By Larry Feinstein

Larry Feinstein

Before I came to Kaua‘i, I had come up with a short list of some things I wanted to do as soon as I got here. There were three; a tattoo, a kayak and a motorcycle. The idea of a bike kind of made sense, because I had one twice before, once in New York City and in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The tattoo was a bit of a wild card, my way of marking this crazy choice of mine, to come to a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The kayak came from an imagined, new life, with the ocean as my nautical highway to nowhere, the ever-distancing horizon, an impossible destination.

Of the three, the tattoo is the only one without any place marker in my past. I can’t recall exactly when I fell in love with the idea of having a pendant, any kind of pendant, hanging around my neck. I know I definitely got into it when I moved to Santa Fe, just because it felt right to have something of spiritual significance resting over my heart. I’ll be damned, I just went to take a picture down of me finishing the NYC Marathon in September 1982 and there is a chain around my neck, but when I blow it up, I can’t see what the hell is hanging on it. Memory is so unreliable!

One of my favorite pendants was given to me by a dear friend in Santa Fe, responsible for introducing me to Zen Buddhism. She told me I was already half-way there and I might as well step into it, which I did. Etched into the small, silver bar was the outline of the Tibetan knot of eternity, and I fell in love with it. It was this image I wanted to have branded on my right shoulder, a quiet statement of this old/new way of being. It was my badge, my indelible passport to this magical island.

In the mid 70s, I was living in Glen Cove, Long Island, in a home I couldn’t afford, leading a life that felt like it was chosen for me. My marriage had outgrown the naive dream of possibility, ruptured by the actuality of its disenchantment. There was a nearby, quaint town called Sea Cliff, nestled just about the Long Island Sound. I befriended an old salt, who sold me a little AMF manufactured sailboat called a Sunfish. On weekends, I would break the cuffs of conformity and take this little boat out on the Sound. I couldn’t sail to save my life, and continually flipped it over.

I owned a 250cc Honda back in the late 60s, when I was living in the East Village in a cavernous, seven-room apartment with a bunch of guys a good deal older than myself. Riding engenders a feeling of freedom that’s impossible to explain, part of the forever mystique of the motorcycle for all bikers. It stayed with me, until I moved to Santa Fe in the mid 80s, leading a life I never imagined possible. I bought another bike, but for some reason, I never felt comfortable, almost like a dream deferred for another time.

Within the first few months of arriving on Kaua‘i in 2003, I got that tattoo. There is a permanence about ink being drawn on your skin, my way of announcing to myself that I had made a choice about who I was and how I wanted to live. Now, most of the time, I forget it’s there, like the earring I got before I left NYC for Santa Fe over 35 years ago.

I got a kayak, too, one with pedals, keeping my hands free to hold a beer. I started going out by myself, waiting for the whales to find me. Let me tell you, for a kid who grew up in NYC, there is no amount of imagination that would have put me out in the Pacific Ocean, all alone, listening for the blow-hole sounds, then turning to see these gentle behemoths glide by, undulating in a nautical ballet choreographed by Neptune. Recklessly sailing on the Sound was nothing like this.

I bought a 750cc Honda Shadow Classic, painted a kind of orange and called her Tangerine Dream. One Sunday, after a month or so of riding on my own, I was flagged down at Nawiliwili Harbor by a wild looking, Hawaiian guy. He spoke a language that was definitely English, but it seemed like words were missing and it also seemed like every other word sounded like “dakine.” He told me about some “bruddahs,” but I wasn’t sure what the hell he was talking about.

Later that day, I saw him again, over at a grassy field, near a pavilion, which has since been paved over, subsequently birthing a Costco. He was with around a half dozen bikers, sitting at a picnic table, their big machines parked nearby. I reluctantly dismounted from Tangerine Dream and timidly walked over to these dangerous-looking guys. On that Sunday, I got my first exposure to the heart searing power of Aloha. I unblinkingly went from stranger to family. I’ve been riding with the Sons of Kaua‘i for nearly 18 years now.

I wished for a home for my heart, and Kaua‘i embraced it.

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