About every six months or so, it happens: The menehune in my studio take over, move stuff around and I seemingly can’t find anything. Truth be told, I’m a “piler.” I have piles of papers, piles of computer parts, piles of notes and even piles of piles. Finally, I get tired of combing through the mass, and reorganization ensues. Typically, that’s when discovery happens.
Cleaning and putting things away this round, I moved an old computer that was bound for e-cycling, exposing the bottom drawer of one of our file cabinets. I pulled it open and discovered a treasure trove of what the late George Carlin would consider “stuff.” I pulled out mass of wires and a remote that went to a long-lost stereo, several 5-1/4” floppy discs, a Pink Pet eraser, my college graduation tassel and a small plain brown battered box. Inside was the treasure of my childhood.

I had completely forgotten about the box, which I had tucked away over a decade ago. Carlin might have labeled its contents as junk rather than stuff, but everything inside was linked to a specific moment in my life, and was kept to spark memories back to life.

There was a chunk of concrete from the fabled Riverside International Raceway’s Turn 9 wall, which after all these years, still reeked of motor oil and race gas. In the early ‘80s, my father was an active participant in time trials, and many a weekend was spent at Riverside, Ontario Motor Speedway and Willow Springs Raceway. At the time of RIR’s demise, he still held the track record for a DeTomaso Pantera with the stock brake system. I remember riding shotgun for that lap. And yes, it was scary fast!

Other mementos were removed and set aside, but the last three items were definitely the best: a set of GE Magicubes flash cubes for my Kodak Instamatic X45 – my first camera — and a t-shirt from the Windsock Lounge at the Kaanapali Air Strip. It was on my first trip to the Valley Isle that I received that camera from my grandfather.

We had flown in from Honolulu to the old Kaanapali air strip, which had literally been carved out of the middle of a sugar cane field. The plane was a small, eight-passenger, twin-engine, Cessna 402, operated by Royal Hawaiian Airlines. The pilot let me sit on the co-pilot’s seat for the flight, and I remember being mesmerized by all the dials and controls, the drone of the turbocharged Continental engines and the pilot’s light touch on the controls as the plane bobbed through the sky.

As we flew over Molokai, the pilot asked if I’d like to see a waterfall. I said yes, and a few moments later, he dipped the right wing in a steep bank as we angled towards Papalaua Falls. The plane instantly filled with smiles, from the awesome view and the “yee-haw” moment, neither of which you’d ever get on any commercial flight.

Landing on the asphalt patch in the middle of the sugar cane field, we entered the terminal (which was rather small, even for rural standards) and climbed the spiral staircase to the Windsock Lounge which overlooked the runway. I sat with my grandfather for a while, watching the Cessnas take off and land while sipping a Coke, my grandfather nursing a Coors.

I got my camera shortly thereafter – a Kodak Instamatic X45 that took 126 film cartridges. That brings me to the third item, a picture I took with that camera. It was faded and grainy, but it was one of the falls on the road to Hana. The memory brought back the pain in my back from riding on that old bumpy road, sitting in the back seat of their yellow Pinto station wagon.

I may not have that original camera anymore, but I do have the memories and a few mementos, and there’s a camera in my hand nearly every day. I guess I’m still living the days of my youth.