The final leg of the journey is really the first leg. It was the only leg. Hawai’i. This time last year? I was just exhausted. So damn tired. I remember exactly where I was and exactly where I would be: at work. I’d be spending Thanksgiving at work and then Christmas at a friend’s house while he and his family were away.
Covid? And the massive changes it brought to everybody’s life? I was already there before the virus even appeared. At the beginning of 2019, after thinking about it and considering things for over a year, I finally asked both my business partner and my wife for a divorce. My wife took it far better. I spent the rest of 2019 preparing the lab for sale and keeping it afloat until the new owner and his father could put things together.
I carried the lab for 15 years. 2019 was no different. I had finally gotten some help by hiring a new, exciting employee with a fantastic work ethic. -who then went out on maternity leave. Nobody in the lab stepped up, so I dug even deeper, past the soul weary exhaustion, knowing there was a way out, an exit, that kept being pushed off by the buyer.
Red flags were everywhere. It was ugly. I was open about everything regarding the lab, sending email after email that were all ignored. An exit strategy, what was best for the lab, someone FINALLY learning the things only I knew how to do with the technology. Nothing. But with the red flags flapping in the winter winds, I had one thought: Hawai’i.
Thanksgiving came and went without a sale. I pushed, dug deeper. I finally got a date: December 15th.
That is when I really screwed up. I didn’t book a flight to anywhere. It was just a hazy thought in my head: digging my toes into warm sand after a very long 15 years of lab ownership with a partner who was never a partner, just a glorified employee that fished too much. On December 15th, I screwed up even more. I trusted people I should not have trusted. Nothing on paper. I had my check, I had the documents signed, I had my friends screaming at me to run like hell, I was being treated like garbage at the lab even before the papers were signed, but I was asked to stick around to help with the transition with nothing in the agreement about it.
“You have my word,” Sergei, the new owner, the employee that I had trained and helped raise, “me and my father have your back.” “We’ll take care of you and take care of everything.” While one idiot partner was trying to rush me out the door, the other was realizing that they still didn’t know how to do anything that I did in the office and with the technology.
Run! I was told by many. How could I though? The lab was my baby. Yeah, I sold, but they didn’t even know how to bill out for the month, close out the month, close out the year, know any of the passwords and accounts, and I wanted Sergei to be successful. I haven’t been through many business transfers, but this one was about as ugly as I thought it could get. If I had left, the lab would have folded immediately. But my check had already cleared. Why should I stick around? Because I am me. Loyal, giving, Chris. And I had given Sergei my word, that I would help him out.
At the end of the day, a man is only as good as his word. It is the only thing he has left when his eyes close for the final time.
So, instead of flying out to Hawai’i for Christmas, I spent the night in my friend’s basement and then worked all through the Christmas holiday.
It happened the way everybody told me it would. I got screwed out of $35,000–and then some, with a simple text at the end of January: “Don’t come in anymore. We don’t need you.”
I finally got my life back. The door was finally closed by the utter lack of integrity. I taught him better than that. I guess his father didn’t. But before I could make my escape, Covid hit.
Yeah, there is still a lot of bitterness and anger. I knew better. Or. ALL of my friends did, but I ignored my gut, kept listening to the “we’ll take care of you,” And then holidays passed and then the window of opportunity to make it to that warm sand beech and nap for a while closed. I was left looking out of it, in an empty home, because my governor became the only one in the US to stop house sales. Then, the Covid hibernation overtook me and I dreamed different dreams.
“We detached from everything that anchors us in the day to day,” a friend, a psychiatrist explained to me as we discussed Covid. Our minds rebel against the changes, fight them, and, to protect us, a part of us goes to sleep. I slept. I got a lot of electrical work done around the house, did a lot of work on the pond, and worked on other upgrades that didn’t need to be done as I was selling it. My mind grasped on the idea of renting out rooms, so I put money into that. It grasped on the idea of keeping the house. Why not? Lock down. Where could I go?
The governor finally rescinded the order and the house sold. Settlement was set. But what was I going to do? The Hawaiian Beach had been replaced with an Italian one, and then a Greek one, after a family trip to Poland. Everything got cancelled. No country was letting anybody in. So, I picked up an old Steinbeck book, Travels with Charley, and thought of other possibilities. Writing again. Seeing my own country. And maybe Hawai’i would reopen to mainlanders by the time I made it to the west coast? Maybe Canada would allow road access to Alaska? Nope. So my expected 18,000 mile, three month trip became a 30,000 mile odyssey.
49 states. I finished them up on my way back to Philly. I couldn’t stop there, especially after returning and realizing it wasn’t home for me anymore, so I set out again. Quicker. Pushing. Hawai’i was open. I had liked Seattle in the summertime and wanted to see the west coast without all of the smoke. The flight from Seattle is just 6 1/2 hours. So why not?
The normal Facebook and Instagram posts that fed this page are not as regular anymore, dropping to a trickle. Hawai’i will be the end as I move away from “Travels with Coffee” and back into “The Coffee Chronicles.” There was more happening inside of me and my head than town to town and sight to sight. I wrote (it’s right here on my website) and how an outward solo journey necessitates an inward journey. 30,000 miles is a lot of time to think about things, and I needed the time.
Come with me, dear reader. Come and dance on the sands of Hawai’i with me. A dance full of laughter and amazing views of my favorite place on earth. But then then music will change on the way back from the islands. A different tune.
I’m hoping to leave the bitterness and anger behind when I leave Hawai’i. It’s a good place to leave things. It’s a good place to learn how to live aloha. The depression comes with me no matter where I go, but I have learned a lot of tools to work on that. Find a nice quiet place to begin using the tools. Someone need to chronicle Covid America. Someone needs to chronicle depression in a way I can.
So, a few more columns, a lot more pictures. Possibly a book or three. And then deeper into that inward journey.
“In the Hawaiian language, “aloha“ may mean love, affection, compassion, mercy, sympathy, pity, kindness or grace. … Living Aloha is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. It brings each person to the self. Each person must think and express good feelings to others.”