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USA, February 16-27 2012

Posted by on March 24, 2012

When I initially booked this trip, it was because I had frequent flier points I wanted to use, but didn’t know what I wanted to use them for. So, since I’d enjoyed working with Oil in the Alley in Honolulu in November 2010 so much, back in April 2011, I’d discussed with Sean and R Kevin the idea of me coming back using the points and working with them on another video. We’d wanted to do it during Improvaganza, the Hawaii improv festival, but unfortunately I couldn’t get any flights for September, so we organised it for October instead. By August last year, however, I’d also wanted to visit some other friends in the US in September, and so I talked with Sean and R Kevin about rearranging the trip, since Jeremy didn’t want me to be away from our children for a couple of weeks two months in a row. That was pretty understandable, so we worked it out, and I got the flights changed to February instead.

In late December last year, it was clear that a couple of friends I hoped would be able to come visit me in Honolulu weren’t going to be able to come, and I’d felt like I would be too lonely to spend the full 11 days of the trip in Honolulu with so much time to myself. After all, I wouldn’t even be able to hang out with R Kevin the first weekend, since he was going to Seattle to perform at an improv festival there. So I talked to Jeremy about that, and he ended up saying it would be okay for me to go visit my friends instead. What I loved about this is that it cost the same amount for me to visit California and Washington, DC as it would’ve been for me to just go to Washington.

Thursday February 16, 2012

My first day is probably going to sound incredibly long, and that’s because Honolulu is 18 hours behind Kuala Lumpur, and I crossed the international date line to get there. So, I woke up at 6am as, according to my itinerary, my flight was scheduled to depart at 10:25am. Incidentally, Jeremy would’ve needed to take me to KL Sentral around 6:30am regardless, just because he needed to be back home in time to take Doyle to school. We ended up leaving home around 6:40am, but as I’d given myself 3 hours to be at the airport before departure, I wasn’t in too much of a rush anyway. From KL Sentral, I took the KLIA Express.

Once arriving at the airport, I checked the displays to find out which check-in area I had to go to. I couldn’t find my flight… or at least I couldn’t find a flight on Singapore Airlines travelling to Singapore departing at 10:25am. I did see another flight going there at 11:25am, however, and at least that told me which counter to go to. So I walked the long distance there (it was the next to last row in the terminal), and checked my flight details. It turned out the 11:25am flight had the same flight number I was flying, so I determined that at some point, Singapore Airlines must’ve changed the schedule. I later found out (once on the plane) that it was just changed for that day only, due to an air show being on in Singapore. Luckily, even though I was now there four hours before the scheduled departure, the check-in counter for my flight was already open.

When I was checking in, the clerk tried to tell me I was going to have to collect and re-check my bag in Tokyo, which freaked me out because I was probably only going to have about an hour between flights to get off one and board the next. Given I’d never been to the Haneda airport before (we flew to Narita when we went to Tokyo in 2007), I didn’t know how big the airport was, let alone if I even had enough time. Then the clerk worked something out and managed to get my bag booked all the way through to Honolulu so that all I would have to do at Haneda is get my boarding pass for my final flight.

After going through immigration and security, and getting to the area where the C gates were, since I still had an extra hour to kill than I expected to have, I found my gate, and then went for a wander. Jeremy told me to check out the jungle they have, so I managed to find that when I checked a map. It’s funny because it really is right in the middle, and it shouldn’t be hard to find… but I’d never noticed it before! Not that I’ve been to KLIA all that much, considering I usually fly AirAsia from LCCT. So I walked through the KLIA jungle; it’s not that big, and enjoyed the waterfall, and then decided to stop and have a chai latte at Dome, because I hadn’t been able to get the KLIA free wifi working, and Dome had their own wifi. When I’d finished my Internet things, and my drink, I started heading back closer to my gate to find somewhere else to sit. When I got here, I’d finally managed to get the KLIA Internet to work on my phone, and spent most of my time mucking around the Internet while I waited to be able to go inside my gate.

Finally it was time to go in, and I got stopped when my boarding pass was checked, because they thought I needed a visa check for my final destination of the USA. Mostly I thought this was ridiculous because I gave them my Australian passport, and Australians are entitled to visa waivers. However, rather than explain that, since I wasn’t actually going to enter the US on my Australian passport anyway, I showed them my US passport, and they let me on through.

The flight itself was pretty uneventful, at only 40 minutes duration, so I’m just going to skip to arriving at Singapore Airport. It had been over four years since I was at this airport, and arriving at a different terminal from the one I would be departing from meant that I had to check the map to find out which way to go. This pretty much brought back the memory of the last time I was there, when we thought we had heaps of time between flights, but the sheer size of the airport actually meant that we missed our flight, because we didn’t know it would take us so long to get to our gate. This time, I fortunately had more time between flights (even though my first flight arrived an hour later than was planned on my itinerary), and I went directly to the terminal I would be leaving from.

Upon reaching the correct terminal, I found a couple of places to eat, so I thought I’d check them out and see what currencies they took, since I didn’t have any Singaporean dollars. Fortunately, the Dunkin’ Donuts accepted Malaysian ringitt, so I picked up a bagel sandwich, which I happened to have the exact change for in my wallet. Then I ate that as I walked, since the map had suggested it would take me 18 minutes to walk to the other side of the terminal where my gate was. I happened across a sign that showed me the way to a butterfly garden; again, something I didn’t even know Singapore airport had. So I finished up my bagel and went to have a look. Wow! They had so many butterflies in there; it was great. You can even see the butterflies in different life cycle stages. I took quite a few photos just because it was so easy to get good ones. Then I headed back out and decided to check if I could access the Internet from my phone. Unlike at KLIA, Singapore Airport requires you to get a username and password from an information desk to use the Internet on their wifi. So I found the nearest one, and waited as the clerk assisted someone in front of me. As the clerk processed my passport information to give me the login details, she told me about how she’d been giving the previous passenger Changi airport currency for flying specific flights with Singapore airlines. Oh, I said, since I’d also been flying that airline. Then it turned out my flight to Tokyo qualified for free money, too, so after getting my login details, the clerk processed that, and gave me $20 to spend at the airport. However, since I’d already eaten lunch using Malaysian money, and I would have four hours between flights at the same airport on the way back, I decided to save it until then.

Still with plenty of time to spare, I found somewhere comfortable to sit in front of a TV displaying music videos on MTV, and killed more time on the Internet. When it got to twenty minutes before my gate was due to open, I started heading there. I still had to wait a little while before they started letting people in, but it wasn’t too bad. Once I got through the next round of security, I mainly listened to music.

The flight to Tokyo was about 6 and a half hours, and I was fortunately seated right at the front of the economy class seating, near the emergency exit, which meant a) I could be one of the first economy people off (a good thing, when you’re worried how much time it’ll take to get to your next flight!) b) I had massive amounts of legroom and c) the flight attendant seated opposite me for take-off and landing started a great conversation with me. I mean, I was clearly on my own anyway, and I smiled a lot at how friendly she was being with the family with two little girls seated in the middle of the same row, so I suppose she thought I’d be open to the conversation. It was great; she asked whether I was on my way home or whatever, and when I said I live in KL, she surprised me by asking which part. Turned out she was Malaysian! We actually had a lot to chat about in that short take-off time, with where I was going, and my family, how lucky I was that my husband lets me have these trips on my own, that sort of thing. She was very interested in my destination since she would like to go herself one day, and when I said I’d been to Honolulu before, she mused that it could be like a second home to me. I don’t consider myself that familiar with Honolulu, but one of the reasons I was comfortable going there on my own was because I had experienced it enough to at least know my way around most of the bits I knew I’d want to go to.

Once the fasten seat belt sign was off, the flight attendant had to get to work, so I pulled out my personal TV and had a look at what movies they were playing. I went straight for new releases, and when the first movie had a picture of Ryan Gosling, I thought I’d have to check out what it was, even though I hadn’t heard of the film. The subject matter was the sort of behind-closed-doors part of the American election process, which felt very fitting, and interested me a lot. I didn’t even bother to see what else I could choose from, I just started it immediately. I actually really enjoyed the movie, and not just because Ryan Gosling is one of my favourite actors. It kind of made me wish the US actually had candidates that spoke more like George Clooney’s character. Maybe it does and I just don’t hear about them.

Next up, I watched In Time, which I’d seen several trailers for when seeing movies in Malaysia and thought it seemed interesting. It was; I think it had a lot to say about the current economic environment, even though it’s set far into the future that they didn’t even specify a date. Dinner was served while I watched this one. When the movie finished, I thought about trying to have a nap, but thought I’d check the other movies first. Then I happened across one called The Big Year, which again, I hadn’t heard of, but seeing the picture of Owen Wilson meant I was going to have to watch it. He would be another of my favourite actors. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the very end of the movie before I had to hand my headphones back to the flight attendant, so I’m going to have to try and catch the end on my way back. I wanted to find out who won the Big Year!

Haneda airport ended up being reasonably small compared to what I remembered of Narita, and considerably smaller than Changi, so the transfer desk where I got my next boarding pass was easy to find, and all I had to do was go through another security screening, and go up to the departure hall. I had plenty of time! Fortunately there weren’t any queues. I did wonder whether I would be able to do the same thing for my flight home, though, as I’d really rather not have to leave the airport, even though I have an overnight in Tokyo. My flight the following morning is really early anyway. Hopefully that won’t be a problem.

Since my final flight departed Tokyo at half past midnight Tokyo time (so it was still 11:30pm KL time), I mainly tried to sleep on the flight. It was difficult at times, and I was right at the back of the plane, but at least I got some rest. And managed to be awake at appropriate times when food was served.

My flight arrived in Honolulu at 12:30pm local time (yes, still Thursday!) and the airport process was a little different than I remembered from a little over a year earlier, in that we had to take a shuttle bus to immigration. I don’t remember doing that before! I hadn’t been given a customs card on the plane, so I filled it out when I got there, and then, as a US citizen flying on a plane that was majority Japanese passengers (well, I was flying from Japan and Hawaii is a huge Japanese tourist destination), I didn’t have a long queue before I went through immigration. The customs clerk asked me what I was doing in Malaysia, as if I had just been visiting, so I had to tell him I live there. I don’t know why this struck me as odd. Of course it would make more sense for a US citizen to be returning to America if they live there.

Anyway, he sent me through, I collected my bag, handed in my customs form, and exited the airport. Then I waited in a long queue for a taxi to take me to my hotel. On the drive, I had some nice reminiscing feelings come up as we passed various parts of Honolulu that I recognised from the previous trip. Bethel Street – that’s where the Oil in the Alley show was that I filmed last time. Ward Ave; I must’ve walked down there on my way back from seeing Robin Williams. I liked the familiarity. I liked recognising the street, and the direction we were going, and knowing it was the right way because I opted to stay in the same hotel as last time. Well, except that I booked a room in the Tower instead of the hotel portion, because I wanted the “partial ocean view,” and also it wasn’t that expensive since I only needed one bed instead of two this time.

I arrived a bit more than an hour before the official check-in time, but since my room was already ready, they let me go straight up. There was a nice fellow to help me with my bags, which I accepted. Then when we got to my room, I remembered that you’re probably supposed to tip them for doing that. I wish I could remember how much is customary for that sort of thing, but at least I don’t think I gave him too little when I did.

Once I settled in, plugging in various equipment that needed recharging, and discovering my computer didn’t want to acknowledge the Ethernet cable it had plugged in (thus I couldn’t access the Internet on it), I called Sean, as per his request, because I wanted him to look after my expensive camera for me while I travelled to the mainland. I had to leave him a message, but luckily my phone had a direct line number on it so that I could give it to him and he could call me back. While I waited for that, I sorted through my bags so that I could pack what clothes I needed for my mainland trip into my backpack. I also greatly admired the view from my room on the 35th floor, overlooking Ala Moana.

After Sean and I discussed collection arrangements, I freshened up in the shower, which was very much welcome after the last approximately 24 hours, and then had a nap for a couple of hours. I hung out in the room a while longer, until Sean called to let me know he’d be there soon. I bundled up a few things, and headed downstairs with my camera. Sean must’ve arrived before I got down there, because he ended up coming around and surprising me from behind, but it was good to see him briefly again. He had to get back home to look after his daughters, and thus couldn’t stick around, but we discussed how we’d be meeting up again the following Thursday when I return, when we would go check out the venue of the show I’d be filming the following night.

Since I hadn’t yet been able to get on the Internet, and I was getting hungry, I walked down the street to IHOP, which I’d walked past several times the last time I was in Honolulu, but never visited. Like I said – love being familiar with where to go! I had intended on having pancakes, but ended up ordering a chicken salad instead. I checked various bits and pieces on the Internet, to catch myself up on things since Singapore, while I ate. I was a little ashamed of myself when the bill came and I realised I wasn’t going to have enough change to leave a decent tip, but I didn’t really have anything I could do about that since the only other note I had on me was another $20. My waitress and meal was really good, too, so that made me feel extra bad. It’s times like those I wish the US was more like Malaysia and just put a straight percentage service charge on the bill so I wouldn’t have to worry about having enough change.

Anyway, I headed back to the hotel after that, and ended up being able to use the Internet some more when I got to the lobby of the hotel (I had intended on asking about the Internet in my room, but this ended up being easier to do). So I spent some time online before deciding to head back to my room and get some sleep.

Friday February 17, 2012

Given I had a 2pm flight to LA today, I decided I didn’t really have time to do much in Honolulu. So I decided to spend some time writing up the first part of this blog. I started early, given the alarm in my room was set to go off at 4:30am (I didn’t set it!) and I couldn’t go back to sleep after that. Around 7 or so, I went downstairs, and the complementary breakfast was not where it was the last time I stayed at this hotel, so I wandered down to a nearby corner store where I bought a couple of things so I could get enough change for the bus later. I ended up buying some food I could take to the airport for lunch, and a couple of small bottles of alcohol, which I was asked to produce ID for. Given I’m now 28, and even though the legal drinking age in the US is 21, and they probably card anyone who looks under 25, I’m still not used to being asked for ID. Perhaps I just don’t buy enough alcohol for that.

I went back to the hotel lobby, thinking I’d use the Internet there, and discovered they’re relocated the complementary breakfast. Which was, thankfully, an improvement on the complementary breakfast they offered in November 2010. I’d forgotten my login information in my room, so I didn’t get to use the Internet then anyway. After breakfast, I headed back to my room and worked on my blog some more, until 9am. At that point, I had to head back down to use the Internet, as I’d needed to skype with Jeremiah about our plans when I’d be arriving in Washington on Monday. Once that was sorted out, I had a bunch of other things to catch up with online, so I did that, and then headed off with just my carry on bags to catch a bus to the airport. I left everything I knew I wouldn’t need at the hotel.

Arriving at the airport with only carry on bags was especially convenient, because it meant I avoided a long line that was for people to have their checked bags scanned for plant items, as well as the long queue for people checking in with checked bags. There was no queue for people checking in with no bags to check! So it was all a very easy process. The security line was longer, however, and I didn’t happen to have a clear bag for my liquids, but the security people didn’t seem to care. This was also my first experience with the special new TSA body scanning machine that created a furor when it was introduced not so long ago (I remember seeing them in Honolulu in 2010, but they were not yet in use).

As I was heading to my gate, I saw an ad for Dole pineapples – 3 for $28! I thought, “Is that meant to be a bargain? You could buy 3 pineapples in Malaysia for US$1!” Then I sat at my gate for a while until it was time to board. My flight to LAX was approximately 6 hours. I slept for a good portion of it, and listened to music. I unfortunately missed the end of The Big Year as it was screening (this flight didn’t have individual screens like my other flights). Then I ended up picking up Idol Meanderings to read a bunch of stories from, since I’d be visiting people who had pieces published in the book. I wanted to be able to decide which pieces I’d have signed by them, which I did on the plane.

When I arrived at LAX, I sent my friend Kristen a text to let her know where she and her boyfriend, Kevin (not to be confused with R Kevin!) could find me, by the United arrivals. After much confusion and several texts later, I managed to find them. Kevin and Kristen are a couple of my closest friends who I met through the LJ Idol competition, which I mentioned in my post about my last trip to the US, back in September, so it was good to finally have the chance to meet them, since they were also a couple of my longest-standing friends from the competition (we became friends during my first run in the competition, rather than my second run, like most of the friends I met in September).

Since food had to be purchased on the flight, and nothing seemed especially appetising on the menu, I didn’t eat anything on the plane. Thankfully, Kristen and Kevin hadn’t eaten either, so they drove us out to an IHOP not too far from where I was staying in Costa Mesa, since it was one of the few places that was open that late (my flight arrived at 10pm). We had a lot of fun just chatting about various things, and got along really well. It never fails to please me when I meet my Internet friends and that happens – they’re exactly as they are online, and what I expect. I ended up ordering chicken and waffles, since I’d almost been tempted by that at the IHOP in Honolulu. That led Kevin to ordering the same, which I think surprised Kristen, since apparently he has a “usual” order that he never orders.

We stayed, chatted and ate there for quite some time, until we decided it was time to get me to my hotel. As we were parked at a traffic light, my friends saw a girl who was walking kind of funny, and commented on her shoes. I remarked, “She’s not wearing any pants!” at which both Kevin and Kristen mentioned they had not noticed until I pointed it out. Apparently they didn’t notice because, despite it being cold, and winter, this is pretty common in California.

It was probably after 1am by the time I checked into my hotel and got my room. Good thing for 24 hour reception! My friends came up with me to see me to my room, and then headed off. I’d probably be seeing them early the next day anyway. Not long after they left, and I was checking stuff online, I discovered I had a noisy neighbour. Well, I heard someone knocking on a door, and thought it was my door, but no one was there when I checked through the peep hole. It ended up being for the room next door. A woman was staying there, as I could hear her talking a lot, though I didn’t specifically listen to what she was saying. Needless to say, she kind of made it difficult for me to get much sleep. Paper thin walls. And perhaps also the sleep on the plane, which I shouldn’t have done.

Saturday February 18, 2012

Since we’d been up so late the night before, we had a bit of a late start to the day. Kevin and Kristen ended up collecting me and taking me to a Del Taco for breakfast around 11am. But that’s okay, because although Knott’s Berry Farm – where we would be spending the day – opened at 10am, it also closed at 10pm, so we knew we would still have plenty of time at the theme park.

After breakfast, and a quick stop at an ATM for my friends, we were at Knott’s Berry Farm. Kristen and I are both huge roller coaster fans, so this was something we both knew we wanted to do together if we’d ever had the chance to meet, since neither of us have much opportunity to ride roller coasters with other people. Kevin has a few understandable issues with riding them himself, and I normally go to theme parks with children, so Jeremy and I tend to have to take turns looking after our children when we want to ride roller coasters.

Still, Kevin decided he would try and brave a few of the roller coasters with us, and he rode a lot more than I expected him to! Our first ride of the day was GhostRider – a very large wooden roller coasters. Wooden coasters are actually my most feared coasters, because I don’t like how it feels like it’s going to fall apart beneath me. Despite the fact the line didn’t look that long when we entered the queue, we ended up waiting over 2 hours. We hoped this was not a sign of queues for the other rides! But eventually we got to get on, and even Kevin rode it with us. Kristen and I both got a copy of the photo taken on the ride, since the cheapest deal on the photos was to buy two of the smallest photos. And it was a great photo, even if Kevin claimed he looked like a gorilla and wouldn’t let us share it with anyone. I was amused by the smile on my face looking like I was from a teeth-whitening commercial.

Next we headed over to Camp Snoopy to try and find Snoopy, since Kristen wanted to meet him. Unfortunately we only found a different Peanuts character that no one could remember the name of. So we wandered past all the kids rides and food stalls, until we came across Montezooma’s Revenge, which is sort of a roller coaster that takes you a little backwards first, then straight ahead around a 360° loop, up a 90° angle, then backwards all the way around the loop and up another 90° angle, before taking you back to the start. This queue was very, very short in comparison, so we all waited in the line, though Kevin didn’t join us for this one. He watched from the side, and I think took a photo of us once we were up on one side.

Even though we took the map out to look at and talk about where we wanted to go, as we walked, I saw the entrance to the Jaguar roller coaster, which didn’t look especially long. So, even though it wasn’t the ride we were aiming for next, we headed there. This was another coaster Kevin willingly rode with us. It was probably the tamest one in the park, so he didn’t have any problem with it at all.

Then we headed toward the Boomerang coaster, stopping by the Xcelerator so I could watch and see if I might be game enough to ride it with Kristen, since it was the only one that I knew I’d have second thoughts about. The Xcelerator also has 90° angles, but it is much higher than anything else in the park, 200 feet straight up, over a curve, and then another 90° drop back down again before taking you on a bunch of twists and turns. Oh, and it starts off from 0 to 80mph in 2.5 seconds… yeah, I said I’d need some time to think about that one, so we headed to the Boomerang coaster next. Boomerang was like a longer version of Montezooma’s Revenge, with more loops, but the part that made it scarier was not that so much as it was taking you backwards up the 90° angle and leaving you hanging there for a couple of seconds before shooting you forwards, and then backwards to the start again. Still, it was a very cool ride, even if it was a bit scary! This was another one Kevin sat out for.

So, as we seemed to be alternating rides Kevin would and wouldn’t ride with Kristen and me, we opted for a non-coaster next, called Wipeout. This was a spinning ride and, though I’m not usually a fan of such rides, I have learned how to stomach them and not throwing up by making sure I focus looking at one spot the entire ride. Luckily in this case, we were able to sit in the same section, with me facing Kevin & Kristen, so I fully just looked at them and chatted the entire time.

Next was another coaster Kevin wouldn’t ride, as it had an over-the-head harness, since it was one of those hanging coasters. I love coasters like that, with the feet hanging feeling. Also, if you’re not in the front, you can barely see anything anyway, so it doesn’t seem as scary. This one was called Silver Bullet, and probably one of the tamer versions of these types of coasters I’ve been on. I think that Kevin would have enjoyed it, and the way he talked afterwards, it sounded like something he’d like to conquer so he could ride it one day.

After that ride, we started thinking about heading somewhere to get something to eat, and headed back towards Camp Snoopy. Since the line for Sierra Sidewinder didn’t look too bad (though probably the longest line we’d had since Ghost Rider), we decided to stop in there first. It got dark while we were waiting in line! But that was fine. Riding it in the dark was cool, though given the spinning effect while also moving on a roller coaster track, it was a bit scary even for me. I was surprised Kevin was happy to ride it with us! But he loved it!

So after that, we headed to Lucy’s lunch box to get something for dinner. I got myself a giant foot long corn dog (because I always seem to have to get one when I’m in the US), and some water, since I felt like I was coming down with a cold. We chatted there for a while, and took a few photos, and when we finished eating, we embarked on a mission to find the funnel cakes. We’d passed two stands for them throughout our journey in the day, and I was sure I knew where one was, but ended up being wrong. We asked someone for directions, and we were pointed one way… I’m not sure I followed the right one, but I ended up leading us toward the second one we’d seen. However, before arriving there, since the Calico Mine Ride was just nearby, we decided to give that ride a go first. Even though this was the tamest ride we went on in the park (we didn’t even need seatbelts!), it was still pretty cool. It was like we were inside an actual mine, and we got to see models of people digging in there. It went a lot longer than I expected it to.

Finally, when we got out, I found the funnel cake place I’d been searching for, and we got a couple funnel cakes, then took them inside one of the restaurants so we could sit down and eat, and not freeze to death! This was some good chatting time, too, not that we hadn’t been chatting a lot all day, waiting in lines and such!

When we’d filled ourselves up enough, and I stopped being embarrassed at all the icing sugar I spilled over myself, we headed towards the Pony Express, which is a roller coaster with seats such that it seems like you’re riding a horse! I was made to take my glasses off on this one, which meant I put them in my small shoulder bag I keep my phone in… and they ended up being crushed out of line. Thankfully I was able to bend them back into place later, but it took a while, and I worried I’d snap them in half doing it. The Pony Express was the last ride we went on with Kevin.

The final ride of the night was… well, okay, we walked back to the other end of the park to check out the Xcelerator again. Since Kristen really wanted to ride it, we decided we’d all go wait in the line with her, and I’d still have time to decide if I wanted to go with her, or chicken out. I was pretty sure I would regret it if I chickened out, but I was so, so nervous. Especially listening to the screams coming from everyone as the ride took off. Remember – 0 to 80mph in 2.5 seconds! In the end, I got on the ride next to Kristen, and though I was nervous, I calmed myself down by slowing my breathing. I put a big smile on my face and then… we were off! They take your photo right at the start, too, because that’s the scariest. After the initial speed shock, it’s actually not so bad because the whole ride is over before you know it. And it was actually pretty cool going down the 90° angle at night time and seeing the surrounding lights. Kristen and I walked off to check the photo, because I was pretty sure I’d want to get one. Well, I did have that giant smile on my face! But Kristen didn’t have the best expression, so we decided we’d take a chance and ride it again the hope of getting a better photo the next time around. Which we did! Probably the most amusing part of this ride was that the second time we went on, behind us was a mother and teenage daughter combination, and the mother swore pretty much the entire time. Afterwards the daughter congratulated her mother for not swearing as much as she expected! Kristen and I turned around and then empathised with the mother, letting her know that we also swore the first time we rode it – using the same phrase (though fortunately not quite as much as the mother did!)

Since we then managed to go on every ride we’d wanted to try while we were there, and there was still a bit of time before the park closed at 10pm, Kevin spent a bit of time with the basketball game they had there.

Then we headed back to Kevin’s car, and they drove me back to my hotel. I had Kevin & Kristen wait in my room for a little while because, after the previous night’s neighbour disturbances, I was unsure what to expect for the night. We chatted for a while, and I had them sign my copy of Idol Meanderings (since they both have a few stories in there), but when it seemed there weren’t going to be any more issues, they left, and I got some sleep.

Sunday February 19, 2012

After the late night, we didn’t get an especially early start to the day. I hadn’t been able to sleep too well, but I waited until I had my shower before I texted Kristen to let her know I was awake and she and Kevin could come whenever. We talked about having breakfast together again, so other than that, I just stuck around my room until they came by to get me. In the interim, the noises I heard through the paper-thin wall, including word-for-word dialogue, after my neighbour had another visitor in the morning were such that I was able to determine I was likely staying next door to a prostitute. As much as I was unsure how to react to this realisation, I considered that it was probably at least less dangerous than staying next door to a drug dealer, which had been my initial thought. I suspect, though, that if I end up going back to visit again, next time I might be more likely to take up Kristen on her offer to sleep on her couch! By this point, I was glad I would be checking out soon.

I got a text from Kristen to let me know they were on their way, so headed downstairs to check out and then waited for Kevin & Kristen to arrive. We first headed over to a dog-sitting place to collect Kristen’s enormous dog Annabelle. I’ve never been a dog person, especially big dogs, but I’ve gotten more comfortable around them over the years. Anyway, though I’d seen photos of Annabelle online before, encountering in person for the first time, where she was jumping up on the counter before being let out, she certainly seemed bigger than I expected! She was very excited to see Kristen again, and I just shyly kept my distance. Kristen and Kevin seemed to think my behaviour was hilarious, and I couldn’t blame them really.

So we all packed ourselves back up in the car, with me sitting in the front now so Kristen could sit with Annabelle. Then we headed over to a supermarket to pick up some food for breakfast (bagels and cream cheese) and dinner (Kevin wanted to treat me to his special home made fried chicken). I also had to buy some cough drops and tissues while I was there, since my cold was clearly getting worse.

We spent the rest of the day hanging out at Kristen’s apartment, which was nice and relaxing after the day we’d had the day before. We had our bagels and cream cheese, and just sat around chatting most of the day away, as well as mucking around teasing each other online where our online friends could see how much fun we were having. I also made sure I shared the Australian TimTams I brought with me.

Jeremy also found me online at an appropriate time that he could call me on Skype, so I got to talk to him and the boys for a little while before he had to take Doyle to school. Then Kristen dug up various YouTube videos of roller coasters and other rides, including the Xcelerator, so we could compare and also share, thus others could see what the ride was like for us. After that, Kevin started making dinner.

I just want to say, Kevin is a great cook. Absolutely delicious dinner that made me want more. It was really great to be treated to his fried chicken, plus the sides of potatoes, gravy and green beans.

My flight wasn’t scheduled to depart LAX until around 11pm, so we still had more time to sit around and chat. I was getting pretty tired by then, though, so my talkative quotient lowered quite a bit. I still had fun listening to them chatter away, and in the car on the way to the airport, too. They parked the car so they could come into the airport with me, but there’s not really much to do in LAX until you get past security – I don’t know if that’s every terminal, or a United thing, but I suspect it’s the airport. I used the self-check-in again, and we stood around chatting for a bit longer until I decided I may as well go through the security and wait for my plane.

The overnight flight was good for two reasons – I wouldn’t have to worry about paying for accommodation, and I didn’t have to feel like I was wasting quality meet up time. I only wish I could’ve slept a bit better on the flight.

Monday February 20, 2012

My flight landed at Dulles airport around 6:30am or so. The first stop after getting off my plane was to the bathroom, so I could add some layers of clothes, knowing that the east was going to be far colder than the west (I had, at least, added tights at LAX, for a bit of extra warmth on the plane). Of course, by the time I actually got outside and looked at the bus timetable, I realised just how freezing it was. It didn’t seem to matter that I was rugged up in two jackets, a scarf, gloves, and hat… it was still too cold for me! And the bus timetable didn’t mention whether public holidays (of which today was one) followed the weekend schedule, or the weekday schedule. I soon found out that when the bus didn’t come in five minutes (weekday schedule), however, that I would have to wait an extra half hour. I stupidly didn’t decide to go back inside the airport to wait for twenty minutes before coming back. I’m not entirely sure why.

Anyway, eventually I caught the bus, and texted Jeremiah (whom I met back in September) to let him know I was on my way, so that he could be on his way to meet me in Alexandria by the time I got there, as he’d also be using public transport. I took the bus all the way to L’Enfant Plaza, even though I later discovered I could’ve got off at Rosslyn to get a metro train to Alexandria quicker, but that didn’t matter too much because the extra time meant that Jeremiah had been able to fetch me a hot chocolate while he waited for me. This was something much appreciated in the cold!

We wandered around the familiar area, up King St, until we found a place to stop for breakfast, since neither of us had eaten yet. I think I must’ve accidentally offended the waitress at one point because she seemed a bit annoyed at me afterwards, which made me glad to leave when we did.

Next we headed up towards my hotel, which was the same one I stayed at last time, so I’d have somewhere to dump my bag before I was allowed to check-in. I’d sort of hoped they’d let me check-in early, but no luck there. So I dropped my bag off, and we headed across the street to Starbucks, wherein Jeremiah discovered there was going to be a Presidents Day parade nearby in a short time. It seemed like a good way to spend the hours before I could check-in, so Jeremiah finished off his coffee and we headed down to that part of Alexandria to wait for the parade to start.

Before the parade started, there were various folks wandering around telling people to register to vote and such. Then there was a running race, for whatever reason. We took a quick break and headed into the town hall, where I perused some art children at local schools made for Martin Luther King Jr Day, and then headed back to the main parade area. We waited on the corner and listened to the announcers telling us how it was more about George Washington’s Birthday than honouring the other presidents.

Then the parade started. Various government employees passed us by, children’s groups like bands and such… it was very much a celebration of the community, as well as AMERICA and its GUNS. There was the unfortunate aspect where they kind of celebrated the losing side of the civil war, too. We picked up a hotdog set each from a vendor who was selling them on the same corner we watched from so we could have lunch while watching the parade. Once we’d decided we’d had enough, we followed the rest of the parade backwards until the end, before heading back to my hotel so I could check-in finally. Plus, I kind of needed a nap after not sleeping so well on the plane. I was most amused when given my room number because it turned out I’d be staying in the exact same room I stayed in last year.

After I woke up, I believe I got the chance to video skype with Jeremy and Leo after they’d taken Doyle to school. Jeremiah was kind enough to let me borrow his computer for that.

When I got off the call with Jeremy, Jeremiah and I hung out chatting for a while, until it got pretty late that we realised we should probably get some dinner. We headed back out to King St and went to the only place I could find that was open late enough to still serve us. This meant we ended up with Mexican, but I didn’t complain because I love Mexican food. It was a good meal, even if the service was a tad slow.

And that’s pretty much the end of the day, though I guess I didn’t sleep so well.

Tuesday February 21, 2012

I was up far too early, what with jetlag and such, so after heading downstairs for breakfast, I came back up to my room for a nap, making sure I was rested enough to enjoy my plans with Jeremiah for the day.

Jeremiah and I took the metro into Washington, DC around lunch time, stopping at the station nearest to the Occupy Washington camp, since he knew I had been following the Occupy movement and was curious about seeing it first hand. Unfortunately the camp was nowhere near as full as the last photos I’d seen of it online, so I guess they’d ended up being partially evicted. There were still a bunch of tents around, including a couple of libraries, but there didn’t even seem to be people in many of the tents. We didn’t stick around here too long, and so started heading toward the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, which was one of the main reasons I wanted to come back to Washington again so soon.

We stopped along the way to grab some lunch, and I picked up a soup and hot chocolate simply because it was still freezing cold by my standards, and I needed something else to keep me warm.

Then we set off toward the museum again, in the direction of Jeremiah trying to find Ford Theatre to show me where President Lincoln was assassinated… but unfortunately we ended up walking down the wrong street. Oh well! We didn’t bother going back because I was more keen to get through the museum, and we had another place I wanted to get to by 6, so we didn’t really have that much time anyway.

My reason for wanting to return to the Natural History Museum was entirely personal. When I was last in Washington, visiting a few significant sights that I had previously seen with my mum brought back a lot of emotion and memories for me. However, when I went to the Air & Space Museum dressed as my pirate character, it hadn’t had the same effect. I reasoned that it was perhaps because I wasn’t there as myself, and they’d changed the displays around a bit. I have photos from when I was at the Natural History Museum as a kid, so I specifically remembered a taxidermied tiger, and visiting the gem stones, and in particular the Hope diamond. These were the things I wanted to make sure I saw again on this trip.

We started off with the taxidermied animals. Like the Air and Space Museum, this section had been completely rearranged – I found the tiger in question, but it was now at a great height so that you could no longer stand directly in front of it and pretend it was about to pounce on you (like my siblings and I did in the photo I have from when we were kids). The room was also much brighter. Still, looking at the stuffed animals is one of my favourite things to do at natural history museums (even more so when I’m taking Doyle). The animals at this museum were often moved into amusing positions for the way they were displayed, too. Unfortunately I didn’t get too many photos of them, but the ones I did take amuse me. The giraffe bending down to drink from a waterhole, however, just looked wrong!

Following that, we headed upstairs to the Hope Diamond and gem stones. I took a lot more photos here. They have some of the most incredible gems from all over the world, of varying sizes, in this museum. It was nice to get to go through it again.

That’s all we really had time to see before heading on to the next place. I’d been relating to Jeremiah how much I enjoy going to karaoke boxes with Jeremy in Malaysia, as well as playing Singstar, and so I thought it would be fun to take Jeremiah to a place like that, too. He didn’t believe karaoke boxes (ie, places where you can hire rooms to sing karaoke in, rather than embarrass yourself in front of people you don’t know) existed in the US, but I managed to find one when I did a search online before I left. It was a fair distance from anywhere, including metro stops, but of course I insisted. We had to get the metro all the way up to U Street (from roughly D Street, if you feel like working out how many alphabet blocks that is), and then walk a bunch more blocks (stopping at a pharmacy, so we could get water… and I made Jeremiah ask about what might help my sore, raw nose. We were told vaseline, so I got some petroleum jelly as well), but we still managed to get to our destination just after 6pm. I wanted to get a couple of hours of singing in, and their cheap hours were between 5-8pm.

Despite the fact my cold was now horrendous, when I used the petroleum jelly on my nose, it really cleared things up for me. I think it probably improved my voice at least a little bit, though I’m sure I still sounded terrible. It was a lot of fun, though. Even Jeremiah thought it was more fun than he expected it to be.

We finished at a bit after 8, and hadn’t eaten yet, so we decided to try and find somewhere decent to eat dinner on the way back to the metro. We ended up stopping at a pizza place. I had wanted to just order a pizza to share, but Jeremiah thought that would be too much… so he opted to order pizza by the slice. Bad idea! The “slices” were so enormous, they were probably the size of an entire pizza anyway! And Jeremiah had ordered two for himself. Understandably, we were unable to finish it all.

By the end of that, it was certainly about bed time, so we headed back to the metro, and took that back to Alexandria.

Wednesday February 22, 2012

I managed to sleep in a bit later today, which meant a later breakfast than expected, and… discovering I’d gotten the time difference mixed up with Jeremy, so he thought I’d be skyping with him earlier than I did! I still got to skype with him, but Leo and Doyle had already gone to bed by then. I also had to wait for Jeremy to get home after dinner. I felt really badly making that mistake, but understood why I did it – I was still thinking of the 13 hour time difference as if I was in Malaysia. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d gone to Washington during daylight savings time!

I think I ended up having another nap after that, though for not quite as long as the previous day. Since we didn’t get through all of the Natural History Museum the day before, Jeremiah headed back to the Smithsonian area with the aim of seeing a couple other sections. When we got off the metro, though, we ended up at the Smithsonian castle first, yet there was little to see inside. We exited out the back and had a look at the nice garden, as well as having the chance to take a decent photo of the castle without worrying about how the sun made it look dark.

Then we discovered there are actually museums underground on that side of the castle! So we went downstairs to the Arthur M Sackler Gallery, where we went and had a look at their temporary exhibit on Persian artefacts. The other part of the museum was on Asian art and, given I live in Asia, I figured it wouldn’t be much different from what I often get to see when I travel around the region in which I live.

So then we headed back upstairs and finally back to the Natural History Museum, to check out the exhibit on dinosaur fossils. The museum cafeteria was around here, too, and since we hadn’t had lunch, we stopped for an afternoon tea snack. Then we finished looking at the dinosaurs, and had a look at their deep sea exhibit, which was something Jeremiah was keen on.

When I’d checked in on Facebook to mention I was at the castle, Sean (from Hawaii) said I should go to the Museum of the American Indian, which was something I’d been thinking about doing anyway, so since we still had a bit of time before the museums closed, that’s where we went next. I was amused once again at my amazing sense of direction, and the fact I knew the museum was on the other side of the Air and Space museum, and didn’t even need a map to figure out how to get there. Jeremiah thought it was in the complete opposite direction, and he lives out this way!

The security at this museum is ridiculously tight compared to all the other Smithsonian places I’ve been to. We had to wait in line for ages, and I felt we were under a lot more scrutiny. I couldn’t even understand why. So that sort of limited the amount of time we had left for the museum. We only had enough time to wander around the top floor. Once we’d finished with the exhibits, I was getting tired again and needed to sit down and rest a while anyway. So we sat on a bench for a while, where we just chatted until the museum closing. I guess I’ll just have to go back another time to see the rest of the museum. I liked that they had exhibits on the various tribal groups and explained the areas they’re from.

Then we got the metro back to Alexandria, and went for the early dinner (for once!) at the Asian restaurant we went to last time I was in town. It was super busy, though, so the service for the sushi was particularly slow (and this was all Jeremiah ordered to eat!) So I sat there a while munching down on my deep fried crab dumplings, which Jeremiah didn’t want to share. We also seemed to end up with the sushi that was meant to go to the couple sitting next to us (who were very upset at how long they had to wait and not get their sushi – we didn’t realise it was theirs until Jeremiah’s other sushi arrived and they’d already left!)

After dinner, though, I was well and truly exhausted, so I went back to the hotel and completely zonked out. I later had some trouble sleeping throughout the night, but I think the fact I had my alarm set for before 5:30am had something to do with that.

Thursday February 23, 2012

Given how early I had to be up for even just a taxi ride to Dulles airport, for my 9am flight, I didn’t fancy trying to navigate the public transport to get there, even though it would have been far cheaper for me. As it was, I had to wait a while for the reception clerk at my hotel to get hold of a taxi service to send someone out. But I still had one arrive a bit after 6am, and arrived with plenty of time. I conveniently used my card in the taxi so I didn’t have to pay cash… the machine even asked me how much I wanted to tip! So I was glad for the ease of that process.

After checking in for both of my flights, I headed over to Cinnabon to grab some breakfast, since I had to leave too early to be able to take advantage of the free hotel breakfast. I spent some time mucking around on the Internet while I was there, before heading down to the security.

I mainly tried to sleep on my flight back to LAX, since I hadn’t slept well the night before. I only had about an hour between flights at LAX, too, but I thankfully didn’t have to worry about changing terminals, or even which section of the terminal I was in! My connecting flight’s gate was only two gates away from the one I arrived at. Still, I did walk a bit further than that because I wanted to get something to eat for lunch. After all, I didn’t really fancy having to pay for the boring food United offered on their flights. Since I didn’t have much time, though, I sadly gave in and bought something quick from McDonald’s (I’m really not a fan of the place and try to avoid it whenever possible).

While waiting at the gate, I sent R Kevin a text to let him know my flight was scheduled to depart on time, since I was expecting him to pick me up from the airport in Honolulu. Of course, by the time I was on the plane and had turned my phone entirely off (not just on airplane mode), we were told we would be delayed somewhat… and then by the time I got around to turning my phone back on to let R Kevin know, we were told to turn off all electronics again!

This, at least, didn’t affect the arrival in Honolulu. We only arrived a little bit after we were scheduled to, and I wasn’t expecting R Kevin to arrive until at least 6pm anyway, since he’d said he had to stay back at work until 5:30pm. I texted him once I did finally land to let him know I was there, and he let me know he was able to leave work earlier, but he still ended up arriving about when we originally expected him to because of the traffic.

Since R Kevin had been feeling unwell, he proceeded to tell me about the horrible, disgusting sores in his mouth, which were part of the reason he’d have to have a root canal on Monday (the dentist wanted him to do it sooner, but he didn’t want to risk being able to perform for the Oil in the Alley show on Friday night!) I think he might’ve just enjoyed grossing me out so much by going into so much detail with how bad his mouth sores were, so that I wouldn’t be too disappointed he was only able to drop me back at my hotel so he could go home and sleep off his illness.

When getting my room key at the hotel, I was informed that the entire building I was staying in was without water! This did not exactly please me, considering I’d been flying all day and sort of wanted a shower, but I lived with hope the water would be restored sometime before I’d have to film for Oil in the Alley so I at least didn’t stink at the show. After dropping my stuff into my room, I headed out to the nearby corner store and picked up a wrap and a large bottle of water for my dinner, then headed back to the hotel lobby to catch up on Internet stuff and let people know I was safe and back in Honolulu. I made a comment on Facebook about the water, and R Kevin’s solution to the shower problem was to go to the nearest beach and use their showers… yeah, I don’t think so!

Honolulu is 5 hours behind the Eastern US winter timezone, so before long, I ended up back in my room, crashing out from exhaustion again. I do recall waking up again around 1:30am and discovering the water had been restored. This pleased me mostly because it meant I’d be able to flush the toilet!

Friday February 24, 2012

I had a pretty easy morning, mainly occupying my time with the free breakfast, having a shower, and using the Internet some more. R Kevin came by around 11:30am so we could have lunch together, though his lunch entirely consisted of a large juice drink. He took me to the food court at Ala Moana shopping centre, which is the place Jeremy took me and the boys to and we tried a bunch of Hawaiian foods last time I was in Honolulu. This time I went to a Chinese place and got what I usually ordered from the refectory at my former university (rice, noodles and sweet and sour pork). R Kevin didn’t have much time for his lunch break, due to a scheduled meeting at his workplace, but it still seemed like we talked about a bunch of things in that time.

He dropped me back at my hotel after that, and I debated how to spend the rest of the afternoon. Since Jeremy had requested I buy him a new iPhone while I was in the US (he still had an original model iPhone because I hadn’t let him upgrade sooner, but that was getting on to over 4 years old!) and I wasn’t sure how much more time I’d have to myself, I walked out to the Waikiki shopping area, sure that I remembered where the Apple store was that we went to last time.

After picking up the iPhone, I walked across the street to the markets, and picked up some souvenir Hawaiian books to bring home for my boys (two of them were children books, and another was about the Hawaiian language). I also got myself some earrings from another place. As I was walking back to my hotel, I reflected on how friendly everyone seems in Honolulu, in particular the store clerks, and was suddenly struck with an overwhelming feeling that I had missed Honolulu more than I could have imagined. Certainly when I’d been home, or elsewhere, in the last year and three months, I don’t even remember thinking about desperately wanting to be back there. It may have occurred in the first few months, but by the time I was actually back there, I had forgotten how much I wanted to go back. Of course, every time I think about how much I love Honolulu, I also think about how I know I could never actually live there, if that even became an option. It’s fine to visit, but given my insatiable desire for travel, and the great expense of travelling anywhere from Honolulu, coupled with the high living expenses… it just wouldn’t be feasible for me to live there and still get to travel as much as I do now. Not that there would’ve been any likely reason for us to move there in the first place, but I tend to think about such things when I visit other places I fall in love with. For example, New York would at least be more likely to have various job opportunities for Jeremy, and we both like New York. We’re not looking at relocating away from Malaysia for some time yet, but I don’t expect us to live here indefinitely, so thinking about where else I might like to live is something that crosses my mind from time to time.

Once back at the hotel, I started getting ready for the Oil in the Alley show I’d be filming that night. Sean had advertised it as an 80s night and told people to dress up in 80s fashion, so I had intentionally brought out some ridiculous 80s clothes I thought I’d wear, and hoped not to embarrass myself in the process. The most 80s aspects of my outfit were probably the pastel tights, and the sideways ponytail.

While I waited for R Kevin to arrive, I waited in the outfit, with all my equipment, in the lobby area. At pretty much the time of day where everyone who was staying in the entire building seemed to be coming and going. I felt mortified, but pretended not to realise how tragic I looked to all the other guests. Eventually he and his wife arrived, and R’s reception of my outfit made me feel at least a little better. I only hoped the rest of the audience would be just as terribly dressed as I was.

Of course, they weren’t. But hey! Sean and R liked it, and I was really only there to please them anyway (not like that, get your mind out of the gutter!), what with being their fangirl and filming for them again. I’m so shy, though, so I kind of followed them down the street to watch them warm up a bit, and I’m not sure they actually wanted me to do that. Random people wandered past who happened to know them, or at least Sean… one of which amused me by asking if I was Sean’s daughter. I was amused mainly because his daughters are nearly 20 years younger than I am… but then I later learned that Sean is 20 years older than me, so it was certainly at least plausible! And I probably looked younger than my age with the sideways ponytail and ridiculous makeup anyway. I did feel a little bit like a groupie/hanger on just standing there with them while they warmed up, though, so eventually I got my camera out and started filming bits and pieces on the street, since Sean asked me to film some things that would help set the scene for the video anyway.

Eventually the previous act finished their set, and we were allowed upstairs in the venue (The Dragon Upstairs) to start setting up. I had brought two cameras and a tripod with me specifically for this event, so I set up my small camera to capture the wide shot on the tripod, and used my large, more professional camera to take on shooting the types of shots Jeff Orig shot on the last music video I filmed with them. That is, handheld, more close ups of various instruments and faces and so forth. Having watched Jeff’s footage in the editing room last time around really helped me figure out more of the types of shots I should be filming this time. Of course, having to pay more attention to what I was capturing, including manual zoom, looking through the lens viewfinder (rather than using the LCD screen), and just balancing the heavy camera in my arms meant I wasn’t really paying attention to the lyrics of the songs, or enjoying the show anywhere near as much as I would be if I was a mere audience member. I still enjoyed the filming, but I think next time I’m in the vicinity of Oil in the Alley, I’m going to have to just watch the show and decline filming. As much as I enjoy working with them, I would like to have the opportunity to just be a fan, and maybe prompt one of their song titles (in case I haven’t been clear on this in this entry, Oil in the Alley are an improv rock group, and they improvise every song from scratch, using titles they come up with by exchanging banter with the audience).

As a special treat for the night, Oil in the Alley also invited their friend, Miss Fortune, a burlesque dancer, to perform at the end of each set. The other thing to note about this show is that, since the last time I was in Honolulu, Sean and R Kevin added a drummer (Eric Folk) and a bass guitarist (Bri Smith) to their ensemble. So the show sounded considerably more like an actual rock group, rather than a pair of singers with a guitar.

After their show, I stayed back with Sean while another act playing 80s cover music performed, until he was ready to pack up his equipment and head back. I think I didn’t end up getting to sleep until around 2am. That was such a late night!

Saturday February 25, 2012

I was woken up far too early this morning due to some hammering or something like that going on in the next room, around 7am. I was not especially happy about this, given the time I went to bed. But since I couldn’t sleep, I went downstairs for breakfast.

The plans I had for the day were only really tentative. R Kevin had told me about there being some comedy workshops I could do downtown, the first of which started at 10am. But whether he was able to give me a ride to that one or not would depend on whether we could be awake in time. I sent him a message once I got back to my room to see how he was doing, and he let me know he needed to sleep longer. With that in mind, and the hammering over now, I decided to go back to sleep too. I didn’t wake up again until about the time R Kevin messaged me to let me know what the next plan was.

So, eventually around 11:30am, R picked me up, because the other workshop was scheduled for 12:30pm. On our way there, I realised that I’d forgotten to do anything about lunch, so he gave me a choice of drive-thru places, and I ended up going for Burger King just because I wouldn’t have to think about the menu. R himself was undecided about whether or not he would do the workshop, but either way, he said he’d come back after finding somewhere to park. He dropped me off at the ARTS, which is one of the venues I’ve heard of a lot due to the amount of improv they seem to have there, including as part of their improv festival.

I was kind of shy at first, because I hadn’t really met anyone there before. I just sort of hung around at the front, waiting for R to come back. Before he did though, someone came out to talk to me and said I could go inside where the workshop would be. That happened to be Alissa Joy Lee, whom I’d heard of through Facebook due to her being part of On the Spot, who are an improv group I’d really like to see perform someday. Anyway, it turned out she’d heard of me too, as she asked if I was R Kevin’s friend, and she asked if R had yet given me the t-shirt I was owed for donating to Improvaganza the previous year (he hadn’t). After that discussion with her, and also Garrick Paikai (who runs the festival with R Kevin, and is also part of On the Spot), I felt a little more at ease and welcome.

The workshop was called “Naked Comedy Lab” and was led by Deanna Fleysher, who was visiting from LA as the director of a show called “Red Bastard.” The workshop started out with a couple of games, but the main content had everyone individually, one at a time, go behind a screen, put on a hat and clown nose, then come out in front of the rest of the group. Then, without talking, communicate first with Deanna (responding to questions she voiced), and then making eye contact with everyone else in the group, as if to have a voiceless conversation with everyone else on their own. Watching how difficult this task seemed to be for a good portion of the group kind of petrified me, though there were other people, like Scott Hanada, and Cindy Ramirez, who seemed to take everything in their stride.

It was really cool watching the whole process, but of course, since I was petrified, I ended up being the last one to have my turn. And I ended up being one of the people who took it in their stride. It’s really hard to capture with words how much fun, and how incredible the whole experience was. I hadn’t even performed stand up comedy in about two years, and suddenly I was back performing (in a way), albeit in a safe group of only about 12 people, and eliciting laughs out of everyone. I’d come out mostly relaxed and peaceful, deciding to just go where things took me. It didn’t take long for Deanna to get me in the space it took others longer to get to, and even my responses to her questions seemed to make people laugh. When I went around the room to have my little conversations with everyone, I laughed a lot, which in turn made them laugh back. And everyone else seemed to respond to my laughter at the others. I remember that by the time I got to R Kevin, I was laughing so hard (well, he seemed to be pulling a funny face at me, too) that I kept lifting my leg up and looking away.

After the conversation part of the process, Deanna liked to have us sort of mime an activity or hobby we’re good at. Since I’d come to Honolulu to film, I decided to mime operating a video camera. It took a little while for people to work out what I was even trying to do, but eventually Cindy got it. Deanna somehow turned that into suggesting I was a bit of a pervert, and from past improv workshops I’ve done, I’ve learned you’re supposed to just go with what you’re offered, so I fully went with it. I ended up being asked to swap the video camera for a photography one, and acting out being proud of my filthy perversion. Deanna even asked me to get the other participants to do sort of sexy poses for me to photograph, and I still can’t believe some of the things I made them do. It was just an amazing feeling to be that in the moment, and getting laughs for things I hadn’t even planned to do. I was asked if I had any other interests, so I sort of did my pirate thing at the end, but the sexy photography got the best response, so that’s what I finished on, to more laughter.

After the workshop, a few people said that I really should also go see the Red Bastard show that night, but I was unsure since R had something else he found out he had to go to at the last minute and wouldn’t be able to give me a ride. R told me that after the workshop, I’d probably be able to get a ride from anyone else there (though I’m not sure if he was just flattering me), but by the time I decided I’d go to the show, most people had already left. But we worked out it would be possible for me to come by bus anyway. I just hoped R would be able to come late and give me a ride back to my hotel after. I could have just stayed in the area (since the show was also at the ARTS), but I wanted to get back to my hotel to have a chance to freshen up and find some dinner. The workshop had also run over, so even though R had intended to give me the aforementioned Improvaganza t-shirt when he dropped me back, he ended up not having time to.

Meanwhile, Sean had sent me a message on Facebook to let me know the sound he’d tried to record for the show had not actually worked, and he needed me to watch over my footage to see if any of my sound was useable, and if so, which of the songs he mentioned was the best one for us to turn into the music video. So, after freshening up, I quickly went through his selected songs, and sent him a message back to let him know the best song was the last song they did on the night, “He Makes You Laugh.”

At some point, I also picked up a sandwich for dinner, which I ate in my room. I think I also called and left a message with Sean to see if it would be possible for him to take me to Pearl Harbor the following day, since I would be spending the day with him for the video shoot anyway, and I hadn’t managed to fit it in the rest of the time I was in Honolulu. Pearl Harbor was the one thing I wanted to do most in terms of being a tourist.

Then around 7pm, I walked down to the Ala Moana Center to find a bus – there were actually several bus numbers going in the direction I was headed, and would stop at the Aloha Tower, which is where I was told to get off. And since the buses seemed to come so infrequently, I ended up taking a number I wasn’t familiar with. Still, I got off when they announced Aloha Tower, and eventually worked my way over to the street the ARTS was on, and found my way there.

Scott (from the workshop, who is also the guy who introduces Oil in the Alley at their shows) was manning the ticket counter, so after I got my ticket, I talked to him for a while about the workshop, and the fact there’s only one improv group in Malaysia that I’m aware of. He said I was really good in the workshop, and when I told him I hadn’t even performed stand up in two years, and have barely any improv experience, he was surprised. He told me I was a natural, so I felt incredibly flattered by that, especially since, not only did I enjoy him in the workshop, but I had seen him perform improv last time I was in Hawaii and I enjoyed him then as well. It’s always nice receiving compliments from those whose work you respect.

After I took my seat for the show, I messaged back and forth with R Kevin to find out if he was going to be able to make it (he wasn’t), and then how I’d be able to get back to my hotel, since I didn’t fancy finding out if the buses still ran that late. Since I’m shy, he asked (by text, I presume) Garrick and Alissa if they could give me a ride, so it was nice that that got sorted out. Then Deanna came over to talk with me for a while about how the workshop went and how I enjoyed it. I sort of realised that probably the reason it seemed so much easier for me than some of the other people there is the fact I am shy and don’t really know how to talk to people I don’t know well in social settings. Talking like that takes me out of my comfort zone. I didn’t have to talk in the workshop, which seemed to make it a lot easier for me.

On that note, On the Spot do a show called Hush, which I’ve seen them describe as silent movie improv. I’ve not seen any of those shows, even online, though I believe this was the show they took to the Seattle Improv Festival the previous weekend, which earned them a standing ovation and lots of applause. I would absolutely love to see this show, especially after doing Deanna’s workshop.

Then it was time for the show to start. It was a sold out performance. I don’t really know how to describe Red Bastard because it was unlike any other comedy show I’ve seen before. It was challenging, interactive, and bizarre. It made me think a lot about things that tend to cross my mind a lot, and how I see the world. Other than that, I don’t really want to give away too much of the show, just in case someone wanting to see the show should happen across this post. I think it was better that I didn’t know what to expect going in.

By the end of the show, I was sitting next to Garrick and Alissa (we had to change seats a few times), which made it easy for them to bring up giving me a ride afterwards. We stayed back after the show and talked to Deanna again, and met the performer of Red Bastard, Eric Davis.

When we headed off, rather than taking me straight back to my hotel, Garrick and Alissa decided to take me to another hotel, where the Mac 24/7 restaurant is – famous for their “Elvis” pancake. It was cool getting to go out with them afterwards, and even though I’m terribly shy, since I’ve followed some of the things they’ve done via FB, I found there was a lot of improv stuff we could talk about. One of the shows they did last year was a Wes Anderson film style of improv show. As a bit of a Wes Anderson film fan, that was one show I was terribly sad to have missed seeing due to not living in Hawaii. So it was cool to get to talk to them about that. We also talked a bit about the workshop, and Garrick told me he would pay to watch me in a show where all I did was laugh. I don’t know how sustainable something like that could be, but the compliment totally made me want to come back to Hawaii and try it. I had a lot of fun, and they made me feel very welcome. Also, Garrick ordered the giant Elvis pancake because he decided he wanted to show off… it was so big, he didn’t even get a quarter of the way through it. But I got to take some funny photos of that, and he got to take the rest of it home with him. Oh, I also told them about my pirate character, and Alissa seemed especially interested in that.

It was a bit after midnight by the time I got back to my room, so yet another late night!

Sunday February 26, 2012

I didn’t know until I got up and checked Facebook that morning, but Sean had let me know he would take me to Pearl Harbor with his daughters. He’d originally said 9:30am pick up, but it was probably closer to 10:00am. When we got there, the parking was pretty full, but we got really lucky. They don’t let you take bags into the memorial area, so I had to leave pretty much everything in Sean’s car, and just took my phone in so I could take photos.

Sean picked us up our free tickets for the 12:30pm tour, and then we checked out their eating facilities – which was a lot to be desired, so Sean decided he’d have to take us out of the area to get lunch at around 11:30am to make sure we’d still be back in time for the tour. Next we had a look around the “book shop” (it was more like a gift store) because that’s what one of his daughters wanted to do first. Then we went through the first museum about the war. It was mostly filled with things I’d learned about at the US Army museum on the last trip, but it was good to have the refresher history lesson, and in particular with the context of the location where we were.

After that, it was time for us to head out to get lunch. Since Sean works in the area, he knew exactly where to find a McDonald’s, and given the amount of time we had, that was certainly our best bet for getting back on time (and finding a parking space again!) Of course, we got really lucky when we got back to Pearl Harbor, as someone was just pulling out of their parking bay, which we could pull into straight away. We had plenty of time to spare!

We didn’t have to wait too long for the start of the tour, however. And then we were let into the theatre to watch a short film about the bombing at Pearl Harbor. It was a very engaging documentary, and informative. I seem to take in information better through films like this, much as I also enjoy the museums. I’m a slow reader, so it takes me longer to get the information that way. After the film, we headed out onto a boat, which took us to the USS Arizona Memorial. This structure, I tend to think looks a bit like a white telephone, but it’s more like a bridge that sits over the top of the sunken USS Arizona, which is the grave site for more than 1,000 sailors. Being there was quite a sombre and solemn experience, especially seeing all the names of those who died listed in the far room of the structure. And seeing the drops of oil leaking from the ship. You can also still see the very top of the USS Arizona still above the surface, and some of it a little below the surface of the water. I was very much blown away by the magnitude of this historic event, just by being there.

After the boat ride back to land, we took in the second museum, and then walked down to get a closer look at the USS Bowfin submarine. I realised that, even though I had initially wanted to go to Pearl Harbor with R, going with Sean and his daughters was probably better, since Sean hadn’t taken them before. It ended up being a really good experience for them, and they seemed quite engaged. As we left, Sean quizzed his girls on things we read and heard about as part of our time there. Considering I didn’t learn anything about World War II until I hit high school, and Sean’s daughters are younger than that, I’ve got to say they’d know more about the war than I did at their age!

We headed over to Sean’s family home after that, so Sean and I could go over the video footage I had from “He Makes You Laugh.” He was glad to have the chance to see it, and hear that the audio I had wasn’t too bad at all. He also gave me the pirate cutlass I had ordered from Amazon and had him look after for me until I got there. And it was such a cool sword! Apparently his daughters had thought it was awesome, too.

Whilst there, I also got to meet his wife, Lurana, better this time. I had only met her briefly on the last trip before filming the Oil in the Alley show. This time, Sean had cast her in the music video to play the woman Sean and R sing about in the song. Sean also told me about the ideas he had for the actual video, and what we’d be filming that evening, and I liked his ideas so I was happy to go along with them.

On our way to our first location of the shoot, we picked up dinner at Subway, which we ate at our location. It was a little rainy when we arrived, but luckily it cleared up well before we finished the shoot. It was a really lovely coastal location, with large grey rocks instead of a beach. The windy weather actually worked really well with giving us waves, even if the visibility of them may not end up in the finished product. It still looked really cool. This kind of location is probably not somewhere tourists would go, which is one reason I’m glad I know locals. Of course, as Sean said, it was very close to a homeless camp… and I wasn’t especially pleased by the lack of doors on the toilets!

Sean had asked a friend, Meilin, to be part of the shoot at this location. She’s a fire dancer, so we got some really cool shots with her fire dancing around Sean and Lurana (in separate shots). Also, as with the last video shoot on Round Top, we ended up with more random people watching what we were doing. I think they were more interested in Meilin’s fire dancing than the music video/band aspect, though!

Our next stop was a hotel where the drummer Eric Folk was playing with another group so we could film some scenes with him. Then we went to the Sheraton to film some scenes with just Sean and Lurana at a restaurant there. Since I had to film them making out, I absolutely felt like the pervert Deanna had turned me into in the previous day’s workshop! At least I finally got the chance to have Sean sign my Oil in the Alley CD while we were here, too.

If R and Bri hadn’t been busy, we probably would’ve filmed some things with them as well, but that was not to be. Sean said they would film those scenes separately after I left, and get the footage to me another way.

After the shoot, Sean and Lurana took me back to my hotel. On the way there, I talked a bit about the novels I’m working on, and Sean sounded interested in reading them, so that made me happy.

Monday February 27, 2012

Since I’d brought my pirate costume all the way to Hawaii with me, and had yet had the chance to use it… and at Sean’s extra encouragement the previous day, now that I had my sword, I decided to spend my morning after breakfast dressing up as Jaclyn and filming some stuff with her in my hotel room.

As I was finishing up, R sent me a text to let me know he was done with his root canal and find out if I was free. Since I was still completely in costume, and he needed to give his wife the car by 11:30am, I suggested he just come by my hotel, so I didn’t have to leave it in costume! When he came by, I finally got my Improvaganza t-shirt, and had him sign my Oil in the Alley CD, as well as had him take some photos of me as Jaclyn now that I had the sword.

Of course, since today was my last day in Honolulu, I had to check out by noon. So after R left, I finished packing up everything, and made it to reception pretty much right on noon. I had the guy at reception order me a shuttle to the airport to collect me at 3pm, for my 6pm flight, and left my bags in their locked room while I just mucked around on the Internet and grabbed some lunch for the rest of the time I had left.

When I checked in at the airport, I had to tell the lady that I had a sword in my box (it was too big to fit in my checked bag), but that seemed to not be a problem at all. She simply wrote on the bag tag what was inside. Then going through the airport security afterwards was an absolute pain, since not only did I have to remove my usual computer and liquids from my bag, and various articles of clothing from my person, but they also had signs up to remove video cameras that use tapes – and I had two of them carefully packed in my backpack. Removing them and then repacking the bag afterwards was a bit of a nightmare. But at least I had plenty of time before my flight was scheduled to depart.

I was fortunate enough to get a window seat right at the front of the economy class for my flight to Tokyo. And given the time of day for my flight, and the fact we were headed west, I got an amazing extended sunset over the clouds. The clouds in particular were formed so beautifully.

After the sun went down, I tried to get as much sleep as I could, since I knew I’d be staying overnight at Haneda airport, and there wasn’t really going to be anywhere comfortable for me to sleep there either. But there was no point getting a hotel since the departure time of my flight in the morning was around 6:30am. So rest, and eat when food was served, was about all I did on the plane. At least I had a nice amount of leg room due to being at the front of economy.

Wednesday February 29

So, given the 19 hour time difference between Honolulu and Tokyo, I almost completely skipped the 28th of February. I did arrive on the 28th, but with only about an hour and a half or two hours to go for the day, so it’s not really worth separating the days out for the sake of this blog post. My check-in clerk in Honolulu had issued me boarding passes for my subsequent flights, which made it easy for me to go through the transfer security upon my arrival in Tokyo. I didn’t realise this immediately, but the transfer security people issue you with a ticket that even gives you your next departure gate number – yes, even 8 hours in advance! This was highly convenient and made it easy for me to wait by my gate shortly after.

Haneda has free wifi Internet, and although it took me a while to figure out that, haha, there was an English version of the registration/login page in order to use it, I did eventually get access to the Internet. I didn’t really fancy trying to sleep too much, even after I was the last passenger who appeared to be left in the building, after all the evening flights departed. Luckily I had company from Jeremy and Jeremiah via skype for a good portion of that time. Once Jeremiah had to go, though, I eventually got closer to my gate, and laid down on the floor for a little while, until other passengers started arriving.

When there were employees at the gate, I went up to the counter to find out if they needed to re-issue my boarding passes, since I was now flying a different airline, and they did. Then it wasn’t too much longer until my flight to Singapore.

Singapore Airlines is actually one of my favourite airlines due to the multimedia system they provide their passengers. Despite the fact I’d already watched the better part of three films on my flight to Tokyo, and the same selection of movies were available on my way home, I still found more I wanted to see. I started off by watching the end of The Big Year, which I watched the majority of on my flight from Singapore to Tokyo. Then, despite my sleepiness, I also watched New Year’s Eve, and Drive (another Ryan Gosling film!) which were both films I’d wanted to see at the cinema but hadn’t been able to.

After the movies, I slept as much as I could for the remainder of the flight. When I got to Changi airport, I first headed to the terminal I’d be leaving from, and then straight to the information counter to see about collecting more Changi dollars for my flight, and an Internet login. Since I hadn’t used my $20 the last time, I ended up with $40 to spend at the airport. I looked through a few stores, but ended up deciding to use it all on books, and going a little over that. I ended up with a couple children’s books for Doyle, and a couple books for myself.

Then it was almost time for my flight back home to KL, so I headed much closer to the gate, which was good since it was so far away! The flight home was only about 40 minutes, so I just rested some more.

At KLIA, for once, the expat lane was open in immigration! That is the only time I have ever seen the expat lane available to use at KLIA and LCCT combined. But I was pleased, because it meant I knew exactly which lane to use for once, and it didn’t take too long go get through immigration.

When I got to the baggage claim, I found my main bag easily, but my sword box was not there. I worried for a little while that it had been confiscated from me somewhere along the way, because I know swords aren’t allowed on some planes (I did check on the web sites of the airlines I was flying before I left, though, and it didn’t look like they didn’t accept them). And I had seen a sign at Langkawi airport saying swords weren’t allowed even in checked bags there, so I worried that might have been a Malaysia-wide restriction. However, the airport baggage people ended up going to the bulk baggage section and retrieving it for me. Thank goodness! I didn’t have to worry at all. I did, however, discover the box had been opened by US security back in Honolulu once I’d got home.

From there, it was an easy trek back to the KLIA Express, and Jeremy met me at KL Sentral. And home sweet home. I was utterly exhausted, so I slept well that night!

In case you’re wondering, I didn’t manage to finish reading Idol Meanderings while I was away, but I did once I got home. If you’re interested, I also reviewed it on Goodreads.

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Dominica has a strong interest in exploring diversity in media, seeing people subverting corporate control of creativity through crowdfunding and indie publishing, and spending as much time as she can travelling the world and discovering culture. This is what she most regularly blogs about. In her spare time, Dominica is primarily focused on long-form improv theatre, and writing and publishing speculative fiction. You can find links to some of her free and published stories and screenplays on her writing page, or check out her pirate time-travel novel Adrift. Though born and raised in Australia to American parents, Dominica lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between 2008-2014, until she moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. She also has a background in web programming, filmmaking, and stand-up comedy. For more information, check out her about page, or any of the specific pages about her various creative pursuits in the links at the top of the page.

2 Responses to USA, February 16-27 2012

  1. Frank Corless

    It took me two day of reading but I got through it all. Enjoyed my time doing it. Again thanks for sharing.

  2. Kaye

    Thanks for another great read Dom! I loved seeing the pictures this time. I also enjoyed the Smithsonian when we went to Washington. You certainly didn’t seem to get much sleep! Thanks for all the effort you put in to recording your travels

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