My one piece of advice for future parents

No matter how many people tell you how much becoming a parent changes everything else about your life, you have no concept, clue, or theory until you actually go through it. As the father of soon-to-be-four-month-old 0.9, I have one piece of advice to share with anyone contemplating the journey to parenthood.

My advice has nothing to do with parenting. Three-and-a-half months do not qualify me as an expert. Rather, my advice concerns the period before becoming parents.

Until you become a parent, you don’t have a clear understanding of just how many places you really can’t go with kids, or with a pregnant wife, for that matter. It’s not that you’re forbidden from going to these places, whether they are vacation destinations, or beer gardens (which count as vacation destinations to me), or events, or whatever. The logistical issues are what get you.

So my advice is as follows: Make a list of things you want to do before pregnancy, or before childbirth, and try to do as many of the things on the list as possible. You won’t get to all of them, but you will be happy about the things you do get to do.

If it sounds in any way like I regret becoming a father, this could not be further from the truth. 0.9 is the second-best thing to ever happen in my life, behind Mrs. 9, without whom there would be no 0.9.

I only have two regrets, one of which was beyond my control. I wish Mrs. 9 and I had met a little earlier in life, so we could have had a few more years to do things as a couple, before becoming parents, but such is life.

The regret that I could have done something about, however, was not following the advice I just offered. I had a mental list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go, but it’s so easy to get lazy and unmotivated, and to decide to stay local, and when all is said and done, had I actually written out a list, very few items on it would have check marks next to them.

Don’t underestimate how much your life will change. Make up that list, and start checking things off. I wish I had.

Unemployment Nine: This hat trick put me in the penalty box

I scored a hat trick on my commute to my freelance job this morning. Had I been playing hockey, I’d be elated, as it would mean that I had scored three goals. However, when it comes to my commute, it means that I just missed the PATH train, just missed the D/B/F/M/whatever the hell else the MTA decides to run down the Sixth Avenue line, and just missed the 7 train.

Three times in one morning ... FML

This wonderous display of piss-poor timing stretched a commute that usually takes me about 50 minutes (and probably would be 45 minutes if not for the fucking tourists in and around Grand Central Terminal) to one hour and 15 minutes.

Aside from the annoyance of just missing trains three times in a row, that one hour and 15 minutes is completely unproductive time, which is not a good thing while trying to juggle two freelance jobs. I’m underground the entire time, meaning that I can’t even check e-mail. Even if I could, as much as I love my Droid, I’m not about to try to do work on it. As it is, half of the texts I send out get cut off in the middle because my sausage fingers keep hitting the return button. I wouldn’t dream of trying to do any real work on the Droid.

I really, really wish I could work from home for both jobs, as even the normal 50-minute commute each way represents 100 completely and utterly wasted minutes. I’m not going to try to sport a halo and claim that I don’t waste some time of my own during the work day, but I’d much rather be harassing friends on Facebook and shoring up the bullpen of my fantasy-baseball team than standing on a platform scratching my ass.

Bah.

Unemployment Nine: What if?

About four years ago, I was very unhappy at my old job. I was moved against my will from a publication where I had spent my first 11-plus years at the company to another title where I just knew it wasn’t a good fit for a number of reasons, having had previous experience working with that magazine. I tried everything I could to fight it, but failed, so I began to consider options. In October 2008, the choice was made for me, as I was one of the victims of the first of what turned out to be several rounds of layoffs. But what if I had followed through with a plan I was seriously considering and left on my own?

Field of Dreams

A lot of things would have had to fall into place for me to actually go through with this plan, but this is what I was giving some very legitimate thought to doing.

As I said, I was unhappy with my job situation, and the entire process of working for a large company had made me quite jaded. I was in a situation where I was locked into a 3% raise no matter what my performance was, which gave me no incentive whatsoever to extend myself beyond my normal duties. This attitude was made worse when a co-worker who routinely showed up to the office around lunchtime (no exaggeration whatsoever) got the same raise I did, despite the fact that I ended up picking up most of the slack in his absence. So, my thinking was: If I’m going to work this hard and get so little reward, rather than working for a company where not giving a shit was mutual — I didn’t give a shit about the company, and it didn’t give a shit about me — why not do something I’m passionate about and try to find a job with a minor-league baseball team?

My plan was to enjoy one last summer on Long Beach Island, and then spend the next year making a very sincere effort to save as much money as I could, in anticipation of a lower salary. And then, when the following baseball season ended, I intended to bombard just about every minor-league and independent-league team in existence with my résumé in the hopes of landing some kind of position that involved a combination of writing, editing and Internet work.

Would I have ever gone through with it? I really don’t know, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

First off, I absolutely, positively suck at saving money. Saying you’re going to do something is different from actually doing it, and I’m not sure that I could have been that disciplined. In fact, the odds are against it.

Second, and most important: I honestly don’t know if I would have been able to pack up and leave the New York area, where most of my friends and family still live. It’s a very, very difficult decision to make. It seems like everyone has one moment during their life when they say, “Fuck this shit, I’m getting the hell out of here,” but again, there’s a big difference between threatening to leave and packing up the car.

Finally, even if I had actually gone through with my plan, would I have been happy? I’ve talked to a lot of people involved in baseball and, not surprisingly, the closer a minor-league team is to a legitimate city, the harder it is to get a job with that team. Teams like the Newark Bears and the Kane County Cougars (located pretty close to Chicago) will get significantly more résumés than, say, the Billings Mustangs or Casper Ghosts. I mean no disrespect to those cities, but they just don’t have the appeal of larger metropolitan areas. So, would I really have been happy living in Montana or Wyoming, after spending my entire life in Manhattan and Hoboken? I guess I’ll never know.

Anyway, as I said, I don’t know if I would have really gone through with this plan, but during what I envisioned as my last big-time summer on LBI, I really clicked with one of the girls in my beach house. She is now my wife. Needless to say, packing up and moving to the middle of nowhere is no longer part of the equation, especially since giving up her salary in this economy would be beyond foolhardy. And I have no regrets: Family should be more of a priority and a concern than career, and I am much, much happier being married in Hoboken than being single in Cedar Rapids.

But it doesn’t keep me from occasionally wondering what would have happened, especially with my frustration boiling over when it comes to my current unemployment situation.

Unemployment Nine: Geographically unsuitable

In my daily futile journey through the job sites, I encountered some geographical stupidity on CareerBuilder.com.

In a search for job listings containing “editor” within 50 miles of New York, listings appeared for an executive editor in Lafayette, Ind., and a digital editor in St. George, Utah. Are you shitting me?

Whether this was the fault of CareerBuilder.com or the companies that listed the jobs, or both, allow me to share a wee bit of wisdom: As bad as the job market is these days, if someone is looking for a job in New York, they are not going to consider Lafayette, Ind., or St. George, Utah.

I mean no disrespect to those two cities, but honestly, where the fuck are they? I can tell you this: They’re nowhere near New York, in terms of location, lifestyle, or salary.

Indiana? Utah? Yeah, bite me.

The bustling metropolis that is downtown St. George, Utah. Can you feel the excitement?

Unemployment Nine: Summer is my favorite time of the year but, so far, this one truly sucks

I love summer. I really do. It’s by far my favorite time of the year. But I feel like the economy, Mother Nature and some other cruel forces are conspiring to make sure this summer ranks among the worst of my life.

My mood this summer

I knew I was likely in for an emotional come-down following our wedding and honeymoon. I mean, two weeks in Hawaii represented the trip of a lifetime, so I never expected the summer to compete with that. But I also didn’t expect it to suck a big, fat one, like it has thus far.

First off, there’s the lingering unemployment situation. I’ve been on a whopping total of one interview since returning from our honeymoon in mid-May, and I’ve also had one phone interview. In both cases, I knew right away that the respective positions and I were not good fits. So it’s been months since I’ve even sniffed any hopes of a full-time job, and a very sobering anniversary is quickly approaching. Unless something drastic happens between now and Oct. 2, I will have hit the dreaded two-year mark of unemployment. In my absolute worst assessments of my situation, I’d have never predicted coming close to that milestone.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows that I’m not sitting around eating ice cream and watching soap operas. But I’m a little frustrated with both of my freelance jobs, as well.

The one I began recently basically destroys my Thursday and Friday nights, and I hate the fact that the pace is glacial, and I have no control whatsoever over it. There’s absolutely nothing I can do but sit and wait, and wait, and wait. It’s good in one way, because I get paid by the hour, so obviously, the longer I’m there, the more I make. But there are times when the hourly rate isn’t even remotely fair compensation for the activities I’m giving up, just to sit there and listen to people debate over every last clause that will appear in a medium that I am completely over: print. I don’t believe in what I’m doing, which makes it very difficult for me.

And when it comes to the one I’ve had for a little more than one year, I’m frustrated because I don’t get the sense that any improvement in my situation is imminent, whether it’s an increase in the amount of money I get paid per post, or an offer to come on board full-time, although those were mentioned as possibilities when I started. I feel like I’ve been bypassed by other people, albeit many of them worthy and deserving, and it seems like I’m speeding down a dead-end street. And the vibe in general has been far more negative than positive. I’m not a dog, and I don’t need someone to pat me on the head and say, “Good boy,” after every story I post, but receiving e-mail after e-mail of negative feedback without one positive note is not doing wonders for my attitude or my outlook.

The problem is, with my current financial state, I can’t even remotely afford to give up either job, so I have no choice but to solider on, regardless of how unhappy I am and how unrewarded I feel, whether monetarily or just in terms of fulfillment and getting some enjoyment out of my work.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m very happy to have both opportunities. Having something to focus on and being able to contribute at least some money into the household are both valuable commodities. But I’m just not happy doing what I’m doing right now and, as I said, I’m doing what I can to keep both jobs out of necessity, not out of pride in my work, or enjoying what I’m doing.

Summer, however, usually provides the cure-all, as I usually spend it doing some of my favorite things: going to baseball games, playing softball and going to the beach. This summer, however, has not been very good for any of those activities.

My wife and I are finally going down to Long Beach Island for a long weekend in a few days. As much as I’m looking forward to it, I fear that it will only whet my appetite for what I’ve been missing all summer.

And this obviously affects everyone, not just myself, but the weather this summer has been about as miserable as any summer I can remember in my 42 years of existence. It seems like the two weather conditions are high 90s-low 100s with suffocating humidity, or raining, and the latter usually comes up if I have Yankees tickets or a softball game. This weather just makes it nearly impossible to enjoy anything.

Softball is usually one of my best escapes from drudgery, but I just can’t get on track this season. Between having to miss games due to the newer freelance job, or games getting rained out, it seems like every time I start to feel comfortable at the plate, I end up not playing for two weeks, which sends me right back to square one. I’ve been trying to hit the batting cage regularly, but even in slow-pitch softball, there’s a big difference between getting it done in the batting cage and getting it done on the field. And I take it very personally when I don’t play well, often because my game that week was the one activity I’d been looking forward to for days. And naturally, when I don’t play well and my team loses, I feel like I’ve let my teammates down.

The weather has taken its toll on my Yankees experience this season, as well. It’s just that much harder to enjoy a ballgame when you’re coated in sweat and you feel like the sky is pressing down on you. Plus, I’ve had to sell my tickets for a few games I really wanted to attend, thanks to, you guessed it, the newer freelance job. I love Thursday-afternoon ball games, but I can’t afford to give up a day’s pay to go to them.

Look, I know things could be a lot worse. I could still be single. I could have no money coming in at all. I could have jobs that are a lot worse and that don’t even resemble what I’m trying to do. But sometimes it’s difficult to rationalize the fact that just because things could be worse, it doesn’t mean they don’t pretty much suck right now.

I really hope things turn around and I get to at least enjoy the second half of this summer, because Oct. 2 is looming and getting closer and closer, which will not do wonders for my mood or state of mind.

A very non-Nine Fourth of July

After years of being spoiled with the most perfect possible view of a decent fireworks display without leaving the deck of our old beach house on Long Beach Island, I spent this Fourth of July watching an even better fireworks display from the grounds of Cherokee High School in Marlton, N.J., with my wife and her extended family. Some things about it were great, and some were just weird.

July 4 fireworks from Marlton, NJ

At this stage of my life — 42 and grumpy — I am totally over giant crowds. The Marlton fireworks had an ideal number of people — enough to make it seem like an event, and totally worth being there, but a small enough group to allow us to arrive two hours before the fireworks started and find ample space for our beach chairs. And while I would never dream of comparing the show to the Macy’s Spectacular that has spoiled me in New York for most of my life, it was definitely better than the LBI effort.

The weird part: 2010 marked the first Fourth of July since I was about 14 or 15 when I did not indulge in a single sip of beer. Nor did I partake in the American tradition of pigging out on red meat (we did barbecue a little, but it was more for the purposes of eating dinner before heading to the fireworks than for putting on a display of gluttony).

It was still fun, and I’d definitely do it again. With the LBI house no longer an option, there’s no way in hell I’m dealing with the crowds in Hoboken, Manhattan, Philadelphia, or any of the “real” big-city fireworks displays. And spending time with the family is always fun (no, I am NOT just saying that because some of them read this blog!).

But I could have used a cold one, or several.

Dodging furniture on the New Jersey Turnpike

Is it weird that while facing a split-second, near-death moment last night (no exaggeration whatsoever), I was laughing? No lie: Here’s what happened.

Not too far off

I was driving southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike, traveling 75-80 miles per hour in the left-hand lane, when a pickup truck with some highly unstable cargo entered the lane in front of me, also reaching about 80 MPH. The two turd-for-brains rejects driving the pickup apparently thought that wedging a love seat and two mattresses into the open back, with no bungee cords or rope, was a wise move. They were wrong.

I realized instantly that their cargo was perilous, at best, but I couldn’t get out of the left-hand lane due to the truck traffic in the middle lane. I slowed down a little, much to the dismay of the driver behind me, and that turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Suddenly, one of the mattresses came flying off the back of the pickup truck. Luckily, there was just enough room between trucks in the middle lane for me to slam on the gas pedal, cut off the trailing truck by less than a yard (again, no exaggeration), and avoid an accident.

The spilt-second I will never forget: I had my right eye on the rear-view mirror, praying that my aging 1997 Honda Accord had enough pickup to cut off a fast-moving truck. At the same time, my left eye saw a maroon love seat literally bounce past my car in the lane I had just vacated, narrowly missing my side-view mirror. And I was laughing throughout the entire experience, all of which probably lasted about five seconds, probably just to keep my sanity.

As for the car behind me, its driver was able to execute a similar life-saving move, using the shoulder on the left-hand side of the road, which worked out perfectly for both of us.

By the way, how idiotic do you have to be to jam a love seat and two mattresses into the back of a pickup, with no safety precautions whatsoever and nothing preventing the items from falling out? Even worse, how much of a dope do you have to be to do this while driving 80 MPH on the New Jersey Turnpike? The cat turds I cleaned out of my litter box this morning have more intelligence than these jackasses.

The stupidity of people never ceases to amaze me. I’m just glad I’m here in one piece typing this blog, instead of, well, I don’t even want to think about it.

Tourists in New York are getting dumber by the second

Maybe I’m noticing these things more because I haven’t really had a regular commute since October 2008, and my last full-time job was located in an area that doesn’t really draw sightseers. But since I’ve been commuting to the Grand Central Terminal area every day for the past month or so, the skyrocketing stupidity level of tourists has shocked me.

Welcome to New York!

The easiest tourist trait to notice is how pitifully slowly they walk. City people tend to walk at a brisk pace, and New Yorkers take it to an extreme, so I don’t expect visitors to keep up. But when it’s taking you five minutes to get from 43rd Street to 44th Street, and you’re under the age of 80 and not reliant on crutches or a cane, there is seriously something wrong with you. Move your asses, people.

I’ve also seen them walk three, four, or, in one case, five across through places like Grand Central Terminal, looking puzzled and trying to figure out why most passers-by are giving them the stink eye. People: You are in the way, and common sense should be telling you this, not some angry blogger. People are trying to get to work, or get home from work. Not everyone is on vacation, although we all wish we were. Stop rubbing in the fact that the euro is kicking the dollar’s ass right now and get the hell out of the way.

I’ve seen them get up to the counter at restaurants and delis, after waiting several minutes and having plenty of time to think about their orders, yet not having a trace of an idea what the hell they want to eat. What exactly were you waiting for?

But the thing that’s baffled me the most about tourists is their uncanny ability to stop in the absolute worst possible places because they have no concept, clue or theory where they are or where they’re going.

I’ve seen them stop at the top or bottom of stairwells or, worse, escalators, blocking the path of everyone else who is trying to use them. I’ve seen them stop right smack in the middle of subway platforms, so no one else can pass, or, even worse, right in the middle of train doors, so no one can board or disembark.

Really? You might as well come to a dead stop in the middle of a freeway and pull out a map.

I’ve lived in the city my entire life — 42 years and counting — and there are still times when I find myself slightly confused upon encountering a subway station I’m not familiar with, or one I haven’t passed through in a while. So, do you know what I do when I find myself in that situation? Are you ready to grasp this concept? I get the hell out of the way until I reorient myself and know where I’m going, rather than standing in the middle of a passageway, slack-jawed and clueless, and blocking everyone else’s way.

Why do New Yorkers have a reputation for being impatient, abrupt and rude? BECAUSE YOU PEOPLE ARE IN THE GOD-DAMNED WAY! Use your heads!

Oh, yeah, and have a nice day!

Unemployment Nine: A little clarity in an otherwise-confusing situation

My confusing work situation is a little less confusing, but I’m still very confused. Confused? Good, join the club.

confusion

It appears that I will spend two more full weeks at the freelance copy-editing job I started practically seconds after my return flight from Hawaii landed. After that, I will come in for the publication’s two busiest days, Thursday and Friday.

The good news: I will regain some of the flexibility and free time I’ve gotten all-too-accustomed to in the past 20 months, allowing me to resharpen my focus on my blogging gig and giving me the time to interview for the elusive full-time job I’ve been chasing since October 2008, as well as to get things done around the house and run errands. And, most important, the hours I put in on Thursdays and Fridays at the copy-editing job bring in more money than an entire week of blogging, so I’d be a fool to turn down the opportunity.

The bad news: For as long as I have this Thursday/Friday gig, I basically have no life on Thursday or Friday nights, which happen to be two of the most popular nights for things like games, cocktails, dinners out and the like. I’ve been here for three weeks, and my departure times have ranged from 9 p.m.-9:15 p.m. on Thursdays and 7:30 p.m.-8:15 p.m. on Fridays. Even though Fridays don’t end that late in comparison, by that time of the week, my brain is completely fried and my body is totally exhausted, and I’m not great company (Note: To anyone who was about to comment, “When are you EVER great company?” go get bent.) Only coming in two days per week will definitely help the energy level, but it’s still pretty draining work.

Plus, I still can’t get used to one aspect of working on a freelance basis, although it’s perfectly logical. I hate the fact that taking time off, or even a holiday, means forfeiting potential earnings, unlike working on a permanent basis, on salary, when holidays and vacation time are built into the compensation structure and don’t eat away at my bank account.

One might say, “You’ve been out of work for 20 months. Why do you need time off?” And I might tell one to go fuck one’s self. While I may not have a “full-time,” permanent job right now, I’ve been working pretty damn hard, especially recently, while trying to juggle two jobs.

And summer happens to be my favorite time of the year. I love going to Yankees weekday-afternoon games, or even the occasional 11 a.m. Newark Bears game. I love the idea of a long weekend at the beach, especially since I’m no longer part of a beach house. I believe it’s healthy, for both the body and the mind, to recharge and spend some time outdoors while the weather permits it.

I never liked the feeling that I was wasting a vacation day when I was working full-time. But it makes the decision even tougher when I have to factor in not only the money I’ll spend during the day, but the money I won’t be making. There’s a huge difference between spending about $100 for a Yankees ticket and beer, and quadrupling that amount when subtracting my pay for the day. It’s really not worth $400, give or take a few posts or copy-edited stories, to see a ballgame, as much as I enjoy baseball. But I seriously need the break here and there.

So, we’ll see where the next step takes me. As I said earlier, it will be good to have some of my free time back, and to have a much-less-hectic schedule. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to the life of a freelancer, but after 20 months and counting, it’s hard to remain optimistic about finding a full-time gig, and it gets harder and harder as the weeks go by.

Hawaii honeymoon highlights

My wife and I — and yes, I know it’s only been two weeks and change, but it still feels weird using the words “wife” and “husband” — just got back from the greatest vacation ever, our honeymoon in Hawaii, specifically Maui and Kauai.

Much as I did after our previous trips to Washington, D.C.; Napa; Boston; Cape May; and Newport, I wanted to share the places and experiences we really enjoyed. This is by no means meant to be an authoritative and comprehensive list, but merely places that were special to us. If it helps anyone on a future trip, excellent!

I’ll start with Maui, since that’s what we did. First off, if you spend any time on Maui and have access to transportation, and you don’t eat at Mama’s Fish House, you suck at life. Our meal there was one of the absolute best I’ve ever eaten, and the setting is brilliant, both inside, as the walls are full of countless pictures and items that bring the place tons of character, and outside, where the sunset over the Pacific, just yards away, is breathtaking.

Road to Hana

Second, driving the Road to Hana is an absolute must. Ignore all of the naysayers and guide books that make it sound as dangerous as baiting a starving shark with a sushi platter: The drive is challenging and a bit nerve-wracking at times, but as long as the driver is on point and paying attention, it’s risk-free, gorgeous and definitely worth doing. Don’t be a sally and a wuss. Do it. The ocean views and the waterfalls are spectacular, as are some of the lesser-known spots.

However, one thing I noticed about Hawaii in general is that the road signs and street signs sort of suck and are very hard to see until you’re right on top of them, and this is especially evident on the Road to Hana, so I definitely recommend making the trip with both a guide book and a guide CD (we bought ours from a Shell station at the beginning of the route) so you don’t miss out on some of the hidden gems.

If you’re in Hawaii, you have to go to a luau, right? Everything about Old Lahaina Luau was fantastic — the food, the drinks, the show, the setting. I can’t compare it to other luaus because it was the only one we did — my stomach can’t handle more than one luau — but I can’t fathom the experience being any better.

Snorkeling in Maui was a tremendous experience and, for those who want to devote a half-day to it and hit spots you can only reach by boat, I definitely recommend the Trilogy trip to Molokini. The two snorkel spots could not have yielded better results, from a bevy of colorful, huge fish to being inches from a very charming and friendly large turtle. The lunch was delicious, and I don’t mean delicious for a boat ride: I mean flat-out delicious. The cinnamon rolls were to die for. And our crew — Captain Brett, dive instructor Dave and the two others whose names are escaping me — were friendly, hilarious and helpful.

Sunrise at Haleakala National Park

If you can deal with leaving your hotel room by 2:30 a.m. (doing it early in the trip, before your body adjusts to Hawaii time, is probably best), the sunrise from atop the volcano in Haleakala National Park is worth every second of lost sleep and tricky driving. The pictures don’t do it justice. As strange as it sounds to say this about packing for Hawaii, bringing warm clothes is a must, and I don’t mean one long-sleeved T-shirt. The temperature was 41 degrees the morning we went, with very strong winds, and those who didn’t dress properly were not happy.

Because I have a supernatural ability to find freshly brewed beer no matter where I am, one of our free nights (no reservations) was spent at Maui Brewing. The food was decent, but the beer was outstanding, particularly the Coconut Porter, the McGrumpy’s (a red ale) and the Black Pearl, which is the Coconut Porter aged in oak rum barrels. Prost!

Other excellent dinners we shared were provided by Plantation House and Lahaina Grill.

Sunset from The Beach House

Moving on to Kauai, our meal at The Beach House was a very close second for the trip to the previously mentioned Mama’s Fish House feast, as was the view of the sunset over the Pacific. It was another incredible experience on many levels, and the place is definitely recommended.

My wife and I in our Yamaha Rhino

One of the most fun days on our trip was the four-hour ATV tour from Kipu Ranch Adventures. The scenery at Kipu Ranch is breath-taking, and you can see why several movies were filmed there. The ATV (a Yamaha Rhino) was easy to learn and handled all of the bumps, rocks, roots and mud with ease. My biggest laugh of the trip came after watching a peacock wind up and kick a wild pig while the group of animals was being fed. We got to swim in two watering holes, one under a waterfall. And our guides, Troy and Randen, were a hell of a lot of fun.

The North Shore of Kauai was probably my favorite region on the trip, and I could easily see myself spending a full week there and taking full advantage of the numerous hiking trails, wealth of drop-dead-gorgeous beaches and fun and interesting local villages and restaurants. If you go to Kauai and have access to a car, the North Shore is a must, period.

Naturally, I found beer in Kauai, too. The Grove Café is the home of Waimea Brewing and, while I liked the brews from Maui Brewing better, the Waimea offerings were no slouches, particularly the porter.

I also found the best hotdog I have ever had (sorry, Rutt’s Hut): Puka Dog. I’m already going through serious Puka withdrawal. I tried Puka Dogs with both the coconut and papaya relish, and they were both worth drooling over. Puka Puka Puka!

We spent the last real night of our trip on Captain Andy’s Na Pali Sunset Dinner cruise, and the honeymoon couldn’t have ended on a nicer note. Na Pali is captivating, and it can only be seen via plane (which we did, as well) or boat. Captain Trent and his crew (Hans and Sterling) were engaging and entertaining, the scenery and sunset were rich, the food was excellent, and the Sneaky Tikis were quite sneaky, which is why I switched to beer. And depending on the time of year, you might be lucky enough to see a whale!

Whale sighting on Captain Andy's Sunset Cruise

We also had memorable and tasty meals at Plantation Gardens, Dondero’s (located in the Grand Hyatt, where we stayed), Wrangler’s Steakhouse and Keoki’s Paradise.

Our last official day was spent in Honolulu, at the Pearl Harbor Memorial, which was sobering and touching, and in Waikiki Beach. I was stunned to find out that the U.S.S. Arizona still leaks oil every day after nearly 70 years. As for the Waikiki area, truthfully, it did absolutely nothing for us. The beach was tiny and didn’t really have a boardwalk area, and the hotels and stores are on top of each other. And the stores were the same ones you’d encounter in any mall on the mainland. Dinner at Roy’s was great, but overall, Waikiki was like Los Angeles with a few more palm trees, and not spending a lot of time there turned out to be a sound decision.

This trip was one wonderful day after another, and I really didn’t want to leave. Hawaii and its people are fantastic, and I hope we get to go back someday (we’ve been joking about returning for our two-month anniversary). If you ever get the chance to go, jump on it immediately, even if you have to get married to do so!

Kipu Ranch