chillin with some hedo peeps
chillin with some hedo peeps
I’ve been meaning to write about Kehena beach for a while now. It’s a tough task because Kehena is so baffling and quick to shift- like the liminal space between sea and coast- it’s a hard place to pin down with words. So, I’m just going to sketch it out free-association style…
Kehena Beach. The last black sand beach in Puna district. There was a bigger, calmer black sand oasis close by: it was taken out by Pele’s lava 20 years ago. Now, just Kehena remains, about 15 miles from the carnage of the lost beach at Kalapana.
Kehena Beach. Naked hippies dance ecstatically to the deep, generator beats of the kettle drums. A woman belly dances; the tambourine bells on her skirt make sweet music. An ancient man plays a chaotic, shamanic flute. Two women and their respective didgeridoos face one another, droning symbiotically.
Kehena Beach. I dive into the violent surf. The force of the waves are staggering; I always feel right on the edge of fear here. Then, past the break, the waves rise and fall. There, a 20-foot wall. There again, a series of calm pleasant swells. Wait for the lull, then swim back in. Focus your feet on the rocks. Just a little bit of blood. A good day.
Kehena Beach. Trading chocolate for coconuts. Trading stories, hitching rides. There, a few hundred yards out, the iridescent fins of dolphins. Beyond that, the scimitar horizon curving outward and inward on itself.
First things first: this is gonna be ironic. A blog post about wanting to unplug from modern electronic living. Ok, now that we’ve addressed that…
I want to unplug. After discovering that Oracle’s CEO just purchased the Hawaiian island of Lanai. That for me was a sort of a last straw. Just so emblematic of how warped our priorities are as a society: that someone can trade a bunch of green paper for an ancient island with 3,200 permanent residents. Residents who fish and hunt there. Residents unused to fences and street lights, much less condo-plexes. Dopey CEO man says he wants to “create jobs and stimulate tourism” on Lanai. Gross. Truly, nothing is sacred anymore.
Which leads me to wanting to unplug. I feel like as long as I am functioning within the glare of modern consumable information society, I will never be unplugged. If I have access to the matrix, I am going to be interacting with the matrix on some level. I want to see what it feels like to really, truly, toss those fetters away.
There is a remote valley on the island of Kauai. I have been dreaming and dreaming of walking into this secret place. No cell phone service, no wi-fi. Just my bow and a backpack. Perhaps a friend or two. And then: Trust. That the world keeps spinning, news cycles keep cycling but I won’t know… put a tarp up, watch time move, forage and hunt in the warm and verdant hearth of the North Pacific Ocean.
The first taste that hits you
is that of the banana. After that,
it’s the rum that’s in the fruit, and the caramel
from the flame that burnt the rum off. The caramel! It colors
the vanilla ice cream.
the bananas, the burnt rum, the ice cream, they
dance new kinds of dancing on your tongue.
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
I live in the Puna district on the east side of the Big Island. Puna is one of the most eclectic, erratic and abruptly beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It’s also rough around the edges. The peculiar Puna combination of locals, hippies, bikers, veterans, queers, Hare Krishnas and Christians (just to name a few of the more distinct demographics) make for a buoyant tapestry of vibes and cultures so diverse and unpredictable that there’s never, truly, a dull moment.
Just today, I hitched back to Lower Puna from Hilo. It took 3 rides. My first ride was a veteran in a blue pick up who had just finished his service after 14 years. He said he couldn’t wait to get to Pahoa and finally cut loose. My second ride was a dude in a VW bus. I asked him how long he’d been on the island. “Uhh 4, 6, 7 years. Somethin’ like that. It all starts blending in for me.” And my final ride was an ancient man with massive spectacles and a dashboard full of incense sticks and rolled cigarettes. “C’mon man! Get in! Can’t let it stop!” And he motioned for me to hop in his still slowly rolling dying old Dodge two-door. “Yeah can’t let it stop… might not start back up.” And I hopped out at my stop of his still rolling old Dodge and heard the engine labor with its heavy knocking as he flashed me a shaka out the passenger window.
That was just two hours this afternoon.
Puna district lies on the thinnest tectonic plate in the world, and much of the area is designated “Lava Zone 1,” meaning it is most likely to have an active lava flow. This geothermal reality deeply impacts the district in many ways. One, it allows land to remain affordable, even on Hawaii. Two, it engenders a sort of Buddhist non-attachment in folks who choose to live and build here. There are no big box stores or massive development projects in Puna. Condos? No way. If all you care about is profit, you’re not going to invest in the most seismically active corner of the Hawaiian Islands. Rather, you have a flowering of modest dwellings, intentional communities, farmers markets and the like. And always in the background is the reality of Pele’s Kiluaea, which could change its lava course at any time and take out everything you’ve made. Love and let it go- the Puna way.
The motor vehicles in Puna district are straight out of a beater museum. Some cars I’ve seen running here appear to be running on pure magic. Puna is a rainforest, so everything gets rusted out. Including everyone’s car. But as a hitch hiker, you like to see a lot of old cars. It means you have a better chance of being picked up. Newer shiny cars rarely stop- they are too attached to the shine. These folks are almost always tourists passing though in a rental car or someone from Hilo visiting for the day. In Puna the vibe is this: make it work for today, because it may not be here tomorrow.
Waikiki beach is a universe away in Puna. We have rough black sand, not smooth white sand beaches. We have chain smoking ancient homeless hippies loitering in front of First Hawaii Bank. We have turf battles in front of the Pahoa Village Club. We have hidden steam vents, deliciously calming warm ponds, deep baby jungle (the land is so young- it’s still figuring out what it looks like), we have lava tubes and lava flows and the smoking, lurid face of Pele. For a time two years ago a resident’s lawn was literally on fire. She used to charge tourists 10 bucks for the chance to poke at lava with a stick. Even with the lava in her front yard she insisted in sleeping in her house. One night while she was out to dinner her house went up in flame. C’est la vie. C’est la Pele. Pure Puna. Big Island Love.