New Year’s Eve in Hawaii

As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus sagely observed, the only constant in the world is change. That can be a tough fact of life, because while change is constant, it’s rarely easy. In some cases it can be downright unpleasant; my ever-receding hairline attests to it, in fact.

For some reason, change seems to occur in aviation at an even greater pace that in the surrounding world. Companies, fortunes, people, and aircraft in our little slice of life seem to come and go at an amazing pace. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising since the whole idea behind flying is to get somewhere. I guess the real question is, are we getting where we want to go?

That’s about a philosophical as I get, folks.

Thankfully, for me the answer has definitely been yes. I was fortunate enough to ring in the new year in the same place and with the same people as last year, which in business aviation almost qualifies as a long-standing tradition.

The operative terms this holiday were “sushi” and “Hawaii”. There’s a little seafood restaurant called Sansai Sushi Bar which is tucked into an outdoor shopping plaza in the Waikoloa area on the northwest coast of the Island of Hawai’i. My crew and I patronized this joint on the last day of 2011 and loved it. Through the miracle of crew schedules we found ourselves there exactly one year later, exploring the seafood delicacies of the Pacific once again.

Many of the pilots and FA’s I’ve flown with are foodies, so I’ve been surrounded by folks who know where to eat. Since I started flying for this company I’ve enjoyed comparing notes with my old college roommate, because he’s gone on to become a well-known writer and food critic in the Southern California area. In fact I’ll be going with him on an assignment to the Santa Ynez area later this month. When I’m home, he’s the go-to guy for restaurant ideas. On the road, however, I might be able to help him out with suggestions in places like Jackson Hole, London, New York, or Hawaii.

Anyway, if you’ve never been there, I highly recommend Sansei. They have restaurants on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island, and I’ve been to all three locations while “on business”. From a simple salmon sashimi to complex dishes with myriad sauces and flavors, they do it right. The food’s not cheap, but then bargain sushi seems like the kind of thing The Most Interesting Man in the World would sternly disapprove of.

The secret seems to be out on this joint, so I recommend getting there early. Real early, in fact. The line on New Year’s Eve was out the door and branched off in two directions well in advance of the restaurant’s 5 p.m. opening. By the time we arrived, the seating reservations for the sushi bar were long gone; we snagged the last three seats available in the whole place. I tried to tell them that we’d flown 2,600 miles just to indulge in their panko-crusted Ahi, but apparently everyone else in line was from Southern California, too.

It’s always a bit of a bummer to be away from loved ones at the holiday, but if you’re traveling with the right people life can be pretty sweet. And besides, I made it back for the ball drop at midnight, if only virtually. My wife was at a party with friends and we hooked up a Skype session just in the nick of time. I was able to say hello to the peeps, count down the final moments of 2012, and still get a good night’s sleep before my 5:15 a.m. wake-up call.

What will 2013 bring? I’m in the aviation biz, so who knows. Hope for the best, plan for the worst, and enjoy all the good food and adventure you can in the mean time. That’s my plan, and I’ll be sticking to it.

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