Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pictures of the Brian Setzer Orchestra Show

I've posted pictures I took last night at The Brian Setzer Orchestra holiday show on my Flickr Photostream. They can be seen by clicking HERE.

I've also added those pictures to the slowly growing set of rock and roll pictures that I've taken. You can check that set out by clicking HERE.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Marc's 2009 "Best Of" Top 10 List

It's the end of another year. I don't know about you, but this one ZIPPED by fast for me.

Last year I put together a list of the "best of" 2008 as a way of signing off from one year and moving into the next. That post can be viewed by clicking HERE.

This year, I'm going to do something similar. However, with all the stuff that happened around the world, there are plenty of Top 10 lists re-capping the best and worst of the past 12 months. For example, see the Time Magazine "Top 10 of Everything" story by clicking here. So, I'll leave it to Time and others to judge the world's top tens and instead give you a list of ten more personal things that were significant or meant a lot to me in 2009...
  1. Another great year married to my sweetheart - simple and very true. The most important.
  2. Staying employed - I rate both Diane's and my continued employment in 2009 - one of the worst for unemployment in recent memory - as a significant accomplishment.
  3. Our Trip to the South - Diane and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting a part of the U.S. that we had not been to before. You can read about our vacation by clicking HERE.
  4. My 40th Birthday Bash in Hawaii - along with a number of friends from the mainland, we celebrated my entrance into my fourth decade on the planet with a big bash over on Maui. A very good time and memory. You can read about that adventure by clicking HERE.
  5. Seeing the Manic Street Preachers Live in Seattle - this is one of my all time favorite rock bands. Over in the UK and Europe, these guys play big venues, but when they come to the U.S. they play small clubs. My buddy Paul and I were thrilled to see the Manics and meet their lead singer. Read my review of this show by clicking HERE. A close second was seeing Glasvegas live. More on that show HERE.
  6. My Alma Mater Wins the Pac-10 Football Championship and Goes to the Rose Bowl (And So Do I) - OK, only the first part of this headline happened in 2009, but based on that achievement in 2009 the Oregon Ducks are playing in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2010 and I will be going there with some friends to see the game and have fun.
  7. Going to the U2 Show in Vancouver - we love Vancouver. We really like U2. The combination made for a delightful weekend up north.
  8. Our Ski Weekend at Whistler/Blackcolmb - we don't go skiing very often, but not because we don't want to. When we do go, we like to make it count, so in February we went to Whistler/Blackcolmb to downhill and cross-country ski. A great time and good memories.
  9. Discovering Delancey in Ballard - discovering new restaurants is something both Diane and I really like. We also like pizza. Finding this new, wood-fired pizza joint on a residential street in Ballard rated as our best "find" of 2009.
  10. The hot summer we had - I loved it! Except for a couple days in the 100s, the hot summer helped us enjoy the summer more with hikes in the Cascade mountains, bike rides on the Burke Gillman trail, walks around our neighborhood and generally being outside much more than we were able last summer when temperatures were more often in the 60s.
So there you go. My personal 2009 Top 10. No, no political observations, comments on the good and bad going on the world, celebrity f-ups or similar. Just ten things that struck through as the most important and/or interesting in my own little life.

As a reminder, you can see my own "2009: The Year in Pictures" feature by clicking HERE.

Here's to a good 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

2009: The Year in Pictures

This December, I'm doing a "The Year in Pictures" collection featuring what I think are the best shots I took in 2009. These are pictures that in my estimation have quality composition, artistic or historic merit or interesting subject matter...or some element of all three.

You can see the set by clicking HERE.

Once there, you can see the pictures in "slide show" format by clicking the little slide show screen icon in the upper right corner of the page once you get there.

Also, it's worth noting that the set is not a scrapbook of pictures of Diane and me either. Diane always looks great in pictures and I enjoy shots of us standing in front of this or that place. But, the goal here is a bit more artistic or documentary.

All that said, the set does tell a story of what we did in 2009 - our trip to the south, concerts, Maui, Whistler and more.

Here are a few teasers...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

R.I.P. Joe Strummer - Seven Years Ago Today

I have lots of heroes that I look to for inspiration, ideas for how I might live a little different or better, or simply get more of what is meaningful out of life. Certainly my wife Diane is at the top of the list. And there are others - family, friends, people I know personally and then a number who I do not know personally but draw from regularly.

One of my all-time heroes from among people I do not know personally is rock and roll icon Joe Strummer. Sadly, seven years ago today, Joe - real name John Mellor - died of congenital heart failure. This was a condition he apparently had all his life and could have killed him at any time, but he did not know about it. He was only 50 years old.

If you're having trouble placing Joe, you actually probably have seen him before. Joe was most known for being the main singer, lyric writer and one of the guitarists in a band called The Clash - one of the most influential rock bands of the last 30 years. If you've ever seen the videos for songs like Rock the Casbah, London Calling or Should I Stay or Should I Go then you've seen him in action. Before The Clash he was in a band called the 101ers, and after The Clash he acted in movies (most notably one called Mystery Train), wrote musical scores for movies, drew, and - as of the late 1990s - started a new band called The Mescaleros.

You can read more about Joe Strummer by clicking here. You can read an interview with him by clicking here. And, there are a bunch of pictures of Joe here. You can also visit Stummerville online. It's a non-profit organization that promotes unsigned bands and provides them with rehearsal space and support.

I think the thing that most appealed to me about Strummer was his absolute belief that a person can and should make his or her own destiny. He did it himself and, through success in music, delivered that same message to millions more.

Stand up for yourself, have a say, do what you think is right, question authority (a lot), operate on a human level rather than a "consumer" or "business" level, do not accept things the way they are because that's the way they are, do things for yourself, check your ego, look forward, embrace new things but know your history, know bullshit when you see or hear it, do something about that bullshit, don't blame others for your own shortcomings, learn about other cultures, don't do something just because it is expected.

These are just a few of the many things that Joe talked about, sang about and least to me. Mainly, this all hit me via his lyrics for songs he wrote and performed with The Clash. His songs from that time also introduced me also to a number of political ideas, world events and issues that I had not know about or contemplated before - for example, the value and potential of your time on this earth vs. spending all of it at work making money for someone else, the limitations of radio as a way of hearing new and interesting music, the Spanish Civil War, the Sandanistas and other rebel movements, labor strife in England, Jamaican music and culture, the false God of consumerism, and much, much more. Many of these were revelations for my American teenage mind.

In his later years, Joe continued to impress with thoughtful songs and statements that connected with my sense of right and wrong - not to mention his ability to still come out with great "toe tapping" tunes. And if all that wasn't enough, the guy ran the Paris Marathon twice and the London Marathon once, finishing both in very decent times.

While he was not a perfect human being, neither are many of us. Politicians, sports stars, musicians, spiritual leaders, business moguls and others that so many of us look up to all have one thing in common - they're all human. And with that comes some failings. Joe had his, but they were small in comparison to what he was able to achieve in music and the message he was able to disseminate while active in music for nearly three decades.

For all of the above, Joe was and is a hero to me, and so writing a post to mark the seventh anniversary of his death seems appropriate.

I was lucky enough to see Joe perform live in 1999 and in 2001 with his band The Mescaleros. While I never saw him with The Clash, seeing him up live and up close in two firery good shows was a real treat for me.

I'll finish with a few favorite quotes from Joe Strummer and a few music recommendations as I think it's what he said...either in written lyrics or words spoken off the cuff that gets his point across.


"To get output, you must have input."

"The future is unwritten."

"Greed: It Ain't Goin' Anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you're nothing. That's my spiel."

"If you're out there gettin' the honey, don't go killing all the bees."

"There's no use half doing it."

"I'm not working for the clampdown."

If you want to check out some of Joe Stummer's music, there's plenty to look into. I'd recommend these three albums as a place to start:
  • The Clash by The Clash
  • London Calling by The Clash
  • Global A-Go-Go by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

Monday, December 21, 2009

Year End "Top 10 Most Viewed Pictures"

With the end of the year now uppon us, I took a look back at my Flickr Photostream to see what the top 10 most viewed pictures are and if there had been any chages since I last checked in September. Below is the list of the ten most viewed images I have taken and posted to Flicker:
  1. Close Up of Taj Mahal Detail

  2. Don't Tread On Me Flag

  3. Beijing Olympic Stadium

  4. Aircraft Carrier Yorktown - Charleston, SC

  5. Former South Vietnam Capitol Building - Ho Chi Minh City

  6. Modern Ho Chi Minh City

  7. 2009 Seattle Gay Pride Parade (Guy on Stilts)

  8. Modern Skyline of Ho Chi Minh City

  9. 2009 Seattle Gay Pride Parade (Tie Dye Marcher)

  10. US Military Vehicles - Ho Chi Minh City

My obersvations are:

  • Four of the top 10 are of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Vietnam must still be a topic of a lot of interest as pictures I took from our 2006 trip there continue to dominate views on my Photostream.
  • I really have no idea why my picture of a close-up of the Taj Mahal has become the most viewed image I've posted. Only a guess. People must want to see what that building look like close up. That was my intent when I took the picture on our 1999 trip...people usually don't see the building up that close. Looks like ten years later, my hunch was right.
  • I think the "Don't Tread On Me" flag received a lot of views since I posted it in May 2009 because of the quasi "protest" movement by conservatives against healthcare reform and anything Obama. That symbol and saying has gained popularity over the past year, and I'm guessing that's why it shot into the top 10 so quickly.
  • The fact that the Beijing Olympic "Birds Nest" stadium still resides in the top ten most viewed pictures I have posted just speaks to how popular that building was in 2008. So many people looked at the image that it's still up there as one of the most viewed a good 1.5 years later.
  • The two pictures here of marchers in the 2009 Seattle Gay Pride parade are a reminder of the MASSIVE amount of views my photos of that event got in the few days following the parade. These two were among the more popular.
  • That the USS Yorktown sits at #4 on the list I guess can be attributed to a general interest online of military vehicles and history.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Hawaii 4-0, Part 4 - A Birthday to Remember

You don’t turn 40 very often. And when you do…if you are fortunate…you will be able to celebrate with friends and do so in a fun and exotic place. If you’re really lucky, you’ll be able to have an excellent birthday dinner on top of everything else.

Well, count me fortunate and lucky because that all is exactly what came to pass on my own 40th birthday. Diane and I knew we would go to Maui for my four-decade-a-palooza, but we were very fortunate that a number of friends joined us on our Hawaiian trip. Many of our friends who we would have loved to have been there couldn’t make it for one reason or another, and certainly asking people to do something other than visit with their families over the Thanksgiving holiday limits who is willing and able to participate. So, we were super pleased that 11 of them could make it to Maui.

However, we wanted to avoid daily "group think," so mostly people in our group did their own thing while there – beach, pool, shop, snorkel, surf, eat out, etc. The one thing we all did together was my birthday dinner on November 26…also Thanksgiving Day.

Here’s how it unfolded…

A good party deserves a “prefunc.” And so it was for my birthday. Meeting at the upper bar of the Westin pool deck area, our group kicked off festivities with a round of cocktails as the sun went down over the horizon and a friendly Hawaiian played a ukulele for the gathered. Somebody must have tipped him off that it was my birthday because he suddenly broke into the birthday song for me. As the group sang along, I have to say that this was as unique a birthday serenade as I’ve ever had. At right is a picture of Diane and me at the bar where this all happened.

Party on Wheels
The restaurant where we were to have our dinner was an hour drive from the hotel, and so with great foresight Diane arranged for a van – more of a bus – to take our entire group there together. A stroke of genius. Another stroke of genius was bringing some very nice champagne with us to keep the party going as we traveled to the restaurant. The only thing was, the bus company would not let us bring glass bottles on board. Hmmm. What to do? Third stroke of genius…put the champagne in plastic pitchers and give everyone a plastic champagne glass. Perfect. Carefully planning our exit from the hotel so the Westin “police” wouldn’t see us dispensing our first round on their property, we covertly assembled our drinks on the back bumper of one of our vehicles. See picture below.

From there it was over to the bus with plenty of bubbly in reserve in those pitchers and off to our dinner. Dark outside now, we were on the road with a driver who knew where he was going and so we continued the festivities all the way…all the way to Mama’s Fish House.

The Main Event
Pulling into the parking lot of Mama’s near the town of Paia, we now realized it was raining. This was kind of a bummer, but it was still a good 75 degrees outside so we quickly dashed from the bus to the safety of the undercover greeting station at the top of the hill above the main restaurant. Securing some complementary umbrellas, we made our way down the steps, across the beach side lawn and over to check our group in.

Unfortunately, despite having reservations for our group for about eight months in advance, the restaurant could not seat us at our reservation time of 7:45 p.m. All told, the made us wait for about an hour. But, at least if you have to wait an hour for your table at Mama’s you can do so in a really cool South Pacific and Hawaiian themed bar. Equal parts tiki tacky and upscale modern (really, it’s both) the bar and restaurant as a whole deploys a very unique and enjoyable ambiance. They also deploy a mean mai thai…which most of us quickly ordered upon entering the bar.

As we looked around the bar, we realized that the restaurant structure wasn’t really a building in the four-walls-and-a-ceiling sense of it. Rather, the roof line appeared to be cobbled together in pieces with drainage pipes placed strategically to catch and distribute rainwater elsewhere. Also, there were not too many solid external walls – especially on the sides of the restaurant facing the ocean. Perfectly dry and warm the whole night through, I thought this was a pretty neat feature of the restaurant. Seated at one big table in the middle of the restaurant, our group got down the serious business of ordering and eating.

One of the first things brought to our table after another round of mai thais was a beautiful, colorful and fresh Hawaiian lei – for me! At left is a picture of Diane and me, and I'm wearing the lei.

The table started out with a round of shrimp won tons, ono and ahi in coconut, wasabi crusted calamari and probably a few things I'm now forgetting. But suffice it to say that the flavors really lit up our mouths!

I ordered a savory piece of mahi mahi stuffed with lobser, crab and Maui onions and cooked with a macadamian nut glaze. Wow. Diane had the Opah fish with Maui onions and avocado.

NOTE: You can see the Mama's menu by

Just having friends along to celebrate is a gift enough, and certainly nobody needed to or was asked to bring me any gifts. However, generous as our crew is, I did receive some nice presents and cards. Thank you to everyone who gave me something.

Like the lei, unbeknownst to me, Diane had arranged for a delightful birthday cake for me and the table to cap off the meal. Below is a picture of it. She knows I’m a chocolate cake man, and this cake did not disappoint!

A Silent Return
As the very last diners to leave the restaurant this night, we hefted ourselves back up the stairs to the waiting bus. Once aboard, our driver got us going back toward home. Not more than 10 minutes when by and our whole group slipped into a post-dinner, post-cocktails, long-day, its-dark-in-the-bus silence that wasn’t broken until we arrived back at the Westin. As we glided along the coastal highway, I noticed how pretty the Hawaiian moon shone off the Pacific ocean and bounced up to catch the silhouette of the palm trees lining the shore. A very calm and beautiful last vision for my birthday.

Approaching midnight, our bus pulled back into the Westin parking lot and our friends all bid adieu for the evening.

Back at our condo, as Diane and I climbed into our bed I noticed that the clock in our room read 12 midnight. I said, “Well, it’s not my 40th birthday anymore.” Diane quickly replied, “Yep, you’re just another 40 year old dude now.” I laughed because, well, it was true. Too true. But what a way to enter my fourth decade!

A very special thank you to my wife Diane for arranging the party bus, the diner reservations, the champagne, the lei, the cake, and…putting up with me for the last 12+ years. I love you!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Hawaii 4-0, Part 3 - Eating On Maui

Hawaii has a lot of culinary influences. I am by no means an expert, but from casual observation I would say there’s American, Japanese, Filipino, Pacific Islander (if that's even close to a correct term) and even Mexican influences in abundance in the islands. And obviously fish play a prominent role in most menus.

Setting aside out the big birthday party night for the moment (that’ll be a post on its own), and running through our trip chronologically, here are the palaces we ate at during our recent trip there in November:

Hula Grill - our first stop after arriving on Maui. Hulas is on the beach in front of the outdoor Whaler’s Village shopping mall. Featuring a patio with sand to put your feet in, Hulas serves up typical tourist fare – burgers, fish tacos and sandwiches and the like. We had fish tacos and a fish sandwich respectively – and beer naturally. While you’re not going to mistake Hulas for fine dining, it is a kick to kick back in the sand and have a good lunch under the palms and sip on a cold drink as you watch the waves roll in and the mellowed out people walk by. This is especially true on a first day. Thumbs up!

Mala Ocean Tavern – well, what’s the first dinner you would think of having upon arriving on Maui? How about some nice fresh fish? Nope. Not us. We knew fish would play a prominent role in our eating for the coming week, so we wanted to try out a place we had heard had incredible hamburgers. We were not disappointed. Mala is in Lahina Town and sits right at the ocean’s edge. Featuring a diverse, casual menu ranging from fish – of course – chicken, steak and burgers, this place brings a little flair to each of its offerings. For example, as we sat at our ocean side table with the nighttime Maui breeze coming in the window, the waiter brought us chips, salsa and guacamole to get us started. Except, that guac is not made from avocado. It’s made from edemame. And that salsa? It’s supped up with some soft of mango or similar. It's spicy anyway and a great way to start things off.

Since we were on a burger mission, we dispensed with the niceties of pondering other options and ordered straight up. A nice mai thai cocktail later, our plates arrived. The burgers featured Kobe beef patties, savory smoked applewood bacon, caramelized onions, cheddar or maytag blue cheese (I had the blue, Di had the cheddar), lettuce, tomato and served on a whole wheat bun. Sound good? We thought so. And IT WAS! Woooo, what a burger. The side of frites was quite nice too, but by no means a match for the main event.

With no room or sane thought of desert, we called it a night.

The Gazebo – one thing I wanted to do on my birthday trip was eat up some first class macadamia nut pancakes. Well, this mission was accomplished – twice. The Gazebo is a little restaurant that sits on the grounds of the Napili Shores condo resort and overlooks the ocean. It probably has 24 tables – maybe. It also has THE BEST PANCAKES we’ve ever had. And we were not the only ones who knew about this place. Sure enough, the two times we went their for breakfast, the was a pretty long line of people waiting to get in. None the less, if you’re going to have to wait 20-30 minutes in a line for a table, doing so with a spectacular view of the Pacific ocean, palm trees and the island of Lanai in the background ain’t bad!

Anyway, the Gazebo menu has all the normal breakfast items you would find almost anywhere, but they also have those pancakes. A “short stack” consists of two huge cakes. You can get them with macadamia nuts, bananas, both or a number of other options. The table is set with regular maple syrup and coconut syrup. And, each stack of pancakes comes with what the Gazebo staff call “sauce.” Looking more like whipped cream, it’s a concoction of syrup, sugar, crème and who knows what other sugary goodness. Suffice it to say that it’s nuclear A-bomb sweet and for my taste best served on the side for easy portioning as you like. But, no matter what you get, you also have that spectacular view. Well worth a visit if you ask me. Mission accomplished!

That place by Hulas at Whaler’s Village

Sansei - simply put, one of the best (if not the best) sushi we’ve ever had. Period. This is an upscale place in the Kapalua area, and the sushi, sashimi and roles here are inventive, tasty and incredibly satisfying. We went there with our now expanding group that included me, Diane, Matt and Kristine, Sean and Levi and Isabelle. The table had the panko crusted ahi sashimi sushi roll, Asian shrimp cake, shrimp dynamite, and a host of oh so simple, fresh and tasty sushi. Throw in a icy cold martini to start and a nice Japanese lager to wash things down...and well, that's living!

Alexander’s – located on the main road through Kehei, Alexander’s is a walk up fish and chips place. But, wow, this is not your normal fish and chips shack! You can get ono, mahi mahi or ahi grilled or fried along with French fries, papaya salad, rice and other delicious side dishes. We hit this place on our snorkeling day and it hit the spot after all that swimming around. Tables are all out doors with some under cover. No alcohol is served.

Sorento’s – Diane and I broke off on our own one night and went to this ocean-side restaurant in the Kehei/Wylea area. Sorento’s is a nice place situated right on the beach with great views out to sea and, at night, stars above the palm trees. We scored a table right at the front, so all the natural beauty was in view. Fish was on our minds. Diane started with the Salad Caprese and I had the Kula Spring Greens. For entrees, Diane ordered the fish of the day which was the Opakapaka and I had the Grilled Hawaiin Ahi. We also started enjoyed a reasonably priced-but-good Sav Blanc to accompany our meal. Service was attentive and I have to say we really enjoyed the experience.

Aloha Mixed Plate - for lunch one day we had lunch at this delightful open deck restaurant. Sampling big coconut shrimp in spicy sauce, Hawaiian style pork and plenty of drinks to go around, this place really hit the spot.

The patio grill at Matt & Kristine’s condo - after a few nights eating out, we thought it would be fun to get some fresh fish from a shop and cook our own diner on one of the grills our condo had. So we did. We stopped at the Fish Market Maui and picked up a selection of tuna and ono. The guys at the shop created a marinade for each of the fish based on what they thought would go well with it. My ono was dry rubbed with a “Maui Cajun” concoction. Diane had a “honey, wasabi, sesame soy sauce” marinade for her Ahi. Set with our fish, all we needed was some salad and extras from the grocery and we were locked and loaded for a beach side Hawaiian fish BBQ. All sent well as we took over the picnic tables and one of the grills in the small, ocean facing courtyard of Matt and Kristine's condo. Lit by the glow of tiki torches, we cooked up the fish and feasted - washing it down with several Primo brand Hawaiin lager beers.

Some random walk up grill – on my birthday, we knew we had to reserve space in our stomachs for the feast to be consumed that evening. And, because my birthday fell on Thanksgiving this year, not much was open. So, what were we to do for lunch? Sean and I headed in to Lahina Town with the notion to go to Maui Tacos and pick up some provisions for our crew chilling back at the pool deck at our condo. We soon discovered that it wasn’t open either. But, in the very same little strip mall there was a little walk up grill with a mixed menu of Filipino, Mexican and seafood. We thought, “what the hell, we’ll do it.” Not a bad choice. We ordered up a few fish sandwiches and fries and you know, it was really good! And cheap. It all went down well back at the pool over a few chilly beers.

Nick’s Fish Market – this restaurant is within the beautiful and expansive grounds of the Fairmont resort in Wylea. A tip from our friends Norm and Lisa sent us here for our last dinner on the island. Elegant, stylish and half open-air, Nick’s specializes in fish, but has a broad menu for all tastes and it did not disappoint. Sitting outdoors we enjoyed the view of palms, the ocean and, at one point during the meal, a Hawaiian in traditional dress lighting tiki torches. The fist here proved sublime and I would recommend this place to anyone interested in both ambiance and high quality dining.

Westin Hotel - as our last meal before heading back to the mainland, we took Diane’s mother and brother to breakfast over at the Westin. The hotel has a very nice open air veranda restaurant overlooking the ocean, and in the morning they serve a very nice breakfast. Quite a civilized way to wrap up the trip.

Other places of noteBad Ass Coffee was a staple for us most mornings as it was a short walk from the condo. Within the same parking lot on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the Maui farmer’s market sets up shop. So, we had great access to fresh fruit, bread, salsas and more.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hawaii 4-0, Part 2 - Let's Go Surfin' Now (And Other Aquatic Adventures)

There is just something about warm tropical waters, smooth sand and crashing waves to play around in that sooths the soul and we took full advantage of the ocean and shore on this trip.

On our first whole day on Maui, a Sunday, we kicked off with a nice four mile run along the coastal road to burn off some of the previous evening’s dinner and drinks. Sure, we were running, but what a view! However, that was all the “work” we did the rest of the day as we decided to take it easy and join our friends Matt and Kristine at their low key pad right on Napili Bay. Their little condo complex sat directly above the beach on the relatively unpopulated, but extremely beautiful stretch of sand. Playing in the waves, soaking up the sun and, well, not doing much else really fit the bill. This is a LONG way from cold, rain and stressful jobs and oh how good it felt. The nice Maui Brewery Bikini Blond beers didn’t hurt either.

Monday we decided to take surf lessons. This was something I always have wanted to do, and I figured if not now, when?

Joined now by our friend Sean who arrived Sunday, Matt, Kristine, Diane and I signed up for the lessons from the pros right in front of the Westin Resort on Kanapali beach. These guys know their stuff and from their tans, tattoos and attitudes…you know these surfers are gonna make sure you ride at least one wave under their tutelage. And they did. But first, they taught us the moves needed stand up on a board as it’s propelled through by a wave. After that it was out into the ocean where we took turns as instructors gave us tips and helped us catch waves by shoving our boards forwards at just the right time. After this “launch” you are supposed to through your moves to stand up and then ride the wave in. Diane rode one of her first waves in. Sean and Kristine soon picked it up. It took me a little longer, but low and behold I did do it at least once.

On one of my tries I picked up a surfing souvenir - a scrape to the palm of my hand from the coral that resides only a few feet under the surface of the water. Oh well. It proved to be an exhilarating couple hours…and we have pictures to prove it.

At left is a shot of me "up" on the surfboard...not a great picture or anything, but proof!

On Tuesday, we took off for the south coast of the island for some great snorkeling in one of the many little coral-formed bays that you can find there. Each of them is its own tropical fish bowl with loads of colorful and exotic fish – bright yellow, black and white spots, neon blue and pink, pencil thin, striped and more. Quite simply, some of the best snorkeling we’ve ever done. Below is a picture of the stretch of coast near where we snorkeled.

Our other water sports activities on this trip simply consisted of body surfing, boogie boarding and generally just dinking around in the waves at one of the wonderful beaches on Maui.

One of these outings proved to be a little costly too. After snorkeling, our group headed for Big Beach – a broad sandy stretch lined by palm trees and just about as perfect of a beach as you’d ever want. After greasing up with suntan lotion I picked up our beach football and began throwing it with Sean and my brother-in-law, Matt (not the same Matt as mentioned before). Standing in the surf flinging the ball around was really fun…until the ball came to me real low and I jabbed my hands downward to catch it. Lifting the ball out of the surf I instantly realized THAT MY WEDDING RING HAD FALLEN OFF!

Panicked, I looked quickly in the shallow water to see if I could quickly spot and scoop up the ring. But, it was not to be as a wave came crashing through and then withdrew – either burring the ring or hauling it out to the ocean. After about 30 minutes of looking I gave up. Diane didn’t think it was too big a deal. After all, it didn’t lose HER and a ring can be replaced. At least if I lost it, it was to the ocean in Hawaii and not, for example, at a football game as was my near miss a year or so ago...which you can read about by clicking here. None the less, I was pretty bummed for a few hours. I guess I know what I’m getting for Christmas this year!

Next up, I’ll be back to post about some of the great places we ate in Maui.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hawaii 4-0

This past Thanksgiving week, Diane and I bugged out of rainy Seattle and barreled over to Hawaii to celebrate my 40th birthday. My own “Hawaii 4-0” if you will. For safe measure, a pack of our great friends came along to share the cheer.

For those of you who’ve never been to Hawaii, well, you’re missing out. Lets see…tropical island beach paradise, slowed down relaxing culture, great local and Asian food, easy to get around, surfing, snorkeling, laying the beach, topical breeze. What’s there not to love? Well, maybe a six hour flight from Seattle, but that’s worth it once you’re there.

At least it did for us, and the destination of Maui seem a fitting place for us to ring in the fourth decade of my time on the planet – a place to relax, enjoy, run around and play like a kid while still taking in the finer points of the islands’ culture.

With seven full days and parts of two more at our disposal, I think we made the most of our time. For those interested, I’m going to lay out a few highlights of our trip over several posts going over a variety of things including our eating, outdoor activities and the big b-day celebration.

Before diving in, I’ll simply say thanks to my wife, Diane, for planning such a wonderful trip and celebration, and a thanks to all our friends who came along for the ride. We really are so glad you were there.

OK, to start things off, I’ll go with this…

Part I – "It’s Out of My Hands"

After a long flight over from Seattle, Diane and I were giddy to be on the island of Maui. Even the first few moments out in the warm sun and breeze made us feel better. You knew this was going to be a good week.

After picking up our car, donning our sunglasses and relaxing even more, we struck out immediately for Kaanapali – the area of the island where our condo we were staying in is. On our way, we stopped to have lunch at the “feet in the sand” restaurant on the shore called Hulas. Some icy Longboard lagers, fish tacos and sandwiches later we were really feeling the Aloha. But, the condo awaited and there also was the little matter (at least to me) of getting checked in and in front of at TV to catch the big Oregon Duck football game vs. Arizona. Win and Duckies likely go to the Rose Bowl. Lose and not likely. Big game.

So on our way we went. Pulling in to the lot at the Papakea Resort, all was good. Until we tried to check in. (Below: view from our balcony at the Papakea Resort.)

To our horror, we learned that the room we had booked directly from the condo unit owner had been given out to someone else. Further, there were apparently no rooms they would or could move us to. To make matters worse, we didn’t have any verification info in our possession since we had made these arrangements with the condo owner herself.

And the condo staff could not have been less helpful. The big comeback from the guy behind the desk was, “I can’t do anything, it’s out of my hands.” My stress level went up pretty high as I feared we be stuck without a room – crashing on some of our friends’ hotel room floors – AND given that the ball game was starting. What were we going to do? Both Diane and I were pretty distressed. Only she didn’t show it and I did. While I was stressing out and starting to call hotels to see about availability, Diane calmly remembered three phone numbers for our condo owner friend out of thin air and called her in a desperate attempt to try and circumvent this tragedy.

To make a long story short…the condo management canceled our reservation because they mistakenly believed that the OTHER reservation in our name (the one we made for family and friends coming) was ours. As in, how could they possibly have two reservations? And, the guy at the desk was either unwilling or unable to make any decisions to resolve the problem…and he was the only one there. Our friend did eventually call and things were straightened out after some heated discussion and the intervention of the condo manager at long last.

I caught the second half of the football game at the Maui Brewing Company Pub (Ducks won in double overtime) and we spent our first night of the trip in a different unit than we’d arranged for. Drama over, we met up with our good friends Matt and Kristine (who had already been on Maui for a week!) for a drink and then we headed out for dinner…but more on our eating exploits in a future post.

The next day we moved into the unit we were supposed to be staying. I can only imagine the condo people had to give the other people who mistakenly were in our unit another to stay in.

On to the rest of our vacation!