Monday, April 26, 2010

Goodbye Ferry, Goodbye Seattle

I believe I've ridden the ferry from Bainbridge Island over 1,000 times. Day in and day out, I embark and disembark 10 times per week, 10 hours of commute time. This gentle steel beast has glided through choppy, white-capped water, through a Sound as smooth as steel. It's been jostled by gales, bumped over waves. It's the place where I rediscovered my love for writing, and a place where I've devoured books and beer. Instead of viewing the ferry as part of an annoying commute, I viewed it as a place where I could relax both before and after work.
I will only ride the ferry another 10 times. This week will be my last few trips on the Wenatchee, or the Puyallup. It's been so long that I recognize people now - families with kids, a woman who wears the same boots and coat every day, men in neon biking gear. My fellow ferry commuters are like family, and I'll miss them. I'll miss the mirrored grays and blues of sky and sea.
But the time has come to move on. I'm going back to my hometown of Portland, Oregon, ready to rediscover its quirky neighborhoods, restaurants and bars. It's where my family lives, and many friends from high school and college. My boyfriend David got a great job there, and I'll take my time looking for employment. I'm going to focus on writing, cooking, relaxing. I've been working for 7 years straight, and I've got the itch to take a break. I'm looking forward to having space to think and exercise, to plan out meals and buy veggies from the organic produce stand. I'll miss newsradio and it's excitement, but I'll also enjoy the time off.
It's been an amazing run in Seattle and on KOMO Newsradio. I've worked as an editor, a desk journalist, an anchor and a reporter. I've interviewed celebrities, politicians, dignitaries, people doing good things in our community. I was in Key Arena when the roar for the campaigning Obama was so loud I could barely hear. I was in downtown Seattle when he won the election, when people closed Pine street with their glee and celebration. I've covered heartbreaking crime, acts of violence so devastating it took my breath away. I've meet some amazing friends and worked with talented people in Seattle who I'll never forget.
I'm changing the focus of my writing now. Instead of writing news every day, I'll write a blog about everything Portland. I grew up in Beaverton, and hardly ever explored the eccentric neighborhoods of the Rose City. Now I'll be living near Hawthorne street, and there will be plenty of fodder for blogging. I hope you'll join me on my new blog, called Portland 360.
Goodbye ferry, and goodbye Seattle. I know I'll be back! And if you're ever in town, please contact me for a drink or a walk or a bike ride. I'm very happy to be going home.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Whale Song

We woke up with the sun this morning to go on a whale watching tour, after arriving home late the night before from seeing an incredible Hawaiian singer named Willie K. We saw him at an Irish bar called Mulligan's in Wailea, and he blew my mind with his voice, and his guitar and ukelele playing. He can sing anything from old Hawaiian music, to opera, plus he has a wicked sense of humor. I'd suggest anyone who goes to Maui to try to find a Willie K performance.

Our Ultimate Whale Watch cruise started at 7am, and 17 of us piled onto a large raft that would take us into the dark blue waters to search for whales. Passengers were groggy, but armed with the latest camera technology. I felt like I was at a press conference, hearing all those camera clicks. We took off fast, skimming the ocean, as soon as our guide saw a couple of spouts.

Then we saw a Mom and her baby, plus a male whale to watch out for them, their lower backs arching gracefully out of the water.

Mom and baby were playing, fin slapping the water. You can see two fins raised up if you look closely enough.

Then we saw a huge chunk of tail push out of the water, and slap the surface. The guide says that tail weighs 70 tons. It was over too quickly for a photo, but you can see the splash.

The whales travel in packs of two or three, and we were so close we could hear them breathe, big exhales that spurted mist high into the air.

We even saw one whale point its face above the surface, the guide says the whale was looking around, seeing what was above water.
One whale got so close to us, that it was only a 20 feet away, and I saw its back curving into the water. We thought for a second it might swim under us, but we didn't see it again.
They say when a whale dives, it leaves a slick on the surface of the water, a window to the depths of the ocean where the whale disappeared. Whalers used to think this was oil from the whale's skin.
The guide also put a hydrophone in the water, and we got to hear the whale song. It was a melodic tune, sung in recognizable refrains. The naturalist says all whales sing the same song, depending on the time of year, no matter where they are in the world. These are such amazing, gentle creatures, and I felt blessed got to see them up close. It's hard to believe there used to only be 1,000 of them left in the world because of whaling, now there are close to 30,000.
I'm so glad people love whales now, and are only armed with cameras, not guns or spears.

I can't wait to go whale watching again!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hangin the Hawaiian rain.

Hawaii has been misbehavin' lately. I woke up on Tuesday to storm clouds, a gray ocean, then rain falling on Lahaina, painting the road black. Tourists slumped in chairs, muttering, "Is it gonna rain all day?" David and I took it in stride, being from Seattle, and drove all the way to Maui's upcountry to check out the farmland, tropical forests, and a little town called Mokowoa, or something like that. I'm too lazy to check it out. It was interesting, but nothing to write home about. On our way there, we stopped at a lookout, and I saw evidence of humpback whales - white puffs in the deep, gray ocean. We saw their backs curving out of the water as they took a breath, a truly wonderful experience. Tourists yelled and pointed, training their binoculars like a single eye on these magnificent creatures. That's one thing I have to do before I leave - whale watch.

David had a little work to do, so I left him at a Starbucks in Kihei and went to explore the beaches in South Maui. I passed the Grand Wailea, Four Seasons, and countless gated communities with pristine palm trees, and short, manicured grass. I'd guess South Maui is where the celebrities vacation, with its rugged hills and hidden, curving roads.

I kept driving past the resorts in Wailea, and the road became narrow, the foliage like desert. I saw cacti with big paddleboard arms, and wiry, black trees. I drove until I saw a sign for "Makena State Park," and turned right onto a dusty road that ended in a huge parking lot. I got out, put on my water shoes, and walked down a trail that was part sand/part rock. When I saw Big Beach, it took my breath away.

A beautiful crescent with thick, golden sand, and turquoise water.

I walked in the warm water, feeling my feet sink into the sand. Lifeguards sat at their posts, and warning signs talked of undertows an shallow, breaking waves. I could feel it, even as the water rushed around my calves. It was strong, and I could easily fall victim to its grasp.The beach was pretty empty, so I continued walking, talking photos with my small, waterproof camera. Mist hugged the distant hills.

The far end of Big Beach in Makena is punctuated by thick, sharp lava rocks, and I imagined the steaming lava hitting the water thousands of years ago.

For some reason, I was really amazed by this lava rock. It's texture, its shape, the way it dried exactly how it landed on the beach.

It was a beautiful beach, and a calming, peaceful experience. I saw islands in the distance, and the beach didn't have many people. I'd definately come back here with a cooler of beer and food, and just watch the waves roll in and out. I might even take a dip, if I was right in front of the lifeguard stand.
It's 730am in Hawaii on Wednesday, and I'm looking out my hotel room window at trees bending in the wind, the flag whipping wildly on my deck. The sky is blue, though, and the sunlight is already hitting boats moored in the ocean. Soon I'll go on a walk and try to find Baby Beach, which I hear is popular with tourists and locals. I don't mind the wind, but hope the rain goes away. For Good. By the way, my birthday flowers are looking mighty happy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Hau'oli lā hānau!

I couldn't ask for a better place to start my 29th year than on a deck in Lahaina, Maui, overlooking the ocean.I spent the morning relaxing, shopping, watching the cruise ship passengers through a telescope on my deck. Then David and I ate at the Plantation, and got snorkeling gear from a shop across the street. I'd heard about this beach north of us called Kapalua Beach, which is named as one of the Top 10 beaches in Maui. It's crescent shape, and still, smooth waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling, which I soon found out for myself.

At first, the water felt cold, but our bodies adjusted quickly, and it was like being in a bathtub. I had no goosebumps, and marveled at the tropical fish, and pink coral that looked like brains. The heavy salt water held my body, and I felt myself rising and falling with the waves, one with the breath of the ocean. It was a relaxing, soothing experience. When we finished with our underwater sightseeing, we crawled back on the beach, tired but happy, and let the sun bake the salt into our skin.
The water dried quickly, the sun wasn't too hot, and palm trees swayed gently above, their long fronds like fingers carressing the breeze. I couldn't ask for a more relaxing place.

Then it was on to the Old Lahaina Luau that evening, which is rated as one of the best, most authentic luau's in Hawaii. We were greeted with a fresh lei and a mai tai, and led to our table with a perfect view of the stage.

The space was large, with palm trees, thatched huts, and the ocean just a few feet away.
Then it was time for dinner, and our server, a buff Hawaiian surfer wearing a yellow and orange sarang, led us to the buffet, where we had kalua pork, mahi mahi, teriyaki chicken, fresh mango and papaya, rice, bread, and all sorts of things I can't even describe. It was delicious, and the mahi mahi's flowed as the hula dancing presentation began!

This was a traditional luau that included the history of Hawaii. The men wore loincloths, and little else.

The dancing was incredible, with the women moving their hips so fast, and it time to the music. It was like belly dancing on crack. I don't know how they do it, but it was amazing to watch.
Then it was time for a couple's slow dance, with the sound of the waves, and a Hawaiian love song.
After the whole thing was through, I got a photo with the performers, a Hawaiian God and Goddess. Amazing dancers, these two!
It was the birthday of my dreams. How am I going to beat this when I turn 30 next year?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Day in Paradise

I woke up at 530am to the sound of the ocean breathing. In and out, it sighed, a living being in the inky blackness of morning. A warm breeze flitted through my open windows, lifting the lace curtains in my vintage hotel room at The Lahaina Inn. The streets were quiet, the lights dim, all vestiges of late night partying wiped clean by salty, sweet air.

Maui is a gentle place, where tropical flowers pop red and orange, where palm trees dance, and where the sun awakens the ocean with pink brushstrokes of light. (Please pardon the iPhone photo)
Sailboats bob in the azure ocean, just beyond our balcony's white fence railing. The sunlight finds its way onto the warm, burgundy slats, and I sit rocking, enjoying the awakening city. The rumble of cars is scarce here, instead, I listen to birds sing as they hop in the branches, happy it's a new day.
We had breakfast at Betty's in Lahaina with views of the ocean, then drove up to Ka'anapali and went for a long walk along Maui's tourist trap. Hyatt, Marriott, Westin, you name it, all with sparkling outdoor pools and tiki bars. People sat on chaise lounges and romped on white sand, palm trees grew out of impossibly short grass. Not really my scene, but we had a good, long walk. Then we found the type of beach I love, where waves crash wildly against black lava rocks, and surfers are black dots in an ocean that mirrors the sky.
The waves were big and powerful, tumbling tubes of blue that lashed the rocks with long, frothy fingers.
(Yes, I know I'm about as white as it gets. Blame it on my European roots)
Oneloa Bay is much quieter up on the boardwalk, which stretches over 1.5 miles along these beaches near Kapalua. We're going to come back when we have our walking shoes, and explore all this little gems, bays carved by centuries of waves beating the lava rocks into submission.
It's Sunday evening, and the sun is setting, the ocean is silver outside my hotel window. Soft guitar music plays from Cheeseburger in Paradise, and I think at this moment I could very well be there, in paradise.