Hawai'i 45 Oh!

Updated November 11, 2006 (trip ended October 30).

Time traveling: 2 days, 18 hours
Miles driven: 220 + 40 (airport)
New North American stores: 46
Recognition ratio: 12/46
Visual recognition: 1
Coffee consumed: (X - 3) * 4 = 172 oz + 4 oz iced coffee + 2 shots
Spent on coffee: $3.23
Spent on gas: $50.25
Spent on tolls/parking: $4.50 + $36 (airport)
Other expenses: $418.38 (airfare, car rental, misc)
Medication: 4 fake Excedrin + 2 fake benadryl (to sleep)

October 27, 2006

I finally booked that trip to Hawaii, my 50th state! I booked over a week in advance, which gave me time to do some planning--specifically, to confirm the number of company-owned stores on Oahu. The list on the Starbucks web site was woefully out of date, but thankfully there was another list on the Starbucks Hawaii site. I suspected that site might not be up to date, so I called Starbucks customer service in Honolulu and discovered that there are 45 company-owned stores on Oahu, not 44. Of course, it was still going to be a challenge to physically get to them all and drink the coffee between Friday and Sunday evening.

I encountered my first glitch of the trip before I had even left. The dryer at the house where I rented a room was broken, and the repairman looked at it on Thursday discovered he needed a part and would not return until Sunday. I could have made the trip without doing laundry, but I only had one pair of clean socks for the two days (yuck!), and both of my travel-sized bath towels were funky. I hoped to wash them Friday morning and then let them dry in the sun in the car, but my landlady's sister locked the laundry room door (adjacent to her room). I ended up having to do a load at the laundromat while I bought coffee and caught up on Six Degrees, but that was an expensive load--cost me a half hour of work.

Upon departure I learned of the extend to which Northwest Airlines is chintzy--not even pretzels were provided for free. The trail mix was $2, and the sandwiches or snack box were $5. There was even a charge for headphones, $3. I was glad that I had gone to the trouble of forcing myself to have lunch despite a late breakfast, then eating that last Roma tomato, then the overripe banana, and finally bringing the apple onboard. Still I was going to be famished when I landed, and I would not have time for food immediately because I would need to rush to the Central Pacific Plaza store which is closed on Saturday and Sunday.

The state of Hawaii requires visitors to fill out an agricultural declaration form, and on the form I noticed something curious. The form uses the spelling "Hawai'i", a spelling I had never before seen. And instead of "Oahu", the form reads "O'ahu". I wondered how the apostrophes affect the spelling of the names, and why said apostrophes are not seen (at least not that I can tell), in the continental United States.

With 90 minutes flying time left, I couldn't take it anymore. My hunger was producing a headache, and I had to buy some overpriced trail mix. When I looked at the back of the trail mix back, I noticed the initials "nwa", and for the first time in my life I made the connection between Northwest Airlines and Niggaz With Attitude. That of course begged the question--did N.W.A. ever fly nwa? And did any marketing executives for Northwest Airlines ever come up with the idea of hiring N.W.A. to do commercials?

We arrived all of two minutes early, but our deplaning was delayed because of some wackiness I had never before encountered. Apparently a new line had been painted on the ground, and this caused the plane to stop an inch short of where it needed to be for the jetway to be connected.

I finally deplaned and was pleased to find plenty of signs in English. The bathroom seemed to be very much like an American bathroom. And at the information desk, the attendant seemed to speak pretty good English, which was good because I could not find signs for Enterprise at the shuttle stop. I was told to call Enterprise, and the agent (who also spoke excellent English) told me that a shuttle would be on the way. I went outside and spotted one about to pass me by, and I entered into a quick sprint and fit of waving that amused the attractive young woman sitting inside. Thankfully, the driver stopped, because it was getting close to 6:00, and though Central Pacific Plaza wouldn't close 'til 7:00, and was only five miles away, I didn't want to take any chances.

The attractive young woman (with parents in tow) seemed to be amused as I pointed out all the ways in which Hawaii seemed like America (like driving on the right side of the road), but the driver was almost indignant in his insistence that Hawaii is America. I retorted that that remained to be seen. Can't assume such things. After all, she turned out not to be worth the effort, contrary to what the t-shirt stated.

The manager at Enterprise was almost creepy in the way he was overly friendly and asking the customers what brought them to Hawaii. But at least I got out of there relatively quickly, even if it was in a Jeep Wrangler. It was my first time driving a Jeep, and I was a little nervous at first about the handling. I could picture myself rolling over and made a mental note to keep the speed down. The brakes also seemed to require more pressure than I was used to.

Gas appeared abotu 30 cents a gallon more expensive than back in Hayward (though there is great variation throughout the Bay Area).

Before CPB I stopped at Sand Island, because it was right on the way, and there I spotted the custom Hawaii Starbucks card I'd heard about and wanted. Actually, I think I saw it at Sue Fox's way back when. Anyway, I finally got one.

Starbucks in Hawaii have T-Mobile!!! Yay!!! Yet another way Hawaii is like America.

On the way back to Nimitz Highway from the Sand Island store I passed a place called Dancers, and I assumed it had to be a strip club. Got curious about what the clubs would be like in Hawaii, but no time.

Parking is crazy in Honolulu. Metered lot in downtown area monitored 24-hours a day. I put enough coins in to allow me to walk to the three stores in the area. At the second store they had closed early, before 7:00, but I convinced the barista to offer me a sample. He had poured the coffee, so he pulled a shot. That, plus the samples from the other two downtown stores, plus Sand Island, and my head was spinning. I needed foodada, but first was Aloha Tower. The the baristas there directed me to the Old Spaghetti Warehouse, right across from the Ward Marketplace store. The wait was too long, so I ordered to go and went over to the Starbucks and then the liquor store for a soda.

Oops, forgot to mention a few of the Hawaii store differences. Liquid sugar. Water faucets. Nearly every Starbucks adjacent to a Jamba Juice, presumably because Coffee Partners operated both.

Lots of walking despite having the car because of the parking situation.

Nine stores was enough for Friday night, and I wanted a break. At Old Spaghetti Factory I had grabbed a Honolulu Weekly and found just a handful of massage ads, and most of them male. By the time I got around to calling one place, Utopia, it was past nearly 10:00 PM and I figured the place would be closed. But no, they were open 'til 11:00, so I headed over. I was surprised to find a white therapist, which in my experience is extremely unusual in an Asian-operated massage parlor. Kendra, I think her name was, said she was Scottish-Peruvian. She had no accent. She said the reason was that she had lived in the US a long time, but later I began to wonder if she was really Scottish-Peruvian or just a fan of Desmond from Lost.

Across the street from Century Center (where Utopia, and at least half a dozen other massage parlors were located), was a strip club named Rock-Za (interesting name). I had read that a few of the clubs in Honolulu attracted actual non-working females. The article did not lie. I chose an stunningly beautiful dancer named Lucy for a private dance, and as we headed to the back she stopped to say to hello to a group of women she apparently knew. All were attractive, and the most attractive, the blonde, asked if I minded if she sat in on my private dance. Of course it immediately occurred to me that this would likely eliminate any friskiness that might or might not occur, but on the other had it would be a new experience, and that was more important.

The dance got more interesting still when Julia's friends Joy and Tamara decided to join in. I wasn't going to object. And it's a good thing, because otherwise the dance itself would have been pretty disappointing. For some reason I expected Honolulu to be liberal, and the strip clubs to be wild and crazy. Not so. At least not the higher-profile ones that I had read about. In actual fact, dances were no-contact, and Lucy stuck to that, brushing up against me just once. Joy, on the other hand, had her arm around my shoulder, and kept putting dollars in my hand and guiding it over to Lucy. Wild stuff.

Afterwards I offered to buy Julia a drink, and she turned the tables and bought me one instead, as well as a round for the rest of her friends, and her husband. So that was a dead-end. Still, I stuck around and had my drink. The night was way past late, so I said my goodbyes. Joy asked me to hang on a second, and she pulled out her business card and told me to call if I was still around over the weekend. I would have put money right there and then that if I used the number, Joy would not return my call, not once the alcohol wore off.

Femme Nu, another club recommended by that article, was just down the street, so I went by. I had to find parking along the street, and I asked a young man on the sidewalk if we had to pay this late. He said yes, and not only that, but instead of being ticketed, cars were being towed outright. In fact, there was a tow-truck waiting at the ready, already towing a car. I already knew the parking situation in Honolulu was bad, but this was just harsh.

Inside, I immediately wondered about the investigative abilities of the person who wrote that article, because the place had a divish-quality. And the dances were even more conservative than at Rock-Za, so much so that there was actually a wooden bar to separate the customer from the dancer. A first for me.

Nearly 2:00 AM, and plenty of partiers were to be seen as I drove along Waikiki Beach to the Waikiki Beachside Hostel. There was parking, but the attendant had to open the gate and move some chairs to make space for me. And parking was $5, which I had not known about. Grrr...

As is usual when I check into a hostel so late (as usual), I was relegated to a top bunk. Inconvenient, because I had to make many trips to the bathroom. More than usual, even though 9 sample coffees was not an unusually large amount. Part of the reason was that the guests in the second room were still awake and yapping away. I can usually fall asleep through anything, but for some reason it wasn't happening. And for the first time in memory, I was unable to sleep at all for the entire night.

October 28, 2006

At 6:15, with the sky lightening, and with my body thinking it was 9:15, well past when I'd been getting up in California, I finally gave up on sleep, showered, and headed out. But not before taking two fake Excedrin, probably not the last I'd need.

After taking the long way around to the first store of the morning, because of transposed numbers on the street address, I encountered irritation in the form of a long line that I had to stand in twice because the manager only gave me half a sample, 2 oz, the first time while giving the clear impression that she did not want to deal with me. Total lack of sleep had put me in a zombie state, and I didn't want to bother to try and explain further, so I just bought a short, and had the other barista fill up the rest of my sample cup. $1.46 for 2 oz--a great deal.

Actually, I didn't really mind the way, because the sun looked like it was just minutes from shining on the store, and in the 20+ minutes it took me to get my coffee, it had come out enough for me to get a better shot.

When I left the store, I realized that my mind had completely shut down. The sun wasn't even shining in the same direction as the storefront. I don't know what I was thinking.

Meanwhile, the Jeep Wrangler's door continued to irritate me with its tendency to gently swing outward--I couldn't keep it half upon, not until I parked on an incline. Another thing about the Jeep--since the removable top had a plastic covering instead of windows, it was easy to slice one's way in, which meant I could not leave my laptop in view if I had to park away from the store. Like at the Park Shore Hotel store, which turned out to be just around the corner from my hostel. I could have just walked there before taking my car out of the hostel lot, had it been plotted correctly. Actually, I'm being a little unfair, because the night before I had passed the Starbucks as I rounded the corner on the way to the hostel. It's just that given my zombie-state, I didn't remember, so I blame the incorrect address.

Before heading out to my car I stopped at a convenience store, the likes of which I would see all over town, called ABC Stores. While the apple was, of course, overpriced, it was no more expensive than I would have expected in the continental U.S. I had been told that food would be expensive in Hawai`i, but neither the spaghetti nor the soda from the previous night had seemed more expensive than I was used to.

Anyway, I later stopped at Safeway and made a point of keeping foodified by munching throughout the day to blunt the effects of the coffee.

At Ohana Waikiki West an elderly couple saw me taking photographing the store and recognized me as the Starbucks traveler they had read about. I chatted with them a bit, and then while I waited in line the man came up and offered me a donation ($7). For some reason I first said I couldn't take it, but then I came to my senses and accepted, and I asked his name and added him to my donors list. Every little bit helps.

As I as getting ready to leave, another man came up and asked me questions about my project. His interest went beyond curiosity, and he went onto suggest that what I was doing could be done for the benefit of charity. I replied that I already had my own agenda, to use the publicity generated to promote my philosophy for changing the world. Before I left he gave me a card for an organization that is out to mentor troubled youth, which I don't have a problem with. But when I went to the web site, I discovered it was a religious organization, so the card went straight into the garbage.

Holy spit! Because of the time difference, All Things Considered came on at noon!!! Totally caught me by surprised, because I've never heard the theme so early in the day.

I took a break from coffee by reshooting the stores from the previous night. Back downtown, an old lady asked me if I was on one of "those ships" that came in. Said she thought maybe I was spying. Oooookay. Then she commented to all the jaywalkers that there was some sort of fine for jaywalking. The bright Hawaiian sun must have been getting to the old bat.

Finally, over five years after learning that Hawai`i actually has interestate highways, I drove onto the H1. I headed east and got this view of the city.

I had been worried about rain, but I lucked out and didn't see any until after 3:00. And it was just a light rain with the sun still shining full, and by the time I got to the next store it had disappeared (or I had left it behind).

Nearly 4:00 PM, and all I had eaten was an apple, banana, yogurt, donut, and animal crackers. I couldn't wait for a proper dinner before embarking on a trip to the other side of the island, so I went for some blah-blah-blah from Panda Express.

The drive from Koko Marina to Enchanted Lakes along SR-72 along the coast was marvelous! The weather was great, the sky was clear blue (with clouds), and the water was vivid blue.

25 stores in less than 24 hours, really feeling effects, random tightness and/or twitching in my face.

At one of the Kaneohe stores a barista seemed to have a real antipathy towards Starbucks. When I listed the countries I had visited, she replied that there are no stores in France. When I explained that I was pretty sure there were, since I had visited nine in Paris myself. She then realized she was thinking of Italy, and expressed the strong opinion that Starbucks should not open in that country, that they will ruin the coffee culture if they do. Girl needs to find a new line of work.

Around 6:30 the itching started.

I called Joy, because that is the considerate thing to do when I person gives you her card and asks you to call. As I had predicted, the cunt never called me back. "Cunt" is too strong a word, you say? Oh, but I would disagree. There is no pejorative too strong to describe a woman who gives out her number, asks the recipient to call, and then does not return the call.

I took SR-63 instead of the H3 back to the city from Kanehoe, and it moved pretty quickly. After one more store, on North School Street, I popped a fake benadryl in the hopes of actually getting some sleep. Unfortunately, for some reason, there was a TV in the room, right next to my bed. I couldn't remember if the TV had been there the night before, but it didn't really matter. I couldn't really ask the two guests watching to go to sleep at 8:00 PM. One was a surly bearded man, perhaps American, and the other, in his bed, foreign-sounding. I hoped that they would finish with The Fifth Element and be done with it, or that the fake benadryl would kick in. Unfortunately, they put The Matrix Reloaded on, and it is a very long movie.

At one point I became so desperate for sleep that I decided to try and upgrade. I went downstairs and learned that a semi-private room cost $75. I wasn't sure if cheaper accomodations were to be found elsewhere, but I was in no mood to drive off. Plus, if I could get them to just charge me the difference, I'd only pay $52.50 more. But the desk staff was not able to make that decision. They had to call the owner, who was unavailable. I wasn't about to sit there and wait, so I just went back up to the room to keep trying at sleep. It started to feel like I might actually doze off, so I decided to just stay in the room. It wasn't until about 12:30 that they TV was finally turned off, and I think by 2:00 or 2:30 I finally managed blessed sleep.

During movietime I probably got up to use the restroom a half dozen times, and I my decision to lighten my backpack by traveling without shorts turned into an inconvenience. In London and in Hong Kong, this had not been a problem, because the dorm rooms had been small, and no one had been hanging out in them. But this time there were females, and they were milling about the room, prompting me to put my jeans on every time I hopped out of the bed. I made a mental note to buy some boxer shorts for next time. Later I decided a single pair of regular running shorts would be better, and that I could probably make do without briefs at all if I washed really good.

I had chosen a mixed dorm room in the hopes of striking up a conversation with an attractive woman. There were plenty, and I would have had an opportunity Saturday night if I had been managed to sleep the night before. With several attractive blondes, Australian perhaps (there's always Australians) milling about, it felt like a wasted opportunity, but sleep was paramount.

October 29, 2006

Sometime around 5:30 the one of the attractive Australian-sounding blondes packed her things and left the room. I tried to get back to sleep, but it was no use. I opened my laptop and checked the store openings times for Sunday. To my surprise, many opened at 5:30 or 6:00. I figured I might as well get up.

I wanted more light before going to the Manoa store so I wouldn't have to return, so I killed time by driving through the Waikiki Beach area. 6:00 AM, and the area was already crowded. The Starbucks was hopping. There were also plenty of prostitutes walking up and down Kuhio Ave, Waikiki's main drag. When I googled them, I learned that they are extremely expensive and trying to hit unsuspecting tourists for hundreds.

I also drove around downtown, and I noticed that the street, one of the main roads downtown, that I had thought was named "Alaska" is actually named "Alakea". Strange, that I didn't notice it sooner despite driving around downtown several times.

As I headed towards Manoa I started to feel the fatigue creeping in. It was going to be a long and uncomfortable day.

I received a pleasant surprise when I pulled into a gas station, the manager lowered the price by 2 cents (to $2.71). And then a shock, when I calculated that Wrangler gets seriously suck-ass mileage--cost me $29.75 to refill the tank after driving only 102.4 miles!!! That's three times worse than my Civic!

Finally had some non-corporate food, albeit not exactly Hawaiian. Next door to the Manoa store is Andy's Sandwiches, serving breakfast. One difference from most other breakfast menus I had seen was that all the items are a-la carte--no standard combo of eggs, potatoes, and toast.

By 9:30 I was struggling to think despite four samples (16 oz), but at least I had not developed the headache that often comes with extreme fatigue.

Three stores at Pearlridge, and at one of them the manager not only seemed irritated when I asked her to fill the sample cup, but she actually rolled her eyes and said something like "Oh, jeez." I know full well that you can't please everybody, but that was just ridiculous. Of course I just bought a shot of espresso, from a different barista, so I didn't have to deal with that manager's bullshit attitude again.

Cool--a monorail!

With the sample from the Borders location (the 6th of the day) I was already feeling flush. That was 33 stores stores in about 39 hours. Add to that the shot of espresso, plus the breakfast, and I was sure glad the third Pearlridge store was nearby and had a restroom, because I was ready for a serious bowel explosion. It was inevitable. But it turned out to be not that serious, far from fifth level.

Outside the store I saw a couple of young men wearing dark blue button-down shirts with the Starbucks and the Jamba Juice logo, presumably a carryover from the Coffee Partners days.

At the Waimalu Shopping Center I learned there was yet a 46th store--oy, vey!!! After those three Pearl Ridge stores in quick succession, the itching started again. I had already killed some time reading comics at the bookstore, but I needed to kill yet more time before I had that 9th sample (actually, 8th, plus the one shot), so I called up that therapist I had spoken to on Friday night. She was available, and not far. Excellent massage incorporating Lomi Lomi and esalen.

The remainder of the stores were spaced farther apart, which was a good thing for my stomach and generally overcaffeinated system.

View of the hills from Kapolei.

Beard Papa's!!! Forever to remind me of Karen.

I finally drove the H2, and the entire stretch to boot. Without thinking about it, I had left the H1at exit 2. I should have take it all the way to the end so I could scratch that interstate off my list.

Slightly heavier rain, but just two stores two go. The rain let up for my photo of Mililani, but by the time I reached the only store on the North Shore, about 18 miles from Mililani Town, it was raining pretty good. Sucked, that my worst photo was the hardest to reshoot. Traffic moved pretty slow to Pupukea, and slower on the way back. I guessed that it was due to all the beachgoers leaving because of the rain.

Grrr... neither the Starbucks on the North Shore, nor the Foodland to which it is attached, have a restroom. Had to walk across the street in the rain to the beach.

46 stores in 47 hours. Not bad.

Thanks to the hour grace period for returning the car, I had time to stop at a random pasta place. I had to wait a while to eat, though, for a couple of reasons. First, I had forgotten that the Enterprise lot was not on the airport premises, so my return was delayed by 5-10 minutes. But what was worse was the shock I received upon returning the car, and it was probably the fact that I was so tired that kept me from feeling truly pissed. Someone had hit the car, dented the bumper, and torn off a section. I knew the damage would run into the hundreds, and I really hoped it would not go over $1000. I had zero confidence in Enterprise to try and keep my cost down. For all I knew the damage would exceed the total cost of my trip. Pretty sucky, and it was sure it eat into my post-contract travel budget, perhaps to the tune of having to exclude a visit to some foreign country altogether. I really hated that motherfucker who hit the car.

But at least I got $5.00 knocked off the rental, because, by my calculations, the gas tank could not have been fully when I filled it up the first time. I had spent $29.75 after driving 104 miles at $2.779 per gallon, but then only $25.75 after driving 126 miles at $2.719. Even accounting for better mileage on the highway, that tank couldn't have been full.

I reached the terminal shortly after 7:00, checked in, and discovered that the waiting area for my gate, 13, was closed off. I wandered up and down the hall, on the verge of passing out, until I spotted a gap between two rows of seats bounded by a potted plant. I snuck in there and tried to sleep as much as the noise and regular trips to the bathroom would allow. I got up around 10:29, 6 minutes before my alarm was set to go off. Inside the waiting area, I saw no staff preparing for boarding, so I laid down in a corner. After a while, I remembered that I needed to eat before the flight! All the restaurants had closed, leaving me only some chocolate from a bookstore. But my hunger saved me, because I happened to pass by the monitors and noticed LAST CALL for my flight... at gate 11!!! I sprinted through a breezeway to a separate building and found no one in the waiting area. Everyone was on the plane. The attendant asked if I was Mr. NOLASTNAME, and asked for my ID. She didn't reply when I said I had been at the airport for 4 hours and showed her my boarding pass specifying gate 13. The flight attendants didn't care either, instead directing me to a seat. That seat was taken, and when I started back up to the front to tell the attendant that, she said, curtly, "sir, just take a seat." I was not only frazzled but irritated, and everything seemed to be going wrong. I remembered my phone was on and had to ask an attendant if I could turn it off. Then, at 10:55, the alarm went off. That's an extremely annoying feature of my phone, that they alarm goes off even if the phone is off. I had to take it out of the backpack and keep it with me in case it went off again, and a few minutes later it did. I finally took the battery out. Then I realized I didn't have my drivers license, and I had to wait anxiously until the seat belt sign was turned off to look for it, using a flashlight borrowed from an attendant, who said sternly "I want this back." Meanwhile, the ladies on the row next to mine kept looking at everything I was doing, as if I were a terrorist.

October 30, 2006

And finally, one additional expense. I left my copy of Our Mutual Friend, a $15-20 paperpack I think, at the shuttle bus stop. Grrr...

October 31, 2006

Education through blogging continued, as I received a message from a person who had plenty of interesting information about Hawai`i to share. For one, he said that what I called an apostrophe was actually more of a `, and called an okani (not good in Scrabble).

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