The 50 States were already set in stone so I never really had a doubt that I would get to Hawaii. That being said it wasn’t an easy trigger to pull. I had delayed purchasing an airline ticket for a variety of reasons including money rapidly disappearing, uncertainty about the NPR gig, and general second guessing about what the hell I was doing. After arriving in LA and getting through the NPR and show though, it was time to keep things moving and buy a ticket. The plan was to leave Sunday morning, fly to Hawaii, rent a truck, play that afternoon into evening, sleep, jump on a plane back to LA first thing Monday morning. Crazy, I know. The general response to this psychotic itinerary was “You are in Hawaii! Stay a few days”. Of course I couldn’t argue with that, but my schedule had suddenly become tight because of booking a spot on an Albuquerque, New Mexico TV station that following Friday. This was exciting news, first TV MeterTour coverage, so roaming the beach of Hawaii would have to wait for another trip. I closed my eyes and purchased the ticket with money meant to get me home (would figure that out later). It was time to take Meter Tour across the Pacific Ocean…because you know, why the f&*% not.
That Sunday morning as I drove to the airport I had already made peace with the fact that this was happening. I parked the truck in the long term parking, and prepared my day-bag. I wonder how many people have packed a "day-bag" for Hawaii? I decided not to bring the amplifier or mic-stand. To be honest I just couldn’t afford the cost of packing and checking the equipment. If I had more time and had scheduled the entire trip better I’m sure I could have borrowed some equipment on the island, but this time around I had to improvise. I jumped on the shuttle towards the gate with my guitar, the big map that hangs off the truck, my computer and a change of clothes. I was traveling nice and light. When purchasing a ticket had gone back and forth between airlines but ended up choosing the slightly more expensive Air Hawaii…and as soon as I arrived at the gate I was glad for it. From check in, to boarding, to the flight attendants, I honestly couldn’t believe how positive and kind everyone was. It’s something I’ve never experienced when flying. And to add to the pleasant atmosphere, as you boarded the plane one was immediately swept away to a relaxed state of mind with traditional Hawaiian music playing through the speakers and guiding you towards your seat. It was quite something. There was a culture shift, and you could feel it on that plane. Some 5 hours, two free meals, and a complimentary glass of wine later, we were landing in Honolulu.
The airline staff were so accommodating that they didn’t once question or push back on me bringing the guitar onboard. This allowed me to get off the plane and get right to work. I had very little time to waste since I was going to be heading back the following morning. There was something kind of nice about the crazy focus I would need and lack of time to second guess, though at the same time I fully acknowledged the ridiculousness of what I was doing. Then again, I am driving to all 50 States playing music from the back of my truck…so I’d say the level of crazy is already pretty high. Before getting on the shuttle to the car rental area I did take a few minuets to self-realize where I was. Green lush mountains surrounded the airport, the air was warm but dry, and you could feel the ocean all around you. It was beautiful and my packed speedos would come in handy. In true no-planning-or-prep-Pablo form I called the car rental places prior to jumping on a shuttle, needed to see who had a truck. Enterprise had trucks available, $60 for the day (not bad), so I flagged down an enterprise shuttle bus and jumped on. About twenty minuets and one selfie later (it was apparently selfie day at Enterprise and the rental agent wanted to take a photo together), I was getting into a Ford truck (sorry Toyota) and heading out onto the big island to find a Meter Tour spot. Just like that.
As I drove into town I decided to call up a friend of my step-fathers named James who lives on the Island. We had texted back and forth about a week prior, talking about the fact that I would be in Hawaii. But in true “Pablo” form I had never finalized any details with him nor gotten back to him until I was essentially driving into his city. “Hey James, it’s Pablo. How are you man? I’m in Hawaii” I laughingly said into the phone. “What! You are in Hawaii right now?” yelled James. After some back and forth banter it turned out that he was essentially two blocks from where I was, so I drove there and saw him on the corner of the street waiving me down. I parked, grabbed my bag, and went to give him a hug. His only words were “you are fucking crazier then your step-father. King of the random pop in dude”. We laughed and took a moment to enjoy the insanity of what was happening, and even more so after I told him my nutty plan. Since time was tight, James and I crammed a beer, lunch, and a quick tour of his neighborhood into about an hour. It was pretty wild…but totally awesome. James, a wonderful musician, had been living in Honolulu for almost 20 years and had slowly, along with others, brought art and music to the area he lived in. Over the years they had organized and started a street festival, had friends open various establishments promoting live music, and had built up the area into a place of supporting the arts. It was a fantastic story and history to listen too. I talked to him about the tour, which he got a kick out of, and we agreed that for the next one we surely needed to plan things a little better (or at all) so as to bring Meter Tour and their music scene together. It was a wonderful thought, but we both agreed that time was of the essence so best to get out there and start looking for a place to play. James told me when I was done to swing by his place and crash for the night. I thanked him and another hug and good laugh later we parted ways. I looked up his suggestions on where to play, routed it on the map, and drove off into the Island looking for a spot.
The scenes from the truck were just beautiful. I first drove into Waikiki, which is the resort area of the big island. It was pretty, but a little too developed and touristy. Most of the beaches, while nice, had that sort of sad feeling that beaches get after years and years of humans doing lots of nothing on top of them. It felt like there were more cars than people, and the towers, building and shops sort of made your head spin. All that being said there were a few spots that seemed as if they could possibly work, so I circled various times but ultimately decided that the it just wasn’t too interesting. The other part of the island I wanted to check out was a town called Kailua. This was supposedly more low key and laid back than Waikiiki. The beaches were some of the more beautiful ones on the island, which was a factor because I was intent on jumping in the ocean quickly. The dilemma I was in though was that Kailua was a 40 minute drive, so if I decided to go there I probably wouldn’t have time to come back if it didn’t pan out. That being said the decision wasn’t too hard in the end. Waikiki did nothing for me, so I started the drive across.
The drive itself was worth the trip. Up into the mountains I went and then back down to the sea. The juxtaposition of lush greenery and volcanic dry rock was stunning. Vespa drivers all over the place, surf boards, lots of beat up pick up trucks, and bicyclist rounded out the street scene. The views of the ocean were incurable, and the color of the water itself was simply inviting. Pretty quickly I found myself in Kailua and it was obvious I had made the right choice. Though a little quiet, there was a distinct difference compared to Waikiki. It felt a lot more like a laid back beach town, with a few cafes, small shopping mart, some bars, and beach supply places. It was easy to follow the road towards the ocean and without any effort I was instantly on the banks of those beaches you see on postcards. It was somewhat empty, white pure sand, clear beautiful water, and the sun starting to drop opposite the water. By this point it was already 3pm so I stripped down, threw my speedos on, and jumped into the ocean. There was simply no way I was getting to Hawaii without doing exactly that. The water was delicious. Not too warm but not an ounce of cold. I tumbled and dove, did some laps, and floated. I must admit it was surreal….the circumstances of being there and the scene in general. I could have stayed for hours happily. But, with my fix satisfied I dried off and jumped back into the truck and went to park in front of this cute cafe I had found when arriving.
The set up this time around was easy. There was no rugs, no candles, no mid stand, no amp, nothing. I had the sign, which I tied off with rope and hung off the side of the truck, and I had my guitar. So a few minuets later I was sitting on the edge of the truck playing. There was something really funny about the entire thing, but I really tried to step into the moment and fully enjoy it. Prior to playing I had got some mint tea inside and told the barista what I was doing, and fully enjoyed her response of pure shock when I explained it all to her. The streets and this side of the island were very quiet, especially as the sun dropped. Because of it there was hardly any foot traffic. A few people were in the cafe, but after they left only a spatter of people even walked around. There was nothing I could do about that, but in a way it fit into the narrative of the day. With so little planning I really couldn’t expect much, that was the truth. But the point was that I was still playing music, on the street, and few people who did come by smiled, cheered, and thanked me. It was an extremely laid back few hours of playing. I didn’t waste time overthinking the moment or second guessing it. I had just jumped into the pacific ocean, had some delicious tea, and was playing acoustic music on the streets of Hawaii. None of it made sense and it didn’t need to. As it got darker and darker the cafe closed up for the night, which was also my cue to pack it up. At that point there was nobody on the street and without the cafe open there would be no reason for anyone to come down that street. There was no reason other then to declare the day a success, so I folded up the sign and drove back into Waikiki.
My plane the following morning was departing early so I needed to be up before the sun. James and I talked a little about the show that night, exchanged CD’s, and chatted some more about family and life. I fell asleep on his couch and essentially woke up to pack and get moving in what felt like no time. I thanked James again and headed off to the airport. If it sounds like a whirlwind, it was. I returned the truck, got to my gate, grabbed a coffee, and was boarding within 15 minutes. 5 hours, two free meals, and a glass of wine later I was back in LA. I returned to my truck, which I had missed, got in and went to the beach in Playa Del Rey. I was in time to watch the sun go down from where I had just come. Perhaps it wasn’t well planned or wildly successful, but my goal was clear and I had accomplished it. Tomorrow it was back to the road and back in my truck. This was an emotional moment for me…felt like the real half way marker. It was time to start heading in the direction of home. East….and for the first time.