The Jungles of Waimanu

bamboo

Five years on the Big Island, so deep in these valleys.

His campsite empty now, simple and clean. The trails leading off to the stream, to his plants, to his bathroom, all smooth and manicured. The wall of reddish rock standing tall behind his flat tent clearing, a good dry cave hidden in the bushes there. Collin had wrapped his tent and his cooking pots, his tarps and his water jugs, and stuffed them deep into the cave. They should be safe there for as long as he might be away. His memories seemed strange. That he might have grown up in a regular home. A big house. Too much electricity and wasted water. Over eating. So much garbage each week. It seemed foreign and wrong to think that his childhood had been normal. And that normal was so wasteful. It seemed wrong to him that his parents could have raised their kids in that false environment. Collin stood there, staring at his empty campsite, his home. He was tall and slim. A tiny backpack all he needed. Barefoot. His legs excited to cover miles today. He let his eyes play over everything. Now just a simple clearing with clues, a cold fire pit, some rockwork, those smooth flat spaces, the clean trails, and the solid earth that been lived on, a contrast to the soft forest floor of moss and leaves, ferns and trees. Sunlight warm and lovely filtered down through the canopy.

He had loved this home, but it was time to go.

Collin had moved to the Big Island at eighteen. He picked UH Hilo because Uncle Bo had gone there. It seemed like a natural transition after high school. He never had a long-term plan. He was living in the present. Collin had rented a room on his parents’ dime, all smiles and college pride. He used an old bicycle to get to classes. In his first month there, in the blink of an eye, he had been enchanted by a beautiful girl.

She had introduced herself as Ku’u. Ku’u Lehua. They had been two of seven students in a small Hawaiian Studies class. For both of them, it was their favorite class. Collin and Ku’u sat across the circle from each other in that classroom, and they had agreed strongly on each of the topics their teacher raised. They had seen eye to eye from the beginning. Ku’u would give him these beautiful smiles across the classroom. Glowing and warm. They were teenagers convinced that they were on top of everything in their world. Ku’u had been raised in Hilo. She had a nice car and a job. She invited him to join her on weekend adventures. She showed Collin the best of her island. And Collin was easily swept into the magic of the Big Island. He loved the cold rivers and the vast lava flows. He loved staring up into the mountains and seeing snow. He loved that his guide was a beautiful, happy, strong, proud girl.

They would sit together, their shoulders wrapped in a shared blanket and watch the night sky. He told her, in soft tones, about the best of his home on Maui. He told her of hunting alone in his mountains. He told her of his time working alongside his family on Kaho’olawe.  She listened closely and kissed his closed eyes. Collin and Ku’u fell easily into love.

As their first year of college ended and summer began, they headed off together for a long weekend camping trip in Waipio.

That camping trip had gone wrong.

Collin knew now that they hadn’t been ready for life together outside of college. They had been too young.

Collin had gone on the camping trip with his girlfriend hoping for peace and quiet. His lovely Ku’u wanted to use the time down in Waipio Valley for intense discussions and plans.

Ku’u had told Collin of her dreams. She said that she wanted to finish her degree on Oahu. Perhaps aim for Law School, find a career. She talked of the possibility of spending time in California or New York, perhaps a master’s degree, or an important job. She whispered in his ear that she wanted three children, a dog, a home. She talked and talked, revising her plans, focusing her dreams. Always placing Collin alongside her, whether it was UH Manoa or Manhattan.

She had asked for his dreams and aspirations in return. To compare notes. To collaborate. Collin’s mumbled answers didn’t line up. He wasn’t prepared for the conversation and he tried to weasel out. He shrugged and went pouty. He stared into the campfire and went silent. She talked gently to him. She tried to inspire him to create his own future. Collin barked at her. He told her to mind her own business. He told her to leave him alone. He snapped at her like a cornered animal. Ku’u couldn’t believe it. She was taken aback. She expected more from him.

Collin had smeared memories of the argument that erupted. He remembered that they had both been yelling. She had knocked over some stones that he had carefully balanced. She had tossed supplies off into the woods. She had gone overboard.

Then she left. She turned her back on Collin, flipped him the bird, and walked from the valley alone. The rest of the day went by in silence. Collin sat there angry and hurt. He felt hollow. He felt wronged. He missed her, and wished that he might be able to go back and do it different. He prayed that she would come back.

He sat there by the cold dead fire for hours. She didn’t return. His self-pity turned to disgust. And his wish for Ku’u to come back to him, turned to hard stone. Collin decided that he would stay there in the woods. She had abandoned him there. She had driven back to Hilo. And so be it. He would stay there in the valley.

That evening Collin packed up his camp and moved deeper into the mountains. Days later, hungry and out of food, moving even deeper into the valleys, he stumbled into a tall, overgrown patch of marijuana. He dropped his bags and was taken by the power of the sight in front of him. He knew right away that the field had been abandoned, forgotten, and Collin felt completely right and natural as he found a safe spot for his gear, filled his canteen at the nearby stream, and started to carefully clear away the jungle that was taking over this farm. His farm. He was amazed to find banana, kalo, an ulu tree, two mature avocado trees. He found a hillside covered in sweet potato. He found a lovely spot to set up his tent, his home. And then time blurred. Happy, quiet weeks turned to peaceful, meditative months. Seasons shifted and then shifted again. Collin was alone. Going back to UH Hilo held a bitter taste in his mouth. From his perch in Waimanu he saw society as flawed. His parents and siblings were flawed. His old life was a lie.

Collin would walk back down to Waipio a handful of times each year. He would find a connection. He would sell his crop. He would walk down there to the ocean, every few months, on clear mornings, and make friends with the campers. Listen to their stories of the world. Trade his buds for supplies. Give some away. Trade some for cash.

Collin would swim at the beach and then happily move back into the mountains, alone, with a small bundle. Satisfied. He was different now, hardened and content, perhaps only slightly bitter at the world.

And then, like a revelation, with a summer harvest finished, his dry cave full of sticky flowers, three or four years spent back in that valley, Collin realized that it was his duty, his calling, to return to Kaho’olawe. It was his new mission, to go back to the lonely island, and to live there.

When he made this decision, out of the blue really, Collin became happier than normal. He smiled. His life had meaning and purpose again. He felt strong and proud that he had lived so well on his own. He was a self sufficient adult. He had graduated from his own University. He cleaned up his camp, said a silent good-bye to the upper valley that he had called home for so long, and began a comfortable walk back towards civilization. He slept that night on the beach at Waipio. The next morning, as the sun slowly climbed up, Collin climbed up, and they met, sweating on the paved road south of the valley. He sat up there in hot, dry grass looking down across the black asphalt. The parked cars. The tourists. He had just traded a ten pound duffle bag full of semi-dry buds for a wad of money. He felt a little sick. A little bit anxious, but he was done.

Collin didn’t want to live on the Big Island anymore. He needed to get off the island and keep moving towards his destination. Deep in his head a voice said that he would come back. His campsite, his home, would be there. He had buried a tin with a gallon zip lock full of seeds. He had a high mountain grove of males and females that would prosper up there, on their own, forever.

He knew that if he needed to, he could always return to Waimanu.

Collin was weathered and leathery. His hair was long and tangled. His beard was long and already had streaks of gray. He looked fifty but he was only 24. Up on the road, with its yellow paint, tourist cars and street signs, Collin wished he had a pair of scissors. He was self conscious. It was a strange and foreign emotion for someone who spent months alone. His body was lean and ropy, almost skeletal. His spine and his ribs, his hips and his elbows protruded. He was different from the humans in normal society.

Collin sat there in the sun with his tiny backpack of supplies, the pair of tattered shorts he was wearing and that was all.

He had the cash in his pocket and it would be enough. It would be more than enough.

Collin walked for an hour down the hot road with his thumb out, hitching for a ride. That’s a long time to hitch on a beautiful day along the Hamakua Coastline. Usually people are good at picking up strangers. Cars zipped by him not feeling like the barefoot, dark, long-haired, homeless looking man would be great company. He was smiling and content. He looked wild.

Eventually, a raised pickup truck with some big bruddahs who weren’t afraid of anyone or anything pulled over and pointed thumbs towards the truck’s bed. The huge guy who was sitting shotgun stuck his bald head out the window, smiled, and said, “Hilo”. Not a question.

Collin nodded and smiled, gave a thumbs up and then shot a pinky out to make a shaka, and climbed into the back of the truck. He wasn’t exactly sure how his travels would pan out. But his plan was to make it, eventually to Makena on the South facing side of Maui. He was going to get a little boat, a canoe maybe… He was going to pile up some good supplies, food, water… and cross the channel to Kaho’olawe and set up camp.

Collin hadn’t checked in with anyone. He had no idea what was going on on Kaho’olawe. He hadn’t checked in with society in years. He figured that things hadn’t changed… things were probably going at their same slow, pace.

Probably the old base camp at Honokanai’a, on the west end of the island was still the only place where people stayed. Collin let his memory of the old army buildings fall away and a more cherished image materialized in his head of steep gullies and protected beaches, and his desire was to go and find a little cove to call his own. He knew that sweet drinking water would be his biggest issue. He knew that surviving would be different than his life back in Waimanu.

“KoheMalamaLama,” Collin said into the wind. He looked out at the Horizon. He yearned to see other islands. His childhood had always held islands on the Horizon. Always Molokai. Usually Lanai. And sometimes, during certain trips and occasions, he could stare south at Kaho’olawe.

A smile was firm on Collin’s face when the pickup truck pulled into a gas station in Town. Collin climbed down stiffly. He handed the driver two twenties folded in half. “Thanks, have a good one,” he said. He smiled and headed off on foot. He figured he should buy a shirt and some slippers… and a pair of scissors.

That night, sleeping down by the ocean with the strange feeling of his face and head a lot lighter, his hair and beard trimmed short, Collin wrapped his brain around taking an airplane versus a boat to get to Maui. He preferred to travel by boat… but he wasn’t sure how much work it would be for him to cross to Kona side and look around, and maybe never connect with a captain.

Collin had stared at his old driver’s license, and it seemed fine. He figured the old ID and a pocket full of cash should be enough to get him on a flight.

The next morning, with a clean shirt, and a somewhat cleaner look, Collin hitchhiked to the Hilo Airport. He paid a hundred dollars cash for a twenty minute plane ride.

He was feeling great as he sat at the gate. It was an entertaining culture shock for him to leave the mountains and be back in normal society, watching all the different types of people. Standing in line to board the plane. Finding a seat and saying a polite, “Hello,” to the old aunty sitting two seats away at the window. He wondered if anyone might guess that he had been in the jungle for so long.

There was a magazine in the seat pocket.

Before the airplane began moving Collin was flipping through it. The images were eye candy. Beautiful women. Beautiful Beaches. He imagined himself in his little cove. He wondered how long it would take him to set up. He imagined a dwelling in the cool shade of a steep gully. Perhaps he would find a stream… who knew… Collin wondered dreamily if he would be able to paddle north to Maui and convince some bright-eyed girl to accompany him back to his new home. Somehow he understood that it would be easy.

The magazine had no mention of Kaho’olawe. No surprise. Collin put it back where he had found it, and looked sideways, across the aisle and through the window as the plane wheeled out to the runway, paused for a moment, and then throttled up, pushed to full speed, and floated up into the wind.

The Gladiator

By Dusty Middleton                                     book II Snippings

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“Listen,” Captain Caine said. The four of them were sitting in the small, open helm of the sailboat. Captain Caine was at the wheel, his eyes on the horizon. “Cat. Tonight you can stay up and talk as long as you like. When you’re ready to sleep, you can sleep in my bunk. I’ll stay out here and do the night watch. When you wake up in the morning, you can work with Pete and Gene. I’ll sleep.”

He went silent. The sails were up now. The motor silent. There wasn’t much of a breeze. But the boat was holding a course, moving slowly, splashing through black water. Cat was watching the blinking lights of hundreds of oil rigs ahead of them.

She was holding her backpack like a baby on her lap. Everything she now owned. She felt naked of possessions, but she was thrilled at the same time.

The captain knew that her time on sailboats was minimal. He had asked if she was a hard worker. If she had the capacity to learn. He had asked, was she really sure she wanted to leave for months, maybe years. She had answered confidently to all. Held his eye. Her posture had been strong back there on the dock during their first conversations. She was proud that she had held herself so strong. And now, as Mobile County sank away behind them, she was willing her body to stay strong and capable now. She willed the butterflies in her stomach to stay happy and bold.

“Tomorrow.” The captain looked at Cat and she held his gaze. “I don’t want you out in the sun from 10 to 3.” He took a sip from a tall, covered coffee cup and then clicked it back into its holder. “If you get a bad sunburn at the beginning of this crossing you’ll cause all of us trouble. I need you to stay inside in the middle of the day.”

“Ok, got it. Inside from ten to three.” Catherine tapped at the wristwatch that she was wearing. Caine had asked her to buy one, simple, digital, waterproof. Even though she had chosen the smallest watch at the drug store, a seventeen dollar purchase, it felt clunky and strange on her wrist.

He had also told her to get two pairs of polarized sunglasses and three sticks of SPF lip balm.

“In the kitchen there, you’ll find a few sun hats, a long sleeve sun shirt, and sunscreen. I’ll get you a pair of gloves too. Try and cover up, from first thing in the morning and until the sun sets. All day.”

Cat felt a small tinge, a bite to her pride. She had a good tan going. Her skin wasn’t pale and weak. Her job of the last months had her out in the sun for hours… Usually the afternoon sun, and only three hours at the most… She knew that she wasn’t used to being out all day, and she understood that he was watching out for her. Cat swallowed her pride and internalized that this first round of instruction, though a little harsh, was in her best interest.

“The food in the galley there is for everyone to share,” he continued. “We try and take turns cooking meals for everyone. You cook lunch tomorrow. Something simple. Get familiar with what’s in there and ask us questions about all the kitchen gear. If you get nauseated while you’re making food, get out into the fresh air, and if you really feel sick we’ll pull into irons and you’ll grab a rope and jump in for a swim.” He smiled, “We try and swim every day.”

“Tonight Gene can make us a little supper.” He looked around at his crew. “It’ll be nice for all of us to show our new sailor here a little bit of everything in the coming days. She’ll soak up the information. Let’s try and teach her good habits.”

Cat’s mind was starting to swim, and she was happy that Captain Caine took a break and went quiet for ten minutes. She digested her last hour. She sat back, checked that no one was watching her, and she closed her eyes and counted out ten slow breaths. She blinked her eyes open and let her shoulders relax. They all sat comfortably. A calm silence. The night was cool, but not cold and Catherine Gowels felt blood pump through her veins with adventure and pleasure. Her heart was strong in her chest, emotion in her throat. She had done it! She was off on her own. Her initial instinct was telling her that she had made a great choice on this boat she had connected with. She liked Caine. She liked that he wanted her to learn. She had a belly full of questions. She knew that watching and listening would be more important than talking, for now.

Cat watched as Gene stood and stretched, moved carefully past her and opened the hatch to the forward galley. She flicked on a light inside the tight compartment. Gene smiled up at Cat and then fiddled with the stereo, some soft music came on from inside the cabin. Gene started carefully pulling supplies out, a frying pan, a chopping board and knife.

“Pete,” said the captain, “can you take the wheel for a bit? I’ll show Cat the boat.” Captain Caine smiled at Cat as Pete stood and took the helm. Caine pointed out the heading on the GPS, the dots ahead that marked the rigs they would skirt. Pete nodded, said ‘roger’ and tapped his fingers on the wheel. The Captain touched the boom lovingly, he stared ahead, and then looked down at Cat. “Always know where this is, and watch your head. Eventually it gets everyone. Try not to get knocked out.”

He moved back toward the stern of the boat, and un-clicked a hatch. He crawled in and turned on a small light. “Come on in.”

Pete glanced at her, made quick eye contact that wasn’t innocent, and then looked ahead again.

Cat carefully stood using her hands, a whisper of doubt now in her brain, she ducked low under the boom, she climbed back and lowered her backpack in first. Caine took it from her and hung it on a hook. He reached out his hand to her and helped her climb down into the tiny cabin.

“We’ll figure it out with our schedules so that this can be your bed while I’m up top, and while you’re on watch, working, I’ll sleep.” There wasn’t really space for both of them to stand. Caine was squatting just to the side of the bed, and Cat awkwardly got low, put both her hands on the mattress and looked around.

A smile blossomed on her face as she took it all in. The cabin was cluttered, but cozy. The air was clean and fresh. The bed looked comfortable. Three small canvases were the only decoration besides tools, clothes, and fishing lures. The little paintings grabbed Cat’s attention, and she moved close to them in the soft light, crawling over the bed, and spent a minute with her nose close fascinated by the thick layers of paint.

Caine watched silent, appraising.

She stayed awake for two more hours, learning what she could of the boat. They ate a simple meal of rice and vegetables and beans. Gene and Pete talked softly to each other. Caine stayed at the helm eating, watching the GPS, watching distant oil rigs. Cat used the head, it was the smallest bathroom she had ever been in, basically the same set-up as on the fishing boats she cleaned.

Gene encouraged her to drink a large cup of water, telling her that the best way to avoid dehydration was to avoid getting thirsty. The water tasted tinny and bad.

She sat out in the night, bundled in a blanket that Pete brought up from the front of the boat where their cabin was.

When her eyes began to blink against sleep Caine nodded back at his cabin. “Go lie down. You can leave the hatch open. I’ll close it if it starts to rain.”

Cat said a quiet thank you and a goodnight. She climbed down into the cabin. Settled into the bed and turned off the light. The sounds of the boat and the sea were strong when she closed her eyes, and her sleepiness backed off a little. She pulled the pillow tight to her, and for a moment she wanted to cry. She closed her eyes. She felt the soft rocking of the hull in the waves. She felt safe and that was all that really mattered.

The thought crossed her mind that as an adult on this boat, not a child, Gene and Pete were a couple and the Captain and her should be one too. It seemed logical. She was after all sleeping in his bed. The thought was thrilling and at the same time unnerving. But, so far, it didn’t seem that the captain had any desire for her. Not that she considered herself stunning by any means, but in the last few years, her teenage years, she had learned quickly the hungry looks of older men… and Caine hadn’t given her one, and it stung a bit. She knew that if it were the opposite… if he were aggressively courting her, or being to forceful, it would get uncomfortable real quick… But she still wanted to be hunted a little.

She peeled the blanket back and crawled silently to the foot of the bed, to the open hatch, and lifted her head just enough to see out into the cockpit. Caine was stretched out under the blanket she had been using twenty minutes earlier. He had his cup in one hand. His right toe touching the wheel. He was looking off to the east.

Cat stared at his profile for a minute, curious about this man, who all of the sudden was her captain… Then she silently slid back down onto the bed, and pulled the sheets over her, and two pillows close, and she slipped away into sleep.

Lentil

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snippings from Book II

By Dusty Middleton

 

 

Teddy got home and took a shower. He gave both his dogs a crunchy treat and filled up their water bowls.

Teddy was fully awake now. An hour earlier he had been stumbling with exhaustion, but something about that moon had filled him with a second wind.

He put on his nicest clothes with the decision that he was heading out on the town. Teddy checked his wallet, flipped through a good stack of twenties, grabbed his keys, grabbed his phone, pulled a ziplock from a jar by the sink and stuffed it into his pant’s pocket, patted both his dogs on the head, clicked off the apartment lights and locked the door behind him.

He figured he’d head down to O’Maileys and have a beer or two. See what was going on. He didn’t have anywhere he needed to be in the morning. There was no one waiting for him except his dogs, and they were fine. Teddy had an itch to have an exciting night out. He tapped at his hip pocket and heard the plastic bag crinkle.

 

An hour later he was staring into a cold amber pint, grinning, listening closely and pushing his ear across the table.

Teddy was squeezed into a booth with eleven other grinning, well dressed, rosy cheeked humans. Seven of them were lovely, wide eyed youthful, college aged ladies- giggles and batting eyelashes. Teddy felt completely comfortable and happy squished between them, the ratio perfect, letting the music pour over them, the noise of hundreds of happy people, and the proud monologue at their table, the speaker, by far the oldest one there, closer to forty than twenty, slurring his words, but holding everyone’s attention, laughing, looking each one of them in the eye, making each one his confidant in turn.

His name was Lentil. For as long as Teddy had been on the scene in Honolulu, Lentil had always been there, usually hammered, rubber faced, holding the center of attention. Teddy had become close friends with Lentil five years earlier during a music event at the Shell. They had both been working the three day festival. Lentil on the lights crew. Teddy on the sound board. The fine line of professionalism and sobriety had slipped away, and each night, as the ten o’clock hour ended the show, and eleven had them clocking out from work, they’d head off together into the nightclubs of Waikiki, the first night, within an hour of stepping through the door, they were leaving with a gaggle of European women who had rented the top of a beachfront hotel, and the long weekend melted into a pleasurable water slide of ecstasy and adventure. Lentil and Teddy making it back to work the next day, and then rendezvousing immediately back with their new friends, another wild night, and then back to work, barely hanging on. And after that final night of the concert Teddy returned to the party, but used all of his self control, and snuck away back to his quiet apartment, got some sleep, and was able to make it to the Shell the next day to finish packing equipment, finish strong and keep his job for next time. Lentil had disappeared. Months later they ran into each other back at the bars and Lentil had told a strange tale of being invited to Maui with the ‘Euro Babes’ as he called them, and spending two long weeks in hash-filled rainforest blur.

But tonight, with this new group of gorgeous young women, Teddy listened happily to Lentil spill a long silly story of surfing misadventure. A horrendous wipeout where his leash had popped, board gone, and his boardshorts blown off. Swimming in, along the packed beach, eyeing all the cameras, hundreds, maybe a thousand spectators, and Lentil waving for the Lifeguards. The guy who jogs down and jumps in the water, swims out to ask Lentil what’s wrong, they know each other, and when Lentil asks if maybe they can spare a towel or something, the lifeguard says, ‘No way. You gotta walk up on your own,’ smiles and swims back in.

And Lentil shrugs and knows that he’s gotta go for it, cause the rip is about to pull him out to sea. So he swims in, slides up on the sand and starts jogging up the beach. And of course there’s a roar of laughter and pointing, and he kind of laughs it off, get’s to his car, and remembers that the key to the door was in the pocket of his boardshorts. So now he’s in the parking lot, butt naked and locked out of his car.

The first few people he asks for help just scuttle off and give him dirty looks. Finally a boogie boarder with a South American accent throws him an old towel and tells him he can keep it. Throws him a shaka, chuckling as he gets in his car and drives away.

Lentil standing there. Happy to at least have a towel. Shivering and shaking his head.

 

———

 

“Listen,” Lentil was now leaning over the back of the girl sitting between himself and Teddy. She was leaning, underneath his chest, across the table talking to another girl on the other side of Lentil. Lentil put one arm on the back of the bench and his other wrist across the girl’s shoulders. He leaned over so he could talk to Teddy without shouting. The bar was packed. The music loud. It wasn’t easy to have a calm conversation.

“Do you have much work right now?” Lentil asked. His head was bobbing in slow motion, and his eyes were floating with apparently more than just the drink affecting him. But he held Teddy’s gaze and waited patiently for an answer.

Teddy leaned over, so that their faces were a foot apart. Lentil’s head softly floated sideways, his ear extended, listening.

Teddy spoke loud and clear towards the ear, “I finish the job I’m on this coming Friday. Nothing after that. Clear schedule. Why what’s up?”

Lentil’s cheekbones lifted, his face was shiny with sweat and he closed his eyes, “That’s great man. That’s perfect.” He opened his eyes again and locked his gaze with Teddy’s. “You want to go to Japan with me?” Lentil’s hand was petting the girl’s back the same as Teddy would pet his dog’s absently as he watched a movie. The girl glanced up at him, and then went back to her friend, laughing.

Teddy leaned over her and asked, “What’s in Japan? A job?” He took a sip, and squinted at his near empty pint glass, he’d need to order another when the cocktail waitress stopped by again. “I’ve never been to Japan. You?”

Lentil nodded enthusiastically. “Oh, I love it. Great food. Nice people. Good trains. I went snowboarding there last year and had a great time. It’s winter there now, so maybe we’ll get to sneak up to the mountains while we’re there. We’ll have to play that by ear. You’re gonna dig it man, it’s great. The surf’s ok too, but I doubt we’ll jump in the water, it’s pretty cold.   Although, you never know. I have a friend with all the gear. Extra wetsuits and boards, so if there’s a swell we could go. But we’re headed more inland. Up towards the mountains. So I doubt we’ll get a surf in.”

Teddy was trying to catch all of this, hoping to get some real information, and he was already doubting whether it was a good idea to even consider traveling and working with this guy. He knew Lentil. But it was pretty much all a blur of parties, women, drugs, and alcohol. And Teddy doubted that he could trust the rubbery, sweaty face that was still talking away, telling a story of some hot springs he had visited near Kyoto. The creatures in the trees. The monkeys climbing down and sitting across from you in the hot pool. The old Buddhist temples squeezed together around a green waterfall.

“It’s magical really,” Lentil said as much to himself as to Teddy. He paused, his eyes unfocussed, his lower lip hanging.

Teddy made eye contact with their waitress, waved, smiled, pointed at his empty pint, held up an index finger, pointed at himself, nodded.

Lentil dragged one finger down the girl’s spine, and then walked his fingers back up toward her head. She was pretending not to notice. He looked up at Teddy smiling. “So, the flight is next Tuesday. At night. I’ll take care of the tickets tomorrow, but you’ll need to get me your passport number and how to spell your name right… You have a passport, don’t you?”

Teddy nodded. He was feeling rushed. And his ears were warm. And he needed to calmly hammer out some details. His dogs came to mind. Money. Bills and rent.

“Is this a job? Is it work?” He said louder than necessary. It was almost a shout.

“Two weeks should do it, I think…” answered Lentil, staring over Teddy’s head, nodding. He looked across the crowded club. Lentil shifted his body and pressed his back against the bench. The girl between them, given the chance, stretched up and back too. She whispered into Lentil’s ear and his eyebrows shot up. Teddy watched as Lentil mumbled something and smiled. The girl nestled in closer to him and whispered more into his ear.

Teddy scanned across the club. He looked for the waitress but she was gone. He finished what was in his cup, and let his eyes scan across the masses. When he brought his attention back to their table, he realized that the friend of the girl whispering in Teddy’s ear was staring at him appraisingly, challengingly. He held her eyes, waited calmly, raised his eyebrows in ‘hello’ and she blinked once, slowly, in response.

Seconds passed by. Teddy fell softly into her stare. Smiling across at her. Accepting the contest.   Calm, content. Seeing if he could read anything in those eyes. Looking for an electricity behind her gaze. He was amazed that he didn’t really know what the girl looked like. All he knew about her, at that moment, was the hazel gaze.

In his periphery he noticed Lentil and the other girl were locked together now, making out, aggressively. And in his girl’s face he saw that she had taken notice too, a split second, a break of their attention, both of them raising their eyebrows, looking back into each other, laughing.

And then the people to Teddy’s left were gone. And the girl across the table had wiggled from the booth, sailed around the table in slow motion, and she was sliding in close to Teddy, introducing herself. Pushing a shoulder into his shoulder, and taking his left hand in hers.

And then Lentil was chuckling, and pushing his girl, shuffling her closer, squeezing in toward Teddy. And their waitress was dropping off his drink, appraising the situation with one eyebrow up, and half a smile.

Teddy smiled at her, and relaxed back into his seat. Lentil was off on another monologue and the girls were giggling, their heads leaning together in front of Teddy’s chest to share some whisper.

The music was loud, and across the crowded pub, on the other side of the masses Teddy heard loud cheers and singing.

Double Vision from Book II

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When Srim was fourteen years old he stayed home alone with a high fever.

His parents had known that he’d be fine, and they had both gone off to work.

Srim listened to the silence after they had left. He wondered if his mother might show back up and tell him that she had changed her mind. That she would sit with him and make him soup. Maybe read to him like she used to do. But the apartment was quiet and stayed almost completely still.

There was Clove, their pet cat, padding back and forth through the rooms. There was a gentle early summer breeze flowing through the windows his father had left open. And there were soft water noises splashing from the little fountain in the living room that his mother insisted on always running to cut through the constant din of cars and busses moving below their apartment.

Srim was weak and sweaty. He stayed in his bed for most of the morning and then stumbled silently to the bathroom an hour before noon.
He peed and brushed his teeth with eyes almost closed. He made his way across to the kitchen and fixed himself a cup of tea. He leaned across the counter and stared into a small mirror. His eyes were sunken. And his black hair matted and shiny with grease. His sparse black mustache was growing. In two weeks he would shave his jaw and upper lip for the first time in his life.

Srim took his steaming mug of tea, walked slowly to the couch, and lowered himself carefully down. He touched the hot liquid to his lips and tongue. He blinked, and set his tea down on the glass table. He pulled a blanket over his body and sank sideways until his head clicked softly onto the armrest. His socked feet curled up onto the couch underneath the blanket.
Srim didn’t feel good, but he marveled at the sense of adulthood that was filling his belly and chest. He was on his own. He was solo. He imagined the kids at that moment sitting in their desks at his school. His desk empty. He was missing something kind of important, maybe. He saw his math teacher talking at the front of class, but couldn’t hear the words. It was the middle of May and the school year would end in two weeks. Srim knew his classes didn’t matter. He imagined his parents as they rushed off to work. He tried to imagine what they might be doing at that moment… helping with a surgery, or in a meeting with other doctors… perhaps they were having lunch together in the hospital cafeteria. Srim closed his eyes and slipped into a peaceful sleep.

His dreams were vivid. One took place on a mountain covered in thick, dark bamboo. It was a misty peak above, and he was climbing with gloves on. He watched his hands work. Somehow he knew that he was trying to summit this towering mountain, and he had just begun. He was pulling himself up through the lowest hills, on a skinny ridge that was taking him higher and higher. There was barb wire to deal with, and even with gloves on he had to be careful with his hands. He wondered if he might be deep in Viet Nam.
Srim opened his eyes back in his living room. The cat was sitting on him, purring. Staring at him.
Srim grunted and rocked his shoulder and Clove hopped down and padded quietly away.

Srim closed his eyes, but this time he didn’t sleep.
His breath rocked back and forth gently through his nose, and he observed. There were images sliding past his closed eyes that seemed like another dream. ‘It’s like part of my brain thinks that it’s still dream time…’, he thought. Srim observed fascinated, half awake, as the bizarre story unfolded. It looked like something from his dad’s old photo album… sepia and grainy, quiet at first, but then came some audio.
Srim could hear whispers. Quiet talking. Some distant chatter. It was alien at first. A different language. But then he understood. He recognized his cousin’s voice. Amma. The word for mother. And he recognized the word kitchery and then the whispers clicked, he understood the hushed voices, and he glanced over and made eye contact with Des. His cousin smiled and went silent.
They were sitting on the floor, a group of boys, maybe a dozen of them. Srim looked around at the funny outfits. The bare feet. Brown skin like his. And he looked down at his own hands and his own strange white pants.
His bare feet and his hands took his attention. The fingernails were thicker. He turned his palms up and stared at the dark leather and callouses. And then the smell of the room came to him, and it was old sweat and incense and sweet curry. And the breeze was hot from the open window.
And Srim got carefully to his feet. Bare feet on the cool smooth floor and he stepped over to the window. He noticed that the room had fallen very silent. He could feel the curious glances of the other students watching him as his fingers touched the window sill, no glass, and he poked his head out through the window and looked left and right and across the dusty street. Old model cars kicking up dry clouds of dust. People walking with baskets. A bright glare from the mid-day sun. Srim was tempted to climb from the window and go look around in this strange city.
But the noise of someone entering the room, clearing his throat, pulled Srim’s attention back into the dark classroom.
Srim looked over his shoulder. The whole class was watching him. And their teacher was straightening his woven mat and sitting down on the floor at the front of the class. He raised a curious eyebrow at Srim and motioned for him to take his spot.
Srim felt a little foolish for being at the window. And he stepped obediently back to his place, and lowered himself back down. Crossing his legs like the others. Sitting up tall and straight, settling in for his lessons. He blinked his eyes.

And he was back in his clean, bright home in New Jersey. His clothes and blanket soaked in sweat. The gentle breeze making a tapestry on the wall flutter and tap. And the living room fountain, tinny and false.

Smoke Fish and Ulu Chips

Fiction          By dusty middleton
It started with video games… not for me, but for the boy. He was intent on earning gold in video game land. Clash of the Clans.
It started with a love affair with fishing. Shore Casting. Not for me, but for the boy. I enjoy fishing from a boat… once in a while.
It started with a gut feeling. That ‘Ulu, Breadfruit trees, would hold a special place in our lives.
I somehow knew that ‘Ulu would be worth big money.

. . . . . . . . .

Alapai is sixteen years old and he’s bigger than me now. He moves with confidence and coordination. I consider him, these days, as an adult. I respect him as an equal.
It was ten years ago that we first discussed business.
As a six year old he loved to go into the hardware store and buy fishing gear. Even before he really understood the math and the numbers, he’d squeeze a couple dollar bills tight in his tiny fingers and stare up into the fishing case and ask me what he could buy. And though he loved fishing, and he loved playing with his hooks and lures and reel, the shopping trip held its own fascination.
Alapai loved exchanging money for things and vice versa. He loved business from before he understood it. He had ancestral instincts that bubbled up proper. Maybe, as a six year old, Alapai understood business better than me.

He got into video games, namely Clash of the Clans. The popular one in those years. You build a village and start saving gold and resources and grow strong and more able. At a certain point you can team up with other people playing on their own computers around the world. Alapai built a team of elementary school kids and they did well. They had fun.
The feeling of success in video game land and the enjoyment of teaming up with others, leading them into battle, spurred Alapai to move his attention into the real world.

He took that team mentality, that ability to build strength in numbers, momentum and excitement, and, as an eight year old he began to earn money.
His friends loved it. They enjoyed the camaraderie of the project. They enjoyed the novelty of something more tangible than soccer practice. An activity more instructive than homework. And it pushed their whole crew forward.

They say that video games have the ability to teach. That the fun of the challenge can spur the brain forward. After watching a group of elementary school kids jump full force into business I guess I believe it.

BodySurfing is Freedom

by Dusty Middleton

Ehukai Fun

Ehukai Fun

Salt Magazine-summer 2005

 

 

On those beautiful beach days when it’s hard to see the swells through the crowds of surfers, and you just want to catch some waves and relax, paddling out on a board sometimes seems to add to the headache. Too much traffic scrambling around the peak and no one is having any fun.

It can be strange to leave your board in the car and walk down to the water swinging a pair of fins. It can be liberating. Swimming out over the shallow reef, looking into caves and chasing fish. You realize your perception has changed. Now the crowds are part of a different world. You wait, floating inside the peak… a few waves slide through the pack and line up perfectly. Your wave bulges, and as it bowls, it pulls you up into its face. A couple of kicks and you’re in. You slide down into the pocket and fly down the line. The swell bends and drags against the bottom and you feel the energy of the ride through your whole body.

This is surfing’s purest sensation, its purest form.

.                                     .                                                .

Todd Sells spends plenty of winter days bodysurfing Pipeline. When it’s too crowded and swinging north he’ll swim down to The Rockpile. At either spot the rides are amazing. He enjoys swimming out to Pipe as big as it gets. When Waimea is 20 feet Todd swims out at the Banzai and waits for eight footers to unload on the first reef. When the Eddie Aikau contest is on and thousands of people are focused on Waimea Bay, Todd’s alone, swimming through the empty lineup at Pipe.

Treading water inside the pack on a good day at the Banzai Pipeline is like being ringside at a heavyweight bout. It’s the best seat in the house. Huge beasts dredge against the shallows, throw giant barrels, and grind down the reef. The bodysurfers wait patiently in the middle of it all. They’re closer to the action than anyone.

On January 29th, the day before the annual Patagonia Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, the North Shore was firing. Todd swam out for an evening session at Pipe. There were 10-foot sets hitting second reef. The winds had been a little funky throughout the day but the waves were good. There were a few other bodysurfers in the water preparing for the next day’s event.

Todd was sitting deep trying to find a wave similar to an amazing right he’d had at Backdoor a week earlier. Aaron Ungerleider, another Pipe bodysurfer had just gotten out of the water.

“It was probably 6:30. It was getting close to dark,” says Aaron. “Todd took off on this wave… one of those ones that really sucks up on the inside ledge on the first reef. One of those waves where you see it, and you know the person’s gonna hit the reef. And probably come up bleeding.”

Sure enough, Todd tried to pull back from the waves, but it was too late. He got caught in the lip and was thrown over the falls. The water is shallow there, only a couple feet deep, and Todd got slammed.

 

“I hit both heels, my ass, both elbows, and then waited. My head didn’t hit, thank goodness,” says Todd. “I came up. The first thing that hurt were my heels. I reached down and felt them, ‘wow, I feel some kind of meat on one, and the other’s not bad… I’ll be able to stay out in the water.’ And then I felt another pain, ‘Ah fuck, my hip hurts… I didn’t break my tailbone. I think I can still stay out.’ Then I reached for my left elbow, and the whole palm of my hand went into the wound… ‘ah fuck, I got to get out of the water.’

 

Todd’s forearm had a solid chunk of flesh missing. He biked to his house at Sunset Beach with the hole in his arm dripping a trail of blood. He wrapped his wound up tight, and drove half an hour up through the pineapple fields to the hospital in Wahiawa.

“I had this really beautiful doctor- I wish I could remember her name- and she stitched me up,” recalls Todd. “She told me I had to wait about 12 days before I could get back in the water.”

Todd told her he was going into the water in twelve hours when the contest started. The doctor told him that was a bad idea.

The next morning when the call came that the event was on, Todd duct taped his arm up tight, and headed to the beach.

 

Pipe was good throughout the day. It was the first time in a couple years that the event had been held in solid surf. Todd made it through his heats (drawing Pipe bodysurfing master Mark Cunningham in every heat) and ended up winning the contest at the end of the day. It was the first time in years that neither Mike Stewart nor Cunningham won.

Todd’s arm got a pretty bad infection (‘nasty swelling and red lines creeping up into the armpit’). He was out for a couple weeks, but it was worth it. He bodysurfed perfect Pipe all day with just his friends. And he won the contest.

Pipe is an extreme in bodysurfing. It’s a perfect wave, but the crowd is intimidating and the reef is dangerous. For most of us, bodysurfing doesn’t need to be intense. It’s good enough playing in the shorebreak, dropping into a hundred tiny barrels in a session. It’s a nice way to relax and enjoy waves without the stress and frustration that seem to find their way into more surf sessions than we like to admit.

That time spent having fun, swimming hard, and chasing bowls translates into a strength and stamina that most surfers today are lacking. Bodysurfing in deep water is hard work. The realization comes quickly that in your average day of surfing, quite a bit of time is spent lounging and resting on the board. As surfers, we think of ourselves as healthy and strong, but the truth is that being able to swim in a wild ocean for an extended period of time takes training.

 

.                                    .                                    .

 

Kira Llewellyn is 21 years old. She’s an Australian from Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast of Queensland. She travels the globe bodyboarding. She has a passion for perfect waves and competes with the best. She does well in heavy surf, and when she’s at spots like Pipeline she prefers big swells.

In 2004 she was invited to a bodysurfing contest near Sydney. She didn’t consider herself an amazing bodysurfer at the time, but felt she had a good foundation of bodysurfing technique. Kira had her knowledge of bodyboarding through heats, and she had fun that day mixing up her repertoire on every wave. She ended up winning the women’s bodysurfing contest and coming in fifth overall.

Kira knew she was in good shape going into the event, but she found herself tired after her heats. It was more of a workout than she was used to. She realized that time spent bodysurfing could maker her stronger in the ocean in every sport and improve her all around as an athlete. Kira found that bodysurfing ended up being some of her best training (or, as she would say in her Australian slang, ‘Bodybashing is some of my best fitness’).

“You can go to a pool and dedicate yourself to swim laps. Or you can go for a bodysurf,” says Kira. “You don’t have to stare at that black line and bore yourself to death.”

Swimming out to a lineup with rip currents and challenging waves can turn a bodysurf session into hard work. The level of focus and effort becomes much greater than an average session lying on a board.

“When I’m kicking against a rip on a bodyboard I’m not as panicked,” says Kira. “Whereas, if I’m trying to swim against it, I can feel every muscle in my body working. I know I’m getting a workout and having fun on the waves.”

Getting a good bodysurf ride is a unique experience. It can take a little extra motivation and a bit more work, but it’s worth it. Swimming in the impact zone ends up being some the most intimate time you can have with the wave: dropping into nice round barrels and feeling all the juice and beauty that the swell has to offer.

It’s just the waves and you, in your purest form.

 

DCIM100MEDIA

 

DCIM100MEDIA

Noelani enjoying a favorite sandbar, and a favorite activity.

Noelani enjoying a favorite sandbar, and a favorite activity.

Jamilah profile

 

January 2005

Jamilah Star Profile

By Dusty Middleton

 

sky

7:00 a.m.  The morning of the Eddie

             “Maybe sixty guys out. Guys ditching their boards. You know, at Waimea you can sense the fear in people. And it’s really hard for me to be around that fear, because I’m not afraid…   When you’re out there, it should be like your whole life leads up to that point.”

            In the last few years Jamilah Star has chiseled out her own place in the surfing world. She’s become a regular out at the Bay on big days. More of a regular than quite a few people on the Eddie list. And like many Waimea surfers, she left the water frustrated on December 15th.  The contest started and she hadn’t gotten a big one. But she knew there would be plenty of days this winter, and that the Bay would break again.

            Jamilah has spent the last few years traveling between California, Central America and Hawaii. This winter her home-base is up in the hills of Pupukea, on the North Shore.

            Growing up in the cold heavy waves of Santa Cruz, Jamilah aimed from an early age to be a serious force in the water. She worked with the Junior Lifeguards for 15 years, she’s been an intense athlete since the sixth grade (playing football, water polo, baseball, basketball, wrestling), and she’s battled her way through the heavy crowd of Steamer Lane since she was eleven.

            “There is no positive motivation for women’s surfing there,” says Jamilah of Santa Cruz. “It’s like they want to kick your ass, so you have to fight.”

            With a solid build from years of rigorous training and a background in jiu jistu, Jamilah can easily hold her ground.

            “I used to wrestle Flea all the time, and they’d video tape it. And when I started winning they’d start giving me waves. It was up to the point where I’d have to physically beat them for them to respect me at all as a person.”

            The Jamilah-Flea wrestling matches are currently tied. She says that Flea’s gained about thirty pounds, and that the last time they battled she broke her finger in his belt buckle.

            She fell in love with Hawaii at an early age, surfing the North Shore for the first time when she was six. Later on in life, traveling the world in search of bigger waves, she made it to Kauai at 17.

         After surfing Tunnels one afternoon with some friends, she found herself watching early footage of Mavericks. “I remember thinking: It’s unbelievable that that place is near my home,” says Jamilah. “And then that was just all I ever wanted to do. That became my life. Up until I surfed Mavericks, my goal in life was surfing Mavericks. And I changed everything to do that.”

            Watching footage of Half Moon Bay with Jamilah is an interesting experience. The 20-footers that go un-ridden, the ones that dredge and barrel and look the most intimidating are the ones that pull a response from her, “Look how beautiful that is,” she says. Her ability to find the splendor in nature is balanced by focus and respect. She points out a wave on the video where the rider holds a high line through the first bowl and drops into the end section riding another fifty yards before pulling off the shoulder. She tells us that the Mavericks crew doesn’t consider you to have gotten a wave until you’ve ridden one through that inside bowl and made the final section.

            Her friend Jenny sits on the couch next to her, asking questions and listening closely to the answers. Jamilah has become a mentor, helping her friend prepare for big days; already Jennifer’s surfed heavy Sunset, had three sessions at Waimea, and a tow-in session at Phantoms.

            Mentoring has become an important part of Jamilah’s life. She’s organized a group of surfers from around the world, mostly girls, who have a passion and a desire to surf big waves. Focusing time, energy, and money towards pushing her friends to excel beyond expectations has become one of Jamilah’s main priorities. The JamStar team is an ongoing project that should have an interesting influence on the next generation of surfers around the globe.

            “People had to open the door for me,” says Jamilah. “If Jeff Clark never gave me a gun, I don’t know if I’d be here today. If Garrett never took me towing in, I don’t know if I could be training for Jaws. Somebody had to let me into the circle of big-wave riding, and I don’t mind letting people in. As long as they know the consequences.”

           Helping to train others has been good for Jamilah. Being responsible for preparing her friends for dangerous situations has improved her own training.

            The anticipation for bigger and better swells can be overwhelming. Confidence at Waimea, and a growing love for tow-in sessions have created an eagerness to ride the biggest waves possible.

            “Now I can’t wait for the next level, whatever that may be. If that’s Jaws, I can’t wait. If that’s outside Mavericks, I can not wait,” says Jamilah. “I feel like a volcano ready to explode.”

            Jamilah’s goal over the last couple of years has been to go bigger. Five feet bigger every year. She wants to surf perfect Jaws and perfect Pipe. But she found that having that passion as the only focus in her life was frustrating, even unhealthy.

            “I realized I was only happy if the waves were over 20 feet,” says Jamilah. “Which is so rare that you can’t live that way. You have to be able to survive on any given day, on any swell size, or maybe if you’re not surfing at all.”

            “With faith there is no limit”.