The Real Reason I Live on Maui

Aloha!
So here it is, the REAL reason, above all others, that I live on Maui. My sister, who still lives where I grew up in Indiana (and teaches at our same junior high), sent this to me this morning. My teeth chatter just thinking about it:

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To all of you in the Midwest and on the East Coast battling this type of weather, please stay warm, and stay safe on the roads out there.

Have a cup of hot chocolate and think of me…I will soon be deluged with letters from people asking me questions on “How to Move to Maui.” (See FAQ’s on Moving to Maui).

A hui hou! Mahalo for reading along. If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “Follow” button on the Homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

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No Worries

Aloha!

I’m reading a novel and there’s a character in it that asks, “Do you think people on an island ever worry?” Her father answers: “They fish a lot. How much can you worry if you fish?”

Nice thought. Wish it were true. I have a friend who is considering a move to Maui, but says it’s “the last bastion I have where I truly relax, and I fear that if I move there, that will be that.”

And it is. I used to really be able to relax when I vacationed on Maui. It would take almost a week, far away from my super-busy California lifestyle, but eventually I’d sink down into relaxation, and like most people, I hoped it would carry over when I moved here.

In the beginning, every single time my mother called, she asked: “Are you at the beach?” with this hopeful giddiness in her voice (obviously living vicariously). I hated to burst  her bubble with No, Mom, I’m in the grocery store. I’m at the bank, post office, work…fill in the blank. But she really wanted to believe I was running around in a bathing suit all the time, living the good life. And perhaps if you are 20, don’t own a home (or have any aspirations to), if you are living in a three-bedroom house with five room mates, you could possibly have that life in Maui. But people quickly grow tired of that. Lahaina is a party town full of young people who don’t even own cars, just bicycles. But age keeps creeping, and eventually they wake up and realize they want more. So they move home.

The current state of agitation taking me away from the “No worries” island lifestyle  is a tax issue. (Yes, there really is a tax man everywhere, Virginia). Last year my accountant told me not to make a quarterly payment to the State of Hawaii because I was getting a refund, and she’d just roll it over. I told her this made me nervous, and she assured me she does this with “hundreds of clients!” That little voice inside nagged at me, but I said okay.

To muddle things further, I shredded my bank account statements this year for the first time ever, after reading yet another get organized article that stated “When did you last need a bank statement? And even if you did, the bank could provide it, right?” Yes, of course!

Guess what was the very first thing my accountant asked for when things went haywire with the State of Hawaii tax system? (COMPUTERS WILL BE THE DEATH OF US. Just sayin’.)

So yes, we can dream that life would be very different in Maui. And it is. Just not in the ways we thought!

A hui hou (til next time).

Aloha, Jamaica

Moving to Maui, Part Three

Aloha,

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.

Moving to Maui, Part Two

Aloha!

So here I was in Maui on somewhat of a permanent vacation. I was ignoring the calls from clients back home and getting in a little Margaritaville time. Jimmy Buffet played on a loop in my brain as I sat in my lounge chair. Oh, this was SO not me.

I strolled through the lobby of the condo/hotel on my way back to the apartment I was sub-letting, and noticed The Concierge sitting in the lobby. Check this out: an open-air lobby with balmy breezes blowing through. A mango-wood desk and a job where she got to sit down all day. Working with tourists so very happy to be on vacation in Hawaii, helping them plan their fun activities. A breathtaking vase of tropical flowers nearby.

I did a double-take and thought: I want her job.

No more demanding clients, legal contracts, furniture orders gone missing! No more commuting with 4 zillion other people in the Bay area. No more lying awake at night, worrying that I’d gotten a measurement wrong or put in an erroneous product number?

This was sounding better every minute. Jimmy Buffet sang louder.

And then a miracle happened.

Okay, I’m a screenwriter, and when you go to film school the first thing they teach you is this: at all costs you are to avoid writing the deux a machina. This is Latin, and means: “god out of the machine.” Wikipedia says “It is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.” You know, a “miracle.”

In other words, the Calvary can’t suddenly ride in and save you like in an old Western.

So how do we explain the fact that the Concierge spontaneously invited me to an art show, and she then out of the blue asked me if I was looking for a job, because they needed someone to fill in? Deux a machina, baby. Box office poison, but so golden in real life.

I now had a job.

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 written permission of the author.

Moving to Maui, Part One

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Maui Kaanapali Villas

Aloha!

Would you like to move to Maui? Ever wonder what it’s really like?

Here’s how I got here: I fractured my tailbone and then had a small stroke. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

An acquaintance owned a lovely condo at the Maui Kaanapali Villas, www.astonmauikaanapalivillas.com  with a little bit of an ocean view and a short walk to the beach. Her mother on the mainland had cancer, and she needed to go care for her. She asked me if I’d like to stay in the condo and pay her mortgage (there are no free lunches.)

I was running my interior design business in the San Francisco Bay area and wearing high heels to work every day. The first thing that happened was I fell down a full flight of stairs. A client’s carpet was worn out (duh…part of why I was there) and my slick heel slid off the top step and I flew through the air, legs over my head, to land at the bottom in a heap. Result? A fractured tailbone. The doc said the only thing he knew to help that was to swim in warm salt water. Reason to say yes, #1.

Then I was leaving another client’s home and things got a little wonky with my vision. I chalked it up to fatigue and stress. The next thing I knew, I was driving on the sidewalk on a very busy main thoroughfare. Oh, this was not good at all. I could have taken out a light post; heck, I could have taken out a pedestrian, several, in fact.

I shakily drove on to the store to order furniture for my client, and when I opened my mouth to speak to the salesman, gibberish came out. Needing to recuperate from a small stroke: reason #2.

So I found myself on Maui, basically in the lap of luxury, see above. (Except for the pesky elevator that broke down and they had to bring a guy in from Oahu to fix it, but he kept not showing up. Little did I know this is how EVERYTHING works on Maui. In other words, it doesn’t.) Then, they raised the condo fees to pay for the elevator, so my acquaintance raised my rent. But the beach made up for it:

I talked the guy at the  beach shack into renting me a chaise lounge by the month, with two pads instead of one, for my poor tailbone.I spent every day at the beach. I walked, swam, sunned, ate, and slept. I got better. I contemplated my life back home and saw that I’d been driving myself into the ground like a crazy person. You know the old saying: self-employment is where you go from working 40 hours a week to 80 hours a week for half the pay? It’s so true.

I started thinking about running away from home. Permanently.

But how in the world would I make a living?

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 written permission of the author.

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.