Saturday, July 28, 2007

Doggie toenail fashion

I had a check-up with the allergy doctor this morning. It took all of about 15 minutes for her to determine that I am well. The office has moved and the description of the new location, as delivered on their answering machine message, places the new digs near the police station and St. Joseph's School. Both of those landmarks are vague to me; I'm not a Catholic School child, nor am I a parent. I've only been to the police station once to get a state I.D. card. When I finally found the place, I knew exactly where I was. I was right behind Nori's Saimin and Snacks. Why didn't they just say so! For me, the best landmarks are always food vendors. Nori's is the bomb! Dey get da bes saimin, fo real, brah! Da kine serve wit' one ono chicken terriyaki stick. They also make this chocolate mochi cake that is divine. Broke da mout', cuz!
Poor Crawford has developed yet another affliction. Her left back leg was injured way before we adopted her. It was broken badly. Her former human(s) must have loved her; they had the leg pinned. So that leg is bent a bit and is therefore a little shorter than the good, right back leg. Lately, she's begun to drag the toenails on her good leg. The short bad leg is less able to hold itself out long enough when she strides to keep the good leg off the ground. When she runs or trots, she picks the good leg and foot up far enough to clear the ground. But when she walks, her left back foot twists outward a little and she drags the middle toenails on her right foot. Two days ago, she finally had drug one toenail so short that it had begun to bleed. I doctored it to prevent infection, then patched it with a tiny piece of duct tape. That actually worked, but wore off quickly. So I jumped online and found something called Soft Claws. They make nail covers for dogs and cats. Their primary purpose is to protect hard wood floors and furniture or to prevent a pet from doing damage to itself when scratching. I ordered a batch and they arrived in two days! Amazing! I affixed two of them to the two most vulnerable toenails. We'll see tomorrow how they work on the pavement. Crawford's such a good girl. She just let me glue them on. They come with adhesive. I ordered black, although they come in several other colors. Like me, Crawford is not the girly-girl type, so I figured she'd prefer the black. They are non-toxic, so if she decides to chew them off and swallows them, they will simply pass through. The photo above shows her sporting her new toenails. Look closely to her back foot in the photo and you can see them. Nice, huh?
A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Rainy weekend

How do you like the new look o' the blog? The banner at the top was cut from a photo of a giant leaf covered in rain drops. Pretty cool, huh? I think I need to change the color of the heading font, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet.
The tropical depression that's come and gone left us with a generally soggy weekend. We spent it puttering around the house. The dog's are bored stiff. Today, Ron chased a passel o' pigs from the yard with his trusty .22 caliber rifle. That provided some excitement to an otherwise dull day. He didn't hit any of them, but he scared them away. Our neighbor has hit two in the past few days. He's a much better shot than Ron. He's smokin' 'em up. I'm actually glad Ron didn't hit one. I wouldn't know what to do with it if he did. Actually, I would know what to do with it but I wouldn't want to do it. I know the pigs are just trying to survive in this world, just like we are. But they are a menace to gardening and farming. So we'll just keep scaring them away.
All over the island, kids are already getting ready to go back to school. They start next week! Summer vacation is a scant six weeks here. There are fund raisers and school supply collections drives everywhere you turn. It's heartbreaking to me that kids' parents can't even afford to buy them notebooks, pencils, paper and folders for school. I am reminded of a bumper sticker I've seen around lately. It says, "It will be a great day in America when all of our schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." Indeed.
Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have been spotting in various spots around east Hawaii. They're shooting the next Indiana Jones movie. Luckily for Indiana, we have no snakes in Hawaii.
Another week is ahead with oodles of island fun in store.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Catfish and Cosme

We're tucked away in our little hovel tonight, riding out what has turned out to be a very mellow Tropical Depression Cosme. Earlier this evening, we ventured down to Kea'au to check out the catfish and gumbo special at Paradise Bar and Grill. En route, we spotted a large, white pickup truck overturned just off the side of the highway. It was upside down with it's cab, ever-so-luckily poking downward into a fairly wide ditch. The fourth of four passengers was wiggling out of the driver's side window as we pulled up and stopped. When I asked, everyone said that they were OK and had all gotten out of the truck. It was obvious that they had all been wearing seat belts. They were, however, noticeably shaken up. That included a little boy of about four who seemed all but frozen in fear. He just stood there staring blankly. Poor kid. That would scare me too. It was raining pretty hard at the time and the truck just lost its grip on the road, veered and flipped. It happened in an instant. With all victims walking around and insisting they were fine, we proceeded on our way. As we pulled away from the shoulder, two police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance pulled up. They had arrived very quickly. I was impressed.
It continued to rain so hard we had to raise our voices to talk on the outdoor patio where we were seated at the restaurant. That was really only partially due to the rain. The crowd noise, combined with the musical stylings of the Chris Scott Band wafting through the open-air doorways, had us pretty much shouting our conversation. The band covers Jimmy Buffett and John Denver. The baby-boomer crowd seems to appreciate them. The special menu for the night was loaded with typos, so Ron borrowed a pen and we made corrections. According to the menu, they were serving "blackend cod" with "potaots." Yummy! As it turned out, the delivery of catfish never arrived. So they served calamari, mahi-mahi, shrimp, scallops and gumbo instead. That was just fine. On the menu, it was listed as the "captians" plate. The gumbo was actually pretty good. The margaritas were, however, the worst I've ever had. They were served with a
lemon wedge, if you can believe that. We switched to beer for the second round. There was no third round. We had to navigate our way home in the downpour.
Right now, the deluge continues. It's loud enough on the roof that extra volume is required to hear the T.V.

The morning started out nice enough. So nice, in fact, that Lucy chose to take her nap on the roof. It's one of her favorite spots. Now she, like all her kitty and doggie siblings, are snoozing away inside the warm, dry house. Soon, I will be too.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Fer real, brah!

Yesterday in the checkout line at Puna Fresh Foods, I struck up conversation with a local boy. He was a young man, really. I'd say he looked to be about 20 years old. He was buying a bottle of Vitamin Water and a copy of High Times. I guess it's all about balance in life, isn't it? Ying and yang? I didn't even know they still published High Times. The young man had an elaborate, Hawaiian style tattoo that covered his entire left shoulder and upper arm. It was all black; a pattern of shaded geometric shapes. Embedded in it all was capital "A" in curvy script. I am usually not enamored with tattoos, but this one was really cool. So, I told him so.
"Fer real?" He asked.
"Yeah. It's one of the best I've seen in a long time," I assured.
"Fer real?" He asked again. I hoped this time his question was it was rhetorical. We could go back and forth with compliments and fer reals for a long time. "Thanks for noticing," he said with a smile.
"Is the 'A' your initial?" I asked.
"No," he said, "It's because I'm a big Atlanta Braves fan."
"Why the Braves?" I asked.
"It's a family think. We all like the Braves."
On the way home, I saw a bumper sticker that said, "Hawaii. Just visit. It's not for sale." Over development is a big enough concern here on the Big Island, where there are still vast rural areas and open space. They are apparently ruining the island of Kauai by the day. Kauai is much smaller than Hawaii Island and is being overrun with housing tracts and commercial growth. It's in danger of being lost forever. Here's a link to a video posted on YouTube called Discover Kauai. It illustrates the rampant over-development occurring there. Of course, this raping of the land is happening everywhere, but it seems all the more appalling on this most spectacular of islands. It reminds me of an Eagles song lyric:

They call it paradise
I don't know why
You call someplace paradise
Kiss it goodbye
From The Last Resort

A hui hou. Aloha

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Farmin' works up a powerful thirst

Saturday was sunny and beautiful, a nice day for a job interview. I think it went well. If nothing comes of it, at least I got to eat lunch at Cafe Pesto with an interesting person. She said she'd call sometime this week to let me know about the job.
Meanwhile, today I learned that the Hawaii Island Journal is going to print one of my stories next issue - as it's cover story. Cool! It took 'em long enough.
Sunday was Ron's big day; the big 6-0. Wow! First, he did a little farm work, tilling up some dirt on his trusty steed(aka the tractor). Then we went to Luquin's (where we always go) in Pahoa. There, we drank mango and guava margaritas, ate a boatload of heavy Mexican food, then came home to take a long, digestive nap. It was a very satisfying day for me. I think he enjoyed it to. I know Mr. Sox relished his snooze while we were away on such a warm, sunny day.
We've got zucchini coming out our ears, as you can see here.

This morning, our neighbor's baby goat was crying a little and I snuck up to shoot his photo. Cute, yeah? He's crying less and less these days, so I think he's adjusting. Still, he's so little. Poor guy! Shoots. He's just a kid! The blurry bumper sticker you see on the car behind him says, "Cook rice, not ice." That's a reference to crystal methamphetamine. Ice is what they call meth here. Hawaii has one of the worst meth problems in the U.S. I think it ranks second only to Oregon. Crackdowns, public information campaigns and legislation to make the ingredients more difficult to obtain have helped. In most states, ease of manufacture is the biggest problem. Here, most of the drugs are imported from Mexico, so trafficking is a bigger problem than "cooking" the stuff. Just before we moved here, two men who lived just up the road from our house were hauled off to the huscow for distribution of the stuff. It was a big bust, with the FBI, ATF and Hawaii County Police all involved. They also confiscated lots of guns and money. Those guys are now serving eight years in the big house, in California. Good riddance!

That reminds me of a t-shirt I saw some time ago that struck me as funny. It said, "Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms" in big, bold letters. Then, in small print below that it asked, "Who's going to bring the chips?"

Today, I officially took on the volunteer responsibility for doing public relations for the local Hilo chapter of the AAUW (American Association of University Women). Ron keeps calling it the American Association of Union Women. He thinks he's pretty funny. At least one person does. Anyway, I think it will be fun, if I can just remember how to write a press release.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Opportunity knocks

I received a welcome call this afternoon. Tomorrow I'll meet with an editor about a job as a reporter. Yay! Don't know if I'll be the one selected, but at least I have a chance.
Today I fared marginally better on the two sample test segments i took. If I can carry that through to the entire test, I'll bump my score up by about 4 points, which is just enough to give me a solid chance of getting accepted to a second tier school like UH. I will definitely need to not only improve my test-taking skills but a little luck to pull this off. Make that a lot of luck.
Today, while I was strolling through Hilo Town shopping for Ron's birthday gifts, a man, sitting on a concrete divider wall with his buddy, shouted out a hearty "aloha" to me as I walked by. I didn't know him and he didn't know me. He was just being friendly. I returned the greeting. That was nice. The aloha spirit is alive and well.
I'll take a few pictures downtown tomorrow en-route to or from my interview if the weather holds. It was spectacular in Hilo today, the sun shining, palm trees swaying and old, plantation-era buildings standing proud against a blue sky. But alas, I had no camera. What a maroon.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Winery woes

On Tuesday, I was asked at the winery if I would mind a schedule change.
"Could I," they asked," work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rather than Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday?"
"Sure," I said. "That's no problem."
"Great," they said. "That would help us out a lot." They said they'd let me know when the schedule change would take effect.
Today, just two days later, after extensive deliberations among the "managers" I was pulled aside and told that, due to the financial situation at the winery, all part timers would be restricted to two days per week. My days would be reduced to Tuesday and Thursday only.
Gee? I wonder why that is? Maybe because three days bumps an employee up to enough hours to qualify for health care coverage? Ironically, I am the only part timer who's been working that much, so I am the only one who loses that coverage. I've only had the coverage for one month so I guess it's no great loss. I've qualified for coverage since I started working there, but nobody in "management" bothered to tell me. I learned about the Hawaii state law mandating coverage after talking to my neighbor. It all makes me pine for a nice, big, corporate human resources department.
"We hope that's OK?" The manager shyly says and sort of asks at the same time, as though I actually have a choice, which of course, I don't.
At least now I have Saturdays off, which is when all the fun festivals and events seem to take place on the island. So now I can go.
Today at our staff meeting, we were reminded that we are entitled to a half hour lunch and two 15 minute breaks during our 8 hour shifts. We were encouraged to take them and to let others know when we're taking them. Yeah right. "There may be times when you don't get your full break and you are called back out into the tasting room. You'll just have to take the rest of your break later." Again, yeah right. Today, just on principle, I actually took an entire half hour for lunch. I think it's the third time since January that I've done that. My co-worker, however, didn't get so lucky. About half way through her mac and cheese, two vans pulled in. Breaks? Fuggetabout it. I feel lucky if I get to pee when I need to on any given day.
Don't get me wrong. Despite the hustle required for peanuts, I really enjoy working at the winery.
Still, I'm holding out hope for a writing gig. And then there's that crazy LSAT I keep practicing. I've ordered a few more study books with test taking tips I hope will help me to increase my score. My practice scores have not been impressive and have not been improving.
It's been pretty hot the past few days, though I hesitate to complain with what I've seen on the national news about heat waves and flooding and fires on the mainland.
On a lighter note, today, a cute, blond Aussie girl from Perth came into the winery sporting a t-shirt that read, "I had a nightmare that I was a brunette."
Also funny today was a cute-but-naughty little girl left unsupervised by her wine swilling parents. She looked to be about 4 or 5 years old. The place was packed, with people lined up at both bars and a line of would-be purchasers. I was womaning the cash register, just finishing up a string of transactions when I noticed her over near the coffee. We keep a pump pot of complimentary java for our patrons. The little girl had flipped open the pour spout on the sugar container. She was licking a stir stick, then dipping it into the sugar. Yummy! Pretty smart, really, but also disgusting. Our eyes met. Busted! "Don't dip that in there again," I said to her in a none-too-threatening way that still managed to get her to stop. I dumped the sugar and started with a fresh container full once she was on her merry way.
This little girl was actually quite sweet and very cute. She was quiet and well behaved other that clandestine sugar tasting operation of hers. Most of the kids who come in are pretty good. But there are kids who are unruly, running around the retail store, pulling the plastic grapes off the displays, trying to turn the antique wine press into a jungle gym. Their parents don't seem to notice them at all. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe that's why they feel compelled to act like barbarians. They're trying to get their idiot parents' attention. There are plenty of breakables in the store and screaming kids make it tough for adults at the wine bar to hear what we're saying about the wine. When did it become OK for children to be disruptive and run amuck in public places with no supervision? I don't get to do that. Why do they? I must be just an old fuddy duddy.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lava, pigs, tourists and sea monsters

The lava has returned to Pu'u O'o on Kilauea. It's not flowing to the ocean, but it can be seen in the crater. Click here to see the lava live via the USGS Live Webcam.
If you log on after dark (that's after dark in Hawaii, of course) you can really see the ribbons of lava.

We’ve gotten a bit jumpy here in the rainforest. Now, every time a dog barks, Ron shouts, “Is it pigs? Is it pigs?” Oddly, it never is. Or maybe it is, but by the time we go out to look, they're gone. I’ve been seeing tell-tale signs of the pigs around the neighborhood. They leave strange trails where they’ve rooted up the ground along the sides of the roadway in search of worms, roots and grubs. They've returned to the yard, too. The other night, I took a stroll down the driveway in the dark with a flashlight. I was listening for coquis. The battery in my light failing and the light was dimming. As I listened to the frogs chirping, “co-QUI, co-QUI,” I heard a “snorty snorty snort" in the bushes to my right. I swung the flashlight in that direction. Nothing. I didn’t see them, but I knew they were there. I heard them. I could sense them. Haley Joel Osmond may sees dead people. I feel live swine.

The winery has been slammin’ busy lately. Today was no exception. The dollars don't always reflect the frenzy of visitors. People are coming, tasting, chatting and buying stuff. They’re just buying a lot more stuff on some days than others. Today's sales were respectable. Tuesday, however, were weak, despite the fact that we worked our okole's off, running around like lunatics. Unfortunately, it takes me just about the same amount of time to sell a single bottle of wine as it does to sell a case. I’m just hopeful that the “decision makers” don’t use the dollars as their only factor in deciding whether to cut hours. It’s already tough enough to get through the day with three people. Four is always better. We actually get to take a 20 minute lunch break when there are four of us. But three? It’s two minutes here, three here, five there if you’re lucky. And if just two people are working any given day? Fugettaboutit. Five minutes off your feet, tops. Gotta pee? Sorry. No time. Even my high arches are hard pressed to resist flattening after that much time on my feet. The stressful competition of law school is appealing to me more with each shift.

Ah, but the tips make all the hard work worth while. I raked in two buckaroos cash under the table today. Woohoo!

That said, it is fun to chat with visitors who come from all over the world. I poured a tasting for a guy the other day with a NY Yankees world series ring on his finger. He works for George Steinbrenner and is on the ball club’s administrative staff. That ring was way cool. One woman last week told me she does clinical trials for cancer drugs. A guy from Honolulu is a lawyer for a non-profit that fights for native Hawaiian rights and takes on their cases in court. Pretty noble. Today, I encouraged a seven year old from North Pole, Alaska to sign our guest book.

Scientists have discovered a new sea creature they've dubbed the octosquid. It appears to be a cross between an octopus and a squid. I wonder why they call it the octosquid and not the squidopus. OK. I guess I really don't wonder.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Going forth on the fourth

Happy Independence Day!There are people here in the Hawaiian Islands for whom true independence would mean a return to sovereignty. It's a vocal faction and I actually believe their ranks are growing. Not that it's likely the United States will ever revoke Hawaii's statehood. A symbol of support for the sovereignty movement is the Hawaii state flag (formerly the flag of the Republic of Hawaii) flown upside down. For some, it's less about sovereignty and more about spreading the fundamental understanding of how Hawaii became a US Territory. It was an illegal overthrow of the Queen (Hawaii was a constitutional monarchy by 1993, the year she was removed from the thrown) by American businessmen, supported by the US marines with the US government looking the other way. Plenty of folk have been stewing about it ever since. The late 1970s mark what's called the Hawaiian renaissance, a resurgence of Hawaiian cultural pride and an interest in understanding the true history of the islands and their people. That's when the most recent calls for sovereignty began. Those calls have been increasing in volume and frequency ever since. President Clinton actually apologized to the Hawaiian people for the wrongful overthrow of their government.
That's not to say there aren't oodles of patriotic Americans here who relish Hawaii's statehood. It's the only state I've actually lived in where Statehood Day is a recognized holiday with government offices closed.
The Fourth of July is celebrated here with gaiety, verve and zeal. (OK that's redundant. But you get the picture.) There are plenty of parades, for sure. There's a big fireworks show planned for Hilo Bay tonight. We don't really do fireworks. We stay home and watch them on TV, at low volume. That's because we can't leave Hoppsy home alone to quake in fear at the sound of the neighbors' bottle rockets or the distant pyrotechnic blasts. She's a basket case once the bombs begin bursting in air. So we stick by her to keep her feeling safe and calm. It's what any parent would do for a frightened child, right?
Today, we've spent all day doing as little as possible. I whipped up a batch of tasty carbohydrate and fat-laden potato salad. We grilled some hot dogs and are spending this rainy fourth watching one episode after another of the Twilight Zone. For as many years as I've been watching, there are still shows I have not seen. I enjoy spotting famous actors in captured on film before they became famous;William Shatner, Robert Redford, Ted Knight, Burgess Merideth, Jack Klugman, Claude Akins and more.
The rose you see above blossomed today. Who'd have thought that roses could live in Hawaii. But here, at 2500 feet above sea level with plenty of rain, they seem to thrive.

A hui hou. Aloha.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Toe woes

Have I mentioned I have a toe-a-noma? OK I'll admit that would be an exaggeration. What I have is a funky toenail. It all started a couple of years ago when I bruised it running. After that, I somehow managed to stub it pretty badly once or twice. Then Doc, the wonder dog, stepped on it before it had the chance to heal. The end result was a toenail that rebelled. A year or so ago it began to grow funny. It separated from my toe, developing a very high, vertical ridge in the middle. It was as though two continents, in the form of the two sides of my toenail, collided and formed the Himalayas upon my largest left digit. It became thick and looked a little gnarly. All that trauma apparently made it susceptible to (yikes!) a fungus! Can you imagine? Fungus growing here, in the rain forest? On MY toe? Anywho, I finally broke down and went to see a foot doctor. He confirmed a mild fungal infection and said I had two options. One was to take an oral medication called Lamisil (That's the Registered Trademark name. Gotta say that. Old journalist's habits die hard). He said the drug is very effective, but can lead to liver damage. Hmmmmm..... let's see. I can live with a funky toenail hosting a non-life-threatening fungus or I can take a pill that will kill the fungus but may permanently damage my liver. Now, the last time I checked, the liver was considered a must-have organ. So let's see.... ugly toenail or damaged liver? Ugly toenail or damaged liver? Does anybody actually take this drug?
He gave me a another option. There's a topical prescription treatment that's been proven quite effective and has no damaging side effects. That sounded like good news to me. The bad news is that it's new, there's no generic version and insurance doesn't cover it. (Insurance will, however, cover the stuff that messes with your liver. Go figure.) And there's worse news: it costs $200 for a tiny bottle of the stuff. So there I was again, pondering..... Two hundred dollars or an ugly toenail? Two hundred dollars or an ugly toenail? I'm not so vein as to damage my internal organs for the sake of pretty feet. I am, however, vein enough to fork over $200 bucks to do so. Actually, I've found the drug at half price in Canada. Not that I would ever order it from there. That would be illegal.
Today, I began cleaning the second half of my living-room/kitchen ceiling in preparation for painting it. I say living room/kitchen because it's really all one big room. Make that one small room. It's really hot up there, at the top of an eight foot ladder. There were spider webs. Spiders, too. Plenty of mold and mildew stains made the scrubbing arduous. (How's that for a GRE word?) Actually, I don't know what it was, because I don't really know the difference between mold and mildew. So it might have been mold. It might have been mildew. Let's just say it was mold and mildew so we're covered, 'kay? Now, it looks so clean and white it doesn't seem to need painting. I'll paint it anyway.
Yes, my life has become dominated by fungus in many forms. There's algae growing on the house and the driveway. I guess algae isn't technically fungus. Or is it? The battle of the mold and mildew is constant. The toenail has succumbed. Poor Crawford (that's her above) even had a case of ring worm a couple of months ago that required fungicidal ointment. We bought some locally grown mushrooms at Costco (again, registered trademark) yesterday. What will be next? When will it all end? Ah the madness!
What did the girl mushroom say to the boy mushroom? Gee you're a fun-gi!
A hui hou. Aloha!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Not-so-fine swine

This little piggy dug a coffee tree. This one uprooted a tangerine. This little piggy went wee wee wee wee all the way through the yard without the dogs barking one yip.

Yes, we have pigs. This time, it's not just a handful. It's a whole extended family. There are mommy and daddy pigs, uncle and auntie pigs, plenty of baby pigs and probably even a grandma and grandpa pig. They are wreaking havoc on our yard. Ron was frantic the other day. They had toppled several coffee trees and plowed up the turf big time. They got into his corn and rooted around two small citrus trees. They came right up to the back lanai, to within about 10 feet. The dogs didn't notice. They bark at every other phantom noise they hear, but when there's a real invader, they just snooze away.
So we've now replanted the toppled trees and put some quick fencing around them to deter those snorty omnivores. I think I prefer the occasion bear in my trash. Trash is trash. Coffee trees cost money.
The neighbor's been shooting up a storm. He's obviously a lousy shot. I think he's just scaring the pigs into our yard. So Ron has dusted off his trusty 22. I think it's trusty. I hope it's trusty. I really have no idea. I think he shot it once 40 years ago. Actually, having a loaded gun around here makes me nervous. We are not exactly experienced gun people. With our luck, one of us will end up with bullet through the foot.
Speaking of farm animals, our neighbor has some goats. The other day, he discovered his mommy goat and one of her babies dead. So sad. He's not sure why, but he thinks they ate too many slugs in their pursuit of foliage. I'm not so sure about that. Anyway, he removed the second baby from that area and is keep him with two other males. Poor baby spent the first several days crying for his mom. He's so-o-o-o-o cute! I'll try to get a picture soon. He seems to be doing just fine, so that's good news.
We're off to Costco today. I'm looking forward to a vitamin D fix and a cream-filled malassada on the road.
A hui hou. Aloha!