Honokohau Harbor, Hawaii

Honokohou Harbor, Hawaii

Because after spending all day on a road trip, there’s only one place to get a fresh marlin burger.

Royal Kona Luau Fire Dance

Because nothing says the holidays like…a Hawaiian luau with a fire dancer? I took this at the Royal Kona Resort a few weeks back. Happy New Year, folks.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Warmth, Or: Sunset In Kona, Hawaii

Sunset In Kona, Hawaii

This week’s challenge calls for something warm (definitely needed here right now!), and I immediately thought of this awesome sunset I saw during the Royal Kona Luau on the Big Island.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime, Or: Kihei Lifeguard House

Kihei Lifegaurd House

This week’s challenge is all about pictures taken at night. I don’t have many of them, but I remembered something I took on my phone during my last night on Maui…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sailing In An Aruban Sunset

Aruban Sailboat

I took this one evening at Eagle Beach, Aruba. The sunset was beautiful enough, but the silhouette of a sailboat made it even better.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Maui Silhouette

Maui Silhouette

A silhouetted vision of the shore by Kihei, Hawaii.

What Is The Speed of Dark?

What’s faster, light or dark? VSauce breaks it down.

Weekly Writing Challenge: Blog Your Block: The Hill After Sunset

It’s getting dark. It’ll be another half an hour before the sun sets below the Bay Area’s horizon, but it’s already vanished behind the hill of my neighborhood. A few remnants of daylight peek between the trees up the street, but it won’t last long. The streetlamp just beyond my driveway flickers to life, bathing a small circle of sidewalk in pale yellow. It’s not enough.

This will have to be quick.

I shuffle down the brick steps, swatting a cloud of gnats out of my way. The wooden railing on the stairs is chipped on one end, and there’s a fresh spiderweb on it. I wish our front walk could produce as many flowers as insects. The only things growing right now are small patch of wildflowers by the sidewalk. They’re tiny, but look beautiful close up. Most have shriveled in the last week or so; the heat hasn’t been kind. The weeds don’t seem to mind, though. Most of the pavement on this street is cracked or warped, and green leaves are sprouting everywhere. The breeze kicks in for a moment, and a plastic bag drifts down the sidewalk like a tumbleweed. I quickly grab and drop it into a nearby garbage can. Good thing pickup is tomorrow.

I turn left and stride up the hill at a steady pace. It’s an easy, familiar climb; if I’m home and have some free time on Sundays, I do 10-20 laps up and around it. This time is different, though; I’m doing this without the benefit of sunlight, and that makes a world of difference. I’ve written before about how dangerous my neighborhood is at night, and even now I’m mentally kicking myself for going out at this hour. No one else is out right now. All of the neighbors are home, but the shades are drawn and the porch lights are off. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that the buildings are all abandoned. When I was a child, I imagined houses as living creatures, with the windows and doors as eyes and mouths respectively. But now? Each of these Victorian-era behemoths stand dark and quiet, like massive tombs of a bygone civilization. Shadowy entryways, unkempt grounds, and unnatural stillness. Houses are reflections of our own mortality; some age with dignity and grandeur, and others rot and fade into obscurity.

A hundred years ago, this area used to be a high-end neighborhood. These sprawling, wonderfully lavish homes were a far cry from the relatively low-budget places built after the end of World War II. I’m not sure what happened in the last sixty years, but the decline has been evident. I’ve seen old reel footage from what this place used to look like in the 50s; it was still safe enough to have street parades without having to worry about drive-bys. What changed? Was it the influx of people who couldn’t afford to live in Oakland or San Francisco? Was it corruption? Poor planning? All of the above? Whatever it was, this place has been perpetually broke since the turn of the century. This side of town has borne the brunt of it; all the modern establishments are far off in the hills. The schools here have a 30% dropout rate, crime is common, and even Starbucks won’t dare come within three miles of this area. The old Main Street is just a couple of blocks away, but aside from the local tavern, most of its storefronts are abandoned. It’s not safe – both physically and financially – to have a business in an area like this.

I pass by a rusted pickup truck and look at a neighbor’s window. The shades are drawn, but the sound of baseball on TV barely filters through. A police siren fades off into the distance, and I quicken my pace. The night is still young, after all. The top of the hill is there in a few seconds, and I lean against a decorative rock wall. Three trees grew for decades on this corner, but now there are only two. About a month ago, one was toppled in a storm, cutting off the street from two directions and nearly flattening the stop sign. It took almost a week for all the wood to be chopped and cleared out, leaving only a gargantuan stump in its wake. As I stare and reminisce, a cacophony of barks and howls brings me back to the present. A neighbor across the street has three dobermans, all locked up behind high and thickly-veiled fences. No one can walk by that house without getting an earful of snarls and yaps.

Not wanting to be mistaken for a prowler, I make an about face and head for the alleyway that runs back down the hill. I spare a glance down the adjacent street and freeze. There’s a seedy drugstore and adult novelty shop on the far corner, illuminated by a single streetlight. I can see the silhouette of someone leaning against the building in the shadows. Could be waiting for an escort, could be getting high. Maybe both. No one just stands out there idly at this hour. Not long ago, a man was killed in broad daylight in the middle of the street here. Hoping that I wasn’t seen, I duck into the alley and start circling back to my neck of the woods. The areas back here are in even worse shape than the front. Faded green paint chips away from an abandoned house, and weeds have consumed a backyard and part of a chain link fence. A window was broken recently, but it was boarded up and left unfixed. There were wisterias blooming here months ago, but they’re long gone. As I pass by a thicket, I notice a trash bag, empty bottles, and a single, muddy shoe. Those weren’t there last week; a homeless person must have camped out. I take the time to inspect the back fences that connect our properties. The barricades and boarded sections are still undisturbed.

Good.

I practically jog the rest of the way down the hill and round the corner. Weathered sedans and jeeps roar by on the main drag, radios blaring and headlights already on. I pass by my block’s lone palm tree, a odd landmark that was originally planted sometime around 1900. If anything of this place will survive, it’ll be that. The few remaining blackberry bushes are still months away from producing anything, though. The wooden fence running alongside the pavement is starting to sag under its own weight; if the trees and shrubbery are removed, the entire thing will likely collapse. The paint has long faded into a murky, curdled white, peeling away one tiny strand at a time. It needs to be fixed. Everything needs to be fixed.

I make it back home and lock the door behind me, not looking back once. It’s time for dinner, and for some reason I really need some food and a Giants game right now. I just got back from my vacation this week; it’s time to settle in and return to the daily grind.

I can’t wait to leave this place again.

My Busy Evenings

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about being mellow. As in, how you unwind after a long, stressful day. The first thing I do is change into something more comfortable, like shorts and a shirt or pajamas. Not exactly the serious, aloof image I give out in public. I don’t have to impress anyone at home. Besides, it’s not like I’m having anyone over for dinner. I fix myself something something simple but filling, like a hamburger or sandwich. Maybe a salad, if I’ve got enough ingredients already chopped up. I’m usually too exhausted for anything fancy. If I’m home early enough, I head over to the television and get my Jeopardy fix. I’ll knock out the dishes and clean up during the first half of Wheel of Fortune, then peek back just in time to see the final puzzle. I don’t bother with prime-time television anymore – few shows appeal to me – so I retire to my room.

From there, it’s pretty much a matter of whatever catches my interest. The laptop is usually on all evening, though I’m not obsessed with social networks. I log into Facebook and other emails just long enough to see if there are any messages, then shut them off. I know that if I stay on something like Tumblr or Pinterest  for more than a few minutes, I’ll end up scrolling through pictures for hours. I check my YouTube subscription updates, as well as Nostalgia Critic and Red Letter Media. I’ll usually hit up WordPress and see if there’s an interesting prompt, then think up something to put on the blog. After that, I’ll just load up a movie on iTunes. I don’t watch it, though; I just need something for background noise. I’ll spend the next few hours either writing or reading. Nothing particularly glamorous or interesting, but at least it’s relaxing.

But if I really need to let off some steam, I play video games. Since I’m a reviewer, it’s *actually* work, but it’s fun as long as I pace myself. I’m a big fan of fighters, particularly Street Fighter III: Third Strike. I’m currently the 4th highest-ranked Chun-Li on the PSN leaderboards, which is a good indication of how obsessed I am. Check it out:

Because competing in one of the greatest and most technically-demanding video games ever made is great stress relief…I need a new hobby.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections, Or: Reflecting In Phuket

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections, Or: Reflecting In Phuket

There’s a huge reflection pool in the lobby of the Phuket Marriott. It looks really relaxing in the daylight, but it looks almost magical at night…