Monday, December 31, 2007


It's still raining,
but life is great,
so onward we go
to two thousand and eight!

May two of my favorite quotes guide you through the new year.

"Be the change you want to see in the world."
Mahatma Ghandhi

"Not all those who wander are lost."
J.R.R. Tolkien

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fun with friends

We've just enjoyed three days visiting with two of Ron's clients, Tom and Michelle. We hit it off famously and I think I'm safe in saying that they are now not just clients, but friends. They joined us for some barbie on the lanai Thursday night. Friday, we gobbled some great sushi and enjoyed more fun conversation. Today, we spent hours meandering our way around the island. They were great company and gave us a welcome respite from the incessant rain.
At one stop along the highways and byways, we strolled the grounds of Pu'uhonua o Honaunau, a.k.a. Place of Refuge. The Hawaiian kingdom of old imposed strict laws on the people. If a person broke the law, the punishment was harsh. If you were observed standing in the shadow of the king, for instance, the penalty was death. If a soldier refused to fight his king's battles, his ass was grass. Unless, that is, he could get himself to the place of refuge before being apprehended and whacked. Run, swim, crawl...if he made it to Pu'uhonua o' Honaunau, his life was spared, the offense was forgotten and he was allowed to return to his life. Today, the refuge is a National Monument.
When we arrived there, we spotted this honu relaxing in the sand. I guess the turtles need a refuge, too.
Lunch at Kona Brewing Company was a long, leisurely affair, followed by drinks on the beach at The Four Seasons Hualalai. Then, it was back to the rain on the windward side.

Thanks to Tom, I have a new joke to share:

A skeleton walks into a bar. He says to the bartender, "Give me a beer....And a mop."

Badump bump.

Friday was a killer at work. We were busy non-stop, all day long. The people just kept coming and coming and coming. We had nary a moment to breath. The thought of eating sushi later that evening definitely kept me going. I had songs playing in my head all afternoon:

If you knew sushi, like I knew sushi....

Sushi in the sky-y, with diamonds...

Hang on, sushi! Sushi hang on!

Speaking words of wisdom, wa-sa-bi....(wa-sa-bi)

So when we finally got there, it was oh so onolicious! We washed it all down with some Orion beer from Okinawa.

I'm scheduled back at the old wine factory again tomorrow. I really hope it's just a little less crazy than my last shift.

Geez. Maybe it'll rain again tomorrow. We definitely need the moisture. (NOT!)

A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Island Christmas

On Christmas eve, Ron and I took an afternoon trip up the Hamakua coast in search of some sun and lunch. We found neither. Traffic was pretty heavy through Hilo, where we stopped en-route at Hilo Hattie to buy me a new Christmas aloha shirt. Our quest for food had us headed to a little place in Laupahoehoe called The 50s Cafe. I had heard it was good, so we thought we'd give it a try. It took us a long time to get there, winding around the curves of the highway in the rain. We were both pretty hungry. Ron kept asking me, "How much further?"
I'd say, "I think it's right up here."
Then he'd say, "That's what you said last time I asked."
Then I'd say, "I know, but I'm pretty sure it's right around the next curve."
Then we would laugh.
At one point, we made a detour along the Onomea Bay scenic drive, only to be turned around within just a few miles. We were stopped suddenly by a mudslide and several large, tall trees that had fallen from the hillside across the road, right at the trailhead that leads down to the shoreline. One big tree had landed on the roof of a parked SUV. It appeared that car's inhabitants had taken the trail and returned to find their vehicle pinned. Big fat bummahs! It must have just happened. I overheard the guy talking to his rental car company, letting them know what had happened. We assumed with all the other phones in operation and the casual demeanor of the dozen or more people standing around that the authorities had been summoned. We made a quick, three-point turn-around and high-tailed it outa there, choosing to skeedaddle before the rest of the hillside came down and before the traffic backed up behind us and we became trapped at the dead end created by the debris. As we returned to the highway, we saw that the cops were already on their way.
When we finally made it to Laupahoehoe, we learned that The 50s Cafe is closed on Mondays. Once again, bummahs! So we opted for some filling station chicken. The only other place to get food near there is a gas pump/mini-mart that advertises "Maui fried chicken." I guess it's "Maui fried" in much the same way that the Colonel's is "Kentucky fried" no matter where you buy it. Ironically, when we entered the place, we saw that the chicken was gone. "Somebody jus' come in an' clean us out," said the clerk. Again, bummahs! It was going to be a bit of a wait before the next batch o' foul would be ready. So we headed back to Hilo Town. On the way, we spotted the rental SUV that had been crushed by the tree. It was on the back of a tow truck, parked on the highway. It didn't really look all that bad; just a nasty dent in the roof. We also wound a ways through the jungle near Laupahoehoe. I shot this photo of a raging muddy stream. It's been raining so hard for so long that streams are all brown and heavy with silt washing out to sea. When we got to town, we split a plate of local/chinese/pipi stew/whatevahs kine stuffs at a little hole-in-the-wall near the KTA grocery store. It did the trick, tiding us over until dinner. Later that night, Lucy decided she should clean my bowl after I was finished with it. I guess she likes my lasagna. Then, she decided to clean me up a bit, too.
This morning, I spent some quality time on the couch with Crawford. She can't really jump up on her own anymore, so I gave her a boost. It's her couch, after all. Crawfie and I watch the exploits of Ralphy in "A Christmas Story." I got my egg nog fix for the year, then talked to a few friends and family on the phone. Later, I delivered some locally made preserves to my neighbors and talked story for a few minutes with those who were home. This afternoon, we went to the Christmas buffet at the Kilauea Military Camp in Volcanoes National Park. We were not dazzled by the buffet. Most perplexing was the "turkey" slices that were a ying and yang blend of both white and dark meat. Later, Ron actually asked me, "What was up with that turkey?" I suggested it was a "turkey loaf" of some sort, pressed and molded in such a way that it no longer resembled real turkey. Yet that's what it was. Then, there was the fruitcake for desert. I'm the only person I know who actually likes good fruitcake. Harry and David's comes to mind. Unfortunately, this was the stereotypical kind of fruitcake, the kind that gives all respectable fruitcakes a bad name. It was heavy as a cannon ball and was loaded with those unnaturally-colored green and red fruit thingies that don't really taste like anything. On the other hand, the lamb chops and mashed taters with gravy were ono. The green beans were cooked with bacon. Bacon makes everything good. I wore my new shirt. All in all, it was a nice, island Christmas.

Hope yours was nice too.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Apple spice cake, a long nap and crabs. Oh my!

Mele Kalikimaka is the thing to say,
On a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day,
That's the island greeting that we send to you
From the land where palm trees sway,
Here we know that Christmas will be green and bright,
The sun to shine by day and all the stars at night,
Mele Kalikimaka is Hawaii's way
To say "Merry Christmas to you."
Written by R. Alex Anderson, 1949

If you click on the link above, you can hear this classic, as sung by Bing Crosby. What better to put you in the holiday spirit!

Ah, Christmas time. It must be the reason I got the bug to bake tonight. So after watching Shrek 3, I whipped up an apple spice cake. It's still cooling. It's late, so I won't know how it tastes until tomorrow morning. I think it will go nicely with my coffee. It definitely smells good.

I was so exhausted after working four days in a row at the winery this week that today, when Ron said he was going to take a nap, I joined him, only to wake up three hours later! Three hours! It felt great! It's also why I'm sitting here blogging my heart out at 10 p.m., not the least bit sleepy. Friday night my feet were so sore that I was actually beginning to limp a little. Even my Crocs were no help. My left arch felt swollen, my legs ached, my back twinged as though I'd been shoveling heavy, wet snow for hours. It was enough to make me think that, instead of a job that requires me to be on my feet all day for peanuts, I should find one that lets me sit all day and pays me some real money. If I need exercise, I'll go to the gym or take a long walk. Fun as it is, There's no way I could work at the winery full time. I don't know how my manager Kathie does it. She arrives at 8 a.m. to clean and prep the place for opening. Then she works alongside us for 8 hours. She puts in 10 hour days, mostly on her feet, four days a week.

I had vowed to seek out some sun today, but with the long nap and all, it seemed a better day to clean house. Now, I really feel ready for the holiday. Tomorrow, I plan to deliver locally made preserves to my neighbors' porches to wish them Merry Christmas. Then it's off to the beach!

My mom sends us dungeness crabs every year for Christmas. Sounds weird, huh? It's something that was scarce in Colorado. Turns out it's hard to find here, too. It's also one of my favorite foods. So it's become a tradition. We ate crab for dinner last night, then again tonight. I'm thinking that tomorrow night, we might eat crab.

I'm watching John Mayer wail right now on Austin City Limits. That boy just oozes talent from every pore.

A hui hou. Mele Kalikimaka. Aloha!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Secret Santa day

Who says you can't have a white Christmas in Hawaii! If you squint a little, you can see a thin strip of snow atop Mauna Loa.
Early this morning, my poor co-worker encountered a horrible customer. It actually happened an hour and a half before we were scheduled to open. Teddy was there early, as he often is, when a car drove into the parking lot. It was about 8:30 a.m. The vehicle screeched to a halt, not in one of the designated parking spaces, but smack in the middle of the lot. A man got out, leaving his car door wide open. He walked into the tasting room.
"I'd like to taste some of your wine." he said. The man had ignored the closed signs on our gate and at the front door. He was German and spoke perfect English, but with a distinct accent.
Teddy told him we were not scheduled to open until 10:00, but agreed to allow the man to come in and taste anyway. He wanted to taste the red. The man told Teddy he had slept in his car last night. Why he said this was unclear to Teddy, but Teddy poured on, in typical friendly fashion. Upon sampling a single sip, the man said something like, "This is awful. You stupid Americans will drink anything. I'm going back to Germany to tell everyone how terrible the wine is in Hawaii."
At first, Teddy thought the man must be joking. The guy's just got a sarcastic sense of humor, right? No such luck. When Teddy laughed, grouchy German guy did not. He scowled, stomped out the door and back to his car, then sped away.
Personally, if it had been me, I'd have been tempted, upon hearing him refer to us as stupid Americans, to reply, "Stupid German. You lost the war." I know. Very un-PC. I probably wouldn't really have said that, mostly because I'd have been too slow to think of it fast enough, stupid American that I am. Still, pretty rude of the guy. To be fair, I had a group of Germans in just yesterday who were a blast. They were fun, laughed a lot and seemed to genuinely enjoy the wine and the tasting experience. I suspect they have way more friends back home than the surly German guy, so will tell many more people how much fun they had at our winery than the jerk can tell about how much we suck.
Teddy and the rest of us were soon cheered by today's employee Christmas party. We had a fancy soiree at the Yacht club several weeks ago with spouses and children. This one today was just for the worker bees; more of a cheese platter and soda pop affair. It was a better chance for us to get to know one another, especially those who don't work together. The fun included a secret Santa gift exchange. We all drew names two weeks ago and many of us chose co-workers we didn't know so well. That forced us to learn a little something about the person for whom we were buying a gift. It also broke the ice and encouraged us to talk story with those whom we were less well acquainted. It was a very festive day.
I have noticed something interesting working at the winery. Lots of people bring children, which seems odd to me. There are some places that are not well suited to keiki, and in my opinion, a winery is one of those places. I again today had a parent try to give his youngster a taste of the wine. I had to stop him.
"I can't give it to him, even if I'm his parent?" the father asked.
"You can at home," I said, "but not in here." For some reason, people wouldn't think of taking their four-year-old or 12 year-old to a bar and buying him a beer or a cocktail, but a sip of wine at a winery is OK. Morally, I'm not really opposed. It's common in Europe for children to drink wine with their meals or enjoy a sip with parents from a fairly early age. But doesn't everyone know how strict liquor laws are when it comes to serving minors in the U.S? It's not the Europeans offering their children sips of wine. It's Americans every time. They know better. I know they do.
Something I've observed over the past months is that many American children are wild and undisciplined. Not all, but many. They run amok around the store and the grounds while their parents ignore them. They're allowed to hang on the bar, to eat all the pretzels in the bowl and to drink cups of our complimentary coffee. Kids drinking coffee? Mind you, I'm not talking teenagers. I'm talking nine-years-olds. Is that weird or am I just old fashioned? I guess a kid can suck down a Mountain Due and get all buzzed up, so what's the difference? I may have mentioned this before, but one day, I caught a little girl licking the stir sticks, then sticking them into the sugar dispenser, then licking them again. Yummy! Yuck! Her parents had no clue. They had their backs to her while they tasted wine. She was about four or five. I didn't blame here. The poor kid was bored. She'd been drug to a winery, after all. What could be more dull. Today, a two-year-old was allowed to put his hand in the pretzel bowl, stuff the pretzels into his mouth up to the knuckles, then reach for more pretzels with his slobbery little mitt. He was adorable, but geeze! Anyway, I've noticed that keiki from other places in the world are, for the most part, much more well behaved. They are also pleasant, conversational and engaging. Usually, the kids brought in by European or Australian parents are a little older. Either it's too expensive to bring pre-schoolers on vacation all the way to Hawaii or these parents instinctively know that young children do not belong in wineries. Americans like to bring in toddlers, then just let 'em go. Little tykes are left unsupervised in a store filled with breakables. Today, a three year old reached up to grab a red velvet box near some fragile Christmas ornaments. Luckily, the box was empty and did not contain one of the hand painted glass balls for which it was designed. Still, he took off with it, running around the store at full speed until his mom finally noticed and stopped him. Yesterday, two children, brother and sister, ran back and forth across the floor stomping loudly for several minutes until their parents finally noticed that we were all having to shout over the clomping to communicate. I guess I'm just an old fuddy duddy. All I know is that if I had behaved in public like I see kids behaving in our store ... well let's just say I knew better.
Today was the first day in more than two weeks that we've seen the sun. The sky was mostly blue at the winery all day, although I was told that it rained all afternoon here at the house. I can't tell you how nice it was to see that blaze orange orb in the sky. It was warm and bright and put me in the best mood I've felt in ages. Sunday, I'm going to the beach no matter what. I may even get a little sunburned. Ron can come if he wants to. If he doesn't, that's OK by me. I'm headed out of fungi-land, with or without him. I need a fix of vitamin D and a little color in my cheeks. For a girl who lives in Hawaii, I've become downright pasty. Shark bait, as they say here. So I can't wait to soak up some rays!
A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Give the guy a dime; give the kid a sweater

I've always been kind of a practical person when it comes to interpreting fantastic stories and song lyrics. As a kid, I though Miss Muffet was a wimp. Scared by one little spider? She'd have really freaked if she'd been cleaning with me last weekend. And that old woman who lived in the shoe with all those children should simply move out to a bigger place. Maybe a boot would be better. Size 92. My mom was a big Kingston Trio fan. They had a song called, "MTA" which stands for Metro Transit Authority. It tells a humorous tale about a guy named Charlie who gets on a Boston subway train and, because he doesn't have enough change to pay the fare, he can't get off. The chorus goes like this:
Well did he ever return, no he'll never return and his fate is still unlearned,
He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston, he's the man who never returned....
At one point, the song describes the man's wife, who stands at the station every day at quarter past three and hands him a sandwich through the window. Now, most people just take the song for what it is; a silly folk tune. But from a very early age, that lyric has bugged me big time. "Why doesn't she just had him the change he needs to get off the train?" I think I asked my mom when I was 8. What train makes you pay when you get off rather than when you board? Maybe she really didn't want him to get off the train? Maybe the guy was a complete loser and she was glad to be rid of him. See? I'm such a cynical lyrical buzz-kill.
Today, I heard a classic Christmas song that has always given me the same sort of pause. There's a phrase in the tune "Do you hear what I hear?" that says, "A child, a child, shivers in the cold, let us bring him silver and gold....." Now maybe it's just me, but would it not be better to bring the kid a blanket? Some warm booties and a tiny fleece hat would be nice, too. I just don't think silver and gold will keep him very warm. He's shivering, for God's sake.

I finally decorated my Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It's a small $10 fake, but it looks great with lights and ornaments. I have lots of great ornaments. All together, I guess they've got some heft. Just as I was putting the last of them on the tree, it began to topple over. I felt a little like Clark Griswold at first, but managed to catch it just in time. So Ron fixed the problem by hammering a nail into the window sill behind the tree and tying a string from tree to nail to hold the tree upright. Perfect! It's pretty much what we did earlier today, when we re-staked several coffee trees that were leaning in the soupy soil.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Goodbye Dan Fogelberg

Saturday started out as just another day to clean the house. Within a short time, however, I found myself on a mission; a mission of arachnid eradication. The spiders, for all their great bug-eating prowess, have a tendency to get a bit out of control in a place where there's no real winter. They're not only everywhere outside, but inside, too. I found webs with giant eight-leggers in corners, on the ceiling, hiding under window shades....everywhere! They were in places I vacuumed just two days before. Since the invasion of the beetles, the spiders have grown enormously fat and happy. So I sucked 'em all up. EEEEEEEEWWWWWW! I was none too keen on removing the vacuum bag.
In addition to spider sucking, there was fun with fungi. What did the girl mushroom say to the boy mushroom? Gee your a fun-gi! Unfortunately, the prevailing fungus amongus was not shitakes or portabellos, but mold and mildew. Again.... eeeeeeeeewwwwww! I cleaned the top of the fridge, which was home to a nice mixture of dust, mold, rust and dead bugs. Neither Ron or I can see the top of the fridge from where we stand, so we have to make a concerted effort to climb up on a step ladder and give it a spray and a wipe now and then. I even dusted the tops of the kitchen cupboards. Shoots. You'd think it was spring or something.
Meanwhile, it continued to rain. Check that. It continues to rain. Out of the last 15 days, it has rained 13. When I say it has rained, I don't mean we've enjoyed a half-hour shower every mostly-sunny day. I'm talking constant, heavy rain, interrupted only occasionally by a moment of sprinkles, a peek of blue sky and then on to the next downpour. During that brief respite, you might make it to the road from the house to pick up the paper before getting soaked. You might not. It's downright squishy out there.

Looking farther than you'll ever hope

to see, takes you places you don't know
Search for someone you can't ever hope
to be and still you go
Oh, still you go.

Lyrics from Changing Horses, written by
Dan Fogelberg

I just learned that Dan Fogelberg died today. The radio was playing "Another Auld Lang Syne" just Friday on my way home from work and, despite the fact that I hadn't heard that song for a very long time, found myself singing along, word for word. I think I listened to "Souvenirs" until I wore out the grooves. "Leader of the Band" makes me cry every time. It saddens me that he's gone.

I was called in to work today after a co-worker slipped and fell en-route to her car from her house. Fortunately, she was found to have no broken bones. She was, however, badly bruised and will likely be very sore for days. I've taken that kind of fall before. Your walking along, completely upright, then suddenly... SLAM! You're not. Upright, that is. It hurts.

My first customer was a deaf woman who lives in Volcano Village. I'm told she comes in regularly, although I've never met her. She told me she had gotten a cochlear implant. I asked if it worked. We were conversing via pad and pen and it was obvious she could not hear my voice, so I was thinking she should ask for a refund. She said that she could now hear background sounds, like the phone ringing or a horn honking. When I asked if that was helping her "a little" she beamed. "Not a little," she said. "A lot." To her, the ability to hear those sounds, after a lifetime of complete silence, had changed her life. She was a very happy, cheerful person. I asked if she had heard the thunder from last week's storm. Very animated, without writing it down, she said, "Yes," then made a rumbling noise with her voice, shaking her hands. She lives on a 23 acre flower farm with her boyfriend, four dogs and a cat. We actually understood each other pretty well, but it made me wish I knew sign language.
I learned several years ago that "hearing impaired" is not the same as deaf. People who are hearing impaired can hear, but with diminished capacity. Deaf people cannot hear. They do not consider themselves hearing impaired. In fact, they dislike the term, considering it one that hearing people use to describe them when trying to be politically correct. I was glad to have had this knowledge in my conversation with this woman.

A group of visitors from Arizona asked me this afternoon if I knew of any place to eat on their way back to Kona. I asked them, "Which way are you going?"
"Back to Kona," they repeated.
"Are you going north or south?" I asked.
"Just back to Kona," they said. The reason I was asking, of course is that this is an island and, whether you turn left or right at the highway, you are headed to Kona. Some people take the route to the north. Others go south. Both directions are pretty much equidistant. I clarified this to them, suggesting that, on an island, no matter which way you go, if you go far enough, you'll end up in Kona. They thought this was the funniest observation they had ever heard and laughed hysterically. Hey. I try to be entertaining. Sometimes, I succeed.

A hui hou. Aloha.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Mauna Loa snow

The morning began crystal clear, with views of snow-capped Mauna Loa across the golf course on my way to work. Unfortunately, I neglected to bring the camera, so didn't get a shot. Maybe I'll get lucky tomorrow.
The nice weather did not last, however, and soon, we were shrouded in Volcano Village mist, interrupted regularly by terrific downpours. Still, it was a fun, silly day. We didn't get busy until late and even then, we weren't crushed. There was plenty of time for us to sing along to the Christmas carols playing on the stereo, talk story and even play a little hang man on the dry erase board we use to convey mass messages to the crew.
Ron spent the afternoon learning that the insurance company "expert" he had made an appointment to consult knew less about the coverage provided by various policies offered by her company than he did. I think the experience caused temporary waning of his aloha. "You don't have to be so mean," said the woman at one point. Whether it's the insurance industry or the bureaucratic red tape in Hawaii required of small business owners, it can be enough to make even the Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa lose their aloha. So you can see that poor Ron doesn't stand a chance.
The past few days have been downright chilly up at the winery. Certainly not midwest ice storm chilly and not Gunnison Colorado sub-zero chilly, but definitely long sleeves and sweaters chilly. I get all kine chicken skin l'dat.
A hui hou. Aloha.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wind and rain in paradise

It was a dark and stormy night. Really. It was. Then there was another. Then another. Those nights were accompanied by some dark and stormy days, too. Last week was pretty wild, with buckets of rain, power outages, toppled trees, washed out roads and downright weather craziness. On Wednesday at the winery, I was the hero for figuring out how to turn the incessant beep of the alarm system off when the power went kaput. Visitors and fellow employees alike applauded when the loud, high-pitched whine finally stopped. I also got to ring up transactions by hand and count back change for the first time since my early 20s. That's a very long time, folks. Whew! Luckily, those things you learn when you're young are the things that stay with you for life. It was like riding a bike. I handled the finances while my cohorts poured tastings and helped tourists with merchandise. Amazingly, all the credit card and cash receipts balanced perfectly at day's end. Not so perfect was the impact my quick receipt writing had on inventory. Who knew that the mango butter had a different skew number than the coconut butter and that each of the various flavors of mints had their own as well. The line at checkout was long and ringing up transactions by hand is slow, so rather than writing an individual number for each item, I just wrote "five butters" or "15 mints." The bean counters earning the big bucks can sort it all out at the end of the month. Still, I was given accolades for a job well done under duress. No raise, mind you. Just accolades. Right about the time the crowd died down, the power came back on. Go figure.
When I got home that evening, the power was out here, too. So we did what has become a tradition for us sans electricity; we fired up candles, lanterns and flashlights and played Scrabble. I won by a measly 6 points. Still, I was stoked. I have always been easily amused. The lights were dim for several hours, so in addition to Scrabble, we had time for a game of Skip Bo and some giggles with 80s trivial pursuit questions.
The stormy weather continued through the week, lessening by the weekend.
Poor Hoppsy hates thunder, so we had a few sleepless nights mixed in there. Of course, I can't really blame her for all of the sleeplessness. The thunder was so loud one night, and the lightning so bright, we were all kept wide awake even without Hoppsy climbing on the bed and quaking in fear. It shook the house so much that even Crawford, hard of hearing as she is, had her nerves wracked by the rumbling.
All in all, however, we faired well. Maui wasn't so lucky, with mudslides everywhere. The Kona coffee farmers on the west side of this island lost trees. Storm surge sent waves crashing over Ali'i Drive along the main drag in Kailua-Kona. Shops closed. Roads closed. Windows definitely closed.
Still, I always kind of enjoy big storms, so long as nobody's really hurt by them. They're exciting. It's an excuse to hunker down, burn candles, play games and eat junk food. Not that I really need an excuse to do those things, but there's a lot less guilt if you have one.
Mauna Kea is living up to it's name these days, with a bright, white frosting on top. Mauna Kea means "white mountain" in Hawaiian.
There was only one person ahead of me in my checkout line at Safeway today. Shoots. What's the world coming to?

A hui hou. Aloha!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Courage, rain and a holiday greeting

I am brave. I must be. I'm certainly no wimp. After all, I've just spent the past two weeks cruising around hippyville with my redneck dad, proudly sporting his NRA baseball cap. That takes guts, dude. Cojones. Yep. I got 'em.
Dad is gone now. He jumped on the big bird and flew home to the great Pacific Northwest, where the weather makes our storm today seem like a little sprinkle. It was very blustery throughout the islands, causing it to rain sideways here most of the day. The lanai got soaked. Our carport awning leg blew out and required emergency attention to keep the whole thing from flying away to Oz. It was way more exciting than Hurricane whats-her-name that blew through a few months ago. The surf is huge, beaches are closed and the news is reporting downed trees and flooded neighborhoods. But our weather pales in comparison to the 100 mile-per-hour gusts and driving downpours that have soaked my former homeland. It just goes to show you. The grass is always wetter on the other side (of the pond).
Dad will be telling and retelling his adventure, I'm sure, to whomever will listen for weeks to come. I can hear it now: "You wouldn't believe it, over there in that *&#@ Hawaii...."
He'll describe his mishaps at the Honolulu airport, which he calls "Honowoowoo" (he thinks that's pretty funny) and his travels on the wikiwiki shuttle, which he's dubbed the wikitiki (he thinks that's pretty funny, too).
Today, while the squall squalled on, I trudged along the treadmill, watching the water spit through a window that wasn't well sealed and listening to Cecilio and Kapono on the iPod. "Blue sky, sunshine.... everything is filled with good times....." Those guys cheer me up on a gloomy day. At about 43 minutes into my jog/power walk, the power went out. It came right back on, but it ended my cardio workout. Good enough. After sitting on my fat okole for the past two weeks with dad, I'm feeling pretty out of shape. It felt good to sweat.
Today is Hanukkah. Or is that Chanukah? Either way, it makes me pine for a little Adam Sandler:

...Tell your friend veronica, its time you celebrate hanukkah
I hope I get a harmonica, on this lovely, lovely hanukkah.

So drink your gin-and-tonic-ah, and smoke your mara-juanic-ah,
If you really, really wanna-kah, have a happy, happy, happy, happy
Hanukkah. happy hanukka!

A hui hou! Aloha!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

South Point road trip

The sun was shining, the vog was faint and we cruised to South Point for a day's diversion. En-route, we stopped for malasadas at the Pahala Town Cafe. My dad abstained. While Ron and I chowed down on cream-filled sugary fried dough, dad had a cigarette. I guess we all have our vices.
We cruised down to the southern most point on the island. This is an historic location; the place where the first polynesians voyagers, those who would become the first Hawaiians, landed their sailing conoes and started a new civilization after crossing some 2700 miles of open ocean. It's a bleak and barren place, so it's no wonder they fanned out quickly and settled everywhere but here. Still, it's beautiful in it windswept way. On our way to South Point, we stopped at Punalu'u Black Sand Beach. My dad said he really didn't care so much about seeing a black sand beach, nor did he really care if we say a turtle. OK, so he'd been there before. Once. Truth be told, he just didn't want to exert himself getting out of the car. He'd done that once already. But shoots, I've been to Punalu'u a dozen times and I still think it's a cool place. Not only do I enjoy any excuse to get out and walk around there, but to hang out for as long as possible. There were folks gathered under one of the park shelters listening to a local man strum his guitar and sing. He had a nice voice and, given the splendor of the day, I could have stayed all afternoon just listening to the music and gawking at the spectalar shoreline.
On the way home, we stopped for a quick bite at Shaka, in Na'alehu; the southernmost restaurant in the U.S.A.
Once home, it was nap time, followed by lots of sitting around and doing as close to nothing as possible. Somehow, when my dad's here, I find myself doing less than I thought was possible and feeling absolutely exhausted as a result. Go figure.
Ron actually got him on the tractor twice last week. That's something. He seemed to enjoy demonstrating his bucket-handling prowess. He's pretty good with the thing, even after adding so much "sweetner" to his coffee all morning.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good fun with bugs and reptiles

Ladies and gentlemen.... the BEETLES! Yes, we are experiencing beetle-mania. No, not the Beatles. I'm not talking John, Paul, George and Ringo. I'm talking beetles, like the bug. We are inundated with little brown beetles. Hundreds fly into the lanai every night, then slowly walk around. They walk on the tables, chairs, windows, decking. Beetles here, beetles there, beetles beetles everywhere.
These beetles are really very boring. They both fly and walk very slowly. If they flip onto their backs, they cannot right themselves without help. If you touch one, he pulls his legs and antenna in and plays dead. Leave him alone for a moment and off he cruises, steady as she goes. Where's he going? Nobody knows. Once the beetles land, they don't seem motivated to take off again. They just cruise around on foot. They become pedestrian beetles. I don't know what they eat or what eats them. Truth be told, I sort of like the little buggahs. Unless they land in my beverage. Then they become like the gnats. I definitely prefer the beetles to the gnats. I HATE the gnats. The gnats seem to have subsided just a bit. Maybe the beetles eat the gnats....
Last night we spotted a gecko on the window. I definitely like geckos, what with their big, buggy eyes, sticky feet, appetite for nasty bugs and of course, their sexy English accents.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Road trip with dad

Pops and I hit the soggy trail today and made our way to the northern tip of the island. We visited the towns of Hawi (pronounced ha-vee) and Kapa'au, then Pololu Valley lookout. As you can see, it was a spectacular day at Pololu. I vowed to return soon to hike to the black sand beach at the bottom, a task my dad is not really up to these days. As we passed through Kapa'au, I pointed out the statue of King Kamehameha and noted that he was born here, near Hawi. Dad looked at the sculpture, then said, "I thought he was fatter."
"Fatter?" I asked.
"Well he's fat in the movie," he said.
"What movie?" I asked.
"Well, in all those movies the king of the natives is always fat," he said.
"So there's no specific movie, just movies in general when you've seen a king on some island?"
"Yeah," he says. My dad isn't one to dwell on the detailed accuracy of history. The other day on the phone, he tried to tell me that Dwight Eisenhower "invented" the military industrial complex.
"He didn't invent it," I said, "he warned of it's power. There's a big difference."
"No, that was Truman. Eisenhower invented it."
Much like Al Gore invented the Internet, no doubt.
There's no good that can come out of an argument like this, so I craftily changed the subject.
I'm guessing the "movie" he was thinking of upon seeing the Kamehameha statue today was actually an old rerun of Gilligan's Island.
We ate creamy and delicious cones at Tropical Dreams in Hawi. I enjoyed coconut. He savored Tahitian vanilla.
I love Kapa'au. I want to live there. They have everything you need; small grocer, a couple of restaurants, shops, theater and a hardware store. At Hawi and Kapa'au, the feel of old Hawaii (pronounced ha-vy-ee) is alive and well. Unfortunately, real estate there is a little out of my price range. OK, it's a lot out of my price range. But hey, a girl can dream....

On our way home, we stopped to pick up some tasty Thai food in Hilo Town. While we waited for our order, we walked around the block. That's one single block. During that achingly slow stroll, he complained that I was working him too hard.
"I thought you said you were suppose to exercise?" I said.
"This isn't helping. This is just going to make my legs sore tomorrow. They're cramping up now," he whined. Mind you, we were barely moving over a flat surface. I felt like I was shuffling along with Tim Conway as the old man.
"But you have to start sometime. Why not now?"
No answer. Just some giant, exhaustive sighs and a few hacks. Then he lit a cigarette. Alrighty then....

Truth be told, however, it was a really nice day with dad.

We returned to Glenwood in the driving rain.
The Buddha rama, Pad Thai, masaman and summer rolls were totally onolicious to da max, cuz!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey day in paradise

It seems that Lucy has taken a page out of Mr. Sox's relaxation instruction manual.... She's a pretty quick study, that girl.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! It was busier at the winery today than I expected, but still relatively quiet. I took a brief break to stroll back to the vineyard to shoot a couple of photos. The first, below, is a large hole in the lava. It looks to be at least 12 feet deep. The story I've heard is that the original owner of the winery drove his tractor right into it and lived to tell the story, suffering only a few scratches. The scenic shot is taken through what are some pretty pathetic looking grape vines toward Mauna Loa. I know it's November and grape vines throughout the northern hemisphere are looking a bit scrawny right now, but these look like this pretty much year round. The red blossom below is a lehua. The tree upon which it blooms is the Ohia. Hawaiian legend has it that the tree is, in fact, a brave warrior. Pele, the fire goddess, goddess of the volcano, fell in love with the warrior and asked him to marry her. He was in love with another, so he refused. When he did so, Pele became not just a little miffed and turned him into a tree. (She can be a bit pissy like that.) The other gods were unable to reverse her spell. So they turned his true love into the lehua flower so that the two could always be together. It is said that when a person picks a lehua blossom, it rains. The raindrops represent the tears of true lovers being separated. Isn't that romantic?

I can't tell you how many people came into the winery today and immediately asked, "Are you open?" This, after passing through our open gate, walking past our "open" sign, seeing our door wide open and finding us inside with music playing. At least a dozen times I was very tempted to say, "No. We're closed. We just thought we'd come hang out here for no good reason on Thanksgiving Day because working for peanuts and spending the day schmoozing with total strangers is so much more fun than eating Turkey and punkin pie 'til you burst, watching football and partying with family and friends." Instead, I and my coworkers oozed aloha, telling people we were open just for them. What the heck. We were, after all, being paid time and a half.
Whitney, my co-worker, got the call of the day. When she answered, "Volcano Winery," the woman phrased her question like this: "We're on the road to Hana. How do I get to your winery?"
"The road to Hana?" clarifies Whitney. "Are you on Maui?"
"Yes," says the woman. "Can you give me directions?"
"Well," explains Whitney in her most patient voice, "We are on another island."
"What does that mean, you are on another island?" asks the woman.
"We are on the Big Island. You are on Maui. They are different islands," says Whitney, who continues, "There is another winery on Maui. It's called Tedeschi. Are you looking for them?"
"No," snaps the brain trust. "We've already been there. We're trying to find you."
Whitney again tells the woman that we are on a different island than she is.
"I don't understand what you mean by another island?" the woman continues. Whitney is now at a loss as to how to continue. She is about to launch into a description of the archipelago and a definition of an island as a separate land mass surrounded by water, when the agony of the conversation is abruptly and mercifully ended. It was then that the ditzy bimbo's husband grabbed the phone to intercede. After some more discussion, he did seem to understand that "different island" actually meant "different island."
"We'll be there in a few days so we'll see you then," he says, then hangs up.
Great. I can't wait to meet the little woman. She'll probably request driving direction to Princeville. This, after crossing our threshold and asking, "Are you open?"

Tomorrow, we'll cook our brined turkey. I can't wait.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pops in town

My dad arrived last night. He just made his connection, but his luggage did not. No problem. It made it's way up to the rainforest this morning before 9 a.m. That made him feel better. He was fretting. Really fretting. My dad doesn't travel much, so every aspect of the trip is an adventure. He's content now. It's always comforting to know you'll be wearing your own underwear throughout your vacation.
Yesterday was perfect. Beautiful, sunny skies with a slight breeze. It was sunburn weather, to be sure, as I spent a few hours on the tractor, cutting grass under the tropical sun. There was no vog and few clouds. It was a really rare day.
Today, was not sunburn weather. Today was curl-your-hair, rust your underwire weather. First, we braved the deluge to get to the highway. Hilo was drier, but no less challenging. The Thanksgiving meal shoppers were out in full force, jamming the aisles of KTA. There were hundreds of pumpkin pies stacked in the bakery and they were being snapped up quicker than you could say high fructose corn syrup. We grabbed one. Pops and I adopted a pretty successful approach to our shopping. It was really tough to push a cart down the aisles. So dad guarded the wagon while I perused the shelves, unencumbered by the cart. Sometimes I found myself turning sideways to get between all the other people and their overloaded wagons, to grab what I needed. Then, fleet of foot, it was back to the cart and on to search for the next item. Of course, without a list, I forgot to get a few things. That's kinda my shopping style. Still, we managed nicely and will enjoy a nice feast on Friday. I'll be working at ye 'ol wine factory on Thursday. So Ron and Dad will be on their own for the official Turkey Day, watching games, scratching, drinking, swearing, eating junk food and doing what men do. MY dad's pretty chatty, so I suspect Ron's ears will be bleeding by the time I get home.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wowie sowie!

This morning our modem died. Or, as they say in pidgin, "Da kine all bus' up. It wen go junk." Ron needs his modem to work, so he took Crawford for a ride to town. Crawford loves to ride. Meanwhile, I took Doc and Hopps for a nice long walk. As we were heading home, we heard rustling in the bushes along the roadside. Then, there she was. The biggest, fattest feral pig I've ever seen. Whoa! Dis one fat wahine pig. I've seen fatter pigs in barnyards, for sure, but not fatter wild pigs. She must have gotten into some good gardens. The chubster swinette waddled away as fast as she could once she saw us. The dogs were mildly excited by her. Ah, the adventures of rural living in Hawaii.

That was pretty much the highlight of my day. The winery was busy and the day went by quickly. There were lots of nice people buying lots of wine. There was one woman in particular who made me smile. She was also not just a little irritating. Here's a taste of how the tasting went with her:
I explain, "This wine is made with 100% symphony grapes. Symphony is the name of the grape. It's a cross between a granache gris and a muscat."
She asks, "How much muscat is in here?"
I say that there is no muscat in the wine. The muscat is a grape used to cross with the granache gris to create the symphony grape. Symphony is the name of this grape. This wine is made with 100% symphony grapes."
Then she says, "I can really taste the muscat."
OK then. I describe another wine. "This is the Volcano Blush," I say. "It's made with 50% white grapes and 50% jaboticaba. (The photo above shows how it grows.)
She takes a sip and says, "This must be mostly grapes. I can hardly taste the jaboticaba." Of course, she's never tasted jaboticaba before, but somehow she knows this. (Most people say just the opposite, by the way.) I say, "Well, it's actually half jaboticaba." She ponders this. "It's an interesting fruit flavor," she says. "How much jaboticaba did you say is in there?"
This is where I begin screaming "why me?" inside my own head while outwardly grinning and agreeably nodding.
Later, I explain the Mac Nut Honey wine. "It's made from honey that bees make when they pollinate blossoms on macadamia nut trees. That's why they call it macadamia nut honey. There are no nuts, grapes or fruit in the wine. It's just made with honey." She tastes it, then asks, "How do you make wine out of macadamia nuts?" "Well," I say, "There are actually no nuts in the wine. It's macadamia nut honey wine."
"How can you call it wine if there are no grapes in it?" she asks. This is actually a pretty common question. I explain that wine can be made from just about anything. There's blackberry wine, for example, and even dandillion wine. We make these wines you just tasted from jaboticaba and guava. She tastes again. "It tastes like honey," she says. (Gee. I wonder why? Lot's of people say this too, but by now, coming from her, it was especially grating.) "What kind of grapes are in this again?" She asks. I answer, "There are no grapes. It's fermented honey."
So when I say she made me smile, she made me smile when she left.

On a positive note, I did earn eight bucks in tips today. That's $8.25 to be exact. I know, I know. I have no intentions of spending it all in one place. I plan to diversify. One shouldn't put all of one's tips in one basket, after all....

Oh, and we played a lot of Jack Johnson today in the tasting room, which really always does make me smile.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On a mission

We use a lot of bubble wrap at the winery. Rolls and rolls of the stuff. Not only is it expensive, it's plastic. It never goes away. It lasts in the environment forever. We also hand out oodles of plastic bags every day. Plastic has become a menace the world over, but is especially troublesome here in Hawaii, where it kills all manner of animals, choking monk seals, strangling green sea turtles and poisoning endangered sea birds. It's unclear to me why the state hasn't simply banned all plastic grocery bags outright, not to mention those rings that hold six packs of soda cans together. Did they not see Dance of the Penguins? So I've taken it upon myself to convince the decision makers at the wine factory that it's time to get rid of both the bubble wrap and the plastic bags and replace them with something biodegradable and made of recycled material. My contention will be that, even if we have to pay a little more for such products, we will be able to tout our eco-friendliness in our marketing literature, making us more appealing to the ever growing legions of environmentally conscious consumers. I've just begun my research. Who knows. Maybe I'll find packaging and bags that are even cheaper. It seems nobody has checked into it one way or another. So, I will.

Poor little Crawford is beginning to drag her back leg a bit more now. On a short walk yesterday, he rubbed a spot raw on the top of her foot. So we're resting and healing while I figure out some way to protect that part of her paw. She can actually walk pretty well when we walk at a good pace. When we go too fast, she struggles. When we go too slow, she has trouble oriented her feet. She really needs the exercise so as to maintain good muscle tone in her legs. For now, we'll stick to romps in the grass. That's good too. The good news is that she's still relatively strong, feels no pain and is very happy, if a bit frustrated that her hind quarters don't quite cooperate as well as she'd like. I think the medication I'm giving her is slowing the pace of her disease.

Today was a pretty average day at the winery. We spent time re-arranging merchandise for better display and decorating modestly for the holidays. We put up these cool, small, fake Christmas trees that need no lights because they have fiber optic tips on the branches that light up. They're pretty cool. Of course, I'm easily amused.

Ron hung out with our neighbors Eddie and Sarah today; the neighbor for whom we were babysitting Snowflake. They knew the little guy was weak and struggling, so were not completely surprised that he didn't make it. Turns out Eddie knows just about everything about the flora and fauna around here. He took a tour of our property with Ron and told him what was native and what was not as well as the common names of several plants. Eddie was pretty impressed with how much we'd done to the property. He is also a retired police officer and gave Ron the scoop on the two major drug busts in the neighborhood over the the past couple of years. Eddie told us that our pond, which is very small and overgrown with tall grass, was once as large as an acre and fairly deep. The former owners raised tilapia there. Then, a few years ago, an earthquake created a crack in the bottom of the pond and drained it to it's current level. It's kept as full as it is now by a stream. When the rain stops and the stream dries up, so does the pond. Ron said he learned more from Eddie about this place in one hour than he's learned in nearly two years of living here. We do have really nice neighbors here.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Today's agenda: buns and boobies

Today was a beautiful, if muggy day on the east side of Hawaii Island. I spent some time today sucking up dust bunnies and scrubbing plates and pans. Most of my day was spent in town, where it dawned on me that here I am, living in a place where it's 83 degrees in Mid-November. That's pretty cool (because it's warm, that is), especially since it did not rain today. It has been humid, however, making it a bit uncomfortable. Not that I'm complaining.....

Bumper sticker of the day: "Normal people worry me."

Me too....

So there I was, strolling aisles of KTA (that's a local grocery chain) when a diminutive Japanese woman notice the bakery-fresh hot-dog buns in my basket. "Oh those hot dog buns are good, yeah?" She exclaimed, pointing to my buns. "Yeah," I agreed. "Fresh baked at the store. Better than regular buns." And so it went today. I had originally gone to Safeway to buy buns, etc., but made the mistake of looking at the ingredients on the buns they carry. Both listed high fructose corn syrup at a major ingredient. Say what? So I went to KTA. They bake their own buns and are smart enough not to list the ingredients. Ignorance is bliss.

I faced the trauma of bra shopping today as well. Trying on bras is almost as horrible as trying on swim suits. It is, however, a necessary evil. That's especially true for me, since my current collection of over the shoulder boulder holders is verging on tatters. I sprung for two. Or is that four? Guess it depends on how you count 'em.

I recently learned that Google now offers an alternative portal for web surfing. It's called "Blackle." The screen background is black. Because it's black, it uses substantially less energy than the standard white background. It's a no fills option, but it works just fine for me. After driving around town today, spewing fossil fuel, it feels a little better reducing the size of my big fat carbon footprint at home.

I live in a rural rainforest. It should be quiet and peaceful. Most of the time it is, with the exception of the mooing, barking, bah-ing, squealing and shooting. Yes, shooting. Actually, the squealing usually comes after the shooting. It' goes "Bang, bang -eeeeeeeeeek!" In most neighborhoods, if you heard shooting, you'd call the cops. Here, you don't. Your first inclination is that someone is blasting pigs again. I am so0o0o0o0o0 glad I'm not a pig. Literally speaking, anyway.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bye bye Snowflake

We're taught when we're small that if we just try our best, if we just work hard enough, that we can succeed. We learn later that that is not always the case. Our little Snowflake, the kitty we were charged with feeding for our neighbors, died today. This, despite our best efforts to care for him.
When we first brought him home a few days ago, he seemed OK, though he was still very thin even after the neighbor had been feeding him for several days. His eyes were a little watery and sticky when he woke up from sleeping. Otherwise, despite his rough start in life, he looked like he had a good chance to fatten and grow into a healthy cat. The first day he ate pretty well. Eddie, the neighbor, had said that he could make it through the night without food, despite the fact that he'd been feeding him every three-four hours. I didn't think that was such a good idea, so I got up for 2 a.m. feedings and to cuddle him a little. He didn't love being fed by a syringe, but he did it. He peed and pooped. He mewed up a storm. I put him on my shoulder and he purred like a tiny buzz saw. All seemed well. On day two, we switched to a bottle, which he seemed to love. He grabbed on and gobble down his formula. He ate plenty and displayed much more energy. He even climbed out of his box. He clawed his way up my shirt to my shoulder. He was wobbly, but took a little spin around a towel I laid down for him on the floor. We put him in another, more secure crate, just to be safe. He pooped and peed some more. That evening, he ate and slept well. We were cruisin.' He again fell asleep on my shoulder, purring. He woke me up crying to be fed and cuddled again at 2 a.m. The next morning, however, he seemed listless, much like Eddie had described him to me the morning before I picked him up. His appetite had diminished. Eddie had described bouts of this as well and said that he fed him more than he wanted to eat with the syringe just to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed. I had to do some serious encouraging to get him to eat. By afternoon, he was a little perkier, so we thought we were back on track.
This morning, he was surprisingly weak and had no interest in food. I called the vet and Ron rushed him in. He was diagnosed with a severe upper respiratory infection. The vet said that such an infection does not happen over night; he had had it for weeks. He also told us the kitty was four or five weeks old, not the three weeks we had estimated based on his size. Poor little guy had infection in his sinuses and ulcers in his mouth and throat. The runny eyes were part of the illness, too. The vet gave him a shot and prescribed additional medicine for him. At about 12:30, Ron called me at work, very upset about the limp little Kitty our little snowflake had become. The clinic was closed, but I called the vet anyway to see if there was anything we could do. He didn't call back. Anyway, by the time I got home a couple of hours later, I saw that he had no strength at all and could hardly hold up his head. He did mew when I arrived, however, which Ron said he hadn't done in hours even when he picked him up or stroked him. I got him to eat a little by forcing little drops of formula into his mouth that he had to swallow. I laid on the couch with him on my chest to comfort him. He fell asleep and I tucked him into bed. He died about an hour later.
In just three days I had fallen for this little sickly little kitty. When they asked for our help, the neighbors also asked if we would like another pet. We laughed it off and said no. But after the first day I had begun to reconsider that. I was fully prepared to keep him. I'm not looking forward to telling the neighbors of his passing. He was a sweet little fella whose life was way too short. Still, in those few weeks, or at least in the last three days with us, he was very much loved. Bye bye, Snowflake.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Kitten sittin'

I've been doing a fair amount of babysitting lately. Last weekend, I checked in on my neighbor's dog, taking her for short walks and feeding her in the evenings, sharing her care with another neighbor. Now, I've taken on a new responsibility. This one's a bit daunting. It's a very tiny kitten.
Another neighbor is a middle school teacher. One of her students found the abandoned kitten and brought the little guy to school in hopes that teacher could help. Sarah's students know that she lives in the country. They assume she knows something about animals. Actually, her husband Eddie does know. He's been hand feeding the little fur-ball for several days now and the kitty's doing alright. He's still a little skinny but is trying to stand up and has a good grip when you put him on your shoulder. They have a big wedding to go to this weekend, however, and have had reservations for months to attend with their entire family. So we volunteered to take care of the tiny feline. Ron has already started calling him Snowflake because he (at least we think he's a he) is all white. We'll be feeding him about every three hours or so through the day. Eddie says he can now make it through the night without a meal, but I may get up to give him one anyway. The dogs are very intrigued by this newcomer, especially Doc. He would never hurt the kitty. He just wants to give him a good sniff. But the little tike is way too small to be ready for the enormous nose of the Doctor Dog. He might just get sucked in!
The vog has been brutal off and on over the past several days. That, combined with nighttime thunder storms have me feeling a bit wheezy and not just a little sleep deprived. The sleep deprivation come from Hopps. She HATES thunder storms. She gets so scared she shakes violently with fear and jumps up in the bed and can't settle down. Poor baby. Crawford and Doc aren't too keen on all that flashing and rumbling either. So last night, I finally just went out to sleep out on the couch. Hopps and Crawford came with me. That end of the house seems quieter. So the girls sacked out on the floor next to me. Doc crawled into bed with Ron. At least it's a comfy couch. The cats seem un-phased by the thunder, although I know they dislike earthquakes. Hey, so do I. That's a whole different kind of rumbling. Anyway, now you know why I'm sleep deprived.
Business is hoppin' at the winery. Business is picking up as the holidays approach. We had a big debate today about whether to start playing Christmas music. A couple of us (including me) said, "Why not? We love Christmas music." Others were adamant: "Absolutely not before Thanksgiving," they said. We did sneak a little into he disc player and got a little stink eye from the customers. They seemed to think it was a little early, too. Shoots. I guess we'll have to wait a few more weeks.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cat naps and dog yaps

Mr. Sox is really good at relaxing. He's my role model. My hero.

I've been privy to some funny jokes lately, so I thought I'd share them here.

I actually sort of made this one up myself after hearing another version:

How much money do pirates pay for corn?


This one I can't take any credit for, but it's darn funny:

A pirate walks into a bar. He has a steering wheel wedged in his crotch. The bartender sees him.

"Hey Mr.," he says, "Do you know that you have a steering wheel there in your crotch?"

"Aye," says the pirate, "and it's driving me nuts!"

And speaking of driving:

Tiger Woods walks into McDonald's. The girl behind the counter recognizes him. She's not a golf fan and knows nothing of the game, but she's seen him on TV none-the-less.

"Hey," she says, "I know you. I like you on those car commercials."

"Thanks," he says. She delivers his Egg McMuffin and coffee. Tiger reaches into his breast pocket to fetch some catch to make his purchase. As he does this, two tees fall out onto the counter.

"What are those?" she asks.

"Oh those hold my balls when I'm driving," he replies.

"Wow," she says. "Buick thinks of everything!"

Today was beautiful except for one 10 minute downpour at about 1 p.m. Doc and I started morning with a fun trip to the veterinarian. Doc used to love to ride in the car. Ever since we drove him to an airport and put him on a plane to fly across the pacific, however, he has been unable to ride. He starts out OK. He even seems happy to be in the car. Within moments, however, he transforms into a complete basket case, crying, drooling, shaking in fear. The worst part is that he tries to climb into my lap while I'm driving. That's not so good. If he were a shitzu or a bijon frise, I wouldn't mind. But he is a pretty big boy; an 80 lb German shepherd - husky mix. Not exactly what you'd call a petite flower if you know what I mean. So, to get him to the vet, I drug him. I gave him the tranquilizers at about 7 a.m. He's still pretty mellow tonight at 6:30 p.m. A drugged dog is a good dog, I must say. Typically, mellow is not an adjective I'd use to describe Doc. Psycho-yes. Schitzo - that too. Chatty - sometimes. Bratty - regularly. Sweet despite his issues? Definitely. Mellow? Almost never.
He's fine, by the way. We just had a checkup and vaccinations. He's lost a few pounds, too. Wish I could say the same.

Gotta go cook dinner. What was I saying about wanting to lose weight? Tonight, it's pork ribs on the grill. Onolicious! Hey. You only live once.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Another day on planet earth

The following should be sung with enthusiasm to the tune of Gene Autry's Back in the Saddle:

I'm back on the treadmill again,
knowin' I'll never be thin,
Yet I trudge along the belt,
hoping some day I'll be svelte,
Back on the treadmill again....

Whoopie ty-yi-yo,
cruisin' kinda slow,
back on the treadmill again....
Whoopie ty-yi-yay,
don't have the guts to weigh,
but I'm back on the treadmill again!

Ron made himself a chicken quesadilla for lunch today. That got me thinking about something I saw on Good Morning America yesterday. Wolfgang Puck was on, demonstrating how to make that very thing: a quesadilla. Are we really that bereft of culinary skill in the household kitchens of America that we need a renowned chef to teach us to make quesadillas? Is a quesadilla not simply a grilled cheese sandwich with tortillas substituted for bread? All these things ran through my mind as I watched and listened.
"Zey are so ferry easy to make and ze keeds luf zem too!" exclaimed Wolfy, to resounding applause. I wondered, "Would they clap so enthusiastically if he'd been making grilled cheese rather than quesadillas?" Probably. After all, they were Americans and he is Wolfgang Frickin' Puck. Try saying those last three words three time really fast without getting into trouble. Better yet, just play the name game with "Puck." You know, "Puck puck bo buck....." I guess I'm in a bit of a Beavis and Butthead mood today.

Yes, I was back on the treadmill, sweatin' to the oldies. Actually, my iPod set kicked off with Green Day. I don't think Billy Joe Armstrong and the boys would really work for Richard Simmons. But they work for me!

The pigs were back today, so Ron grabbed up the .22 and shot in their general direction, which made them scatter. They'll stay away for a day. Maybe two. Ron thinks he saw them actually laughing at him, mocking him. He swears they were grinning and saying in fluent swinese, "Nah, nah nah, nah nah, nah. No char sui for you, goofy haole man!"

We've had plenty of fun visitors to the winery lately. Fun, but lousy tippers. C'mon people! Don't be such cheapskates! At this rate, I'll be stuck in the hovel and the mud FOREVER!

After reading an article in today's paper about the dwindling fresh water supplies throughout the mainland U.S. as a result of drought, population growth and too much grass growing where grass isn't suppose to grow, I'm actually feeling a little better about our rain. I guess the grass is not always greener someplace else.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Frogs, turds and a poopie test score

Ding dong the coqui's dead,
guys sprayed something on his head,
ding dong the coqui frog is de-e-e-ead!

Yes, the coqui we had in the yard is now silent. He is no more. The coqui has ceased to be. He is pushing up the ginger. He is an ex-coqui.

I wonder if, in time, the coqui will evolve, genetically realizing that his incessant, high-decibel chirping can get him killed as often as it gets him laid. He would then begin to develop a quieter chirp, in a range or wavelength that humans cannot hear and only female coquis can detect. (Of course, the lady coquis would still find the softer sound irresistibly sexy, for they will evolve, too.) When that happens, they will probably no longer be known as coquis. Without the CO-QUI, that name doesn't really work, does it? I'm sure the frog doesn't care. He's just trying to survive in this world, just like the rest of us. If he could just do it in a less-annoying way, we could all live happily ever after.

And speaking of things that are dead or dying, so is my pursuit of a law degree. My LSAT score was abysmal. So much so that I cannot in good conscience apply to the University of Hawaii. There are only about 10 legitimate schools in the country that would consider me with a score so low. Since my family situation makes moving to Tulsa or St. Louis or North Dakota pretty much out of the question, I must either retake the test and hope for a dramatic improvement in my score or give up on this dream and formulate another. That said, I am not quite ready to give up. I've fallen off the proverbial horse, so it's time to get back on. I'll take the test in February. I'll also sign up for a bona fide, well-regarded test prep course. It'll be my last, best hope.
Now, here's my theory on law schools that require high LSAT scores. The LSAT does not measure knowledge. It measures aptitude and test-taking prowess. So it seems to me that the higher the LSAT score requirement, the lower a schools confidence in their own professors and curriculum to actually teach students what they need to know to pass the bar exam. They'd rather take the easy route by starting out with naturally bright students. So Harvard and Yale, what's so great about you that you don't think your faculty is good enough to transform average students like little ol' me into Perry Mason or Clarence Darrow or Marcia Clark? Not that I want to be Marcia Clark. I'm just sayin'.... Maybe the University of Tulsa is the better school.

I've been keeping close tabs on the fires in California. I must say that the people of the golden state are not only tough and resilient, but stay civil and even friendly through the worst adversity. I know this from first hand experience, having lived there at ground zero during the Northridge earthquake. I've heard stories of total strangers opening their homes to evacuees. They've had to turn volunteers and donations away from Qualcom Stadium and other shelters because they've literally got too many supplies and too much help. People are being welcomed with all of their family members, including the four-legged ones. It's all not only amazing but it really warms my cockles.

The Kona weather often brings us more sunshine here in the rainforest. It can, as I've said, encourage the vog to settle in and make the air a bit chewy with sulfur dioxide. After seeing the smoke in San Diego this week, I may never complain about the vog again. OK, I probably will. But I will be a total weenie for doing so. Anyway, yesterday was beautiful, with plenty of sun but little vog. So I took a ride on my bike around the Kilauea Crater in Volcanoes National Park. Riding through old lava flows has more impact from the seat of a bike than the seat of a car. The flows aren't so old -1974, 1984 - most within my own lifetime. I can almost picture the molten lava flowing in my minds eye when I see the jet-black color of those recent flows. I am also aware that it could one day soon be not a vision in my mind's eye, but a sight experienced by my actual peepers in living color, gawking at the power of nature as it both creates and destroys. I just hope my house is not in its path.
The tradewinds are now back. It's raining. But the air is clear and the breeze is keeping us comfortably cool.

Here's a very odd thing. I found a turd in the house tonight, near the trash can. I don't know who left it their, but based on it's size, it had to be either Hopps or Crawford. (Say is ain't so!) It was too big to belong to one of the cats. It could not have been Doc for two reasons. One is that his poops are much larger. He's a big boy. The other is that he would NEVER (and I can't emphasize that enough) poop anywhere near the house, let alone inside it. He hates poop and goes out of his way to find an obscure spot far away from his abode. While most dogs are intrigued with doggie doodie they encounter along their daily walks, Doc steers clear of all piles. It's a very endearing quality in him. Anyway, I don't know what went down that one of my long-potty/poopie trained girls would let one slip. It's an anomaly. At least, I hope it is. In any case, it's just poop. Poop happens.

Business has picked up at ye ol' wine factory. It's been pretty fun and the seemingly endless parade of tourists keeps us hoppin'. I just finished reading, "How Starbucks Saved My Life" and, working at the winery, I feel a little like author Michael Gates Gill. I'm proud to say I'm holding my own with the kids.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Shlogging through the vog

Today I blog about the vog,
which came and went all day.
I like the blog but hate the vog.
That's all I have to say.

Ah, but it didn't rain until the day was mostly pau. Yow! That was nice.

We're experiencing what's known as Kona weather, a.k.a. Kona winds. Although, the term "winds" is a bit misleading. It's more like lack of wind. The air is still and muggy. The sulfuric gasses spewing from the current eruption aren't blown away. Instead, they settle over us, like forest-fire smoke.
Today, I spent sweating while cleaning windows, washing the car and just sitting around watching football. OK. I wasn't sweating while watching football. I had already done my sweating by then. Anyway, go Broncos! Go Rockies.

Here is a collection of photos from my recent two week trip to the mainland. We begin with images from In-and-Out Burger, including an unflattering self-portrait. This is what happens when you scrunch your face up while shooting yourself with outstretched arms.
Next is a cool shot of clouds at 37,000 feet somewhere near the Grand Canyon en-route from California to Colorado. It was a spectacular show outside the window, with wild cloud formations and great shadows cast by the late afternoon sun.
Next is a nice shot of a pretty street in Gunnison, Colorado. Below that, a pretty high-desert fall scene somewhere about midway between Gunnison and Lake City, Colorado. Next, a shot of me with some wine-swilling friends in the Santa Inez Valley, California.

All in all, it was a good time.
A hui hou. Aloha!