Day 10-11: Lunch w/Justin Todd in L-Mo, then off to the SF w/Casey Cochran. Met up w/Nate Visconti, Jake Sorensen, Jessi Bucey, Sabeen Knows Techno, Kathryn Woodworth, Anna Felver, Matt Felver, and others. Ate, skated, drank. Woke up early to catch a plane to Maui. Left the airport, met a friend, ate free food. Back to Honolulu. . .
Though Christmas had wrapped up and I was getting on a plane on the 27th, I took full advantage of the 26th in terms of seeing people and going places. My day started with lunch at IHOP with Casey and our good buddy Justin. Justin is a busy, busy man with like ten jobs and fifty side projects, so he couldn’t stay too long or come with us to our next destination: the City. Casey and I took BART to San Francisco where we planned to go ice skating in Union Square with some high school friends. Along the way from the Embarcadero station to Union Square, we met up with Nate. Each of my friends was glad the other guy wasn’t going to skate either, for neither could/wanted to.
While waiting in a short but slow line for a chai tea latte and cannoli (sad news: they had no cannoli, so I got a random, twisty pastry), Jake and Jessi arrived. I couldn’t hang out with them just once. More good news for Casey and Nate: neither Jake nor Jessi were skating either. That’s okay, my skating friends were still coming. I was just glad Casey wasn’t going to be hanging by himself outside the rink.
Finally, Sabeen and Anna showed up, as did Anna’s brother, Matt. The three of them just come from a performance of The Nutcracker. I would have joined them, but $100 a ticket was a little too steep for a show. I’ll just YouTube it.
We were nine-people strong with over an hour to kill (our tickets were for a specific timeslot), so we decided to grab some nostalgia-infused burgers at Lori’s Diner, a ’50s-style restaurant. During our two-block journey there, Anna’s boyfriend and his buddy joined us, so we were a party of twelve going into the poor diner (the extra seat was for Kate, who was joining up with us later). It actually turned into a party of thirteen because a friend of Anna’s boyfriend’s buddy came along. The sheer volume of surrounding friends–from as long ago as elementary school to as recent as right then–put a smile on my face. I was drunk off euphoria.
(Just as a guide, here’s how I group everybody: Casey–elementary-high school; Sabeen, Anna, Kate–high school; Nate, Jake, Jessi–college. The mixing of friends makes me happy, too.)
As a server, I empathized with our waiter when we asked for split checks. He was happy to do it, but I drew him a diagram anyway. I was pretty happy with the diagram, actually, which included a representation of the table and the number of seats around it, the different paying groups numbered and divided by lines, with reference points for orientation, i.e. stairs are on this side, giant airplane to the right, pie shelf to the left, etc. It was probably the smoothest I’ve paid for a meal in a group that big.
After dinner, we finally took to the rink. Half of us, anyway. The ice, however, was crowded with amateurs. I’m not even sure if what I did was skating or more just standing in a forward motion. During skate trains and newbie dodging (I imagined I was Han Solo navigating an asteroid field), my friend Juliana finally met up with us. She’s a friend from college, so it worked out perfectly that those standing on the sideline were Jake, Jessi, and Nate.
The sideliners eventually took off for a nearby bar. After a few more minutes of ice rink traffic jam, I joined them. Everyone else, determined to skate every minute they paid for, joined in about an hour later. The bar we ended up in was an Irish pub about half a block from Union Square. We got a nice little corner with a long booth and were waited on by a crazy, old Irish lady. I think she liked me.
In pairs and groups, my friends started leaving little by little. For every friend I reunited with during this trip, I had to say goodbye to all over again. Eventually, it was just me and Casey driving back to Livermore from the BART station (luckily we got a ride there and didn’t have to take BART). Okay, it was more Casey driving and me falling asleep in the passenger seat. That Irish pub had good beer. I needed all the sleep I could get because I had a 7:40 AM flight to catch the next morning.
For some reason, the cheapest flight back to Honolulu included a three-hour layover in Maui. Didn’t bother me, though. For one, I’d never been to Maui, and two, the layover was long enough for me to leave the airport (one of my requirements for having visited a place). As my days left in Hawaii become fewer–and my off-season tip income gets smaller–the reality of completing my Hawaii bucket list seems further away. One goal is to visit the five other main islands. I was determined to leave the airport to check off one-fifth of an item on that bucket list.
I hesitated at the exit gate, not sure where to go, what to see, or if I had enough time to come back and stand at the checkpoint. But then I left. Who cares what I’m not sure about? I couldn’t come this close to another island without leaving the airport. Bottom line. I pulled out my laptop and looked on Google Maps for anything nearby. I was this close to cabbing it to Bubba Gump’s, but that was in the main tourist city of Lahain, which is on the west side. I was in Kahului on the north side. Granted, it wouldn’t be too long of a taxi ride, but every minute counted in this layover. Luckily, something in Kahului part of the map caught my eye: Whole Foods Market.
It took under ten minutes and less than ten dollars to get there by taxi. I was excited by the prospect of seeing my old friend and coworker An Qi (whom you may remember from YMWW #13) at the Kikka Sushi stand inside. If she worked here as often as she did in the Honolulu store, I was confident she’s be behind the counter when I arrived. And she was.
An Qi was pleasantly surprised and a little confused to see me. She was so excited, she bought me lunch. It had been a while since I chowed down on the Kikka Sushi lunch special. We talked for a while outside about her lazy coworkers and how Maui differs from Oahu. She eventually had to go back inside, so I wandered around the outdoor Maui Mall for a bit. It was small and empty. I got bored right away and spent the next half hour on my laptop.
Luckily, An Qi convinced her friend to drive me back to the airport at the start of his lunch break. At first, the guy seemed a little annoyed albeit willing, but by the time we started driving, he became very talkative. He warmed up as soon as he found out I was a Filipino from the mainland, just like him. I told him about my current wandering lifestyle and he told me all about his past jobs and relationships, and what ultimately drove him to Maui. During the last few minutes to the airport, he started telling me about this one flight he was on where the engines failed. He was sure he was going to die. I was sure that wasn’t a story you tell somebody while dropping them off at the airport. If I were anybody else, I’d have probably started freaking out. Instead, I laughed to myself about the morbid irony of the situation.
I parted ways with my five-minute friend, thanking him profusely for the favor. I definitely need to return to Maui to get the full experience, but I’m counting this little stop as a visit. And it was a great end cap to a fantastic trip home. With almost two weeks of memories and much less money in my account, I was ready to hop on that last plane to Honolulu.