December 2016


Stateside in November…

After Cape Town, I headed north and west – flying from Johannesburg to Washington Dulles. Non-stop it is 8,134 miles; one-stop (without getting off the plane) in Accra makes it a mere 59 miles further – but the trip takes a very long time.

Virginia Tech Graduate Life Center

Perhaps the only building at Virginia Tech that is made of bricks.

The goal was Blacksburg, Virginia, home of friends and of Virginia Tech. It was also my plan to watch Hillary win, with a tacos, Skittles, and Tic Tacs party. I think the less we say about election night, the better – America, if not the entire world, is going to have a very rough four years ahead.

On the plus side, Blacksburg really impressed me. I don’t know what I expected in visiting it, but what I got was a city that reminded me – in positive ways – of Bloomington, Indiana: it seemed to be a charming, wooded, hilly, university town. The friends were fantastic, the weather perfect, and I had a great time.

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls — a lovely hike near Blacksburg.

From there I made a mad dash across the country to Seattle. It was my first time in Seattle and I think it is safe to say that I’ve not really been in Seattle, but I did go to dinner with an old (young) friend and then to a Pansy Division concert.

Pansy Division is a terrific gay punk rock band – and the only band I’ve ever seen three times. The first time was a Rhino’s in Bloomington – a crowd of perhaps 200 people of all ages. The second time was at some bar in Indianapolis: I’d managed to convince four of my Bloomington friends to go with me—and when the concert started, I was responsible for more than half of the audience.

The Pansy Division concert was terrific – although the band performing before them was pretty shitty – disguised by being VERY FUCKING LOUD. I’d wished that I had earplugs.

Mount Rainier

My only view of Mount Rainier came as my flight to Denver departed.

Four hours after going to bed I was awake again, heading to the Seattle airport and a short hop back to Denver. The next 7 days were spent visiting family and friends across the Front Range, including lunch with a guy who works for the University of Wyoming Foundation.

A week later, I was on a plane heading west to Honolulu – one of the worst places in the 50 United States. I was there for 14 hours, holed up in a US$230 a night hotel. The next morning I got the sweetest possible sight of Honolulu – the view as one leaves.

Departing Honolulu

Departing Honolulu on an early morning United flight heading west.

Next stop: many stops.

2 comments to Stateside in November…

  • Olaf

    Just for my information: is it just Honolulu that’s terrible, or is it all of Hawaii? And what’s so bad about it (apart from being expensive and terribly congested)?

  • It’s Honolulu and, I think, all of O’ahu — the misery starts with traffic — not the worst I’ve ever encountered (hello Beijing!), but close. The highways are astoundingly wide and astoundingly slow. The expense is also appalling: That $230 a night hotel was the least expensive one I could find — and it came without resort fees (big savings compared to other hotels on O’ahu (especially in Waikiki)) and a free airport shuttle (granted, it was a 3 minute drive, but other hotels seem to have parking fees of at least $30 a night, and only valet parking).

    So while those are the basic issues, Honolulu isn’t my scene. I normally avoid tourist traps and it is almost the perfect dictionary definition of tourist trap.

    The two things I did in Honolulu that I would recommend are probably not of interest to everybody. The first was the visit the USS Arizona Memorial — assuming you’re interested in the intersection of US history and World War II history, then this is worthwhile. However it is a bit of a tourist trap and to do it right you need to plan far ahead and go very early in the morning before the tourist crowds hit. The second was the visit to the Bishop Museum — which, in addition to having an exceptional Hawaiian art/history/cultural section, has an outstanding Polynesian art collection. The Bishop Collection is the only reason I would ever bother to visit Honolulu again.

    However, I also spent five nights on Hawaii — the big island — based in Kona. Kona was amazing. I would happily go back there and I would enthusiastically recommend it. Especially if you like the best coffee ever.

    Essentially my hatred is of Honolulu and O’ahu. The other islands are probably miles better.