North Shore, brah!

I’m sadly as red as a lobster from sunbathing at Waimea Bay park after a day of swimming and snorkeling on the North Shore, brah. I was a total kook and didn’t use enough sunscreen. It’s not that bad but I haven’t had a burn in years, with my pasty computer geek complexion and the farmer’s tan I get in the convertible. The beaches are beautiful beyond belief, and we talked a bit with some board shapers and other denizens.

Cloudy view from Pali lookout

We started the cloudy day at Pali lookout, but the clouds kept us from getting a really good view of the area. This will give a hint of it. It was windy too, and we were concerned about our planned day at the beach. But once we picked up Courtney and headed north, the weather turned in our favor. We stopped briefly to take photos of the island known as Chinaman’s Hat, then headed up to the North Shore.

Chinaman’s Hat

We drove all the way up to the little town of Haleiwa, where there’s a shop called Surf & Sea that rents snorkel gear. I grabbed a nice pair of cork flip-flops (slippers in Hawaiian parlance) because my sandals were getting full of sand. Before we left, we grabbed some shave ice from a local vendor, too. Shave ice is a lot like a sno-cone, but the flavor selection is a lot different here. I had lychee and li hing mui, which was very tasty. Li hing mui is “asian spice” and made from spicy dried plums.

Waimea Bay – cliff divers

The water was out at Shark’s Cove, so we settled on the milder waters of Waimea Bay. While I wear a sleep snorkel aka a CPAP, I’ve never snorkeled before. While this wasn’t an amazing coral reef, we saw a lot of fish on the rocks out there. In winter this is one of the most violent breaks, but it was extremely peaceful today. After struggling to get flippers on in the surf we paddled out over the rocks. If you’ve ever walked through a saltwater aquarium store, this was like swimming in one. I’ve definitely found a new hobby.

Other side of the bay, with a church tower.

There were also dolphins at the beach, swimming across the current and feeding. We saw some big fish jumping as well, probably feeding in the dolphins’ wake. One jumped like a billfish, but it was too far out for me to get a good look. Here’s a video of a guy on a raft surrounded by feeding dolphins. That must have been something. The lifeguards asked him to paddle in, because you’re not supposed to disturb them.


After getting nice and burned on the sand, we drove back to Haleiwa to return our gear and grab a bite to eat. Courtney and a native gal at the shave ice stand had talked about a Mexican place called Cholo’s, so we ate there. It’s a Tex-Mex place with Hawaiian favor. This is the first time I’ve asked for fish tacos without it being a euphemism. They were ahi tuna and quite good. They had some Kona beer on tap- I had the Fire Rock Pale Ale- and a frozen ling hing mui margarita.

On the way home we drove through central Oahu through the pineapple plantations. Courtney is a great guide to the island, and we finally learned the answer to that old joke. It is pronounced Havaii.

You’re velcome.

Little Village Noodle House

Our first night in Honolulu began with some really good food in their diminutive Chinatown. It’s only a block long, sort of like shrinking Little Italy in New York, but if you like less Americanized Chinese food, Little Village Noodle House is the place to go here.

Courtney and Dave picked us up at the airport and then we followed them here in our rented Pontiac G6. We had a rainshower to contend with, so pardon the lack of photos. Parking is at a premium and cars get broken into a lot here in Hawaii- getting back some from the haoles who stole their land and turned it into Orlando- so we tossed the cars in a parking deck. For $1.50, that was heaven compared to NYC.

The Noodle House is a decent sized place with an open kitchen, a blackboard announcing specials, and old Chinese women scampering between the cramped tables taking orders, delivering hotpots, and chattering the whole time. It’s lively and casual. In chinos and a Polo shirt I was very overdressed for Honolulu, and I won’t make that mistake again.

It was a busy night and our orders got mixed up, but the food, when it came, was quite delicious. We ordered pot stickers aka fried dumplings, which were chicken and scallion inside; tangy and tasty with a sweet light sauce. Firecracker had shrimp won ton lo mein, which was more like shrimp shumai dumplings in ramen noodles with greens and a good broth. Courtney had the best dish of the night- shrimp in honey walnut sauce, which was delicious.

I opted for a special on the blackboard, Pork bellies in Capital sauce. Pork belly is the big thing in NYC now; anything fatty and decadent is big, like roasted marrow bones and whatnot. While this was prepared in a straightforward manner with a sweet BBQ-style sauce on top, with crinkle cut fries, it certainly satisfied the belly and the palate. The pork was tasty and tender, with the buttery layers of fat in between making it even richer. The pig truly is a magical animal, and they know how to prepare it here.

We were tired from our flight, so desserts like the Pink Panther went untried. This is where Courtney & Dave’s favorite bars are, so maybe next time.

Hawaii Horror: Dan Simmons- Fires of Eden

I decided to read a book gathering dust on my shelf in preparation for my Hawaii trip with Firecracker this week. About 8 years ago a friend read this book called Fires of Eden, a horror novel, and gave the paperback to me. He liked the bits about young Mark Twain in it. So I picked up Twain’s Letters from Hawaii, which is what the book bases the Twain parts on. That also sat gathering dust for years.

Anyone who knows me well has seen my towering Steelcase bookshelves stacked three deep with collected books that I’ve yet to read. I love reading, but I love books more. I estimate I’ve read 15% of the books I own, which would be great if I were trapped on a deserted island, or Burgess Meredith after nuclear apocalypse, (*crunch* My glasses! Oh the irony!) but I have a million other distractions keeping me from reading, like horrible 80’s movies, beer fests, Firecracker’s social engagements, and a stack of magazines by the crapper that keeps me from reading fine literature in there.

Fires of Eden was a bit of a letdown after 10 years of waiting, but it’s a serviceable thriller and quite intriguing if you’re at all interested in Hawaiian mythology and history. The story involves billionaire developer Byron Trumbo, a Trump-alike trying to unload a super-luxury resort on the south Kona coast of Hawaii to Japanese investors to recharge his crumbling empire. He’s irascible and oily, and is a lot of fun if you imagine him played by J.K. Simmons in his Jonah Jameson role from the Spider-Man movies.

Douchey developer, cliché villain #92

Thankfully there are other characters, like spunky Eleanor Perry, an Illinois schoolteacher visiting the area because she’s digging through her aunt’s diary from 1860, when Aunt Kidder met Mark Twain (then Samuel Clemens) on an adventure to the islands. And Cordie Stumpf, a role Kathy Bates was born to play- the wife of a garbage magnate who won a trip there and has a lot of tricks up her sleeve next to the arm flab. She’s got the best lines and is full of surprises.

Scarier than anything in the book

From page one, we are introduced to the creepy gods and spirits of the Hawaiians, like the dog , who has human teeth, and Kamapua’a the rapacious hog. My fave was the son of Ukupanipo, the shark god, who had a hump on his back that opens into a shark mouth. The goddess Pele, controller of fire who lives within the volcano with her name, and other spirits like the Marchers of the Night, the spirits of Hawaiian warriors who walk through the jungle, are also mentioned.

The story bounces back and forth from the diary, where Mark Twain and Aunt Kidder explore the island of Hawai’i and encounter these same hungry spirits, and the modern day, where the Mauna Pele resort has disturbed the old gods. Simmons doesn’t go for the old “Indian burial ground” plot device, and Cordie Stumpf even mentions that she saw that in Poltergeist. The gods have their own agendas, and they might take a bite out of you if you get in their way.

The story is leavened with good humor thanks to Cordie and Trumbo. It actually doesn’t have enough modern-day horror to keep a solid grip of suspense, though. The old story with Mark Twain and Aunt Kidder is much more interesting, and the tension there is palpable. In the modern-day parts, you can pick the victims easily and you never really feel that anyone you like is in real danger, except for one part where they encounter the shark god while on a kayak. On the other hand, it’s a quick and amusing read that informs you well about Hawaiian history and mythology.

Unfortunately some of the cool stuff Dan Simmons mentions, such as the rocks on Oahu that are believed to be the corpse of the dog Kū, are unknown to Google. The footprints of Koeau’s soldiers left in the volcanic mud after they were killed by poison gases off Mount Pele, are in the park near where we’ll be staying on the big island. So maybe we’ll go see them. And try not to be devoured by humpbacked sharkmen.

80’s Trash of the Week: North Shore, brah!

He was a haole. A barney. A kook on and off the waves.
But he would become a soul surfer.

“Scrub it, kook!”
“He’s so haole he don’t even know he’s haole!”

My coworkers, the Mouth from the South and the Friendly Irish Giant, use lines from this all the time. So I was forced to rent it, to understand what the hell they were saying. I was not disappointed. I’ve come up with a new rating system for 80’s movies.

Beers Required to Enjoy: 2
Quotability Rating: High
Cheese Factor: Medium
Could it be made today? With girls, it was called Blue Crush
Gratuitous Boobs: Zero

Rick Kane from is a surfer from Arizona who after winning $500 in a surfing contest, goes to Oahu to ride the big waves. I’m not sure how often you can surf in a landlocked state, but from how he handles the big Hawaii waves, one can guess he didn’t have a lot of competition in that surfing contest. He’ll be in too deep when he gets to the North Shore, where he’s a haole, a barney, a kook!

Rick hops on the first plane to Hawaii with nothing but his board and a box of colored pencils, since he is also an artist, despite not knowing the difference between a drawing and a painting. The first thing he does is track down some old dude working in a strip club, who once said Rick could crash with him if he ever came to Hawaii. See, you should always call first when visiting old friends, or strangers who once invited you over in a drunken stupor, because they might just change their mind. This is the first of many misfortunes that befall poor Rick in his quest to shred on the awesome North Shore wave-age. Luckily a bar brawl breaks out and he doesn’t have to pay for his $20 drink, because he sneaks out with two Aussie surfers he recognizes from surfer magazines. They pile into a Jeep and race off into the night, because surfers are a brotherhood. A brahtherhood. And then to haze him, they make him gather sugarcane during a fire, oy! You only got one? You pussy!

They even surf on bikes, dude!

On the beach the next day Rick stashes his stuff behind a bush and gets on his board, to show how badly he sucks. He rides a wave that his Aussie pals call a ripple, I’ve seen bigger waves in a toilet, mate! Then the Huoi, a gang of native Hawaiian surfers descended from kings, show up and bully their way into his wave. This where he is noted to be so “haole he don’t even know he’s haole, brah!” A haole, pronounced “howley” is what native Hawaiians call outsiders, foreigners, tourists, and other doofuses who stole their belove islands and come to shit things up so the North Shore will someday look more like the Jersey Shore. No wonder they are treated with such disgust. Plus, Rick gets in the way of their leader and screws up his wave! Totally not cool, brah.

Hey haole, I play the douche in this movie, brah!

He leaves, humiliated, only to find his art stuff stolen. That’s what you get for hiding it in a bush, barney! While looking for a place to stay, he meets Turtle, a local surfer and board sander who tells him what a haole is. “Ya know, a barney, a kook, in and out of the water, yeah?” They go to a party that night where not only is everyone wearing goofy costumes like a shark jaw or a toilet seat around their neck, but The Lords of the New Church is playing. One of my favorite forgotten 80’s bands, their involvement makes this movie an instant classic in my eyes. “Murder Style! Livin’ in night-time…” they even have two token punks in leather jackets at the party, although everyone else is wearing shorts and muscle shirts. They must have died of heat exhaustion shortly after the party, but it’s not an 80’s movie without punks causing trouble. They don’t cause trouble here, so I’m sure that scene was deleted.

The party sets the stage for the complex rivalry between the Soul Surfers, represented by Chandler (not the guy from friends- ed.) and the hot-doggin’ free-stylers, led by Lance Burkhart, kind of the surfer magazine covers and contests. In the end, Rick must choose the proper path, which is pretty easy to choose because why would you follow this guy?

Lance and his hypno-nipple.

At the party Rick meets Kianni, a hot Hawaiian girl. But oh nooo!! The Houi are there cockblocking him! “I thought you were leavin’, brah?” For such a line there is no retort. Rick leaves in shame. But his total humiliation is not yet complete. In the morning he surfs with Turtle, and learns about these things called reefs. You’d think a surfer, even one from Arizona, might know of reefs and their dangers to surfers, from reading about them in the surfer mags he recognizes everyone from. But no, Rick learns the hard way. Turtle imparts the wisdom of where the wave breaks, and at all costs, “don’t be there when the wave breaks, or you gonna get drilled!”

Guess where Rick is when the wave breaks. Yes, he get drilled, brah. His board broken, his back gashed on the reef, he stumbles off the beach a broken man Lucky for him, Kianni shows up to tell him about the bacteria in the coral that will scar him for life! Hell, even the kids there know to get it out, you gotta “Scrub it, kook!” Kianni has a better idea, taking him to a shady spot to apply aloe to his wounds.

“Ever notice that haole also spells a-hole?”

Back at Turtle’s shack, Rick finally gets to meet Chandler, the great board shaper. Lo and behold, he has bought Rick’s box of art pencils for $20 off wherever stolen goods are sold. Rick proves it is his, by identifying the rolled-up “painting” underneath the lid. Never mind that it is obviously colored pencil, and we never see a paintbrush. Rick is so good he paints with pencils. Chandler is suitably impressed, and trades Rick the drawing of a surfer for room and board, soul surfing lessons, and the wisdom of the ages. Five minutes later, Rick is making fun of Chandler’s logo and offering to draw a new one. This is the graphic designer subplot, and because Rick eventually leaves to go to school in New York, we must assume he died surfing the East River, or is somewhere downtown making dealtoys and smoking enormous amounts of weed. (in-joke for the graphic designers in the audience)

You see, I was expecting a simple movie about surfing, but they manage to cram so much depth into 90 minutes that I had to like this movie. Chandler is the Zen surfer, who only wants a “Big Gun” board and to surf big waves. He knows that “like the Eskimos have over a hundred words for snow, the Hawaiians have over a hundred to describe the water.” He is also the master of the training montage, teaching Rick on a 300 year old koa wood surfboard with no fins. A creepy surf photographer guy with big eyebrows stalks his every move. He felt eerily familiar, and it turns out he ‘s John Paragon, who played Jambi the Genie in PeeWee’s Playhouse. Not sure I’d want him filming me at the beach.

That’s cool enough to get him into Kianni’s grass skirt, and Rick has a showdown with the Houi Douche when they catch him messing with a local girl. The Houi stick together, but Rick says if they are truly descended from Hawaiian kings, they will let him settle it one on one. In reality he’d be found dead with a pineapple kicked up his hula-hole, but in the movie he wins the fight and gets a tiny bit of respect from them for not being a pussy.

However, Rick is still a pussy when he hitches a ride from an old Hawaiian dude who gives him some homemade jerky. It’s pork jerky and Rick looks like he just ate a turd taco. Maybe he’s a Jewish Arizona surfer, but his aversion to pork jerky is never fully explained.

Then comes the final battle, every movie has one- as we learned earlier, there is a schism in the world of surfing between the hot-doggers and the soul surfers, and it is time to choose sides! Rick wants to compete, but Chandler thinks competition brings out the worst in people. Rick joins the contest and thankfully Chandler doesn’t storm off or disown him and drown him in board wax. He’s too cool for that.

At the big showdown we get to hear the same song twice, The Nature of the Beast by Angel City. Remember them, from the 80’s? Me neither. Apparently that’s just their American name, they were the Angels in Australia and probably got in there because of all the Aussie surfers involved with this movie. The soundtrack is actually pretty good, and I’m disappointed that it’s not on Amazon. The surfing action is very good and unsurprisingly, real pro surfers play quite a few parts- Laird Hamilton as the dick Lance, the two Aussies, and Gerry Lopez (Subotai from Conan the Barbarian!) plays Vince, the tough leader of the Houi.

Lance gets shown for the hotdoggin’ douchebag (hotdouchin’ hosebag?) he is during the final round, when he cheats by pulling Rick’s rope. The one on his surfboard, you sicko. Rick shows he has digested the lessons of Soul Surfing when he is chill about losing, and has to tell Chandler to let it go. Even Vince gives him begrudging respect. But Hawaii is not for Rick, even though he is honorarily no longer an a-haole. He’s got to get to art school, so he can fight for jobs with a bunch of kids who learned photoshop on their own.

Rick, you kook. You should have stayed on the North Shore as a soul surfer, riding Turtle’s boards and eating pork jerky.

Man against nature… the North Shore.