Happy New Year World Travelers! Welcome to the 2020s! Decade of Vision.

I can’t believe we’re here already. What a fucking trip.

The 1990s don’t seem so long ago. Discovering the internet. Becoming an adult. We didn’t know just how great the 1990s were when we were in them – but they were. They were soooooooo good. But maybe that’s how it is when you are in your twenties – no matter when it is.

I remember all the Y2K madness of 2000 like it was yesterday. In the 2000s – I learned about relationships, went to University, moved to Hawaii, and started to travel the world. I remember all the chaos of terror attacks in 2001, the war in 2003, the financial crisis of 2007-8. None of that seems so long ago. The world was a totally different place. Pre universal smart phone, internet access, and social networks.

For me, the 2010s were the decade of becoming an adult. I got married in 2010. My daughter was born in 2011. We emigrated as a family from Morocco to the USA in 2013. I started and sold businesses. I taught my daughter to read, do math, ride a bike, and many other things. I moved my family to Hawaii. I feel like the 2010s were an ugly transition decade for humanity. I’m pretty sure we enslaved ourselves as a species to the technology we’ve created and the people who control it. We went from hope to despair in America.

I’m an optimist at heart, but a pessimist when I look at the reality. I think the 2020s offer us the last opportunity to choose a path for our species. We can keep doing what we’ve been doing or we can radically change things – it has to be a radical change. Baby steps won’t work.

I’m not going to write about all of that here. It’s not the place for it. I’ve created an archive site for all of my various rambling, writing, ideas, and mistakes – it’s a political site – so be warned – but it covers my time writing stuff on computers and the internet from 1996 to the present. That’s where I’ll keep all this stuff from now on. If you’re brave, foolhardy, or curious – here’s the link http://www.antichrist2020.com – I’m not proud of everything there, but it’s all there and it is what it is.

As for this site – well – who knows. I think blogging died in about 2013 – but I just keep going. I no longer make any money with this site. It was good while it lasted – but that’s not why I do it.

I’ve got a couple of trips planned in 2020 already. I’ll be going to Australia and visiting Sydney and Tasmania at the very least. I’ll probably also do a bit of island hopping here in Hawaii and at least one mainland jaunt. I’m seriously considering a visit to Cuba and if I can figure out how to get to India – it’s high time I do so. We’ll see how all of that goes. I’ll write about my travels and keep updating and refreshing my  past posts here on Vagobond.

Hard to believe this site has been going as long as it has. Thanks for sticking with me.

Lordy Great I’m 48! My Birthday Blog Post

2019: 48 years old

47 was a really rough year but like a caterpillar spinning a cocoon, avoiding getting eaten by birds, and all the other death traps. I made it into my cocoon. The chrysalis was formed. At 48, I’m emerging. On my 48th birthday, my mom and step-father called me  – which was very thoughtful of them. My sister sent me a couple of nice gifts- which was also thoughtful. I had a couple of texts and a couple of social media Happy Birthdays. My wife brought me coffee and said Happy Birthday in the morning but the most important person – my 8 year old daughter made me a card and wrote a story with the characters we’ve created and then we spent the day together ( my wife was working). It was all that mattered. My daughter did adulting with me – we went to IHOP and neither of us finished our breakfast, we paid off a bank loan, we got used tires put on the front of my car, we went to the post office, and we had Japanese ramen for lunch where she said “Daddy, if I had money, I would pay for your lunch”. I melted. It was a great birthday and I think it’s going to be a great year. As for 2019 – I’m glad to see it going into the sunset. I learned a lot, I set the stage for a better life, and I wrote a new novel, started a couple of businesses, quit working for other people, and have taken control of my life in ways that I never have before.

I’ve done pretty good in life. India and South America remain as places I want to travel – but I managed to hit Japan, Egypt, and many more since my 40th. Australia coming up. I managed to move my family to the USA, get my wife citizenship, and even manage to keep us going in very expensive Hawaii. I’m a great dad and an innovative entrepreneur. My mission is “A healthy life of joyful liberty questing for wisdom, knowledge and positive relationships with self, others, planet, and being.”

Everything that came before was just preparation for what is coming. I’m excited about the future.

2011: 40 years old

Man oh man. Hard to believe that I’m hitting 40 today. To tell the truth though, it doesn’t seem to matter very much. Age is just a random way of keeping track of things.

So far, it’s been a pretty good run. While I didn’t quite hit the mark of 40 countries by my 40th – I did reach 37 of them! Not bad.I’ve got a loving wife and a beautiful daughter so by 40, I became a family man. I even managed to get my daughter US citizenship and a passport.
I’ve written and written and written – so far without much in the way of commercial success – but a writer is a writer because they write – it’s not really a choice. It’s what we do.

Back to my 40 years of reflection. I managed to graduate from the University of Hawaii while in my 30’s with an Honors degree and a laundry list of awards and titles – that was pretty cool. In my twenties I was a US Marine, Air Traffic Controller. Thank God that’s over. I’ve been a stock broker, a house painter, a DJ, a chauffeur, a bartender, a waiter, a hotel manager, a bellboy, and worked in film – hell, I’ve even seen my name roll on the credits of a few big Hollywood films.

Most recently, in this past year, I managed to support my family, pay for my daughters birth, take care of all of our needs (house, medical, dental, utilities etc) and do some pretty cool travel (Paris, Spain, Italy, sailing in Greece, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia and here in Morocco) all with my own two fists. No boss, no job – just taking care of us with what I do. I’m proud as hell of that.

So, in a word – I feel pretty good about my accomplishments.
What do I want next? Well…let me think about it. Off the cuff –
– Get my wife a US Residency Visa
– Buy a house and property – somewhere
– Actually find some commercial success as a writer (see above to help with that :))
– I’d like to visit Egypt, Japan, India and the countries of South and Central America.
– and be able to get a really nice car before my midlife crisis hits…
Thanks for all your birthday wishes! Lordy Lordy, I’m 40.

A Note on Changes from 2001 to 2019 on Oahu in Chinatown and Elsewhere

Happy Hawaii Palm TreeI love Oahu. Have no doubt about it – this island is one of my favorite places in the world – but, unfortunately, there have been some negative changes from the time I fell in love with Oahu during 2001-2008 and my current residency here from 2017 to the present. Rents have gone much higher making it only possible for subsidized military or wealthy one percenters to survive in anything but subsistancy, the cost of homeownership  and rent has skyrocketed thanks to military subsidies and illegal vacation rentals, the numbers of homeless in every public place have gone up dramatically making it feel unsafe to go to parks or libraries, accessibility has decreased while crowds have increased, traffic and food prices have both gone up so much as to make life almost unsustainable, and meanwhile wages and employment opportunities have stagnated. I love Oahu but there are some massive issues that are ruining this place. Nowhere exemplifies that more than Chinatown.

I love Chinatown in Honolulu. I really do. The fresh produce in the mornings, the fun exotic food and bathing products from other countries like the Vietnamese instant 3-in-1 Coffee (that’s coffee, cream, and sugar all in one pouch) and the Japanese Ding Dong cracker snacks as well as the seemingly questionable meat market and the fish that range from still moving to probably on the edge of toxicity.

When I first moved to Hawai’i back in 2001, Chinatown was a place no one recommended you go to. Chinatown was still the haven of prostitution, drug users, and low rent housing above illegal gambling operations – I probably wouldn’t have been able to survive without my weekly trips to Chinatown – not for the reasons above but because it was also home to rice for next to nothing, $1 pineapples, and other cheap vegetables. I arrived here with $100 and was staying in a shared dorm room in Waikiki – I got a job painting and lived on Pineapple fried rice I cooked in the communal kitchen. While I waited for that first check – I had fifteen dollars to live on – lucky for me, I spent it in Chinatown and not in a grocery store. I bought rice, pineapple, cilantro, onions, coffee, and a couple of cans of Spam back before it was expensive. So, I love Chinatown.

Noodle Shop in Chinatown

Even as it began to change in the early 2000s, I still loved it. I had mixed feelings about the gentrification of Chinatown, but loved seeing things like First Friday Art Walk and The Arts at Mark’s Garage, Bar 35, and great blues acts showing up at hole in the wall Chinatown bars like Hanks or the Dragon Upstairs. My friends and I were frequent visitors to Little Village and our entire Burning Man group would meet in Chinatown bars for drinks and planning. Yes, the prices went up, but so did the quality of experience.

When I came back with my family in 2017, I led my wife and daughter to Chinatown. We parked in the Maunakea parking garage and got out of the car and were overwhelmed with the smell of urine. As we went into the stairwell leading to the surface streets, it was even worse. We had obviously picked a public urinal and not a staircase! The smell of urine stuck with us through the day. Chinatown had pushed out much of the gentrification but only in terms of it still being peed on a lot. Prices and the rents had gone up just like everywhere on Oahu. Totally unsustainable – and that was refelected when I saw the prices on things $850 for a buddha statue, $10 for a bag of rambutan, $6 for two bunches of parsley. The prices are no longer cheap – (although they can be a bit less  if you look deeper, but I didn’t have time). My wife and daughter were wondering why I loved Chinatown so much – but I couldn’t really take them into Hanks to hear a throaty blues gal singing sultry songs and we weren’t hungry enough to venture to Little Village.

Chinatown wasn’t very fun so we drove up to Haleiwa where the lines for Matsumoto Shave Ice were simply too long to contemplate in the bee filled courtyard. So we drove onward to the Dole Plantation a place designed to deal with crowds and we had a delicious Dole Whip before heading home. We stopped at Costco on the way home and had to drive around the parking lot looking for a spot for almost a half hour. Once we got inside, it was astounding to see the sea of shoppers flowing in and out like the tides. There was a constant flow that was so thick it took us five minutes to get across so we could get into the store and do our shopping. There was a two hour wait for Costco whole cooked pizzas…which I’ve never run into before. So we got what we needed, waited in line and went home where there was no line but just outside in the street there were people waiting to find a coveted street parking space. Parking is a big big problem on Oahu.

OahuOne of the things that has changed most in Hawai’i since 2008 is a lot of favorite ‘local knowledge’ places have exploded with popularity. I suppose that’s a good thing in some cases – at least for the business owners. A good example is Nico’s Fish House at Pier 38. When I left it was a hole in the wall plate lunch place at an industrial pier – I was excited to take my wife there – when we got there, I thought maybe I’d come to the wrong place – I had to get on my phone and Google it. Nico’s changed from a counter with plate lunches to a huge (three times larger) dining establishment with those vibrating buzzer things to let you know when your order is ready. The prices had gone up of course, but not terribly but the quality of the food just wasn’t what it once was, how could it be? It was still good, but it wasn’t anyplace I would go out of my way for – it was just a better than average tourist joint.

I haven’t been to Jackass Ginger Falls since getting back, but the line of tourist’s hiking down Old Pali Road and the badly parked cars at every available space tells me that it’s probably a crowded hike and a crowded waterfall. So – I wasn’t surprised that the Kuhuku shrimp trucks had lines when we drove up to the North Shore the other day…but I was suprised by the size of the lines. I shouldn’t have been – I mean I’ve seen them on the Food Network, I see them regularly in social media posts, and I’ve seen them on the Travel Channel and in nearly every travel magazine with a story about Oahu. The lines were two hours long – hot sun, no shade, standing next to the highway – two hours. The wait once you ordered was between two hours at the longest and 45 minutes at the shortest. So, people were willing to spend four hours of their lives to get a plate of garlic shrimp from Romy’s Truck? Apparently so – but not me. We moved on and went to the Korean Shrimp Truck which was cheaper, faster, and not very good. I can’t recommend that move – nor can I recommend spending four hours of your Hawai’i time (or your lifetime) standing in line for a dozen shrimp.

LanikaiIt’s a theme I’ve returned to again and again – the lines on Oahu have grown to unbelievable sizes. There’s a good reason for that – the places where you get true value have grown few and far between. Also – the tourists all read the same books and see the same stories and read the same blogs and follow the same instagram accounts and hashtags – so they all go to the same places. And that, I’m pretty sure, is really good. There are places on this island where you don’t find crowds. There are still great hole in the wall restaurants, there are still great beaches where you won’t find a dozen umbrellas in the sand, there are still great local secrets. And this may be disappointing to you, but when I find them, I’m not going to tell. I’m sure that someone will, but it’s not going to be me. I’m going to share my adventures, I’ll continue sharing my instagram photos, and writing about the known and little-known and well-known treasures on this island of Oahu – but the un-known ones – I’m going to keep them unknown.

I love being back in Hawaii but I’m not wild about the uncontrolled growth of tourism here, the massive favoritism played with the military personnel in terms of housing, the out of control numbers of cars and lack of parking, or the draconian rules that nieghborhoods have felt compelled to put in place to protect themselves from aforementioned uncontrolled growth of tourism. And yet, it’s still one of the best places in the world.

Happy New Year from Vagobond! 2019 is the YEAR OF CHANGE

VagobondAloha My Friends!

Happy New Year! 2019 is going to be an amazing year where the only constant is going to be change!  I have declared this theme both to prepare you for the unbridled pace of innovation and global change – as well as to prime the pump for all of us to make the most healthy and beneficial changes we can in this brand new year.

My Hat’s Off to You in 2019! I’ve freshly shaved my head for 2019 so the answer to the question that no one is asking “What does a vagobond keep under his hat?” Is now revealed – “Nothing!”

I am making a number of personal and professional changes this year. As a part of that, I will be making some changes to Vagobond too. I will be keeping my focus on my home island of Oahu and the State of Hawaii but will be easing my editorial schedule a bit. There will be new articles and blog posts on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Fridays will continue to be ‘Flashback Friday‘ and Saturday will continue to be the Saturday Slideshow. Flashback Fridays will be looking back at my  past global travel adventures and Slideshow Saturday will be a mostly visual post focusing on pictures I have taken or will take in my travels. Friday and Saturday posts will be all over the globe. Monday and Wednesday posts will be focused closer to home.

Also, even though I have mixed feelings about social media – in 2019 I will be putting a renewed focus on Vagobond’s social media. I’ve neglected creating a decent YouTube channel for over a decade now and I’d like to correct that this year. My podcast Vagobond Podcast Adventures will continue with more of a travel focused theme. I will also try my hardest to give some energy to Facebook, Pinterest, and whatever the newest social media might be. My Instagram (@vagobond) and Twitter (@vagobond) accounts are way too far gone as personal accounts for me to be able to reign them into a tight niche – so you’re stuck on those with my art posts, political commentary, and whatever else I might want to throw up there. I will also be making some aesthetic changes to the way Vagobond.com looks – so don’t be surprised if the site looks different from time to time.

One more note about the year of change – this year, I am going to be taking all of my spare change and putting it in my daughter’s ‘share’ bank. When the bank is full, she and I will be deciding how to donate it or use it to help others. This is a bit of an experiment on my part because I want to see just how much a little change can actually add up to over the course of a year and whether it is enough to do some serious good. Welcome to the  YEAR OF CHANGE and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

Sincerely and wishing you happiness and joy in 2019,

Christopher ‘Vago’ Damitio
Founder and Chief Balderdasher, Vagobond.com
1/1/19 5:00 a.m.
Honolulu, Hawaii

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