I just picked up a second job to augment my insurance income. I'm now working for eight hours each day, plus whatever time I can push myself to put in for my insurance work. The plan is that I'll be working for about 12 hours a day.
60 hour weeks for the next three months, in the hopes that my insurance work will pick up by then.

I'm not complaining or sad about it, but the next few weeks are going to be difficult.

Posted via LjBeetle

What Song Plays During the Apocolypse?

The Fence isn't high enough.

Brother against brother,

they take each others' eyes.

Paging Dr. Hammurabi Strangelove.

And it comes in low,

The mother leaves her children,

And they go their separate ways.

Blackbirds glinting while they fan out.

No longer flapping, they freefall,

Coming to roost where all chickens do.

Our great ship rolls with epiphany.

A batting eye, and we're blinked out.

Everyone imagines themselves at the end,

The undoing of all we have and haven't done.

But no eyes see it, no hand lays flowers down.

The song that plays is the wind on sand-filed bone.

Building Character

When I was a young boy
I cried over scraped knees
I recoiled from isopropyl alcohol
The cold metallic burn inside my skin
Water splashing from my glasses

As I grew slightly older
It was a badge of honor
I came to relish that sting
The firefighter's selective blaze
That kept the forest and fields safe

To suffer it on top of injury
Is less than the fever or pus
That would come otherwise
Honesty is also antiseptic
I have grown to relish it similarly

Posted via LjBeetle

Waking Up at Volcano National Park

We awakened early to the sound of machinery. Work was being done on or around the museum, and we decided it would be a good idea to leave quickly and get out of the workers' way.

Kathy and I felt this was especially prudent, as we were not invited guests of the place where we'd chosen to park.

We dressed and cooked some cheap, red-pink hotdogs ("Hawaiian Special Hot Dogs").

The drive to the Visitors' Center was much shorter than it'd seemed in the dark. Like rising to Island Time, this was a theme that would follow us: the driving in the dark on the Big Island is a torture as protracted and visceral as Scaphism, but the same roads are a pleasure by the light of day.
The Visitors' Center featured a great deal more fun and information than we'd hoped, and also has the most delicious water I've tasted: Hawaiian rain water from the summit of Kilauea.
We filled our canteen, and set off on a few hikes.

Our first destination was the nearby steam vents. En route, we saw a mockup of some traditional Hawaiiana: a woven hut with a sleeping mat of gathered fronds, not too very far from a stone stage with sun-dried and desicated Luau leis and skirts.

From the stage, a magnificent view of the far-off mountains and active crater was presented.

We continued on to the steam vents, which were bristling with a fur of yellow sulfur crystals.

Tales are stuck to the map of that area, as if with pushpins: "So-and-so walked off of the designated trail, broke through a weak spot in the rock, and was boiled to death in the steam which runs through the earth here." There are warning signs, which we heeded, around the vents themselves to this effect. There is a part of the path which is a wooden walkway, floating over the treacherous earth. It's movable so that the trail can be adjusted if a new vent opens. This was the first moment at which I got a sense of the constant peril of the island; its inhabitants are simply clinging to the sides of the churning volcanoes, as they roll off the assembly line.

That was another interesting thing in the Visitor's Center: in 10,000 years, they project another island will be added to the south of Hawaii. The islands themselves drift slightly northwest, the tail of a submarine volcanic comet.

We drove south within the park to the Kilauea Caldera, where they've got the "Shaking Earth" campsite.
Ten minutes south of the lush, green canopy was a barren desert of stone. What little life there was had taken root in deep crags and elbowed its way to the surface.

We admired the tenacity of the trees and shrubs here, and fell asleep under a sky more full of stars than any other I'd ever seen.

First Day: Rainbow Falls and Spending the Night at Volcano National Park

We awakened bright and early at Arnott's. This was the beginning of a theme for us: up at six, back down at 7. We rose and set with the sun.
We woke, ate the few leftovers from Ken's, and got primped and whipped our room into shape. Very like the Japanese Hostel "Roku Roku", after the room was cleaned (and the fridge unplugged), we were directed to take our linens and towels to The Laundry Area. We checked out a little before 10, and waited for our ride to Happy Campers. The hotel staff were kind enough to let us use the lounge while we waited. Teri arrived exactly on time, and scooped us up. Happy Campers Hawaii was exceedingly efficient at setting us up with, and providing orientation for our vehicle. Our RV for this trip was Hina Hina, a silver VW Vanagon from the 1980's. We also got some great tips for local and remote areas to explore from Terri's son, Cody, who explained the finer points of Rainbow Falls and Green Sands beach. He ended the orientation with the addition of The Happy Camper Diary, stored (with a pen of quality) in the glove compartment. "Yeah, feel free to record your trip, or read about someone else's. Be aware though: there are some people who come here... Well I guess they don't feel... Maybe they're feeling intimidated at some of the spots where it's mostly locals. You really don't need to worry, though, there's a lot of 'aloha' on the Big Island."
We drove to Rainbow Falls, just north of Hilo, and bouldered across the pools which form its head. After getting very near to the waterfall that feeds Rainbow, we made the decision to head back. This turned out to be exactly the right time at which to do it, too:
1. We were already tired, and the first hint of fatigue is when you know you have to turn around.
2. We finished exploring just in time to find a place to hose off; any later and we'd have missed the nice folks who then offered us delicious snacks with their compliments.
3. As we stepped into Hina Hina to change, it began to rain quite ardently. If we'd still been trying to scramble across those rocks, holding onto them with our hands and feet would have become several times harder as they became rain-slicked.
4. Night fell, which happens in a half hour, instead of an our or two. Night here falls like a knife from a countertop: you don't get a lot of warning, you just move your feet and try not to be under it.

We reached Volcano National Park in the darkness, and tried to locate the campsite at the top of Kilauea. It was closed due to high amounts of sulfer dioxide, so we made camp as close as we could. We parked outside the Jagger Museum, and they were kind enough to allow us to stay the night. From the walkway to the museum, there was a faint orange-red glow from one of the three volcanos' craters. We slept lightly.

Posted via LjBeetle

Arrived at Hilo

When we arrived at Hilo, we were surprised to find that it was precisely what we'd been taught to expect:
Open areas decorated in wood and orange paint with no walls, but occasional thatched barriers, and everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful.

A land of ceiling fans and smiling strangers.

It was like stepping backward into the Brady Bunch special where they visit Hawaii.

After passing a few very relaxed but professional Airport Security guards, who looked like extras from Hawaii 5-0, we located a taxi without much difficulty; Aaron was pleased to take us to Arnott's Lodge for our first night's stay.

While he took us to our destination, he gave us a brief Taxi-man's tour of what we would be seeing if it weren't as dark as it was.

"Yeah, Arnott's is pretty good: they've got nice rooms, and lounges where you can watch TV, there's a movie room too."

"Over there, if this were the morning, you'd see Mauna Loa. Man, I'm telling you it's a beautiful sight."

"On your left, you'll see Ken's Pancakes House. Be sure to stop in there, they're pretty good, man, and they're open 24 hours a day."

"Yeah, this other place is open all night, too, if you're lookin' for a good Sloppy Joe sandwich. I don't go there much, but there they are."

We asked him what was making the chorus of "boop-beeps", which sounded like the whole island remote-locking and unlocking their car doors at once.

"Those are those damn Croquette frogs. I know they sound nice to visitors, but this area used to be quiet. I think someone in customs must'a dozed off or somethin'. Now they're just migrating all over the place."
I've known about invasive species, living in an area with some of the best traveled lakes in the world, some (but not all) of which have Zebra Mussels, but those don't make a lot of noise. This was my first visceral experience with an area that had been forever changed within living memory.

After dropping us at Arnott's Lodge, Aaron gave us his card (or rather a friend's card with his information written on it), and encouraged us to call him if we needed a taxi during our vacation.

We approached the PX-style front desk where two girls (one of whom Kathy described as "just all boobs") were chatting idly and watching TV. They gave us a room key for "9A", and pointed us toward the alley.
We went down the corridor, climbed the stairs and found only "9". Our card worked, so we went in. Very like a Hostel, there was a main room (9) with a bathroom and kitchen, then there were two bedroom which required keycards (A and B). Once installed into our room, we decided that getting food was more important than anything else.

We walked the two miles back to Ken's, enjoying the smells and sounds of the night in Hilo. Once we arrived, we were fairly charmed by the interior, which might have been around since being featured in an Elvis film. The walls were covered in staff pictures and awards.

We ordered the "pick 4 sampler", and dined on scallops, coconut shrimp, crab cakes, and calamari rings.

Aaron had finished taking fares for the evening, so we called another cab back to Arnott's.

That cab also handed us a business card, which appears to be something of a common practice around Hilo, if not all of Hawaii.

The flight to Hilo:

It is now the practice of airlines (at least those in the Star Alliance) to charge up to $110 more per seat in exit rows and bulkhead areas (those with more leg room), so we settled for two seats together. The ticketing agent was kind enough to give us two seats in an otherwise empty fow of three. As we'd secured a row of three seats to ourselves, we felt this flight to Hilo would be a good deal more restful than the trip to LAX. This was not to say that our fellow travellers on that flight were somehow terrible; it was merely a very full flight. The Hilo flight was about half full, and each row of three was essentially dedicated to one or two sleeping persons. The thought of passing the flight time in this way was exciting for us, and we snuggled up to sleep and read.
Yet we became less and less enchanted with the couple in front of us during the first two thirds of our flight, and Kathy's initial impression was less than favorable at the start. The gentleman in front of us moved around so much that I was afraid he might be having an allergy-based seizure caused by his companions continual refreshing of her heinously pervasive body spray. Having reached the point of exhausting my stern politeness while his chair hit me repeatedly in the knees like an upset toddler, and her spray hit me like a fist of mace, I did what any red-blooded American should: I sear he'd for a different open row and, finding none, then complained to the stewardesses at the rear of the plane. They informed me that though they sympathized, they couldn't seat us in the exit or bulkhead rows. Several people had asked already, and they couldn't let us sit there without letting everyone sit.... unless... one stewardess' eyes lit up: she confirmed that the woman had been spraying perfume. "Well," she exclaimed in a stage whisper for the benefit of those seated nearby, " since you two are having an [I] allergic reaction [/I] (gesture to let me in on the plan) we will have to move you to an open row (pantomimed searching for open seats). It looks like our only unoccupied row is at the bulkhead, so I need to ask you and your travelling companion to move there at this time." I thanked her profusely, and we moved to the bulkhead row.

The seats did not have moveable armrests, but the last leg of the flight was by far the most restful.

Posted via LjBeetle

The Quest:

Having landed in the sprawling and mid-renewal LAX, Kathy and I decided three things must be located: First, where we could get our seats changed for two located together. This involved a daring move onto a bus to unknown destinations within the sprawling, Spacepod/Spider-Raunt afflicted maze of LAX under construction. By chance we got off at the right spot. Having accomplished this, we sought the gate for our connecting flight. Third, and by far most importantly, was the quest for caffeine. One, and only one place serves Mountain Dew. We bought a large.

Posted via LjBeetle


We've landed in Los Angeles. We are about to step out of the plane, and drink in some tan-colored air.

Posted via LjBeetle

Back on board...

The river was actually a series of reservoirs, the Horseshoe in particular. After a brief stop in at Jodi Moroni's Sausage Kingdom for a $25 breakfast (welcome to the airport), we're back on the plane and hheading for LAX.

Posted via LjBeetle