We had three blocks to walk in order to see one of the most iconic beaches in the world.
Three blocks of high rises, ocean air, sandy sidewalks, and homeless people smoking some form of crystallized methamphetamine out of soda cans.
Welcome to Hawaii – it’s more like home than you realize.
Rather than doing the traditional family Christmas this year, my wife made the decision that we were going as a family to Oahu to coincide with the renewed focus of making memories together.
Considering that the kids already have every toy known to mankind, I was thrilled that we were going to be doing something that will be remembered fondly for decades to come. I had managed to make it 35 years before boarding a plane that headed west from California.Knowing that the kids would be able to point to pictures of themselves in front of postcard-perfect Hawaiian beaches when they got a little bit older made me smile wider than I have in a long time.
And make no mistake about it – Hawaii was breathtakingly beautiful.
On the 18th floor of a Honolulu high-rise, I could sit for hours and stare out at the lush, green mountains that dotted the landscape around me, and the natural landmarks like Diamond Head that I had only seen in college geology books. The beach, glimmering in the Hawaiian sun, was as beautiful as it was in the surf magazines that I read as teenager and young adult, and the people were as friendly and laid-back as I remembered my football camp roommate to be.
That was my first knowing experience with a native Hawaiian, or “The Islander” as we called him, and knowing that there more people like him in the world overwhelmed my simple teenage brain.
But there were the dark parts of the trip as well.
As I also discovered in Miami, the haves and the have-nots often live side-by-side in paradise, and it wasn’t too difficult to find a dwelling that was a few steps above a lean-to within throwing distance of a multi-million-dollar mansion.
And then there were the vagrants. It wasn’t as easy to spot them sometimes because like everybody else at the beach, they wore no shirts or shoes and appeared to have amazing tans. But there were those that would openly smoke meth in front of tourists – or take swigs from cheap bottles of liquor that they kept stashed in the sand – and their general presence cast somewhat of a shadow over an otherwise breathtaking landscape.
I had heard about the meth problem that was gripping Hawaii, but seeing it firsthand was eerily reminiscent of some of the pockets in San Joaquin County where its use is rampant.
Still, at the end of the day, hearing “Aloha” and “Mahalo” instead of hello and goodbye was a dream come true. While I’m one that has always been fond of cold weather and outright despised humidity, there was something about the place that I would be honored to call home.
The best part? There are still three other tourist-laden islands we haven’t visited as a family yet, and from what I hear you can’t truly know Hawaii until you’ve revisited particular places.
So, it looks like we have our travel log planned out for us over the years to come.
And that’s a wonderful feeling.
The end of an era
It was announced not too long ago that Manteca High varsity head football coach Eric Reis would be hanging up his whistle.
Who am I kidding – Reis doesn’t need a whistle. Anybody who has ever been within a mile-radius of a game he’s coaching has heard him clear as a bell.
But he will be stepping away from the sidelines after more than a decade at the helm of one of the most storied football programs in the Valley Oak League – a period of success that had never before been seen in the nearly century-long history of Manteca’s namesake school.
He was good.
I was fortunate enough to be able to play for Reis when he was a defensive assistant at Sierra High School under Greg Leland’s command. While I never played defense specifically, respected his vision and his enthusiasm for the game of football.
Current Manteca High defensive coordinator Rick James was also a part of that coaching staff, heading up the linebacking corps that included my best friend, and together with Reis provided the inspirational heart of the program. I remember, vividly, sitting in Greg Leland’s classroom before a game while Reis showed us all a clip from the Jim Carrey movie “The Cable Guy” and marveling at how he could take anything and use it as motivation to fire up his players.
Unfortunately, that at times meant that some of the things that I had written for the newspaper in the ensuing years would be akin to those movie clips. Early on in my career at The Bulletin I predicted that Manteca High – which had the VOL MVP on the team that year – had a 50-50 shot of beating crosstown rival East Union. “Might as well flip a coin” was the gist (I was young and didn’t want to be the cynical realist that dashed the hopes of the Lancers before they ever stepped onto the field) and when I ran into him at Monkee’s on that Friday, where he and Leland and others were getting one of their revered steak sandwiches, I caught more flak than for anything else I had ever written.
Live and learn I guess.
He was also great at answering the question he wished, as a reporter, you would have asked him and not necessarily the question you did. As a wet-behind-the-ears cub this was frustrating to no end, but in hindsight I need to thank him for that because it helped me discover – by getting roasted every time I stepped into the end zone to ask for a comment – what I should be asking about, and what I shouldn’t.
Again, live and learn.
It’ll be strange not hearing his shrieking yells from across the field when covering the Buffaloes next season. He will go down as the winningest coach in Manteca High School history and with the reputation for turning a school that wasn’t very good when he coached me at Sierra High School into one of the better medium-sized schools in Northern California.
Enjoy retirement coach – you’ve earned it.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.