Sunday, November 6, 2011


October 29, 2011

Let me go slightly off topic for a second . . . or two . . . or three.

It was a miracle that I made it to this game. I was literally hanging, having had 5-6 hours of actual sleep in the previous 48 hours. Five days earlier, I had left Maui for Palo Alto, California to attend Rule 30(b)(6) depositions of a multi-billion dollar medical device manufacturer. Mainland counsel was handling the depos, so my law partner and I were basically there to observe and learn. Technically, I was there to drive.

Our flight to San Jose on Hawaiian Airlines was memorable because Dave Shoji and the UH wahine volleyball team were on our flight! They look much prettier in person and with their hair down, I must say!

We even managed to catch their game at a high school gym which San Jose State calls their volleyball arena. It was packed, but that’s because it only seats a few hundred people! We were right on top of the court. I wished I had my Nikon D90 or D7000 with me – I had no idea the Wahine were playing in San Jose before I left on the trip – but I managed to take some shots with my Panasonic Lumix. Not the same though. Not even close.

Guess who I saw on the local news? Grace Lee, formerly of the KGMB Sunrise show. I must say, the HD TV in my room was sweet, as was the HBO channels. Holiday Inn Express in Redwood City - wot a bargain!

After 4 nights in Palo Alto, we had to take a last minute “side trip” to Seattle to meet up with a potential client on a wrongful death case. My law partner indicated that we may have to stay over on Saturday night because the client lived far away in Pasco Washington. I said no way, I had to be back on Maui by Saturday afternoon. I couldn’t miss the game. So we looked at alternatives. Have the client drive up to Seattle to meet us on Friday. That way, he didn’t need me to drive and I could take the flight home from San Jose on Friday as originally planned. Nope. She works and she needed someone to watch her kids. Fly to Pasco from Seatac. Nope. That would cost an additional $350 each. Finally, I agreed to drive to Pasco. We could do it all on Friday and still be able to catch the direct flight Saturday morning on Hawaiian, arriving 1:35pm in Kahului.

It didn't help that Thursday night I had to drive my law partner and his daughter and her boyfriend down to Half Moon Bay to eat at the Navio Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton. It was a long drive, down a winding two lane road from Highway 280 to the Bay. The boyfriend's brother was the acting chef at the restaurant, local boy from Oahu. Boy, were we treated to some GREAT FOOD! It was set up as a tasting, with food being brought out to us, paired up with wine. I was driving, so I didn't drink, but the food was fantastic! And best of all, it was on the house! What also made the dinner memorable was that Game 6 of the World Series was on - what turned out to be one of the Greatest Series games of all time. Twice the St. Louis Cardinals were within 1 pitch of losing the series, only to pull out miracles each time to extend the game in the 9th inning and 10th inning. Then the Cardinals hit a walk-off homer to win the game just as we settled into the bar to have drinks and watch the game.


Pork with pumpkin sauce thing
Wagyu beef

By the time I got back to the hotel it was almost 11pm. I still had to pack. Oh boy, not much time to sleep.

Our flight from San Jose to Seattle left at 6:40am on Friday, which meant that I had to wake up at 3:30am, leave the hotel by 4:30am, and drive a half hour to the San Jose Airport. That would not have been a problem, except that I didn’t sleep until 1:30am. So 2 hours of sleep. Plus, I have a hard time sleeping on airplanes. I think I managed one hour of sleep on the two hour flight to Seattle.

Landing in Seattle, there was no time to waste. Our potential client we had to meet with lived in Pasco, Washington – a mere 230 miles away! At about 70 miles per hour on the I-90 and I-82, that meant about 3 ½ hours of driving. Non-stop. No naps. Not even an eye blink or else we get run over by an 18-wheeler doing 80mph. The meeting with the potential client went longer than I anticipated and we did not really get back on the road until about 3:30pm, after I insisted on gassing up, getting a 44 oz diet coke from McDonald’s and eating half of my philly cheesesteak that I ordered from Bruschi’s sub shop in Kennewick two hours earlier when we had met with the client initially!

Early on in the drive back, I could feel the lack of sleep finally catching up to me. But you know how it goes – the harder you fight the sleep, the more you realize you’re losing the battle. Before we got to the I-90 junction, I had to stop off somewhere to take a leak. I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up in a rural campground. It was like a scene out of Cabin Fever – no one around, except for some homeless looking people. I didn’t want to just go and piss on a tree or a bush, so I finally found a building that looked like a restroom/outhouse. I went to open the door and I nearly frickin’ died when this scrawny little black kid’s hand comes reaching out to pull the door closed! Holy crap! Where the heck did this kid come from? The parking lot was empty and there was literally no one around! I thought I was hearing banjo music playing nearby! I apologized and waited well away from the door for the kid to finish his business. When I got in there, it was like third world. A hole in the ground. No running water. No plumbing. Just a hole. I held my breath and did my business. I had no idea where it was going to. It was like a bottomless hole. I wasn’t about to stick my head in there, light a match and look, either!

Before we left Pasco, our client had mentioned that it was raining up in Seattle. I didn’t think much of it – I lived in Seattle for 3 years when I was in law school. It always rains in Seattle. What I didn’t realize was that it was storming in Seattle, which meant that driving back on the I-90 over Stevens Pass was not going to be easy. Not at all.

At first, the rain drops were large but intermittent. I looked ahead and saw some light gray skies, but nothing ominous. Washington skies are always gray, so it might be okay, right? Then the rain drops kept coming. I had to increase the frequency of the windshield wipers until it was at its most furious. And still, I could hardly see in front of me. Being in a rental car (Chevy Malibu) – a car I did not know or trust – in an area that I was not familiar with at all – raised my anxiety levels a lot. My law partner traveling with me had no intentions of driving. Nor did I expect him to offer to drive. After all, that was my purpose for being on this trip – to drive.

Game 7 of the World Series had to wait. Couldn’t even hear it – the radio was all staticky. It was distracting. So I shut it off. My law partner knew well enough not to say anything to distract me – I had to concentrate on the road ahead.

For the next hour and a half, I drove through the downpour . . . at 65-70 miles per hour . . . in temperatures in the high 30’s to low 40’s . . . through a winding mountain pass . . . with big rigs and large trucks barreling through at 70-80 miles per hour and passing me like I was standing still . . . it was scary. What’s worse is that these big trucks would pass and kick up all kinds of spray. Night time driving, headlights and spray = poor visibility.

 I held on to the steering wheel with both hands, my upper torso leaning forward as much as I could, straining to see the road in front of me. My shoulders were getting tight and my arthritic fingers were getting sore and swollen, I was holding on to the wheel so tightly.

I was not worried about falling asleep at this point. Heck, I couldn’t even blink. I was worried that my cell phone would ring and startle me, maybe cause me to lose control of the car. But I couldn’t even take one hand off the wheel to get to my phone to turn it off. Luckily, no one called.

So for about 100 miles of driving, my strategy was simple. Stay in the 2nd to the left lane. Don’t even change lanes. Once I had to change lanes and even though I did it slowly and gradually, I could feel the car hydroplaning. Keep the car in front of you. Follow its red lights. Stay between the white lines of your lane. Pray. Hope that there are no obstructions, like falling rocks or branches, on the road. Pray. Hope that there is no standing water or deep water that would cause you to hydroplane and lose control. Pray. Hope that there are no vehicles stopped up ahead – there was not enough sight distance or time to stop in time. Pray. I am by no means a deeply religious person, but there was a lot of praying going on at that time!

The tensions began to decrease as the mile marker signs heading to Seattle started to tell me I was getting closer to civilization. The rain started to let up, but it was still wet and raining. Not a downpour, so the visibility was better. The GPS indicated I was approaching my destination. When we finally reached the Issaquah/Bellevue area, I turned the radio back on. We made it.

Mind you I had been driving all day since we arrived at Seatac at 8:45am. It was now 7:00pm. We hadn’t even checked into our hotel yet, which was near Seatac. But before we went there, we stopped by to see my law partner’s law school classmate on Mercer Island. We had a great Chinese dinner at Top Gun Seafood Restaurant near the Factoria Mall. While my law partner and his classmate rehashed old law school stories that I had heard dozens of times before, I had my fill of roast duck, chow fun, mabo tofu and my favorite, salt & pepper pork chops. We didn’t leave Mercer Island until about 9:30pm. By that time, I was giving my law partner less than subtle hints that I wanted to get to the hotel and sleep. It had been a long and exhausting day.

Got to Seatac okay, but had a hardtime figuring how to get to the Radisson on International Boulevard. In my experience, the GPS sucks royally near airports. Finally figured it out and got to our hotel okay. Filled up the gas again so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in the morning. It was already about 10:30pm. I still had to shower and re-pack. I was so wound up, though, that I had to force myself to sleep at 1:30am.

Our flight on Hawaiian was at 10:30am. Thank God. I didn’t have to wake up at some absurdly early time. Woke up at 7:30am. It was COLD. We do like to check in early, so we left the hotel at 8:30am. Missed the turn at the rental return lane so that was shame. Had to back it in. We didn’t have seats assigned when I booked online, but when we checked it, it wasn’t a problem. Took a Benadryl and told my law partner that I was going to sleep on this flight (in other words, don’t bother me!).  Luckily the flight was direct to Maui. Thank God. No stops on Oahu. No time wasted waiting for the next plane to arrive.

There was no flight delay. Thank God. I might make it to the game after all! The flight was supposed to be about 5 hours. Luckily, there were no headwinds and we got to Maui about 30 minutes early. But if you add on the time it takes to get our luggage from baggage claim, it didn’t really matter.

Because of the last minute nature of the Seattle trip, my wife was not available to pick me up at the airport. My law partner’s wife picked us up and dropped me off at the house. It was about 2:00pm. No time to unpack or sleep. I had to leave by 3:30pm to get to War Memorial for the JV game. It was homecoming. I had to be there. Garret asked me to take the team photo. I had to be there. I wanted to be there.

So if you saw me on the sidelines that night, stumbling around, please understand. I had a long 48 hours. I had covered many miles by air and by car. But I was there. Taking pictures of your sons and daughters – playing football, leading the cheers, playing in the band, looking elegant and dapper in their homecoming court attire. But you know what? It was worth it.

Although the Varsity didn’t pull out the victory, I was not that upset. The players have been playing hard all year. Small numbers. Young. Injured. Hurt. For me, the thing I was happy about was that I was there. Alive. In one piece. Doing what I love to do.

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