Eric R., Hiking Tour Guide, 34 Years (Hanapepe, Kauai)

I’m at a point in my life where I absolutely treasure quality people…and I know when I meet one instantaneously. Eric R. is one of my favorites…authentic, hard-working, cool, funny, sweet (in a manly way ;)), honest, and so much more. He knows exactly who he is and has created a life where he can express it wholeheartedly with passion. I do believe I was meant to meet him…besides the Universe, I have Google to thank! I was planning my latest trip to Kauai (last May) and was determined to find a “non-haole tourist” hike to go on. I Googled to see what was out there and, after bypassing all the hokey-sounding ones, I found Eric’s site (www.hikekauaiwithme.com). I emailed him with my request (a moderate hike with no Mid-Western tourists or whining kids!)…and he responded almost immediately. Within minutes I had two half-day hikes scheduled. It was clear he knew the island inside and out, so I put myself into his very capable hands only concerning myself with packing the right hiking gear.

It only took minutes to feel like I was hiking with a buddy (so much so that I almost forgot to pay him!). Of course, I eyed his tattoos immediately and coerced him into an interview. 😉 I snapped most of the pictures on the top of Kahili Mountain, right after the rain stopped and the blustery winds blew away the white-out (I was wet and a tad chilled and the sun was now shining brightly, so it’s not my best work…life is not perfect, but it’s exciting!). I was so distracted by the consummate Kauai experience on top of the mountain (and in the lychee orchard at its base) that I completely forgot to interview him when we got back to the cars! In authentic male style, Eric emailed concise answers to all of my questions…

I am so thankful for Facebook, which has allowed me to keep a lifeline to my island through one of my newest friends. The best part…I was able to be a small part of his recent journey to the Phillipines where he became engaged to his finance! I’m so looking forward to my next hike this August…

WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD THAT COMES TO MIND WHEN I SAY TATTOO?

Expression

WHEN DID YOU GET YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

I was 22.

WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GET A TATTOO?

The first one was mostly because I could.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST TATTOO?

A Los Angeles Dodgers hat on top of a globe (i.e, Dodgers are on top of the world!).

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN?

I discussed it with an artist and the brainchild was formed.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT IT?

To me, the arms are the best spot for a tattoo. I decided on my upper arm because it was most visible.

WHO DID IT?

Some dude in Portland, Oregon.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE HIM AND HOW DID YOU KNOW HE WAS THE RIGHT ONE?

I just went into a tattoo parlor that a friend recommended and used the artist that was available.

AND HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN OF YOUR SECOND TATTOO?

It was my favorite band’s logo – the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHERE YOU WERE GOING TO PUT THIS ONE?

I liked the idea of having one on my inner wrist.

WHO DID IT?

An artist in Ft. Worth, Texas. I used the first artist that became available at a shop that I found down the street from my house.

AND YOUR THIRD TATTOO…HOW DID YOU PICK THAT DESIGN?

My favorite number is 10 and I used it in a design to look like a ring. The same artist that did my Chili Peppers tattoo did this one.

HOW DID YOU PICK THE DESIGN & LOCATION OF YOUR FOURTH TATTOO?

I drew a design that was representative of my lifestyle – palm trees on an island at sunset that states “No bad days!” Again, upper arm is one of my choice spots…very visible to me and others.

WHO DID IT?

An artist in Portland, Oregon. I returned to the same shop that did my first tattoo, but I used a different artist this time (one that was available).

AND YOUR FIFTH TATTOO?

I wanted something that represented the beauty of Hawaii. The hibiscus is so Hawaii and I didn’t feel like it was too “girly” by doing it in black. 🙂

YOUR SIXTH TATTOO?

My buddy and I decided to think of two words that perfectly represented what was important to us in our lives…”Love & Leisure” (on a compass). I always wanted one on my forearm and this was the time. The same shop that did the previous two in Portland did this one.

OK, NOW FOR YOUR SEVENTH…

That’s the hiker on my arm. This is a silhouette of me doing what I do best. I had the artist use a picture of me.

AND, YOUR LAST (EIGHTH) TATTOO!

The island of Kauai on my chest…pretty self explanatory, my favorite place in the world over my heart. Kauai is very dear to me…

WHICH TATTOO IS MOST MEANINGFUL TO YOU?

The most meaningful is the picture of myself hiking because it’s an actual shot of me doing what I love most.

HAVE YOU EVER REGRETTED GETTING ANY OF YOUR TATTOOS?

Never. I always love what I finally choose after much thought.

DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO GET MORE?

If I get any more, it will most likely have to do with my fiance. She will love that! 🙂

Tahiti & “Tattoo History” by S. Gilbert (Pt. 3)

The island of Moorea

I was lucky enough to go to Tahiti on my honeymoon…what seems like eons ago. It was my first expedition outside of the U.S. (with the exception of tequila missions to Tijuana, which just doesn’t count). Being a quasi-young newlywed guy guarding his pocketbook, Lance steered clear of the touristic (and pricey) island of Bora Bora and headed to the less visited Moorea and the remote Huahini. I was so “checked out” for the first 30 years of my life that I have very few solid memories…but, it’s odd…I do remember Tahiti…vividly. I think my recycled soul knew it was close to home…

I can remember exactly what it looked like – our huts just feet from the vividly turquoise water, the trade winds that we swore were going to rip off our thatched roof, the lush green of the interior countryside and central rain forest, the crumbling ruins, the sunset cocktail cruises, the crappy food (with the exception of the local dolphin delicacy that we broke down and ate…on our last day). I can still see the people…who were stunningly beautiful with the kindest of eyes. I don’t remember seeing any tattoos, but then I wouldn’t have been too attracted to them at the time…at least not on a conscious level.

The island of Huahini

I have several worthy memories from this two weeks of my life…

  • It was here that I took the first baby step out of my “box”…the only step I would take for many, many years, but one that would never leave me. The French colonizers didn’t make the Polynesians put all their clothes on when they took over…even in 1991, it was the norm to sunbathe topless. I am proud to say that I pushed myself to observe this local custom…and I had a mild sunburn to prove it!
  • I remember a beautiful girl who was staying at our resort in Huahini. She appeared to be an aspiring model with two drooling guys following her every move with their eyes – and their cameras. They were so young and free…and having an amazing experience. Of course, my conscious self judged her…but, my unconscious self wished I was brave enough to have such an exotic and thrilling adventure. Deep down I admired her and she would inspire me to be brave many years in the future. I sometimes wonder who she has become and if that experience is one of her most treasured memories.
  • On our second night in Huahini, I walked out of the humid shower into the humid room. As I dried my hair with a towel, a flash of movement caught my eye. I hit the floor…Lance gaping at me as if I had completely lost it. I struggled to get the words out…there was a man staring at me through the crack in the drapes!!! When I made eye contact with him, he turned and ran…I scrambled to the window and saw him disappear into the trees. Apparently the locals didn’t seem to miss movie theaters or televisions…the visiting honeymooners provided plenty of free entertainment!
  • And, then there was the moment that Lance tried to kill me…where the reef met the tide. I was not happy that he paddled the kayak right up to the point that we were told to avoid…I was both fuming and panicking while he happily snorkeled more than 50 feet away and I frantically struggled to stop myself from drifting out to die. I weighed 98 pounds when we got in the kayak…when I got back to shore, I weighed 90. And, I’m sure that I will die five years earlier than I should because of that experience.

I can’t wait to go back…I definitely feel a connection to the Polynesian culture. On my next visit, I will definitely be checking out tattoos – and abiding by all of the local customs, of course. Oh, and I think I’ll blow a kiss to the Polynesian peeping tom. 🙂

In Tattoo History (see the link at right to buy this amazing book), Steve Gilbert writes about the first accounts of Polynesian tattoos. We have Captain James Cook of England – and his naturalist, Joseph Banks – to thank for this peek into the past. The first voyage to the islands began in 1768, and lasted three years. Here are some of Banks’ writings on tattoos:

“I shall now mention their method of painting their bodies or ‘tattow’ as it is called in their language.” [We still use the same word today…there was no word in any Western language for this form of art.]

“Their method of doing it I will now describe. The color they use is lamp black which they prepare from the smoke of a kind of oily nuts used by them instead of candles. This is kept in coconut shells and mixed with water occasionally for use. Their instruments for pricking this under the skin are made of bone and shell, flat, the lower part of this is cut into sharp teeth from 3 to 20 according to the purpose it is to be used for and the upper fastened to a handle. These teeth are dipped into the black liquor and then driven by quick sharp blows struck upon the handle with a stick for that purpose into the skin so deep that every stroke is followed by a small quantity of blood…”

“…all the islanders I have seen (except those of Ohiteroa) agree in having all their buttocks covered with a deep black…”

“I saw this operation performed on the fifth of July on the buttocks of a girl about 14 years of age. For some time she bore it with great resolution, but afterwards began to complain and in a little time grew so outrageous that all the threats and force her friends could use could hardly oblige her to endure it.” (Tattoo History by Steve Gilbert, Pages 36-37)

I’m so grateful for technological advancements in tattooing, so my friends didn’t have to sit on me while Luis decorated my body…