Sunday, February 25, 2007

And this I know
His teeth are white as snow
What a gas it was to see him
Walk her every day
Into a shady place

It is nearly midnight. The sliding door is open and I can hear falling water. The air is thick and warm. The breeze is a wet, half-hearted sigh. Simply walking here becomes so languid that it feels like swimming. Every surface feels mildly wet, like this keyboard. Perspiring. Humidity that speaks of lush greens and startling yellow and red blossoms.

My sister, Liz, is asleep on the bed; the glow from the screen bathes the room like moonlight.

Due to the weather, my flight out of Bozeman was delayed. This would have caused me to miss my connection on the ridiculous vector of Bozeman-Seattle-Phoenix-Maui. Instead I flew to Seattle for a five-hour layover, then on to Maui.

Fortune smiled on me (I know. When doesn't it?) in the form of Gary, a friendly, older gentlemen seated next to me on the flight out of Bozeman. Flying west out of Bozeman, if it is clear ((which it was)), provides stunning views of river valleys, canyons, and jagged, white peaks thrust above forested wilderness, as the plane, gaining altitude, takes a wide, sweeping circle around the Gallatin Valley.

I was seated next to the window, and Gary and I contemplated the view as we took off. I snorted and said, "There's my house!" as we flew over it. As the plane bore west, we tried to identify different peaks and rivers.

We flew over Butte, the former mining boomtown that was, for a time, was one of the largest cities in the west.

But now, one hundred years later?

Now, the Berkely Pit in Butte holds the noteworthy distinction of being the largest Superfund site in the United States. The huge pit mine dominates the landscape like a crater, even from 30,000 feet. The process of extracting copper from the ground was so toxic and virulent, that even now, 100 years after the fact, the Pit spews out water so acidic that the government dumps thousands of gallons of lye into the flowage, all day, every day. And night. If I were a betting man, I would bet that people in Butte don't live to an old age. Their kids probably have webbed feet and three eyes.

Anyway, Gary and I got to talking. He lives in Seattle, but travels to Bozeman regularly since the early 70's. As it turns out, we hit it off. When we landed, Gary took me to the Alaska Air First Class Lounge as his guest.

He went home, but I got to sit out my five hour wait with two stories of leather chairs, waitresses, toasted muffins, a bloody mary, computers, plasma televisions and someone watching out for when your flight begins to board, at which time they tap you on the shoulder and softly say, "Mr. Militello, your flight is boarding now." Gratis, of course.

Thanks, Gary.

For some reason, I bought a pair of women's sunglasses on my way to the gate and put them on.

Maybe it was to help ease the coach-turns-into-a-pumpkin-at-midnight shock of being cast out like Adam from the pampered womb of the First Class Super Special Private Lounge. Perhaps it was to maintain some modicum of dignity and privacy, there amidst the cattle and paparrazi in {{shudder}} Coach. I don't really know. I just bought a ten dollar pair of women's shades. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

It was a really long flight from Seattle to Maui. Longer that the trip from LA to New York, clocking in at over 5 hours. I had forgotten that Hawaii is halfway around the world from Montana.

All of the natives are chestnut brown, sun-bleached and beautiful. Their collective demeanor exudes a laid-back vibe that makes California's mellowest surfer dudes look like hypertensive, chain-smoking, New York cabbies.

Liz(zy), and my brother-in-law, Pat, picked me up from the airport tonight. Judging on climate alone, I expected some quaint, tiki-hut, 5 gate airport, ramshackle indy taxis and kids with Chiclets. But, no. I had been here once before, for a few days in 1987, so I knew this was definitely Los Estados Unidos, and not the third world.

But I didn't expect Orange County. Granted, it was and is dark, and I haven't so much as seen the ocean yet, but still.

I have to say it is weird to see Krispy Kreme-home depot-Lexus dealer-starbucks-borders-tcby-starbucks-jamba juice-ruby tuesdays-outback steakhouse-starbucks-TGIFridays-Old Navy-starbucks-crate & barrel-starbucks devlopment on island like this. I want to be pulling over to a plywood shack along a dirt road, and buy a warm Coke out of a bottle that has been in continuous circulation since the 60's, so scarred, scratched and grey that you can hardly see brown.

But no. It looked exactly like the suburban sprawl around Salt Lake City-LA-Anywhere, except with Palm trees. And brown people.

Like I said, though, it was dark outside, so I couldn't view the landscape. I will reserve my judgment until the sunlight gets equal airtime with the energy-conscious, clean white glow of the gathered Safeways and Blockbusters.

(First impression? This is a place for rich, retired people from Arizona go to stay warm, eat comfortable, familiar food and just unwind and not have to worry that English is your caddy's second language, so you can't understand if he is saying one hundred "eighty" or "eighteen" yards to the pin. No need to get concerned, though, GPS technology will soon stem the tide of illegal immigration.)

The place we are staying at is huge, with dozens of connected, amoeba-shaped pools intertwined amongst waterfalls.

It is so big, that according to Liz, our room is over a quarter mile from my sister, Molly's room.

The architecture is that unique, are-we-inside-or-outside laissez faire that comes with daily, metronomic, 83 degree temperatures, and sunshine, interrupted by a short, warm afternoon showers.

(Or the odd volcanic eruption. Tomato-to-mah-toe.)

We are near Kihei.

I am going to take a stroll, check the place out and keep my fingers crossed that with daylight, Maui will transcend its Southern Calfornia infrastructure and get down to doing the beautiful tropical island thing with beaches and surf and volcanos and whales and sunshine.

I bet it will.

And I will be eating fresh pineapple.

Ruh roo and miss you.

Labels: , , , , , , ,