Whales and Chocolates for Valentine’s Day

When I started this blog, my intention was to write and post every day, thus the name “Maui Daily Escape.”

But we all know what the road to hell is paved with, and my particular road got paved over when I got The Call. The one no one wants to get, saying their parent is dying of cancer. So I got on a plane for the Mainland and I have been gone five months. I just got back, and I have been considering the things I missed about Maui during five long months, and also the differences between California and here.

First, there’s the sticker shock. I had to go to the grocery store as soon as I got off the plane and I just stood there in the aisle alongside the tourists, muttering.

“Seven dollars for orange juice? Four dollars for a loaf of bread?” Get real!”  I got spoiled on the Mainland in five months’ time, being able to bop into Trader Joe’s and fill my cart with all sorts of enticing, healthy things for very little cashola. (BTW: if you get any group of women together in a room who have moved to Maui, and ask them what they miss the absolute most about the Mainland, the answer, with a moony look in their eyes, is always the same: Trader Joe’s and Target.) Those ladies will lust after their favorite Trader Joe’s food item the way a teenage boy lusts after Jessica Simpson’s assets.  For me, it’s those thin, little cheaper-than-dirt rice crackers. I crave them every day  at lunchtime. Same type of crackers on Maui? About six bucks.

    For those of you who live on another planet, Trader Joe’s is this cool, inexpensive food store that’s kinda gourmet and kinda hipster at the same time. There are NONE in Hawaii. www.traderjoes.com And to think they have the nerve at Joe’s to have their employees wear those Hawaiian shirts! If you go to their website, here’s what they say about that:

QUESTION: “Why do you guys wear those Hawaiian shirts?”

ANSWER: Fun or fashion faux pas? It may not be runway model attire, but our Crew is unafraid to make a bold fashion statement. We wear Hawaiian shirts because we’re traders on the culinary seas, searching the world over for cool items to bring home to our customers. And when we return home, we think grocery shopping should be fun, not another chore. So just relax and leave your worries at the door. We’ll sail those seven seas, you have some fun with our finds at your neighborhood Trader Joe’s.

And Trader Joe’s will be coming to Hawaii about as soon as Costco puts in a “ten items or less” checkout aisle. People would flip out at what Joe’s would have to charge in Hawaii because of the shipping to get it all here. And Costco? My Stepdad was in a hospital bed next to a Costco Big Wig. So he asked him, “When are you guys gonna put one of those fast lanes in?” His answer: When hell freezes over (and the Eagles stop touring to squeeze every last dollar out of their Baby boomer audience.) The reason is that they WANT you to have to stand in line, “so you’ll buy more, to make standing in line worth it.” He actually said that, and also that it’s the number one requested thing in the “Suggestions” box. Ain’t gonna happen, folks, so just stop asking.

So, here was the minus side to coming back to Maui:

Grocery sticker shock. And gasoline sticker shock!!

My house and yard looked like one of those houses in a scary movie where the new tenants move in and you just KNOW bad things are going to happen. All that was missing were the giant cobwebs to tangle up the heroine and make her scream. But the yard became a jungle (even with someone keeping it up a little) and the house was filthy. There isn’t a window made that can keep out the Maui red dirt. (We have Andersen double panes. The dirt still stacks up in neat little heaps on the windowsills of the closed windows.)

And here was the down side to California:

The grey winter skies. I was just jonesing for the sunshine and warmth.

The crowds of people. And traffic!!

The godawful bridge tolls. It’s enough to make you not want to go anywhere. $5.00 a pop! Really?

The upside? All the restaurants my little heart could desire.

And Napa Valley. I’ll say it again. Napa Valley!

The sheer number of choices: Restaurants. Stores. Shoes. Experiences.

But here’s the thing that hit me, once I was back. Maui: it’s like no other place.

Mike came home from work (he Captains the “Scotch Mist”, a sail boat out of Lahaina) and told me this story: he was working the evening sail full of tourists, the “Champagne and Chocolates” sail.  It’s whale season here (December through March) and a mama whale came right up to the back of the boat. Mike has been on the water his whole life, and a Captain for 22 years. He said she was the biggest whale he’d ever seen, mainly because of her girth. She was about fifty feet long and twelve feet wide. He was blown away by her sheer size and figured she must be reeally old.

As the whole boat full of tourists looked on, the mama surfaced with her baby balanced on her nose. Almost like she’d been paid to put on the show. Mike could have leaned over and given her a kiss, she was so close. As everyone ooohed and ahhhed, the mama whale moved to the side of the boat and she and the baby just hung out for about fifteen minutes.

I think maybe she was waiting for someone to offer her a glass of champagne.

“You got pictures, right?” I prompted hopefully. “Lots of pictures?” And the reason there are no photos posted here of this event is because just like anything else in life, Mike takes the whales a bit for granted now. Only the tourists have cameras. It’s old hat for him.

Trust me, the camera batteries are charging as we speak. In the meantime, I will leave you with a photo my niece Laura took when she last visited Maui.(Photo credit: Laura Langendorfer Schuster)

Aloha till next time! Wishing you champagne whale kisses and chocolate caviar dreams.

Copyright Jamaica Michaels, 2012. All rights reserved. May not be reblogged or reprinted without express written permission of the author.

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