Browsing Tag: hawaii


    A Near-Death Moment … A Miracle Month

    October 22, 2022

    There’s a camera shot you’ll see in most movies or TV shows that have a drowning scene: The camera is in the water, pointed up toward the sky above. You see the drowning person’s POV as they presumably look toward the air that they need to survive. It might be a few inches away or many feet, but the point is to show the desperate distance between where they are and where they need to be.

    Speaking from real-life experience, that camera angle is incredibly realistic.

    On Sept. 24, 2022, I was lying on my back on Kaanapali Beach in Maui with probably six inches of water above me, unable to breathe and, worse, unable to move. I remember looking up, my head on the sand, and seeing the gorgeous blue sky above the water, desperate to get one more breath of that fresh Hawaiian air. But the six inches of water felt like a mile, and I felt like I’d taken my last breath on earth.

    Today, exactly four weeks later, I’m sitting in my office chair, writing this blog post generally pain-free. There’s a minor tingling in my arms and hands, but it doesn’t impact my ability to type. I’m wearing a long-sleeve shirt without pain, which is remarkable because a day or two after the accident, I screamed in pain when Cari gently touched my left arm. My lower legs are still fairly weak, and always feel tired. But earlier today, Cari and I spent probably 45 minutes walking and shopping at Target — my first real trip outside the house, other than doctor visits and physical therapy sessions.

    At the risk of hyperbole, this all feels like a miracle.

    The morning after the accident, the neurosurgeon at Maui Medical Center came to see me as a physical therapist was gently helping me walk from my room to the nurse’s station. The neurosurgeon looked surprised, maybe shocked. I sat down in the wheelchair as he spoke. “You really dodged a bullet,” he said. “We see a lot of people who go through what you did, and we send most of them home in wheelchairs.”

    What Happened

    Cari and I had planned to celebrate my birthday (Sept. 23) with a 5-day visit to Portland and Seattle. My favorite band, Gang of Youths, was playing in both cities right before and after my birthday. We were gonna see both shows and then do a bunch of touristy stuff on our free days — we had reservations for a whale-watching boat tour in the San Juan Islands northwest of Seattle, for example. But when the band canceled their tour, we decided Plan B would be a quick trip to Maui.

    On the 24th, Cari got a spa massage in the morning while I hung out in our hotel room catching up on emails and watching college football on my laptop. When she got back, we decided to get in the ocean for a quick swim before some touring and driving around the island in the afternoon. The water had been choppy the day before, but we knew that high tide was still 3+ hours away.

    We’d been in the water maybe 5-10 minutes when the tide got really high really quickly. Cari was a little further out in the water than me as I saw a big wave forming behind her. “There’s a big one coming behind you,” I said as I pointed behind her. “We should go in after that one.”

    As the wave reached Cari, she says it grabbed and tossed her around, but she got through it without anything bad happening. I wish I could say the same.

    As it got to me, I dipped myself underwater to let it go over me. But I was apparently right at the spot where the wave began to break. It grabbed and tossed me like a ragdoll. You think you know how powerful water is, but you have no fucking idea. I’ve tried to explain to others what it felt like, and the best analogy I can come up with is that it was like how Hulk manhandles Loki in the Avengers movie.

    via GIPHY

    After twisting me in every direction, the water slammed me headfirst into the sand. I felt the left side of my head hit bottom, and I instantly thought, “Oh, that’s not good.” The hit left me unconscious for a few moments. I remember saying to myself, “OK, God, if this is it, if this is how it ends, come get me.” Then I saw an image of Cari’s face and said goodbye to her.

    The next thing I remember is what I described at the beginning — laying on my back, looking up through the water, desperately trying to breathe. The sky was so perfectly blue.

    I don’t know how long I was like that, but the tide eventually went out and I was able to breathe!!! But I still couldn’t move. The hit had left me paralyzed. I started yelling, “Help! Help!” as loud as I could.

    Angels Among Us

    A few moments later, people started to arrive! I must’ve still been pretty far down the beach because another wave came up and covered me again, leaving me unable to breathe for a few seconds. But people were at my side. They held me as the water receded again, then they started wedging themselves — planting their feet in the sand so the powerful waves wouldn’t knock them over.

    The group eventually got a good grip on me and started dragging me up the beach to higher ground. But at one point, I heard someone say “We shouldn’t move him, he might be injured and we could make it worse.” So they put me back down on the sand and I got really angry. “Don’t worry about that, just get me out of the water!!” I’m pretty sure I included an F-bomb or two. I was worried that the water would keep coming up and eventually drown me, especially since the tide was getting higher. They listened to me and started dragging me again, eventually getting me far enough away from the water that it felt safe.

    I think it was 4-5 people who rescued me. They started talking to me. The first guy to arrive, and the one asking me the most questions, was a guy named Aaron from Minnesota. He was a retired first responder. (What are the chances!?! Are you kidding me?!?) Someone called 9-1-1 and while we waited for official help, Aaron was directing traffic and telling everyone how they could help.

    At one point, he started touching my feet, then my legs, then my knees — “Can you feel this?” No, I couldn’t. That was really weird to see someone squeezing your leg and yet not feeling a thing. I remember thinking, “Okay, maybe I’ll spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. At least I’m alive.”

    They asked if I felt nauseous and I said I did. Not wanting me to vomit while lying on my back, and potentially choking on my own vomit, they propped me up. One of the guys sat behind me, his back to my back, so I’d be somewhat upright. I never did vomit, but I did pass out.

    I’ve fainted a lot in my life — probably 20-30 times — but this was the trippiest of them all. Most times when I faint, all I can “see” is the color black … i.e., a blackout. But this time, I saw white and streaks of colors and I felt like I was flying or gliding through the air, or maybe being propelled through the water. If you’re a U2 fan, it was kinda like a brighter/whiter version of the PopMart video screen during “Streets.”

    I eventually came to and everyone was still around me. I didn’t notice this, but at one point, Cari says two of the guys laid at my feet, perpendicular to my body, forming a blockade to keep the rising waves from reaching me. (Are you kidding?!? Who does that for a total stranger!?!) I’d kept my eyes closed through most of this, but at one point when I opened them, a woman was standing over me, propping up a big, blue beach umbrella — protecting me and the people caring for me from the hot sun. (Again … are you kidding?!? Who does that for a total stranger!?!)

    At some point, I was able to move my toes!! I think I told Aaron to look at my feet, and I think he was like, “He’s moving his toes!” That gave me hope I wouldn’t be in a wheelchair for life.

    The Maui Police were first to arrive, and they asked a bunch of questions that I answered pretty darn well, IMO. I was fairly coherent considering all that was going on. Cari and Aaron also answered a bunch of questions, too. EMS showed up shortly after, and they started prepping me for the 45-minute drive to Maui Medical Center. The ambulance was last to arrive, and when it did, the EMS folks got me on one of those stability-type boards and carried me from my spot on the beach to a gurney that was waiting up on the Kaanapali Beach walkway. You can see them doing that in the last 15 seconds of this video.

    That video was shot by a guy named Tod who shared it on a Maui community Facebook Page. I’ve tried to connect with Tod for permission to share it, but never got a reply. I’m hoping he’s okay with me putting it on YouTube unlisted.

    In the earlier parts of that video, you can see how violent and high the waves are; Cari and I have been to Kaanapali Beach probably a half-dozen times and I don’t recall the waves ever getting like that. It’s very difficult for me to watch that video, especially at the :45 mark when you see the boogie boarders narrowly avoiding what happened to me. I sure hope nothing happened to them and the other people still in the water.

    The people who dragged me out of the water and saved my life are heroes. More than that, they’re proof that angels exist. What are the chances that the first person to reach me would be a retired first responder? And who else but angels lay themselves down in the path of a rising tide, letting the waves hit them so they wouldn’t hit me? Incredible. I continue to feel so blessed.

    The Medical Pros Step In

    The ambulance ride was looooong. Maui only has one hospital, and it’s about 45 minutes from where the accident happened. While in the ambulance, I heard a call on the radio that sounded like a similar accident to mine was happening again. I asked the EMS gal if that’s what it was, and she confirmed. A female swimmer had the same thing happen, but at a beach in south Maui. I heard something about “deformities” over the radio, and the EMS gal confirmed that they’re saying she had multiple broken bones. She said it sounded like the bone was visible. 😬

    The care I got in the ambulance and at the hospital was very good. I was in the emergency room for about 3-4 hours then moved to a regular room. They did an MRI and CAT scans and all kinds of other tests: no broken bones, no life-threatening medical issues, nothing. As I look at the ER report now, it says I had a neck sprain and something called Central Cord Syndrome. They put me in a cervical collar (neck brace) and said I had to wear it around the clock. They said I might need spinal surgery, but that was a decision to be made by my doctors at home. Cari and I got a kick out of this description of me from the emergency room summary: “Well-developed, boarded, and collared male.” (Thanks, I suppose.)

    They said I’d be spending at least one night at the hospital, and could maybe be discharged on Sunday if I continued to test/monitor well, and if I did well with the physical and occupational therapists the next morning.

    And that’s exactly what happened! Best of all, they gave approval for me to fly home on Monday, which we did. The 5-6 hour flight was pretty awful — all kinds of turbulence, which made it impossible to sit still and pain-free in my cervical collar — but we made it home safely.

    The Miracle Month

    As I mentioned above, the past month here at home has been mostly about doctor visits and physical therapy sessions.

    My primary care physician (the same guy who prescribed alcohol 11 years ago!) was really optimistic when he saw me, and he’s proven to be pretty accurate. The Maui doctors told me to wear the neck brace for at least six weeks, but my doctor said I wouldn’t need it that long. He was right; when I saw a local neurosurgeon eight days later, that doc told me I could stop wearing it. (Hallelujah!)

    The neurosurgeon said I have two degenerative discs that, while not fractured, are basically worn out. These discs are what’s causing the tingling in my arms/hands and the weakness in my lower legs. He also said I don’t need surgery right now and might get away with never needing it! But if I ever start to regress and the pain/tingling gets worse in my extremities, that’s a sign that surgery is probably needed.

    When we first got home, I couldn’t type at all — the pain in my arms and hands was too much. I used the voice-to-text capabilities on my iMac when I needed to type. Today, I’m typing as well/fast as I ever have — the pain in my arms/hands is 95% better in just four weeks.

    When we first got home, I couldn’t throw a ball more than about 3-4 feet. Today, I’m able to throw underhanded about 50-75% across our back yard, which makes the dog happy. She loves fetching balls. I’ve even done a couple overhand throws without pain.

    In the beginning, Cari had to accompany me if I wanted to walk from one room to the next. (She’s been soooo amazing this whole time!) Today, I’m walking wherever I want, whenever I want, as often as I want — no accompaniment needed, knock on wood. That said, I’m still being careful not to overdo it.

    Our friends and neighbors have been incredibly generous. Some cooked and delivered meals in the first couple weeks. Our neighbors across the street (hi Rob and Tara!) came over and installed one of those handheld showerheads to make cleaning myself easier, since I was in no position to install a showerhead myself. Cari’s admin (hi Lisa!) bought a shower chair (and the new showerhead) and had them waiting for us when we got home from Hawaii. People have been amazing. Thank you. 🥰

    Overall, I’m probably about 80-90% “normal” in just four weeks. I still can’t lift really heavy stuff and need to be careful about that. But I can cook and type and brush my teeth and do all those basics that I needed help with four weeks ago. I’m working mostly full days during the week, but I still get tired very easily, so it’s not unusual for me to nap or just lay down and rest in the middle of the day. I think that’ll change as I get stronger.

    I’ve had four physical therapy sessions. They wipe me out, but they’re really great. I imagine I’ll continue going for at least several more weeks, if not longer. At least I hope so. They’re super helpful.

    Four weeks ago, as I lay on the sand looking up through the water at that perfect blue sky, I was probably a few seconds away from drowning. Then the angels showed up, dragged me out of the water, and took care of me until the pros arrived and did their job.

    Today, I’m not far from living my “normal” life. What a blessing. What a miracle.


    Stumbling onto the LOST beach in Hawaii

    December 11, 2021

    We were on a day trip to Oahu last month. The purpose behind the trip was to learn more about Oahu, scout some neighborhoods, and see more of the island than Honolulu proper.

    We were up on the north shore, driving around, getting out of the car here and there, all really casual and such. Lunchtime came and we decided to stop at a burger place in a little town called Haleiwa.

    As we waited for the food, I fired up my Swarm app to do a check-in. I’m looking through the list of suggested places and one of them says something like “LOST place crash beach.” I was like … WTF!?!? I had no idea we might be close to that beach!!

    LOST was always one of Cari’s and my favorite shows. We watched it religiously every week from beginning to end. So I told her what the app was saying and she got as excited as me.

    Did a little more research as we scarfed down our burgers and sure enough, the beach where the plane crashes in the pilot episode is only like 10 minutes away!!! We had a bunch of places we were supposed to go, but this quickly became priority No. 1!

    Sure enough, just as advertised, we found the LOST beach. There were only a couple other people walking in the area and I didn’t see any signs or anything else to indicate that this was where the plane crashed.

    But you couldn’t miss it.

    The mountain ranges were a dead giveaway. The shapes and curves of the beach and ocean. The vegetation in the area. It was exactly what you’d expect it to look like 15+ years after that first episode. Here are a few comparison pics, then and now with the TV show and what we saw.

    I’m not in the exact right spot for either photo, but you can tell it’s the same place. And it was soooo freaking cool to be there and walk on the beach. I still can’t believe we accidentally stumbled onto the LOST beach.

    I’ve been talking about rewatching the entire series for the past 4-5 years, but I keep not doing it. Maybe this will spur me to dive back into it one of these days!


    My Top 10 Snorkeling Tips

    November 27, 2021

    Let’s get the obvious out of the way: I’m not the world’s best snorkeler. (Does such a title/honor even exist?)

    So why read my snorkeling tips? I get it. I hear you.

    Look, I’m just a guy who loves snorkeling, has done it a few dozen times, and has a knack for finding turtles, rays, squid, octopi, and other assorted sea creatures when I snorkel. I don’t think I’m better than anyone else, but I do some things in the water that seem to help me have a good, safe time while seeing as many creatures as possible.

    So while I was in Hawaii a couple weeks ago, I thought … why not share some of this with others?

    To have a really fun and successful time snorkeling, you should do more than just stick your head down, swim in a straight line, and look as far down as you can see. But every time I go snorkeling, I see other folks doing exactly that.

    So let me share a few tips that might help you develop a knack for seeing more fish and having more fun next time you go snorkeling! These first few are obvious, so I’m not gonna spend much time on them.

    The Obvious 4

    1.) Know the local rules and follow any and all safety requirements wherever you’re snorkeling.

    2.) Have the right gear and know how to use it. If you can, be sure to spray defogger on your mask so you can clearly see the beauty of the water.

    3.) Don’t be an ass to other snorkelers. Don’t bully your way through a crowd to see a turtle. You’re not Aquaman and you don’t rule the seas.

    4.) Coral reefs are great place to snorkel. A lot of fish, turtles, etc., eat along coral reefs.

    The Less Obvious 6

    5.) Be careful about kicking.

    When I’m in active/alert mode — i.e., looking for sea creatures — I try to kick/swim as lightly as possible. When you kick hard, you a) might scare a fish away, and b) create a lot of bubbles in the water that make it harder to see. It can also be rude or even dangerous to people behind you that may not be aware of.

    Kick lightly when you’re in “find fish” mode. The only time I ever kick at full strength is when I’m alone and actively swimming to a specific spot.

    6.) Look up.

    Don’t just look down when you’re snorkeling. A lot of creatures swim closer to the surface, including turtles. Also, wow, up near the surface can be really beautiful with the water bending the sun’s light.

    7.) Look around.

    Don’t just go forward. Turn around every 30-60 seconds or so. Do a complete 360-degree turn. Turtles can come toward you from behind. Some of my best/favorite turtle encounters began with one of them coming towards me from behind.

    8.) Look at and listen to other snorkelers.

    I know you’re trying to spot cool fish, turtles, or whatever, but sometimes the best way to do that is to keep your eyes and ears peeled on the people around you. If there are turtles nearby, there’s probably a group surrounding them. Go join them.

    And listen as you snorkel. When someone spots a turtle, they almost always yell “turtle!” to the rest of their group — that’s your signal to go join them. But remember rule #3 above.

    Watching and listening to others around you is also a good safety tip. Speaking of which…

    9.) Never be the furthest person out.

    Kaanapali Point is one of my favorite spots to snorkel. There’s a shallow area right off the beach that often has fish and even a turtle or two. You can also snorkel further out toward Black Rock, where the water is a lot deeper. That’s where you’ll see turtles, rays, and various other fish.

    But that far out, not gonna lie … it gets a little nerve-racking. When I’m out that far from the beach, I always make sure there’s someone else further out. If I can’t, then I’ll swim back closer to shore. I think it’s smart to always keep someone else between you and a hungry fish.

    10.) Keep an eye on the depths.

    As long as I’m talking about self-preservation, keep an eye on the depths further away from you. Don’t just look for happy, harmless creatures right in your line of sight. If there’s a hungry fish 20-30 yards away, you want to know as soon as possible.

    Your Turn

    I have a feeling some of my friends who are also experienced snorkelers might see this at some point, and I hope they’ll add their own tips and advice to mine above. What about you? If you have something to add, drop it in the comments below!


    Where to watch NFL games on Hawaii’s Big Island

    November 12, 2018

    We found our tribe of Seahawks fans (12s!) at a neat sports bar in Kailua-Kona!

    If you’re a big football fan who’s traveling to Hawaii during NFL season, you might reach a point during your trip planning where you wonder … Where am I gonna watch the football game on Sunday?

    My wife and I have been to different Hawaiian islands probably 2-3 times during NFL season, and each time we’ve managed to find some good places that open up early Sunday for tourists to catch their favorite team’s game. Our most recent trip was last month when we visited the Big Island (Hawaii) with friends. But we were the only ones who wanted to find a place to watch NFL games — preferably with other Seattle Seahawks fans! — so the planning was all on our own.

    Good news: There are three sports bars nestled closely together in Kailua-Kona and each one opens early on Sunday mornings for NFL fans!

    My wife and I ended up at Oceans Sports Bar, which is just off Ali’i Road, the street that runs along the coast. As we were walking there, we passed by two other sports bars that were also open early and had TVs on for people to watch the games — Bongo Ben’s and Laverne’s. There are a few other bar/restaurant-type places in that same area that may have also been open, but we didn’t walk to them.

    (By the way … we’re talking 7:00 AM in Hawaii. That’s when the early games kickoff, at least before the mainland changes its clocks. If it’s after the clock change, kickoff will be at 8:00 AM Hawaiian time.)

    Oceans has a pretty big bar area with a bunch of TVs above showing the games, and then several more TVs placed throughout the dining areas.

    My wife and I arrived just as the game began and picked a table in the first dining area, where about 10-15 Seahawks fans had already gathered. It’s always fun to watch a game with other 12s, and this was no exception.

    The crowd grew as the game went along, and there were eventually about 25-30 Seahawks fans spread across two dining areas. There were also some Broncos fans, Chiefs fans and a few other teams represented … but Oceans Sports Bar seems to be the place for Seahawks fans to gather.

    Service was excellent. Our waitress was quick to bring my wife a mimosa and kept me filled with various tropical juices all morning. For breakfast, they offer a buffet that runs $14 per person, as I recall, which is pretty much a bargain for Hawaii. It was fairly standard stuff — scrambled eggs, bacon, home fried potatoes (to die for! OMG), biscuits and gravy, fried rice and some fresh fruit options. I think they had the fixins for a loco moco, too. As part of the buffet, you can also order a Belgian waffle — it looked delicious, but we were too full to try it.

    All in all, we had a great morning. The food was good. The service was good. The atmosphere was really fun. And we got to watch the Seahawks beat Detroit alongside a big group of fellow football fans. If you’re an NFL fan looking to watch the games on Hawaii’s Big Island, you can’t go wrong with Oceans Sports Bar — especially if you’re a Seahawks fan!


    Dublin, Driving, Hawaii and … Dread?

    January 26, 2016

    The sunset, as we saw it after driving up Haleakala Mountain in Maui.
    The sunset, as we saw it after driving up Haleakala Mountain in Maui.

    I flew to Dublin back in November for U2 concerts and had a great time. But in the days leading up to the trip, I began to dread the thought of flying over the Atlantic Ocean. Weird, because I’ve flown to Ireland a couple times in the past and flown to Hawaii a handful of times just in the past five years … and never did I worry or think about any dangers/risks of flying over the ocean.

    In December, while making plans for a trip to Hawaii, I decided not join my wife and four friends on a snorkeling trip that involved riding out on the ocean on a sailing canoe. On the surface, I made the decision because it was way too expensive. But I later figured out there was a subconscious decision that was really guiding my decision — I was afraid to get on the little sailing canoe and head out into the Pacific.

    When we made the trip earlier this month to Hawaii, the same fear of transoceanic flight hit me.

    And then, when we were in Hawaii, everyone drove up to the top of Haleakala Mountain for a combo sunset viewing/astronomy tour. It was wonderful, but I hated the drive. The road was thin and dangerous with what seemed like a couple dozen switchbacks. There were cows grazing along the side of the road and sometimes standing in the middle of it — dangerous to any vehicle coming around a blind turn. I vowed afterward to never drive up Haleakala again.

    A year ago, or five years ago, I would’ve never been afraid of the drive up the mountain. I would’ve never been afraid of getting on the sailing canoe. I’ve never been afraid to fly over the ocean.

    What’s going on??

    While the rest of the group was out on the sailing canoe, I had about three hours alone and time to think about that question. The answer I came up with is that it’s because my dad died last year and I’ve been subconsciously fearing and/or avoiding risky things that could involve death. Now that I’m without my dad, I don’t want to die and leave my son without his dad.

    Sure, walking outside or just getting the car and driving to the store could involve death, but those are common things that I do regularly. The stuff above isn’t.

    It was something of a relief to have come up with a reason for my sudden fear of certain activities. But now I’m asking myself new questions: What else will I suddenly dread or try to avoid? Is this a temporary thing that I’ll get over someday? If so … when?


    Great Italian Food in Maui? Try Antonio’s (in a strip mall, even)

    January 24, 2016

    Antonio's Italian Kitchen, as seen on Google Street View
    Antonio’s Italian Kitchen, as seen on Google Street View

    Let’s talk first about the 800-lb. elephant in the room: It’s in a strip mall anchored by a Long’s Drugs. That’s it in the corner of the Google Street View screenshot above. But don’t let that discourage you as you drive up to Antonio’s Italian Kitchen, which may very well have the best Italian food in Maui.

    Maui has a ton of fantastic restaurants but, in my experience (been to Maui four times in the past five years), they mostly pay lip service to Italian food. Seafood reigns on Maui, with steak joints or Asian food probably the next most popular restaurant options. At most of these places, you can find a seafood/pasta combo dish (or several) and maybe some basic Italian dishes like different takes on Pasta Primavera and such.

    But if you’re looking for a great Italian-focused restaurant that offers several kinds of homemade pasta and multiple sauce options, your choices will be pretty limited.

    Enter Antonio’s. In a strip mall. In Kihei.

    Our party of four ate there on a Thursday night in mid-January and we all loved it. We read about it the well-known Maui Revealed guide book and found their review to be spot on. It’s small — maybe 10 tables altogether. It’s very clean. Service was super friendly. The food was wonderful.

    I had the Fettucine Alfredo dish with chicken. I loved the homemade pasta and the sauce, which I assume was also homemade, was fantastic. My wife loved the Ravioli, and our guests loved the Chicken Parmesan (with Spaghetti) and Italian Sausage dinners.

    Entrees were in the $15 range, plus or minus. Appetizers were in the $8 range, plus or minus. The ones we ordered (Bruschetta and Garlic Bread) were good, but not as rave-worthy as the entrees. Desserts were solid (cheesecake for me, a chocolate mousse cake for my wife). With an alcoholic beverage or two thrown in, our whole meal was in the $60/couple range, which is really affordable for Maui.

    Reservations were suggested, so we made one. But there were a couple empty tables when we arrived so a walk-in would’ve worked, too.

    Huge props to Antonio’s on Maui for what very well could be the best Italian dinner on the island. Give it a shot, and don’t let the strip mall location discourage you.