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Arashi Blast In Hawaii -- Epilogue -- Unforgettable


I remember staring at the black sky as the helicopter disappeared from our sight. The sky seemed to have been devoid of stars. While, the sky somehow swallowed the brilliance of the night, Arashi had dragged all the stars with them. I remember holding the penlight to my breast and letting out a long sigh. It felt like I had been holding my breath in exhilaration all throughout the show.

People started picking up their things from the mud and moved out. Legions of fans trudged along the beach. I didn’t want to move. I wanted to stay still and indulge in the bliss that had finally … FINALLY … fell upon me.

When Jannie started picking up our things, I was forced out of my reverie. The night was done. Arashi was gone. Left with just memories, it was time to go home. The mud kept on swallowing my flip-flops. It was a struggle to walk out of the venue. As much as I wanted to hold on, the ground held on to me just as much. At one point my flip-flops gave up and sacrificed itself so I can move. I had to let go of Jannie’s hands once more so I can go back and save my flip-flops.

Before exiting the concert grounds, I forced Jannie to take a selfie with the stage behind us.
While walking out, we saw a fanboy (man?) dressed as Yuuji of Ohmiya SK. I wanted to ask for his picture, but Jannie was really in a hurry to get home. Yuuji was just standing by the barricade in his block, unmoving. I know how you feel Yuuji, I know how you feel.

We went the same way we entered. We were hoping the standees would still be there so we could take pictures of it. Not surprising, though, it had already been packed up before the show ended. As soon as we got out of the pavement, walking had become easier. We walked really fast, Jannie and I. I kept up with her pace as we waded through the sea of fans flooding the street.

We drove back to the hotel in silence. Jannie would only speak up to tell me that I’m swerving to my right. I thought I broke the car. But it didn’t matter. It was all worth it.

We were hella exhausted when we got to our Hawaiian home at a little past 10. Jannie took a bath first, and then I did; while we plugged our already dead phones. Famished, we decided to eat somewhere near. Apparently, Jannie had had her eye on Kimukatsu since the start. But because it was kinda pricey, she waited until the concert was done before suggesting it. I would not forget the name of this place — any Johnnys fan would always associate it with a certain superstar.

The wall by the door was adorned with pictures of celebrities that had dined in the restaurant. Brad Pitt, Izumi Mori, and Grace Park were a few I remember. But the waiter was the very thing that made Kimukatsu amazing, IMO. That night, he was the lone attendant serving around seven tables and bartending at the same time; not to mention people coming in for food pick-ups. He was easy on the eyes, too.

We ate our dinner whilst watching a drunk guy pulled over by a cop. He was really drunk, he obviously didn’t pass any of the sobriety test. It was the only entertainment we had for dinner. It was an experience. Dinner and drinks slightly raised our energy enough to get us back to the hotel. We turned in at 12-ish. Jannie had to be at the airport by 4am, having to catch an earlier flight.

At 4am, I crawled out of the bed and splashed water on my face. It was time to take Jannie to the airport. She was already packed and ready to go by the time I checked up on her in her bedroom. Even her freebie stool was packed neatly inside her only bag. We drove to the airport in the dead of the night. It was Jannie’s last time to navigate for me. Before she got off the car, we took a picture in the darkness and gave each other a tight hug. This was the last time I would be seeing this person for a long time. It was a bittersweet goodbye.

Loneliness enveloped me as I navigated my way back to the hotel. The silence in the car was deafening. I thought I heard myself sob. I knew I would never be able to go back to the way I was before.

I got back to the hotel safely despite trying to navigate with a phone that kept on falling off. I did get into a small accident as I turned left one corner, but I think it fixed the car’s swerving problem more than damaged it. I texted Jannie my status, and she texted back that she was still waiting for the airport to open. I saw a lone girl checking out at 5am. The front desk lady asked her if she had fun at the concert and she bashfully responded with a nod. Had I known there was another fan travelling alone in our hotel, I would have offered her a ride. But I was never good with forums and social media. Too paranoid for that. I watched that fan’s taxi drive her away. I couldn’t even muster up the courage to say hello. Like Nino, I was slightly being bipolar in Hawaii, too.

I slept until 11am. When I woke up, I started packing. I tried my hardest to fit the stool in my carry-on suitcase. My flight wasn’t until past 8pm. I didn’t have to return the car until 6pm. I wanted to see the beach. But I got a little scared because I didn’t have a navi anymore. Based on the drive back to the hotel from the airport, it wasn’t a good idea to use my phone. I’m so used to driving in wide roads and less traffic, I chickened out of driving to the beach on my own. Hawaii have their fair share of crazy drivers. I swear, they scare me more than San Francisco drivers. Considering, San Francisco have a lot of legitimate crazies in the streets.

After I checked out at around 12pm, I left my baggage in the car. I walked around the city taking selfie after selfie. Unbeknownst to me, Sho-kun was doing the same thing on the other island. It gave me great pleasure when I found out about this. It didn’t mean anything. It was just a fun coincidence.

There was this poster of Arashi at the Royal Hawaiian Center which Jannie and I ignored in our first day in Hawaii. We thought it was another store for the con goods, which we already completed. When I saw it again, I thought maybe I should just check it out. I found that it lead to a theatre that played past Arashi concerts for free — IF you’d gotten the packaged tour from Japan. It didn’t keep me from taking pictures of the various things that had Arashi logo on it. Even a picture of the dog who wore shades but had nothing to do with Arashi.

As I was walking around watching fans take pictures and line up for the theater, a girl suddenly chased after me. I thought for a moment I was doing something illegal. It turned out, it was the young lady who stood behind us in the line at the concert. The one who look like Yamada Yuu. She asked me if I remembered her. Of course I remembered her. I highly doubt there would be anybody who wouldn’t remember such beauty. Seriously, Ran, you should model or something. We took a commemorative picture; exchanged Instagram accounts; promised each other to keep in touch; and gave each other a tight hug. I’m sorry Ran, I know I haven’t been keeping in touch — but I promise I’ll say hi once in a while.  

Ran was Akira Kurosawa's last movie in the the 80s.
No relation to this girl however, except for the name. LOL
I had lunch at Royal Hawaiian Center food court. It was so hard to find a table as the entire place was filled with Arashi fans. I barely heard anyone speaking English. And every one who tried talking to me, tried Japanese first before English. Uhm … was it because I was wearing an Arashi shirt? Those who couldn’t speak English just walked away when I said, “Sumimasen. Wakarimasen.” There was this one girl in the bathroom, she didn’t know how to flush the toilet (not that American toilets are complicated, but it was supposed to be automatic). She was talking in Japanese so fast, all I could do was shake my head. She ended up asking the Japanese lady who used her stall before her. I ended up using her stall. Auto flush was broken. LOL.

I had to share a table with this young man from Easter Europe. His English was heavily accented, but at least he could understand what I was saying. He wasn’t with anybody so he let me sit across him. He was rather good looking. I imagined Jannie would have been kilig much. But he was also young. Like early 20s young. Even though I have a reputation for being a cradle snatcher, I REALLY AM NOT. Because if I were, I wouldn’t be into Arashi or into Nino; I would be into Chinen and  Sexy Zone. But I’m not. And so I wasn’t excited by this young Eastern European man. No! I’m not being defensive, I swear.

I got a Loco Moco steak plate from Kenny’s
Hawaiian Barbeque. Nope. Couldn’t finish it.

After having lunch, I walked further down the street and took more selfies with Arashi logos. They were literally everywhere. At one corner, I saw a man peddling some art of Hawaiian landscape. Right beside him was a bright sunshiny alley with huge surf boards lined up against the wall. It reminded me of the graffiti alley across our hotel in Singapore. It also reminded me how I always end up exploring strange places for hours. Swimming in strange waters.

I went through the alley and found the beach. Oh! Finally the beach. From my initial google-fu-ing I had known that there was a beach nearby. I just couldn't find the way to it. I had thought it was smart of me to presume surf boards would lead the way. I tested the waters in the beach and texted Ze Mudra. She would love this beach for sure, short of moving to Hawaii. I took some selfies. The beach and the mountains/hills that lined up the edges reminded me of Boracay. It made me a bit nostalgic. Made me want to go home and go to Palawan. I haven’t been to Palawan. I used to fantasize going to Palawan for my honeymoon (though I never could fantasize about any wedding). But that was with another guy from an entirely forgotten past. I wondered if I would want to go to Palawan still if I were wed to Nino. I quivered at every thought of Nino. This fangirl’s memory was very vivid. This fangirl also remembers the fangirls frolicking in this beach, with their Arashi towels on the sand. After seeing that, I vowed to buy more Arashi concert towels.

I kept on walking around until I got tired and bored. I’ve spoken to so many locals asking them about their thoughts on the whole Arashi thing. Most of them were tired because there were too many tourists than usual, but they were happy nonetheless. I wanted to ride those streetcars with the Arashi banners, but I was too lazy to line up. I was also scared of getting lost. I have had one phobia all my life — MAZEOPHOBIA. Oh there’s my confession. Instead, I just finished up my pasalubong/omiyage shopping.

I went back to the hotel at 3pm. The exhaustion finally caught up with me, I took a light nap on the couch beside the pool. When I woke up, it was already past 5pm, and it was time to bring the car back. I did so safely and no additional charge other than the gas (which I should have just filled up myself). I took their free transport to the airport and checked in early. Having had to wait more than 2 hours, I positioned myself beside an outlet and started writing in my phone.

I was brimming with words. The same way I lost all motivation to write in 2008, I have suddenly recovered. Six years of longing was done. I had seen the surface. I had fallen in love.  Now it’s time to get me some feet.

When I got on the plane to LAX, I heard familiar voices greeting me. Even though we didn’t know each other’s name then, I knew they were calling me. It was them again -- the two Arashi ladies I met on the flight from LAX. They were 2 seats behind me. They asked what happened on day 2, and they told me a little about day 1.  We fangirled until the plane took off. I was dead asleep all throughout the flight. I didn't even get my complimentary drink. Good thing I ate at the airport, however expensive it was.

Asako-san and Rumi-san

When we got off the plane, oka-san gave me her business card. To this day, I still have it in my wallet. I finally got to know their names — Asako-san & Rumi-san. Asako-san and I continue to correspond through email. Maybe when I drop by L.A., I’ll see them again. Asako-san actually sent me a picture of her Nino. I still say her Nino is a lot better looking. But my Nino is an entirely different ball game.

I was wearing just a regular shirt, flimsy shorts, and a light jacket when I arrived in SFO. Lesson learned: Even if one came from Hawaii, however hot it is, one should always wear pants when going to SFO. I went straight to work from the airport. My suitcase tripped everybody at work. But everyone said I looked bright, beautiful, and happy. I was an Aiba for days -- A walking sunshine.

Even now, when I remember Hawaii, I blind people with my brightness. When I get sad or mad, I try to recall Hawaii. They made me happy. Friends, fellow fans, and Arashi.

Now I’m ready to write again.

Finally ~ THE END

忘れられない / Arashi (嵐)

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