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Young Man Went West #27: Hills and Valleys

First of all, I hope you had a happy Halloween.  I know I did; lots of libations, buddies, and crazy crowds everywhere.  My relatively obscure Captain Hammer costume was recognized by only four other people, one of whom was also Captain Hammer.  I liked it that way; the less people that recognize you, the more awesome it is when one does.

But this isn’t a post about Halloween.  This is a post about the week before and how tremendously bipolar it was.  One day of amazing activity was followed by another of complete boredom, only to be followed with more awesome.  It went back and forth like that for a while, hills and valleys.  Let’s start with Wednesday. . .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 = Hill

My Wednesday began before the sun rose.  A phone call from my friend Ernie woke me up around 4:30.  I gladly jumped in his car and we took off toward the other side of the island.  Now, what could possibly motivate me to whisk away in the early day?  Stairway to Heaven.

Not even halfway to the top and look how high we are!

That’s right, sirs and ma’ams, I finally had the opportunity to check off one of the biggest items from my Hawaii Bucket List.  The adventure started off a little rocky, in that the only entrance we knew about was a small hole above the locked gate in a chained link fence.  The fence was at the end of a quiet residential street.  Ernie climbed over and through first, causing all the dogs on that street to start barking.  Great.  Now, not only did I have to climb over, too, but I had to do it while the dogs and a few neighbors were aware of our activity.  I’d love to say I slipped through like a ninja and stole away into the darkness.  Instead, my shorts got caught in the fence.  There I was sitting, wiggling, waiting for some angry neighbor to pull me down.  Fortunately, after what seemed like five minutes, I managed to break free before anyone came over.  All it cost me was a hole in my shorts.

After that, it was relatively smooth sailing.  We climbed over and under two more fences before we found the bottom of the stairs.  We eventually ascended above the highway.  I kept turning around to stare at the trail of headlights snaking through the mountain.  It was beautiful.  The higher we climbed, the brighter it got, as if the sun was trying to keep with us.  After a while, we couldn’t even see the highway anymore.  Then it got to the point where we couldn’t see much of anything; we literally walked into the clouds.  Visibility dropped to about thirty feet.  All that existed was the immediate next flight of stairs.  And yourself.

There were several platforms along the way, each one looking like the end of the hike until we reached it and discovered more flights of stairs.  It reminded me of the movie Return of the King: multiple times you think it’s about to end, but it just keeps going.  There was one platform that had an abandoned building and I thought for sure we had reached the top. . . until we found a horizontal walkway in the back that kind of curved around the peak.  There waiting for us were more steep flights of stairs.

There was another abandoned building at the real top of the hike.  It felt like I was in a different world.  When you’re face to face with clouds, you see how fast they really move.  For one brief moment, the clouds opened up and we could see all the way down to the coast.  I could have been Zeus at that moment.

Shortly after arriving, two more groups of hikers reached the top.  They were all super friendly.  That’s one of the things I love about hiking: you automatically have a bond between anyone you run into and it’s never weird to immediately strike up a conversation.  We actually hiked the entire way down with one of the groups, a threesome consisting of a young guy, his sister, and her friend.  He lives here now, but is originally from Seattle.  The two girls were visiting.  I took our meeting as another sign to move to Seattle.  Oh, and remember those fences we climbed over on the way up?  They showed us how to walk around them. . .

We all reached the bottom before noon.  BEFORE NOON!  How could I explore so much and still have more than half the day to burn?!  It was crazy.  The rest of the day included lunch at Bubba Gump’s (big meal, cheap price) and then a hospital waiting room.  Ernie had trouble coming down from the roof of the building at the top of the hike and busted his knee open.  He actually descended the whole way down using the handrails more than the stairs.  Needless to say, most of his limbs were useless before the end of the day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010 = Valley

I stayed in my apartment all day until I left for work at 4:30.

Friday, October 22, 2010 = Hill

I went on another hiking adventure, this time with my friend Anthony Gonzalez.  And this time we started AFTER sunrise.  Our destination was Maunawili Falls in Kailua.  Since neither of us drive, we took several buses there.  That in itself was its own impromptu adventure. . .

It was Anthony’s first time to Maunawili, but I had gone once before, and by bus, so I was semi confident in our ability to take public transit there.  The first leg was no problem.  We departed from Ala Moana on the 56 all the way to Kailua, then waited at the bus stop for the 70.  It was supposed to come about five minutes later, but when it didn’t, I checked the schedule on my phone and discovered it would be there for another twenty.  I cursed Google Maps as we took advantage of our newfound time to grab some snacks.

The 70 should have taken only eight minutes to get to Maunawili, but for some reason, it was leisurely driving through downtown Kailua and past Lanikai beach.  Only when we hit a loop and turned around did I realize what went wrong: I had us waiting for the 70 on the wrong side of the road!  The 70 that was supposed to show up five minutes later probably did, but we were looking down the opposite direction.  To add insult to injury, after we came back and passed our original stop, the only other stop before Maunawili was in a military base.  Since we had no military ID, we had to wait on the side of the road for ten minutes until it came back out.  I added over an hour of travel time because I assumed Google Maps would make a mistake before I would.

The hike itself was fantastic.  It wasn’t as muddy as my first time, so we didn’t have to take each step with caution.  Compared to Stairway, Maunawili is barely a hike.  It’s more like a stroll through a pretty jungle.  The highlight of the journey is the small waterfall at the end.  The watering hole is small but deep and surrounded by high cliffs.  As soon as I got there, I climbed up and around the left to a ledge forty-fifty feet above the water and jumped off.  If I wasn’t peer-pressured by my roommates to jump it last time I was there, there was no way I was going to do it alone out of curiosity.  But I had done it, so I couldn’t wait to do it again.  Exhilarating as it was, that first jump ended with my butt squarely smacking the surface.  I had bruises all over my rear end for the next week.  Thankfully, I hit the water feet first next three times I jumped.  I also jumped off the shorter waterfall ledge several times with Anthony and some other hikers we met.

Off the short jump with Other Anthony


Of course, we ended up at Bubba Gump’s afterward for some food.  You’d think I’d want to avoid that place as often as possible, but the truth is Bubba’s is where most of my friend are most of the time, so I end up cruising by on my days off.  My 70% discount is a motivating factor as well.

Saturday, October 23, 2010 = Valley

I again stayed in all day until I left for work at 4 pm.  I was even too lazy to find somewhere to watch the Cal football game that morning.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 = Hill

No hiking this day, but still filled with fun activities.  To preface, I am on what’s called the Safety Team at work.  Basically, it’s a group of employees who meet once a month to discuss how to make the restaurant accident-free.  As a reward for staying 300 days safe, we were given the day off and taken on a Safety Outing to Sandbar in Kaneohe Bay.  Boats, booze, and buddies?  Safety Team rules!

Our manager provided the boat that took us out into the middle of the bay where, almost phenomenally, the sand rises to the surface for a stretch of maybe 300 yards.  At different times of the year, the sand is either right above or right below the surface.  The day we went out there, it was just below, which I prefer as it looks like everybody’s walking on water.  As the day progresses, more and more boats gathe and people get out, walk around, and mingle.  Imagine that!  People walking from boat to boat, offering each other beer and food while blasting music.  It trips me out every time I go.

Kelli, my Thizzface, and our boat in the back

Foodwise, we started off with some lau lau, rice, and curry chicken.  Halfway through the day, we started up the grill and barbecued some hamburgers.  Between that and afterwards, there was plenty of chips to snack on.  After we departed, most of the team went to Haleiwa Joe’s, but I joined my family for Sunday dinner.  Since it was my cousin Ellis’ birthday, we went out to eat at delicious Japanese restaurant, then returned to Waipio for dessert.  Damn, I guess it’s a good thing I did all that hiking to counteract Sunday’s food intake!


Monday, October 25, 2010 = Valley

I know I worked at 5 PM that day, so I’m pretty sure I did nothing at all until then.

During my “valley” days, I started to think that I have too much time on my hands.  Even if I work, I still look for ways to fill the hours before my shift.  That’s when I decided to get another job.  I applied for Barnes and Noble.  I figured, it’s right next to Bubba’s, I go there all the time, and a lot of my money magically turns into DVDs.  I might as well get paid to be there.

Although, with a second job, how rare will my “hill” days become?


She would make a good hiking buddy. . .



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Young Man Went West #25: Bucket List

First of all, like in the good ol’ days, I’m writing this entry directly on Facebook and then pasting it on Young Man Went West later.  I’ve found it easier to insert photos in a Facebook book than a WordPress blog.  And there will be plenty of photos.

Some of you may have noticed the Hawaii Bucket List I have on my profile page.  I don’t plan on “kicking the bucket” anytime soon, but I do plan on moving, and there are certain things I’d like to do before I leave.  The degree to which I actually want to do each of these things varies; the common thread here is the need–nay, the feeling of obligation I have to complete each task.  For example, lying in my deathbed many years from now, I’d be content having never swam with dolphins, but I feel obligated to do so because, well, I’m in freakin’ Hawaii and that’s what people do while they’re here.  Seize the opportunity when you can, right?  On the other hand, I want to hike Stairway to Heaven for the sake of hiking Stairway to Heaven.

Let’s get this party started (and by “party” I mean a thorough explanation of each item that helps comprise my Bucket List)!

Visit the Honolulu Zoo

Which one’s wilder?

Status: Completed

When: July 26, 2010

Reason: For nearly a year, I lived no more than a 15-minute walk from the Honolulu Zoo.  And for nearly a year, I never went in.  I had no desire to do so.  Nothing against animals: they’re interesting, entertaining, and usually delicious, but I can see pretty cool animals outside of the zoo.  For free!  Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I lived so close I couldn’t not go in (and yes, the double negative was necessary).

One day, my good friend Amanda expressed an interest to go before she left the island.  If I only kinda wanted to visit the zoo, I might as well do it in great company.  So we went, and you know what I discovered?  It wasn’t that great.

The most interesting picture I took was of a lizard I found on a fence.

I definitely wasn’t the worse zoo I’ve been to (that award goes to the zoo in Morelia, Mexico), but it was nothing compared to the animal wonderlands I grew up with: Marine World Africa USA and the San Diego Zoo.  This one was, quite literally, just a stroll in a park.  Most of the animals were either sleeping or hiding, but the ones you could see were just standing there.  I know, what else are they going to do, right?  I made me put the whole idea of a zoo in perspective: sure, it was a great idea back in the day before mass media, back when people only heard stories of strange creatures from far away lands.  But now, what’s the point?

Despite my critique of the zoo, it was still a completely enjoyable day.  I got to hang out with one of my favorite coworkers before she abandoned us.  And, she was on a Bucket List mission of her own: see the endangered Nene Goose (the Hawaiian State Bird).  Status?  Completed.


Learn to Surf

With Amanda and Benj in Waikiki

Status: Completed

When: Sometime this summer

Reason: Hawaii is the surfing capital of the world!  My cousin Jon once told me of a time he ran into some Europeans who loved to surf, but obviously couldn’t do it often.  When they found out my cousin was from Hawaii, they asked if he surfed a lot.  They were appalled when he answered in the negative.  Therefore, I owed it to stranded surfers everywhere to learn the sport while I’m here.

I’ve only gone out maybe three or four times, but every time I went, it was flat and crowded.  I spent maybe 98% of that time just sitting on the board, waiting.  And burning.  Of course, they weren’t bad experiences.  Like the zoo trip, my surfing sessions were always in good company.  My friends and coworkers Amanda and Kylene were the first ones to take me out.  Harry took me out, too, and Benj joined once.  You know what all those people have in common?  They’ve all left the island!  I haven’t gone surfing since. . .

Learn to Surf Well

Obviously not me
Status: Not yet complete

Reason: Go big or go home, yeah?  I need at least one surf session of which I can be proud.


This one IS me!

Status: Completed

When: February 13, 2010 (the day after my 23rd birthday)

Reason: Skydiving has been on my bucket list for life for a long time.  If I was going to do it, I’d at least want a nice view.  So, yes offense to Lodi, I held out for the North Shore.

I went with former roommates and friends Thomas, Young, Mose, and Amy.  It was a fun trip (all trips to North Shore are fun) and a beautiful day, but the activity itself was a little underwhelming.  Because I’ve been aware of the relative safeness of skydiving for many years, I wasn’t nervous at all.  Additionally, it seemed a bit unreal.  While straddling the crowded bench in the plane as it gained altitude, I was actually worrying about not worrying, because that probably meant I wasn’t “in the moment.”  Standing at the door, I saw the endless blue ocean, heard the wind rushing by my face, and felt. . . not much.  Impatience, at least, for the guy to count down to one.  I was getting bored standing there.

This was before the jump. I think I faked this smile, too, since I wasn’t “in the moment.”

Finally, we jumped.  I remember thinking it was kinda cool to see the underside of a flying plane.  I remember how quickly my mouth dried up when I stuck my tongue out at the photographer.  I remember thinking that, with nothing visually rushing past me, I really couldn’t grasp the fact that I was falling.  That’s relativity for you.  The most prominent memory of skydiving I have, though, was how uncomfortable that harness felt between my legs.  When I looked down, I didn’t for a second think, “Oh man, that’s a long fall.”  Instead, I thought, “Oh man, it’s gonna be a while before I can take this harness off.”  On the ground, my instructor and photographer were super psyched, asking me how amazing I thought my first time was.  I gave as convincing a smile as I could, and feigned an excitement that matched the kind they, I imagine, have to muster every time they jump with a new client.

Or maybe they just really, really like wearing those harnesses.

Party at Sandbar in Kaneohe Bay

Didn’t bring my camera with me, so I snatched this from the Internet.

Status: Completed

When: late August 2010

Reason: A sandbar is a trippy place to have a party.  Way out in the middle of a large bay, accessible by boat only, is a sandbar: a stretch of land that rises from the bottom of the bay.  Depending on the tide, the sand is either right below or right above the surface.  In accordance with centuries-old Hawaiian tradition, men and women find a friend with a boat to shuttle their asses out to the sandbar and down as much beer as they can before the sun sets.  Well, I’m only assuming it’s tradition.

Not too long ago, another coworker and good friend of mine, Katie, invited me to her friend’s birthday party at Sandbar.  From the minute I got there to the minute I left, everybody I met was warm and welcoming.  Maybe it was the phenomenally majestic setting of our meeting ground that put everybody in a good mood.  Or maybe it was just the alcohol.   Either way, I talked story with a lot of interesting people.  I didn’t even go back on the same boat I came on, which was a good thing, because that boat sank when it got back to the dock.

Hike Stairway to Heaven

Dangerous and forbidden. Can’t wait!

Status: Not yet complete

Reason: Hiking is one of the top activities to do in Hawaii, and while I don’t do it nearly as much as I’d like to, it’s always a good time.  It’s good physical activity with beautiful scenery and a sense of accomplishment.  Stairway to Heaven is, to me at least, the Holy Grail of hikes on O’ahu.  Nestled in the familiar steep green mountains, it is dangerous, high, and has recently been closed off.  Of course, the closing off of a hiking trail in Hawai’i is as seriously enforced as the prevention of jaywalking, so that’s not stopping me.  (And, by the way, I jaywalk ALL THE TIME!)

Hike Koko Head

I got this from the Internet, but I did take a similar photo. Everybody does.

Status: Completed

When: Today!

Reason:  In addition to my affinity for hiking as described above, the allure of Koko Head comes from it’s tauntingly close vicinity: it can be seen from the route to Sandy Beach.  The first time I saw it from a car I thought, “Pssh!  I can do that!”  But we’d go to Sandy’s a lot, so eventually my thoughts turned from “I can do that,” to “I need to do that,” to “Why haven’t I done it yet?”  It teased me every time I rode past.

Finally, I got the opportunity to go today.  My friend, Ernie, the wedding photographer I mentioned in past blogs, brought me along.  Koko Head is a relatively short hike that gets pretty steep by the end.  Depending on your athletic ability, it takes anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour.  One follows an out-of-service railroad track straight up, practically using it as a ladder by the end.  At the top are abandoned military bunkers and, on a clear day, a view of some neighboring islands.  Luckily, we went on a clear day.  Stay tuned for the photo album to follow (it should be coming after my zoo album, my skydiving album, and my scuba diving album.  Speaking of which. . . )

Go Scuba Diving

Obviously, I’m not scuba diving, but this was another one of the water activities I did that day (the most fun, IMO).

Status: Completed

When: early September 2010

Reason: Scuba diving is an activity you can only do in select places, and Hawai’i is one of the best.  If you’re going to breathe a limited supply of air through a rented mouthpiece, you might as well do it in a freakin’ pretty ocean.

Thomas, Mose, and I joined Amy for a day of water activities for her birthday.  These kids have taken me to the highest heights and the lowest lows here and I love them for it.  Scuba diving was pretty relaxing, after I learned how to equalize the air pressure in my ears.  If you descend too quickly without “blowing” through your ears, they start to ache really quickly.  I got excited, descending too quickly, and learned the hard way.  It was pretty cool breathing while being completely submerged.  Because I wasn’t holding my breath, I had time to leisurely swim about and explore.  I didn’t realize it’d be a such a different experience.

After the dive, we (and by “we” I mean me and Mose.  Both Amy and Thomas got a little sick from the boat ride.  No, Amy got a little sick; Thomas was nearly dead) rode about Koko Marina on a bumper boat (pictured above) and a banana boat.  Though similar, the bumper boat was definitely the best.  Imagine an air mattress that was completely flat and round.  Now imagine lying on top of it while being pulled by a speeding boat and the only thing to stop you from staying on and crashing into the water at a high speed is the grip you have on a couple nylon handles.  It took some cocking coaxing from the two of us to get the boat driver to hit a high enough speed to throw us off.  Too much fun!  I may have been able to cross “scuba diving” off my list, but that bumper boat was the highlight of my day.

Swim with Dolphins

Took this when we sneaked into Kahala Resort to see the dolphin “lagoon”

Status: Not yet complete

Reason: As mentioned in the introduction, I really only want to do it because everybody else does.  It’s not a peer pressure thing, it’s a carpe diem thing.  Don’t I owe it to dolphin lovers stuck on the mainland to do this while I’m living here?  I think so.  Although, Mose led Thomas and me to the dolphin lagoon at Kahala Resort one day and we got the brochure.  I’m not sure dolphins, as smart and elegant as they are, are worth those crazy high prices.  Why, for a fraction of the lowest price, I could. . .

Swim with Sharks

Maybe I’ll try feeding them poke to make it more interesting.

Status: Not yet complete

Reason: My friend Leslie is visiting next November and she’s dead set on swimming with sharks.  Okay, we won’t be “swimming with” as much as we’ll be “standing in a cage surrounded by,” but still, it’ll be a cool experience.  Maybe.  Hopefully it won’t be as underwhelming as skydiving.  I mean, I could foresee my critical mind liking it to a slightly wetter version of the shark experience observation tanks at a zoo (and you know how excited I get a zoos. . . ).  Maybe I’ll watch the entire Jaws saga before diving in, just to set the mood.

Visit the 5 Other Main Islands

All I need is go! Airlines. . . and a lot more money.

Status: Not yet complete

Reason: The state of Hawai’i is comprised of eight main islands, two of which (Ni’ihau and Kaho’olawe) no one can really visit.  I’d feel like a poser Hawaiian if I left before seeing what else this state has to offer.  O’ahu is definitely the most touristy, the most city-like.  Every time someone makes a comparison between O’ahu and another island, they describe that island as “more laid-back,” “greener,” “prettier,” and in some cases “so boring.”  Having a love for the urban environment, I can see how that last statement might be true, but that won’t stop me.  Sure, I could never live on those other islands, but I can’t wait to visit them.  For those who are familiar with some of the other five (Maui, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Kaua’i, and Big Island), where do you suggest I go?

PS: While researching the other two, I’ve learned that Ni’ihau, while privately owned and usually off-limits, has allowed supervised touring activities for over twenty years.  I’ll see if I can add that to the list.


Before I begin writing my last item, I’d like to direct your attention to part of an entry I wrote almost a year ago:

(From YMWW #6: THE PHOTO ISSUE! October 8, 2009)

I saw this stencil on the wall across the room of the sports bar where I watched the last Cal game (no comment on the game). If you can’t tell, the tree leaves resemble the shapes of the Hawaiian islands. I saw it and was immediately mesmerized. It was like one of those cliche love-at-first-sight moments where our eyes met across a crowded room, but instead of it being the woman of my dreams, it was this. Whatever. Baby steps. Anyway, it gave me a great idea for a tattoo: this design, but with the shape of California as the tree trunk. Maybe I’ll try to fashion roots to resemble my family name, or the shape of the Philippines. Maybe that’s too much. More on that later.

Get a Tattoo

Status: Completed

When: September 20, 2010

Reason: Since late high school or early college, I’ve known that I wanted a tattoo, and quickly decided that it should be a tree.  Not only is a tree representative of family, which I hold as the most important thing in my life, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing, being symmetrically asymmetrical, sometimes left to right, sometimes top to bottom (when roots are included).  Very early sketches I did were chalk-full of hidden symbols representing everything from the letters of my family names to Golden Poppies.  They looked like an amateur version of those hidden picture puzzles from Highlights magazines.  When I discovered that HiLife logo almost a year ago, I knew exactly what my tattoo should be.  I decided that if I made at full year on the island, I would get the tattoo to commemorate that.  Besides, a tattoo isn’t something I’d rush into.

The HiLife Tree cleverly and subtly represents the Hawaiian islands using the symbol (a tree) that I love.  Plus, it’s design easily lent itself to the inclusion of another thing I hold dearly: California.  So, not only did this idea represent the two states I’ve lived in, but also the decision I made to “branch out” to Hawaii (excuse the pun).  It therefore represents this adventure I took and my reasons behind it.  In a broader sense, it represents my attitude about life and how to live it.

Sorry, mom and dad. I know you don’t like tattoos, but I know you trust my motives.

PS: See that star?  It marks the Bay Area, the best place on earth!

PPS: I’ll be the model ending this entry, thank you very much.

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