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Hell in the Pacific
How many of you have ever been to Hell? I see one or two of you eyeing me with a fair amount of familiar if distant suspicion. Well you can relax, I’m not talking about HELL in the biblical sense, I’m talking about Hell- you know, vacation!
Ah, now I have your attention and I can see a bunch of you nodding your heads in agreement. I know, I know, believe me I know! Yes, that includes your trip to Disneyland, Grandma and Grandpa’s house, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, or was that Yosemite? I always get those two mixed up, Yogi…
Well, as I know it, Hell is a small island about five hours off the California coast, more commonly known as Maui. Yeah, well, don’t let the fact that it is in Hawaii fool you- I’m telling you it’s really HELL and I mean the biblical one. They suck you in with brochures of comely naked and buxom young girls in grass skirts and palm trees and crystal blue oceans and crystal blue skies but I’m telling you, or rather warning you; don’t be fooled! Once you check your luggage, board the plane and have that first drink, you’re really little more than a misinformed galley-slave on a ship of fools headed to nowhere, or in this case, Hell, I mean Maui. Let’s start with the luggage…
Tell me something; how do you lose luggage? It’s a fair question. I understand how one might lose a wallet. You take it out, you open it and remove your charge card, pay for your trinket so you can remember your trip to Hell and then just as absentmindedly, walk away and leave it on the counter. Later, when you reach for it to pay for something you can’t return, like the meal you just ate, you realize it’s not in your back pocket. Then you are reduced to pleading with the Officer as he is leading you away;
“No, really, I have the money!”
I understand how a woman can similarly lose her purse; she opens it and removes her charge card to pay for a trinket, so she can remember her trip to Hell and then just as absentmindedly, walks away and leaves it on the counter. Later, when she reaches for it to pay for something she can’t return, like the meal you both just ate; she realizes it’s not hanging on her shoulder. Then you are reduced to pleading with the Officer as he is leading you away;
“No, really, we have the money!”
But luggage is not a wallet or a purse. Luggage is somewhat bigger. Luggage is to a wallet or a purse what an anchor is to, well I don’t know what, but an anchor is certainly bigger and heavier and it doesn’t come with wheels like your luggage. So, there we were in the San Francisco airport, my wife and I dragging around three anchors with wheels on our way to Hell, excuse me, Maui.
Now then, we boarded a United Airlines one-way flight. That means a flight that does not change planes. It does not stop anywhere in between. There was no layover. We did not stop for gas, directions, meals or to pass ‘Go’ and collect two hundred dollars. The flight did not have more than one destination. It was only going one-way. Hell, for all I know, it wasn’t even coming back! Maybe they were going to park it at the end of the tarmac and plant it full of flowers! And yes, you guessed it; they lost our luggage. Well, they didn’t lose my one little bag. No, they lost both of my wife’s cumbersome oversized and overstuffed suitcases with every stitch of her clothing, except for what she was wearing and worse, but more importantly, all of her toiletries and makeup.
I can see several men in the audience cringing. Yes, boys, that’s right- all of her clothing, toiletries and makeup. Now then, the men in the audience all know that for us, it wouldn’t be a problem. Hey, we have no trouble wearing our underwear two days in a row, reversing them and then wearing them two more days, before we wear no underwear at all for several days. Shaving and bathing during this time is optional. But that’s not true of the ladies, is it, boys? Yeah, they’re already looking at us like we’re aliens. Sorry girls, it’s a man thing and believe it or not, it’s one of the reasons you fell in love with us to begin with- we just aren’t that hard to please and for some of you, that’s a saving grace. Okay, all right, moving right along…
According to our travel agent, a pleasant little nymph, who was really an advance man for Satan in drag, the check-in procedure in Maui would last about as long as it took for the ground crew to get bored or drunk or both. The line for the rental car would take half that time and the whole process would take place under a shaded serenade filled portico in the warm and welcoming sun, to the sounds of island singers with ukuleles and semi-naked girls in Hula skirts swaying hypnotically as they covered us with leis while we swilled piña coladas from coconut shells. HA! Four sweltering hours later in the unrelenting sun with no luggage, no shade, no ukuleles, naked girls or island singers and no piña coladas from coconut shells, we finally had the automotive equivalent of a broken down cart with a donkey that looked as if he had already been given his last meal, cigarette and blindfold. Are you beginning to get a picture?
I recently told my nephew that detail and not brevity is the soul of creative writing but if I keep going here, this is going to make Gone With The Wind look like a short story. I’m not even out of the airport yet! How about if I just hit the highlights? Okay- here goes: we didn’t get my wife’s luggage until midway through the fourth day of a six-day stay. After she tried to drown three times on a beach that was infested to overflowing with biting and stinging sand fleas- I finally got tired of saving my her from the great roaring jaws of the sea and told her that if she got in the water again, I was going to let the Japanese current haul her dead bloated ass all the way to Tokyo harbor- she had to be saved from drowning in the hotel pool by an old fag with a man-purse who found the entire episode hilarious. I’m not a homophobe. That’s what he called himself, an old fag. He and his ‘wife’ or husband or whoever and their little poodle dog were having a great time! It might be noted that they were all hideously drunk, including the little poodle dog, that had mastered the art of walking sideways. They must have flown over on an airline that didn’t lose his ‘wife’s’ luggage. I don’t know for sure but I betting even a ‘wife’ without clothing and toiletries is not any happier a camper on vacation than mine was without hers. Anyone who knows for sure, you’ll be sure to let me know, won’t you?
Boy, were we naive. We thought we were going to be picking pineapples from the side of the road and bananas from the trees. The food was so expensive we couldn’t even eat at McDonalds! We shopped in the cheap seats at the local Safeway and cooked our spare economical meals in our shabby little room. On the one day we spent at the beach, we both got sunburned beyond repair. Well, actually I got burned. I got fairly and completely blistered, even after smearing myself from head to toe with Tom Sawyer’s number 5000 SPF nuclear whitewash! I’m white, okay? Painfully white, as it turns out. My wife didn’t get burned. No, her Mediterranean complexion saved her from that but she did sustain a painful ultra-violet char to the retina of her eyes, which caused them both to swell shut. That night we finally rented a VCR and a classic movie we had seen three times, that obviously my wife was not going to see again, and collapsed into bed, where we fell into a merciful alcohol induced coma while we did not dare to touch each other. Zowie! What a vacation!
Believe me, for brevity’s sake, I’m only telling you the half of it! I could tell you about the car wreck, the washed out road, the golf course and the three broken nine irons, the nightclub, the artichokes, the high school reunion from 1968, or my wife and I, sunburned, swollen and blistered beyond belief, finally laughing so hard at the complete ridiculousness of our situation, that she publicly peed her pants, and I mean all the way, in the lobby of a cheap little dive called the Blue Parrot, in a nearby hotel. And then we had to walk home. I could tell you all of that, but I won’t.
I was all set to just give up and wait our vacation out much the same way as a prisoner of war waits for hostilities between two belligerent countries to cease but my wife, ever the bright eyed optimist, even after all that had befallen us, was determined to have a good time. She returned to our room from the hotel lobby with a handful of brochures of places for us to visit.
“How about this?” She inquired as she handed me a pamphlet on parasailing.
“Oh sure,” I said. “Isn’t this where they hog tie you to a giant kite and drag you kicking and screaming to impossible altitudes behind a speeding boat until you go lose your voice screeching like a little girl? No thanks. I don’t really need to see Hell from the air.”
“Okay…” she said. “How about this one? We can visit the lava fields.”
“Are you stupid?” I asked her. “We’re in HELL and you want to take a tour of where they keep it in the off hours?”
My wife narrowed her swollen unmade eyes and squinted at me real hard. She grinded her teeth and held up the last brochure in her unpolished nails. Now then, remember, this is a woman with no clothes, makeup or toiletries; in other words, no patience.
“Okay,” she muttered, “how about this one?”
I looked at the brochure.
“The Road to Hana?” I asked. “What’s that?”
“It’s a day trip.” She said, reading from the small colorful pamphlet. “It’s a three hour drive through a lush, tropical rainforest, where we stop on the roadside and bathe in the ‘Seven Sacred Pools’ and then have a luau style pulled barbeque pork lunch in the historic and quaint little village of Hana.”
Well, how bad could a three-hour drive through a lush tropical rainforest, where we stop and bathe in something called the ‘Seven Sacred Pools;’ have a luau style pulled barbeque pork lunch in the historic and quaint little village of Hana, be Gilligan? Right about here is where the music should start: “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, that started on this tropic isle…”
An edited version of the Wikipedia entry describes The Road to Hana: “The Hana Highway (also known as the Hana Road or Road To Hana) is the name given to the 68-mile/109km long highway … which connects the population center of Kahului with the town of Hana in east Maui. A typical trip to Hana takes about three hours… the road is very winding, very narrow and passes over 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one-lane bridges, requiring oncoming traffic to yield and occasionally causing traffic jams. There are approximately 620 curves, virtually all of it through lush, tropical rainforest. Many of the concrete and steel bridges date back to 1910 and one notorious bridge, badly damaged by erosion, has been paralleled by a portable steel Bailey bridge erected by the Army Corps of Engineers. Signs on the old bridge warn pedestrians to stay off due to imminent collapse.”
Hooray! This sounding like a lot of fun so far! Several of the more pertinent facts about The Road to Hana were not included in the Hotel brochure. Can you guess which ones? Well, you would be wrong! It wasn’t the ‘very winding, very narrow 59 bridges, 46 of which are only one-lane wide,’ the 620 switchbacks or the dangerous bridges, immanent collapses or traffic jams that turned a three hour trip into four hours, or the fact that they neglected to mention that half of the time one or more of the four wheels of the van you are trapped in is hanging perilously over the side of the road on a thousand foot drop or that the ‘Seven Sacred Pools’ bath lasts about as long as it takes your driver to count,
“Okay, and five, four, three, two, one, and we’re moving…”
What they didn’t tell me about was the three couples we would be traveling with: Larry, Moe and Curley and their wives. They were loud. They were crude. They were married, bored, boorish and drunk. Oh, yeah, this was going to be a great trip.
Half way to Hana, due to alcohol or the incredibly shallow gene pool these people all shared, Larry, Moe, Curley and their wives were all hopelessly car-sick. The one blessing to that was, that it kept them quiet for most of the awful, twisting, turning, churning, winding, bouncing stop and go trip. When we finally got to Hana for lunch, I couldn’t have cared less if it was little more than a wide spot in the road consisting of a run down post office, shabby one-horse roadside restaurant, whose kitchen I’m sure was the very model of cleanliness, and a dilapidated outhouse, which is exactly what it was, if memory serves. All I wanted to do was eat and go home and to tell the truth, as far as I was concerned we could have just as well skipped lunch.
I don’t remember the menu; beyond the pulled barbeque pork- are you surprised? Okay, it wasn’t luau style so much as it was hastily thrown together road-kill style on a couple of rickety tables with Styrofoam plates and paper-cups. Besides the greasy, fat-riddled pulled barbeque pork, which I’m sure settled very lightly on the queasy stomachs of the drunken, hung-over and carsick Larry, Moe, Curley and wives, all I recognized to eat was some honey and molasses baked beans. Far out! Country boys like me can eat anything anyway, right? So, I ate my fill of really bad greasy, fat-riddled pulled barbeque pork and beans. Finally, mercifully our driver was counting,
“Okay, and five, four, three, two, one, and we’re moving…”
There’s nothing like a zero fiber, no vegetable, high fat content and greasy protein rich lunch of pulled barbeque pork and honey and molasses baked beans before piling back into the cramped and smelly confines of a van with six other hopelessly carsick passengers for a protracted traffic jammed, twisting, turning, churning, winding, bouncing stop and go drive home. About an hour into the trip, I had had enough of the lush tropical rainforest and decided to lay down across the seat with my head in my wife’s lap and go to sleep, which is exactly what I did. Well, there is asleep and then there is asleep. I was only asleep- you know, that half-time in between place called la-la land where you know everything that is going on but your control reflexes lag about a second and a half behind real time?
Now then, Larry, who was about as rotten and discolored as a three-day egg in the summer sun, was in the front seat with the driver, just barely hanging on. His wife was sitting in the middle seat with Moe and his wife, who were only slightly better than Larry, with Curley and his wife, who were a lighter shade of green than the others but managing in the succeeding seat, with me asleep on my wife’s lap in the very back. It was right about then that my constitution started working on the zero fiber, no vegetable, high fat content and greasy protein rich lunch of pulled barbeque pork and honey and molasses baked beans.
I knew when it happened but I was helpless to control myself. I farted. I know, I know but I didn’t mean to. I would have held it in if I could have, but remember, I was a second and a half behind my usually good self-control reflexes in la-la land. Besides, it was just a little ‘A’ note squeaker that nobody but my wife even heard. But because of the really bad greasy, fat-riddled pulled barbeque pork and honey and molasses baked beans, they didn’t have to hear it. I knew that the same second and a half lag time that had allowed me to become a helpless victim to my sour stomach would as quickly leave them just as helpless without ever hearing what would surely waft over them like a chemical weapons cloud. And sure enough, like a tidal wave from back to front, a moment later in the seat in front of us, Curley and his wife gagged and simultaneously grunted,
“Oh, my God!”
Larry’s wife, Moe and his wife in the next seat choked and swallowed hard but poor Larry, the three day rotten egg in the front seat didn’t stand a chance. He didn’t puke so much as he exploded all over the dash, heater vent and windshield. He turned to apologize to the driver and then projectile exploded all over her as well. Moe, his wife and Larry’s wife, who in the moments before, had only managed to choke and swallow hard, simultaneously turned and puked the full length of each other, one from one side and then the other two, back to the middle and then back to either side again before Curley and his wife in the seat in front of us were overwhelmed by the stench of my little ‘A’ note squeaker and the sickly sweet smell of bile and stomach acid coming from the front of the van, and vomited into the seats between them. For my part, I didn’t move. I knew as long as I pretended to be asleep, I was safe from the accusing glares that my wife was suddenly enduring. I was content to lie there like a lout, playing possum while my wife took the brunt of the unspoken blame. I’m sorry, but when it comes to taking the responsibility for all but killing a van full of terminally ill car-sick patients, chivalry was dead and I was just as happy to leave my poor wife twisting in the wind, no pun intended.
The puke sloshed van came to a screeching halt and everyone spilled out, literally, and continued to wretch like poisoned dogs, which caused a traffic jam as everyone behind us came to a screeching and halt and upon seeing Larry, Moe, Curley, their wives and our driver on their knees puking their feet through their noses, got out and did the same. I lay still as a corpse in a coffin still pretending to be asleep in the back of the van while my wife mumbled curses and epithets at me under her breath and dug her un-manicured fingernails into my neck.
As you may have guessed, my wife was not pleased with her day trip through the lush tropical rainforest of Maui! As naps go, I could just as well have stayed home and not killed anyone.
When we finally got back to San Francisco, we fell on the ground, kissed the tarmac and resolved never to go on vacation again. We have since gone on other vacations and none of them were as bad as the trip to Maui but I can’t honestly say that any of them were a ratings success. I guess we’re not really the vacationing type, but I have learned not to eat pork and beans and then go to sleep on my wife’s lap in the back of a van with a bunch of drunken carsick morons.
My brother says that, “Adventure is adversity in retrospect.” He’s right. I offer you a retrospective look at the adversity of my life- that which I can laugh at now and call adventure.
Years ago, I saw a cartoon of a man in hell with several other people in a flatboat being piloted down the river Styx, by Death. He was sitting in the back with his legs crossed and he had a small smile on his face.
“My name is Dante,’ he said, “I’m just here to write a book!”
And so am I. It’s called “The DogHouse Manifesto” and what follows are a series of short stories and lies about my life, some real and factual, some fictional- just for the fun of it, I’m not going to tell you which is which; I’ll let you guess- but for the record, this one is factual. I have embellished nothing. If you can track down Larry, Moe, Curley and their wives, or our beleaguered driver on The Road to Hana, they’ll tell you, but don’t mention me, would you: I’d really rather they didn’t know I’m still alive, you know?