Moving to Maui, Part Three


So I now had a part-time job on Maui and a place to live, at the Aston Maui Kaanapali Villas, which is a combination of hotel and condos:

I had brought along one suitcase and my bicycle. The condo I was renting had four plates, four forks, four glasses. Life was simple, and I was discovering I liked it this way. No boxes of unorganized Christmas decorations haunting me from the attic. No closet full of winter clothes. No grandmother’s china gathering dust.

Actually, my design clients in Maui tell me that that’s the very best part about a vacation home on Maui: no stuff. So if that’s what we all aspire to, why do we own so much stuff? The truth is, it owns us…

Anyway, I was settling in, and deciding what to do about my life back in California. Condo life was agreeing with me. Until, that is, the night of the infamous late-night condo cleaning incident. I’m pretty sure they still talk about it at the front desk there.

Here’s the scene: it’s HOT in Maui. So once the sun went down and it cooled off, I decided to do a little cleaning. I put on a thin white t-shirt. And that was all. Get the picture? Hold that thought.

I opened the door to the condo and tossed out the throw rugs to shake later. Now there are fire codes in hotels, and safety codes, and these all conspire to create self-closing doors. Big, heavy, metal self-closing doors. A huge gust of wind blew through and WHAM! The saying “don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out” was suddenly reality.

Except that now I was out. Locked out of my condo on the outside walkway three floors up in nothing but a see-through t-shirt.The only thing that could have made it worse would have been if I was out on a tiny ledge, like in the movies. If there was ever a time I wished to be beamed up, Scotty, it was now.

What to do, what to do?

I yanked my t-shirt down over what  I could cover, got into the (now functioning) elevator and rode downstairs. I moved like a lady in a too-tight skirt, mincing my way to the front desk. I stopped just short of it and called around a support beam: “Hey, excuse me! I’ve lost my key and I’m locked out.”

The night clerk was named Mary. Mary was suspected of doing a little nipping at the bottle she kept stashed behind the desk (actually, a lot of nipping) because the boss wasn’t there at night to know the difference. Mary looked over in a fog and tried to focus on me.

“Who’s that? Who’s there?”

I called out my name. I told her which condo I was in. But Mary didn’t know me from a tourist.

“Well, what do you want? I can’t hear you. Come over here to the front desk!”

I sighed, clutched my shirt, and began my slow journey into the middle of the lobby. At just the same moment that a tourist couple entered and wanted to check in. I sidled up to the front desk, turned my back to them and whispered loudly,  “I’m locked out. I can’t get in. Do you have a spare key to my apartment?”

“Well no, of course not. I’ll have to call the maintenance guys. I don’t know who’s on duty.”

The maintenance GUYS? Great. Just great. The gods who had come out of the sky in my deux a machina moment and given me a great apartment and a job were now extracting their pound of flesh. Literally. I was sure I could hear them laughing up there.

I yanked my t-shirt down as hard as I could as the tired tourists glared at me. I steeled myself for the moment my Savior With a Key would get his eye-full. Luckily he was a gentleman, and pretended that it was common-place for him to have to have to let stranded women in see-through t-shirts and no bottoms into their apartments. Let me tell you though, I made sure he walked ahead of me on my walk of shame.

Like I said, I’m pretty sure they still talk about this at the front desk, because let’s not forget, I NOW WORKED THERE!  And I know I made the maintenance guys’ Hall of Fame for stupid guest tricks at the hotel. Except, that is, that just the week before I had dropped my key down the teeny little crack in the elevator shaft and they had to rescue me from that.

What are the chances? And how could a woman who was smart enough to own a home and manage a business keep pulling these incredibly dumb stunts? Deux a machina.

And the gods laughed.

A hui hou! (til next time). If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button to the right.

Aloha, Jamaica

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

High-Heel Blowout (A Maui Valentine’s Day Story)

If you move to Maui and try to bring your mainland lifestyle with you, you are in for a rude surprise. Nothing translates the same in Maui: not your job, not the money you’re used to making. Not your level of cleanliness—whether personal (three showers a day are the norm in Maui) or in your living space — wind, red dirt off the fields, and the persistent mold will see to that.

And then there are the other unexpected things, like your underwear rotting out in the blink of an eye, and the High-Heel Blowout. On Valentine’s Day, this year, for me.

You see, things rot here. Don’t ask me why. I grew up in the Midwest where the humidity could suck the life out of you in the summer, and we never had this problem. All I can think is that the ten feet of snow in the winter there kills off the mold so it never gains a permanent foothold.

Not so in Maui.

My friend Rita was a former New York model who moved to Maui with a whole cache of expensive La Perla underwear. One day she took what should have been a teeny, tiny pair of bikinis out of her drawer, and to her horror, found that when she held them up, they were about a foot wide. The elastic had rotted and stretched them out enough to fit a football player with the UH Rainbow Warriors.

All my underwear did the same thing, the difference was, mine hadn’t cost a hundred dollars apiece. Still, you get attached, and I was, and I mourned that underwear, especially when I realized I couldn’t even replace it on Maui. I had to fly to the Mainland to get new underwear! (Actually I went to visit Mom, but believe me, I stocked up on my favorite brand of underwear.) And don’t even get me started on how long an $80.00 swimsuit will last here, which is about two minutes longer than the underwear. You don’t even have to take it out of your drawer, or ever get in the water. It just magically disintegrates, right there in your dresser drawer.

So all of you guys out there…do you like shiny things, like cars? Expensive toys? Electronics, photography equipment? Better lock it all in a vault, and kiss that shiny car goodbye, because the red dirt in Maui will own you. Between that and the humidity, you can spend the rest of your life trying to protect things from damage and keep things clean. First piece of advice I got in Maui?  “You will spend your life cleaning.”

Ha! I’m gonna spend my life at the beach, sister.

Right. That worked out well. Tourists who visit Maui have no idea, because they check into a hotel room that has been cleaned by a professional Maui hotel housekeeper, whose main objective in life is to make you believe that red dirt does not exist, so you will bring your tourist dollars right back here next year. So she shines and sweeps and wipes down every inch of the lanai furniture so you can sit out there in your nice white shorts. There’s a reason why you don’t see white shorts on locals.

Red dirt+wind+humidity=mold. Commit this to memory.

So where was I? Oh, right: Valentine’s Day. I pulled out my red high heels to wear to the restaurant. Haven’t had them on in a year, of course. Slipped them on, took two steps from the closet and almost fell flat on my face. The straps had started the rotting process and had stretched out so much they wouldn’t stay on my feet. This is not the first time this has happened. There was the unfortunate Upcountry farmer’s market incident with a pair of clogs, where I was just walking along minding my own business and my entire shoe collapsed like a mini atomic mushroom cloud. I had no other shoes with me. Now, I’m wiser, I’m a local, and there’s always a spare pair in the car.

The next incident was rather more embarrassing and significantly more important. I was at the Maui Writer’s Conference (I’m a writer other than this blog–we’ll talk more about that another time) and it was my turn to get up in front of an auditorium full of people and give my presentation. I got out of my seat, made my way up front, and… Pow! Blowout. My cute little kitten-heel black sandals had chosen this moment to succumb to the Maui humidity curse. I stumbled, my ankle twisted, I turned all shades of red. After I’d righted myself, I galumped up to the podium, one shoe on and one shoe off, pretending that nothing had happened. Because everyone in that audience was from the Mainland, and who would believe that my heel had just rotted off, simply from living in Paradise?

It’s just a darned good thing my underwear didn’t choose to give out at the exact same moment.

Aloha till next time, and hope you had a Happy Valentine’s Day.

P.S. These were NOT my black kitten heels, but they’re cute, don’t you think?

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