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Published: December 20th 2007
"Come, my Unatapees!"
"Come, babies. Puna, come. Beta."
The barking turned into growling.
"Puna, beta! Beta, Puna!"
"Puna, get your ass back here!"
That meant it was about 7:15 a.m.
I had set my alarm for earlier and had ignored with the same goal-driven decisiveness. This was Waimea Canyon morning. This is the day I intend to find and trip on mushrooms. Not attempt-- I intend today. Already, we wake up in unchartered terminology.
Searched for water in the tent and then immediately back to the air mattress. I was glad we hadn't left for Waimea now, although later we would have to consider daylight, so later would suck more than waking early did. And I could live with that now.
"Puna, beta! You're a fucking dumbass. Why you have to go all the way over there?"
Dena was the only one awake. That meant Calvin had gone to work. The rest of Black Pot was asleep or attempting to sleep through morning doggy scoldings.
Stink: the smell was in my sleeping bag and on my body and in the tent, and it was getting beefier as the weeks cont'd. It had aged into a good one. I made a note to get in the water before Tony came. Or at least play with the puppies, so it mainly smelled like wet dog. I could also live with that.
I slipped on sandals, unlocked and unzipped the front flap to the tent. Instant Lagoon. Well-played, nature. Around me were banana trees and papaya trees and one of those perfect little beaches with the blue and the ethereal mountains and easiness. Rainbows and sunshine in the literal sense. That sort.
"Good morning, Dena."
"How'd you sleep?"
"Very well. So well. I slept like a fucking baby with all that good food from yesterday."
"Fuck, I know." She sat down across from me at the picnic table, rested her cane against the side. "The water's hot if you want your coffee."
"I'm not fucking making nobody breakfast this morning. We started cooking that emu at two. That's two in the morning, girl. There's sugar over there."
"How much later were you awake?"
"Not too much. They stopped the music and everyone was pretty quiet. Even with all the campers." Because of the holiday, campers were exempt from permits through the entire Thanksgiving weekend. The people at Black Pot were always exempt of permits, mostly because they had been living on the bay before camping permits were even required.
The morning fog rolled off the mountains. A coconut fell in the woods. I win.
Powdered milk and sugar went into my coffee. "Di's kids are annoying."
"Oh, Good God, you don't have to tell me that. I yelled at those kids all day to stay out of the food, stay away from the firepits."
"Fuckers crabbing were loud."
"That was da kine! Them's was Di's and whatshersistersname's. Jelly Bean."
"Oh, I thought it was campers."
"They need a whack on the ass. But it's not my place. I'm their Auntie. Not the mother. You hear me?"
"I tell you, girl. Puna! Ubeta!"
My spine slouched further into the laze of Hanalei early-morning, staking deeper in the sand, burrowing deep into the state of Hawaii. I could throw up the white flag at any moment. Oceanic white noise and instant coffee in a Portland Hard Rock coffee mug.
"Yeah. By the lagoon." We'd been banned from smoking at the picnic table.
"Let me get my pipe."
Dena grabbed her cane and disappeared into the row of tents and waterproof canopies. I loved smoking with Dena. She talked about the island spirits when she got stoned.
Coffee refill, then went over the sandy grass patches and down the small, pebbled bank toward the lagoon. Cars were parked on the grass with canoes placed intermittently between them. There was a set of wicker chairs on the tiny shore.
"Come down here, my babies." Two puppies, one after the other, came tumbling down, tripping over the promenade of tree roots. Then there were three. Then four. Six.
"Puna! Nualaia lo'ani ubeta!"
"I have some shake."
"How's the rolling?"
"Getting better. It's tricky."
"Remember the index fingers pointed. And focus on the center. If you focus on the center..." She held up the joint, pinching, tucking, rolling. Her joints were money.
"See? It's fucking perfect. Well, except for that thing there. It got crooked, but fuck it."
"Nice." She handed it to me. My day began.
"You know where I learned to roll cigarettes, girl?"
"When I was three year's old, on the back of a horse. My uncle and my brothers would go hunting and I would sit on the back of my Uncle Willy's saddle. And he would turn and hand me the tabacco and the papers and say, 'Roll me a cigarette.' So I had to know."
I laughed. Shit like that kills me.
"Are you stoned already, girl?"
"Oh, me too. Fuck. Good morning, my lovely lagoon. You are so beautiful. Puna! Tu nali te'a!"
Dena fussed with the puppies while I rolled a not-as-ethereal cigarette. I wanted to soon take the opportunity to ask about the area I was going to with Tony. The Hawaiians are very protective of island insider information, and Dena had let loose on multiple 'haoles' for even daring to ask about the nature on the island. Not me, yet. But just the previous evening Dena unleashed holy fury at Chris Mango for bringing up the subject of the Napali Coast, where trail that runs down the northern and western coasts of Kauai. It's just another amazing trail where people see God. I personally don't see the big deal.
Mango wanted to go into the woods as a retreat, to disappear for a week and return to and from nature, be purified by it. Dena reacted as though he was an idiot who didn't know the land and wouldn't know how to read the signs of the island. She had gotten angry and called him a fucking idiot, a lot, to the point that I was uncomfortable. Confrontation is the number one killer of young people.
"When was the last time went to the canyon?"
"Oh, let's see. Right when I got back from Honolulu. So almost three years."
"I'm going there today."
"Where are you going?"
"I don't know exactly. We were gonna follow the road up the western canyon roads."
"By the bog?"
"If you follow the western face up the whole way, there is a bog on that side. It overlooks Mt. Waialeale. But don't go there, girl."
That bog was mine. "Why not?"
"Because it's a fucking bog, why you want to go there?"
"I don't know. Have you ever been there?"
Dena laughed at me and looked out over the lagoon. "Yeah, I've been there. I know many trails on the island, but none of them go to a bog. You have to know how to get up mountains to get there. Not many do, you know. People not meant to be in bogs, in places like that. A bog is a place where only nature goes."
"There's no path there, then?"
"No. Only nature will let you in and out. Even our ancestors do not go there. Not the ancestors in the rainbow, nor the ones that walk the earth in spirit."
A morning rain started, one of the spits that lasted for a minute or two and then was followed by sunshine and rainbows. A small heron swooped in and grazed the water's surface for a fish. The puppies ran under Dena's chair.
"I wanna hike the Kalalau someday," I said. "But I don't want to take much."
"Take a guide."
"Would you go with me?"
Dena laughed again. "Oh. I would, if I can. But who the fuck would make breakfast for these fucking people? Who will take care of Cawelina? Damn girl, I tell you."
From behind the tents, "Dena! Where's the water?"
"Who dat calling me?" Dena asked, turning around.
"Matt," I said.
"It on the table!" She shouted back, grabbing her cane. "I'm gonna start breakfast."
I should mention at this time that Dena, anatomically speaking, is a man. She has a penis and wears and sarong and weaves hats and talks about the Tahitian men she'd give a good pounding to. It makes a difference to know that.
"Tony, it's Lindsay."
"Hey, what's on?"
"When's this shindig going down?"
"When are we leaving for Waimea?"
"Oh, right. We're doing dishes right now, hold on." Then farther away: "Lord, when are we taking off for Waimea? ... "With Lindsay." ... "No, not Ice Lindsay, with Los Angeles Lindsay." ... "You put the turkey away, I don't want it." ... "I fucking told you not to make more turkey, Lord, and you fucking did anyway, so put it in one of those plastic things and put it in the fridge." ... "Well, that's not my fucking problem, Lord." ... "I know, I love those cranberry things, too."
"Babe! He's thinking more like eleven."
"So... I can expect to see you guys at Black Pot at eleven?"
"That's what the Lord and I are thinking."
"Okay... Will you call me if you're gonna be late?"
"Hey, yeah, alright. We're going, it's all good. It's all good, man. We're going on a cruise to the canyon, it's chill."
"I know. I know it's all good. I just... you know, I wanna make it there with enough daylight to do... stuff, you know?"
"Look, Lindsay, I know. I know you have this thing you gotta do, and I'm totally down to make it happen. You, me, and the Lord are all gonna make it happen for you."
"Right. You, me, The Lord, and Scottie."
"Alright, appreciate that, Tony. Peace."
"Hang loose, Lindsay Loo."
I rubbed my eyes and adjusted the stake of my soul in the astral plane of Hawaiian soil. Breakfast would be ready soon. Maybe I would have time to take a swim before the dishes needed done. Something needed to be done about that smell.
"Here." A loaf of sweet bread hit the table beside me. I looked up to see Dena.
"I said, 'Fuck it. I'm not making no breakfast, no way girl.'" She handed me the bread knife and some paper plates.
"There all kinds of food left over from last night. They were lazy asses yesterday when we make the food, they lazy ass today. Besides girl, we have thirty-five pounds of turkey and almost half the emu left."
"Right, I forgot about the emu. Fuck."
"Fucking, so good. Who the hell that?"
Dena was looking past the park and down the dirt road. A red truck had pulled into the lot in front of the bay.
"Oh, that Jenny."
"I keep telling her I'm going to smoke her out."
"But I always out of pot before we can."
"Morning Lindsay. Hey Dena."
"You're lucky Calvin drank last night, girl," Dena said as she took a slice of the bread. "He would have been pissed he knew you not come back."
"Don't say sorry to me, I don't care. I'm just letting your skinny ass know. He notices that kind of thing. Last night was not one of those times."
"Good thing you skipped out when you did." I offer negligible information through bites of sweet bread. That way I'm still here, and not part of the sweet bread. Well-played, yeast.
"Were you here last night?" Jenny asked me.
"Yeah, I was. Where'd you go?"
"Chris and Leon cruised with me down to Kapa'a and we drank beers."
"Nice." I cut another slice of sweet bread for Jenny. Dena left to feed the birds.
"Fucking Leon, man. We bought some beers and went driving, and I knew he was taking my beers cause every time I went to get another one, there was always one more missing. But when I drink, man, I get happy. I feel good, you know? I'll share my beers as long as its good."
"And a bitchin' song came on the radio, and I turned it up. And Leon goes and says something stupid about the song and something stupid about why I probably like it. So I turned around and started hitting him, really let him have it."
"Yeah, I hurt my hand. But he couldn't fucking just let me be chill, man."
I gave her a cigarette. We sat together and smoked in silence. I loved smoking with Jenny. Jenny knew how to sit and listen with someone else and she enjoyed it. She also used very few words, and when she spoke or explained something, she was brilliant in her concisiveness. None of this: "So we looked for beer and Kelly was talking about the thing with the movie at three with the guy from the place" bullshit. Jenny was target-based. She was the perfect conversing stranger.
We watched an off-site camper, female, attempt to change into a bikini piece by piece while undressing her pajamas. She fumbled a lot and we laughed each time her tits came out.
"Dumb ass." I lit a cigarette.
"She should just change. Da kine don't know how to change on the beach. I'm fucking killer at it, bra."
"Do you want to go for a swim?"
"Yeah. Let's wait a bit, I have to wait for Mango. He has the chronic, ya."
"You saw Mango last night? Mango was here last night."
"I know man, he hitch hiked to Kapa'a last night. He left, though, cause he wasn't at Keika's when I woke up. I don't know where he stayed. But he has da kine, man. Serious shit. We'll smoke later, too. Are you going to be around?"
I flicked my cigarette into its proper pile. The cigarette pile. "I don't know. It depends on how fast hippies move."
"I might go to Waimea."
"Oh!" She laughed. "Still with the mushrooms."
Jenny laughed again. She threw her cigarette on the pile. "I'm gonna shower. Give me a half hour, I'll meet you out here."
As she went into the community housing, others came out. Black Pot was more than awake.
"Mana Boy, put the golf club down. What did I just tell you?"
Two tan and ethnically universal women emerged from a Jeep Wrangler in the parking lot of the beach park. Auntie Di, sister to Auntie Jelly Bean, mothers of Zion, Mana Boy, and Zoey. They were living those kinds of lives and it was mostly entertaining and not at all pleasant.
"Put the golf club down, Mana. You do not want me to come over there."
This was the part of the morning when my mosquito bites started to itch and the high started to pass.
"Hey, Lindsay. Is Uncle Calvin here?"
"Not yet. Haven't seen him this morning."
"Oh, shoot. Jelly Bean and I brought a bunch of food we had left over from yesterday."
"Dena's in the back."
Then from the back: "Put dat golf club down, son, or I'm gonna whack ya ass!"
"Damnit! Fucking kids." Di said, quickly passing by me toward the back. "Kids! Fucking stop it!"
I looked over the campground at the remaining still-dormant tents and had an overwhelming respect for how intently and well those folks were sleeping through the morning festivities. They were on to something. I went back to my tent to take a nap.
A Balinese chess set I had purchased at a trader downtown was set up on a storage bin. I didn't know how to play chess when I bought it, but it was beautiful and the pieces, although carved as Balinese warrior spirits, seemed less hostile than regular chess pieces and I felt my first real opportunity to learn chess emerge. That was a big moment for me. Hawaii: leave no stone unturned.
Almost to napping.
"Mana Boy! Stop chasing Puna!"
"Puna! Get your ass over here. U'beta, Puna!"
I wished Puna was a Great Dane. If he was, those kids would be gone.
At the picnic table I waited for Jenny until quarter of eleven. The camp was quiet and scattered over several picnic tables. I took a walk around the lagoon to Jenny's tent, but she wasn't there. I went back to the table.
Billy came up over the riverbank. He got coffee from the outdoor kitchenette and sat down beside me.
"I'm so full from yesterday, but I still want breakfast."
"That instant coffee is gross man. I don't know why I drink it."
"I think it fell on the floor... it's probably mixed with dirt."
Here's to ignoring that statement altogether: "Have you seen Jenny?"
He mixed in sugar and powdered milk. "Jenny went to go find Mango. She left in a truck."
"Everyone's always looking for Jenny," Billy said, tested his coffee, found it too hot, set it down and began to roll a cigarette. "Were you hear when Keoli's phone was lost?"
"Yeah. It turned up, though."
"Yeah, but I think Jenny took it."
"Because it turned up."
My phone rang. It was Tony.
I answered. "Did you leave yet?"
"Hey, we're in the circle. You wanna grab your stuff and come meet us? There's surf traffic."
There's surf traffic. Fucking adorable. "Sure. Be there." I stood up and gathered my smoking equipment from the table. To Billy: "If you see Jenny, tell her I waited."
"Right on. Be good."
I took my pocket knife, an extra layer of clothes, a flashlight, two plastic bags, a poncho, and had a bathing suit on underneath the tank top and cotton shorts I was wearing, as well as my shoulder bag. A calm relief of "the next thing" fell upon me and I was happy and not irritated with the hippies.
I said goodbye to the camp and took a pathetic half jog-skip through the park and down past where the road turned into sand.
"Mango!" Standing by the bath house. "Hey, I thought Jenny went to look for you?"
"You did? I thought I was supposed to meet her here."
I made visual contact with the van. Must go toward van. "Go ask Billy, he talked to Jenny before she left."
"Right on. Where you off to?"
I could live with myself if I had fun.
"Lord, stop fucking around and put the cassette back in."
"Hey Tony." Hugs through the driver's side window.
"Hey, Angeles. Go ahead and get in back. I swear to God, Lord, if you don't put the tape back in, I'm gonna fuck you up."
"You couldn't if you tried." Lord said.
"Fuck you, Lord."
I double-checked to make sure I brought my pot.
We picked Scottie up on the side of the 56 by Kalihiwai.
"Angeles, what's up?"
"Nothing too much, Scottie. Looking for some shrooms."
"I think this yogurt is bad," the Lord said.
Tony leaned over from the driver's side and sniffed the container. "Dude, Lord, that's way bad."
"It smells from back here, man," Scottie chimed in.
Lord was quiet for a second. "I guess it's bad yogurt." At least it wasn't me.
I pushed aside a plastic pig lawn ornament and let my arms hang over the chair. Rarely am I as content as I am when riding in the back of a Camry on the way get get shrooms in Kauai.
"We should buy a cow farm," Tony said.
"You guys should totally buy a cow farm. I would totally come and visit you on your cow farm if you had one." Another tip: encourage the hippies to do what they're supposed to be doing. "If you guys had a cow farm you would never need anything else because you'd already have everything you need."
"I don't know if that would work," Lord said, passing the joint to me. "I'm a vegetarian."
"No, you're not, Lord," Tony said. "You ate turkey last night. You're an epileptic."
"Oh, right. That's what I am."
"That's why you don't drive. Dumb ass."
"I'm just pointing out," I said, directing the conversation back to its original blossoming concept, "that if you guys did this, and bought a cow farm, you could not only grow your own food, but you could grow your own weed and magic mushrooms. Not to mention you could get a dog and park anywhere."
"It'd be awesome not to park on the street," Lord said.
I lit a cigarette. "Most of that shit's legal, too."
We drove through Lihu'e, where all the bullshit is. The Wal-Mart, the Cost-Co, Target. If you rented a car, you rented it from Lihu'e. If you flew to Kauai, you landed in Lihu'e. If you were a professional of any calibur, you worked in Lihu'e. Unless you were from Princeville. Or incarcerated.
"I heard that most Christmas trees are actually spruce," Scottie said.
Around noon the caravan passed the Hawaiian cemetery in Wailua. Two of them got out to take a piss in Hanapepe. On the road to Kekaha we ran out of gas.
The Camry, simply turning off completely before Tony gently drove the car off the shoulder and into a ditch.
"Man, I think we're out of gas." He got out of the car to investigate. I lit a cigarette.
"That blows." The Lord threw his yogurt out the window.
"Did you not notice that we were out of gas, Tony?" I asked.
"Eh... We were low out of Hanapepe."
"Why didn't you stop for gas?"
"I don't have any money."
"Well, I would have paid for gas!" I opened the car door. Don't get pissed. They're just hippies. Fix the problem.
"There." At the end of my line of vision I could see the large yellow Shell sign. Satan's oasis.
"You gonna hitch down?" Tony asked me. I looked at him, realizing that I was now paying for gas. Fucking hippies.
"No," I said. "I'll walk. It's right there."
Luckily, Kekaha is not a very traveled-to destination, so there's little threat of getting hit by a car. Unlike all roads that led into Hanalei. I had found that hitch-hiking was the only option for anyone living outside of Hanalei without a ride and a place to be bayside. The roads were too narrow and followed areas that were literally between rainforest and cliffs that dropped off into the ocean. The western side of Kaua'i was fields, farm, and mountain. Its not the tourist hotspot. It's a very logical place, roadwise.
I crossed the street and walked to the booth. The cashier looked up at me from behind the glass.
"I need a gas canister. We ran out down the road."
"Okay. It's fifteen dollars for the can."
"Fifteen dollars just to use the can?"
"We are just up the road, right over there."
She thought for a second. "You just up there?"
"Okay, you don't have to pay. But you have to bring the can back."
"You can fill it up over there."
"Here," I handed the can to Tony, having finished my part. In turn, Tony managed to get a quarter tank into the car before spilling the rest on the pavement. We dropped the can off and continued into the mountains.
"I told Melissa about that Episcopal church."
"The green one with the Hawaiian hymns."
"I liked that one the last time we went," Tony said. "The minister talked about good stuff and everyone was friendly."
"I thought he went on forever," Scottie said. He passed another joint my way. "Let's go to that one in Anahola again. That was a friendly church."
"What church in Anahola?" the Lord asked.
"The one that's on 56 after Kalihiwai Ridge."
"That church!" the Lord said. "That church had no rules. They said you could be gay."
Taking an extra hit, I contemplated ways of diverting the conversation back to cow farms.
"Yeah," Scottie said, "but everyone was really nice and the sermon was really good and I felt like it was a well-spent forty-five minutes."
"Even though they said that stuff about the gays?"
"Every church has its own beliefs, Lord."
"That's not the point Scottie. That's a universal church law. You can't just change it and be in the same religion as everyone else, man!"
Just look at the cacti. Namaste. That sort of shit.
"It's not right, Scottie. It's not right that they say it's okay."
"It's their right to pass on what the church wants to believe in."
Try to focus on the afternoon Hawaiian breeze. That's what a three thousand mile radius of nothing smells like. That's where the silence and peace is. Good vibes for the mushroom hunt. Good ones.
"Well, I don't think it's right they support it. It's not right to support something that the rest of the churches don't support."
The sound of the dirt road beneath the car, pebbles hitting up against the metal undersides. The tropical greens that covered the rolling mountains.
"Besides, I never met a fag I liked."
Dena leading a group of hikers through the hills.
"You know what, Lord, I love fags," I said. The car got really quiet. "I really love fags. I really do," I said again.
Scottie started laughing. "You do?"
"Yep. I love 'em. Love 'em to fucking death. They do my hair, they fix my skin, they do trail guides in the woods. I fucking love them. I love each and every single fag, and I love the fags on this fucking island more than I love fags from the mainland. And that's not even a lie to be mean, that information is real, Lord."
Scottie tried to control his laughter and couldn't, and the front seat was altogether silent. I could see Tony cracking a smile in the mirror. The Lord just looked out the window.
"And I think there should be more of them," I finished, whipping out a cigarette. "How do you like that, Lord? I think there should be more fags. On this island. As well as elsewhere."
The Lord said nothing. The next two miles were silent except for Neil Young's Harvest on cassette as we got deeper into the forest and higher up the hills.
Scottie had used to fish and hunt pig during the early fall and knew some of the names for the sites we were passing. The only signs of humanity we passed were empty campsites and the log-cabin bungalow, then every so often another dirt road or footpath would branch out for a crooked second around a bend and disappear.
There were still chickens.
After the '92 hurricane that hit Kaua'i, there has been a large increase in the chicken population. They run rampant all over the island. They cross city streets. Sometimes there's chicken road kill. The point is that the fuckers are federally protected and there isn't a single predator on the island to prey upon them, not snake nor mongoose, and the cats have lost interest in them. I say to you now if this has happened to you, wherever you are: pick up some pepper bullets and take back what is yours.
A series of waterfalls fell beside the road as Tony continued going up the hills instead of the one that was marked.
"You know where you're going?" I asked. Just because I hadn't yet, and that lack of information hadn't proved stellar.
"Yeah, it's a shortcut."
"It's up this way?" Always confirm with a hippie.
"This road goes back along the canyon and circles back to Waimea at the end."
I looked at the clock and tried to estimate how much time I would have. Cliff-winding roads add time. So does not knowing where the fuck to go.
"At least, I think this road goes back to Waimea..."
Thirty minutes later we determined that the road didn't go anywhere. It ended at a picnic table and a wooden shelter.
"Let's eat those bagels, man." Scottie grabbed the bag of breads and got out of the car. We followed him to the table. Tony and the Lord found guava berries growing along the road and brought them over. We had them on the bagels with creme cheese.
The group hung out around the car for awhile. We weren't sure whether to turn back and try another road, see where it led, or take one of the foot paths up into the hills and scope out our location from there.
"Isn't there a path that goes to some hippie colony around here?"
"Yeah, but you have to bring peanut butter," Tony said.
"Yeah, I think so."
"Okay, we're all done with 'I think so's' for right now," I said. "Let's just go up the trail. It looks like a mild hike around the side of that one there."
"Yeah, if it's no good, we'll just go back a ways."
"Pop the trunk, Lord."
It was colder up the mountains, almost twenty degrees, and there was a lot of brush. I threw on the sweatpants and jacket.
"Didn't they shoot Jurassic Park over here somewhere?"
"I think so."
The trail actually led into the valleys and hills north of Waimea, but we were lost of the sense of direction from our drive. Along the trail, hidden in the droopings of fauna and forest and ridden with roots, was a stream with walls of baby waterfalls. We passed a man and his dog at the two mile mark.
"Hey, what's ahead?" Scottie asked.
"Not much. Goes around the side of the mountain."
"Anyone else around?"
"Nope." I pet his dog. His dog was uninterested. "Log cabin down at the dip in the valley. Might be an emergency shelter. Didn't see any smoke, though. Probably empty."
"Sure. Come, Nuala."
He passed beyond the trail in the direction we had came. I looked at Tony and the Lord and Scottie. "It's almost two. Do you want to keep going on this up to the summit or turn around?"
"I don't know. What do you think?"
"What are we doing again?"
"I'm looking for shrooms. I don't know what the fuck you guys are doing."
"Right." Tony looked up the trail for a second. "Why do you want to find mushrooms so bad?" Tony asked.
"I know a guy you can buy them from," Scottie said. "That way you don't have to look for them." Of course.
"I really want to find them."
"Well... you know. You give a man a fish he eats for a day. Teach him to fish..."
"Teach him to fish and what?"
"And he trips on magic mushrooms at his leisure instead of buying them from crackheads."
"Oh. Okay." That conversation ended.
"Fuck it, let's at least go to the dip," Scottie said. "I bet it's a got a great view of the valley."
This idea echoed with the group so we regrouped with a bowl hit each and continued into the woods. All wooded areas look the same to me. Even though I know they're all different, unless there is something particularly peculiar about the forest, like in rainforest, all woods lay in a familiar way to me.
We crossed a rope bridge, something that the man we passed should not have neglected to mention. There was a safety line above the bridge, and it was there because the rope was ripping from wear on one side and tied to a loose root at the other. Very gingerly, we treaded the rope bridge.
The Lord was the last one to cross the bridge.
"Come on, Lord."
"I'm just getting my sense of gravity together."
"You use gravity when you surf, Lord. You use balance when you walk across a rope bridge. Dumb ass."
"It's not bad," I yelled across the fifteen foot gap. Below the bridge was a stream, not a deep one by any means, but there were large boulders and sharp rock and it was a twenty foot drop to the bottom.
Scottie joined the encouragement. "Just grab the safety wire, man."
"Stop being a fag, Lord."
"Tony." I said.
"What? He's being a little fag. Come on, Lord. Walk across the bridge. We got places to be, bra."
The Lord made his final surveillance of the bridge and began wobbling across with tiny, careful footing.
"That was so awesome when you said all the 'I love fags' shit."
"Yeah, that's a proud memory."
"What a dumb ass. Come on, Lord."
Halfway across the Lord gained full confidence, or at least wanted off the death bridge badly enough, so that he hauled ass to the other side.
"I can't believe we have to go back that way one more time," Lord said, brushing past us and continuing down the trail. Continuing on.
We were rounding a steep bend on the mountain. The trail got thin and the foliage filtered out so that we could now see how far up we were. The there was only down into hillside brush and more rock ledge until further around where it bent and we could no longer see. Looking below: it was possible that a road ran where the spaces in the tree tops were, but there was no telling that from this high up on the mountain. There were so many places to hide.
For twenty yards as the trail took a dramatic curve around the slope, we only walked upwards, sometimes grabbing on to roots and boulders to pull our ourselves to the next ledge. The air had significantly cooled off and although the hike was moderately strenuous, the climate seemed to energize our step work and no one doddled.
The trail plateaued as the mountain did, and as the path widened and we came around the other side of the mossed volcanic curvature, a homeless-looking blonde man in jeans and a YMCA t-shirt stood point blank in the middle of the trail.
"Hello. Do you have any peanut butter?"
I thought about that question, but only had more questions. I looked at the others. When traveling in mixed gender groups through the Thousand Acre Wood, it's the guys' job to make introductions with strangers.
"Cigarettes, man." Scottie said.
"Oh, that's okay. Camels?"
"Marlboroughs." Scottie extended a pack of reds.
We stood in silence for a few seconds.
"So..." I said. "You live around here?"
He nodded. Okay then. Scottie offered the gentleman a light, but the sir put the cigarette in his pocket. "Down over the hill."
"Wait, you live back here? Really?"
The gentleman nodded again, same smile. Then he started chewing, matter unknown, and that followed with, "I'll show you, it's down the hill some." Immediately started down the hillside.
Back in a glen, behind two sets of woods and over a stream where not one beaten patch of earth was laid, there was a house full of hippies. Young ones, old ones, surfer ones, amish-looking ones. Laundry hung on a line between two candlenut trees and benches and chairs covered the lawn. The house itself looked like a bird house with porches instead of perches and an awkward second story that clung to the first as though it was thinking about going. There were cats.
"See, we train some of these cats to get some of the chickens," the gentleman was telling Tony, "cause they poop everywhere and we don't want the bugs and stuff to get up here."
"Well, we live in Hanalei, and we can't even get them to go after chicks."
"Yeah, you got to leave one of the cats in the room with one of the chickens that's injured."
"Yeah. So this is Candlenut Valley. Welcome."
There was one older chick and a grandpa-looking guy on the front porch. Both were entirely dressed in cotton and the older chick was sporting a long fan of knotty red braids. Grandpa had a beard and a straw hat and he meant it.
"This is Lily, and that's Jules. This here's Jules' house. And... well, I don't know. I guess we're all like guests of the island here."
I smiled at Lily. "Hi."
"Hey," she said. We were both stoned on a fucking island in Hawaii looking at each other. It was a nice moment.
Grandpa Jules stood up and went in the house. Blond guy chewed again, but this time smiled as he did it. "Jules is a quiet type. He don't like to be around people too much."
I don't believe it.
Lily, clad in cotton and what looked like curtain lace, turned to go upstairs. "We're doing Kalua pig. Your friends are welcome to it, Douglas."
"Do you guys have beer?" Blonde Douglas asked.
"Not with us."
"There's some in the truck," Scottie said, then, because he was mistaken, looked at me.
"If you guys want beer that badly, go back to the car. I'm not going back to the fucking car." Kalua pig, then collection information from immediate locals about the region's native fungi, then re-high.
"I'll get it," Douglas said. "Give me your keys."
Tony looked at Douglas and the answer he was going to give him was no.
"It's okay, I promise. I don't know how to drive."
I believed him. If he stole our car and Grandpa Jules massacred our crew and fed us to the wild swine, that course of action had been decided when we chose to follow peanut-butter boy into the hippie hollow here on Mt. Fuck It. That was when that choice was made. If there happened to be beer for that, then so be it.
Doug got the keys from Tony and bobbed away, back up the hill to retrieve the beer.
"I don't know if I should trust a stranger like that," Tony said over my shoulder as we walked up the porch stairs.
"If anyone's going to get our beer, I want it to be him."
The inside smelled like a barbeque. There were few windows, except for the backside of the house which had an entire wall taken out in the back so that the first floor truly overlooked the hillside. Seven or eight people milled about between the kitchen, the living room, and the back porch. The living room was a pile of pillows. There was a chicken on the table and it wasn't dead.
"So how long have you guys lived here?" Tony asked. "Like, have you always been here, or is this a new deal kinda thing?"
Lily and another girl looked at him with a plastered smile, pulling plastic silverware out of the sink and drying it with a dishrag. "Well, Doug's been out here since he moved from Lahaina. And before that he was in Baton Rouge. And a lot of these people are nature-people, you know, they hear about a commune in the woods and think its a resort." All four of them. "But we're really just some people living out here."
"Where are you from?" I asked.
"Oh, so you must be really glad to be out of the cold!" I said in a nudge-nudge friendly way.
"Yeah. I really am." She had big eyes and meant it. "Really. So this is everyone else, that's Nib, Martha, Tundra, Puahoni, Stan, Horrace, and St. Ivory."
"So there any good mushroom places out here?" I asked Lily. All hail Verbatim.
"Mushrooms? I don't know. Jules sometimes finds them on his morning walks. Not a lot. Sometimes."
"Where does he walk?"
"I don't know. 'Round the house in the woods by the bridge and back."
Over where the mountain curved. I hadn't seen anything but dry ground. Not ground for mushrooms.
"Might try over there." Lily nodded mountainside, over where the hills peaked and disappeared into clouds.
"What's over there?" I asked.
"Don't know. We don't really go over there."
"What makes you think there's mushrooms over there?"
"Well, when it rains, sometimes we see four or five whole groups of people come back here. And that's just in one week. One time it rained up there so hard, the next day I saw three groups of people."
"You think they were hunting for mushrooms?"
"Maybe. Some people come over this way to help get rid of NASA."
"To get rid of NASA?"
"Yeah. There's a NASA Observatory on the hill. Some of the people from Waimea think they're bad."
"I don't know about that."
Doug got back with the beers and we ate the second round of Kalua pig was that was cooking in the pit. I had it on freshgrown cabbage and beer. I smoked a joint with Nib. Kept checking my phone for the time.
The guys seemed to be getting along well with the inhabitants of Candlenut Valley. It was a trip to see the hippie country cousins who lived with Grandpa Jules way the fuck back in the middle of a rainforest that went up a mountain.
"Yeah, I would say keep heading the same way you were coming," Nib said, passing the joint. "I think some of them grow on trees."
"Good, I know what some of those look like. Do you think any of them are bad?"
Nib considered. "Well, I don't know. I don't think I've ever heard of anybody having a bad trip. You know?"
The myths of the locals. To live in a world where there are no bad shrooms.
"I really don't know what's back up there, though. Jules is sleeping, or he'd tell you. But I think there's parts up there that he won't even go."
"I'm not sure. A lot of floods, a lot of storms, it gets bad. Nice day today, though."
"You sure you wanna go out there?" Scottie asked.
"We could always go to the cowfields by Kalihiwai on Saturday."
"Then plan on doing that, too."
"Okay, then." Scottie walked with me to the front yard. The aunts and uncles stayed with the children.
The trail wound up past where the valley opened up like Virginia and then went mountains and woods like its western cohort. The trail was wide until it ascended and it even had some pebbles on it. There were no rocks or boulders in front of me. No sign of the volcano gods. Moderately inviting.
"Here," I said, handing Scottie my beer. "You can have this."
"Thanks. Doug drank most of what we brought."
"I shouldn't be more than two hours, but I don't think I have cell phone reception out here."
"Maybe you will since NASA's here."
"Yeah, maybe." I waved. Up the trail and ahead. Free time. Alice playing in Wonderland. It was just like girl scouts only without the shitty uniforms.
"Okay. Bye then."
Truth be told, I'm not very experienced and had little reason to think I had the skills to find the right mushrooms that induced psychadelic sensory perception. It's the Little Engine Who Could Be a Dumb Ass in advanced territory, and I had hoped that I had considered this particular voyage from all angles and was going into with as much clarity as could be expected.
"See ya, Scottie." I hoped this wasn't just another fruitless walk through the woods.
What I had left in my tent was my pair of boots. Later, standing at the foot of the bog, it would all make sense.
Lonely is imagining other people. Missing them is having access to the times and places where they are in the memory and the databank. Alone is not having access to those memories at all. Never once have I gone into nature and not found what I was looking for.
The trail led to a field where a small footpath lay in-tread across the tall grasses to the woods, plateauing above hills that led down into the flat-land and back out to the coast. Above the woods, before they ascended into clouds, were two large mountains.
There are no snakes in Kauai, so I walked into the field.
Let's have a plan for this one. Through the valley, cross the grass one way or another. Try not to get distracted by the complete and utter solitude of the Empty Knoll. Don't panic if you get overwhelmed. In the event of an unfortunate passing, this channel of consciousness is really shitty, anyway.
The grass was very hard and dry and not good earth for mushrooms. I wondered if I was on the right side of the canyon. The lawn of the valley was overgrown, but it was meadow grass and in some patches there was a dry-green brush growing underneath it.
When hunting the shroom, one has to remember the personality behind the organism. Rarely do they pop out of the earth in plainsight. The hunter-gatherer must look for them, and a wise shroom-hunter knows that their domestic habitualisms tend to be limited to darker setting, say the moist shade of cowpies or, thanks to the miracle of spores, underneath thicker patches of grass.
Above the clearing on one of the hills, the grass looked fuller and greener, so I made that a tentative destination. I took my time looking through the underlying content of the field, wishing I had done more than look at internet sites and don't-eat-these forums online. Maybe bought a book. Or taken a guide. Anything that made anything else useful at this moment would have been good.
The patch wasn't as green as previously anticipated and fifteen minutes of unfruitful daylight let the doubt in. Without boots, the terrain would be difficult. Obviously, there were no cows. Daylight would run out. So would the beer. And the Lord would turn Jewish. Shit.
I turned to walk down the slope, compromising the mission for the sake of dignity. Like fate, in the shadows by a moss-covered log, two exquisite and large black beauties stuck out like nature's little boner. Just when I had given up all hope. This, of course, changed the abandonment of the course. I picked the mushrooms and rejoiced. Onward.
This particular forest appeared to be insect-free, but there were some birds. The only other sound in the forest beside the wind was the birds. The air was moist and cold and didn't smell like a season, but a place. In the shadows of wood and leaf were dark greens that deepened with the slope, which was trailless, unbeaten, and entranceless except for the magnificent staircase of tree roots and stone mass.
No mushrooms at what I was going to call the halfway point with a smoke. I turned and looked back, which I had yet to do the entire time I had been climbing. Now, gazing out into ten feet of clarity before a cloud curtain veiled view from the ground behind me, I realized what that meant. I rolled a joint and watched the smoke fade into the immediate atmosphere and marveled at this place.
The clouds got thicker the higher I climbed. Some of the rocks were wet, and the tree roots had started to thin out, so there was little to aid traction or provide boost. I pulled myself on to a five foot ledge from where a boulder had avalanched prior to my arrival and had a serious moment to think about the reprocussions of the task at hand. I was feeling the risk. Behind me and below me was the cloud-fog and it covered whatever I had to be afraid of. Above me was more cloudfog that stretched on until it stopped, wherever it stopped. Just the grey. It was hard to reason when I couldn't see anything. It was also quiet and dark, and then line between peaceful and scary was thin. I closed my eyes. It was a little darker but the same.
Intuition time. Back down or more up. I grabbed the most stable earth I could find and ascended out of the clouds.
Instantly There Was A Valley.
Before me lay moss carpet that rolled into a deep depression in the mountain range, a wild nest of cliffs and nooks. A bowl of green rainbows with the grey tapestry pouring down like a fog machine. The most natural air of the earth and the thinnest light of a passing day trickling through breaks in majestic cloud matter. Mass vegetation in a vegetative state. Welcome to the bog.
Often I've wondered if nature is really as satisfying as its purity manifests. People live in these places, in the woods or in the tropics, in snow-covered mountain ranges, in places where there's only field and farm for miles. When I think of those people in those places, I've often wondered if they were truly content at that very top layer of consciousness, if life and loneliness and self didn't still poke through to ruin the better parts of that nature on occasion and make those settings of retreat just another place for a certain personality. I think my ego would break if I lived in such paradise, no company to share with. I don't know.
The terrain was jagged and slippery, but the ferns and matted ground made for good hiking down into the depression. The tree line from the hill I was on thinned, and I saw that I was on one of the smaller hills in the group forming the bog. My sandals squished into the gaps in stone and soil, and the soles were sucked on by the earth. Where the trees broke, there was more wind, and I could see the whole valley and all the hills. I stopped thinking about mushrooms. Goals were too distracting.
In the center of the valley were tumbling ridges that grew into the mountains that enclosed it. Waterfalls, gentle ones, fell from the sides of the mountain, coming out of nowhere and then disappearing right back into it. I wanted there to be a castle on the far side of the drop, maybe hovering on the clouds, loaded with the turrets of fairytale that disappeared with the wind-sound. I would smoke everyone in that castle out and then crash there for a few days.
Quarter of the way down. What was I doing in Wonderland.
I panicked when I realized I had forgotten the sun and purpose snapped in me as I knew how little time I had left to find the mushrooms. It's all fun and beautiful until someone gets stuck in a bog after dusk, which is why the traveler gets to his destination in as much daylight as the traveler can allow for. Otherwise, you're just a dumb ass.
I turned to go back up the hill, then hesitated and looked back at the valley. Chances that I would cross this way again were very small. I wasn't entirely sure how I had made it into the bog, nor was I positive of my exit, and the logistics of a second trip back to this place were impossible to estimate. Fuck mushrooms for ten minutes. I covered a lump of the green with my poncho and sat and watch the clouds go out and thought about how cute and natural everything was.
Thing is, the clouds had been moving in, actually getting closer, and were very much the beginnings of a torrential downpour. I however, had sat on the moss, watching them stream in, gaining speed and power and raw gain with each gust of wind.
Me: "Are those clouds getting closer?"
Clouds: "Yes, in fact, we usually break over the wettest place on earth and then regroup on the other side."
Me: "That's interesting, and makes sense! I saw on a map that the other side of the mountain is very dry, and then this side is very green, and there were clouds in the middle."
Clouds: "Yep! You're fucked. Dumb ass."
I stuffed the poncho into my shoulder back and started back up my ridge. I could feel the sun disappearing behind the clouds. The wind sound held up, but now it called out to the rain and the most impending feeling of rain swept over the hillside. I was a hundred yards into the decline of the valley when I had spontaneously retreated and was now faced with the task of incline.
Baby drops of rain fell. Maybe it was just a drizzle.
Almost immediately the real rain fell. Smoke and fog and cloud engulfed most things above me. It stormed as I tried the mountain and within a minute or two, water was running through the open toes of my sandals, running across the stones and moss and down into the gravity of the pit the same way water trickles across a stream. Except the entire hillside was the current and it was running across my feet and then up to my ankles. Bog mist covered the crest and I made it to the tree line before I could see the rest of the way up.
It's poncho time.
Above, in the low-laying moss-rocks and flatter terrain I had taken as a path down the hill, water was now collecting, streaming along the easy dip in the mountain ground and plummeting sideways toward a cliff one hill over where the largest waterfall I had seen in the valley had now taken root. The other option was to attempt to hoist myself over a six foot climb and then trudge a different path to the same crest. I also had rope and a rape whistle.
The water was up to my calves. My weight against the water and my feet stuck in it, I moved at a desperate pace across it. The dry culvert area I had cut through was about fifty feet wide. I could probably make it to one side if I tried. The moss sucked on my feet the whole way across and it was a terrifying feeling.
One side of the mountain was now a flood.
I stopped underneath a tree with low-lying branches to survey the situation. Logs were being swept away twenty feet in front of me. One of them was a tiny tree.
I'm so shitty to my parents.
At no point did I have the idea to go up the tree. At no point do I option to climb trees if the situation does not absolutely call for it. I just don't have that primate desire in my blood, climbing trees. If ever I were to be in a situation like the present where my survival counted on me seeking shelter by hugging tree, things have gone too far. Signs have not been read. People have not been paid. Chances are I'm at a bad idea.
The water hit me straight on and I fell forward into it. For a moment my spine was under it. I didn't feel as wet as I did cold and the seconds of submersion were terrifying while they lasted. Then the branch was in my grasp, then both my feet on it, and I grabbed and pulled up.
Below me the water streamed past. Above me rain crashed into the tops of the trees. All around me water came hard. It was loud and it was everywhere. More human instinct kicked in. I ate the two mushrooms.
A white, ibis-like bird landed on the branch above me. I looked up at him, and he looked back at me, unafraid but curious. Another one landed from another tree. The first bird looked at the second bird. The second bird went elsewhere. The first one looked at me again.
He moved an inch back. He cocked his head and stepped back and forth a bit.
"I wish I could fly."
He blinked, picked at his feathers a bit, then looked at me again.
"I said, 'I wish I could fly!'" I shouted.
Ah, now he understood. He commisserated.
"Pretty badly, actually. I guess we both got caught in the rain."
The little white bird moved toward the trunk and hopped to another branch, farther from me but still angled toward toward me.
Mercury, the bird, watched the valley change with me. The whirlpool on the hillside churned up foliage and earth and rock and swept the organic mixture down. I adjusted myself, the bird watching me closely, and sat with my ass on one of the branches and my legs around the trunk of the tree so I could see through whatever branches and leaves I could out at the valley and still feel like I was holding on to a part of the physical world. It was a lot like a city, the valley. The water rode down the ridges like traffic, all congested, always flowing toward one thing. In the distance, now closer than ever before, stood the peak of Mt. Waialeale, where a crater whose lava had created the island millions back. Before there were trees and birds and moss-covered valleys. Now it rested in the bed of its creation, dormant in the absolute glory its molten rock had fed like a mother's milk. Everything was rare and old and brand fucking new.
The rain let up slightly and a few more white birds moved into the tree. It got dark, but the darkness wasn't scary in the trees, just big. Everything seemed big. I knew I was tripping slightly. In the dark the valley no longer seemed alive, but old, still massive and powerful, but dark and ancient in the rain. I could be anywhere. It could be any time. There was no way to tell the age or time of now. There was no sign of existence anywhere else. This place was the only place and it was temporary. I enjoyed it. So did Mercury. So did Holst.
Night came and the rain stopped. In the hours that had passed, the valley had evolved and changed its passages. I looked over and Mercury was gone. I didn't want to be in this place in the dark and dread acted as motivation. This is when to go. I was freezing.
Reaching for a branch, my hand grabbed something soft and sticky and I jerked it away. With my flashlight, I illuminated above me a nest of a dozen or so brown mushrooms growing on the trunk of the tree. Then I laughed for a very long time and by the end of the laughing, I felt really well. So I picked them.
The pitch black overhang held the unabbreviated starlight of the Pacific as stone by moss-covered boulder by elaborate rock ledge by the grace of a newly exposed staircase of tree roots, I climbed out of the bog.
I hadn't been able to return from the same side I'd climbed into the valley. Still, I was on the same side, and when I found a trail, I took it until it ran into a service road. There were still no lights, no fences, no cars or signs of people, but I'd found as much humanity as I had seen in almost five hours, and at about this time, things like dirt roads seemed like highways back to society.
I lit a cigarette. It was cold and I was wet. My feet hurt badly and my toes, although chilled numb, were no longer the same toes they'd been when I'd started the trip. Less attached. Probably from pulling them out of the moss when the water came. These were the things I chose to do without health insurance.
I had no idea which way to go or where Candlenut Valley was situated along the hills. Which way to go. Surely one direction was very wrong.
I rolled a joint. Fuck it. I'd found a road. If there was anymore decision making, it would happen with daylight. Otherwise, I'd just be walking around This Place in the dark. Let's not get stupid now, just as everything is going so according to plan.
In mid-joint, I thought I heard wheels in the dirt, but assumed it was Nature, the weed, and the tiny bit of boomers. Boring. I sat down cross-legged in the wet grass and wished the music was still going. I wondered the time and didn't follow up. Then there were most certainly two headlights coming around a bend. I stood up. A car.
I stuck my thumb out. The car got closer and again I was worried I was still tripping. A pizza delivery car. There are only so many circumstances that would call for a pizza delivery in these conditions. Well-played, hippies. Well-played.
The driver slowed, rolling down the window. We looked at each other for a second while the car ran. I took another drag while we thought about it.
"Where you going?" The driver asked.
"I'm not sure. Somewhere around here. Where are you headed?"
"End of this road, then Kekaha."
"Me too. Can I?..."
I hopped in the passenger's side.
"What are you cruisin' out here for?"
I handed him the joint. "Just looking for some candlenuts."
"You shouldn't cruise in the dark out here like that. You know, haoles fall off the cliffs every year. Or they get swept out to sea."
"Yeah, I guess that's true." He passed the joint back.
"Yeah, it's no place to cruise in. Are you alone?"
"No." I laughed. "I think my friends actually ordered pizza."
"Oh, you left your friends?"
"Yep. I left all of my friends." The joint was dying, somewhere in the final stages before roach sets in, when the last of the herb is smoking well, and I continued without reason or purpose: "I left all of my friends. That's been the whole point, sir." I shrugged.
"You don't want any friends?" The driver laughed and didn't understand.
"No," I said. "In fact, I only want to see more people." It had been that kind of day. "Today I have hippies," I added. I glanced at the clock. Nearly nine. I wondered how long I'd been in the bog exactly.
"Oh, da kine. Da kine that order pizza in the fucking canyon late in the night? I see. I see da kine, ya!" He laughed. I laughed too. Life is so good.
At the same turnout where a '92 Camry was parked in the drive, Russo, the driver, parked the car and flashed the lights. Tony got out of the other car and came to the driver's window.
"Angeles! Where did you go? We were kinda worried, man. Did you find boomers?"
"Yep." I had the pizza boxes on my lap. "No money for gas, Tony?"
"Well, the gas money was gone. I still have food money."
"That's $28.50." Russo said.
"For two medium pizzas?"
"This is ten miles out of our delivery zone and I had to come up in the mountains."
"Take care, Russo. Tip the man well, Tony." I got out of the car with the pizzas, and started back toward the trail. The next time I would walk down this trail I would be leaving this place and that gave me comfort.
Breaking into a pizza box, I stole a slice before I passing them off to Tony. "Did you boys have a nice evening?"
"Yeah, man. These people are out of this world, man, I mean way far. Tundra sees aliens sometimes and I guess Lily is some kind of goddess."
"They did that thing. That thing where they let the cat kill the crippled chickens."
"Sounds like a good evening."
"Yeah, Scottie even went to get beer."
I was at the crust. "Scottie went to go get beer? He drove back into town?"
"Yeah, man. We ran out of the Keystone."
"How did he get back here? You had just enough gas to get back down the mountain."
"Oh, no. He filled it up."
"So we have gas to get home, whenever that may be?"
"Okay, Tony, listen... I will always pay for gas in case of emergencies. But next time, let me know before the actual running out of gas happens."
I was full. I took the flashlight and the boxes and Tony got a slice. "I know, man, and I really appreciate it."
"I just mean," I continued, "that we're lucky that happened on the road to Kekaha, and not here. And it was easy to fix. It's just a preparation thing. Next time just tell me so we can stop it from happening. You know? Then we can get beer at the same time so there isn't a traffic jam on the mountain."
"How's the pizza?"
"Eat fast, cause we coming up on the climb. Think we'll need all available hands for that."
"Hey, so you found mushrooms, that's awesome!"
"I know, man. I'm fucking so psyched."
"Did you find them on cowpies?"
"No, man. I climbed up a tree to get out of a flash flood, and they were just chilling on the branches."
"Fuck! I just remembered that fucking rope bridge."
"I know, man."
In one piece, with both pizza boxes and very muddy legs, Tony and I made it back to the shack in the woods of the wettest place on earth. Some of the older folks had gone to bed. Us younger kine stayed up, drank beer, smoked pot, and ate the pizza that had delivered me back from Waialeale. I felt very good drinking shitty beer.
A few guys I hadn't met were playing music around the bonfire on the open patio, a eukelele, guitar, and a few percussion instruments, a few of us sitting there, others by the Imu. They were cooking the chicken the cats had killed. I was by the fire getting warm. Lily came over to sit by the music.
"How was your journey?" she asked.
I smiled. Patted by shoulder bag. "I did very well, today."
"That's good. We had a good day here, too."
"Do you like music?" I asked her, looking at her.
"What kinds of music." She repeated and thought. "I used to listen to opera. I lived in an Italian neighborhood in New York and I heard a lot of good opera."
"I haven't listened to much. It sounds beautiful."
"It is. Even when you don't know what they're saying. I never knew what they were saying, but I think I knew what some of the stories were about."
"What other music?"
"Bluegrass. I like reggae. Everyone on the island likes reggae, though. You have to, to be here. You know, ya?"
"I think so."
"Do you like Reggae?"
"More and more every day."
"Me too, man!" She laughed. She had soft-black hair and she looked like Audrey Hepburn beside the fire, small and layered in the apron ballgown. "It's so good. There's so much good here, you know?"
"I mean, we go to town. We go back into town and get groceries and some still even write to other people. But we don't tell people we're back here. It's not to be mean. It's just because this is a place that is real and it has to stay real. But you're here," she smiled, touched my cheek. "And we're glad you're here. There's a lot of good right now."
"How old are you?"
She was still touching my cheek when I said: "I think it meant the most to Doug, especially since we had beer."
Lily laughed again. Her motions and reactions were expanded in the glow of the fire and she seemed more like a bright object, a light or an important fixture. She had it handled. Nineteen. Handled.
"Do you ever go to Hanalei?"
"Not a lot. Not since summer."
"The next time you go, you should find this girl, Jenny, at Black Pot. It's right on the lagoon. I think you'd like her."
"I don't know her last name. She's so... uninhibited. And she's younger, like you. I don't know much about her. She's like a freebird."
We passed a beer between the two of us and were good sitting with the music underneath some candlenut trees.
Tony and the Lord came over and sat down with us.
"Hey ladies. What's happening?"
"Enjoying the sound, brother," Lily said. She was still buzzing in various ways. "Are you good tonight?"
"Yeah, we're chilling," the Lord said, nudging her. I wondered if that was flirting.
"Actually, we were thinking about heading back tonight," Tony said. "What are you thinking?"
"Well... it's late and dark. And we're on a canyon ridge. You guys don't want to crash here?"
"You know you're welcome," Lily said to both of them. "This place is here for you guys."
"For da kine?" the Lord asked, nudging her again. They laughed.
"Lord, stop acting like you know Pidgin. It's irritating."
"Don't get like that, Tony." The Lord fired back.
"I just wanted to catch some surf tomorrow before work," Tony said. "Middles Beach was bitchin' today. I bet it's like that tomorrow."
"How do you know Middles was bitchin'?"
"Cause Dave told Scottie that this morning at work, Lord! God, why do you get like that when you're drunk?"
I could feel the Good starting to pass, especially watching Lily during Tony and the Lord's unpleasantries. Her movements shrunk back a bit and the fire wasn't as alive on her as it had been when she was reacting to that warmth of just sitting. I couldn't retire like she did, retreat into that guaranteed purity of nature in the woods. There are other components of the bloodstream. Sometimes I have to go to Middles. It's important, if you ever have to go to Middles, if you ever have to leave something the way you found it, that you do. Time to leave Mt. Fuck It.
"Alright, let's get Scottie." I handed Lily the rest of the beer. She smiled, didn't say anything, and walked over to the Imu. Tony and the Lord went to get Scottie. I sat at the edge of the bonfire and watched Lily stand over the pit on her tip-toes. Smoke danced up from the burning hole in the earth and melted into her velvetness, her Rasta Snow White Stripes motif. She and Jenny would be good friends.
"I got the beer," Lord said.
"Don't be an ass, Lord. Leave the beer for them."
"Hey, man, it's Scottie's beer."
"Okay, then let Scottie determine what goes down with the beer."
Scottie, tired and apathetic: "Let 'em keep the beers."
"Me?" asked Lord.
"No. Them. Fuck you, Lord."
"I think I broke every one of my toes today." I said. My toes were purple, and I had cleaned them.
"Dude, I do that surfing all the time."
"Yeah, you just got to get used to it."
We said our goodbyes. Douglas was asleep on the porch and we didn't wake him because we suspected the pile of vomit on the front patio to be his. Lily told me of a few other ways to get to where they were in the valley, but I was stoned and now remembering the trail back. Fucking rope bridge.
"Come back when it snows in the canyon."
"Does it snow enough for snowmen?"
"Sometimes. But it takes all the snow from the ridge to the front porch to make."
"Take care, Lily."
We hugged. I don't expect to see Lily again. There's no particular reason behind why I don't expect to.
"When you go to Maui, be sure to see Haleakala."
"The volcano where the sun lives. On Maui."
Then it was back through the caverns of forest, much quicker and steadier now than our arrival, around the bends, back to the path that led toward a bigger civilization. I was conscious of my shoulder bag the whole time and, even though it was zippered shut, checked repeatedly to ensure the safety of my bounty.
In the car we were quiet. Scottie and the Lord were pretty drunk, crankiness over, about ready for the comatose car ride back. I didn't fall asleep until we had come down off the mountain. Turning around, wherever we had been could not be seen. Not in the darkness, not in the blackness of the moonshadows of mountains, not in the hidden underhangs of the forest and the twists of the road. Only when we once again reached the highway could the stretch of the fields be seen, the empty, flat plain that ran up the mound in golds and greens. There behind it, the birth of the mountains could be caught with the eye, and then just the forever blackness that extended into the heavens.
On the road to Kapa'a, we passed four cars. Then there were three in the town. Then no one until Princeville. I watched the surface of the road change without fully passing out. The heater of the car felt good and the radio improved the drive tenfold. I was happy to be there with those people. Strangers are not as scary as we have been told.
Tony pulled into the parking lot at Hanalei Beach Park. There was one overhanging light near Calvin's, but no one awake in sight. The river seemed quiet. It was long past midnight.
"Thanks for today Tony." I leaned over the driver's side window and half-hugged, half-kissed on the cheek. I just waved to everyone else. No sense in going through that motion more than once.
"No problem, Angeles. You're chill. We'll call after the surf tomorrow."
"Just come around. I'll be up early."
"Are you working still?"
"No. I quit before the holiday. I'm just shrooming from now on."
"Right. Well congratulations babe, sleep well."
"You too. Night guys." Tony, the lone waking ego of the vehicle, pulled out of the lot and away, past the houses, out where the street lights of Hanalei leaked like a lagoon into town. I walked over to the Black Pot grounds.
I threw my things in the tent and rolled myself a joint at the picnic table. The camp was just as crowded as it had been the night previous. I heard kids on the banks by the river. The day before was still Thanksgiving.
One of the puppies ran out of the tents and Dena came out from her tent. She was using the cane, as she had often come to at night, and as I noticed she had been doing more during the day.
"What are you doing up?" I asked quietly, surprised to see Dena, who woke so early, at this hour.
Dena grunted and sat at the table, gingerly and muttering something in her secret Hawaiian-Pigdin tongue and then said, "Puna's been a bitch all day and the the kids so loud, they gonna wake up Cawelina."
"Yeah, but not by the lagoon. Di gets mad about that sort of thing."
"Anyone else up?"
"Billy took the boat out crabbing. I think he and Mango set traps up on the water."
I lit the joint and handed it to her. "I went up to the Canyon."
"Ah, yes. How was it?"
"Beautiful. I found mushrooms up there."
"What did you find?"
"I'm not sure, hold on." Out came the bag of mushrooms. Into free, unadulterated Black Pot air came my little babies who had sat above me while the valleys of my soul were washed clean in the floods of nature. My little alkaline thought bubbles waiting until the right moment to pop. I opened the bag and turned on my LED.
Out came a load of bright green mushrooms with purple stems. They had been brown four hours earlier.
"Well, these don't look good."
I looked at them. They didn't. "They were brown when I picked them! Do you know what they are?"
"Where did you find them?"
"On a tree."
We both stared at them on the table, an oozing fungi mess.
"Did you eat any?"
"No. Well. Not any from the trees."
"Most mushrooms that grow on trees have a symbiotic relationship with it. The tree lets it live there, and in return the mushrooms give the tree minerals." Another pause while the joint passed. "But girl, you can't eat these. You gotta be careful up there. People no supposed to go up there."
Something in me felt disappointed, but something else in me was also very tired. The thought of repeating the same emotional ambition that this day had taken was not something I was going to deal with tonight, as I had achieved a most euphoric and contemplatively satisfactory state. Those little fungi motherfuckers. I had other dates planned. I had lots of time. I would even remember boots in the future.
"I'm going to walk Ewa around the park."
I walked toward my tent, thoroughly exhausted. I spent a moment examining the sky for any sign of a moonbow, which I did every night always hoping to find one. Not tonight. I slipped into the tent and curled up on the air mattress.
Outside the kids were splashing one of the oars against the water, and I lay away while Auntie Jelly Bean tried her best to quietly calm the children down by directing their attention to Billy's crabbing.
"See, Mana Boy. Billy has to be very careful with nets so that he doesn't harm the fish."
"Does it matter? Isn't he hunting crabs anyway? He's hurting the fish."
"No, Mana. If he is careful, he'll get what he needs. That's how the Hawaiians lived. That's how they still live."
Mana Boy asked another question I couldn't hear.
"There is a name for what we are," Di said. Then the waves on the banks.
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