white-knuckled a bar while the crew joked about what to do in case of emergency (“Go up top, call the coastguard, and say “mayday, mayday, it happened again”). Pardon me, I’ll just be over here, weeping with fear, because right now, going over the side doesn’t feel all that implausible.
They divided us into groups and asked if we’d be interested in having them film our experience. I’d purchased an underwater camera with video prior to the trip, so I figured I’d film it myself, plus I didn’t really need any outside video evidence of my pale corpulent self fear barfing into my snorkel, even if it would make for an excellent holiday greeting card shot.
The cage itself is moored out in the ocean for the day, rather than being hauled back and forth for each tour. I was placed in group two, which gave me a little more time to try and chill out. They told us to pay careful attention to how we get in and out of the cage, as it’s one of the only points during the tour where you could actually get hurt. Not from a shark patrolling the area and determining where the humans are most vulnerable, but from the possibility of a part of your body getting mashed between the boat and the cage by the waves. I was going to have to do this glassesless, with my vision further obscured by the snorkel mask, and those things did not serve to decrease my fear and feelings of vulnerability. Having never seen the cage in its entirety nor the locations of its handholds, after I backed down the ladder into the water, I froze. I didn’t want to just blindly reach out my hand into potential shark snackville. One of the tour guys barked at me to get off the ladder and let the next person down, and yelled at Jason to come get me. Eventually Jason was able to reach over, grab my hand, and guide me to a side of the cage. I took out my snorkel and managed to choke out that I was, at that point, more scared than I had ever been in my entire life. But I told myself that I could stand anything for ten seconds, gathered my courage, and literally faced my fear.
It was incredible. The galapagos sharks we saw weren’t interested in the cage or its occupants at all, and swam around us, all power and grace. Occasionally you’d see one rising from the depths, and it was awe-inspiring. The twenty minutes of our drop passed so quickly–as uncomfortable as I am in the water, I could have watched the sharks for hours.
The sharks aren’t chummed (which is illegal, and also no one wants to swim in bloody pink chum water) and are instead drawn to the sounds of the engine which they associate with the crab fishing boats in the area, which have tossed their leftover bait back into the water since the 60s. The tour operator also regularly tossed a water bottle tied to a line into the water, which gave the sharks something to investigate. He said that the object being a water bottle or floating or made of metal had no effect on the sharks’ interest, and that he could throw in a hat and get the same result; it was the sound of something striking the water that made them both interested and competitive.
One thing the shark adventure groups do recommend is taking anti nausea medication before departing, and after watching two people on our tour run to the back of the boat to vomit because of the choppy water, I have to agree. It looks like the lawless sharks aren’t the thing to be afraid of after all.
With a chest measurement of 168 inches, a waist measurement of 161 inches, and a neck measurement of 60.5 inches, this 400XL aloha shirt was Guinness verified as a world record in March of 1999. However, I don’t know if that record still stands–the only current Guinness record I could find for shirts are for a t-shirt in Brazil and a button down shirt in Germany that both make this aloha shirt look like a shirt for babies. But it’s still pretty big. I guess.
Hilo Hattie, home of the giant shirt, is just ok. They’ve got pretty much the same stuff you’ll find in every souvenir shop all around Oahu with the added ‘bonus’ of having a cosmetics clerk who tries to make you feel like you’re a decrepit mummy with undereye bags the size of your carry-on and a checkout clerk who comments on the caloric density of the snacks you’re purchasing as though you were buying a pizza the size of their aloha shirt instead of a fifty cent snack pack of cookies. Mahalo for that, ladies.
While on our trip, our group decided to have lunch at Opal Thai in Hale’iwa, which we’d heard is the best Thai food on Oahu. It’s cash only, so a few of us made a trip to a nearby ATM. I withdrew $60, which I figured would be more than enough cash. When we were seated, we were handed menus, but minutes later the owner arrived at our table and plucked them out of our hands. He then proceeded to quiz us on our knowledge of Thai food. Do you like Thai food? What’s the last thing you ate at a Thai restaurant? Can you even name six Thai dishes? Then he informed us that he would be ordering for us and we’d be eating family style. He asked us about what we didn’t like and proceeded to give us shit about it. Oh, you don’t like cilantro? Do you eat Mexican food, like salsa? Did you know there’s cilantro in that? I began to get a very bad feeling about my lunch prospects. One: I really don’t like having someone else decide what I’ll be eating. If I’m paying for it, I goddamn well want to choose. Ideally, I want to be able to choose even when I’m not paying. I’m especially leery when the decider is someone who knows what he has to unload from his fridge to prevent spoilage losses. Two: I loathe eating family style, especially if there’s a possibility that I’ll only like one or two of the dishes. I don’t want to take more than my share of anything, I don’t want to be made to feel like I’m taking food out of someone else’s mouth. As a fatty, I’m especially sensitive to this because I don’t want to be known as the Jabba that ate everyone else’s lunch. Three: I’m here for lunch, not a goddamn quiz show. I especially don’t want someone treating me like Miss Hicksville, U.S.A. because an ingredient tastes like soapy tinfoil to me. Yes, I know cilantro is an important component of the cuisine. Knowing that doesn’t change the way it tastes and the fact that it ruins any dish it touches for me.
The food started rolling out, and he didn’t really take any of our dislikes into consideration–either because he wanted to prove us wrong about what we claimed to dislike (like educating a toddler), or because he straight did not give a shit. Literally everything one of us said we didn’t like or wouldn’t eat was represented on the table. The things that I did eat were on par with other Thai restaurants I’ve been to, nothing extraordinary. Looking at the other tables in the restaurant, it appeared that everyone was getting the same things, and I was pretty sure we’d been duped. When the bill for lunch for six people arrived and it was almost $200, I was sure we’d been duped and I was ashamed that I didn’t have enough in my wallet to cover my full portion of the bill. And when I looked up and saw Guy Fieri’s face on the wall, I knew why this happened. When your restaurant is full of tourists on vacation who saw you on the Food Network, you don’t really need to worry about repeat customers, so you can cook what you want, rack the bill up to what you think they can afford to pay (and there’s always that ATM across the parking lot in case you overestimated the cash in their wallets), and shake their hands on the way out and act like you’ve given them an experience.
I don’t what makes me angrier: that I spent nearly three times as much as I’d planned on freaking lunch or that I walked out from a lunch that was three times as expensive as I’d planned still hungry due to the aforementioned not wanting to take more than what I perceive to be my fair share of anything. Damn family style bullshit. Jason left stuffed to the gills because he ate everything that was left over on every plate out of fear of hurting the owner’s feelings. Given his business model, I don’t think he really cares one way or the other. What I do know is that we now refer to expenditures in terms of Thai Lunches For Six. Buying a new car? The payment is only one and a half Thai Lunches per month! Going on a trip? The hotel is only one half Thai Lunch per night! Movie night? We can get two tickets and a soda that rivals Lake Michigan in volume for 15% of a Thai Lunch. What a value!
One of my thirty-three goals to accomplish this year was to take an early morning hike that ended with a sunrise view, and I felt that doing so while in Hawaii would be one of my best opportunities for a number of reasons, namely the relative ease of getting high enough to get a decent view of the horizon, and the time difference working to my advantage since I’m not what anyone would call a morning person*. After a bit of research, I determined that the hike to Makapuu Lighthouse would be the ideal morning route–only about two miles round-trip with a relatively low chance of serious injury due to hiking in the dark with a flashlight. Since I was staying on the North Shore and Makapuu Lighthouse Point is on the opposite side of the island, I set my alarm clock for 3:30 so I’d arrive at the end of the trail with plenty of time before magic hour began.
Sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night so as not to wake the others was an unusual experience. Stars glittered thickly across the sky, and I saw the Milky Way for the first time. The drive across the island was quiet, but not deserted. What was deserted was the park: it doesn’t officially open until 7am, half an hour after the sunrise. The reviews I’d read told me to expect this, to park down the road a bit, and to clamber through the gate to access the trailhead, so that’s what I did. It’s eerie hiking in the dark. Your light bobs across the trail, and you become keenly aware of everything you can’t see–all of the eyes that could be watching you approach, taking advantage of the fact that you’re on unfamiliar terrain, and circling behind you to crack you on the head and take your stuff. Yes, I have been watching too much Walking Dead recently, why do you ask?
The hike itself was easy, and ended with a rocky area that led to a few observation platforms. I arrived well before sunrise, so I had a drink of water and sat down to wait. All of a sudden, Jason said “That’s a big bird!” I saw its dark brown back half swooping around the platform and looked to see where it might have gone to get a better look. Evidently, it wanted a better look at us as well, because the next thing I knew, this enormous owl was hovering above us and darting down as if to attack. I threw my hands over my head in a defensive posture that can only be described as “horrified flailing” and immediately regretted the owl-taunting I’d engaged in recently. It swooped around us again and I seriously prepared myself to fight an owl with my purse. It pump-faked at us again and then flew away. I remained paranoid for the rest of the hike. Was there a nest nearby? Was I inadvertently getting closer to it? It was one of those rare moments in life where you hope to not find something. You want the cancer scan to be clear, the house to have gone undisturbed in your absence, and the attack owl to be anywhere other than where you are.
Eventually, I saw another spot of light moving up the trail, which confirmed my earlier suspicions about how easy it is for others to see and track a light while the carrier of the light has no idea that they’re being observed. I watched them until they made their way to the other platform. By that time, golden light had begun creeping over the horizon. As it grew closer to dawn, more and more people arrived, much too talkative for this early in the day. What never really arrived was the sunrise. It got progressively brighter, but a cloud wall obscured the actual sunrise, and shortly after that, fog rolled in and it began to rain. By the time we made it back down to our car, the parking lot was packed full of cars and tour buses, and I was glad I’d gone before the rest of the world was awake.
It was an amazing trip–just watch out for the owl.
*I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve said to myself before going to sleep that I was going to start getting up early and exercising in the mornings, but I can tell you that when every single one of those mornings has come, I responded to my previous day’s resolve with “ugh, no” and burrowed deeper into the covers.
The best part about owning your own property (I prefer to be called a land baron) is that you can customize everything to your liking. I know nothing about this little Golden Gate bridge that’s spanning a pond on private property in Ridgefield other than the fact that I love it, and I think some giant koi would take the whole thing to the next level. Or maybe some other wee versions of American landmarks? Or, I guess they could keep it the way it is. That’s fine, too.
Little Shop of Hairs is the most delightful name for a salon ever. EVER.
I made a special trip to The Candy Basket to see what they were claiming is the world’s largest continuous chocolate fountain. Their claim may hinge on the word “continuous” as it’s definitely not as large as the Guinness-verified Bellagio chocolate fountain. Even “continuous” is a stretch since it’s not actually working right now, and according to the employee at the shop, hasn’t worked for a while. Boo! Hiss!
Dear Portland, I fixed your sign. You’re welcome. Everyone who counts loves Ned Flanders!
* I tried to visit the Rimsky-Korsakoffee House as I’d heard it praised as something that was helping to keep Portland weird. Unfortunately, it was packed full and was so hot that I couldn’t bear to stay inside (I know, what a delicate flower). Apparently the bathroom is pretty creepy, but there was also a line for that, and I draw the line at waiting in line to look at a bathroom.
* At one point during my trip, I was getting ready to leave my parallel parking space when a man stepped behind the car and stooped over in the street. I assumed he was tying his shoe, and since he was so close to the car and I needed to back up to exit the space, I decided to wait until he was done because I didn’t want to scare him. I know that I would be startled to see a car backing up on me, especially if I wasn’t sure they’d seen me behind them. But he seemed to be taking an awfully long time. “What is he doing? Relacing both shoes? Why would be doing that in the street when there’s a sidewalk right there?” I thought. All I could see in the rearview mirror was the back of his head and his stooped shoulders. So imagine my surprise when he turned around, locked eyes with me in the mirror, and screamed “GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME”. I was definitely in a hurry to comply, and as we pulled out, Jason informed me that the guy was actually setting up a tea party in the street. But by the time I rounded the block, his tea party was packed up and he was gone, less than a minute later. I’m calling it now: I just had an encounter with a tea-pouring ghost.
* I’ve been using DogVacay to find hosts for Napodog while I’m out of town. His regular hosts, whom I love, were unavailable for this trip, so I chose someone else in the area. This is the first time that I’m less than thrilled with the outcome–I didn’t know when I booked that there would be so many other dogs there. When I dropped him off, there were six, and the host indicated that more would be arriving. The house was torn up and it reeked. I didn’t feel great about leaving him there, but I didn’t really have a choice, and he seemed to be getting along with the other dogs. When I came to pick him up (a bit earlier than I’d indicated I would), they’d had him shut up in the garage by himself. His bark is hoarse, like he’d spent a lot of time protesting something. How long had he been in the garage? Were they planning on keeping him in there until the time they expected I’d be back? The smell of the house had also rubbed off on him and his bed. I can’t know if they mistreated my buddy but I don’t feel good about it and I will absolutely never bring him back to that host. That’s the thing about DogVacay: you don’t really know what you’re getting until it’s too late, even with reviews, because it’s awkward to leave a negative review publicly for a person and their house, especially if you’re only operating on a suspicion of what went on while you were away.
So many of Portland’s weird, iconic monuments to peculiarity have closed shop, moved, or disappeared. The 24 Church of Elvis closed for good in March 2013 after 30 years in four different locations. The Velveteria Museum of Velvet Paintings has packed up and moved to Los Angeles. The Faux Museum closed in January of this year. The Portland Alien Museum has closed to the public, ostensibly to deal with a predicted universal extinction event in 2016. The World Famous Woodstock Mystery Hole has stopped giving tours. That’s what makes it extra delightful that the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium has wholly embraced the slogan to “Keep Portland weird”, with their blend of outsider art, interactive displays, curios, and a good old-fashioned eating challenge: ice cream with a healthy sprinkling of insect larvae.
I loved the Peculiarium. LOVED IT. From its alien autopsy room to its videotaped lecture on the diseased zombie brain to its busty John Waters to its snarky signs to its absolutely amazing creepy dollhouse, the Peculiarium was everything I hoped it would be and more. I came, I saw, I bought their coloring book, I played with their theremin, and I thought long and hard about their Insect Eater’s Delight packed into a “Cone de Lisa” (aka a waffle cone with milk chocolate and a rice krispy treat inside decked out with sprinkles) but ultimately determined that I just wasn’t ready to eat real insects when just the suggestion of one once made me throw up. Also, I had a lot of doughnuts in there already. So maybe next time! I hope there’s a next time. Portland just wouldn’t be as weird without the Peculiarium.
I’d heard of, but hadn’t seen, the big pair of shoes parked outside Adidas in Portland. I hoped that they were arranged in such a way that a person could conceivably stage a photo to look as though they were tiny with enormous feet. What I found was almost as good–the shoe was easily scalable and practically made for lounging. Now I want a big shoe in my backyard.
It’s exceedingly rare for me to get excited about a pancake. If I’m going to go to the trouble to make breakfast batter at home, that batter is going into a waffle iron for maximum crispiness and nooks for butter and syrup. I am especially loathe to stand in line for a pancake. But I recently heard someone talk about SlappyCakes, and after perusing their menu, determined that it was a pancake experience worth waiting for. I made a point of getting up at the asscrack of dawn (aka 7am, the struggle is real) to get to SlappyCakes before they opened. Even so, there was already a line forming when we arrived.
I’d told Jason that we were going to a pancake place and about the different batters and toppings, but I neglected to tell him the most important part–that you cook the pancake yourself on a griddle at your table, Korean BBQ style.
We ordered two different pancake batters — buttermilk and chocolate, as well as the two toppings each of us was most interested in. I went with the lemon curd and dried cherries, and Jason chose bananas and nutella. For good measure, we also split a side of chicken fried bacon. Everyone has seen those crazy detailed art pancake videos that are continually making the rounds on facebook. Overconfident, I decided that I was a budding pancake artist as well, and for some reason, decided that my first glorious pancake creation would be a worm.
My “worm” resembled nothing so much as a hot turd, and it was with said turd on the griddle that our waitress came back and saw the horror that I’d wrought. She glanced at it and politely asked us if she could bring us anything. Her eyes said she was thinking that she probably couldn’t, if that was what we were into. TurdCake, however ugly, was delicious. The chocolate pancake batter was excellent, and I bet that it would have been even better in combination with the peanut butter batter. The dried cherries, which are kind of ‘meh’ when cold, are soft and delightful when baked into a pancake.
My second attempt at pancake ‘art’ went much more smoothly. I had so much fun making pancake creations, and I could have kept going save for the fact that both of our stomachs were completely out of room.
Lack of room didn’t stop us from strolling into Salt & Straw about an hour later, though. We’d made an attempt late in the evening the night before and were stymied by the line that stretched around the damn block, like they were giving out ice cream for free with $100 bills tucked into the cones. Since we found ourselves in the area for something else post pancake binge, we decided to see what the line situation was like at 10am. As it turns out, the line situation is nonexistent, so should you find yourself with a desire for Salt & Straw but no patience for lines, you may need to develop a taste for early morning ice cream.
We split a “flight” of ice cream — four kid-size scoops, which were still about twice as large as I expected them to be. The flavors we chose were Double Vanilla, Strawberry Balsamic, Honey Bear, and Gummy Wummy Surprise. Jason is the vanilla guy, mostly I think vanilla is vanilla is vanilla. Honey Bear is the reason I sought out the NW 23rd shop–it’s vanilla custard with chocolate honeycomb pieces and edible glitter, and it was surprisingly my least favorite of the bunch. I love chocolate honeycomb, but there was just something about it that tasted off to me. Gummy Wummy Surprise Sorbet tasted exactly like a gummy bear. It was eerie. And Strawberry Balsamic ended up being my favorite, with its jammy strawberry flavor with that hit of balsamic richness at the end that gave the flavor incredible depth.
After all this, I wasn’t hungry for about twelve hours–the surprise was that I was hungry again that day at all. Or that week.