So, This is College?

LAST EDIT: NOVEMBER 28

Sometimes there are stories that we really do not want to write. Sometimes these stories plague our dreams and haunt our days. They remind us, chillingly, of the fragility of the human condition – especially of our own insecurities.

I am a decent human being. At least, I would think so. I struggle to live. I struggle to survive in this cold and crude world just the same as everyone else. But I am, as it is often pointed out, only human.
And being only human, I can not possibly articulate the position of every single atom in the universe relative to this dimension in space and time – thus I cannot predict the future. In my inability to predict the future, I am also unable to predict the consequences of certain actions that I take.

Let’s cut straight to the chase, because that’s the only way that I can think of to open this article: on Friday, October 10th, I moved into an apartment complex on campus after five / six months of living in my car. After having settled comfortably into my new living space, I feel more comfortable in having conversations with others about my recent precarious predicament and the unmeasured stress that resulted.

I am not here, now going to delve into the reasons of why I found myself living in the back of my Subaru. The fact is that I was. And it wasn’t pleasant. For showers, I used my gym membership at the University Recreation center. For food, I petitioned University Dining services for a meal plan while I wasn’t attending school.

To occupy my time, I spent my waking hours looking for jobs. Every day, for months, I would walk the four blocks up to the campus of Western Washington University – where I was enrolled to attend Fall quarter – and attempt to live out some semblance of a decent life. I would use the on-campus equipment every day to keep up with the wide world of job hunting. Computers, printers, photo copiers. Over this period of time, I applied to well over 50 separate jobs – I had callbacks on a few, interviews on a few more – but I never did get a job.

For entertainment, I watched movies and television shows on the internet. I would display them on the giant projectors at my university. Each classroom at my university is equipped with a full media block; PC, DVD player, VHS player, laptop cable, HDMI cable, microphone jack, and projector.

That is, until school started. Mind you, the majority of time that I lived in my car was during the spring and summer, while I was on “leave” from the University. When school started, I was still living in my car, but I would alter my schedule from going straight to the computers to apply for jobs – and I would head off to class.

Another thing. I did travel a little during this time. Since I am in the National Guard, I have commitments to make sure that I wind up at the Armory every month. My government commitments also found me in Washington, D.C. a couple of times (remember, military flights are free for me). So, I was not completely hopeless.

But living in my car has taught me a few extremely valuable lessons. I am still trying to exactly define what they are. Perhaps one day, I will write a book about it.

Surf’s up in Paradise, and so are the hookers.

Oahu. Paradise. That’s what they call it. The brochures. The television documentaries.
I say that if you are not too careful, Oahu can be a living Hell.

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January 13-14, 2014
The neighborhood of Waikiki that I’ve managed to superimpose my adventurous self upon at the Monday night kick over into Tuesday morning is far less than respectable and does little to soothe my precarious mental state.

If this place has a Red Light District, I’m sure that I have aimlessly wandered into it.

Unfortunately.

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“Hey there handsome,” declares a young woman as she walks past.

I walk past and laugh at the absurdity. I can count on this little stretch of pavement a total of seven girls, all pacing their corners like wild cats of the Savannah stalking their prey before a kill.

Sure, honey. Yes, you do have a rather large pair of tits. But I am saving myself for someone special.

With the added incentive of the three uniformed Honolulu police cars parked just down the street, outside the Waikiki Trade Center, I’m sure that any wayward traveler stupid enough to accept your offer of “a good time,” isn’t going to be spending the night where they thought they would.

And so. I find myself at 2am on the East side of K¯uhi¯o Avenue in the only reputable all-night establishment for miles in any direction: McDonald’s. Scarfing down a bacon cheeseburger.

If Oahu is supposed to be Paradise, I wonder if this is what paradise looks like at 2am every night. The only discernible difference between this place and Pioneer Square back home – aside from the climate – is that back home the ho-hos are all wearing fur jackets and drinking hot cocoa right now.

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A uniformed security guard stands outside Playbar, a late night bar. He does not wear a name tag.

“I’ve only been working here for two weeks,” says the security guard who gives the name of John. He patrols the section of K¯uhi¯o Avenue which includes Playbar nightclub. John’s voice has an aura of fear built into it during our entire conversation. He won’t give me his last name, because he does not want to loose his job.

“Sometimes, I see girls grab men by the hands, speak to them for a while, and take them into the apartments there.” He points to the stack of apartments next to the club.

“My job is to make sure that these seven buildings are secure. I might have my doubts about those girls, but if they have a key than I am to treat them as a resident. I am finding it harder and harder to tell the difference between normal girls and sex workers.”

Certainly, girls in Hawaii are allowed to dress provocatively. Once or twice while I’ve been here, I’ve also been accused of showing a little skin, and unfastening one more button than usual. It’s hot out.

But when a girl twirls her purse and walks around in a circle on the street corner, one can assume that she is looking to make some fresh dough.

“They just stand out,” says a young (woman?) named Persia who came up to me to accost my recently shaved chest and my hairy legs before she realized what I was really doing there. She laughed when I told her that I was going to try to sell an article to Vice.

“When a girl’s looking for something – if you know what I mean – she just sticks out.”

Outside Playbar, a crew of about five men dressed in all-black clothing now guards the entrance. The Asian security guard I spoke to earlier is still there, but I wonder how much of a job he actually performs, other than to look pretty for the tourists and inquisitive minds that happen to wander down this street this late at night.

A fairly large Hawaiian man wearing a black button-up shirt and black pants, with a jet-black beard and an interesting style of hair that matches the hue of his beard, speaks in a voice that demands attention.

He asks not to be named. The whole damned crew asks not to be named. I tell them that it really cramps my style if I have a bunch of quotes from a guy who doesn’t exist. Editors don’t really dig it when you come up with mostly fluff.

“This side is stronger. No one fucks with us on this side of the street,” he replies, stern but jovial in that classic Aloha gangster fashion that I have come to appreciate, or at least pretend to.

This side of the street. This guy must be a gangster. A large group of men wearing red nike products exits the nightclub behind the guard. A few of them shake hands with the black-shirted men as they prepare to leave. I can’t help but shaking the feeling that this looks oddly similar to Blood gang territory. A man in a black Cadilac Escalade with a red baseball cap drives past, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand somewhere unseen.

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Two men come walking down the street. Their extremely muscular arms are all tatted up, they walk the same way that I do – fists clenched, chests thrown out, shoulders broad and wide. These guys are off-duty soldiers here for the pickings just like everyone else in this sluthole. They enter the club and disappear into its murky depths.

Persia and those gangbangers told me that the majority of customers are US service members of some capacity. Even though it is against the UCMJ for service members to participate in activities involving prostitutes – they are the biggest offenders.

I can’t do this story anymore. Someone told me when I started out, that I wouldn’t like what I found when I started digging into this story.

I don’t want to be one of the perpetrators. If I had any balls at all, I would tail those two bald fucks back to their barracks and inform their superior officers that they are involved in nasty businesses.

Instead, I’m going to tail the Escalade. I find it’s much safer to deal with gangsters than it is to deal with JAG. After all, these gangsters are small-frys compared to the biggest gang in the world: the US Army.

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The Escalade takes its time strolling around the city.

Turns out there are little pockets of prostitution and narcotics traffic all over the city, and the piece of action I saw in Waikiki wasn’t even the biggest slice of the pie. Whoever this guy is, he must be involved in something huge. He’s certainly recognized by everyone who sees him.

Drug dealers, gagsters, bouncers, hookers, cops – they are all a part of some crazy giant picture that just gets more confusing as time goes on.

The Escalade – finally – pulls into a parking space in a very rich part of town on the way out to Diamond Head. This is where the millionaires live.

 

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I get out to take a peek at the vehicle. Shiny. Sparkly. With US Government plates.

What. The. Fuck.?

This whole situation has just gone from bizarre to fucked-up in a heartbeat. This is it. I’m done with this story – I don’t want to wind up cannibal meat for some crazy all-seeing Hawaiian gang.

After all, I’m on vacation.

Spooky City

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NOTE: These photographs were taken by a real photographer! His name is Paul Arps.

This city. This youthful vibrance. This aged decrepitating filth.

In the summertime the mosquitoes come out in force and devour the flesh right off the bones of dead politicians and expensive call girls. In winter the wolves come out and hunt. Spies, assassins, terrorists, world leaders, CEOs, journalists, and gangsters all make this city their playground. With so much raw energy converging in one city, the world tends to hang on the threads of a delicate chess game played out behind closed doors in smoke-filled rooms and penthouse apartments all across this city. One false move and the world could be facing the next nuclear war, or worse. The only time of year this city isn’t teeming on the brink of an apocalypse is during the Christmas season and in the event of a government shutdown. Welcome to Washington D.C. – where good men get screwed. All around fun for the whole family… all year long.

I hate this city. Not for what it stands for, but for what it has become. Every time I come out here I get obliterated by the force of human consumption and independence that hangs around its freshman halls like the Devil in disguise. Sore losers and sour winners make up the dominant demographic here; and not just on the Hill. Take a walk across the Mall and you’ll see them in the White House too. Dickless hound dogs and over encumbered desk jockeys duke it out for Top Gun.

The only decent place in this whole damned city is the Smithsonian.

For what it’s worth, though, this city can also be a really cool place. It’s fun to sit at the feet of Abraham Lincoln and wonder if there are any great men left in this world, or if chivalry and patriotism are truly dead.

I hate spies. They’re jumpy and paranoid little fucks who think that the whole world will implode if they don’t accomplish their mission. What they fail to realize, in the brains they hide behind aviator sunglasses and poker faces, is that the world spins ever more. There will always be bad guys, and there will always be good guys.

I’m in DC to meet up with an individual who claims to have information on an HVT that I might run across while I’m in AO HoA on vacation. If I do happen to run across this “dog-hating, bacon-fearing sonofabitch,” while I’m on vacation, my local PMC contacts say that I’ll wish I had been “born on another planet.”

Ball security is job security, so they say.

So, here’s the thing about spies: I mentioned before they’re all paranoid, right? Well, this motherfucker has me wait outside in the cold in the middle of the ghetto at 2am to avoid wandering eyes.

Wandering eyes?

I’m a white man rubbing my hands to keep warm, leaning with my foot against a wall plastered with MS13 tags. I’m pretty sure I stand out anywhere I walk in this friggin hood. This is DC we’re talking about here, not an easy place to walk around at 2am. This stench is unbearable. I hate this city.

Where is this guy? Taking his time looks like. Paranoid fuck is probably scoping the area for potential threats. If he has me wait out here any longer my fist is gonna be a potential threat with his face.

I hear something off to my left. Nothing. Just a bunch of drunken Latinos stumbling out of a bar onto the sidewalk. So cliché.

I look to the right. Nothing but a bunch of dumpsters. The monotone nature of the world is killing me inside.

I look back to the left. HOW THE FUCK DOES HE DO THAT?

He’s standing there, leaning against the wall looking like he’s been there the whole time. He looks at me and asks me what’s wrong have I seen a ghost.

I fucking hate spies.

We get in his car and go to my hotel. In the restaurant in the lobby we talk about things. Mostly, we play I spy.

“How’s life in the spooky world of yours?” I ask.

“The damn coffee machine is broken again. Sprays the coffee like an uncontrollable fire hose. I’ve had to change my shirt three times today. I fucking hate contractors. And that’s all you need to know,” he replies.

That’s about the extent of his conversational skill. That’s alright – he spends the majority of every day playing smoke and mirrors with foreign nationals. And none of it really concerns me at all.

I tell him about my new niece and other things. He looks at me and tells me I need to work out more.

Double Bubble Trouble by M.I.A. comes on the radio, and as if on cue he reaches into the folds of his suit jacket and pulls out a USB stick. He sets it on the glass bar and slides it over to me.

I reach out to grab it. He puts his hand on top of mine and in a slow whisper says to me:

“Somalia is a dangerous fucking place dude. I hope you know what you’re doing. I really hope you know what you’re doing.”

I look straight into his eyes: “Don’t worry, my spooky friend. I have no idea what I’m doing.” I stick out my tongue, grab the stick, and walk away as the beat starts to drop.

I fucking hate spies.

Stranded on the North Shore

The dodge is broke down. Here, just past Turtle Bay on Oahu’s North Shore, in the parking lot in front of Fumi’s Kahuku Shrimp truck.

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We tried jumping the car. That didn’t do anything.

For some strange reason, I am not concerned at all. This place isn’t the worst to break down. And the shrimp is AMAZING.

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This sun is intoxicating.

I just got done spending the day touring the North Shore with a few amazing people I met in the Waikiki Backpacker’s Hostel. Matt from Wisconsin, James from New Zealand, and Olga from Ukraine.

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I’m holding a bottle of sand and seashells I just bought in the little shop here. Rotating it around in my hands, it feels like with each new revolution, I am casting off one more inkling of the absurdity of the modern human condition.

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I have been set free on the sandy shores of my future. I am going to fly with eagles and swim with dolphins for the rest of my life. For a short while, I did feel like moving here. But the more that I think about it, this world tour has really been eye opening for me. The most important place in my life right now is my university: I must return to finish what I started.

Not too fast though. The sun’s out, and life’s a beach.

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A night with the stars, and all that I’m left with is questions.

NOTE: The following was written in a nightclub in Honolulu, on a collection of paper towels that I got from the restroom.

I met up with this Aussie named Jacob in the lounge of the hostel that I’m staying at in Waikiki. He said that it was time to hit the clubs, since this was his last big night on the island.

“Let’s freaking loose it.” For once in my life, I was in complete agreement. It was high time that I hit the clubs. I got on my pants and my dress shoes. I didn’t bother putting on a tie. I wanted to see if I still had the game in me – after all, it had been almost two years since the last time I bumped to “Outta Your Mind.”

What is sanity? Is it an equilibrium of the mind, of the spirit? Is it temporary, or can sanity actually remain intact? The more that you lie to other people about who you are, does it get easier for you to lie to yourself as well?

Why am I so fucking… bored here? Am I really supposed to be here?

Where do I belong? Here? In this club? Why do I feel so empty here? So… soulless? So cold? So alone?

Do nice guys really finish last? Is that really a bad thing?

The question that I should be asking myself is not any of these. The question that I should be asking is: am I supposed to be with her?

I met a Frenchman – a very young, vibrant, and interesting politician – tonight, who told me to forget about her. This is the same advice that I’ve received, so far, from individuals from five continents.

“Why do you need her at all?” He asks me. “It sounds to me like she is a girl. Girls are bad. You showed her another world, and she started to experience things. She’s umm… what you call… a putain… umm, I think the english word is slut. You’re just in denial.”

Let’s get this straight. I do not, and never will, think that this girl is a slut.

Am I in denial though? Is she really just like one of these fakes at the club? After she lied to me like that, how am I supposed to believe ANYTHING that comes out of her mouth? I thought she was such a good person. I didn’t think she could EVER in a million years do something as stupid as that.

But she did. She cheated on me, she dumped me, and then she lied to me about why we were separating. I have to live with that, no matter how much I want it to not be this way, it is this way. There’s nothing I can do about it. Why don’t girls ever tell the fucking truth anymore? Why doesn’t anyone? What’s so hard about telling the truth to people that you have to live in a state of perpetual lies just to get by?

I know that I will never, EVER be the same again. I have truly been hurt. Heartbreak hurts worse than a bullet or a broken bone – I would know.

If just one nightclub makes me feel this shitty, I may never come back to one. The funny thing is that this is one of the best nightclubs in one of the best cities in the world. I’m here, dancing next to the extras from Hawaii 5-0, maybe a cast member or two, famous pro surfers, golfers, politicians from around the world. I should be happy, but I still feel like shit.

I just don’t fit in in this world anymore. I’m not the same person that I used to be. And it’s kind of unsettling watching my childhood idols popping E  tablets and spiking each other’s drinks. I’m in the song Royals by Lorde, looking out at the craziness of this world with new eyes. I feel just like I did the night of winter ball senior year of high school:

Lost. In Honolulu. Alone.

Wanting true love, but so afraid of the consequences. So fucking afraid.

I don’t think, as a single man, that I am ever going clubbing again. It just makes me feel too much like shit. Or maybe that’s just the vodka and the beer.

Might as well try to enjoy myself some more, and try not to leave James in the wind.

At Pearl Harbor

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The wind ripples across the surface of the water.

Part of the ship is just barely visible in the illumination of this Oahu sun.

I know they’re down there. All of them. Waiting for me to join them in their watery grave.

What is the sound of the dead? Is it silence? Do the dead really have anything to say to me?

Are they giving me a reason to fight, or are they trying to tell me to quit my post? I didn’t realize the full extent of what this was until just a few moments ago, standing over the USS Arizona, looking down at the deck.

I’ve wandered into a tomb.

A place where the dead will never be at peace. A place where the dead are screaming out at me in indiscernible shouts of silence.

FREEDOM.

Every so often, I have to remind myself that this is what I am fighting for. I so often use this word in my everyday, that I have become quite calloused to the idea of it.

Freedom…

What does that word even mean?

In the Political Science 270: Intro to International Relations course at my University, I was taught that freedom requires three variables. A, B, and C. If A = you, B = where or what you are trying to reach, and C = the obstacle that is limiting your ability of achieving B, then B = A – C.

In short, only in overcoming your obstacles are you truly free.

Aside from the clinical description of freedom that I was taught, I do not know that I truly know what the word means. I think, probably, that the word freedom describes a feeling. A feeling that there is absolutely nothing in the world that can remove a human being from their present state of happiness.

The only way, I think, that I can truly understand what freedom is, is to learn more about those peoples around the world who do not have freedom.

When I was in jungles, I got a small taste of what it means to not be free. But I was so busy administering freedom that I still wasn’t able to define the phenomenon of freedom.

So, I live in the free world. I am a free man. I fight for freedom. I will die a free man. But I’m just not quite sure what that all means. It’s going to be interesting to find out for myself.

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Rest in peace my brothers.

24 Hours in SEATAC Airport

NOTE: These events are the prequel to my most recent post.

The discarded baggage of society’s unsettled wanderlust sits on a carousel in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on a rainy January afternoon, circumnavigating an abyss of modernity and subdued excitement. Crumpled leaflets litter the splotched patterned basement floor, where hundreds of men and women have gathered to collect their checked luggage. The diversity of humanity here is as evident in the throng of human beings, as it is in the items which they have left behind.

A soldier on the plane comes home to his family. He hopes for the last time.

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A professional looking young brunette woman in a slim-cut gray pinstripe business suit grabs a red polka-dotted suitcase. The side pocket is not completely closed, and out falls a black lace thong. The woman walks away, without realizing her loss.

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A young Arabian man with a smile that can reach the heavens reaches out for his brown duffel. The bright red Emirates ID tag gets stuck in between the slats of the carousel and snaps its cord. The man shrugs his shoulders, throws the bag over his arm and walks away while humming the theme to Star Wars.

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When we travel – to or from – as human beings, these little things that we have managed to gather together are the things that we leave behind.

So much life. And this is just the basement.

I am in SEATAC Airport, waiting for my flight on Monday evening, watching all of these events occur with awe and wonder. I have been in the airport for a total of ten hours, in vapid anticipation of my departure to Honolulu.

Humanity is truly amazing.

If any of these people are excited to be here, I can’t tell. Even the babes in their mothers’ firm grasps are crying out to leave this dreadful place.

That hits me square in the jaw. Sure, the weather sucks right now. But Seattle is my favorite city in the world. SeaTac airport is an airport. I am fascinated by airports.

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The first time I ever came to this airport – I was very little – my father taught me how escalators worked. I had never seen so many in one place before.

Sure, I knew the function of an escalator was to take people quickly on an inclined plain from one floor to another. But I never knew what they were really for. My father showed me that day.

“Follow me,” he said. I did so. Up one escalator. Down another. Up the same one that I had just gone up. Down. Up. Eventually it became a game of cat-and-mouse.

He did things that I did not know were possible to do on escalators – like walk while riding one to move faster, and go up an escalator that was meant to take people down.

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Life was so innocent then. Breaking conventions was an amazing feat of accomplishment for me. Non-conformity was something that my father had been engraining within me from the time of my birth. That is probably the single most attributable lesson that can be applied to my father’s legacy.

Of course, that was all before 9-11. So many things about this airport have changed since then.

Mainly, the extreme lack of enthusiasm around me. Fear has gripped this nation.

People these days are so damned scared when they come to airports. I can see the fear in all of their faces, I can smell the stench of it wafting behind them like a putrid perfume as they walk in front of me.

They are scared of the TSA primarily. They are also scared of Al Quaeda, they are scared of the IRA, they are scared of the TEA party, and abortion bombers.

The difference between I and them – they, the conglomerate of faceless figures in every airport across this once-great nation – is that I choose not to be afraid of my eternal travel companion that is my own shadow.
I choose to turn my fears toward the rational: tuberculosis, snakes, spiders, and heartbreak.

MONDAY –
“The train will be arriving shortly. Please stand clear of the doors.”

The same sentence is repeated in Chinese.

The train arrives.

I grab onto a pole and stand fast.

The train arrives at the S Gates with an anti-climactic termination. The doors hiss open, as if sarcastically mocking those certain travelers who seem to think that they are performing some great function in the cycle of life by simply performing their duties with the least amount of resistance and the maximum amount of reward.

A song by Cold Play plays overhead as I rise through the ranks of dull imaginations and into the departure terminal, where playful souls can once again be found running wild and free.

Standing at the bottom of the escalator is surreal. The yellow and sliver platforms of this carnival ride are illuminated underfoot by tiny LED lights in uniform sequence spaced apart approximately 12 inches from each other. The lights are reflected on space-age, almost mirror-like aluminum side panels. The whole atmosphere makes me feel more like I am ascending onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise rather than into the main platform of the S Gate satellite terminal building. The monotone mechanical drone of the escalator’s operation completes the scene. The whole ride soothes my soul in a sort of cold, metallic hug.

It makes me feel like everything is going to be fine, but without any variation in its lifeless demeanor.

As I finally summit the escalator, I am brought out into a world of exactly the same.

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Directly in front of me as I step onto the platform is a duty free shop that sells designer accessories for outrageously steep prices. Everything in this airport has been marked up.

The only thing I want to purchase in this airport is a pair of earplugs so that I may focus on writing.
I put in the earplugs. They don’t work. I’m sure they’re great for the intrepid hypochondriac whilst riding an airplane, offering them some sort of placebo effect to soothe their restless souls. Sure, they reduce ambient noises a little, but the only thing they seem to do for the mechanical noises around me is magnify them like two cheap hearing aides. If I couldn’t think before, I most definitely can’t think while wearing them.

Damn. This bacon cheeseburger is AMAZING. The whole time I was in the desert, not once did a day go by when I did not crave an American meal. I felt guilty about it, though, because I knew that some of the people I was paling around with would never ever see a cheeseburger. Now I have one nestling in the bottom of my belly – it certainly hits the spot. I’m chuffed.

As I look out at the terminal where my plane will be arriving at in a few hours, the sudden realization of what I am doing hits me dead in the face: I am going to Hawaii. I am going to Hawaii. Wait, what? When did this happen?

A friend of mine that I met recently told me that if I had not been assaulted with so many terrible things recently – in other words, if I had been absolutely content with my life – then I would not have decided to see the world and leave the wretched confines of my house. So all of those bad, horrible things that have come down on top of me all at once – they must surely be a blessing in disguise. I hope so. I hope that I find what I’m looking for in Hawaii.

Right now, I am finally going to Hawaii. I am going to the beach. I am going to be in a place where happiness abounds, and the surf rolls in off the great Pacific Ocean. The most remote island chain in the world. I am hoping that this trip provides me with a cure to my insanity. A place of reflection, contemplation, solitude, and rejuvenation. A place to cast off my PTSD, my fears, my desires, my financial woes, my girl troubles, my bad dreams, my insomnia, the fogginess of my mind and of my geolocation, my bad health, my bad grades, my troubled soul. I place where I can learn the difference between the creations of my mind and the reality of my surroundings.

I guess it would be appropriate to say “Aloha.” I’ll be in the spirit soon enough, I hope.

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Oahu.

I’ve finally made it to the beach.

It’s 3am.

It’s humid.

Palm trees line the beach just like they should anywhere in the world. In my opinion, a beach isn’t considered a beach if there are no palm trees.

It’s taken me a while to get here, & a bit of money too.

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Worth it.

In this moment, sitting here, I have truly found Shalom again. This is Waikiki.

I run my fingers through the sand, damp from a recent rain, and yet indisputably soft as silk against my fingers. I am comfortably embraced within it.

Incredible.

I feel, for the first time in five years, at home with myself. For the first time in five years, I am sane.

Mahalo E Ke Akua No Keia La

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