Not just the heat hit me, but the cost of everything was inflated. I clearly needed to get a job while I searched the docks for a sailboat to Tahiti. Ala Moana shopping mall was looking for seasonal labor of the Christmas holidays so I managed to find a position at Liberty House.
This was not a job that taxed one’s critical thinking skills, or demanded analytical reasoning. Fill the shelves, and then restock filling again with product for all those desperate Christmas customers. All the while I was subjected to the two Christmas songs that repeated over and over and over. I came to hate one of them, “It’s a Small World After All” even though my intent in heading on a global trek was to become acquainted with other cultures. I acknowledged this would take work. It would be complicated and entail risks. Singing the refrain from It’s a Small World was not going to build fences. The saccharine nature of the tune was unbearable.
I had the unenviable task of restocking Playmate puzzles that were a hot item. Miniature pictures of the naked women kept disappearing from under the lids. I was not planning on tracking down the culprits. My vision of a sensual South Pacific indulgence was based on other cultural icons. As a stock boy, I was not getting anywhere closer to this romantic indulgence, skewed as it was by western misconceptions and misappropriations.
The was a real crisis at Christmas time. The trees had not arrived. The freighter was delayed. Ala Moana customers were not happy. The Christmas spirit was fraying by the minute. When the trees finally arrived, the crowd surge looked like the mob who charged the stage at the Rolling Stones concert. Everyone wanted Satisfaction. The fragments of trees were strewn across the pavement like slow groupies. Boughs too disheveled to rate for a swag or wreath, still gave a bit of seasonal joy to those of us not having a very merry Christmas. The scent of balsam, spruce and fir was sufficient to lift our spirits.
Dinner at the hostel included turkey donated from a catering service, pancakes with coconut syrup, potatoes, Wassel and apple pies. Some of us hostelers then headed for the community center for a second feast…and Santa Claus attended.
New Year’s eve was like a war zone, booms of explosions thundering and echoing off the high rise hotels along the bay. The bangs became so frequent that it sounded like a huge rain squall. Next day everyone headed for the Sunshine Festival at Diamond Head in the crater. Folk and rock bands blasted from several stages. One booth dispensed free condoms at a population control table, and at an anti-abortion table, one could gaze upon a fetus in a bottle.
Every few days I wandered along the marina docks to check on possible boats heading to the South Pacific. Not being a year of the Trans-Pacific race, the number of boats that might be crossing the Equator was limited. One day I heard my name called as I strolled the dock and, amazingly enough, it was a college classmate who happened to recognize me. His last name was Hornblower. Now that may not mean much to many, but the Horatio Hornblower novels about sailing the high seas were an addiction for me. My father loved them and I loved them. It is a name that is hard to forget.
Paul had invested in an old working schooner moored in the marina and invited me on board. Given its wide berth, and heavy beams, this was designed for freight hauling in the South Pacific. Paul was determined to slowly renovate and take it back on the high seas.
I was invited to stay on board and I took him up on the offer since the hostel was packed. Though furnishings were spare, they did have a piano below deck, beds for six, T.V. plus a stove and small oven. It looked like this was as close as I was going to get to setting out on an ocean voyage. I did find one sailboat that was headed to Tahiti but it had several drawbacks. The owner wanted me to pay my way and the boat was a homemade catamaran. It looked like the deck just might separate from the twin hulls in a storm. Not the way I wanted to go.
My stay on board did not last long. Paul’s fellow crew members thought I was a narc, probably because I did not smoke dope with them and my look was still pretty collegiate, not seafarer in manner or style. I had enough money to buy a ticket south but Tahiti was a $100 more than a flight to American Samoa so I settled on the latter. In the meantime, I hauled my backpack out of the schooner and flew to the Big Island. My only regret in leaving was not being able to drop by the sailboat that two young beautiful women owned. I was infatuated with both…yet they were a couple. They were my Sirens and I had to tear myself away. This was to be forever unrequited love.
I spent a couple of nights around and up on Mauna Kea. Alone one evening before the ascent, the wild boar cries were haunting…the sound of lost souls wandering the wasteland. The hike up from the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa was not anywhere near the arduous climb of Mt Everest. Though it is 13,796 ft above sea level, from its base it measures 32,696 feet as the tallest mountain on earth, so it was a minor accomplishment summiting. The landscape was otherworldly. It was a moonscape…except for the snow.
I hitched a ride down thanks to a resident scientist. He said they never give rides to those climbing up, but going down is another story.
My next camp site was on Kealakekua Bay nor far from where Captain Cook met his end in a scuffle with locals. Swimming in that bay is surreal as you float over the abyss of the old volcano. I am a strong swimmer yet the feeling is unsettling as you move from lapis blue green water with crystal clear views of the sandy floor, to a dark blue pool and a bottomless pit. I saw a beautiful 118’ ketch that has anchored in the bay. From my campsite, I looked closer and there appeared to be a crew of men and women…all naked. A sailor making a supply run invited to come aboard, so I swam out and hauled myself up. This was the Zaca previously owned by Erroll Flynn and acquired by one of the still surviving Pranksters. I kept my swim trunks on but most everyone else on board wandered around naked and brown as the teak deck. It was an awesome moment. They were heading out to Honolulu for the Rolling Stones concert. I also had tickets and so requested passage. To clinch the deal, the crew said I would need to locate a brick of dope on arrival in Honolulu. Now I knew some guys in the marina that could probably provide the connection but I was not about to put them in jeopardy. The Sirens once again called, but I jumped ship and swam to shore. It was shame, since I found out later that after they arrived in Honolulu, they gave the Rolling Stones a ride.